Mumbles maritime disaster commemorated 65 years on

Left to right - Ella Gammon, Elsie Noel, Irene Davies, Eilleen Thomas, May Griffin, Diana Howell and Dorothy Court the sister of one of the victims.The widows of the lifeboat crew who lost their lives received the men’s posthumous awards for bravery later in 1947

One of Wales’ worst maritime disasters is being remembered by a small community near Swansea.

Eight lifeboat men from the Mumbles lost their lives in 1947 when they went to the aid of the shipwrecked SS Samtampa, whose 39 crew also died.

The 7,000 tonne steamer, en route from Middlesbrough to Newport, ran aground at Sker Point near Porthcawl in the face of a 70mph (112kph) gale.

Flags are flying at half-mast on Monday over the lifeboat house at Mumbles.

It is believed the lifeboat was struck by an exceptionally high wave.

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My mother heard me coming down the stairs, I think, because she met me halfway and said: ‘Daddy’s gone’”

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Maureen Donald
Daughter of coxswain William Knowle

The stricken vessel broke into three on the rocks within 80 minutes.

Maureen Donald, daughter of the lifeboat’s second coxswain William Knowle, who was 10 when her father died, said: “The maroons [lifeboat alert flares] went.

“He ran to a young man on the prom and he said: ‘Can I borrow your bike, son?’

“That was the last time I saw him. My mother then came home, she closed the legion club, and said: ‘You’d better go to bed. ‘I’ll sit up and wait for Daddy.’

“(I) went to sleep and the next thing I heard was screaming.

‘Part of the community’

“My mother heard me coming down the stairs, I think, because she met me halfway and said: ‘Daddy’s gone.’ And I said: ‘What do you mean he’s gone?’

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We really still haven’t recovered”

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Bill Barrington, 93,
Mumbles resident

“She said: ‘The lifeboat has floundered and we are not going to have him again, he’s gone.’ And with that she just collapsed. It was pretty awful.”

Mrs Donald’s mother also lost her brother on the lifeboat, called Edward Prince of Wales.

Local church verger Bill Barrington, 93, said the impact of the tragedy still lived with the Mumbles.

“Well, we really still haven’t recovered,” he told BBC Radio Wales.

“It’s always been here. It’s always been part of the community.

The Mumbles is one of the busiest lifeboat stations in Wales.

Last year, the town’s two boats were launched 70 times between them, bringing ashore 89 people.

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