Historic reunion of rescue survivor - and the Cromer lifeboat that saved his life

Cromer lifeboat went down in maritime history when its determined crew managed to rescue all the men aboard the English Trader - a cargo ship that ran aground in the churning North Sea during the second world war.

Now 70 years after the dogged mission, personal history has been made after one of the last known survivors of the stricken vessel was reunited with the lifeboat that saved his life.

Charles Rogers was just a teenager when he was rescued by coxswain Henry Blogg and his men. But today he returned to the north Norfolk coast as a great-great-grandfather to tread the decks of the HF Bailey lifeboat, which he had not set foot on since October 1941.

Mr Rogers, who has lived in Australia since 1947, comes to the UK every year to visit the grave of his second wife in Southend, Essex. And this year he carried on up the coast and finally realised his long held plans to re-visit the Bailey.

The 89-year-old said: 'It's very emotional. I have been trying to get up here for ages and it's a long way to come from Queensland but it's good to see it. This is the biggest thing to happen to me for donkeys years.

'I love that boat, I really do. There were six lifeboats (called out) and that was the only one that got to us. I think it's a beaut, but how they got 44 guys on there I don't know.'

The epic mission to rescue Mr Rogers and the rest of the 43-strong crew of the Trader resulted in the only death of a crewman Cromer lifeboat has suffered in its 200 year history, after Blogg and several of his men were tipped overboard by the massive waves and rough seas that dogged the rescue.

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The coxswain and his crew eventually had to turn back to shore as the conditions made it impossible for them to get alongside the grounded ship - but the following morning they made it to the stranded men and saved every one of them.

Mr Rogers, a great-great-grandfather-of-two and long standing seaman, remembers watching the Cromer crew go overboard from the Trader's chart room - the highest point on the ship.

He said: 'There was a couple of guys still left on board who got grab hooks and grabbed them back in. It was a miracle because the sea was so rough.

'After he got back on board Henry yelled through his loud hailer that he'll be back on the turn of the tide because he had to take his men to hospital and that was what he did.

'Our skipper turned around and said 'he won't be back because the weather's too rough'. Well, he was wrong.'

Mr Rogers said he and the rest of his fellow crewman then had to take a 'leap of faith' from the deck of the Trader onto the Bailey as the sea raised the lifeboat up alongside the grounded ship. The rescued men were then taken back to Great Yarmouth to recover.

Members of Cromer's RNLI and staff from the Henry Blogg museum joined Mr Rogers during his touching reunion with the Bailey.

Jacqui Palmer, museum manager, said it was 'fantastic' to have him in Cromer and his visit had helped highlight the important work of the lifeboats.

'When you see someone like Charles here who's done so much with his life it just makes it all seem more valuable,' she added. 'It's incredible to think that if Henry Blogg and his crew hadn't gone out there he may not be here.'