The Times, Tuesday, Feb 06, 1866; pg. 6; Issue 25414; col B

                         THE LOSS OF THE LONDON.

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                                OFFICIAL INQUIRY.


The inquiry directed by the Board of Trade into the circumstances under which the London foundered in the Bay of Biscay on the 11th ult. was resumed at the Greenwich Police Court yesterday, before Mr. TRAILL, police magistrate, and Captain HARRIS and Captain BAKER, nautical assessors. Mr. O’DOWD appeared for the Board of Trade, and Mr. W. M. HITCHCOCK, on behalf of Mr. CULTING, whose daughter was lost in the ship. Mr. Clifford WIGRAM, one of the owners of the London, was also present. The evidence given by the quartermaster on Saturday that Captain MARTIN had never run the ship before the wind, except during a few minutes while he was wearing her to facilitate the launching of the port cutter in which the 19 persons were saved, was supported by all the witnesses examined yesterday. But on the subject of the hatchway, and the flying jibboom which was said to have been lashed under it, there was some conflicting and extraordinary testimony. It had been stated by more than one witness that the flying jibboom which had been carried overboard on the morning of the 9th of January was got in again about 4 o’clock on the afternoon of the 10th, and immediately lashed to the deck alongside the hatchway to the engine-room; and it will be remembered that on his examination on Saturday the carpenter’s mate suggested that the skylight had been carried away by this jibboom having been driven up against it by the action of the seas which the vessel shipped on the night of the 10th. Yesterday, however, Master EDWARDS, one of the midshipmen, stated that he had seen the flying jibboom knocking about the deck at 11 o’clock in the morning of the 11th, not lashed, but striking both the bulwarks of the ship and the combings of the hatchway. He added that he had again seen it under similar circumstances at between 3 and 5 o’clock in the afternoon of the same day. Still more extraordinary, he asserted, as beyond no possibility of mistake, that on the morning of the 11th, nearly 12 hours after the skylight had been carried away, he saw it lying on the deck, neither its framework nor any of the glass being broken, and, he added, that, though he thought the captain also must have seen it there, he witnessed no attempt to put it back again on the hatchway. The witness who immediately preceded Master EDWARDS stated as positively that the skylight was smashed to pieces shortly after it had been carried off the hatchway. When it is recollected that all night the crew and passengers had been endeavouring in vain to stop up the hatchway with spars, sails, mattresses, and whatever else they could lay their hands on, and that the skylight was 12ft. by 9ft., and weighed a ton and a half, and must therefore have been a very prominent object, it will appear all the more marvellous that it could have been lying where the midshipman states he saw it, and yet neither the captain nor any other officer have given orders to have it replaced upon the hatchway after the first attempts had been made to replace it, and, as the other witness swore, it had been smashed to pieces with the wind and the sea. At the sitting of the Court yesterday,

Daniel Thomas SMITH was examined. He said he was boatswain’s mate on board the London during her last voyage, which was his first aboard that ship. He had been 17 years at sea, and chiefly on foreign voyages. The weather was very fine when the London left Plymouth, soon after midnight on Saturday, the 5th of January, and continued so till the 7th, when the wind increased, but not with great violence till Monday. They were going under steam with head to wind. It came on to blow strong in the morning, about 10 o’clock. It might have been blowing about half a gale then. The wind increased to a full gale by 6 that evening, when they set mizenstaysail and forestaysail, and maintopmast staysail and reefspanker. About 8 o’clock the maintopmast staysail was carried away. Nothing more occurred till the morning of the 9th. On the night of the 9th, when carrying the sails that he had stated, they were on the starboard tack. About 9 o’clock on the morning of the 9th the jibboom was carried away. At the same time the ship pitched, and carried away the foretopmast, the foretopgallantmast, and mainroyalmast. He saw this. All went within a few minutes of each other; the one pitch did it. No injury was done to the ship. The jibboom went overboard on the starboard side, and the masts hung down abaft. This was all that occurred that day. They tried to cut away the wreck of the jibboom, but the sea was so heavy they could not get at it. The foretopmast was secured with lines round the foremast, and the mainroyalmast was left hanging. The jibboom was overboard all night, and was not got on board till the afternoon of the 10th. The standing jibboom, after they got it on board, they lashed to the after part of the fore rigging, on the port side. It was lashed to the ringbolts on the deck. The ship was then on the port tack. A piece of the flying jibboom was taken in, brought aft, and lashed by the engine hatchway on the port side. He saw this done. The length of it was about 25ft., and its circumference about 28in. or 29in. It lay by the engine hatchway, with its after end lashed to the stanchions of the after or saloon hatchway. He lashed it with a 3-inch rope.

Captain HARRIS. - What! a 3-inch rope round a portion of the stanchions only about an inch and half in diameter?

The witness repeated that he had used a 3-inch rope. He was not on deck when the ship’s head was turned towards Plymouth, and did not know when her head was turned in that direction. The flying jibboom was secured about 4 in the evening, and he saw it secure in its place at 7 o’clock. He did not notice then that it was jumping about, or loose. He did not at any time see it strike the combings of the hatch. He could not say he saw it again till after the skylight had been carried away. He could not say that at any time previous to the hatchway being carried away he saw the flying jibboom sweeping about the deck and striking the combings.

Mr. O’DOWD observed that in a statement which his clerk had taken down the witness said he saw the flying jibboom “sweeping from the deck to the hatchway, and it was striking the combing.”

The witness said he had never meant to assert he had seen it doing so. From 7 o’clock he had not seen it till he saw it taken and put as a support over the hatchway after the skylight had been carried away. When he saw it on the latter occasion one end of it was put down the hatchway. He did not see it cast adrift, or unlashed, just before it was so put down. Some men were putting it down, and he lent a hand. It was on the port side. The ship was making water then, and all she was making, as far as he knew, was taken down through the hatchway. The scuppers at that time were blocked up with coal, and they had been blocked up before the skylight was carried away. On the Wednesday afternoon the coals were cleared off the deck, and some of them were thrown overboard. He tried to clear the scuppers with a round bar of iron, but was unable to do so. He had never seen any gratings over the scuppers. He tried to clear two of them on the after starboard side. Mattresses, sails, and other things were placed over the flying jibboom with the view of keeping the water out of the hatchway. He believed that several of the men who were endeavouring to stop the hatchway were washed down. The flying jibboom was placed from corner to corner, the lower end resting on the maindeck, and the upper end on the combings of the hatchway. He was not on deck when the ship was put on the port tack. He went below on the 10th at 12 noon. She was then on the starboard tack. He came up at 4 o’clock and she was then on the port tack. After he came up he remained on deck until he left the ship on the 11th, except occasionally when he went down for something. She remained on the port tack till about an hour before the boat left her on the 11th, when she “wore round” to the starboard tack in order to enable the men to lower the port cutter. He could not say at what time between 12 and 4 she went on the port tack. She came up right head to wind. He could not tell which way the wind was.

By Captain HARRIS. – When they left in the boat they steered N.N.E. as far as possible, but had to keep her to southward and eastward before the sea, and then the wind was dead aft. On Monday, the 8th, the ship was under fore and aft sail; he believed the steam was up then. He thought the engine was stopped about 4 o’clock on the 9th, when the maintopsail was set. He was on deck when the jibboom was carried away, and the ship was then on the starboard tack. She was pitching very heavily before the jibboom was carried away. From 4 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon the watches ceased to be kept regularly, as all hands were turned out to help in the wreck. He thought that the lashings of the flying jibboom were sufficient to hold it by the hatchway. At the time the stern lights were driven in, he believed he was down in the sail-room getting sails, which were passed up through the upper saloon. He did not see a rolled-up sail thrown down through the hatchway. He did not know that he had ever stated that he had seen that. He was passing the sails up on the port side, and the water which had entered had gone over to leeward. He did not know its depth, but thought there was a good deal of water down in the after saloons of the main deck. Immediately the skylight was carried away the hand pumps were put to work, and, subsequently, fire was got up under the boiler of the donkey-engine, and that engine then worked the pumps. He did not see the fires of the donkey-engine extinguished after that.

Captain HARRIS. – Was not the flying jibboom washing about the deck for 24 hours before it was lashed?

Witness. – It was not.

Captain HARRIS. – Nor for any portion of 24 hours?

Witness. – No.

Captain HARRIS. – It was secured immediately after it was got on board?

Witness. – It was.

By Mr. TRAILL. – He saw the skylight immediately after it was carried away. It was lying flat on the deck on the starboard side. He could not say whether the tarpaulin was on it just then. They tried two or three times to replace the skylight, but there was too much water on deck, and the skylight was smashed to pieces soon after. Some of the glass of the skylight was broken when it was carried off the hatchway.

By Captain HARRIS. – He did not believe the ship had been making water prior to the skylight of the hatchway being knocked off. The hatchway leading to the saloon had been battened down with a grating and tarpaulin. He thought that was the night before. He had assisted to put a sail over the engine-room hatchway. This sail was nailed to the deck. He did not know whether there was a tarpaulin over it or not.

By Captain BAKER. – He did not remember whether the yards were squared and the ship run back before the wind. During the time he was on the deck he never saw her kept before the wind, except when she was wore round shortly before she went down. She was on her wind when the maintopsail was set. One half of it was blown away six or seven hours after it was set. He did not believe she ever was before the wind except when she wore round to have the port cutter lowered. The engines were going when the jibboom was carried away. The London did not appear to labour in bad weather more than any other ship.

By Mr. TRAILL. – The weather was very heavy and the sea very cross.

By Captain BAKER. – This was his first voyage in a steam ship.

By Mr. TRAILL. – When she was being wore round she answered her helm and came round readily. He had never noticed the direction of the wind even once during the voyage, nor had he heard it from the officers.

By Captain BAKER. – Any time that he was on deck she was close hauled.

By Mr. TRAILL. – Several of the crew were below during the last night; some were hurt. It was difficult to get the necessary assistance. The crew did the best they could till they were worn out.

By Captain HARRIS. – The spider-rail forward was carried away; it was not carried away aft. The gallantyards were not sent down.

Walter Molesworth EDWARDS, an intelligent lad, apparently about 15 years of age, was next examined. He said, - I was midshipman aboard the London on her last voyage. That was my first time for going to sea at all. I joined her on the 28th of December, the day she left the East India Docks. It was quite fine and calm when she was leaving Plymouth on the morning of Saturday, the 6th of January, but it began to blow hard at 4 o’clock on the afternoon of that day. I do not know how the wind blew. I was not sick at any time during the voyage. From 4 o’clock on Saturday evening till Wednesday at 8 o’clock in the evening I never went below except on Tuesday evening, when I went down and lay for a while on the linen chest, but did not go into my own cabin. At 8 o’clock on Wednesday evening I went to my own cabin, but came on deck again at half-past 10, when the hatchway was carried away. I recollect the jibboom going over. On the afternoon of the 9th I saw it over the ship’s side on the port side. I saw it about 11 o’clock on the morning of the 10th just aft the funnel on the port side. The thickest end of it was aft. It was not fastened then. It struck against the bulwarks at the port side, and then against the engine-room hatch. I saw it again in the afternoon, and it was then still knocking about. This was between 3 and 5 o’clock I think. I had seen no attempt made to secure it in the meantime. At no time did I see it secured. After 3 and 5 o’clock on the 10th I did not see it again till the morning of Thursday, the 11th. When I saw it knocking about it was beating sideways against the framework of the hatch.

Mr. TRAILL. – A witness has stated that it was lashed on the Wednesday afternoon at 4 o’clock. You did not see it loose after about 4 or 5 o’clock?

Witness. – I never saw it secured.

Mr. O’DOWD. – What was the latest hour at which you saw it knocking about?

Master EDWARDS. – I cannot go closer to the time than between 3 and 5. It might have been lashed at 4 o’clock.

In reply to other questions from Mr. O’DOWD, the witness said, - I did not come up on the poop after the hatchway was carried away until the Thursday morning at 10 o’clock. I then saw the skylight of the hatchway on the port side of the deck. It was quite whole; not broken at all, not even the panes of glass being broken. Neither the framework nor the glass was broken.

Mr. TRAILL. – Of that there can be no mistake?

Master EDWARDS. – No; no mistake.

Mr. TRAILL. – Did any other officer see it?

Master EDWARDS. – I don’t know. I think the captain must have seen it.

Mr. TRAILL. – Did you see any attempt made to put it back in its place?

Master EDWARDS. – I did not.

Mr. TRAILL. – Did you suggest that any attempt should be made to put it back?

Master EDWARDS. – No.

Mr. TRAILL. – Why did you not?

Master EDWARDS. – The captain might have thought I was interfering.

Mr. O’DOWD. – Did the passengers and crew see it?

Master EDWARDS. – I don’t know. They were engaged in lowering the boat.

In answer to other questions from Mr. O’DOWD the witness said, - After the pinnace was capsized I heard a lady say it was no use going in a boat. I heard the captain dissuade a lady, Mrs. OWEN, from going in the port cutter boat. When I saw the skylight on deck it had been carried a little farther forward than when it was carried off. It was being washed about.

By Mr. TRAILL. – They might have tried to replace the skylight during the night.

Mr. TRAILL. – We have it in evidence that it was smashed to pieces during the night.

Master EDWARDS. – It was not, for I saw it next morning.

Mr. TRAILL. – What they wanted was to get it to its place, and why did you not speak about it when you saw it?

Master EDWARDS. – Well, I had spoken to one of the officers about another matter, and he told me to mind my own business.

Mr. TRAILL observed that perhaps no one expected to find the skylight where the witness saw it, and that as it had not been recovered during the night it was thought useless to try and replace it the next morning when it was seen.

In answer to a further examination by Mr. O’DOWD the witness said, - I jumped into the port cutter from the mizen shrouds. I asked KING and DANIELL would they allow me in, and they said “Yes,” and bid me jump. I did so. The fall was about ten feet. The other midshipman was in the next shrouds. He said he was afraid to jump, and he went down in the ship.

By Captain HARRIS. – DANIELL agreed to be our hammock man. He sat by me, and was pulling the bow oar. There were a bag of ship biscuits, weighing 2 cwt., two bottles of brandy and two of champagne, some turnips and carrots in the boats. There was some water also on board, but it was thrown out. There might have been more brandy on board that I did not know of. I picked up three of the bottles and put them under my coat. Mr. GREENHILL and DANIELL knew I had them, but the others did not. Every time the boat got to the top of the seas some little spray came into it, and at 3 o’clock next morning a regular green sea broke over us and nearly half filled the boat. One of the passengers baled out the water constantly, and after the green sea came in the water was baled out with a bucket and cans. The boat was very near filling when we were within 20 yards of the Italian bark. In consequence of the excitement on board we did not succeed in clearing one of the seas. A log line was thrown from the bark and I was pulled on board by men who caught me by the collar of the coat.

Mr. TRAILL complimented the witness on his prudence in hiding the spirits under his coat.

By Captain HARRIS. – The last time I saw the captain was on the poop. I was talking to Mrs. OWEN, and the captain came and advised her not to go in the boat. She said she was going in it, and I think she had asked one of the men to take her and her little child, and he had promised her. The captain said there were several drunken seamen who might get into the boat, and added something to the effect that she would be only changing a speedy death for a lingering one. At 5 o’clock in the morning the captain came into the saloon and said, “Ladies, there is no hope for us, I am afraid. Nothing short of a miracle can save us.” These were his exact words. The passengers had all their meals regularly up to Wednesday evening. They had their dinner on the Wednesday. The captain was not down to dinner either Tuesday or Wednesday. The galley fires were not put out. The fire of the donkey-engine was put out on Wednesday afternoon, and during the night the pumps were worked by hand. On Thursday morning the fire of the donkey-engine was lighted again, and that engine was working when the ship went down. I remained at the companion ladder leading from the after saloon on Thursday morning up to 10 o’clock. The passengers were crying and praying. There was no screaming. The captain came down once to take something out of his cabin after the time when he was down at 5 o’clock; I think it was to take up a cap. From 10 o’clock till I left the ship I was on the deck. The captain was on the poop. About 20 persons stood about watching to join us in entering the boat, but KING and DANIELLS induced them to go and try to launch the port iron pinnace. Both went to help them to do so, but when they got them engaged at the pinnace KING and DANIELL slipped away, and our boat was launched, and we got off. The 20 people wo tried to get with us were some of the ship’s company – stewards and waiters and others. I saw the butcher, the carpenter, the cook, and the storekeeper try to get into the jolly-boat.

Captain HARRIS. – Now, was Captain MARTIN cool and composed all this time? What appeared to be the state of his mind?

Master EDWARDS. – Quite calm and composed. The only time I saw his feelings give way was when he came and told Mrs. OWEN that there was no good in her going into the boat. His feelings then overcame him and he cried.

Captain HARRIS. – Had you any opportunity of noticing the conduct of the other officers?

Master EDWARDS. – They behaved well. The sailing-master, Mr. HARRIS, was working all day on the Monday and Tuesday with his coat off, and Mr. GRANT also behaved uncommonly well. They were all attentive to duty.

Mr. TRAILL. – And had not lost their mind up to the time the ship went down?

Master EDWARDS. – No.

Mr. O’DOWD. – Did you observe Mr. BROOKE, the actor, among the passengers?

Master EDWARDS. – No, I did not.

Mr. TRAILL. – Did you know the names of the passengers? I ask you because I have had a great number of requests addressed to me that I should make inquiries with respect to passengers?

Master EDWARDS. – No. Cartes de visite have been sent to me, and from these I have been enabled to supply information.

Captain HARRIS. – You mentioned the name of Mrs. OWEN. You knew her I suppose?

Master EDWARDS. – Yes. Her cousin was in my school.

Mr. TRAILL. – And what were your own thoughts?

Master EDWARDS. – I felt for leaving my mother, but I did not feel any fear at going down. I had felt some fear on the Monday.

Captain HARRIS. – But you got accustomed to it, I suppose?

Master EDWARDS. – Yes.

Captain HARRIS. – Do you know how the ship had been going?

Master EDWARDS. – I don’t know that; but I think she had been going with her head to the wind.

Captain HARRIS. – During the whole of this time did any sail appear in sight?

Master EDWARDS. – Yes; on Wednesday afternoon a ship passed close behind our stern and nearly ran into us.

Captain HARRIS. – But after that again did you sight any ship?

Master EDWARDS. – No; we saw one from the boat in a couple of hours after we left the ship. She came from the starboard side and went off to the other side. It was nearly dusk then.

Captain HARRIS. – But no other sail than the one you mentioned passed while you were in the ship?

Master EDWARDS. – No.

Captain HARRIS. – You had rockets on board. Were any sent up on Wednesday night, or any other signals made?

Master EDWARDS. – No, there were no signals. No rockets were sent up while I was on deck, and the other midshipman told me that none were sent up while I was below.

John KING, examined by Mr. O’DOWD. – I was an able seaman on board the London. I have been at sea for 13 years, always on foreign voyages, but my first voyage on board the London was her last one. I remember the day we left Plymouth – the morning of Saturday, the 6th of January. The day after the weather began to freshen, and on Sunday afternoon it blew hard from, I should say, the north-west. The ship had her sails set, and was on the starboard tack. We had our staysailsheets set on the port side, and we were under steam. On Monday, the 8th, the wind increased. On that day I was employed in lashing cases on the poop. I think on the Monday night, but I will not be certain, our spanker blew away. Captain MARTIN and myself, and some others of the crew, tried to get the spanker in. That was between 8 and 12 o’clock. It had split away. We got it in. I think our foretopmast staysail blew away on that day. The maintopmast staysail was carried away also, but I don’t remember on what day. The jibboom was carried away at 9 o’clock on the morning of the Tuesday, the 9th. We lost the starboard cutter and another boat about the same time. On Wednesday I fell off the poop and hurt my back. I could not move after, and was not on deck all day. I came on deck again about half-past 8 on Thursday morning, and remained on deck all day. I knew nothing of what had occurred in the meantime. When I came on deck on Thursday morning I did not see the skylight, nor hear it was on deck. I saw the hatchway and perceived the skylight was not on it. When I came from my berth I came on the port side. If the skylight was there, I did not notice it.

Mr. TRAILL. – Could you have passed by such a big thing and not have noticed it?

The witness. – I don’t know; I think I might.

Mr. TRAILL. – It was 12 feet by 9. That was a big thing, you know?

The witness. – If it was, there I did not see it. I don’t know whether it was there or not. Before then I had not heard that the skylight had been carried away. I never saw it after. The combing of the hatchway remained. I don’t know how the skylight had been fastened to the combing. I did not take any part in assisting to put a sail or tarpaulin over the hatch. When I came on deck the sails were lying about and through the hatchway. For about a quarter of an hour I endeavoured to haul them over it, but, finding that of no use, I went away. At no time was the ship before the wind, except towards the last, when she wore round for the port cutter to be launched. I could tell that she was not before the wind when I was below, for I was not asleep. The next thing I did was to see that the starboard pinnace was got ready for lowering. I and five others were in her. I got the tackle fall in the fore part of the boat, and said to SMITH, the boatswain’s mate, to take his fall into the aft part, and as soon as the boat was lowered we would try to get her clear of the ship. Captain MARTIN had given orders to lower that boat about an hour before it was lowered. He gave no orders to lower it at the time we lowered her. Six of us agreed to do all we could to save the boat and ourselves. We were determined to take others in. I saw if we got her lowered we could take 50 persons. I told SMITH when the ship rolled to leeward to let go his after fall. I let go mine, and he held his, and the boat sank head foremost. I was thrown into the sea, and after being about 12 seconds under water I was washed up to the rail of the ship and got on board. The other five men also got on board. This was about 1 o’clock. SMITH and I wanted to get her out, but no one would assist us to do so. They thought it no use. Afterwards, when we left her, some few tried to get her out, but they could not, they were too few. This was before we attempted to get away in the port cutter, which at this time was swung inboard. After that SMITH and myself agreed to go in the port cutter. We got a bag of bread in her, a beaker, with about a quart of fresh water, three bottles of brandy, and I think two bottles of champagne. I never heard Captain MARTIN give orders for her to be lowered. Just before the boat was lowered, and everything was in her, I went to him and said, “Are you going in the boat, Captain MARTIN?” and he said, “No, I am not; I am going to remain on board.” I then asked him what was the course for the nearest land possible. He said, “E.N.E., Brest.” I asked him how many miles was I off Brest. I understood him to say 90, but it was 190. I then left him, and went to the boat. We had two compasses.

Captain BAKER. – How do you know Brest was 190 miles off?

Witness. – I don’t know it; I heard Captain MARTIN say 90; but it must have been 190, because when Captain CAVASSA picked us up in the Marianople he said we were more than 90 miles off land.

Mr. TRAILL. – And so you reckon you had gone 100 miles before you were picked up?

The witness. – I think we had. An attempt had been made to lower the jollyboat. I did not assist in that.

Mr. TRAILL. – Before you got into the cutter were there any persons who wanted to get into that boat with you, and whom you recommended to go by another boat?

The witness. – No. I did not do that.

By Captain BAKER. – I don’t know how we steered in the boat. I steered mostly all the night. I steered by the “pointers” to the north-east. After I came on deck on the Thursday morning I was busy about with the boats and other things. I really cannot say whether the skylight had been washed away, or whether it was on the port side of the deck. I did not see it.

 
The inquiry was then adjourned till this day.