Tuesday, 5 November 2013


Missing Steamship "Waratah."

HC Deb 13 September 1909 vol 10 cc1734-5 1734

"Mr. STANIER asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he could give any information as to what the Government is doing to assist in the search for the missing steamship Waratah?"

"Mr. SIMON asked whether the Admiralty had given directions for any of His Majesty's ships to assist in the search for the missing liner Waratah; and, if not, whether instructions for this purpose could be given forthwith?"

"Mr. McKENNA acting under the instructions of the Senior Naval Officer at Simonstown, in the absence at sea of the Commander-in-Chief at the Cape of Good Hope, search was made by His Majesty's ships with full Admiralty approval, as follows:

"His Majesty's ship Forte—from 1st August (the Waratah being then four days overdue at Cape Town) practically continuously up to 17th August; His Majesty's ship Pandora—from 3rd August practically continuously till 23rd August; His Majesty's ship Hermes (flagship) arrived at Durban from Beira on 12th August, employed on search from 12th to 17th August."

"The search by His Majesty's ships was discontinued in accordance with the opinion of a conference held on the 17th August, at which the Governor of the Cape, the acting Prime Minister and another Minister, the captain of the Union Castle steamship Briton, the agent of Messrs. Lund and Sons, the owners, and the naval Commander-in-Chief were present. The conference suggested the chartering by the owners and underwriters of a steamer for a month."

"This is now being done with the concurrence and financial support of the Australian Government, the vessel (Wakefield) being chartered for 90 days. The Admiralty on 6th September were asked to lend a lieutenant for three months for this vessel and agreed to do so. The Commander-in-Chief has detailed an officer accordingly."

"Five naval ratings have also been lent as a search party to the steamship selected, which sailed on Saturday."

"Mr. J. D. REES Would not the vessel have been found long ago if she had been fitted with wireless apparatus?"

"Mr. McKENNA It is impossible to say without knowing the actual circumstances in which the ship may have found herself."

"Mr. REES Has wireless telegraphy not proved efficacious in such cases?"

"Mr. McKENNA In certain cases it has. But we do not know the conditions of the Waratah."

It is puzzling that the absence of a wireless on the Waratah was not considered a vital missing link as to the difficulties she was experiencing and her location.

Mr McKenna strikes me as someone who was attempting to avoid a 'sticky conflict of interests'.

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