Suffolk

Aldeburgh lifeboat disaster 1899 remembered with launch

Clockwise from top left, Tom Morris, Herbert Downing, James Miller Ward, Jack Butcher, Walter Ward, Jack Easter and Charles Crisp Image copyright RNLI
Image caption Clockwise from top left, Tom Morris, Herbert Downing, James Miller Ward, Jack Butcher, Walter Ward, Jack Easter and Charles Crisp

Seven lifeboat men who died attempting a rescue have been remembered 120 years after their boat capsized.

The crew from Aldeburgh in Suffolk were responding to reports a ship had run aground in heavy seas on 7 December 1899.

Their lifeboat was so battered during its launch it capsized, trapping six men who could not be rescued. A seventh man died of injuries later.

Events have been planned to mark the disaster across the weekend.

Steve Saint, the current coxswain, said: "It's important for the town that we commemorate the disaster.

"We're a close-knit community, but a lot don't know the full story."

Image copyright RNLI
Image caption The 1899 coxswain James Cable said "it was a sad day for Aldeburgh and will never be forgotten"

The 18-strong crew were attempting to launch one of the Royal National Lifeboat Association (RNLI)'s first self-righting lifeboats when it hit a ridge on the shingle beach.

It capsized in shallow water, meaning it was unable to right itself, and the heavy seas pushed it up onto the beach, trapping the six.

The rest were thrown into the water and survived, but one was so seriously injured he died three months later.

Image copyright Caron Hill/RNLI
Image caption The Aldeburgh lifeboat was launched to mark the anniversary

One of the survivors, Augustus Mann, believed his survival was down to three acorns he had in his pocket for good luck.

They have been carried on Aldeburgh's lifeboats ever since, preserved with varnish and placed in a glass-fronted box.

Mr Saint said: "We also have Augustus's pocket watch in the town museum, stopped at 11:31, the time the lifeboat was believed to have capsized."

Image copyright RNLI
Image caption The current crew includes people related to the 1899 crew
Image copyright RNLI
Image caption Augustus Mann's acorns in the current Aldeburgh lifeboat

During the later inquiry, questions were raised about whether the emergency callout was a false alarm but its findings were inconclusive.

Current crew members include two people related to the 1899 crew.

Some of them wear silver acorns created by an RNLI Aldeburgh supporter to mark the centenary of the disaster.

Image copyright Caron Hill/RNLI
Image caption The lifeboat crew dropped flowers into the sea in memory of the men who died

Aldeburgh's lifeboat was launched on Saturday at 11:30 GMT, which is believed to be the time the 1899 boat was launched. A service is due to be held at St Peter and St Paul parish church in the town on Sunday morning.

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