19th December 1918

Guernsey shipwreck results in starvation

Iris was an 83-ton iron ketch carrying china clay from Fowey, Cornwall. Wherever it was heading to wasn’t widely publicised in the papers of the time, but what was made clear was the fact it didn’t arrive.

Telegrams from Guernsey sent back to the mainland reported that the ketch had struck rocks off the island’s north coast on 19 December 1918. It had been so badly battered against the outcrop that it was close to entirely destroyed. The captain and crew couldn’t be found and it was assumed that they had drowned.

A gruesome discovery

That news must have been bad enough for the crew’s families but, for one of them, worse was to follow in January the following year when one of the crew – a ship’s mate called Manning – was found dead by a fisherman on a small island north east of Herm. Around a dozen islets, barely more than rocks, are strewn along a rough path stretching away from the island in that direction. Many of them clustered no more than a mile from the end of Shell Beach.

A strong swimmer might have been able to make it to Herm unaided, particularly at low tide, but Manning, it seemed, was not such a man. Instead, he lived like a “modern” day Robinson Crusoe.

Having been swept to the islet from Guernsey, he made himself a shelter using rocks fixed together with sods of turf, and settled down to await his rescue. He survived for a while by catching and eating shellfish – until the shellfish ran out.

Manning was killed slowly, through starvation and exposure, at the end of which the only way he could be identified was by the tombstone tattooed on his chest.


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Other events that occured in December

French fishing boats prepare to invade 1st
Two cargo ships collide on their way to Guernsey 2nd
Guernseyman Herbert Le Patourel wrongly thought killed 3rd
A Guernsey funeral takes place in Cornwall 4th
Guernsey steamship SS Rossgull is wrecked 5th
The Guernsey Tapestry is completed 6th
Air UK Fokker overshoots Guernsey runway 7th
Naftel’s paintings go on display 8th
Guernsey and Jersey newspapers agree to merge 9th
Sark holds its first election 10th
Beau Sejour opens for business 11th
Victor Hugo flees France and Napoleon 12th
Explorer Edmund Kennedy is speared to death 13th
Author Mary Ann Shaffer is born
Herm bribery case comes to court 14th
Alderney’s evacuees return to their island 15th
Guillaume de Beauvoir appointed dean of English Church in Geneva 16th
Castle Cornet surrenders to Guernsey 17th
Telex, phones and telegram cables go quiet 18th
Guernsey shipwreck results in starvation 19th
Channel Islands Securities Exchange founded 20th
G-COBO has a bumpy flight 21st
Guernsey struck by an earthquake 22nd
William Hedley Cliff buys Jethou 23rd
Wombles author Liza Beresford dies 24th
Asterix is discovered in St Peter Port harbour 25th
Guille and Alles lease the Assembly Rooms 26th
The Red Cross saves Guernsey from starvation 27th
Operation Hardtack targets the Channel Islands 28th
Ebenezer Le Page author GB Edwards dies 29th
Castle Cornet is struck by lightning 30th
Guernsey Police makes the world’s first underwater arrest 31st