1836 – Tragedy on Christmas Day

The 25th December marks the 181st anniversary of the loss of a Redcar RNLI volunteer at sea.

William Guy died aged 41 when he was lost overboard on Christmas Day, 1836, while on Redcar’s lifeboat the Zetland, which is today the oldest surviving lifeboat in the world.


Mr Guy was attempting to to rescue the crew of the stricken Danish ship Caroline which was sailing from the Tyne, carrying coal.

A storm struck the vessel in Coatham Bay, and its crew of ten took to the ship’s boats in attempt to escape before the ship sank.

The Zetland lifeboat was launched with a crew of 22 volunteers from the town, then little more than a village, and, after battling against mountainous seas, the volunteers were able to row the lifeboat close to one of the ships boats.

Mr Guy, who was acting as bowman, attempted to throw a line to the stranded crew, but he was struck by a huge wave, and lost overboard.

He is the only Redcar lifeboat volunteer ever to give his life while trying to save others, and will be remembered during Redcar RNLI’s celebrations this year.

The crew of ten on the Caroline all perished.

Dave Cocks, from Redcar RNLI, said: ‘William Guy made the ultimate sacrifice that Christmas Day. Contemporary reports suggest that at the time the lifeboat crew were summoned, he was celebrating Christmas in the local Methodist chapel.

‘There is even a story that, on his way out of the church, he handed over his favourite pocket watch for safe-keeping until his return.’

Mr Guy’s body was found 17 days later, near Staithes.
In May 2011, a plaque was unveiled in Saint Peter’s Church in Redcar to commemorate the death of Mr Guy, and a new grave marker laid in the churchyard to show his final resting place.