#24 – Henry Blogg

Men in flatcaps: heroes

“I’m on a boat, I’m on a boat, everybody look at me”  – The Lonely Island

The Old Man and the Sea is perhaps the most boring book I have ever read. It didn’t help that our English teacher at the time couldn’t make a box of fireworks with knives in look exciting to a room full of 12-year old boys, nor did it help that he hated me with a passion.

I’m still not entirely sure why; it all stemmed from when he left aforementioned 12-year olds alone in a classroom for an hour while he went home to get papers that he’d forgot. In the meantime, chaos reigned. In the melee, I was stabbed in the head with a compass. On the teacher’s return. he saw chaos, me in pain, added 2 and 2 together to make a cactus and blamed me for the whole incident.

Anyway, that’s beside the point. The Old Man and the Sea put me off ever wanting to go out on boats. Not because I dislike water but because my boredom threshold is staggeringly low. Kudos then to anyone who can spend any amount of time of their lives boating, but even more so to anyone who can do so for 53 years. What’s more, this man is the classic hero; he saved people’s lives and expected no thanks in return. This man was Henry Blogg.

From humble beginnings as a crab fisherman, Blogg first served on a lifeboat in 1894 and became coxswain of the Cromer lifeboat in 1909, his appointment based on his judgement skills and determination. These would come in handy eight years later, when the crew had to make two rescues in very quick succession of each other. In far from perfect conditions, the lifeboatmen saved the crew of the Pyrin and head back to shore.

Couldn't he have written about an evil talking octopus instead? Or a singing rastafarian crab? Or the king of the ocean?

Just as they arrived back, a Swedish ship was blown into two by a naval mine; the 16 men on one half of the ship set out on the remaining boat to shore, but capsized outside of the breakers and safer water. Blogg’s men created a human chain to rescue the stricken men. When it came to the other half of the ship, Blogg and his team tried to push their boat back into the water to rescue them, but were continuously thrown back by the sheer force of the sea. However, they persevered and eventually made it to the ship, and completing 24 hours of continuous rescue. Michael Buerk, eat your heart out.

These sorts of skills were constantly shown by Blogg; he guided his lifeboat crew to many successful rescues, including landing on a ship in rough tides, picking up the crew, and surfing off the ship again – twice, as the waves had prevented him staying anywhere close. Close to his retirement during the war, he led a rescue to the SS English Trader where his team endured heavy waves which washed five men overboard, including Blogg, all of which were picked up (although one of the crew did eventually die), but continued the rescue effort to no avail and were forced back. When they returned, they were able to save the remaining 44 people on board.

He eventually retired in 1947 at the age of 71, when at the time the retirement age was 60 and had a life boat named after him. In his lifetime, Blogg saved 873 people and was awarded 4 silver and 3 gold medals by the RNLI, as well as the George Cross and the British Empire Medal; more respected accolades than Wayne Rooney will ever, ever achieve.

Perhaps his life was set from a young age, considering his father was a coxswain of a lifeboat himself in their hometown of Cromer, perhaps he chose what he wanted to do. Either way, he saved many, many lives and earned very deserved accolades. Now he has earned his place on my blog. Alas, my former English teacher never will. Shame.

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