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Wartime Heritage ASSOCIATION
Remembering World War I Yarmouth Connections
Merchant Seaman William H. Foster
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William H. Foster William Foster was the son of Charles and Jane Foster of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. He had three brothers, Wallace, Edward, and Harvey, and two sisters, Mary (Alice) and Annie. William Foster did not enlist in the military during World War I; however, was a merchant seaman aboard the SS George Royle that transported material between England and the continent during the war. The ship was a coal cargo ship (collier). On January 18, 1915, the SS George Royle, owned by James Westoll and built in 1892 by Short Bros., was bound from the Tyne to Saint Nazaire, in France when the ship encountered a blizzard. The ship was reported to be in a sinking condition. A RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) lifeboat was sent out from Cromer in Norfolk but found no trace of the SS George Royle. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) provided lifeboats to lifeboat stations in the United Kingdom and Ireland. There are conflicting reports concerning survivors. One account claims that all the crew were lost; another that five survived. No word had been received from William since June 1914 and his family initiated enquires. It was learned from a shipping company in London that William had shipped out as a cook on the SS George Royle and the ship had been lost at sea in January 1915. Sources: “A Monument Speaks” A Thurston; 1989 (p 149) Article; Loss of the George Royle: (The Times) http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/showthread.php?t=21021
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THE LOSS OF THE GEORGE ROYLE The George Royle, a vessel of 2,525 tons, which left the Tyne last Friday bound for St. Nazaire, foundered during the early hours of yesterday morning a mile to the east of Sheringham shoal and three to four miles due north of the coast-guard station at Weybourne. Of her crew of 12 to 18 hands it is feared that all were lost save five, who were taken off by a Lowestoft craft which had arrived at that port. Between 8 and 10 yesterday morning five bodies were recovered from the sea at Weybourne. Other bodies were seen floating past too far out to be recovered by the people on the shore, who included coastguards and Territorials. One was that of a little boy not more than 10 years of age. Later in the morning some other bodies were washed ashore at Mundesley, 16 miles to the eastward, for the wind and set of the current would take them well out past Cromer, which is midway between there and Weybourne.
At 3 o'clock in the morning the Cromer lifeboat was launched in response to flares seen from the north-west of the town, which would be in the direc- tion of Sheringham Shoal. The tide was about dead low and it was in the teeth of a perfect blizzard that her crew put off. No sooner had she taken the water than a huge wave swept her broadside towards the eastern breakwater. To the onlookers, among whom was Mr. Noel Buxton, M.P., only a dark speck was visible perilously near in, and only very smart seaman-ship on the part of her coxswain and crew saved them from being dashed against the breakwater. Once more they got her head on to the seas and at last she got safely off. By 8 o'clock the wreckage on the shore at Cromer told of disaster along the coast, and two empty boats came in at Weybourne, one being dashed as soon as it touched the shingle. The contained provisions. Later in the morning the Cromer lifeboat passed eastward, making for Yarmouth, where she arrived in the afternoon having aboard the crew of a sailing craft.