Lifeboats on the Back of the Wight

Dickyboy
26th July 2009, 10:45
Hi!
Can anyone tell me anything about the old lifeboats that used to opperate on the Back of the Wight (The SW coast) in days of yore?
My grandfathers brother, and several other kin served in the Atherfield lifeboat. One, Rufus Cotton I believe, was the coxwain on her for many years.
There were also lifeboats at Brook and Brighstone I think.

shamrock
26th July 2009, 11:21
There is some history recorded here regarding the Brook, Atherfield & Brighstone lifeboats, and the memorials for the RNLI at St Mary the Virgin, church there...

http://www.isle-of-wight-memorials.org.uk/rnli/brookstmaryrnli4.htm

Might be worth a visit, perhaps. The old boatshed is still there, alongside the Military Road, they used to load the boat onto a cart and horses and take it down to the beach. Quite some feat when you see how far the shed is from the shoreline and the terrain they needed to deal with.

bri445
26th July 2009, 12:38
The Cotton family provided many brave men for a number of the lifeboats on the Island. Rufus was the nickname of William Cotton.

These is a lot of information and many photos on the 3 or 4 stations on this coast and Totland, so see:
backofthewight.co.uk
back-of-the-wight.shalfleet.com (Mottistone-Compton page)
'Back of the Wight' book by Fred Mew, classic on the local history, available on Amazon.

Put 'Back of the Wight' in Google for more.

You must be proud to have such a brave and famous family, so, good luck in your research.

Bri

Dickyboy
26th July 2009, 12:43
Thanks Shamrock
I live on the IOW, bought up in Brighstone. I know the area well. My dad was an Auxiliary Coastguard watcher at Brook and Atherfield for many years.
He never said much about our family's lifeboat connection though.

shamrock
26th July 2009, 12:44
Thanks Shamrock
I live on the IOW, bought up in Brighstone. I know the area well. My dad was an Auxiliary Coastguard watcher at Brook and Atherfield for many years.
He never said much about our family's lifeboat connection though.

I used to go down the Milli Road every day on a coach as a courier...and was also born & brought up down on the island too, but in Northwood not your neck of the woods.

bri445
26th July 2009, 12:45
I forgot to add the book: 'Britain in Old Photographs: The West Wight' , D.A.Parr, (Sutton, Stroud, 1996) which has 10 half-page photos of the men and boats, with some named crewmen.

Bri

shamrock
26th July 2009, 12:50
Blackgang Chine has (or at least had) a superb museum set aside for the RNLI on the island. Had one of the original boats along with wartime & peacetime roll calls for those lost when in the service. It's at the back of the coach park area (or at least it was when I was last there in 2004).

St Catherines Quay in Blackgang Chine, fascinating area of the park and completely dedicated to the RNLI across the back of the Wight area.

Dickyboy
26th July 2009, 12:50
Bri,
I'll look the book up, actually I've heard of it.
The subject was never talked about much within my family. Just took it for granted I suppose.

Dickyboy
26th July 2009, 13:01
I used to go down the Milli Road every day on a coach as a courier...and was also born & brought up down on the island too, but in Northwood not your neck of the woods.
Northwood is a long long way away from the Back of the Wight. Must be 12 miles! Bearing in mind that an IOW mile seems equivalent to three mainland miles. :o
My Grandparents lived at Sutton, near the AA box on the Milli road. About a mile west of Atherfield Holiday Camp

shamrock
26th July 2009, 13:03
Crew listing for Brook RNLI lifeboat & ship sent out to assist wood carrier Noordster in 1895..

http://members.lycos.co.uk/s0uthbury/noordster.htm

Crew listing for Brook RNLI lifeboat & ship sent out to assist liner Eider in 1891..

http://members.lycos.co.uk/s0uthbury/eider.htm

The above can be found as part of this site...

http://members.lycos.co.uk/s0uthbury/index.html

Also listed there is a list of coastguards and lifeboatment from the Isle of Wight in 1898...

http://members.lycos.co.uk/s0uthbury/cstguards.htm

Quite a fascinating website about loads of different trades and people who once lived on the island...would take a few hours to go through all of it.

shamrock
26th July 2009, 13:05
Northwood is a long long way away from the Back of the Wight. Must be 12 miles! Bearing in mind that an IOW mile seems equivalent to three mainland miles. :o
My Grandparents lived at Sutton, near the AA box on the Milli road. About a mile west of Atherfield Holiday Camp

ah...Atherfield Bay...hmmm....I do have a story about that place, but I don't want to hijack the thread. Lets just say that the holiday camp's wartime use was not lost on a group of OAP's that I was chartered to look after for a week (EEK)

Dickyboy
4th August 2009, 18:49
ah...Atherfield Bay...hmmm....I do have a story about that place, but I don't want to hijack the thread. Lets just say that the holiday camp's wartime use was not lost on a group of OAP's that I was chartered to look after for a week (EEK)
What's the story of Atherfield Holiday Camp then?
The first place I lived, after being born in St Marys, was one of the little chalets just across the road from the camp.

shamrock
5th August 2009, 09:16
From what I was told years ago, Atherfield Holiday Center (or at least buildings on that site) were used to house Italian POW's, who had something to do with building the Milli Road. Brighstone Holiday Center housed Royal Marines and Fort Warden on t;other side of the island also housed Italian POW's.

The group of OAP's I had for a week on the coach were first time visitors to the island from Birmingham. Most were over 70 years old, many were on sticks & frames. When they booked the chalets they were told that Freshwater Bay was within easy walking distance and that the chalets were in a central location for all amenities - Newport buses etc - and that the center boasted a stunning and sfae beach that was easy to access.

Now anyone who knows Atherfield also knows that it is a very long way from Freshwater Bay...especially if not great on your pins as most of this group weren't.

I took them out for the day on the coach and they were literally begging me not to take them back to the chalets...they hated it.

So after making a few phone calls and a few personal visits I managed to get the group transferred to one of the larger hotels in Sandown for the remainder of their stay and they stayed there for a week every year from then on.

But the group were also told by the owner of Atherfield that the camp was used for POW's in both wars...and the group relayed that to me as 'nothing much had changed then'.

NoMoss
5th August 2009, 09:26
The Shipwreck Museum at Arreton has several old lifeboats and a lot of information and is the centre for the Historic Lifeboat Trust.
I was given a photo and information about the Lifeboat Worcester Cadet which was stationed at Brighstone in 1860.Her most famous rescue was the crew of the Sirenia in 1888.
I believe this info came from the Historic Ship Museum at Newport.

Dickyboy
5th August 2009, 09:49
From what I was told years ago, Atherfield Holiday Center (or at least buildings on that site) were used to house Italian POW's, who had something to do with building the Milli Road. Brighstone Holiday Center housed Royal Marines and Fort Warden on t;other side of the island also housed Italian POW's.

The group of OAP's I had for a week on the coach were first time visitors to the island from Birmingham. Most were over 70 years old, many were on sticks & frames. When they booked the chalets they were told that Freshwater Bay was within easy walking distance and that the chalets were in a central location for all amenities - Newport buses etc - and that the center boasted a stunning and sfae beach that was easy to access.

Now anyone who knows Atherfield also knows that it is a very long way from Freshwater Bay...especially if not great on your pins as most of this group weren't.

I took them out for the day on the coach and they were literally begging me not to take them back to the chalets...they hated it.

So after making a few phone calls and a few personal visits I managed to get the group transferred to one of the larger hotels in Sandown for the remainder of their stay and they stayed there for a week every year from then on.

But the group were also told by the owner of Atherfield that the camp was used for POW's in both wars...and the group relayed that to me as 'nothing much had changed then'.
Ha! You couldn't get a much remoter place than Atherfield could you?
Chale, about 3 miles to the East and Brighstone about 5 in the other direction, neither place of any consequence, even today, let alone then.
Somehow, and I may very well be wrong, I doubt that POWs would have been interned at Atherfield, not in great numbers anyway. The IOW was a ''Restricted Area'' during the war, and to have Italian POWs camped on a south facing cliff in a potential invasion area seems most unlikely. As I say though, I could well be wrong.
I think that the Military road was originally built in Palmerstons time, to connect the defences at either end of the Island, though no doubt it was improved during the war.
I wish I'd learned more about the area that I lived in when I was younger.

Dickyboy
5th August 2009, 09:58
The Shipwreck Museum at Arreton has several old lifeboats and a lot of information and is the centre for the Historic Lifeboat Trust.
I was given a photo and information about the Lifeboat Worcester Cadet which was stationed at Brighstone in 1860.Her most famous rescue was the crew of the Sirenia in 1888.
I believe this info came from the Historic Ship Museum at Newport.
The Sirenia is a well known wreck locally, as are many other wrecks of course, mainly due to the records kept by the local RNLI and others involved with the rescues.
It would be nice to find firsthand accounts from people who were actually there at the time.
Blackgang and Arreton would be good places to start methinks.

shamrock
5th August 2009, 09:59
When you drive down Milli Road and see the metal fence posts with caps on the top, there is a myth that for each cap, an Italian POW died whilst laying the concrete for the road.

Truth is that the caps are there to hold the rain out of the hollow metal posts...hence why so many posts are gone due to rust cos people keep nicking the caps cos they believe the myth.

The road was laid in Palmerston's time as a link for the follies, but during the war, especially WWII, it was an important link tween the radar bases on the island so Italian officer POW's were used as labour to keep the road maintained and if you drive along it now it's tarmac, but underneath it is concrete panelled, its the concrete that the POW's laid on top of the original track from Palmerston's day.

The bomb crater along the Milli, tween the road and the cliff near Chale is from a German bomber that got lost trying to find Soton, he dumped his load before going home.

shamrock
5th August 2009, 10:07
This site is a real gem for information about the history surrounding the island...

http://freespace.virgin.net/roger.hewitt/iwias/home.htm

Loads of clickable subjects on there about several aspects of island life & historical interest....from the poison pen scandals to the shipwrecks...its all there.

Dickyboy
5th August 2009, 11:03
This site is a real gem for information about the history surrounding the island...

http://freespace.virgin.net/roger.hewitt/iwias/home.htm

Loads of clickable subjects on there about several aspects of island life & historical interest....from the poison pen scandals to the shipwrecks...its all there.

Thanks for the link Shamrock, it provides some good links to other IOW sites as well, including ''Invectis''

threefunnels
22nd August 2009, 11:02
Hi,

Being fairly new to the site, I am only just finding my sea legs ... just spotted this thread metioning Rufus Cotton. Rufus was a childhood chum of my Grandfather Albert Edward Sweetingham and Brother Frederick William Sweetingham. My Great Grandfather Thomas George Sweetingham was Chief Coastguard at Atherfield 1880 -c1890 (see my thread "Hello").

Frederick wrote a diary of his early childhood and I post an extract here relating to Rufus Cotton and some mischief the the boys got up to ....

“Living amongst sea-faring people in such a locality inculcated the spirit of adventure. So it is not surprising that at the early age of ten years, I became involved in an enterprise charged with considerable danger. At this age my younger brother Albert and I, became the joint owners of a dinghy. It was a gift from our parents and going with it we both knew there existed a tacit understanding that we were permitted to use the boat only in fine weather with calm seas. When the boat was not in use it was hauled up, covered and secured well above high water mark at the bottom of the cliff. Whenever we wished to use the boat, some kindly Coast guardsman or fisherman would usually be found to launch it into the sea; or perhaps, there would be a couple of playmates available to do the job. Among these was one Rufus Cotton the hardy son of a fisherman whose father had been an inveterate smuggler before our time at Atherfield, and after we had left when a lifeboat was stationed there, Rufus Cotton Senior was elected its first coxswain. Rufus junior was about two years older than my eight years when one evening at about five o'clock we met near the dinghy and very soon afterwards he induced me to try out a trip together in the boat.

It was not an easy job for two youngsters to transfer the boat from her securing position and launch it into the sea, but we contrived to get her afloat somehow. The weather was not too promising but we were not particularly concerned about this, so we pulled out to seaward for some considerable distance. There we lay on our oars for awhile, while I listened to Rufus who was just in his element and reeling off numerous proposals for our itinerary. The most attractive of his ideas to me was his suggestion to pull out a couple of miles further and haul up a few of his fathers lobster pots, so forgetting the time of the evening away we went. Rufus had often accompanied his father upon a similar operation and knew fairly accurately where the trots were located. It was low water and slack tide when we left the shore and after pulling to seaward for some considerable time we became tired and rested on our oars once again. Personally, I was relying upon my companion to take the initiative in our effort, for Rufus had a fine reputation among the lads of the village, of being an able fisherman and sailor too! Unfortunately, however we had not made any observations as to our true position relative to the shore for our minds and eyes were mainly attracted to seawards in order to locate the fishing pots.

We were by now getting very tired after a somewhat strenuous hour and spells on our oars became more frequent. Then suddenly we both became interested to shoreward and on gazing towards the land we discovered that, instead of being off the coast of Atherfield we were now directly south of the high cliffs some two miles to the eastward while our dinghy was being carried further to the Eastward by the swift tide. With alarm I looked to Rufus for our next move, but his face was inscrutable. Apparently he had not realised, as I had that we were in a serious position and from that moment I assumed the initiative and insisted that we should no longer search for his father’s fishing trots but pull with all our might for the landing place at Atherfield. This we tried to do but it was too late. Terribly fatigued we struggled on while the strong current steadily forced us astern. Mercifully ignorant of the serious danger which now beset us for our little dinghy was only two miles west of the dreaded race off St Catherine’s Point. It was getting dark and to make matters worse a choppy sea and - fresh westerly breeze had cropped up; furthermore we had no lantern or means of showing a lights.

Had we pulled towards the shore instead of trying to reach Atherfield direct it is probable that we might have beached safely somewhere in Chale Bay to the Westward of St Catherine’s Point; but in our anxiety to get home we had not thought of this and anyway, we might have met disaster there. Meanwhile, thanks be to God, my father had already been informed of our predicament by the Coast Guardsman on watch, who evidently possessed a true appreciation of our position. Whereupon the Lariet was promptly put to sea and heading in our direction. Fortunately, the tide which prevented our headway accelerated that of the C.G. Whaler and it was not long after they had set out that Rufus and I could see a light approaching and hear a voice calling my name from the distance. This was the welcome call from my father who had arrived in the nick of time to save two venturesome youngsters from almost certain destruction, for our small dinghy could not possibly have stood up to the turbulent race off St Catherine’s Point.”

nhp651
22nd August 2009, 22:30
What wonderful prose.
The English language just isn't written or spoken in such manner these days, More's the pity.
And a superb tale to.
Thanks for posting it.
neil.

Abbeywood.
23rd August 2009, 12:34
Hi!
Can anyone tell me anything about the old lifeboats that used to opperate on the Back of the Wight (The SW coast) in days of yore?
My grandfathers brother, and several other kin served in the Atherfield lifeboat. One, Rufus Cotton I believe, was the coxwain on her for many years.
There were also lifeboats at Brook and Brighstone I think.

You might like to read a book entitled 'Shipwrecks of the Wight' written by J.C.Malland, (ISO No: 0 9511498 0 6), published by West Island Printers Ltd, Afton Road, Freshwater, I.o.W., in 1986. The 'phone No is 01983 753161.
The book may still be in print and it has an abundance of info' regarding shipwrecks and the subsequent activities of the lifeboats/crews. The book is well illustrated.