I knew I had lost one of my closest friends
FOR Beccy Sawbridge the 20 years since the tragedy have been about trying to find ways to deal with her feelings and cope with life. The 50-year-old, who was a Herald stewardess, is not ashamed to admit she still has regular counselling. She has also become a political activist – fuelled by the fact she felt the Government of the day ignored P&O workers, who came out on strike furious at contract changes they felt undermined safety. Beccy, who lives in Dover’s Tower Hamlets, was known by the nickname The Squaw on board because of her dark looks. Several months before the tragedy she had transferred to another ship called the Free Enterprise VIII. As news broke of the disaster, she knew deep in her heart one of her close friends, a stewardess called Lynda Burt, had died. Beccy also lost 20 other good friends and colleagues including steward Glen Butler. Without the benefit hindsight affords, Beccy went back to work on Sunday. Her role that day was to be with returning survivors plus families and friends travelling to Zeebrugge. Then came the awful moment she sailed past the stricken Herald. “The feeling just chilled every part of me,” she said with tears in her eyes.
Beccy now knows that the day she went back to work was the start of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She carried on working intermittently, but had to take more and more sick leave. But feelings of disgust were unleashed, when P&O wanted to make contract changes reducing manning levels. Many seamen were horrified at such measures so soon after the Herald. Beccy played a key role in the strikes, which began in 1988. Such was her commitment, she could not pay her mortgage and risked losing her house. For many strikers there was to be a sad ending. “P&O sacked me by letter,” she said. “Doctors, counsellors and the Herald Assistance Unit were brilliant, but the company sacked me. “I am still left with a sense of injustice.”
BECCY SAWBRIDGE: still has counselling