THE RESCUE OF THE CREW OF THE BENVENUE: 11 Nov 1891
EXCITING SCENES AND LOSS OF LIFE
On Wednesday, Dover and the South-East coast generally was visited by the most terrible storm which has happened since the memorable gale of 1877, when the Admiralty pier was partly swept away. The gale sprang up about midnight on Tuesday from the south-west, following upon an abnormaly rapid fall of the barometer, the wind increasing in violence up to three o'clock on Wednesday afternoon, from which time it abated. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. it blew with hurricane force. About mid-day the trains were scarecely able to move against the wind between Folkestone and Shorncliff, the fireman of the mid-day up train, walking a considerable distance in front of his engine, and placing shovelfuls of ballast under the wheels to obtain a grip.
|SANDGATE LIFEBOAT||THE WRECK|
A very great credit is due to the crew of the DOVER LIFEBOAT, who under such circumstances bravely volunteered to proceed to the wreck, although it was evident before they made their first attempt that it would be a physical impossibility to get down Channel. The coxswain of the lifeboat was Mr JAMES WOODGATE, and the following formed the crew: E SPICE, G IRONS, H MILLINGTON, C SAUNDERS, J POTTER (assistant coxswain), T BROCKMAN, F WHITMAN, J BETTS, F RICHARDS, F IRONS, E EALDEN, G RICHARDS, J RICHARDS, and W COLE. The same crew manned the lifeboat in the afternoon, with the exception of J DAY, A HOGBIN, J CLARK and S HALL.
The French Schooner EIDEN was dashed against the Seabrook sea-wall and became a total wreck just before the BENVENUE ran ashore. Four of the crew succeeded in reaching the shore, and were subsequently forward to the Dover Sailor's Home. The captain, his wife, and nephew were drowned. Shortly after mid-day the body of a woman apparently about 35 years of age, was washed ashore at Sandgate opposite Gloucester Terrace. The face was much bruised. The body was removed to Durnford-cottage, Sandgate where it was subsequently identified by the survivors. The scene at the identification was a truly affecting one and those present were deeply moved. The body was taken charge of by Mr MAXTED, the superintendent of the Kent County Constabulary, stationed at Sandgate, who stated that during the 15 years he had been stationed there he had never experienced a storm of such violence. The rocket apparatus was in charge of CHIEF OFFICER ONSLOW, stationed at Sandgate.
Some exciting scenes were witnessed at Ramsgate. At 4 o'clock the LIFEBOAT BRADFORD, under COXSWAIN FISH put out in tow of the steam TUG AIDE in answer to signals of distress. While they were gone a ketch went ashore near the North Break buoy, just off the town. The DEAL LIFEBOAT went to the rescue of the crew, who had left the vessel in their own boat. They were taken into the lifeboat just before the ketch sunk, and the lifeboat then anchored off the pier, having failed to make the harbour. The tug being away, no assistance could be rendered them, and they at last ran down and were landed at Broadstairs. meanwhile, a large ketch making for Ramsgate harbour, took the ground at the back of the West Pier, and afterwards drifted round onto the sands fifty yards behind the East Pierhead. Four of the crew were taken off by the harbour surf-boat, and the position of the others became very dangerous. Rockets were sent up as a signal for the tug and lifeboat to return, and attempts to reach the vessel by means of the rocket apparatus and baskets were made. Owing to the strong wind these failed to reach, and the attempts had to be abandoned. The tug and lifeboat returned and signals were made to them that their services were required. Amidst loud cheering, the tug towed the lifeboat up to windward and then let her go but she missed the vessel and drifted down to leeward. The excitement on the pier was now intense; thousands had assembled and eagerly watched the scene in spite of the heavy waves which washed over the pier. The wreck was swept by the heavy seas every few minutes. Another attempt was equally unsuccessful, and then the lifeboat tried to row up to the vessel. With the aid of their 'foresail they three times almost touched the wreck, and were loudly cheered each time. At length with considerable difficulty, the crew, four in number, were saved by the lifeboat, which then drifted awat to the leeward again, and nearly ran ashore on the sands. The rudder was damaged, but fortunately, they succeeded in keeping off, and were picked up by the tug, which towed them round into the harbour. There amidst loud cheers from the very large crowd which had assembled, the men were landed. The vessel was the TOUCH NET of Hull.
ALBERT MOORE, an able seaman states that he caught hold of the captain's arm shortly after they had gone in the rigging, and helped to pull him up. The ship was then settling down rapidly, and a huge wave swept violently clean over the decks. The captain suddenly shouted out "Oh that pipe!" and jumped down again on to the deck. He went towards the cabin, and as soon as he got there the vessel went under, and the captain was sucked into the cabin by the tremendous force of water which was rushing down. That was the last they saw of him.
EDWARD MCKINNEY, the boatswain, who was amongst the 17 survivors at MR LOCKIE'S Restaurant, states that many of them had great difficulty in clinging on to the rigging, their hands being fearfully blistered, whist some of them wrapped themselves in the sails. He got on the mizzen topmast with the chief mate and three seamen. They were lashed on with ropes which they took from the sails. The others fastened themselves on to the yards. They all suffered considerably from want of food. He had nothing to eat from Tuesday evening at tea-time until Wednesday night when he was taken to MR LOCKIE'S where they had received every care and attention.
During the morning, the survivors drew up a memorial which was signed by the whole of the men, in which they expressed their desire to tender their heartfelt gratitude for the manner in which the crew of the lifeboat went to their assistance when all hopes had vanished, and also for the kind way they had been treated by the people of Folkestone, especially at the Queen's Hotel and the Harbour Restaurant.
On Thursday afternoon a special service was held at the Parish Church, at which the survivors of the BENVENUE were all present. The fact was made known in the town by means of the Town Crier, and there was a very large congregation present, the men being objects of much interest and sympathy. The service was of a very appropriate and affecting character, and an offertory was made on their behalf. Prayers were read by the REV. H.D. DALE and the hymn "Eternal Father, strong to save" was sung, the congregation kneeling. The vicar delivered a brief address to the men. He asked them what were their thoughts during those long hours that they spent clinging to the rigging? They must have thought of all the dear ones they had left behind - their wives, their children, a sister, a brother, whom they might never see again on earth. Then their thoughts might have been very solemn ones. Some recollections of their past life, the things that they ought not to have done, and the things that they had left undone, must have flashed across their minds. Some of them, perhaps made solemn resolutions that if God spared them to return to their homes their future life should be better than their past. If any of them had not had not made those resolutions, he implored them to make them then. If any of them should go to sea again, he prayed that they might not indulge in blasphemous language, nor take God's holy name in vain, but that they might follow in their Saviour's footsteps. The 150th Psalm was chanted, and this was followed by the hymn "Now thank we all our God". The REV H.D. DALE having red the General Thanksgiving, the Vicar pronounced the blessing. The offertory amounted to £35, which was subsequently increased to £40, which was divided among the crew at the Queens Hotel in the afternoon. The boatswain thanked all for the manner in which they had been treated in Folkestone. he was sure the men would never forget it. He proposed that £10 should be put away for the steward's widow, a proposal that evoked loud applause. That left a little over 23s to each man, but the Vicar proposed that they should have 25s each, he generously offering to make up the deficiency.
The men were placed under the charge of MR F JARVIS, the local Hon. Secretary of the Shipwrecked Mariner's Society, who has served them all with new clothing, and provided for their comforts in every way. Several of the townspeople rendered assistance, especially MESSRS. CHAS. PAYER, S. JOSEPH, and WALTER JOSEPH.
The names of the survivors are as follows:- SAML. WEBSTER, ALBERT MOORE, EVAN EVANS, PETER CAULSEN, DAVID GOLDIE, JOHN MALAN, CHARLES STEPHENS, WM. DACEY, EDWARD RICHARDS, EDWARD MCKINNEY, HERBERT BREIGLAW, MARTIN ANSON, JAMES NELSON, JOHN SMITH, JOHN MURPHY, WILLIAM WILLIAMS (the carpenter), FRANK BROWN, JOHN BROWN, PETER STRICKMAN, ALFRED TOWNER, WILLIAM PRETEJOHN, JOHN HARVEY, SIDNEY BENSON, HUGH M'DOUGAL, EDWIN CHARLES and JOHN OWEN - 27 in number.
The crew of the lifeboat who saved the men have received many complimentary messages from prominent persons upon their humane conduct. Amongst the messages was a telegram from SIR EDWARD WATKIN, informing them that he had dispatched a cheque for £10 as a reward for their bravery. The crew will also receive £100, which was left by MISS DE ROTHESCHILD (who presented the boat a few years ago) for the crew which made the first rescue. The crew was made up of the following Folkestone fishermen:- HENNESSEY (Coxswain), SADLER (Second Coxswain), JOHN CORRIE, DAVID PHILPOTT, ROBERT WHETHERHEAD, ROBERT FREEMAN, THOMAS MOORE, WILLIAM MOORE, ROBERT FAGG, THOS. NEWMAN, SMITH, MEES, GRIGGS, WILLIAMS and CUELCH.
About nine o'clock on Thursday morning two seaman's chests were washed ashore at Folkestone, and were identified as belonging to the BENVENUE.
The men left Folkestone by the tidal train on Thursday afternoon, the South-Eastern Company giving them free passes.
A large quantity of wreckage has been washed ashore at Folkestone and Sandgate from the BENVENUE, and yesterday coastguards had no less than six seaman's chests in their possession. At low tide yesterday the wheels of the BENVENUE could be clearly seen above water. She is lying in very shallow water, and it is thought that the principal part of her cargo, which is very valuable, will be recovered. Hopes are also entertained of possibly raising her.
The directors of the South-Eastern Railway have voted the sum of £20 for the lifeboat's crew.
The National Lifeboat Institution will hold an inquiry as to the lifeboat disasters at Dymchurch and Hythe next week.
SIR EDWARD WATKIN has promised to have medals designed and struck to commemorate the gallant deeds of the crew of the lifeboat, and will also cause enquiry to be made as to why the South-Eastern LIFEBOAT JUBILEE was not sent to render assistance. If she is not properly adapted for such emergencies he stated that he will have the necessary alterations made in her to perform the services she was constructed to render.
Our Deal correspondent states that there were five hands on the Deal LUGGER SUCCESS, which was lost near Dymchurch on Wednesday. The boat was cruising for vessels requiring North Sea pilots, and was trying to hold to her anchor at Dungerness roadstead, when she was driven ashore. Three of the crew named ERRIDGE, FINNIS and BUTTRESS, succeeded in reaching the shore, but JOHN GRIGG (the master) and a man named PHILPOTT were drowned. Both men were married, and one leaves a family of four children.
Much excitement was caused at Dover yesterday (Friday) morning by the sinking of the S.S. LEIBENSTEIN right in the mouth of the Harbour. The vessel which belongs to Bremen, and was bound to Stettin, with a cargo of oilcake, sustained severe straining in the great storm of Tuesday and Wednesday, and upon arriving at Dover on Thursday put into the Bay to obtain repairs. She, however was driven on to the rocks. Both Harbour tugs and a number of boatmen were employed yesterday morning in getting her off. It was then found that she was making water very fast in her fore compartments and the tugs which had charge of her attempted to get her into the Harbour; before they succeeded in doing so she sank right in the Harbour mouth, where she now lies. A large number of people have assembled. The vessel lies in an extremely awkward position, and unless she can be shifted will greatly endanger vessels entering and leaving the port. Should the wind increase there will be great danger of her being driven into the North Pier. The steamer is a vessel of about 2,000 tons register.
THE SOUND OF MAROONS: HOWARD BIGGS 1977
In his book Howard Biggs describes this rescue much in the same way as the newspaper report. However, there is some additional information of interest.
The coxswain, LAWRENCE HENNESSEY had already rescued four Frenchmen from the schooner Eider at Hythe when he first attempted to lauch the lifeboat from Sandgate. The lifeboat, MAYER DE ROTHESCHILD, was flung back on shore by the sea and the gale. At noon he tried again from Hythe (Note: Crew:Lawrence Hennessey – 1st Cox, Thomas Watson, Albert Sadler (Sandgate) – 2nd Cox
Queen Victoria was so impressed by this rescue that she granted permission for her profile to be on a special medal struck to mark the rescue which was awarded to each member of the crew. LAWRENCE HENNESSEY was awarded the Albert Medal 2nd Class and Second Coxswain ALBERT SADLER received the Silver Medal of the R.N.L.I.
|It was a common error in my family to believe that Coxswain Stephen Cook was at this rescue. |
However this was not so and I believe the family mixed this famous rescue with that of the "Good Intent" described on the Folkestone Lifeboat page.
My Aunt had this photograph of a drawing of the rescue of the Benvenue
|A Victoria Silver Medallion – the Folkestone, Hythe and Sandgate medal for the rescue of the crew of the Benvenue 11th Nov 1891. Sir Edward Watkin a director of the South Eastern railway made monetary awards to the rescuers and decided that a medal should also be awarded. His wife undertook the design of the medal, the dies of which where prepared by Sir Alfred Gilbert (1854-1934). The medals were manufactured by Heming & Co, London and were presented on 1st Jan 1892 by The Mayor Mr. S. Penfold, with copied paperwork of a full report of the rescue.|
|CHARLES WILLIAM FAGG RN 1864–1891|
|CHARLES W. FAGG|
Was born September 6th 1864
Who was drowned by the cap-
sizing of the lifeboat at Hythe
In the endeavour to rescue the
Crew of the Benvenue wrecked
At Sandgate, Kent on November
11th 1891. His body was washed on
Shore at the Warren between
Folkestone and Dover on Decr
2nd and interred at Smeeth
Church Yard on December 5th 1891.
| Charles William Fagg was born in St Osyth, Essex. He was the son of Charles William Fagg RN (who was born in Smeeth) and Charlotte,|
his wife. Charles W. Fagg Snr. and his wife returned to Smeeth before 1881. Charles W. Fagg Jnr also joined the Royal Navy as a boy
before 1881. He was serving as a Customs Officer at the time of his death.
With many thanks to Chris Roche for these Photographs from Smeeth Church yard.
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