Hope in the Great War exhibition

The RNLI’s Hope in the Great War exhibition commemorates the centenary of the First World War. Touring RNLI museums, lifeboat stations and partner museums, it honours the courage and determination of those who saved lives in the midst of great conflict.
RNLI's hope in the Great Waar
A touring RNLI exhibition commemorating the centenary of the First World War.

Communities have come together to create interactive displays and engaging artwork, funded by Arts Council England.

This is an ideal way for families and young children to learn about the astounding work of RNLI volunteers during the First World War.

The exhibition kicked off at the Henry Blogg Museum in February 2014, and is then on tour for 4 years - the length of the war.

Find your nearest location below. Please check dates and opening times with museums before visiting in case any changes to the programme have been made. 


2 October-29 November

Old Low Light Heritage Centre, Clifford's Fort, North Shields


4 -11 January

Hope in the Great War

Any questions about the Hope in the Great War exhibition? Call 01202 663209.

This family-friendly exhibition focuses on heroic rescue stories from around our coasts during the war.

The stories are told in an atmospheric multimedia display, and brought to life by community art projects funded by Arts Council England:

  • Fraserburgh Sea Cadets have created an animated film that recreates the rescue of the steamer Glenravel, which had been fired on by a submarine

  • First Cromer Sea Scouts have designed a stained glass game based on the rescue of the crew of the Fernebo, which struck a mine in 1917.

  • Whitby Art Society have contributed 64 individual paintings, which combine to form a giant jigsaw based on the story of the hospital ship Rohilla.

  • Baltimore Drama Group have made a short film telling the story of the rescue of 23 survivors from the wreck of the SS Alondra in 1916.

  • Horton and Port Eynon lifeboat crew have recorded a podcast based on the events of 1 January 1916, when the lifeboat Janet capsized.

  • Falmouth Lighthouse Quilters have made a story quilt, especially designed for those under 5. The quilt traces the rescue of the crew of the tanker Ponus, stranded during a gale in 1916.

There will also be the chance to dress up and have your photo taken.

These exhibits and more will be on tour for the duration of the war centenary (2014-18).

Cromer’s lifeboat during the First World War, Louisa HeartwellFrom 1914–18 the lifeboat crews launched 1,808 times, rescuing 5,332 people.

With younger men on active duty, it was often down to the older generation to go to the aid of those in danger around our coasts. During the war years, the average age of a lifeboat crew increased to over 50.

The war also brought with it a different type of casualty. 

Ships in the North Sea, the English Channel and the Atlantic were targeted by the German Navy, after Germany declared a blockade on Britain in 1915. The sinking of the passenger liner Lusitania on 7 May 1915, off the coast of Co Cork, contributed to the US’s entry to the war.

RNLI lifeboat crews were called out to ships that had been torpedoed or struck mines. There were also calls out to ships on official war duty, such as the hospital ship Rohilla.

Rohilla struck Whitby Rock on 30 October 1914 on her way to France to pick up wounded soldiers. In high seas and storm force winds, six lifeboat crews worked for 50 hours to save 144 lives.

The Rohilla rescue features in the Hope in the Great War exhibition, along with more inspiring stories from Baltimore, Cromer, Falmouth, Fraserburgh, and Port Eynon.