‘Withernsea Volunteer Beach Patrol’ circa 1950s (archive-ref DDX1250)
Normally, on a leisurely stroll along the beaches of Withernsea, you would probably encounter the occasional person walking the dog, the odd fisherman or two maybe, and in these times of lockdown perhaps even less than that. The sight of people swimming in this particular area of the North Sea is arguably quite rare nowadays, but this was not always the case. There was a time when the beaches of Withernsea were populated by swimmers enjoying the seaside, and the town had its very own ‘baywatch’ known as the Withernsea Volunteer Beach Patrol.
Records held at East Riding Archives tell us more about these forgotten lifeguards of Withernsea. The Beach Patrol was in existence prior to the Second World War but disbanded around 1939. It was later reformed in 1956 in response to the closure of Lee Avenue Open Air Swimming Pool, which had become contaminated with sewage.
The first patrol took place on Saturday 19th May 1956, and continued until August 1961, with lifeguards on duty every weekend and bank holidays. During this time, nobody was drowned in the sea off Withernsea.
Evidence of the patrol’s heroics can be found in a log book, that records the rescues made by the lifeguards. One such rescue was that of a 14-year old boy, made on 16th June 1957, in which the records state:
“…[the boy] was recovered from below the surface being unconscious, after being cut off on an island, and on attempting to reach shore, panicked, and began to drown…[Lifeguard] applied artificial respiration, whilst another man came to assist him, by applying resuscitation”.
The fact that Withernsea once had its very own beach patrol seems to have been forgotten by most people, so it’s fitting that their heroism can now be remembered with the patrol’s archives.
By Sam Bartle