We hear much about the bravery of lifeboat men who risk their lives in horrendous conditions in order to save the lives of the crew and passengers of stricken vessels, and quite rightly so. However, a special mention should be reserved for a fishing smack from Lowestoft called Wildflower which, on the night of 30 January 1895, went to the aid of a steamship called the Elbe which got into trouble in the North Sea on its way from Bremerhaven to New York following a collision with another steamship called the Crathie, which was making its way from Aberdeen to Rotterdam. There were 354 passengers on board, and just 20 of them managed to break free from the Elbe in a lifeboat, but due to the dire state of the sea on that night this also got into difficulties. It was thanks to the Wildflower that these 20 people were not added to the list of fatalities; after five hours in raging seas, the lifeboat was found by the Wildflower, having failed to raise the alarm with flares, and thanks in part to the expertise of the Elbe crew who were among the survivors their lives were spared. The captain of the Wildflower, William Wright, declared that these poor people would not have lasted another hour in those conditions.
Lowestoft is a popular family resort which is blessed with some of the best beaches on the Suffolk coast. It also has the distinction of being the most easterly town in Britain. The town is in two parts, divided by a narrow strip of water called Lake Lothing, which connects to Oulton Broad, the most southerly of the famous Broads of East Anglia. Lowestoft made a living for itself in the 19th century from the herring catch, largely thanks to the trawling ground on the Dogger Bank. Its main role as a port today lies in supplying off-shore oil and gas operations. The North Sea is peppered with the rigs used by these operations, as I found out sailing back from Norway last year. There is an old part of town which managed to survive the severe damage visited on Lowestoft during the Second World War, and this is characterised by a series of parallel lanes called ‘scores’. Visitors to the town can learn all about its seafaring past at the Lowestoft Maritime Museum, this being complemented by the nearby Royal Naval Patrol Service Museum, which tells the story of Lowestoft’s wartime experiences. An impressive Edwardian glass building, East Point Pavilion, houses the town’s tourist office as well as a restaurant offering excellent views of the South Beach. There is a webcam at the Pavilion showing live images of the seafront.
For events in Lowestoft see here.
Map of the area.