Heritage Talk: Rescue of the Rohilla

We are very pleased that Dorothy Brownlee, a founder volunteer and a former trustee at the Old Low Light Heritage Centre, is to give a talk about the part played by the Tynemouth lifeboat crew, including her grandfather and great uncle, in the dramatic rescue of 50 people from the hospital ship, Rohilla, off the coast of Whitby in 1914.

Her grandfather, James Brownlee, who lived in Hudson Street, North Shields, was second coxswain and great uncle, John Brownlee, was bowman on the lifeboat, the Henry Vernon when it was called down to Whitby. The Rohilla had been on her way from Leith to Dunkirk to pick up wounded soldiers when she struck rocks in very stormy conditions in the early hours of the morning.

Then followed a rescue operation lasting three days. The Whitby rowing lifeboat was able to rescue 35 people but due to weather conditions was unable to reach the wrecked ship to save those remaining on board.

The Henry Vernon, one of the first motorised lifeboats, reached the Rohilla, saving 50 people, including the captain and the ship’s cat.

Her grandfather received the RNLI Silver Medal for his bravery and both he and her great uncle also received the Tynemouth Trust Silver Medal and the Henry Veron Medal.

At the talk, Dorothy, who for many years was a committee member, then chairperson of Tynemouth Ladies’ Lifeboat Guild, will share family photographs, newspaper cuttings and other memorabilia relating to the rescue of the Rohilla.

This is the second of a series of events at the Old Low Light Heritage Centre to mark the bi-centenary of the RNLI. Watch out on @Old_LowLight, on Facebook and for information about further events about the RNLI, including displays.

Sign up to our newsletter and Stay up to date with the latest news from the old low light.

To receive regular updates about the events and activities at the Old Low Light, please fill in your email address below.