LETTER: Barnoldswick men died in ship disaster

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Your reporter Hannah Upton’s article about the Rohilla disaster to be featured in the BBC’s “Coast” programme brought back to me teenage memories from the forties.

Twelve Barnoldswick men and 73 others lost their lives off Whitby in October, 1914 when this hospital ship hit rocks and eventually split in two, the aft part turning turtle. In the houses of some of my pals in Barlick were model lifeboats fashioned as collecting boxes for the RNLI and my questions about them brought out the whole tragic story. In addition to W. Eastwood, the other two Barlick survivors were Anthony Waterworth of North View Terrace and Fred Rediough of Ribblesdale Terrace at the time. I got to know Fred quite well as along with my father, he worked for the Prudential Assurance Company in the days when premiums were collected weekly house to house.

Up to late in the 20th Century pilgrimages were made regularly by Barlickers to Whitby, to a handsome monument erected in the cemetery by the Rohilla’s owners. Prompted by the disaster, Whitby had its own first motorised lifeboat by June, 1919. I recently visited Whitby and bought raffle tickets at the lifeboat house. When I mentioned that I was from Barnoldswick the lifeboat man, with a sob in his voice, immediately said ‘the Rohilla!’ It is still so well recalled nearly 100 years on.

In October, 1919 the wreck of the Rohilla with a two page description and photos, names and addresses of all the victims was included in “Craven’s Part in the Great War”, a publication which similarly featured all those from Craven and beyond who were killed or died while on or as a result of active service.

Prince Albert, the then Duke of York had his appendix removed while on the Rohilla but left the ship at Leith, the last port of call before disaster struck. He went on to become King George VI. Had he still been on board there might well have been no Queen Elizabeth II. Our royal history could have taken a significantly different course.

OWEN OLIVER

Bents, Colne