Ship details: The Corcodile was bought by Georges De Caluwé in Brest/France. The 70 foot, 585-ton measuring ship, a former French Navy supply vessel, was rebaptized in Uilenspiegel and got equipped as a radio station in the Antwerp harbour. In the middle of October 1962 the vessel dropped anchor at Zeebrugge. The ship was equipped with a 10,000 Watt transmitter. It was re-registered in Panama.
A very heavy westerly storm seriously hit the West-Flemish coast of Zeeland on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th December 1962. On Sunday morning at around 3.15 a.m., the Uilenspiegel was in heavy danger. One of the causes were the hatches being washed overboard. The ship threatened to be inundated. Upon receiving distress calls, the lifeboat from Zeebrugge was first on stand-by. Five crew members were immediately taken on board. In doing so, one of the lifeboat men fell into the water between the two ships and broke his arm. Furthermore the lifeboat had engine trouble and was forced to head back to harbour. In the meantime the tugboat “Burgemeester Van Damme” arrived to give assistence. With great difficulty a hawser was fixed, but unfortunately it broke shortly afterwards. The ship was the waves´ plaything and drifted towards the beach. At last it grounded between Cadzand-Bad and the Zwin estuary. At half past two p.m., the captain of the Breskens´ lifeboat was warned that the Uilenspiegel was in danger. At once the “President J.V. Wierdsma” put to sea. Frightened, the four remaining crew members of the radio ship waited for rescue. After several efforts they were taken on board the lifeboat. It had been a perilous undertaking, for the rescued people and for the recuers. At a later date, tribute was paid by the management off the KNRM to the crew members of the “President J.V. Wierdsma” for their courageous behaviour. “It was an exceptional rescue, under extreme circumstances, professionally done in uncommonly bad weather”, according to the director of the company. Decorated were: W. van den Broecke, C.J. Erasmus, B. Seekles, R. van Queckelberghe, J. Fenijn, P. Moelker and J. Pleitje. [Taken from the 60th anniversary booklet of the KNRM, Koninklijke Nederlandse Redding Maatschappij, the equivalent of the British RNLI, in 1999).
The same night, the Uilenspiegel ran ashore at the beach of Retranchement near the Dutch Cadzand. The wreck gradually sank into the sands. In the meantime the Dutch government was embarrassed by the presence of the stranded ship, which nobody wanted to claim. Tens of thousands came to have a look at the stranded vessel and some of them stole the furniture and equipment. In the course of years the concrete boat sank further and further in the sandy beach and became a treat for walkers and sunbathers. Finally, in 1971, the Uilenspiegel was blown up. The ship was considered a safety hazard as a young German tourist had broken his back when falling from the wreck. The lower parts of the ship were not damaged, and eventually got covered by sand. In June 2001, some parts of the ship wreck were still seen as a danger. Therefore the city council of Sluis-Aardenburg (in the Dutch province Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, close to the Belgian border) decided to cover the keel with even more sand.
Offshore radio station: Radio Antwerpen from 12th October to 16th December 1962
Location: International waters off Zeebrügge (Belgium)