A century since sea tragedy

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On a bitterly cold winters night in 1915, three distress flares lit up the blizzarding sky, much to the anticipation of Bridlington’s RNLI crew.

The distress signal had come from HMS Airedale, a converted trawler from Grimbsy turned minesweeper.

The town’s lifeboat crew lept into action, but upon their arrival at the station there was no sign of the horses which usually dragged the lifeboat carriages to their launch points. There was no option other than to drag them across the sand themselves. Luckily 250 soldiers were on hand to assist. As soon as they arrived at the launch point at South Beach, the horses did so as well. No time was wasted and the first attempt to launch but the horses were lifted off their feet by the swell – the crowd pulled the carriage back in. The second attempt was made but the horses and their riders disappeared into the sea.

One rider, Robert Brown, was pulled into the lifeboat however, unable to free himself or his horse from the lifeboat carriage rider Robert Carr was drowned.

Having been washed clear of the carriage by the seas, the lifeboat proceeded with great difficulty to the wreck. But due to the stress of the hurricane force wind, the lifeboat was swept before the seas and passed the vessel without making contact.

Despite valiantly attempting to get back to the wreck they were driven onshore three-quarters of a mile to the south of the wreck, and the crew scrambled ashore.

A sense of fear and apprehension washed over those looking on from the short, unable to even pull in the lifeboat’s carriage. A lone rider, Charles Pashby, appeared from the crashing swell along with his steed.

Helpless to assist any further, the crew and onlookers battled the blizzard and returned to their homes. On their return in the morning, one horse had been drowned and was still attached by its harness to the carriage. All 12 crew of the minesweeper were drowned. One witness said: “I will never forget that night when those gallant men died for their king and country”.