We’ve lived in Salcombe for many years and have had links with Devon and the South West for a lifetime. We are also keen sailors, with a passion and love for the sea, but also a huge respect and gratitude for the lifeboat men based here in Salcombe and all around our coastline. The Salcombe inshore lifeboat is now moored on the pontoon outside the cottage and so for us it’s part of our daily lives and we watch as it is launched and returns, helping sailors in peril at sea.
Sadly, 100 years ago today on 27th October the lifeboat didn’t return with its full crew – as visitors to Salcombe you may have visited the museum and may be familiar with the Salcombe Lifeboat Disaster. One hundred years ago, to the day, thirteen of the fifteen lifeboatmen aboard the William and Mary were lost at sea trying to cross the Bar. Even more tragically the crew the lifeboat was launched to rescue had scrambled ashore minutes before the launch so the fateful trip was in the end unnecessary.
On 27th October, Salcombe commemorated this loss with a church services and procession made up of a flotilla of boats lead by the current inshore lifeboat. We were fortunate to be able to attend the service and to take part in the Flotilla as guests on board Wiluna a beautiful 1930s A Class day boat; we were the only under sail in the Flotilla.
It was an incredibly moving day where the whole community came together in remembrance, along with lifeboat crews past and present. The church was packed and the service was streamed to a marquee outside so that those unable to find a seat inside could still take part.
After the service, a flotilla travelled down the Salcombe estuary to the Bar, led by the Salcombe inshore lifeboat. Hundreds of people in their own vessels joined the flotilla to remember the 1916 crew.
When the flotilla reached the Bar, wreaths were laid and our own Vicar Dan French officiated alongisde the Bishop of Plymouth Rt Rev McKinnel performed a blessing. The flotilla returned to Salcombe, led by a lone piper, Reggie Gough, who served on the Salcombe Lifeboat and is currently a winchman on the Search and Rescue Helicopter.