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Richard B Wrightson [ detail ]
Anglian Daily Times
Friday March 12 1999
News REport - 8th
in atrocious conditions to go to the assistance of a boat in distress the 46ft
13 ton wooden lifeboat Aldeburgh
was flung over and submerged by a mighty wave shortly after launching. While
some of the 18 crew managed to swim clear and make it back to shore many were
trapped under the capsized hull and either drowned at sea or after the boat came
to rest upside down on Aldeburgh
As the sad centenary of the tragic event
approaches preparations are being made to honour the brave men who perished that
day in the name of duty. A church service is being organised and a wreath will
be laid at sea. Efforts are now being made to trace living relatives of victims
and survivors of one of Aldeburgh's
worst disasters as recounted below. At 11am on Thursday telephone messages were
received at Aldeburgh
that minute guns were firing out at sea to the southward but
caution was exercised before the gun cotton rockets used for the purpose of
summoning the crew of the lifeboat at Aldeburgh were fired," reported The East
Anglian Daily Times of December 8 1899.
An understated introduction to a graphic
account of one of the most terrible disasters ever to hit the East Anglian
coast. On that morning responding to the alarm signals with unswerving
dedication to duty 18 local crewmen had swiftly mustered at the lifeboat
station. The sprat boats had taken the early morning tide but those who had gone
north saw that a gale was brewing and wisely beached at Sizewell,"
continues the report. So horrendous were the sea conditions that even after
meeting at the lifeboat station it was some time before the order was given to
launch the 46ft “Aldeborough".
The storm at length broke and by noon a
heavy gale was raging from the south east by east blowing dead on shore. Signals
of distress were soon heard. Battling against the heavy sea the crew fought
against the on shore wind until they headed south at great speed with sails set.
But despite making good progress disaster lay only minutes away. Just then a
heavy sea struck the boat on her quarter and before her helm could recover a
mighty sea struck her broadside. She was over in a moment and such a scene has
never been witnessed off Aldeburgh.
The boat remained afloat but was driven by
the force of the sea inshore. Some crew members struggled free or had been
thrown clear of the crippled boat. But half of them were trapped in the upturned
keel. Almost all the inhabitants of Aldeburgh were watching the boat
as she went through the surf towards Slaughden Quay at the southern end of the
town and cries of horror were raised in a thousand voices when it was seen that
she had capsized.
When it finally beached no time was lost
in attempting to release those held inside the 13 ton boat. A rush was then made
to cut through the wreck with axes. On the tide receding there was great anxiety
to dig out the boat in which by that time a large hole had been made. Work was
carried on with remarkable energy although darkness set in and by 6.30pm all
bodies had been recovered. People had poured on to the beach from the town as
news of the tragedy spread. Many were wives and mothers of the men trapped in
the boat. They were helpless to act as the muffled shouts and screams of their
suffering loved ones reached them.
Interviewed at home after the ordeal by
the East Anglian Daily Times reporter he said “We missed half a dozen of the
crew at once and knew they must be under the boat. In a short time James Miller
Ward was washed out from under the fore part of the boat. He was insensible and
dead really, for Dr Wrightson and others tried for an hour or more to bring him
to and could not do so. The tide was still making and with the waves breaking
right over the boat some of us were working up to our necks in water all the
afternoon before we got the last of the bodies out from under the boat. Some of
them were dreadfully crushed."