HMHS Rohilla
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St. John Ambulance Brigade

Wreck of the Hospital Ship “Rohilla”

Service Report - Part Two

These three were the only cases in which life was existent on coming ashore in which our efforts were unsuccessful. At about six o’clock, the Grosmont Brigade reported for duty, and arrangements were made for Whitby members to have a night rest. However there being signs that the wreck was in danger of breaking up, all members were called out, and proceeded with lights to the Scaur, and were successful in securing four persons alive, and four more bodies were recovered. We were informed later that nearly twenty persons jumped at this period, the majority of the bodies washed ashore a week later. This was perhaps the most dangerous part of the whole work, as the cliffs are two hundred feet high, the storm was at its height, and it was raining torrentially the whole time, besides being pitch dark. All the members were soaked to the skin and spent the night at Saltwick drying their clothes etc before the fire. During the night the Engineers Searchlight appeared and a ray of light was thrown on the wreck cheering up wonderfully the remaining fifty men. We provided the Engineers with hot drinks and refreshments also supplying the Rocket Brigade and Lifeboatmen. At daybreak the South Gare motor lifeboat appeared and took off the rest of the survivors. These were met on landing and provided with hot Oxo and beef tea and conveyed to various houses in the town. One case were taken to Hospital, after temporary support suffering from a dislocation of the right shoulder, with probable fracture of the humerous. After treatment at Whitby the man was sent to Chatham for X – ray treatment. This brings the period of the rescue operation to a close, but the Seven Members of the Brigade were busy all Sunday helping to undress and put the patient to bed at the Hospital and also at the various private houses.

Altogether forty six who swam or drifted to shore were treated during the period of the rescue operations, besides the lift which was given to those previously rescued, and those brought off on the Sunday morning. These final survivors numbered fifty and all recovered. The first aid treatment “rendered generally meant the taking off, or cutting off, of lifebelts and clothing, rubbing with warm towels, and wrapping in hot blankets, hot water bottles being placed on the stretchers. The patients were examined for wounds, which were dressed with boric lint and bandaged. Most of the men were cut or bruised about the arms and legs through contact with the wreckage or the rocks, and a score of minor injuries of this character were so treated

Each patient was also given a limited quantity of hot stimulants and light food (under orders) each bearer party having, in the later stages of the operations a vacuum flask with them. In several cases, alas artificial respiration was resorted to, and many cases of minor fainting and collapse were treated among the spectators on the cliff. I specifically omitted to mention names, other than those on charge, as all members behaved splendidly. Juniors and Seniors worked together, and discipline was maintained from start to finish. Much valued assistance was given by individual Ambulance, Railway and other men: and the public as a whole gave every assistance possible. The owners of the motor cars etc, placed them unreservedly at our disposal they offering to take the men wherever required also taking the Grosmont Brigade and Skinningrove men back home on the Sunday.

After the wreck, the Brigade undertook the collection of all things lent to the Brigade, the rescuers, or survivors, and were every night for two weeks on this work. We also dispatched about thirty letters and telegrams to friends of the rescued, and received and forwarded many more. Several lots of personal belongings were also recovered, and returned to their owners. The Brigade Headquarters at the Marine Cafe were open day and night, and the Brigades, Lifeboatmen and Rocket men were provided with refreshments, and had their clothing, etc, dried. Further, on the Sunday, one survivor and one Territorial suffering from pneumonia and rheumatic fever, respectively as a result of immersion in the icy cold water, were removed to Hospital – one survivor being removed for the same reason on Saturday night. The Whitby Brigade was on duty from 5 o’clock on Friday morning until 3 p.m. on Sunday, and the Skinningrove men from 4 p.m. on Friday until 4 p.m. on Saturday, and they also returned on Sunday morning, being, however too late to be of service. The Grosmont Division reported on duty at 4 p.m. on Saturday until 12 o’clock noon on Sunday. One member of the Whitby Division was on duty for fifty four hours, and other members between forty and fifty without a break.

So pleased was Captain Isdale, of the British India Co. with the work of the Brigade that he gave a donation of £5 to the Brigade funds. We suffered the loss of several pounds worth of stores and equipment, but this has been made good by the public who saw our work, and we have received donations amounting to another £5. Many members of the Brigade lost overcoats and other personal belongings, as well as two days wages, but we should hope to do just as much or rather more, should occasion demand it. All the bodies recovered during rescue operations were conveyed to the Mortuary and were washed and attended by the local Red Cross nurses at the Seaside Home. The Brigade Secretary also assisted various relatives in the identification of lost relatives, and the tracing of survivors or lost friends. At the funeral of the greater number of the dead men on the Wednesday following the wreck, the Brigade provided two bearer parties, and also sent a floral anchor to the memory of the members of the Barnoldswick Division who lost their lives. We also provided parties at each of the other two funerals.

I have since received letters of grateful thanks from survivors in many parts of England; one from a Marconi operator containing two pounds as a donation. In recognition of the work of the Police in the recoveries of the bodies they received from the owners £25, and from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution £10; the Brigade who did the work have officially received nothing, being a voluntary organisation – such is life. We have however, had placed in the Occurrence Book the following from Fleet Surgeon J. C. Littler Jones, F.R. C. S., R.N.V.R of the Rohilla;

The services rendered were excellent. The long hours on duty, the arduous nature of the work and the weather, were all endured cheerfully and the whole turn out was in my opinion, absolutely splendid.

We have also had given to us the collection of a large Recruiting Meeting, held in the town, which amounted to £7. 16d. The Secretary had an interview with the Chairman of the Whitby Urban District Council, who thanked the Brigade for their services, which added so much to the town’s efforts on behalf of the crew of the “Rohilla”. Being unable to make any grant, the Chairman invited the Brigade to parade for duty and receive the collection, with the above result.
One result of the occurrence has been to bring the Brigade and its objects into prominence and to commend it to the support and recognition of the public generally; and it is now recognised as of much value to the town.
In closing this report I desire to thank all who assisted the Brigade. So much valuable and practical assistance was given that I cannot specify, but to all, on behalf of the St. John Ambulance Association, I tender my most sincere thanks.

Yours faithfully

C. H. Hood

Hon. Sec.

This most fascinating report represents a true insight from those on the ground at the time of the Rohilla's loss, use the following links to access the other pages.

Copyright © Colin Brittain 1999 - 2014