100 year anniversary of ship tragedy

THE grandson of a man who died in a shipping tragedy which claimed 22 lives visited an exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking.

James Hore

ONE of the few surviving relatives from a shipping tragedy which claimed 22 lives visited an exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking.

The SS Yarmouth sunk whilst sailing from Holland to Harwich on October 27, 1908.

It was two hours away from the Essex port when disaster struck and everyone on board, all from Harwich and the surrounding area, perished.

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This weekend a special exhibit was held to mark the tragedy at the Harwich Guildhall.

David Stokes' grandfather, Cornelius, was one of the 22 to drown, when Mr Stoke's mother, Winifred, was just three-years-old.

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The Harwich seaman's family have been beset with maritime tragedy - his father, Earnest, died at Dunkirk during World War II and his uncle, Teddy, died after falling overboard whilst working on a ferry.

And Mr Stokes, who lives in Dovercourt, himself was onboard a ship that was cut in half by an American vessel - the Haiti Victory - leading to the deaths of five passengers in May 1953.

Mr Stokes, 72, said: “I only really knew about the Yarmouth from what my mother told me.

“It is a great exhibit, they have done it very nicely - it is a sad thing but when you work at sea, you know that it is one of the dangers you face.”

This year also marks the bicentenary of the building of the Redoubt - the fort which guarded Harwich and its harbours against the threat of invasion by Napoleon - and that also forms part of the exhibit.

Ray Plummer, the honorary archivist to Harwich Town Council, arranged the event.

“Both anniversaries are important to Harwich and we felt it important to commemorate them with an exhibition,” he said. “The loss of the SS Yarmouth was a terrible tragedy for Harwich and the centenary offers a timely opportunity to remember the sacrifices of so many Harwich families.

“We have been extremely grateful to the descendants of those lost on the Yarmouth who have provided much valuable information for the exhibition.

“If anyone has any information that they think might be of interest then I would be glad to hear from them on 01255 886249 as we can still add items to the exhibition.”

The free exhibition at Harwich's Guildhall will be open again next Saturday and Sunday from 2.30pm to 4.30pm.

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