1916 West Cork rescue features in RNLI expo

A Baltimore lifeboat rescue of 23 people from a steamship called Alondra, wrecked off the Kedges in West Cork in late 1916, is to feature in a special RNLI touring exhibition commemorating the centenary of World War One.

Funded by Arts Council England, the exhibition is called Hope in the Great War and will honour the courage and bravery of lifeboat crews in Ireland and Britain who risked their lives during WW1.

The exhibition is being held at a number of centres in England, Wales, Scotland and the Isle of Man.

The sole Irish venue is Crosshaven in Co Cork and the exhibition will be housed at Camden Fort Meagher, every weekend during July.

Community groups have come together to create interactive artworks to help tell the stories of the RNLI during the Great War.

Jacqui Palmer, who is coordinating the exhibition, said: “As the world remembers the tragic events of the Great War, it’s important that we also remember the courage and determination of those who risked their own lives to save others at a sea.”

More than 15,000 people in Britain have viewed the exhibition so far and community groups have been creating amazing artworks for it, she said.

“So it’s been a great way for everyone to come together and learn about the courageous work of our RNLI volunteers and coastal communities during the conflict,” she said.

During WWI, lifeboat crews launched 1,808 times, rescuing 5,332 people. It was often down to the older generation to go to the aid of those in danger at sea, while many of the younger men were on active duty, she said.

Among the stories featured in the exhibition are the 1914 Whitby RNLI lifeboat rescue of the wrecked hospital ship HMHS Rohilla which saw 144 people rescued.

While the torpedo sinking of the Lusitania off the Cork coast in 1915 remains infamous, not as many people will be aware of the rescue which took place in Baltimore a year later. It’s one of six inspirational stories featured.

On December 29,1916 the SS Alondra had been wrecked off Baltimore. Sixteen of its crew left in one of the ship’s boats, but drowned before reaching the shore.

Archeacon John Richard Hedge Becher (honorary secretary of Baltimore RNLI) and some volunteers launched a boat and, after several failed efforts, assisted in saving 23 survivors some of whom were lowered down a 45-metre cliff.

RNLI silver medals for gallantry were awarded to Archdeacon Becher.

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