Tragic find in quarry by diver

An advert for the Grimsby diving company, Charlton and Co
An advert for the Grimsby diving company, Charlton and Co

While researching work done by the divers in Grimsby and Immingham docks, Retro reader Phil Thurtle came across a story involving the search for a missing boy in Sheffield in August 1927.

He writes: “The headline in the Grimsby newspaper from the time read Boy’s Body in Deep Quarry - Grimsby Diver’s Successful Search. I followed up the story and unearthed a lot more information in several papers including the Sheffield Daily Telegraph and the Sheffield Independent.

A newspaper picture of diver J H White entering the water. A cross marks the rough spot where he found the little boy's body

A newspaper picture of diver J H White entering the water. A cross marks the rough spot where he found the little boy's body

In August 1927, an eight-year-old boy from Handsworth went missing. Police searched for him for several days, they combed local woods, fields and moors and dragged a small lake called Buxton’s Quarry, a minute’s walk from the boy’s home.

The police suspected that the lad had fallen in the quarry but, despite dragging it for some time, they found nothing. The boy’s father told the police that his son enjoyed going to Buxton’s Quarry to watch other children swim there but his son never went into the water as he couldn’t swim.

Then after several days, it was decided to get the fire brigade to pump out the quarry. A high-volume pump was brought by the fire brigade and it was lowered down to the quarry side with much difficulty, having to be manhandled 70 feet down a bank by the fire brigade, police and a large number of onlookers.

It was said the pump was removing between 200 and 300 gallons of water from the quarry a minute but after two days constant pumping out many thousands of gallons of water, the level had only dropped by 16 inches.

By now, the boy had been missing eight days so it was decided to call in the services of a diver.

On the authority of the Chief Constable of Sheffield Capt P J Sillitoe, Supt Hughes drove to Grimsby to seek the help of a diving team from Charlton & Co Ltd. A diving team was put together and returned with Hughes to Buxton’s Quarry.

The team consisted of diver J H White, Arthur Watnought, Cyril Walter Tune and Harry Kersey. Diver White searched for around 90 minutes and found the boy in 20 feet of water under a 12-foot cliff. It was believed he was playing above, lost his footing and fell into the water, a really sad tale brought to a conclusion by the team of Grimsby divers.

In all reports of the search in newspapers, it refers to diver J H White as being a famous and noted diver. Some years earlier he was said to have recovered 173 bodies from a wreck off the English coast. That’s another mystery I’m trying to solve, I can’t think of any peacetime wreck with such a high loss of life off the English coast.”