Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Charles Lightoller of the Titanic and the Spanish Prince blockship of Dover Harbour, Kent, UK

The Georgian 8 East Cliff, also known as Elizabeth House and a Grade II Dover Listed Building, is the left-hand four-storey house of the block with "1834" on the parapet:

Lightoller's home during World War I while a Royal Navy officer of the Dover Patrol (destroyers). Spanish Prince was ex-Knight Batchelor that Lightoller nearly joined in 1899
(Click this Georgian 8 East Cliff Listed Building text link to see the largest size)

In 1899, Charles "Lights" Lightoller went to Liverpool and thought he had signed on as third mate to the Knight Bachelor only to find himself "shanghaied" into serving in the far less desirable Knight Companion instead (1):

I still had malarial fever in my veins, and well I knew it on the train journey down and across London. I arrived at Tilbury Dock feeling like the complete West African dishcloth. All I wanted was to get my head down, and forget I was alive. I had, in my subconscious mind, all the comforts that one associates with the Royal Mail. A nice airy cabin, a bunk with clean white sheets, a boy to attend you, and practically every wish anticipated. Doctor, stewards and all the rest of it.

Arriving at Tilbury Dock, I asked a porter wearily where the Knight boat was lying. He replied, "Oh, just near by, sir. Over the bridge," and suggested he should put my baggage on a truck and run it over. "Right," said I, my one anxiety being to get to my cabin, and try to forget this damnable fever. We trudged along, I simply following the porter, conscious of little but a terrific temperature.

Suddenly the porter stopped. "Well," I said, "why have you stopped?" "Here is your ship, sir." I looked up. What a horror! About the dirtiest thing I'd ever clapped eyes on. Her rusty iron sides streaked with the horrible overflow from the cattle she had evidently been carrying. Smelling like nothing on earth. "But this isn't the Knight Bachelor, surely?" I exclaimed. "Oh, no sir, the Knight Bachelor sailed last week; this is the Knight Companion." Had I had the strength she would certainly have been no companion of mine. However, I was just about at the end of my tether, and thought, "Come, let's get on board, and between some blankets."

...I have often grinned over the way I got shanghaied into that wretched ship.

The Knight Bachelor was subsequently acquired by the Prince Line in 1907 and renamed the Spanish Prince.

In 1912, Lightoller was second mate on, and senior surviving officer of, the RMS Titanic iceberg disaster (White Star Line).

In 1915, less than a year after the outbreak of the First World War, the Spanish Prince was scuttled in Dover Harbour as a blockship guarding the Western Entrance of the Western Docks.

When Lightoller joined the Royal Navy's famous "Dover Patrol" in 1916, he lived at 8 East Cliff (Marine Parade) below the White Cliffs of Dover, overlooking the seafront, beach, and harbour to the Spanish Prince blockship location:
...I was then promoted to the one and only Dover Patrol. I'm afraid I did not appreciate the honour, and kicked about the shift; just when I was nicely settled in the N.D.F. (Nore Defence Flotilla) with my family housed at Minster (on the mud!)

"Did I fully realise what it meant to be singled out for a Destroyer of the Dover Patrol?" etc., etc., in the very best naval circumstance and style. Well, no, I certainly did not, but "orders was orders" and I might as well get on with the job.

So, once more, the family packed its grip, and moved along to No. 8, East Cliff, Dover, whilst I reported to the H.Q. and was greeted as follows:-

"Oh yes, Lightoller. Well, you are of course appointed to the Falcon (5). She's over in Dunkirk working up the Belgian Coast. Carry on, please." With which full, complete information and instructions I was introduced to the intricacies of the Dover Patrol. (2)

Lightoller was decorated for gallantry as a naval officer in the Great War and later, in retirement, further distinguished himself in World War II by providing and sailing the Sundowner, a 52-foot motor yacht built by The Admiralty in 1912, as one of the "little ships" during the perilous Dunkirk evacuation (code-named Operation Dynamo) of May and June, 1940.

Accompanied by his eldest son Roger, and a Sea Scout called Gerald Ashcroft, Lightoller took the Sundowner across the English Channel on June 1st and succeeded in bringing back 130 men to Ramsgate harbour.

In 2010, work began on removing the World War I Spanish Prince wreck: when uploaded, the main set of Spanish Prince photos will include recovered artefacts and a detailed multi-beam sonar image.

The houses of East Cliff are located near Henry VIII's Mote’s Bulwark and the Cliff Casemates Balcony entrance to the "Secret Wartime Tunnels" of Dover Castle.

Georgian architecture (3) is the name given in most English-speaking countries to the set of architectural styles current between 1720 and 1840. It is eponymous for the first four British monarchs of the House of Hanover - George I of Great Britain, George II of Great Britain, George III of the United Kingdom, and George IV of the United Kingdom - who reigned in continuous succession from August 1714 to June 1830.

Geology: The White Cliffs of Dover are composed mainly of soft, white chalk with a very fine-grained texture, composed primarily of coccoliths. Flint and quartz are also found in the chalk.

(1) From the autobiography, "The Titanic and Other Ships", Chapter 26: Shanghaied
(2) From the autobiography, "The Titanic and Other Ships", Chapter 38: Dover Patrol
(3) From Georgian architecture

The main photo first appeared at:

Charles Lightoller of the RMS Titanic and the Spanish Prince blockship, Dover, UK

Also see:

To be uploaded:

Georgian home of Charles Lightoller, ex-RMS Titanic, in World War I, Dover
Sir Henry Le Geyt Bruce KCB, a Victorian Knight of 1 East Cliff, Dover

All Dover Town photos first appear on the main Images of Dover website.

A Dover Seafront, Dover Architecture, and Urban Dover history photo.

See all Dover Navy and Royal Navy photos.

Clickable thumbnails of all harbour-related photos on the main Panoramio Images of Dover website are available on this blog at the Port of Dover Page (also linked to below the blog title).

Also see the Urban Dover Page and White Cliffs Country Page.

The Panoramio photos are each accompanied by a Google Earth satellite map. However, the images are smaller than those on the Images of Dover Blog and the captions are less well formatted.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

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