Mary Stanford remembered

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Mary Stanford is hauled ashore after she capsized

Sunday November 15 was a special day when many came together, as in all the years since the disaster, at the beautiful church in Rye Harbour to remember the courageous crew members of the Mary Stanford lifeboat .

At 6:45 am on November 15 1928, when called to save lives from a stricken vessel in the Channel, there was no hesitation by the crew of 17  to launch the lifeboat despite the south-westerly gale with winds in excess of 80 miles per hour. They did not shrink from the tempestuous storm.

The tragedy unfolded when the crew, though recalled because another ship had come to the rescue of the stricken vessel, did not receive the message before they set off – and none of the 17 crew was to return.

The impact on the Rye Harbour community was devastating as it affected everyone who lived there and each family lost a loved one, some even more than one family member. It was the biggest loss of life from a single lifeboat in the history of the RNLI.

I have been several years now and always there is standing room only by the time the service begins. Tribute was paid by reading out each name and lighting a candle until 17 were alight. The Rye Bay Crew sang the Mary Stanford song which was haunting and beautiful, as was the trumpet tribute (by Michel Duvoisin) when the wreaths were laid at their place of rest in the graveyard.

I am certain that, however many years pass, everyone who attends is moved and feels the sadness of that moment, when it was known that the courageous crew was not to return.

Photo: Frank Rust/Associated Newspapers/Rex