The tragic death of Sarah Goldsmid

The sudden death of Sarah d'Avigdor Goldsmid in a yachting accident in September 1963 shocked the people of Capel. With her father, Sir Henry d'Avigdor Goldsmid, being an M.P. the tragic events made headlines in the national press and were extensively covered in the Midlands as Sir Henry represented the constituency of Walsall South. 

Below are articles from the press in the Birmingham area covering the reporting of the inquest and from Capel describing the funeral and offering a personal reflection and tribute.

Birmingham Daily Post - Wednesday 25 September 1963

Night in sea after dinghy capsized

—Survivor's story

Mr. Patrick M. Pakenham, aged 26, son of the Earl of Longford, described at an inquest at Hastings yesterday how he spent all night in the sea off Rye after a dinghy overturned last Wednesday. His two companions died. Asked by the Coroner, Mr. Stephen Clarke, about the sailing experience of his companions, Mr. Pakenham replied: "I think they had very little."

A verdict of "Accidental death" was recorded on Miss Sarah Goldsmid, aged 21 of Tonbridge, elder daughter of Sir Harry Goldsmid, Conservative M.P. for Walsall South and Mr. Reginald David Winn, 25, of Eaton Square, London. Mr. Pakenham of Cornwall Gardens. London. swam ashore to Fairlight Cove, near Hastings, and raised the alarm 21 hours after the dinghy capsized.

'All under boat'

By that time, he said, Mr Winn had died, and he had left Miss Goldsmid unconscious near the dinghy while he swam to get help.

Mr Pakenham said that they had had difficulty in leaving the harbour because the tide was against them, and the dinghy was towed out to sea by a motor boat.

When they started for home they were running with the boom. The boom swung round through 180 degrees and the next thing he knew was that they had all been tipped into the water.

"The boat went straight over and we were all under it for a bit" he said. "Then we swam out."

The mast was pointing down to the sea bed. He swam underneath, secured three life jackets and took them back to his companions.

Mr Winn and Miss Goldsmid sat on the keel and started paddling with oars he gave them. He swam, holding on to the dinghy and tried to steer it from behind.

"I knew that the tide would be coming in again about 6:30 p.m.." he said, "I thought it was just a question of sitting on the boat and of someone seeing us or that we would be brought in by the tide."

When it became dark his companions remained "tremendously optimistic." but he was rather nervous that the tide would again swing against them.

'Died suddenly '

The water was very cold and they could see the lights along the coast. Once fishing boats seemed to pass close to them and he waved his life-jacket without success.

He decided about 2 a.m. that they must try to right the boat . He went under it and cut away the mainsail with a penknife. It helped, but the sea was becoming rougher and they still could not right the boat.

He went under three times while his companions heaved on the edge of the boat to try to right it, but the waves kept tipping it over.

"Then the weather seemed to get much worse." he said. "Very suddenly, David started to get cold and he quickly became unconscious and died. He died very quickly and very suddenly.

Clung to dinghy

This was about 4 a.m. he calculated. Mr. Winn's body drifted off. He and Miss Goldsmid continued to cling to the dinghy but it was only their life-Jackets which kept them afloat. Then she lost consciousness just as Winn had done, "very suddenly."

"I then told her I was going to swim for help, but I am sure she did not understand, because I had not been able to understand anything quite a while before that." he said. He took off his life-Jacket and put it under her head to keep her up. He calculated that he left her about 9.30 on Thursday morning. He could give no clear idea of how far he swam, but he raised the alarm about 11.30 a.m. The Coroner said: " Whatever mistakes were made in regard to the sailing of this boat, all three of them put up a wonderful fight to survive." If this dinghy had been provided with some form of distress signal, something might have been done to attract the attention of crews of vessels nearby.

Sarah d'Avigdor Goldsmid
Sarah d'Avigdor Goldsmid

Kent & Sussex Courier - Friday 04 October 1963


Nearly a thousand people thronged the parish church of St. Peter and St. Paul. Tonbridge on Friday for the funeral of Miss Sarah Venetia d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, who died in a yachting tragedy off the Sussex coast the previous week. 

Sarah was the 21-year-old daughter of Sir Harry and Lady d'Avigdor-Goldsmid and heiress to the 5.000-acre family estate at Somerhill. She died when the dinghy in which she was a passenger capsized in Rye Bay. Also killed was Mr. David Winn, a 25-year- old script-writer from London. 

The family's parish church at Tudeley was too small for the funeral, but the vicar, the Rev Frank Forbes, assisted Canon T. F. C. Bowes, vicar of Tonbridge.

Close Friends

Canon Bewes read a tribute from a life-long friend of Sarah's which told of her loyalty, courage and indomitable spirit.

After the service Sir Harry, who is M.P. for Walsall South, his family and close friends attended the internment ceremony in the private graveyard in Tudeley village. Pall bearers were:  Frederick Clarke, Keith Delves, Eric Winn, Leslie Richardson, Rodney Hickmott and Stanley Stephens. All worked in various departments managing and maintaining the Somerhill Estate.

Kent & Sussex Courier - Friday 27 September 1963

Village Mourns

Friends in many parts of England today share the grief of Sir Harry and Lady d'Avigdor Goldsmid in the tragic loss of their elder daughter, Sarah, in a yachting accident last Wednesday.

The blow was felt particularly in the parish of Tudeley-cum-Capel, where Sir Harry is regarded as the squire and Somerhill as the manor house. The Goldsmids are loved and respected for what they are and for what Sir Harry's forebears were to the village.

All week letters have been arriving at Somerhill expressing sympathy from organisations in the area. 

The tragedy brought an almost personal sense of loss to people who met Sarah at her 21st birthday party in the grounds of Somerhill in July. More than 250 local people, many of whom had seen her grow up, were touched by her friendliness and gaiety.

Sarah often went with her mother and other members of her family to worship at Tudeley church. She was a familiar figure in the villages whizzing by in her red mini car.

The Vicar of Tudeley-cum-Capel, the Rev Frank Forbes said: "Unless you have actually seen and experienced the impact Miss Sarah's death has had on the village you would find it hard to realise.

 Our thoughts go out to Patrick Pakenham, sole survivor of the three friends who set out in the yacht. His desperate swim for help after fixing his lifebelt to the unconscious Sarah deserves our admiration.

A Tribute to their daughter

Sarah and her mother were admirers of contemporary art and were impressed by the work of Russian-French artist Marc Chagall in his designs for a Jerusalem synagogue's stained-glass windows which they had seen at an exhibition in Paris in 1961. In memory of Sarah the family commissioned Chagall to design the east window at All Saints church - although he was at first apparently reluctant to take up the assignment. He arrived at Tudeley in 1967 for the installation of the window and immediately recognised the unique beauty of his artwork within the setting of the church declaring, "It is magnificent, I will do them all." Eighteen years later, by the time of his death at age ninety-eight, all twelve windows had been installed with designs by Chagall.

Above are the artist Marc Chagall and the East Window at All Saints church, Tudeley which was the first one installed in memory of Sarah