HMHS Rohilla
Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional


The Nottinghamshire Free Press



At daybreak on Saturday rescuers resume the attempt to reach the wrecked hospital ship Rohilla, which went on the rocks at Whitby. Among the thousands who were on the cliffs, few hoped to find that any of those exposed to the buffeting of the seas would yet be alive.


As we were able to announce briefly last week, amongst the number on board the ill-fated hospital ship Rohilla, which was sunk off the Yorkshire coast, was Mr F Brigwood, of 13 Morley Street, Sullon, a member of the Royal Navy Sick Berth Reserve, and happily he was amongst the saved.

After his very trying experience Mr. Brigwood has been granted a few days leave of absence and at his home this week he was able to tell us how, by the greatest good fortune; he was saved from the wreck. Altogether 229 souls were aboard when in the darkness of a very stormy night, the vessel was supposed to have struck a mine off the coast near Whitby, and of these only 144 were saved.

Mr. Brigwood stated that he joined the Rohilla - one of the most beautifully equipped hospital ships imaginable - on October 2nd, and it is now no secret that the vessel was bound in the direction of Antwerp. During the night preceding the disaster it was very stormy and Mr. Brigwood with the great majority of the crew, was lying in his bunk when about 3.45 a.m. the vessel struck a mine. Immediately all the lights aboard went out, but everything proceeded with as much orderliness as could be expected under such tragic circumstances.

The captain immediately turned the boat for the shore, and as most of our readers will be aware, the vessel was eventually wrecked just off the coast.

All the crew, said Mr. Brigwood scrambled for the life-belts, which were kept under the pillows, and they had to find their way up to the hatchways as best as they could in the darkness. Water was then pouring in, and many poor fellows were lost before they could reach the deck. All who possibly could made their way to the pre-arranged stations in case of disaster, but only to find that more than half the boats had been washed over board, and some of those that remained were to badly damaged to be of any service.

Until 9.30 Mr. Brigwood remained on the poop deck, and then, says he, I came to the conclusion that if I stayed where I was I might get killed amongst the wreckage, so a companion and myself decided to dive overboard. At that time he had not got a life belt, but I managed to get one for him from one of the wrecked boats. Unfortunately my companion was knocked over and killed before he had a chance to leave the ship.

At that time we were about three quarters of a mile from the shore. I dived overboard, and was immediately knocked about, and tumbled over and over again by the force of the waves until I thought I should never come to the surface again. I managed however, to keep my presence of mind, and on two occasions got hold of a piece of wreckage, which were afterwards washed out of my hands. Eventually, after much struggling, I can not possibly say how long I was in the water, I managed to get nearer to the coast, and then it was that a man waded into the raging sea until the water reached his armpits and pulled me to safety.

Though not seriously injured, Mr. Brigwood received numerous bruises, whilst the nervous shock was naturally very great. At the time he had on only his night attire, all his other clothing and, in fact, everything he possessed on board being lost in the wreck. Considering the awful experience through which he had passed, Mr. Brigwood was in very high spirits, today (Friday) he returns to the service, and as he modestly expressed himself, he will endeavour to do his duty whatever happens. His many friends wish him the best of luck.

Copyright © Colin Brittain 1999 - 2014