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Shingle Street: Memorial project to honour rescuers

10:35 08 May 2014

Orfordness lighthouse viewed from Shingle Street

Orfordness lighthouse viewed from Shingle Street

A lasting memorial is set to be created in recognition of five men who drowned in a maritime accident off the Suffolk coast a century ago.

Last week, this paper reported the 100-year anniversary of a disaster which claimed the lives of five Shingle Street coastguards after their boat capsized in the River Ore on the night of May 1, 1914.

In recent months, a neighbour of the coastguard station, which closed last year, has been raising funds to pay for a permanent memorial to the men, and to all those who manned the Shingle Street coast between the 1890s and 2013.

Tim Miller is hoping to unveil a plaque at the site in September. It will commemorate the day 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 drowned with chief officer H Mauger, 54, Btm David Bignell, 39, Btm W McCauley, 33, and Btm Sidney Lakin, 31.

Mr Miller said: “I have a long family connection with Shingle Street and have known past coastguards.

“Some time ago, a grandson of leading boatman Bignell contacted me to ask where he could find a memorial to his grandfather. I replied to say that there was no memorial but I would do my best to see that one was erected.”

A plaque has since been designed by the renowned Cardozo Kindersley lettering workshop in Cambridge.

Mr Miller opened an appeal to local residents and charities for funding. The first to respond was the Touching the Tide grant fund, which donated £1,000 to the project.

Mr Miller has so far been promised grants totalling about £2,000 towards the cost of the memorial, which will be cut on slate and fixed to the wall beside the door of the station.

The 1914 accident left three women widowed and eight children fatherless. Only one body – that of Btm Finnis – was ever recovered from the water.

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