Tag Archives: lifeboat

‘Ghost of Dunkirk’ appeal to restore the legendary lifeboat Cyril and Lilian Bishop

If like me you were intrigued by this poster included in my post of photos from Hastings beach the other day, the story is explained in this Vimeo video.

The Cyril and Lilian Bishop is a lifeboat that saved 34 lives while operating at in Hastings during the 1930s and then spent four days and four nights rescuing British and French soldiers from the beaches during the evacuation of Dunkirk in World War II.

She disappeared from history for a while until a phone call from a Belgian resident alerted Hastings folks ‘Dee-Day’ and ‘Tush’ that she still existed and was in a French boatyard – so they made plans to bring her back to Hastings.

The lifeboat was named after the philanthropist who paid for her to be built, and her husband. Fitted with a 35hp petrol engine, the new boat was Hastings’ first lifeboat to have a motor and radio communications.

However, there was no tractor, and so a lot of helpers and sometimes horses were used to get her up and down the beach.

The Cyril and Lilian Bishop is said to be best known by the nickname ‘The Ghost of Dunkirk‘, which she earned during the Dunkirk evacuation in late May 1940, when she was one of the shallow draught vessels used to get troops off the beach and out to the waiting ships.

It was said that to the soldiers queueing to leave that she appeared like a ghost amongst the smoke and mist during the evacuations.

After doing her duty at Dunkirk the boat was hosed out to remove sand. A hole was found in her bow, and there were two bullet holes. Sand was found in her fore locker, and her mast head light was also full of sand.

Cyril and Lilian Bishop continued in her RNLI service at Hastings until 1950 when a new lifeboat arrived.

Dee-Day and Tush plan to restore her and put her on display in Hastings Old Town.

Follow her progress on the Facebook page Cyril Lilian Bishop and Twitter @cyril_lilian1.


Sailing barge lifeboat rescue photos

EDP story of the Sepoy lifeboat rescue

Photos of the rowed lifeboat rescue mission to the sailing barge Sepoy 80-odd years ago published by the EDP show the reality of what lifeboatmen had to cope with.

Notice the surf, and the terrified barge crew hanging on in the rigging.

I find these photos very sobering… and even more so is the thought that the Sepoy was only a few hundred yards from shore, unlike many such rescues. Those crews were very brave and very tough – and still are.

Rowing lifeboat re-enactment to commemorate Lusitania sinking and rescue


A contemporary illustration shows the Lusitania sinking as Irish fishermen and lifeboats race to the rescue (from the Wikipedia)

The Courtmacsherry RNLI crew is organising a series of events to commemorate the centenary of the sinking of the Lusitania by German U-boat U-20 early in the Great War on the 7th May 1915.

A part of the County Cork village’s commemoration will be a re-enactment of the the call to service in which volunteers will row a lifeboat of the era 12 nautical miles to the disaster site.

The Cunard ocean liner RMS Lusitania went down 11 miles (18 km) off the Old Head of Kinsale, Ireland, killing 1,198 and leaving 761 survivors. The sinking turned public opinion in many countries against Germany, contributed to the American entry into World War I and became an iconic symbol in military recruiting campaigns of why the war was being fought.

According to the Wikipedia, argument over whether the ship was a legitimate military target raged back and forth throughout the war as both sides made claims about the ship’s cargo – several attempts to dive on the wreck to seek information have been made over the years, and the argument continues to the present day.

The re-enactment will use the Polperro Lifeboat Trust’s lifeboat Ryder, which is an engineless restored pulling and sailing lifeboat built in 1902, and very similar to the lifeboat Kezia Gwilt stationed at Courtmacsherry in 1915.

The commemoration will also include exhibitions at Courtmacsherry Lifeboat Station and the local Community Hall, and a commemeration dinner.

The local organisers are appealing for artefacts, stories and memorabilia to include in the exhibitions – they would love to hear from any family members of those lost or saved in the Lusitania tragedy. If you can help, contact them at lusitaniacentenary@gmail.com. Loaned memorabilia or artefacts will be receipted by the curators and will be returned to owners after the exhibition.

Other Lusitania centenary commemorations are to be held nearby at Cobh, the Old Head of Kinsale, and Kinsale – see the Visit Cork County website.