North East Lincolnshire Council

Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre Commemorates Trawler Tragedy

22 March 2018 marks 65 years since the loss of the Grimsby trawler, Leicester City.

In 1953 the trawler, one of the town’s famous Football Fleet, was returning home from the Iceland and Faroe fishing grounds when she ran aground off the coast of the coast of Hoy, Orkney. Most of the crew managed to escape in the trawlers lifeboat but were soon after flung into the sea when the lifeboat hit by a huge wave. Seven of the eighteen men on board died from exposure.

One of the men lost in the tragedy was William Henry Westerman, a 48 year old husband and father and fireman aboard the Leicester City. William was one of several men washed up on the beach and taken to a nearby farmhouse where he later died from exposure.

From Thursday, Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre will commemorate the Leicester City and those who lost their lives with a temporary display of a remarkable artefact from the tragedy.

A letter, written by one of the ladies involved in the rescue operation, and sent to the wife of William Westerman is to be displayed alongside William’s death certificate and a life ring from the Leicester City. The letter was written by Mary Ritch, who along with several others, helped guide men to shore with their lamps before leading them to safety in a nearby farmhouse.

Speaking in local paper The Orcadian, Mary Ritch said: “The men all seemed to be in a daze and some were clinging to the boat, seemingly reluctant to leave. They did not seem to realise that they has reached safety. We helped them up the rocks as best as we could. My sister lead the way with a Tilley lamp. It was quite dark then.”

A month after the incident Mary wrote a heartfelt letter to Mrs Westerman, sending her condolences and shedding some light on her husband’s final moments.

Dear Mrs Westerman

I saw your note of thanks in our local paper the Orcadian today and I’d like to let you know that we – my brother, sister and myself did all we could for your late husband. I saw the Leicester City when she went ashore as its just about 2 to 300 yards from our farm. I can assure you we did everything possible to alleviate  the men’s suffering. We helped them up to our place and though artificial respiration was carried out on Mr Westerman for nearly two hours life was found to be extinct. Please accept our sympathy and sorrow for your great loss as believe me I too felt deeply at his passing especially when it happened so near to us. Please convey to the others who have lost their loved ones on the Leicester City our deep sympathy and regret.

Skipper Johansen  was most concerned about his men and though in great pain himself tried to help me care for those who were carried in. Again I can assure you your late husband died in careful and tender hands and all along was treated respectfully and reverently.

Our sympathies and thoughts are with you and yours and all those who are bereaved.

I am sincerely yours

(Miss) Mary Ritch
The letter and certificate were kindly donated by William Westerman’s son Peter in 2016.

Louise Bowen, Collections Officer for North East Lincolnshire Museum Service said: “We were thrilled when Mr Westerman brought the letter and certificate to the museum for donation. This is just one of many tragic stories from our local fishing heritage and we are pleased to contribute to preserving the memory of those brave men who were lost.”

The objects will be on display at the Fishing Heritage Centre from 22 March to 29 April.

Share this: