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HMHS Rohilla
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The Wreck of the SS Rohilla

On the 30th October 1914 the Hospital ship “Rohilla” sailed down the North east coast from Leith, Scotland bound for Dunkirk on an errand of mercy to pick up wounded soldiers from the front. In a fierce North easterly gale, the ship ran aground on a treacherous rock reef at Saltwick Bay near Whitby with a tragic loss of life.

In a feat of heroism the Whitby lifeboat made two successful trips out to the grounded ship during which 35 survivors were rescued, a third run however was thwarted by damage to the lifeboat. The remaining 50 souls clung desperately to the disintegrating wreck for the next two days before being rescued by a motor lifeboat that had sailed through the gale from Tynemouth.

On the 17th January 2013 year the first formal meeting of the Rohilla Centenary Team took place at the Whitby Lifeboat Station, made up of William Riley Trustees, Senior Lifeboat Crew, Clergy and Friends of Whitby Lifeboat. The objective of team was to initiate, direct and oversee the Centenary celebrations and memorial activities planned for October 2014. Our aim is mark the Centenary with a balanced celebration of the lives saved and a solemn memorial to those who lost their lives in the tragedy.

To celebrate the dramatic rescue of the survivors and provide a fitting memorial to those who could not be saved, we wish to involve as many families as we can of people connected with the Rohilla incident.  We are particularly interested in hearing from descendants of those connected to the tragedy in some way, for example:

  • The Rohilla crew and passengers, including St. John Ambulance Brigade and medical staff.
  • Lifeboat families from Whitby, Upgang, Tynemouth, Teesmouth and Scarborough Lifeboat Stations.
  • Residents at Staithes and Skinningrove who assisted with the launch of the William Riley.
  • Whitby residents who helped launch the lifeboat at Saltwick.
  • Coastguards and individuals who were instrumental throughout the many rescue efforts.

I would be happy to hear from anyone who would like to be present at the centenary to help commemorate the tragedy that befell the hospital ship Rohilla and the historic rescue attempts.

Rohilla Centenary Team

Copyright © Colin Brittain 1999 - 2014