For those in peril on the sea

This is as I remember it.

Thirty five years ago this very evening a disaster unfolded on the Cornish coast. At 8:12 pm the Penlee Lifeboat Solomon Browne was launched from its base between Newlyn and Mousehole, into darkness, hurricane force winds and mountainous seas.  The aim was to rescue the crew of a cargo ship, the MV Union Star, which had lost engine power and was drifting towards the cliffs beneath Tater-du lighhouse. An earlier attempt by helicopter from RNAS Culdrose, on the Lizard peninsula, had been abandoned because the waves were so violent they were unable to winch any of the 5 mariners and captain’s family from their stricken vessel. The last anyone heard from the lifeboat was that they had rescued 4 of the crew. All 16 were lost, some never to be recovered. The loss was not for want of courage – the US Navy helicopter pilot said it was the greatest act of bravery he had ever seen, and this was rewarded with gold and bronze service medals.

tater-du-lighthouse-geograph-chris-downer
Tater-du in more placid times, via Geograph, copyright Chris Downer, creative commons.

Other lifeboats were sent to assist, but the Lizard lifeboat returned with serious damage and the Sennen lifeboat was unable to round Land’s End because of heavy seas.

There is a permanent memorial at Penlee. In remembrance at Moushole, which lost the licensee of the Ship Inn, the Christmas lights (well worth a visit) are switched off for an hour from 8 pm on the anniversary.

So, come the hour, spare a thought for those brave men.

Yeghes da!

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