Saving Fleetwoods Historic Lifeboat
Registered Charity No:1166752
On August 4th 1941 At approximately 12.50pm the Ann Letitia Russsell launched in to a strong NNW gale after reports that a vessel was in difficulties at King Scar. The casualty was the Stella Marie a 300 ton 3 masted motor schooner registered at Thorshaven, with a crew of 8 on bored, she was heavily laden with a cargo of fish estimated at a value of £10,000.
The Lifeboat was launched with only a crew of 6 instead of the usual 8 man crew, as Coxswain Jeffery Wright knew that time was against them and he could not waste any time waiting in the hope some more of the Lifeboat crew where on their way. The Lifeboat could not take a direct route to the casualty because of the state of the tide and had to take a route to the end of the Wyre channel via the Wyre Light house making it a longer and hazardous journey. With Coxswain Jeffrey Wright at the helm and Motor Mechanic Sydney Hill at the controls of the engine all the crew knew this would not be an easy rescue and it would be hazardous too, with the Lifeboat being swamped several times by the heavy seas breaking over the Lifeboat, the lifeboat made its way to the casualty at full speed with no time to spare.
When the Lifeboat arrived at the casualty the crew found the Stella Marie hard aground on the King Scar sandbank with heavy seas breaking over her, the crew of 8 on bored the Stella Marie where in a very dangerous position, Coxswain Jeffry Wright knew he only had moments to rescue the 8 crew members and there was not enough time to drop the Lifeboats anchor to veer down to the casualty, Jeffery drove the lifeboat thought the breaking waves up alongside the casualty and as the Lifeboat was being swamped at one end it was being lifted out of the water at the other then a huge wave smashed in the Lifeboat forcing her to spin round and driving her stern first in to the side of the casualty causing great damage to the steering gear of the Lifeboat. The Lifeboats steel rudder pintale was severely bent and the rudder was forced up the pintale and jammed rendering the rudder to be useless and the Lifeboat to have no proper steering., After a great deal of manoeuvring using the engines to steer the Lifeboat, Coxswain Jeffery Wright managed to bring the Lifeboat alongside the casualty while Motor Mechanic Sydney Hill worked at the controls of the Lifeboats engines while he was most of the time up to his neck in water in the flooded engine compartment. Coxswain Jeffery Wright and Motor Mechanic Sydney Hill managed to hold the Lifeboat alongside just long enough for the 8 crew members to jump aboard the Lifeboats rolling deck assisted by the other 4 lifeboat Crew members. Now with all the crew of the stranded Schooner aboard the Lifeboat Coxswain Jeffery Wright took the Lifeboat out in to the deeper and calmer water ready to make their way back to Fleetwood. After a great deal for difficulty manoeuvring the Lifeboat in the heavy seas only using the engines and tide as steering the Lifeboat the lifeboat arrived back at Fleetwood at around 2pm. The Lifeboat had to be removed from service on her return to the Lifeboat house for a few days until the rudder and pintale had been repaired.
Coxswain Jeffery Wright and Motor Mechanic Sydney Hill received the RNLI’s Silver medal for the outstanding courage and seamanship, the over Crew members Second Coxswain James Leadbetter, Assistant Mechanic Richard Wright, and Crewmen William Houston and David Wright received the RNLI’s Thanks on Vellum for their part in the rescue.
This rescue made national news and for some time after the Stella Marie rescue Ann Letitia Russell Lifeboat and her crew where local heroes and celebrities being invited to all sorts of events from civic receptions to church fates and Coxswain Jeffery Wright was often invited as a after dinner speaker which he carried on doing until his death in 1977. The rescue also formed part of the story line for the 1947 Public Information film Shipshape.