The Fraserburgh RNLI lifeboat rescue of the steamer SS Glenravel, which saw 14 people saved from the sea on 8 August 1915, is to be featured in an RNLI national touring exhibition commemorating the centenary of World War One (WW1).The charity’s exhibition, funded by Arts Council England, is called Hope in the Great War and will honour the courage and bravery of the lifeboat crew who risked their lives to save others during WW1.
Lady Countess Rothes was the husband of Norman Evelyn Leslie (19th Earl of Rothes). Best known as a Titanic survivor, 33-year-old Rothes and her cousin boarded lifeboat 8. Thomas William Jones, the seaman in charge of the boat, remarked on Rothes outspoken and take-charge quality, stating, “she had a lot to say, so I put her to steering the boat.” Rothes headed the tiller for most of the night.
The RNLI Fraserburgh Lifeboat introduced to service in 1915 was named "Lady Rothes" by the Countess herself. The lifeboat was provided out of a gift from Mr Dyer-Edwardes, father of the Countess in gratitude for the saving of lives at sea.
GLENRAVEL, 1,092/1906, Antrim Iron Ore Co, Belfast-reg, 14 crew, Mr A Cameron, Belfast for Leith with 800t iron ore and general cargo. U.17 approached around 0650 from two miles distant, Glenravel headed for the nearest land at top speed, from 0700 for the next hour several shells fell close until the U-boat came up within a quarter mile, ship stopped, crew took to the boats and Germans went alongside. Explosive scuttling charges placed below decks and Glenravel slowly sank stern first at 1025, 25 miles N of Kinnairds Head, Fraserburgh (L/wi - 12 miles NNE of, in 57.54N, 01.53W); crew headed for shore, met and taken in tow by Fraserburgh lifeboat Lady Rothes, landed at Fraserburgh.
I do appreciate that the Germans on the U boat waited till the crew got off the Glenravel and into lifeboats or similar and then scuttled the main ship. Then it was up to the brave crew of the lifeboat Lady Rothes to rescue the sailors. Not knowing if bombs would then be aimed at them. Pity that sort of humanity does not prevail in todays warfare where everything and everyone is destroyed, children, and all.
I was approached some time ago with the possibility of Fraserburgh's story of the First World War lifeboat rescue and was more than happy to promise the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses would be honoured to hold the exhibition. And Fraserburgh's story was chosen. So 2015, if I am spared, we will be hosting the exhibition. I also hope that all the artists in the Broch will be doing their bit to portray the brave men and women volunteers who risk their lives to rescue anyone at risk in or on the sea.