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For those in peril...

PUBLISHED: 12:12 22 August 2008 | UPDATED: 21:07 05 July 2010

THE Port of Lowestoft Research Society has announced the release of the latest in its series of books documenting the history of our gallant saviours of the sea.

THE Port of Lowestoft Research Society has announced the release of the latest in its series of books documenting the history of our gallant saviours of the sea.

The Story of Lowestoft Lifeboats Part Three: 1924-1968 has been written by Stuart Jones.

Parts one and two were published in 1974 and 1996, and the new instalment tells the story of the boats during the stewardships of Albert Spurgeon and Harry Burgess.

It begins in June 1924 with the retirement of coxswain John Swan. He had retired after 50 years with the crew, and after a ballot of the members Mr Spurgeon was chosen to take over the role.

He had been a crew member since 1902 and went on to serve for

a total of 45 years. His dramatic rescues from the Lily of Devon in 1927 and from minesweeper

106 in 1943 are detailed, alongside numerous other achievements.

In all, the boat was launched 163 times under his command, saving 183 lives and earning Mr Spurgeon a RNLI silver medal and two bronze ones. He also had the distinction of taking on the first woman crew member when, in 1946, Mrs Gooch, from Leicester, responded to a call for volunteers.

The book also documents the story of coxswain Harry Burgess. He was appointed on October 1, 1947, when at the age of 37 he became the youngest coxswain on the east coast.

The book tells how Mr Burgess was a model of reticence and self-effacement. And, while he did not receive any RNLI medals, his 36 years of service, more than 21 of them as coxswain, saw him save many lives. His service would, unfortunately, be marred by his resignation in 1968.

At 12.18pm on December 15, the vessel Frederick Edward Crick was launched to help a boat that had got into difficulties.

A force seven south-easterly wind prevented the lifeboat crew getting any closer than 50 yards to the capsized crew, and after more than one-and-a-half hours of attempted rescue by police, helicopter crews, RAF personnel, firemen, frogmen and shore helpers, the two-man crew were both lost.

Criticism was levelled at the crew for not getting closer, and, wounded by this, Mr Burgess resigned together with second coxswain Billy Thorpe, bowman Jack Rose and Billy Capps-Jenner. They had served more than 89 years between them and were all awarded certificates to honour this, but they would not return to the lifeboat again.

The event and numerous other rescues are all recounted in the book, together with anecdotes, pictures and descriptions of the boats involved.

“Without the meticulous notes left by our late chairman, Jack Mitchley, the task would have been immeas-urably more difficult,” said Mr Jones, who also consulted many other sources, including Mr Spurgeon's log books, as part of his research for the book.

The Story of Lowestoft Lifeboats Part Three: 1924-1968 costs £6 and is available from bookshops.


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