Severe Storms at Sea Terrible Loss of Life


shannonThe severest gale that has been experienced in this district for a great number of years prevailed on Saturday and Sunday last, and the number of wrecks and loss of life on the Lincolnshire coast alone is somewhat appalling. A great quantity of wreckage has been washed on the beach at Skegness, and some parts of the coast is covered with it, giving pretty clear indications that many vessels have been wrecked and their crews drowned.

The storm sprang up here early in the forenoon of Saturday when some heavy showers of rain and hail fell, and a strong wind blew from the north-east, a quarter from which the wind had not blown for many months previously. Shortly after noon it blew a hurricane, and the gale had increased in its fury to such an extent that it was dangerous to walk the streets, as window shades, chimney pots, ridge tiles and slates from the houses were falling in all directions. Some of the houses on the North Parade, which were the most exposed to the gale, suffered the greatest, but, very few of the houses in the streets and other parts of the town escaped damage. In the Lumley Road the shop of Mr. Whitelam, on the Wide Pavement, suffered most. The new zinc-iron window shade was blown down, and in falling broke some panes of plate-glass in the window.

The sea was tremendously rough and presented a grand, yet awful spectacle. It was the roughest sea that has been seen here for many years, and it was the opinion of many old sailors that no vessel could live long in the storm. A sharp look-out was kept for vessels in distress, and the Skegness lifeboat and crew were in readiness for any emergency. No vessels were seen on Saturday afternoon, and unfortunately in the evening and during the succeeding night the thick storms of rain and hail prevented those who were on watch from seeing any vessels that might be passing even a short distance off, and the tremendous roar of the waves and the thick storms would prevent a rocket fired from a passing ship in distress from being beard or seen.

That several vessels in distress did pass off Skegness during the night is now almost certain, and that they got on to the sandbanks and were wrecked and their crews lost is only too evident by the wreckage that has since been found in the Boston Deeps and along the coast of the Wash. After the gale sprang up it was apparently impossible for any sailing vessel to enter the Humber, and those northward of Skegness had therefore no alternative but to endeavour to seek shelter in the Lynn Well Deeps, and that several vessels did this there is now little doubt.

It is, however, a matter of regret that they were not seen and consequently no assistance rendered them, but this was no fault of those on shore as a strict lookout was kept all Saturday night, and in fact day and night while the storm was raging. The thick veil did not lift itself from the sea until late on Sunday forenoon, and soon after, about noon on that day two vessels were seen some distance out with signals of distress flying, and drifting before the wind and tide.

The signal was now given for the launch of the lifeboat, and the greatest excitement prevailed. Hundreds of persons—men, women and children—assembled on the beach, and as a tremendous sea was running and the wind blowing with great fury it was thought by many hardly possible for the lifeboat to ride over the immense waves with their foaming spray rising high into the air, and get out to sea. The lifeboat was soon seen coming on to the beach, being drawn by six horses belonging to Mr. C. F. Grantham, hon. sec. of the Skegness branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, and accompanied by the gallant crew in their cork jackets ready to face the stormy billows.

The arrangements were carried out under the superintendence of Mr. Grantham, and Mr. Smalley the coxswain of the lifeboat. The latter, we regret to say, has been ill for some weeks, and had not sufficiently recovered to be able to take his place in the boat, which was, therefore, filled by John Moody, junr., a very careful and experienced seaman.

The lifeboat reached the water’s edge at half past twelve, the crew at once took up their positions, and the boat soon glided off its carriage into the sea amid the cheers of the assembled crowd. The launch was a speedy and most successful one, and the gallant men who manned the boat are deserving the greatest praise for facing one of the roughest seas that any lifeboat crow had ever experienced. The crew was composed of the following :—Messrs. John Moody, junr. (coxswain), John Moody, jr., William Green, John Green, Matthew Grunuill, William Grunnill, Amos Grunnill, Charles Grunnill, Joseph Grunnill, Montague Grunnill, Arkin Moody, Frank Moody, Thomas Hutson, Thomas Gillam and — Burrows.

The boat which is a new one with all the latest improvements behaved splendidly, but it was some ten minutes or quarter of an hour before she could make any headway, for in addition to the strong wind and tremendous waves, the tide was running in rapidly. After getting a little way out to sea a sail was set and she then made her way to one of the vessels in distress, and succeeded in reaching her about three o’clock. It proved to be the cod smack “Frank” of Grimsby, with a crew of seven hands. The vessel was thoroughly disabled and helpless before the gale, with masts and rigging all blown away. Some of the lifeboat crew boarded the smack near the Bar Flat, and their boat lay by the vessel for some time with a view to saving her, but a severe squall of wind and rain coming on about four o’clock they took the whole of the crew off and abandoned the vessel which is now lying stranded at the mouth of the river Nerve. The lifeboat took the crew to Sutton Bridge and safely housed them at the Bridge Hotel about seven o’clock on Sunday evening.
It will be remembered that two vessels were seen flying signals of distress. The lifeboat first overtook the schooner, “Vecta” of Harwich, but the captain of this vessel stating that he was not in immediate need of assistance, it at once made for the other vessel, the “Frank” whose crew the lifeboat rescued, as stated above. The captain of the latter vessel states that at half-past five o’clock on Saturday evening, when some distance up in the North Sea, a large wave struck the “Frank,” throwing the vessel on her beam-ends and filling her mainsail with water, and that he and the crew gave themselves up for lost, and prepared to meet death. Then suddenly the mainsail burst and the vessel righted herself and drifted before wind and tide. On passing off Skegness the captain states that he saw the flag hoisted on the flag staff opposite the lifeboat station in response to his signal of distress, but owing to the heavy sea running he did not entertain any hopes of the lifeboat being able to get through the surf and reach them. The “Frank” was the foremost vessel of the two seen on Sunday with signals of distress, and which had a part of her mainsail up and was being rapidly driven with wind and tide towards the Norfolk coast. On seeing the lifeboat leave the schooner “Vecta” which was two or three miles astern, and make towards her she hove to head to wind and anxiously awaited the arrival of the lifeboat with the result that all her crew were saved as stated.

The lifeboat crew remained at the Bridge Hotel on Sunday night where they were very kindly treated, by Mr. Clarke, the landlord. On Monday morning the coxswain of the lifeboat wired to Skegness stating that they had saved the crew of the “Frank”, and asking what was to be done with the boat as it was then blowing a gale and they were many miles from home. A reply was wired them telling them to engage a steamboat to tow them home as quickly as possible as a gale was still blowing and their services might be required for other vessels. In reply to this, a message came to the effect that the Sutton

Bridge steamboat was disabled and could not render them assistance. A wire was then sent to Boston, but no steamer was available there on the Monday, but one was engaged to take the boat home on Tuesday morning. About half-past seven on Monday night a message wag received at Skegness from the coxswain of the lifeboat, stating that the lifeboat was going to sea to render assistance to other vessels in distress. A telegram was at once sent to Boston stopping the steamer from going to Sutton Bridge the following morning.

It appears that at about half-past three on Monday afternoon information was brought to the lifeboat crew at the Bridge Hotel, by some Sutton fishermen that no less than three vessels were flying signals of distress in the oiling off the river Nene, and that the services of the lifeboat crew are again required. Sutton Bridge is about five miles from the open sea, and lies on the banks of the river Nene. In consequence of the strong force of the gale, and the local steam boat being disabled and unable to render assistance it would have been impossible for the life boat to have got out to sea had not the landlord of the Bridge Hotel kindly lent his horse to tow the boat four miles down the river.
They reached one of the vessels in distress at a quarter to seven, and this proved to be the schooner, ” Vecta ” which the lifeboat had spoken on the Sunday afternoon. She had parted from her anchors and gone ashore on a sandbank near the Nock. A Lynn smack bad, however, reached her before the lifeboat, and the captain consequently again declined their services. On Sunday night, we learn, the crew of the ” Vecta ” gave themselves up for lost, and bitterly regretted refusing the services of the lifeboat on Sunday afternoon. The other two vessels which flew signals of distress had also received assistance from smacks before the lifeboat reached them. Their services not then being required they proceeded on the return journey to Sutton Bridge, and now was the commencement of some rather unpleasant experiences by the crew.

The tide was now receding, and in crossing the bar at the entrance to the river Nene at half-past seven the lifeboat grounded, and remained fast on the bar nearly six hours and half, until a quarter to two o’ clock on Tuesday morning. The crew had to remain in the boat all these long, dark, and wearisome hours, with the wind blowing a terrific gale and the noise of the raging sea around them sounding in their ears. They had two or three Sutton men as guides with them, and they felt the hardships they had to endure even more than the crew themselves. The lifeboat crew got back to the Bridge Hotel about half-past three on Tuesday morning, tired, cold and weary, and nearly exhausted. Here fresh trials awaited them. The landlord not expecting the crew to return there, had let all the beds they had occupied the previous night. The crew therefore had no comfortable beds to go into, but the landlord did his best for them. He gave them a good fire and other necessaries in the kitchen and soon after they all fell asleep, some on the tables, some on the chairs some on forms, and one found a resting place on the copper. They all slept soundly for some hours, little heeding their hard beds and pillows. An excellent breakfast was provided for them on Tuesday morning, and after their sleep and nutritional meal they felt somewhat refreshed. They left Sutton Bridge at half-past nine o’clock on Tuesday morning to return home with the ebb tide and head wind. A touching incident occurred when the lifeboat crew left. The rescued captain of the “Frank”    stood on the brink of the river and as the boat pushed off he waved his hand and shouted ” Well, good-bye lads, may God bless you. Me and my crew will never forget you and your great kindness to us all.”

They got across into the upper reach of the Boston Deeps, and being now so exhausted they put into Boston and stayed there on Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning they were towed home by a Boston steamer, reaching Skegness about ten o’clock, and the gallant crew were justly cheered by a large crowd who had assembled to witness the arrival.
On Wednesday evening the crew were entertained to an excellent supper at Mr. Enderby’s ” The Shades,” Lumley Road, subscribed for by the townspeople. The health of the crew was enthusiastically drunk, and the highest eulogiums passed on them for their heroic conduct and bravery.
The gale has proved equally disastrous on other parts of the British Coast.
We regret to state that three Skegness men have lost their lives in this gale. They were on board the schooner ” Wick Lassie ” belonging to Mr. Thompson of Hull. The vessel was commanded by Thomas Grunnill, a native of Skegness, and the crew consisted of five hands all told. In addition to the Captain, two others of the crew—Dashwood Grunnill, aged 19, and Wm. Spence Alias Moody, aged 21, belonged to Skegness. The lad Grunuill was a son of Edward Grunnill who was drowned in the Shannon disaster in July last, and Spence was the son of Capt. Samuel Moody of Skegness. They were on a voyage from Gravesend to Hull and reached the mouth of the Humber on Saturday morning last when she was caught in the gale. She was consequently unable to enter the Humber, and then ran for Yarmouth Roads passing off Skegness unseen on Saturday night or early on Sunday morn. ing. She struck on a ridge off Winterton, on the Norfolk Coast, and became a wreck, and the whole of her crew of five hands were drowned, The Winterton lifeboat failing to reach the ves•sel, the rocket apparatus were brought into play, but without success. The bodies of the two young men—Dashwood Grunuill and Spence—have since been picked up, and were brought to Skegness by rail on Thursday. Their remains will be interred this (Friday) afternoon and the funeral will be attended by the Skegness Odd-fellows.

The schooner Tankerton Tower, of Faversham, Captain George Bailey, of Whitstable, was wrecked in the Wash. The vessel was loaded with a cargo of superphosphate, and was bound for King’s Lynn. When off Yarmouth the cook fell from aloft and lost his life, and after they arrived in the Wash the remainder of the crew, four in number, had to be lashed to the rigging, in which position they were found about eleven o’clock on Sunday morning, by the steam tug Pendennis, of Wisbeach. The four men had been lashed to the rigging, for no less than 19 hours, being without food or drink of arty kind, and were nearly frozen to death. One poor fellow named Robert Stearnson, aged 20, was found dead in the rigging. The other three were rescued alive, but in a totally helpless state. The captain and crew of the Pendennis succeeded in bringing them round, and they were brought to Sutton Bridge, being destitute of everything. The schooner on Monday was lying near the Gatt Sand.


The remains of these two young men who were wrecked and lost their lives in the gale on the Norfolk Coast of the Wash, on the previous Sunday, as stated in our last impression, were interred on Saturday last, the former at Skegness and the latter at Winthope. In addition to the relatives, the Skegness Oddfellows and Druids attended the funerals. On Sunday morning the mourners, and members of the above named friendly societies, attended St. Matthew’s Church, when suitable hymns were sung, and an appropriate sermon preached by the Rector (the Rev. C. P. Disbrowe).

Source: Skegness Herald 24th November 1893 and 1st December 1893


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