A pipeman who worked inside the engine room of an ill-fated fishing vessel died after contracting asbestos there, a court has heard. 

Francis Gray, of Mill Lane in Bradwell, near Great Yarmouth, was diagnosed with mesothelioma last year. 

It was discovered after the 82-year-old began suffering from shortness of breath.  

He died at the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston on the morning of February 3. 

At the inquest into this death, held recently at Norfolk Coroner’s Court, an in-life statement from Mr Gray was read out. 

Eastern Daily Press: A major contribution to the post-war industrial prosperity of Lowestoft was the building of the

A retired engineer, he went into detail about his past career history as a pipeman working for Brooke Marine Limited in Lowestoft during the early 1970s. 

He wrote: "They had work available in the pipe fitters' section and I went on to work there as a pipefitter. I was there about two to three years in total. 

“I had to go underneath the engines to put pipework in. 

Eastern Daily Press: Brooke Marine circa 1960

“For grinding, burning, welding and cutting, they would use asbestos blankets to protect the surrounding area from loose sparks.  

“I remember that there was widespread use of asbestos blankets. The asbestos blankets were in constant use, I would see them every day.  

“All these activities were being done around me in a small space.  

“Brooke Marine was a dangerous place to work. There were a number of injuries in my relatively brief time there. 

“It was this employment and no other that I was exposed to asbestos.” 

A huge operation in its heyday, Brooke Marine was a Lowestoft-based shipbuilding firm that also built boats for the RNLI.  

The first boat Mr Gray worked on was the deep-sea factory fishing vessel, the Gaul.

She sank overnight on February 8,1974, during storm conditions in the Barents Sea off the northern coasts of Norway and Russia. 

All 36 crew were lost. 

Eastern Daily Press: The Gaul

The court, based at County Hall, Norwich, heard that Mr Gray worked in the Gaul’s engine room daily where asbestos was fitted around pipe work and boilers. 

He described seeing “white dust” floating in the atmosphere and could not recall “wearing a mask or being asked to wear a mask.”

Assistant coroner, Christopher Leach, concluded that Mr Gray died from an “industrial-related disease.”