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The Loss of the Saluto






Below is a verbatim report from the "Cornishman" newspaper.

Watched by hundreds of spectators, the Norwegian Barque Saluto was driven ashore close to St. Michaelís Mount on Wednesday morning, and it is likely to become a total wreck. In the teeth of one of the worst gales for a quarter of a century, the crew of thirteen all told were taken off by the Newlyn Lifeboat Elizabeth and Blanche and safely landed at that port amid scenes of great enthusiasm.

The Saluto is an iron Barque and hails from Christiansund. She was commanded by Captain Olsen, and carried a crew of thirteen. She was bound from London to the West Indies in ballast. She left the Thames on November 23rd, but experienced bad weather. On Friday last, when in the Bay of Biscay, the vessel sprang a leak and matters rapidly worked towards a crisis. The water mixed with the ballast and thus choked the pumps. The leak was discovered forward on the starboard side, but despite all the efforts of the crew- who tried to plug it with a sail, white lead etc.- it was found impossible to stop it and with the pumps choked, the water rapidly rose in the hold. With the weather continuing bad, the captain recognised the danger of proceeding on his voyage and on Monday he determined to make for Falmouth. Under light sail the Saluto was in the vicinity of the Lizard on Tuesday night, but the wind then increased in velocity and it was found impossible to round the headland. The wind also changed its direction, and the Saluto was driven towards the centre of the Bay. The crew could do nothing more. The signal of distress was hoisted, and they waited patiently for help from the shore.

It was in this state that the Barque was observed from Mousehole at about 9.30 on Wednesday morning. The intelligence was immediately sent to Newlyn and at 9.45 the lifeboat crew was summoned by rocket.

With commendable foresight the Elizabeth and Blanche had been kept afloat, and in a few minutes Coxswain T.E.Vingoe and his crew were proceeding out of the Harbour to the rescue of the doomed ship. Some three or four of the lifeboatís regular crew were away from Newlyn on fishing duty, but there was no difficulty in obtaining volunteers.

The report of the rocket attracted to the harbour and to the sea front at Penzance a big crowd of interested spectators, who watched with intense excitement the subsequent proceedings. At the time the lifeboat left the harbour one of the fiercest gales on record in the Bay was raging from the S.W., and huge seas were running.

The distressed vessel was three or four miles to the South-Eastward of Mousehole, and was rapidly drifting in the direction of Cudden. Under sails the lifeboat put out, her progress being followed with no little anxiety. At one moment she would be sent to the crest of a big wave, and the next she would be lost from view in the trough of the sea. There was no faltering and steadily and quickly she reduced the distance between herself and the Barque. Those on board the latter had observed the lifeboatís approach, and had let go both anchors, but so violent was the gale and so great the seas that one of her cables snapped and the remaining anchor failed to hold the vessel. What actually was happening when the lifeboat had drawn alongside the Barque could not be followed by those on shore, as the vessel had reached within a couple of miles of Cudden, and vision was also obstructed by the heavy rain squalls which frequently swept over the Bay, blotting out even the Barque itself.

After the lapse of a short  time, however, the lifeboat  was seen coming away from the Barque, and as she neared the land it was seen that her human freight had been considerably augmented. Sailing splendidly she quickly reached Newlyn where a tremendous ovation was accorded her plucky crew. The sirens of all the steam craft gave vent to a triumphant peon, and the throngs on the wharfs waved their hats and shouted enthusiastically.

And let it be said  the plucky lifeboat- men deserved the praise which was bestowed upon them, for on all hands it is admitted it was one of the smartest rescues ever effected in the Bay. So smartly had the whole affair  been carried out that not more than an hour and a half had elapsed  from the time the  lifeboat left the harbour till the return with the whole of the crew of thirteen of the Saluto.


This is the newspaper account of what happened with the "Saluto" rescue. I have been able to add the name of another crew member on that day, William Kliskey age 17. His father joined the crew of the "Elizabeth and Blanche" lifeboat when it was first stationed at Newlyn in 1909. On the morning of the 11 December 1911 he was working on the old coal hulk "Crete" moored  in the middle of Newlyn harbour. This supplied the Lowestoft steam drifters with fuel but on this day her hawsers kept breaking loose and she was in danger of parting from her hawsers which secured her in position.

Thanks to a younger son, Alfred J. Kliskey born 1906, I have some idea as to my grandfathers thoughts on that eventful day. Alfred Kliskey's biography written 1980  "A Newlyn Towner"  recalls his brothers part in the drama. It obviously made a lasting impression on him and I am grateful that he committed his and his brother's recollections to print. He records that comments were passed that the lifeboat would never get out of the harbour if needed as the sea was breaking over the green. When the rocket went up his brother William realised that their father was stuck on the coal hulk and that the lifeboat may be short of crew as many of the fleet were still out on the fishing grounds. Although still young William  was a fisherman of some years standing  having been asked to join Capn' Blewett's boat when he was a hand short and found the life to his liking. 

Alfred's account of the day of the rescue states-

He ran to Coxswain Vingoe, realizing this and asked   "can I take father's jacket? " 

 Cox'n Vingoe answered   "You're too young to go in a lifeboat in weather like this" 

"I go to sea" William replied. 

The Coxs'n said    "Stand over there and I will think about it ". 

A few seconds later  he said    "William, that's your fathers jacket there, take it" 

One of the crew helped my brother to strap on the life jacket and they went aboard. The boat was soon launched by scores of eager launchers .

Alfred then goes on to give an account of the rescue as told in his brother William's own words.

"Soon we got clear of the pier head but could see nothing, the waves were so big. After a while, and when the lifeboat was on the crest of a wave, they saw the vessel out in the bay being driven broadside before the wind, with her sails in ribbons. As we approached her the Coxswain had to decide how he would take off the crew. If he went on the windward side he was afraid  the lifeboat would be thrown on top of the drifting ship, so he decided  to get in as close as possible to the lee side. He ordered every man to take his oar to fend off the ship's side, but when it was tried every oar snapped off like match sticks, so that maneuver failed. It was then decided to make roundabout trips and to get as close as possible  to the ship's side. The Cox would shout through the megaphone when he wished the ship's crew to jump. At the first trial some landed in the lifeboat and others fell in the water but were hauled aboard  the lifeboat by ropes thrown to them  After four or five trips all the ships crew were taken off and they made for home. On arrival at the North Pier a great welcome awaited them and the Salvation Army band played welcoming music "

A newspaper report of the time stated that William Kliskey was the youngest member ever of a lifeboat crew and I believe that record still stands. I also believe it is part of the reason that none of the crew had any recognition whatsoever from the RNLI for their selfless efforts. Incredible as it may seem the next day the Captain , Mate and Cook of the 'Saluto' went back onto the wrecked ship off Cudden Point, having persuaded a customs man to row them out through the surf. He had seen them attempting to launch a jolly boat and they were in danger of capsizing. They persuaded him that they wished to get some ship's papers and the log which were still on board. When he took them out to the stranded ship they said it would only take them a matter of minutes. They were below for over an hour and the customs officer was begging them to leave when he was tossed out of the boat into the waves.  Two men on shore saw the danger and they rescued those stranded on the ship and in the waves. They received £2 each and a certificate from the R.N.L.I for their bravery.

The last account is from the Cornishman and is a part of the story that was never told to me. I knew Grandad had been awarded a medal by the Norwegian Government in recognition of the lifeboat's rescue of the crew but I believe the whole episode left the family very bitter. I do know that he was reprimanded by the official powers that be in Penzance for taking the life boat  to sea without waiting for them to give him "permission to launch". He was known to  remark in later years:-

 "If i'd waited for they i'd uv still been waiting. No desk sailor is going to tell me when and where to risk me boat: skippers' in charge" 

He did not consider that the  officers of RNLI  hierarchy were in a position to decide when it was safe to put to sea. Any rescue call was going to be in unsafe conditions  They put their trust in God first, skipper and crew second Authority was won, not appointed by a committee. 

Three of those saved from the brig were foolhardy enough to risk their own and others lives next day in going back to the wreck. Their rescuers received an award in cash and a commendation. The crew of the "Elizabeth & Blanche" received nothing  and the skipper was rebuked for attempting the rescue. Grandad was probably  given a dressing down for taking one so young as William Kliskey on such a dangerous rescue, despite being short- handed. He chose to acknowledge William's seamanship and his experience gained by working every day in these same unforgiving  elements.

Although those in authority stood in judgment of his skill, his friends and neighbours thought highly of him. Others, only young when the event took place, were inspired to later  join the lifeboat crew stationed at Penlee Point when the majority of the crew were to be Mousehole men. The move to Penlee station probably masked the fact that members of the immediate family never made up the crew again. The "rescue" marked the parting of the ways for the Vingoe family and the lifeboat service.

Arthur Vingoe was killed off the coast of France in 1917 whilst serving in the RN. Thomas Ellis' younger brothers, Richard and Hugh, went to the USA in 1912 and never came back. Their cousin, Alfred Vingoe, went as a Harbour Master to Curacao but returned to serve  in the RN during the war. At the end of the war he again left with all his family for USA . The next year Thomas Ellis Vingoe, age 10, eldest son of my grandparents died of scarlet fever The house at "Penwith " must have been a very gloomy place for a while and, although another Thomas Ellis was born in 1913, an air of melancholy  always seemed to pervade the household. As a young child it was not a fun place to visit. There was  always a reticence in Grandad's household  to speak of the past, especially  of the "Saluto" affair and also of those who had left to go overseas. None of the  four surviving sons of Thomas Ellis  ever went into the fishing. My father, Robert, was the only one to stay and make his home in Newlyn. The diaspora from Newlyn was about to begin in earnest. 

Despite this history, my father had a deep love of the sea and boats and would often take me out with  one of his many friends who all seemed to have access to this wonderful way of traveling around the Cornish coastline. He was  only able to go against his father's wishes when those of King and Country had precedence and he was called up for Royal Navy duty and was based in Newlyn for a great deal of the time. 

We used to have many photographs of the lifeboat and of Grandad's own boat "Carina" PZ 473. This fishing lugger featured in a painting by  Dame Laura Knight of boys swimming from the slip at Newlyn. Unfortunately the lifeboat photos my father lent to a local history exhibition at Newlyn that was being held in some wooden huts on the 'Old Fish Market' site behind the Post Office. This was  before he was taken ill and he died within a few short months. We never got them back as the buildings were closed and everything gone when we though to enquire a few months later.

 I am now searching for postcards and photos to complete my records. How I wish I had also paid more attention when young to those treasures that are priceless : other peoples memories.

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Newlyn lifeboat  "Elizabeth & Blanche" that rescued the men of the Norwegian Barque "Saluto" 13th Dec. 1911 

Included in the picture are two brothers, Thomas Ellis Vingoe III, [Coxswain] -standing 2nd from right and Robert Vingoe, standing 1st from right. Also in the photo is a  first cousin, Arthur Vingoe [Assistant Cox].

Sitting to the right  on the 1st pair of oars is Robert Sampson, who was T.E.Vingoe's brother-in- law. Other known members of the crew were Joe P Harvey and Billy Harvey who were distant cousins, Billy Roberts, Billy. M. Rouffignac, Nicky Richards and Dick Mathews and of course young William Kliskey who I think is in the second pair nearest the camera

After I wrote this piece I was contacted by Peter Lane who was researching his Newlyn - Rowe line. He told me that  that his Godmother's husband was the grandson  of William Oats Rowe, who was also on the "Saluto" rescue. Nora James had married Anthony Rowe, son of William Oats Rowe, son of William Oats Rowe & Mary Annie Mann. William and Mary Rowe lived at Lower Green Street Newlyn Town. The story of the "Saluto" rescue was part of their family history and William Oat Rowe had also been one of the crew. 

Whilst having no written proof of the crew list for that day there are several links that make it likely. The Rowe family  lived a few doors away from  where Tom Vingoe's wife, Phyllis and her brother Bob Sampson had been brought up.  William Rowe's wife was a Mann and they  were closely related to the Vingoe family from over three generations. The Harvey, Mathews, Kliskey, Richards and Roberts families all lived in this same area around the Green at Newlyn Town and in the main they were all 'Chapel Goers'

To see William Oats Rowe 1873-1959 and his family tree go to this link

If you think you may have an ancestor who was also on the "Saluto" rescue please get in touch