November 13th, 1901 – The Caister Lifeboat Disaster

Today-In-History

The Caister Lifeboat Disaster of November 13th, 1901 occurred off the coast of Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk, England. Events took place during what became known as the “Great Storm” which caused havoc down the East coasts of England and Scotland.

beaucrew

A gale created lashing rain and a heavy sea. Shortly after 11:00 PM, flares were seen from a vessel on the Barber sands. The Cockle light-ship fired distress signals to indicate a vessel in trouble. The crew of the Lifeboat “Beauchamp” were alerted and an attempt was made to launch the Lifeboat. The heavy seas washed the boat off her skids and she was hauled back up the beach for another attempt. The crew fought until 2:00 AM in the dark and cold with warp and tackle to get the Lifeboat afloat.

After the launch most of the launching crew went home to change their wet clothing. James Haylett Snr, who had been the assistant Coxwain for many years and was now 78 years old, remained on watch despite being wet through and having no food. He had 2 sons, a son in law and 2 grandsons in the boat.

RNLI_The_Lifeboat__Caister._Unused_RPPC__c1950_s

The Coxwain steered towards the stricken vessel but the sea conditions forced the boat back towards the beach and she struck the beach bow first about 50 yards (46 m) from the launch point. The heavy sea struck the starboard quarter and capsized the boat. breaking off the masts and trapping the crew beneath the boat. The “Beauchamp” was a Norfolk and Suffolk class non-self-righting boat, 36 feet (11 m) in length, 10 and a half feet wide and weighing 5 tons without her gear. When fully crewed and equipped and with ballast tanks full she needed 36 men to bring her ashore.

The time was now around 3.00 AM. Frederick Henry Haylett returned to the Lifeboat house after getting changed and alerted his grandfather James Haylett Snr to the cries coming from the boat. They ran to where the Beauchamp lay keel up in the surf. James Haylett managed to pull his son-in-law Charles Knights from the boat. Frederick Haylett also ran into the surf and pulled John Hubbard clear. James Haylett returned to the water to pull his grandson Walter Haylett clear. Despite the bravery of these two men these were the only survivors.

Eight bodies were subsequently recovered at the scene with another, that of Charles Bonney George being washed away only to be recovered months later in April of the following year. The Crewmen lost were Aaron Walter Haylett (Coxswain), James Haylett Jnr (Late Cox), William Brown (Second Coxswain), Charles Brown, William Wilson, John Smith, George King, Charles George and Harry Knights. Asked at the inquest to their deaths why the crew had persisted in the rescue, retired coxswain James Haylett in response to the question from the coroner — “I suppose they had given up the job and were returning” — said, “They would never give up the ship. If they had to keep at it ’til now, they would have sailed about until daylight to help her. Going back is against the rules when we see distress signals like that.” This response was translated by journalists to become the famous phrase “Caister men never turn back”, “Never Turn Back” was later to become a motto of the RNLI. Haylett was subsequently awarded the RNLI Gold Medal in recognition of his gallantry and endurance.

Caister Lifeboat Disaster Grave

The victims are all buried in Caister Cemetery where a monument financed by public donation was raised to them in 1903.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar