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  • Claire Jordan

With Courage, Nothing Is Impossible

It may be only forty years ago, not the usual century or more, but absolutely worth a raised glass are the crew of the RNLI‘s Penlee Lifeboat ‘Solomon Browne’.

The eight volunteer heroes of the Solomon Browne had a call that a coaster called the Union Star was in danger of drifting onto the rocks off their stretch of the jagged Cornish coast and launched into the towering waves of a full-blown hurricane to try to save them. Their lifeboat was made of wood, built in 1960.

After several attempts to manoeuvre alongside the stricken vessel, four of those onboard managed to jump to the lifeboat, which reported: “four… off… male and female. There’s two left on board…” but that was the last heard from either vessel.

The pilot of the rescue helicopter sent to help said later:

“The greatest act of courage that I have ever seen and am ever likely to see was the… courage and dedication shown by the Penlee [crew] when it manoeuvred back alongside the casualty in over 60ft 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.”

All were lost, the six onboard the Union Star and the entire lifeboat crew who raced to save them.

They were Coxswain Trevelyan Richards, 2nd Coxswain/Mechanic Stephen Madron, Assistant Mechanic Nigel Brockman, Emergency Mechanic John Blewett and crewmembers Charlie Greenhaugh, Kevin Smith, Barrie Torrie and Gary Wallis.

Nigel Brockman’s son Neil got to the lifeboat station in time but Skipper Trevelyan sent him away, unwilling to take two members of the same family out that night.

By the end of the following day, enough people had volunteered from the local villages to form a whole new lifeboat crew.

I often hear it said that the young men of today wouldn’t do what the young men for whom we wear poppies in November did for us in their time, but the men and women of the RNLI are living proof that they would. They do. They still give their lives in the hope of rescuing strangers who need their help.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, please let’s remember them too.

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