Claimed back by the Sea


On Thursday the 19th. January 1905 the Gorleston Lifeboat Elizabeth Simpson was launched in response to signal guns from the Cross Sands lightship, having been towed out to sea by the tug Meteor. The crew spent sixty hours at sea attempting to refloat the four masted German barque Optima from the

Wreck of the Optima 1905 23-11-2000

The wreck of the Optima . January 20th 1905

Thought I would have a try at painting the Wreck of the Optima on the Haisborough Sands . January 1905 . This can only be artistic licence Ron . The only oil painting of her that I am aware of was lost in the 1953 floods . I have included the Elizabeth Simpson standing by, (coxwain Crimo Crisp.) With the crew of the Optima still on board hoping that she would be refloated. (painting 16''X 26'').

Haisbrough Sands but they were beaten in their quest by deterioration in the weather. Twice the crew of the Optima was taken off their vessel but even with the assistance of the tugs their efforts were in vain. Eventually on the Saturday evening, with huge seas breaking over her she began to break up. At this point the Optimaís crew were still on board. So once again the crew had to be taken off the stricken vessel. This turned out to be no easy task. As the lifeboat was brought along side the Optima a heavy sea lifted her onto the side of the barque with considerable force, smashing the lifeboats padding plus doing other damage. Whilst this hazardous operation was taking place the crew dropped into the lifeboat safely. Thirty-two crewmen in all. My grandfather Ted Bensley realizing that she was now breaking up dashed down into the captainís cabin, taking out his knife, he cut out from its fixed frame, an oil painting of the Optima under sail at sea, rolled it up and stuffed it inside his oilskin. He then grabbed a pair of polished cattle horn candlesticks and leapt back into the lifeboat. The outcome was these salvaged trophies amongst other items from other vessels from over the fifty-four years of his lifeboat service, including a vellum awarded on his retirement having been involved in the rescue of 940 lives during his service, were all lost on the night of 31st January 1953 when the floodwaters entered our home, to such a height as to easily take that grand old painting plus the vellum, from the walls of our drawing room and so once again return them to the sea. We lost everything on the ground floor that dreadful night as did hundreds of other families, but these were only material objects. We survived, hence the fact I am in the position to be able to relate this tale.

Arthur .E. Bensley



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