The RNLI Henry Blogg Museum, situated right on the beach front at Cromer is a fascinating history of the lifeboats and crew that worked out of this seaside town, and showcases the incredible conditions and risks they had to work in.
To get a feel of how any of them survived in gruelling seas, holding onto the sides of the boat with just a rope, is extraordinary. You can only have admiration and respect for these men.
If you’ve got an hour or two to spare and you’re in Cromer, I would thoroughly recommend a visit to this Henry Blogg Museum. It’s not a huge museum by any means, but it really does give you an excellent understanding of what these brave men went through, but it also reminds us about what they have to go through today, as present RNLI lifeboat men.
The other museum to visit in Cromer is the Cromer Museum, another small but very interesting museum close to Cromer Church.
Henry Blogg was a local man who became a hero of the county, and indeed the country, and was the most decorated RNLI lifeboat man in history, so you can see why Cromer and the county of Norfolk have a soft spot for him.
His first trip out to sea as a lifeboat man in 1894 was in a rowing boat!! He consequently served 53 years as a lifeboat man and from 1909 to 1947 as the Coxswain in Cromer. The medals he was awarded for all his gallantry were: The George Cross, the British Empire Medal, three Gold and four Silver RNLI medals.
And, along with his crew members, he saved 873 lives.
In his “other” life, he was definitely a community man. Living in Cromer, the home of the crab, Henry Blogg was, of course, a crab fisherman! But he also turned his hands to renting out beach huts and deckchairs for those visitors to enjoy the wonderful Cromer beach and pier.
1917 was one of his most heroic and documented rescues when, on a stormy morning in January the lifeboat was launched from the beach to rescue a vessel called the Pyrin. They managed to take the crew off the boat and rowed back to Cromer. But once back in Cromer they had to immediately turn round and rescue another vessel, the Fernebo, which had been struck by a naval mine and was blown in half. Both halves drifted towards the beach. 16 men from one half of the boat managed to get into the ship's lifeboat and row almost to the beach when it capsized. This meant that the men from the lifeboat station had to wade into the sea to rescue these 16 men.
Once that had been accomplished, out they went again in the lifeboat to rescue the men on the other half of the vessel. The sea was so ferocious that it sent the boat back onto the beach, so they had to alight and re-launch at least another two or three times. Remember, this is in a rowing boat. Finally, after 24 hours of incredibly heroic efforts, at midnight, under the searchlights of Cromer Lighthouse, Henry Blogg and his men finally reached Fernebo, rescued its crew and returned to shore.
The other famous story is his rescue off Happisburgh Sands in 1941. This rescue involved the SS English Trader and the lifeboat HF Bailey, which you can see in the museum. The HF Bailey is the most famous RNLI lifeboat to have served from Cromer.
This rescue was a near disaster when the lifeboat rolled onto its side and most of the crew were thrown out, including Henry Blogg. You can see for yourself in the museum how they only had ropes to hang on to. The crew in the water were picked up, but once back on board, Blogg turned his boat around towards Great Yarmouth, away from the SS English Trader, as he knew one of his crew wouldn’t survive the night. He then took his men out again at 3am the next morning and 44 crew members of SS EnglishTrader were thankfully saved.
His gallant heroics were dutifully recognised in the many awards he received over the years.
Apart from the wonderful spectacle of the H F Bailey lifeboat there are other fascinating artefacts relating to life at sea as a lifeboat man in Cromer. Morse code communications, an excellent cabinet full of model lifeboats over the years, historic paintings and models, and very helpful volunteers who will be happy to explain anything you want to know as well as many other things to read, listen and look at.
And whilst at the Henry Blogg Museum, why not enjoy some refreshments in the café which has the wonderful views overlooking Cromer beach. Or you could stroll along the Victorian Pier and enjoy an ice cream, or wander along the streets in Cromer, buy some wonderfully fresh fish or even a famous Cromer Crab and generally just soak up the atmosphere of this lovely Victorian seaside town. But do take a visit to this lovely little RNLI Henry Blogg Museum.