Hero of the Titanic who helped evacuate Dunkirk

Titan'c hero Charles Lightoller onboard the Sundowner which helped evacuate Dunkirk
Titan'c hero Charles Lightoller onboard the Sundowner which helped evacuate Dunkirk

Charles Herbert Lightoller is famous as Second in Command of the Titanic in 1912.

The Chorley-born seaman saw active service in the First World War but it is less well known he was also in the thick of the action during the Second World War and his story is believed to have inspired an element of the

storyline in the blockbuster film Dunkirk.

Dunkirk became the byword for the large scale emergency evacuation in 1940 of the British Forces from northern France as the German Army swept across Europe.

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

A blue plaque commissioned by the Chorley Civic Society is mounted on one of the school gate posts to commemorate the association.

Charles Lightoller circa 1912

Charles Lightoller circa 1912

Having been the highest ranking crewman to survive the sinking of the Titanic, he was a key witness in the ensuing public enquiry into the disaster. He underlined his strength of character when he volunteered for service in the First World War.

During his war service, in which he served for the duration, he was decorated twice for bravery with the Distinguished Service Cross.

By the end of the conflict in 1918, he held the rank of Commander.

On May 31, 1940, Lightoller, 66, received a call from the Admiralty requesting the service of his diesel engine yacht, Sundowner.

Sundonwer boat which Charles Lightoller used to rescue soldiers from Dunkirk

Sundonwer boat which Charles Lightoller used to rescue soldiers from Dunkirk

It was to take part in Operation Dynamo and what became the largest mass evacuation of all time.

Lightoller informed the Admiralty they could use his 58ft yacht but on the strict condition that he would be in command of it. He was sent to spy on the German coastline in preparation.

Then pensioner ‘Lights’ braved enemy fire once more and succeeded in rescuing an incredible 127 servicemen on a yacht made for carrying just 21.

After this feat he joined the Home Guard and served until he was ‘demobbed’ in 1946, at the age of 72.

Lightoller has been portrayed in previous Titanic films and now, with Dunkirk, his adventure of the Second World War has, in some small way, influenced another big screen storyline.