By a strange coincidence the East Goodwin Lightship was itself involved in a collision at sea with a steamer, 'R.E. Matthews', 1964 tons, of London, sailing from the Tyne with coal for Genoa. It happened shortly after the 'Elbe' incident on the 28th April 1899 and use of wireless helped to avert a situation that might have involved the loss of life.
Although a lightship is moored it is still capable of some movement as its cables allow it some change of position if the rudder is used. On the day in question there was very dense fog in the Channel. The evidence is that the approach of the steamer was noticed, the helm was put down and the lightship was swung by the tide. Even so she was struck and sustained some damage. Using the wireless telegraphy from the lightship to the shore, Capt. Clayson, the master of the lightship, later described the incident to a reporter:
"We number seven hands all told. Fortunately none of us were hurt, but we all had a very severe shaking. There was a very dense fog when the collision occurred, and we had a very narrow escape from being cut in two, as the vessel nearly caught us broadside on. We had just time to put our helm down, and let the tide swing the ship a bit: otherwise the steamer must have run right through us. As it was, she gave us a violent glancing blow across the bows. Our stem is completely smashed down to the water line, and the covering boards and plank-ends on each side of the stem are started (damaged). The ship hung to us, and our vessel scraped along one side of the steamer, giving us a severe grinding, and carrying away our upper works and plating above water. The ship is very badly damaged, and but for the fact that the sea was calm and has remained calm since, we could not have kept afloat. The steamer remained alongside to see if we required assistance, and subsequently proceeded down the Channel, having sustained damage herself. Before the steamer left we told the captain we had telegraphed to the South Foreland, and they had promised to send aid if we required it. The cause of the vessel running into us was that she did not make sufficient allowance for the tide, which was running very strong at the time. The lightship is so badly damaged that she must be replaced, and we are waiting for the Trinity boat Warden, which is on her way up Channel from Beachy Head, with the superintendent on board. She is to bring with her another lightship to replace us, and tow us back."
East Goodwin Lightship
Photo Marconi Corporation plc.
The Marconi aerial can be seen suspended from the spar at the masthead.