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Holed Belgian trawler Styn Streuvels joins the wrecks on Great Yarmouth’s spending beach

PUBLISHED: 20:54 28 April 2017 | UPDATED: 21:56 28 April 2017

The Belgian trawler Styn Streuvels jammed against the Haven Bridge in Great Yarmouth in August 1969.

The Belgian trawler Styn Streuvels jammed against the Haven Bridge in Great Yarmouth in August 1969.

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As I so often rely on friends and fellow nostalgia buffs for help with fact, figures, dates and photographs when compiling this weekly column, it comes as a pleasant surprise when one of them seeks my assistance.

A sad sight: the Styn Streuvels, left to disintegrate on the Spending Beach inside the Harbour's Mouth. In the foreground is a redundant pile-driving lighter.A sad sight: the Styn Streuvels, left to disintegrate on the Spending Beach inside the Harbour's Mouth. In the foreground is a redundant pile-driving lighter.

The enquiry came in an email: “In the early 1970s a Belgian trawler was dumped on the Spending Beach inside the Harbour’s Mouth at Great Yarmouth. Can you remember the name of that vessel? It was something like Styn Stuwels but that is a guess and Google (the internet search engine) is no help. Any ideas?”

Well, you couldn’t get much closer: she was the 69-ton Styn Streuvels which got into serious bother when casting off from South Quay in darkness, intending to head down-river and out to sea to return to Belgium. But somehow she went in the opposite direction, damaged a small boat, and ended up jammed under the Haven Bridge.

That was in August 1969, in peak holiday season, and the possibility of our only bridge being out of commission and people and vehicles being stranded on the wrong side and unable to cross was a major concern.

The 999 call that a ship had hit the bridge resulted in a team of police hurrying to the scene, led by Superintendent Horace Reynolds and Inspector Colin Mileham. They found the trawler firmly jammed under the bridge, her wheelhouse and rigging damaged. Later it was found that she was also holed.

Sgt Julian Ridsdale, PC Kenneth Banner and PC David Bullock clambered down to the trawler and helped the four fishermen to reach her bridge. Gorleston inshore lifeboat stood by at the scene.

Road traffic was halted and the lifeline bridge closed while an examination was made of the damage. However, it transpired that this was not severe as feared, so single-lane traffic was allowed to continue to cross it, controlled by police.

As the stricken trawler drifted clear when the fast-ebbing tide freed her from the bridge structure, she was secured by the 45ft fast cruiser Vautour, owned by Mr Reg Morgan, of Horning, and taken to a nearby quay on the Southtown side of the Yare.

Mr Morgan was helped by Mr H T Percival on his cruiser Melia Mine; both men had their craft at Yarmouth waiting to sail them across the North Sea to Belgium later that morning.

Police who boarded the trawler when she was moored reported that she was taking water, sinking lower in the river until she settled on the bottom and heeled over at a 45 degree angle. The port superintendent decided that her position did not constitute a hazard to other shipping.

Later the trawler’s Belgian insurance underwriters formally abandoned her to the Yarmouth Port and Haven Commissioners,

Eventually the sunken Styn Streuvels was raised and pumped dry, and she was towed to the Spending Beach, a stark reminder of how easily a minor problem can escalate. At least nobody was hurt, although her skipper, 25-year-old Herman Pylyser, was arrested when he and his shipmates returned to Belgium and charged with an offence under maritime law.

Nearby was another derelict hulk of an 80-year-old pile-driving lighter built and used by the Port and Haven Commissioners on Breydon Water and in the Broadland rivers, a familiar sight during her working days.

The front page of that August 1969 Yarmouth Mercury headlining the Styn Streuvels saga included other notable reports, including the fifth Broadland drowning tragedy of the year and rescuers warning beach bathers of risky conditions.

There was a half-hour delay in the curtain rising on the Dora Bryan show at the Britannia Theatre one night because of a phone call claiming an unexploded bomb had been planted there, but it turned out to be a hoax. And Mayor John Malley and his Mayoress wife formally received a visit in their Town Hall parlour from Miss World, Australian Penny Plummer.

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