LOOKING BACK: Enjoying a beer on stricken cargo ship

Jack and Alyn Huggett
Jack and Alyn Huggett

Our recent coverage of the fate of the SS Germania which broke its back on rocks at Beachy Head after a collision off the Eastbourne coast prompted reader Sue Land to send in this photograph.

It shows her grandfather Jessie Huggett, known as Jack, and uncle Alyn Huggett aboard the troubled vessel as she was stranded.

The photos shows the two men standing on the deck drinking beer.

Last month saw the 60th anniversary of the collision involving the Greek cargo ship. The German-built vessel was steaming up channel to London with a cargo of potatoes, sugar, figs, cheese, mohair and magnesia from Catania in Italy when it collided in thick fog with the Panamanian steamer Maro four miles south of Beachy Head on Tuesday April 26 1955.

The Germania initially ran aground on rocks close to the lighthouse but broke her back as the tide receded with her bows on one rock reef and her stern on another.

Coastguards and other watchers heard a series of loud cracks and said the weight of her engines and the four foot depths of water in her holds was the cause of her splitting amidships.

A report in the Eastbourne Herald Chronicle of Saturday April 30 1955 reported that lifeboat crews, coastguards, police, customs officers and men from the Eastbourne and Birling Gap rocket life saving crews rushed to the scene when an elderly man rushed in to the Lifeboat Museum on Tuesday afternoon and said to the attendant Harry Allchorn, “There’s a steamer on the rocks. A big one”.

The paper said the operation began one of the “longest precautionary watches in local maritime history” on the stranded ship.

Some 19 seamen were taken off the ship and landed at Eastbourne Pier where officials opened their messroom so the sailors could be in the warm.

The lifeboat waited all night alongside the Germania floating in a sea of oil that had spilt from the ship as the captain and five seamen were still aboard.

The captain eventually left the ship on Thursday afternoon.

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