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30 Years Since the Penlee Lifeboat Tragedy

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7:54am 19th December 2011
(Updated 7:54am 19th December 2011)

It is thirty years since the Penlee lifeboat disaster.

Mousehole is preparing to dim its Christmas lights, to mark the moment the eight crew of the Soloman Browne were lost.

They had been trying to rescue the people onboard a stricken freighter amid hundred mile an hour winds and sixty foot waves.

The tragedy left twelve children in the village without their dads, just days before Christmas.

Mike Buttery was on the cliff rescue team that night. He was one of the last to see the lifeboat before it was dashed against rocks.

He said, "We searched. We walked all the way out along the rocks from Lamorna all the way to Newlyn and never found anybody. We were hoping, we were hoping. They are all remembered and they always will be, because they are all volunteers trying to help other people."

The weather was so bad the Sennen lifeboat could not make it round Land's End to help. A helicopter from Culdrose was not able to winch anyone off the stricken Union Star. Its pilot said, "the greatest act of courage I have ever seen, and am ever likely to see, was the penultimate courage and dedication shown by the Penlee when it manoeuvred back alongside shortly after it had been bashed on top of the casualty's hatch covers. They were truly the bravest eight men I've ever seen."

Within a day of the disaster Mousehole had formed a new lifeboat crew.

Patch Harvey is the current cox. He remembers his dad going out to look for survivors. He said, "Every time a lifeboat goes to sea you expect it to go to sea. I think all the families, all the children, thought that lifeboat and their dads were going to come back - and it didn't. The number of years doesn't make any difference. Every year is the same for us. We remember the crew and take the families out to scatter flowers and wreaths where the boat was lost. It doesn't seem thirty years to us."


It comes as the RNLI warns it is facing a cash crisis. The charity relies completely on donations.

Last year it raised £51m but spent £64m on rescues alone.

You can find out how you can make a donation here.

7:54am 19th December 2011

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