Tuesday, 15 October 2013


We continue with witness accounts and impressions.

Charles Richard Campbell Lloyd. Passenger (80 000 miles in steamers) -

"During the trip from Cape Town to Sydney, the vessel lurched or heeled over in an unusual way on several occasions and for no reason that I could see. It was the subject of conversation and amusement on board. It was impossible to say when it would happen. The sea did not appear to be responsible for the lurches, for they happened whether the sea was calm or moderately rough."

The word 'amusement' does not equate with 'danger'. 

"The vessel, without the slightest warning, after proceeding for hours without anything unusual happening, would for no apparent cause suddenly but slowly lurch or heel over well on to her side, then she would slowly recover herself and come back again." 

"Sometimes a full day might intervene before a repetition of this peculiar lurch occurred. It was very noticeable, and some of the golf balls and articles used in deck golf went over board when the vessel lurched in the way described. It was the only peculiarity in the behaviour of the vessel at sea that I noticed, beyond her unusual slowness in recovering a normal position when rolling, otherwise she seemed to me to be stable."

'Otherwise she seemed to be stable' - very important closing remark. Despite the rolling pattern he viewed the Waratah as stable = safe.

John Latimer. Shipping clerk to the agents for Waratah -

"Mr. Hemy (the second officer) and I entered into a conversation about the ship. I remember saying to him, "How do you like your new ship?" He replied, "I don't like her at all. Between ourselves, I think she has a deck too many. When the ship was coming round from the builders' yards at Glasgow or Belfast” (I forget which place he said) to London, to load for Australia, we got caught in some heavy weather in the Channel, and she gave me a scare, because I thought she was going over on her broadside." 

"We had further conversation about the ship, and he said, "I'm different to a seaman, and an officer cannot throw up his job when he likes, but I intend to get out of her as soon as I get a chance," or to that effect." 

"He also said something about the vessel being a difficult vessel to stow, and that she would require a lot of dead weight in the 'tween decks to steady her. I cannot recollect the precise words, but the substance of the conversation as regards the stowing was to the effect stated".

Again an acknowledgment that Waratah required significant dead weight low down. 'Tween decks' is however somewhat controversial as we shall see in coming posts when Captain Ilbery tackled the issue of GM.

Very sad to be reminded of Mr Hemy and his name on the list of those lost with the Waratah. His fear at the end must have been all the more enhanced by his misgivings of the liner from the outset. This was made all the worse by his words 'cannot throw up his job when he likes'. If only he had.

John Marshall Lennie.  Steward on the Waratah -

"She was what I termed a "dead" ship. When she rolled she gave me the feeling at the end of the roll that she wouldn't recover." 

"She recovered slowly from each roll, and hung for a while at the end of the roll. It was the same in the roll on both sides. She rolled the same way throughout the voyage." 

"From my experience (which was none by all account), I could not understand why a ship of that size and draught rolled at all in the sort of weather we had. I never experienced the same sort of rolling in any other ship."

"She did not pitch badly"

Again the witness accounts shifted markedly towards that of a flawed liner, given to excessive rolling and listing.

Samuel Trott. Cook on Waratah (4 years sea experience on ships of the British India Co) -

"There was nothing about the ship to frighten me. I left the ship because she was laid up, but allowed my son (a pantry boy) to make the second voyage."

As in the case of the list shifting from side to side, once again we have a very powerful statement from Mr Trott in favour of the Waratah. 

We have to bear in mind that he lost his son with the Waratah and if anyone had good reason to be disparaging about this steamship, it was he.  But instead Mr Trott kept his statement concise and unemotional.

I'm inclined to give this simple witness statement more weight than the dramatically negative descriptions of the Waratah gone before.

to be continued.....

The Coventry - a list can go too far....

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