Archiver > MARINERS > 2003-01 > 1043959064

From: "Carl Smith" <>
Subject: [Mar] Lifeboat Disaster 1903
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 2003 20:37:44 -0000

Subscribers may like to know that 1st February is the 100th anniversary of
the second (of three) disaster to befall the lifeboat at Mumbles near
Swansea on the South Wales coast (UK).
A number of sites mention the incident but most carry inaccurate
information. Here I give the correct names of those involved and of the
ships and lifeboats.

The weather had been poor for a few days and on the evening of Saturday 31
January 1903 the Waterford steamship "Christina" bound in ballast for Port
Talbot went aground to one side of the fairway leading into that port. The
ship was on an even keel on firm ground and dried at low water so that the
crew were in no danger and able to walk ashore.

The next day the harbour master at Port Talbot (Capt Humphrey Jones)
telegraphed Mumbles coastguard station to inform them of the incident. The
coastguard asked if the lifeboat was required but before his reply in the
negative had been received the boat had been launched at about 3.30 p.m.

The lifeboat "James Stevens No. 12" (she was one of a large number of boats
built from the legacy of a Birmingham industrialist) crossed the bay under
sail. She carried a crew of fourteen with Coxswain Tom Rogers at the helm.
Finding the "Christina" high and dry they decided to put into the river at
Aberavon for shelter (it was blowing force 5 to 7 from the north west).
Rogers handed the rudder lines to his deputy Daniel Claypitt and supervised
the use of the drogue (sea anchor) as there was a fierce ground sea in the
river entrance. As they crossed the bar under sail the lifeboat broached-to
and capsized. As she was a self-righter she soon righted but capsized once
or twice more. Ten of the crew were thrown into the water. The four men left
aboard were able to scramble onto the large blocks at the base of the
breakwater. The boat's bowman Sam Gammon entered the water and pulled two of
his mates ashore. But a number were now fighting for their lives in the
rough, cold water.

One man Robert Smith was caught by his legs in the blocks of the breakwater
and though Capt H. Jones was lowered to him the heavy sea running prevented
him from saving him and he was drowned by the rising tide. All told six men
were drowned. They were

Tom Rogers coxswain
Daniel Claypitt 2nd cox'n
George Michael
James Gammon
Robert Smith
David John Morgan

The surviving eight men were

Samuel Gammon bowman
William Jenkins
Tom Michael
Hedley Davies
David John Howell
Richard Gammon
Charles Davies
David John Gammon

I believe that the four Gammons were brothers. The Gammon name is strongly
represented in the Gower area and is said to be of Flemish origin.

David John Morgan and Tom Michael had survived the earlier disaster of 27
January 1883 when the lifeboat "Wolverhampton" capsized while in the process
of attempting to rescue the crew of the Dantzig barque "Admiral Prinz
Adalbert" wrecked on Mumbles Head.

Charlie Davies, who was aged about 26 in 1903, went on to serve for many
years and was a member of the crew who, in October 1944, saved the towing
crew of 42 from the damaged Canadian frigate "Chebogue" aground on Port
Talbot bar in near hurricane conditions. Coxswain William Gammon was awarded
the Gold Medal of the RNLI for this service.

The third disaster to the Mumbles Station occurred on 23 April 1947 when the
lifeboat "Edward, Prince of Wales" capsized with the loss of all eight crew
at the wreck of the steamship "Samtampa" (a former Liberty ship) at Sker
Point near Porthcawl in very severe weather. All 39 of the ship's crew were
also lost.

The Mumbles men who lost their lives in 1947 were

William Gammon coxswain
William Noel 2nd cox'n
Gilbert Davies mechanic
Ernest Griffin assistant mechanic
William R. S. Thomas
Richard Henry Smith
William L. Howell
William Ronald Thomas

Memorials to each of these disasters may be seen at All Saints Church
Oystermouth (Mumbles is in the parish of Oystermouth).
Three of the victims of the 1883 disaster were buried in the churchyard.
Over the years the headstones have been moved and in fact the graves have
been surfaced over and are now below the church car park. The body of the
fourth victim of 1883 was not recovered.

The victims of the 1903 disaster are buried in section K of Oystermouth
Cemetery (Not at the church)

The men lost in 1947 are also buried at Oystermouth Cemetery.

Though of a very sad nature I hope that this information will be of interest
to you all.

Very best wishes,

Carl Smith (great nephew of Robert and second cousin of Richard Smith)

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