Remembering crewman’s death

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Christmas saw the 175th anniversary of the death of a lifeboatman who gave his life trying to save others, and whose body washed up in Staithes over two weeks after his death.

On Christmas Day in 1836, 41-year-old Redcar RNLI crewmember William Guy was lost overboard during an attempt to rescue the crew of the stricken Danish ship Caroline.

The lifeboatman’s body was found 17 days later, near Staithes, making him the only member of Redcar RNLI to have ever lost their life on active duty.

Dave Cocks, from Redcar RNLI, said: “William Guy made the ultimate sacrifice that Christmas Day.

“Contemporary reports suggest at the time the lifeboat crew were summonsed, he was celebrating Christmas in the local Methodist chapel.

“There is even a story that, on his way out of the church, he handed over his favourite pocket watch for safe-keeping until his return.”

The Caroline was sailing from the Tyne, carrying coal, when a storm struck the vessel and its crew of 10 – none of whom survived the tragedy – took to the ship’s boats in an attempt to escape.

The Zetland lifeboat was launched with a crew of 22 volunteers and, after battling against mountainous seas, the volunteers were able to row the lifeboat close to one of the ship’s boats.

William Guy, who was acting as bowman that day, attempted to throw a line to the stranded crew, but he was struck by a huge wave and lost overboard.

Mike Picknett, senior helmsman for the Redcar lifeboat, said: “The equipment and training modern RNLI volunteers have available to them would be unrecognisable to the crew in the Zetland that day.

“But the one thing that has been constant in the RNLI from the time of William Guy to today is the courage and sacrifice the charity’s volunteers make, day in, day out.

“Even on Christmas Day, if the call comes, they will leave everything behind to launch the lifeboat.”