A memorial to a sea tragedy which claimed 47 lives off the coast near Porthcawl is planned

A permanent memorial to 47 people who lost their lives in a shipwreck and rescue off Porthcawl is planned to mark the 70th anniversary of the disaster next year.

The Samtampa and Edward Prince of Wales tragedy on April 23, 1947, was the greatest loss of civilian life off the Welsh coast in modern times.

Valiant rescue attempt in 70mph gales

Now, Porthcawl Shout Forum , Porthcawl Museum Society and Bridgend County Borough Council are working together to get a Heritage Lottery grant to provide a public memorial near the harbour and RNLI base in the town.

The RNLI lifeboat is set alight after it lost all of its crew and ran aground trying to save the crew of the Samtampa in 70mph gales

The entire crew of eight men on the Mumbles RNLI lifeboat Edward Prince of Wales died along with the entire crew of 39 on the Samtampa, a US built Liberty ship which ran into rocks at Sker Point in a force 11 hurricane.

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RNLI lifeboats rescued more than a thousand people around the Welsh coast last year

The Samtampa was on its way from Gateshead to Newport via North Devon when it was blown onto the rocks off the South Wales coast in mountainous seas.

The bridge and midships section of the Samtampa after the storm
The bridge and midships section of the Samtampa after the storm

Bridgend College art and design students have been working on designs for the sculpture which Porthcawl Shout Forum chairman Gary Victor hopes will be erected before the 70th anniversary in April 2017.

“This is part of our coastal heritage history and we don’t want it forgotten,” ex-Merchant Navy seaman Mr Victor said.

“As time passes, people just don’t know this happened. It was a huge tragedy and we need a memorial.”

Part of coastal history that should be remembered

The engine of the wrecked ship is still visible at very low tide of Sker Point, 12 of the ship’s crew are buried in Porthcawl Cemetery and a small plaque marks the spot on Sker Point rocks where the Mumbles RNLI lifeboat was burned, as is tradition, after the tragedy.

Parts of the wreck of the Samtampa can still be seen at very low tide of Sker Point

An inquest found none of the 47 who died drowned, all were asphyxiated by oil pouring into the water from the stricken ship’s engines.

“This incredible act of human endeavour by the Mumbles Lifeboat crew to save the lives of 39 seamen in distress is now being forgotten and sadly becoming unknown to the younger generation,” Mr Victor said.

‘Incredible act of human endeavour’

To mark the anniversary next year, an exhibition is being held at the Waterfront Museum Swansea from April to June 2017 and Porthcawl Shout Forum is visiting community groups, schools and colleges to tell the story of the tragedy and the valour of the Mumbles RNLI lifeboat crew.

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Men on a mission

The Samtampa was one of hundreds of so-called Liberty ships build by the USA to help with the World War Two effort. When war ended, the ships were sold on.

Mumbles Lifeboat, Edward Prince of Wales
Mumbles Lifeboat, Edward Prince of Wales

The Samtampa was on its way to Newport for a condition check, having been conditionally sold to a new buyer.

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The story of a terrible storm

AS the captain and crew all died, it was never clear why it continued its voyage up the North Devon coasts as one of the worst storms in living memory struck, Mr Victor said.

Anyone interested in being involved in efforts to mark the anniversary is asked to contact organisers on 01656 783491.

Article source: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/memorial-sea-tragedy-claimed-47-11072939