The Times, Thursday, Feb 15, 1866; pg. 7; Issue 25422; col G

                         THE LOSS OF THE LONDON.


The official inquiry into the circumstances under which the London foundered in the Bay of Biscay on the 11th ult. was resumed and concluded, as far as taking evidence was concerned, yesterday, before Mr. TRAILL, the Police Magistrate, at Greenwich, and Captain HARRIS and Captain BAKER, as nautical assessors.

Mr. O’DOWD, as usual, conducted the proceedings on behalf of the Board of Trade, by whose orders the inquiry was instituted.

On the opening of the court a gentleman who stated himself to be Mr. John CLARE, jun., the inventor and patentee of Her Majesty’s iron screw steam frigate Warrior, addressed the magistrate and said he had been “allured” by some letters in the newspapers to come forward and make a statement.

Mr. TRAILL said he could not be allowed to make a statement, but if he had anything to suggest he might confer with the gentleman who represented the Board of Trade, and who might call him, if necessary, as a witness.

Mr. O’DOWD, after briefly conferring with the gentleman, declined to examine him.

Mr. CLARE then attempted to address the Court, but

Mr. TRAILL said that, although he was quite ready to hear him if he had any useful suggestions to offer, yet he could not be permitted to make a mere statement.

Benjamin SHEALS, an able seaman, on board the London at the time she went down, was further examined as to the course of the ship from the Tuesday to the Thursday when the catastrophe occurred, and said that while he was on deck, both on Tuesday and Wednesday, she was always up to the wind, and never before the wind. On Tueaday night or early on Wednesday morning she was brought round to the port tack, having been previously on the starboard tack. He repeated that on the Thursday morning he saw the skylight on the starboard side of the ship broken all to pieces.

Mr. T. WILSON, a retired shipbroker, who was examined on Tuesday, gave additional evidence yesterday, and said that if the ship, as had been stated in evidence, was drawing 20ft. 3in. amidships when she left Gravesend, it was quite clear that she was too heavily laden. It was an important fact, too, that she had no stormsails on board. Such a ship ought to have carried stormsails independent of any other sails. In his opinion, the main cause of the foundering of the ship was her being overladen. The ship could not rise to the sea, and consequently the sea came over her. Looking at the section of the ship produced, he thought her load-line was too high up by 18 inches. She was too long and too deep for her beam. Six times the width was quite enough for the length of a vessel. He was aware that a different system had prevailed within the last ten years, so that the London was by no means an exception, but rather the rule, since that period. He was opposed to this new system of building ships, and was surprised that Messrs. WIGRAM should have so entirely adopted it.

William DANIELS, the quartermaster of the London, was further examined as to the tack of the ship, and said that, having been put on the port tack, she about half-past 10 on Thursday morning was put on the starboard tack again, and remained on that tack till she went down. That was the only time she was put before the wind. The reason for putting her on that tack was to bring the boats to leeward. The wind at that time was N.N.E. on the port tack.

Mr. R. GALLOWAY, engineer surveyor to the Board of Trade, said it did not appear to him that the engineers on board the London adopted the usual course when water came into the engine-room; they ought to have changed the suction valves of the centrifugal pump.

Mr. TRAILL. – But the fires were out.

Mr. GALLOWAY said he could not understand how the fires could be put out by one sea.

Mr. TRAILL. – But there was a succession of seas.
The witness then qualified his statement by saying that the suction valves ought to have been changed if it were practical to get at them. The water in the engine-room should have been run into the bilge, and the engineers ought to have been prepared for such an emergency. Mr. GALLOWAY then expressed a general concurrence in the views taken by Mr. BARBER, who was examined on a former day.

The Rev. Rion G. BENSON, of Hope Bowdler Rectory, Shropshire, said he had a brother, 23 years of age, who had gone on board the ill-fated vessel, and was lost. Witness accompanied him to Plymouth to see him off. The ship was within the breakwater, and it struck him that she was very, very low in the water, especially for a ship that had been advertised for conveying passengers. Instead of having to walk up the ladder to get on board, they had to walk upon the ladder lying in a reverse direction, and almost at a level with the deck of the ship. She appeared to be very heavily laden, and after he had parted from his brother he wrote home to his father stating to him the fact of the ship being so very low in the water.
Mr. O’DOWD having explained that he had not been able to bring forward Captain PRICE, of the Courier, said it was the wish of the friends of Captain MARTIN that some testimony should be given as to the character he bore and the qualifications he possessed as a commander of a ship.

Captain Robert ROE, of Lynmouth, North Devon, then came forward and said that he was now a county magistrate, but had formerly been engaged in the merchant service, and from 1840 to 1846 he had served with Captain MARTIN in some of Messrs. WIGRAM’s ships, Captain MARTIN being his junior, either as fourth, third, or second officer; and while they were together he was always very attentive to his duty, and also an exceedingly good sailor and officer. He was a skilful and careful man, and a very proper man to take charge of a ship.

Mr. O’DOWD said that, in announcing to the Court that he had no further evidence to offer, he should say a very few words indeed. With respect to the ship’s structure and seaworthiness, her engines and efficient working, her rigging, masts, &c., her cargo, and her having satisfied every requirement of the Passengers’ Acts, he believed he had produced the best possible evidence, and such as he thought would be considered quite satisfactory. But he was bound to say, with respect to the evidence of the crew, it was by no means that which could have been expected and desired. That, however, was clearly no fault of his; he had had a very limited sphere from which to select his witnesses, and he had selected those who appeared to him to be most trustworthy. He had endeavoured to satisfy the Court, and had done everything in his power to satisfy the public while conducting this very important and protracted inquiry.

Mr. TRAILL said this was a case concerning which he should at present abstain from saying a single word. It would require some time to consider the evidence, and before that was done the Court, of course, would make no report.

Mr. BENSON (another brother of the unfortunate gentleman who was lost on the ship) hoped before the Court broke up he might be permitted to offer, on behalf of the friends of those who had been the sufferers in this great calamity (although both they and the shipowners had been, by Mr. TRAILL’s decision, prevented from appearing by counsel – a point on which they still retained a very strong feeling), their thanks for the kindness and courtesy they had experienced during the investigation.