The Roche Castle

Swansea trawler, The Roche Castle, was returning home on January 10th, 1937, when it ran into difficulties along the rocks at Paviland, Gower.

The Rhossili L.S.A. had trouble responding to the S-O-S as their lorry and trailer got stuck in mud and the heavy and cumbersome equipment then had to be carried by hand over two miles to the sea. When they eventually arrived at the scene, the closest the rocket crew could get to the troubled ship was 170 yards and the rescuers soon realised that it would be no easy task to bring all the crew to shore alive in the tremendous storm.

The Roche Castle looked rather like a phantom ship in the darkness, being lit by its own lights and also that of a search light. This light, however, helped guide the first rocket to its target. The line was immediately tied to the ship's mast but, if anyone thought that the rescue was now going to be a simple matter, fate was to deliver a terrible blow for the line had become snagged on some rocks between the ship and the rocket crew.

Whilst the line was rescued from the rocks by the brave rocket team, who clambered out to untangle the line manually, the heavy swell was not going to let the crew of The Roche Castle off that easily.

Fearing for their lives, the first two men from the ship attached themselves to the seat connected to the rocket line. Unfortunately, during their progress across the sea to the safety of land, The Roche Castle lurched suddenly in the water, slackening the rocket line, then tightening it. This set one of the men catapulting into the air. Landing in the water at the side of the ship, he was immediately crushed when the ship lurched again, sandwiching him between its mighty hull and the razor sharp rocks.

Thankfully, the other man on the line managed to stay attached and was eventually brought to land alive. His rescue was traumatic, however, as he was underwater for much of the time as he was dragged ashore by his leg.

The rocket line had then to be tightened to prevent such catastrophe again - all this slowing down the progress of rescuing the men who screamed for haste in the matter. Eventually, the rocket line was made secure but the L.S.A. demanded now that only one man be transported along its length at a time - lengthening the rescue of the crew of ten men by a further agonising forty five minutes.

To thank the Rhossili L.S.A. for their heroic efforts that night, the owners of The Roche Castle presented them a cheque to be shared amongst the rocket crew. The L.S.A.'s District Officer, who spent most of the rescue waist deep in the icy water to drag the ship's crew the last few metres ashore, was awarded a 'Silver Bowl' by the Board of Trade for the courage and leadership he showed on that truly awful night.

Below the cliffs at Paviland, a few rusty sections of metal are all that remain today of The Roche Castle. The ship's clock, rescued from the vessel by its engineer is now owned by Swansea Museum.

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