ROSES will be thrown into the River Severn as a plinth is unveiled to mark 100 years since a ferry disaster claimed the lives of nine people.

The plinth will feature a plaque with the victims' names, including those of three children, who died when an overloaded ferry was swamped by a passing pleasure steamer on a bank holiday Monday in 1919.

With the advent of the railway in the 1860s, Astley, Stourport, Bewdley had become popular bank holiday destinations.

Because there was no bridge over the Severn between Stourport and Holt, the ferry outside the Hampstall Inn at Astley Burf was popular with visitors.

On the afternoon of August 4, 1919, several families from Birmingham and the surrounding areas were waiting outside the hotel to cross the river.

The ferry was a small fishing punt - 4.7m long, 1m wide and 38cm deep - and normally carried up to 12 standing passengers.

George Jones had only been acting as the ferryman for a month, and when 14 passengers wanted to cross, he asked William Greenhow, an experienced ferryman, to help him paddle the large party the 70 yards across the river.

The pair struggled to float the ferry off the bank and an oar was snapped and replaced with an iron-bladed shovel.

A pleasure steamer, the Amo, travelling towards Stourport, caused a wave which the ferrymen used to float the ferry off the sandbank.

The edge of the punt was only eight centimetres above the water and the passengers were all holding onto each other in the cramped ferry.

Mid-stream, a second pleasure steamer, the May Queen, came around the bend of the river at speed towards Holt Fleet.

The whistle had not been heard on the ferry and the disturbance in the water caused Thomas Price to fall overboard.

The ferry capsized, throwing everyone into the river.

Despite passengers on the steamer rushing to the back of the boat, the steamer did not stop, and none of the lifebelts were thrown to help those struggling in the water.

Ellen Greenhow, of Astley Burf, was the heroine of the day, taking her own boat out to help the screaming swimmers.

When Mrs Greenhow reached the upturned ferry, she saw just five people in the water.

She first saved a woman, then two men, then returned and rescued another two men who were clinging to the ferry.

Three other men had managed to swim to the bank, but the remaining nine passengers - two men, four women, and three children - could not be saved.

Smethwick man George Ramsell survived, but his wife Elsie Ramsell, Harry Matthews and his wife Ethel, and their daughter Hilda, aged five, were drowned.

John Wilson, a tubeworks foreman at Nechells, survived, but his wife Lydia and their eight-year-old son Joseph were drowned.

Annie Rickard, from Bordesley Green, was saved, but her husband William, a fitter, and their son Arthur, aged seven, were drowned.

Minnie Hyde, a widow from Sparkhill, was also drowned. Her husband had died a year earlier in Flanders, so their children, Alfred, aged 10, and Winifred, aged five, were orphaned.

Joseph Price, a mechanic from Birmingham, Thomas and James Price, and two ferrymen George Jones and William Greenhow, all survived.

The Shuttle reported at the time how thousands of people assembled to watch the funeral procession depart weeks later.

Fred Greenhow, the grandson of Ellen Greenhow, who saved many lives that day, will unveil the plaque at the centenary event on Sunday, August 4.

Peter Archer, chair of the Astley and Dunley History Society, which organised the event, said: "This has been organised by residents of Astley to remember what happened 100 years ago.

"The history society has been working on this for the last year. When the disaster happened, most people were still preoccupied by the war so it was somewhat lost in history.

"This will be a beautiful memorial on the side of the river where nine people died."

Residents are invited to join the ceremony from 11.30am.

Kidderminster building suppliers Thompson and Parkes has donated bricks for the plinth and the project has been supported by Hampstall Inn owner Roy Shenton and local residents.