The Salcombe Lifeboat Disaster 1916-2016 Centenary
On the morning of October 27th 1916, in the middle of the First World War, the small community of Salcombe suffered a terrible loss when the lifeboat William and Emma capsized on Salcombe Bar after returning from an abortive mission. Thirteen of the fifteen-man crew were drowned.
The lifeboat had been called out to render assistance to the Western Lass, wrecked in a storm near Prawle Point. In spite of the huge waves breaking on Salcombe Bar, the crew succeeded in getting out to sea, but on reaching the wrecked schooner, found that her crew had already been rescued by the rocket apparatus team at Prawle. Battling against near hurricane force winds the crew returned for home, but on attempting to re-cross the Bar their little craft capsized.
The disaster was one of the worst in the history of the RNLI and, for Salcombe’s close-knit community, the loss was devastating. Many of the townsfolk had seen the lifeboat capsize as it attempted to return to the safety of the harbour. For them, the sight of those brave men – husbands, brothers and sons, friends and neighbours – battling for their lives within sight of their homes, had been almost too much to bear.