At about the same time that Hannah and John were being married Captain H.E. Burton, late of the Royal Engineers, then Honorary Superintendent of the Tynemouth Lifeboat Station, received a telegram from Whitby.
“Please despatch motor lifeboat to wreck of the Rohilla at Saltwick. About 40 persons on board. Ordinary lifeboats have failed to reach her – Milburn.”
Captain Burton enlisted in the Royal Engineers in 1878 as a boy of fourteen. After a distinguished army career he was appointed in 1905 the Superintendent of the first motor lifeboat in England, the Henry Vernon, based at Tynemouth.
The fishermen of South Sheilds, who have previously manned the rowing lifeboat there, would have nothing to do with the new boat because they mistrusted motors, so for a time he crewed the Henry Vernon with men from his own regiment. They were soon as successful that within a few months there was no shortage of local volunteers.
The lifeboat set out at 4:15 on Saturday afternoon. The storm had not abated. It was 44 miles to Whitby, nine hours sailing time, with no navigation lights to help them.
Copyright © Ken Wilson 1981