The Ilfracombe Disaster - Interview of a survivor
Interview given by Harold A.Baker to The North Devon Journal shortly after he was saved from the boating tragedy. Another source describes him as a "young man".
Harold A Baker of Woolwich, one of the saved, was interviewed by our representative, whilst he lay at Mrs. Lewis's boarding house. He said -
We went to tie pier, undecided in object, but, on seeing The Monarch, we went aboard. There were 22 there, 3 being ladies, with the crew. When we got some way down we saw some heavy clouds ahead and the rain coming on. I put on a mackintosh a friend gave me and buttoned it up. The rain came down heavily and the wind blew roughly. The sail was lowered a little. The boat then tacked for some reason or another, and suddenly she was blown on one side and we shipped water, severai rolling to leeward. I got to the other side, and, with some other friends, we hung on expecting her to right herself, but the water still rolled in.
The women commenced to scream and the men to holloa, and then we found the yacht going down and we were all in the water. My mackintosh became entangled with the rigging, and I was pulled under the boat. I struggled with all my might once more to get free, which I succeeded in doing at last, and on getting once more to the surface I struck out for some wreckage. I got hold of a piece of wood, and then struck out for another piece. On looking around, I saw many others who called for help, and some who I thought were drowned. Some shouted out, "Save me, save me", but I had quite enough to do to keep myself afloat.
As soon as possible I made a desperate effort to get off the mackintosh, which I at last succeeded in doing and I then tried to get off my coat, but I could not do it. I then caught a light hold of the pieces of wood, and trod water to keep afloat, saying many prayers. I found, however, I was facing the waves, which washed over me, and I swallowed a lot of water, at last I succeeded in getting my back to the waves. The Lorna Doone then came near, within 50 yards of me, and the fellows on board tried very hard to save me. One of them threw ropes, but they did not know how to throw them, and the crew, who would have known, had enough to do to steer and manage the yacht. I shouted, "For goodness sake help me if you can." I fought hard, but thought at last I should have to give up. The waves were very high, and washed over me that it was so hard to keep above water. At last I thought I should have to give up, the yacht could not get near me without tacking and she went off, leaving me behind.
Then Redmore, the boatswain, came up. I shouted to him, and others near shouted to him, but he came to me first, and hauled me into the boat. I was fairly done. They looked round for others, and one of the fellows said, "There is another" but another said, "He's dead — we must look for the living".
They were all very kind to me rubbing my hands for me and did all they could for me whilst bringing me ashore." The friends of many of the occupants of the boat were also visiting Ilfracombe, and the clergymen and others were very busy in finding their whereabouts and in breaking the news to them. In several cases the friends had gone off to Lynton or Lee, and did not receive information of the accident until their return, when in too many cases their friends were dead. Great sympathy was expressed on all hands.
On Sunday boats put out to the locality of the wreck and, with grappling irons, discovered in the course of a few hours the exact position of the yacht. The boats held on to the wreck, and about seven o'clock the tugboat Lizard went to the spot, and an effort was made to raise the boat. It appears she was brought within a few yards of the surface when the rope parted and she dropped again. Divers from the Mumbles were on board the tug, but they did not go down, as they thought they could work better at the ebb tide in the morning, when it would be light. On Monday morning the tug again went to the spot and one of the divers entered the water, but it appears he did nothing beyond assuring himself that the boat was still sound. Efforts were made during the day to get up the wreck but without success.
On Sunday references were made to the sad event in all the churches and chapels, and at the Wesleyan chapel, where the Rev S. Nash was preaching anniversary sermons, the pulpit was draped in black. Canon Lyons referred to the sad accident at one of the services at the Lower Church. At the morning and evening services the Dead March was played, and at The Baptist Chapel the anthem "Blessed are the Dead" was sung.
It was not until Sunday that a correct list on the lost and rescued was obtained. From the list it will be seen that nine are lost, and five died after being brought to land, twelve being saved. The list is as follows:-
Mr Wareham Kingston-on-Thames.
Mr Pinker Bath.
Mr Turner Bath.
Miss Ash London.
Mr Walker London.
L. Knapman Exeter.
H. Barker Woolwich.
W.E. Keble Guy's Hospital.
Lily Hartnoll Ilfracombe.
August Johnson Twickenham.
Field Evans London.
W. Taverner Burton-on-Trent.
Thomas F. Godfrey London.
Wyatt Frederick Newport, Mon
F.W. Gough Lewisham.
W. Rumson Boatman, Ilfracombe.
Mr Baker London.
J Hards Ewell, Surrey.
Miss Blytten London.
W. Lunds Burton-on-Trent.
Charles Buckingham Ilfracombe.
Thomas Kemp Smith London.
Henry Raynor Bayswater.
F. Windsor Southport.
Frederick J. Cox Chard.
H. Chamberlain Nailsworth, Gloucestershire.
On Monday a reward of £27 was offered for the recovery of the bodies, being of the rate of £3 for each body. There is no hope of securing any of the bodies until Saturday or Sunday. But the fishermen, anxious to let no opportunity to pass, have been put out with lines grappling for bodies, and a long line with hooks has been laid in the hope of hitching the clothes of any bodies that may be washed along the bottom by the tides, and, as the tides were rather strong on Tuesday and during the previous night, it is possible that some may be found by this means. Another diver arrived on Tuesday but the sea was too rough for him to enter the water. When it is calm he will go down to the wreck, and efforts will again be made to raise the yacht.
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