Henry George Blogg GC BEM (EGM exchanger)

b. 06/02/1876 Cromer, Norfolk. d. 13/06/1954 Cromer, Nortolk.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 09/01/1917 off Cromer coast, Norfolk.

Henry George Blogg (1876-1954) was born on 6th February 1876 in a cottage in New Street on the cliff top opposite the pier in Cromer, Norfolk. His mother was Ellen Blogg, and young Henry spent several years in the care of his grandmother before moving to the home of his stepfather, John Davies, in Chapel Street, to be raised in a fishing family. John was Second Coxswain under his own father, James Davies, who was in charge of Cromer’s second RNLI lifeboat. Henry was educated at the Goldsmith’s School, Overstrand, Cromer. He was a good scholar and learned quickly, but never took part in games. Interestingly for his later career, he never learnt to swim.

Henry G Blogg GC BEM

At the age of 11, Henry had little reason to remain at school. He was top of his class and his stepfather needed him to help in the family crab boat. So young Henry swapped his school

of reading, writing and arithmetic for his stepfather’s school of baiting, hauling, rowing and seamanship. He learned how to use an oar and handle a sail, and about tides, currents, rocks and shoals. This knowledge was later put to such good use in his rescue work that it was said of him: ‘He knew what his boat could do and, as nearly as a man may, what the sea could do.’ In 1894, when Henry was 18, he joined the lifeboat crew. He also ran a deckchair and beach hut hire business.

Henry was 25 when he married Ann Brackenbury, a local girl who was 2 years younger than him. They married in Cromer parish church on 16 October 1901 and began a partnership that lasted until Ann died in 1950. They had two children, a boy who died as an infant, and Anne (known as Queenie) who died in her 20s.

He first went to sea as a lifeboatman in 1894 in the rowing lifeboat “Benjamin Bond Cabbell” and then served in the “Louisa Heartwell” as second coxswain under Jimmy ‘Buttons’ Harrison. When coxswain Harrison retired in 1909 due to ill health, Blogg won the vote to take on the leadership role.

In the early hours of the 9th January 1917 the Cromer lifeboat was launched to aid a vessel just in sight off Cromer, the “Pyrin”. The Cromer men rowed their boat through the breakers, succeeding in coming alongside the stricken vessel, and taking off her crew. They rowed back to Cromer. As they reached the beach the Swedish vessel the “Fernebo” struck a naval mine and was blown in half. The two-halves drifted towards the beach.

From one half, about 16 men set out in a ship’s boat. As they reached the edge of the breakers onto the beach, their boat was capsized. Teams of men, grasping each other’s arms, had walked into the water, and they were able to help the men from the boat, and aid them ashore. Meanwhile, the lifeboat was rehoused on its trailer and was pushed again into the breakers, to launch to the other half of the “Fernebo”.

The ferocity of the sea threw the boat back onto the beach. Recarriage and try again. This happened at least three times. It was not until midnight, under the light of searchlights from the clifftop, that the lifeboat finally reached the stricken half-vessel and took off its crew. Blogg had led his men for nearly 24 hours of heroic effort.

In 1924, on the centenary of the creation of the RNLI,  Blogg was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal by the King. In 1927, Blogg was awarded a gold watch and his crew a silver watch each after a rescue on the Haisborough Sands. Henry received a Silver Medal from the RNLI in 1932 for rescuing 30 men and a dog from the steamer Monte Nevoso aground on the Haisborough Sands. The Canine Defence League awarded him their own Silver Medal.

In October 1939 the lifeboat went to the SS Mount Ida. During the long night-time rescue the lifeboat was damaged and the no. 2 boat was required to help. In 1941 he was awarded the BEM. At around the same time it was announced that the Empire Gallantry Medal he was awarded in 1924 was to be substituted with the George Cross which he was awarded in October that year.

Later that year, the call out to the “SS English Trader” in 1941, aground on Hammond’s Knoll off Happisburgh, nearly led to disaster when the motor lifeboat “H.F.Bailey” rolled onto her side, throwing five of her crew in the water. Blogg was one of them. Still on board, crewman William H. Davies grasped the wheel and steered the lifeboat towards the men in the water. One by one they were picked up. Signalman Walter Allen would not survive long; his heart was failing. Blogg turned the lifeboat from the English Trader and headed for the nearest harbour at Great Yarmouth.

At 3 a.m. the next morning, Blogg awoke his crew, ready to try again. They slipped from the wartime harbour and were soon back at the sands. The sea had abated, and forty-four men on the English Trader, who had not expected to live through the night, were saved. Henry was given the Silver medal for that rescue, the rest of the crew receiving Bronzes, Walter Allen posthumously.

When Henry Blogg retired in 1947, after 53 years service, and at age 71, 11 years past the usual retiring date, the new lifeboat at Cromer was named after him. He had been coxswain for 38 years of his service during which he had launched 387 times and rescued 873 people. Henry Blogg’s nephew Henry “Shrimp” Davies took over as coxswain of the Cromer Lifeboat. Henry passed away on 13th June 1954 in Cromer, and was laid to rest in the same grave as his wife and daughter in Cromer New Cemetery.

A museum dedicated to the memory of Henry Blogg – “the greatest of the lifeboatmen” – opened in 2006. Unveiled by Ronnie Corbett who started his stage career in Cromer, the museum is the first purpose-built RNLI museum to be opened since the Grace Darling museum opened in 1938. On 15th April 2008, the museum was successful in bidding for two watches that had been awarded to Blogg. The museum also holds the Blogg medal group which includes the GC, BEM, the Medal for Conspicuous Gallantry, four RNLI Silver and three Gold Medals, and the Silver Medal of the Canine Defence League, while the Italian government awarded him a Silver Medal for his rescue of the crew of the Monte Nevoso in 1932. There is also a bronze bust of Henry Blogg on the cliff top at North Lodge Park in Cromer.