|George William Manby was born at
Denver Norfolk on 28th November 1765. George had every
intention of following in his father's footsteps; his
father had been a captain in the Welsh fusiliers. As soon
as he was able to George went into the army. At age 17 he
volunteered to fight in the American war of independence
but was rejected because of his youth and his diminutive
size. So Manby had to be content with a commission in the
militia. At age 38 he wrote a pamphlet ‘An Englishman's
Reflexions' on the threatened invasion of England by the
French under Napoleon. The secretary of war Charles Yorke
was so impressed by this document that he recommended
George Manby appointment Barrack master at Great Yarmouth.
At this time Yarmouth was a busy place with warships
coming and going and everyone preparing for the expected
invasion by Napoleon. Manby lived close to the beach in
Great Yarmouth in St. Nicholas road. (There is now a
road named ‘Manby Road’ close to St. Nicholas road).
Manby daily witnessed first hand, the tragic loss of
life when ships that had snapped their anchorage in
gales, broke up. Sometimes, entire crews were drowned
less than a hundred yards from the safety of the shore.
Manby was amongst the helpless onlookers who watched as the waves crashed over the Snipe. He was forced to listen to the screams of the women and children as they were hurled into the unforgiving sea to drown. There are conflicting accounts as to how many people drowned and how many people survived the Snipe disaster. But this disaster was the turning point for Manby who became determined to invent something that would stop these shoreline catastrophes. He remembered that as a young gunner he used to fire a line right over Downham Church. Could he use this prank to his advantage?
it was that Captain George Manby created the Manby Mortar
that fired a line from shore into the rigging of a ship.
Attached to the line was a stouter rope, which was hauled
onboard. The crew and those on shore with the aid of a
breeches buoy then used the rope to bring people safely to
It was not an easy invention as Manby had to work out a
way for the line to pay our evenly, be strong enough not
to break under the strain or be burnt up by the blast
from the mortar used to fire the ball and for the whole
apparatus to be carried on horseback. The first
successful use of the equipment took place at Great
Yarmouth, 150 yards from the shore when Manby saved the
lives of sailors from the brig Elizabeth with his Manby
During his lifetime Manby then went on to produce
various other life-saving devices and even became a
fellow of the Royal Society. In a portrait of George
Manby painted by an unknown artist the inscription on
the painting records that at the time the painting was
painted in 1818, 137 lived had been saved by Manby’s
equipment. George Manby died in his home in Great
Yarmouth on 18th November 1854 and is buried in Hilgay
churchyard near Downham Market.
|Obs. When ships were no longer made of wood but had iron hulls instead, enterprising Victorian inventors came up with a cork lined cabin trunk. Specially adapted they had extra buoyancy so that the men could safely paddle home.|