For a rescue to be successful, it is important that a stranded ship is discovered in time. It was the shore officer's job to monitor the shore in stormy weather and immediately report to the nearest rescue station if he observed a ship approaching the shore. The shore officers did not always live up to their task, and quite a long time could pass between a ship being stranded and the rescue station being informed.
From 1897, the task of keeping watch along the beach was transferred to the rescue brigade. A watch service was established, by which the rescue stations’ supervisors decided whether it was necessary to send out a stranding watch. In the directive, it read that the watch should be deployed "when the weather causes poor visibility and is of such a nature that wrecks are to be feared, and the waves are estimated to be of such power that landing with ordinary fishing boats is dangerous."
On shore watch
The shore watchmen walked alone or in pairs along the beach, and watched for ships coming in to shore. The shore watch had to walk until they met the shore watch from the neighboring district. Then they turned and went back again. A shore watch shift lasted for 4-6 hours and, in the early years, wages were 50 Danish øre per hour. The photo shows Jens Fjordside, shore watch and rescuer at Ferring Rescue Station, and his dog Bonnie, c. 1920. The shore watch brought with them a holster with blue lights, which they used to signal to stranded ships that they had been observed and that help was on the way.
Watch houses along the coast
If the shore watch observed a stranded ship, they had to notify the rescue station attendant. In order for the alert to happen quickly, 33 small alerting houses were placed along the coast, housing a bench and a direct telephone connection between the rescue stations.
The picture shows a tour near Langerhuse Beach from about 1940. One of the small guard houses and the Langerhuse distress signal mast can be seen up in the dunes.
Over the years 1886-1901, the Rescue Brigade had a telephone connection installed along the west coast, so that help could be called in quickly in case of a stranding. The first telephone line was established between Flyvholm and Thyborøn in order to summon the horses needed to pull the lifeboat. Back then, there were no horses in Thyborøn.
One of the earliest representations of the telephone line is in this painting of Niels Bjerre, where it is possible to make out a number of telephone poles along the sea. When it was painted in 1892, there was a telephone connection along the entire Lemvig region's coastline and between Lilleøre Rescue Station and the rescue manager's office in Lemvig. It is therefore not possible to deduce exactly where the picture was painted.
Abolition of the watch
The shore watch remained in operation until 1974, when the system was abolished. Technological developments meant that not many ships became stranded. Moreover, it had become difficult to find people to walk along the beach through darkness and storms.
The image depicts the shore watch shack at Flyvholm Rescue Station.