13th September 1959

Schoolboys and teacher went missing off Sark

French and maths school teacher Colin Noble had a plan to sail from Sark to either Winchester or Bosham. He roped in his friend John Clewett, chartered a three-sail yacht called Rohilla, and brought along six students for the ride. The boys were all enrolled at Kingham School, Oxfordshire, and aged between 14 and 16.

The teacher and his crew left Sark at 4pm on Sunday 13 September, but the alarm was raised when their time of arrival had come and long gone. Something terrible had happened.

A sea search

Coastguards at Portland Bill reported seeing a yacht that looked like the Rohilla, a converted lifeboat, five days later. They hadn’t been close enough to make a positive identification, but claimed that she seemed not to be having any problems at that time.

Soon, though, search teams from both the UK and France, including four minesweepers that had been on exercises, had headed out into the Channel in search of the boat. All they found was a buoy bearing its name. A small dinghy, also from the boat, soon washed up on a Cornish beach.

The Admiralty declared on 21 September that “through some unknown cause, Rohilla has been lost without trace”. This was seemingly confirmed when three bodies were discovered. Noble, who had been an experienced sailor, which washed up at Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. Two of the students were found a few weeks later. One washed up on a Cornish beach on 10 October; another was recovered from the sea. No trace was ever found of the other four who had been aboard.

There are several theories as to what had happened. The weather was worsening as they headed north so they may have been capsized – but might also have struck another vessel. The pupil who had been recovered from the sea, Robin Green, was determined to have died of shock, which would have supported this latter theory.


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