Henry 'Shrimp' DAVIES (1914-2002)

Henry Davies
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Life Savers

The true heroes of the emergency services


THIS IS YOUR LIFE - Henry ‘Shrimp’ Davies, lifeboatman, was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the Cromer Lifeboat Station in Norfolk.


'Shrimp', as he was affectionately known, joined the crew of the Cromer lifeboat H F Bailey in 1931, and become coxswain in 1947 taking over from his uncle Henry Blogg, who gave his nephew the nickname 'Shrimp' after seeing him as a tiny baby.


He was awarded the British Empire Medal in 1970 for "maintaining the highest traditions of the lifeboat service".


Henry was surprised for This Is Your Life on the eve of his 62nd birthday and retirement after 45 years service with the Cromer lifeboat.


“You bastards!”

Screenshots of Henry 'Shrimp' Davies This Is Your Life

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH 2 July 2002


Obituary of Henry 'Shrimp' Davies Lifeboat coxswain for nearly 30 years who helped to save some 500 lives.


HENRY "SHRIMP" DAVIES, who has died aged 88, joined the lifeboat crew at Cromer, Norfolk, at a time when the boats were made of wood and propelled by oars; he served as a member of the crew for 45 years, participating in many dramatic rescues.


Davies was coxswain of the lifeboat for 29 years until 1976, during which time he helped to save some 500 lives, often at grave risk to his own.


He was, at 18, the youngest member of the crew which rowed to the rescue of the sailing barge Sepoy. The barge had run aground off the beach at Cromer in December 1933, and the motor lifeboat was already out assisting another barge on Haisborough Sands. As a result it was decided to launch the old sailing lifeboat, Alexander.


Twice the lifeboat was launched, but each time the waves dashed it back to the shore. Then 300 men, women and children from the town dragged the boat a mile along the beach to a better location. The third attempt was successful and the boat set out towards the barge, whose two crew were clinging to the rigging.


When Alexander got near the barge, the lifeboat was again washed back towards the shore. Fortunately, the motor lifeboat returned just in time to pull the men from the sea. A peal was rung on the church bells to celebrate the rescue.


In October 1941 Davies almost lost his life during the rescue of the merchant navy ship, The English Trader, which had run aground on Hammond's Knoll, east of Cromer, with the loss of five of her crew. The lifeboat H F Bailey, under the command of Davies's uncle, Coxswain Henry Blogg, launched at 8.15 am. It found the stricken vessel lying on the sands with her hull all but submerged in a welter of cross seas, with her derricks swinging wildly, while cargo was washing out of open hatches.


As the lifeboat manoeuvred itself alongside, a huge wave swept Davies and four of his fellow crew members overboard. For a time, he lost sight of the boat and struggled to keep afloat. All five men were rescued, but the boat's signalman, Walter Allen, died soon afterwards.


With her operational capability impaired by ropes wrapped around her propellers, the lifeboat limped to Yarmouth to be replaced by the Yarmouth and Gorleston lifeboat. But she had no better luck and returned to port, and the Cromer lifeboat put to sea again at 4.40 am, the ropes still around her propellers, to find conditions slightly eased; nearly seven hours later, 44 survivors were landed. For his part in this rescue Davies won the RNLI Bronze award for gallantry.


In August the same year, six steam ships from a wartime convoy ran aground off Haisborough and began to break up in stormy seas. Blogg drove his boat on to the decks of the ships and rescued 88 casualties. Blogg won an RNLI Gold medal for this exploit, and his crew, including Davies, an RNLI Vellum of Thanks.


Davies took over as Coxswain in 1946, and two years later launched the lifeboat Henry Blogg into raging seas to help a French collier, the Franois Tixier, which was taking in water off Sheringham. The sea was too rough for the lifeboat to get close, so Davies and his crew hauled nearly a dozen crewmen to safety using a breeches buoy. Another four were plucked from the water after the vessel capsized.


The lifeboat then had to battle against a gale and heavy seas for nearly six hours to land the men at Yarmouth, the weather having prevented her from returning to Cromer. Davies's gallantry on this occasion won him the Medaille Maritime, France's highest award for lifesaving at sea.


One of four brothers, Henry Davies was born in Garden Street, Cromer, on February 19 1914. All his family were involved in the local crab fishing industry and in the lifeboat. His uncle, Henry Blogg, who would win two RNLI Gold medals during his career as coxswain, gave his nephew the nickname "Shrimp" after seeing him as a tiny baby.


After leaving school, Davies joined the Cromer crab fleet, working alongside his uncle for 20 years. He joined the lifeboat as soon as he was able, on his 18th birthday.


He had only a short break from Cromer when he was called up for wartime service with the Navy. But his uncle successfully persuaded the naval authorities to release him from duty on the grounds that lifeboats were also a vital part of the war effort.


On his retirement as coxswain of the lifeboat in 1976, Davies was presented with another RNLI Vellum of Thanks - his third (he had been awarded the second after the rescue of the Boston Jaguar in 1973). Later that year he was Eamonn Andrews's guest on This is Your Life.


Davies was a gentle, modest man with an air of quiet authority. He was always happy to entertain visitors and inspire young crewmen with tales of his adventures on the high seas. After his retirement, he ran a deckchair business on Cromer's west beach.


Henry Davies was awarded a BEM in 1970 for "maintaining the highest traditions of the lifeboat service". He was also awarded the RNLI Silver Statuette. He died on June 25.


He married, in 1936, Kathleen Arnup, a farmer's daughter whom he had first met when she came to Cromer as a 16-year-old to work as a maid. She and a daughter survive him. Another daughter died in 1995.






The Express 18 July 2002


OBITUARIES - HENRY 'SHRIMP' DAVIES, LIFEBOATMAN; HERO WHO TOOK ON THE CRUELLEST SEAS


BYLINE: JULIA LLEWELLYN SMITH


HENRY "SHRIMP" DAVIES helped save as many as 500 lives, often at risk to his own.


As a member, and later coxswain, of the Cromer lifeboat in Norfolk, he took part in many rescues over 45 years. He won several bravery awards and, on his retirement in 1976, Eamonn Andrews paid tribute to him on This Is Your Life.


The Davies family have been involved in Cromer's crab fishing industry and its lifeboat since 1804.


Henry's uncle, Henry Blogg - who won two RNLI gold medals as coxswain - nicknamed him "Shrimp" after seeing him as a baby. "But he belied that by turning out to be a very big man,” says his youngest daughter Kitty Lee.


After leaving school he joined the crab fleet, working alongside his uncle for 20 years. On his 18th birthday he joined his uncle on the oar-powered wooden lifeboat.


He left Cromer briefly only when he was called up for war service with the Navy. But his uncle persuaded the naval authorities to release him from duty on the grounds that lifeboats were also a vital part of the war effort.


In October 1941, he almost died during the rescue of a merchant navy ship that had run aground with the loss of five crew. A huge wave swept him and four fellow crew members overboard, out of sight of the boat. All five men were rescued but the boat's signalman later died. On a second attempt, 44 survivors were landed. For his part in this rescue he won the RNLI bronze award for gallantry.


In August the same year, six steam ships from a wartime convoy ran aground and began to break up in stormy seas. The lifeboat rescued 88 casualties.


Henry took over as coxswain in 1946 and two years later launched the lifeboat Henry Blogg, named after his uncle, into raging seas to help a foundering French collier.


In a very rough sea, he and his crew hauled nearly a dozen men to safety with a breeches buoy, then another four were plucked from the water after the vessel capsized. His gallantry won him the Medaille Maritime, France's highest award for lifesaving at sea.


At 16 he met Kathleen Arnup, also 16, a farmer's daughter who worked as a maid. They married in 1936 and twin daughters, Patricia and Pamela, were born the following year. Pamela died shortly after birth while Patricia - who had cerebral palsy - died in 1995. He was devoted to her and to helping the disadvantaged, acting as mentor to many local children.


Yet another family tragedy came in Coronation week in 1953 when Henry's two brothers, Jimmy and Frank, and their friend Ted Bussey, all drowned when their fishing boat was swamped. "I'll never forget the way my father brought the family through that time," says Kitty Lee.


He retired as coxswain on his 62nd birthday and the night before he appeared on This Is Your Life.


Eamonn Andrews surprised him by jumping out of a lifeboat. "They had to bleep out my father's response,” Mrs Lee recalls.


After retirement, Henry hired out deckchairs and beach huts on Cromer's west beach, frequently accompanied by Patricia in her wheelchair. Hundreds of summer visitors grew to know and love him. "He was a talkative man, who adored people," says Mrs Lee. "He inspired many young men by telling them they could achieve whatever they wanted to."


In 1970 he was awarded a British Empire Medal for "maintaining the highest traditions of the lifeboat service". He was also awarded the RNLI Silver Statuette and received three RNLI Vellums of Thanks.


The family tradition continues today: two of his nephews are Cromer's coxswain and second coxswain, another is the head launcher and his grandson has served 26 years in the service.


He died in his bed.


Henry "Shrimp" Davies, born Cromer, February 19, 1914. Died Cromer, June 25, 2002, aged 88.

programme details...

  • Edition No: 429
  • Subject No: 426
  • Broadcast live: Wed 18 Feb 1976
  • Broadcast time: 7-7.30pm
  • Venue: Anglia Television, Norwich
  • Series: 16
  • Edition: 15
  • Code name: Boat

on the guest list...

  • Members of the Cromer lifeboat crew
  • Kathleen - wife
  • Patricia - daughter
  • Kitty - daughter
  • Henry - nephew
  • Billy - nephew
  • Teresa – granddaughter
  • Patricia – granddaughter
  • Joanna - granddaughter
  • John – grandson
  • Katherine - granddaughter
  • John – son-in-law
  • Richard Davies – second cousin
  • Billy Davies – second cousin
  • Andre Chateau
  • Bob Cox
  • Percy Brown
  • Leslie Willis
  • Kelly Harrison
  • Ex Wing Cmdr Clive Simton
  • Ex Warrant Officer George Woof
  • Dr Donald Vaughan – live link
  • Members of back up crew – live link
  • First Officer David Sweet

external link...

production team...

  • Researchers: Lavinia Warner, John Viner
  • Writer: John Sandilands
  • Director: Royston Mayoh
  • Executive Producer: Jack Andrews
  • Producer: Jack Crawshaw
Series 16: Ronnie Dukes > Ray Milland > Mike Hailwood > Frank Windsor > Magnus Pyke > Bill Tidy > Gladys Mills > Andy Stewart > Windsor Davies > Ray Reardon > Patrick Mower > Alberto Remedios > Susan Masham > Betty Driver > Henry "Shrimp" Davies > Gwen Berryman > Vince Hill > Arnold Ridley > Beryl Reid > Alan Mullery > Percy Thrower > Gareth Edwards > June Whitfield > Terry Fincher > Richard Dunn > Norman Croucher