THE MYSTERIOUS LOSS OF THE DARLWYNE
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Martin Banks trained at the New College of Speech and Drama and then gained a Degree of Master of Arts in Theatre Studies at Warwick University. Formerly a professional actor, director, administrator, lecturer and examiner, Martin has been a committee member of both regional and national arts boards in theatre, film and performing arts.
He has organized national and international arts festivals and administered European tours for theatres and cultural institutions. His recent presentation about German playwright and poet, Bertolt Brecht, has received excellent reviews at literature festivals.
Martin has been interested in the tragic story of the Darlwyne for many years and has now written this original book on the subject.
He is currently co-authoring a semi-autobiographical book with a former colleague in the U.S.A. entitled, “Ivy House Diary”, which describes life at a London drama school during the swinging sixties.
Martin lives in St. Just in Penwith, Cornwall.
THE MYSTERIOUS LOSS OF
A CORNISH HOLIDAY TRAGEDY
INTRODUCTION - THE MYSTERIOUS LOSS OF THE DARLWYNE
The week-end of July 30th/31st 1966 witnessed the ecstatic celebrations of a nation, when 32.3 million people watched television on the Saturday afternoon as England defeated West Germany 4-2 in the World Cup Football Final at Wembley Stadium. This same week-end saw one of the worst British sea tragedies in modern times, when the Darlwyne was lost off the South Cornish Coast sometime during the late afternoon or evening of Sunday July 31st, with the loss of all 31 men, women and children on board.
From the outset the tragedy was shrouded in mystery, with questions being continually raised but not necessarily answered, as the events of that tragic Sunday slowly unfurled before the public gaze. Questions were raised in Parliament as to the quality of the Air and Sea Search and doubts were soon cast as to the seaworthiness of the Darlwyne and the nautical qualifications of the crew. Most of the passengers came from one hotel, Greatwood in Mylor, yet the Darlwyne was never officially chartered for hire. An additional private air search was launched by business colleagues, families and friends of the passengers to supplement the Official Search and Rescue Operation. The Darlwyne carried few of the compulsory safety aids for a vessel undertaking a forty mile (64 km) sea passage and there was no evidence at all of the Darlwyne being licensed to carry passengers. On the afternoon of July 31st, with a developing fierce storm blowing in the open sea, why did the Darlwyne ignore the local advice to remain safely at anchor in Fowey? Why did the Darlwyne foolishly attempt the fatal return trip in the face of the storm? Where was the Darlwyne last seen on the fateful return passage as it battled against the storm? In spite of detailed sonar searches and deep sea dives painstakingly undertaken by the Royal Navy, the final resting place of the Darlwyne has never been discovered. These questions, and others, I attempt to answer in this book which follows the events leading to, and following the tragedy.
At the time the Darlwyne Disaster was the subject of a media frenzy regarding the hire and regulations concerning pleasure craft in Britain. There had also occurred on July 22nd a boat tragedy in Wales, when a ferry boat hit the toll bridge at Penmaenpool, near Dolgellau. The Prince of Wales ferry was nearing the end of its trip from Barmouth to the George the Third Hotel when tragedy struck. Thirty-nine people were on board when the vessel missed the hotel jetty and smashed into the wooden toll bridge where it sank. Fifteen people (including four children) were drowned as they were washed away by the strong incoming tide.
However, both this tragedy and the loss of the Darlwyne on July 31st, soon faded from the nation’s consciousness as other dramatic events swiftly followed in the late summer and autumn of 1966. The headlines were awash with major news stories: the Kray twins were soon to be arrested in London; three London policemen were shot dead in the street and their killers pursued throughout the land; the terrible Aberfan Disaster occurred on October 21st in South Wales; spy George Blake escaped from Wormwood Scrubs Prison and fled to the USSR; the Vietnam War intensified and the tense diplomatic negotiations between the UK and the illegal Rhodesian regime collapsed completely.
This book is largely based on the secondary sources of the time, which include the local and national newspapers, the TV and Cinema Features and the findings of the Board of Trade’s Public Inquiry. All this information has been openly in the public domain for many years.
The Darlwyne Disaster seemed to fade into history and was quietly forgotten. Perhaps now the full story of the tragic event can be told for the first time since 1966. I have visited as many locations as possible and interviewed local people in Cornwall who remembered those fateful days. I have also spoken with friends and families of some of the victims of the Darlwyne tragedy and they were very supportive and willing to give freely of their memories. I hope the book will speak on behalf of those lost on the Darlwyne.