This morning I’m feeling a bit like one of the many wrecks to be found off the Holderness coast so I thought I’d share my pain with you and give you what might be the final tale from these shores. This is a cautionary tale of what can happen at sea even in favourable conditions.
It was just three weeks into the New Year of 1911 when the steam trawler SS Silverdale with nine hands aboard left the Port of Grimsby heading for the North Sea fishing grounds. A few days later, with a full catch in her hold, she began her homeward voyage arriving off Spurn Point early in the morning of 4th February. There she stopped for about an hour and waited for the tide. The weather was fine and clear; the sea was smooth.
Members of the Silverdale crew observed lights from other ships around this busy seaway where vessels made for the ports of Hull and Grimsby. Shortly after getting under way again to complete the last leg of their voyage back to Grimsby, they also heard blasts from a warning whistle and, almost immediately after, a loud crash. The Silverdale shuddered as the trawler Straton struck her amidships.
In the dark confusion that followed the Skipper George Grice shouts at the other trawler that the Silverdale was sinking and to come about for a rescue; Frank Foster, the chief engineer, knocked off his feet in the collision picks himself up and staggers onto deck calling out that the engine room was full of water; he and the mate, John Walling try to release the lifeboat but the stern of the Silverdale sinks quickly, in the space of just a couple of minutes and they find themselves in the freezing waters. The other crew members cling to wreckage, calling for help.
At the subsequent Court of Inquiry, the captain of the Straton, Daniel Jacob Joenson, stated he and his ship were returning from a voyage to the Faroes and heading homewards. When the ship arrived off Withernsea the Captain laid up there until around 4am when he gave the order to get the ship underway again, steaming at slow ahead. As the vessel approached Spurn he saw the lights of the Silverdale some half to a mile off and left the shelter of the wheelhouse to check his own side and masthead lights which he found to be burning brightly.
On returning to the wheelhouse he noticed that the Silverdale lights were showing much nearer and the vessel was on a course heading straight for the Straton. He sounded the warning whistle and, at the same time, rang down instructions to the engine room for full speed astern. However there was only just time to thrust the ship into reverse before the two vessels collided.
After the collision, the Straton re-bounded from the Silverdale and Joenson brought her about to look for survivors; other trawlers nearby steamed to the rescue alerted by the crew of the Spurn Lightship who sent up rockets and fired guns to attract their attention.
Of the Silverdale’s original nine-man crew only four survivors – Foster and Walling together with deck hand Robert Hicks who floated in the water clinging to a lifebuoy and James Wright the steward who clung to a deck fish pound board were picked up.
Of those lost, the Skipper was last seen heading for the wheelhouse and was presumed to have gone down with his ship and the four other crew members clung to wreckage for a short while but sadly succumbed to exhaustion and the dark, icy cold waters of the North Sea before they could be rescued.
The Inquiry concluded that both vessels, to different degrees had failed to comply with the Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea and that the Silverdale was not “navigated with proper and seamanlike care.” Despite some strictures laid upon the captain of the Straton the Court held the opinion that the loss of the Silverdale and some of its crew members was not caused by any “wrongful act or default of the Skipper of the Straton.”