Cromer marks 75th anniversary of dramatic Spanish Civil War rescue

Members of La Columna re-enactment group as passengers from the stricken Spanish merchant ship Cantabria, rescued off Cromer in 1938 by lifeboat legend Henry Blogg and his crew. From left: Roo Ems, Abigail Ortiz, Alan Powell, Martin Thorpe-Ortiz, Graham Bandy. Photo: Karen Bethell.

A dramatic part of Cromer's history which brought the Spanish Civil war to the North Sea was poignantly brought to life this weekend.

Spanish Civil War feat pix 2/11/13

Re-enactment group La Columna commemorated the 75th anniversary of the attack of the Spanish merchant ship Cantabria 12 miles off the Cromer coast.

The members recreated the same picture taken of survivors from the vessel with their Cromer lifeboatmen rescuers, including Henry Blogg, outside the town's Red Lion Hotel the day after the siege.

Alan Rowell, from Bath, said: 'This is the closest the Spanish Civil War came to the UK - that is why we are keen to make an event of it.'

Another member Graham Bandy, nursing officer from RAF Marham, said: 'This was the first large scale bombing mission against civilians.


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'It caused collateral damage to Cromer. No-one was hurt but it would have been frightening. A foreign war was being fought in foreign waters.'

Other members of the re-enactment group were Abigail Ortiz, her partner Richard Thorpe and nine-year-old son Martin Thorpe-Ortiz, from Lincolnshire, and Rupert Eris, from Sheringham.

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On the evening of November 2 1938 the seaside town tranquility was shattered after the SS Cantabria was attacked by the enemy vessel Nadir as it chugged through the North Sea.

Shells destroyed the boat's bridge and paralysed the engine room.

The 12 Cromer lifeboatmen led the rescue and was supported by the British trawler SS Pattersonian.

In total 12 crew members, Captain Manuel Argúelles and his family - a wife, son and daughter called Ramón and Maria Begoña - were rescued.

One man died and 27 people, including three children, were captured by the Nadir. The Cantabria sank.

Maria Begoña was given a peg doll made by Cromer residents and her brother received a ship in a bottle.

The pair returned to visit the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum in Cromer in 2005.

After the photo was taken yesterday the group spoke about the disaster in the museum and youngsters could make peg dolls, attended by 40 people.

Museum volunteer Eryl Williams said: 'Looking back in history with nostalgia is not always a good thing. Looking back at these conflicts helps us to think about where we are now. Cromer has alot of pride in its lifeboat tradition.

'It [the Cantabria] was an important rescue. The crew were going out in darkness and silence. The gunfire had finished and the crew did not know what to expect. Under normal circumstances it would have been a routine rescue but the boat was going into an area of conflict.'

He added any significant anniversary was worth remembering.

The exhibition about the rescue will be up at the RNLI museum until the end of November.

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