Great Yarmouth History

A Truly Heroic Rescue

When the fully laden Dutch oil tanker Georgia was riding out a gale on the 21st November 1927 just off Happisburgh the crew could not have envisaged how rapidly their situation was to change. The steering gear on the ship broke down and as a consequence the Georgia was forced on to the Happisburgh Sands where she rapidly broke into two as the wind driven waves battered her. The break up of the Georgia was so rapid that the wireless operator was unable to send off a distress call. It was miraculous that no member of the crew was lost as the ship divided. The bow section of the Georgia which was stuck on the 'Sands' had 15 members of the crew sheltering against the storm. The aft section had not sunk and was drifting aimlessly with 16 men on board. This section was spotted the next morning by the steamship SS Trent. The SS Trent picked up the 16 men.

The captain of the SS Trent immediately made for the Happisburgh Sands to try to rescue the remainder of the Georgia's crew. The SS Trent had also tranmitted a request for assistance to other ships in the area. The Gorleston lifeboat John and Mary Meiklam was launched and after a very rough two hour trip managed to rendezvous with the SS Trent. The storm was still raging and because of this the coxswain of the John and Mary Meiklam decided that it was too dangerous to attempt a rescue. Night fell and the lifeboat stationed itself in the lee of the SS Trent and waited for dawn. In the morning the John and Mary Meiklam made several attempts at a rescue but were unsuccessful. After being on station for 24 hours the coxswain decided to return to Great Yarmouth for a warm meal and a change of clothes. Remember that at this time lifeboats were open to the weather and provided no shelter for the crew.

The aft section of the Georgia was still afloat and spotted by some Cromer fishermen who called out the Cromer lifeboat. The Cromer lifeboat H.F. Bailey arrived a 2:00 a.m. and the Georgia was boarded but they soon realised nobody was left on board. As the Georgia was judged to be a danger to shipping the Cromer lifeboat H.F. Bailey stood by until, after 16 hours at sea, the other Cromer lifeboat Louisa Heartwell relieved them. The crew of the H.F. Bailey were not finished for the day. They were straight out again to investigate a rowing boat drifting down the coast. The rowing boat was empty so they headed back to Cromer. When they arrived back they immediately set out, yet again, this time to relieve the Gorleston lifeboat John and Mary Meiklam which was still standing by the bow section of the Georgia which was still stuck on the sands. The weather was still too bad to attempt a rescue.

The coxswain of the H.F. Bailey was the legendary Henry Blogg who was renown throughout the world for his daring rescues and superb seamanship. Not wishing to expose his crew to another bleak night on the North Sea he took the Cromer lifeboat through the surf and was able to get a line aboard the Georgia. The crew of the Georgia took their chance and one by one they dropped onto the open decks of the H.F. Bailey. As this stage of the rescue was now complete the lines to the Georgia were cut. At this moment a huge wave lifted the H.F. Bailey onto the deck of the Georgia. As the next wave came crashing in, the engineman of the lifeboat put the engines in reverse and managed to get the now badly damaged H.F. Bailey away from immediate danger of collision with the Georgia. After 28 hours at sea the stricken Cromer lifeboat limped into Gorleston-on-Sea. It may come as no surprise that all the crew received, richly deserved awards for gallantry from the R.N.L.I. for their parts in this rescue.