HERE follows excerpts of an interview given to a News Letter reporter by the coxswain of Donaghadee lifeboat, Hugh Nelson.
The rocket calling out the lifeboat crew was fired about 1.30pm and we were under way in a few minutes. There was very heavy sea running and from the time we cleared the harbour until we returned we were subjected to a terrific pounding.
I have been in the lifeboat for 43 years and cannot remember a worse day.
The gale was whipping up the sea to great heights and there were waves of 40 to 50 feet.
The going was tough but our boat was behaving splendidly.
When we arrived at the scene, the Princess Victoria had gone and all around the sea was littered with wreckage, empty rafts and lifeboats.
A destroyer, a trawler and three other ships were standing by but it was impossible for them to render any help ... The situation was practically hopeless.
One lifeboat had about 30 people in it and there was another with one man in it. They were being thrown about like corks in the sea.
It was a pathetic sight with so much help at hand and unable to render assistance.
Among the ships standing by was a tanker. She began discharging tons of oil to calm the water.
This made it possible for us to approach one of the lifeboats and we lost no time in making for it and hauling in the survivors.
We then rescued the lone survivor in the other boat.
We were just about to head for Donaghadee when we saw a man in the water. As soon as we got him on board, we gave him a tot of rum.
It took us an hour to make the eight-odd miles back to Donaghadee. I must confess that I was glad to see the harbour again.