Azha Ship Wreck Lifeboat Rescue

The Brig “Azha” of Arendal, Norway was wrecked off the coast of Skegness, November 11th 1912. The crew of eight was saved by the Samuel Lewis Skegness Lifeboat, coxswain Matt Grunnill.


Below is the original painting presently in Skegness Lifeboat Station:

Distressed Vessel – Lifeboat Launched
The coastguard at Sutton today reported that a brig was observed passing south with sails blown away but not flying distress signals. The Huttoft coastguard reported similarly. At 3 o’clock, the vessel was seen drifting towards Skegness with a distress signal flying.
The lifeboat bombs were fired but the lifeboat was not immediately launched as the brig altered her signals.
At 3.30. the vessel struck a sandbank about three miles out to sea opposite the Clock Tower. The lifeboat was then launched.
At 4.15 the lifeboat arrived at the brig.


As briefly announced in last week’s issue of the Skegness Herald the Skegness lifeboat, Samuel Lewis, was called out for the second time within a fortnight, on Wednesday last.

The coastguards at Sutton-on-Sea and Huttoft observed a 300 ton Norwegian brig drifting southwards, with top sails blown away and other sails badly tattered and useless. No distress signals however were displayed, but the coastguards nevertheless sent the information to Skegness. Chief coastguard officer Hook thereupon warned Coxswain Matthew Grunnill, and a look-out was at once kept.

Eager eyes soon discerned the distressed vessel drifting along with the wind, and it was at once seen that she was now flying a signal for help. Promptly the bombs were fired, and the crew turned up, smartly, several being brought to the lifeboat house by motor-cars.

As the crew were donning their oilskins and cork jackets, the vessel’s signal was interpreted to be one for assistance, and it was presumed she was signalling for a tug. It was therefore decided in these circumstances to await further signals before launching the lifeboat. Within ten minutes the brig had struck upon the outer Knock sandbank, and became fast.

“Boat out” roared Coxswain Grunuill, and the crew responded readily, for all eyes had been riveted upon the brig, which was about three miles out, exactly opposite the lifeboat station.

The launch took place with the usual smoothness, and the “Samuel Lewis” and its crew were soon speeding away upon their errand of mercy, hundreds of spectators watching the gallant little lifeboat as she ploughed her way out to the distressed vessel.

Upon arriving alongside it was found that the brig was very low down in the water, and the crew of eight hands was utterly helpless.
Accordingly the lifeboat displayed red and green flares, being signals for more assistance, and Signalman Wells telegraphed to Boston for a tug. It transpired that no tug was available for the work, and as the captain and crew of the brig, which was the Azha, of Arundel, had run short of food and had Coxswain Grunnill decided to bring the men off and leave the brig to her fate.

This was done, the lifeboat being beached south of the Seacroft Golf Links about half past six o’clock. Cox swain Grunnill and three members of the lifeboat crew walked up to the lifeboat station, and the ponderous carriage was subsequently taken along the beach and the Samuel Lewis pulled on to it, the boat being housed about eleven o’clock the same night.

The survivors told a pathetic story of their struggles. They had experienced rough weather for several days, and ultimately a steamer took them in tow. The water-logged condition of the Azha which was ladened with a cargo of pit props for North Shields, prevented much headway, and twice the hawsers parted. Upon the third occasion the steamer twisted her propeller, and in the darkness the Azha was left to shift for herself. The crew donned lifebelts, and for four days and nights were continuously on the watch. When they were taken off by the lifeboat they were standing in water and in a pitiable condition. At first the lifeboatmen considered the question of attempting to. save the vessel, but the brig’s crew was in such a exhausted state that it was decided to land them at once,
Interviewed by the Skegneas Herald, Coxswain Grunnill said the appeals of the suffering crew were most pathetic, some of the men literally beseeching to be taken ashore. “Looking at the brig from land we did not think she was in any immediate danger, but when we got to her we found the crew’s position extremely serious. Huddled together in the &tern, wet through with the heavy seas continually breaking over them, they were in a sad plight. Not a word did they utter as we went alongside, and just as we got level a big sea swept over the brig and poured into the lifeboat, our men being waist deep and the Norwegians up to the armpits. Then, as one man, they rushed across the deck and jumped into the lifeboat. They didn’t jump one, after the other, but all together, so eager were they to get away from the brig. “It was the roughest time we’ve had for some years”.

Amongst the saved was a young Norwegian gentleman who was making a pleasure trip on the Azah, preparatory to entering upon a seafaring life. The other members of the crew were all old seafaring hands.

Upon being landed the Norwegians were taken to York House, where Mr. F. J. Rowe, the proprietor and his family, did everything in their power to minister to the comforts of the half-starved men.

A delicious meal and a night’s rest did much to restore them to their usual spirits, and on Thursday morning a representative of the Skegness Herald bad an interview with the captain, who spoke English.
His name, he said, was S. Salveson of Arendal, and the Azha was owned by a Mr. T. Thompson, of that place. They left port on November last, and encountered rough weather for several days. They had no control over the vessel and accordingly he ran up signals of distress.

Asked by our reporter why he did not exhibit the signals properly, the captain affirmed that he did so, although he admitted that Coxswain Grunnill differed with him in this respect.

All the ship’s papers were lost. He spoke appreciatively of the treatment they received at York House.

On Thursday the crew left Skegness for Boston, from which place they proceed to Newcastle en route for Norway.
The brig afterwards drifted further south to Gibraltar Point, where she rapidly became a total wreck.

By a curious coincidence the Skegness lifeboat has twice been instrumental in saving the lives of sailors hailing from the Norwegian, port of Arundal.
In the year 1881, on October 23rd, the local lifeboat went out and rescued ten sailors from the barque Loin, of Arundal.
Thus the Skegness lifeboat has been successful in saving the lives of no less than eighteen sailors from that port.

Rescued and Rescuers
The photograph below shows the Skegness Lifeboat and crew together with the rescued crew of the “Azha”. The captain of the “Azha” is seated in the centre, with coxswain Grunnill standing immediately behind. To the right hand is the young gentleman who joined the “Azha” for a pleasure trip. (Photo by Burnham of Skegness).


azah rescue



Pic and article just above appeared as a flashback in a 1937 local newspaper.


Letter from Azha Crew
A splendid tribute and suggested recognition

Mr A H Reed, Lloyd’s agent at Boston, has received the following letter on behalf of the Skegness lifeboat crew, which he forwarded to us for publication:
Armadal, Norway, 21st December, 1912, to the crew of the Skegness lifeboat:
On behalf of myself and my crew, I hereby beg to thank you heartily for the saving of our lives after we stranded on November 13th.
If it had not been for every man’s plucky behavior, we would most probably all have perished.
When we came ashore we were so kindly received by everybody that it moved us to tears.
England can be proud of having such sons.
F Salveson Master of the Azah of Arendal

Poem about the Azha by Frank Hind of Skegness:


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