Neville John William Day 7 March 1922 - 26 November 1990
Dad and the Mercedes G Wagon ducking
One might be forgiven for thinking that when the tide goes out in England's 170 square mile Wash estuary the water disappears all the way up to the North Pole.
Hence when the tide returns it comes in "Faster un' 'oss can trot." As 'tis said in Norfolk. Not a good place to be then when sat, frightened and bogged down to the axles, in a brand spanking new Mercedes G Wagon 4 X 4, one mile from the high water mark and a fast approaching Spring tide. With no mobile 'phone, as this was in 1981. New price in 1981 £14,000. Around £50,000 at today's values. Except the G Wagon has bloated over the decades with the addition of mostly superfluous gizmos, so one would be lucky to buy a new one today for under even £100,000.
The intellectually challenged Mercedes concessionaire salesman had decided to show off the new toy to an equally not very bright prospective hooray Henry customer. By driving from King's Lynn onto the vast, firm sands off North Norfolk's west coast. Quickly discovering a patch of not so firm sand. Norfolk yokels have another term for quicksand but it escapes me right now, and anyway I digress.
Our pair of soggy heroes arrive on foot at Snettisham beach resort and demanded a telephone from one of the local beach front, second home owners. Their Mercedes concessionaire upon taking the call reach for their copy of the Yellow Pages and identify Neville Day Plant Hire Ltd as a possible source of help, for what soon transpired to be quite an exciting recovery operation. Recovery being a sort of optimistic description of what eventually ended up back on shore.
Dad takes the call and never one to be afraid of squaring up head on to a challenge, often without aforethought, grabs a tow chain and jumps on our old FE35 Ferguson tractor and sets off on the two mile journey to the beach. Upon arrival at the beach he sees no point in stopping and so continues through the now receding tide towards the still visible top half of the Mercedes.
I think I mentioned quicksand earlier. Fortunately for Dad, the Fergie, who Dad swore had a brain and wasn't about to be fooled, discovered another soft patch and promptly dug itself in just a hundred metres from the dry bits on the beach. Not to be disheartened Dad trudges back to the beach and asks, politely, because it was Dad, for a telephone from a possibly now exasperated local beach front, second home owner.
Dad calls up a JCB from one of his men and which arrives less than thirty minutes later and by which time the receding Spring tide had reached the North Pole.
The four wheel drive JCB with Dad and along with his driver at the wheel manage to discover the same bit of jelly like sand. Thereby promptly digging in about ten metres short of the fast disappearing and sad little grey Fergie.
Not to be disheartened Dad trudges back to the beach and asks, politely, because it was Dad, for a telephone from a possibly now much exasperated local beach front, second home owner.
After two tides had passed over the Mercedes, the JCB and the sad little grey Fergie, Dad and his two drivers once more trudge the mile across the sands to the Mercedes. With a shovel and dragging the hawser behind them. No mean feat. Dad's plan being to attach the hawser to one of the Mercedes' towing rings.
It is perhaps a shame that Mercedes' vehicle designers had not consulted Dad prior to releasing their version of a Chelsea Tractor. Otherwise they might have thought to mount a tow hitch nearer its roof. As fast as Dad frantically dug away at the sand then more of the seawater and soft sand cocktail flooded into the gap*.
* I have a photo of Dad, alone with his shovel, back to a fast rising incoming tide, forlornly trying to dig down the side of the G Wagon, in the hope of finding a strong point to attach a cable. Actually risking his life! For probably no appreciation or comprehension , by idiots! When I find it again I will add it to this account.
National newspaper Sunday Mirror report of December 27 1981
There is very little in John McShane's Sunday Mirror report of Sunday 27 December 1981 above that is correct. I know, I was one of the individuals in the above photograph! However, it was written by a professional journalist so what better might one expect?!"
The local Mercedes distributor had asked Dad if he could recover their prized possession. No prior mention had been made as to its condition upon completion of the task. Dad was a keen small boat owner (very small at about 12 feet long) but nonetheless as such very aware of the hazards of uncharted submerged wrecks. Particularly to the hooray Henry's with their floozie laden and powerful Fletcher speed boat water skiers who decorated the beach and shoreline every summer day. So out it had to come. In one piece or otherwise.
With shorted flat battery, doors jammed closed by the surrounding sand there was therefore no choice but to smash the windows and pass the hawser through the vehicle. The vehicle was sideways on to the beach and half buried in the clinging wet sand. The other end of the hawser was attached to the dozer and so the tow began. Well nearly began. First it had to be released from waist deep, clinging wet sand. It was sideways on.
A testament to the strength of the Mercedes G Wagon was how the roof and door and windscreen pillars all remained intact. Despite all being bent to forty five degrees. Also fortuitous that when the Mercedes finally landed it did so by rolling onto its roof. Which then acted as a sort of sled. Resulting in total removal of all the paint from the roof was of no consequence as there would be no hope of the vehicle ever being rebuilt anyway.
The result of this adventure, witnessed by now a couple of hundred enthusiastically cheering locals, furiously scribbling journalists and far more sombre Mercedes car salesmen, was that the Mercedes people were unimpressed. So unimpressed they at first refused to pay up the modest four hundred Pound bill Neville Day Plant Hire Ltd presented to them. Far too modest as I later pointed out to Dad and explained that they and their insurers, would be far more impressed by the £1,800 * bill I subsequently presented to them, and which they did eventually meet. On the Court steps minutes before the hearing.
There is an expression in Norfolk, when party to an establshed agreement appears not to want to 'play ball'. That is to challenge a perfectly reasonable account presented in accordance with that agreement. Renaging upon such agreements might subsequently result in presentation of a far heavier account. So as to mitigate the impolite hassle. "Thass gorn up bor!"
People in 'flat' Norfolk are very backward. As everyone will doubtless tell you.
* £7.300 in today's money.
Chris Latham-Smith 2022.
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