1928: A Widely Acclaimed Lifeboat Captain Crosses the Bar

April 19, 1928

Theodorus “Dorus” Rijkers, who was credited with saving hundreds of lives from shipwrecks along the coast of the Netherlands, died at the age of 81 in Den Helder. Rijkers had been born in that Dutch city in 1847.

Rijkers’ lifesaving career began in 1872. While out at sea in his boat one day, he managed to rescue all 25 crew members of the damaged ship Australia from drowning. This successful lifesaving effort not only made Rijkers famous but also helped launch what would become his main mission for nearly three decades.   

Rijkers joined Noord-en Zuid-Hollandsche Redding Maatschappij (NZHRM), a Dutch organization focused on saving lives at sea. (NZHRM, which was founded in 1824, became a part of the lifesaving organization Koninklijke Nederlandse Redding Maatschappij in 1991.) Due to the bravery and competence he had shown when rescuing the crew members of the Australia, Rijkers was placed in charge of a lifeboat and its crew without needing to provide any formal credentials.

During his time with NZHRM, Rijkers (who was paid only on a fee-for-service basis) saved a total of 487 shipwrecked victims from drowning. One of his best-known rescue operations involved the German cargo ship Renown. After the Renown sank during a storm in the North Sea off the coast of Den Helder in 1887, Rijkers and his crew were able to retrieve all of those on board the foundering vessel who were still alive and bring them safely to dry land. King William III of the Netherlands awarded Rijkers a gold medal for his valor and leadership during this rescue effort.

Rijkers was widely acclaimed for his numerous lifesaving accomplishments and, by the time he retired from that work in 1911, he had also achieved folk-hero status throughout the Netherlands. Thousands of people, including many high-ranking Dutch government officials, attended his funeral.

For more information on Theodorus “Dorus” Rijkers, please check out  https://saltwaterpeoplehistoricalsociety.blogspot.com/search/label/Dorus%20Rijkers

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