NOSTALGIA: Portsmouth skipper went down with his ship

Captain and crew of the St Ernest: From left, Captain Carr, anon, Mark Allen in white shirt, ships engineer unknown, Joe the cook at the front. Picture: Jane Collins
Captain and crew of the St Ernest: From left, Captain Carr, anon, Mark Allen in white shirt, ships engineer unknown, Joe the cook at the front. Picture: Jane Collins
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On July 28 I published a story about the coaster St Ernest, lost in the English Channel in 1962, and asked if anyone knew more about it.  I heard from Jane Collins (née Carré) whose father captained the vessel.

‘O hear us when we cry to Thee/For those in peril on the sea’.

The freighter/coaster St Ernest, lost with all hands in the English Channel.

The freighter/coaster St Ernest, lost with all hands in the English Channel.

These words ended a memorial service in Portsmouth’s Anglican cathedral for the crew of the St Ernest which sank without trace in the English Channel on January 19, 1962.

Many local people, friends and seamen paid tribute to Capt John Carré, of Southsea, along with his four crew who died in the disaster.

A service was also held in Alderney in the Channel Islands and all minds must have gone back to the night St Ernest left those islands. They were bound for Newhaven with a cargo of early spring flowers and vegetables. For Capt Carré and his crew it should have been a routine 16-hour trip.

But eight hours into the voyage a message was sent saying they had run into bad weather – after that silence. Nothing was heard or seen of the coaster again. In the storm-tossed Channel, with 20ft waves and winds of 40-50mph, the 157ft coaster could do nothing and sank.

Jane, the 10-month-old daughter of Captain Carr.

Jane, the 10-month-old daughter of Captain Carr.

An air-sea search failed to find anything and was abandoned after crates of cauliflowers and daffodils were washed up on beaches between the Witterings and Littlehampton. A yellow life raft believed to have come from St Ernest and a lifebelt marked St Ernest came ashore at Bognor Regis.

Capt Carré, 42, was born in Sark and lived with his wife Kathleen and 10-month-old daughter Jane in Festing Grove, Southsea. He also had two sons, Michael, 19, and John, 17, from a previous marriage.

Kathleen told an Evening News reporter her husband had spent his life at sea and had sailed St Ernest back from Gibraltar the previous September after a refit. She said: ‘There are good seamen and bad and John was one of the best. John had been sailing between south coast ports and Alderney for many years and could do the trip with his hands tied behind his back.’

The other crew members were Joe Northcott, of Looe, Cornwall, Paul Carré of Guernsey, and  brothers Mark, 26, and Peter Allen, 23, both sons of the owner Nick Allen. Dorothy Clouting (née Allen), sister of the brothers Mark and Peter and 19 at the time, gave me the names of those in the photograph. She believes Peter took the picture.

The memorial to Captain Carre and his crew in a church on Sark, Channel Islands.

The memorial to Captain Carre and his crew in a church on Sark, Channel Islands.

Mike Nolan, a former Old Portsmouth resident and regular at the Bridge Tavern at the Camber, says he was almost in tears when he saw the photo. He remembers drinking with Joe and Mark in the Bridge whenever they were in Portsmouth.