A famous lifeboat linked to a famous coxswain


Old Codgers Group
In 1916 the Salcombe lifeboat, the William and Emma, a rowing and sailing boat capsized whilst attempting to return to harbour across the Salcombe bar. Of the 15 crewmen aboard only 2 survived, one of whom was a young man, Edwin Distin (his uncle had been the coxswain of the doomed lifeboat).

In 1938 a new lifeboat, the Samuel and Marie Parkhouse arrived at Salcombe, a 46 foot Watson class powered by two 40 hp diesel engines and capable of holding 95 people in rough weather. Her coxswain was that same Edwin Distin. That lifeboat served on the Salcombe station until 1962.

On the 7th December 1939 she launched in the darkness of the early morning to the aid of the 6,000 ton Belgian Steamer Louis Shied which had gone aground near Thurlestone. As well as the crew of 46 the Louis Shied had 62 survivors of a torpedoed Dutch liner aboard, she had been close inshore to avoid the submarine menace in the area when she ran aground. The lifeboat managed to get alongside but was going up and down 25 feet in heavy seas. She got some people off and landed them at nearby Hope Cove with the aid of fishermen who ferried them ashore from the lifeboat. Returning she took off further people and took them ashore. By now a rocket had been fired from the shore and the rest of the crew were taken off in that way. In all the lifeboat rescued 62 people that night. Edwin Distin was awarded the silver medal of the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) and the rest of the crew bronze medals. Four years later Edwin Distin was awarded a bronze medal following another rescue. As you can see even as late as 1938 these boats were equipped with sails just in case of engine failure.

This morning in mist, light rain and low cloud the Samuel and Marie Parkhouse, now in private ownership, sailed out of Plymouth and I was lucky enough to witness her departure, a lasting and fitting tribute to very brave individuals who volunteered to man these vessels.


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