| Yorkshire's heroes of the sea|
Trawler sank in sight of home
It was dark, yet clear. A crisp winter's night with scarcely a breath of wind. On the streets and terraces of Hessle Road the crystal frost shimmered below the yellow street lights. And in the pubs and clubs they sipped their first pints at the start of an evening's drinking
On the river, just off the fish dock, the trawler Edgar Wallace awaited her turn to pass through the lock gates, moored and riding easily on a light swell.
Around her the lights from the vessels peppered the inky blackness. And her crew relaxed, eager to be ashore after a trip that had taken in the whole of the festive season.
Men packed their gear, calling out excitedly to each other as they prepared to dock. Three weeks in northern waters was behind them. Ahead lay three days at home.
The trip had hardly been pleasant. They had sailed just four days before Christmas, had braved day after day of gales and raging seas. But despite the hazards and the discomforts they had hauled aboard 1,700 kits of fish.
At last it was over. Now came the pay-off, the chance to meet families and old friends, to celebrate - belatedly - Christmas and the New Year.
But that calmness, the anticipation of what was to be that night was suddenly shattered. For the Edgar Wallace, without warning, keeled over within yards of the dock entrance and sank.
And with her went the lives of 15 men.
One of only three survivors - cook Clarry Wilcockson - was later to recall a sudden jerk as the trawler his a sandbank. Yet seconds later she moved back into the channel and righted in deep water.
But again she hit the sand. Only this time she keeled over to an acvute angle, one from which she could not recover.
Heavy with fish the trawler carried on moving further and further over. Nothing coiuld have saved her.
"I knew at once things were serious and I made my move. I scrambled out onto the top of the galley which was in the afterpart of the vessel. When I got on top I took one of the lifeboats which were kept there and climbed the mizzen mast. I knew she was sinking but you have to keep your head in such situations," said Clarry.
Inn the blackness of the night men panicked - and died, many screaming as they realised they were trapped below unable to escape as the chill waters of the Humnber raced through the stricken vessel.
Above, Mr Wilcokson fought for his life, too, feeling the trawler sliding further and further over until he lost hisb grip, the swirling waters opulling him away.
And still he fought, managing to grab a lifebelt and pull it around hi,m, trapping his hands in its rope.
"I didn't know ewhere to swin, to go to the Yorkshire side of Lincolnshire" he recalled years later.
But his efforts were in vain - the tide vcarried him upstream.
As he drifted he saw the lights of a passing ship and called out desperately in the hope his cries would alert her crew. And back came a voice, faint yet still discernable telling him to keep on calling.
But Clarry could not reply. He had passed out.
He awoke to the glare of electric lamps in a ward at the Goole Bartholemew Hospital, some 20 miles away from where the vessel sank. He was later to learn that he had been pulled to safety in the middle of the river by the man who had heard his criess as he floated helplessly.
Another survivor Mr W Cameron, told reporters: "I saw eight or nine men swept away in a flash. I couldn't do anything to help them. They just vanished into the blackness."
As news of the tragedy swept Hull crowds gathered on the quayside of St Andrew's Dock peering into the gloom. As dawn broke they saw just the foremast of the vessel jutting out of the Humber's waves.
Disaster in the Humber
The loss of the Edgar Wallace tragedy was still fresh in the memories of many when, just four years
later, history - and tragedy - repeated themselves and in almost exactly the same place.
March 8, 1939 saw the Lady Jeanette return from Iceland after 15 days at sea. As she waited her turn to enter the fish dock she sank, without warning.
A massive rescue operation was immediately mounted, the rescue fleet including tugs and the ferry boat Wingfield Castle. They found men clinging for their lives onto the side of the vessel. Some were actually discovered standing on her upturned keep. But for nine members of the crew the trip was their last - they perished within yards of safety and home.
Written by The Editor - 08/05/2001 20:05:32
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