RNLI Henry Blogg Museum
Value for Money
RNLI Henry Blogg Museum
The Rocket House, The Gangway, Cromer, NR27 9ET
Tel 01263 511294
Entry Price Free
Opening Hours Tue-Sun, 10-5
Trip Advisor Rating 5/5
In Cromer, Norfolk there is a free museum celebrating the career of Henry Blogg, the most decorated lifeboatman the RNLI has ever had. We visited the museum today during our holiday and although it is small there is a lot of history packed in. The museum flows in a loop around the HF Bailey, the lifeboat which Blogg used. It displays the information in boards around the edges of the room with artefacts mainly from shipwrecks displayed, as well as examples of Blogg’s medals. Upstairs the museum has a range of things for kids to do including a morse code machine and an Aldis lamp (a lamp for signalling with morse code) to play with, and a press to make bookmarks.
Henry Blogg has a very interesting story, although the museum suggested he was actually a very solitary person. Blogg was the RNLI’s longest serving lifeboatman, despite the fact that he never learned to swim! He joined the crew when he was 18 years of age in 1894 and was elected coxswain, meaning he was in charge of the lifeboat, in 1909.
On a rescue mission to save the Monte Nevoso from Italy which had been wrecked by a storm, Blogg also saved a dog. Monte, as the dog was later named, stayed with Blogg after the rescue. Awarded to him was a total of 11 medals, first in 1917 and last in 1953. He had 3 RNLI Gold medals, 4 Silver and 4 other awards including the George Cross and the British Empire Medal. His achievements during his career led to him gaining special permission to continue as coxswain long past retirement age, and he eventually retired in 1947, when he was 71. In total he had launched 387 times and saved 873 lives.
A book has been written about his life by Cyril Jolly. She also wrote about the rescue of the English Trader. On 26th October 1941, 44 men were rescued from the ship which had run aground on the sands of Hammond Knoll. One crew member, Walter Allen, lost his life when he was thrown overboard along with four other men including Blogg as a wall of water hit the port side of the HF Bailey nearly capsizing her. The lifeboatmen turned back, but made a second attempt once the sea had calmed, at which point the 44 crew were rescued. Coxswain Blogg was 65 at the time.
The boat that Blogg sailed, and that is now the centre piece of the museum, is almost as famous as him. In 1918, Mr Henry Francis Bailey left £10,000 from his estate (upon his death) to the RNLI, ‘for the provision and endowment of a Motor Life-Boat’ which was built in 1934. The HF Bailey was used by Blogg from 1935-45 and saved more lives during the Second World War than any other lifeboat, being launched 133 times and saving 428 lives. By the time she was taken out of service in 1969, she had been launched 347 times and had helped to save 920 lives. The boat was bought to be displayed in Cromer by Peter Cadbury (yes, the famous chocolatier!) and was originally displayed in Cromer Boat House. When it was time to be moved to the museum, she was wrapped in polythene for 18 months in order to acclimatise to the new environmental conditions without causing lasting damage to the wood.
The official register of the HF Bailey can be found here.
The museum does not just tell us about Blogg, it also has information about Cromer and the RNLI. Cromer got their first lifeboat in 1805, after being inspired by the success of a lifeboat in Suffolk. The residents raised funds and the next year the first lifeboat was delivered. In 1823, the Norfolk Association for Saving the Lives of Shipwrecked Mariners was founded and controlled the Cromer lifeboat; twenty five years later the RNLI took over.
Many of the lifeboatmen came from families of fishermen. A good example of this is that in the 1940’s, nine of the 14 crew members of the Cromer lifeboat were of the Davies family. Blogg’s nephew was Henry ‘Shrimp’ Davies who became coxswain when Blogg retired in 1947 and remained in the position until 1976. This connection meant that many of the fishermen superstitions passed over. Some of these superstitions are still believed amongst Cromer fishermen, for example:
- Never wear anything green
- Never allow a woman on your boat
- Never start a new venture on a Friday
- Never whistle whilst on a boat
- Never mention cottontails (rabbits), longtails (rats) or curlytails (pigs)