A Few Incidents
by Arthur Bensley
When I was a small boy, I like most children, would take their first swimming strokes with the Dog Paddle, not a means of propelling ones self I would recommend for the adventurous. During the hot summer of 1937, I was using this method and was swept behind the Gorleston Breakwater on an out going tide. Fortunately for me a man borrowed a walking stick and quickly climbed over the rocks and hooked me out.
Another little lad aged 9 years was also very lucky many years earlier.
On 7th August 1894 he fell from the stone breakwater into the sea.
My grandfather Edward Bensley was in his skiff at the time and rescued him.
He quickly rowed to the beach , as the lad was unconscious. With the aid of a Mr. George Alwyne Smith, he was resuscitated and then carried into the Anchor & Hope pub, where, as they quaintly put it, stimulants were administered, Then taken to Mr., Smiths home residence and when fully recovered sent home.
It must have been the summer of 1947 . My cousin John Strowger who at that time was serving in the 17th 21st Lancers and was on leave, had been for a swim with me in the Gorleston Pool. It was a regular occurrence when after a swim, for us to climb onto the roof of the Floral Hall, which was covered in lead sheeting and therefore retained the heat from the sun. From this elevated position, we could watch the crowds on the beach and whilst doing so, spotted two small boys being swept behind the breakwater. We quickly dropped down from the roof and shouted as loud as we could, but to no avail. So we raced out of the pool to the beach, in time to see one lad being carried to the shore.
Nobody else has seen the other lad, eventually they realized it was so. There was a long swell running, and it was 20 minutes before he was pulled out behind the breakwater, I remember Sharky Rose and Sid Weavers trying to resuscitate him, but it was far too late. It was his twin brother who was saved.
I didnít swim again that summer..
That same year a pal of mine borrowed a skiff and three of us rowed up the river to Breydon Water, on the way down river on our way home, were belted with iron bolts from young crew members of a Russian timber ship on the Yarmouth side of the river. I remember they had loudspeakers on the masts playing Russian patriotic music all day, the bastards!
On the afternoon of Saturday 31st January 1894 two other lads not unlike us, got into a spot of bother. William Wright aged 17 of 123 Middlegate St. and William Easter aged 15 of No. 19 Row 137, dropped into a boat moored near Messers. Columns warehouses on the west side of the river belonging to a Mr. Wooden Blockmaker of 74 South Quay. Casting the boat adrift , they intended crossing the river, using a solitary oar for sculling . Having entered the mid stream on the Yare River , they were carried down stream by a strong current to the harbourís mouth and out to the open sea!
Immediately five Gorleston boatmen manned a yawl and set off in pursuit. but to no avail. Eventually a Gorleston lifeboat had to be launched and both yawl and boat were picked up near the St, Nicholas Lightship! On stepping ashore , the lads were handed over to the police , but were not detained.