Falmouth RNLI man's memories of Mylor pleasure boat tragedy that cost 31 lives

Falmouth RNLI man's memories of Mylor pleasure boat tragedy that cost 31 lives

Falmouth RNLI man's memories of Mylor pleasure boat tragedy that cost 31 lives

First published in News

This week marks another anniversary of the sinking of the pleasure boat Darlwyne in July 1966, when 31 men, women and children lost their lives off Dodman Point during adverse weather conditions when a return boat trip from Mylor to Fowey turned into tragedy.

The Darlwyne skippered by Brian Bown had left Fowey heading for Falmouth with a southwesterly gale forecast and was never seen again.

Despite a week long massive air and sea search only the Darlwyne's dinghy was found and a total of 12 bodies.

For one man in the port it will once again rekindle memories of the tragedy that shook the entire nation. The only surviving crew member of the Falmouth lifeboat crew that searched for bodies after the Darlwyne sank is the Packet's shipping correspondent David Barnicoat.

David, who lives in Mawnan Smith, recently met up with author Martin Banks in Mylor where he was promoting his book The Mysterious Loss of the Darlwyne.

At the age of 18, David was a crew member onboard the lifeboat Crawford and Constance Coneybeare on August 4, 1966 when RAF planes spotted bodies in the water east of Dodman Point.

David said: “It was day that will be etched in my mind forever. We launched on service at seven in the morning and headed for Dodman Point with Coxswain Bertram West in command.”

He recalled the recovery operation. “A Royal Navy helicopter from RNAS Culdrose hovered quite low alongside the lifeboat with the pilot pointing in the direction of a body.

“We recovered the bodies of two young girls. At the time we did not know that one of them was 17-year-old Amanda Jane Hicks from Mylor. Her nine-year-old brother Joel was never found.

“The other girl was 14-year-old Susan Tassell, who died along with her mother, father and two sisters on the Darlwyne. Later we went alongside the Fowey lifeboat, which transferred the body of 50-year-old Albert Russell to us.”

On the way back to Falmouth David said the mood on the lifeboat was sombre.

“As we rounded St Anthony's lighthouse Bertram West asked us to stand to attention at various stations around the lifeboat. In the harbour the Royal Yacht Britannia anchored off St Mawes had been dressed overall to mark the Queen Mother's birthday.

“As we steamed past Britannia only her White Ensign was now visible. It was dipped when we were abeam of the Royal Yacht and officers saluted the lifeboat from the bridge,” said David.

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