Worthing's heroic lifeboatmen remembered with unveiling of new information board

Unveiling the historic Worthing's Heroic Lifeboatmen information board, from left, author and historian Rob Blann, Worthing Society chairman Susan Belton, Shoreham Lifeboat coxswain Steve Smith, Worthing mayor Hazel Thorpe and Worthing West MP Sir Peter Bottomley
Unveiling the historic Worthing's Heroic Lifeboatmen information board, from left, author and historian Rob Blann, Worthing Society chairman Susan Belton, Shoreham Lifeboat coxswain Steve Smith, Worthing mayor Hazel Thorpe and Worthing West MP Sir Peter Bottomley

A new information board has been unveiled on Worthing seafront, paying tribute to the town's heroic lifeboatmen.

The lifeboat memorial stone on the beach, south of Denton Gardens, was rededicated to mark the unveiling of the board by the Worthing Society.

Crew members from Shoreham RNLI Lifeboat Station attended the ceremony at the beach memorial garden and paid tribute offshore by demonstrating life-saving exercises.

Susan Belton, Worthing Society chairman, said: "This made a very fine and poignant backdrop to the ceremony. A local choir, Singers Rechoired, sang For those in Peril on the Sea and other maritime songs, which added to the atmosphere of the occasion."

The memorial stone, made of Welsh slate, was commissioned by the society in 2013. The new information board that has now been added was designed by vice-chairman Jessica Gill, a local artist, and based on the RNLI flag.

Susan added: "The installation of the new information board, for which we received a very generous donation, highlights the names of the courageous early lifeboatmen who carried out heroic rescues using open boats.

"The early crews were mainly local fishermen and there are still families in Worthing today descended from those brave men."

Worthing became a lifeboat town following the Lalla Rookh disaster in 1850, when 11 fishermen drowned in an attempt to rescue the stricken boat. Their small open boat overturned in a ferocious storm, leaving a total 47 widows and children.

Susan said: "This really shows the significance of the sacrifice made by the town in this era. Our first RNLI lifeboat was the Jane, launched in 1866. The lifeboat station remained an important part of the town's life and identity until 1930, when the motorised RNLI boat from Shoreham took over."

Worthing mayor Hazel Thorpe unveiled the information board on September 15 and laid a wreath of white roses on behalf of Worthing Borough Council.

The Rev Ginny Cassell from Storm Ministries then gave a touching blessing of the memorial.

Rob Blann, author of A Town's Pride, gave a heartfelt address, having descended from one of the early lifeboatmen and contributed greatly to the society's research.

Rob said: "The ceremony has been a moving and meaningful event to mark an important chapter in Worthing's maritime history.

"I named the information board A Town's Pride, after my book with the same title on the same subject."

Rob read out the names of the 16 men who had made the ultimate sacrifice and the circumstances in which they perished. He and Susan then laid a wreath on behalf of the society's committee and members.

The touching conclusion saw one of the Shoreham lifeboats brought close to the beach and the crew cast afloat a bouquet of 16 red flowers, one for each man lost.

Coxswain Steve Smith then went ashore by dinghy and walked up the beach to lay a wreath. He was received by Worthing West MP Sir Peter Bottomley, the mayor, Susan and Rob.

Susan said: "The ceremony and dedication of the information board has given true recognition to the memorial garden, recording the courage of 130-plus early lifeboatmen going to sea in poorly-equipped boats, protecting our coastline.

"The legacy of their heroism lives on in the spirit of the RNLI today who still face significant challenges. Three robust cheers were given for the Shoreham Lifeboat."

The Beach Office has agreed to the RNLI flag flying permanently at Splash Point as a fitting tribute.