Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Whisky galore - Thanet style

In the national media this week an auction of a bottle recovered from a shipwreck that inspired the film "whisky galore" made the news. Such incidents like those featured in the film are part of the maritime folklore of many coastal areas. Thanet is no exception , seventy years ago on Christmas Eve 1938, the "Aquetiy" pictured above owned by Everard ran aground on the Nayland Rock. The cargo was coal and the skipper not wishing to spend his Christmas on the Nayland Rock, dumped part of the cargo over the side so the stranded coaster could re float on the next tide. His idea paid off, much to the delight of the locals seen in the photograph gathering coal for their Christmas fires.

Birchington had a nice little touch in April 1919, the "Valkyr" a three masted schooner sank on the Margate sands. The Swedish flagged schooner was on a voyage from Setubal to Gottenberg with a cargo of tinned sardines and cork. None of the crew were lost and the schooner was abandoned. However, the "Valkyr"with its cargo of cork was kept partially afloat and was driven ashore in Minnis Bay. Nobody in authority had realised what had happened much to the delight of the locals who exercised a ancient right helping themselves to tinned sardines. When the authorities eventually came across the wreck it was impossible to tell if the cargo had been lost at sea or liberated by the locals as it was a total wreck.

Ramsgate with the Goodwin Sands on the doorstep has been involved also in these Maritime bonanzas. The greatest bonanza of them all was the "Helana Modjeska" which ran aground and broke its back on the Goodwin Sands on 2nd September 1946. The "Helena Modjeska " was a American Liberty ship with a cargo of Marshall aid supplies to Germany, consisting of military vehichles, tractors,machinery and a large quantity of foodstuffs. Before breaking up, the cargo was unloaded onto other vessels with the local mariners involved in the operation. At a time of post war rationing, foodstuffs like tinned fruit were a luxury and too much of a temptation for a post war Englishman. I will not elaborate further on this one except a lot of people in Ramsgate and Margate had a good Christmas that year.
Below is a picture of the stricken "Helena Modjeska".

Finally, the only item I know from the "Helena Modjeska" that is still in existance today is the compass cover which is in the "Bleak House" maritime collection now owned by Richard Hilton.


Anonymous said...

As a young Assistant Officer at the Custom House, Ramsgate a quarter of a century or more a go now I was rumaging through papers one day and found the diaries of the Surveyor (that was the equal of a Police Superintendant if memory serves) running back to the 1930s. In the books were entries relating to coastal patrols and boat patrols around the coast. HMC&E as was was also Receiver of Wreck and we had Ships Registry there too in big bound books written in copperplate. There were often cannon balls and stuff left laying about that had been bought in for the ROW. Last I heard the diaries had made their way on loan to the maritime museum....but that was about 25 years a go now.

Tony Beachcomber said...

Annon, thank you for sharing that information that is most interesting.
Also you reminded me that the EKMT at the Clockhouse is also a depository for the Receiver of Wrecks. I found this out when I photographed the "Stirling Castle" items at Bleak House to check out the collection , When I informed the ROW, they asked me to send a copy to the EKMT for the records.

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Buckmac said...

As in item of interest to follow up on this particular wreck, my late father (Major S A Buckmaster RAOC) was, as senior ammunition officer for Eastern Command at the time, also involved in the salvage operation.

He had responsibility for the removal of some 1800 boxes of C3 explosives (a nitro-glycerin derivative) in very poor condition from the wreck. The bulk of the work was apparently undertaken by German POWs.

This took some 9 days during March 1947 and was reported in the Illustrated magazine of April 10th 1954 in a full page article.

Tony Beachcomber said...

Thank you so much for that infomation which will be added to the research file.