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Victor Crisp

(1900-1976) – U-boat victim

On 12th March 1917 ten fishing smacks out of Padstow were waiting for the wind to pick up when a submarine surfaced and systematically placed scuttling charges on board, sinking ten vessels in total. This was witnessed by Victor Crisp who was on board the smack 'Rivina'.

Credit: Padstow Museum

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In March 1917, when returning to Padstow early from a visit home to Lowestoft, sixteen year old Victor Crisp was offered a deckhand job on the Ramsgate-registered wooden sailing fishing smack Rivina which also had his father as a crew member.  Victor’s mother worried about them going out together but Victor jumped at the chance to earn his share of the catch. 

On March 12th the boats were out but the wind had dropped so no fishing was taking place, when a shout went up: ‘Sub about!’  Victor wrote of seeing Pentire and Stepper with the clay mounds of St Austell in the background.  His trawler and the others in the group were helpless.  Without a breeze they could not escape.  The submarine surfaced and systematically placed scuttling charges on board each vessel. 

Before the scuttling charges were set, the fishing boat crews were allowed to get into their small boats and so had a grandstand view of the action.  The first smack was not long in sinking; the muffled thud of the time bomb explosion, smoke from her hatchway, and the shudder of mast and sails.  Victor watched as his skipper was taken back on board Rivina and the German submarine crew took the clock, barometer and other items along with the ship’s papers.  They went to the ice box and took the fresh meat.  They then put the bomb in the hold and pulled away, with Victor’s skipper, under the watchful eye of the submarine gunner.  Then came the explosion, the water forming a whirlpool where the side had been blown out.

On that day ten fishing vessels were sunk without loss of life by just one enemy submarine off Trevose Head.  Victor recalled one boy his age standing outside the Mission Room in thigh boots, duffle trouser and shirt.  It was his third sinking, his parents were in Lowestoft.  After this guard ships were provided.

Victor lived in Padstow during both world wars.  He took part in the rescue of the crew of HMS Warwick in 1944 (one of her portholes is on display in Padstow Museum) and returned to Lowestoft at the end of the war. He went on fishing until 1963 when he retired; he died the same year.  The majority of the fishing fleet at Padstow in the early 20th century was made up of Lowestoft and Ramsgate boats which came for the spring fishing season.  

Credit: Padstow Museum