Charles Lightoller: We continue our 150 Chorley series with the story of the highest ranking crewman to survive the sinking of the Titanic

Chorley-born seaman Charles Lightoller survived the Titanic, saw active service in the First World War and helped rescue soldiers from the Dunkirk beaches.

By Jon Townend
Friday, 11th June 2021, 3:31 pm
Updated Friday, 11th June 2021, 4:06 pm
Chorley-born Charles Lightoller was a key witness in the Titanic inquiry
Chorley-born Charles Lightoller was a key witness in the Titanic inquiry

The Chorley Guardian is featuring 150 stories about Chorley: Inspirational people, places that we love, or special moments in the life of the borough.

It's a countdown to our 150th anniversary on November 4 and we’re celebrating the community we’re proud to be a part of.

Charles Lightoller was born in Chorley on March 30, 1874, and lived at Yarrow House, Chorley – now the site of Albany High School.

Chorley-born seaman Charles Lightoller

He was a key witness in the public inquiry into the Titanic disaster.

He was the highest ranking crewman to survive the sinking of the Titanic and had played an important role evacuating passengers from the ship.

He was the last one rescued by the RMS Carpathia.

In 2018 a menu for the first meal ever served on the ship belonging to Lightoller sold for £100,000.

The Chorley Guardian is 150 years old this year

Lightoller had given the menu to his wife as a souvenir before he left from Southampton on April 10 in 1912.

The lunch - including sweetbreads, spring lamb and pastries - was served during the liner’s sea trials on April 2 in 1912.

More than 1,500 passengers and crew died when the Titanic struck an iceberg four days later.

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A letter giving a harrowing eyewitness account from Lightoller has also been auctioned in recent years.

It offers an unprecedented snapshot into the final moments of the doomed liner.

It was written on board SS Adriatic on May 1, 1912, when Lightoller was returning to England after giving evidence in the US inquiry into the loss of the ship.

He wrote of meeting some passengers and crew on the boat deck and poignantly said "they were all perfectly calm in the knowledge that they had done their duty and were still assisting by showing a calm and cool exterior to the passengers”.

“Each one individually came up to me and shook hands.

“We merely exchanged the words ‘Goodbye, old man’.”

Lightoller was later honoured for his bravery in the First World War, twice decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross.

He also took part in Dunkirk, one of the most famous wartime evacuations in 1940.

The Admiralty requested the service of his diesel engine yacht, Sundowner to take part in Operation Dynamo - the largest mass evacuation of all time.

Not only did Lightoller spy on the German coastline in advance of the operation, he also rescued 127 servicemen on a yacht made for carrying just 21.

A blue plaque commissioned by the Chorley Civic Society is on one of the gate posts of Albany High School to commemorate the Lightoller association.

Read more from our Chorley 150 countdown:

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Whether its a person, a place, an event, a sporting moment, email [email protected]