The work of a Norfolk Lifeboatman



Retired lifeboat man Brian Pegg (b. 1931) recalls two tragedies which have remained with him since his time at sea.

The first was when a fishing boat ran ashore at Cromer, and a set of brothers lost their lives. The second was a night out of Sheringham, where he pleaded with five men on a fishing boat to come aboard the lifeboat – they refused and perished in a storm.

Throughout, Pegg discusses the impact that these events had on him, as well as the impacts felt by the wider community along the coast.

Millennium Memory Bank

During 1998 and 1999, 40 BBC local radio stations recorded personal oral histories from a broad cross section of the population for the series The Century Speaks. The result was 640 half-hour radio documentaries, broadcast in the final weeks of the millennium, and one of the largest single oral history collections in Europe, the Millennium Memory Bank.



I think the last big tragedy we had in this area was the, a fishing boat going ashore at Cromer, with a three brilliant fisherman. The sea just come over and end-of-it and, oh the atmosphere in the little villages is terrible. For a fortnight, absolutely terrible. You didn't need to say no-thing. You know when you went anyway everybody was 'ain't it sad?'. I think that was only words I used to use 'ain't it sad?', you know didn't mention names or nothing.

And then when they got drowned at Cromer, I didn't find him till about two or three nights later, and we was fortunate. All the Cromer fisher' were hunting for the, the Holme brothers and relations and friends, what were drowned. Then after, I think after two nights they would search and search at the beaches for day and night. And our coxswain at the time, he rang at the crew macaques and simply said 'look can we give you a hand? Can we come over do some search?' And we were fortunate to find one of the boys, just a hand sticking out of the sand; you know that unite the towns together but no that's a sad occasion and I think that's like at all around the country I don't think that's just here - everywhere's like.

Or if we, if things don't go right. I remember one trip we went on and we lost - nothing to do with us - five one night out of a fishing boat. Because they wouldn't not come on the lifeboat. They just refused, and that was rough and the big sea just took them. We was as pleading for about an hour and I was there on the radio there for about an hour and a half asking them to come aboard the lifeboat. We knew that was bad but they ignored us and that was sad. Now that week, well that month, was terrible in Sheringham. To think you know we alongside a boat for an hour and a half pleading with them to come aboard and we could have just put a hand and pulled them aboard and I wouldn't. Never did understand and never will.

But that was sad for the next - well weeks - six weeks kept playing on a minds, to think we may go a lifetime now and not have a chance to save six lives and we lost six one night. We could do nothing about it. No I did go and see the owner of the boat's wife, you know. We thought somebody ought to go and see her and tell we done our best and I think that's one of the hardest jobs I had in my life. Knock on somebody's door. You know when you could have saved a husband, you know, and now they aren't much you chaps that's worse losing when your own or as bad.

The work of a Norfolk Lifeboatman
5 February 1999
Sound recording
Brian Pegg, Alison Turpin
© Audio: © BBC; Image: J. Gaiger / Stringer
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