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Reginald Hockridge

(1896-1983) – Shipwrecked sailor

A crew member of the cargo ship 'Andromeda', wrecked during a gale off Killygerran Head in February 1915, Hockridge went overboard trying to free a lifeboat. He managed to clamber ashore, and was found the next morning sleeping in a doorway. The crew were saved but the ship was beyond repair.

Credit: National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Falmouth

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Reginald Hockridge became a cadet apprentice aboard the early 20th century cargo sailing ship Andromeda when he was 15 years old.

Cadets took on the most tedious duties, such as cleaning brass work and scrubbing the decks, and also the most dangerous ones, such as unfurling the highest sails on the 180ft masts. Hockridge wrote vividly of his experiences:

To work on these sails one had to climb the rigging barefoot and then slide along a foot-rope stretched under each yard-arm in order to fasten or unfasten a light rope securing the sail to the yardarm. With experience this was easy in fine weather…’.

Cadets received training in navigation, signalling and steering, and after a little time had passed Hockridge was allowed to take the helm himself.

In September 1914, despite the outbreak of the First World War, Andromeda set sail for Falmouth. On the way south in the Pacific, the ship spent an afternoon at the Pitcairn Islands.  As a gift from the locals, Hockridge received a painted coconut, now in the National Maritime Museum Cornwall (NMMC) collection at Falmouth.

Eventually, Andromeda neared Falmouth. However, bad weather drove the ship onto rocks near St Anthony’s Lighthouse. In darkness and high winds, the wrecking of Andromeda was a terrifying experience. Here is Hockridge’s own account:

I was then ordered to get into the lifeboat ready to take the ship’s papers etc. but before they were handed to me a huge wave uplifted the boat…tipping me into the sea between the lifeboat and the ship’s side crushing my chest and causing me to lose my hold of the boat which drifted towards the cliffs. Eventually I managed to swim to it again and held on to its gunwale until another wave lifted me upwards and I found myself standing in the waterlogged boat. After drifting about 200 yards the boat was smashed on to the rocks but I escaped and clawing my way from rock to rock I reached the beach and climbed to the top of the 120ft. cliffs soaked right through and shivering in the icy winds and rain.

In pitch darkness … I could only crawl on my hands and knees, which I did for two miles until I reached the village of St. Anthony and being exhausted I fell asleep in the doorway of a cottage. At 7 a.m. I was found by a villager who put me in the care of his mother and she gave me a hot bath and a lovely breakfast. At 7:30 a.m. I was joined by the rest of the crew and the Captain’s wife and daughter who had been rescued by the “Breeches Buoy” fired from the cliff-top. They all thought I had drowned and the Captain’s wife (Mrs Deeks) cried with relief and cuddled me just as though I was her son’.

His experience on Andromeda did not put Hockridge off a life at sea – he later served on both the Kelvinbrae and the Nawab as a merchant seaman. 

Credit: National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Falmouth