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Looking back at the heroic rescue of a Romanian cargo ship off the coast of Wells - 40 years on

PUBLISHED: 16:47 19 February 2019

The heroic Wells Lifeboat crew from 1979.  Front, from left to right, David Cox ( coxswain ), Tony Jordan ( second cox ), John Betts, Albert Court ( first mechanic ), Alan McDonald Cox ( second mechanic ), back, John Nudds, Albert Warner and Graham Walker.   Picture: BH SMITH.

The heroic Wells Lifeboat crew from 1979. Front, from left to right, David Cox ( coxswain ), Tony Jordan ( second cox ), John Betts, Albert Court ( first mechanic ), Alan McDonald Cox ( second mechanic ), back, John Nudds, Albert Warner and Graham Walker. Picture: BH SMITH.

The brave and fearless rescue of a Romanian cargo ship off the coast of Wells has been remembered its 40th anniversary. DANIEL BENNETT look back at what happened on that momentous day...

Wells Lifeboat crew members who were recognised for the rescue of the fishing vessel Sarah K in 1981 and the coaster Savinisti in 1979, from left, John Betts, coxswain David Cox, Alan Cox, chief Sup.Hardingham (not crew member), Tony Jordan, John Nudds, Graham Walker and Sonny Warner.Wells Lifeboat crew members who were recognised for the rescue of the fishing vessel Sarah K in 1981 and the coaster Savinisti in 1979, from left, John Betts, coxswain David Cox, Alan Cox, chief Sup.Hardingham (not crew member), Tony Jordan, John Nudds, Graham Walker and Sonny Warner.

Snow blizzards and strong winds were raging off the north Norfolk coast, leaving Romanian cargo ship Savinesti in serious trouble.

What followed was an heroic 11-hour rescue mission which saw all 28 crew members brought back to safety.

In a town where sea rescues are almost a part of weekly life, the events of February 15, 1979 will never be forgotten. The current Wells Lifeboat crew held a celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of that remarkable day where retired coxswain, David Cox, 92, who took part in the rescue, was the guest of honour.

A flashback to 2009 when five surviving members of the 1979 Wells lifeboat crew reunited to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their most memorable call-out. Pictured on Wells Quay are (LtoR) David Cox, Graham Walker, John Betts, Tony Jordan and John Nudds. Picture:  IAN BURT.A flashback to 2009 when five surviving members of the 1979 Wells lifeboat crew reunited to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their most memorable call-out. Pictured on Wells Quay are (LtoR) David Cox, Graham Walker, John Betts, Tony Jordan and John Nudds. Picture: IAN BURT.

Peter Rainsford, Wells Lifeboat chairman, said: “It is part of the legacy of the town.

“This is positive because they went out and did a really important job using great skill and everyone came back all fine.

“It was nice to bring in David Cox and get him to tell us the story. These events need to be remembered.”

Savinesti first started reporting issues in the morning, approximately 12 miles off Wells, due to engine failure and the anchor dragging.

The bigger lifeboats at Cromer and Humber were unable to launch immediately, so at 10.24am the Wells Lifeboat, Ernest Tom Neathercoat, launched from her carriage into Wells Harbour and set out to sea.

Due to the treacherous conditions, the lifeboat crew could only see a few yards in front, but Savinesti was sighted at 1.07pm.

The Wells Lifeboat stood by the casualty until Humber Lifeboat arrived and the crew were then released at 3pm.

The Humber boat, along with ferry Norwave and Lady Moira, was able to escort Savinesti to the safety of the River Humber.

Snow was blowing directly into the cockpit on Wells Lifeboat’s journey back to shore but the boat, unable to be rehoused due to the conditions, was finally berthed in Wells Harbour at 9.50pm.

The crew were all helped ashore and most found that they were unable to walk but were helped into a change of clothes and driven to their homes.

In total, the crew were at sea for 11 hours and 24 minutes in the violent, stormy conditions.

For this service, the RNLI silver medal was awarded to coxswain David J. Cox of Wells Lifeboat and medal service certificates were presented to the rest of the crew.

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