Newquay Lifeboat Disaster

Women helped to haul the lifeboat through the town, due to a shortage of men (who were fighting at the Front)

He drowned saving a  man in distress

Bravery comes in many forms – but the courage shown in the Newquay lifeboat disaster of December 1917 was startling.

The crew of lifeboat “James Stevens Number 5” defied expert advice to battle through mountainous storm-torn seas to try and rescue a stricken Danish cargo ship carrying vital war supplies.

Tragically, the lifeboat capsized and was smashed into cliffs, throwing men into the sea and left others clinging onto wreckage and rocks for dear life as huge waves pounded in remorselessly.

All seemed doomed. But the watching people of Newquay refused to let that happen. It was their fathers, brothers, sons or cousins trapped down there facing death. Young boys and men from the fishing port were lowered on handheld ropes 100s of feet down over the cliffs through the desperate conditions to take the lifeboatmen vital supplies and then lift them to safety.   One of those lowered down was the father of Len Sheppard of Newquay Museum who is very much involved in keeping preserving the history

Len Sheppard's father was lowered down over a cliff in 1917 to help men on the stricken lifeboat

Len Sheppard’s father was lowered down over a cliff in 1917 to help men on the stricken lifeboat

of this terrible event.

Incredibly, all the crew of the James Stevens No 5 were finally pulled out alive – but at a cost. One rescuer, an enlisted Newquay man home from the Front on sick leave, who still insisted on being lowered down the cliffs, was smashed repeatedly onto the rockface by the storm and crippled for life.

Click here to read more about local memories of bravery during World War One years.