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Roll of Honour

Hartlepool seafarers lost at sea

Hastings, Matthew

Deck Hand
17, Well's Yard

Lost on Boarding Vessel HMS Char (formerly the N.E.R. tug Stranton)

The following information has been compiled by “Heroism & Heartbreak” Project Volunteers from information kindly received from Susan Scott, Chris Walker and publicly accessible Census Records. If you have any further information about Matthew Hastings, his family, crewmates or HMS Char and would like to share it with us, then please contact us at infodesk@hartlepool.gov.uk

Matthew Hastings was born on the 3rd of July, 1894, at Number 17, Wells Yard, on the Croft, into a family that can trace its Hartlepool roots back to the 1500s. He was one of six surviving children from a total of ten to parents Matthew Hastings and Elizabeth Ann Lumley Hastings nee Cook.

His father, Matthew Hastings, who was born in 1864, was a local fisherman and also a member of the Hartlepool lifeboat crew. He was involved in many brave rescues together with his brother James Henry Hastings, who was coxswain of the boat. Matthew, the father, was one of the first fishermen in Hartlepool to convert from sail to engine power, with his motor fishing boat Constance. 

When Jame Henry Hastings died in 1935, the Northern Daily Mail ran the following piece:- "Mr. James Hastings, of 2 Friar Street, Hartlepool, whose death we announced last night, had many interesting reminiscences as a lifeboatman over a period of 34 years. He could tell of thrilling fights against wind and sea, of struggles and hardships, and well-won victories. One of his recollections was that of assisting to haul the lifeboat along the West Hartlepool road in order to launch it on the occasion of the wreck of the Clavering off the mouth of the Tees [1907], and another was the case of the hospital ship off Whitby [the Rohilla], when he was one of those who answered the call from Hartlepool and who made the journey in a tugboat.

For many years he toiled as a fishermanin his own coble, and he and his mates were off Hartlepool on the morning of the Bombardment in the coble Constance. The german vessels were seen approaching, and Hastings had to beach his boat on the North Sands.
During his life Mr. Hastings saw many changes in the lifeboat service, his active association with the work dating from the days when the lifeboat had to be hauled down the sands to the sea, to the arrival of the modern motor-lifeboat. And it may be mentioned that it was he to whom fell the honour of bringing the Elizabeth Newton, the present Hartlepool lifeboat, from the Isle of Wight.
Four years ago Mr. Hastings had a sudden seizure when out salmon fishing off the Tees, and from that time he had been practically an invalid. During the last two years, in fact, he had seldom left the house."

Young Matthew’s mother, Elizabeth Ann Lumley Hastings, was born in Sunderland in 1865, the daughter of William Lumley Cook, a tug owner. William’s brother Robert was known locally as the 'Stormy petrel of the Wear' due to his bravery on October the 29th, 1880, in taking his paddle-tug out in a very heavy gale to bring to safety the brig Rapid, of Shoreham, which was in imminent danger of foundering just outside the harbour. A painting of this rescue by John Hudson is in the Sunderland Museums and Winter Garden Collection.

Although the sea was clearly in their blood, Elizabeth did not want any of her sons to rely on making a living from fishing, as she felt the fishing industry was dying. Instead, she insisted that her sons learn a trade and become shipwrights, then, if they wanted to go to sea they could sail as ship’s carpenters and so earn higher wages. And this is what Matthew did.

Matthew found employment with the North Eastern Railway company, and served on board their tugStranton, which operated out of Hartlepool. When this vessel was requisitioned by the Admiralty, Matthew and all of the other crew members volunteered to stay with their ship and were duly enrolled into the Royal Navy. The Stranton herself was re-named HMS Char.
It is possible that Matthew volunteered for this service because his cousin, Matthew Hastings Swales, had been killed the previous month during the German naval bombardment of the town.

As HMS Char, the tug became a patrol and inspection vessel in the Downs. In the early hours of January the 17th, 1915, in very rough seas, the tug was run down and sunk by the Belgian steamer Frivan, with the loss of all hands. She sank between Deal and the Goodwin Sands near the North Goodwin buoy and the next day she was found with her masts still showing above the water.

With his obituary in the local newspaper, Northern Daily Mail, Matthew’s parents wrote:

“I left my home in perfect health,
I little thought of death so nigh,
but God thought fit to call me home,
and with His will I must reply.”


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