Caister lifeboat Disaster 1901

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After the sad death of his father Thomas William Brograve Proctor-Beauchamp and his two brothers Algernon Proctor-Beauchamp (aged 11) and Granville Pelham Proctor-Beauchamp.

Reginald William Proctor-Beauchamp 5th Baronet of Langley Hall near Norwich had been thinking for some time to give a practical memorial or gift so that it could be useful, so it was not just ornamental. He decided to write to the secretary of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to ask them if a lifeboat was required along the Norfolk Coast or near Caister. He received a reply confirming a Lifeboat was needed at Caister, so he gave a gift to enable the purchase of a lifeboat to bear his name 'Beauchamp'.

This new lifeboat was built by the late Mr William T Critten in the Norfolk and Suffolk design in 1891 for £266. It was 36' long by 10' 6in beam and is fitted to row 12 oars double banked when required.

It was a find day in Caister-on-Sea on Thursday the 21 January 1892 at around 1pm, when the new lifeboat was launched by Lady Violet Charlotte Julia Maria Beauchamp, as the bottle of wine hit the name on the boat she said "Success to the Beauchamp" and the crowd cheered.[1]

Caister Lifeboatmen alongside the surf Lifeboat Beauchamp 1892
From Left to Right: One of the first Crews of the 'Beauchamp'
Back Row; Frank Clowes (Hon. Secretary), Solomon "Gundy" / "Old Solly" Brown, Charlie Sneller, Ben Read, James Sheales 'Jimmy' Haylett
Middle Row; Billy Wilson, James Henry Haylett, Walter Edwin "Sequah" Haylett
Front Row; George Smith Haylett, Harry Knights, Joe Julier, Ben Kettle.

During the nine years of service ( until the fatal night in 1901) it had helped 81 vessels and saved 146 lives. While the total number of lives which the lifeboats at Caister have saved during the past forty-three years is 1,281, a 'record' as regards the lifeboat stations of the United Kingdom. The RNLI closed the lifeboat station in October 1969 after the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston lifeboat station received a fast 44 ft (13 m) Waveney-class lifeboat. The Caister Lifeboat station re-opened as an independently run lifeboat station, and continues to save lives today.[2]

A Group of people outside the Ship Beerhouse c1895
From Left to Right:
Back Row; Paul George, James Henry Haylett, -- ? --, William Frederick "Hilton" Brown, -- ? --, -- ? --, Charles John Brown)
Front Row; Robert Henry "Puddens" Brown, "Tight" Hayward, Susanna Bonney George (The Licensee), Sergent Mayor Travers

In honour of the 9 brave men who 'Never Turned Back'

Aaron Walter "Lord Radiah" Haylett - Age: 49 - Date of Death: 14/11/1901 - Cause of Death: Maritime accident.[3]Rank / Occupation: Lifeboatman - Coxswain - Organisation: Caister Lifeboat

James Henry Haylett - Age: 56 - Date of Death: 14/11/1901 - Cause of Death: Maritime accident.[4]Rank / Occupation: Lifeboatman - Late Coxswain - Organisation: Caister Lifeboat

William Frederick "Hilton" Brown - Age: 49 - Date of Death: 14/11/1901 - Cause of Death: Maritime accident.[5]Rank / Occupation: Lifeboatman - Second Coxswain and fishing boat owner - Organisation: Caister Lifeboat

Charles John Brown) - Age: 31 - Date of Death: 14/11/1901 - Cause of Death: Maritime accident.[6]Rank / Occupation: Lifeboatman - Crew and Master of the Steam Drifter Alpha - Organisation: Caister Lifeboat

William Russell "Billy" Wilson - Age: 56 - Date of Death: 14/11/1901 - Cause of Death: Maritime accident.[7] Rank / Occupation: Lifeboatman - Crew and Boatman - Organisation: Caister Lifeboat

John William "Shepherd" Smith - Age: 43 - Date of Death: 14/11/1901 - Cause of Death: Maritime accident.[8]Rank / Occupation: Lifeboatman - Crew and Master of the Steam Drifter "Snowdrop" - Organisation: Caister Lifeboat

George Ernest King - Age: 21 - Date of Death: 14/11/1901 - Cause of Death: Maritime accident.[9]Rank / Occupation: Lifeboatman - Crew - Organisation: Caister Lifeboat

Charles Bonney George - Age: 53 - Date of Death: 14/11/1901 - Cause of Death: Maritime accident[10]Rank / Occupation: Master of the Steam Drifter "Queen Alexandra" - Lifeboatman - Crew - Organisation: Caister Lifeboat

Henry James Haylett Knights - Age: 18 - Date of Death: 14/11/1901 - Cause of Death: Maritime accident.[11]Rank / Occupation: Lifeboatman - Crew and Fisherman - Organisation: Caister Lifeboat[12]

13 November 1901 - The Disaster

With lashing rain and a heavy seas it was shortly after 11:00 PM, that flares were seen from a vessel on the Barber sands. The Cockle light-ship fired distress signals to indicate a vessel in trouble. The crew of the No 2 Caister lifeboat 'Beauchamp' were alerted and an attempt was made to launch the lifeboat. The heavy seas washed the boat off her skids and she was hauled back up the beach for another attempt. The crew fought until 2:00 AM in the dark and cold with warp and tackle to get the lifeboat afloat. After the launch, most of the launching crew went home to change their wet clothing. James Sheales 'Jimmy' Haylett, who had been the assistant coxwain for many years and was now 78 years old, remained on watch despite being wet through and having no food. The coxwain steered towards the stricken vessel but the sea conditions forced the boat back towards the beach and she struck the beach bow first about 50 yards (46 m) from the launch point. The heavy sea struck the starboard quarter and capsized the boat, breaking off the masts and trapping the crew beneath the boat. The time was now around 3:00 AM. Frederick Henry Haylett returned to the lifeboat house after getting changed and alerted his grandfather James Sheales 'Jimmy' Haylett to the cries coming from the boat. They ran to where Beauchamp lay keel up in the surf.
Beauchamp Lifeboat keel up in the surf
James Sheales 'Jimmy' Haylett managed to pull his son-in-law Charles Henry Knights from the boat. Frederick Henry Haylett also ran into the surf and pulled John "Jack" Hubbard clear. James Sheales 'Jimmy' Haylett returned to the water to pull his grandson Walter Edwin "Sequah" Haylett clear. They were the only 3 survivors.[2]
After the Disaster
Beauchamp Lifeboat after the Disaster
Beauchamp Lifeboat at the water edge after the Disaster
Eight bodies were subsequently recovered at the scene with another, that of Charles Bonney George, being washed away only to be recovered months later in April of the following year. The crewmen lost were Aaron Walter "Lord Radiah" Haylett (Coxswain), James Henry Haylett (Late Cox), William Frederick "Hilton" Brown (Second Coxswain), Charles John Brown), William Russell "Billy" Wilson, John William "Shepherd" Smith, George Ernest King, Charles Bonney George, and Henry James Haylett Knights. Asked at the inquest to their deaths why the crew had persisted in the rescue, retired coxswain James Sheales 'Jimmy' Haylett said, "They would never give up the ship. If they had to keep at it 'til now, they would have sailed about until daylight to help her. Going back is against the rules when we see distress signals like that." This response was translated by journalists to become the famous phrase "Caister men never turn back"; "Never Turn Back" was later to become a motto of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI).[2]

14 November 1901 - Inquest Opened

On Saturday the 14 November 1901 the inquest opened and an account of what happened was given by James Sheales 'Jimmy' Haylett. You can read the full account of the inquest here.[13]

14 November 1901 - Poem By W A Osborne

When I read this Poem "Wreck of the Caister Lifeboat" By W A Osborne, I found it very moving so I am sharing it with you.

Hark, through the howling tempest,
Comes the sound of a warning bell,
That terrible summons of duty,
Which mothers and wives know well ;
Somewhere a ship is in danger,
Out on the treacherous sands,
'Tis a call for "The Lifeboat," listen!
The coxswain wants all hands.
In spite of the heavy breakers,
In spite of the warning gale,
Those brave men launched the "Beauchamp",
While the women grew faint and pale;
Ploughing their way by inches,
They reached where the vessel lay,
But their task in the end was fruitless,
They could give no help that day.
Battered and disappointed,
Those who had periled their lives,
Steered through the gloomy darkness,
Back to their homes and wives,
Just on the shore had they grounded,
When a huge wave bearing down,
Dashed in its fury upon them,
Tossing them high on its crown.
Swiftly the boat heeled over,
Well men might men set their teeth,
Those who so lately had manned her,
In a second lay caged beneath,
Closed as it were in a coffin,
Bruised by the water's might,
Only to "three " was it granted,
To Live throught that ghastly fight.
"Nine " in discharge of their duty,
Died, and are gone to their rest,
Still, ye bereaved ones who sorrow,
Remember the Lord knows best,
He hath looked down on their toiling,
Mid the elements’ storm and strife,
And death through His infinite mercy,
May prove but the gate of Life.
Poem By W A Osborne

15 November 1901 - The Old Coxswain’s Motto

The Old Coxswain’s Motto
(Verses for Recitation)
In Memoriam Caister Life-Boat Disaster (14th November, 1901)
"The Caister men never turn back" (As reported at the Inquest, 15th November 1901)
(The old Coxswain speaks)
What is this we have done? Why, our duty, and nothing more
Our sons will do it again, as their fathers have done before.
It is not for the sake of bragging; we are sailors, one and all
They signalled peril out yonder, and we—we answered the call;
For in face of the storm, in face of the wind, in face of the rising flood,
We Caister men never turn back. For why? It is not in the blood!

Aye, the tempest was raging awful, and the foam flew high on the sands
And the wind and the tide were mocking the weakness of willing hands;
But we launched the boat for all that (God help the poor children and wives!)
For the noblest duty of man is the salvage of human lives.
Then out on the hungry breakers, where the skies were inky black,
Our boat seemed swallowed by darkness—she went and she never turned back;
And we waited, and watched, and waited all night in the riving foam,
Till the dawn broke on orphaned children, and the wreck of the widowed home.

Aye, sir, I am an old man, and in speaking the tears will start;
But them words is the voice of Nature—they spring up straight from the heart
And I says them again, as our Caister men would say with their last breath,

Though the flare on the sands out yonder might light them on to death!
For in face of the storm, in face of the wind, in face of the rising flood
Our Caister men never turn back—for why? It is not in the blood!

I have fought in a hundred fights when battling with the sea,
They are gone, the young and strong ones, but to live in our memory;
Here they sleep by the wind-swept shore to the dirge of the moaning waves
And the Country's tears are the blossoms let fall on the Caister graves.

They say that the sea is cruel; they may be right or wrong
It is not for us to think—we are bound to be hale and strong.
Aye, sir, I've paid my tribute, and I humbly bows my head;
But I keep a good lookout to seaward, for the sake of them that is dead.
Aye, I'm proud of our Caister manhood, I'm proud of such acts of love
When I think of the names recorded in the Log Book up above;
And I'm proud of the words you quote, in the name of myself and crew
But not because I spoke them, but because them words is true!
For in face of the storm, in face of the wind, in face of the rising flood
We Caister men never turn back. For why ? It is not in the blood!
November, 1901. B. and BE.

  • The speaker lost two sons and one grandson in this disaster.[14]

15 November 1901 - Funeral

The funeral took place on Sunday afternoon on the 15 November 1901. In order to spare the relatives as much pain as possible the bodies will remain until interment in the lifeboat house then taken to Caister Church then to the cemetery.[13]

20 November 1901 - Funeral Tribute

On Wednesday 20 November 1901 The Cornish Telegraph reported:-

Funeral Procession for the 8 Caister lifeboat men
A remarkable tribute was paid to the Caister lifeboat men, drowned the capsizing the Beauchamp lifeboat, their funeral on Sunday. Each of the eight coffins was placed on a separate hearse, and the procession, half a mile long, included the Mayor and Corporation of Yarmouth, fishermen, coastguard’s men, Lifeboat men, members of friendly societies, and volunteers. Thousands of spectators lined the streets. All the eight bodies (the ninth has not yet been recovered) were laid in one grave. A great number of wreaths was received from all parts of the kingdom. The Mayor of Yarmouth has called a public meeting to open a relief fund.[15]

23 November 1901 - Yarmouth Mercury Supplement

On Saturday 23 November 1901 a supplement was published in the Yarmouth Mercury Newspaper to "Remember the Widows and the Fatherless"

Yarmouth Mercury Supplement

14 December 1901 - Money Raised

On Saturday the 14 December 1901 the Norwich Mercury reported:-

£10,000 had been raised in subscriptions so it was decided the fund would now be closed. James's widow Mary Ann Brett recieved 12s and their eldest daughter ? recieved an allowance. Similar allowances were to be paid to the widowed mother of George King and to parents of Henry James Haylett Knights. Also 10s. weekly to the mother of William Frederick "Hilton" Brown, It was also agreed that a weekly sum of 2s. 6d. to be allowed in respect to each child up to the age of 16 Years. It was agreed to make grants of £20 each to the three survivors, John Hubbard, Walter Edwin "Sequah" Haylett and Charles Henry Knights, in order to partly recompense them for loss of earnings in consequence of the disaster.[16]

Memorial Fund - Administration

After the loss of nine crew members. Eight widows, 33 children and other dependants were left without any help. At a public meeting held at the Town Hall, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom on the 19 November 1901 an influential committee was formed and a Relief Fund inaugurated, with a prominent local solicitor Harold Chamberlin elected as secretary. The minute book, account books and associated paperwork has survived, and from these the following brief history of the fund has been compiled. Initial donations to the fund included £2,000 from the RNLI and a provisional weekly allowance was agreed on. This was set at 12 shillings (60p) for each widow or dependant and 1/6 (7p) for each child under 16 years. By the end of the month the fund totalled £7,418, of which over £3,000 had been raised by the Rector of Caister by an appeal in the London press. Clubs and organisations throughout the country contributed including churches, factories, ship yards, schools and public houses. The Corporation of the City of London gave £105 and the London Stock Exchange £300. Individuals from ever walk of life and from almost every part of the British Isles contributed to the fund which when closed totalled £11,870.75. The committee invested part of the fund in India Stock, an investment that was to prove a mistake in the years to come.

The recipients of the Fund were:
Ellen Parker (Ives) Haylett aged 52, widow of Aaron Walter Haylett. As the youngest of their three children was 26 none qualified for assistance.
Emma Haylett aged 33, daughter of James Henry Haylett, a widow at the time of the disaster. The three other children of the family were Victoria (14), Flora Louise (12) and Harry James (10).
Hannah Elizabeth (Nichols) King aged 52, mother of George Ernest King who was single and aged 22 at the time of the disaster.
Charles Henry Knights and his wife Emma Elizabeth (Haylett) Knights, parents of Henry James Haylett Knights, only 18 years old when drowned.
Agnes Hannah (Smith) Brown aged 40, widow of William Frederick Brown. They had three children who did not qualify for assistance but seven others who did. Ethel May (13), William Edward (10), Solomon (9), George Henry (5), Robert Charles (4), Elsie Beatrice (2) and Dennis George (11 months). Charlotte (Wright) Brown, mother of William Frederick Brown.
Alice Mary (Cutting) Brown aged 31, widow of Charles John Brown. Their children were Alice May (10), Charles John (8), Alexander (6) and Edward Metheun (2).
Elizabeth (Brown) Smith aged 39, widow of John William Smith. Their children were Emily Elizabeth (21), Louisa Elizabeth (19), Jack John William (17), Ellen Mary (15), Charles Thomas (13), Philip Henry (8), Harriet Charlotte (6), George Henry (3) and Ernest James (1).
Sarah Ann (Haylett) George aged 50, widow of Charles Bonney George. They had six children over 16 years and Eleanor Susannah (15), Dennis Isiah (10), Percy Wilfred (8) and Leander (6).
Charlotte (Clark) Wilson aged 56 widow of William Russell Wilson.

A brief glimpse of social conditions of the time comes from letters received by the committee from Orphanages and other Institutions throughout the country willing to receive children and from private individuals enquiring about children suitable for domestic service. All these requests were turned down. By December the Fund stood at £9,912 and the following January the widow's allowance was increased to 15/- (75p). Each widower and dependant also received a £4 payment (children £2) towards the costs of mourning. The body of Charles Bonney George had been washed out to sea after the disaster and it was some time later when it was recovered. The fund paid £5 for the recovery of the body. On the 21 December 1901 the fund had reached £7,420[17]

19 December 1901 - Beauchamp Inquiry

On Thursday the 19 December 1901 the Southern Reporter reported:-

The Board of Trade inquiry into the 'Beauchamp' lifeboat disaster was on Thursday concluded by Captain G. Richardson at Yarmouth. It will be remembered that the 'Beauchamp', stationed at Caister, met with disaster while attempting to save life during the great storm of November 14th, and nine of her crew were drowned. Mr Cunningham Graham, on behalf of the Lifeboat Institution, said the Caister station was in the proud position of holding the record for life-saving in Great Britain and Ireland, having rescued more lives than any other single-handed. The Caister men had saved crews from vessels of almost all nationalities. The men drowned were a loss to the whole seafaring world. Without any exaggeration, he might say England, had lost in this disaster the greater part of the finest lifeboat crew the world had ever seen. At a meeting on Thursday of the Committee of Management of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the gold medal of the Institution, copy the vote inscribed on vellum and framed, and the sum of twenty five guineas, were awarded to James Sheales 'Jimmy' Haylett, who was for many years assistant coxswain of the Caister lifeboat, in recognition of his great gallantry on the occasion of the fatal accident to the lifeboat 'Beauchamp', when nine of her crew, amongst whom were two of his sons and a grandson, unfortunately lost their lives. Although seventy-eight years of age, Haylett remained on the beach for twelve hours, wet through and without food, and was mainly through his instrumentality that the three survivors of the boat's crew were rescued, he wading into the water and assisting to get them ashore in a most exhausted condition. This was regarded as the veteran's crowning act of half century's life-saving in connection with the Institution's lifeboats, resulting in the saving of hundreds of lives. The thanks of the Institution, inscribed on vellum, and five guineas, were also accorded to Frederick Henry Haylett, who assisted on the occasion, and displayed great activity and courage. The valuable co-operation afforded by Captain A. F. Clowes and Dr Case, honorary secretaries of the Great Yarmouth and Caister branches, was also specially recognised. The Institution contributed the sum of £2,000 towards the fund raised locally for the relief of the widows and other dependent relatives of the men "who lost their lives, besides defraying the cost of the funerals, and compensating the survivors of the disaster.[18]

1902 Family Story

About a year after the passing of her husband John William Smith, Elizabeth was presented with a "Mourning Brooch" by her family, it is made of Black Jade, Gold & Pearls and contains a small lock of her husbands John's hair. It is inscribed with the words "In Memory Of" on the front (nothing on the back). Elizabeth used to wear it in the neck of her blouses - under her chin. It has been passed down through the generations and is now with Margaret Luckett-Gray (Great Granddaughter of John William Smith and Elizabeth (Brown) Smith).

Elizabeth (Brown) Smith - Mourning Brooch - 1902

Margaret confirmed it will continue to be passed down in the family via the maternal girls. I am so pleased that I have been given the honour of sharing this story.

1902 Permanent Memorial

Early in 1902 the provision of a permanent memorial was discussed and designs and estimates were obtained from a number of stone masons around the country. The final decision was for a design submitted by the London firm of J. Whitehead & Son Ltd, in Sicilian marble with 567 letters of inscription, at a total cost of £274 3s 6d including the site preparation and erection in Caister cemetery. The well-known Great Yarmouth artist Stephen John Bachelor was commissioned to produce a drawing of the lifeboat Beauchamp for the stonemasons and for this he was paid £3 13s. The committee decided to give £100 from the fund towards the cost of a stained glass window in the church, the total cost of which was estimated at £200. In October 1902 the committee approved the payment of a bill for £2 2s received from Mr Shalders, landlord of the Kings Arms public house in respect of bottles of brandy and rum supplied to the three survivors of the disaster on the prescription of the local doctor Dr Case.

1902 Memorial Window

On Friday 29 August 1902 at the Holy Trinity Church, Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom a memorial window to the members of the Caister lifeboat Beauchamp who perished in the gale of November 14th 1901 was unveiled Sir. H. W. Lucy, well-known in the journalistic world, and who has generously presented Caister with a new lifeboat, to be named the Nancy Lucy. The window, which is placed the east end of the church, illustrates the text,

"Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”

The design and execution were undertaken by a young english artist, Mr. Paul Woodruff of West Kensington. At the top of the window you can see the arms of the See of Norwich, and also of St. Edmund, to which saint Caister Church is dedicated. Prominence is also given to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of fishermen The central subject depicts Zebedee in ship, with bis two sons, Jame and John and Simon, Peter and Andrew, responding to the call of Christ, who stands on the shore. At the base is the inscription

"The glory of God, end in memory of nine brave men November 14th 1901”

The total cost of which £300, £180 having already been raised Mr. F. Terry, who was present to represent the Stock Exchange, from the members of which institution be collected £600 for the Relief Fund, generously promised that he would undertake wipeout the remaining deficit on the window fund. £100 was contributed to the memorial window from the disaster fund.[19][20]

Church Memorial Window

30 June 1903 Memorial Service

Memorial Service - 1903
Memorial Service - 1903

It was over 18 months since that tragic day but now a truly fitting memorial was ready. The memorial service for unvailing of the stone at the cemetery in memory of those who lost their lives in the Caister Lifeboat Disaster 14 November 1901 was held on Tuesday the 30 June 1903 at 3pm.

Caister Lifeboat Memorial

This wonderful memorial cost £340 16s 6d and was paid for from the disaster fund. [21]


The age limit for female children eligible to receive assistance was raised to 17 years and more investments were made, this time with the Yarmouth School Board at 3% interest. By June 1903 the memorial had been erected in the cemetery and Sir Edward Burckbeck, president of the RNLI was asked to unveil it in June of that year. The committee paid all incidental expenses occurred such as policing and temporary crowd barriers. A temporary fence of barbed wire was put around the memorial but this was replaced a few months later by iron railings, again supplied by Whitehead & Son, at a cost of £56.


No further meetings of the committee were held for the next five years, the weekly payments being distributed by the Rector of Caister, the Rev. Duthie. In 1908 it was necessary to appoint new committee members and trustees and some of the investments were cashed in to meet forthcoming payments. In 1909 the widow's allowance was increased to £11 per week and the children's allowance to 5/- (25p). In 1911 the coxswain of the Caister lifeboat asked the committee to provide £200 from the fund towards the cost of a new motor lifeboat for life and salvage work. This was however considered outside the scope of the fund and the request turned down. (The first motor lifeboat did not arrive at the station until 1939) A statement of accounts was produced covering the period November 1901 to 6 October 1908.[22]


By 1915 the fund had reduced to £6,367. All allowances were increased by 2/6 (12p) per week and the following year the allowances to the six remaining widows were increased a further 2/6 per week for the duration of the war. By the end of 1917 all the children were off the fund, which now stood at £4,420. A Christmas allowance of £1 had been paid for some years and this was continued. In 1919 the total weekly allowance being paid out by the fund was £9 5s and the individual widows allowance increased to £1 10s. In 1921 the fund had reduced to £2,841 and it was suggested that a collection box be placed beside the memorial. In its first year this box collected £38. The annual income of the fund from its investments was about £125 and outgoings (now a total of seven dependants) totalled £435. All dependants now received an additional £1 at Christmas, the extra money being taken from the collection box income.


In 1928 The Norfolk County Council announced proposals to widen the Caister to Ormesby road, a proposal that would necessitate the removal of several graves from the cemetery, including the lifeboat memorial. Alternative burial land was offered to the north of the cemetery. A public meeting was called and the Council Hall was filled with people "seething with indignation" at the proposals and following a very stormy meeting the plans were rejected unanimously.


In 1930 it was necessary to reduce the allowances to such a sum as would allow the fund to continue for a further two years. The stained glass window in the church was in need of repair and it was decided to give all future proceeds from the collecting box to the upkeep and repair of the window.

Administration of the Fund

The Fund was almost £12,000 in 1901 which is approx £1.5m in todays money[23]


Allowances were paid until December 1932, the fund then being exhausted. The committee was disbanded, only two of the original members still serving, Harold Chamberlin the secretary until the end and Mr J. M. Bond. Only three of the widows were still alive in 1932 and their weekly pensions were taken over by the RNLI but by this time the Old Age Pension had been introduced and the RNLI contribution was reduced by 10 shillings (50p) to allow for the new state income.

On Saturday 24 December 1932 Mr Aitken Canon presided, and the Mayor, in the name of the Committee, presented Mr. Chamberlin with a silver cigarette box inscribed: "Caister Lifeboat Disaster, presented Harold Cliarnberlin Esq., the Committee, with grateful appreciation of his splendid services. 1901-1932.’’[24]

'Beauchamp' 1901-1966


It was decided by RNLI (after the disaster) in November 1901 to sell the "Beauchamp", it was sold to Mr A J Clowes (Secretary to the RNLI) whose intension was to convert it to a houseboat (which he never did). Just before Mr Aubrey A Blake purchased the lifeboat from Mr Clowes in July 1902 he asked Sam Gibbs to have a look over her for him in Fishwharf , Great Yarmouth, he was so struck with her price and capacity that unauthorised he bought her for £23. Of this sum Aubrey subsequently was reimbursed £6 through the sale of her yellow metal fittings.

Triton [LYR 1913,1921 115544 Triton (ex Beauchamp) wd Una sails Jeckells 12 12.75 reg 16tm 37.3 I0.84.0 H.Critten, YH 1892 altered from lifeboat by Sam Gibbs, Norwich, 03 Aubrey A. Blake, YH] Caister lifeboat Beauchamp was involved in the disaster of 1901 and subsequently sold out of service.[25]
After being towed up to Coldham (in July 1902) she lay in the dyke below the grounds until October 1902, she was then hauled out in the shed and cleared, decks, wooden tanks, mast beams and everything being stripped from her. What was in its inception a modest scheme, but developed into a much more elaborate one.
With the conversion to a Norfolk Pleasure Wherry now complete, if was a fine sunny day on Thursday 9th April 1903 when Aubrey and Hanson Applewhaite went to Brundall. Then at 2.30pm the “Triton” was successfully launched from the shed at Coldham Hall upon her new career.[26]

There are some pictures that appear to be the "Triton" based on the shape of the boat etc. but as yet these pictures have not been confirmed as the "Triton". They are therefore a visual representation of what the boat may have looked like at this time.

Possible "Triton" converted to a Norfolk Pleasure Wherry

Aubrey's boating trips in the "Triton" continue until the last "Boating log Entry" on the 9th May 1920, no further log information is available after this date. At this stage in my research, based on the information I have so far about Mr Ralph W Seago, I believe Aubrey would have sold the "Triton" at some point after May 1920 to Mr Ralph W Seago.


1938 Beccles & Bungay Magazine The following is featured and makes reference to the “Triton”, a houseboat.

February 12 Death of Mr Ralph W Seago, aged 58. He was the eldest son of the late Mr and Mrs Frank Seago of Lowestoft, and grandson of William Rix Seago of Oulton Hall. Both were solicitors. Mr Seago was for several years formerly an auctioneer at Lowestoft, but he has lived a retired life for the past 10 to 15 years. During the last 18 years he and his wife have lived on the “Triton”, a houseboat, which was formerly a lifeboat, moored at Beccles. At election times he was agent at Beccles for the Conservative party. He is survived by his widow. They had no family.


Even in these waters it struck an old vessel and was sunk. Then after it was raised from the river bed her true identity was discovered. It was then offered to the Maritime Museum in Great Yarmouth, but after two years of arguments she was taken and stored at the rear of Gorleston Library awaiting Restoration.

'Beauchamp' lifeboat was stored at the back of the Gorleston Library
'Beauchamp' lifeboat was stored at Gorleston Library

1966 East Anglian Magazine

"The Boat that no one Wanted" By John Myatt - Page 343
Caister lifeboat "Beauchamp"

John makes reference to "In a lonely berth tucked away at the back of the old Tramway Depot" the remains of the "Beauchamp" were now in a very bad condition and with the raw history of the Lifeboat her remains were burnt and broken up by Great Yarmouth Borough Council.[27]

75th Memorial Anniversary in 1976

After 75 years they are still not forgotten. This picture shows Dick Brown laying a wreath for the 75th Memorial Anniversary in 1976.

75th Memorial Anniversary in 1976
Attending were:-
From the left: Joan & Alec George, Charles Haylett Knights, Teddy & Gladys Brown, Jack Plummer, Rev. Dommet, Jimmy Brown
Front Row: David Woodhouse and Alice Brown.

Centenary 1992 of the arrival of the 'Beauchamp'

There was much cellebation of the arrival of the No 2 lifeboat "Beauchamp" in caister in 1892. For the Centenary Year a fitting first day cover was produced to celebate this wonderful year.

Beauchamp - First Day Cover 1992

14 November 2001 - 100th Anniversary

On Wednesday, 14 November 2001, over 100 people turned out to commemorate the 100th anniversary of this terrible disaster. Those present included many present-day lifeboatmen from local stations; Tony Wright MP, Member of Parliament for Yarmouth; David Thompson, the Mayor of Yarmouth, and many local people who wished to pay their respects. A lone piper led the procession through the village, following the route of the 1901 procession, to the church where the original funeral service had taken place. Three jets flew overhead in 'missing man' formation. Mourners then placed a wreath on the memorial statue, built in 1903 close to where the nine men are buried. The church service that followed, conducted by the Bishop of Thetford, the Rt Rev David Atkinson, closely followed the form of the original service, 100 years earlier. After the service had concluded, the procession returned to the lifeboat station, where James Sheales 'Jimmy' Haylett's grandaughter, Gladys Brown, unveiled a bust dedicated to the memory of all those who had perished in the service of the lifeboat.[28]

2001 - Centenary Poem by Margaret Luckett-Gray

The Beauchamp
In Memory of my Great Grandfather John William Smith and all the members of the crew who lost their lives in The Beauchamp Lifeboat Disaster in November 1901
On a bleak cold night in November 1901
A North-North-East gale was blowing
And the rain was pouring down
The North Sea was black and heavy
When a flare came from Barber Sands
The Cockle Lightship fired distress signals
The hour was just eleven pm, when
The Lifeboat Crew of THE BEAUCHAMP
Were all quickly summoned to the shed
They tried hard to launch THE BEAUCHAMP
But she was washed off the skids instead.
Straightaway another launch was attempted
But warp and tackle came to her aid
About two o’clock in the morning came
Before another launch was successfully made.
The gale was howling with a fearful force
The rain was heavy cold and fast
THE BEAUCHAMP was seen to be alright now
So the launchers went home at last.
Only one man remained at the scene
Alone on Caister’s desolate shore
His name was James Haylett senior – 78 years old.
THE BEAUCHAMP was floated and sail made
Towards the signals which were dead to windward
Battling against the cruel sea, the brave BEAUCHAMP
Was plunged back into the black heaving wash.
She struggled desperately to keep afloat now
With the crew fighting against the vile storm
They tried furiously to keep Her upright, so
They lowered the mizen and put up the helm
THE BEAUCHAMP tirelessly fought the raging fury
She was battered and tossed and turned
Suddenly struck on the starboard quarter
The Crew toiled with courage and bravery all round.
They wrestled against the perilous elements
Which tormented them on that bleak night
But alas the brave BEAUCHAMP was beaten
She was forced back, ending keel up, near the shore.
The tenacious Crew were tragically trapped now
Beneath the boat in the swirling seas.
The result was the death of those loved ones
The tragic loss of nine brave precious lives.
Is a mourning brooch with a lock of his hair
And the memory he was part of the Crew
Who fought so courageously without any fear
The Village of Caister will always remember
With a pride beyond all doubt
In November 1901 – NEVER TURNED BACK
Copyright Margaret Luckett-Gray (Great Granddaughter of John William Smith and Eliza Brown)

14 November 2001 - Bronze Bust

Since the first lifeboat went on station at Caister in 1845, 20 lifeboat men have given their lives to help their fellow man. On the 14th November 2001, besides remembering the nine victims of the 1901 disaster, a bronze bust was unveiled to honour the memory of all those men. The bust, by sculptor Barry Sutton, was unveiled by Gladys Brown, whose father was one of the survivors of the Beauchamp, and by Sir Christopher Procter Beauchamp Bt, a descendant of the original benefactor. The Bronze Bust is currently located in the Caister Lifeboat Museum.[29]

Bronze Bust
Memorial Inscription
Caister Lifeboatmen who have lost their lives in Service at this Station
John Burton,
Joseph Sutton,
George Hodds,
Frederick Haylett,
Joseph Haylett,
John Riches,
James King,
William Knowles.
The yawl Zephyr struck the wreckage of a previous rescue while going to the ssistance of a ship on the Barber Sands, and was lost. Eight of the 15 crew drowned.
1887 Solomon "Gundy" / "Old Solly" Brown
Solomon - a former coxswain of the California Lifeboat Royal Prince Albert, died as a result of injuries sustained in the rescue of the crew of the Soudan of Liverpool.
1901 The Beauchamp disaster:
Coxswain William Frederick "Hilton" Brown
Second Coxswain James Henry Haylett
Aaron Walter "Lord Radiah" Haylett
Henry James Haylett Knights
Charles John Brown)
John William "Shepherd" Smith
George Ernest King
William Russell "Billy" Wilson
Charles Bonney George
1919 Coxswain John “Spratt” Haylett
When Ernest Shackleton’s ship Nimrod was wrecked off Caister, coxswain Haylett died as a result of the conditions endured while saving the crew.
1991 Coxswain R W “Benny” Read
Benny was tragically killed while summoning his crew to a rescue.

Donation Box 2016

In 1901 a cast iron donation box was produced to help raise funds for the disaster appeal, this box was later restored and is currently located in the Caister Lifeboat Museum.

Restored Donation Box

The story continues when a second donation box had been unearthed in the dunes at Caister sparking much speculation about how it got there. There are no records of the second donation box, so there is only speculation as to how it came about and when it was produced.

On the 20 March 2016, Andrew Turner's partner came to the shed while Andrew was on duty in the museum, bringing steak and chips in a cast iron skillet and they decided to head onto the dunes to eat, and on the walk up, that's when Andrew spotted the corner of the cast iron protruding from the sand.
Second Donation Box - In the Dunes
Second Donation Box - Being uncovered
As far as we know, nobody got in touch to say anything about the box after the article was published in the Mercury on the 25 March 2016, but from our own people, John Cannell in particular, it is thought this box was positioned outside the old shed - pre the current 'old shed' which was built in 1939, ahead of the first motorised boat coming onto service in 1941. The previous sheds had only ever been used for equipment; as the boats were kept on the beach. It's thought that this old shed was washed away in storms in 1943, and that's how the box came to be lost. Andrew found it behind the current sea wall, which was built after 1953, and the floods
When Andrew found the box, all of the coin slots had been bunged up; two with wood and one with lead. It could be that this box was installed for the Beauchamp disaster - whereby fund raising was capped at £10k and according to our previous Company Secretary Derek George, a descendant of Charles "Bonney" George who perished on the Beauchamp, it was 'forcibly stopped' when it reached £12k or more. The widows and children of those lost in the Beauchamp were, according to Derek, very well provided for by the income received through those donations. The above story is a personal recollection by Andrew Turner.

This second Donation Box is "Unrestored" and is currently located in the Caister Lifeboat Museum.

Second Donation Box - Rescued from the Dunes
Second Donation Box in the Caister Lifeboat Museum

29 May 2020 - Memorial Listed Grade II

The memorial to the crew of the 'Beauchamp' Lifeboat unveiled in 1903 is now listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest: For the sculptural quality of the memorial, the broken mast, anchor, laurel wreaths and lifebuoy of which act as a visual reminder of the tragic loss of life at sea.
Historic interest: As an eloquent and moving tribute to the bravery of the crew who perished in 1901, and a poignant reminder of the sacrifice of the local community.
Group value: For its strong group value with the nearby Church of Holy Trinity (listed at Grade II) which contains a memorial window commemorating the crew of the 'Beauchamp' Lifeboat.[30]

2021-2022- Caister Football Club

Caister Football Club Commemorative Home Kit for 2021/22 in memory of the 9 Lifeboatmen who lost their lives in the Caister Lifeboat Disaster in 1901 created a wonderful tribute video.[31]

Tribute song to the Lifeboatmen of Caister by Bob

Bob wrote a song in dedication to the men who died on that tragic day in 1901, I think it is a great tribute to them.[32]

Research Notes

  • Beauchamp in storage at the back of the old Tramway Depot, need to find out more and any pictures
  • The Great Yarmouth Beachmen and Fishermens' Institute, British and Foreign Sailors' Home and Refuge for the Shipwrecked of All Nations - need to find out more about this?
  • RNLI - Certificates of Service for the men who died, descendants may have a copy, need to find their descendants
  • Painting by William Calladine of the 1901 Beauchamp Disaster. - Need to find a picture and the story behind it.
  • Scale model of the Beauchamp (curently in the Caister Lifeboat Museum) need to get a picture and find out about the history of the model.
  • Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners' Benevolent Society - need to find out more about this?
  • Caister Lifeboat memorial cards – Jarrolds Series No 1360 or 1860 - need to find out more about these and find pictures?
  • All Unconnected people to be linked


Please note to access the Newspaper articles you will need to subscribe to the website. If you would like to read the article, then please contact me so that I can sent it to you.
Photo of The 'Beauchamp' Lifeboat and crew was kindly supplied by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) You can read more about their wonderful work saving lives. Caister-on-sea Lifeboat
Archive story by the RNLI of The 'Beauchamp' Lifeboat Disaster , featured in the Spring 2002, 150th Anniversary addition of the Lifeboat on Page 38.
Photo of The 'Beauchamp' Lifeboat after the Disaster was kindly supplied by the Johanna Jones Curator, Great Yarmouth & Cromer Museums.
Thank you for the help from Ian Wakefield, Ian has confirmed that 58 of his known ancestors have drowned at sea, including the 'Beauchamp'.
A big thank you to Clare Everitt, Picture Norfolk Administrator Norfolk Library and Information Service for given me permission use a number of photo's on this page. The Norfolk archive can be found here
A Big thankyou to the for all their records of Aubrey Blake
A big thank you to The Colin Tooke Collection for all his help
A big thank you to Andrew Turner for his personal recollection and photos of the second Donation Box.
A big thank you to Margaret Luckett-Gray (Great Granddaughter of John William Smith and Eliza Brown) informing me that there where 3 missing children Emily Elizabeth (21), Louisa Elizabeth (19), Jack John William (17) for Elizabeth (Brown) Smith & John William Smith these children have now been added. Also for sharing her family story and her poem.


  1. Newspaper Report: "Norwich Mercury"
    British Newspaper Archive Image (accessed 06 January 2022 - Paid Subscription to view)
    Re: Caister Launching of a New Lifeboat
    Norwich Mercury Saturday 23 January 1892 on Page 6
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 WikipediA: " 1901 Caister lifeboat disaster "
    WikipediA Online (accessed 18 November 2021
  3. Find a Grave: Find a Grave, database and images (accessed 29 November 2021), memorial page for Aaron Walter HaylettFind A Grave: Memorial #168982897, citing Caister-on-Sea Cemetery, Caister-on-Sea, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom; Maintained by Susan M S (contributor 48245832)
  4. Find a Grave: Find a Grave, database and images (accessed 20 November 2021), memorial page for James Henry Haylett Find A Grave: Memorial #168977078, citing Caister-on-Sea Cemetery, Caister-on-Sea, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom; Maintained by Susan M S (contributor 48245832)
  5. Find a Grave: Find a Grave, database and images (accessed 22 December 2021), memorial page for William Frederick Brown (1852-1901) Find A Grave: Memorial #168977077, citing Caister-on-Sea Cemetery, Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom; Maintained by Susan M S (contributor 48245832)
  6. Find a Grave: Find a Grave, database and images (accessed 22 December 2021), memorial page for Charles John Brown (1870-1901) Find A Grave: Memorial #168977074, citing Caister-on-Sea Cemetery, Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom; Maintained by Susan M S (contributor 48245832)
  7. Find a Grave, database and images (accessed 22 January 2022), memorial page for William Wilson (1845-1901)Find A Grave: Memorial #168977186, citing Caister-on-Sea Cemetery, Caister-on-Sea, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom; Maintained by Susan M S (contributor 48245832)
  8. Find a Grave, database and images (accessed 8 January 2022), memorial page for John William Smith (1857-1901) Find A Grave: Memorial #168977075, citing Caister-on-Sea Cemetery, Caister-on-Sea, Great Yarmouth Borough, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom; Maintained by Susan M S (contributor 48245832)
  9. Find a Grave, database and images (accessed 16 January 2022), memorial page for George Ernest King (1879-1901) Find A Grave: Memorial #168977073, citing Caister-on-Sea Cemetery, Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom; Maintained by Susan M S (contributor 48245832)
  10. Find a Grave: Find a Grave, database and images (accessed 13 December 2021), memorial page for Charles Bonney George (1848-1901) Find A Grave: Memorial #168982935, citing Caister-on-Sea Cemetery, Caister-on-Sea, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom; Maintained by cneill (contributor 50589665)
  11. Find a Grave: Find a Grave, database and images (accessed 20 November 2021), memorial page for Henry James Haylett Knights (1883-1901) Find A Grave: Memorial #168977076, citing Caister-on-Sea Cemetery, Caister-on-Sea, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom; Maintained by Susan M S (contributor 48245832)
  12. Memorial: Maritime Memorials (accessed 20 November 2021)
  13. 13.0 13.1 Newspaper Report: " Eastern Daily Press "
    British Newspaper Archive Image (accessed 18 November 2021 - Paid Subscribe to view)
    Eastern Daily Press: 14 November 1901
  14. RNLI: "RNLI Archive"
    RNLI Archive Image (accessed 17 December 2021)
    RNLI Archive” 15 November 1901
  15. Newspaper Report: " The Cornish Telegraph "
    British Newspaper Archive Image (accessed 18 November 2021 - Paid Subscribe to view)
    Re: James Henry Haylett .
    The Cornish Telegraph: 20 November 1901
  16. Newspaper Report: "Norwich Mercury"
    British Newspaper Archive Image (accessed 18 November 2021 - Paid Subscribe to view)
    Re: James Henry Haylett .
    Norwich Mercury: 14 December 1901
  17. Newspaper Report: "Yarmouth Independent"
    British Newspaper Archive Image (accessed 21 February 2022 - Paid Subscription to view)
    Re: Caister Disaster Relif Fund
    Yarmouth Independent Saturday 21 December 1901 on Page 8
  18. Newspaper Report: " Southern Reporter "
    British Newspaper Archive Image (accessed 18 November 2021 - Paid Subscribe to view)
    Re: James Henry Haylett .
    Southern Reporter: 19 December 1901
  19. Newspaper Report: "Yarmouth Independent"
    British Newspaper Archive Image (accessed 21 February 2022 - Paid Subscription to view)
    Re: Caister Disaster Fund
    Yarmouth Independent Saturday 12 December 1908 on Page 7
  20. Newspaper Report: "Yarmouth Independent"
    British Newspaper Archive Image (accessed 21 February 2022 - Paid Subscription to view)
    Re: Caister Stain Glass Window Fund
    Yarmouth Independent Saturday 30 August 1902 on Page 6
  21. Newspaper Report: "Yarmouth Independent"
    British Newspaper Archive Image (accessed 21 February 2022 - Paid Subscription to view)
    Re: Caister Disaster Fund
    Yarmouth Independent Saturday 12 December 1908 on Page 7
  22. Newspaper Report: "Yarmouth Independent"
    British Newspaper Archive Image (accessed 21 February 2022 - Paid Subscription to view)
    Re: Caister Disaster Relif Fund Statement of Accounts
    Yarmouth Independent Saturday 19 December 1908 on Page 6
  23. Fund Calulator: "This Is Money"
    This is (accessed 21 February 2022 - Free to view)
    Calculate the Value of £12,000 in 1901 in todays money
  24. Newspaper Report: "Yarmouth Independent"
    British Newspaper Archive Image (accessed 21 February 2022 - Paid Subscription to view)
    Re: Harold Chamberlin
    Yarmouth Independent Saturday 24 December 1932 on Page 5
  25. Website: "Wherry Albion Archive"
    Wherry Albion Archive Image (accessed 11 February 2022 - Free to view)
    Re: Horace Bolingbrooke; Lloyd’s Register of Yachts; Wherries & Waterways: GER list of Yachts for Hire, 1890s
    Wherry Albion Archive Norfolk Pleasure Wherries - Page 7
  26. Website: "Wherry Albion Archive"
    Wherry Albion Archive (accessed 11 February 2022 - Free to view)
    Re: Aubrey Blake’s boating Log 1901-1903
    Wherry Albion Archive Aubrey Blake’s boating Log 1901-1903 - Page 3
  27. Cannell, John. (2000). The Men who never turned back (p. 36). Caister: John Cannell Caister Lifeboat Publishing. Retrieved from my copy of the book; accessed 16 December 2021.
  28. Royal National Lifeboat Institution: Royal National Lifeboat Institution (accessed 20 November 2021)
  29. Newsleter Report: "RNLI Lifeboat Newsletter"
    RNLI Lifeboat Newsletter Archive Image (Free Access, accessed 14 November 2022)
    Re: Gladys Brown
    RNLI Lifeboat Newsletter Winter 2002 - Volume: 58 - Issue: 559
  30. Historic England: Historic England (accessed 20 November 2021)
  31. YouTube Video: " Caister Football Club - in memory of the 9 Lifeboatmen "
    YouTube (accessed 21 November 2021)
  32. YouTube Video: " Tribute song "
    YouTube (accessed 21 November 2021)

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