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The loss of HMS Lizard in 1843
|► The Royal Navy|
On 24 July 1843 the paddle gunvessel HMS Lizard sunk after being collided with by the French war steamer Veloce between Gibraltar and Barcelona.
|Extracts from the Times newspaper|
|Tu 8 August 1843|
TOTAL LOSS OF HEM MAJESTY'S STEAMER LIZARD.
Letters hare been received here this morning conveying the intelligence of the total loss of Her Majesty's steamer Lizard, late on the night of the 24th, or early on the morning of the 25th ult., by her having been run down by the French war steamer Veloce about 25 miles to the eastward of Gibraltar, while on her passage thence to Barcelona.
It appears from the accounts received, that the Lizard left Gibraltar on the evening of Monday, the 24th, with the wind blowing moderately from the southward, which freshened towards midnight, and the atmosphere became dark and clouded. Within a few minutes of the collision, the look out men on board the Lizard descried a steamer bearing down upon them, and they immediately made signals to, and hailed, the approaching vessel. The crew, however, on board the French steamer evidently could not have seen the signals which were made to her, or heard the hailing, as she kept on her course, and ran right into the Lizard, striking her with tremendous force nearly amidships, and close to her engine-room. The concussion was so great that many of the Lizard's crew who were on deck were thrown down by its violence, and those below hurried up en deck in their shirts, to ascertain what was amiss. It was immediately discovered that the vessel had sustained some very serious damage, as the water was pouring very rapidly into her, and, upon further examination, it was found that any exertions on the part of the crew to keep her afloat would be utterly useless, as she was then in a sinking state. Nevertheless, every possible means were resorted to by the officers and men to save the ship, until the water gained upon her so much that it extinguished her fires, and her machinery consequently became powerless. The French steamer did not sustain any serious damage, and seeing the condition of the Lizard, remained by her, in order to render any assistance in her power. When all hope of saving the Lizard was abandoned, the attention of her officers was directed to the preservation of the ship's company, which was happily accomplished, without the loss of a single life, by the boats of both ships conveying all hands in safety on board the Veloce. Scarcely had the last of the crew reached the French steamer, and within two hours from the time of the collision, when the Lizard sank.
Though the lives of the officers and ship's company of the Lizard were fortunately preserved, yet everything they possessed on board was lost, as were also the ship's stores, furniture, &c., many of the men having had great difficulty in saving themselves.
The Lizard has been a considerable time in the Mediterranean, and was the sister ship to the Locust, both of which were employed as tenders between Gibraltar and Malta, and were considered two of the best and fastest vessels of their class in the service.
Extract from a Letter dated Gibraltar, July 27, 1843.
On the morning of Monday, the 24th of July, when about 20 miles from Cartagena, a light was reported on the larboard bow of the Lizard. The officer of the watch, as the positive orders of the Admiralty are when steamers meet each other, immediately put his helm a-port. The master coming up just at this moment inquired if the helm was "a-port?" and on being told that it was so, ordered it to be put "hard a-port;" but owing to the other vessel putting her helm a-starboard, the Lizard was struck by her on the larboard paddle-box a little before the main shaft, the shock of which was so violent as to throw the Lizard over on her starboard side and carry away all the funnel stays but one. The officers and men below immediately rushed on deck, the engineer in charge blew off the steam, and was proceeding to pump out when the rush of water was so violent, and the Lizard was apparently sinking so rapidly, that the men were ordered to save themselves by climbing up the bowsprit rigging of the other vessel. At the instant the collision took place the Lizard's boats were ordered to be lowered, but the passage aft was obstructed by the bowsprit and bow of the other vessel, so that the only persons on the quarter-deck were the quarter-master, man at the wheel, and one or two of the officers who had come up from their cabins, who seeing that to all appearance all others had left, followed their example. Determined, however, not to abandon the Lizard whilst there was the most distant chance of saving her, the boats of the vessel (which proved to be the French man-of-war steamer Veloce, of 1,200 tons and 220 horse power) were lowered, in which some of the officers and men of the Lizard returned and saved a sick boy and a passenger, with some two or three others who had been left behind in the first confusion. All hopes of saving the vessel were at once abandoned when we discovered that the water had already made so much head as to put out the fires and to float the lower deck hatches, and continued pouring in with such violence as to render it most dangerous to remain on board. The last boat had scarcely left the Lizard when she sank head foremost. The night, was misty, and the Veloce's lights being placed on her paddle-boxes, whereas the Lizard's were at her masthead, could not be seen until close to.
|Ma 11 September 1843||Her Majesty's ship Indus has left Gibraltar for Malta, and she may be therefore daily looked for. On board are Lord Clarence Paget, of Her Majesty’s ship l'Aigle, on return from leave of absence; the Marquis of Worcester; also Lieutenant Postle, the late Commander of the unfortunate Lizard, and his officers. A Court-martial will probably be held here on his arrival, to inquire into all the circumstances of the loss.|
|Ma 18 September 1843|
[This entry from the Hampshire Telegraph, and not the Times]
COURT MARTIAL ON
A Court Martial was held on Tuesday, on board H.M.S. Victory, in Portsmouth Harbour, composed of Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker, C.B., (President,) Captains Henderson, C.B., Sir Thomas Hastings, and Sir Thomas Thompson, Bart., and Commander Hutchinson; G.L. Greetham, Esq., Deputy Judge Advocate of the Fleet; to inquire into the circumstances attending the loss of H.M. Steam Vessel Lizard, off Carthagena, on the 24th July, in consequence of the French Steam-Vessel Veloce, running foul and nearly cutting her in two, and to try Lieut. Charles James Postle, the officer's and ship's company, for their conduct upon that occasion.
The Deputy Judge Advocate of the Fleet, having read Lieut. Postle's, narrative of the circumstances attending the loss of the Lizard, addressed to the Senior Officer at Gibraltar, and Lieut. Postle having been asked it he had anything further to state to the Court. James Huskins, Esq., on the part of that officer, read the following: —
Mr. President and Gentlemen of this Honorable Court,
On the 23rd July, 1843, Her Majesty's steam-vessel Lizard was proceeding from Gibraltar to Barcelona. At about 7h. 25m. p.m. of that day, the Second Master, Mr. Hall, took the bearings of the land, viz,. Point Polacia N.½W, Islite Point N.E, Point Mesa N.E.b.N, and about 80 miles from Cape Palos, the course was E by N., and we were running nearly eight knots per hour.— Mr. Slaughter, Supernumerary Midshipman, (who had been, at my request, lent to the Lizard from Malabar a few days before, in consequence of our deficiency of executive officers), having taken charge of the deck at a little after eight o'clock, I heard Mr. Hall, Second Muster, give him very particular orders about keeping a good look out, and also to hail the look-out man; he also told him the course he was to steer, which was E.by N. I likewise myself gave Mr. Slaughter particular orders that a strict look-out was to be kept, and that on seeing any vessel he was to be careful to keep well clear of them; and that the look-out man was to be constantly hailed. Prior to my leaving the deck, at or about ten o'clock, I again repeated my orders, and strictly enjoined that a very particular look-out should be kept, and that Mr. Slaughter should leave word that the main-top-mast was to be scraped in the morning watch, and that I was to be called if any thing particular occurred. Having therefore taken care that my general night orders had been properly explained to Mr. Slaughter, and finding that all was going on well, l retired to rest.
When l left the deck there were two lights burning brightly at the mast-head, it being my express orders on all occasions at night to keep them so; there was a very light breeze from the E.S.E. and very fine, but hazy. I regret that it appears from the report made to me, that Mr. Slaughter, supernumerary midshipman, the officer in charge of the first watch, on the night of the 23rd July last, left the deck a few minutes before he was properly relieved by a person authorised by me.
I recollect waking in the night, but did not know the hour, and was just falling asleep again when l heard Mr. Hall order the helm to be put hard a port.— Mr. Hall was to take the middle watch, and it was my orders that the gunner's mate, an experienced petty officer, who had passed for gunner, should be in Mr. Hall's watch, in order to take charge of the deck, in case that officer should require to go below for the purpose of consulting his chart; or from beings on deck all night might be able to lie down in his clothes, being ready always to start up at a moment's notice. Hearing therefore Mr. Hall’s voice, I felt all was right; but hardly two minutes had elapsed before l felt and heard a tremendous crash; I jumped up as quickly as I could, as I was laying down upon the deck of my cabin in my grego, and rushed upon deck. On my way up I heard Mr. Hall order the men to save themselves, and upon my reaching the quarter deck I found we had been struck by a large steamer a little before the port paddle box, with her bowsprit right across the deck. I should think she must have been going at full speed when she struck us, as her whole weight seemed to be upon us; indeed, she lifted the port side out of the water; and it is my firm conviction if it had been on the bow or quarter not a man could have been saved. I went forward and perceived that care had been taken to allow the steam to escape; I then looked down the engine-room, when hearing the water rushing in, and people from the stranger calling upon us to come on board instantly as we were sinking, l deemed it my duty to order the men that remained to save themselves by getting on board the stranger, and also followed myself. On my getting on the forecastle my first thought was to assist any one to get on board, but on finding that the stranger was backing clear of the ill-fated vessel. I proceeded to the quarter deck and there ascertained that I was on board the Veloce, a French man-of-war. I found Messrs. Belgrave and Hall, with most of the petty officers and seamen of the Lizard, trying to lower the quarter boats; one or two French officers and some seamen were also assisting. I had most earnestly to beg of these officers to hasten the lowering of their boats, being anxious to return to the sinking vessel fearing there might be some people left on board, and also having a very slight hope that she might yet be saved. By this time the Veloce was at least four cables length clear of the Lizard. The boats being lowered, myself, Messrs. Belgrave and Slaughter, and Mr. Hoar, 1st engineer, with most of the petty officers and seamen, instantly returned to the Lizard, being accompanied by the 1st Lieutenant of the Veloce, a quarter-master, who could speak English, and whom I found very useful, and also some French seamen.
Mr. Hall by my order remained on board the Veloce; by so doing he assisted in getting hawsers up for the purpose, if possible, of towing the vessel on shore.
Upon my arrival on board the Lizard, I found there was little or no chance of the vessel remaining above water 20 minutes longer; she was rolling much, and l expected every moment that the funnel would come down, as it was knocking about violently, and only hanging by one stay. I sent Mr. Hoar, senior engineer, down to the engine room to make a report as to the state of the engine room, who, on his coming up, stated there was at least eighteen inches of water above the floor plates, and on looking over the side where she was struck, as far as I was able to judge, she seemed to be cut right up and down and every thing stove in; and she appeared to be going so fast down by the head, that I deemed it prudent although a forlorn hope to return immediately to the Veloce for the purpose of persuading the French Captain (Capt. Du Parc) to tow us without delay into shoal water, that, if possible, she might be run on shore, and that by so doing we might save her. I therefore ordered all the people in the boats as I felt sure there was no chance of her remaining above water much longer.
On my arrival on board the Veloce without loss of time, I made my wishes known (through Mr. Slaughter and the French quarter-master) that the Veloce should run down to the Lizard and if possible tow her in shore, which was agreed to. I instantly ordered Messrs. Belgrave, Hall, Slaughter, and Mr. Hoar, 1st engineer, to return with me to the sinking vessel for the purpose of saving her if possible; at the same time my officers and myself seemed to have but one opinion that there was little or no hope for her.
The French First Lieutenant and Quarter-master, myself, Mr. Belgrave, and Mr. Hoar, returned in one of the Veloce's boats, with some of the Lizard's petty officers and seamen, the other Officers and men following.
Upon my gaining the quarter-deck of the ill-fated vessel, I ordered Mr. Hoar again to report the state of the engine room, and I went forward and looked down the lower deck, and at once saw there was no chance for her; indeed, I thought she could not remain five minutes longer, as the rush of water seemed to be increasing fast.
Mr. Hoar having repeated to me that the water was gaining fast in the engine-room, and was at least 18 inches above the fires, I felt it to he my duty not to risk the lives of the Officers and men by keeping them on board any longer, and acquainted Mr. Belgrave and the French Officers that I considered there was no chance of saving the vessel; they perfectly agreed with me, when I ordered a boat that came alongside with Mr. Hall, &c. to shove off, and ordered all on board to leave. When I thought all had left, I followed and proceeded to the Veloce and on arriving on board, I instantly told the French Captain that it was all over with her, but wished him to wait until she had sunk. I had hardly made this request (which was acceded to), when the voice of a person was heard on board the Lizard, a boat was manned directly, and shoved off with a French Officer, who succeeded very gallantly in rescuing James Gullick, my steward, who, it seems, had slept through all the confusion, and was not awoke till the water reached him! He had scarcely got into the boat before the Lizard went down head foremost, with her two lights burning at her foremast head.
This lamentable event took place at 2h. 20m., by the Veloce's time; and it was stated to me by the French First Lieutenant, that at the time (by them) that they struck us it was 12h. 45m.
Little or nothing was saved. I felt that by giving any order for the Officers and men to save all they could, would be risking their own lives, by the bustle that it would have caused; and, in fact, we had no boats to save anything in.
From all I could learn on board the Veloce, their helm was put hard a starboard; indeed, by the way the Lizard was struck, I hope it will sufficiently appear that the Lizard's helm must have been hard a port, and the Veloce's helm a starboard. I feel assured, even if the Veloce had kept the course she was steering when she was seen from the Lizard, that vessel could not have struck us. The Veloce was only seen a quarter of an hour at the most before we were struck. By the acknowledgement of the French Officers, the Lizard was seen half an hour before the collision, and if the Veloce had then put her helm a port, even to alter her course only one point, she must have gone well clear of us.
I observed the Veloce's lights which were on the fore part of each paddle box (both on the night of the accident and on the following night, on our passage to Gibraltar), to bunt very dimly, which may account for their not being seen so soon, or at so great a distance as ours, which went burning brightly; and permit me Sir, and Gentlemen, to hope that this Honourable Court will consider, that as Commander of the Lizard, I used every precaution that could be taken, for preventing accident at night, by giving general orders that an Officer should be constantly in charge of the deck, that the two lantherns at the mast-head should be kept well cleaned and brightly burning, and that the Officer of the watch should always have them trimmed just before the end of his watch, that two muskets should be kept loaded with blank cartridge at sea, and a blue light and rocket within reach, and that I should always be called if anything particular occurred. I trust also, I can then but attribute the melancholy loss of the vessel lately under my command to the unfortunate circumstance of the Veloce having put her helm a starboard, for if her helm had been hard a port, she would have gone right away from the Lizard.
Having thus, Sir, and Gentlemen, laid before you a full and correct statement of the circumstances connected with the loss of her Majesty's steam-vessel Lizard as far as I am able to detail them, I can but express my gratitude to Divine Providence for the merciful deliverance of my Officers and Ship’s Company, and myself, from the perilous condition in which our lives were placed by this melancholy accident. I feel it due also to Captain Du Parc and the Officers of the French steam frigate Veloce, to take this opportunity of gratefully acknowledging the humanity and hospitality with which we were received and treated on board that ship; trusting that this Honorable Court will consider that I have acted throughout this unfortunate proceeding to the best of my ability, for the benefit of the service and for the safety of the lives of the Officers and Crew, and that I used every possible exertion to save the vessel, as long as a chance remained of doing so; but which we found to be altogether impossible.
It is matter of great satisfaction to me to know that my conduct, during the period I had live honour to command her Majesty's steam-vessel Lizard, has met the entire approval of the Commander-in-Chief, Vice-Admiral Sir Edward W.C.R. Owen, whose testimonial I beg to lay before the Court, together with others which I have had the honour to receive from Captains Sir Charles Sullivan, Bt., Sir David Dunn, Sir George Sartorius, Sir Samuel Roberts, and Captain Barnard being all the Officers under whose command I served whilst in the Lizard. I beg also to refer to flattering testimonials received by me from Sir Robert Wilson and Sir Alexander Woodford, who were successively Governors of Gibraltar, and under whose orders I acted whilst in command of the Lizard.
Under the circumstances, therefore, which I have stated, I respectfully but confidently trust that this honourable Court will fully exonerate me from any blame whatever connected with the lamentable occurrence now under investigation.
I would also beg leave to state to this honourable Court, that Mr. Belgrave, Mate, and the other Officers belonging to the late Lizard, and the Crew, behaved throughout with the greatest coolness, attended strictly to all my directions, and in every way assisted me to the utmost of their power (as also did Mr. Slaughter, supernumerary Midshipman), to preserve life, and to save the vessel, if there had been a possible chance of doing so; and I would respectfully conclude by saying, that, with the exception before-mentioned, their conduct was such as to merit my full and entire approbation.
The whole of the executive Officers of the Lizard and some of the warrant and petty Officers, were then called as witnesses; and having substantiated the statement made by Lieutenant Postle, the Court delivered sentence as follows:—
"That the loss of her Majesty's steam vessel Lizard was occasioned by the French man-of-war steamer Veloce running foul of her, on the morning of the 24th July last, by which the said steam vessel Lizard was sunk; that no blame was imputable to Lieutenant Charles James Postle, her Commander, for his conduct on the occasion; that Mr. Daniel Charles Oliver Slaughter, a Supernumerary Midshipman, serving on board her, was highly blameable for having left the deck before he was regularly relieved; and that no blame was imputable to any other of the Officers, or of the Ship's Company; and the Court did adjudge the said Mr. Daniel Chas. Oliver Slaughter to lose two years time of service as a Midshipman in the Royal Navy; and did adjudge the said Lieutenant Charles Postle, and the remainder of the Officers of the said late steam vessel, to be fully acquitted."