1961: A blaze on board and raging winds

Fleetwood trawler Princess Elizabeth ( FD 213 )from the 1950s
Fleetwood trawler Princess Elizabeth ( FD 213 )from the 1950s

In a 50mph gale, members of the crew of the Princess Elizabeth were ready to abandon ship as flames engulfed her engine room.

The heat was so fierce, the deck plates buckled – and there was a ton of fuel in the tank.

But as 53-year-old skipper Jim Betty prepared to order his crew over the side, chief engineer Allen Heyes told him: “I think we are winning.”

The raging fire had been brought under control.

It was October 25, 1961, and the 450-ton trawler set alight two hours out of Fleetwood.

They were 18 miles out when the shout went out ‘the ship’s on fire!’ after a problem with the domestic heating system on board.

Chief engineer Heyes, 37, of Larkholme Avenue, Fleetwood, came to the rescue.

He said: “The engine room was one sheet of flame.

“Our only hope was to shut every door and the ventilators in an effort to smother the flames. And it worked.”

Crew members poured water on to the red-ho, buckling casing so the steam may also help.

Skipper Betty said: “There was one ton of fuel in the tank. It could have blown us sky high, and must have been boiling over.

“Flames were beginning to lick around the tank. I could not have held off much longer when the chief brought the good news.”

The skipper faced sending his crew out in inflatable rafts in atrocious conditions.

He added: “I doubt very much we would have all survived in that sea.

“How we are all here to tell the tale I’ll never know. It was as close as that.”