Unsung hero of sea disaster is revealed

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The story of a forgotten hero of the Princess Victoria disaster can be revealed for the first time since the sinking of the ferry on January 31, 1953.

The ship’s second officer, war veteran Len White, sought to save the women and children on the ill-fated vessel when it became clear it was doomed.

The Ballygally man placed the most vulnerable in a ship’s lifeboat and attempted to lower them to safety in the monstrous seas of the North Channel, but lost his life alongside the passengers when a huge wave dashed the small boat against the stricken car ferry’s hull.

A total of 133 people died when the vessel, which was sailing from Stranraer to Larne, sank off the Northern Ireland coast during a ferocious storm.

It remains the UK’s worst peacetime sea tragedy, and it had a huge impact on the Larne community, with 27 of the victims from the town.

A service commemorating the 63rd anniversary of the disaster is to take place at Chaine Memorial Road at 11am today.

The 33 passengers and crew who survived the tragedy were picked up by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s Donaghadee Lifeboat the Sir Samuel Kelly.

Second officer White’s body was among those recovered by the Sir Samuel Kelly in the days which followed the sinking.

A family photograph album and biography of the maritime hero has been released by his daughter, Susan Crampton, who has given her support to the Sir Samuel Kelly Project in Donaghadee.

It seeks to restore the lifeboat and provide a fitting home for the vessel in the seaside town as a lasting memorial to those who lost their lives.

Susan, who lives in Co Wicklow, said: “After all these years, I remember him as a quiet man and a very loving father who seemed happiest when he had his family around him.

“My mother was very brave and she worked hard to restore a normal family life, but we missed him terribly.

“I remember that my father loved learning new things and he was always encouraging us to do the same.”

The SSK Project is a public appeal to initially raise between £15,000 and £20,000, which will be used to build a temporary shelter for the lifeboat. This will allow it to dry out and the restoration job to be assessed.

Its next goal is to secure funding to build a permanent museum with the lifeboat as a centrepiece.