1865: Loss of 5 Coastguard Men

One of those unfortunate accidents man has not the power to foresee or avert occurred on Saturday afternoon, by which 5 men belonging to the coastguard, who had faithfully served their country for many years and seen a considerable amouint of hard service were suddenly summoned to appear before the Great Tribunal.  It would appear that the chief boatman in charge at the Worbarrow coastguard station, Thomas Chope and Charles Baker (Chief boatman), with Hickey, Dunn and Purnell, coastguard men, on Friday evening came over in their galley from Worbarrow station for the purpose of carrying back stores from the depot at Weymouth.  On Saturday afternoon at one o’clock, having shipped all their stores, they proceeded on their return voyage, the boat being pretty well laden.  At the time they left the wind was fresh blowing SSW, and Admiral Fitzroy’s storm signal indicating a gale from the south west had just been sent up from opposite the telegraph station. The distance across the bay is about 14 miles, and all proceeded well until arriving about a mile off Lulworth station, when the boat was observed by the watchman there to ship a sea over her quarters, and immediately to go down “like a stone”. The men at the Lulworth station, quickly encased themselves in their cork jackets and were speedily on the spot in their boat, but beyond saving a few light articles which they picked up floating about, they could not see anything further of the missing men or boat. To show the character of the weather it may be well to notice that the Lulworth men were unable to make their station and had to land at Mewp’s. Chope had seen about 32 years service and leaves 2 or 3 children who are grown up; Baker had served her Majesty about 28 years, and leaves a youthful family of 7 children; Hickey who leaves several young children, had been in the employ of The Crown about 20 years, Dunn about 12 years, and Purnell who leaves a young wife just on the eve of her accouchement with her first child, only about 6 months. The men bore a high character for sobriety, and when they left on Saturday afternoon were perfectly sober, a fact which is vouched for by an unimpeachable eye witness who was on the key when they left the harbour. On Saturday evening and Sunday active search was made for the bodies, but it is feared from the set of the tides on that coast that they will be swept seaward and heard of no more. The deceased were all skilful men in handling a boat, and we have heard a whisper that the boat was not the most approved model for standing rough weather. At the various churches and chapels on Sunday the sad occurance was feelingly alluded to by the various ministers. No trace has been discovered of the men and all hopes are now banished of discover aught to through further light on the sad catastrophe. One of the men, in addition to maintaining his 7 children, supported another belonging to a deceased brother. Purnell had in the boat a few extra comforts for his wife during her expected illness.  A vast amount of sympathy has been evoked in Weymouth on behalf of the widows and fatherless, in all about 22 in number, and a subscription has already been set on foot and well responded to. The fifth D.R.V. Amateur dramatics society have announced their intention of giving 2 performances at the Royal hotel assembly rooms on Monday and Tuesday next, when the entire proceeds (without any deduction for expenses) will be given for the relief of the bereaved. The room has been accorded gratuitously by the proprieter of the Royal Hotel, Mr Luce, and the charge for the erection of the stage, the gas fitting, the service of the orchestra and the printing and bill posting will also be fairly met by various tradesmen and others. The room can accomodate about £20 worth of tickets each night and it is for the public to say whether or not £40 shall be handed over to the fund. By another paragraph it will be seen that a lecture will be given at the new music hall on Monday next, and the proceeds devoted to the same good cause. Owing to numerous engagements of the talented lecturer it was impossible to alter the date. Each one however, according to his taste can show his or her sympathy either by attendance at the Royal Hotel or the New Music Hall. Thus the arrangements may be consider complete for the development of charity.

Published by the Dorset County Chronicle, Thursday 9 March 1865

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