The rescue of the Nafsiporos: 50 years on

2 December 2016

Today marks the 50th anniversary of one of the RNLI’s most remarkable rescues when three lifeboats were launched in hurricane conditions to rescue the crew of the Greek freighter Nafsiporos off the coast of Wales in 1966.
Painting of the Nafsiporos rescue

Painting: K Stone

Painting of the Nafsiporos rescue

The 1,287 ton Greek cargo ship had experienced engine failure, causing it to drift dangerously towards the Anglesey coast as it was buffeted by 100mph winds and 35 foot waves. Three of our lifeboats – Holyhead, Moelfre and Douglas – were involved in the rescue. 

Holyhead’s lifeboat St Cybi was the first to reach the cargo ship that morning, and the crew successfully rescued five people from the Nafsiporos, however the lifeboat was damaged in the process, forcing the crew to withdraw.

In spite of the huge waves and hurricane force winds, Coxswain Richard Evans then skilfully manoeuvred the Moelfre lifeboat alongside the freighter allowing his crew to pull the remaining survivors onto the lifeboat’s deck. Although the lifeboat was badly damaged in the rescue, the course was then set for Holyhead to bring the survivors to safety. By the time they set foot on land, Coxswain Evans, then aged 61, had been at the lifeboat’s wheel for almost 13 hours without a break.

The determination and courage of both RNLI crews ensured that the rescue was a huge success with no lives lost in a rescue mission that lasted 24 hours. To mark their bravery, all 17 of the Holyhead and Moelfre crew members have been awarded medals.

At Holyhead today, five of the surviving Holyhead lifeboat crew members from the rescue will be guests of honour at an event to mark the 50th anniversary of the rescue. They, and the lifeboat stations involved, will be presented with certificates by Leesa Harwood, our Community Lifesaving and Fundraising Director and will watch a moving message of thanks from the Nafsiporos’ Second Officer, Anestis Rokopoulos, now aged 73.

Leesa Harwood has spoken about the courage of the crews involved in the rescue:

RNLI lifeboat crew volunteers save lives at sea by heeding the call for help when everyone else is running for cover. Few events in the charity’s history epitomise this attitude better than the rescue of the Nafsiporos and it is right that we celebrate the 50th anniversary today.

Also attending today’s event will be descendants of the two Gold Medal recipients Lieutenant-Commander Harold Harvey and Moelfre Coxswain Dic Evans, as well as Davey Owens, son of Moelfre Lifeboat Mechanic and Silver Medal recipient Evan Owens.