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Rescue of the 'Lord Ernle' - 2nd March 1937

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July 1998
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August 1987
Bronze Medal &
Thanks on Vellum
September 1971
Bronze Medal &
Thanks on Vellum
May 1951
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November 1895

This was the first medal winning service to involve a lifeboat and crew.

On the evening of 2nd March 1937 the wind was light and from South West. A heavy ground swell was still running from the North East, the tail end of a northerly gale. The weather was misty.

The Grimsby steam trawler 'LORD ERNLE' was on passage from White Sea bound for Grimsby with a crew of fifteen on board. She ran aground under the towering Bempton Cliffs, to the North of Flamborough, probably due to the misty conditions. The trawler broadcast a distress call, which was picked up by the Bridlington Harbourmaster on his set. He telephoned the Flamborough Coxswain and passed on the news. By this time it was 11 O'clock at night.

The lifeboat had to be launched over the beach as the tide was at three quarters ebb. Nearly fifty launchers helped to get the boat afloat, many going into the water. Despite these conditions the motor lifeboat 'Elizabeth & Albina Whitley' was launched within 30 minutes of the call coming in.

Staple NewkThe 'LORD ERNLE' was located around midnight near a cliff known locally as Staple Newk. The trawler had a heavy list and her bows were touching the cliff face. Her aft was under water and she was being continually swept by large breaking seas. All the crew were forward, or in the rigging. They had used bedding, clothing and fish boxes soaked in paraffin to light a signal fire in the forecastle head. By this light the lifeboat set to work.

The sea by now was rebounding off the cliff and the starboard side of the wrecked trawler provided shelter from this. Unfortunately there were also partially submerged rocks on this side and the Coxswain knew this would make it impossible to get alongside on the leeward side.

The lifeboat was anchored and veered down, with the aim of coming alongside the port quarter. This also proved unfruitful due to the amount of running sea. Next a line was shot across the wreck from a line-throwing pistol. This was used to pass lines and a lifebuoy to the crew. One of the crew climbed into the lifebuoy and the lifeboat crew began to haul him to safety. The lifeboat was struck by a large sea and veered violently causing the lines to part. The crewman was recovered to the lifeboat, but the Coxswain knew the lifeboat would have to get closer if the other crewmen were to be rescued. Again the line-throwing pistol shot a line over the wreck, but this time a heavier line was passed.

The lifeboat was re-positioned and a four inch mooring rope was passed to the wreck and used to keep the lifeboat nearer. One by one the trawler's crew were transferred to the lifeboat. The four inch rope parted after only six more crew had been recovered. A wire line was then passed to the wreck to replace the four inch rope. The signal fire by this time had gone out and everyone was working in total darkness. The Coastguard then arrived on the cliff top and set up their search light and trained it on the wreck. The rescue continued by this light until suddenly a large wave lifted the lifeboat and dropped her onto the deck of the trawler. Fortunately the lifeboat slid back off with her keel grating harshly on the trawlers rails. The lifeboat's rudder had been split in half.

The rescue went on regardless, until the trawler's skipper was safely recovered to the lifeboat. He was the last of the fifteen crew to be recovered. This part of the rescue had taken over three hours. The anchor was weighed with some effort and the lifeboat set course for station. She was back on the beach by 4.00am.

For this gallant rescue the Royal National Lifeboat Institution awarded Coxswain George Leng the silver medal together with a copy of the vote inscribed on vellum. The following lifeboat crew were awarded the Institutions thanks inscribed on vellum: Robert Leng, John H. Cross, Edward A. Slaughter, Robert Emmerson, George Gibbon, Richard Cowling, John C. Emmerson and George Warcup Jnr. The Bridlington Harbourmaster was also sent a letter of thanks. The Coxswain and each crew member were awarded £2 in addition to the ordinary award of £1 17s. 6d. and each of the launchers were awarded 5 shillings in addition of the ordinary award of 9 shillings.

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