Lifeboat cox recalls rescue of migrants off Mundesley coast

Mundesley beach. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Mundesley beach. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

News that migrants attempted to cross the North Sea from the Netherlands to Sea Palling has brought back memories for the former cox of the Mundesley Lifeboat.

Today he recalled an extraordinary rescue attempt off the north Norfolk coast in the summer of 1994 when a dingy carrying four Turkish migrants, who had travelled from Holland, capsized.

Paul Holland, 62, was taking part in the annual Lifeboat Day in Mundesley on August 7 1994 when a member of the public alerted his crew to the group of men struggling in the water after being unloaded from a white cruiser into a grey dinghy.

What followed was a full scale rescue operation involving HM Customs and the police, which later moved down the coast to Great Yarmouth.

He said: 'That day was particularly busy with various events taking place on the beach and up on the cliffs. It was a very hot day so the beach was really busy and full of people.

'A member of the public alerted us to a dingy which had capsized in a heavy swell and four people had been tipped into the sea.

'We started a full scale rescue but they actually got to the beach on their own and when they reached the land they legged it in all different directions.'

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The Turkish men, in their 20s and 30s, were later arrested in the village with one of them hiding out in a telephone box. At least two of the men were thought to be trying to be reunited with members of their family living in the UK.

The dramatic operation then moved to the waters of the North Sea near Great Yarmouth. A watchman from the town heard what was happening up the coast via the radio and spotted the white cruiser heading to the port. He notified the Great Yarmouth Port Authority and the people on board the boat were arrested by police when the vessel docked.

Two Dutch men and a woman were later charged with facilitating illegal immigration.

Mr Holland's memory of the rescue attempt was jogged by the story of the people-traffickers who were caught trying to smuggle 26 Albanian and Vietnamese migrants from Holland to Sea Palling which we reported over the Bank Holiday weekend. The plan was foiled by Dutch police but Mr Holland, who is now the director of the lifeboat at Mundesley, fears that we may see more attempts to reach the UK via the Norfolk coast in the future.He said: 'HM Customs as they were known then had a lot more resources then the Border Force do now and due to these lack of resources people may see coming to the UK via sea as a possibility as they get more desperate,' he said.