At 4:10 p.m. on Saturday the17th of November 1962,the Seaham lifeboat,George Elmy, was activated to search for the missing fishing coble, ( Economy ). Within minutes of receiving the alert, George Elmy and her crew of five, disappeared down the slipway into the darkness, never to return. The lifeboat had put to sea in appalling weather conditions but at about 4:30 p.m. they pulled alongside the coble and miraculously rescued four men and a nine year old boy. The lifeboat and it's courageous crew battled against mountainous seas in an attempt to get back to the safety of the port, but at 5:20 p.m., just yards from the harbour entrance, she was struck by a gigantic wave and capsized, with the loss of her entire crew and all but one of the people they had rescued from the coble. After the capsize, the lifeboat was washed up on the Chemical beach with one survivor who had been clinging to the upturned boat but there was no other signs of life. Lifeboats from Sunderland and Hartlepool were called out to search the stormy seas for any more survivors. An Avro Shackleton search plane was scrambled from R.A.F. Coastal Command at Kinloss to widen the search area but their efforts were in vain. The deafening roar of it’s engines could be heard as it circuled the area over and over again dropping flares that briefly turned the night sky into day. Throughout the night, emergency services and local people worked side by side in the hope of finding more survivors, sadly, their search was in vain. The next morning in the cold light of day, the true horror of what had taken place was there for all to see. Washed up on the shore, just a few hundred yards south of the harbour, lay the bruised and battered wreck of the vanquished George Elmy. Following the events of the previous day, efforts were made to right the lifeboat and the full extent of the damage began to emerge. She had been savaged by the relentless storm and had suffered extensive damage. She was a pitiful sight to behold. As efforts to find survivors continued, work was underway to remove the boat from the scene of the tragedy. She was salvaged and taken to the R.N.L.I. depot at Boreham Wood, Herts., for examination by accident investigators. Most of the people of Seaham thought that was the end of the boat and she slipped into quiet obscurity. Little was known about the George Elmy after that fateful day and the people of Seaham were unaware that she underwent extensive repairs and returned to service with the R.N.L.I., first as a reserve lifeboat before moving on to Poole in Dorset where she served untill her retirement from the fleet. The Alarm The Disaster The Search The Aftermath Later History
©  East Durham & Coastal Heritage Seaham Lifeboat Disaster
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