Stories from the past – Tragedy at West Bay
West Bay holds many memories of family holidays and days out but unfortunately, not all of them end happily. It is not only Broadchurch (based and filmed in West Bay) where tragedies occur.
Anna recently contacted us to see if we knew any details of her grandfather, Edward Benbow Price from Bath who died in 1920. This wonderful image that she has shared with us shows her grandfather and a large group of family and friends camping in West Bay. They would pitch a marquee in a farmer’s field and live there for a couple of weeks or so. Their annual holiday involved travelling down to West Bay from Bath by horse and cart.
One day, despite a choppy sea and a North West wind, Mr Price persuaded Mr Jack Northover to take him out on a fishing trip, Anna’s Dad, then aged 12 accompanied them.
While they were out the weather deteriorated further; the wind and waves becoming higher and higher, and huge breakers hit the beach and pier. The boat got into difficulties trying to re-enter the harbour and capsized. Northover jumped clear into the raging sea, and Mr Price and his son were thrown out.
Many people had been watching from the shore, Captain J. Roper, of West Bay took off his coat, waistcoat, and shoes, and jumped into the water. He touched the bottom, there being about 7 feet of water. He made for the sub-merged boat and got hold the boy. Alfred Gale threw him a line, which they got hold of, and were hauled on the pier, thus rescuing the boy. Mr Price was clinging to the wreckage, which made swimming exceedingly difficult. He saw Mr Price go blue in the face and then float face downward on the water. When he was brought ashore there was a bad blow to his face, but it is probable that he died from shock.
Awards for Bravery
A Joseph Isaacs, chief officer of the Coastguards, stationed at West Bay saw Northover in the water and threw him a belt, but he did not get hold of it and floated out to sea. The incident was noteworthy for the fearless courage displayed by four men. Captain John Roper, Mr Charles Fearns, Mr Alfred Gale, and Mr Frank Trevett were awarded the Royal Humane Society Bronze Medal for their bravery.
“There is but a plank between a sailor and eternity.”
― Thomas Gibbons