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The loss of HMS Megaera in 1871
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|Extracts from the Times newspaper|
|Fr 8 December 1871|
THE ROYAL COMMISSION ON THE MEGAERA.
Yesterday, in No. 11 Committee-room of the House of Commons, the Royal Commission on the Megaera met to hear evidence regarding the state and condition of the ship when selected for a voyage to Australia.
Lord Lawrence presided, and the Commissioners are Admiral Sir Michael Seymour. G.C.B., the Right Hon. Abraham Brewster (late Chancellor of Ireland), Sir Frederick Arrow (Deputy Master of Trinity House), Mr. Rothery (Registrar of the High Court of Admiralty), and Mr. Thomas Chapman, F.R.S. (Chairman of the Committee for Lloyds', Registrar of British and Foreign Shipping, and Vice-President of the Naval School of Architecture).
Lord LAWRENCE, in opening the proceedings, said it was intended to call first Admiral Sir William Mends, who was about to proceed to India on official duty, and after hearing his evidence the Commission would take testimony in regular order.
Rear-Admiral Sir William R. Mends, K.C.B., Director of Transport Services, was then called and examined by Lord LAWRENCE. He stated that he was appointed to his office in May, 1862. Questioned respecting his duties, he read a statement, which said: - "It is my duty to provide freight in hired ships for troops to all parts of the world, and of stores to all parts of the world except India, for all departments of Government; also, since 1868. to appropriate the numbers of troops to Her Majesty's troopships, Imperial as well as Indian, in commission under the Admiralty, and to make all the necessary arrangements respecting embarkation and accommodation. Previous to 1868 the Admiralty kept the entire management and direction of such ships, except those employed on Indian troop service, in their own hands, confining themselves to notifying to the Director of Transports the service each ship was employed on and the numbers conveyed on each voyage for purposes of expenditure - the naval transport vote for which I am responsible, being charged with the victualling of troops and other matters appertaining to troopships except repairs. Storeships, as such, of which the Megaera was one, have never been under the control of the Director of Transports. They have been used by the Admiralty for the conveyance of naval stores and provisions to foreign stations, the duty of the Director of Transports being, under their Lordships' orders, in each instance to appropriate to those ships such stores as, in the opinion of their commanding or yard officers, they were stated to be capable of conveying, and for the conveyance of which requisitions are sent. Each storeship was kept in commission as short or as long a time as their Lordships might think fit and as her condition, in the opinion of those responsible for it, might justify. The Director of Transport Services is in no way responsible for the condition of the hull of any commissioned ship, which is vested solely in the officers of the department of the Controller of the Navy. The Megaera ceased to be employed as a troopship in 1865, and was used by the Admiralty for the conveyance of stores and some naval supernumeraries, advantage being taken at times to put on board a few military persons between England, Gibraltar, and Malta, and vice-versa, for whom there was accommodation available. I do not know what numbers of officers and men were put on board her when she last left England, but I do know the quantity of stores in tons with which she left Sheerness in the first instance and when she left Queenstown finally, as I was directed to appropriate to her such stores as were on requisitions outstanding for ports at which she was to touch, and as, in the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief of the Port, she was capable of conveying. As a naval officer I knew the Megaera first in the Black Sea in 1854. and I find, on referring to my arrangements for the conveyance of the army from Varna to the Crimea, that she is represented as having conveyed a regiment, 900 strong, besides her crew, and that she also towed two ships, all of which I have no doubt she did. He also handed in a statement of the services of the Megaera, as recorded in the Transport Department, made up to the time of her last voyage. He said he did not know what number of supernumeraries were on board the Megaera when she left Queenstown, nor their weight in tonnage, but he gave each adult as being equal to 2½ tons, including baggage, equipment, and stores. She arrived at Queenstown with 313 tons of stores on board, and she left there for Australia with about 218 tons. He believed she took provisions for the crews she was carrying out and home, in addition to the public stores she had on board. He was called upon in 1864 by the Admiralty to report relative to the internal arrangements of the ship and her capabilities as a store-ship, and in the report he made he was guided solely by papers placed in his hands and not by any personal inspection of the ship. Subsequently he was called upon to report as to the capacity of the ship to convey troops to distant stations. He reported her to be "crank and leewardly, steering badly under canvas only, and very wildly when running before a gale." He recommended that she should be employed in carrying coastways during the summer months, and be limited her employment to ports in the Mediterranean, and from the Mediterranean to England. He could not explain how it was that after he had thus limited the employment of the ship to short voyages she should have been commissioned for a long voyage at a much later date. The Megaera was said to be a strongly-built ship, and he had pronounced her to be a strong ship on the authority of papers placed in his hands, and on the reports of officers who had commanded her. The tonnage of the Megaera was 1,394, in round numbers 1,400 tons, and he estimated her to carry 420 tons. On the 3d of August, 1870, he reported to the Lords of the Admiralty-
He thought the "special reason" why she was kept in commission was that she carried naval supernumeraries, but she was a most unsatisfactory ship, in his opinion, because it was unprofitable to have a 1,400-ton with a crew of 166 men, to carry 420 tons. The possible ground for her continued employment was, he believed, the enormous rates levied by the Brazilian Government on private owned iron ships, which might have rendered it necessary to send Admiralty stores to the Rio station in a ship flying the pennant. It would have been cheaper to have sold the Megaera and to have bought or built another. If it had rested with him, he should have sold her. He had reported his opinions on the ship, verbally however, to Sir Frederick Grey, Sir Alexander Milne, Admiral Drummond, Sir Sidney Dacres, and Lord John Hay, at different times. He had said she might carry naval supernumeraries, but she had no special advantages for this carrying. She was a good sea boat, but regarding her defects, and seeing that she had no special advantages, be could not surmise the reasons which had led to her being kept in commission after these reports. He then was examined as to the responsibility of dockyard officers, and he said they and the Controller of the Navy were entirely responsible for the presence of copper rose suction-boxes on the bottoms of iron ships. The Admiral or Captain-Superintendent of the dockyard would now, as far as possible, inspect every part of a ship, and would leave very little to the discretion of subordinates before signing the report upon a ship. Upon a ship being paid off a superintendent of a Royal dockyard, if any special report were made to him, would thoroughly examine and inspect the ship. In the absence of any such report the witness would have considered it his duty to have made an inspection of a ship paid off if he had been Dockyard Superintendent. The classing of ships was done by the Controller of the Navy, and when a vessel was in the first-class reserve that would show the vessel to be thoroughly fitted for her work; but when a ship was in the fourth-class that would show her to be so many degrees inferior to the first-class efficiency. At this juncture the witness said he wished to make a statement regarding the Megaera, and what he had stated on hearing that she was selected for the Australian service. In conversation with Mr. Reed, the late Chief Constructor, in, he thought, 1870, in speaking about troopships, the name of the Megaera was introduced, and Mr. Reed said he thought she was out of repair, that some of her plates were thin, or something to that effect. This conversation came into witness's mind when he heard the ship was selected for Australia, and he told the Junior Lord of the Admiralty, Lord John Hay, of it, and asked if the Megaera was fit to go. It was no part of witness's duty to speak about it, but directly he mentioned it Lord John referred the question to the Chief Constructor, Mr. Barnaby, as to whether she was fit for the voyage, and Mr. Barnaby said she was "perfectly fit to go."
The witness was then questioned by Mr. BREWSTER, and said his duty was simply to ascertain the fitness of the ship in regard to its internal arrangements to carry the men and stores, and that duty had only fallen upon his office since 1868, when Mr. Childers made him responsible for the conveyance of troops and stores. Previous to 1868 he had nothing more to do with the ships so used than to charge to the Naval Estimates the cost of conveyance to stations. He had made suggestions outside the strict line of his duty, such as the communication to Lord John Hay, and in doing that he had acted on what Mr. Reed had said to him. When the Megaera was at Cork and complaints came over as to her quantity of cargo, witness laid before Sir S. Dacres statements as to what she had carried, and he showed that when she left Plymouth she had less than what she had carried before. However, Admiral Forbes was required to inspect her while she was at Cork, and 94 tons weight was taken out of her. She was taking out two crews for two ships in Australia.
The witness was questioned at length by Sir M. SEYMOUR and Sir FREDERICK ARROW, and he said that in 1854 he had heard indirectly that she was a most uncomfortable boat. Having been constructed originally for a ship of war, she was not fit for the conveyance of troops; there was no room on her decks for parading troops, and the men did not get sufficient air. The witness's examination was continued by the Commissioners at great length, on a book which they held, on several points respecting which evidence had been taken. In the course of this he said he should not have considered it necessary, if he had been Dockyard Superintendent with the ships in hand, to have examined her unless he had been told specially of defects. Mr. Barnaby had said she was a strong ship, and the fact that she had lain 80 days on the beach of St. Paul's Island before breaking up proved that she must been enormously strong, that was without parallel in naval or mercantile shipping history. As to her ports, as described when she left Sheerness, that would be owing to the carelessness with which they were lined and fitted by the workmen. The ship labouring a good deal, as she was described to have done between Plymouth and Queenstown, would not be indicative of deterioration in the ship, but was due, he imagined, to use rather strong language, to unskilful handling. The people on board were strangers to each other and to the ship, and they would not know her history, Boring holes in a ship's bottom would be quite sufficient to show the condition of her plates.
The witness was then told that he was at liberty to depart for India.
Captain Thrupp stated he was appointed on the 31st of January, 1871, to the command of the Megaera, and left Sheerness on the 21st of February. He merely looked round the ship as to her fittings, but made no minute examination of her. He accounted for her labouring between Plymouth and Queenstown from her being overladen, and not to particular bad weather. He described her as being filled in every place, and this was not owing to bad stowage. The troop decks as well as holds were full, and there was only just room to work the pumps. There were, he believed, 341 persons on board when she started, and the ship was worked by the reliefs who were being taken out. Some two or three men were invalided at Plymouth and at Queenstown. Some of the freight was taken out, and this made her a different ship altogether, for she steered and sailed better and rolled easily. As to whether the ship showed any signs of age or weakness he said that the leakage at the ports was owing to the ports being old and warped and worn out. It might be supposed that if these ports were old and worn out the hull might be considered to be in a somewhat similar state; but there were no signs of it. As to the stores he carried he read a letter he received on the 6th of February from the Admiralty, giving him the list of stores to be carried, in all 345 tons. On the 14th of the same mouth he received another letter from the Admiralty, making up the stores to be carried to 348½ tons. More still was added on the 16th. On the 17th of February he was ordered to take 6½ tons of sails in lieu of some timber. He could not say what weight of provisions the vessel carried. He signed before the ship left Sheerness a report that the ship was seaworthy. He had signed this on the faith of the reports made by the dockyard officers, and though he frequently afterwards went over the ship he never examined her to see whether she was unseaworthy, for it never struck him that she was so. He used, after leaving Queenstown, to examine the ship, and he did this about twice a week. The plates in the stokehole used to be lifted, and the brickwork and cement seen. Before the springing of the leak no defects were seen in the brickwork or cement - no flaws or cracks. The leak was found under the port bunker.
He was then questioned on a section model of the Megaera and gave evidence similar to that given before the Court-martial as to the position of the leak. He never saw any cement on the bottom plate, and never heard any one else say they had seen any.
In answer to further questions, he said that be never had charge or experience of an iron ship before being placed in command of the Megaera. She was beached on the 17th of June, and broke up on the 3d of September, but she did not "hog" or droop until the day before she broke up.The Commission was adjourned until this morning.
|Sa 9 December 1871|
THE ROYAL COMMISSION ON THE MEGAERA.
The Royal Commission resumed its sittings yesterday in the Committee-room, No. 11, of the House of Commons. Lord Lawrence presided, and there were present Admiral Sir Michael Seymour, Mr. Brewster, late Lord Chancellor of Ireland; Sir Frederick Arrow, Deputy Master of the Trinity-house; Mr. Rothery, Registrar of the High Court of Admiralty; Mr. Robert Chapman, Chairman of Lloyd's Shipping Register Committee; and Mr. G.P. Bidder, jun., the secretary.
Lieutenant John Matthew Lloyd said he was navigating lieutenant of the Blanche, and acted in the Megaera in the same capacity. He was unable to give an account of the cargo the Megaera took in at Sheerness more than to say it was about 350 tons. The fittings of the ship, as engines, boilers, masts, sails, anchors, water, coals, warrant officers' stores, and the ship's stores, in all made about 750 tons, and this was exclusive of the 350 tons of cargo taken in, and exclusive of the supernumeraries and their baggage. The human beings taken on board, their baggage, and the officers' private stores would be covered by about 110 tons - that was to say, that the total weight in her at Sheerness would be about 1,210 tons. At Plymouth 20 tons of officers' stores were received and 40 supernumerary boys, with their effects. He had reckoned that the extra weight taken in altogether at Plymouth - and he was only speaking from memory - was about 22½ tons, making the weight in the ship, according to this estimate, 1,232 tons; but this was inaccurate, he knew, for he had given in a detailed report to the Admiralty, showing the weight to be 1,400 tons in the ship, reckoning all things. It was his opinion that when the ship left Plymouth she was overladen, and that her bad sailing prior to coming to Queenstown was not owing to bad storage, for she had left Sheerness in good trim - on an even keel. He did not consider the cause of the ship labouring after leaving Plymouth to be due to deterioration, but simply to being overladen. He did not examine the leak, nor could he give evidence as to the make of the rose suction boxes. He never examined the ship's bottom. He was one of the officers consulted before the beaching of the ship. He concurred in the beaching, for he considered the condition of the bottom, as shown by the diver's report and the engineer's report, rendered it unadvisable to prosecute the voyage to Australia.
Examined by Sir M. SEYMOUR - The witness said he never served in an iron ship before. He saw the holds of the ship before her stores were taken in, and could say she was in five compartments, two holding the engines and bunkers. The store holds were lined with wood, and he could not see the iron skin of the ship, and he never saw indications of rust. The deck was covered with cargo when she left Sheerness, but this was not owing to want of time or to want of hands to stow it, but because there was no room. The stowage was done hurriedly at first, but the ship was detained for a week beyond her time, and, therefore, there was time. The decks were not cleared until the ship was at Queenstown.
In reply to Sir F. ARROW, the witness said he was not himself responsible for the stowage, but one of the supernumerary lieutenants was subsequently appointed to take charge of the cargo. The wood lining of the skin of the ship, such as he saw in the holds, was permanent, and not formed of lifting battens. The ship was detained the week at Sheerness beyond her time for sails which were being made for the Clio; but it was not known how long she was to wait. In the interim a little shifting of the cargo was made. Though the cargo might have been stowed better than it was, yet it certainly was not ill-stowed. When the ship was at Queenstown the defective ports were seen to, and when she left there she had every prospect of making her voyage out. As to whether any one had cause of complaint after leaving Queenstown, the officers were much overcrowded, and much discomfort arose from that, but that would sometimes occur in the service in other ships. There was nothing to show that the vessel could not go her voyage until the leak arose.
Questioned by Mr, ROTHERY, the witness said the better a ship was stowed, the better she would behave. The leak was stopped, and the water was kept down some time on something being thrown overboard on the leak.
In answer to Mr. CHAPMAN. the witness said he was in the ship before she was stowed. He could not say where the 100 tons were taken at Queenstown. She had pig iron ballast. His opinion of her being overloaded was taken from her behaviour in the gale on leaving Plymouth. The ship was loaded at Sheerness from three lighters, and when she was at Queenstown she was re-stowed. She sailed better after leaving Queenstown. Before the ship was beached she broke three anchors, one in the shank, another in the fluke, and with another the cable parted. The ship had four anchors altogether. If the ship's bottom had been good, even after she had parted with her anchors he thought it would have been safe to have gone on to Australia with the one still on board. The ship was 7 days on the beach before she broke up.
Mr. George Mills, the chief engineer of the Megaera, was then called and examined by Lord LAWRENCE. He was appointed in April, 1870, to the Megaera, was paid off, and was re-appointed for the voyage to Australia. During the time he was appointed to her she was docked three times, but he made no survey of her hull while she was docked; it was no part of his duty to do so; nor was he present on any occasion when the interior of the ship was stripped to her skin. No repairs internally, to his knowledge, were done to the bottom of the ship since he was appointed, and it was hardly possible repairs could have been done without his knowing it. The leak sprung when at sea was just before the frame on which the afterpart of "the pocket of the bunker" rested, and it must have been four feet abaft the heel of the mainmast, and seven feet fore from the centre line. (The witness examined the sectional model in the room, and he pointed put the position where he believed the leak to be.) The witness considered Captain Thrupp was mistaken in his statement, made before the Court-martial and repeated here, as to the particular frame cut to reach the leak, and he went on to give the particulars presented in the Court-martial. He agreed with Captain Thrupp that the sectional model was not a correct representation of the ship's interior. He proceeded to say that, when looking for the leak, he saw plates in a most defective condition on the ship's side. For a distance of about six feet he said, and in the immediate vicinity of the leak, he found 11 large holes, or, rather, hollows in the plates. Some he saw by means of a lamp when the skin was stripped, and others he felt with his hand. These defects were not through and through, but he pressed one, the largest, with his thumb, and it seemed to give way - it seemed to yield from thinness. There might have been parts of three plates he thus saw and felt, but certainly not less than two. There was no cement on the plates, and there ought to have been, but certainly wherever be felt there was no cement. There appeared to be no cause but wear to account for this deterioration. When the girder frame was cut to get at the leak a hole was found worn in it some 2ft. long and 7in. wide, besides some other holes, which had originally been limber holes, but had eaten into each other. The other four girders or frames, too, were eaten into at the bottom.
By Sir F. ARROW. - Two of the five girders mentioned could have been got at, and had been examined in April, 1871, and then they had been scraped and red-leaded, without defects being found or noticed. At that time, when he examined the girders, they were all right, and cement was on them; but when he felt them when looking for the leak the cement had broken away. He attributed the condition in which he found these girders to a breakdown of the ship. When he put his hand to the plates when feeling for the leak he felt rivet heads worn down, but he found no loose rivets.
On the examination being resumed by Lord LAWRENCE the witness said the plates he felt with holes in them did not seem to have had any cement on them. The witness was then taken over the description of the pumps in the Megaera, as given in evidence before the Court-martial. He said the "roses" of the suction pipes were not in any place in contact with the iron, hut on the bricks and cement. The "roses" of the engine bilge pumps, when the ship started from Sheerness, were of lead, another was iron, and others were of lead. One could not be seen. He replaced two on the voyage out - one of copper, resting on a platform of bricks, and one of iron. The copper one was placed on just before the ship arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, and the iron one was put on at the Cape. There was an order of the Admiralty that no copper was to come in contact with iron bottoms; he knew of it from what came out at the Court-martial. He attributed the hollows or holes in the plates of the ship and in the girders to deterioration arising from age and accident, but he thought it could not be from galvanic action. He thought the ship was overloaded when she left Sheerness, seeing the bad weather she made between Plymouth and Queenstown. He had made a previous trip in her to Malta, and she did not then act as she did when between Plymouth and Queenstown. She was a strongly-built ship. It would have been impossible to move the bunkers when at sea, and any examination of the ship's bottom under the bunkers would have been a partial and unsatisfactory one. Before the ship left Sheerness he signed a report stating that the hull was perfect and in good order, and a general statement as to the internal fittings of the ship being in good order (the pumps excepted, of which no report was made), but his signature only applied to engines and to his department. He considered the Master Shipwright of the dockyard from which the ship was sent should be held responsible for the condition of a ship, and the Superintendent of the yard ought, witness thought, to know the condition of a ship when it was docked, and the Superintendent ought not to depend upon subordinates. Before the leak sprung he had no suspicion of the unseaworthiness of the Megaera. There were very great difficulties in the way of getting to the bottom to find the leaks, and he thought it was quite possible so to build a ship that the bottom could be periodically inspected from the inside to see that the cement had not broken away, or that any other accident had not occurred.
The witness had pointed out to him by Mr. BREWSTER that he had "concurred" with Captain Thrupp in the dockyard report as to the perfect condition of the ship when banded over, not only for engines and boilers, but hull, masts, and everything else (pumps excepted), and he said he had signed this merely as a "dockyard form," and considered it only applied to his part of the vessel. He did not regard the report or "form" as one which threw upon him the responsibility of examining every part of the ship. He had often seen these forms before during his 18 years' service as chief engineer in the Royal Navy. Though he had not been on an iron vessel before serving in the Megaera, he was aware of the injurious effect of copper upon iron, and if he had found copper roses upon the suction pipes acting upon the iron bottom he should have reported it at once. The copper rose he put on was at a long distance from the leak. In the course of a long examination the witness said there would be less danger when the ship was at sea arising from the action of stagnant bilge water than when the ship was in harbour, because when she was at sea the bilge was daily run out. At the time he adopted the copper rose he was aware of the peculiar action of copper on iron, and he adopted it because copper was easier to work. This was at work on a platform of brick about 2½ft. off the frame which was cut to get at the leak, and the platform was on the opposite side of the mast to where the leak was. The rose from the hand-pump and of the steam "donkey" - one pump - was nearer than this rose to the leak. The pipes of these pumps were of copper, and these pipes went "up and down" inside the frame. This copper piping "all but" touched the iron of the bottom - was within an inch, in fact, and he thought it must have affected the iron. This piping he believed, was put in when the engines were put in - in 1864. The fittings under the coal bunkers could not be seen when at sea, for the bunkers could not be lifted, and could not have been cut away at the time.
By Sir F. ARROW. - It would not have been an impossibility to move the coals (62 tons) and to cut away the bunker, but it was thought at the time the best way was to cut the frame, and it took nearly 24 hours then to get at the leak.
The examination by Mr. BREWSTER was resumed, and the witness said that all the pipes of all the pumps on the ship were of copper. The defective plates he felt and saw when the leak was being searched for; he felt in breadth and not length.
Examined by Sir M. SEYMOUR, the witness said he last joined the Megaera at Sheerness, and that there were many parts of the ship he had not seen. Once when the ship was docked she was cleaned at the bottom, and coated with composition where it was worn off. A thorough survey of the ship would undoubtedly have necessitated a boring of the bottom. He had had no experience of copper roses on the bottom of iron ships. When he was at Sheerness he had no opportunity of seeing the condition of the ship's skin from the inside. He was under one part of her once when she was docked, and he struck some of her plates with an iron pin he picked up.
The witness being then questioned by Mr. ROTHERY, said when the leak sprung the plates he felt particularly defective were two feet away from the leak, higher up the ship's side. The largest place of defect in the plates he knew to be extremely thin, for it gave beneath the pressure of his thumb. This defect was as large as his hand; but the others were not so large in diameter. The leak never entirely stopped, - it almost stopped, but the pumping continued incessantly when the pumps were not choked, and the water was kept under. He did not now think that the copper rose he fitted had anything to do with the leak, and he threw out the suggestion at the Court-martial so as to see if any light could be thrown upon the matter. The witness was questioned at length on his evidence before the Court-martial, and he maintained that there was no cement on the inside of the girder which was cut through. His opinion that the ship should be beached at St. Paul's Island was founded upon his knowledge of the ship's condition, and also upon what be did not know - that is, he was not sure that she was not making water elsewhere than at the leak they knew of. He reiterated his statement given at the Court-martial as to its being impossible to stop the leak by putting on a larger plate than it was endeavoured to fit on.
Some questions further were asked by Sir FREDERICK ARROW, and the witness, in answer, said that when the ship left Sheerness on her last voyage there was the rose of one pump out of sight, and he could not say of what material it was made - whether of iron or lead. Witness tested the pumps before leaving Sheerness.
In answer to Mr. CHAPMAN, the witness said he did not know whether any officer on board the Megaera had had any experience of iron ships before being entered on duty in the ship. The carpenter alone, he believed, had had experience of iron ships.
Mr. Edward Brown, supernumerary chief engineer, who was going out on the Megaera to join Her Majesty's ship Blanche at Australia, was then called in the absence of another witness, and was examined by Lord LAWRENCE. He considered the means adopted to get at the leak were the best which could be taken. It would have taken, he said, four days to move the coals and bunkers; for, though there were 300 persons on board, some had to work the ship and others to work the pumps, and moving the bunkers would have placed them in no better position for getting at the leak. Then, too, there was heavy weather, and the ship was rolling 30 to 40 degrees, so that time was a most important matter. He saw "hollows" in the plates on the ship s side, as described by the previous witness. He saw one part of a plate deflect on the pressure of a finger, and he took hold of the edge of the leak and felt that that was as thin as a piece of paper at the edge. He saw no cement on the plates, and, more than that, no evidence of cement on the plates. He had had four years' experience in iron ships, and in the latter end of 1858 and early in 1859 he was in the Megaera on a journey home from India. His experience of her then was that he had "lots of trouble with her." A leak was at that time sprung on the screw tunnel, and when she got to the Cape of Good Hope steps were taken to stop the leak, he taking an active part in it, and, from what he remembered, a survey was made by officers on order. He believed the surveying officers recommended that she should stop at Simon's Bay until certain bad weather was over. He believed the surveying officers held that her bottom was in a suspicious state, and so gave this order. She was a good seaboat when at sea. His experience of Spence's cement was only with regard to its use on boilers, and that showed it did not last long. He had a very bad opinion of this cement, and he never knew it to be applied anywhere to come into contact with water. He attached no importance whatever to the use of a copper rose box on the Megaera, because he was sure the under parts of her were thoroughly lined with copper pipes, and these were all among the bilge and were constantly washed with bilge water.
(An Admiralty order of 1862 in reference to the use of copper articles in iron ships was here read. It laid down that officers of ships should take care that no copper articles should "rest" upon the bottoms of iron ships.)
The witness said he had heard of a still more stringent order on this subject, but it had never been known to officers that he could find out, and he only heard of it at a Court-martial. This order applied to the use altogether of copper fittings in iron ships. He attributed the holes in the plates to natural decay, arising from old age, assisted by oxydation from not being protected by cement. He also knew of the decay in the five gliders as they were called, but which he called frames. He saw rusty pieces of oxydized iron brought up in the pumps when the water from the leak was being pumped out. He believed it would have been positively most dangerous - more, it would have been a most wild attempt to have gone on the voyage to Australia from St. Paul's Island after the knowledge they had obtained of the ship's bottom. If the ship had gone on she would not, in his opinion, have reached a port. He took this opinion from what he saw and from what he knew of her defective parts. He believed the diver reported truly of the condition of the outside, and the diver's report was confirmed by what was seen and felt inside; and, apart from that report altogether, he was certain that Captain Thrupp took the only course open - the only wise course, when he beached the ship. Witness took duty with Mr. Mills alternately on the springing of the leak, and he considered everything which could have been done was done. It was not possible to stop the leak by putting on a larger plate. Before the leak was sprung he looked upon the Megaera as in a good and safe condition. Certainly nothing could have been done at St. Paul's to send the ship on her voyage.At the time the Commissioners arose the examination of the witness was not concluded, and he is to be recalled today.
|Ma 11 December 1871|
On Saturday the sittings of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the circumstances connected with Her Majesty's ship the Megaera were resumed in a Committee Room at the House of Commons. Lord Lawrence presided, and the other five Commissioners were present.
Mr. Edward Brown, the supernumerary chief engineer of the Blanche, who was going out in the Megaera to join his ship, and gave evidence on the previous day, was now recalled. He proceeded to answer a question put to him on the previous night by Lord Lawrence. This question was whether, considering the defective condition of the ship to which be had spoken, as found on the springing of the leak, he thought there had been any neglect on the part of any one in not seeing from time to time that the ship's brickwork and cement were in a safe and sound condition. In reply, he said this was a difficult question to answer. For one thing he did not feel competent to make a charge against any one; but, on being pressed, he said he thought there must have been some neglect on the part of some dockyard officials in passing over these defects, assuming that they did exist before the Megaera left port; and he considered some defects must have existed for a very long time. He did not consider her lying on the beach at St. Paul's so long any proof of her being a good ship or that her bottom was good, for she had made herself a bed, and was not acted upon by the rollers; and, moreover, when she broke up she went to pieces at once and completely.
Examined by Mr. BREWSTER, the witness said he was assistant engineer on the Megaera at the time of the Indian mutiny, when she was employed on the Indian station as a troop ship, and she was then very differently fitted from what she was when she went her last voyage. Referring to the time, 12 years ago, when the Megaera sprang a leak when near the Cape of Good Hope, which leak he assisted to stop, he said that he was under the impression that there was no cement or brickwork on the ship's side at that time, - certainly not, as far as he could recollect, at the place where the leak then was, in the screw tunnel. The ship made a great deal of water then, but not a quarter so much as when she was off St. Paul's. He could not say what was the thickness of the ship's plates when off the Cape of Good Hope, but he thought the plates could not then have been strikingly thin, or he should have noticed such a fact. As to the copper in the ship, every inch of metal piping in the ship was copper, and he had often seen these pipes. The dockyard officers, too, must have seen them, and have known of them. Those pipes were certainly put in since she was employed on the Indian station, and were put in when she had new engines in 1864. He took up the stokehold plates on several occasions during the last voyage to point out matters in connexion with a ship's steaming to a midshipman, and could say that every inch of piping wais of copper. Of course these pipes would be washed by bilge water, and the action of the washing on the iron would be the same as from any other copper. The defective girder frames were exposed to this washing.
Sir F. ARROW remarked that the iron, copper, and salt water formed a galvanic battery.
Questioned by Sir M. SEYMOUR, witness said that within an hour after the ship was beached she was full of water. All the copper piping of the ship was put in at the dockyard, and not by officers of the ship.
In reply to Sir F. ARROW, the witness said he would qualify his statement about his opinion of the defects in the plates having arisen from "natural decay" (stated on the previous day) by adding that the decay arose from the iron not been properly protected, for he looked upon properly-protected good iron as not liable to decay. The copper piping he had mentioned did not actually touch the iron, but was not parted from the iron by cement or brick. If the ship had been protected by cement the bilge water washed with copper would not have come into contact with the iron, and, putting all question of galvanic action aside, the bilge water would have acted injuriously on the iron where it was uncemented. The copper pipes in the Megaera were constantly washed by the bilge water.
The witness had his attention drawn by Mr. ROTHERY to a report made as to the cementing of the ship's interior, and witness said that modified his opinion as to the condition in that respect of the vessel in 1858-9; but still he did not remember any cement. He went on to say that the decayed state of the iron girder or frame was where it was in the wash of the bilge water, but in the same girder frame upward, where it was not exposed to that wash, in the part where it had to be cut to get at the leak, it was good iron. Where the iron was decayed it might not have been long in that condition, and oxidization might have gone on rapidly: but it must have been thin before, in the advice he gave the captain to beach the ship, he was actuated by the thought and belief that the ship was breaking up.
In reply to Mr. CHAPMAN the witness said that until the trouble in the ship arose he was only a passenger in the ship, and when the difficulty arose he, of course, as an officer in the Royal Navy, placed his services at the command of Captain Thrupp, who accepted them. It was his duty to give his services. When the ship broke up plates broke asunder and in every way. What had been called the "girder" and "frame" might properly be called the "ribs" of the ship, and to these the ship's plates were riveted. The copper pipes went over these ribs or girders, and much trouble had been taken to so fit them as to go over the ribs with nicety. Therefore full consideration was given to putting in copper pipes. Iron ships were now built with thicker plates than it was thought necessary to put on when the Megaera was built.
Lord LAWRENCE interrupted the business of the Commission to say that he had noticed a gentleman come from the public part of the room and hold communication with one of the Commissioners, and this, his Lordship said, was a most irregular proceeding, which must not be again attempted.
The gentleman referred to arose and was about to address his Lordship, who, however, stopped him, and said he must decline to hear anything, he did not know or wish to know who had committed this irregularity, but desired it should not be repeated.
In reply to Lord LAWRENCE, the witness said that there was an order for a quarterly examination of every ship by the chief engineer, and in all probability the oxidization of the girder or rib, discovered when the leak was being searched for, had arisen since the last quarterly examination of the ship, and this was before she left Sheerness, but it was likely the iron was thin at that time.
Mr. George Mills, the chief engineer of the Megaera, was recalled and examined by Mr. BREWSTER respecting a "return of stores" which the witness had made. This return showed he had 361b. of copper in store when he left Sheerness, and he gave in his account an expenditure of 191b. of copper in making the bilge suction pump "rose." Of course, he know of no order against the use of copper roses, or be should not have made this, for by so doing he would have been acting against such an order.
Mr. Thomas Edward Richards was called and examined by Lord LAWRENCE. He said he was on board the Megaera on her last voyage, he going out as engineer to the Rosario, in Australia, and he did duty in the Megaera. He gave like evidence to that given by the last two witnesses as to cutting the girder-frame or rib to get at the leak, and to seeing the hollows or defects in the plates on the ship's side, as described by Mr. Mills and Mr. Brown. He saw no cement on the interior of the ship's plates, and no appearance of cement was about the plates. He saw Spence's cement on other parts' of the ship, and his opinion of this cement was that it would at once commence to wash away if exposed to the action of water. He believed that two inches thick of the cement would not last more than two years. The plate the leak was in was a very bad one, and the other plates with defects might not have been defective originally, but they certainly were when he saw them. He had himself seen pieces of oxidized iron come up in the pumps, and in one watch he took out at least 30 pieces. He considered these pieces betokened that the girders or ribs of the ship were breaking up. These pieces came up so much that to prevent the pumps being choked the pipes were so arranged that the pieces should go out as they came in. The ship was considered to be a strong one in the hull until the leak broke out, but the fact that she lasted so long on the beach (77 days) was not, to his mind, an indication of her strength, for she had made herself a bed in the shingle, and was not exposed to the sea. He thought the ribs must have been thin before the ship left Sheerness, but that they had broken on the voyage out. The ship certainly laboured greatly between Plymouth and Queenstown, and he thought she was then overladen. A great deal of pumping was necessary nearly the whole time after the springing of the leak until she was beached, and the donkey engine pump was continuously going. Though the pumps kept the water down, he did not, even considering that fact, think it would have been safe to have continued the voyage to Australia, for he believed her bottom to have been very defective and unsafe. He had had four years' service in the iron ship Hercules.
in reply to Sir M. SEYMOUR, witness said he saw no copper roses on the Hercules, but no danger to an iron ship would arise from a copper rose resting on a brick platform. The Hercules was similarly fitted to the Megaera, but she had a double iron bottom.
The witness, in answer to Mr. ROTHERY, said he gave his advice to Captain Thrupp to beach the ship, not only from what he saw, but from what he knew of the ship's age, and his belief that other plates on the ship's bottom were as defective as those they saw. The winds could have but little effect upon the ship when she was beached, but the rollers would have, and, though there was somewhat heavy weather while she lay beached, she was not exposed to so heavy a sea as the one when she broke up, the day before the island was left.
Further questions were asked by Mr. CHAPMAN and Sir FREDERICK ARROW, and the witness said that the leak first made itself felt on the 9th of June, and the engine pumps were started on the 13th, and these pumps brought up the pieces of iron. The "bump" which the ship gave on beaching was not sufficient to have broken in the bottom of any ship, and would not have broken in the Hercules.
James Alexander Bell, the diver who went down to see the outside of the ship's bottom, gave evidence in support of his report heard, at the Court-Martial. He said he had rather understated than overstated the defective condition of the ship's bottom in his report, and in a diagram made he described the leak, as he had done before the Court-Martial, to the effect that the leak appeared to be three holes run into one. He felt the edges of the leak, and they were quite thin - like tin, and all the plate inside felt quite hollow. The edges cut his hand. He gave an opinion that the water was going in, elsewhere as well as at the leak, for he saw air bubbles about other places a» well as about the leak. There were many plates which from the outside appearance of the ship's side seemed decayed - more than three or four dozen places of apparent decay. He would say he saw hundreds, of such places. He examined only one part of the bottom, about 6ft. in breadth, from the water line down to the keel, and he saw the defects he mentioned in searching for the leak. He then described his putting the plate on the leak, and said the suction was so great at the leak that it drew the helmet of his diving gear towards it; he let one plate slip; another was made. When he put the plate on the side, and the screw in the hole, he felt it screwed on, and, he said, such was the rotten state of the side that the plate he put on seemed as if it was going through from the rottenness of the bottom, and he really thought it would have gone in, taking more with it. He now judged that if an attempt had been made to put on a larger plate it would have gone through; but, any way, a larger plate would not have kept the water out. He said he put his knife through another place quite easily.
Several of the Commissioners said the witness had given his evidence very clearly and well, and some did not ask any questions.
George Bridges, the carpenter of the Megaera, said he was on board several months before the ship left Sheerness, and wherever he could see the bottom of the interior there was cement, and, as far as he could see, the bottom was in good order. He believed the plates were rendered defective by the action of bilge water on uncemmented plates. There were parts of the ship's bottom which were inaccessible to general examination, and where the leak sprang was one. The witness said he saw a hammer struck through a plate on the ship's side after she was beached.The Commissioners then adjourned until to-day.
|Tu 12 December 1871|
THE MEGAERA COMMISSION.
Yesterday the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the circumstances of Her Majesty's ship Megaera being sent on a voyage to Australia, and of her loss off St. Paul's Island, resumed its sittings at the House of Commons' Committee-room No. 11, lord Lawrence presided, and all the other Commissioners were present.
Lieutenant B.S. Bradley, navigating lieutenant, in charge of stores on the Megaera, was called and examined by Lord LAWRENCE. He said he joined the ship on the 11th of February last at Sheerness, and then all the cargo was on board except some timber, for which no room could be found, and it was withdrawn from the cargo. He had nothing to do with stowing the cargo, and though this stowing might have been done better than it was, the cargo was non badly stowed, for when at sea it did not "work" (shift), He held that the ship was overladen between Sheerness and Queenstown, and he was led to this opinion because, for one thing, she had great difficulty in righting herself when labouring in the bad weather between Plymouth and Queenstown; and another reason for his believing that she had been overladen was, that when 100 tons were taken out of her she was more buoyant at sea, and this in worse weather by far than was experienced between Plymouth and Queenstown. With regard to the time when the leak was sprung, he could not speak particularly as to the condition of the ship's plates, but he felt the girder-frame and knew it was defective.
Questioned by Sir M. SEYMOUR the witness said he signed the bills of lading, and was thus responsible for the cargo and its stowage. The troop-decks of the vessel were filled with cargo as well as the holds, and the baggage of the supernumeraries was put on the troop-decks simply because there was no room elsewhere. The first-lieutenant superintended the stowing of the cargo before witness came on board.
The witness was examined by Mr. ROTHERY as to the previous history of the Megaera in respect to the loads she had carried in previous years, but of these statements, read from a return in the Commissioner's possession, the witness could only give speculative answers.
In reply to further questions put by Lord LAWRENCE the witness said that when on St. Paul's Island he looked at the plates of the wreck from a short distance off, and from what he saw of them he could say that the plates above and below the waterline were very thin. He saw the edges of the plates as they were torn asunder.
Lieutenant Edward Seymour Evans examined by Lord LAWRENCE, said that when first on board the Megaera he was supernumerary lieutenant, but from Ascension to St. Paul's he acted as first-lieutenant. He joined at Plymouth, and considered the ship was overladen between there and Queenstown. The ports, he considered, were defective from decay, and from insufficient calking, before coming to Queenstown. He had experience in an iron ship, for he had been in the Cerberus troopship [(Her Majesty's Victorian Ship) Cerberus was a breastwork monitor]. When he was first on board the Megaera - that is, previous to the leak - he was fully of opinion that she was capable of going the voyage. He felt the leak with his hands, and he gave his opinion that any endeavour to plug the leak would enlarge it, for the edges were exceedingly thin and sharp - so sharp as to cut his hands. He did not feel any cement; there appeared to be nothing beyond the iron, and he thought if there had been any cement he must have noticed it, for the chief engineer had remarked that there ought to have been cement there. The leak never stopped, though a plate was put on outside (as described by the diver) and one inside; but the water came in as fast as ever. The water gained on the donkey engine-pumps. It would have been a very rash act to have gone on with the voyage to Australia, and to have attempted it would have been against all the dictates of sound judgment. He considered the ship was unseaworthy after the finding of the defective girder-frames and plates.
Examined by Mr. BREWSTER, the witness said the beaching was the only alternative left after the breaking of the anchors. If the anchors had held, an attempt might have been made to hold on at the island and wait for a passing ship to convoy the Megaera, but that was impossible after losing the anchors. The inner plate referred to was fixed on the leak when off St. Paul's Island, but it did not keep the water out. The pressure of the water was so exceedingly strong that a hand could not be held near the leak, The parts of two of the lost anchors were examined at St. Paul's, and were found to be of good iron.
The witness, in reply to Mr. ROTHERY, could not say whether, before coming to Queenstown, the heavy part of the cargo was above or below, but he knew that after leaving Queenstown the heavy part was at the bottom of the vessel, He was further questioned by Mr. CHAPMAN on points which had arisen before the court-martial.
Asked by Lord LAWRENCE whether he had noticed copper suction rose-boxes, he said he had not noticed thorn, and if he had seen them he should not have known that they were wrong, for he was not aware of any Admiralty order against the use of copper on the bottoms of iron ships.
Alexander Brown, a leading stoker on board the Megaera, examined by Lord LAWRENCE, said he discovered the leak, and he described the manner in which he laid his head through a hole between the frame of the ship, lying on his hands and knees, having thrust a lamp in first, and on doing this he said he saw "the water coming in like a waterspout." He reported the leak to the chief engineer. He assisted to cut the girder frame and saw the under part of the frame, and this, he said, was all "eaten away." Asked how large was the defective part, the witness stretched his arms from his body, and said the worn-away part of the rib of the ship was fully the length from hand to hand (about six feet). He saw four or five girders or ribs of the ship in this condition, and that, too, below the leak, and quite away from the skin of the ship. The witness, asked by Lord LAWRENCE whether he thought the ship was then in a safe condition, said he would leave that to his Lordship to answer, but it stood to reason that if four or five ribs were worn away near where the mainmast was, if the ship "stretched her back a hit" the mainmast would go through the bottom. That was his firm opinion. He had seen the roses of the suction pipes, and the one that was nearest the leak was, he believed, of copper. This was five or six feet from the leak. He was in the stokehole when the ship was run aground, and he saw the brickwork of the bottom rise 19 or 20 inches. He measured it with a stick, and that was how he knew the height they rose. He did not stop long there then they might be sure (a laugh); but he called Mr. Mills' attention to the girder-frame (the ribs of the ship) being forced up.
The witness examined by Mr. BREWSTER, said he never saw any cement or paint on the girder. The defective part of the girder-frame was eaten away from the skin of the ship, and there was nothing to prevent the bottom of the ship from going out if she were strained, for there was nothing to keep the bottom together.
Asked by Sir M. SEYMOUR whether he had ever heard of the effects of copper upon iron, or the danger of corrosion from the use of copper in iron ships the witness said it was not his duty to take notice of what he heard, but to attend to the orders given him.
Further questioned by Sir F. ARROW as to whether the ship was not a comfortable and safe ship, and so considered until the leak, the witness hesitated a long time, and then said "she might have done for a passage," but he had no "regard" for her, and did not want to belong to her. Pressed as to his reason for his bad opinion, he said before he shipped at Sheerness he know the ship had a bad name for one thing, and for another she was very wet in his mess, being several inches in water. All the girder frames which he saw worn away from the plates were at the bottom of the ship.
William Bodkin, also a leading stoker on the Megaera, gave similar evidence as to the thinness of the plates where the leak was, the rush of water in at the leak, and the time it occupied in getting at the leak.
In reply to Sir M. SEYMOUR, the witness said he had served in the Royal Navy 17 years, and though he had a floating recollection of an order about the use of copper on iron ships, what it was he did not know; it was not his duty to know of such orders. He had been on board other iron ships.
In reply to Sir F. ARROW, the witness said it was customary to clean out the bilges of a man-of-war once a week, but the bilges of the Megaera were hard to get at.
Captain Thrupp was re-called and questioned by Lord LAWRENCE respecting a statement made in evidence by Mr. Mills, that the captain was mistaken in regard to the description he had given of the exact position of the leak. Captain Thrupp said he still believed he was correct in his description of the leak's position, but he acknowledged that Mr. Mills might well be supposed to be accurate, he having a greater knowledge of the part of the ship where the leak was. There was only a foot or two out in any case in the estimates. With regard to the position of the ship at St. Paul's when beached, the witness said he felt the ship was so secure where she was that he lived on board ten days after she was beached, sleeping there at night. With regard to the re-stowage at Queenstown, he said all the stores intended for the Cape were taken out, and there was a restowage necessitated thus far. In respect to the anchors and cables on board, he said that, though there was nothing particularly new in the ship, the cables were sound, and they had been found so when surveyed previously at sea.
The witness had his attention called by Mr. ROTHERY to evidence given that before the ship was out of dock she was coated with some composition, and that then she appeared to be sound; and he was asked to say how he would, in the face of this testimony, account for the marks spoken to by the diver as on the ship's bottom outside. He replied that he regarded these marks as spots of rust arising from the thinness of the plates, and he regarded these spots (said by the diver to be "in hundreds") as places which were little short of leaks. The witness said the plate on the leak was not put on with a view of prosecuting the voyage to Australia after the condition of the bottom was found, but to save them from the necessity of beaching the ship. The Megaera was unquestionably a strong ship, but she was extremely thin in her plates.
In answer to other questions he said the two ships which afterwards came to St. Paul's Island, the Malacca, and the Rinaldo, both, lost anchors, The witness thought the fracture of the ribs of the ship had only been the work of a few days before the leak, as the pumps had never before brought up pieces of oxidized iron.Mr. Mills, chief engineer of the Megaera was re-called, and was questioned with regard to Brown's evidence on one particular point, and the Commissioners then adjourned over to-day and to-morrow.
|Fr 15 December 1871|
THE MEGAERA COMMISSION.
Yesterday the Royal Commissioners appointed to take evidence regarding the Megaera, both with respect to the circumstances of her being sent to tea in an alleged dangerous condition, as well as into her loss, resumed their proceedings in the committee-room No. 11 at the House of Commons. Lord Lawrence presided, and all the other Commissioners were present. A new and enlarged sectional Model of the central portion (the amidships part) of the Megaera was laid before the Court for the first time.
Mr. William Taylor, naval architect, was called and examined by Lord LAWRENCE. - He said he was engaged in the building of the Megaera as draughtsman, and was chief under Mr. Fairbairn. The ship was built in all respects according to the specifications, and without any deviations that he knew of from the specifications, and he should have known of any if there had been. The only strengthening plates were under the kelson, but none others in the building of the ship were placed under the bunkers. The witness had a copy of the specifications placed in his hands, and a passage was pointed out to him as indicating strengthening plates, but the witness said those referred to there were the floor of the ship. The witness then had his attention called to the evidence of Mr. Mills, the chief engineer, as to finding plates of iron in attempting to got at the leak, and the witness said these were "binding plates" put in under the bunker, and were put in when the ship was built. These particular plates (he explained than by the sectional model as coming under the bunker and immediately over the leak) were three-eighths of an inch thick. The witness then produced the original drawings of the ship, and discovered that the plates were not shown in the drawings, but said he knew the plates were there, and were put in, as Mr. Mills had said they evidently were, when the ship was built. (The point had arisen, it should be explained, when the wisdom of the engineers in cutting through the girders to get at the leak had been called into question, and it had been said that a better course would have been to cut through the bunker, whereby they could have seen the leak and the ship's bottom. The responsible officers of the ship had alleged that the difficulties of cutting through the bunker were increased by the pressure of particular iron plates under the bunker.) The witness went on to say that the interior of the hull of the Megaera when turned out from the yard was only protected by paint, and not by any special means. The original cost of the Megaera was 21l. 15s. per ton, or 32,000l., exclusive of the engines. The engine power was 660-horse power, and he put their cost at 20,000l. The plating of the Megaera was not equal to what it would be in a ship of her size at the present time; but a ship of her size would be two-sixteenths of an inch thicker throughout. The ship had no bricks or cement in her when she was delivered.
In reply to Sir M. Seymour, witness said the part of a ship which would wear the quickest would be the plating below the water-line.
In reply to further questions, the witness said that if plates of a ship's bottom were reduced in thickness by wear to ⅜ths or 5-16ths of an inch, he should consider that was a thinness rendering it necessary to repair or to recover the plating.
In answer to Sir F. ARROW, the witness said the ship was built 20 years ago, and since that time many changes had been made in the building of iron ships. There were now wider frames and thicker plating; but the closer frames, as used in the Megaera, would compensate for the comparative thinness of the plates then used. Cement was not thought of in the days when the Megaera was built, and nothing was done beyond painting inside, and, in his experience, iron ships, including steam iron ships, were sent to sea without anything more being put upon the inside than paint. The Grappler was built alongside the Megaera. The Megaera was not cemented by the builders, but she should have been cemented after being delivered, and she was delivered at Woolwich. It would require a great deal of water to be constantly washing about in the hold of a ship to cause the frames to waste away. He always thought the plates of the Megaera thin, but they were according to the specifications, as sent back by the then Government. The Grappler had a hole knocked in her bottom by a metal dock rail falling into the bottom, and there being washed about continually for some time.
Questioned by Mr. CHAPMAN, the witness said the plates of the Megaera were, he believed, manufactured by Thornicroft, and were some 7 or 8 feet long. He did not test the tensile strength of the plates, but took them on the good faith of the manufacturer. There were some extras in the building of the Megaera, and these came to 3,000l. or 4.000l. There were bulkheads in the Megaera by which the ship was divided into five watertight compartments. The bulkheads were as strong as they would be made at the present time. The purpose of these bulkheads was to give greater transverse strength, and the compartments being watertight was in order that, in the event of a leak being sprung in one, the ship might be kept afloat by the other four; but the engine compartment was the largest, and if that had been filled he was not sure that the other four would have keen sufficient to keep the ship, when loaded, afloat. Diagonal trussing was inserted in the frame of the ship for the purpose of spreading the weight of the guns. The attention of the witness was drawn to a statement made by the diver that when he was on the outside of the ship he inserted his knife between the plates, but desisted from pushing it in far for fear of letting in more water, and the witness said that the knife would not have gone in, as it would have been stopped by the "butt strap."
Further questioned by Lord LAWRENCE, the witness said the tonnage of the vessel was nominally 1,391, but the actual carrying power of the ship was about 928 tons. An iron vessel ought to last, he thought, at least 30 or 40 years, but he should be sorry to place a limit upon the time an iron ship would last with proper use. If the bottom of the ship inside were found to be oxydized, more or less, that would not be a reasonable amount of wear, and he should think it was owing to the paint not having been put on properly. Assuming that the Megaera had been properly painted and coated with composition, the circumstance that, after being docked three times, oxydization appeared would be evidence of undue amount of corrosion, and he had never in his experience seen the case of a ship corroding with undue rapidity. The ordinary corrosion had a tendency to reduce the thickness of iron plates, but not to a great extent. The diminution in the thickness of the plates effected by three times cleaning and scraping would be about the 32d of an inch.
In reply to Sir F. ARROW, who called the witness's attention to the diver's statement about hundreds of small rusty places on the outside when off St. Paul's, the witness said he could not suppose those marks were any guide as to a rusty condition of the inside of the plates. It would have been impossible to examine the whole inside of the bottom without removing a portion of the bunkers. The witness also said the part cut through to get at the leak was not a "girder," "frame," or "rib," but a part known as a "floor-plate."
Charles Longhurst, a modeller from Sheerness Dockyard, stated that he had made the new sectional model then before the Commissioners, and that it was made from drawings furnished by Captain Luard and Mr. Sturdy, the master-shipwright. The witness was instructed that every portion of the ship's bottom was cemented up to the bilge, and the model showed this.
Richard A. Bethel, examined by Lord LAWRENCE, said that in 1859 he was the master-shipwright at Portsmouth, and he examined the bottom of the Megaera on her return from the East in reference to the reports made by officers who came home in her. If the ship had been of greater age she might hare been examined more minutely, but being a new ship she was considered in too good a state to require any very minute examination for the discovery of defects. The Megaera was then only ten years old. He was not aware the result of the examination at the Cape on the way home on that occasion was to show that there were very serious defects.
The attention of the witness was called to a report which he had himself signed (bearing date 1859), stating that the defects in the Megaera on the survey by the officers at the Cape were attributed to her having been for a long time without repair in a warm climate, and the witness said that whatever defects were discovered in 1859 were remedied; but, of course, it was impossible for a master shipwright of a place like Portsmouth Royal Dockyard to enter into all petty details. He acknowledged that the examination of the bottom of a ship like the Megaera was not a petty detail, and he said most likely he examined it himself; but it was so long since that he could not remember. To the best of his recollection the ship's bottom was in a good condition. New plates were substituted for old ones in the "run" in the engineer's compartment, but he thought no new plates were inserted in her bottom. Being asked if there would be papers at the Admiralty showing what was done, the witness said there were the "weekly progress" papers, but he thought there would not be found papers giving more than in general terms what repairs were done to a ship. He did not remember cement being removed out of the ship in 1859. He entered the Government service in 1807, and left the dockyard in 1860 to go into the Constructive Department, where he was until 1864.
Questioned by Mr. BREWSTER, the witness said officers of ships always reported, on coming from a voyage, how a ship had behaved and what were her defects. Of course ships' officers could not discover all a ship's defects, and there would be some which dockyard officers would discover. He did not know that in 1859 the dockyard officers went over the Megaera so far as to find more defects than were reported by the officers who had come in her; but if any had been found they would have been reported. If it were reported that corrosions extended so far as to render it imprudent to scale the plates, and that the rivet heads were also much corroded, he should regard that as a case for special examination, but he should consider his duty performed in such a matter if he relied upon his subordinates. If a report were shown stating that the ship was in such a state that the persons making the report could not answer for her being seaworthy for any lengthened period, if such a report were signed by two captains and two engineers, he should perhaps think an officer in his position had not done his duty if he did less than strip the vessel and thoroughly examine her. He recommended that Day's composition should be used on the ship.
Re-examined by Lord LAWRENCE, the witness said that there was no "completion statement" sent up to the Admiralty when a ship was repaired to show what had been done to her, and if in the following voyages defects were found the Admiralty could only tell by the "progress" sheets sent up weekly as to the work. If orders were given to repair the bottom of a ship, and on a voyage after such repairs doubts were to be thrown upon the work having been done, or done in a workman-like manner, there would be no special report at the Admiralty made at the time the work was done to show what really had been done.
Mr. William Moody, late master shipwright at Sheerness, examined by Lord LAWRENCE, said he retired in 1866 after being 48 years and six months in the Government service, and his salary was 600l. a year. In 1859 he was employed at Portsmouth dockyard, and examined the Megaera on her coming from Hongkong (the occasion when she put in at the Cape). he recollected that she came home in a defective condition, and he examined her in conjunction with the engineer department of the dockyard. The outside of her was in good order, but inside, owing to the constant washing of the bilge and coal dust in her bottom, the rivet heads were worn off. The boilers were taken out, the bunkers lifted, and she was completely opened. The lining of the ship was taken out, and she was so far stripped that her skin could be examined just as they could examine the floor of that room. The rivet heads were made good and the frames on the "throating" (the flooring) of the ship were filled with Day's cement, and higher up the sides, up to the water-line, to the bilges, bricks, and cement were used to cover the skin. He examined her in 1861 himself he would, not trust any subordinate, and he could say her bottom outside was in good order, for on being scraped of the barnacles the red lead was come to, and that showed her bottom to be in good order, for no red lead could be put on after a ship had been to sea. She was not stripped inside in 1861; but she was examined. He did not remember any iron plate under the bunker (immediately over the leak).
Questioned by Sir F. ARROW, the witness said the inside skin of an iron ship was the part to be looked after with especial care. The rivet heads referred to were worn off.The Commissioners then adjourned until this morning.
|Sa 16 December 1871|
THE MEGAERA COMMISSION.
Yesterday the Royal Commissioners resumed their inquiry at the House of Commons into the circumstances connected with this ship being sent to sea and her loss. Lord Lawrence presided, and all the other Commissioners were present. This day's evidence related principally to the past history of the Megaera.
Mr. Andrew Murray, examined by Lord LAWRENCE, stated that he was formerly consulting engineer and inspector of manufactories and workshops to the Admiralty, and previous to that was Chief Engineer to Portsmouth Dockyard. He was not much in the dockyard in 1859, being in attendance at an inquiry as to the dockyard itself. Witness had put into his hands a report, dated December, 1860, signed by himself and Mr. Miller, as to the defects of the Megaera. This report, he said, referred to the machinery and engineer's department, and not to the hull, having had 50 or 60 vessels passing through his hands every year, he could not precisely remember what he had recommended regarding the Megaera, or regarding her examination upon which his report was founded. (The report referred to mentioned "plates" being put in.) Witness believed these plates referred not to plates in the hull, because the work was done by the engineer's department, and if the plates had been put into the hull the report of such plates would have come from the master shipwright. He could say that every ship was examined when repaired. He had a personal recollection of the ship in 1859-60, and he could say that her hull plates were thinner than would have been recommended by his department. There were no plates doubled in the Megaera at the time she was repaired. On such a report from her officers as that given in on the return from the East, she would, in the ordinary course, as well as in the case of a ship having been paid off, have been examined thoroughly from stem to stern. Having made such an examination, a report would be drawn up in the master shipwright's office of what was required, and sent to the Admiralty; but in 1859 such report or statement was less in detail than it would be at the present time. These reports were now more in detail. He was in doubt whether there was any "completion statement" sent in when ship's repairs were completed, and he was not aware that there were any reports in the Admiralty offices to which reference could be made as to the repairs which had been carried out. If any doubt were to arise as to what had been done to a ship, reference would have to be made to the list of original defects, and to the estimates, and to any subsequent estimates. In his opinion, if it was said that work was carried out in the dockyard, it would be carried out. Examined as to the supervision which would be exercised by the Captain or Admiral Superintendent over the work done, the witness said that in his opinion the superintendent of a dockyard should not interfere in the details of work, and that he would sign any report merely as passing it on, and not as personally responsible for the work which had been done. He differed in his view from the opinion of Admiral Mends, as given in the report of this Commission in The Times, where the Admiral was reported as saying, "The Admiral or Captain Superintendent of the Dockyard would now, as far as possible, inspect every part of a ship and would leave very little to the discretion of subordinates before signing the report upon a ship." He totally differ in opinion from that, for he thought the superintendent should not take the responsibility for the work done out of the hands of those who, the witness said, were the superintendent's brother officers. In answer to the question put by Lord Lawrence whether a superintendent was, in witness's opinion, to have nothing to superintend, and whether it was not intended by the Admiralty that the superintendent should see that work was carried out, he replied that generally this might be the case, but he thought that it was not for the public advantage that superintendents should interfere in petty details, as was the tendency now especially.
Examined by Mr. BREWSTER, the witness said that when he had sent estimates to the Admiralty he could not say he had been ordered to reduce them; but he had fault found with the expenses he had put down. It was not, however, in his remembrance that he had been called upon to reduce estimates; perhaps the Admiralty, he suggested, did not take him to be one who would alter his views.
In answer to Sir F. ARROW, the witness said that in September, 1859, a report was sent from Portsmouth saying the Megaera required a "general overhauling," and this "general overhauling" would mean a complete examination. In the same month there was a report, signed by Mr. Miller, of witness's department, for witness on the state of the Megaera's hull. The engineering department, at that time, have the shipwright department advice as to iron-plating (the shipwrights not then being used to iron), and was in some degree responsible for the plating of the hull. At that time ships would be bored to ascertain the thickness, and he had no doubt the Megaera was thus bored. The effects of corrosion inside would not make itself apparent outside, and blisters of rust on the outside would be no indication of any rust or corrosion going on inside. With regard to the responsibility in 1859 for the plating of an iron ship's bottom, the master shipwright would call upon witness's department to assist in repairing any defect. If this repair was only the question of substituting one plate for another witness should take the report of his under officers, and order the work to be done, and would sign the report, but in the case of a "general overhauling," he should not take any report, but would see to it himself. With regard to the use of copper roses on board iron ships, he held that any injury so caused would be merely local, and he was of opinion that galvanic action was not very strong where cement was | used. If there had been an Admiralty order against the use of copper roses, he would undertake to say that when the order was known in the dockyard, there would be no chance of such a thing as copper roses being put in.
Questioned by Mr. ROTHERY, the witness said in the early days of iron shipbuilding it was not usual to do more than paint the interior of iron ships, and the Megaera did not appear to have had cement in her up to 1859. If rust were kept out of iron ships they would practically last for ever, but an iron ship would be speedily destroyed by rust if not protected by paint or cement, especially in the inside. He believed that when the Megaera was examined at Portsmouth she had been running for ten years without having been cemented, and apparently with the painting of late years defective from want of renewal. The plates, too, were thinner than he, from his knowledge of shipbuilding in 1859, would have recommended on a ship's bottom. Under these circumstances there should have been special care taken in the inspection of this vessel, not only in 1859 but on all subsequent occasions. He desired to add that thin plates - plates as thin as the Megaera - were quite safe. He agreed that however strong the frame of a ship might be the plates should certainly not be less than 3-16in. thick anywhere at the bottom.
Answering Mr. CHAPMAN, the witness said he was not now in Her Majesty's service, and he added that he was "retired" in 1870, and at 56 years of age, too, because it was thought the shipwright department could perform the duties of his department. He questioned whether the five compartments in the Megaera were watertight as regarded the ship. They might be as regarded each other; but he thought they would not have been found water-tight if the water had risen to a certain height inside.
The witness was further questioned by Lord LAWRENCE as to Spence's cement, and he said he did not think this material should have been used on the skin of a ship where water came, for it was not durable when brought into contact with water. The effect of this cement being used on the bottom where the bilge-water came in would be that in a short time the water would get in and would rust the iron of the ship's bottom, and it would not take long, he believed, for the Spence's cement to be rotted away if so placed. This particular cement was good when placed about a boiler where not exposed to water. It was quite probable that if this cement were used on the bottom of a ship, and the bottom were some time after examined that no cement would be found, but because no traces of cement were found on the leak sprung at the Cape being searched for that would be no guide to the fact as to whether there had been any there. The witness had his attention called to a detailed report made on the 30th of July, 1866, as to the thickness of the bottom plates, which were stated to be in some parts 3-16ths of an inch thick, and he was asked whether he did not consider these plates to be dangerously thin. He considered the question for some little time, and then replied that all he could say was that he should have considered it his duty to have taken out these plates and replaced them by others. He further said that the parts where the iron of a ship would be most likely to corrode would be inside at the bottom, where water was washing about, and outside where the iron was alternately wet and dry.
Mr. Thomas Miller, a retired dockyard officer, retired in 1869, stated that he was formerly under the last witness at Portsmouth Dockyard. He recollected making an examination of the Megaera in 1859, and he made the report to the Admiralty in September,1859, as to her condition on coming from the East. In this report, he, in answer to a telegraphic inquiry, reported that the Megaera had been carefully examined and found in good condition as far as related to the plates forming the bottom; but the heads of the rivets generally were "found to be decayed, and many entirely wasted away." This "destructive effect appeared to have been increased by the motion of the salt water in the ship when rolling." The report recommended that when the ship was repaired a thick coating of Roman cement should be laid on. The report also said that the "iron plates" were slightly damaged in some parts, but not to any extent, and where they were defective they could be covered over by iron plates to protect them from further decay. He said he had no doubt the ship was thoroughly examined at that time, but no documents existed, he thought, to show what was done. The outside of the vessel would also have been examined at that time. He thought one or two plates of the ship were shifted. He believed there was no part of the ship which was at that time inaccessible. The report made of the "rivet heads generally much decayed" referred to the whole bottom of the ship. All the defects were remedied.
Joseph Peters, foreman boiler maker, gave particulars respecting repairs done to the ship in 1864, and her being re-cemented. He stated that the part between the two bulkheads, forming the engine and boiler rooms, was cemented with Spence's cement on this occasion. Other parts of the ship were cemented with Portland cement.
Henry Cradock, a retired officer of Portsmouth Dockyard, who retired in 1869, had, as acting master shipwright of Portsmouth, reported on the defects of the Megaera. He had stated that a part of the Megaera's bottom was in 1859 "choked with rust," and this part was where the leak was sprung on coming from the East. In 1863 he had made a report that another part of the bottom inside was "very much corroded." later, in 1865, he had reported that "her head was very leaky." The witness could remember no more than his written reports said. He, however, stated that the "rust" with which the ship was "choked" was from the plates, and these must, therefore, have been worn in consequence.
Mr. Steel, who was formerly assistant engineer in the Royal Dockyards, and now in the Admiralty, was called, and, though he had taken part in the examination of the ship, he said his report only referred to the machinery, and he could give no information with respect to the hull. He was examined at some length on many points.
Mr. Saunders, the master shipwright of Pembroke Dockyard, and formerly of Keyham (Devonport) yard, gave evidence of the ship's condition in 1864, and said there was rust in the ship, but the iron was not decayed, The plates then were not less than 3-16th of an inch thick. Spence's cement was put on in parts, and his impression was that this material was bad for the purpose of being put on the bottom. When this cement or composition - for it was little like "cement" - was put on the inside of the Megaera, that was the first occasion of its being used for the purpose, and he thought from what he saw of it that it would be the last. It was applied for the boilers as well, and it would do for that. He considered the ship was a very good one, and she was in 1864 thoroughly examined and refitted, He believed plates were removed from the Megaera at Portsmouth and Devonport; but not in consequence of deterioration.The witness will be recalled this morning.
|Ma 18 December 1871|
THE MEGAERA COMMISSION.
On Saturday the investigation concerning the Megaera was resumed at the House of Commons, Lord Lawrence presiding; and further evidence regarding the history of the ship and the general practices in the Royal dockyards was given.
Mr. Saunders, whose examination was commenced on the previous evening, was now recalled, and stated, in answer to Sir Frederick ARROW, that he was apprenticed in the Royal dockyard, and obtained his knowledge of iron shipbuilding in the service. He was of opinion that the shipwright department of Devonport was responsible for what was done to the hull of the Megaera in 1864 when she was overhauled, and he, as the acting master-shipwright engaged on her, was of course in some degree personally responsible. He could say that, to satisfy himself as to the condition of the ship, she was cleared inside and out and the iron scraped on both sides. Oxidization was found going on inside, but not to any great degree, though there was much rust inside; but very little was found outside. The thickness of the plates was seen, he believed, by borings; but he was certain, that many rivets were knocked out by which the thickness of the plates could be seen. Some rivet-heads were worn, and the rivets were replaced. To get at the inner skin of the ship the beams were uncovered, the ceiling was taken down, and his opinion was that all parts of the ship's skin were shown. He did not remember seeing any strengthening plates which prevented the skin being wholly seen. Cement (Day's) was in the ship when she came to be overhauled, and in good condition, and the iron under it good. He thought he could say Day's cement was taken out - it must have been cleared out, but he could not say that any portion of the ship's frame was at all decayed, and certainly none of the frames were decayed and away from the plates (the skin). The process of the yard would be to clean the ship and, he believed, to dry her before cementing her. His firm conviction was that the ship was dry before being re-cemented. The cement then used was Spence's, under contract, the proprietors of that cement having the execution of this work under the supervision of the dockyard officers. The Spence's cement was laid over the bottom and up the sides as far as the shelves of the lower beams. The cement put on was very different from that taken out. He was not then aware that this cement had ever been used other than in the Megaera, but he had heard since that it had been used in the Buffalo and the Northumberland. A platform of brick and Portland cement was in one part laid over the Spence's cement. He believed this cement would be likely to drop off, such was its character, as seen even while it was being put on. He was not aware that the cement was examined afterwards. The ceiling of the ship was replaced, and he believed that what the carpenter of the Megaera on her last voyage had stated - that the ship was ceiled so as to shut in her skin - was correct as far as the sides were concerned, but he thought the bottom could have been seen at places. He believed that with some difficulty a person could have got under the bunker, and could have examined the bilges while the ship was at sea. There was a difference between iron destroyed by galvanic action and iron subjected to the ordinary action; for the one iron was soft, while in the other case it had incrustations. Galvanic action would quickly - in the course of a few months - destroy iron, and galvanic action was much guarded against in the dockyards. He did not remember any Admiralty order against the use of copper, but in the dockyard copper was kept off the bottoms of iron ships in such things as roses, and only pipes of copper which were not within a foot of the iron bottom. He believed Spence's cement was condemned when used on the Northumberland.
Sir. F. ARROW remarked that he wished the witness would give more certain information than his "belief," and witness answered that he had been in four different dockyards in the course of his service, and had many ships under his observation, so that it was difficult for him to remember all the circumstances attending the repairs of this ship nearly eight years ago.
The witness was examined by Mr. ROTHERY, and said in 1865 he signed a report for the master shipwright of Keyham Yard, Devonport, as to an examination being made of the Megaera; but he said this was a slight examination, and he also saw her at Woolwich in 1869. He said it was reasonable to suppose that the officers of the ship when off St. Paul's took the readiest means of getting at the leak - they would do so for their own sakes, and that, therefore, if they said plates under the bunker prevented them from cutting through the bunker, and that there were no other means of getting at the bottom skin of the ship, they had warrant for saying it. Witness could not, however, remember, any such plates under the bunker.
In answer to Mr. CHAPMAN he said he could say that when the ship left his hands in 1864 after repairs she was a perfect sea ship for a ship which had been covered up so long, with the exception of the upper deck, where some trivial repairs were afterwards needed. These trivial repairs to the deck should have been done before she left the dock, and they were done after she had been complained of by her officers. Many rivets had to be put into the bottom in the course of her repair in 1864, and those were put in ??? [unreadable word]. At that time iron shipbuilding was not so well understood as now, but a shipwright brought up under the old system soon became expert in the new one. He went from Devonport to Deptford, from there to Woolwich, and from Woolwich to Pembroke, where he now held the position of master shipwright.
In answer to Mr. BREWSTER, the witness said Spence's cement was found very good for boilers, and its being placed on the bottom of the Megaera in 1864 was an experiment. He certified three times concerning the ship after her repairs in 1864; but he never looked at the ship's skin to see the result of the experiment with Spence's cement. He was then in training for a master shipwright's position, and enough shipwrights in the Royal dockyards did take an interest in the result of experiments, he did not look at the ??? [unreadable] of the Megaera in l865 to satisfy himself as to the result of the experiment with Spence's cement. Dockyard officers had a desire to know results of experiments, but he did not take any steps to obtain the results of this.
In further answer to Lord LAWRENCE, the witness said he was perfectly sure the part where the leak was had the covering of Spence's cement. At the conclusion of his examination he said he found he was reported as having said that the thinnest part of the Megaera in 1864 was 3-16ths of an inch. He wished to say that he meant to say that it was then no less anywhere than three-eighths of an inch.
Mr. Arthur Smith, a member of the firm of C.N. Smith, Son, and Co., stated that his firm supplied the Spence's cement and coated the Megaera with that cement at Devonport in 1864. This was a different material from Spence's composition for boilers, for while this composition was still in work, the "cement" had fallen through, and was not in use. The cement for ships' bottoms was composed of clay, soot, bone-dust, fish-oil, Portland cement and cow hair. He should say, from his experience now, that this was not suited for the purpose to which it was put - the coating of ship's bottoms, where there was a wash of water. It was applied to three other of Her Majesty's ships - in 1863 to the Sharpshooter, in 1864 to the Buffalo, in 1864 to the Megaera, and in 1865 to the Northumberland. He never had any opportunity of examining these ships to see how the cement wore, but afterwards, he believed in 1867, he was shown at Devonport some of the material, and was told that it was taken from the Northumberland, and he was under the impression that this having been done, the Megaera was also cleared of the cement. He went on board the Megaera in 1869 to speak with regard to "Spence's composition" on the boilers, but he never referred to the cement on the inside skin, as he fully thought it was taken out, the Admiralty having reported against the material in a letter from the Chief Constructor, Mr. Reed.
The letter of Mr. Reed was read. it ran: - "With respect to the use of Spence's Cement on the inside of the Northumberland, I have to inform you that it has proved most unsatisfactory, and orders have been given to remove it immediately." The letter was dated the 16th of April, 1867.
The witness proceeded to say that this cement was put on the Megaera over the bottom, and the plates were covered with it up to the deck beams. Portland cement, and brickwork was, in some parts of the bottom, put over the Spence's cement. Where the brickwork and Portland cement were put over Spence's cement the latter would last a very long time, but where it was exposed to the wash of the bilge water it would not wear very long. He thought it would certainly last a year under this wash, and, perhaps two years would be the longest time it would last under this wash, but it would not then be entirely destroyed. Since it was found that the cement had failed in its purpose his firm had refused to go on with the manufacture, and had constantly refused orders for it, and within the last four months had referred the Russian Government to Day's cement as the best material for the purpose of being placed on ship's bottoms. (The "Spence's cement" was ordered to be used on the Megaera's bottom and boilers, as shown by the Admiralty papers now read by the Commissioners, by Sir Spencer Robinson, on the requisition of Captain Madden, the captain of the Megaera at that time.) The witness, in answer to questions on these official documents, said that the "cement" for the bottom and the "composition" for the boilers were confounded both by Captain Madden and by the Admiralty, and he could not undertake to say that the Admiralty made any inquiry or investigation into the composition of these materials.
The witness's attention was called to the model, and he said that the part where the leak was sprung had been covered with Spence's cement, but he could not say whether the brickwork and Portland cement which covered certain portions of the keel extended to the very spot where the leak appeared to have sprung.
Mr. James Elliott, a foreman of Devonport Dockyard, gave evidence as to reporting the Megaera fit for sea after she came from her trial trip on being repaired in 1864. His attention being called to a report made in March, 1865, on the ship's arrival at Woolwich, when various defects were pointed out. He said the ship must have encountered very heavy weather after she left Devonport. He had heard of the Admiralty order against the use of copper on the bottom of iron ships, and this order had been complied with in all ships which had come into the dockyards.
Mr. Ebenezer Wood, assistant shipwright at Portsmouth stated that he examined the ship in 1863, and, finding some plates defective from oxidization, he reported that she required docking.
John Main, who was the Megaera's carpenter from 1861 to 1864, gave evidence on points of little public interest; but
|Tu 19 December 1871|
THE MEGAERA COMMISSION.
Yesterday the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the condition of the Megaera and the circumstances attending her being sent to Australia in alleged defective condition, again met in the committee-room, No. 11, of the House of Commons. On this occasion some particulars were elicited, following the evidence given on Saturday, respecting the modes of conducting business in the Royal dockyards.
Mr. A.B. Sturdy, the master shipwright of Sheerness, who was examined on Saturday, was recalled. In answer to Mr. BREWSTER, be said he was apprenticed at Sheerness dockyard, and was acting master shipwright at Woolwich in 1859, having been lent from Portsmouth, where he returned in September of that year, and remained until 1864 when he went to Malta as master shipwright, and returned in 1866 to his present position at Sheerness. He was in Portsmouth when the Megaera came into the dockyard in 1862. and was assistant master shipwright there. He examined her in 1863 at Portsmouth, and reported, in conjunction with another, that she was "choked with rust in her watercourses." The vessel was not repaired there then, the dockyard being too full, and she was sent to Devonport. As far as he could recollect, the rust had collected in the watercourses of the stern frame, and prevented the water getting into the bilges. In May, 1862, he had made a report as to examining the vessel, but he then only examined the outside, as far as he could remember, and he pointed out in the report an appearance which he now said looked like an abrasion. This was on the bottom, near the mainmast. The report in question said, "The whole of the bottom has been well kept up with the exception of a patch of three or four feet very much corroded, for which we cannot account." The place where this patch was, the witness said, was not actually the place, he thought, where the leak which caused the ship's destruction was sprung. He was then pressed to answer why he now accounted for the corroded place by putting it down to an "abrasion" when he and the other shipwrights at the time of the actual examination had said they could not account for it, and the witness said he thought the defect must have been caused by an abrasion; but it was ten years ago, he reminded his examiner, who said this made it all the more difficult for the witness to form a theory as to a defect for which be could not account when he tried to state the cause. Asked why he did not examine the inside of the vessel in 1862, he said it was not his duty in that case to examine her inside, but pressed as to whether it was not the duty of the shipwrights at Portsmouth, seeing from the outside that a place below the water line was defective, to examine the inside, he said he had no doubt that this place was examined in the inside, but he confessed he knew nothing more about it. His attention was then called to a list of defects which had been reported by him in 1863, and he was asked how he obtained this list - whether by examination or by the examination of others. He said that this was the list of repairs given in by the carpenter, and the dockyard officers went over to see if the defects were in accordance with the list. He had gone round the ship to see if the defects were there; but it was not usual to do more than to look for these defects. No other defects were looked for beyond those reported by the carpenter, and this was the usual course. Mr. Brewster pressed the witness on the point, saying that it was important that the public should know how the work was carried out in the Royal dockyards, and the witness allowed that no other defects would be looked for in the ordinary course of making an examination for "commission defects." He made an estimate that the Megaera's defects would cost 750l., and a message came from Admiral Sir Spencer Robinson that she was to go for repairs to Devonport. He know that she was sent to Devonport, and that her repairs there cost 37,000l.; but be begged to remind the Commission that this amount was for repairs and alterations, and these were done on examination. Mr. Brewster remarked that the repairs were found necessary on a real examination, and he hoped for the future that the sort of examinations which were given to ships in the dockyards would be fully understood, and a proper value placed upon them. Coming then to the later history of the ship, she was reported to the witness at Sheerness in 1869 as from Woolwich, with an estimate made at Woolwich for repairs to be carried out at Sheerness. This was in August, 1869. He reported that the bottom plates of the Megaera were very thin. He thus reported on the report of his senior foreman, and he recommended that the bottom should be examined. He examined the ship, and estimated her repair at 940l., four-fifths of which sum - well, the sum of 722l. - was for repairs to the hull alone. That estimate having been transmitted to the Admiralty, Mr. Morgan, the secretary to the Chief Constructor, wrote on the 16th of April,1870, to say that this was a great expense, and that this estimate should be reconsidered, to see if this amount could not be reduced, as it seemed rather high. That letter came into witness's hands, and he was led to believe that the ship was to take out men, women, and children to Gibraltar and Malta, and, of course, the length of voyage the ship was to go was taken into consideration when a ship's repairs were regarded. Careful consideration would be given to a ship's condition at all times when she came in the hands of dockyard officers, but more it would be likely would be required to he done to a ship going round the world to Australia than if she was only intended for a voyage to Malta. It was, be admitted, most material that the dockyard officers should know the service any ship which was about to be repaired was going on, and he understood at the time when she came from Woolwich that she was intended for the Mediterranean service. The estimate was reduced by witness, and in place of 722l. for the hull repairs, he put the repairs at 585l. or 563l. (Mr. Brewster said he found these two sums variously put in the official papers.) Many telegrams were sent from the Admiralty hurrying on the repairs, and one asked when she would be ready for sea, and one of his answers was that the estimate made for the repairs had not been yet approved. The new estimate, he could hardly call it a "reduced estimate," though it was of lower amount, was accepted. It was reduced because so much to be done was not thought necessary when the ship was docked. He did report, on sending in the lessened estimate, "The work has been lessened as much as possible, and the estimate reduced accordingly." The work was lessened, inasmuch as instead of scraping the whole of the outside, as was intended in the original estimate, on examining her in dry dock it was found that only parts of her would require to be scraped and covered with composition, and it would indeed have been a sin, the witness said, to scrape the whole of the bottom, for a great part of it was found to be like enamel. One coat of composition was given to the whole of the bottom, and more was laid on where she was scraped. Some of the items estimated for the inside of the ship on this occasion were cheapened when it was desired by the Admiralty order to reduce the estimate. The work was done to the ship, and she was got out of dock, but she had to have something done to her masts and yards, for on her way up the river she had a collision and was brought back. An estimate of 134l. was made of the repairs thus rendered necessary, and when these defects, which were those pointed out by her officers, were done, she was reported by the dockyard officers as being "complete," this report being in accordance with form. This reported completeness meant that the ship was complete as far as regarded the making good of the defects reported by her officers, and not in fact that she was wholly complete. She came back soon after leaving the dockyard this time, and on the 2d of August, 1870, a further estimate of repairs was required for her. In reply to the remark here made by Mr. Brewster that the ship had an unlucky knack of getting out of order rapidly, the witness said she had not a full carpenter's crew, and, therefore, had to depend upon the dockyards more than other ships. Upon this the witness was examined as to whether the ship was sent out without a proper complement of officers, and witness said not as a troop ship or store ship, but in comparison with a man-of-war. She had, he asserted, quite sufficient complement of men to do her work, upon which Mr. Brewster remarked that he could not see the reason why the ship should so depend upon the dockyard. The estimate of the 2d of August was carried out, and 22 days after a further estimate was ordered for other repairs. The estimate of the 24th of August was 360l., and for "repairs of the hull " 294l. of this was set down. A note came down drawing attention to the fact that the Megaera had only lately been repaired (on the 2d of August), on an estimate of 231l., and that no more work was to be done to her than necessary. The plain English of this note was not a reflection upon the dockyard officers, but rather upon the ship's officers, who had made a report of the alleged defects. Only one item of the estimate he gave in on the 24th of August was done, and he reported, "The work now estimated for has not been taken in hand, as I do not consider it necessary, as the ship is only held ready for temporary service." Those repairs to the hull were never executed - certainly not by him. She came under his hands once again, when she was docked in 1871, to have her bottom cleaned. She was not then examined in the inside, for she had her stores and coals in her.
Questioned by Sir M. SEYMOUR, the witness said when the Megaera was docked the last time he knew she was going to Australia, but he had no doubt of her capabilities, especially as since he had seen her she had been in the hands of the Reserve artificers for refitment. His Portsmouth experiences of her raised no suspicion in his mind, for then he knew she had Day's cement put in her, and be thought it was in her at the time she was at Sheerness.
In answer to Sir F. ARROW, the witness said he assumed every iron vessel after being four years at sea was carefully and fully examined, for he should so examine a vessel put into his hands to repair, otherwise than when in commission, as the Megaera was. Sir Frederick wanted to know how it was that this vessel did not go to one port for repair, as was generally the case or was supposed to be the case, and the witness said he supposed it was because she was engaged on different work. Sir Frederick said, in fact the Megaera was a sort of "nobody's child." In answer to further questions put by the other Commissioners, the witness said the greater part of the ship's skin was practically inaccessible until uncovered, and if he had known of the ship's condition in respect to having had Spence's cement, in regard to her not having been examined since 1864, as to her thinness of plates, or as to her being intended for a long voyage, he should have considered himself bound to examine her. But she was under pennant when she came to him, and he did not know her history. There was no communication between the dockyards as to the history of ships, and he held the Constructor's Department of the Admiralty responsible for holding that information.
In reply to Lord LAWRENCE the witness said the vessel was never in his hands for survey and repairs; if it had been he should have applied to the Admiralty for particulars of the ship's previous history, for he was aware that the Admiralty kept on record all matters connected with such vessels.
Mr. William Day, of the firm of Day and Co., the patentees of the cement bearing their name, gave evidence with regard to putting cement on the Megaera in 1860. He described the mode of applying this composition.Three other witnesses were called; two of them foremen in Royal dockyards, and after their examination the commission adjourned until Thursday week.
|Fr 22 December 1871|
THE MEGAERA COMMISSION.
Yesterday the Commission reassembled in the committee-room No. 11 of the House of Commons, Lord Lawrence presiding. The evidence on this occasion was chiefly respecting the practices of officials in the Royal dockyards, and the Commissioners conducted a sharp inquiry into the responsibilities of the heads of Departments in those establishments.
Mr. Taylor, the draughtsman of the Megaera when she was built under Mr. Fairbairn, was recalled to speak to the existence of plates under the bunkers. The existence of these has been denied by Government officials, but spoken to by those who were on the ship on the last voyage as preventing them cutting through the bunkers and so getting at the leak in any other way than was done. The witness produced the original plans of the ship, and he said that, although the plates were not marked in the drawings, he was quite sure they must have been in the ship, and he explained by the sectional model the reasons which proved to him that they must have been in. These reasons were that there were four transverse bearers under the boilers and bunkers, and four strengthening iron plates must have been in the ship when she left his hands to give the necessary supports, One of these plates must certainly have been over the leak. The strengthening the ship was not the purpose of these plates, but to give support to the weight placed on the transverse bearers.
The witness was further questioned with respect to the cost of the ship. In his previous evidence he had said that the cost of the hull of the Megaera, as apart from her fittings, was 32,000l. in round figures. Lord Lawrence said the Admiralty papers showed that the hull cost 52,000l., and asked the witness to account for the great discrepancy. The witness said there had been a lawsuit over the ship, and besides that he did not know what extras were charged.
George Clayton, a labourer, who had been employed in filling in cement on the ship's interior at Woolwich, was then called. He stated that he had been employed by a contractor in 1866 to fill up cracks in the Megaera's cement on her interior plates, and much of this work was done "for'ard" and "aft." 0n being asked how the keel parts of the ship had been got at under the bunkers (where the leak was sprang and the faulty frames were discovered), the witness said that parts were cut away by the boiler-makers of the yard (the Government men). On being asked to point oat by the model the parts which were cut away, he startled everyone by indicating some of the girder frames on the port side, and he declared that parts of three or four of these were cut away. In the course of a long and sharp re-examination by Mr. Brewster he adhered to his statement, and said that when asked by the Government officials to give evidence, they had asked him how the plates were got at, and he told them by "cutting places out." He was not, nor had he been, in Government employ.
Mr. J. Paldy Peak, retired master shipwright, of Devonport Dockyard, examined, stated, in answer to Lord LAWRENCE,, that he retired in 1864, and had been absent from duties through ill health before he retired. In February, 1864, he, with Mr. Saunders, made a report on the Megaera. He was asked to read this report, but he could not, from age, do so, and an extract was read showing that the witness had signed a report with Mr. Saunders pointing out some defect which existed on the outside, "on the port side, 6ft. below the water line." He was unable to give any information on this, and he said he did not examine the interior of the ship on this occasion; he was not a young man at the time, and was, moreover, not particularly well, so that he had to trust his officer, Mr. Saunders, and the witness had no doubt that Mr. Saunders did the duty of inspecting the interior. It was Mr. Saunders's duty to inspect the interior of the ship, and he was quite authorized to remove all fittings which prevented him getting a good view of the interior. Witness knew nothing about Spence's cement, but he had heard that it was a failure as applied to the bottoms of ships. Questioned as to the duties of a master shipwright in the Royal dockyards in his day, he said the greater parts of the mornings were taken up with initialling notes and reports which he was supposed to verify. Of course he could not personally verify all the reports, but he could some; in fact, he did the best he could to carry out the intentions of the Admiralty. The process which would follow the coming in of a ship for repair was then touched upon, and the witness said the dockyard officers would examine the ship on the list of defects given in by her officers when she came in, and would make an estimate of the cost of remedying them. If the dockyard officer in making his inspection saw other defects, lie would mark them down; but, in general, he would look for nothing beyond what was pointed out by the ship's officers. He considered that after a ship had been in commission for a number of years she should be fully examined and thoroughly overhauled; but he could hardly say whose duty it would be to appoint such an overhauling, or who in the Government service should see that ships were thus periodically inspected. In answer to questions regarding iron ships, the witness replied that he was not "an iron man," meaning that he had had no experience of iron ships. He was told he would not again be wanted, and he left, expressing his great pleasure at being dismissed from further attendance.
Mr. John Tricket, chief engineer of Woolwich Royal Dockyard in 1866, examined by Lord LAWRENCE, said that a detailed examination was made in 1866 of the Megaera's bottom outside, and parts were sounded by the blows of the hammer. He could hardly say whether the ship was cleared out to lay open the inner skin. It was not his duty to examine the inside; his duty lay in boring the outside and in sounding. He examined the part inside above the water line, but she was not made bare below the water line. He thought this examination arose from a suspicion of the plates being thin. Boring the ship outside would necessarily, he owned, "to a certain extent," disturb the cement inside; but care was taken in putting in the rivets. Asked how the rivets were fastened inside, he said that in some places screw rivets were used. The witness then had a copy of the official documents placed before him (the Commissioners only having copies of these documents, which are jealously guarded from all other inspection), and his attention was directed to a tabular statement which he had drawn up in 1866 respecting the ship's bottom. He in this detailed report showed that some of the plates of the ship were three-eighths of an inch thick, and, among other thicknesses, others were a quarter of an inch thick. He further reported, as the result of this examination - "The Megaera may be used for temporary services, but she will shortly require plates to be doubled in parts named." The time he had given for the use of the ship for temporary purposes was a year and a half or two years. He also reported at this time - "The plates between wind and water are very thin." Questioned as to where he had recommended plates to be doubled, and where thin plates were, he said he could not charge his memory as to the places, but, on being pressed, he said be thought some of these points referred to places below the water line. This "doubling," so recommended, was not done at that time, and he never knew that it was done subsequently. He had not been informed that the ship had been experimentally coated inside with Spence's cement. Even if he had known of this it would not have been his duty to examine the interior of the ship to see the condition of the plates, for he had only to see the thickness of the plates. He could not charge his memory sufficiently to say whether the plates where the last leak was sprung were or were not accessible to examination, nor was he aware whether or not there were strengthens plates under the bunker which prevented getting directly at the place where the leak was supposed to have sprung. He, in 1866, prepared alternative estimates, submitting to the Admiralty the costs of so repairing the Megaera that she would be capable of "running 18 months or two years longer." (The estimates were not read, but were referred to by the examiner and the examined, both of whom had the documents in print before them.) Questioned as to what he had reported, he said he could not remember, for he had not the dockyard-office documents to refresh his memory, and he believed the details were given to the Admiralty in a "covering letter." He examined the ship again in 1867, but this also was an external examination only. He had, nevertheless, certified that the Megaera was then "complete and in every respect fit for service at sea." That report was signed by others as well as by him, but he had signed it "in reference to his own department only." His examiner on this pointed out to the witness that he had actually, before this, had charge of the ship's plates, and that, therefore, he was responsible for the condition of the hull; and to this the witness replied that he apprehended he was not responsible for duties which fell upon the master shipwright. It was true, he admitted, that the master shipwright had a right to transfer to him the duty of inspecting a ship's bottom; but, he objected that the work which he did to the Megaera's bottom was in 1866, while this report was in 1867. It was then pressed upon him that surely he was responsible for the work he had done to the ship's bottom, and for the duty which had been given him, and he replied, "Not apart from the shipwright's department." He explained that, in his view, he was not responsible in this report as to the ship being "complete and in every respect fit for service at sea" for more than the engineers department, because the ship had been docked subsequent to his own examination and report upon the condition of her bottom. Lord Lawrence urged that surely the witness would hold himself responsible for his own report as to the thickness of plates and her requirements, and must have thought of this report when he signed this certificate, and he replied that "his whole idea" in this case was that, the ship having been examined and docked after that examination of 1866 and report, he was not "a responsible party." It was pressed upon him that this certificate was of the most unqualified character, and, as far as the witness was concerned, he had not limited his responsibility in anyway. It was pointed out to him that he had only a year before giving this certificate shown it to be necessary to have plates doubled; that her plates below the water line were some of them only a quarter of an inch thick, and he was asked how it was that he could have given a certificate of this unqualified character - for he must have known the ship was not in a fit condition for sea - without ascertaining that these most serious defects had been remedied. To this he replied that that certificate only applied for the 18 months' temporary service on which he had reported. His further testimony was that when the ship was docked in 1867 she was cleaned at the bottom under the shipwright department, but no borings were made. He could not say whether or not the ship was examined in the interior in 1867. On the 20th of December of that year the ship was again in his hands to examine the thickness of her plates. He was under the impression, in regard to this, that some of the thin plates were removed. He thought it very probable that it was in consequence of attention being directed to thin plates at this time that an estimate was made for remedying these defects; hat he could not say more than that, as far as his memory served, the thin plates were removed.
The witness here had his attention directed to a detailed account of the defects upon which he had reported, and the estimated cost of doing these repairs, and he was asked under what head he had recommended thin places to be removed. There was in the list no such recommendation, he admitted, but he again said he was "under the impression" that it was at this time, or very shortly after, some of the plates were replaced, but he did not think it probable that any of the dockyard officers would have replaced them without authority from the Admiralty. The witness was then taken to 1868, when in July of that year he reported that the hull required repairs to the extent of 697l., and he was asked what these repairs were. He could give no particulars, for though he owned it was probable that the hull might have been examined before the estimate was given in, he could not say that he was a party to that examination. The time had then expired for which he had certified the ship, but he did not call attention to his former report. He did not, as chief engineer of the yard, make a point of seeing that the ship was overhauled at the expiration of these two years, and he was not prepared to charge his memory with what was done at those examinations. He was pressed by Lord LAWRENCE on these points, as to the responsibility he undertook, and where his responsibilities ended in this matter; but the answers were to the same effect - the witness could not charge his memory as to the results of examinations, and he allowed he might have been present at examinations of the ship. Lord LAWRENCE said the witness ought not, sleeping or waking, to have forgotten the ship's condition, in regard to the thinness of the plates, seen in 1866, and he must have known the ship urgently required attention three years afterwards. He then demanded of the witness whether he thought fair play was given, to men who were put in her and sent a long voyage, and the witness, after great hesitation, acknowledged that in 1869 the ship had run as long as she should have run without a thorough survey. Lord LAWRENCE classed "sounding" of the sides of a ship with a hammer to test the thickness of plates as a superficial survey, and the witness, pressed on the point, acknowledged that he should not care to sail in a defective ship examined in this way. He could give no other reason for not referring to his previous report on the thinness of the plates than that the officers of the yard well knew the ship's condition. He further stated that when the ship was sent on to Sheerness before fitting for the voyage no notes of the ship's history, defects, and repairs were sent on with her, all which notes were in the hands of the Admiralty.
In further examination it was elicited that the "Alternative Estimate" sent into the Admiralty for the repair of the Megaera was in three sums - the first, 4,353l. being the estimate for fully repairing the Megaera's bottom: the second, 2,070l. for partially doing so; and the third, 245l., in addition to a previous estimate of 445l. for the hull repairs; the third estimate being to fit her for 12 months' service. The Admiralty accepted the third one, and Commander [should be: Commodore] Edmonstone reported further that another sum of 350l. would be required upon the hull. In the end, however, the work estimated for was not completed.Several other witnesses were examined, and the Commissioners then adjourned until the 8th proximo.
|Tu 9 January 1872|
THE MEGAERA COMMISSION.
Yesterday the Royal Commissioners appointed to inquire into the matters connected with the loss of the Megaera, and, incidentally, into Admiralty management, resumed their sittings at the House of Commons' Committee Room No. 11, Lord Lawrence presiding. On this occasion, in addition to the sectional models hitherto placed before the Commissioners, a fac-simile in wood of the Megaera's bottom on the port side - that part where the leak was said to have sprung - occupied a prominent position in the public portion of the room. This model, which was about 12ft. long and nearly 5ft. high, showed the keel, the plating (this of course, of an ideal thickness), the frames to which the plating is fastened, the angle irons, the coal bunker bulkhead, and the surrounding girders. The part of the framing cut out by the ship's officers to get at the leak was cut out in the model, and the spot where the leak was said to be was marked on the bottom. The evidence given on the occasion, like some given before, bore upon the modes of conducting business in Her Majesty's Dockyards.
Mr. William Ladd, who was in July, 1866, appointed master shipwright of Woolwich Dockyard, and has now retired, was the first witness called. He said he retired in 1869. Asked by Lord LAWRENCE to state what would be the course of action on a ship, under commission, coming into the dockyard to be examined, the witness entered on a long history, which was found at the conclusion to apply to wooden vessels. He was told to confine himself to iron vessels, and he said that although he had had iron vessels come before him on foreign stations he had not had general experience of iron ships in the docks; but he laid it down that on a ship coming in to be examined her hull would be examined by the "factory " (engineer's) department, and she would be examined by the Shipwrights' Department as to her list of defects. When a ship came into dockyard she was not altogether overhauled, and no vessel would be so overhauled between commission and commission unless a captain reported that such a course was necessary, or that he thought it necessary. When a ship was put out of commission she would not necessarily be overhauled unless there was an order. He did not know that there was a positive order that after a certain number of years' service a ship should be thoroughly overhauled, but he knew that wooden ships were so overhauled. He remembered the Megaera coming to Woolwich in 1866, and she was then, he thought, only partially stripped - that is, some of her covering (ceiling) was removed, but her bunkers and boilers were not taken out. On the 30th of July, 1866, he, in conjunction with Mr. Trickett, the chief engineer of the dockyard, made a supplementary estimate stating that for a certain sum the Megaera could be fitted for temporary service, but that at the end of 12 months she would require to have her plates doubled in "parts mentioned." He did not give any consideration to the subject as to whether she was only fit for "temporary service," or any particular service - that part was Mr. Trickett's report. Witness had concurred with Mr. Trickett, for the report said "we consider the plates require to be doubled;" but that part referred to came within Mr. Trickett's duties, and witness only signed for the Shipwrights' Department. He signed the letter because it was " usual" for officers to concur in "departmental letters" of this character, but, as a matter of fact, he did not concur in the proposed doubling of the plates. He did make a note of his objection, but this was only a mental note. It was a fact that some of the plates were only three-eighths of an inch thick, and he thought that thickness was quite safe for a ship. He had seen much thinner plates than three-eighths of an inch. Asked by Lord LAWRENCE how thin he thought plates might be, the witness said that so long as a ship was kept afloat, away from grounding, kept painted, and free from rust, the plates might be half of three-eighths of an inch; and, in fact, he believed the plates of many ships now afloat were no thicker. He was aware that some plates of the Megaera were only 3-16ths, but he would not have had those plates removed. He should not have had any objection to go to sea in such a vessel, but he would not have gone on a voyage to China in a vessel of the Megaera's capacity if all her plates were only three-eighths of an inch thick. He was supposing, when he said this thickness was a safe one, that the cement was perfect inside, and, as he had examined some parts of the ship inside and out, he maintained that he was satisfied she was well cemented, and, pressed upon the point, he steadfastly held that, as he had found parts to be all right, he was justified in taking it for granted that the whole was in good order. The witness's attention was then drawn to an estimate given in while the Megaera was at this time (1866) at Woolwich, of 250l. for making good thin plates, and he said these plates were put in, and they were at the bows - he knew they were put in, for he examined them.
The witness then had his attention called to the "alternative estimate " (of 4,000l., 2,000l., and 250l. for repairs to the ship), and Lord LAWRENCE asked the witness to give particulars as to what was required to be done for the first estimate, which "was for the sum of 4,331l., sent up from Woolwich, as the amount of work required to be done, but the witness persisted that he did not remember what work was thus proposed to be done. It was pointed out to him that he had signed the estimate - that it bore the name of "Shipwrights' Department;" but though he acknowledged he had no doubt he had made the estimate of some details yet he could not recollect it. In place of this 4,331l. being spent on the ship, a great portion of which was to be spent on the hull, only 250l. was spent, and this 250l. was in making good the disturbance from the survey and in replacing plates which had been removed. When he examined the ship he was not told that she had been cemented with Spence's cement, an experimental cement, two years before. He thought it was Portland cement when he saw it, but he did not chip it off to examine it. He was not aware that there were strengthening plates under the bunkers, but he had never examined under the bunkers. He signed a certificate that the ship was "with respect to hull and internal fittings complete in every respect, and fit for sea." This was. signed on the 25th of September, 1866, not only by witness, but other officers. He examined the ship, as far as he could, before signing that certificate. In October she came again into his hands because on her trial trip she leaked, No other examination of her was made than in seeking for the leak. On the 1st of January, 1867, she again came into his hands with a list of defects; and the witness was asked if her examination then was limited to seeking out those defects (the details of which in print were placed in the witness's hands, the Commissioners only having copies). After great delay the witness answered that there was then no special survey. On the 11th of February, 1867, the ship was by witness and the chief engineer again certified to be "complete in every respect, and fit for sea." On the 20th of April, 1867, she was again docked under witness with a list of defects; but no special survey was made of her inside then. A report was forwarded on that date to the Admiralty, giving an estimate for renewing plates about the Kingstown valve, those plates having become thin. He could not say how thin, the plates were, but they were about the valves - they were engineer's defects, and these plates were renewed. Plates near the valves would wear quickly. These were done in May. In November, 1867, the ship again came to Woolwich to be paid off. He did not know that on the 30th of November, 1867, a letter came from the Admiralty stating that the ship would be commissioned if she did not want repairs. He found a letter in the book before him from Sir Spencer Robinson, dated the 3d of December, asking to be informed as to the condition of the ship; and if witness examined the ship then he should only have examined her on a list of defects. He did not recollect concurring in a report stating that the ship required repairs to the amount of 690l.; that she would only run for 12 months, and would then require to be replated at a cost of 1,500l. He found his own name on an estimated cost of repairs at this time of 690l. He did not hold that he should have thoroughly overhauled the ship on Sir Spencer Robinson's letter requiring information as to her condition. It was the "factory's" duty to examine the ship for thin plates, and he did not remember any special order for examination coming. On the witness giving answers as to his want of recollection, Lord LAWRENCE sharply remarked that the witness recollected, or seemed to recollect, nothing of importance, and, telling him to put his recollections altogether aside, asked him if it was not his duty on such a letter coming from the Admiralty to examine the ship thoroughly. The witness replied that it was the engineer's duty to examine the plates, but Lord LAWRENCE pressed the witness whether it was not his department's duty to report on the condition of the ship. The answer was "only as to the list of defects." To this the examiner rejoined, - "But this was a special order from the Admiralty, and there was no list of defects!" The witness than fell back upon his old answer of having "no recollection;" but he was met by the rejoinder that it was a question of his duty, and not of his recollection, with regard to examining a ship under a special order of the Admiralty, and the witness then said that he knew the ship so well he did not think it necessary to make a special examination of her. He must, he allowed, have signed the report stating that a survey had been made of the ship, and this without any general survey, for none was made. He was at Woolwich when Mr. Reed examined the ship, and went over her with the Chief Constructor, who saw the borings made and the plates which were removed, but witness did not recollect what Mr. Reed said of the plates of the Megaera on that occasion. The witness then had his attention drawn to a telegram sent from Woolwich to the Admiralty, dated the 18th of December, 1867, stating that the Megaera had been overhauled, that she would ran for 12 months after certain repairs, and that at the end of that time she would require to be replated at the cost of 1,500l. He was asked if he did not furnish the information upon which this telegram was founded, to which, he gave the answer "Don't recollect it;" but he thought he could not have made or concurred in the report on which that telegram was founded, for he might, if consulted on it, have said he did not think the proposed replating necessary. Early in 1868 he did give another certificate stating that the ship was "complete in every respect and fit for sea," He had made no special survey to arrive at that opinion, but had only examined her in "a general way." The Megaera was again in his hands in July, 1868, when he examined her bottom outside, and found it partially corroded, but that did not lead him to make any further examination of her condition. No general survey was made when the ship came again in January, 1869, to Woolwich. At that time she slipped off the blocks, and he examined her on the outside to see if her plates were indented. He saw a very slight "disturbance" on the starboard side, and the only "disturbance" was a slight abrasion which could not be measured. She was not examined to see what was the effect of this slipping. It did not occur to him that the ship should have been examined more than she was. He looked upon her examination in 1866 as sufficient, although at that time her machinery and bunkers were not got out, and he did not think she required a thorough examination at less than four or five years' interval. Lord LAWRENCE pointed out to the witness that the Megaera was in his hands within this number of years, she having last been examined in 1864, but the witness failed to understand that the examination of 1866 made by him was not a thorough examination, or that it could have been thought necessary to examine her thoroughly at a later period.
The witness was further examined, and at great length, by the other Commissioners. With regard to the report which the witness had signed with other officers, he said, in answer to Sir FREDERICK ARROW, that though these signatures seemed to show a general concurrence in the report, yet, in point of fact, the Admiralty took the signatures as only applying to the department of those who signed it, and he thought it would be better to have separate reports from each department.
Mr. David Partridge, the assistant engineer at Woolwich Dockyard in 1866, when the Megaera was there, deposed to having examined the ship's plates outside and inside, as far as possible. The cement between the frames, he said, was examined by boys, and, questioned as to the space in which the boys would have to go, he replied eight or ten inches, and he maintained, despite Lord LAWRENCE'S incredulity, that boys of 15 could get through such a space and examine the cement. The witness declared that the ship was thoroughly examined in 1866 by his department, and he considered he knew all about her. He held that she was in a fit condition in 1869 to go to any part of the world.The witness's examination was adjourned until to-day, and, after he had retired, a bricklayer and a labourer who had placed cement in the ship in 1866 at Woolwich gave some evidence, as did a witness from Devonport, and the inquiry was then adjourned until this morning.
|Fr 12 January 1872|
THE MEGAERA COMMISSION.
The Royal Commissioners appointed to inquire into the circumstances under which the Megaera was sent on her last voyage and lost off St. Paul's Island - an inquiry which, incidentally, is an examination into the system of management in Her Majesty's Dockyards - resumed their proceedings yesterday in No. 11 Committee-room of the House of Commons, Lord Lawrence presiding.
The first witness called on this occasion was Richard Joseph Palmer Jones, who served as junior engineer in the Megaera from the 25th of October, 1869, until she was paid off the commission she was then on (the one previous to her last voyage). The witness said he was acquainted with the parts of the ship under the bunkers, and he could say that there was an iron plate under the coal bunkers on the port side (where the leak was), and that this plate rendered the underpart of the port bunkers inaccessible. He had seen the plate when a man was sent down to clear out a rose-box, and this plate prevented the man getting from the centre of the ship underneath the coal bankers. The witness was taken to the fac-simile of the Megaera's port side, and to the astonishment of the Commissioners he described the plate as being a perpendicular one running parallel with the keel of the ship, and he knew of no horizontal plate such as was described by the officers of the ship on the last voyage as being under the coal bunkers, and which prevented them from cutting through there to get at the leak, this perpendicular strengthening plate was flush with the coal bunker, he said, and would effectually prevent any one getting under the bunker. He declared that the suction pipes in the under parts of the ship were all of copper, and this copper went down into the rose-boxes themselves (completely into the bilge water), but he could not say of what metal the rose-boxes themselves were made. He was quite certain the suction pipes were entirely of copper.
Thomas New, a bluejacket, who was the stoker on board the Megaera on her commission, from 1868 until August, 1870, stated that he could say, it having been his duty to clear out the bilges, that while the bilges on the starboard side could be "got at" those on the port side could not, being stopped by what he described as "a continuation of the bunker plate" down to the keel. This plate he described as running down to the cement at the bottom, but not clean down, for there was an inch or two between the bottom of it and the top of the cement. The witness was examined for some length on the fac-simile model, and he was called upon to get into the ribs of the ship as there shown, and he pointed out in what manner he had found it impossible to get under the coal bunker. He said, as far as he saw the cement, it was in good order. He had seen oxydized iron on board, but that was removed. He had thrust a "scraper" up the iron perpendicular plate to clear it out, and he could judge that the cement on the port side was then level and in good order.
From questions which were put by Sir FREDERICK ARROW, it was apparent that the witness could not have come within eight or ten feet, even with the "scraper," of that part of the ship where the leak was sprung. That part of the port side was altogether inaccessible to cleaning,
John Blake, another bluejacket, who had served in the capacity of stoker in the Megaera, spoke to the same effect; as did John Payne, who described the port bilges as "very awkward to get at." This witness believed that one of the suction pipe rose-boxes under the starboard bunker was of copper.
Two other bluejackets spoke to the existence of the perpendicular plate.
Benjamin Moore, a fitter, of Sheerness Dockyard, spoke to having been charged with the duty of fitting the engines of the Megaera in 1870, and he said the rose-boxes were of lead, while the pipes were of copper.
Examined by Lord LAWRENCE as to the duty of dockyard officers when a ship came in with a list of defects made by ship's officers, he said the list would be sent to himself, and he would instruct the dock officers to report on those alleged defects, and say whether they considered it necessary for the repairs to be done, and it was then his duty to send to the Admiralty a report of what was needed. Such report would be confined entirely to the defects given in the list by the ship's officers, and the dockyard officers would not be neglecting their duty in not looking for other defects. As to the period when a ship would have to be thoroughly searched, that would be when she was paid off, when her boilers required to be replaced, and when she required to be repaired generally before being re-commissioned. These concurrent circumstances might not all happen at once, and in fact did not happen to the Megaera, as the witness allowed on Lord Lawrence's remark to that effect, and his Lordship pressed the witness to say how then a thorough searching examination of a ship could be made. The witness, after a little consideration, said that this was in fact a "question of money," and when the Admiralty required a ship to be examined it was ordered to be done. He thought it generally occurred that ships were examined after about three years, as the boilers required renewing, and it was then pointed out to the witness that as a matter of fact the Megaera went for seven years without examination, and might have gone for ten years if her boilers did not want renewing. The witness replied that there was every reason in the dockyard to believe that her bottom was sound, and so it was thought unnecessary to make a full examination of her. He certainly thought that the dockyard officers were doing their duty in limiting their examination of a ship to the defects reported by the ship's officers, and he thought the examinations should not go beyond that list. When he signed the report stating that ships' repairs were done, he personally examined the ships generally; it was, of course, impossible that he could do so in detail; but he examined the vessels repaired to see whether in his judgment the work had been done. He believed he so examined the Megaera in 1866, and he found by the papers before him that he had endorsed the report of the engineer and the shipwright. His opinion of the Megaera was that her plates were thin, at the water-line, that she leaked at the ports, but that her bottom was sound. He considered she was only fit for "temporary service," and by this he meant that she should have been constantly watched, that she should only go short voyages, and with reduced cargo. The great feature of the Megaera was that she was a good sea-boat - she could live out a stiff gale, - but she was not to be overladen. Referring to the orders of the Admiralty of November, 1867, from the Controller, ordering a report on the condition of the ship, the witness said those orders wore communicated to the officers of the dockyard by himself, but it was not thought necessary to make a general survey; in fact, the officers had no money with which to do it. The cost of making a general examination, and taking oat the boilers and bunkers, he could not state, but an examination of a full character could not have been made without removing the boilers, which was costly. He did not look upon the Admiralty orders of November, 1867, as implying that a general survey should be made. (The words of the order were incidentally mentioned; they requested that the Megaera should be examined for report, and that "particular attention was to be paid to the plating in the neighbourhood of the water-line.") He thought that under that order the officers of the dockyard should have examined the interior of the ship as far as they possibly could, but not have made a searching examination. The witness was then taken over estimates in the printed Admiralty papers before himself and the Commissioners, and he gave explanations on various items without the estimates themselves being understood beyond the immediate circle composed of the Commissioners and the witness.
In the course of examination by Mr. ROTHERY, who took the witness over a largo number of estimates and items estimated for in connexion with the Megaera, the witness explained that the 250l. often referred to as the sum for which the dockyard offered to make her fit for "temporary service" for 12 months was for the hull, other money to be spent on other parts making up a total of 695l. This was in December, l867, and the witness said that the 250l. which was for the hull repairs, which repairs were regarded as necessary to fit her for even "temporary service," was not spent because it was superseded by another estimate.
The examination was again taken up by Lord LAWRENCE, who asked how it was that the ship was in 1868 reported by the witness as being "fit for sea" and "complete" without this reduced estimate of 250l. being spent on her hall. The witness owned that he could not satisfactorily explain this, unless it was by saying that another estimate was substituted. As a matter of fact, that 250l. on the hull, reported as necessary in December, 1867, to fit her for "temporary service," requiring also doubling round the water-line 12 months after, was not spent - it was not even approved by the Admiralty.
Lord LAWRENCE then asked how it was, when it had been found and considered absolutely necessary that 250l. should be spent on the hull, and not more than 35l. was spent on the plating, that the ship was certified by the seven officers of departments at Woolwich, and also by the witness, as "complete and fit for sea."
The witness said the certificate had been so signed, but then the dockyard officers had limited themselves to the time when the ship would stand. Moreover, he said he thought the sum of 35l., did not cover all the cost of taking off thin plates on the water-line, for, though he could not say what cost was incurred, he believed that all that was required to be done was done. It was, he owned, quite impossible for him to say what was then done to the ship. He certainly thought the estimate of 250l. for her hull in December, 1867, in addition to the 445l., for other parts, adequate for her repair for the 12 months, or he should not so have certified it. If the Admiralty had only sanctioned a sum which was not adequate for the necessary repair, he should have remonstrated, and he thought that when the ship was repaired after the estimate of December, 1867, she was fit for 12 months' service. She was commissioned after that repair, and left on service. The Megaera came into the yard in July, 1868, after commission, but she then, again, was only examined on her list of defects. The reason why she was not generally examined was that there was no cause to believe her bottom was defective, and her condition as to the weakness on the water-line was known, "When the yard at Woolwich was broken up in 1869, and she was sent to Sheerness, he believed many of the documents which would throw a light upon her history were sent to Sheerness. He could not say these papers were sent; but he thought they should have been sent if they were not.
A very explicit question was then put to the witness by Lord LAWRENCE. This was in the following form: - "Now, the Megaera was several times repaired under your orders. Do you think that when she was selected to go to Australia she was a fit and proper ship for such an undertaking?" The witness's answer was, "I don't think she was. She had not the necessary accommodation, to begin with - the accommodation necessary for so many officers and men - and she was not fitted for the voyage. I will add that if you had asked me a twelvemonth ago I should have said I believed her bottom was sound." The witness, in answer to further questions on the point, said, with regard to the seaworthiness of the ship, she would not have capsized, but she was always leaky in her ports, and the people in her would be always uncomfortable. She would have done to carry people to Devonport, but not to Australia. As to whether she was fit to go to Australia, all he could say was that he should not have sent her, and if he had been going to Australia he should certainly not have gone in her. He would say further that he was ill when she was sent, and when he heard that she had gone he said he did "not think she would live the voyage out." This opinion was not because he thought her bottom weak, but from his estimate of her generally, shown by the fact that her complement was reduced in 1867. To re-commission her after that, and to put a full complement into her for service at sea, was the witness thought, "to say the least, very unusual." In answer to further questions, he said it certainly would have been cheaper to send another ship on this voyage, for the Megaera was an expensive vessel. He asked to be relieved of the duty of answering whether he thought an "error of judgment" had been committed in sending the Megaera to Australia.
The witness was then examined as to the use of Spence's composition, used also in the Northumberland as well as in the Megaera, and removed from the former ship at Devonport while the Megaera was at Woolwich, the composition having been considered to have failed, yet no notice, he said, was given to him of the composition being in the Megaera. He could only account for this by saying that the fact must have been forgotten. The Megaera was never examined for this cement, and he could not think that a cement which lasted for several years would have caused the deterioration in the plates so suddenly as this must have done.
Questioned by Mr. BREWSTER, the witness said the Admiralty had not approved the expenditure of 250l. spoken of, but the Admiralty had afterwards approved an estimate of 403l. His idea then was that at the end of a year, if she was to be continued in service, she would require to be plated on the water-line, at the cost of 1,500l. This was required to be done because the plates on the water-line were thin, and not, as Mr. Henwood, engineer of Woolwich yard, said in the previous day's evidence, to save her from being hurt on knocking against piers. This statement of Mr. Henwood was an utter delusion. Witness had heard from the commander of the Rifle Brigade that when that corps went out in her ten years ago the baggage was in water.
The witness was farther examined at great length by the other Commissioners as to the action of the Admiralty on estimates being presented, and he said it did not unfrequently happen that the "inspector valuer" of the Admiralty would overlook estimates and reduce them. Such reduced estimates were not signed by the inspector valuer, but were taken as the estimates of the dockyard officers. The witness spoke earnestly against the evils of this system, and also against the changes introduced at intervals into the modes of keeping accounts. The great reason why the Megaera was not thoroughly overhauled at Woolwich was that she was kept on a sort of "hand-to-mouth" service, and was never commissioned for three years off. If she had been commissioned for three years off he would undertake to say she would have been overhauled, and if he had been at Sheerness when she was being got ready for the Australian voyage he should have considered it his duty to call the Admiralty's attention to her history, and the necessity for her being overhauled. He thought, although no mention was made in the accounts of any plating having been renewed, that such work was done. If the under part of the bunkers had been examined as stated by the witness Henwood, the master shipwright and witness must have known of it. Such an examination was not ordered, and if it was done it was only in a very cursory way.The proceedings were then adjourned until to-day.
|Sa 13 January 1872|
THE MEGAERA COMMISSION.
Yesterday the Royal Commission on the Megaera was resumed in No. 11 Committee-room of the House of Commons, Lord Lawrence presiding.
Henry Boryer, who was carpenter on board the Megaera from January, 1867, until August, 1870, was the first witness called. Examined by Lord LAWRENCE, he said it was his duty to examine the hull of the vessel while on her, and he went over everything once a week, but he could only examine the bilges when the ship was not under steam. Though he was on board so long, he expressed himself as entirely ignorant of the perpendicular plate spoken to by the stokers of the ship on the previous day as preventing them from getting under the port bunkers. The parts under the port bunkers, he said, were "very confined," and he did not have occasion to examine under there. He had had occasion to cut the ceiling of the ship's skin in two places, and he noticed that there were two different cements in the ship, that about the keel being darker than what was above. He never heard that the lower part of the ship had been coated with a condemned cement, or that Spence's cement put in her had been condemned. He did not know of the horizontal plates under the bunkers. He was sure a man could not get into the frames under the bunkers, and it was possible, he thought, a small boy might be got up; but he never saw a small boy put in while he was in the ship. He was with the ship when she was docked in 1868, and saw her examined on the stated defects; but he could say that she was not examined in the interior as to the condition of her cement and plates, or outside as to the condition of her plates. He declared that the suction pipes in the bilges were of iron and the rose-boxes were of gun metal. To this he strenuously adhered, and said none of the pipes were of copper, as others had stated they were, and the rose-boxes were neither of lead nor copper, as had been variously stated by other witnesses.
In answer to other Commissioners he said no plates on the water-line were removed, nor was the cement inspected, except what he had seen himself. He had seen the cement in the "screw alley," then about 7ft. or 8ft. amidships, this principally on the starboard side, and in one other part. The ship went to Ascension and Sierra Leone, and on coming back it was his duty to report on defects in the hull and spars, and such like. He had had experience of iron ships before going on the Megaera. He could not see what use the perpendicular plate could have been if it was where it had been said to be.
Mr. William Mitchell, assistant master-shipwright at Sheerness Royal Dockyard, stated that he had the Megaera in charge when she came to Sheerness in August, 1869, after repairs at Woolwich, and when the Woolwich yard was closed. No statement of her past history came to Sheerness with her. In general, if a ship came from one dockyard to another a statement would come with her, but the Megaera came to Sheerness because Woolwich was closed, and on a list of defects. The ship was only examined on her list of defects in 1869. She also came to Sheerness in March, 1870, on a list of defects. It had been reported that "plate appeared to be thin" before she was docked, but on making an exterior examination it was found that apparent defects were in the composition and not in the plates. As to whether it would have been wise to examine her fully that could not be done, as she was in commission, and she was only reported on certain defects reported by her officers, who were supposed to know her defects. She was not examined partially in the inside at Sheerness at this time, for such an examination would have been most unsatisfactory if it had been thought really necessary to make an examination at all. At this time it was not known that she had not been fully examined since 1864. Regarding a reduction apparent between an estimate made by witness and an "amended estimate" made by him on an order of the Admiralty, he said the money spent on the ship was not interfered with by this order (which was not read out), for it had been found unnecessary to spend so much money on her as had been estimated. When the estimate was made it was thought the plates were affected, but on examination it was found that the composition was merely knocked off in some parts and only required scraping over a great part. The witness was then requested to look at a statement in the book before him "about the bottom being thin and so forth," and to explain what was done on it. He said this referred to a statement made by the Megaera's carpenter to Mr. Jervis, the dockyard foreman, but no steps were taken to verify that statement. Asked if he took upon himself to decide that the original statement of the carpenter was untrue, the witness said that when it was found that the abrasions were only in the composition and not in the plates it was concluded that the plates were in good order. Witness did not inquire whether the carpenter took his opinion as to the bottom plates being thin from seeing these abrasions, proved to be the composition knocked off, or what had led him to these views. No borings were made in the plates at Sheerness - not at any time. The ship came also into Sheerness in August, 1870, on a list of defects, and she was not fully examined then because she was still in commission when she came in. She was paid off at this time, but not until after her repairs then reported were done, and she was then entered in the reserve. Subsequently the ship was repaired again, and he made her fit for service again, When she was repaired at first she was reported good for 12 months; for he considered that her boilers would stand good for so long only, and then, when new boilers were being put in, she should have been refitted entirely. He could see on going over her that her hull would require 10,000l. spent upon it, and her refitting would cost 16,000l. or 17,000l. when she came to be refitted wholly. The 10,000l. would be spent in renewing her woodwork; for he saw that her decks and other wood parts were much worn, and, without adopting the examiner's words of "being very much decayed," he would say "the woodwork was very much worn." Pressed to say why he did not take pains to examine the ship inside when she came into his hands, he said that at Sheerness there was no suspicion but that the ship was in good order; she had not sprung a leak, she had never strained herself, and her officers had not reported more than specified defects, so the dockyard officers would not have been justified in requesting that she should undergo so large an examination. He did not bore her from the outside, because he should not, if he had any doubts about a ship, satisfy himself by boring a cemented ship. He held that if a ship was bored the cement should have been removed, for he considered the cement would be disturbed by the boring outside.
Lord LAWRENCE then pressed the witness to answer whether it was not a strange proceeding on his part, seeing that he was party to a statement officially made in August, 1870, as the result of an examination, that the ship was only ready for a twelvemonth's service, at the end of which time she would require a "thorough examination" - that, in the face of this he should, when a large part of that twelvemonth had elapsed, have certified her fitness for a voyage to the other part of the world without such an examination.
The witness answered the question first, by saying that he was not a consenting party to sending the ship the long voyage; and his attention was then drawn to the fact that he was the responsible officer for reporting the ship in 1871 as in a proper condition for sea and fit for the voyage, this report being made, it said, after a "careful examination." In reply, he said that she was in a fit condition as far as he knew, and, as to the time having expired for which he had previously certified her, she had been again repaired, and he had made a "careful examination" to see that these defects had been remedied. She was, in his opinion, a strong ship, and that she was a strong ship was seen in her lying for 70 days after stranding off St. Paul's. He knew nothing of the suction pipes, but he had seen the cement, only, however, in the "short passage," and then he did not examine it.
Questioned by Mr. BREWSTER, the witness held that it was not advisable to bore a cemented ship, as was done by the assistant-engineer at Woolwich in 600 places in the Megaera. He said that such holes could be plugged by a screw rivet (as was described by the witness referred to as having been done). This plan he looked upon as at best a "makeshift," and liable to be disadvantageous, for the screw rivet might be a little too long, and then would disturb the cement; or it might be too short, and so would affect the cement by leaving a space between the iron and the cement. In all, the ship was docked at Sheerness from August 1869, to 1871, four times, but she was not examined beyond making good her reported defects.
In answer to Sir M. SEYMOUR, the witness said that when the Admiralty, in 1871, telegraphed saying that it was proposed to send the Megaera to Australia, he knew of no reason to lead him to think the ship was not fitted to go. He knew of no order from the Admiralty requiring that extra precautions should be taken with the ship in consequence of having Spence's cement in her. He did not think it necessary to have her cement under the boilers and bunkers examined before she went on her voyage to Australia.
In answer to other questions, he said he did not think it possible that the boys called "ferrets" could have been sent through all the frames of the ship to examine regarding the condition of the cement, as was stated to have been done at Woolwich. He could not have advised the Admiralty to go to the 16.000l. or 17,000l. cost in re-fitting the ship in 1870, in her then condition. It was possible that a part of an iron ship might deteriorate by damp getting under cement, and then the oxydation would go on until a hole was formed if the oxydation was not stopped. This oxydation might go on for several years - that is, the deterioration would continue in parts where it thus commenced until holes were formed in the bottom. Mere hammering outside a cemented ship would be no indication of the thickness of her plates. If the cement had come off the ship's inaccessible parts and the damp got in, oxydation might have gone on there for a very long time.
Captain Luard, who came into the Captain Superintendentship of Sheerness in 1870, said the Megaera first came into his hands in August, 1870, and he could say that no papers from any Department, nor from Woolwich, as to the previous history of the ship came to the yard with her, nor were there any there to this day. As to the duties of dockyard officers to look for defects in ships they were inspecting on stated lists of defects, it was the duty of the dockyard officers to report any other defects which came under their notice; but not to specially look for any other defects. If a ship was so old as to arouse suspicions she would be examined, but not otherwise, except in the regular course. As to the duty of examining a ship, the Admiralty instructions were very precise. A ship on being made ready for a four years' commission was thoroughly searched, and the Megaera was not so searched at Sheerness, as she had served only about half her time of commission, and a ship, under those circumstances, except for special reasons, would not be searched. He was not at Sheerness in March, 1870, when in the report made that the ship should be docked it was stated, "as it is stated the bottom is very thin;" but on that mere statement a ship would not at that time have been searched thoroughly. In the latter part of 1870 he reported to the Admiralty that the ship was ready for a twelvemonth's service at any moment, and he did this on the fact that she had just been completed on her list of defects. She was then placed in the first division of the steam reserve, and it was the duty of officers in that division to report on any defects which might crop out from time to time. With regard to an expression "the known condition of the ship" made in one report, this referred, he said, to the known condition of the boilers, which would require to be renewed in a stated time, but not to the frame of the ship, for there was not the slightest doubt as to the ship being seaworthy; it was fully believed she was a perfect sea boat. When he estimated that the ship could go the voyage he did not know that she was going to Australia, but he made the estimate of what she would carry for a voyage of some months. He had estimated her to carry 350 tons in addition to her crew, and her carrying power was 420 tons in all, in round figures 400 tons, and he had reserved 50 tons for the extra baggage. He could not account for the officers who went in her complaining that between Sheerness and Queenstown she was overloaded, except by the view that they had not had experience of cargo-carrying ships, nor could he account for the Admiral at Queenstown having some taken out. In his opinion she was not overloaded when she left Sheerness. He was not aware as a naval officer, that there was an order against the use of copper roses on iron ships, but he knew of the order as a superintendent. A naval officer would not require such an order to tell him that copper should not be used on the bottoms of iron ships, for every one in his senses knew that copper and sea water in iron ships formed a galvanic battery. He was captain of the first division of the Steam Reserve, as well as Captain Superintendent, and when Sir Spencer Robinson asked when the ship would be ready to take supernumeraries and stores to Australia, he reported that she was ready with the exception of taking in stores and coals, but that, as she had been lying completed in her repairs for five months, her bottom would require cleaning. When the ship was completed on her defects five months before, he had gone over her with the master shipwright.
The witness's examination was continued at very great length on matters of unimportant detail, and on points which did not establish any facts of interest.
Vice-Admiral the Hon. Charles Eliot, who was in charge of the Sheerness station in 1869, 1870, and 1871, stated that when the ship was reported to him for repairs, he sent the report on to the dockyard officers, who would examine the ship on the defects reported. If the carpenter of a ship made an informal report that he thought the bottom plates were thin, the dockyard officers ought to have examined her upon that report. He had no reason to suspect or suppose that the ship was not fit to go the Australian voyage. He knew that she had the reputation of being an uncomfortable ship, but he believed her to be a good sea boat.The Commission then adjourned until this day.
|Ma 15 January 1872|
THE MEGAERA COMMISSION.
On Saturday the Royal Commissioners appointed to inquire into the circumstances of the Megaera being sent on her last voyage, and into Admiralty management generally, met, under the presidency of Lord Lawrence, in No. 11 Committee-room of the House of Commons. A new class of evidence was opened at this sitting by Mr. Reed, the late Chief Constructor of the Royal Navy, being placed in the witness chair, and it is understood that he will be followed by other well-known men.
Mr. James Bannister, who was, from April, 1869, until August 1870, chief engineer of Sheerness-yard, was called, and examined by Lord LAWRENCE. He said be first had to do with the Megaera when she came to Sheerness from. Woolwich. He examined her in April, 1870, but it was not his duty to examine her hull-plates, he had to examine the machinery only. He was not at the time he saw her aware of the report as to the thinness of the Megaera's bottom. With the reduction before referred to of the estimate for her repair at this time witness had nothing to do, for that reduction was made wholly in the repairs to the hull. Witness had nothing to do with the fitting of the ship for her Australian voyage. All the suction-pipes at the bottom of the vessel were, he said, of copper; witness had not the slightest doubt of this, but he could not say of what metal the rose-boxes were. He believed, however, they were of lead or iron, and he did not believe they were ever made of gun metal, as stated by a fitter on the previous day. The terminations of the Doulton pump pipes were of lead, and the roses of those pumps were of gun metal.
In answer to Sir M. SEYMOUR, the witness said he was on board the vessel on two trial trips, and from what he saw of her under steam he had no reason to look upon her as other than a good sea boat.
Questioned by Mr. ROTHERY as to the rose-boxes on the Megaera, the witness said he could not say of what metal they were made, but a foreman of the factory at Sheerness named Townsend had some special knowledge of them. (The Commissioners signified they should require Townsend to be called.)
Staff-Commander James Kiddle, of the Steam Reserve of Sheerness, stated that he was "borne for duty" (on the books) in 1870, when the Megaera was under him. The captain of the Steam Reserve would be responsible for the hull of the vessel and for completing the vessel for the first division - that was, for making her ready in all respects for sea. The Megaera while he was there had her ports relined, and, short of having new ports, the work was well done. As to why the ports leaked on the short voyage to Queenstown, he accounted for that by the idea that the ports were originally constructed on a bad principle. As to her decks leaking on the same occasion, he attributed this to the straining under the bad weather, and not to her being overladen. Looking at her depth in the water, he could not hold that she was overladen, and he could not speak as to whether she was well or ill stowed, as he was not well informed enough on such a matter to speak with certainty. Taking it for granted that the hull of the vessel was good, he should say that when she was sent to Australia she was fit for her voyage in other respects. It was not part of his duty to know anything of the hull, and though he inspected the ship, this was only in reference to cleanliness and the goodness of the masts, boats, and fittings. The engine-room was not under the staff-commander's inspection, the engineer of the ship being directly responsible to the captain for the condition of his department.
In reply to Sir FREDERICK ARROW, the witness said that the first division of the Steam Reserve placed a crew upon the ship, and all artificers' work to her fittings were executed as would have been done by her own crew if she had been on commission.
In reply to Mr. ROTHEHY, the witness said that in his opinion the expression "temporary service," for which the vessel was certified m August 1870, meant ready for a short voyage - to Dublin or to the Mediterranean.
The witness was referred to a report in the Admiralty papers before him made by Captain Luard, stating that in his opinion it was unnecessary, "at present," 1870, to carry out an estimate of 360l. for repairs on the Megaera made by the dockyard officers, the ship "being merely held ready for temporary service," and he was asked if he did not consider that to mean that if the ship was sent on a long voyage she would require the estimate to be carried out. The witness confessed he could place no other construction upon the term used by his superior officer.
In answer to Mr, BREWSTER the witness said the term "temporary service" referred to time only - to being fit for a part of a commission. He further said that any ship held ready for sea was fit for a long or short voyage, provided the journey out and home did not take longer than her certified time.
Mr. John Watts, an engineer on the Megaera, from 1867 until her loss, was examined by Lord LAWRENCE. He said he knew the under parts of the vessel well, and he could say that the part where the leak was sprung was quite "boxed in" and inaccessible. He spoke most decidedly as to the existence of the horizontal plate under the bunker; but this he thought was only thin. He thought it possible that the bunker could have been cut through to go down perpendicularly to the leak; but he considered that what the engineers did to get at the leak was the best which could have been adopted. He also spoke to the existence of the perpendicular plate mentioned by the stokers as coming down flush from the port-bunker, and preventing access to the parts under that bunker.
In reply to Sir FREDERICK ARROW, the witness said the boxed-in compartment could not be got at to examine for the cement, and certainly no workman could have got at it to put cement in. He went on further to say that he often examined the cement in various places in the bilges, and what he saw was in good order. No examination could be made of the place where the leak was, but in the next frame to where the leak was he saw the cement, and it appeared there to be in very good trim. He examined the place where the leak was when the leak was sprung, and no cement was there, and he believed no cement had been there at all, for in no other part of the vessel was there such an entire absence of cement. The metal of the plates about the leak was very much "pitted" all over, and was as thin as it was possible to be. He could not speak to any girders being eaten away and decayed, but he heard while he was on the sick list, which was immediately afterwards, that frames were decayed. He considered that the plates where the leak was were in such a dangerous condition as to make it most unadvisable to try to screw up the patching plate. The suction pipes, he said, were of copper, and the roses of iron. He owned that some of the roses might have been of gun-metal, but he could not say, for they were foul - blackened. He also stated that Mr. Mills, the engineer, made two copper roses on the last voyage out; one was put into the frame on the port side immediately before where the leak occurred, and about six feet from that place. He described the position he held on the Megaera as that of first senior engineer, he being appointed to return home in her, and he was then taken over the book of stores of the Megaera in order to find what material was used in making of rose-boxes, and the witness, looking at these entries, owned that they did not bear out his idea that a new copper rose was put on the port side, there being only an entry for one copper rose and one iron rose, and no mention of any material being used for a pump on the port side. The witness was at great length taken over circumstances connected with the vessel's loss, already fully given in evidence. The witness said he had only lately arrived in England, and was only partially informed as to the evidence given before the court-martial.
Mr. Edward James Reed, the late Chief Constructor of the Royal Navy, was then called and examined. He said, in answer to Lord LAWRENCE, that he was connected with the Admiralty from the 9th of July, 1863, until the 9th of July, 1870. In answer to the question whether the Commissioners were right in assuming that his Department was held responsible for the condition of ships in the Royal Navy, he replied that the Constructors under the Admiralty were only responsible for the work they did and the advice which they gave, and up to 1869 they did not take the initiative in any work in any way. All orders came to his Department from the Lords of the Admiralty or from the Controller of the Navy up to 1869, and up to that date the Constructors had not the power or authority to write even a letter to a dockyard. In 1860 a change was made, and the Constructors then had a larger power; and could correspond with the dockyards and could authorize work up to a certain amount. This extended power was part of the changes made by Mr. Childers, and grew out of that First Lord's reorganization of the Admiralty in 1869. Previous to that the Constructor's Department did not take the position of a Department at all; it was a mere office under the Controller's Department, and without any defined status. In the Controller's Department the records were kept from which the history of a ship could be obtained, but none such were kept in the Constructor's Department up to l869, for there was no clerical assistance. The practice of following the entry of a ship to a yard to be repaired was different, according to whether she was to be repaired for commission or on defects; but when a ship was ordered to be examined on a list of defects the dockyard officers should certainly not confine themselves to the defects reported, or to those which they might come across in making that examination; but they were certainly responsible for the whole condition of the ship when she left their hands. Lord Lawrence here remarked that all the officers of the Royal dockyards had held themselves as irresponsible for everything but the reported defects of a vessel; and upon this the witness said that the officers at Woolwich and the officers of the Steam Reserve had received instructions after instructions - as he well knew, for they came from representations made by himself - upon the duty and responsibility entailed upon dockyard officers of inspecting the insides of iron ships. He had made these representations from what he had seen during an accidental visit to a yard; for if the local officers who repaired a ship did not know her condition no one else would. No Admiralty papers could tell what condition a ship was in when repaired, and only those who repaired her could know her condition. Then, when a ship was sent from one yard to another, a statement of what was done at one yard should be sent with her; and the Admiralty was so alive to the necessity of this being done that, when a ship which had been repaired at one yard was sent to another, those who had repaired her were sent to her, so that the information acquired at one dockyard should be communicated. Lord Lawrence then asked how it was that the information regarding the history of the Megaera was not communicated from Woolwich when that ship went to Sheerness, and the witness said he could only account for it by the great haste with which Woolwich yard was closed. It was his special desire to let the whole of the financial year pass before closing the yard; but it had to be closed within the first six months, and he was not surprised to find some oversights were committed in consequence of that great haste. He could not say whether the papers at Woolwich were destroyed; but he knew that steps were taken to make a selection of the papers at Woolwich when that yard was closed. and he also pointed out that the Admiralty itself was at the time in a state of change, and that thus attention was diverted from the sending of papers. He had no opportunity of examining the Megaera in 1864 at Devonport, nor of learning that she was coated there with Spence's cement. The witness was then referred to the official correspondence on the cement question. He was consulted as to the experimental use of Spence's cement on the Sharpshooter and in the Northumberland, but not with regard to the Megaera. Sir Spencer Robinson gave the order for the experimental use of Spence's cement on the Megaera, but witness could not remember being consulted about it. He would not necessarily be consulted about it, for it might have gone through the engineer's department. He personally inspected the Megaera at Woolwich in 1866. The dockyard second estimate was dated the same day as he went down, so that he could have had nothing to do with the making of that second of the three alternative estimates. The direct reason of his examining her was that he had observed that when a ship of one of the eastern yards went to Devonport the officials there "did not forget to make the most of the defects," and he went to Woolwich to prevent the eastern yard there retaliating upon the southern yard by making out a larger list of defects than necessary to be done. Three alternate estimates were presented for her repair, - one to replate her at a cost of over 4,000l., a second of 2,070l. for doubling her plating on the water-line, and 250l. to fit her for "temporary service." He did not think it was well to spend a large sum of money to place her on a level with the other ships, for, for one thing, she was a bad type of vessel, and it would have been a waste of money to spend a large sum upon her, taking in view her capabilities and uses. The 250l. was quite sufficient for the purpose of repairing the Megaera at this time. He did not look upon the terms as to the fitting the ship for "temporary service" - for services during 12 or 18 months - as limiting her service to that time. He considered 3-16ths of an inch plating on the water-line of the Megaera quite safe, for the plates there were small plates, and were so riveted as to be doubled in parts, but 3-16ths would not be a safe thickness for the flat of bottom, and 3-8ths would be quite a safe thickness for the flat of bottom. As to the report of the dockyard engineers at Woolwich that the ship would require doubling of her plates on the water-line after a certain time, he did not agree with that. He looked upon her as a ship to be kept under observation, as shown by the fact that a short time after she was again under repair, and that she was only on short service. As to the time when a ship should be examined, be held that an iron ship should always be under observation, and especially in the closer parts, and such examinations were provided for in the new ships by giving ready means of examination. When he went in 1866 to see the Megaera he went to examine the water-line plates, but he did not consider it was at all his duty as the Chief Constructor to go down to see the cement or to see if the officers of the dockyard had done their duty. He was always reluctant, and he thought properly reluctant, when he went down to dockyards about interfering with the duties of the local officers. He was not at the time aware that the Megaera had Spence's cement in her, and he could only account for its not being known officially as a piece of imperfect administration. His going to Woolwich was voluntary and not by order. There was a book-keeper at the Admiralty to make records concerning ships, but witness could not say whose duty it was to see that all such matters as this cementing were recorded. The administrative arrangements existing within the Admiralty till within the last two or three years were such that they did not admit, as he had said, of the Constructor's department having clerical assistance, and the work of his department was sufficiently onerous without its having the duty of searching out the history of ships on such matters as these. He did not agree with the estimate of the local officers of Woolwich that the water-line of the ship would require replating after a time. Being asked if he did not think that when that time had expired she should have been examined, he said she was ordered to be examined in 1869, when an order went from Mr. Barnes, of Mr. Barnaby's department, in August, ordering the ship to be examined, and "her defects to be made good in accordance with the estimate of the Woolwich Dockyard officers." Under such an order a master shipwright should not have certified the ship as being complete without having made a full examination of her condition, and should have looked for defects beyond those named. Those officials of the Government yards who said that their duty was limited to reporting only on the list of defects of a ship in commission certainly acted against the most stringent orders of the Admiralty. A book of the Admiralty regulations was handed to the witness, who was asked to point out the particular orders; but he replied that he was not so conversant with the regulations as to place his hand upon those to which be referred; still, he would assert that the Admiralty orders provided for such an examination being made of a ship on its coming in to the dockyard officers' hands as to make all its defects known. In fact, it was not an uncommon occurrence for ships which had proved to be defective, after being under repair, to be returned to the dockyard with remarks as to the neglect which allowed of a defective ship being certified as "complete in every respect and fit for sea." If the dockyard officers were not responsible for knowing the condition of a ship after this certificate, who, he asked, could be responsible? Such an examination would, be said, apply to opening a ship's ceiling, and he could say that where there had been doubt as to the cost of a ship's necessary repair the examination and work had gone on, the only matter suspended being the estimate of the cost. He had never known a case in the whole course of the seven years he was at the Admiralty of any proposal to do anything essential to the safety of a vessel being even questioned; but, of course, there had to be checks placed upon improper expenditure. So far from preventing dockyard officials doing all they thought necessary in ships to make them fit for the service, he had urged them to consider and maintain before all things the true interests of the service, and not to be discouraged by official correspondence, which had a tendency to discourage some men. Asked whether it was the duty of the Admiralty to see that such examinations were made as would disclose the true condition of ships, he said to do that would render it necessary to have a complete staff of professional men attached to the Admiralty to see that the dockyard officers did their duty, and he did not consider that such a system would work, or that it would be safe to leave to records in the Admiralty what dockyard officers should learn by examination. It was his experience - and he served his apprenticeship in a Royal dockyard - that the Admiralty had formerly to provide against too searching examinations of wooden ships, for the dockyard officers would open up every beam, to such an extent were examinations carried; and it was perfectly amazing to him that dockyard officers should now say that they were not intrusted with the duty of examining an iron ship every time she came into their hands. Questioned then as to how it was that the result of the experiment of the Spence's cement was not reported, he said he had always held that it should be impossible for such experiments to be lost sight of, and he instanced one of his own proposed experiments in regard to the Captain being tried before going her trip as having been allowed to slip out of notice.Some conversation followed upon the letters of the witness to The Times, after which his further examination was adjourned until this day.
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