The Caister Beach Company.
|Early Salvage work.
While the lifesaving reputation of Caister is
well known, it may come as something of a
surprise to learn that the villages
seafaring tradition dates only from the final
years of the eighteenth century. Salvage entries
for Caister men started in the mid-1790s,
representing the activities of a small single-boat
company of ten or fifteen beachmen drawn from the
ranks of the local longshoremen. At this time the
village was some way from the sea and was mainly
agricultural in character.
More usual salvage work also came their way.
Aberdeen Merchant of Sunderland
On 28th November, 1801, the brigantine Aberdeen
Merchant of Sunderland set sail from Hull for
London with a cargo of potatoes. Disaster struck
suddenly as, without warning, his vessel grounded
on the Outer Barber Sand. Over two hours later an
exhausted crew managed to make landfall at
Yarmouth. But the brigantine survived the night,
much to the delight of the Caister beachmen who,
boarded her and after effecting repairs they set
sail and anchored her in the Roads. The reward
for their good fortune was £200.64
The First Company Boat
In 1803 the name of the Caister Beach Companys
boat was recorded in the impress registers. An
entry makes reference to the 17-ton yawl
Assistance, we suspect the major part of their
work was in the salvage field, the pilotage and
ferrying applying more to the three Yarmouth
yawls mentioned in the same entry.
In 1816 the company replaced its boat with a new
yawl named the Prince Blucher, which was
registered to eighteen men who held more or less
equal shareholding. Shortly after this the
company was transformed into a multi-boat beach
company with an increased membership rising
ultimately to forty. From the earliest surviving
company accounts, it is clear that the Prince
Blucher was broken up around 184142, for
receipts from the sale of parts of her are
recorded in 1842. With the destruction of the
Prince Blucher, the last link with the companys
early days was severed.
The company expansion was caused by an increase
in salvage work, but it was also in this period
that the Winterton migrants began to make their
presence felt. The first to arrive, around 1810,
was Robert George. In 1815 the Ship Inn was
built for him, the first building of the
nineteenth century village, on what was then the
beach and still stands as a public house today.
Robert George's influence was probably
instrumental in bringing in further Winterton
men; Samuel George, Edward George and John George
between 1810 and 1820; Thomas George between 1820
and 1830; William George, Benjamin Hodds and John
Haylett between 1830 and 1840; and William Hodds,
Samuel Symonds, John Plummer and Humphrey Dyble
between 1840 and 1850. Many of these men brought
their families with them to swell the population
of the fast-growing
The superior seafaring qualities and experience
that these men brought with them quickly made
them a ruling elite in the Caister Beach Company.
On 24th February, 1848, when the company rules
were agreed, thirty-one of the forty members
attended the meeting at the company shed. Of
these sixteen were migrants, mainly from
The next decade was to see a further major influx
of Winterton men, who all but took over the
Caister Beach Company. These included Isaiah
Haylett, Aaron King, Benjamin Kettle, Jacob
George, John George, and the most famous
of them all, Jimmy Haylett, who bought a share in
Caister Beach Company crew outside
the lookout about 1860
Hover the mouse cursor over to see the name of
Ben "Matches" Hodds
work for the beach company during this time was not
without many dangers and several tragic incidents occured.
Tragedy first struck in 1874 when Isaiahs son
William was lost at sea. Isaiah lost another son, Josiah,
when during a gale on 30th January, 1877, his smack Twins
was sunk, with seventeen other Yarmouth smacks.
Salvage work was the beachmens main purpose in
going to sea, but before the stationing of lifeboats on
the East Anglian coast they were responsible for saving
hundreds if not thousands of lives in their own boats.
They continued to carry out most valuable lifesaving
services in the yawls long after the first lifeboats had
arrived. The following incident involved the whole family
and many others in Caister. At midnight on 22nd July,
1885, the yawl Zephyr was launched following the sighting
of a stranded schooner on the Lower Barber Sand. The
night was calm and moonlit and the crew of fifteen were
joking among themselves on what, on the face of it, was a
routine trip. James Haylett,
Senior, was at the helm and as the yawl neared
the Barber he called out now dear boys, keep a
lookout for that old stump referring to the
mast of a stone-laden schooner, the crew of which had
been saved by the Caister men some nine years earlier.
The words were scarcely out of his mouth when the yawls
port bow struck the mast and the boat was ripped open.
Loss of the Caister Yawl Zephyr - property of John
Into the water
Within two minutes the whole crew were struggling in the
water. There was sufficient time for the men to cut free
much of the yawls gear, and this proved to be the
salvation of the survivors. Old Jimmy Haylett, the
coxswain, supported himself on two oars; soon he found
himself close by the foremast, on which were his son
Aaron, William Knowles and Joseph Haylett. They kept
afloat for a time, but the mast kept rolling over; Aaron
moved to his fathers oars, the other two were
drowned. John George, another of the crew, struck out for
the shore and came across a shrimper, The Brothers, of
Yarmouth. He clambered on board and then led the search
for the other beachmen. First to be picked up was Robert
Plummer on a grating, then one after the other, Aaron
Haylett, Isaiah Haylett, George Haylett, Harry Russell,
and lastly James Haylett, Senior, astride the foremast
with an oar under one arm and a sett under the other. The
remaining eight crewmen were drowned, and these included
Jamess son Frederick Haylett. Caister mourned, but
the beach company ranks were quickly filled and these
hardy men continued their dangerous work.
George outside the Old Lookout
on the beach at Caister.
|A man of tremendous
physical strength and leader of men.
exploits of Philip George the coxswain live on today, he
was clearly a man of tremendous physical strength but
also with the mind and the will to lead his crew through
the most severe and dangerous of conditions. Several
stories of his service remain, which are a true testament
to his bravery and the respect in which he was held by
his fellow crew and the beach men of Caister. It is quite
amazing to consider that all this work was done with what
was the most basic of survival gear compared with todays
The following true story gives some impression of the
difficult service given by Philip George and his crew it
also serves as a further reminder that a lifeboat and its
crew are at their most vulnerable when it is launched
from the beach when strong winds and heavy seas prevail.
The heavier boats were usually launched from the beach
over skids, or skeets as they were termed in East Anglia,
by the manual labour of a considerable launching party.
While the crew did their utmost to haul the boat through
the surf with a haul-off warp anchored offshore in deep
water, the launching party would use a setting pole, a
long stout spar with a crutched end, to push the stern of
the boat out.
In very severe conditions, however, neither brains nor
brawn could succeed in getting a boat afloat off an open
beach, as the Caister beachmen found on 4th December,
It was about three in the morning when the man on watch
in the Caister lookout saw a flare being burnt on board a
vessel which he judged must be on the Barber Sand.
Moments after the lifeboat bell which hung beneath the
lookout had clanged out its message to the sleeping
village the whole of the crew were down at the boat, and
they and their helpers quickly had the boat at the waters
edge, where huge seas brought up by the strong norwesterly
gale were hurling themselves against the sand.
|On the last skeet!
The lifeboat was on the last skeet and fourteen men were
on the lee side holding her steady; Coxswain Philip
George was just watching for a chance to launch, and the
launchers waited only for his word. Suddenly, without
warning, an immense wave rolled out of the darkness and
struck the poised boat, washing her right off the skeets
and forcing her several yards up the beach. The launching
party hung on to the lifelines along the boats side
and were carried along with her; by a miracle none of
them was crushed by the heavy boat or washed off and
Coxswain George was carried overboard by the sea, and the
undertow took him into the surf. Like many of his
fellows, he possessed a massive frame and powerful
muscles, but he needed all his strength to fight the
waves that December morning; it was only with the help of
others that he staggered ashore.
Back to the skeets
It was no easy task for the launchers to get the heavy
boat into position again, but they laboured on and after
considerable exertions got her back on to her skeets. The
crew picked up the haul-off warp, and again all was ready.
The coxswain gave the word. The launchers propelled the
boat towards the surf, the crew hauled with all their
might on the warp, but the seas, like walls of water
toppling on to the shelving beach, beat her back Again
and again they tried to get her afloat, again and again
the boat was flung back on the sand by the tremendous
force of the waves. Time after time the boats head
was thrust aside by the curling breakers. Tackles were
hooked to the boats stern to keep her to windward,
but tackle after tackle broke; even new rope was no match
for the power of those seas.
to give up!
Eventually, after four hours of unremitting labour, the
lifeboatmen and the shore party had to give up, not
because they were drenched to the skin by the spray, not
because they were too tired to go on, not because they
accepted that the boat could not be got off in such
conditions, but because the anchor on the haul-off warp
had come home; instead of hauling the boat through the
breakers, the crew had dragged the anchor from its
position in the seabed.
The laconic record Caister failed to launch
gives no hint of the long and bitter struggle involved in
the unsuccessful attempt. And so it was many times in the
days when boats had to be launched by muscle power alone,
with no mechanical aids: sometimes a boat was launched
only after a long, hard fight, and at other times the
greatest human efforts were unavailing against the might
of the sea.
most difficult part
Quite the hardest part of many a difficult and dangerous
lifeboat service was getting the lifeboat afloat and away
from the shore; usually the crew were soaked to the skin
and chilled to the marrow by a biting, icy wind even
before the rescue work had been begun. And it was either
during the launching of a boat or soon after, while the
boat was still in shallow water or was crossing an
inshore shoal on the way out, that most accidents
James Haylett Jnr
Haylett JNR and his crew aboard the Beauchamp about 1900
crew in their oilskins and cork lifejackets.
Hover the mouse cursor over to see the name of each
Aaron Haylett was old Jimmy Haylett's third son born in
1852, he was also a survivor of the Zephyr tragedy in
1885 where several others in his family had died. Aaron
took over as coxswain of the lifeboat from his older
brother James Haylett JNR, whilst James remained as a
crewmember on the Beauchamp.
Haylett taken from the larger image right
Aaron Haylett with his father James Haylett SNR
and son Walter Haylett the child is Walter's son Walter.
died in the Beauchamp
disaster of 1901 however his son Walter Haylett - seen
above, survived and went on to be awarded the RNLI silver
John Whampo Brown
from the image below outside the Old White Shed.
|John "Whampo" Brown served as
coxswain for just one year before John "Spratt"
Haylett took over the post. It must have been a most
difficult year; following the loss of the Beauchamp, with
Caister mourning the loss of so many of its brave men.
John had also lost many of his friends and crewmembers
that had served with him on the lifeboat. He had the job
of drawing the lifeboat crew together again, building
confidence and the will to continue with the proud
tradition of the Caister lifeboat, following such a
tremendous loss to the community. During this time it
would appear that the Covent Garden III lifeboat was the
only boat on station, until the Nancy Lucy arrived in
1903. John was a fisherman by trade, his livelyhood
depended on his ability to catch fish and this made it
difficult for him to be on station when the need arose
and may have been a further reason for handing over the
helm to Spratt in 1903.
John Spratt Haylett
"Spratt" Haylett was a son of Isaiah Haylett, a
member of the Caister Beach
Company, who settled in Casiter from Winterton.
Spratt died as a result of lifeboat service to
Shackleton's boat the Nimrod in 1919.
"Spratt" Haylett 1906, on the day he received
RNLI silver medal for bravery and the Russian
Lifesaving Medal from Czar Nicholas II.
"Spratt" Haylett seen (above and full picture
below) with a gathering
the Old White Shed at Caister Beach note the
circular telescope holes.
Hover the mouse cursor over to see the name of each
Silver Medals were awarded to from the left
Jack Plummer, Mr Clowes Hon Sec, Solomon Wright Brown,
John "Spratt" Haylett, James Haylett SNR and
Walter Haylett .
Coxswain 1919 - 1935. Taken July 14th 1964
|Charles Laycock held the post of
coxswain in the years between the two world wars. The
boats on station during this time were the James Leath
towards the end of its service at Caister and for the
most part the Nancy Lucy also nearing the end of its
service. Charles Laycock would also have been coxswain
when the Charles Burton came into service in 1929. He
also saw the demolition of the Old Watch House see below
arround 1931 ~ 32.
Nancy Lucy leaves Caister beach with the crew using the
Haul off warp
laycock and others at the Old Watch House see closeup
The picture was taken on the last sunday morning before
the old house
was pulled down 1931-32 ~ Information given 2003 By kind
Rosie Shipp - the sister of Skipper Woodhouse MBE.
Hover the mouse cursor over to see the name of each
Woodhouse 75, Coxswain 1935 - 1949
Joseph Woodhouse, father of the
legendary Skipper Woodhouse, was the skipper of a
herring drifter for his living and coxswain of
the Caister lifeboat until 1949. Whilst he was
coxswain Joseph saw the lifeboat on station
change from the last sailing lifeboat, Charles
Burton, to the motor powered Jose Neville. This
also entailed a move to the newly built and
current lifeboat station and the use of tractor
power to launch the lifeboat. His first years of
service as coxswain were during the second world
war and during this time he and his crew had to
operate under the most dangerous and difficult
conditions. Lighthouses and lightships could not
operate their guiding lights and the lights in
harbours were also extinguished and the
casualties of war also added to the calls placed
upon the lifeboat. The burden on the lifeboat
station was far greater than in peacetime, where
the lifeboat would need to launch to save crews
of downed aircraft and several vessels which had
Joseph onboad CHARLES BURTON with
his crew which included his
son John "Skipper" Woodhouse see
picture above right.
Hover the mouse cursor over to see the name of
Woodhouse outside the Old White Shed on the beach note
the circular telescope opening in the window of the shed.
onboard the CHARLES BURTON
|James Brown was the son of Old
Jimmey Haylett's daughter Sarah and Solomon Brown's son
Robert Brown. James carried out the duties of crewmember
in the Nancy Lucy and the Charles Burton (see picture
above). He was second coxswain from 1941 until 1950 when
he became the coxswain until 1956. Following this
position he continued to serve in the crew under Coxswain
Jack Plummer in the Royal Thames. The following newspaper
stories outline some of the service he gave to the
Caister lifeboat at sea in bitter
weather COXSWAIN CALLED FROM WHIST
Piece taken from the Eastern Evening News
January 13th 1955
lifeboatmen were at sea for more than six hours in cold
weather during the night when they went to the Swedish
motor vessel Nissan, which reported that she was leaking
aft off Caister and needed a tug.
The lifeboat stood by the vessel, relayed messages from
her to the coastguards, and then escorted her to Yarmouth.
There she was taken in tow by the tug Richard Lee Barber,
and both ships entered the harbour early today.
Coxswain J. H. Brown, of the Caister lifeboat, was M.C.
at a Council Hall whist drive for the Caister Darby and
Joan Club when the maroons sounded. He left to take out
the lifeboat, and Mr. A. E. King, chairman of the Darby
and Joan Club, took over as M.C.
Temperatures were well below freezing point when the
lifeboat was launched and remained low. Mr. Brown got
home about 3.30 am, but, like his crew, was at work as
Not First Time
Mrs. Brown said: He did not say much about it, but
it must have been bitterly cold. She added: Its
not the first time he has been called from a whist drive
to go out in a lifeboat.
The Nissan left Yarmouth Harbour just before 7.30 last
evening and sent up flares off Caister just before nine oclock.
Her master (Capt. Johansen) said when his vessel was
moored at the Bollard Quay in Yarmouth harbour:
We tell the coastguards that we require a tug and
the lifeboat stands by until she arrives. We are not in
any big danger.
The Nissan was on her way to the Firth of Forth after
discharging a cargo of Swedish timber at Yarmouth. She is
just under 400 gross tons and is registered at Halmstad.
A pilot went out from Yarmouth to help in her return to
the harbour early today.
coxswain to retire LIFEBOATMAN FOR 42 YEARS
taken from the Eastern Evening News March 23rd 1956
of this month will see the close of another chapter in
the history of Caister Lifeboat, a station whose boats,
in the 99 years since it was taken over by the R.N.L.I.,
have saved 1764 lives (and any member of the Caister crew
will tell you that that is more than any other station in
the British Isles can claim).
Having passed the retiring age, Mr. J. H. (Jimmy) Brown
will re-linquish the position of coxswain which he has
held for just over six years. He will be succeeded by the
present bowman, Mr. J. H. (Jack) Plummer. Mr. Alfred
Brown will continue as second-coxswain, while the new
bowman will be Mr. Norford Brown, nephew of Coxswain
Both the new and retiring coxswains come from families
with a proud record of lifeboat service Mr. Brown was
preceded in the Caister boat by his grandfather, father
and representatives of other branches of his family. He
himself first became a member of the crew 42 years ago.
He was second coxswain from 1941 until becoming coxswain
in January 1950
Although working in Yarmouth he is foreman ran-sacker for
Bloomfields. Ltd.. the boat owners Mr. Browns
interests are in Caister. Like Mr. Plummer he is a member
and a past chairman of the parish council, and he has
helped many charitable causes by organising whist drives
Many a Dash
More than once while M.C. at a whist drive he has
organised Mr. Brown has had to dash for the lifeboat shed
to take his crew to a vessel in distress. Since he became
coxswain, the Caister life boat has made 40 service
launches and saved 27 lives. Mr. Brown will be the third ex
coxswain still living in the village, the others
being Mr Charles Laycock (coxswain 1919- 1935) and Mr J
Woodhouse (coxswain 1935-1950). whose son Mr J. (Skipper)
Woodhouse is the present chief motor mechanic.
for 50 years . . . Harvests
Piece taken from the Eastern Evening News August 25th
years a Lifeboatman and still willing, at the age
of 69, to risk his life to save others is Mr. Jimmy
Brown, of 27, Tan Lane, Caister. When I met him on his
Caister allotment, he was digging with all the energy and
strength of a man of half his years.
Its no good giving up work you only die
too soon, he said smilingly. I thought when I
retired I should have nothing to dobut now I find Ive
plenty to do. and thats how I like it.
Mr BROWN, coxswain of the Caister boat for 6 years and a
boats officer for 14, had an ambition to be a
member of the crew when the 1800th life was saved by the
Caister station. He was among those on board the new The
Royal Thames when she made her first emergency launching
to rescue a holiday family in difficulties off Horsey.
This rescue brought the number of lives saved by the
Caister station from 1799 to 1804 . . . and the milestone
was passed within a day of Mr. Browns fiftieth
anniversary of joining the lifeboat crew.
BUT he has no intention yet of retiring. If I keep
on feeling as I do now, Im fit enough and will
carry on as long as they want me to, he said.
Our new boat is comfortable and not too difficult
to handle, and I dont see why I should pack tip
just yet. Caister lifeboat has a nice blend of
experience and youth at the present time, and no shortage
of volunteers. Said Mr. Brown: I dont think
for one moment there will ever be a shortage of people
available and willing to do the job. We have six
promising youngsters now all ready to jump in as soon as
anyone jumps outand they all seem as keen as anyone
WITH all the changes that have come over Caister, the
life boat tradition is still splendidly strong. It is
interesting to see people arrive in Caister from other
places and in varying occupations, and be gradually and
willingly caught up in the lifeboat service, either in
the crew or as helpers. Long may the tradition continue.
From left Jack Plummer 60,1956-1969,
Jimmy Brown 69, 1950 - 1956,
Joe Woodhouse 75, 1935 - 1949, Charles Laycock 94,
1919 - 1935.
Taken July 14th 1964 - the handing over of ROYAL
Jack Plummer was a lifeboatman for 30
years before becoming the coxswain of Caister lifeboat,
his father was a former second coxswain. From 1950-55 he
was owner of the Yarmouth herring drifter Rosebay. Before
which he netted boats for various owners. He was also a
member of Caister Sea Cadets committee and a school
Plummer aboard his drifter ROSEBAY
In oilskins he is just another working
member of the famous Caister-on Sea, Norfolk, life-boat
crew. But underneath his sea coat is the clerical collar
of the parish priest. The Rev. John Gabriel Markham,
Rector of Caister, always answers the call when the Jose
Neville puts to sea on a mercy mission. The Rector goes
through launching drill here with the Coxwain and Chief
Mechanic, Jack "Skipper" Woodhouse. Back from a
recent all-night vigil helping a fishing-boat in
distress, the Rector stepped off the life-boat just in
time to take an early service. 1959
Reported by Eastern Evening News Thursday
22nd August 1963
Caister lifeboat Jose Neville standing by the grounded
Belgian trawler Ixous off Yarmouth a picture taken
from an Anglian Air Charter aircraft.
With Caister lifeboat and the tug Richard Lee Barber
standing by, a Belgian trawler, the Ixous, refloated
today after more than seven hours aground on Scroby
Sands, about two miles off Yarmouth. Her position was
sighted at about 3.30 this morning by the coastguard, who
alerted Caister lifeboat and continued to keep the Ixous
under observation. The lifeboat was later launched under
Coxswain Jack Plummer and stood by the Ixous for several
hours, being joined by the Richard Lee Barber, which put
out from Yarmouth harbour.
Lifeboatmen helped the trawlermen to lay an anchor away
from the sand bank on which the Ixous was eventually able
to pull herself clear. She lay in Yarmouth Roads for a
while checking steering gear. After a displaced chain had
been replaced, she continued for Ostend.
Plummer and Alfie Brown preparing to launch
ROYAL THAMES Lifeboat Day July 14th 1964.
picture shows Mr McAvoy with Coxswain Jack Plummer
and members of the crew admiring the binoculars. These
were presented to Mr McAvoy by Mr E.D. Stogden, Eastern
District Inspector of Lifeboats on behalf of the RNLI to
mark his services to Caister lifeboat.
Note:- Mr Stogden is also the designer of
the proposed new Caister Lifeboat.
Service to Gloamin' N 4th December 1960
LIFEBOAT'S DIFFICULT RESCUE
CAISTER lifeboat was launched in rough seas yesterday to
go to the aid of a 41-year-old 18-ton fishing boat after
Yarmouth Coastguard look-out had seen. distress. flares.
The engine at the boat, the Gloamin N, broke down
as she was being sailed from Hull to the Thames by two
young journalists and a professional seaman. She ran into
trouble north-east of Scroby-Elbow buoy with gale force
winds blowing and high seas running. A rough weather
watch was being kept and a coastguard said afterwards
that the boat had been kept under observation on her
voyage down the coast.
of the perils of the storm after a tow at sea lasting
over two hours
the Gloamin'N follows Caister Lifebaot to moorings near
Broke Away Twice
lifeboat took the Gloamin N in tow and took. her
into Yarmouth Harbour. During the tow. which lasted more
than two hours, the Gloamin N broke away twice, and part
of her gunwale was pulled off. When she was safely moored
near the Fishwharf at Yarmouth. her owner, Mr. Robert
Rodwell, a 25 - year old newspaper features editor, or 56.
Popes Grove. Twickenham, told a reporter that he had
bought the boat at Hull, where he had her converted into
a home for his wife and baby daughter With the news
editor of his paper, 24-year-old Mr. A. S. Nicolatta, of
36. Stangate Mansions. S.E.l, and a professional sailor.
Mr. Bob Smith. Of Hull, he sailed for the Thames on
The boat ran into heavy seas on tier way south, but
behaved magnificently until, just north of
Yarmouth Roads. the engine failed
Rodwell (left), owner of the Gloamin'N, shaking hands
with the coxswain of Caister lifebaot (Mr Jack Plummer)
after landing at Yarmouth
Started to Drift
started to drift out to sea so we tried signalling to
ships near us with a torch. he said. That
didnt have any result so we fired the distress
signals There were ships all about us some only two
or three hundred yards away, but they just didnt
take any notice, though we fired six flares. The
coxswain of the lifeboat, Mr. Jack Plummer. described the
job of towing the boat, a former seine- netter, as tricky.
with the fact that she was larger than the lifeboat
adding to the difficulties caused by the high seas.
Service to the Trawler Kirkley 8th April 1963
LIFEBOAT RESCUES TRAWLER CREW
CAISTER lifeboat rescued eight men on
Monday, as their rubber dinghy drifted near Scroby Sands.
They were the crew of the trawler Kirkley which had run
aground on the bank scene of many shipwrecks.
Later, only the bridge and a mast of the Kirkley
of Lowestoft were reported to be showing. She was
at an angle of 45 degrees.
But the crew, six of them Lowestoft men, were safe at
Yarmouth Shipwrecked Sailors Home. They shook hands
with Coxswain Jack Plummer and the lifeboat crew when
they were landed at the Fish Wharf.
Red flares fired from the Kirkley, whose radio was put
out of action when she grounded, were seen from the shore
at Caister about seven oclock. About 40 minutes
later the crew had been picked up by the lifeboat from
broken water near the sandbanks as they drifted
dangerously on the flood tide.
and awash on Scroby- the Lowestoft trawler Kirkley from
crew of eight was rescued.
The trawlers 31-year-old skipper, Mr.
Charles Page, said he was not on watch when the trawler
He said : I was in my bunk. I jumped up and stopped
the engines, which were still going full ahead. There was
no bottom showing on the echo- sounder.
We got two pumps going and tried to get her astern.
We dropped the anchor because there was a flood tide, and
we got a chain of buckets, but it was all no good.
When they tried to launch the lifeboat, he continued, the
ship heeled over and punched a hole in the lifeboat side.
They launched one of the rubber rafts and got away on
Mr. Page said: The lee deck was awash and water was
up to the top bunks in the cabin. The only thing that
kept us afloat was the fact that she was grounded.
Ray Walters of Kessingland one of the rescued crew of the
Thanks coxswain Jack plummer of the Caister lifeboat.
Other Lowestoft men in the crew of the 111
gross ton Kirkley, wooden-built and 17 years old, were
David Whitham, David Jones, James Barnard and Alf Butcher.
Others in the crew were Raymond Waters, William Potter
Coxswain J. R. Plummer, of Caister lifeboat, said the
lifeboat was making for the trawler at the north end of
Scroby when a coaster directed her to the rubber dinghy,
in broken water several hundred yards to the south of the
The lifeboat went alongside and took the eight men from
the dinghy, which the lifeboat towed into Yarmouth
harbour. Said another lifeboatman: They wer very
grateful to us. Some were soaked and the dinghy had
pleanty of water in it. It was in a tricky position.
This is one of the smartest rescues in the
Yarmouth and Caister area for several years. Although it
was calmer ashore on Monday, the north east wind having
moderated, conditions near Scroby were rough. The eight
men were given baths and meals at Yarmouth Shipwrecked
Sailors Home. The Kirkley is managed by Boston Deep
Sea Fisheries. She had a 30-kit catch made during her 11
days at sea and was returning to Lowestoft. The Leith
motor ship Reed Warbler stood by the trawler until the
lifeboat arrived. On Scroby, towards the north end, is
the wreck of another trawler the Ostend boat
Yarmouth which went aground in December 1951.
Caisters lifeboats already hold the proud record of
having saved more lives than any other lifeboat station
on the British coast.
Mr. ,Jack Plummer, coxn of the lifeboat. said
afterwards. The chances of refloating her are pretty slim.
She is a wooden vessel and the bottom is probably stove
in. On Tuesday a salvage expert went out to the
Service to the trawler
Loch Lorgan 13th December 1963
SLEET - STORM, in the early hours of this morning the
crew of the grounded Lowestoft trawler Loch Lorgan are
landed at Gorleston after being rescued by the Caister
Lifeboat Jose Neville.
The Loch Lorgan aground at Yarmouth 13th December 1963
a service for which the coxswain Jack Plummer was awarded
the bronze medal.
Caister Lifeboatmen receive award
The eight members of the crew of Caister
lifeboat on Tuesday each received an illuminated vellum
for bravery in a dramatic sea rescue in which the
coxswain gained the R.N.L.I.s bronze medal.
The presentations were made by Mr. M. C. McAvoy,
secretary of the Caister station, at the annual meeting
of Caister Life-boat Ladies Guild. Also presented
were monetary tokens of the Institution
appreciation of what Mr. McAvoy described as a
wonderful job of work.
Jack Plummer Second right on the occasion of receiving
his bronze medal
in London with Coxswains from other lifeboats.
During the night of December 13th last year the lifeboat
rescued the crew of the stricken Lowestoft trawler Loch
Lorgan in raging seas and gale-force winds.
Mr. J. R. Plummer, the coxswain, received the Institutions
medal on April 7th from Princess Marina. The men who
received the awards were Mr. Plummer, Mr. Alfred Brown,
Mr. Roland (Benny) Read, Mr. David Woodhouse, Mr. Jimmy
Brown, Mr. Harry Pascoe. Mr. Geoffrey Codman and Mr. Fred
Service to the cruser Cairnbin 22nd August 1964
Two MEN were baling out water, at one time nearly three
feet deep, as they waited in their 30 ft. cabin cruiser
Cairnbin for help while off Winterton late on Saturday
night. They were taken in tow by Caister lifeboat and
brought safely into Yarmouth harbour at 2.30 on Sunday
Lifeboatmen helped in baling out during the nine-mile tow.
After arrival in harbour the Cairnbin was pumped dry by
men of Yarmouth Fire Brigade.
It was the second rescue by the new Caister lifeboal
Royal Thames. and it was on successive. Sundays that she
towed a casualty into the safety of Yarmouth harbour.
Comdr. V. Ford, R.N.R., and C.P.O. A. Flenshall, both
from Chatham, were taking the Cairnbin from Boston to
Chatham when they ran into trouble. The engine broke down
as she started taking water through a propeller shaft
gland. Water came in and we tried to stop it, but
the pump wouldnt work, said Comdr Ford.
Then we started baling with everything we had. At
one time the water was between 2 and three feet deep. I
tried to get someone to take a message in Morse, and when
that had no result I fired a flare. The Coastguards
were informed, a special watch was set up at Winterton
and Caister lifeboat put to sea under Coxswain Jack
shows the lifeboat arriving in harbour with the cruiser
Helped to bale out
She had a sea anchor over and was
drifting when we came up with her. said Coxswain
Plummer. We took her in tow and put a chap aboard.
He helped to bale out but after a while he started
flashing a light and called for more help. We put two
more men aboard her and they managed to keep the water
down. If they stopped for ten minutes there was three
inches more water in again.
Comdr. Ford gratefully acknowledged the
lifeboatmens help. A real fine job, he
The following is
an extract from Great Yarmouth Mercury March 19th 1982
Written by Steve Snelling.
BRAVE JACK RECALLS HIS DAYS AS
CAISTER LIFEBOAT SKIPPER.
Caister character supreme, was the last in the long line
of RNLI coxswains. When he retired in 1969, a tradition
of service went with him. Now 77, and living in peaceful
retirement a stones throw from the Caister lifeboat
station he served so long, he still embodies the simple
sense of duty which has characterised successive
generations of. lifeboatment.
THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA.
station immortalised by the crewmen who never turned
back, he added his own proud boast. For it is on record
that Jack Plummer NEVER refused to launch. No matter what
the conditions he put duty, honour and pride before all
other dangers. As a local politician he steered a none
too dissimilar course. His own brand of electioneering is
a part of Caister folklore. But for as long as local folk
remember and talk about the exploits of the intrepid
lifeboatmen who set out on their missions of mercy from
the tall grey shed in the dunes, Jack Plummers name
will live on. This week the Mercury pays its own tribute
to one of Caisters greatest lifeboat leaders
LIFEBOAT hero Jack Plummer hasnt
known many moments of fear in his life. As a coxn
he won the bronze medal for bravery. But his biggest
worry came when he had to tell his wife that he had been
voted coxn. He recalled: I was scared stiff
of what shed say. I darent do it at first.
His wife, Thursa. who died some years ago, never liked
his being a member of the lifeboat crew. Jack recalled:
She told me that she wouldnt marry me until Id
left the crew. But in the end she came to accept it.
It was always a worry to her, but she grew to live with
it. When the coxns job came up. Jack
thought twice about it because of his wifes
reaction. But he claimed somewhat mutely: I was
pushed into it. He was 52 when he took on the extra
burdens and responsibilities of skippering the lifeboat.
And he held the job until the RNLI closed the station
down in 1969. By then Jack had already served five years
past the official retirement age not bad for
someone who quit his fishing career because of a slipped
disc in 1955.
Jack and his crew
Hover the mouse cursor over to see the name of
FRIDAY, December 13th, 1963, shivered into
life with the clatter of hail-stones. Whipped up by gale
force winds, they pounded the big red brick house built
on the outer limits of Caisters bleak coastline.
Across the dunes, the icy sea foamed with rage as it
crashed against the frozen shore. It was a night ripe for
disaster. Suddenly, a light flicked on at the seafront
house. Inside, two voices crackled across a telephone
line. Friday the 13th was barely 30 minutes old as Jack
Plummer, retired fisherman and the coxwain of Caisters
lifeboat, rushed across the clinging sand. Still ringing
in his ears were the words of the coastguard.
today, 20 years after the skipper of the stricken trawler
Loch Lorgan fired his distress rockets from the Scroby
Sands, those words still rankle. Jack recalls: He
asked me if I was going to launch. The tone is that
of a man who has been personally affronted. I said
of course I am It wasnt so much a
heroic gesture as a matter of duty... and personal pride.
For Jack Plummer duty has always been clearly defined.
Born into a lifeboatmans family 77 years ago, there
has never been any question about risks. The folklore
entwining the rugged rescuers of old has been ingrained
in him so much so that it has become a part of him. He
was still a toddler when his father performed a feat of
heroism that saved the lives of five Russian fishermen
and earned for himself the RNLI silver medal for bravery
and the Russian Lifesaving Medal from Czar Nicholas II.
It was a natural step for him to follow his father into
the lifeboat. There was never any heart-searching, never
any questioning. I remember just hopping aboard one
day, he recalls. I was about 17 and I can
still see the old mens faces glaring at me. You
see in those days you had to be voted in to the crew. And
they didnt take too kindly to me breaking the rules.
It never particularly bothered him. He has never been
frightened to defy the odds or speak his own mind. In
fact, throughout his long life he has shown a remarkable
penchant for doing both. For Jack Plummer has always been
his own man, both as a lifeboatman and a local politician.
As coxn of the Caister lifeboat he refused to apply
for new sea charts. I didnt see any point in
it, he - explained, because by the time they
arrived they were always out of date. As a parish
district and county councillor, he stubbornly resisted
all attempts to make him sell himself to the people of
Caister. They wanted him to canvass. But he never did.
And whats more the people of Caister never stopped
voting for him. He delights in the legend which persists
to this day concerning his election day successes. It
was always said, he smiles, that you could
put up a goat in Caister and call it Plummer and it would
be voted in.
His own political philosophies were evidently close to
the hearts of his village folk. He won countless seats
under the Conservative banner, but - typically he
accepted the party only on his own terms. Never once
during his long career did he agree to accept a Tory whip.
And when Sir Tony Fell, MP for Yarmouth, made the mistake
of asking him to canvass on his behalf, he found an
answer that was as blunt as it was typical. Im
not going to go out canvassing for you, he told his
parliamentary representative, when Ive never
canvassed for myself in my life.
It was that kind of stubborn defiance which carried him
across the thin stretch of beach to the storm-battered
lifeboat shed on that cold December night 19 years ago.
No one would have questioned a decision not to risk the
lives of himself and his crew by refusing to launch the
Jose Neville into the raging sea. It was well known that
the 30 horse power engines struggled to ride the swell.
Worse still was the absence of the first engineer who was
away on a course learning about the Nevilles
successor which was due to take over in a matter of weeks.
But Jack never even considered the possibility of
rejecting the trawlers plea for help. Lives were in
danger and come hell or high water the Caister lifeboat
was going to save them.
Soon after launching they faced their first major problem.
Jack recalls: The easterly gale made it impossible
to get on the shore side of the trawler. It would have
just blown us further away. We had td take a gamble
and edge round the south end of the bank, between the
Scroby Sands and the Caister Shoal. Skilfully he
managed to bring the Jose Neville alongside the grounded
Loch Lorgan. And there he stayed, despite the storm-tossed
seas and the sale-force winds which were buffeting his
small vessel. Held together by a single strand of rope,
rescuer and victim bumped and banged against one another.
One by one the seven-man crew of the trawler leapt for
their lives aboard the lifeboat. But not before one
towering wave had crashed over the Jose Neville.
Jack was gripping the wheel when it struck. It
caught me right in the back of the neck! and crushed me
against the wheel. Id never known anything
like it. The whole canopy was filled. And in front of me!
just caught sight of my engineers head. It was the
only part of him that wasnt submerged.
Fortunately the water soon cleared ... and then a new
drama began. We had to pull away against the wind
without going aground and without being turned over,
Jack recalls. It was a difficult job for any vessel.
But with our 30 horse power engines I wasnt even
sure if wed make it. I just said open her up
and hoped for the best. Luckily, it worked and we slid
away. I remember saying to my engineer the Lords
on our side tonight.
In the aftermath of that daring December rescue, 69-year-old
former coxn Jimmy Brown, a man with 50 years
service behind him, would remember it as the toughest
Ive ever known. Jack Plummer called it his
best and worst And he was happy to leave it
at that. But his RNLI commanders thought differently.
They called him to London and pinned their bronze medal
for bravery on his chest
thats all history. It is over a decade since Jack
retired as the last RNLI coxn of the Caister
station He lives peacefully in the same red brick house
that he hurriedly left in the dead of night 19 years ago
to embark on his epic rescue mission. His bronze medal
and British Empire Medal are tucked away in a box
alongside his fathers bravery awards., He rarely
wears them. As far as Im concerned, he
said: I only did what anyone else would have done
You dont think anything about the risks. And
I see it like this: if I was a seaman aboard ship in
trouble I would like to think somebody would come to my
Tradition and duty echo in every last sentiment. Twelve
years away from the lifeboat station that was his life
has changed him precious little. A stones throw
away the sea gently laps against the sandy shore. Its
hard to imagine it cutting up; rough on days like these,
he says. Of course I miss the old days a bit. You
cant go through all that and not miss it. But
its nice to know when the telephone rings on a
stormy night that its not going to be another Loch
LIFEBOAT HERO JACK
PLUMMER DIES AGED 80
extract from EDP Saturday February
CAISTER lifeboat hero Mr. Jack Plummer has died.
He was 80.
The last of the seaside stations RNLI coxswains he
won the institutions Bronze Medal for gallantry
over 20 years ago.
Last night one of the crewmen on the 1963 mission that
brought him the award described him as a great man
and a very good coxswain.
On that night in 1963, Caister lifeboat rescued seven men
from the Lowestoft trawler Loch Lorgan which had run
aground on Scroby Sands.
Mr. Plummer was born into a family steeped
in lifeboat tradition. His father and three other Caister
lifeboatmen had won RNLI Silver Medals for daring rescues
57 years earlier.
His lifeboat service, and his work for the community in
many spheres, brought him a British Empire Medal in the
1969 birthday honours.
There were two major aspects to his service to the
community his courage and seamanship as a life-
boatman for nearly 40 years and his dogged work for the
people of his areas as their representative in three
tiers of local government parish, district,
borough and county councils.
Mr. Plummer joined the lifeboat crew in 1930 and was
bowman for 20 years until becoming coxswain in 1956. It
was a position he held until the RNLI pulled out in 1969,
to be replaced by the present Caister Volunteer Lifeboat
He reached the normal retirement age of 60 in July, 1964,
when the stations new lifeboat, the Royal Thames,
also destined to be last there under the RNLI flag,
arrived. The institution, however, extended his service
annually until the station closed.
lifeboat call to the Loch Lorgan came in 1963. Mr. Benny
Read, the current coxswain of the volunteer lifeboat who
was with him that night, recalled: It was a
terrible night and a very difficult rescue, but he didnt
bother about it at all.
We had three or four lines Out
because they kept breaking. There was a heavy easterly
swell but we got in close enough for a crew to jump on
board. At least once the lifeboat was swamped but
they were able to go astern of the trawler and reach
His long service on Caister Parish Council included a
term as chair man. He became a member of the old Blofield
and Flegg Rural District Council in 1956 and later, with
the reorganisation of local government, joined Yarmouth
Borough Council from which he retired in 1980. He also
represented Caister on Norfolk County Council.
In the early years after the war, Mr. Plummer was closely
associated with the Yarmouth fishing industry.
Until he became owner of the herring drifter Rosebay, in
1950, he had netted boats for various owners. His
interest in the sea was further illustrated by his
membership of Caister Sea Cadets committee.
Mr. Plummer had also been a member of the East Anglian
Regional Hospital Board and was the voluntary transport
officer for the area for the Norfolk Hospital Car Service
for a number of years.
He was also on the East Norfolk Valuation Panel and a
member of the Eastern Gas Consultative Council, and was a
school governor and manager.
Alfie (Mabby) Brown
|The Greek Ship Sea
Diamond 11th January 1978
One of the more
memorable occasions that the crew will never forget was
in 1978. On the 11th January the glass had been falling
all day, yet it was a bright and sunny afternoon with
hardly a breath of wind until about 4 pm when the wind
swung round to the north-east and steadily increased
until gusts were reaching over 80 miles per hour. There
was a spring tide and flood warnings were the order of
the day. Fishing boats that had been pulled high and dry
were either pounded by the gigantic rollers or blown
about by the wind. They were strewn along the high water
mark on the beach. The air had mixed with the water and a
frothy spume had blown about like dirty washing-up lather.
The sleet and rain stung the hands and face, and when
this stopped the sand which had quickly dried in the wind
was also airborne. No time to be abroad, not even to see
the state of the tide. From a laymans point of
view, it would seem an impossible task to launch a
lifeboat in such tremendous seas.
At the Coastguard Station sited on the Pier Head at
Gorleston, the heavy seas were sweeping over the decking.
Looking eastwards the Coastguards on duty could see
through the spray to the wild windswept wastes. Huge
waves piled up high and crashed down on the Pier in an
attempt to sweep the whole structure into the raging
water. The radio was flashing Mayday calls
for all areas further north but shipping in this
particular area seemed quiet.
About 2 am on the 12th two Mayday
calls were received from the Greek Ship Sea
Diamond which gave its position as 1½
miles south east of Lowestoft. The Lowestoft
Lifeboat was summoned and under its experienced
coxswain, Tommy Knot, put to sea within minutes
of the call. At the same time the Gorleston
Lifeboat under its Coxswain, Richard Hawkins,
also put to sea. The waves were so high that to
search by radar was impossible and when a
parachute flare was fired, the wind was so strong
that the flare could not gain height but was
blown sideways. It was then that the engines of
the Gorleston Boat began to falter, first one
stopped and then the other. The Lowestoft Boat
left the search area and went to the assistance
of the Gorleston Boat. Back at the search
headquarters at the Pier Head at Gorleston the
messages were received with some alarm as the
only two RNLI Boats which were easy to get away,
due to being berthed in harbours, were not going
to be able to carry out the search as one was
helping the other.
All the RNLI boats further north were unable to
launch because of storm damage. There was only
one other boat left, the Caister Lifeboat. The
problem here was that the boat would have to be
launched from the open beach as usual and with
such heavy seas running, it would be very nearly
impossible to get the boat away. It was about 2
am that the phone rang in Coxswain Mabby
Browns home and he was advised of the
situation. He quickly dressed and through the
wind, rain and sand, made his way to the Lifeboat
Shed on the beach where he fired two maroons to
summon his crew and the tractor driver. They
arrived still scrambling into their clothes and
viewed the various items of wreckage strewn
around the Boathouse door and the mountain of
sand over which the Boat would have to be
manoeuvred before being able to launch. The
Coxswain advised the men of the position and
asked them if they would launch to which
they all agreed. When they had got the Boat out
of the Shed the wind was so strong that it rocked
both the Boat and its carriage madly when it was
broadside on. It was turned head to wind to
prevent any accident. It was clearly seen that it
was out of the question to try and launch
directly opposite the Shed, so an attempt was
made further south. Hampered by their heavy sea
boots and clothing plus the stinging and blinding
sand, the rain and the violent wind, they again
and again tried to get the boat afloat and each
time they met with failure. However at 4.15 am
and after hauling the boat for about 2 miles
along the shore they finally achieved the
seemingly impossible. At last they got away. If a
500-ton boat could founder what chance had a
|The Boat made its way south in
those raging seas and the Coast- guards were
surprised to hear a cheerful voice saying, Hello
Gorleston Coastguards, Caister Lifeboat is on its
way to the search area. During this time
the Gorleston Boat had managed to get both of its
engines running again. The three Lifeboats were
unable to see one another although only separated
by a hundred yards of water. The Boats behaved
like wild things, throwing the crews about
unmercifully. Whatever there was to hang onto,
they hung onto. One of the helicopters which had
been called in to assist in the search reported
seeing lights to the east of their position and
the Lifeboats made their way out to sea to
commence looking for these lights. Dawn was late
this day and the helicopter reported sighting
wreckage further south.
Again the Lifeboats turned and another helicopter
that had joined in the search reported an
overturned ships lifeboat. The Caister Boat
was soon on the scene and they righted the
overturned boat but found nobody underneath. On
they went and then one of the crew saw a man in
the water on his back, supported by a lifejacket.
The Lifeboat was manoeuvred alongside the man, no
mean effort considering the seas that were
running, and one of the crew leaned over and
lifted the body of the young man aboard. He was
dressed only in a thin pullover, nothing else. It
was all too clear that he was dead, so the crew
wrapped the body in a blanket.
About this time a helicopter saw the upturned
hull of a large vessel in the area where the
search had originated. The search HQ was informed
of the sad find by the Caister Boat and as there
were six other people unaccounted for, the
Lifeboats once again turned in the direction of
the stricken vessel. Then one of the helicopters
reported sighting a body in the water and
recovered it. Soon after, the second helicopter
reported a similar find. The search had to
continue although by now all hope had gone of
recovering anyone still alive. One of the bodies
seen by the helicopter was found by the side of
an overturned life raft, clutching one of the
life-lines in a death grip.
The helicopters flew their finds to Lowestoft and
the Caister Boat was directed to go there as well.
At 2.15 pm she arrived at Lowestoft Harbour with
her sad cargo which was left with the Lowestoft
Hot soup and tea were provided for the crew.
Plans were made for the Shirley Jean Adye to make
her way to Yarmouth harbour and they set forth
homeward. However when she was just to the north
of Lowestoft the search H.Q. directed them to
return to Lowestoft to pick up some divers who
would examine the sunken wreck to see that no-one
was trapped in the hull. The Caister Boat
returned, picked up the divers and made her way
to the wreck but the seas, although having
subsided somewhat, were far too rough to enable
swimmers to operate, so once again the search was
called off and the Lifeboat finally returned to
Lowestoft. All lifeboatmen risk their lives and
they know the risks when they join the Service
but the Caister crew had been to sea for all
those hours with the knowledge that they would
receive nothing for the work they had done that
day. The consideration in their minds was that
another mariner was in trouble and needed their
skilled assistance in one of the worst seas in
VESSEL WAS HEADING FOR SANDBANK
Service to the Winaway 11th August 1959
extract from Yarmouth
Mercury Friday 15th
BUT for the prompt arrival of
Caister lifeboat the Lowestoft fishing vessel
Winaway would have been swept on to the sand bank
where in May this year the Kastor ran aground
with the loss of two lives.
That was the opinion of the Winaways
skipper, 41-year-old Mr. Steve
Stephenson, when the lifeboat reached Gorleston
quay on Monday afternoon with the Winaway is tow.
Winaway (LT478), a 52-footer that had been line-fishing
off the Dudgeon, had engine failure about a mile
off shore on her return to Lowestoft, which she
left on Saturday.
The anchor was laid immediately. But it
just would not hold, said Mr. Stephenson.
The boat was jumping around, there was a
lot of swell, and we were driving in towards the
mid-Caister buoy. If those chaps had not come
when they did we would have ended up where the
Mr. Stephenson said he doubted ii a rescue boat
from Yarmouth harbour could have reached Win away
in time. (When Caister life boat is withdrawn
from service and the station closed, as planned,
Gorleston lifeboat will cover that area.)
Three red flares were sent up from Winaway when
the anchor dragged and these were spotted from
They were also seen by the Yarmouth pleasure boat
Norwich Belle, packed with holidaymakers. She was
reported to have investigated, but by that time
the life boat was on her way to the Winaway and
the Norwich Belle was able to continue her trip.
On board Winaway were Mr. Stephenson and the crew
of two, with a passenger. They had been line
fishing for skate and had a decent catch.
The second coxswain Mr. Alfred Mabby"
Brown, was in charge of Caister lifeboat.
Benny Read was Coxswain for over 10 years and before
that, 2nd Coxswain and a crew member for over 35 years.
He came from a family whose history had been linked to
the lifeboat since its formation in 1845. In fact, his
ancestor Phillip George was Coxswain from 1872-1 887 and
his brother Billy Read retired in 1996 as 2nd Coxswain
after over 30 years service. Benny lived near the station
at the seaward end of Beach Road. After leaving Caister
School, he was first an apprentice butcher before his
love of the sea drew him into herring fishing, where he
sailed in the drifter Rosebay for Jack Plummer, another former
Coxswain of the lifeboat. For many years he operated a
fish and chip shop at Newport near Hemsby while fishing
from his own boat the Eileen Summer in the
winter. In the early 1980s, he returned full-time
to his beloved fishing and the sea. Benny Read was a
great character, always laughing and cracking jokes, a
natural leader of men, a man who knew no fear. During his
time in the lifeboat he was awarded the RNLI vellum for
bravery twice firstly as bowman of the lifeboat JOSE
NEVILLE when saving crew of the Loch Lorgan
and again as Coxswain of the SHIRLEY JEAN ADYE
on 18th November 1986, when eight men were rescued from
the Seaforth Conqueror which was aground on
the Scroby Sands in gale force winds. Benny had also
played a major part in helping to carry on the Caister
Station after the RNLI decided to close it in 1969.
from "Home From the Sea" Written by John
A year after the appeal was launched for a replacement
for the Shirley Jean Adye, HRH Prince Charles the Prince
of Wales, visited the station on 23rd April, 1988. The
Shirley Jean Adye was at her best. Benny Read
and the crew were presented to the Prince and then Benny
invited Prince Charles to inspect the lifeboat. At the
pre-visit briefing, Benny had been told what was planned
and the strict timetable which was to be abided by.
However, after showing him around the vessel and
explaining the charts of the sand banks off the station,
Benny broke with protocol and invited Prince Charles for
a trip - which he readily accepted!
A spare survival suit was thrown onto the
lifeboat, a maroon was fired. Bruce, the Coxwains
alsatian, broke loose at the sound of the maroon
and sprang up the ladder to take his usual place
on board much to the surprise of the Royal
visitor! He was followed by the Lord Lieutenant,
Mr Timothy Coleman, plus the Princes
entourage for a trip on the North Sea, with
Prince Charles taking the wheel of the Shirley
Jean Adye. After returning to dry land,
Prince Charles visited the shed, unveiled a
plaque and was presented with a box of kippers, (see
left with Miss C Carr, Mr P Durrant and Mr C
Weymouth) and left half an hour later than
Coxswain Benny and crew set out to sea in
SHIRLEY JEAN AYDE 26/06/1988
Sunday 1st September was a normal
day. The previous weekend had been the bank holiday which
had proved eventful for the lifeboat as the annual raft
race was held. It finished with both the inshore lifeboat
and the Bernard Matthews going to the aid of
the fishing vessel Cheryl M which had caught
fire. After the fire was extinguished it was towed into
Yarmouth Harbour by the Bernard Matthews.
This was to be the last rescue that Benny Read would
carry out, because on that first day of September tragedy
was about to happen.
The Sunday morning was lovely and sunny, the crew
gathered for their traditional pint at the Never
Turn Back and all went home to lunch. At 1.30 pm
Benny Read was telephoned by the Coastguards and
requested to launch the inshore lifeboat. He readily
agreed and asked for the pagers to be set off. Benny then
ran across to the lifeboat station followed by Bruce, his
loyal alsatian. In the course of setting off the maroon
he was fatally injured when it exploded in his chest. The
village was devastated that this lovely man should have
been killed in what turned out to be a false alarm. The
messages of sympathy came from far and wide and included
those from HRH The Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra.
As the funeral procession left from his house on the
Beach Road Car Park, a RAF Search and Rescue Helicopter
with a lifeboat flag flying beneath, hovered and bowed in
salute. The route to the church was lined with people as
the crew walked in front of the hearse to the church. The
path leading into the church was flanked from both sides
with the crews past and present of the Norfolk and
Suffolk lifeboats. During the funeral service, various
clergy paid tribute to Bennys life and work before
he was laid to rest in the Caister Parish Cemetery.
After the tragic death of Benny Read, the lifeboat crew
faced a test that no one was prepared, for Skipper
Woodhouse was asked by a member of the media if the
lifeboat would continue at Caister. Summing up the
feeling of the crew, Skipper answered, Did the Navy
pack up when Admiral Nelson was killed?. After the
aftermath of the funeral and the awful phsycological
effect on the crew, it was decided immediately after the
funeral of Benny to place the lifeboat back on service
once more, just as Benny would have wanted. Dick Thurlow
was elected Coxswain, Billy Read, Bennys younger
brother was elected 2nd Coxswain, Paul Williams,
Assistant Coxswain. All had long service in the lifeboat
and also were local fishermen knowing the treacherous
seas off Caister like the back of their hands. Whilst
1991 was a fairly quiet year, the next three years were
to test the service to the fullest extent.
Thurlow coxswain of the Caister Lifeboat for the past 10
years and is one of the longest serving members of the
crew, pictured on the day of his recent birthday.
|Born and bred by the sea, Caister
coxswain Dick has been on the open waves for most
of his life. Dick, 49, is one of the longest serving
members on the crew, and has been involved with the
lifeboat for more than 33 years. He lives in Caister,
with, his wife Annette and their three children. His
first experience at sea was when he went herring fishing
with his Uncle Peter a trawlerman, and his grandfather,
when he was nine That made me ill, I was really
bad, he said. But it did not deter me and I
went out fishing off the boats with various fishermen.
I left school and went to sea. I went fishing with
the first coxswain Alfie Brown. I was fishing
with him and went on from there.
The Legendary Skipper Woodhouse, who encouraged
youngsters to lend a hand at the lifeboat shed, first
introduced him to the lifeboat when he was 12.
He became a member of the-crew in 1972, emergency
coxswain in 1978; second coxswain In 1981; and finally
coxswain of the lifeboat in 1991. When he is not out at
sea rescuing people, Dick works offshore for Techmarine,
specialist seabed surveyors and has carried out work
throughout europe. His two sons Arron and Richard are
both lifeboat members and have jobs with the coastguard
and Ministry of Defence response boats.
He said the appeal was going well and he was looking
forward to working with the Valentijn 2000 lifeboat in
the future. It will mean a lot to me. I saw the
first boat, the Shirley Jean, come in and the Bernard
Matthews. To see this new boat would be absolutely
brilliant, he said.
taken from Great Yarmouth Mercury Friday March 21st
Thurlow oversees preparations for recovering Bernard
onto the launching trolley. Arron Thurlow, John Cannell,
and Tommy Williams digging out. 9th March 2003.
Thurlow oversees a practice launch assisted by Alex Low
and Tommy Williams Jan 13th January 2002
||Farewell For Lifeboat Hero
WHEN Dick Thurlow
gazes out over the dunes at Caister his eyes follow a
path to the sea taken by generations of lifeboatmen
The busiest lifeboat in the stations history, the
Bernard Matthews, is locked in a shed with countless
memories of village characters and acts of heroism.
A few yards away a new shed awaits the
arrival of Norfolks first jet-powered offshore
Mr Thurlow, will play no part in this next chapter of the
stations rich history as he has decided to retire
as an active lifeboatman after 34 years, the last 13 as
The skipper of a survey vessel said: The new boat
arrives in August but I am hoping the Bernard Matthews
will have a role to play until the end of the year.
After that I will still be involved with
fundraising and hopefully as an emergency tractor driver.
At my age I would be retiring soon anyway so it
would be wrong wasting all the effort to train me for the
new boat. Its better to leave it to the younger
Village garage owner Paul Williams will be taking over as
coxswain, but the Thurlow name will live on as sons Aaron, 19, and Richard, 21, are in the
crew, and daughter Heidi, a junior member.
16, is The lines on Mr Thurlows face are testament
to years of buffeting from the unrelenting gales that
whip up the North Sea, but he cannot recall a single
moment he did not think he would make it back to shore.
worst conditions I ever experienced were in 1993 when we
joined the search for a Dutch fisherman washed overboard
from a trawler.
We were 48 miles east of Yarmouth in hurricane
force winds and searched unsuccessfully for two-and.a
half hours. HMS Nottingham, which had been
co-ordinating the search, escorted us back through what
was sheer white water.
taken from Great Yarmouth Mercury Friday April 9th 2004