6 January 1881: At 2 am. on the 5th in tense darkness, an easterly gale, frequent snow squalls and below freezing temperatures, the 1,238 ton barque Indian Chief four days out from Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, and bound for Yokohama, Japan, grounded hard on Long Sand at the mouth of the Thames, off Clacton-on-Sea, Essex. During the day, apparently, she broke her back, lost her boats, and two men were drowned. She suffered further damage in a heavy sea at 5 p.m. The survivors took to the rigging but, by 3 a.m. on the 6th, only 12 remained after the mizzen mast fell. Following unsuccessful searches by the Harwich and Clacton lifeboats, the steam tug Vulcan arrived on the scene towing the Ramsgate lifeboat Bradford. Casting off, Charles Fish headed the lifeboat towards the wreck, then veered a piece of wood down on a number of ropes' ends, tied together. This enabled a hawser to be dragged aboard the wreck by which means the lifeboat's crew hauled their craft under the wreck's quarter. The lifeboat took off the 12 survivors, transferred them to the steam tug, which took the lifeboat in tow again and returned it to Ramsgate through heavy broken water, after 26 hours at sea.
Full graphic accounts of this service appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 11th and 18th January, and were reprinted in the Lifeboat Journal of 1st February. On February 11th, H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh, a member of the R.N.L.I.'s Committee of Management, presented all the medals at a ceremony at the Ramsgate Coastguard Station.