Sirenia 1888


March 9th 1888

The 1,588 ton full-rigged ship Sirenia laden with a cargo of wheat was bound from San Francisco for Dunkirk when she ran aground on Atherfield Ledge. The Brighstone boat went out to help in the storm and thirteen crew members were taken off. In one tragic moment, however, the lifeboat capsized and two lifeboat men, Moses Munt and Tom Cotton and two of the rescued men were lost.

Unfortunately this was not the end of the disaster, as the Brooke Lifeboat had been launched to assist in the rescue and had to come down six miles through a, ‘veritable hell of waters’. When they had almost reached the wreck, a huge sea broke into the lifeboat taking three of the crew overboard, Reuben Cooper and Ben and Phil Jacobs. The two Jacobs brothers managed to hang on to lifelines and were dragged back on board, but Cooper was swept away in the darkness, ‘his cries for help being plainly heard both on the boat and the ship. The lifeboat was steered in the direction of the cries but he could not be found. ‘  By this time the Brooke crew were exhausted and could not beat back to the wreck. They anchored, drenched and hungry in Chale Bay to wait for daylight. As soon as dawn came up they hauled up the anchor and began the struggle back to the ship. Though their hearts were good, their strength was exhausted and they had to own themselves beaten, so they hoisted sail and beat back to their station.  For his gallantry during this service, coxswain John Hayter was awarded his second silver medal by the RNLI, as were the coxswains of Brighstone and Atherfield. The lifeboats had been in action for four days landing passengers and crew and bringing ashore baggage and mail.

In the WI Scrapbook (1958), Ella Hookey, who lived at Myrtle Cottage, recalls how: Our most tragic moments were when there was a shipwreck and the lifeboat with our fathers and brothers had to go out to help rescue the unfortunate ones.  I remember the Sirenia which was wrecked off Brighstone.  The Brooke Lifeboat was called out to help the Brighstone and Atherfield boats.  It was a very rough night and Brooke Lifeboat was launched at 9 pm. It was so rough they could not get near the ship... The lifeboat did not return until midday the next day and the crew including my father, were so exhausted they had to be helped ashore and carried to their homes. What a blessing that we now have more up-to-date lifeboats where the crews stand a better chance of survival.