The Pilot Boat – Home to the Original Lassie

At 2 am on the 1st January 1915, HMS Formidable was sunk by two torpedoes from a German submarine 20 miles off Start Point during the first year of the First World War.

The first torpedo hit the number one boiler port side and a second explosion caused the ship to list heavily to starboard. Huge waves thirty feet high lashed the stricken ship, with strong winds, rain and hail, sinking it in less than two hours.
A life raft containing bodies was blown along the coast to Lyme Regis and, in helping to deal with the crisis, the Pilot Boat Pub, offered its cellar as a mortuary.

When the bodies had been laid out on the stone floor, Lassie, owned by the pub owner, found her way down into the cellar amongst the bodies, and she began to lick the face of one of the victims, Able Seaman John Cowan. She stayed beside him for more than half an hour, nuzzling him and keeping him warm with her fur. To everyone’s astonishment, Cowan eventually stirred. He was taken to hospital and went on to make a full recovery. He visited Lassie again when he returned to thank all who saved his life……. And so, the world famous dog was born.
(Out of 750 crew, only 199 were saved)