11. Wrecks on Christmas Day

Wrecks on Christmas Day are somewhat inevitable when the prime ‘wrecking season’ is between October and March in our northern hemisphere. There are numerous instances of such wrecks, so here are a few representative examples – there are far more in our records than I can possibly include here. However, it does show that it is possible to mine the database for the same day regardless of year, as well as a specific date.

Plymouth in particular seemed really rather dangerous on the 25th December in the late 17th century: on 25th December 1675 the George  and Spread Eagle, both from Bordeaux with wine, were lost west of the Citadel, as was a Dutch ship, the St. Job of Naarden. On 25th December 1689 a similar event happened, resulting in the loss of the CenturionHenrietta, Blade of Wheat, Dover Prize, Eendracht  and two unknown French prizes which had been sent into Plymouth. However, accounts are probably skewed by Plymouth’s status as a naval base and importance as a port, making it one of the premier ‘reporting ports’ for the few newspapers at this time.

In 1810 a gale on Christmas Day accounted for four wrecks in various locations, two of them in Liverpool. The wind conditions on that day were reported at Deal as ‘West, blows hard, a tremendous gale in the morning.’ On the same day a year later, the crew of the Giertru Chrestiane from Drammen in Norway were picked up in their boats after striking the Leman and Ower off Norfolk on Christmas Eve.

On 25th December 1814, the Valette schooner went to pieces off Warkworth, Northumberland, with what sounds like a very Dickensian cargo of toys and clocks from Rotterdam. In 1830, the German brig Anna, bound for her home port of Hamburg with coal, came ashore at Mundesley, Norfolk, on Christmas night at 9pm in a ‘strong gale and a very severe frost’.

One hundred years later, the crew of the Norwegian collier Eli,  bound from Blyth for Rouen with coal, had a most un-festive shock when their ship was mined on 25th December 1914 off Scarborough – a reminder that while the Christmas truce was holding across much of the Western Front, mines could strike at random.

Happily all the crew were saved, hopefully to enjoy the remainder of their Christmas!

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