Relics of Rohilla disaster sought for exhibition

Peter Thomson with Mary Roberts' luggage trunk
Peter Thomson with Mary Roberts' luggage trunk

The centenary of one of the most dramatic sea rescues ever to take place off the British coast has prompted a double appeal from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

When the hospital ship Rohilla ran aground near Whitby in October 1914, artefacts were strewn all along the coastline.

The stricken Rohilla and rescuers.

The stricken Rohilla and rescuers.

Some of these relics will be featured in an exhibition that will run from May to November at Whitby’s lifeboat museum, and the organisers are asking for those who have other memorabilia to lend the pieces to the exhibition.

Museum curator Peter Thomson said: “This was the greatest rescue ever to have been carried out off Whitby and it is very important that we mark the 100th anniversary. To help us commemorate this very special event, we would like to invite the families of anyone who was on board the Rohilla and of lifeboat crew who were involved to join us in Whitby.

“But we are also hoping to discover artefacts from the Rohilla to put into the temporary exhibition in the museum. We already have some fascinating items, including the ship’s bell, a trunk, and a pantry key with a piece of curtain which was clasped in the hand of a survivor when he was rescued. “I’m sure there are many other items out there which would help us tell the story of the Rohilla rescue.”

One of the exhibits will be the luggage trunk of Mary Roberts, which resurfaced on eBay last year and was purchased by the museum. Mrs Roberts gained fame when she survived both the Rohilla disaster and the sinking of the Titanic two years earlier.

The Rohilla ran aground at Saltwick on October 30 1914 with the loss of 85 lives.

Following the exhibition, a weekend of commemoration will take place on the actual anniversary of disaster, culminating in a remembrance service at St Mary’s Church on Sunday November 2.

Anyone who is a descendant of one of those involved in the rescue or has an artefact to lend the exhibition, should contact Peter Thomson by calling (01947) 606094 or email