I have to admit I really knew very little about the work the coastguards undertake and even less about their history. We in Skegness are very aware of what the RNLI do and I mistakenly assumed that they were a support group, checking radio, being aware of what movement of shipping in our area and so forth. Then a couple of weeks ago I saw that there was going to be a book signing at Skegness Library, so I turned up and met Peter and Gemma (very nice people) we had a chat and I bought there book: Washed In, Washed Out, Washed Away.
Peter was a serving member of the Mablethorpe Auxiliary Coastgards from 1975 to 2001 and from 1989 to 2001 was Auxiliary in Charge, Station Officer there as well as holding down a full time position with the Prudential Insurance and Gemma is a successful business lady in Sutton on Sea. The book is split into two parts, in part one Peter and Gemma using all the available records have done a really good job of documenting the history of the original seven Coastguard Stations between Saltfleet and Anderby Creek from there beginnings in the early 1800s right up to 2001. He recalls many of the men who worked at the stations, there way of life and the many incidents that they dealt with, he also recalls the banter between the crews and the many characters that lived by and worked on the sea.
The Coastguard service was initially set up to monitor smuggling in remote areas and initially were not looked on favourably by locals, in some cases the first coastguards were force to live in ship wrecks washed onto shore.
Soon after commencement though there role was changed to that of saving lives. In those early years before the invention of radio and radar the only way to check on what was happening out at sea was to have men placed along the shore on lookout duties, communication was limited to the use of flags and the firing of maroons. It could be a very lonely, cold and many times a dangerous task on lookout duty during heavy seas. Maroons were fired to call out the Lifeboat which in the early days was a heavy vessel power by the oarsmen of the lifeboat crew which often included the coastguard personnel. These vessels were often pulled to the launching spot on the beach by a team of horses hired from a local farmer and in later years by a lorry hired also from a local farmer.
In part two is story of Peter’s time at the Mablethorpe Auxiliary Coastguard Station. Peter recalls the many varied call outs he as made “ The calls come at any hour, day or night and you have to be prepared to go”. “You don’t know where you are going, what you are going to find or how long you are going to be out. You never know if you are going to need a full company of Auxiliary Coastguards called out”. “Together with any or all of the following services, Lifeboat, Search and Rescue Helicopters, the Police, the Police Firearms Unit, Customs and Excise, the Ambulance and Fire Brigade, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, the Army or the Royal Navy and once I even had to call upon the services of a Vet on Christmas Day”.
The book talks of the many items WASHED IN and WASHED OUT: such as the huge dumb (no engine) barge that pumped sand onto the beaches for the sea defences that had broken loose and lodged itself half on the promenade and half on the sea wall near the Boy Grift at Sandilands. The barge measured 57 metres x 19 metres. The coastguards did a 24 hour continues watch on the barge while she was high and dry. A fortnight later the barge the thing just floated of its own accord.
This book is a very good read, Ideal for these cold winter nights whilst you are warm and safe in your own home, It recounts the bravery of men dedicated to protecting and saving lives. You will read of disasters, drama’s mysteries and many humorous incidents. The book it well written and is far more than just a list of places and dates. The book adds another dimension to both the history and the people of this part of Lincolnshire and whether you are a visitor or dweller along the coastal strip you find much in its pages to interest you