Tale of Spanish Civil War sinking to be re-told on stage

Youngsters get into a seafaring mood outside the Sheringham Trawler chippy opposite the theatre before a rehearsal.

Youngsters get into a seafaring mood outside the Sheringham Trawler chippy opposite the theatre before a rehearsal. - Credit: Richard Batson / SLT

The story of a daring lifeboat rescue when a faraway war came to north Norfolk's shore will be re-told in a new play by a young cast and crew.

The production is based on an incident in 1938, when Cromer and Sheringham locals were shocked at the sound of gunfire at sea.

A skirmish linked to the Spanish Civil War was taking place just 12 miles off the English coast.

Shells from General Franco’s navy ship Nadir smashed into the Spanish cargo vessel SS Cantabria.

Most of the Cantabria's 45 crew fled in lifeboats but Captain Aguelles, his wife and two children plus one crewman, stayed on board the sinking vessel - until a Cromer lifeboat with Henry Blogg at the helm came to their rescue.

The episode made national headlines and has now been reimagined by Sheringham Little Theatre’s senior youth drama group.

Their show, A Piece of History, re-tells and re-imagines the drama, as seafarers and children found themselves as innocent victims of an act of war.

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Caius Law plays the captain, Zoe McKean the second steward and Tatiana Hardy is Henry Blogg, with other cast members playing multiple roles.

Director Ellen Waite said: “We are loving the challenge of bringing the drama which happened offshore on to the Sheringham stage - and showing the emotions of those involved.

“We are starting it off as a modern day school history lesson - which then comes to life.”

It is an original piece of drama created in partnership with Norfolk Museums and Kick the Dust which promotes youth involvement in local heritage.

The play is being staged by 15 youngsters aged 11-17 who have also played an active role in developing the script.

The show will take place at 7.30pm on Monday, July 18 with donations being accepted on the door.

Book a seat, and find out more about joining the Little Theatre’s youth drama sessions at www.sheringhamlittletheatre.com.

When war came to our shore: The Cantabria sinking

On the evening of November 2, 1938 the tranquillity of north Norfolk's seaside communities was shattered when the SS Cantabria was attacked by the cruiser Nadir as she chugged through the North Sea.

The SS Cantabria as viewed from the Nadir, the Spanish nationalist cruiser which sunk it off the coa

The SS Cantabria as viewed from the Nadir, the Spanish nationalist cruiser which sunk it off the coast of Cromer. - Credit: Submitted /public domain

Shells destroyed the boat's bridge and paralysed the engine room.

A crew of Cromer lifeboatmen, led by the legendary Henry Blogg, went to the rescue, supported by the British trawler SS Pattersonian.

In total 12 crew members, Captain Manuel Argúelles and his family - a wife, son and daughter called Ramón and Maria Begoña - were rescued.

It is thought the sinking was hatched at the highest levels, and was a warning to Britain from Franco - an ally of Hitler - about what could lay ahead.

One man died and 27 people, including three children, were captured by the Nadir. The Cantabria sank.

Maria was given a peg doll made by Cromer residents and her brother received a ship in a bottle.

Ramón and Maria returned to visit the RNLI Henry Blogg Museum in Cromer in 2005.