Chance meeting reveals heroic rescue

THE daughter of a man saved from drowning off the coast of Caister has shared a chance meeting with a descendant of his rescuer.

Lewis Saunders was just four years old when he was plucked from the sea by lifeboat man Joseph Julier on July 2, 1904.

More than a century later and Lewis’s daughter, Phyllis Smith, was able to relate the dramatic story to Joseph’s great-great grandfather John Julier.

Mrs Smith, 84, met Mr Julier last month at Caister Lifeboat Station were she works as volunteer at the visitor centre.

In an added twist to the tale, Mrs Smith has a copy of the Royal Humane Society commendation awarded to Joseph for saving her father’s life.

She said: “Dad never told me he had been saved from drowning and I only found out about it when a friend gave me the certificate more than 20 years ago.

“I imagine he had wandered down into the sea and was floating around unconscious when Joe went into the sea to rescue him.

Most Read

“At the time his family lived close to the beach in what is now Victoria Street, but it was known as Horn Street back then.”

“He was not meant to drown. He went on to work as a trawler man and on one occasion was washed off board and back on again.

“Dad spent his whole life at sea and used to fish off the Faroe Islands – it must have been a quite hard life.”

Mr Saunders passed away in 1983 without telling Phyllis of his dramatic brush with death as a toddler.

Now a great grandmother, she married two Caister lifeboat men Roger Hodds and Jack Smith. After Mr Hodds died in 1980 she went on to wed Mr Smith who passed away in 1996.

A dedicated volunteer at the visitor centre, Mrs Smith met the Duke of Edinburgh during the royal visit marking 40 years of the independent lifeboat service.

Mr Julier, from Stockport, was visiting Caister to research his family history and was amazed to learn about his great-great-grandfather’s heroic rescue.

He said: “Joe was a member of the Beauchamp crew at the time of the disaster in 1901, although he was not on board that night.

“When I mentioned my great great-grandfather Phyllis told me he had saved her father’s life in 1904 when he was a little boy of four.

“This was not a lifeboat rescue – apparently the boy was in trouble and Joe went in and saved him. He was born in 1840, so would have been 64 at the time of the rescue.”

l Caister Lifeboat visitor centre, shop and main shed will open on Sunday 5, 12 and 19 December from 10am to 1.30pm.

Next year, the visitor centre will be extending its opening times to three days a week – Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, 10am to 3pm, from April to October.

l For more information visit