Anniversary of English Trader rescue honours grit and courage of Cromer lifeboatmen

When the exhausted crew of Cromer's lifeboat the HF Bailey finally returned to their homes on October 27 1941, they had lost a much-respected comrade, come within a whisker of complete catastrophe – and saved the lives of 44 sailors aboard the stricken English Trader.

When the exhausted crew of Cromer's lifeboat the HF Bailey finally returned to their homes on October 27 1941, they had lost a much-respected comrade, come within a whisker of complete catastrophe – and saved the lives of 44 sailors aboard the stricken English Trader.

This month sees the 70th anniversary of that rescue and Cromer's RNLI Henry Blogg Museum – named in honour of the legendary coxswain in charge at the time – is appealing to survivors and those with mementoes to come forward and help create an unusual tribute, funded through a �27,900 Heritage Lottery grant.

Researchers plan to use material gathered to write a script allowing local students to re-enact the drama using the authentic HF Bailey, centrepiece of the museum's collection, as their stage.

The rescued sailors were stranded on the merchant steamship which had run aground on Hammond Knoll, 22 miles east of Cromer, in gale conditions on October 26, 1941.


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HF Bailey launched to her aid shortly after 8am but it would be another 24 hours before the Cromer RNLI volunteers finally took her surviving crew aboard.

In the intervening hell, lifeboat signalman Edward 'Boy Primo' Allen lost his life.

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Museum manager Jacqui Palmer said: 'We have been referring to the survivors of the English Trader as '44 men' for some time but that doesn't reflect who they were. We would love to have photographs of each person and find out about their lives and families.

'We have spoken to one survivor who now lives in Australia. He is nearly 90 years old but would have died at 19 years of age if the Cromer lifeboat crew had not returned for him.'

She added: 'Perhaps you remember a relative involved in the rescue, or have naval records of a family member who served on the English Trader?'

The museum and some family members are also trying to discover the whereabouts of the posthumous medal awarded to Mr Allen and would be grateful for any information.

Contact the museum by telephone on 01263 511294 or you can e-mail Blogg_Museum@rnli.org.uk

*** Henry Blogg, Cromer's most famous son and proudest boast, remains the most decorated lifeboat crew member in history. Blogg, 1876-1954, was awarded three RNLI gold medals and four RNLI silver medals for gallantry. His haul of trophies also included the George Cross and British Empire Medal. Born in the town's New Street, he left school at 11 to help in his stepfather, John Davies, on his crab boat, becoming expert in seamanship. He joined the lifeboat crew at 18 and took over as coxswain aged 33. During his 53 years of service the Cromer lifeboat launched 387 times and saved 873 lives.

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