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Margate lifeboat crew remembers seafarer rescued 70 years ago

By Isle of Thanet Gazette  |  Posted: July 26, 2013

  • Mr Piercy and family members are presented with the framed service return by lifeboat operations manager Paul Hodson (right) (RNLI Margate)

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MARGATE'S RNLI lifeboat crew have taken part in a poignant ashes scattering ceremony remembering a seafarer rescued by the town’s lifeboat at the start of the second world war.

Lifeboat crews are often asked to scatter the ashes of loved ones at sea but when the crew at Margate were asked, almost a year ago, to carry out such a task it was immediately clear that an interesting and moving story lay behind this particular request.

In November 1939 the lifeboat was called out when the cargo vessel Matra struck a mine off Margate and immediately started sinking at the end of a transatlantic convoy crossing. The crew were abandoning ship when the lifeboat arrived and 52 of around 85 souls on board were picked up by the lifeboat from the ship’s own lifeboats, others were rescued by another merchant vessel.

A number of the Matra’s crew lost their lives in the tragedy.

Peter Piercy was just sixteen years old and a crew member of the Matra and one of those rescued by the lifeboat. In 1947 he moved to California where he died a couple of years ago and it was his son, Chris Piercy who contacted the station stating that it was his father’s wish that his ashes be put into the ocean off Margate and asking if they could help.

Recently, his late father’s wishes were realised when family members, including some who had travelled from California and Australia gathered in Margate to witness the present lifeboat scatter his ashes off the coast. To commemorate this special occasion the lifeboat crew presented the family with a framed reproduction of the original service report that was still held at the station.

Peter Barker, deputy launching authority said: “This was a very special and memorable occasion for us all and it was an honour to be asked to fulfil Mr Piercy’s wishes and at the same time remember the bravery of the lifeboat crew of the day in a rescue described as being ‘achieved with very great difficulty owing to the injured men’, it was clearly an experience that remained with Mr Piercy for the rest of his life”.

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