On This Day in Trinity House History – 7 December

1970

New Pilot Station is officially opened on Ryde Pier, Isle of Wight

Ryde Pier Pilot Station: A new Pilot Station is officially opened on Ryde Pier, Isle of Wight.

The station comprised Operations Room, offices, mess room and cabins.

Two fast pilot launches operated from Ryde Pier during 1970 to ship and land pilots at the Nab Pilot Station and to ferry outward pilots to Gosport on the mainland to facilitate their return to Southampton. The shipping using the Nab Station required pilots for the ports of Southampton, Portsmouth and other ports in the Solent.

During the construction of the shore station, the former cruising cutter Bembridge was used for accommodation and communications and then sold out of service to the charity Dial House, to be used as a training ship for under-privileged youngsters in the care of local authorities.

The V.H.F. R/T communication system for the new Ryde Pier Pilot Station was new to the Trinity House Pilotage Service.
With the introduction of the new scheme, considerable savings in manhours were made. The pilot station and launch system was more economical than maintaining a cruising cutter at the Nab Station.

THPV Vagrant off Ryde Pier station

THPV Vagrant off Ryde Pier station

On This Day in Trinity House History – 14 November

1741

The Sovereign’s Pilot

Trinity House Board Minute:

“Mr. Jeffrey Curtis, one of our Pilots, having lately conducted His Majesty’s sloop, the Hawk, from Galleons Reach to the Orkney Islands, thence on a cruise to Iceland and back to the Nore, and there being no established rates for the whole of that service, The Hon. The Comptroller of the Navy was pleased to consult this Board and to desire their opinion thereon which was that Eighteen pounds is a reasonable rate for conducting the said sloop Out and Nine pounds Home: The trip to be rated at seventy days and the excess of time according to the usage of the Navy.

On his proposing a farther case about the pilotage of a sloop from Heligolandup the River Yezer and down the said River to the sea: the Board were of opinion that it will be reasonable to allow the Pilot over and above the Established rates five pounds for his Extra Pilotage of the Sloop up the said River and five pounds more for bringing her down to the sea.”

 

On This Day in Trinity House History – 26 October

1664

The Elder Brethren Are Out of the Office

Court Minute:

“No Court, because all the Elder Brethren were present, according to custom, at a launch of a great ship of the King’s.”

The ship in question was HMS Royal Katherine. Samuel Pepys remarked of the launch:

“At Woolwich; I there up to the King and Duke, and they liked the plate well. Here I staid above with them while the ship was launched, which was done with great success, and the King did very much like the ship, saying, she had the best bow that ever he saw.”

HMS Royal Katherine

HMS Royal Katherine


1734

A Pilotage Complaint is Brought Before Trinity House

Board Minute:

“Captain Edward Carteret of the Italian Merchant lately arrived from the Streights attended and complained that on 8th. February last as he was outward bound on his last voyage outward from London to the Streights, Francis Lilly being then his Pilot down the South Channel towards the Downs, he the said Francis Lilly ran the said ship aground on the Last at Noon-day, near High Water, the Weather being clear, Light winds Westerly and the buoys in sight. Captain Carteret said that when the the ship first touched the ground, He cry’d Hard a Starboard, which if Lilly had suffered to be done, the Ship would have got Clear, But he (Lilly) Crying Hard a Port at the same time, the man at the Helm Observed him, which laid the ship across the said Last Sand, where she almost dry’d at Low Water, The ship being Aground, Lilly insisted that she was on the Spell, which the Captain not being satisfied of, took his boat, and on sounding himself, found that she was on the Last. The Captain said further that the Loyal Jane, Sabine Chandler, Commander, then bound for the Downs was in company with his ship (the Italian Merchant) and a head of her in the arrows, and went clear.

Ordered, that the Rt. Hon. the Master be acquainted with this complaint before any further proceedings be taken thereon.”

2 Nov. 1734:

“The Master ordered a court be held on the 13th. inst. to hear the complaint.”

On This Day in Trinity House History – 26 September

1900

Pendeen Lighthouse is first lit

A light is established at Pendeen in Cornwall.

From Cape Cornwall the coast runs NE by E towards the Wra, or Three Stone Oar, off Pendeen. From here the inhospitable shore continues for a further eight miles or so to the Western entrance of St. Ives Bay, the principal feature here being the Gurnards Head, on which many ships have come to grief.

Until 1891 maritime safety off Pendeen depended more on activity after a wreck rather than effective prevention, the “Admiralty Sailing Directions” for that year being only able to report a “Coastguard Station where a rocket apparatus is kept”. The high cliffs along this sector of coastline prevented passing vessels from catching sight of either Trevose Head to the East or the Longships to the West; and so numbers of them, unable to ascertain their position, were lost, particularly on the groups of sunken and exposed rocks near Pendeen Watch. Trinity House became increasingly concerned about this state of affairs as the nineteenth century drew to its close, and decided to erect a lighthouse and fog signal at Pendeen. Designs for the building were prepared by Sir Thomas Matthews, the Trinity House Engineer, their construction being undertaken by Arthur Carkeek, of Redruth, with Messrs. Chance, of Birmingham supplying the lantern.

More at the Trinity House website

Pendeen Lighthouse

Pendeen Lighthouse

 


1915

First World War casualties

Trinity House Pilot Cutter Vigilant was destroyed by a mine while cruising at Sunk station. Eight of the eleven pilots on board were killed, the rest injured. Seven of the crew were killed and one other injured.

On This Day in Trinity House History – 2 August

1732

The Elder Brethren are empowered to search for gunpowder aboard ships

Trinity House Court Minute:

“Instruments under the Seal of the Corporation issued to the following: Captain John Werry; Captain William Harrison; Captain Charles Hardy; Captain Thomas Rogers; Captain John Robinson; Jun. Captain John Denn, Captain Thomas Wilkins, Captain David Greenhill; and Captain William Lorance, empowering them to (respectively) go on board ships to search for gunpowder, pursuant to the late Act of Parliament.”

 


1958

Trinity House Pilot Vessels rescue hapless sailors

Notice in Flash Magazine:

“DUCKS & DRAKES

The rescue season is now in full swing, and the Pilot Vessel Service has contributed in its usual manner. The best day’s bag was that of Mr. J S Brown, acting as Mate of Kihna who on the 2nd August set out in one of Kihna‘s boats to rescue the crew of a capsized sailing dinghy in Dover Harbour. A second dinghy capsized after Kihna‘s boat was got away, and both crews were duly rescued.

In July the Pilot Vessel Pelorus on station at Dungeness took alongside the yacht Salome which was leaking. The sole crew of this boat was an 80 year old Doctor, who refused to come on board. After Salome had been alongside for an hour and a half she was taken in tow by the Dungeness lifeboat.

On the 25th July the Vigia, which was in charge of her 2nd Mate Mr. L. Ablett, took in tow near Platters buoy the yacht Wayward Wind. The yacht was disabled with a broken rudder and choked pumps. The Wayward Wind with her crew of three was taken safely into Harwich.”

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.”