Eastbourne RNLI team remember WW2 bravery in light of new film

Mike Philpott and Richard Abbott, volunteers at Eastbourne lifeboat museum
Mike Philpott and Richard Abbott, volunteers at Eastbourne lifeboat museum
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Members of Eastbourne’s RNLI team remembered World War Two lifeboat crews this week, in light of the new war film Dunkirk.

The film, which is released on Friday July 21, is about the evacuation of allied troops from France in 1940, an operation which was supported by lifeboats from Eastbourne.

Eastbourne's lifeboat team described crews involved in the Dunkirk rescue as 'courageous' and 'brave'.

Eastbourne's lifeboat team described crews involved in the Dunkirk rescue as 'courageous' and 'brave'.

Mark Sawyer, Coxswain for Eastbourne’s lifeboat service, said, “As younger men were serving in the war, lifeboats were generally launched by the older generation.

“These were very brave men, often out for long hours in arduous conditions. They didn’t have the equipment or comfort we have today. I take my hat off to them.”

The Eastbourne lifeboat used during the Dunkirk evacuation was the Jane Holland which served the RNLI from 1929 and saved 42 lives during World War Two.

According to Mr Sawyer, the boat was commandeered by the Royal Navy and helped evacuate several groups of soldiers from Dunkirk before breaking down.

Mike Philpott is a volunteer at Eastbourne Lifeboat Museum

Mike Philpott is a volunteer at Eastbourne Lifeboat Museum

The Jane Holland was being towed to safety by a British destroyer when the tow-rope snapped, forcing the crew to abandon her, Mr Sawyer said.

He said British officers decided to sink the Jane Holland by shooting at the boat, to avoid her falling into the hands of the German navy.

Despite having over 500 bullet holes, the lifeboat stayed afloat and was found drifting in the English Channel when she was returned to the Littlehampton boat yard she was built in.

Mike Philpott, a volunteer at Eastbourne’s Lifeboat Museum, said, “They were very courageous men. These were rowing boats, not motorised as they are today. They went out there with no idea what was going to happen. They showed an amazing instinct.”

Eastbourne Lifeboat Museum

Eastbourne Lifeboat Museum

The film is directed by Christopher Nolan and stars Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy and One Direction’s Harry Styles.