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Caister Yawl 'Zephyr' Disaster - 1885

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk, England, United Kingdommap
Surnames/tags: Haylett Russell
Profile manager: Neill Reed private message [send private message]
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In honour of the 8 brave men who lost their lives

On the morning of July 22nd, a schooner, apparently on the Scroby Sands and in need of assistance, was sighted by the Caistor beachmen, and a crew of fifteen men at once went off in the yawl Zephyr to give her help. When 400 yards south of the Cockle Lightship the yawl struck on an old wreck, and notwith standing all the efforts of the crew to lighten her, rapidly sank. The men, thrown into the sea, endeavoured to save themselves by laying hold of spars and oars; but of the fifteen men who started from Caistor eight were drowned, the remaining seven being picked up by a Yarmouth shrimp boat, called The Brothers, and commanded by Emanuel Liffen. Six of the deceased were married, and have left families. By their deaths thirty children have been left fatherless. The names of those drowned are:-

John Burton (Aged 62), single
George Hodge (Aged 43), leaving widow and ten children
James George Green King (Aged 42), widow and nine children
Joseph Sutton (Aged 32), widow and five children
James Joseph Haylett (Aged 43), widow and five children
Frederick Henry Haylett (Aged 27), widow and one child
John Riches (Aged 44), widow and three children
William Knowles (Aged 66), widower

The widow of George Hodge is now near her confinement. The village of Caistor, where the disaster occurred, is two miles from Great Yarmouth, and all the men who were drowned were lifeboat men, most of whom had done signal service in the rescue of crews of vessels stranded on the sands in the neighbourhood. An inquest was held at Caistor in the evening by the county coroner, on the body of John Burton, one of the eight men drowned by the sinking of the Zephyr, his was the only body recovered. John George, who swam out from the sinking yawl to the shrimp boat, and was instrumental in saving the other six men who were rescued, deposed that all the crew knew of the existence of the sunken wreck, but thought they were clear of it. The coxswain shouted, Look out for the sunken mast," and a moment afterwards they were upon it. The jury returned a verdict to the effect that death was the result of accident, and highly complimented George on his courage and bravery. Haylett, the coxswain, supported himself on two oars before drifting close by the foremast on which were his son Aaron, William Knowles and James Joseph Haylett. They kept afloat for a time, but the mast kept rolling over in the swell. Aaron moved to his father’s oars but William and James Joseph were drowned. John George, another of the crew, swam towards the shore and came across a shrimper ‘The Brothers’ of Yarmouth which led the search for the other beachmen. First to be picked up was Robert Plummer on a grating, then one after the other Aaron Walter Haylett, Isaiah Sheals Haylett, George Haylett, Harry Russell, and lastly James Henry Haylett still on the foremast with an oar under one arm and a sett under the other.[1]


  1. Newspaper Report: " The Graphic "
    British Newspaper Archive Image (accessed 02 December 2021 - Paid Subscribe to view)
    The Graphic: Saturday 8 August 1885

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