Maritime trust appeals for information on brave crewmen

The crew of the Henry Frederick Swan circa 1933 - left to right,  George Lisle (2nd Cox), Mark Rowntree (Asst. Mechanic), Selwyn Hewitt (Mechanic), George Taylor, Jimmy Brownlee, James Taylor, Bobby Taylor, Bolam Dick, Joseph Taylor (Coxswain)

The crew of the Henry Frederick Swan circa 1933 - left to right, George Lisle (2nd Cox), Mark Rowntree (Asst. Mechanic), Selwyn Hewitt (Mechanic), George Taylor, Jimmy Brownlee, James Taylor, Bobby Taylor, Bolam Dick, Joseph Taylor (Coxswain)

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An appeal has been launched to uncover information on brave men who risked their own lives to save people at sea.

The North East Maritime Trust is currently carrying out restoration work on the historic Tynemouth Lifeboat, Henry Frederick Swan, which was stationed at Tynemouth from 1918 to 1939 and 1941 to 1947.

Work has already been carried out on the lifeboat and its rescues, but officials are keen to find out more on the men who formed her crew.

They are hoping any relatives can come forward with cuttings, photographs or stories, which can be used to tell the full story of the Henry Frederick Swan.

Peter Weightman, chairman of the trust, said: “The restoration of this historic lifeboat is a tribute to the brave lifeboatmen who manned her and to find out about her crew would tell the full story of this historic local lifeboat.

“When the restoration is completed, it would be fitting for the relatives of former crew to see the Henry Frederick Swan as she would have been when an operational lifeboat and we are keen to hear from as many families as we can.

“Our research to date has turned up some information about two of the former Coxswains, but there is still much more to find out.

“To hear the stories of the crew who were aboard the lifeboat when she launched on service would provide a unique insight into the conditions the crew experienced and endured on one of the first purpose built self-righting motor lifeboats.”

Based at North Shields Fish Quay between 1918 and 1939, the Henry Frederick Swan launched 28 times and saved eight lives, and during her second spell at the station she launched four times.

A total of five coxswains and 72 men volunteered to form the crew of the boat during her spells, many of them living in Cullercoats, such as the Taylors, Storeys and Lisles. There were also the Brownlee brothers from North Shields.

Her first coxswain, Robert ’Scraper’ Smith, born in 1879. He was one of the most highly decorated lifeboatmen of his time, being awarded the Gold and two Silver RNLI bravery medals for rescues carried out on the Henry Frederick Swan’s predecessor the Henry Vernon, as well as being awarded, in 1924, the Empire Medal for Gallantry, presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace.

Other coxswains include John Cowell, Joseph Taylor, George Lisle and George Burn.

Anyone who can help the trust should contact (0191) 447 8814, or email contact@nemaritimetrust.co.uk