THE SERVICE HISTORY OF EDWARD BIRKBECK
WINTERTON NO. 1 LIFEBOAT 1896-1924
You can find out about the development of the Lifeboat Service at Winterton from it’s origins through the Beach Companies on “The Story”, but this page offers details of the service history of the Edward Birkbeck and the brave men who crewed her during her 28 year service at Winterton Lifeboat Station. Information herewith is provided with the generous permission of Jeff Morris, Honorary Archivist of the Lifeboat Enthusiast’s Society who has researched and written the history of many Lifeboat Stations all around the country.
The first boat believed to be built specifically as a lifeboat was the appropriately named “Original” in 1789 by Henry Greathead of South Shields. This was followed by more and more lifeboats placed around the coasts, often provided by local individuals or County Associations. In Norfolk, the Norfolk Association for Saving the Lives of Shipwrecked Mariners” was founded in November 1823 and one of its first decisions was to establish a Lifeboat Station at Winterton. The RNLI was founded on 4th March 1824 by Sir William Hillary but it was not until January 1858 that, at the request of the Norfolk Shipwreck Association, they took over all its lifeboats.
On 2nd November 1896 a new lifeboat arrived at Winterton for service as the No. 1 Lifeboat – the Edward Birkbeck – a 34ft x 10ft 12-oared Norfolk & Suffolk class non- self righter, built by Beechings of Great Yarmouth.
Here’s the full list of all launches recorded by the Edward Birkbeck as researched by Jeff Morris. More information on specific launches follows below.
11 Jan1897 SS Lucent of Sunderland No Service
23 Jan1897 Ketch Isabella of Harwich Saved 2
5 April1897 Fishing Vessel Young Jack of Lowestoft No Service
5 April 1897 Young Jack – second launch No Service
28 June1897 Fishing Smack Rosebud of Great Yarmouth No Service
29 Oct1897 Fishing Smack Wild Rose of Great Yarmouth No Service
30 Oct1897 Fishing Smack Wild Rose of Great Yarmouth No Service
3 Nov 1897 Brigantine Hannah of Great Yarmouth Saved 4
27 June1898 Ship Galatea of Greenock Saved 3
30 Sept 1899 Fishing Boat Alice of Great Yarmouth Could not reach Vessel
8 Nov1899 Dandy Unity of Lowestoft Saved 5
29 Jan 1900 Barque Theodor of Elsfeth Saved 13
25 May1901 Barque Esperance No Service
16 Aug1901 A Brigantine No Service
14 Nov1901 Ketch Alarm of Goole No Service
18 Jan 1902 Steam Trawler Teal of Lowestoft Assisted to save
21 Feb1903 SS Holywell of Sunderland No Service
3 Nov 1903 Barque Andrea No Service
5 June1904 SS Osprey of London Saved 32
6 June 1904 SS Osprey of London Saved 4
4 Oct1905 Barquentine Brittania of Guernsey Assisted to save
30 Jan1906 SS Newburn of Newcastle Rendered Assistance
22 Nov 1907 SS Terra of Glasgow Gave Help
24 Nov 1907 SS Terra of Glasgow Gave Help
23 Jan1908 Steam Trawler Marcus of Lowestoft No Service
19 Feb 1910 Ketch Young Fox of Goole Saved 5
3.5.1910 Barge Alert of London No Service
25.11.1910 Barque Vidette of Hamburg Saved 15
11.8.1911 A Fishing Boat No Service
18.10.1911 SS Krosfond of Stavanger No Service
27 May 1912 Barge Arnold Hurst No Service
13 Nov 1912 An unknown vessel No Service
18 Feb 1914 Ketch Lord Alcaster of London No Service
3 Dec 1915 SS Rhenania No Service
20 May 1918 An unknown vessel No Service
27 July 1918 SS Kirkham Abbey of Hull No Service
10 Oct 1920 SS Inverawe of Leith Failed to clear outer bank
19 July 1921 SS San Lorenzo of London No Service
23 Jan 1922 Barge Briton of London Saved 1
4 Dec 1922 An unknown vessel No Service
19 July 1923 Fishing Smack Hepatica of Lowestoft No Service
2 Dec 1923 Steam Drifter Mishe Nahma of Gt Yarmouth Saved 10
The Edward Birkbeck was first called into service – at 10.30am on 11th January 1987 after the SS Lucent of Sunderland was spotted in difficulties in rough seas and an ESE gale. However, she got out of trouble unaided and the Edward Birkbeck arrived back on station at 1.00 pm.
Just a few days later, on 23rd January 1897, flares were spotted about a mile north of the village in rough seas with a bitterly cold ENE gale and snow showers reducing visibility. The Edward Birkbeck was launched at 7.00am to the ketch Isabella. The Rocket Apparatus team had fired several lines over the vessel from the shore and after a desperate struggle to reach her the crew of the Isabella were able to use those lines to help haul the Edward Birkbeck up to the wreck. With great difficulty the lifeboat men succeeded in rescuing two men, the other two members of the crew having sadly been washed overboard and drowned before the lifeboat could reach the Isabella. The lifeboat slowly got clear of the wreck and headed back to Station, the Isabella’s two masts falling just 10 minutes after the lifeboat got clear. The survivors were landed at 9.00am.
At 1.00 am on 3rd November 1897 the Edward Birkbeck was launched, heading out into rough seas in a near gale-force ENE wind after distress flares had been spotted about 3 miles north of Winterton. The brigantine Hannah of Great Yarmouth had run aground off Horsey beach. Due to the shallow water, it took several attempts to reach the stranded vessel but eventually they got close enough to rescue the crew of 4 men who were landed back at Station at 4.00 am.
In January 1898 William Hodds retired, having served as Coxswain of the Winterton Lifeboats since 1876 and was awarded a Silver Medal (his second) in recognition of his many years of outstanding service. He was succeeded by James Waite.
On the morning of 27th June 1898 the fully-rigged ship Galatea ran aground on Hammonds Knoll and hoisted distress signals, spotted by the watchman on duty at Winterton. The No. 2 lifeboat Margaret was launched at 8.30am and taken in-tow by a steam tug. On boarding the vessel to try to refloat her, it became apparent that more men would be needed so the tug headed back to Winterton and at 3.30pm the Edward Birkbeck was also launched and towed to the stranded ship. As conditions deteriorated the ship began to fill with water and the Master decided to abandon ship and 22 crew members were taken aboard the Margaret and 3 aboard the Edward Birkbeck and brought ashore. The Galatea was totally wrecked.
George Waters Beck was appointed Station Honorary Secretary in 1899.
On 30th September 1899 the fishing boat Alice got into difficulties off Winterton Ness and the Edward Birkbeck was launched at 8.30am. However, she was unable to reach the Alice due to the sandbanks so signals were made by the lifeboat men asking for another lifeboat to be called out. A telephone call was made to the Caister Lifeboat Station and at 9.30am the Beauchamp was launched. Approaching from a different direction she was able to get close enough and to rescue the crew of 3 men.
At 5.40am on 8th November 1899 the Edward Birkbeck was launched after the “Dandy” Unity had come ashore about 3 miles north of Winterton in heavy seas and a SW gale. With great skill the lifeboat men got close enough to the stranded vessel to rescue 5 members of the crew and landing them at Winterton at 8.15am, the other 2 men getting ashore in the ship’s boat.
As a new century dawned, on 29th January 1900, late in the evening the Barque Theador of Elsfleth had come ashore in rough seas just north of the village. The Edward Birkbeck was launched at 11.00pm and rescued the crew of 12 men plus the Master’s wife, landing them at midnight with the Theador becoming a total wreck.
Shortly after 1.00am on 18th January 1902 the Watchman on duty at Winterton spotted signals coming from a vessel about a mile to the north. The lifeboat men and launchers were called out and the Edward Birkbeck launched at 1.30am. The casualty was found to be the Steam Trawler Teal of Lowestoft which had run aground in a strong NW wind. The lifeboat men laid out a kedge-anchor from the stranded vessel and after several unsuccessful attempts the trawler was finally re-floated on 20th January and the lifeboat returned to Station at 9.00am.
At breakfast time on 21st February 1903 two Steamers collided - the 3,000 ton Martello of Hull and the Holywell of Sunderland - near the Newarp Lightvessel who immediately fired their signal gun. The Caister No. 1 Lifeboat Covent Garden and the Winterton No. 2 Lifeboat Margaret were launched into very heavy seas and a bitterly cold WSW gale. The Holywell sank shortly afterwards but fortunately all 31 crew and passengers had been taken aboard another Steamer and were then transferred to the lifeboat and landed at Great Yarmouth. The Edward Birkbeck was launched at 10.40am with the distress signal still flying from the drifting vessel but was not needed and returned to Station at 12.47pm.
On 5th June 1904 in dense fog the SS Osprey of London was badly damaged in a collision with another vessel off Winterton. The Master decided to beach his vessel to prevent her from sinking and made straight for Winterton. She was spotted at 3.00pm and 20 minutes later had run aground. The Edward Birkbeck was launched and reached the vessel just after she had run aground a few hundred yards offshore with the steamer’s engine room and aft-compartments already full of water. There were 36 people aboard and in three trips the Lifeboatmen rescued 32, leaving just the Captain and 3 men on board. Then returning and standing by until 2.45am on 6th June when it was clear that the Steamer was beginning to break up and the last 4 men were rescued and landed at 3.00am.
In extremely heavy seas and a full NW gale on the afternoon of 4th October 1905 the Barquentine Brittania of Guernsey ran aground on the Cockle Sands and the Edward Birkbeck was launched at 5.10pm and, with the crew of a salvage-yawl which had also gone out to help, the men helped to re-float the vessel on the high tide and escorting her into Gorleston Harbour. But conditions by then were so bad that it was decided it was too dangerous to attempt to beach the lifeboat at Winterton so it was left at Gorleston with the crew returning home by train. The lifeboat was brought back to Winterton 5 days later when conditions at sea had improved.
The 3,500 ton Steamer Newbarn of Newcastle, laden with 4,700 tons of coal ran aground on the Haisborough Sands early on 29th January 1906. A total of 7 lifeboats were eventually called out to help refloat the vessel, including two from Sea Palling and the Winterton No. 2 lifeboat the Margaret. Most of the lifeboatmen boarded the stranded vessel and began to help the crew of 27 men to jettison some of cargo. Several tugs also set off to help. They tried several times to pull the Steamer clear but without success. The Edward Birkbeck was launched, taking even more men out, as well as the Gorleston steam lifeboat James Stevens No. 3. Also sent out to stand by at the scene were the Cromer Lifeboat Louisa Heartwell and the Caister No. 1 Lifeboat Covent Garden. Eventually at midday on 2nd February the tugs succeeded in pulling the Steamer clear and the lifeboats returned to their respective Stations, the Winterton Lifeboats arriving at 3.00pm.
In January 1907 James Waite retired as Coxswain of the Winterton Lifeboats and was succeeded by James Moll. The lifeboat’s second Coxswain, James Larner, also retired through ill-health and was succeeded by Samuel Brown.
On 22nd November 1907 in steadily deteriorating conditions the Steamship Terra ran aground on the Cockle Sands. The Winterton No. 2 Lifeboat Reserve No. 1 was launched at 11.30am, heading out into rough seas and a near gale-force SSE wind. Some of the crew boarded the Terra to try to refloat her. But as the weather got worse it became clear that more help would be needed and signals were made. At 2.10pm the Edward Birkbeck was launched and most of her crew also boarded the stricken Terra. For the next 4 days they worked to jettison most of the vessel’s cargo of coal and with the help of tugs the Terra was eventually refloated with the Winterton lifeboats returning to Station at 6.30pm on 26th November.
Just 3 hours after the Winterton No. 2 Lifeboat had been called out to the SS Tay aground on the Haisborough sands, news was received of the SS Marcus which had suffered a similar fate and the Edward Birkbeck was launched again at 9.45pm. Unfortunately, the steamer sank before the lifeboats could reach her but the crew of 5 men had managed to reach the Haisborough Lightvessel from which they were brought ashore by the Sea Palling lifeboat and the Edward Birkbeck arrived back on Station at 4.30am.
In March 1909 a new No. 2 lifeboat was sent to the Winterton Station. It had been provided out of a legacy from the late Miss E Brown of Wandsworth Common in London and at a ceremony on 7th August 1909 was christened the Eleanor Brown by Mrs Worship of Ormesby St Michael at Winterton. The No 1 Edward Birkbeck and No 2 Eleanor Brown would both continue to serve at Winterton until 1924.
In 1910 Samuel Brown, previously Second Coxswain, took over at Coxswain from James Moll.
At first light on 19th February 1910 the Watchman on duty at Winterton spotted a vessel which had come ashore during the night nearly 2 miles to the north of the village. The Edward Birkbeck was launched at 7.15am into rough seas and a SE gale. The lifeboat stood by the Ketch Young Fox of Goole for a while and when the waves began to sweep over the stranded vessel she was able to get close enough to rescue the crew of 5 men who were landed safely at 1.30pm.
On 25th November 1910 the Edward Birkbeck was launched at 5.35am to the Barque Vidette of Hamburg which had run aground around 2 miles south of the village in rough seas and a strong SE wind, with a crew of 15 men on board. The lifeboat men went on board to help refloat the vessel which was achieved at 2.30pm and then escorted the vessel into Gorleston harbour at 4.30pm.
In the early hours of 18th February 1914 two Ketches – the Lord Alcaster of London and the Spartan of Montrose collided 1½ miles ESE of Sea Palling. The Palling lifeboat was launched at 4.00 am followed 15 minutes later by the Edward Birkbeck. The Palling lifeboatmen got aboard the Lord Alcaster and succeeded in taking the vessel safely to Lowestoft. A tug took the Spartan in tow to Gorleston and the Edward Birkbeck returned to Station at 9.15am, her help not being needed.
In January 1920 Coxswain Samuel Brown had to resign due to ill health contracted on Lifeboat service and at a meeting of the Committee of Management on 20th February he was granted a Pension from the Institution and a special grant of £50. He was succeeded by Walter Dyble – known as “Tash”.
On the morning of 10th October 1920 the SS Inverawe ran aground on the Haisboro Sands in rough seas and a very strong ESE wind. First to attend was the Cromer Lifeboat Louisa Heartwell, followed by Palling’s Hearts of Oak. The Edward Birkbeck was also launched at 10.15am but was unable to cross the Outer Bank off Winterton and eventually had to return to Station. The lifeboat men boarded the vessel and work started to refloat her. But it took 3 days before they succeeded with several tugs eventually pulling her clear and she was towed to Yarmouth Roads.
At 10.40am on 23rd January 1922 the Edward Birkbeck was launched to the Barge Briton of London which had got into difficulties in extremely heavy seas and an ESE gale. She was found at anchor just north of the village but due to shallow water the lifeboat was unable to get close so Coxswain Dyble decided to return ashore with the lifeboat being beached at 11.35am and a close watch being kept on the Briton. Suddenly her anchor-chain parted and she quickly drifted ashore close to the Lifeboat Station. Using ropes taken from the lifeboat the men waded out into the pounding surf and rescued a young lad, the other two members of the crew refusing to leave at that time, the men eventually getting safely ashore at low tide. The Honorary Secretary of the Winterton Lifeboat, Mr George Waters Beck, had taken a particularly active part in this rescue and later received a “Letter of Thanks” from the RNLI.
The Fishing Smack Hepatica of Lowestoft ran aground on the Haisboro Sands in moderate seas early on 19th July 1922 and the Edward Birkbeck was launched at 6.10am. The Cromer motor lifeboat H F Bailey was launched at 6.40 am and was first to reach the stranded vessel and able to refloat her to proceed on her way. The Edward Birkbeck returned to Station at 10.40am.
The Edward Birkbeck was launched for what proved to be the last time on service at 8.00pm on 2nd December 1923. In dense fog, the steam drifter Mishe Nahma out of Great Yarmouth with a crew of 10 had run aground. The lifeboat men laid out a kedge-anchor from the stranded trawler and she was refloated at 11.30pm. The lifeboat returned to Station at 12.20am on 3rd December.
On 10th October 1924 the RNLI withdrew the Edward Birkbeck from service, leaving the Station with just the Eleanor Brown, who, on 12th November was also withdrawn, sent to Lowestoft and put into storage. On the same day the RNLI sent another lifeboat to Winterton – the Reserve No. 9, formerly the Charles Deere James built in 1903 for the St Agnes Lifeboat Station. She was a 38ft x 10ft 10-oared Liverpool Class non-self righter and the Winterton lifeboat men took an absolute dislike to this boat saying she was totally unsuitable for work on the outlying sandbanks and refused to operate her.
At a meeting of the Committee of Management on 18th December 1924 the RNLI decided to close the Winterton Lifeboat Station and the Reserve No. 9/Charles Deere James was taken away on 5th January 1925 and the Station finally closed.
To find out more about the other gallant rescues
by Winterton Lifeboatmen
during the years of the operation of the
Winterton Lifeboat Station between 1823 and 1924
you’ll have to wait for the opening of the Heritage Centre!