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Centenary weekend presents new clues about fleet of the Hera

By West Briton  |  Posted: February 09, 2014

By Chris Matthews

  • At 100ft, the Hera grave at Veryan is thought to be Britain's longest.

  • The five survivors of the Hera, with, inserted third from right by the photographer, a portrait of "the Sailor's Friend", James Canning Badger, chaplain of the British and Foreign Sailor's Society in Falmouth from 1887 to 1916. Right is boy sailor August Lassen, who later became a member of the Nazi paramilitary motoring organisation the NSKK and died in 1951.

  • Wreckage from the Hera littered the coastline of the Roseland, and 19 of her 24 crew were found dead.

  • Flowers on the memorial stone at the head of the Hera victims' grave, where 19 men lie head to toe.

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A CENTURY after 19 men drowned when a German ship struck rocks off the Cornish coast, the village where they lie – in what is believed to be Britain's longest grave – has paid tribute to them.

The German steel barque Hera, laden with nitrates from Chile, sank on February 1, 1914, after striking Gull Rock in Veryan Bay.

The dead washed up along the coastline of the Roseland peninsula and were buried in the churchyard at Veryan, lying head to toe in a grave that measures nearly 100ft.

The entire parish attended their funeral and the services for the centenary attracted between 400 and 500 people.

Father Doug Robins, from the church, said: "We had an exceptional number of people across the whole weekend, with 120 people coming to the concert on Saturday night and raising more than £300 for the RNLI, the Mission for Seafarers and Veryan Church.

"People who came to remember the dead brought along lots of new materials and artefacts we're going to follow up and attempt to learn more about those on board that night."

Artefacts included pieces of wreckage, new photographs and information about the crew and two handwritten accounts by Martin Clover, the local doctor at the time.

One photograph showed a baby girl attending the funeral and, despite now being more than 100 years old and remembering little about the service, she was also at the centenary memorial service.

Father Robins said he was astounded by the contrasting fates of some of the survivors.

"August Lassen was a very interesting character," he said. "He was called to the German Navy after working aboard a Danish vessel and he also had stints working in his father's biscuit factory, for German Water Customs and for the National Socialist Drivers before dying in 1951.

"Joseph Cauchi, a Maltese sailor who was almost missed by rescuers, went on to live in America before returning to Malta and living to 84.

"We learnt that the family of one of those who died travelled all the way from Germany to visit the grave of their son, but when the First World War broke out the victim's father was prevented from leaving the country.

"We don't know what his final fate was, but we have a number of addresses in Lübeck in Germany that we'll be contacting to attempt to learn more about those who sailed on the Hera."

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