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
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 dry land.
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 Mortar.
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
|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.|