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It is a sad fact that a number of seafarers have been found washed ashore at the foot of Rottingdean’s village cliffs. Among the records of the coroner for Eastern Sussex covering, for example, the years of the First World War and shortly thereafter, are to be found brief but intriguing references to the unfortunate victims of the waves or enemy action.
Seven killed by German mine
In 1915, Herbert Sidney Bishop, aged 40, Petty Officer First Class, Royal Navy, died as a result of the hired minesweeping trawler on which he was serving striking a mine. He was one of seven crew of the Erin II (the archive omits the roman numeral) who lost their lives when the vessel struck a mine and sank off the Isle of Wight on 19 October. The inquest summary states there was ‘no evidence of how the mine came to be where it was’ but internet research reveals that it had been laid by German submarine UC 5 off the Nab Lightship.
Crew buried in Rottingdean church
In May 1917 the work of another German submarine led to bodies being found on our foreshore. The defensively-armed SS Tycho, built 1904 and owned by Ellerman Lines Ltd of Liverpool, was travelling from Bombay to Hull with a general cargo and was torpedoed on 20 May by UB 40, 16 miles W½S from Beachy Head Lighthouse. Fifteen died. Three of the Tycho crew are buried in Rottingdean churchyard, two in the same grave (James Short, 58, from Hull and an Unknown) and Harry (supposed) Bateman, also from Hull, age unknown, in another. His body, however, was washed ashore on Telscombe beach.
Lost while fishing at sea
Two years later, on 29 August 1919, Charles Frederick Burr, 39, of Western Road, Brighton, lost his life while fishing at sea and was washed up at Rottingdean. In the following spring an unknown male from the SS Cordier was found drowned here; the vessel had been making her first commercial trip from Nantes to Rotterdam loaded with iron ore and sank north of Alderney following a leak. Only four sailors were rescued by a Norwegian steamer.