On shore at Whitby, it was a rough night to be on sentry duty, especially at the end of a pier facing straight into a biting north east wind. Four o’clock in the morning was a terrible time to be going on duty. The four hours “off” had passed so quickly, the two hours “on” stretched endlessly ahead for the sentry as he left the comparative comfort of the improvised guardroom in one of the harbour buildings.
He hurried to the lighthouse at the end of the West Pier. It was no use as a navigation aid with the lamp turned off, but its square base provided him with some shelter from the wind and rain. Across the harbour entrance the East Pier lighthouse was providing the same small service for another miserable sentry.
An unexpected and inexplicable sound came from a seaward direction. Peering round the corner of the lighthouse base the sentry could see nothing for a moment through the swirling rain. Then he saw a large ship looming out of the darkness, apparently heading straight for the pier.
Copyright © Ken Wilson 1981