Family Roots: Hartlepool’s daring sea rescuer

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WHEN Charles Carter first went to sea, he only did it because he wanted pocket money.

Decades later, he’d dedicated so much of his life to the waves, he picked up an honour at Buckingham Palace.

In a lifetime of service, he had rescued three ships crews and saved two ships.


CHARLES Carter was a bit of an expert rescuer in his lifetime.

The ship’s captain came to the aid of the crews on three different sinking ships, saving the lives of hundreds of men.

He would have been known to families across Hartlepool. He’d lived above three town pubs and served the fishing community of Hartlepool well.

Now, we’re asking does anyone remember the man who picked up an MBE 51 years ago this week for his daring rescues.

This is the story of a man who served on board herring drifters in Hartlepool and only had eyes for the sea ever since he was a boy.

He would go out on the drifters to “earn a bit of ready money.”

The Baltic Street resident was the son of a publican – his dad had the Fleece, the Sun Inn and The Royal – and married his wife Agnes in St Hilda’s Church in 1940.

During his lifetime, he served in 20 ships yet the highlight of his career was his ever increasing prominence as a rescuer. He was very much in the right place at the right time.

He once rescued the commander, staff and crew of the 1,325 tonne steam collier Effra when she was torpedoed by a German E-boat in a North Sea Second World War attack, and received an honour called the Oak Leaves.

Then in 1950, he took nine men from a crippled Tunisian vessel called the Teboura which was in the Mediterranean – and towed the ship 62 miles to safety at Marseilles.

The Tunisian Government made him the Commander of the Order of the Nickon Ifterker.

Yet his rescuing days were still not over. In 1960, he came to the aid of the Henrietta B which was a Dutch motor vessel which was later towed into Brest by a vessel of her own country.

With him on that occasion was a Stan Butterworth who was also from Hartlepool.

Captain Carter’s war service included several Atlantic convoys. His life at sea began when he joined a company called Ropner’s which were shipping agents in Hartlepool before they moved to Darlington.

A year later, Able Seaman Carter joined a Middlesbrough firm called Constantine and he stayed with them ever since.

In 1944, he was made up to Master of the Northwood and served mainly on 3,000 ton cargo vessels.

Among his famous passengers were Colonel Richard Pennell who was the deputy governor of Windsor Castle.

Another was Tubby Clayton, the founder padre of the Toc H movement which was an international Christian organisation.

But in 1963, Charles was the celebrity himself when he travelled to Buckingham Palace to collect his award.

We would love to hear from anyone who can remember Captain Carter and can help us with more memories.

Get in touch with Chris Cordner either by phoning (01429) 239377 or emailing