Aldeburgh marks 120th anniversary of lifeboat tragedy

The 'Aldeburgh' boat which was caught in the storm Picture: RNLI/CARON HILL

The 'Aldeburgh' boat which was caught in the storm Picture: RNLI/CARON HILL - Credit: Archant

More than a century has passed since one of Suffolk’s worst tragedies at sea claimed the lives of seven lifeboat men.

A replica of the acorns which is held by Aldeburgh Musem Picture: Aldeburgh Museum Charitable Trust

A replica of the acorns which is held by Aldeburgh Musem Picture: Aldeburgh Museum Charitable Trust - Credit: Archant

It was 11am on December 7, 1899 when the crew of the lifeboat 'Aldeburgh' were called into action to help a boat struggling in a heavy storm.

Eighteen men braved the weather, to help save the lives of others, but only 11 would live to tell the story of that day.

It was as the boat struggled to make its way out to sea that the boat capsized trapping six of the men.

Despite the efforts of locals, all those who were trapped sadly died.

A memorial model held by the Aldeburgh Museum Picture: Aldeburgh Museum Charitable Trust

A memorial model held by the Aldeburgh Museum Picture: Aldeburgh Museum Charitable Trust - Credit: Archant


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A further lifeboat man, Allan Easter, was rescued from the sea but later died of his injuries.

One of those who survived, Augustus Mann, put his good fortune down to three acorns which he carried in his pocket for luck.

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The acorns are now kept in a box on the current lifeboat while replicas are kept in the recently refurbished Aldeburgh Museum.

Catherine Howard-Dobson from the museum said it was important for the town to remember the tragedy.

Aldeburgh Coxswain Steve Saint said there were a lot of similarities between the 1899 crew and the c

Aldeburgh Coxswain Steve Saint said there were a lot of similarities between the 1899 crew and the current lifeboatmen Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

"It is important. It was a great shock to the community," said Mrs Howard-Dobson.

"The lifeboat service in this town is part of the story of Aldeburgh.

"We have a replica of the acorns and we have a memorial that was made using parts of the boat and that has pictures of the crewmen that died."

This weekend the current crew took out their lifeboat, Freddie Cooper, at the same time the Aldeburgh would have been launched, in order to remember the fallen heroes.

Despite the amount of time that has passed, the current lifeboat crew in Aldeburgh believe that there are many similarities with the work they do now.

"It's a funny thing. The water can still be the same, the sea is obviously the same and our aim is the same," said Aldeburgh Coxswain Steve Saint.

"The boats are really what's different."

Perhaps more than anything the motivation behind the work the crew do is the main way in which they can link themselves to the past.

"People ask why do we do what we do. We want to save lives at sea," said Mr Saint.

"That's what they did and they paid the ultimate price."

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