The wreck of the DEFENCE



Southport Visiter, May 6th 1858


The Coxswain of the lifeboat of the N.L.I, stationed at Budehaven furnishes the following interesting account of the wreck of the ship DEFENCE of Liverpool, and the most providential rescue of her crew – a service most creditable to himself and others who aided in the rescue of the shipwrecked crew.

“During a strong gale from W.N.W, with thick and dirty weather, a large ship was observed by the coastguard on the lookout, apparently in distress, and fast drifting on shore.

The ship was first seen at 4pm, about 12miles to windward of this place, with a heavy sea on the coast.

The Chief Boatsman, who is the coxswain of the lifeboat of the R.N.L.I, at Bude, lost no time in consulting with some of the local committee, but from the great distance and heavy sea it was deemed impossible to reach the ship in time.

He therefore proceeded by land taking one man with him to the place where he thought the ship would drive on shore, a distance of 14 miles.

On reaching the place he had great difficulty in finding the wreck, from the nature of the cliffs on this part of the coast, but succeeded at last, through firing and flashing, to attract the notice of a man who had been left in charge of the waggon shot, and had fetched the rockets from Boscastle station.

On arriving at the wreck we found Mr STONE, Chief Boatman in charge of the Boscastle station, with his crew, who with much promptitude and energy had already got the rocket line and warp on board, and, had it not been for some mismanagement on behalf of the ships crew in not understanding its use, the crew might have been hauled to safety by 10pm.

The ship now lay wedged up under a perpendicular cliff of 300ft, where the heavy seas were continually rolling over her. The crew were making signals of distress by burning torches, but in this position were doomed to remain for many hours with no means of escape visible.

At 3am the sea rose and the work of destruction now soon commenced. The ship made a run from her first position taking all the rocket apparatus with her. In a short time the vessel went in fragments and all that could be seen was a mass of wreck surging and snapping against the iron bound cliffs.

The men on shore had to make their way round a difficult point to reach the place where the ship had drifted, and although the night was dark, succeeded within 100ft where the men had floated in under the overhanging cliffs on a fragment of poop. And, strange as it may appear the whole of the crew, 17 in all with the Pilot were saved, in a most provident manner.

The crew clung to the rock with the sea breaking over them. In this position the coastguard had to slide down a most awful cliff, and with the aid of a small line, and holding onto each other, succeeded in hauling the crew, more dead than alive, on to the cliffs. Had the rope broken the men would have been hurled over the cliff into the sea, and would have perished.

One of the coastguards had to be suspended with one leg over the cliff, to clear and lift the crew over the precipice. The inhabitants, must be given credit, they did their best in the rescue, and stood by till the last, rendering what aid they could.

The DEFENCE of and for Liverpool, Captain Thomas HASTING, 1.000 tons, was from the coast of Africa, laden with Barwood, she had lost her cables and anchors in the Western Islands, and on an attempt to reach Milford, struck on the Crow rock and lost her rudder, she was left through the weather, by a steamer that had been towing her to her sad fate, where she drove on shore and was smashed to atoms.

The men engaged during the night :-

James STONE, Chief Boatman ib charge, Boscastle

William H. TREDGIDGO, Chief Boatsman, Bude

John SHANOCK, Commissioned Boatsman, Boscastle

William MAY, Commissioned Boatsman, Boscastle

Henry ELLIS, Boatsman, Bude



Copyright 2002 / To date