Seventy years on, the SS Samtampa tragedy is remembered in Porthcawl

Thursday, 27 April 2017

By Philip Irwin
in Local People

It was both a sombre and uplifting weekend in Porthcawl on April 22 and 23, as the town remembered a maritime tragedy that took place 70 years ago.

A service was held at All Saints Church, Porthcawl, on the Saturday, and another at the memorial plaque on the rocks at Sker Point on Sunday in memory of those lost at Sker 70 years ago.

Porthcawl’s combined rescue services, made up of the Porthcawl unit of UK Coastguard Agency, Porthcawl RNLI and Porthcawl Fire Service, together with members of Porthcawl Museum and the public, remembered the tragedy of the Liberty Ship SS Samtampa and the RNLI’s The Mumbles lifeboat Edward, Prince of Wales.

Crews of both vessels, 47 in total, perished in a raging storm that swept up the Bristol Channel on April 23, 1947.

Spokesperson for Porthcawl RNLI, Ian Stroud said: “Both services were well attended, showing that even though it was 70 years ago, our town will not forget the tragedy that befell the crew of the Samtampa and the dedication of The Mumbles lifeboat crew who, in a brave effort to come to the rescue of the stricken vessel, all lost their lives too.

“As the tragedy was taking place, Porthcawl Coastguards lost their battle to effect a rescue of the crew of the Samtampa when all attempts to fire lines onto the stricken vessel failed – because of the severe gale that day.

“By contrast, it is almost impossible for us to imagine the conditions during that storm 70 years ago, especially standing at Sker on Sunday, when the sun shone, there was hardly any wind and the sea was flat calm.

“During the service at Sker Point, those on shore watched as The Mumbles current lifeboat led other lifeboats from Porthcawl and Port Talbot, together with a privately-owned Watson-class lifeboat and a flotilla of small boats to the area.

“As they stood off the rocky shore, wreaths were laid on the water by each lifeboat crew in memory of fellow sailors and lifeboat men who lost their lives.”

The service was followed by a short dedication to a memorial that has been laid at the Prince of Wales, Kenfig by landlord Gareth Maund, in memory of the Samtampa tragedy.

Visiting Porthcawl for the services were relatives of men who perished on the Samtampa, in the main from the Middlesborough area, and relatives of the Mumbles lifeboat crew.

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