ROHILLA




National Maritime Museum

Built: 1906 Harland and Wolff, Belfast.
Tonnage: 7, 114g, 3, 970n, 7, 460 dwt.
Engines: Twin Screw, 2 x Quadruple Expansion, 8, 000 IHP, 850 NHP, 16.6 Knots (Trials).
Passengers: 100 First Class, 65 Second Class, 175 Crew.
Launched 6th September 1906, Completed 16th November 1906. Yard No. 381.

The Rohilla were a people of Rohilkand in the former Untited Provinces, east of Delhi.

Rohilla was easily distinguishable from her sister Rewa, her foremast was closer to the Bridge and her funnel was both taller and bigger in circumference. Like her sister she commenced on the London - Calcutta service and trooped during the winter season, whilst carrying troops civilian passengers were also conveyed. She was designated Troopship Number Six, totally painted white, with a blue riband on the hull and her funnel was painted buff. Along with her sister she represented British India at King George V review at Spithead in 1910, Rewa carried the House of Commons, Rohilla the Lords.

In the same year both were fitted with radio, the first British India ships to have the installations. On the 6th of August 1914 Rohilla was requisitioned and converted for use as a Hospital Ship. On the 29th of October she left Leith bound for Dunkirk to board wounded but at 0400 the following day she ran aground on the Saltwick Nab, one mile south of Whitby. At the time the sinking was attributed to a German mine, this was propaganda, with no coastal lights available because of the war she lost her way, ran onto the bank and in the ensuing storm broke her back. Lifeboat crews from Whitby, Upgang and Tynemouth attended the stricken vessel and for their heroism were awarded three gold and four silver medals. Major Burton of the Tynemouth lifeboat was awarded an Empire Gallantry Medal on the 30th of June 1924 for his bravery, this was later changed to a George Cross in 1940 when the award was instituted. Because the ship was only four hundred yards from the shore some of the crew attempted to make their own way to landfall but sadly even with the efforts of the lifeboat crews 84 members of the ship's compliment perished out of a total of 229.


Daily Mirror Photograph.

Quote ' The Rohilla being broken to pieces by the waves. Several men standing on the Bridge, while one of them is seen dropping into the water to try and fight his way to the shore. Note the lifeline which fell across the rigging too far away to be reached.'


Daily Mirror Photograph.

Quote 'Rescuers helping a man ashore. Arrows are pointing to the others who have nearly reached safety and who afterwards were landed.

Bound on an errand of mercy to Belgium the British Hospital Ship Rohilla was wrecked in a terrible gale on the rocks off Whitby. One lifeboat rescued thirty-five persons, but the others failed to reach the vessel though the gallant crews cheerfully risked their own lives in the attempt. Realising that their only hope was to jump for it several men dived into the sea from the doomed vessel, though not all of them reached the shore alive. The remaining fifty survivors were rescued yesterday' End of quote.

The pilot Jack Flag was brought ashore by her Second Officer and is now to be found at the small parish church of Tiptoe in the New Forest.

Link to a page which tells the story from the lifeboat crews' perspective.


Rohilla Model
Whitby Lifeboat Museum.
With Thanks to D.P.Ings


Rohilla Model
Whitby Lifeboat Museum
With Thanks to D.P.Ings

Both can be found at the Whitby Museum

Having received further information and photographs regarding Rohlla I thought it appropriate to add them as a postscript.

First a little background on the reasons why all Great Britain's coasts were blacked out the fateful night that Rohilla ran aground with such a tragic loss of life. These were the days before airborne attacks but the German Navy often visited the coasts of Britain to inflict death and destruction whenever possible. Only six weeks after Rohilla ran aground the German warships 'Derrflinger' and 'Von Der Tann bombarded Scarborough whilst a third ship 'Kolberg' spent its time sowing hundreds of mines outside the ports. The attack had begun at 0800 Hrs on the morning of Wednesday the 14th December 1914, which resulted in the death of nineteen civilians and the wounding of a further eighty.

DERFLINGER



Over two hundred shells fell on the town with thirty-six falling on its premier hotel the 'Grand', by sheer good fortune one landed on a school which had it fell half an hour later would have contained 150 children, Eventually the ships turned and left the harbour only to turn up at Whitby and recommence their assault half an hour later, at the same time another force of a similar size was attacking an equally unprotected Hartlepool. The British Navy later blamed a combination of bad weather and poor communication for their non-participation.

After the sinking.

Inquest.

The first of many inquests took place on the Saturday following the sinking and Mr George Buchanan was appointed Coroner, many witnesses were called including the ships Officers most notably her Commander, Captain Neilson. Captain Neilson was adamant, as were his Officers that Rohilla had struck a mine and he made the judgement to drive his ship for shore before she sank, unfortunately for Captain Neilson due to the storm, tides and dead reckoning he had in fact struck rocks near Saltwick Nab. Captain Nielson's assertions that he had in fact struck a mine appeared as such in F.A.Hook's book, "Merchant Adventurers" a history of P&O, B.I. and their Associated Companies during the 1st World War published in 1920. I can only assume that divers later inspected the ship and it was ascertained that she had in fact struck rocks. Also the verdict reached by the jury at the inquest also stated that the ship had struck something a short while before she grounded, it didn't declare what so the matter appears to be open to some conjecture. The jury was also unanimous in its verdict that all those lost had died by drowning save for John Smith who had died from exhaustion. They also agreed that the Rohilla's Master had done everything in his power to save his ship and was entirely free from blame as to her demise. Further inquests all reached the same conclusions as and when those bodies that made landfall were discovered.

The first funeral was on the Wednesday after the sinking and was attend by most of the inhabitants of Whitby along with rescuers, company representatives and local dignitaries. Of those that lost there lives where bodies were recovered most were interred at Whitby Cemetery in the following days, others were claimed by relatives and interred in their home towns. Rohilla's company, British India Steam Navigation Co., Ltd erected a memorial a short while later dedicated not only to its thirty-one Officers and Crew that lost their lives but also to the sixty men that perished along with them. There is a marked difference to those alleged to have lost their lives, it ranges from 83 through to 91 whose names are on the monument, I'm at a loss as to the reasons but it would seem that the number on the monument is more representative.


Memorial
With Thanks to D.P.Ings 1992


Memorial
With Thanks to D.P.Ings 1992


Memorial
With Thanks to Dave Mitchell 2002

Of the rescuers Coxswain's Thomas Langlands and Robert Smith were both awarded the R.N.L.I.'s highest award, their Gold Medal, as was Captain H.E.Burton.The Silver Medal its second highest award went to Second Coxwain's Richard Eglon and James Brownlea, Lieutenant Bazil Hall RN and George Peart.


With Thanks to D.P.Ings
Whitby & Upgang Lifeboat Crew Awards

David Mitchell aboard the Mary Ann Hepworth, a retired lifeboat, on 31st October 2004. He was representing British India Steam Navigation Company at a ceremony to commemorate the loss of 85 lives (out of 229) on the Rohilla on the 90th anniversary of her wrecking off the coast of Whitby.







With Thanks to Dave Mitchell 2002

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