Memorial to drowned boys, Criccieth

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The memorial tiller here commemorates four schoolboys from Bedford and their teacher who drowned in the sea in 1951.

Residents and visitors on the seafront at Criccieth were surprised to see a sailing boat in the bay on Monday 3 September 1951. The weather was blustery with a strong South South West breeze and a moderate to heavy sea running. The boat, called Dorothy, was a 5.8-metre (19ft) wooden sailing boat owned by the Public Preparatory School, Bedford. Pupils and teachers were camped at nearby Morfa Bychan.

At 2 o’clock the boat capsized in a sudden squall while about 0.8km (half a mile) off the castle point. Onlookers saw, to their dismay, some of the occupants clinging to the upturned hull and heads bobbing in the water. Criccieth lifeboat station had closed in 1931, so some of the local boatmen ran a dinghy down the beach and launched into the heavy surf. The dinghy was swamped and thrown back twice before it was successfully launched, helped by many including the womenfolk.

At the same time a motor boat was launched from the more sheltered east beach. Both boats had to be bailed out constantly, using buckets. Four boys were picked up and a search made for the others. Pwllheli lifeboat couldn’t be launched as it was low tide and the Barmouth boat did not arrive until 5 o’clock.

The five bodies were picked up or came ashore the next day. On the Thursday a memorial service was held at St Catherine’s Church, before the funeral of two of the boys. They were buried in Criccieth Cemetery. The accident prompted the RNLI to open a new lifeboat station in Criccieth in 1953.

The boys who drowned were David G Howells, David O Nye, Hugh Westerway and Brian Haden Guest. Major AW Lucas, their teacher, also drowned.

The boatmen who took part in the rescue were Griffith Davies, Will Davies, Robert Cadwalader, Herbert Hart, Charles Jones, Hugh T Jones, Mathias Williams, Walter Love and Vernon Williams.

With thanks to Robert Cadwalader, of Porthmadog Maritime Museum

Postcode: LL52 0EA    View Location Map

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