Great Yarmouth History

The Wegro Refloated

On Sunday 27th April 1981 a fierce force 9 gale was raging off the Norfolk Coast. The Wegro was making for Great Yarmouth where she was due to pick up a cargo of grain destined for Ghent. The ship was unable to enter the harbour entrance owing to the high winds. The captain of the Wegro Stanley Garland elected to ride out the storm at anchor. Unfortunately the anchor was unable to hold the ship and she was forced towards the beach even with her engines at at full power trying to reverse what proved to be an inevitability. When the tide receded the Wegro was left stranded across a heavy timber groyne. Whilst this drama was unfolding the Gorleston Lifeboat Khami stood off the Wegro in very heavy seas in case her services were required. Once it was obvious the Wegro would be beached the Khami was able to retire.

There were two youngsters aboard the Wegro Keith Ralph, aged 15 and Nicholas Stanton, aged 12. It was a holiday voyage that turned into a real adventure for them as they were rescued from the ship by the Gorleston Coast Rescue Company. The Company was formed to rescue shipwrecked sailors from the beach. Lines would be fired to a stricken ship and a breeches buoy would be set up to rescue the sailors. The Company had not been called on for over 20 years but they answered the call admirably as they duly rescued the boys. The crew waited until low tide and simply walked ashore.

Now the problem of how to refloat the Wegro. Firstly the sand round the groyne was cleared to make sure the ship was seaworthy, which it was. Next it was decided to dig a trench to the sea in order to get the Wegro afloat again. As the weather improved the trench was started. While this work was being carried out guided tours of the Wegro were allowed and the proceeds went to the R.N.L.I. All was ready by Friday May 1st 1981. The Yarmouth tug Hector Read took up the strain and the Wegro moved a few inches but more 'muscle' was needed to move the ship. The next day saw the more powerful tug Indomitable pressed into service. At high tide the strain was taken up, the crowd were kept well back in case one of the heavy duty hawsers snapped. Within four minutes the drama was over, Wegro was afloat again. Cars hooted their horns, the crowd applauded and the Wegro's horn sounded.

All's well that ends well.