December 19th Loss of the Solomon Browne


The greatest act of courage that I have ever seen, and am ever likely to see, was the penultimate courage and dedication shown by the Penlee crew when it manoeuvred back alongside the casualty in over 60 ft breakers and rescued four people shortly after the Penlee had been bashed on top of the casualty's hatch covers.

They were truly the bravest eight men I've  ever seen, who were  also totally dedicated to upholding the highest standards of the RNLI.*

On this day in 1981, Mousehole, and the whole of the country, suffered the grievous loss of the Solomon Browne. The Penlee Lifeboat responded to a MayDay call from a cargo coaster, The Union Star, which had suffered engine failure on its maiden voyage.

Travelling from Denmark to Ireland, it was observed, eight miles from the Wolf Rock Lighthouse, to be heading directly towards it and, with hurricane – force winds, rescue attempts by helicopter were found to be impossible and could only be made by lifeboat. 

Four of the coaster’s eight crew were reported rescued by the lifeboatmen before all contact between the lifeboat and the Falmouth Coastguard was lost. 

The country awoke to the tragic news that the lifeboat had been lost with all of its crew: Coxswain Trevelyan Richards, Mechanic Stephen Madron, Assistant Mechanic Nigel Brockman and crewmen, John Blewett, Charlie Greenhaugh, Barrie Torrie, Kevin Smith and Gary Wallis along with all the crew of The Union Star.

*The quotation above was the view of by Lt. Cdr. Russell Smith (United States Navy) who was based at RNAS Culdrose on an exchange.


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