CRYSTAL JEWEL

Moored off Newhaven harbour after a collision.

By John Sweatman

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'CRYSTAL JEWEL' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'CRYSTAL JEWEL' page

The "Crystal Jewel" was in collision with another vessel in the channel in fog. The damage can be seen in the bridge area. As I recall, the master's daughter was killed in the incident. I'm not guite sure which year this would have been. Another view, with the harbour bucket dredger passing. This also shows the railway lines on the breakwater for the trains involved in maintenance work.

This page was added by John Sweatman on 09/03/2010.
Comments about this page

I think it was late september 1961 John.

23rd September 1961. She was struck side on by the much larger oil tanker British Aviator. You'll find details and more photos of this tragic event on several pages, including the 'Meeching Tug - Potted History'. - Andy, Editor

By Colin Holden
On 10/03/2010

Yes, and it also shows quite a number of members of the public when they were allowed to walk along their breakwater - and when it was maintained and safe to do so.

By Ray Sexton
On 10/03/2010

Yes it was September 1961. My father , Alistair ("Alec"), who was 27 at the time was on the Crystal Jewel but off-watch. It was never discussed in our family so a few years ago I requested a report from the Southampton Maritime Services people who kindly posted the report to me. It was a relief to see that my father was NOT mentioned. Marcus

By Marcus
On 20/11/2010

I was a member of the crew of the Tug MEECHING at the time of the incident. I believe I may be the last surviving member of the crew from the era. The saddest part of the story of the incident was the fact that the Crystal Jewel's Captain had his daughter on board at the time and she was in the cabin. Sadly she died in the wreckage of the midships section that took the brunt of the damage in the collision which took place off Beachy Head in thick fog. My brother had the unsavoury task of recovering her from the twisted mess of the midship section. If Marcus wishes to make contact with me I'd love to swap notes with him on the tragedy and the aftermath.

By Jim Still
On 22/05/2011

I was on-board the Crystal Jewel at the time of the collision as a very young Galley Boy! It is now lovely after all these years through the wonders of the internet to be able to see pictures of the Crystal Jewel - would love to hear from anyone who was on-board the Ship the same time as me.

By Terry Hickey
On 26/05/2011

I was the one with the delicate job of removing the Captains Daughter from the ship. The Captain had been taken to hospital in Eastbourne with two broken legs and other injuries. It was there that he said farewell to his daughter who was taken to Liverpool where her funeral took place. One thing I remember well were the comments of Fred Holden, the tug Skipper. He complained that it was rare for the tug to be involved in salvage and he missed it because he was at a football match in London and to cap it all the team he supported lost !!

By Trevor Bennett
On 30/01/2015

I think it was rare for Meeching only because she was so new, Trevor! She later had quite a lot of salvage work, again detailed in her own Our Newhaven page.

Later members of her crew also sometimes kicked themselves for not being around for a 'shout'! However, contrary to some stories, the payouts to Meeching's crews were never huge, and hardly warranted to huge risks they took at times.

By Andy Gilbert
On 01/02/2015

My brother Michael Balchin was on that ship at the time of collision!!

By Susan
On 05/03/2015

I was an apprentice deck officer on the 'jewel'. At the time of the collision I was having breakfast in the officers saloon. I was very friendly with Dorothy , the captains daughter. It was a shock to learn of her death.

 

By Michael Balchin
On 05/03/2015

There were rumours at the time that "looting from the ship" was rife! Is this true? 

 

By Ian Bishop
On 06/03/2015

Rumours indeed, and several of Meeching's crew were taken to court. All were found not guilty.

By Andy Gilbert
On 16/08/2015

My grandad was the radio officer during the collision on the Crystal Jewel he went down as a saviour I think calling for help, being the last one off and also jumping across ship to ship at one point. He never forgot the death of the captains daughter at the time because she had asked him to breakfast but he said he couldn’t go thus she was on the bridge during the collision. RIP Eddie 

My father ( Harold Hills ) was Radio Operator on the Newhaven Lifeboat which attended that incident.

John -- Editor.

By Finlay
On 27/04/2019

My grandad was on the ship at the time serving as the radio officer, he always felt sad about the captains daughter, as he had missed breakfast with her, thus she was on the bridge and not with him. He apparently was the hero of the accident thou, radioing for help and at one point jumping ship to ship and was the last off. RIP Eddie

By Finlay
On 27/04/2019

Wow John that’s incredible you don’t know anything about my grandfather idk if your father would have spoken to him or anything. Just really interested. 

Thanks

No sorry I do not know anything about your grandfather Finlay, but my father would have spoken to the radio operator onboard the Crystal Jewel during the incident.

John  --  Editor

By Finlay
On 01/08/2019

Lovely to revisit this page after all these years. I posted an article for my dad in 2011. He was a galley boy on board the ship when the captain's daughters was killed.  It must have been a very special ship, my dad was a quiet man, but spoke with fondest memories of his time on board the ship. He sadly passed away in 2016, but took his memories of the ship with him.

By Terry Hickey
On 30/03/2020

I recall this incident and I think we still have photographs taken but my father who was 1st Mechanic on the Newhaven lifeboat at the time. He was Eric Page and the cox was Edgar Moore who we as a family lived with for a while in the Coastguard cottages. I started school at Meeching infants school and we used to live in Meeching Road... no 2 or 3 as I recall. We relocated back to the Isle of Wight in around 1963/4.

Think it was number 3 Meeching Road you lived Bob.

My father Harold Hills was Radio operator on that "shout". I still have the taped recordings of the radio messages at that time over M.F.

John -- Editor

By Robert Page
On 03/05/2021

Recently come across at least 3 of the newspaper articles regarding the incident as well as numerous photos of the crew and collision on board Crystal Jewel. I will try and post some more detailed information on mentioned crew members in the following days.

Thank you Finlay we look forward to publishing them for you. 

John  --  Editor

By Finlay
On 24/05/2021

My brother Eddie Power was the radio officer on board the Crystal Jewel, he was the only Irish officer on board. They were two hours on and two hours off.

When the collision occurred, he could not get out of his cabin, he climbed through the porthole. The radio officer was knocked out on the other ship, so he jumped from one ship to the other and sent out his radio message.

He stayed when they towed the ship to Rotterdam, and then came home on leave.

He left the sea behind when he got married, but still stayed employed with Marconi in Eastham, and still travelled the world for them looking after radio rooms on ships around the world.

He sadly passed away in March 2015, but his legacy lives on in his grandson Finlay who is following in his footsteps.

R.I.P to a wonderful brother.  MARY

By Mary Doherty
On 23/07/2021

My father John Powell was second engineer on the Crystal Jewel at the time of the collision. He took some 8mm cine footage of the incident and subsequent salvage work which I've posted on youtube as "Crystal Jewel - British Aviator collision". - Tried to paste in a link but site won't allow it.

Note from editor:- We have taken the liberty of inserting the link within your text Alec for you.

By Alec Powell
On 18/11/2021

Thanks for the link to the 8mm footage, Alec. First time I've seen colour footage of the tugs Tidworth and Meeching. I'm historian for the Meeching and with your permission, I'd like to add that link and a couple of stills from the footage to my 'life history' of the tug and its accompanying Our Newhaven page.

By Andy Gilbert
On 19/11/2021

Hi Andy, no problem, please feel free to use any footage you need.

If you want stills, it might be best if I send you a copy of the original video. Its slightly higher resolution than the you-tube footage - I think uploaded footage loses a bit in compression. 

By Alec Powell
On 20/11/2021

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