Video: The day two men clung to their ship’s rigging, awaiting a dramatic lifeboat rescue just off Cromer.

Cromer lifeboat Sepoy rescue 80th anniversary - the wreck, with the crew hanging on in the rigging. Cromer lifeboat Sepoy rescue 80th anniversary - the wreck, with the crew hanging on in the rigging.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013
8:31 AM

Eighty years ago this week it was one of those Friday the 13ths which remains firmly etched in the minds of senior Cromer residents.

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Cromer lifeboat Sepoy rescue 80th anniversary - the lifeboat crewCromer lifeboat Sepoy rescue 80th anniversary - the lifeboat crew

A dramatic lifeboat rescue in 1933 took place close to the shore as a stricken sailing barge sank, with its two man crew climbing the mast to cling on for dear life.

Townsfolk helped trying to launch the rowing lifeboat into the teeth of a gale, as the motor driven one was already at sea, but it was constantly thrown back on to the beach by the fierce waves.

When it did launch the oar-powered Alexandra managed to drift through and cut a rescue line launched to the barge by rocket.

Hundreds more watched the drama from the shore, as the barge foundered, and then the heroism of lifeboat coxswain Henry Blogg, turning with his boat, the H F Bailey, which he drove on to the deck of the barge to rescue the casualties.

The story, captured by the camera of local photographer Philip Vicary made the front pages of the papers, including the nationals.

The tile-laden barge had been ripped off her anchors in the storm and was holed as it drifted on to a breakwater. Owner and skipper, Joseph Hempstead, and his mate, a young man of 18, took to the rigging and clung on – just 200 yards offshore.

After Blogg’s boat was rammed on to the deck “Primo” Davies led the crew who climbed into the rigging to prise the hands of the frozen men from the ropes which they gripped.

Blogg then turned the lifeboat for the beach and ran it onto the sands – after 11 hours at sea he judged he and those rescued could not stand the journey back to Yarmouth.

Skipper Hempstead was able to stay at the Red Lion whilst mate John Stevenson was taken to Cromer hospital. Blogg, who said the journey was “the worst in my 24 years experience” received a second clasp to his RNLI silver medal for gallantry.

The rescue is still remembered by some long-serving townsfolk.

Bert Vincent recalled the bitter cold and the stinging sand on his legs, while Molly Stibbons remembered going off to school at North Walsham knowing that the lifeboat was already at sea and coming back to the ringing of the church bells.

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