Kevin Smith was a former pupil at our school, he studied with us up to Year 6. Years later Kevin and his family moved to Mousehole and Kevin had a deep love for the sea from then on. He joined the RNLI and was involved in many brave acts of rescue and heroism. Kevin's last act of heroism was to be part of the crew that sadly lost their lives in the Penlee Lifeboat Disaster.
The Penlee lifeboat disaster occurred on 19 December 1981 off the coast of Cornwall. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) lifeboat Solomon Browne, based at the Penlee Lifeboat Station near Mousehole, went to the aid of the vessel Union Star after its engines failed in heavy seas. After the lifeboat had rescued four people, both vessels were lost with all hands; altogether, sixteen people died, including eight volunteer lifeboatmen.
The Coastguard had difficulties contacting the secretary of the nearest lifeboat station, Penlee Lifeboat Station at Mousehole on the west side of the bay. They eventually contacted Coxswain Trevelyan Richards and asked him to put the lifeboat on standby in case a helicopter rescue failed. He summoned the lifeboat's volunteer crew and picked seven men to accompany him in the lifeboat.
The lifeboat launched at 8:12 pm and headed out through the storm to the drifting coaster. The lifeboat was the RNLB Solomon Browne, a wooden 47-foot (14 m) Watson-class boat built in 1960 and capable of 9 knots (17 km/h). The lifeboat was named after Quaker Solomon Browne of Landrake following a bequest presented by his daughters. After it had made several attempts to get alongside, four people managed to jump across; the captain's family and one of the men were apparently safe. The lifeboat radioed that 'we’ve got four off', but that was the last heard from either vessel.
In the aftermath of the disaster, wreckage from the Solomon Browne was found along the shore, and the Union Star lay capsized onto the rocks, west of Tater Du Lighthouse
They were Second Coxswain/Mechanic Stephen Madron, Assistant Mechanic Nigel Brockman, Emergency Mechanic John Blewett, and crewmembers Charlie Greenhaugh, Kevin Smith, Barrie Torrie and Gary Wallis. Neil Brockman, the son of Nigel Brockman, got to the lifeboat station on time, but was turned down for the trip by Trevelyan Richards, who was reluctant to take out two members of the same family that night.
The inquiry into the disaster determined the loss of the Solomon Browne was in consequence of the persistent and heroic endeavours by the coxswain and his crew to save the lives of all from the Union Star. Such heroism enhances the highest traditions of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in whose
service they gave their lives.
Years after the disaster the family of Kevin Smith contacted our school to inform us of the story and the incredible act of heroism that Kevin showed on the night. They also gave us a trophy that has since been awarded to two Year 6 pupils every year who display the resilience, endeavour and heart that Kevin Smith showed throughout his life. Kevin Smith's story inspires us every day and is the basis of our school values shown through the life ring and anchor that epitomises everything that we do.