On This Day in Trinity House History – 15 August

1967

Loss of No. 83 Lightvessel

The No. 83 Lightvessel was being towed to drydock when she was struck by a passing trawler. The incident was written up in an edition of Flash magazine:

“On the morning of the 15th August, No.83 NEWARP LIGHT VESSEL was in tow of the VESTAL bound for the Tyne for overhaul. At about 0930 the Light Vessel was struck on the starboard side by the Polish Trawler No. SWI176 SNIARDWY causing fairly extensive damage.

The crew of the Light Vessel were taken off but later the Chief Officer, Chief and Second Engineers of the VESTAL, together with Mr. H.R. Eames, Master of the Light Vessel, went back aboard although it was heeling over. In spite of their strenuous efforts and those of the tug IRISHMAN which arrived about 1030, the Light Vessel continued to list and at about 1100 the Light Vessel turned over on her starboard side. The men on board scrambled on to the side out of the water and were rescued by VESTAL’s motor boat about 3 minutes before she sank at 1107, the towing wire being slipped about 5 minutes after the Light Vessel went under.”

 

On This Day in Trinity House History – 20 July

1685

John Evelyn records his time at Trinity Monday

John Evelyn’s diary entry reads:

“The Trinity-Company met this day, which should have been on the Monday after Trinity, but was put off by reason of the Royal Charter being so large, that it could not be ready before. Some immunities were superadded. Mr. Pepys, Secretary to the Admiralty, was a second time chosen Master. We went to church, according to custom, and then took barge to the Trinity-House, in London, where we had a great dinner, above eighty at one table.”

 


1745

Early problems with the Nore Lightvessel

Trinity House Board Minute:

Nore Lightvessel model

Nore Lightvessel model

“Mr. Cam, one of the lessees of the light at the Nore attended to answer Captain Hallum’s complaint against the light and admitted that there happened an accidental obstruction in one of the funnels just at the time complained of, but said that it was removed in about half an hour, after which there was a good light, as there hath been all along, without any former complaint of this nature and he promised that all possible care should be taken to keep a good light for the future, offering to remove the present lightkeeper and put in anyone whom the Corporation should name,

Which being considered and that Captain Hallum admits in his complaint that one of the lamps was kindled as he came by, Mr. Cam was charged to take especial care that a good light be constantly maintained hereafter, to be kindled every evening immediately after sunset and to be kept burning till it be broad Day Light next morning, and that they give instructions accordingly to such lightkeepers as the lessees shall appoint at their own Risque and for whom they are answerable.”

Enter the Trinity House 500th anniversary quiz for great prizes

Enter the Trinity House 500th anniversary quiz for great prizes

As part of its 500th anniversary celebrations, the Corporation of Trinity House is offering the chance to win a copy of the new Trinity House photography book Light Through A Lens and a Trinity House-themed print by renowned illustrator Peter Kent.

We’ll post more about the book on this blog closer to its publication on 11 September 2014. In the meantime, you can read about it on the Bloomsbury website.

To find out more, please visit the Trinity House website. Good luck!

On This Day in Trinity House History – 9 June

1989

The Last Manned Lightvessel

The last manned lightvessel, at the Channel station, is towed to Harwich, and an automated and unmanned lightvessel left in her place, closing out over two and a half centuries of manned service.

In the early 20th century, there were near to 100 of these red floating lighted vessels around the coast, each with a crew of seven men on at one time (rotated through a total of eleven men), demanding a vast network of clerks, mechanics, superintendents, victuallers and boatmen to keep the lightvessel service running.

Channel Lightvessel by Ambrose Greenway

Channel Lightvessel by Ambrose Greenway

Trinity House and D-Day – On This Day in Trinity House History – 6 June

1944

Trinity House plays its part in the D-Day landings

The Corporation of Trinity House’s staff, lighthouses, lightvessels, tenders and pilots played a vital role in the success of Operation Neptune, the landing operations of the Allied invasion of Normandy (Operation Overlord) during the Second World War.

Soon after the declaration of war in September 1939 the Admiralty sought out the services of Trinity House, requiring the exhibition of navigational lights and the establishment of buoys to mark swept channels.

Trinity House established 73 lighted buoys in various depths at given positions between England and France; the buoys were laid according to schedule and in spite of the weather. After the venue for the landings had been agreed a decision had to be taken as to the number of swept lanes and buoys required.

Trinity House’s Chief Superintendent Captain A G Carrick (d.1953) summed up the detailed work encountered on Operation Overlord in 1951:

“Firstly, after the venue of the invasion had been chosen, the number of swept lanes required across the Channel and the number of buoys in each lane sufficient to meet ordinary conditions of visibility had to be decided upon. This would determine the number of buoys required, which would also give the depth of water of each buoyed position. With the foregoing information, the length of chain cable and the sinker necessary to hold these buoys in position could be determined.

“Secondly, the shape and colour of the superstructure that each buoy had to carry in order that these buoy positions could be identified was considered. In order that this identification could be carried out in hours of darkness, different characters of flashing lights were allocated. These were chosen so as to avoid confusion between neighbouring buoys.

“The work of preparing these moorings into their various lengths, preparing the buoys according to their appropriate colours, charging them with gas cylinders and assembling the lamps with their pre-selected characteristics was taken in hand.

“On completion of the above, the task of transporting them to the port of assembly was next to be considered, when it was found that the fighting services were all requiring transport to this same port, and all naturally demanding a high degree of priority for their requirements. However, the Admiralty released several LCTs [Tank Landing Craft] which were, about this period, making a passage within a few days of each other from east coast ports to the southward, and which they detailed to call at Harwich for the purpose of loading these buoys and transporting them to Cowes in the Isle of Wight.

“The next point to be considered on the arrival of these buoys and moorings at the port of assembly was the question of their storage, as they had to be kept immediately available and ready for service. With the heavy demand on every foot of quay space, deep water berths and shore lifting cranes, the answer to this problem was difficult, and as the LCTs had to be released as soon as possible for their other duties, it was decided that the Thames lighter [barge] should be used for this purpose of storage. Here again the question of priority was paramount, but 20 of these craft were allocated, together with three small tugs.

“These lighters were moored to buoys in the River Medina. The ocean buoys and moorings, according to their groups, were stored therein and then towed from there to the operating vessels as required.

“Six Trinity House Vessels—Patricia (Captain R Goodman), Warden (Captain J Le Good), Georges De Joly (Captain J R Meyrick), Alert (Captain T J White), Andre Blondel (Captain G Sherman) and Discovery II (Captain J J Woolnough)—were detailed to assemble in the Solent three weeks prior to D-Day, in order to be stored, victualled and loaded with their first consignment of buoys in readiness to mark the lanes for the assault forces and the subsequent passage of innumerable craft of every possible description necessary for an operation of this magnitude.

“After dealing with their load of buoys, these vessels would immediately return to the port of assembly and reload in readiness to sail on their second assignments. This operation was repeated until all the necessary buoys had been laid.

“These channels having been established and marked, it can well be understood that with the amount of traffic plying continually between the two coasts, collisions with, and mishaps to these light buoys would occur. Few would appreciate that the number of casualties amounted to 350 within the period of some four months, and at one time reached the alarming figure of 7.5 per day. This of course kept the Trinity House Vessels fully occupied in supplying and fitting spare parts or lamps, according to the nature of the casualty, and continually servicing the buoys in one way or another in order to maintain the lighted channels.

“The fact that the above laying and servicing was carried out without hindrance, and that later two fully-manned lightvessels were established off the coast of France, shows the complete mastery which our fighting services had obtained over the enemy, and more so when it is realised that swept channels were marked by light buoys close along the coasts of France, Belgium and Holland, up to the opening of the River Scheldt by the Allied Forces, and later along the coast and into the ports of Germany itself.”

During the three years prior to Overlord much shipping was diverted to the east coast ports; as the traffic to London was greatly reduced, over fifty London District Pilots undertook pilotage duties in the Clyde. Traffic in the Port of London increased again with preparations for the invasion and the responsibility fell on Trinity House for piloting all the commercial vessels and many of the service vessels engaged in those operations. All the Mulberry [portable temporary] Harbour Units which were constructed on the Thames were towed to their parking places under the supervision of Trinity House pilots.

In the month following D-Day nearly 3,000 ships were handled by 88 River Pilots and nearly 2,000 by 115 Sea Pilots. During that period many pilots worked day and night unceasingly without relief and pilots had to be recalled from the Clyde and the Royal Naval Reserve.

Juno (No. 72) Lightvessel was established on 18 June 1944 remaining on station until 27 January 1945 when she was towed to Le Havre for damage repairs following various collisions and heavy seas. One month later she was relaid in a new position at a station named Seine. On 3 March 1946 she was replaced by a French Light Vessel named Le Havre and towed to Harwich.

No. 68 marked the Kansas station and was laid on 16 July 1944 remaining until 11 November the same year when she was towed to Ryde then to Cowes.

On 3 September 1944 Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, Allied Naval Commander-in-Chief sent the following message to Trinity House:

“I wish to place on record my High appreciation of the invaluable work performed by the vessels of Trinity House and their crews, as well as by those who have been responsible for the organisation and preparations ashore, during recent operations involving the landing on the Continent of Europe of the greatest seaborne expedition in History. The great success achieved was due in no small part to the contribution of Trinity House.

“2. The smooth way in which the buoy-laying has progressed has been in particular due to the work and splendid co-operation of your Superintendent at Cowes, Captain Barber. Without his willing help and advice at all times both before and during the operations the many problems which arose could not have been so easily overcome.

“3. Success is seldom achieved without loss, and it was with great regret that I learned of the loss of THV ALERT on 16th June. She had done fine work close off the enemy coast and it was most gratifying to know that none of her crew was lost.

“4. I shall be grateful if you will convey my appreciation to all of Trinity House.”

Juno Lightvessel and THV Warden D-Day 1944

Juno Lightvessel and THV Warden D-Day 1944 copyright Trinity House

On This Day in Trinity House History – 29 May

1899

London District pilots to wear a uniform

A regulation prescribing a standard uniform for Pilots In the London District came into force.

Trinity House Pilot c1900

Trinity House Pilot c1900


1977

The Falls Lightvessel Incident

The following description of a lightvessel crew offering a helping hand to passing leisure craft users in distress appeared in a 1977 edition of Flash magazine:

“What shouId have been a quiet Sunday evening for the crew of the Falls Light Vessel turned into a scene from a disaster film on the 29th May. At about 1800 hours a small armada of rubber dinghies were spotted approaching the Light Vessel and they appeared to be making heavy going in rapidly deteriorating conditions. Permission was requested by the leader of the party of 60 Belgian men, women and children, to board the Light Vessel and Mr. W. Semple, the Master of the Falls had no hesitation in allowing the rubber dinghies to tie up astern. The cold, wet and seasick shoppers were taken on board the Light Vessel and assistance was requested from the Ramsgate Lifeboat. The Life-boat arrived at 2100 hours and took nearly 20 people off but the majority wanted to remain aboard for the night mostly because their dinghies were still tied up astern. In the morning only four dinghies were still serviceable and with the arrival of the Ready the remainder of the party was embarked for the passage to Dover. Much of the credit for the smooth running of this rescue is due to Mr. Semple and his crew and especially in view of the language problem. Well done all concerned.”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 22 May

1676

Samuel Pepys is elected Master of Trinity House

Trinity Monday: Samuel Pepys is elected Master of Trinity House for the first time.

Samuel Pepys FRS MP JP (23 February 1633 – 26 May 1703) was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament (for Harwich) who is now most famous for the diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man. Although Pepys had no maritime experience, he rose by patronage, hard work and his talent for administration, to be the Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both King Charles II and subsequently King James II. His influence and reforms at the Admiralty were important in the early rise of the Royal Navy.

 


1736

The Dudgeon Lightvessel is laid in its Assigned Position for the first time

Trinity House Board Minute:

“Captain Major, Captain Merriman and Mr. Avery attended with a letter of the 16th. from Captain John Kitchingman on board the vessel intended for the Floating Light at Dudgeon Shoal, that she was then near the shoal, but the weather being calm the moorings were not laid, but would be in a day or two, they farther acquainted the Board that Mr. John Walker, Mr. Geo. Widget, Mr. Grey, and a great many other Masters of ships in the Coal Trade who came by since, said that the vessel was actually moored there, and that they intended to kindle the light on the 1st. June next and desiring that public notice thereof might be given and of the commencement of the Duties from that time, which was ordered accordingly, and that the Clerk write to our Collectors at the several ports to take care of the Duties accordingly.”

The Dudgeon Lightvessel was only the second lightvessel position to be laid, after that at the Nore was laid in 1732.


1742

The Admiralty requires the use of Trinity House’s Ballastage Wharf for the shipping of horses abroad

Trinity House Board Minute:

“Thos. Corbett, Esq. Secretary to the Admiralty, requesting permission for the shipping of horses to the Army in Flanders, from their ballast wharf at Woolwich, which was reported to be very suitable for the purpose. The Corporation’s officer there ordered to give every possible assistance.”


1837

The Duke of Wellington is elected Master of Trinity House

Trinity Monday: Arthur, first Duke of Wellington KG GCB GCH is elected Master of Trinity House.

Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1 May 1769 – 14 September 1852) sat as Master from 1837 until 1852. He was a British soldier and statesman, a native of Ireland from the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century.

He was twice Prime Minister, from 1828–30 and briefly in 1834. He remained Commander-in-Chief of the British Army until his death.

Arthur, first Duke of Wellington Master of Trinity House copyright Trinity House

Arthur, first Duke of Wellington Master of Trinity House copyright Trinity House