Dramatic capture of escaped convict plucked from Solent by passing warship


The escapee, wearing of all things a pinstripe suit, was suffering from exposure after being marooned in the sea for about 17 hours, constantly drenched by icy waters, but within hours, he had made a remarkable recovery, smiling, smoking and chatting. Only his pallid complexion and the fact his feet were swathed in bandages gave any indication that he had miraculously cheated death.

The astonishing saga began on January 8, 1947, when Anderson escaped from a working party outside Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight where he had been serving six years for burglary. He had seemed set to beat the 12-day record of Arthur Conny who was at large for 12 days in 1922, but his luck ran out when police discovered a rowing boat had been taken from Gurnard and the hunt was switched to the Solent in the belief he was making for the mainland.

Authorities feared he would be only second fugitive to reach Hampshire until the pilot flying at about 550 feet from Lee on Solent to Eastleigh spotted a figure desperately clinging to the buoy.

Anderson had misjudged the deteriorating weather conditions and within a mile, the rowing boat was being battered by a heavy tide in the notorious strong cross currents that run to 13 knots and make the navigation of small vessels sometimes nigh impossible. The boat was inevitably swamped and he almost drowned before clambering to the relative safety of the buoy.

The recidivist was picked up by crewmen from the destroyer Myngs that had just left Portsmouth Harbour to join the Home Fleet at Portland. Lt. Cdr Thomas Sargent recalled: “The man had few clothes on him and his legs were bare. I circled while the destroyer lowered a boat and picked him up.”

Daily Echo: Dr Crippen.

A highly relieved Anderson was given a hot meal and then confined to the sick bay where, devious as ever, he convinced an attendant he had been staying with friends and was attempting to sail back to the mainland before finally admitting he was an escaped prisoner.

The warship was boarded at Portland by three Dorset police officers who chartered a motor fishing boat to meet it. When taken off the ship, he looked – according to press reports – ‘a trifle worn’ but puffing on a cigarette, gave the horde of reporters and photographers a huge grin. He was taken to Bournemouth police station and handed over to Hampshire officers, arriving at Lymington just as the last ferry to the Island was about to leave that night.

Within hours, he appeared at a special court – convened at Newport station. Appearing before a sole magistrate, he was charged with breaking into the home of a local councillor and stealing about £10 in cash, a .45 revolver and the pinstripe suit. He was subsequently transferred to Winchester Prison, accompanied by two police officers on the Cowes-Southampton Red Funnel ferry Vecta.

At Hampshire Assizes in March, he pleaded guilty to two charges of burglary and was given a two year term to run consecutive to his original sentence. An offence under the Parkhurst Prison Act of 1838 was also taken into consideration.

BLOB Lt Cdr Sergent’s father had a unique claim to fame. He was captaining the SS Montrose on which the notorious killer Dr Crippen was seeking to escape to America. He was arrested after a radio was used for the first time to help detain a murderer.


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