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Lifeboatman's treasures up for auction

PUBLISHED: 13:11 05 March 2008 | UPDATED: 12:43 20 May 2010

Two gold watches and a hand-crafted book are the heartfelt "thank you's" to a legendary lifeboatman.

They mark the lifesaving prowess of Cromer coxswain Henry Blogg who saved 873 souls during 387 launches during his 53 years of service.

Two gold watches and a hand-crafted book are the heartfelt “thank you's” to a legendary lifeboatman.

They mark the lifesaving prowess of Cromer coxswain Henry Blogg who saved 873 souls during 387 launches during his 53 years of service.

But the treasured items, along with papers and albums which give a unique insight into the family man behind the seafaring hero, are soon to go under the auctioneer's hammer.

And his home town is already showing interest in finding a way to bid for them, to save the unique items for the museum which bears Blogg's name.

One watch is from the Dutch government in gratitude for Blogg saving the crew of the oil tanker Georgia, which broke in two when flung on to the Haisborough Sand during a gale in November 1927.

The coxswain earned the second of his three RNLI gold medals as he plucked 15 men to safety despite his lifeboat being damaged as it was slammed against the wreck by heavy seas. His equally brave crewmen each won bronzes.

The other watch is from the people, and other lifeboat stations, along the Norfolk coast.

A magnificently illuminated book, presented on his retirement in 1947, recaps on his service history, achievements and medals, with a list of subscribers topped by the Duke of Edinburgh.

Among the other Blogg lots in a collectors sale at Aylsham on April 15, are various family papers including Henry's birth certificate from January 21 1876, and his annual three shilling (25p) membership card for the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners Society.

There is also album of family photos, which include pictures of Henry receiving one of his watches, as well as off duty at the family beach hut business.

Auctioneer William King at Key's salerooms said the watches were just ordinary gold fobs - but the fact they belonged to Henry Blogg would increase the collectability hugely as items from the lifeboatman hardly ever came on the market - meaning they were expecting national interest in the sale. A guide price of £1,500 to £2,000 has been set for the pair, but could easily be exceeded.

The book was earmarked at £800 to £1,000, but guides were yet to be set on the albums, which provided a “snapshot of Cromer during Blogg's lifetime and a rare glimpse of “Henry the man as opposed to Henry the coxswain.”

Curator of the RNLI's Henry Blogg museum Jacqui Palmer said the watches and book were a huge part of the lifeboatman's career, and “this is the place where they belong.”

The museum was keen for the pieces to stay in Cromer and was “looking at ways of making that happen.”

Keys are holding a valuation day at Cromer on March 6, in the WI Hall from 10am to 3pm, to promote the sale, with proceeds being given to local lifeboat funds.

Two years ago a bronze medal awarded to Cromer lifeboatman William “Buck” Allen in 1917 was donated to the RNLI Blogg museum by Keys, after they bought it from the seller. The gesture followed anger and surprise from the family who gave it to the museum 40 years ago - only to see it appear in the auction.

The same year, 2006, was last time there was a Cromer auction appeal. But efforts to buy awards won by a first world war privately-run armoured car unit, called the Czar's Squadron, were dashed when they made three times the guide prices - way beyond the fund amassed through public donations.

The collectors sale is Aylsham saleroom on April 15-16 with the Blogg items on the first day. For more information contact Keys on 01263 733195, www.keys24.com

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