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Tuesday, January 12, 1999 Published at 19:36 GMT


Villagers re-enact heroic rescue mission

Lynmouth lifeboat hauled miles across the countryside

One of the most dramatic lifeboat rescues in the history of the service has been re-enacted 100 years on.

Clinton Rogers's reports from Lynmouth on history been repeated
On a stormy evening in 1899 the seas off North Devon were too rough for the Lynmouth lifeboat to go to the aid of a stricken ship.

But rather than stand by and watch a tragedy unfold, the boat's crew helped haul their three-and-a-half tonne vessel miles across Exmoor to calmer waters.

[ image: Ahance to re-live family history]
Ahance to re-live family history
Every able-bodied village mustered to inch the Louisa 1,000ft uphill to the moors in atrocious weather conditions. They worked solidly through the night, without food or drink, reaching the calmer waters of Porlock bay at 6am.

Their 10-hour feat of endurance was not in vain as the crew managed to save the 15 stranded souls on board the cargo ship.

A century on, locals of the West Country village paid tribute to their heroic forefathers by re-enacting the rescue mission.

Sixty men and four working horses had a taste of what their ancestors had faced, bending to the task in driving rain.

At times they resorted to a little 20th century technology. Tractors were used to haul the restored Bembridge lifeboat, a vessel of the same period as the Louisa, up two steep hills,

[ image:  ]
Dick Pedler remembered his grandfather's original feat of stamina.

"They had to do it in the dark. Of course they had no flashlights, only lanterns that blew out every time they tried to do anything," he said.

Edward Nightingale, of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, recalled the heroic feat of yesteryear.

"It's beyond belief. One hundred years on, one still wonders how they did it overnight in the dark, the rain and the snow. It's incredible," said Mr Nightingale.

[ image: Watch presented in recognistion of bravery]
Watch presented in recognistion of bravery
At 16 years old, Andrew Richards's father was the youngest crew member of the original rescue mission. He was presented with a watch in recognition of his bravery and it is now a treasured family heirloom.

Mr Richards said of his father: "I think he found it difficult to talk about it. He'd rather talk about the amusing aspects of it than the serious side."

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