‘Courage and valour’ of 47 lost seamen to be commemorated in Porthcawl

A memorial to mark the “courage and valour” of 47 seamen who died in the worst Welsh maritime disaster of modern times could be erected in Porthcawl.

The SS Samtampa and the Mumbles lifeboat Edward Prince of Wales were dashed on the rocks at Sker Point near Porthcawl in hurricane-force winds 68 years ago next month.

And while a memorial plaque to the 39 crew members and eight lifeboat men is embedded in the rocks that took their lives, a Porthcawl campaign group wants to construct a central memorial in the town, close to the sea and harbour, in time to mark the 70th anniversary of the tragedy.

The Samtampa and Mumbles lifeboat crew

“Porthcawl Shout Forum (PSF) is suggesting the town has a visible memorial to illustrate the magnitude of the disaster and the unimaginable courage shown by local men prepared to make the supreme sacrifice for others,” said Gary Victor, chairman of PSF, an older people’s voluntary organisation.

“Disasters and acts of bravery on this scale are not common and should be honoured for future generations.

“PSF, Porthcawl Museum Society and Bridgend County Borough Council are working in partnership to obtain a Heritage Lottery Grant to provide a central memorial close to the sea and harbour for the 70th anniversary of the disaster in 2017.”

Samtampa broke into pieces on Sker Point

Built in America during the war to bring vital supplies to the UK, the Liberty ship Samtampa had been transferred to a British company and was sailing from Middlesbrough to Newport when it entered the Bristol Channel on Wednesday, April 23, 1947.

Caught in a storm that generated hurricane-force winds and whipped up ferocious seas, the Samtampa’s captain Neale Sherwell dropped both anchors.

But the ship was blown from the north Devon coast across to Porthcawl, where it broke into pieces on Sker Point.

Porthcawl coastguards attempted to fire lines at the boat in order to rescue the crew, who were within earshot of the shore, but the gale blew the lines back.

The Mumbles lifeboat launched twice in a desperate bid to save the 39 crewmen, who hailed from the Teesside area, but the eight-strong crew, lead by Coxswain William Gammon, also lost their lives.

Some of the crewmen are buried in Porthcawl cemetery

Coroner’s reports showed that none of the men had drowned, but had been asphyxiated by the thick, black fuel oil that had flowed out of the broken Samtampa.

Some of the men are buried in Porthcawl cemetery.

“This is a story of unbelievable courage and valour against a terrifying foe that ended in a catastrophic disaster on the Porthcawl coast, yet many younger residents and visitors to the town know little if anything of the Samtampa tragedy and the heroic courage of the men that died in a terrifying storm,” said Mr Victor.

PSF, whose patron is Bridgend AM and First Minister Carwyn Jones, is appealing for individuals and groups to endorse the initiative and work with them to take the Samtampa memorial project forward.

Mr Victor said the objective is to “create awareness” of this and possibly other Welsh maritime disasters.

Contact Gary Victor on 01656 783491 or e-mail: g.victor@btinternet.com or contact Clive Mort at: cmorte@hotmail.com

Article source: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/local-news/courage-valour-47-lost-seamen-8756623