1861 Whitby Lifeboat Disaster
During a great storm on 9 February 1861, when more than 200 ships were wrecked on the east coast, Whitby’s lifeboat capsized with the loss of all but one of the crew.
The men had been attempting to rescue sailors from a stricken collier called Merchant and had put the lifeboat to sea for the sixth time that day.
The only lifeboatman to survive the capsize was Henry Freeman, who was on his first lifeboat launch and is thought to have survived as he was the only man wearing a new design of cork lifejacket.
Freeman was awarded an RNLI Silver Medal for his part in the incident and went on to become Whitby’s most renowned lifeboatman, helping to save more than 300 lives during more than 20 years as Whitby RNLI Coxswain.