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29th Mar 2019
The Walter Allen watch front view

A pocket watch presented to a member of Henry Blogg’s Cromer lifeboat crew for his part in rescuing 30 seaman from a stricken ship off Happisburgh Sands has sold for £1,300 – nearly five times its pre-sale estimate.

The silver-cased open face lever watch was presented to Cromer lifeboatman Walter Allen following the rescue of the crew of the SS Georgia, an oil tanker which broke in two after running aground on Happisburgh Sands in November 1927.

It was the subject of intensive bidding between telephone and online buyers at the sale at Keys Fine Art Auctioneers in Aylsham

“Antiques which have a local story behind them – particularly those connected with well-known figures – are always sought-after, and this watch really caught the imagination of bidders,” said David Broom of Keys.

“The bravery of the Cromer lifeboatmen, and especially the exploits of the legendary Henry Blogg, are well documented, and it is exciting to have an artefact so closely related to one of their more daring rescues.”

Allen was one of the crew under the command of the legendary Cromer lifeboat captain Henry Blogg during the rescue, which also involved the Gorleston lifeboat and a passing steamer.  The SS Georgia had broken in two after running aground, with the captain and 14 crew left on the bow section which was stuck on the sand bank, and a further 16 crew on the drifting stern section.

The Cromer lifeboat attended the scene for more than 24 hours, eventually rescuing the crew from the bow section some 40 hours after the ship had run aground, and after an unsuccessful attempt by the Gorleston lifeboat.

The Cromer lifeboat, the ‘H.F.Bailey’ was severely damaged during the rescue, and the two sections of the SS Georgia sank beneath the waves some miles apart – but due to the bravery of the exhausted lifeboat crew, all hands were saved.

Poignantly, lifeboatman Walter Allen, to whom the watch was presented, died on active lifeboat service in 1941, aged just 49 – also while on duty with Blogg.  He is buried in Cromer cemetery.