|Courtesy of:||Stuart Clark|
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Lifeboat House in 1923
On December 13th 1923 a tragedy at Pett claimed the life of Lawrence Sperry, an aviation pioneer. He was flying a Sperry Messenger on a journey from Croydon in Surrey to Amsterdam.
His plane was observed from the cliffs at Fairlight at 12.30 pm as it circled around a couple of times and then headed out to sea at low-level with a misfiring engine. Members of the public reported later that it seemed to land on the water and the RNLI Rye Harbour lifeboat was summoned to help. On arrival all they could see was the tail unit of the floating Messenger showing above the water. There was no sign of the pilot. The lifeboat searched the area for over three hours and when nothing was found, attached a line to tow the stricken plane back to the Harbour.
On board that lifeboat were the brothers Clark, William and Leslie, who were to lose their lives five years later in the Mary Stanford disaster. During their time as lifeboat men they saved many lives. Unfortunately they had not been able to save Lawrence Sperry, whose body was washed ashore some four weeks later about seven miles east of Pett. He was found with no boots or flying suit and it was felt that he had died trying to swim ashore to safety.
William’s and Leslie’s great-nephew Stuart is a member of today’s volunteer lifeboat crew at Rye Harbour, carrying on the family tradition of involvement with the RNLI. During the current lockdown he is often to be found at the boathouse carrying out detailed maintenance to keep the lifeboat in tip-top condition, ready to answer the call to Save Lives at Sea.
Stuart’s father, Trevor, added that his elder brother Malcolm was on the crew that began the modern history of the station in the ‘60’s when it reopened. The Clark family certainly played and continues to play an important part in the history of the RNLI at Rye Harbour.
Picture Added on 14 December 2020.
For more information on this subject see the following websites.
Rye Harbour Lifeboat Station