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Aldeburgh: 100 years since sea claimed five souls

09:15 01 May 2014

Orfordness lighthouse viewed from Shingle Street

Orfordness lighthouse viewed from Shingle Street

Today marks the 100 year anniversary of a disaster which claimed five lives off the Suffolk coast.

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On the night of May 1, 1914, five Shingle Street coastguards drowned in the River Ore after their boat capsized.

What began as a routine trip for supplies and pay from Aldeburgh, ended in tragedy when the wind dropped and the men were swept into the shallows by the tide as they approached home. Before they could drop their oars, their 24ft whaler was battered by the sea and overturned.

Two men survived and gave evidence at an inquest into the death of Boatman Walter Finnis, 32, who died with Chief Officer H Mauger, 54, Btm David Bignell, 39, Btm W McCauley, 33, and Btm Sidney Lakin, 31.

The disaster left three women widowed and eight children fatherless. McCauley was due to marry the following week, while Mauger, who left behind a wife and four children, had just one year to serve before being entitled to his pension. Only one body - that of Btm Finnis - was recovered from the water. His wife was pregnant with their third child.

Chief Petty Officer James Goble, one of the two men rescued, was said to have owed his life to the assistance of fellow survivor Btm B Herbert, who cleared him from the boat’s ropes and dragged him through the water on to the shingle spit.

As the pair swam to shore and Goble began to weaken, Herbert cried: “Buck up, Jimmy, you’ve not far to go.” Goble responded: “I am beat. Save yourself”, but Herbert grabbed his waist and hauled him to safety.

At the inquest, the coroner told Herbert: “I am proud to shake by the hand a man such as you are.”

Btm Finnis was buried in Hollesley churchyard to the sound the Last Post.

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