Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Waratah - Wakefield 4 month search.

The Argus (Melbourne) Saturday 25 June 1910
(By our special reporter.)
"Steamer, yellow funnel, with red bands,off the Otway."
There was nothing particularly startlingin the message signalled from Point Lons-dale to the pilot steamer Victorla outsidethe Heads yesterday morning, but to thewatchers on the Victoria it told that theirwaiting for the steamer Wakefield was atan end. The Wakefield has been fourmonths searching for the missing Waratah,and the Victoria has been four days waitingfor the Wakefield.
The search steamer hove in sight far offthe Heads shortly after 2 o'clock. By 3o'clock a boat from the pilot steamer hadmade fast to her side.
"Any news of the Waratah?" shouted aman from the Wakefield's deck. .
"No; have you?" was the answer andcounter query.
"No news." This time the message carriedfrom the Wakefield's bridge.
In those two words was summarised thestory of the Wakoficld's search. "We havebeen out 4 months," Lieutenant Seymour,the naval officer on the search steamer,supplemented later on, "and we haven'tseen any sign of the Waratah or the slightesttrace of any wreckage."

Saturday, 27 June 2015


Singleton Argus (NSW) Saturday 1 January 1910
The White Star Line steamer Celtichas arrived at Liverpool with the cargoof cotton in the hold on fire. There were400 passengers aboard, who were ignorant of the fire burning.
Many steamers of the era experienced fires on board. This is an example of how these fires were kept under wraps. In most cases the crew was able to contain the fire and the vessel arrived safely at port. Another example is the Koombana which made a hurried arrival at port and only when passengers awoke, were they aware of smoke. If there was a fire on the Waratah, I don't believe a fuss would have been made - until it was too late.

The steamer Prince George on fire.

Thursday, 25 June 2015


The Mercury (Hobart) Thursday 4 August, 1910
Administration is being sought by theUnion Trustees Co. and Clyde Govett  of the estate of Mrs. Lydia Laura Govett,late of St. Albans, Geelong, widow. Mrs.Govett was a passenger by the Waratah.She was "seen off" by her friends on thesteamer leaving Melbourne, and a letterwas received from her, dated 22nd July,1909, bearing the post mark of Durban,South Africa. Other affidavits stated thatshe was on board when the steamer leftDurban, since when it has not beenheard of . Testatrix leaves £14,124 to hernext-of-kin, consisting of three children.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Waratah - more wreckage.

the West Australian (Perth) Friday 25 March 1910
The Commissioner of Police (CaptainHare) has received from Sub-inspector Mitchell, of Bunbury, a report relative to thefinding of a steamer's notice board on thebeach between Flinder's Bay jetty and CapeLeenwin. 
It appears that while at Flinder's Bay, onMarch 11 the Water-police Constable Delfslearned that a notice board had been picked up by John Paddon on the beach abouthalf-way between Flinder's Bay jetty andCape Leeuwin lighthouse. "The board,"says W.p.c. Delfs in his report, "is markedthus: 'Notice. This vessel has twin screws'.It is 4ft. by 3ft., is made of lightpine painted black, with white letters. Thebottom plank is missing. I took the measurement of depth by two small pieces which were nailed down each side. The board does not appear to have been in the water very long. People here are of theopinion that it is possible the wreckage isfrom the missing steamer Waratah. Ofcourse it is also possible that it has beenwashed away from some steamer whilst offCape Leeuwin in bad weather. I believethe Waratah was a twin-screw boat. Thenotice was found on the 6th inst."Commenting on W.p.c. Delfs's report, Subinspector Mitchell ,wrote: "The pieces ofboard referred to in this report are now inmy possession. It appears that it is necessary for all twin-screw steamers when inport to have a notice board exhibited announcing the fact. I do not think it would be possible for anyone to identify theseas belonging to any particular steamer.
An extremely long shot.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015


The missing steamer Waratah signalled"good-bye" to the steamer Clan Macintyre just outside Durban on July 27.Three days earlier Mrs. Alexander Hay,one of the Adelaide passengers, wrote thelast letter received by her family. It wasposted at Durban when the Waratahtouched at that port. Mrs. Hay had theutmost faith in the stability of the vessel, and a great admiration for its comfort as a seaboat. She made the voyage from England to Australia in the Waratah, and, as will be seen by the extract given hereunder from her letter, she retained her good opinion to the moment of writing it. She says: -
"I am sitting on the deck of this finesteamer trying to write a few lines to youto post at Durban. We have had, onthe whole, a fine-weather passage, thoughthrough the Bight, or rather, I shouldsay, across the mouth of it, we had, as usual, some stiff blows, which came to a climax when rounding the Leeuwin. It is very seldom that portion of Australia does not give its final kick, and it gave us a pretty good specimen of what it can do. The captain said he was sure the mail boat would make much worse weather than we did." 
"Nearly all the passengers are old. We have not one married couple on board, at least in the saloon, and only one child. It is a very good thing that I have the new story to occupy me for otherwise I should have nothing to pass the time. Bridge is a great thing afternoon and evening, and that I do not play. One gets very tired of the monotonous expanse of ocean, with not a vessel of any sort to break its desolateness." 
"This is my eighteenth passage. I had thought it was the seventeenth, but I find it is the larger number. It seems to me ages since I left Adelaide, but I  dare say after Durban it will not seem so long. The last two days we have had splendid runs, 330 miles each day. So, owing to these great distances, we shall reach Durban on Sunday instead of Monday."
"Nothing can exceed the comfort of this steamer, both as regards her cabin and build, and also the attention of the captain and all the attendants on board. I have only to hint at a want, and it is at once supplied. Only fancy, the first vessel sighted since we left Australia was seen this morning, a sailing ship. There has been nothing but water, water, water."
"The Waratah is certainly a splendid vessel. I don't want to sleep on shore tomorrow night, but they say the coaling may be very unpleasant. I believe we shall leave for Capetown on Monday night, July 26. There has just been the most glorious sunset, but it does not beat those of Australia."

This letter is a gem. It gives a rare insight into the voyage over from Australia. On the whole Mrs. Hay found the Waratah comfortable, the facilities and service exemplary. She describes a steamer that handled the conditions off Cape Leeuwin with ease, certainly by comparison with the mail boat.  Mrs. Hay refers to the story she was writing - and intended to present the manuscript to a publisher inLondon. She describes an impressive 300 miles per day, which translates into 13.75 knots. Mrs. Hay refers to sleeping onshore to avoid coaling, which implies that the process was probably messy, smelly and noisy. But there's more:
The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate (NSW) Saturday 8 January 1910
What may have led to misgiving as to the stowage of the coal taken on board at Durban was the fact that as the vesselwas lying close to the wharf, it wasfound convenient to load it into thebunkers below (not the emergencyspar bunkers), by means of shoots, openings of which were on the boat andpromenade decks.

Due to the position of the moored Waratah, coaling had to take place via chutes on the promenade deck - i.e. where Mrs. Hay's saloon was located.
Note that Mrs. Hay makes no reference to Claude Sawyer or talk about abandoning the Waratah at Durban.
This letter is one of the few treasures emerging from what was otherwise a tragedy of epic proportions.

Waratah - Captain Preston.

The Advertiser (Adelaide) Saturday 21 August 1909
Sir Matthew Nathan, the retiring Governor of Natal, and Mr. F. R, Moor, the Premier, are negotiating with the Imperial Government regarding the establishment of wireless telegraphy on the Natal coast, withthe object of communicating with vesselsat sea.
The Cape Government has appointed acommission to enquire into the lighting ofthe coast, the protection of shipping, andthe measures that were taken in connectionwith the loss of the Shaw-Saville linerMaori a few miles south of Cape Town. Itwill be remembered that the wreck wasattributed by the court of marine enquiryto an abnormal inset, and the captainand his officers were exonerated. Thecommission includes Commander Wills, ofthe warship Hermes, which is at presentsearching for the Waratah. His servicesas an experienced naval officer to assistthe Commissioners were granted by theAdmiralty.
Captain Preston, the commander of theMongolia, which left the Outer Harborearly on Friday, is firmly convinced thatthe Waratah is still afloat. He thinks someserious accident happened to the propelleror machinery, and that the vessel hasdrifted a long way south, but he is ofopinion that "she will be seen steamingslowly from the south to the Cape withinthe next fortnight". 
During the late war Captain Preston commanded the troopship Plassy for two years, and he made several trips to and from the Cape, with troops, so that he knows the weather conditions that prevail there. On one occasion Captain Preston made seven attempts before he succeeded in reaching a safe anchorage at Durban, where owing to the fearful weather that ruled, a number of vesselswere wrecked at the time. The whole ofthe soldiers and horses on his ship werelanded safely, and when the troopship re-turned to England the King sent for Captain Preston, who went to BuckinghamPalace, and was personally congratulatedby his Majesty on the skill he had shown in navigating his ship through the Durban gale.

                                             HM Troopship Plassy