Surfboat Memorial
© P.E. Blanche 1997
The memorial on
Margate Seafront
Surfboat: Friend
to all Nations

Memorial Detail
© PE Blanche 1998
Actual detail from The Memorial
Margate Harbour 1998
© PE Blanche 1998

The current Margate Lifeboat loaded on a tracked vehicle from where it can be towed the short distance to the beach. The previous Lifeboat Station with its slipway was destroyed at the same time the Pier was torn apart in gales around the coast.

When entering Margate seafront from Westbrook, it is impossible not to notice the statue of a figure permanently looking out to sea over the infamous Nayland Rocks. The figure is shading his eyes and clad in oilskins and an old cork life jacket. The monument was erected to nine men of Margate that lost their lives in the Friend to all Nations surf-boat tragedy on the night of Thursday, December 2nd, 1897.

In the last century, it was common for many towns and/or ports on the coast to provide a surf-boat crewed by local men although at the time there were also R.N.L.I. Lifeboats being strategically placed around the coast as well. So it was in Margate which had a R.N.L.I. boat named the Quiver but also still used its surf-boat. The surf-boat at Margate had no motor but was powered by sails and was not self-righting.

n this particular year, the Kent Coast had been lashed by hurricane force winds from November 28th and the damage was worse than caused by later storms in 1953 and 1978. Granite blocks were actually torn out of place on the seawall and promenade. It was on the last night of this storm that a ship by the name of Persian Empire had gone aground on the Margate Sands following a collision. Both the Quiver and the Friend to all Nations put out from the Harbour but as the surf-boat reached the open sea away from the relative shelter of the Harbour wall, she was hit by two huge rollers, one after the other which caused her to capsize. The surf-boat was washed ashore near the Nayland Rocks with only four surviving crew members clinging to her. Surprisingly, it was determined at the inquest that followed, that none of the crew members had been wearing their lifejackets which were available to them. Nine men were lost that night and it was a terrible disaster for the Town and contributions poured in from all over the Country for the Widows and Orphans of the dead crewmen.

The members of the Friend to all Nations that lost their lives that night were:

William Philpott COOK Senr. - Coxswain
Henry Richard BROCKMAN
Robert Ernest COOK
William Philpott COOK Junr.
Edward Robert CRUNDEN
John Benjamin DIKE
William Richard GILL
George Robert William LADD
Superintendent, Margate Ambulance Corps.

The four surviving members of the crew were:

Joseph W. EPPS
Robert LADD

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