HMS Megaera (1849)
HMS Megaera (1849)

Royal NavyVessels

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NameMegaera (1849)Explanation
Launched22 May 1849
Builders measure1391 tons
Displacement2025 tons
Ships bookADM 135/306
NoteNot commissioned as frigate.
1852 troopship.
1871.06.19 beached St Pauls Island, Indian Ocean as unseaworthy
Snippets concerning this vessels career
17 May 1851
- 7 June 1851
Commanded (from commissioning) by Master commander George Hoffmeister, to carry Captain Faddy's and Captain St. George's companies of the Royal Artillery to the Cape of Good Hope, but she broke down and had to be towed back to Sheerness, where she was replaced by the Cyclops
18 December 1851 Commanded by Master commander John Clark Barlow, to take Colonel George Buller and men of the 1st Battalion of the Rifle Beigade to the Cape of Good Hope
3 July 1852
- 12 May 1856
Commanded by Commander John Ormsby Johnson
18 December 1856
- 9 July 1859
Commanded (from commissioning at Portsmouth) by Commander George Thomas Maitland Purvis
10 March 1860
- 29 March 1860
Commanded (from commissioning at Portsmouth) by Commander James Hunt, Portsmouth
2 April 1860
- 25 March 1863
Commanded by Commander Samuel Hood Henderson
20 April 1863Commanded by Commander Edward Madden
18 January 1865
- 21 November 1866
Commanded (from commissioning at Plymouth) by Captain Montagu Buccleuch Dunn
19 November 1866
- 21 December 1867
Commanded (until paying off at Woolwich) by Captain James Simpson
21 December 1867Commanded by Staff-Commander Jabez Loane
12 February 1868Commanded by Staff-Commander Henry D. Sarratt
31 January 1871
- 19 June 1871
Commanded by Captain Arthur Thomas Thrupp, until beached at St. Pauls Island in an unseaworthy state
Extracts from the Times newspaper
Fr 4 August 1871


Intelligence has been received at the Admiralty, by telegraph from Batavia, that Her Majesty's ship Megaera has run ashore, in a sinking state, at St. Paul's Island. Crew and passengers all saved.

The following telegram also has been received from the Commodore at Hongkong, dated August 3, 4 53:-
"Megaera ran ashore; sinking; Saint Paul's Island; all saved. Have chartered steamer here take people Sydney."
Fr 4 August 1871The telegrams received at the Admiralty yesterday, following upon the loss of the Captain and the stranding of the Agincourt, cannot but produce a painful impression on the public mind. The troopship Megaera has been lost halfway between the Cape and her destination, Australia. If any one will look at a map, he will find two little islands, St. Paul's and Amsterdam, lying in mid ocean just in the middle of the course from Cape Town to the southern point of West Australia. Upon the former of these isolated points the Megaera was run in a sinking state early in the last month or, perhaps, towards the end of June. Her crew and passengers, consisting of 93 officers and some 350 men, have all been saved, and, though the brief telegraphic despatches received at Whitehall give no information on the point, we may assume that at the actual time when the ship was run ashore the weather was not otherwise than fine. The Megaera may have encountered bad weather after leaving the Cape, so as to reduce her to such a plight that her captain was obliged to run his ship ashore to save the officers and troops on board, but the fact that the crew and passengers were all saved argues a smooth sea at the time of the wreck. What would have been the result had not these islets of St. Paul and Amsterdam lain in the way is too distressing for us to discuss. We should not, indeed, be justified in suggesting the reflection but for the circumstances under which the officers were embarked on board the Megaera when she set out on her voyage. When we remember the warnings then given we cannot avoid thinking of the risk which has been run of her disappearance in mid ocean, unknown and unthought of, until after months of slowly-waning hope a melancholy conviction of her loss had forced itself upon the minds even of those most dearly interested in believing her possible safety.

All have been saved, and we give hearty and humble thanks for their deliverance. The inconveniences they must have suffered and will suffer are as nothing. By some means or another intelligence of the disaster has been conveyed to the Dutch settlement of Batavia, and has reached Hong-kong, and the Commodore at that station, in his telegram dated yesterday, says he has chartered a steamer to convey the shipwrecked people to Sydney. It will take that steamer at least three weeks, probably a month, to reach the sufferers; but we may fairly hope, from the circumstances of the wreck, that sufficient provisions have been saved, and, in the mild climate of an island in 38 deg. S., the shelter of tents rigged up with spars and canvas will be ample protection. The question will, however, of course, be asked, how it could have happened that in a direct run from Cape Town to Australia one of the troopships of HER MAJESTY could have broken down midway and exposed so many valuable lives to peril. We shall not attempt to discuss a question which must be investigated before a Court-Martial, but we cannot help remembering the questions and answers - we might almost say the bickerings - between Mr. KAVANAGH and Mr. GOSCHEN as to the seaworthiness of the ship before she left Cork. On the 6th of March last Mr. KAVANAGH asked the FIRST LORD whether the ship then in Cork harbour was not overloaded both with men and cargo, and, "moreover, in an unseaworthy condition, leaking from stem to stem," and whether the ship had not been ordered to proceed from Plymouth to Cork in spite of the distinct assurance of her Commander that she was not ready for sea. Mr. BAXTER, in Mr. GOSCHEN'S absence, replied that "there was not a word of truth in the statement that she was unseaworthy, and leaking from stem to stern," but admitted that after her loading had been completed a large quantity of private baggage and stores had been taken on board for which sufficient allowance had not been made, and "the condition of some of the main deck ports, moreover, seems to have been imperfect, and in consequence the water washed from side to side, wetting the things that had not been stowed away." The Captain (THRUPP) had sailed from Plymouth with some reluctance, but the Rear-Admiral at Cork reported that the ports were then mended and relined and new ones placed where necessary, and if about 100 tons of stores were landed and the officers on board reduced by four the ship might be sent on her voyage. Four days later it appeared, in answer to a second question from Mr. KAVANAGH, that the diminution of the cargo by 100 tons had been deemed sufficient without reducing the number of officers. Six days later Mr. KAVANAGH again questioned the FIRST LORD on the state of the vessel, and this time Mr. WALPOLE also made inquiries. Mr. GOSCHEN'S answers stated that the Megaera was built in May, 1849, and had just been reported upon as "sound and strong," and that last year she had brought 270 passengers, in addition to her crew of 92 men, and 337 tons of stores, from Malta to England. In reply to a suggestion that the Admiral at Queenstown had ordered her ports to be closed, caulked, and pitched, and had added that they might be opened when the ship got into the tropics, Mr. GOSCHEN denied it altogether, saying that the lower half ports had always been closed and caulked, and their caulking had been renewed, but the upper half ports were fitted to open, and had not been closed. Once more, however, Mr. GOSCHEN was asked on the 21st of March whether he would lay Mr. REED'S report on his survey of the Megaera on the table, when he said he believed there had been no such survey, and, at all events, the Admiralty had no such report, and he should have probably refused to produce it if it existed.

It is unnecessary and it would be unjust to do anything more, at present, than recapitulate the questions and answers which form the recent Parliamentary history of the Megaera. She sailed from the Cove of Cork, and put into Simon's Bay on the 18th of May for supplies, leaving again for Australia on the 28th. A month after, or thereabout, she must have been reduced to the state which compelled her captain to run her ashore at St. Paul's. What occurred in the interval, whether anything happened to make a seaworthy ship unseaworthy, or whether the patching up she had received was insufficient for the strain of a course across the Southern Ocean, are points on which judgment must be suspended until information has been received and judicially examined. Yet we must give expression to a feeling all Englishmen must share of something like alarm at the degree in which our confidence in the Navy has been lately shaken. Our Navy is our right arm, and if our right arm fails us in peaceful times what will it do in real danger? The compliments the commanders of other Navies have been pleased to shower upon our holyday trim in port furnish small comfort when we hear of a troopship reduced to a sinking condition in mid seas, before we have recovered from our astonishment at one of our finest vessels running in open day and in fair weather upon a rock familiarly known to our seamen for generations past, and while we are still lamenting the terrible tragedy of the Captain.
Sa 5 August 1871



Sir,- With reference to your remark, in a leading article of The Times of to-day, upon an alleged survey of the Megaera by me - a remark based upon a question put in the House of Commons in March last by the Hon. Mr. Walpole, M.P. for North Norfolk - permit me to say that I certainly examined the Megaera in Woolwich Dockyard several years ago, and reported her fit only for a very brief period of further service, in consequence of the extreme thinness to which her plates had become worn by many years of almost continual use at sea. That period has long been exceeded.

The state of this ship is one of the many subjects respecting which I was anxious on leaving office to communicate with my successors, but upon which the late First Lord of the Admiralty preferred that I should be silent - nay, insisted that I should be.

When the seaworthiness of the Megaera was called in question in March last, Mr. Goschen publicly assured Mr. Walpole that I had apparently made no survey of, or report upon, the ship; but if he had done me the honour to ask me the question, instead of trusting to those who knew nothing about it, he would at once have ascertained that I had examined her, and that the ship was not fit for sea service, I wrote privately to Mr. Walpole to that effect, but in these days a county member of Parliament seems to be as little able to secure attention as a subordinate officer of the Admiralty, such as I once was. And yet it would seem reasonable that questions involving the life or death of some hundreds of Her Majesty's subjects and servants should secure a little thoughtful consideration occasionally.

I have said before, Sir, and I beg leave to repeat now, that the present administration of the Admiralty is utterly inconsistent with the safety of Her Majesty's naval officers and seaman, and, if it is continued, can have before long but one result - that of the refusal of both officers and men to embark in Her Majesty's ships.

I have been precluded for a whole year from making known to the professional advisers of the Admiralty the nature and grounds of my apprehensions touching certain vessels, but the time is coming when the safety of the Navy will claim at least equal consideration with the economy of the Navy, and when I shall not only be allowed to speak, but requested to do so, on matters lying within my own knowledge. It is amazing to me that men of intelligence, to say nothing of men who assume to manage the affairs of a nation, should fail to see that, in thrusting the great Navy of England into the hands of one man after another who knows nothing whatever about it, Parliament is both inviting and insuring a long course of disaster.

I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant,
August 4.


Sir,- Observing in The Times the reported stranding of Her Majesty's ship Megaera on the island of St. Paul, in the Indian Ocean, and the fortunate landing of the passengers and crew, though upon so utterly destitute and barren a rock, I hasten to communicate to you, in the hope of mitigating painful anxieties of the relatives of the ship-wrecked, in case it should be assumed that no provisions, &c., could be landed with the crew, as to the local resources for obtaining food and water, that some few years since I visited St. Paul's Island, on my way to China, being anxious to determine its longitude, which differed in various records to the extent of 20 miles. This small island, only a few miles in circumference, is evidently the remains of an extinct volcanic crater, the edge of which has on one side broken down, leaving a water passage from the sea into the crater, which forms, as it were, a harbour for small ships.

Although destitute of springs of water, cattle, trees, or useful vegetation, yet the astonishing resources of its surrounding waters in large fish and Crustacea enabled us, when fishing inside the crater, to procure a vast supply in a few hours, the catch being so great as, indeed, almost to endanger the large boats.

As to the supply of water, assuming that none could be landed from the ship and none could be caught by awnings, &c., I would observe that no doubt advantage would be taken of the following remarkable circumstance:- the soil and the beach on the level of the sea in the crater is so hot that, when bathing and standing in the water upon the sand, the feet could not be allowed to sink into it beyond an inch or two without pain. The high temperature in the soil on the beach would enable a supply of fresh water to be obtained from the sea by distillation, by sinking some of the ship's iron tanks or condensers into the intensely-heated ground.

For supply of fuel for culinary purposes, there is a considerable quantity of driftwood upon the inland, although thousands of miles distant from the mainland; but, should this fail, food could be cooked by the great heat of the soil thus so wonderfully provided in mid-ocean. I would only add that the island has high, abrupt sides, and a central plateau which is not acted upon by the heat apparent in the lower strata, and as many vessels sight the island, and others pass at some distance from it, I doubt not that our countrymen have long since been rescued.

I remain, your obedient servant,


Sir,- I have just read in your journal the telegram announcing the stranding of the above vessel on the Island of St. Paul, in the Indian Ocean.

As this singular volcanic isle is not often visited, a description of it may not be out of place at the moment, particularly to the friends and relations of the crew and passengers of the illfated ship.

I visited the island on an outward-bound voyage some years since, and although it was then uninhabited and barren, it still offers the means of sustaining life by means of the abundance of fish to be found in the Crater Basin. This remarkable basin is about two miles in circuit, and has 30 fathoms water in the middle, which depth is maintained until within 50 feet of the shore. The rocks round the crater rise to 600 or 700 feet high, and the view from the summit is very impressive. All round the edges of the basin smoke was rising, amid the stones lining the shore, indicating that smouldering fires still lurked below. On landing we found the water on the shore of the crater in some places too hot to permit our hands remaining in it for any length of time. The temperature by thermometer in the hottest part was 204 deg. Great fun was created by catching fish at one end of our boat, and, without taking them off the hook, letting them drop into the hot water, and cooking them. Should any of your readers doubt this statement, I refer them to Horsburg's Sailing Directions to the East, and to Vlemming, the Dutch navigator who discovered the island in 1697.

Should the Megaera have been so unfortunate as to lose her stores in attempting to land them in the heavy surf that beats upon the shore, considerable sustenance may be obtained in the Crater Basin, for the fish are plentiful and good eating, and a natural fish-kettle is always at hand and boiling. Seals, also, are plentiful.

The entrance to the Crater Basin is about pistol-shot wide, but across the throat there is a bar composed of pebbles, over which nothing larger than a boat can pass, and I believe this is the only practicable landing-place to be found. A strong current sets over the bar, and at half ebb it if difficult to get boats over, but once passed smooth water if found in the basin.

It is to be hoped, therefore, that the sufferings of the crew and passengers of the Megaera may have been considerably alleviated by the natural resources of the place, and it is with a desire of quieting apprehensions upon this point that I trouble you with these remarks.

I am, Sir, yours obediently.
Harp Hotel, Dover, Aug. 4.
Ma 7 August 1871


The following telegram was received at 9 42 a.m., August 5, from Hongkong, dated August 5, 7 a.m.:-

"The Peninsular and Oriental Company's steamer Malacca, 1,680 tons, embarks provisions here. Should reach about the 29th. Can bring old (? whole) crew home.
"The Rinaldo leaves Singapore immediately for Batavia with provisions; will communicate with Lieutenant Jones, of the Megaera, and proceed to St. Paul's, if urgently required.

The Admiralty have aiso received the following telegram, in reply to a telegram sent to Batavia, asking the cause of the disaster, and whether provisions were landed from the Megaera at St. Paul's. In addition to her own provisions, the Megaera carried a considerable quantity of naval provisions destined for Sydney:-

"Leak reported about June 8. Kept under for several days by hand pumps. Leak increased; steam then used; water kept under. Insufficient coal to reach Australia; steered for St. Paul's. June 17 anchored. Survey held; diver employed; reported unsafe to proceed; hole through bottom; landed provisions; weather stormy; lost three anchors. June 19 ship was run on the bar full speed and filled. Lieutenant Jones left July 16, all well; men under canvas; 80 tons cargo saved. Steamship Rinaldo left Singapore yesterday for St. Paul's, viâ Batavia."
Ma 7 August 1871





Sir T. BAZLEY begged, in consequence of the declarations he had seen in the morning papers, to ask a question of his right hon. friend the First Lord of the Admiralty whether it was true that, after he had been warned by a question put to him by the hon. member for North Norfolk [Frederick Walpole], with regard to a report alleged to have been made by Mr. Reed on the state of the Megaera, he had allowed that vessel to sail, without taking steps to obtain information from Mr. Reed himself as to the survey.

Mr. GOSCHEN. - No, Sir, the statement is not true (hear, hear) that the question was put to me by the hon. member for North Norfolk before the Megaera sailed. It was put a week after the ship had sailed (hear, hear), and then it was impossible for me to have prevented the sailing of the vessel by personal reference to Mr. Reed. (Hear, hear.) I do not wish to add anything to forestall the statement it will be my duty to make in answer to the question of which notice has been given for Monday. But, meanwhile, I leave the House and the public to judge of the candour of the criticism that is made in advance, without the circumstances being known, from the fact that already it has been insinuated that, by personal reference to Mr. Reed, I might have prevented the sailing of the ship, when, in point of fact, my attention was not called to there having been any report by Mr. Reed till the week after the sailing of the ship. (Hear, hear.)
Ma 7 August 1871



Sir,- The number and nature of the communications which I have received respecting my letter in The Times of this morning induces me to trouble you with a communication, in order to establish the more firmly the facts of the case.

But, first, permit to say that I have been asked officially to state the date and form of my report upon the Megaera, and, having given the best information that my memory furnishes, I trust my remarks upon her may be found recorded at the Admiralty. But, whether they are found or not appears to me to be a matter of no great importance - to my argument, at least - because the mere employment of a ship a year or two beyond the time suggested by a survey is not at all uncommon, and forms no part of my complaint against the Government. That complaint is - first, that on leaving office I was debarred from communicating with my successors upon the many points that required attention in the various ships of the Navy; and, secondly, that when in March last Mr. Walpole put his inquiry to Mr. Goschen, he (Mr. Walpole) having, as I happen to know, a son in the ship, Mr. Goschen gave a reply which was bad in spirit and based upon very imperfect information, while, by a simple reference to me, he might have learnt the truth of the matter. In the House of Commons to-day Mr. Goschen has stated that the Megaera, had sailed before Mr. Walpole's question was put. Some persons may consider this a reason for doing nothing; others may consider it should have been an incentive to greater urgency.

We do not yet know the actual cause or the disaster to this ship; it may have been occasioned by something more, or something other, than her worn and weak state, and great injustice to the Government may be done by neglecting this consideration. But my recollection of the state of the ship is quite clear. I had the thin ironplating which formed the side drilled in several places, and ascertained the exact thickness and only passed her for a further limited period of service because of the circumstance that her plates, being small in surface taken separately, and connected by broad strips at the edges and butts, were for the most part doubled, so that the wasted surfaces of the single plating were small in extent and well supported. This inspection was the only occasion on which I examined the Megaera's plating, and finding it somewhat peculiar, although in the main characteristic of early shipbuilding in iron, I inserted a brief description of it in my work on Shipbuilding in Iron and Steel, About the facts, therefore, there can be no doubt.

Permit me to say, in the next place, in reply to some influential correspondents, that I am well aware of the gravity of my statements respecting the present dangerous state of our naval administration as regards Her Majesty's ships, and the necessity of a speedy change if a proper measure of security is to be given to the Navy. I have the most solid grounds for making them, and I wish them to be accepted in their full gravity. When I left office the value of the ships of my design then building (to speak for the moment of those building only) amounted to about three millions sterling, and their aggregate crews will number many thousands. Many of these ships were of perfectly novel type, the offspring of my own mind, and in some cases an offspring conceived and produced under great pressure from the political head of the Admiralty. Common sense, common judgment, common patriotism, and common humanity made me anxiously desirous to communicate to my successors all that was in my mind, but undeveloped as yet in the drawings of these ships. I was scarcely less desirous of going over the names of the various ships on active service, and offering such suggestions upon them as my experience dictated. Of course, the Admiralty were free to carry out afterwards other views than mine if they pleased, but that they were bound to attend to what mine were cannot be questioned. In order that no small personal feelings or irritations might operate to prevent the free communication of my views to my successors, I forbore to mention in my letter of resignation the long course of antagonism to which I had been subjected on account of my persistent disapproval of the Captain, and excluded from it every word that could give personal offence. How was this studied moderation of mine responded to? By a strong and steady refusal to give me any official opportunity whatever of communicating with my successors, and by the instant and compulsory cessation of my connexion with every ship in the Navy! Knowing the imperious power of the Ministry, I had apprehended the danger of such a course and striven to avert it. I next strove to get it corrected. I wrote privately to Sir Sydney Dacres; I spoke to Sir Spencer Robinson; and I got Mr. Lushington to point out to Mr. Childers the perils which might and would ensue. But the Government had a large majority, and Mr. Childers was safe in pursuing his own course, and so he pursued it. Sir Spencer Robinson wrote, I believe, a very strong official Minute upon the absolute necessity of the duty being carefully transferred, and or the risks and dangers which would ensue if it were not, but without result. Three months after came the loss of the Captain, and the very man who had closed my lips officially upon every ship censured me in a public document for not having spoken freely of this ship. This imputation, designed to stain me with the blood of the Captain's crew, was the distinction which a Liberal Government sought to confer upon me in my retirement as a reward for seven years of most trying service at the Admiralty, not the least trying part of which had been my resistance to ships of the Captain type.

Mr. Goschen, on entering office, instead of making the reversal of this mistaken and critical action of his predecessor touching Her Majesty's ships one of his first acts, silently acquiesced in it, and in his answer to Mr. Walpole appeared to indicate that he had succeeded to the spirit as well as to the office of his forerunner.

Now, it is this line and this style of action on the part of the Government which occasions my apprehensions, and compels me to pronounce their policy inconsistent with the safety of the Navy. We have had the Captain's case; we now have the Megaera's, and I fear we may have others. I see it announced, for example, that the turret-ship Glatton is to be taken out for a cruise "to test her seagoing qualities." I took a recent opportunity of mentioning to Mr. Goschen that she was not designed as a sea-going ship, and might be sacrificed if her peculiarities were not borne in mind, and it is now likely that, under so capable and experienced an officer as Lord John Hay, her trials will be properly conducted. But, apart from this, I strongly object to officers and men being ordered to embark in the Glatton under present circumstances. This is one of the low freeboard Monitors, with a very small margin of safety, and her proper subdivision into watertight spaces, pumping arrangements, anchor gear, means of clearing the deck from water, and other details were the subjects of much anxious thought and care with me. Suddenly, my connexion with her ceased; I was debarred from offering a word of advice respecting her; and she has been completed I know not how. How can the gentlemen who have finished her, and how can Mr. Goschen, know that no essential points have been overlooked? It is idle to say that my successors are clever and careful men. I am quite aware of that; but the more capable a man is the more anxious he will be in taking over the charge of such a ship as this to have the fullest possible information from her first designer. Moreover, the best of men are liable to errors and oversights, and we all know that the Captain was pronounced safe not many days before she was lost. This, at least, is true, -viz., that the officers and crew of the Glatton were entitled to every assurance and means of security which could be given to them; and yet Mr. Childers, first, and now Mr. Goschen have withheld from them, one most important element of safety, and have, as I maintain, incurred a truly horrible responsibility. I shall have to say precisely the same thing of the Thunderer and Devastation when they arrive at completion; for the Committee of 15 officers and gentlemen who sat for some months upon these and other ships have not pretended to inquire into many of those points upon which my anxiety and apprehension hang.

These are some of my reasons for considering the conduct of the Government in this manner ill-judged, imperious, and dangerous, and such as demands the scrutiny of Parliament. If the House of Commons, with these facts before them, votes the supplies without protest or remonstrance, the consequences may be fatal and widespread - the alarm certainly will be.

I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant,
London. Aug 5.
Tu 8 August 1871


The SPEAKER took the chair at 4 o'clock.



Sir J. HAY [Conservative; he had been Fourth Naval Lord in the Admiralty Board, in Benjamin Disraeli's first (minority) ministry, that was defeated by William Gladstone's Liberals in the general election of November 1868]. - Since I have had the honour of a seat in this House I have never asked its kind indulgence in the manner in which I am now going to do; but in order to enable the right hon. gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty to give a full explanation, so that the House may learn how 380 of our seamen are now upon a desert island, how they got there, and how it is proposed to remove them from their perilous position, I hope the House will allow me to make a short statement in explanation of the question which stands in my name on the paper. (Hear, hear.) At the time when I gave notice of that question the right hon. gentleman seemed to imagine I was making a personal attack on himself. I can assure him, however, that I had no such desire, but I may remark that, although, the right hon. gentleman exculpated himself with regard to the question put by my hon. friend the member for Norfolk [Frederick Walpole, Conservative member for Norfolk North], he said nothing respecting his predecessor at the Admiralty [Hugh Childers, who resigned in March 1871].

Mr. GOSCHEN [Liberal; First Lord of the Admiralty, replacing Childers in March 1871].- I said I would reserve that for my statement to-day.

Sir J. HAY. - Observing that the right hon. gentleman had thought I intended some personal attack on himself, I deemed it proper to make these remarks, but I will not now pursue that subject further. For the two years and upwards that I had the honour of occupying a seat at the late Board of Admiralty, I had charge of this special department, and the Megaera was one of the storeships under my charge. Besides the vessels employed to convey men to distant places, there were certain storeships used for other purposes. The Megaera belonged to the latter class, and I conceive it would have been unjust to have sent to Australia a ship of that character, which was so unable to sail, and with imperfect steam-power, on any such voyage, not with reference to safety if she were a sound ship, but with reference to the great amount of time that would be occupied. The Megaera went to Ascension and to other places with stores. The hon. members for Chichester, Carlow, and Kent [Lord Henry Lennox, William Addis Fagan and ??? (there were various Kent constituencies)] drew the attention of the right hon. gentleman opposite to the subject of the Megaera, and at a later period my hon. and gallant friend the member for Norfolk asked his question. The facts of the case are as follows:-I have had the advantage of seeing Mr. Reed, the late Chief Constructor of the Navy, who has personally assured me of the correctness of these facts, and I need hardly say that his word is above suspicion, and that he is one of the best officers ever employed by the Admiralty of this country. (Hear.) His attention was called, not by the right bon. gentleman the present First Lord of the Admiralty, but by the right hon. gentleman the member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers [the previous First Lord of the Admiralty]), to the necessity of investigating the state of certain ships, and Mr. Reed reported that the Megaera was in such a condition that she could only continue her service for a certain period of time, though what that period of time was I do not know.

Mr. GOSCHEN. In what year was that?

Sir J. HAY. - I understand that report was presented in the year 1869. but Mr. Reed himself is unable to state the precise date, as he has not access to the documents which are preserved at the Admiralty. At all events, he expressed his opinion that the Megaera was only fit for service during a certain period of time, and that this period had elapsed at the time when she was ordered to proceed to Australia. Early in the present Session the attention of the House was called to the condition of this ship, which had been recently surveyed at Sheerness. This fact I learn from Mr. Reed. The ship was ordered to be surveyed at Sheerness, but the cost of a thorough survey being greater than the Department thought it right to incur, the expenditure was checked, although it was reported that the plates at the bottom of the vessel were considerably worn. The ship was sent round to Devonport, and the officers on board her reported that she was overcrowded, and not in fit condition to proceed to sea. The Admiralty ordered her to proceed to Cork, and the Admiralty [sic; shold be Admiral] there having been instructed to inspect her, he took out 100 tons of cargo, in order to make her safe. It is obvious, however, that he could not have inspected the plates at the bottom of the vessel. Well, the ship left this country, and afterwards his hon. and gallant friend the member for Norfolk asked his question. I should have thought the right hon. gentleman would then have made inquiries, but what steps he took I really do not know, though of course they will be mentioned in the course of his statement; but I know that the representative of the Admiralty in this House - I mean the hon. member for Montrose [William Edward Baxter] - on very many occasions when he was questioned on the subject treated it with the greatest possible scorn. The hon. member went so far as to tell my hon. friend the member for Carlow (Mr. Kavanagh) that there was not a word of truth in what he was stating. During the time I have sat in this House I have heard many curious things said, but if it is not unparliamentary the term "insolent" is the term which I should naturally apply to such an answer. (Hear, hear.) A report had been made that she could only run for a certain time, and the cargo had been improperly stowed, and had to be re-stowed and readjusted. Notwithstanding all this a question in regard to her condition was treated in the most flippant manner by the representative of the Admiralty in this House. It is quite evident why she went down. The plates were worn out, and there was a hole in her; and, consequently, it was necessary to run her ashore. What quantity of stores and provisions was saved I do not know; but it is clear that the crew cannot he relieved, except by some passing ship, until the 3d or 4th of September, 1 have myself passed St. Paul's Island amid hail and snow in midwinter - that is, in the month of June, and I am sure it cannot be an agreeable thing to be left there for so long a period. The officers and crew will, at all events, have to remain there until some time in the month of September. I think it is a misfortune that no man-of-war was available for taking them away, instead of sending a hired steamer from Hongkong. The right hon. gentleman has ships at Gibraltar, only 40 days off St. Paul's, and I think he ought to have sent a vessel at once from Gibraltar in addition to the steamer chartered at Hongkong, so that he might have had two strings to his bow, and have been certain of preventing these men from starving alter they had run the risk of being drowned. (Hear, hear.) He would now put the question of which he had given notice, and ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether he would state to the House the circumstances under which the Megaera store-ship was run on the Island of St. Paul's to save the lives of her craw and passengers; whether he had any information which led him to think she left England in an unseaworthy condition; and whether he would lay the report of Mr. Reed, late Chief Constructor of the Navy, on the condition of the Megaera upon the table. The hon. baronet concluded by moving the adjournment of the House.

Mr. GOSCHEN. - I can assure the hon. and gallant baronet I do not think he wished to treat this question as a personal one. I can assure him that I look upon the loss of this ship as so serious a matter as not for a moment to allow of any personal considerations being mixed up with it. Any one who read the letter of Mr. Reed, published in The Times newspaper, would have gathered from the mode in which allusion was made to his report that his report was made before the Megaera was despatched. It was not, indeed, absolutely so stated, but it was inferred, and I think Mr. Reed believed in his own mind when he wrote that letter that such must have been the case, or he would not have made use of the expressions which occurred in it. Mr. Reed, when the Megaera sailed, had a knowledge of a certain fact, and the Admiralty and myself had not that knowledge. It was not brought to our notice till after the departure of the ship. (Hear, hear.) I will deal, in the first place, with the most important part of the question asked by the hon. and gallant baronet - namely, that relating to the ship, and the circumstances under which she went on shore; and at the outset I may remark that I have no knowledge of those circumstances beyond what was stated in the telegram which was communicated to the Press, and which the hon. and gallant baronet has seen. I think the hon. and gallant baronet is a little quick at jumping to a conclusion as to the cause of the accident. He may be right, but I trust the House and the country will suspend their judgment until full particulars hive been received as to the actual cause of the accident. (Hear.) And now I will say a few words with regard to the provisions and the means which have been taken to relieve the crew. The first Admiralty telegram is silent as to the provisions being landed or not, but the hon. and gallant baronet must have seen in the telegram received this morning a statement that the provisions were landed safely. It appears from these particulars sent to the Admiralty that there was no hurry at the time, and that, therefore, there was ample opportunity for landing the provisions; and it was a fortunate circumstance in this very unfortunate affair that there were 40 tons of provisions intended for Sydney on board the Megaera besides the provisions which she carried for herself. Consequently it is not anticipated that any suffering will arise. As to the means which are being taken to relieve them, I concur with the hon. and gallant baronet that, in an emergency, it is not sufficient to have one string to one's bow, and accordingly the Admiralty, besides ordering a steamer to be chartered, caused inquiries to be made at Bombay and the Cape, and, in consequence of the latter inquiries, Her Majesty's ship Rinaldo has been ordered from Singapore, that being the closest point to St. Paul's from which it is possible to communicate easily with that island. At this moment the Rinaldo is on her way there with provisions, besides the steamer chartered at Hongkong. (Hear, hear.) The hon. and gallant baronet would perceive that a steamer will proceed much quicker to St. Paul's from Singapore than from Gibraltar. We are informed that the steamer is expected to arrive on the 29th of this month - some days earlier than the date mentioned by the hon. baronet. Indeed, the Rinaldo may perhaps arrive before that date. I have now communicated to the House that which I know of the circumstances connected with the loss of the Megaera and the steps taken for the relief of the passengers and crew. I now come to the second part of the question, and I trust the House will not think me tedious if I describe in some detail what occurred when the ship was at Queenstown, as great interest is felt on the subject, and as such very serious charges have been made. (Hear, hear.) I must, in the first instance, ask hon. members to dismiss from their minds for the moment the first and second letters of Mr. Reed, and all that has arisen from them, because the facts therein mentioned were not before us between the 1st and the 14th of March, when the ship was at Queenstown, and although hon. members may now look at the matter in the light of those letters, I and my colleagues at the Admiralty had not an opportunity of regarding it in that light, as the report was not before them. I do not ask the House to pronounce any judgment on the present occasion, but I entreat them for the moment to dismiss from their minds the statement about the thin plates, as to which not a single word was said in any of the questions put in the House, and to listen to the evidence which I shall adduce (hear, hear); and here I may distinctly remark that if I quote the evidence and statements of subordinates, I do not do so in order to relieve the Board of Admiralty or the First Lord from any responsibility whatever in connexion with this matter. (Hear, hear.) I must quote their reports, however, in order that the House may form a judgment, although the responsibility of sending the ship to sea rests on the First Lord of the Admiralty. It is true I had not been long in office, but I sifted the evidence to the best of my ability and I must be responsible. (Hear, hear.) The Megaera, having fitted up at Sheerness, went to Plymouth, whence, after some events to which I shall call attention presently, she proceeded to Queenstown, The first serious remonstrance which reached the Admiralty was in the shape of a letter from the captain of the Megaera dated the 28th of February. This was after the journey from Plymouth to Queenstown, during which it had been found that the ports on the maindeck leaked, and that the officers and men suffered some discomfort. The captain wrote:-

"I have the honour to inform you that, owing to the leaky condition of the maindeck ports and the connecting piece of the outer bobstay having broken off in the stem, I have thought it advisable to bring Her Majesty's ship under my command in to this harbour that these and a few more defects may be made good. 2. We left Plymouth Sound on Saturday, the 25th inst., and used steam to insure a good offing, banking the fires on Sunday at noon. Since the wind has been contrary and the weather bad, during the whole of which time the maindeck has had water washing from side to side, wetting the men's bags, clothes, &c. The officers' cabins have been literally afloat the whole time, although the watch has been constantly employed to bale the water up. The maindeck ports were lined with Fearnaught and well greased; but, from being warped and old, would not keep the water out, some of the bolts drawing out when screwing them up. 3. On Monday, the 27th inst., the outer bobstay carried away, and, having secured the foremast, we bore up for this anchorage."

When that letter arrived I think I was not in office, but when I saw it I made inquiries respecting the serious defects to which attention is therein made, and the measures taken for remedying them. In what I am stating now not a single word shall be omitted which goes, if I may use the expression, against the Board of Admiralty, and I will accordingly read the further evidence we had against the ship. On the 2d of March the captain wrote a letter to the Commander-in-Chief at Queenstown. It was in the following terms:-

"I have to inform you that the officers and ships' companies on board this ship hare represented to me the extreme discomfort of the ship in consequence of every available space below being taken up for cargo, bringing the ship considerably deeper in the water than she ever was before, and rendering her very wet. That the whole of the troop-deck and part of the main-deck are stowed with cargo, thus curtailing considerably their sleeping and living place. That the troop-deck being filled up there is no place for the men's bags except on the deck under the mess tables, and that they have been continually wet from the ports leaking. To remedy those defects I have to request that you may permit me to land 100 tons of the cargo. I beg to enclose a list of articles proposed for landing, and a letter from the officers and one from the medical officer of the ship, trusting that this application may meet with your approval."

The Commander-in-Chief sent the letter to the Admiralty, accompanied by this memorandum:-

"Submitted for the information of their Lordships with reference to my telegram of this date. 2. I have been on board the Megaera, and examined into the causes of complaint; both officers and men appear to be in great discomfort owing to the crowded state of the decks and to the quantity of water which has found its way to the maindeck. The ship is very deep in the water, and as it will he difficult to keep the ports tight in a seaway, I think it would be a great advantage, if space could be obtained on the orlop deck for the stowage of the men's bags, and also for such portions of the officers' property us they may not be able to find a place for in their store-rooms and cabins,"

I will now read to the House the remonstrance of the officers themselves. In a letter dated "Her Majesty's ship Megaera, March 2, 1871," they say, -

"We consider the Megaera is too heavily laden and too crowded to successfully encounter such weather as reasonably may he expected in making the long voyage to Australia, The cabin accommodation for officers entitled to them is inadequate. In consequence of the ship's deep draught (17ft), the ports at sea are generally barred in in the mess place, which has but one small ventilator. The water closets are insufficient for the number of officers using them. There is insufficient stowage for officers' wines and provisions."

There wan also a letter from the surgeon pointing out, with regard to the sanitary view of the question, the inconvenience of the maindeck ports having been closed. It should be borne constantly in mind that the remonstrances from the captain and the officers arose principally from two causes, - namely, the overloading of the ship and the leakage of the maindeck ports.

Sir J. PAKINGTON inquired whether there were any military officers on board.

Mr. GOSCHEN. - No; the Megaera took out the crew of the Blanche and the Rosario, but they were all naval officers on board. Having read the remonstrance of the officers, I come next to the report of the Flag Captain at Queenstown, in the absence at the moment of the Admiral upon the station, He says:-

"Mersey, at Queenstown, March 2,1871. "1. Submitted for the information of their lordships, observing that the repair of the bobstay plate appears absolutely necessary and is now being made good, it would be desirable to caulk the waterways if a few days' fine weather could be obtained. 2. The additional carpenter for Haulbowline, Mr. James Burnett, could find no defect in foremast."

But I will further show the House that it is not true, as has been reported, that we took no pains at the Admiralty to inquire into the truth of these allegations. We telegraphed to Admiral Forbes at Queenstown, and directed him to "proceed on board Her Majesty's ship Megaera, inquire strictly and carefully into her state and condition, and report by telegram and letter his opinion as to the fitness of that ship to undertake the service upon which she had been ordered." In thus applying to the responsible officer and asking him to report, we thought we were taking the step which was proper under the circumstances (hear, hear); and the following is the answer which we received from the Commander-in-Chief at Queenstown:-

"I find the Megaera much crowded with stores, and I have ordered a part to be landed to give more comfort to officers and men; am of opinion she is fit to undertake the service she has been ordered upon."

This reply came by telegram from the Admiral after he had enjoyed the opportunity of examining the ship and speaking to the officers. He afterwards sent a long letter upon the state of the vessel. I will read to the House the summing up of that letter, but if any hon. gentleman wishes to have the whole of it there will be no objection on our part, as we do not wish, for one moment to withhold a single particle of evidence which we possess. The Admiral reports that having closely and carefully inspected the Megaera, and having already telegraphed his opinion that the ship was fit for the service on which she was employed, he now forwards in detail fuller particulars of her state. He states that her draught of water forward is 17 feet, and aft 17 feet 3 inches; that her full supply of coal is on board; and "all the decks are much lumbered, but she is very ill stowed, and much clearance may be made when this is better done." He then goes on to the accommodation of the ward-room officers, says that the troop deck is much choked with cargo, that the men's bags are "most inconveniently stowed under the mess laths, where they have got wet from water shipped through leaky ports, to the great discomfort of the men, but that "the ports are now mended and relined, and new ones placed where necessary;" he says that "the main deck is also inconveniently crowded for sleeping," but "by clearing out the troop deck below, as suggested, many men now berthed above may be berthed there;" he then enlarges upon the question, of how further accommodation might be given in the sick bay; and the Admiral sums up as follows:-

"The result of my inspection is that the Megaera has been inconveniently crowded with cargo, considering the quantity of stores and effects accompanying the number of officers and men she takes out; that landing about 100 tons weight would rid her of this evil; that the officers taking passage have also been crowded, considering the length of the voyage. If the number of them was reduced by four the remainder would also be relieved."

And the Admiral concludes thus:-

"The ship is of old pattern, and wanting in many of the conveniences of later days, but I see no reason whatever of unfitness for performing the service she is employed in." (Hear, hear.) The hon. and gallant Admiral opposite made use of one expression - either I caught it across the House, or it fell from him in his opening remarks - to the effect that the Admiral, in the inspection which he made, could not get at the thinness of the plates. [Sir J. Hay. - " Hear, hear"] Precisely so; but the hon. member will see that the remonstrances which brought about this inspection had nothing to do with the thinness of the plates; we were dealing with the ship as it had been despatched from Sheerness. One of the charges brought against the Admiralty is that, in spite of what happened between Plymouth and Queenstown, and in spite of the question asked in this House, we sent, as I understand it, a leaky ship to sea. We took the greatest pains to inquire into every detail of what had occurred between Plymouth and Queenstown, with a view of having those matters remedied. I will not say, at this moment, that they were actually remedied, but I will say this, that I have seen extracts from a letter written by the captain from Madeira, in which he states that the ship had been going on satisfactorily; and that I have also heard of a letter received from the engineer on board the ship, written from the Cape, in which he states that everything had been working satisfactorily. I do not wish to make out a case for the Admiralty upon this occasion at all; I wish to answer every allegation made against us, and not to go an inch beyond that point. So far we have been dealing with these considerations; certain defects were discovered, and those defects were dealt with upon the responsibility of the Admiralty; and I say most distinctly that I do not hold Admiral Forbes responsible for one moment for what occurred afterwards. Meanwhile we asked Admiral Codrington also to report as to the truth of the statements which had been made. Sir H. Codrington wrote a long letter, the general drift of which was that Captain Thrupp never remonstrated with him for one moment as to the seaworthiness of the ship, but brought some trifling defects to his notice; and that the point upon which he expressed reluctance to leave was with regard to the stowage of the cargo. Of course I cannot say what may have passed verbally, but as far as the Admiralty are aware no question was raised as to the unseaworthiness of the ship. The Captain wished to delay longer in order to stow the cargo better and to arrange the officers' and seamen's baggage, but no questions as to more serious matters appear to have been raised at all. A statement was published to the effect that Admiral Codrington had ordered Captain Thrupp peremptorily to proceed to sea. On reading that statement we applied to Admiral Codrington for his account of the transaction, and I am perfectly willing to lay that letter on the table of the House. We also telegraphed to Sheerness, and asked the authorities there to state their views as to the seaworthiness of the ship. The reply was as follows:-

"With reference to your Minute on Chief Constructor's letter of the 3d inst., s. 1733-1767, respecting defects in Her Majesty's ship Megaera, we have the honour to report, that a list of defects sent in on the 29th of July, 1870, and reported on by us on the 2d of August last, showed no complaints of the maindeck ports or the shackle for the bobstay. The defects were made good, and had the ship not been paid off she would have again proceeded to sea without any further repair. While in the 1st Division of Reserve the ship was refitted by the Reserve, when the ports in question were thoroughly overhauled and left efficient for temporary service. Before being commissioned she was docked for repairing the bottom, and had any defects been then apparent in the ship they would have been made good."

I have now dealt with the complaints which had been made, and I have shown the evidence which the Admiralty had before them. So far from treating the matter lightly, or, as the hon. and gallant Admiral seemed to suppose, cross-questioning nobody, and knowing nothing about the ship, we questioned, among others, the Director of Transports, the Chief Constructor and Controller of the navy, and we communicated with Sheerness Dockyard, where the local knowledge was to be obtained. I venture, therefore, to say that we did all that was possible under the circumstances to ascertain the truth. (Hear.) Then I come to the question as to what information we had before us to warrant us in sending this ship to sea at all. I have just stated that she was docked in January, and that she had been docked in August and was then carefully examined. But before she was actually employed a telegram was sent to the Captain-Superintendent of Sheerness Dockyard, as follows:-

"If the Megaera were wanted for a nine months' service at sea, is she in a fit state to undertake it, and what time would be required before she could receive her crew and a large body of supernumeraries."

The reply received was in the following terms:-

"Megaera is ready, with the exception of completing stores and coal, but she has been five months out of dock and would require to have her bottom cleaned. The sides will not admit of docking her until Friday, the 20th. She might receive her crew the following Monday (23d inst.)."

Upon receipt of this telegram the authorities at the Admiralty, the then Controler of the Navy, the First Naval Lord, and all the responsible officers, assented to the Megaera being sent out. However, to make still more certain, the Junior Naval Lord at that time put this distinct question to the Assistant-Constructor, Mr. Barnaby:-

"Please tell me in what condition is Megaera as to seaworthiness, as we talk of her for a trip to Australia." The answer, receive d by telegram was as follows:-

"I beg leave to state that the Megaera, having undergone repair at Sheerness, is reported to be complete. She is a good seaboat, and, although more than 20 years old, is sound and strong. Her boilers are, however, only good for one years service."

Tu 8 August 1871
That term, however, was sufficient, for the voyage contemplated was only one of nine months; no question accordingly arises as to the state of the boilers. Thereupon, the Captain-Superintendent at Sheerness was told that he might dock the ship. But what had been the character of the ship before, for the question has been put before the House as if we ought never to have entertained the notion of sending such a vessel to sea at all? We keep a book at the Admiralty in which the opinions or the captains themselves with regard to their ships are recorded, and I will tell the House the answers which were made by successive commanders of the Megaera to the queries which were put to them. In the report of sailing qualities, the question put is as follows:- "Is she generally speaking a well-built and strong ship, or does she show any symptoms of weakness?" Captain M.B. Dunn, who commanded her in 1865, writes, "Appears to be a well-built ship and shows no signs of weakness; a good seaboat in heavy weather." In 1866 Captain Dunn again writes, "Appears to be a well-built iron ship." In 1867 Captain J. Simpson, a fresh captain, writes, "Appears to be a well-built iron ship; a good seaboat in a gale." In 1868 Staff-Commander J. Loane, a fresh captain, reports, "Appears quite strong and well-built, and shows no signs of weakness." In 1869 Staff Commander H.D. Sarratt, a different captain, writes, "Appears quite strong and well built, and shows no signs of weakness; an excellent sea boat in heavy weather;" and again, in 1870, Staff Commander Sarratt wrote in precisely similar terms. (Hear, hear.) Now, as regards her draught of water, that is said to have been so excessive as to endanger the ship. But even before the 100 tons of cargo were taken out the draught was not in excess of what it had been in former years. Her draught of water in 1870 was 17ft. forward and 17ft. 3in. aft; in 1871 her draught was 17ft. 3in. forward and 16ft. 9½in. aft; and on the day prior to her sailing from Queenstown it had been reduced to 16ft.6in. forward and 17ft. 1in. aft. I have shown the House what pains were taken to ascertain that the Megaera was a good and well-built ship; and my surprise was naturally great when, for the first time, I received from a published letter of Mr. Reed's an indication that the plates were so thin as to endanger the vessel's safety. That was the first time this circumstance had been brought to my knowledge. I was asked on the 21st of March whether there was not a report from Mr. Reed upon this subject. I made inquiry, and search was instituted, but no such report could be found. The hon. and gallant Admiral opposite states that, after a conversation with Mr. Reed, he believes that the report was made in 1869.

Sir J. HAY. - 1869, I think; but the date was not given.

Mr. GOSCHEN. - I do not know why the gallant Admiral should say it was 1869. Mr. Reed states that my right hon. friend the member for Pontefract [Childers] was in office at the time. The date, however, is not 1869, but 1866, when the hon. and gallant Admiral [i.e. Hay] was in office. (Hear, hear.) When I saw this statement I asked for a copy of the report - I know the House will feel that I desire to state not merely what is true in fact, but what is true in spirit (hear, hear) - and I was told that no such report could be found, and there is no such report now to be found. But it is true that Mr. Reed surveyed the ship in 1866.

Mr. DISRAELI. - "What month in 1866?

Mr. GOSCHEN. - Late in the month of July or August.

Lord H. LENNOX. - We came into office on the 14th of July. [Lennox refers to the Earl of Derby's third ministry (conservative) which replaced Earl Russell's second ministry (Liberal) on this date]

Mr. GOSCHEN. - I think it was at the end of July. At all events, it was the hon. and gallant admiral who would have to deal with the report. I do not make any charge against him with respect to it. I merely state that Mr. Reed now says he made a report as to the thinness of the plates to Mr. Childers, of which report not a trace can be found at the Admiralty; and, unless the matter were brought to the notice of Mr. Childers, I do not see how it was possible for him to have acted on it. The information seems to have remained in the mind of one man above all others - Mr. Reed, and he communicated that knowledge to an hon. member of this House, whether before or after the ship sailed I know not. A week after the ship sailed, however, a question was put to me in the House, and I will only say that I would rather be myself, with my ignorance of that report, than I would be any one else who knew that the plates were thin and did not state it. (Cheers.) Mr. Reed states that Mr. Childers insisted upon his not making any communication to his successors. (Hear, hear.) I see that there are two hon. members in the House who accept that statement as true to the full extent. But, if true, there are many ways in which that may be explained. I have had access to Mr. Childers's private papers, though, of course, I cannot be sure that I have seen them all. But I think it may be said in Mr. Childers's absence that this is a very serious charge to bring against an absent man, who has no opportunity of replying. (Hear, hear.) Mr. Reed worked in his department with able subordinates, one of whom has himself certified to the fitness of the ship for going to sea, and is a near connexion of Mr. Reed himself. I have asked this officer, "Have you had any hint or warning whatever upon this matter by a single line from Mr. Reed, either before he went out or since?" and he has assured me that no such warning whatever has been given. (Hear, hear.) But Mr. Reed says Mr. Childers would not allow him to communicate with his successors. Mr. Reed has been good enough to offer assistance to me, and to state that he would give me information as to any matters which I might require. These offers, however, were made after the sailing of the Megaera. Why, then, should Mr. Reed have felt himself precluded from doing a few weeks earlier what a few weeks later he voluntarily did - namely, to offer me courteously the information he possessed? (Hear, hear.) I do not understand what intimation from Mr. Childers prevented Mr. Reed from communicating upon a matter of such great importance with his former colleagues. By a single line he could have warned any one of his friends in the department: - "Look up the records of four or five years ago, and you will find this ship badly spoken of in which the lives of 300 seamen are now about to be endangered." That was not done, and yet a week after she had sailed I was asked whether I had known of this report of Mr. Reed's. (Hear, hear.) I do not wish to make any charge against Mr. Reed; but I do say, when these letters are written to the newspapers charging us with want of knowledge and charging us with every conceivable negligence in connexion with this ship, I certainly do regret that no public or private hints were given, and that no official letter even was written by Mr. Reed - for there was nothing whatever to preclude Mr. Reed from writing an official letter upon the subject. I am aware that Mr. Reed wanted to make some private communications with Mr. Childers, and that Mr. Childers replied by asking him to put them into an official form, which Mr. Reed refused to do, having written them as a private letter. I believe it will turn out that this view of Mr. Reed's about Mr. Childers not wishing him to communicate arose from the reluctance of Mr. Childers to receive any communications not capable of being used as public letters. (Hear, hear.) In a letter this morning Mr. Reed alleges that he spoke to Mr. Lushington and got him "to point out to Mr. Childers the perils which might and would ensue" if he was not listened to. But is the Navy of this country in such a position that if Mr. Reed suddenly dies there is no means of obtaining information as to the perils with which any of our ships may be threatened? I refuse to believe that matters are in such a state that the whole safety of our Navy depends upon the knowledge that is enshrined in the breast of one man. (Cheers.) I have received from Mr. Lushington a memorandum which does not correspond with the recollection of Mr. Reed. Mr. Lushington says:-

"With reference to Mr. Reed's statement in to-day's Times- ' I got Mr. Lushington to point out to Mr. Childers the perils which might and would ensue' - I beg to state my recollection of what took place, A short while after Mr. Reed had resigned and had quitted the office, and after, I believe, Mr. Childers had declined to enter into any private correspondence with him, he, Mr. Reed, called at the office and asked to see me. I am not sure whether he was shown up to me in the first instance. If so, I had no conversation with him, but said at once that I could receive no verbal communication from him without instructions from Mr. Childers, and went at once to the First Lord's room. I recollect seeing Mr. Childers, and being instructed by him to inform Mr. Reed that I could not receive any oral statement from him, but that any official letter would receive due attention. I remember seeing Mr. Reed, and stating this to him in as civil and friendly terms as I could (for I had always been on friendly terms with him). He was somewhat angry, and went away. Mr. Reed at no time entered into any statement to me about the Megaera or any other ship, and I cannot accept his statement that he got me 'to point out to Mr. Childers the perils which might and would ensue.' 'Perils' were never named or suggested to me by him. I never was at any time aware of any perils likely to ensue to any of Her Majesty's ships."

I heard an hon. member say that Mr. Reed would not write an official letter because he was no longer in office. But Mr. Reed had marked his letter "Private," with two dashes under the word "Private." Mr. Childers asked him to remove that word, and he refused to do so. The only objection on the part of Mr. Childers was to receive communications which could not be produced by him; but ho said that if Mr. Reed would make his communication public it would receive full consideration. I do not know what further evidence I have to communicate. All I can say is that upon the evidence I do not believe we could have acted in any other way. If Mr. Reed had made any communication about the Megaera he would have done great service. I do not think that it can be justly alleged against Mr. Childers that he has refused to receive such hints. I know that so far from my refusing to receive them I should have been very glad if they had been offered me. Mr. Reed says, in the letter which he addressed to The Times of Saturday,-

"I reported her fit only for a very brief period of further service, in consequence of the extreme thinness to which her plates had become worn by many years of almost continual use at sea. That period has long been exceeded." Now, I say I can find no report whatever from Mr. Reed, but I do find that he surveyed the ship, and I find reports upon the subject alluding to that survey. The word "only" is, however, interpolated by Mr. Reed, for the actual documents state that 250l. would be required to repair her, and that then she would be fit for 18 months' or two years' service. They do not say that at the end of that period she would not be fit for service. [Mr. Disraeli.- "What is the date of those documents?"] (Hear, hear.) Yes, I ought to have given the date. The first is dated Woolwich Dockyard, July 30, 1866, and the next the 31st of July, 1866. (Hear, hear.) The latter says:-

"With reference to the enclosed supplementary estimate for the repair of the hull and fittings of the Megaera, amounting to 250l., to be performed by the Factory at Woolwich, I beg leave to report that the Chief Constructor has made a careful examination of the ship, and is of opinion that this supplementary estimate should be allowed, as the ship may remain fit for service for 18 months or two years longer when repaired. I therefore submit that the estimate be approved, and directions for the work to be proceeded with be given."

In the reports it is stated how long the ship will last with the repairs then recommended, but it is never stated what is to be done at the end of that time. But does the hon. and gallant admiral contend that the ship should never have been employed at the end of the two years? If that be the case I may remind the hon. and gallant admiral that Mr. Reed remained Chief Constructor of the Navy long after that time, and that year after year he passed estimates for the repair of that ship without any remark. (Cheers.) In no scrap of paper that I have read is there any allusion to this investigation made in 1866. There may be some parties to blame for not having carried these circumstances in their minds, and that requires the strictest inquiry, but the position of the Admiralty at this moment with respect to the ship is this - that when these repairs were made in 1866 it was said that if the ship were used beyond the time stated she would require to be more thoroughly repaired. Now, I do not wish the House to absolve the Admiralty if they have done wrong in this matter. I admit that we did not go back to 1866, but we went back to 1870, when the ship was last docked. The hon. and gallant gentleman says that when the ship was docked the estimate furnished for her repairs was reduced. That was perfectly true, and that estimate was certified by Mr. Reed as Chief Constructor of the Navy. (Cheers.) Mr. Reed did not then say that the ship's plates were so thin that she was not fit for sea, and the authorities at Sheerness certified that her bottom was even better than had been expected. With the matter at the time, too, the political department of the Admiralty had nothing to do; it belonged to the Chief Constructor's department, the department which possessed the information. Nor did the colleagues of Mr Reed either in 1870 or in 1871 have their attention called to what had occurred in 1866. The ship has been docked several times since 1866, and on each occasion it has been reported that after the repairs recommended she would be ready for the service on which she was lately ordered. Mistakes may have been made, and I do not wish the House to think that because I quote the whole of the facts I or my colleagues wish to be relieved of any responsibility with regard to the vessel. Possibly we ought to have surveyed the whole of these records from year to year, but we took the reports made with respect to the Megaera when docked, the reports of her captains, and the report which was made about her at Queenstown. I do not wish to pronounce judgment upon this case either with respect to myself or to others at the present moment. Of course the most rigid scrutiny must be made into all the circumstances. I naturally feel the loss of this ship infinitely more than the hon. and gallant admiral can feel it, because I know that we have lost more than the ship by this loss, in the lessening of public confidence that may arise, and therefore I do not regard it as any personal or light matter, but as a very serious one. It is one calling for rigid inquiry, and if we have done wrong we must bear the responsibility and blame. I have now laid before the House, as far as I can, all the circumstances as I know them, and in the order in which they have reached me, and I ask the House and the public to suspend their judgment until they know more, and until proper inquiries can be instituted. (Hear, hear.) And I do ask all those who have influence over public opinion in this House, or out of it, to do nothing by way of exaggeration which can tend to increase this disaster by spreading panic and alarm. I trust that every man will recognize that there is a great responsibility incurred by any one who exaggerates that which I and every one feel to have been a very miserable affair. (Hear, hear.)

Lord H. LENNOX said, - I have no intention, Sir, of making any personal attack upon the right hon. gentleman, but as some remarks have been made with reference to the Board of Admiralty of which I was a member, I cannot allow that the statement of the right hon. gentleman is in any respect satisfactory. The right hon. gentleman tells us that the report which he cannot find was made by Mr. Reed between July and August, 1866. That was at the very moment when a change of Government took place, and when my hon. and gallant friend the member for Stamford (Sir J. Hay) assumed the command of the ships belonging to the transport department. After, however, having seen and studied that report of Mr. Reed, and the report from Woolwich, in which it was stated that the ship might be made seaworthy for 18 months or two years, the then Board of Admiralty placed the ship at the bottom of the troopships to be employed, and though during our tenure of office a great pressure came upon us to provide ships for carrying stores in connexion with the Abyssinian war, we did not employ the Megaera, and did not deem her sufficiently seaworthy for such a voyage as would then have been necessary. (Cheers.) It is not, however, only because I was then at the Admiralty that I feel I have a right to address a few words to the House upon this question, for I was one of the two hon. members who in March last received such a snubbing at the hands of the hon. member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter). (Hear, hear.) I then asked if it was true that the ship was in such a state that the baggage was floating about and the decks were under water, and we were told by the hon. member for Montrose [Baxter] that there was not one word of truth in the statement so made. (Cheers.) I must here also regret very much that the Admiralty did not adopt the rule laid down in the Controller's Department, a rule sanctioned by the Board presided over by the right hon. gentleman the member for Pontefract [Childers] - namely, that when a store-ship is fitted out at a port, if on her voyage to the next port she is found to be unseaworthy from damage not notorious to her commander, her stores and troops shall be transferred to the port where they were embarked, and the officers at that port held responsible for the insufficient examination which must have been made. (Hear.) All through the right hon. gentleman's statement he takes that for granted which it is my privilege to deny, and he says that the leakage which was apparent in the Megaera came from the main deck ports. I am not surprised that Admiral Forbes should not have examined the plates at the bottom of the vessel, because it could never have entered his head that the Admiralty at London would have sanctioned a vessel being sent on a voyage round the world without a thorough and satisfactory examination on this point. (Cheers.) What I object to in the statement of the right hon. gentleman is the idea of there being any question raised in England or else where as to the seaworthiness of any vessel after she has been ordered to go round the world. (Cheers.) We have abundance of vessels, seaworthy, and fit to do the passage, which could have been employed for the purpose on which the Megaera was sent. (Hear, hear.) If I am not mistaken, there are documents at the Admiralty upon this subject, and on another occasion I will ask the right hon. gentlemen whether there is any paper from the late Controller of the Navy, in which he recommended that the old line-of-battle ships which had already been prepared should be used for this service as the Donegal had been on a previous occasion. [Mr. Goschen. - "Instead of the Megaera?"] No; a paper in general terms, and whether he did not recommend that the Revenge should be prepared for this service. Now, the right hon. gentleman has quoted a great many opinions of the captains who commanded the Megaera as to her being a good seaboat; but I fail to see what they have to do with the question. No one disputes that the Megaera was a good vessel in her day; what we say is that the plates had been worn so thin as to admit the water. The right hon. gentleman has attacked a gentleman of great eminence in the shipbuilding world and has partly charged him with knowing that the Megaera was in an unseaworthy condition, and with not communicating the fact either to himself or to the department. I believe that at the time this occurred Mr. Reed was in the heart of Russia, where owing to the fact that our Government had turned him out of office - [Mr. Goschen. - "No; they did not turn him out of office."] Well, they made office impossible for him (cheers), and by a series of manoeuvres or evolutions, as I will call them, on the part of the right hon. gentleman the member for Pontefract [Childers] they made it impossible for him to remain with honour to himself in the office which he held with advantage to the country, just in the same way as on a later occasion the same Board of Admiralty managed to dispense with the services of his able and gallant chief. (Cheers.) Sir Spencer Robinson did not resign; he was ignominiously expelled. (Cheers.) Mr. Reed did not wait to be expelled; he found the place too hot to hold him, and preferred to resign. (Cheers.) Mr. Reed was at the time in Russia, and was designing, as I believe he now is for Germany, a powerful fleet of iron-clad vessels. (Mr. Goschen shook his head.) I am by this time perfectly accustomed to the right hon. gentleman's silent contradictions; but if, between this time and three months' hence, the right hon. gentleman is able to tell me that my statement is erroneous, and that Mr. Reed is not designing vessels for the Emperor of Russia and for the Emperor of Germany I will retract what I have now said.

Mr. GOSCHEN.- I beg the noble lord's pardon. I did not wish to contradict that portion of the noble lord's statement; my contradiction related to the part in which the noble lord said that Mr. Reed was in Russia on the 1st of March last.

Lord H. LENNOX.- I did not say that Mr. Reed was in Russia on the 1st of March, but he has been in Russia all the summer, and has returned only within the last few days. I had intended referring to this subject on the discussion of the Naval Estimates, but the right Hon. gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has taken care to prevent any opportunity being afforded. (Opposition cheers.)

Mr. GLADSTONE.- The noble lord forgets that he had the offer of Tuesday week and declined it. (Opposition laughter.)

Tu 8 August 1871
Lord H. LENNOX. - I am much obliged to the Prime Minister for his correction, and am equally indebted to him for the offer of an evening which belongs by right to private members, when the House resumes its sitting at 9, and on which, moreover, for the last four or five previous weeks every subject has been well counted out. (Opposition cheers.) Now, a very grave question arises with regard to the letter which appeared in the papers this morning, and I say that the conduct of the right hon. gentleman the member for Pontefract [Childers], in refusing all further communication with Mr. Reed after what the First Lord of the Admiralty calls his resignation was in the highest degree unwise and unpatriotic. (Cheers.) Mr. Reed had been designing ships of the most novel kind - of a kind not hitherto designed by naval architects. When Mr. Reed went out of office the internal fittings of these ships were appointed to be carried out, and are being carried out, by men with whom the designs never originated and who were deprived of the opportunity of communicating with Mr. Reed. The right hon. gentleman has laid great stress upon the fact that a great many of Mr. Reed's letters were regarded as private documents by that gentleman, but there is one letter from Mr. Reed, relating to his giving his successors the benefit of his ideas, which is, at all events, not private, and which I shall be glad if the right hon. gentleman will lay upon the table of the House. (Cheers.) I can fully bear out the statement of my hon. and gallant friend that it never entered into our heads to send the Megaera upon anything but a temporary service, and I have no doubt that that statement will be borne out by the recollection of my right hon. friends the members for Tyrone [Corry] and Droitwich [Packingham]. What we did was to place her at the bottom of the list, and we should never have thought of sending her on such a voyage as the one for which she has been lately employed. (Cheers.)

Mr. LIDDELL said that the right hon. gentleman had that evening made a very candid statement, and his position was one in which the House, no doubt, thoroughly sympathized. (Hear, hear.) The right hon. gentleman had said he did not wish to make out any case for the Admiralty, but he was afraid that the judgment of the House would be, after the speech to which they had that evening listened, that the right hon. gentleman had made out a very strong case against the Admiralty. ("Hear, hear" from the Opposition.) To ascertain the responsibility they must go back to the first starting of the ship, and he should be glad to learn why she was sent over a stormy ocean to Australia, on a voyage that would last nine months, when it had been declared in August, 1870, that her boilers were good for one year only. It was found that she was deep in the water, her ports leaked, her bolts drew, and she was ill stowed before she was examined by an officer of the Navy on her arrival at Queenstown. (Hear, hear.) It was, however, impossible for that officer to examine the ship's bottom. He desired to know who was responsible for sending the ship to sea in the condition in which she arrived at Queenstown. That was a question which the country had a right to ask, and the answer must be given by a searching inquiry being made into all the circumstances of the case, and he ventured to suggest that such an inquiry should be held in England. [Mr. Goschen assented.] Besides the condition of the Megaera, there was the fact that she had been at the bottom of the list of store ships and was not on the list of troop ships, which justified any hon. member in challenging the administration at the Admiralty for having ventured upon such a risk as to send this ship to sea in her known condition. With respect to Mr. Reed, his complaint was that with regard, not to the Megaera alone, but also to a number of other ships, he had not had the opportunity of communicating with those who succeeded him at the Admiralty. He knew but little of official life, yet it appeared to him to be unjust to a man who held such a responsible position that he should not, after leaving his office, be allowed to communicate with those who were responsible for the condition of Her Majesty's ships. He wished to remind the House of another circumstance. A Bill had been before the House for the regulation of the merchant navy, by the provisions of which to send to sea an unseaworthy ship was made a misdemeanour, and the opportunity was afforded to a seaman to leave his ship if it was unseaworthy, and go before a justice of the peace, who might order a survey of the ship to be made. If that was the spirit in which the Government regarded the saving of life and the prevention of accidents at sea as regarded merchant shipping, they ought not to be less careful as regarded the Royal Navy. The country would not be content without a searching inquiry being made, and he was glad that the First Lord had said he would insist upon it. (Hear, hear.)

Mr. SHAW LEFEVRE did not intend to prolong the discussion, for every fact which was known to the Admiralty had been mentioned to the House. The noble lord had, however, remarked that it was the duty of the Admiralty to have made further inquiry into the leakage of the vessel on her way from Sheerness to Queenstown, but he had assumed that the Admiralty knew that this leakage was owing to the defective state of the Megaera's plates; yet in his letter to the Admiralty the captain distinctly stated that it was due to a defect in the ports of the vessel. What had since transpired confirmed that theory, for the plates were not repaired at Queenstown. The noble lord had also said that the Admiralty instructions had not been followed in this case. There was a general order that in the event of any vessel proving unseaworthy she was to be returned to the port from which she started; but in this case the defect which was discovered at Queenstown was not one of unseaworthiness, complaint being made of the defect in her ports and of her being overloaded. Some cargo was taken out at Queenstown; her ports were repaired, and that, he contended, was all that could be expected to be done. The hon. member for Northumberland had complained of Mr. Reed not having been consulted, but Mr. Childers had said he would be glad to receive any communications that were not marked "private," The First Lord had two interviews with Mr. Reed, and would have been glad to receive any explanation; and he (Mr. Shaw-Lefevre) had two long conversations with Mr. Reed. With regard to the present condition of the Admiralty, he must remind the House that the Council of Construction was composed of three very able men, one of whom was nearly related to Mr. Reed, and in many respects as able; they were thoroughly competent, and, from the time they had been at the Admiralty with Mr. Reed, might have been expected to possess all necessary information. He need only add that an inquiry would be held, and that it had been determined that the Court-martial should be held in this country. (Hear, hear.)

Mr. CORRY would be sorry to prejudge this question, and agreed with the First Lord that it would be premature to jump at a conclusion. He knew something of the Megaera, having keen a member of the Board of Admiralty when she was ordered to be built, in 1844. She was a very good boat, but iron shipbuilding was then much less understood than at present; she had since done much service, and had been put at the bottom of the list of those ships which were employed on the store service. Knowing what he did of the ship, he never should have thought of sending her to Australia with 380 officers and seamen, and to do so was a great risk on the part of the Admiralty, there being a strong presumption that she was in an unsound state. He was informed that it was a very unusual occurrence for iron ships to spring a leak, and the hon. member for the Tower Hamlets [Samuda] had said he never heard of such a case. It was, moreover, quite clear that the Megaera did not sail in a sound state, for her ports were old and leaky, and after the report which the Board of Admiralty had received they should have taken greater precautions before ordering her to sea. The First Lord had remarked that the Captain of the Megaera had said nothing as to her unseaworthiness, but that officer doubtless presumed that the Admiralty would not send her abroad in a dangerous state. He had no reason to assume that she was unseaworthy, for all he could see was water pouring into the ports, nor could the Admiral at Queenstown have seen more or made any further report. With respect to the fitness of this vessel to go on such a voyage it was clear that, besides being defective, she was overloaded and crowded to an inconvenient extent. For this there was a grave responsibility somewhere. He did not think that sufficient precautions had been taken by the Admiralty, for as far as could be seen above water the ship was in an unsound state. Without "jumping at conclusions," he thought it would have been worth while to detain her at Devonport and re-dock her before she was sent to sea. It was absolutely necessary that a searching inquiry should be made into this matter, for he was afraid there was in existence a feeling that the way to please the Admiralty was to do things as cheaply as possible. In former days, however, they thought of efficiency as well as of economy, and they would not have risked sending such a ship on a long voyage rather than incur the expense of sending another one to Queenstown to take her place. (Hear, hear.)

Mr. SAMUDA agreed with previous speakers in thinking that all the circumstances of this matter should be known before a judgment was formed upon it; but there were some points which he wished to bring before the House. From the information that had been published there could be no doubt that the Megaera was lost in consequence of an increasing leak in her bottom, which could not be kept under by means of pumps. It must be remembered that this vessel was 22 years old, and that the action of bilge water on iron ships which were not cemented internally was very detrimental. Had this cementing process been applied to the Megaera the thinning of the plates by the bilge water would not have occurred. He did not understand whether this ship had been examined internally, and whether any worn plates had been taken out and replaced with new strong ones. He did not attach blame to the present First Lord, since his term of office precluded the idea of making him responsible in this matter, but as regarded the Admiralty the country had a right to expect that everything should be done that was necessary to maintain the efficiency of the Royal Navy, and that a ship should be in a condition to perform a voyage safely unless some untoward accident occurred. It was important to get at the facts of this case, but it was equally important for the credit of the Admiralty that the First Lord should make those facts public. It might be that the ship had given out from inherent weakness, or it might be that sufficient money had not been spent in restoring her; but whatever was the cause of the catastrophe the country had reason to be dissatisfied at the state in which this vessel was sent to sea. (Hear, hear.) It was absolutely necessary that the First Lord should place before the country a clear statement of the causes that had led to this calamitous end.

Mr. GREGORY had not been at the Admiralty, nor did he know Mr. Reed; but he wanted to express a view which he thought would be shared by the public generally, - viz., that, beyond all else, blame should be attached to Mr. Reed himself. (Hear.) In his letter he wrote in a Cassandra-like tone respecting the shortcomings of the Royal Navy, saying that the Glatton was unfit to go to sea, and the Devastation was in such a state that she would probably go to the bottom unless some important information was received from him. He admitted being aware of the condition of the Megaera before she sailed, but he did not give the least intimation of it to the Admiralty. Had he done so he would have stood in a very different position in the estimation of the public than he occupied at present. He was one of those persons who when they had a private quarrel to fight were perfectly unscrupulous as to the means they implored. ("Oh!") Why did he not give some early intimation of the condition of the ship, and why did he allow a week to ellipse after she sailed? He had brought an amount of discredit upon himself in his attempt to injure persons with whom he had quarrelled.

Sir G. JENKINSON thought the House ought to look at this matter with respect to what the country would say, and from that point of view it seemed that there was much yet to be ascertained. The First Lord of the Admiralty had admitted that some of the bolts had been drawn out of the ship, und that Mr. Reed had reported in July, 1866, that she was then fit for 18 months' or two years' service. This led one to presume that some later investigation had been made.

Mr. GOSCHEN said the ship was docked in August last, examined and reported upon.

Sir G. JENKINSON said the fact remained that five years after the ship had been reported fit for only two years service she had been sent on a voyage to Australia. The public could not be blamed if under the circumstances information was demanded. It was clear the state of the Megaera was no secret, for in the Globe of March 2 the following passage appeared:-

"We are asked to intercede with the Admiralty on behalf of 400 British sailors whose lives are in peril. Her Majesty's ship Megaera has just been commissioned at Sheerness to take out crews for the Blanche and Rosario at Sydney. An officer on board the Megaera communicates to us from Queenstown the astounding fact that the vessel is absolutely unseaworthy; that she 'leaks from the bow to the stern;' that upwards of 50 tons of water were found in the bilges on the first watch after leaving Plymouth, the men's mess deck being from 15in. to 18in. deep in water, with their bags floating about; and that the men on board the Megaera had been up twice on the quarter-deck about the ship leaking, and on Wednesday last were about to enter a third protest, this time against the vessel rounding the Cape in the middle of winter. Under these alarming conditions it is hardly surprising to hear that all on board the Megaera 'shudder at the prospect of sharing the fate of the Captain.' But another statement excites amazement, and shows at least the necessity for public investigation. 'Captain Thrupp distinctly told Admiral Codrington on Saturday night last,' writes our informant, 'that we were not ready for sea, but he said 'go we must,' as he had orders to send us off.'"

Clearly, due diligence had not bean exercised by some one in allowing the vessel to be sent to sea with a number of valuable lives onboard. The telegram in this morning's paper showed how precisely the fears expressed by the paragraph he had quoted had been realized. The Consul at Batavia telegraphed under date August 5 as follows:- "Leak reported about June 8. Kept under for several days by hand pumps. Leak increased; steam then used; water kept under. Insufficient coal to reach Australia. (Why was the coal insufficient?) Steered for St. Paul's. June 17 anchored. Survey held; diver employed; reported unsafe to proceed; hole through bottom; landed provisions; weather stormy lost three anchors. June 19 ship was run on the bar full speed and filled. Lieutenant Jones left July 16, all well; men under canvas; 80 tons cargo saved. Steamship Rinaldo left Singapore yesterday for St. Paul's, via Batavia."

As one of the taxpaying public he demanded a bona fide inquiry. Her Majesty's ship had been lost according to red tape and routine; there was blame somewhere, and the public had a right to know where. Ship after ship seemed to be going to the bottom, through nobody's fault, and this was not a kind of thing the public would allow. A full and searching inquiry must be made, and there must be no garbled reports or equivocal statements made in the course of it. (Hear, hear.)

Sir J. PAKINGTON. - No one can have heard the speech of the right hon. gentleman at the head of the Admiralty without feeling that he was fully conscious of the magnitude of the calamity with which we have been visited, and the obvious necessity for inquiry. As the right hon. gentleman entered upon his duties at the Admiralty last spring, it is clear he must have had to trust to others for information respecting the state of the Megaera; but the feeling is strong in the public mind that this transaction is discreditable to the Admiralty. (Hear, hear.) I can say for myself that this Megaera has had a bad name for a long time - that is, she was known to be a worn out ship. There can be no doubt as to the real causes of the disaster but I should like the right hon. gentleman to state the nature of the inquiry he purposes setting on foot. I doubt whether the Court-martial, which will, of course, be held, will be sufficient for the purpose, because I do not think it will go into the question of the state of the ship on leaving, as it should have been ascertained by the Admiralty. There is no question that it is discreditable to some one that this ship was allowed to leave Plymouth for Cork in the state she was then in, because it is evident she was sent away from Plymouth in the state in which those who sent her intended she should go to Australia. And it is quite clear she was not in a condition to make a voyage to Australia, because, when she arrived at Cork, 100 tons were taken out of her to make her less unfit for the voyage. Now, why were those 100 tons put into her? And who was responsible for putting them in? I wish to ask the right hon. gentleman whether this will be inquired into, as well as the immediate cause of the loss.

Mr. GLADSTONE. - The questions put to my right hon. friend do not involve so much Departmental knowledge but that I may answer them in his stead. As regards the form of the inquiry we have not had time yet to come to any conclusion on that point; the inquiries made by my right hon. friend for his own information will sufficiently account for the hours that have passed since the news reached us. We quite agree that the inquiry by Court-martial will not suffice, but I presume the right hon. gentleman will agree that the inquiry by Court-martial should precede any other investigation. Nothing, I can assure him, shall be left undone to make the supplementary inquiry as full and searching as possible into the circumstances attending this calamity, because we must bear in mind that it is by these crucial cases that we get valuable information touching the working of our system, and are able to correct it and prevent errors in the future. With respect to the question as to who is responsible for the overloading at Plymouth, although that is a fit subject for inquiry as affecting the inconvenience and suffering of those on board, I cannot agree with the right hon. member for Tyrone [Corry] that it is as serious a matter as the seaworthiness of the ship. Then, again, the statement that certain bolts had been withdrawn from the ship is calculated to raise apprehensions not justified by the facts. These bolts had nothing to do with the structure of the ship, but, as I am informed, had simply to do with the ports.

Sir J. PAKINGTON. - Overloading makes a vessel low in the water, and therefore overloading may be said to be an element of danger.

Mr. GLADSTONE. - I do not understand that that is admitted by any one connected with the matter. In the official reports the question of overloading is stated as a question of inconvenience and suffering rather than one of danger. The Megaera has been lower in the water before than she was on this occasion, and the right hon. gentleman has assumed that she was intended to perform the voyage to Australia in the same condition as she left Plymouth. That is not quite so, because, according to the shipments she received, a considerable portion of her stores were to be left at the Cape.

Sir J. PAKINGTON. - But she was to go on to Australia.

Mr. GLADSTONE. - Well, there is this point of difference between the statement made by the right hon. gentleman and the fact. Then we are asked why she had not sufficient coal. She was only deficient of coal according to the rules of the Admiralty, and in this case a sufficient quantity of coal would have exceeded the carrying capacity of the ship. The intention was that the journey should be performed partly under steam and partly under sail, and, as far as the question, of blame is concerned, I am sure it is not consistent with my right hon. friend's statement that nobody is to blame. My right hon. friend seemed rather to court than shirk inquiry, and as far as we are concerned the hon. baronet will have no cause to complain of the insufficiency of the inquiry that may be made. Now, I wish to make an addition to the statement of my right hon. friend by reading to the House a material statement from a letter by the Master Shipwright and Chief Engineer dated the 30th of July, 1860. There does not appear to be any written report by Mr. Reed as to the survey of the ship at that time, and my right hon. friend is of opinion that Mr. Reed did not make any, but simply made a statement based on this report which represents the result of Mr. Reed's examinations. I am anxious to place this before the House because an impression seems to exist that there had been a report of the thinness of the plates at the bottom of the ship, and that impression has been coupled with the statement which has come to us by telegraph that a hole had been discovered in the bottom of the ship. But we shall see by this report that the thin plates were not at the bottom of the ship, but near the water-line. The report says:-

"We beg to forward herewith a supplementary estimate for the repair of the hull and fittings chargeable to hull of the Megaera, observing that we have examined the hull and find the bottom to be in good condition, the thinnest plates being ⅜in. thick; but the plates between wind and water all round the vessel to about 20ft. from the stern, from the wall down to the first lap, about 8ft. in breadth in midships and about 5ft. in breadth forward and aft are very thin."

Sir J. PAKINGTON. - Very thin.

Mr. GLADSTONE. - But there's a difference.

Sir J. PAKINGTON. - It is just as dangerous.

Mr. GLADSTONE. - Well, that is another matter. The point is that you have got a statement that there is a leak at the bottom of the ship, and that has been connected with the thinness of the plates. It is important under these circumstances to understand where this thinness was observed, and we find it was noticed near the water-line. The report goes on to say:-

"The thicknesses of the same are forwarded herewith, and although we consider the vessel, if required, may be used for temporary service, we are of opinion she will shortly require to be doubled in the parts abovenamed."

I have nothing more to say on this matter. I quite agree that the demands made upon us, especially by the hon. member for the Tower Hamlets [Samuda] are perfectly fair. I quite agree that it is perfectly fair to inquire as to whether any undue desire for economy has led to this or any other disaster; but, at the same time, the country is in a very sad case if, after paying nine or ten millions for their navy, the transports cannot be depended on for seaworthiness, and that no reduction can be made without risking the lives of our seamen. I must, however, say a word in reply to the noble lord (Lord H. Lennox). It was very desirable that nothing should be dragged into this discussion of a controversial and, I may say, offensive nature; but the noble lord has told me that I have taken good care that the Navy Estimates should not come on. I ask the noble lord whether I am capable of such conduct as he alleges. (Hear, hear.) I pointed out to the noble lord that he had an opportunity on Tuesday week if he had wished to raise any question connected with the Navy Estimates, and the noble lord made me the double answer that the House was always counted out on Tuesdays and that Tuesdays was usually reserved for independent members. It is true the House has been counted out on two Tuesdays, on neither of which was the noble lord opposite present; but on the other six Tuesdays the House has sat until 2 o'clock; it did so on the night in question when the noble lord was not present to take part in the business of the House. (Laughter and "hear.") At the time I made the offer to the noble lord I told him distinctly that we had made arrangements by which through the kindness of certain hon. gentlemen we were able to offer him the evening, and I put it to the House whether under the circumstances the noble lord had acted either in fairness or good taste in making this charge. I regret extremely the postponement of the Navy Estimates; and if the noble lord desired to impute any cowardly feeling on our part I can assure him be has no warrant for any such imputation.

Mr. DISRAELI. - I hope the House will not be led into any discussion of detail connected with this subject. A great calamity has occurred and a full inquiry has been promised, and there, for the present, the matter should rest. I should not have risen but for the last remark of the right hon. gentleman respecting the noble lord's conduct. The right hon. gentleman seems perfectly astonished that suspicion should hare arisen at the end of the session that some difficulties have been offered to the House in the consideration of the Navy Estimates, I was of opinion that for a considerable time past hon. members generally on both sides of the House had been labouring under the impression that there was some influence at work - what influence I do not stop now to inquire - which prevented our going into Committee of Supply and considering the Navy Estimates. (Hear, hear.) I think we have heard every day deploring accents uttered respecting the mode in which the public business has been conducted, the result of which has been that the House of Commons has lost its chief privilege of controlling the public expenditure in Committee of Supply (hear, hear); and the matter of all others in which gentlemen on both sides were most interested was the consideration of the Navy Estimates. Therefore, Sir, I am quite astonished at the innocent surprise and indignation just expressed by the right hon. gentleman (" Hear, hear" and laughter), as if my noble friend was the only individual who had ventured to intimate a suspicion that some influence was used which prevented the House from giving in Committee its attention to that important branch of the public expenditure. As to the opportunity so generously and considerately offered by the right hon. gentleman to my noble friend for bringing forward a subject certainly not inferior in importance to that which has engrossed our attention this evening, I am ready to bear all the responsibility of my noble friend's refusal of that occasion. I did not think that at a few hours' notice, if my noble friend had accepted that very doubtful opportunity, under every possible disadvantage, the attention of the House could have been properly directed to so important a question as the loss of the Captain, and I maintain that the right hon. gentleman ought to have offered my noble friend such an opportunity for bringing forward that subject as would have ensured a discussion worthy of the occasion, and one that would have been satisfactory to the country. (Hear, hear.) The motion for adjournment was then withdrawn.

Tu 8 August 1871In reply to the question of Sir JOHN HAY yesterday on the loss of the Megaera, Mr. GOSCHEN did the best thing possible - he gave a full and candid account of what had occurred during his own administration. Whatever judgment may be passed on those who are responsible for sending such a ship on such a voyage - and we fear the condemnation must be severe - Mr. GOSCHEN himself will have the excuse that he was new to office, and had not yet completely turned his attention from Union workhouses to Turret-ships and Transports, before it entered into the heads of his subordinates to employ the Megaera in carrying men to the Antipodes. It is an ungrateful task to charge disasters upon official people; to assert that they are not accidental, but may be traced to the negligence of those whom the QUEEN employs and the nation is bound to trust; moreover, in the present case we are bound to recollect that we are not yet informed with certainty of the causes which brought the Megaera to a sinking state in mid-ocean. But enough has transpired to show that from undue economy, or negligence, or simple stupidity, a vessel was sent to sea under conditions which filled people at the time with apprehension, that the warnings given to the Admiralty were disregarded, and that there is good reason for supposing the disaster to be the direct and almost necessary consequence of the state of the ship.

The Megaera was an iron vessel, built in 1844. Certain things are stated concerning her, and are not denied. Mr. CORRY distinctly asserts that she had seen her best days; she had done much service, and had been placed at the bottom of the list of those ships which were employed on the home service. She was, therefore, evidently considered by the late Admiralty unfit to carry a full complement of passengers on the longest voyage which it is possible to make on the surface of the globe. "Knowing what I did of the ship," says Mr. CORRY, "I should never have thought of sending her to Australia with 380 officers and seamen, and to do so was a great risk on the part of the Admiralty, there being a strong presumption that she was in an unsound state." Such is the testimony of an ex-First Lord, a political opponent of the present Government, it is true, but not likely to be inaccurate on such a subject, and speaking of matters within his own knowledge. We believe it will also be found on inquiry among some who have had the ill-fortune to sail in her that the Megaera is an old offender, and had years ago properly earned her degradation to the bottom of the list of store ships by perpetual breaks down when employed in the transport of troops. Well, this rickety old steamer, constructed 27 years ago, in the infancy of iron ship-building, was chosen in the early part of the present year to convey 380 officers and seamen to Australia. Whether the Admiralty had direct and positive evidence of the vessel's unseaworthiness, as Mr. REED says they had, we put aside for the moment, and consider the facts as they are admitted by Mr. GOSCHEN. When the news of her loss arrived we recalled the attention of our readers to the circumstances that the proceedings of the Admiralty were questioned at the time. On the 6th of March Mr. KAVANAGH asked whether the ship was not overloaded, both with men and cargo, and, moreover, in an unseaworthy condition - leaking from stem to stern. Mr. BAXTER, in the absence of Mr. GOSCHEN, declared that there was not a word of truth in the statement implied in this question, and that, as to the overcrowding, she had now less than 400 men on board, whereas she had on a former occasion, taken to the Cape 22 officers, 425 men, 24 women, and 56 children, besides her own crew. He also made some explanations respecting the quantity of cargo that had been put on board. Orders had been given to take out 100 tons of it in order to give the men more space. Now, we must, in justice, refer those who take an interest in the safety of our men and the credit of the service to Mr. GOSCHEN's speech of yesterday. There they will find made up from official reports the veritable history of a ship sent on a long voyage and crammed full of officers and men by the British Admiralty. The Megaera sailed from Sheerness, and before she got to Plymouth, her troubles began. The captain, the officers, and men on board united in complaint. The latter, be it remembered, were not soldiers, but naval officers and seamen, who could perfectly appreciate the unfitness of the vessel for the voyage. The first "serious remonstrance" which reached the Admiralty was in the shape of a letter from the captain of the Megaera. from Queenstown. It was found that the ports on the main deck leaked, and that the officers and men suffered, as Mr GOSCHEN mildly puts it, "some discomfort." The captain was a little more forcible in expression. "The wind," he wrote, "has been contrary and the weather bad; during the whole of which time the main deck has had water washing from side to side, wetting the men's bags, clothes, &c. The officers' cabins have bee literally afloat the whole time, although the watch have been constantly employed to bale the water up," The main deck ports, "being warped and old, would not keep the water out, some of the bolts drawing out when screwing them up." The captain also wrote to the Commander-in-Chief at Queenstown concerning "the extreme discomfort of the ship in consequence of every available space being taken up for cargo, bringing the ship considerably deeper in the water than she ever was before, and rendering her very wet." The Commander-in-Chief himself reports that he has been on board and found officers and men in great discomfort owing to the crowded state of the decks and the quantity of water which had found its way to the main deck; the ship was very deep in the water; it would be difficult to keep the ship's ports tight in a sea-way, and it would be a great advantage to find space on deck for the stowing of the men's bags; and so forth. The naval officers who were passengers also remonstrated, asserting that the Megaera was too heavily laden and too crowded to encounter successfully such weather as might reasonably be expected in making the voyage to Australia. The vessel was not only dangerous, but unhealthy. "In consequence of the ship's deep draught (17 ft.) the ports at sea are generally barred in the mess place, which has but one small ventilator."

Such was the vessel in which nearly 400 Englishmen were despatched on a voyage to the other side of the globe to brave the heats of the tropics and the storms of the Southern Ocean. Mr. GOSCHEN's defence is that no complaint was made of the essential unseaworthness of the vessel. Neither captain nor officers said anything about leaking or wornout plates; it was the ports only which were said to leak, and these were patched up before the Megaera proceeded on her voyage. The Admiralty, it is urged, had no reason to suppose that anything else was unsound. Yet we cannot conceal from ourselves that the facts thus admitted suggest the suspicion that the real state of the vessel was never inquired into at all. When we have a ship sent to sea so overloaded and in a condition so dangerous that the officers and seamen on board remonstrate, and when we afterwards hear that this same ship was found to be in a sinking state in mid-ocean, we cannot but connect the two events. Why was the Megaera, which had been put at the bottom of the list of store ships, despatched on such a voyage? That is at question to which the Admiralty ought to give some better answer than we have yet heard. Into the controversy between the Admiralty and Mr. REED we do not now desire to enter. Mr. REED says he made a report to Mr. CHILDERS that the plates of the Megaera were dangerously thin. Mr. GOSCHEN says not a trace of this report can be found at the Admiralty, and suggests that if Mr. REED communicated his information it was to a member of the House of Commons. The statement of Mr. REED is, however, substantially corroborated by Lord HENRY LENNOX, who says that the report was made in July or August, 1866, when the change of Government was in progress. After having seen and studied that report of Mr. REED, and also the report from Woolwich, to the effect that the ship might be made seaworthy for 18 months or two years, the Admiralty under that Government placed the ship at the bottom of the list of troopships; and, though the pressure to provide ships was very great during the Abyssinian war, the Megaera was never commissioned, because she was not deemed seaworthy. Yet after all this we find the same vessel crammed with men and cargo and despatched on a voyage of many months!
Tu 8 August 1871


The Cork Advertiser of the 3d of March, 1871, contained the following article on the Megaera:-

"It would be worth while on the part of some independent member to move for an inquiry as to the circumstances under which Her Majesty's ship Megaera was recently sent to sea. During the first ten days of February she took on board a number of men and officers to relieve the crews of the Blanche and the Rosario on the Australian station - in all 349 souls. Through want of accommodation the gunroom and ward-room messes were amalgamated, making a total of 33 officers. The manner in which these gentlemen were treated seems almost incredible. For more than a week after they went on board they were without the common necessaries of life. There was not a chair, or a cup, or saucer, or table-cloth in the vessel! On the 16th the 'mess traps' arrived, when it was discovered that the table would accommodate but 22 out of the 33. When mess time arrived there was a general rush to the cabin. Those first down got seats, those behind had to wait until the others were served. In place of having each a sleeping cabin to himself they were huddled by twos and threes into small pigeon-holes. When they arrived at Plymouth they applied lo have temporary cabins built. The Admiral apparently approved this moderate demand, for he gave orders that they might draw stores and have the cabins built by the ship's carpenters. An hour afterwards, however, he hoisted the signal to 'part company' though the captain had just told him that the stores had not yet been drawn. ' Up anchor' and away, with the upper deck still strewn by all sorts of mess stores which there had been no time to bring below. They left Plymouth on Saturday, and on Sunday encountered a stiff breeze of wind, which quickly brought out all the bad qualities of the old craft. The ports all gave way, and during her passage the maindeck was flooded ten inches deep - this being the deck where the men slept and had their food. Their clothes, &c., were all thoroughly soaked with water, and the officers' cabins were flooded the whole time, although baling was constantly kept up. They were consequently obliged to put into Queenstown to remedy defects. Both officers and men, we are informed, protest against being sent to sea in the Megaera in her present condition, where no attention has been paid to the comfort or the necessaries of her numerous passengers; and when, apparently, even the safety of the vessel has not been secured! They have also applied to have 150 tons of her cargo taken out of her, as they assert that she is too deeply laden for safety. Surely, it would have been thought that the loss of the Captain would not have been so speedily forgotten that nearly 500 men should be bent to sea in an old store ship, and totally unprovided with proper accommodation. The Urgent and the Tamar are lying idle, but they would be too expensive, so officers and men are sent out in a small and ill-found craft, and are sent all round by long sea to save the expense of sending a few tons of stores to the Cape! Quousque tandem? [Quousque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra (How long, o Catiline, will you abuse our patience?); from Marcus Tullius Cicero's first speech against the plot of Lucius Sergius Catilina and his friends to overthrow the Roman government in 63 BC]"
Tu 8 August 1871



Sir, - As the letters of your correspondents of last Saturday leave an impression that the island on which the Megaera is reported to be stranded is uninhabited, and that in consequence the crew will be put to considerable inconvenience for their subsistence, perhaps the following extract from the Nautical Magazine, and republished for the information of the passengers of Messrs. Smith's ship Marlborough when within a few miles of St. Paul's, may prove interesting:-

"But the absence of any natural production at this island for the use of man excepting fish, and the conviction that there should be no reliance on the periodical visits of a single vessel from the isle of Bourbon, has induced the few residents on the island to terrace up every lodgment of soil on the slopes of the crater. In the midst of the rocky crags of the island their little terrace gardens are refreshing to the eye, and gratifying proofs of the ingenuity of man in turning to the best account he can even the most niggardly of nature's gifts. The produce more than compensates the toil, affording even a surplus to exchange with passing ships for groceries, &c. Each of these garden plots consists of about 50 square yards; they are terraced up by ponderous blocks of lava, and they require a flight of steps to be formed, perhaps winding abruptly among the rocks for hundreds of feet, to admit of communication round their almost vertical sides, or from a boat below them in the basin. I found evidence of the genial soil and climate regarding our English vegetables. Peas, cabbages, carrots, turnips, potatoes, and artichokes were in perfection, and the wheat was in full ear, but there is no indigenous vegetable except wild celery and rank grass. Nor are there any animals on the island except those imported, which run wild and are shot or snared at pleasure. These consist of sheep, goats, pigs, cats and mice - the latter in winter and the young whale birds in summer afford food for the cats. The oxen, together with pigs, fowls, and rabbits, are kept at the little settlement. This, with its homestead, occupies a very convenient position close to the entrance of the basin on the right hand. The shore adjacent to it is perfectly sheltered from surf or undulation, and therefore some light stone jetties for landing stand from year to year without dilapidation. It is at these jetties that the boats discharge their catch of fish into the salting sheds, and where the schooner which belongs to the fishing party (only drawing eight feet of water) discharges her salt, goes to fish awhile at Amsterdam Island, and loads with the cured fish for Bourbon.

"The person representing the proprietary of the fishing establishment is an intelligent French mariner, Fred. Poure, of Bourbon, where his employer, Marie Heurtevent, resides, who gave to a Polish merchant $6,000 about five years ago for the fishing establishment. Poure was provided with three men, and has sustained his lone position for six years by attending to the cultivation of live stock when too boisterous to collect fish, and by resorting to his ample library when the heavy fogs preclude stirring abroad."

Speaking of the water supply, the writer says of the natural hot water:-

"These waters, when cold, are drinkable, and, indeed, the residents use them when rain-water becomes stale. The climate has proved remarkably healthy to Europeans. The two great drawbacks to more than a few settling on the island are the total absence of fuel and fresh water."

I remain, your obedient servant,
W.E. MONTAGUE, Captain 94th Regiment.
Staff College, Aug. 5.
Tu 8 August 1871



Sir, - I beg leave to request the prompt insertion, if convenient, of the following remarks upon the discussion in Parliament this evening. I was not present, but I have before me what I believe to be an authentic report, and I will reply in the briefest terms possible to the remarks of Mr. Goschen, in the order in which I there find them. The first passage which I will notice is this:-

"Anyone who read the letter of Mr. Reed published in The Times newspaper would hive gathered from the mode in which allusion was made to his report that that report was made before the Megaera was despatched. It was not, indeed, absolutely so stated, but it was inferred, arid I think Mr. Reed believed in his own mind when, he wrote that letter that such must have been the case, or he would not have made use of the expressions which occurred in it."

What all this means I do not in the least understand, as my survey and report were made several years ago, and that fact I most distinctly stated. Mr. Goschen goes on to say that, "Mr. Reed, when the Megaera sailed, had a knowledge of a certain fact, and the Admiralty and myself had not that knowledge. It was not brought to our notice till after the departure of the ship." This, Sir, is most true, and it forms the very ground of my gravest complaint. The Admiralty ought to have known all that I knew, and they would have known it if they not precluded me from communicating with my successors. From the moment of leaving office I took every means, even those which were personally humiliating, rather than deprive the Admiralty at one stroke of the accumulated knowledge and experience that I had acquired in office. But I was repelled, affronted, and silenced. When the Megaera put into Cork, and I noticed the questions asked in Parliament respecting her, I took it for granted that the Admiralty would make quite sure of the safety of the ship before sending her on so long a voyage. The moment I discovered the spirit in which the subject was being dealt with, and noted the scornful confidence of the Government, I did the only thing open to me, by writing to Mr. Walpole - suggesting that if he mentioned my report in the House it might possibly meet with some attention. I believe Mr. Walpole lost no time in doing this, but in the meantime the ship had been sent off, and no farther action was taken by Mr. Goschen. I regretted having written to Mr. Walpole when I read the offensive answer he had received - to the effect (most sound and true, though stated with sarcasm) that some people knew more about Admiralty business than the Admiralty themselves knew. I questioned at the time whether such a taunt, coming from so very inexperienced a Minister, was in the best taste; the event has proved that it was in the worst.

Next Mr. Goschen says, "Mr. Reed states that my right hon. friend the member for Pontefract [Childers] was in office at the time," i.e., the time of my report on the ship. I am not aware that I have stated this. I do not recollect, nor have I, I believe, assigned any date to the report. I am pretty certain, however, that it was prior to Mr. Childers' term of office. In answering me I hope Mr. Goschen will answer what he is quite sure that I have said.

Further, Mr. Goschen says:- "My surprise was naturally great when, for the first time, I received, from a published letter of Mr. Reed's, an indication that the plates were so thin as to endanger the vessel's safety. That was the first time this circumstance had been brought to my knowledge."

Here, again, I do not know what is meant, or can be meant, unless I wrote in March a published letter which has passed out of my mind. My first published letter on the subject appeared, as I thought, on Saturday last, whereas Mr. Walpole's question made reference four or five months ago to the thinness of the plates, and that question Mr. Goschen has evidently not forgotten, nor is he likely to forget it. How, then, can he have learnt first of the thinness of the plates from my letter of last Saturday?

I have already stated why and how I acted when the Megaera put into Cork; it is unnecessary for me, therefore, to explain why I did not write to subordinate officers of the Admiralty and tell them what to do in order to find out the state of the ship. But I had another reason, and that reason was, that it appears to me entirely out of the question for me to attempt to do furtively and irregularly what I have been deliberately and repeatedly debarred from doing openly and officially. And this brings me to Mr. Goschen's most extraordinary suggestion, that Mr. Childers would not allow me to transfer my duties to my successor because I wished to do so through private communications. It is quite true that I did offer in a private letter to Mr. Childers to do whatever I could to set these matter straight; but this occurred months after I left office, and, if I remember rightly, after the loss of the Captain; and, so far was this from being my only attempt to obtain authority to transfer my work, it was my last and despairing effort, and I am ashamed to say only resulted in a childish correspondence respecting whether I would make the letter an official one or not. I believe I have the correspondence in the country, and I have written for it; as Mr. Childers wished it to be made official there will probably be no harm in making it public. I am quite sure it will show what pains and humiliations I went to in order to secure as far as possible the safe completion of Her Majesty's ships. But I cannot allow it to be supposed that this private correspondence is what I refer to when I speak of having been debarred from conferring officially with my successors. I challenge Mr. Goschen to contradict me when I say that I received an official letter telling me, as the result of my efforts and the Controller's to bring this about, that no further information was required of me; and I believe that this letter was signed by Mr. Lushington - a gentleman who now appears to have written a memorial ignoring the official character of my action in this matter, and accuses me of being "somewhat angry." Angry, Sir! It was not anger, it was shame and pain that he must have observed in me, to find a man in the high station of a First Lord of the Admiralty compromising and sacrificing the interests of the naval service to personal pique and childish resentment. Mr Lushington writes from memory as I do; but he has evidently forgotten the very substance and essence of my visit. Fortunately, however, he remembers and has stated one incident - viz., that he was instructed by his chief to tell me that what I might have to say could not be listened to. As to any official letter receiving attention, the very object of my visit was to soften the harshness or their official letters. I will only add on this point that I most certainly did speak to Mr. Lushington of the perils of the course taken by Mr. Childers; I wrote of them to Sir Sydney Dacres, and there is in the hands of Mr. Goschen, in all probability, that very strong official "submission" of the Controller to which I referred this morning, but to which Mr. Goschen makes no reference. My strong assertions on this momentous subject are susceptible of official documentary proof.

But let the world judge of the past by the present. What does Mr. Goschen now say in justification of his own action? Why, his answer is that if I were dead they would be compelled to complete my ships without reference to me, and he leaves it to be inferred that it cannot, therefore, have been wrong to have done and to do so during my lifetime. I have no desire to contest such a position. If a statesman is not ashamed to take it up, I am ashamed to drive him from it. If Parliament, if the country, if the Navy are satisfied, I may as well be. All I wish to ask is that, being held as dead, I may not, nevertheless. be continually held responsible for the losses of Her Majesty' ships. I had been dead officially three months when the Captain was lost, yet they contrived to blame me for it. I have been out of office 13 mouths, yet I am censured by Mr. Goschen as the one man who ought to have saved the Megaera. I appeal to the common sense of your readers, and ask if this is fair.

The worst part of Mr. Goschen's speech is his accusation that I have "charged them with every conceivable negligence in connexion with this ship." That is precisely what I have not done. I expressly stated in my last letter that I did not complain of their overlooking, or not knowing of, the state of the Megaera in the first instance, and I have been most careful to limit my charges respecting her to one or two points. Mr. Goschen states that my name is attached to some estimates for the vessel even more than two years after the date of my surrey. That may well be so, for while the ship was kept on the duties which she then performed it was absolutely necessary for small defects to be made good. It is precisely because I bore such considerations as this in mind that I stated in my last letter that I did not complain of the Admiralty on any such grounds. Other people may feel at liberty to do so: I do not; and Mr. Goschen should remember that. The utmost allowance should be made for oversights in so large, so various, and so exacting a service as the Navy.

Mr. Lefevre is mistaken in saying that I have had two long interviews with Mr. Goschen. I have had but one, and that was due to quite another reason. It is impossible for me to go on seeking to thrust my ad vice on the Admiralty, and I shall not attempt to do so. I have never received the slightest intimation of their desire that I should; they consider me dead, and no doubt heartily wish I were buried.

But it is high time to end the personal part of this controversy. I had what I held and hold to be a solemn duty to perform, and I have done it. Either others must now act, or the Navy must go on as it is going. But this I must add - and I add it in no Cassandra-like spirit - that there are other serious questions touching the safety of some of the most important of Her Majesty's ships to which I long ago called the attention of the Admiralty (because of their overwhelming interest), and the Admiralty have satisfied themselves that all is safe. They have not been courteous enough to send me the results of their inquiries, and my apprehensions remain. If my fears should ever prove true, the tragedy will surpass even that of the Captain, and Mr. Goschen will no doubt tell us, truly enough, that he could not have foreseen it, but accepts the responsibility. Such is the way the great stakes of life and death are played with in the naval administration of the present day. But what can I do? What can the Navy do?

I should leave unnoticed Mr. Gregory's speech were it not for its errors. He says that I have stated that the Glatton is unfit to go to sea, and that the Devastation will probably go to the bottom. I have said nothing of the kind. They may be perfectly safe; but then they may not be, and what I say is that one important means of assuring their safety has been wilfully neglected, and for that reason officers and men should not be ordered at present to embark in them. May I ask Mr. Gregory if he considers it just to accuse me in the same breath of unscrupulously promoting a private quarrel because I point out the possible danger of some vessels, and of being blamable beyond all others because I did not more speedily or more loudly proclaim the possible danger of another? Again. I ask what am I to do? If I give warnings I am unscrupulous; if I do not, something worse. I venture to suggest to Mr. Gregory that his harsh language in the defence of culpable Ministers could hardly have been well received from a person who is about to take up a valuable appointment with which those Ministers have just presented him. The taste of Parliament is somewhat delicate.

Finally, permit me to remind you that the long string of personal recriminations directed against me in Parliament this evening would not, even if they were just, in the least affect the great public question. I may be neglectful, unscrupulous, unjust, without the world caring very much about it. The great point is that the Admiralty are losing ship after ship, and will, in my belief, go on doing so if some great change is not made. What we require and what the Navy requires is some better assurance of safety. That must be secured. Until that is secured, Mr. Goschen may scold, and Mr. Gregory rage, but there will be no end to the agitation that has now began. The Ministry itself will go first. All the Army Bills, and Ballot Bills, and Royal Warrants in the world will not save an Administration which goes on risking, and shipwrecking, and drowning our seamen from preventable causes.

I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant,
Aug. 7.
We 9 August 1871



Sir - The telegram from Java announcing the loss of the Megaera on the Island of St. Paul in consequence of the vessel's unseaworthy state calls to my mind an occurrence which happened 11 years ago in connexion with a merchant troopship in the vicinity of the same Island, an occurrence which I believe now finds public record for the first time.

In the summer of 1860 the ship Coldstream sailed from Queenstown. bound for Madras. She had on board draughts for two regiments, the 18th and the 69th, numbering together about 200 men. The cargo was supposed to be what is called a "general" one, but in reality the vessel carried 500 tons of railroad iron, a freight prohibited by regulation when troops are on board as calculated to endanger the safety of the ship. By what process the vessel was enabled to pass her Government inspection I will not attempt to state; it is only of the result that I would speak. For a time all went well. Trade winds and tropical seas are not trying tests of the seaworthiness of a ship, but other waves and winds were in store for us. Having rounded the Cape of Good Hope, the Coldstream entered that great Southern Ocean, the waters of which are almost incessantly lashed by tempests. Then the dead weight of our railroad iron began to tell. Somewhere between the Cape and the Island of St. Paul a dangerous leak appeared. It was useless to attempt a search for it because of the 500 tons of iron rails that lay between us and it; there was nothing for it but to pump, and pump we did. Day and night the men worked at the single, rough, old-fashioned pump, with the unpleasant consciousness that a cessation from their work of six-and-thirty hours' duration would send us to the bottom. After 20 days of tempestuous weather we sighted. the Island of St. Paul, which, with the Island of Amsterdam alone breaks the waste of the 5,000 miles of water between the Cape of Good Hope and West Australia. Here the weather became moderate and the ship leaked less, so we steered for the north, and passing through tranquil waters reached India in November. Of course the usual number of inspections had been held upon the ship, and the usual number of certificates and declarations made and sent in, and of course it was nobody's fault, just as every occurrence of the kind never is anybody's fault, and never will be anybody's fault. Now and then a ship goes down at sea, and names like the Megaera or the Captain become for a time household words, but the doctrine of "chancing it" still holds good, and will hold good until the "chancer" is held responsible just as far as his life or liberty and no farther.

Your obedient servant,
Golden, Ireland, Aug. 6.


Sir, - On my voyage out in the Sarah transport with a detachment of my regiment in the year 1829, as a guard over 200 convicts, we lay for a couple of days off the Island of St. Paul, which is about midway between the Cape of Good Hope and Bass's Strait. We discovered the island, on which were a large number of pigs and no want of means for subsistence. There were also numbers of eggs from the numerous birds that frequented the place, and when the tide ebbed we cooked the provisions we had taken with us from the ship in the hot spring well, and from the high temperature of the water it took but a short time to do so. When the tide flows the spring becomes covered. We discovered on the island two Americans who had been wrecked. Five others of the crew had gone on to Amsterdam Island, another island a short distance off, but neither of which is visible from the other. These people at first caused us alarm, so we approached the island with great caution, having our muskets loaded. By signs and conversation we discovered they were friendly towards us, and so took them on board, accompanied by a very fine black Newfoundland dog, and conveyed them to Sydney, Australia. These men had been so long on the island that they had worn out their clothing, and were dressed in hat, coat, and trousers made by them from the skins of the pigs they had eaten. As this information may afford pleasure to the friends of those on board the man-of-war now wrecked I give it with pleasure.

Yours obediently,

THE ISLAND OF ST. PAUL. - The January number, 1866, of the Mercantile Marine Magazine contains an interesting account of St. Paul's Island. We understand that the few residents who were once on the island left long ago.
We 9 August 1871



Sir,- I have obtained from the country the letters to which I referred in my communication published in The Times of to-day, and I earnestly request you - much as I regret the necessity of trespassing so frequently upon your kindness - to give them a place in your columns, and thus let the world judge between me and those members of the Government who last evening did not disdain to meet my statements with unmerited contradictions and ungenerous accusations. Mr. Goschen and his subordinate, Mr. Lushington, attempted to make it appear that there had been no official offers on my part to transfer my duty, and therefore no official refusals. Here is an official letter flatly rebutting the insinuation:-


"Admiralty, July 28, 1870.
"Sir,- With reference to your letter of the 1st inst., I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to acquaint you that they will not require any further information or assistance from you in regard to works under the Constructor's Department of the Admiralty which are now in progress.
"The Accountant-General has been directed to pay you your salary up to the 1st of August next.
"I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
"E.J. Reed, Esq., C.B., &c."

I hope members of Parliament and others will appreciate this gracious and generous production, remembering that it was the last attention of the Admiralty of England to the reconstructor of the Navy of England on his retirement from office, and was in response to his ardent desire to serve his country by guarding its Navy against possible dangers from that retirement.

Three months elapsed, during which the Captain capsized, and then, and only then, it was that I made my last effort, by addressing a private letter to Mr. Childers. As Mr. Childers himself desired me to make it public, I feel at liberty to do so, and here it is: let Mr. Goschen say if it is hostile; let Mr. Gregory declare if it is unscrupulous:-

"MR. REED TO MR. CHILDERS. - (Letter marked private.)

"Cringle-brook-house, Levenshulme, Manchester, Oct., 1870.
"Dear Sir, - Seeing by the papers that you have returned to the Admiralty - in improved health, as I am much pleased to see, if you will allow me to say to - I hasten to say how much obliged I shall be if you will kindly favour me with a line at your early convenience. Since the late deplorable loss of the Captain I have felt even more keenly than before what risks to the public service are involved in the course taken at the time of my resignation by the sudden and total withdrawal of all the ironclad and other ships then building, in all their various stages and their many novel features, from the charge of their designer. I did at the time all I could do to prevent this, and I believe official steps were also taken by the Controller [Robert Spenser Robinson], but without effect. I feel perfectly sure that if you could realize the many causes I had, and have, for apprehension in this matter you would feel with me how serious the subject is. At any rate, I feel absolutely bound in justice, both to myself and to the country, to take some step which shall publicly relieve me of the terrible responsibility for such a state of things.
"I also feel under great embarrassment with reference to the subject which I had briefly to hint at in self-defence at the Court-Martial - viz., the transactions which took place at the end of last year with reference to your desire to employ Captain Coles at the Admiralty.
"It will be obvious to you that the course which I take on these and similar questions must be and ought to be influenced by your views and feelings. At some risk of misconception, therefore, I venture to trouble you with this private note, and to assure you that I am most sincerely desirous of avoiding to the utmost possible extent public and unfriendly agitation, and I shall be but too pleased if you see fit to accept this note in the spirit in which I write it, and to accept also of such co-operation as I may be able, in my present position to afford you in keeping things right and in preserving the public service from injury.
"If from any cause you should consider it unadvisable to do so, I shall not feel personally hurt by your returning this note, however much I may regret it.
"I am, dear Sir, yours very truly,
"To the Right Hon. H.C.E. Childers, M.P."

Now, Sir, for the reply of Mr. Childers to this approach of mine:-


"Admiralty, Whitehall, Oct. 13.
"Sir,- Mr. Childers received a note from you marked 'Private.'
"He desires me to say in reply that, while ever anxious to treat with courtesy those who may address him, he is unable to carry on a private correspondence with you on a matter of so essentially a public character as the proposal contained in your note.
"If, however, the word 'Private' is omitted, your note or any other communication from you will receive full consideration.
"I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
"E.J. Reed, Esq., C.B."

My reply to this was as follows:-


"Cringle-brook-house, Burnage, Manchester, Oct. 14.
"Sir, - I thank you for your favour of the 13th.
"I do not think it would be right for my letter of the 12th to be made a public document, because its only object was to express privately to Mr. Childers my view of the existing state of things, and to offer any service that I could conveniently render.
"I have no object of my own to serve beyond protecting myself from undue responsibility, and that I have no doubt I shall succeed in.
"I regret that my effort to be of use to Mr. Childers and the service has failed, but I do not regret having made it.
"Yours very truly,
"E.J. REED."

I will not trespass upon your space, Sir, by seeking to add to this correspondence, which ended there. My hand is weak, I well know, against a Government, but if you consider this question of sufficient magnitude and public interest to induce you to insert these letters, I shall be content to let the world judge if I have been generously or wisely dealt with, and judge also whether I am to be blamed for the wreck of the Megaera, or if I ought to be blamed hereafter should the Glatton founder or the Minotaur break in two.

I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant,
Aug. 8.
We 23 August 1871



Sir, - Having with very few exceptions attended the sittings of the House of Commons daily from the period of its meeting till the last day of July, I was compelled to absent myself for the remaining portion of the Session. I left London a few days before the news of the Megaera's disaster was known, and I now ask your kindness to permit me to make a few observations on that melancholy subject.

In the early part of the year she was selected to carry out 33 officers and 320 men, being the officers and crews of two sloops, which by the present practice were to be relieved on the Australian station, instead of being brought home for that purpose.

There were two routes by which this service could be performed - the direct and safe course (seeing the ship only drew 17ft.) being by the Suez Canal; when she would have availed herself of the south-east trade after crossing the Line, and would certainly have carried fine weather as far as the supposed position of the Tryal Rocks, if not the whole way to Cape Leewin.

The alternative route by the Cape of Good Hope would oblige the ship to run down 9,000 miles of easting in high Southern latitudes in the depth of winter, heavy gales of wind, accompanied by great seas, rain, and sleet, being the normal condition of the weather.

The distance by the former route is, in round numbers, say, 10,000 miles; by the latter not less than 15,000. Why was the longest and more stormy passage selected?

Sir John Hay said it was from motives of economy. This Mr. Goschen indignantly denied; but Mr. Gladstone, who came to the aid of his lieutenant, told the House that "a considerable portion of her stores were to be left at the Cape." Was it for the saving of freight on some 120 tons of stores to the Cape that this old ship was sent 5,000 miles out of her way at the risk of the comfort and convenience, if not the lives of 400 souls? If it was not economy, it was absurdity.

I have rounded the Cape of Good Hope nine times in the dead of winter, and I have no hesitation in saying that the authority which drove that ship to sea in the face of her condition as she arrived at Cork, in the face of Captain Thrupp's report, the reports of the medical officers, and the unwillingness of the officers and crew to proceed in her incurred a most fearful responsibility, knowing, as the authorities ought to have known, the weather she would certainly encounter in running down her easting.

Now let us see what was the condition of the Megaera. She was built in 1846, before the construction of iron ships was so well understood as it is at present. It is not denied that as long ago as 1866 she was placed at the bottom of the list of store, not troop ships, and was reported to be fit for only 18 months or two years' service if "repaired." Mr. Goschen, quoting from a report, said, "She may remain fit for service 18 months or two years longer when repaired." It does not appear that she was ever thoroughly repaired, nor does it appear that she was bored and the actual thickness of her plates ascertained before she was sent on this disastrous voyage. But Mr. Gladstone produced a report, dated the 30th of July, 1866, which stated that the thinnest plates in the Megaera's bottom were three-eighths of an inch. "But the plates between wind and water, all round the vessel, to about 20 feet from the stern, from the wall down to the first lap, about eight feet in breadth in midships, and about five feet in breadth forward and aft, are very thin." Let any of your readers take a foot rule and lay off three-eighths of an inch on his thumb nail, and he will see the thickness of some of the Megaera's bottom plates in 1866. Mr. Gladstone seemed to think he had made a point when he showed that her bottom, was not the worst of her.

Well, this old ship was selected for service, and early this year she left Chatham with her cargo ill stowed, and arrived at Plymouth in a miserable state. Instead of ordering her to be unstowed, her cargo re-stowed, and a critical examination instituted into her fitness to perform the duty which was to devolve upon her, she was sent to sea at a stormy season of the year, with her decks lumbered and her berths overcrowded.

She next makes her appearance at Cork with her outer bobstay gone, her ports leaking, her water-way seams open, her decks flooded, and her passengers' effects and bedding soaked with water.

The Admiral reports the condition of "both officers and men as being one of great discomfort." Mr. Goschen says that the first serious remonstrance which reached the Admiralty was from the captain of the Megaera, dated February 28; and he said, "this was after the journey (by the way, the Premier uses the same expression, which is novel) from Plymouth to Queenstown, when it had been found that the ports on the main deck leaked, and the officers and men suffered some discomfort." Let Captain Thrupp speak for himself. He says, "Since the wind has been contrary and the weather bad, during the whole of which time (three days) the main deck has had water-washing from side to side, wetting men's bags, clothes, &c., the officers' cabins have been literally afloat the whole time, although the watch have been constantly employed to bale the water up. The main deck ports were lined with fear-nought and well greased, but from being warped and old would not keep the water out, some of the bolts drawing out when screwing them up. On Monday the outer bobstay carried away, and having secured the foremast we bore up for this anchorage." This is the condition the First Lord describes as one of "some discomfort." I should term it one of considerable danger, and, seeing what the ship had before her, one for the gravest anxiety.

The fact is, the circumstances disclosed in Captain Thrupp's letter accurately described a worn-out ship.

I have always understood that when a ship's ports began to leak, it was a premonitory symptom of weakness. It does not appear that the leakage was confined to any special ports; the whole seem to have been in fault. Then the water-ways were open, for the flag captain recommends they should be caulked "if fine weather could be had for the operation." All the circumstances could lead to no conclusion but that the ship was working, and when an iron ship begins to work she does not last long. In my opinion the leakage of the ports was the effect and not the cause of the ship's condition.

Questions were asked in the House of Commons, and most flippant answers returned, though subsequent events show what good ground for inquiry there was, and how correct both Mr. Kavanagh and Mr. Walpole were in their queries and statements.

Nevertheless, the ship was sent to sea, and we next hear of her stranded in a sinking state on a desolate island in the Southern Ocean.

St. Paul, the island upon which they were providentially cast, is not easy to find, and Captain Thrupp deserves great credit not only for finding it, but for saving his crew and passengers and 80 tons of provisions. The First Lord "does not anticipate that any suffering will arise." I am afraid after what he said of the "journey" to Cork he is not a very good judge of suffering. I believe the officers and crew of the Megaera will make the best of the resources at their command, but to tell the House of Commons "that no suffering is to be anticipated," under the circumstances, is somewhat remarkable. The Island of St. Paul lies in about 40 S., and it is well known that the winter climate of the Southern Ocean is very much colder than the North Atlantic; there seems to be no apprehension on the score of provisions; the difficulty will be fuel and shelter at that wet and stormy period of the year. Fortunately, the anchorage is on the eastern and lee side of the island, otherwise not a man. would have been saved to tell the tale. The foregoing sketch of the adventures of the Megaera forms but a sequel to the previous disasters of Mr. Gladstone's naval administration.

In about 13 months three ships have been lost by default of the Admiralty, - the Slaney, the Captain, and the Megaera. The first was driven ashore and wrecked on the Paracels in the China Sea, from sheer weakness of steam power; the second I will not here allude to - we have not done with her; the third is another perfect specimen of the result of Mr. Childers' reformed administration of naval affairs, and it is a remarkable feature in the discussion, that the late Secretary to the Admiralty did not appear to explain the reasons why the Megaera was selected for the service she was sent on; Mr. Goschen alone can tell why she was not recalled from Ireland when she showed so plainly her unfitness for the work.

We are promised an inquiry when the crew of the Megaera are rescued from their present situation; it is a matter of course that such an inquiry should be made, but who is to inquire into the shortcomings of the Government? That will be the duty of another tribunal, and will not form a pleasant introduction to the Session of 1872.

I believe the loss of the last two ships, at all events, is due to gross mismanagement and to the confusion which has reigned supreme ever since Mr. Corry left the office.

There is too much reason to believe that the attempts to force a reduction in the Naval Estimates against the opinion of all the most trusty servants of the Crown created a panic in the various departments. No one knew when his turn would come. The usual courtesies of official life and practice were thrown aside, and a reign of terror existed to which no parallel can be found to my knowledge.

This was not a state of things conducive to free interchange of opinion, and may be fairly noted as the prime cause of disaster. One thing, I think, may be pretty confidently stated, and that is, had there been a Board neither the Captain nor the Megaera would have been sent to sea.

I remain, Sir, yours truly,
JAMES D.H. ELPHINSTONE [Sir James Dalrymple-Horn-Elphinstone, 2nd Baronet, 1805-1886]
Aug. 10.
Sa 23 September 1871The following letter has been addressed from the Admiralty to Mr. W.H. Ivey, a resident at Deptford, as to the crew of the Megaera:-
"Admiralty, Whitehall, Sept. 31, 1871. - I am directed to acquaint yon that a Peninsular and Oriental steamer has been chartered to take the crew of Her Majesty's ship Megaera on to Sydney. She was expected to leave St. Paul's with them at the beginning of this month. - C.J. MAUDE."
Ma 25 September 1871


We have received the following despatches from the Admiralty for publication:-


"Her Majesty's Ship Rinaldo, Batavia, Aug. 10.
"Sir, - I have the honour herewith to forward for their Lordships' information the report of Acting Lieutenant Jones, of the loss of Her Majesty's ship Megaera, at St. Paul's Island.
"2. On my arrival at Batavia on the morning of the 8th. inst. I found the clipper ship Oberon, with auxiliary steam power, had been chartered by the British Consul, and that the extra supply of provisions, which I had telegraphed to be ready for this ship to take to St. Paul's, has been put on board the Oberon.
"3. Under these circumstances I telegraphed to the Commodore at Hongkong to know whether the Rinaldo should proceed to St. Paul's, and received the following reply:- 'Rinaldo not to proceed to St. Paul's. Malacca left Hongkong yesterday.'
"4. On the 9th inst., at 2 p.m., I received a note from the Consul, and upon going to his office found your telegram requiring the Rinaldo to bring Captain Thrupp and witnesses from St. Paul's to Singapore. Having the positive orders from Commodore Shortt not to go to St. Paul's, on reading it I deemed it advisable to telegraph to Commodore Shortt to know whether the Rinaldo was to go, and received the following answer at 45 minutes past noon this day:- 'Rinaldo to proceed immediately to St. Paul's, and execute orders of Admiralty.'
"I start instantly, and have the honour, &c.,
"P.S. The Oberon sailed yesterday, the 9th, at 7 30 a.m."


"Batavia, Aug. 7.
"Sir, - I have the honour to report to you that Her Majesty's ship Megaera was run on shore on St. Paul's Island on Monday, June 19, in a sinking state, and that all hands are saved and landed, with provisions and stores.
"The circumstances under which the Megaera was run on shore are as follows:- On June 8, on the passage from the Cape to Sydney, a leak was reported, but was for several days kept under by hand-pumps and baling. On or about the 14th of June the leak became more serious, and the water gained on the pumps. Steam was then used, and by the aid of the main steam pumps the water was kept in check.
"It was determined to steer for St. Paul's Island in order to examine the ship, where she arrived and anchored on Saturday, June 17. A survey was then held, and a diver sent down to examine the leak. A hole was discovered worn through the centre of a plate, about 12ft. abaft the mainmast and about 8ft. from the keel port side, besides other serious injuries in the immediate vicinity of the leak.
"On Sunday morning, June 18, the report of survey was sent in. It was considered unsafe to leave the anchorage. Provisions and stores were then landed. On Monday forenoon, June 19, weather being very stormy, and being unable to keep the ship in position, having carried away and lost three anchors since first anchoring, and being unable to carry on the work of landing provisions on account of the stormy weather, it was determined to beach the ship. At about 1 p.m. the ship was run full speed on to the bar, and remained there. She soon afterwards filled up to the main deck aft at high water. The work of landing provisions and saving cargo was then continued, and a portion of the men and officers landed in charge of the same. The ship was not entirely abandoned for about 10 or 12 days after she was beached. I was ordered by Captain Thrupp to hold myself in readiness to intercept any passing vessel, and communicate intelligence to the senior naval officer at any port at which I should arrive. I left the island on Sunday, the 16th of July in the Dutch vessel Aurora, Captain Fisser, owners Goedkoop and Co., Amsterdam, and arrived at Sourabaya on the 2d of August, when I communicated with the senior naval officer in China and Consul at Batavia.
"Up to the time I left the island about 80 tons of cargo for Sydney had been saved, and divers were still employed recovering it. Men and officers were living under canvas, and all are well. They had provisions to last, on half allowance, till the beginning of November, with the exception of bread, flour, tea, and sugar, of which they were very short, men being on 4oz. of bread per day.
"Water was obtained from summit of the hill during rainy season, but could not be depended upon. It is considered impossible to render the ship fit for further service.
"I arrived at Batavia this day, August 7, and proceed to St. Paul's by English merchant steamer Oberon, Captain Burgoyne, chartered by Acting Consul, with necessary provisions for men.
"Captain Thrupp's letter reporting the loss of the ship was accidentally left out of the bag containing other despatches, but will be forwarded to England by the ship Oberon.
"I have the honour, &c.,
"LEWIS T. JONES, "Acting Lieutenant, H.M.S. Megaera."


"British Consulate, Batavia, Aug. 14, 1871.
"Sir - On the 7th inst. I had the honour to send the Board of Admiralty the following telegram:- 'In terms of your telegram I have chartered the British steamer Oberon for St. Paul's, with provisions, and Lieutenant Jones sails Wednesday morning daylight. Speed 10, perhaps 14 knots. Capacity 1,022 tons. The Rinaldo expected Wednesday" and on the 9th inst. I received your reply as follows:-
'Approve Oberon being chartered. Inform Captain Thrupp, if this reaches you in time, that crews of the Blanche and Rosario are to be sent to Sydney in Malacca, which is to bring relieved crews to Aden, unless already chartered for England. Captain Thrupp to return to Singapore in Rinaldo with witnesses required for court-martial, and come thence with them to England in ordinary steamer. Acknowledge this;' from which I am pleased to notice that my arrangements have met with the approval of their Lordships.
"The Oberon is a fine steamer of 1,022 tons register, and will probably make the voyage to St. Paul's under favourable circumstances at an average speed of 10 knots an hour. She sailed for St. Paul's at daylight on Wednesday morning, and is expected to reach her destination in less than a fortnight.
"The peremptory nature of your telegram left no other course open to me than to charter at once, if any suitable vessel was obtainable, and the only choice I had was between the Oberon and a steamer of the Netherlands Indian Steam Navigation Company. I fixed on the former, as it was eminently qualified to perform satisfactorily the service required. At the same time I regret that the Board did not leave me any discretionary powers, especially as it was known that Lieutenant Jones was on the way up from Sourabaya, and could inform me precisely as to urgency in the matter. Had this been done I most certainly should not have considered myself justified in incurring the above great expenditure, as Lieutenant Jones was of opinion that the few days elapsing between the arrivals of the Oberon and Rinaldo at St. Paul's would not in any way have affected the condition of the officers and men of the Megaera.
"I supplied by the Oberon all the provisions that Lieutenant Jones thought necessary, consisting of biscuit, floor, sugar, yams, onions, and pumpkins; while the captain of the Oberon agreed to supply at the island, tea, beef, and pork should the paymaster of the Megaera require them.
"Lieutenant Jones writes you all particulars regarding the loss of the Megaera and the condition of the men on the island. Captain Thrupp's letter reporting the disaster was unfortunately not in the bag when Lieutenant Jones hurriedly left the island; but it will go forward in the Oberon, which is bound to London direct.
"The Rinaldo arrived on Tuesday, the 8th inst., and, in terms of your telegram of the 8th inst., proceeded on the 10th at midday to St. Paul's with further provisions, and to convey to Singapore Captain Thrupp and witnesses for the court-martial. I regret that your telegram reached me too late to inform Lieutenant Jones of this; and a telegram I despatched to Anjer also most unfortunately arrived there an hour after the Oberon had passed.
"I telegraphed you on the 10th inst.:- 'Oberon had already left before your telegram was received. Rinaldo starts for St. Paul's this forenoon,' which I hope reached you intelligibly.
"(Here follows enumeration of accounts and vouchers forwarded.)
"I am, &c.,
W.T. FRASER, Her Britannic Majesty's Acting Consul."
Ma 25 September 1871We learn at last from official sources how the unlucky Megaera was lost, and how her crew were rescued from their precarious and distressing position on the Island of St. Paul. The despatches which we publish this morning leave, unfortunately, more than one point of importance still in doubt; but they complete the story so far as the facts are concerned, though they do not quite clear up the causes of the disaster. Our readers have been already made acquainted with the early phases of the Megaera's ill-omened cruise, the remonstrances addressed to the Admiralty, the protests of the officers and men before the vessel sailed from Queenstown, the Report of the Admiral on the incriminated vessel, and the determination of Whitehall to disregard the warnings it had received, and to send the ship to sea. The Megaera set sail amidst the gloomiest forebodings from all who knew what her position at the foot of the list of storeships really signified. Nor was it long before these predictions were seemingly justified by the event. Coming on the top of other recent naval mishaps, the country was not unreasonably irritated to learn early last month that the Megaera, having sprung a leak off the Island of St. Paul, in the centre of the Indian Ocean, had been run ashore, and that the crew were left upon a petty volcanic rock with only a limited quantity of provisions and a scanty supply of water.

The despatches from Commander ROBINSON, Lieutenant JONES, and Consul FRASER contain the narration of the shipwreck and of the measures taken, with what may be admitted to be most laudable promptitude and energy, for the relief of the suffering crew. On the 8th of June the Megaera had got well on her way towards Sydney, whither she was bound with officers and men destined to relieve the crews of the Rosario and Blanche on the Australian station. She had touched at the Cape, and up to that time had been fortunate enough to avoid any casualty. But on the 8th a leak was discovered, and for several days the advances of the water were kept off by pumping. Matters looked so serious, however, that it was determined to examine into the state of the vessel, and her course was accordingly shaped for St. Paul's Island. It was there ascertained, when the keel of the vessel had been inspected by a diver, that the leak consisted of "a hole worn through the centre of a plate, ... besides other serious injuries in the immediate vicinity." It is important to note the language in which the origin of the leak is described. The word "worn" certainly corresponds with Mr. REED'S statement that when he surveyed the ship at Woolwich, some years ago, he reported her "fit only for a very brief period of further service in consequence of the extreme thinness to which her plates had become worn by many years of almost continuous use at sea." On the other hand, it may be argued that the expression "other serious injuries " implies the effect not so much of age and wear as of some violence. It is certainly unfortunate that the letter of Lieutenant JONES does not more distinctly indicate the origin of the leak, because on this will depend to a great extent the responsibility of those who persisted, in spite of admonitions and protestations, in sending the Megaera to sea. To return, however, to the position of the vessel at St. Paul's, it was resolved on the 18th of June that it would not be safe to put to sea again, and the next day, boisterous weather having driven the leaky ship from her anchorage and having interrupted the landing of stores and cargo, the desperate expedient of beaching the vessel was adopted. She was run upon the bar - the reef, we presume, which runs across the mouth of the Crater Basin - and stuck fast there. She was not entirely abandoned for ten or twelve days, and the crew seem to have had abundant opportunity for getting ashore such parts of the provisions as were not destroyed by the sea-water. A good deal of the cargo, too, appears to have been recovered by divers.

Nearly 400 officers and men were thus left on an island very seldom visited by passing vessels, and without any regular communication with the rest of the world. Fortunately, a Dutch ship touched at the island on the 16th of July and carried away Lieutenant JONES, who was instructed by the Captain of the Megaera to convey intelligence of the catastrophe to the nearest English official, and to hasten relief. The position of the shipwrecked crew was such that delay in sending assistance would have endangered valuable lives. The Island of St. Paul is of volcanic origin; the stones, the sand, and the water in the Crater Basin are heated nearly to boiling-point by the hidden fires. A few residents at one time cultivated vegetables and fruits on terraces artificially constructed among the masses of rugged lava, and, although the island appears to be now uninhabited, some relics of this cultivation may still be in existence. Moreover, the climate is healthy. But there is no fresh water to be had on the island, except a precarious supply which is collected during rainy weather on the summit of the hill, and there is no fuel. The crew of the Megaera had tents to sleep under and provisions enough to last them on half allowance till November, but they had very little bread, flour, tea, or sugar, and they were much distressed by the want of water. Under these circumstances Lieutenant JONES communicated with our Consul at Batavia, who was at once instructed by a telegram from the Admiralty to charter the first suitable vessel to proceed to St. Paul's with provisions. A fine English steamer, the Oberon, which happened to be at Batavia, was chartered, and despatched at once. Consul FRASER laments that he was not allowed a discretion by the Admiralty, as in that case he would not have chartered the Oberon, knowing that HER MAJESTY'S ship Rinaldo was hastening to the relief of the shipwrecked crew, and that only a " few days" would be saved by employing the former ship at a heavy charge. This sentiment does credit to the Consul's sturdy economy, but the Admiralty and the country will probably be of opinion that enough was done for economy when the Megaera was sent to sea, and we do not doubt that a little judicious expenditure in saving the victims of that parsimonious policy from starvation or disease will be readily condoned by the taxpayers. The crew may have had enough food to last even for a month or two longer, but men who are deprived of bread and fresh water may easily fall into ill-health, though salt beef and fish be ever so plentiful.

We cordially approve Mr. GOSCHEN'S promptitude in redeeming as far as possible the consequences of the original blunder, and still more his apparent determination to institute an immediate inquiry into the loss of the ill-fated ship which was sent to sea so peremptorily half a year ago. The commander of the Rinaldo, which was expected to reach St. Paul's early in the present mouth, has instructions to bring Captain THRUPP of the Megaera and the witnesses whose evidence may be required on a court-martial to Singapore, whence they will sail for England. We may, then, expect to hear shortly, at first hand, what the nature is of the damage which has at length removed the Megaera, a veteran iron-built vessel of seven-and-twenty years' rough service, from "the bottom of the list of storeships." It is a pity that Captain THRUPP'S letter, which, doubtless, would have told us more than we have yet learnt of the leak and its causes, was by some error left out of the bag which Lieutenant JONES brought away from St. Paul's, and Lieutenant JONES's own description is neither very copious nor very clear. It may, after all, be found that it was not of old age the Megaera went to pieces - for we hear, not without satisfaction, that " it is considered impossible to render the ship fit for further service" - but of some sudden stroke of fortune. At the same time, no explanations now will prove that the Admiralty was justified in sending the ship to sea after the complaints of the officers and the admitted inconveniences of leaky ports and deficient ventilation.
Tu 26 September 1871


We have been favoured with the following copy of a letter written by one of the officers of the Megaera to a relative in England. It supplements very usefully the despatches published by us yesterday:-

"St. Paul's Island, South Indian Ocean,
July 1,1871

"I am quite well and safe on shore, with all my furniture, clothes, and everything, thanks to the mercy of my Saviour. I trust no telegrams have frightened you, but fear they may have. Well, dear mother, when halfway to Australia, in mid-ocean, more than a thousand miles from land, and it blowing hard, the ship at midnight began to leak. They found boles in her bottom like a tea kettle worn from age. Well, we then ran away for this island, 1,500 miles off. God, in His mercy, sent us a strong wind, and away we went, leaking fearfully. The men could not keep it down, so we used steam pumps, and even these broke down. At last (ten days after) we reached this island. It came on to blow hard; we lost all our anchors, and were blown under a huge precipice and gave up all hope. I put on my lifebelt as a last hope, but God intervened just as her bowsprit was touching the rock, and took us off clear. We then went to sea a little, and during a lull ran the ship right on shore in the best place we could, and here we are, thank God, all safe and sound, with everything saved - wines, provisions, clothes, furniture, books, &c. We are all like so many Robinson Crusoes in huts and tents all over the island. It is pretty in some places, but rather barren. There are fine fish, wild goats, and lobsters are caught by dozens. We have emptied the ship of everything in her. She was rotten throughout, and her bottom worn into holes like a colander. Imagine 350 men in such a ship! The wear and tear, mentally and physically, for the last two weeks has been very great. Merchant vessels sight this island on their way to China, India, and Australia. We saw two yesterday, and nearly caught one in a boat, but it was late in the evening and too dark. We shall send away an officer and men with despatches in the first one, and then can wait even for men-of-war to come to us from the Cape or Mauritius, or Australia. We have plenty of food, &c., till that time, even for three months, but we hope to stop merchantmen and to leave by batches of 50 or so in them, so have no more anxiety about the matter."
Th 28 September 1871


The following extract from a private letter of Acting-Lieutenant Jones contains some interesting particulars on the loss of the Megaera:-

"Shortly after the discovery of the leak, and when hand-pumps and bailing failed to keep the water down, a thrum-bed sail was prepared to be placed under the ships bottom; but nobody being able to fix the position of the leak, and it having become requisite on the 14th of June to get steam up to pump the water, the idea of using the sail was abandoned, and it was determined to make for St. Paul's with all possible speed, and there ascertain the extent of the damage. On our arrival divers were sent down. They reported a hole in the centre of a plate, on the port side, about 12ft. abaft the mainmast and 8ft. from the keel. The inside was now examined in that vicinity, and it was found that many of the girders near the leak were carried away, and further to increase our difficulties, the pumps occasionally got choked with small pieces of iron from the ship's bottom. It was also found that two plates near the leak were disjointed. Under these circumstances, the captain decided it was impossible to proceed to Australia; preparations were therefore made to land the crew. Accordingly the 16th, 17th, and 18th were employed in landing provisions and stores, and building tents.

"June 19.- The wind was so strong and the see so heavy that boats cold not work, and it was scarcely possible to keep clear of the rocks under steam, so it was determined to run for the bar and make the best of it, and this was very cleverly done. Everybody now went to work from daylight to dark landing stores and provisions. Two Frenchmen were found on the island; they said there was very little water on the island and that it was seldom that a ship came in sight; however, our people found water on the high land, and we soon rigged up a condensing apparatus near the beach, which will supply all needful purposes so long as fuel lasts. There is a good deal of grass on the island, and there are many wild goats, also small wild cabbage, carrots, and celery; fish and crayfish abundant and easily caught.

"About the 24th of June a ship was reported in sight. Fancy our excitement. I was on the beach, and so was sent away in the lifeboat in pursuit, and after running about five miles to cut her off the ship passed, flying away to leeward under double reefed topsails and foresail, not apparently seeing us at all, and so we had to return thoroughly wet and cold, and glad enough were the captain and all hands to see us back, for it had long since been dark and there was a smart breeze. I was now ordered to be always ready to intercept any ship that came in sight and go in her with despatches wherever she was bound. A letter-bag was kept in the sentry's charge, in which the captain's despatches to the Admiralty was kept, supposed to be always left with my portmanteau ready in the boat.

"I had started on several other occasions in pursuit of vessels seen at a distance, but all in vain till Sunday, July 16, when we were startled with the cry of 'Sail ho!' We had not seen one for many days. I was at once afloat with the despatch-bag and portmanteau, and soon saw a large ship off the north point; so I stood out, and she shortened sail, and I found myself on board the Dutch ship Aurora, bound for Sourabaya, Java. Captain Thrupp was away somewhere when I left, so I did not see him. However, I had my orders to go where any ship would take me, and communicate with the Admiralty and senior naval officer. The boat returned, and the master of the Aurora waited for some hours to see if anything else was wanted, and then shaped his course for Java. And when I began to look about me and examine the letter-bag next day there was no letter from Captain Thrupp in it; nothing from him reporting the loss of the ship. His letter used always to be left in the bag in case of my having to start without seeing him. He must have had it out to make additions and never put it back again. So I shall have to write a report to the Admiralty of all I know about the loss of the ship, and I suppose I must be brief, and not anticipate the captain's report, - at any rate I have no official documents to guide me.

"July 28. - The master of the Aurora, Mr. Fisser, makes me very comfortable, I wish those at St. Paul's were as well off; but they were all disposed to make the best of it, and great rivalry among the officers who could build the best houses out of turf and stones. This every one did for himself. We have made a good run so far, and are now within 500 miles of Sourabaya.

"Batavia, August 7. - In consequence of my communication from Sourabaya to the Consul here, I find that a ship has been chartered to carry provisions to St. Paul's, and is engaged to leave at daylight on the 9th. I do not like the arrangement; there is no necessity for such haste, but I suppose it is my duty to go in her, as the ship cannot be detained. The Rinaldo could have done everything requisite. I hope that I have done all that is right and proper. The Oberon takes sufficient provisions for immediate use, and glad will they all be to see her."
Fr 29 September 1871


The Rev. W.J. Stracey calls our attention to the following paragraph respecting this luckless vessel in our "Naval and Military Intelligence" of the 9th of January, 1852:-

"Portsmouth, Thursday.

"The Megaera, new steam frigate, screw, 1,391 tons, has broken down off Plymouth, from Sheerness on her first voyage, en route to the Cape, with the 60th Rifles on board, whom she embarked at Dover. A letter we have received from an officer says, 'She was sent to sea on the 3d of January with one of the finest regiments the world could boast of on board, destined for the Cape of Good Hope. It had for some days been known that this gallant and distinguished corps was to embark for immediate service for the Cape, and a steamer large enough to convey the whole regiment was ordered to Dover to receive them. Mark the result. The morning of the 3d was fine, the sea like glass, and this gallant band embarked, amid the cheers and regrets of the inhabitants, to be landed at the Cape, and to immediately take the field against the enemy. This steamer (Megaera) was one of those singled out by the Board of Admiralty as superior to any that we have ready, and so well fitted that no one could complain of any want of accommodation. She started; the prayers and good wishes of thousands accompanied her. Night came on, and with it a most terrific gale; nothing stowed away; all confusion, and so perfectly unfitted for a troop-ship was this pet of the Admiralty that she had not even a place fitted to receive the soldiers' rifles or accoutrements, not even a locker of any description to stow away their food; and it is further a fact that so shamefully has she been fitted that there was not even a place to contain the officers' wine and stock. At midnight, we are told, the scene was frightful; 800 men with no place to sleep in; beer-barrels, hampers of better cheer, great drums, officers' stock, men's wives, baggage of every description, all reeling and knocking about together. At this moment the gale was at its height, the rudder became choked, so that for a time the vessel would not steer; her top sides opened so much as to admit of the water pushing in, and her decks, fore and aft, were up to the ankles in water; at which moment some confusion took place in the engine-room, from the circumstance of some of the compartments of the machinery catching fire.'"

A question was put in the House of Commons respecting this incident, but without eliciting much explanation.
Tu 3 October 1871


We have received the following from the Admiralty for publication:-

"Copy of telegram received October 2, at 9 a.m., from Galle, dated October 1, 7 20 p.m., via, Falmouth:-

"'All saved in Malacca. No stores embarked. Storms; Rinaldo blown off. Caught mail in Australia."' (Signed) "'Captain THRUPP.'

"N.B. - From the foregoing it is assumed that the Malacca, after having embarked the stranded crews at St. Paul's, en route to Sydney, reached King George's Sound in time to enable Captain Thrupp to take his passage home in the mail steamer, and he may be expected to arrive at Southampton about the 4th of November."
We 4 October 1871



Sir, - I happened to be at Funchal in the early part of 1852, and recollect the Megaera putting in on her way to the Cape with the Rifle Brigade.

They had been, if I remember rightly, 16 days out from Southampton, undergoing great risk and every kind of inconvenience and hardship from the wretched and dangerous condition of the ship, and the shameful accommodation provided for officers and men.

The Brigade remained some time at Funchal while the ship was being partially patched up, and I well remember the unanimous and loud indignation of the officers, and the serious doubts they expressed on leaving as to whether they should ever see the Cape.

It is depressing to reflect on the results of 20 years. The ship which in 1852 was unfit for transport, and unseaworthy, is lost in 1871 from the same causes when bound on the same errand. Quousque tandem?

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
Richmond, Oct 2.
Th 5 October 1871



Sir, - In yesterday's papers appeared a copy of a telegram received by the Admiralty from Captain Thrupp announcing the safety of the crew and passengers of the Megaera.

I cannot, however, understand why this news was not received by the Admiralty earlier.

I have a brother-in-law, a sub-Lieutenant, who was on board the Megaera, bound to Sydney to join the Rosario; a brother of his is also a lieutenant in the 75th Regiment, and is at present stationed at Singapore.

From the one on St. Paul's Island we received, on the 23d of September, a letter dated the 30th of June, 1871, merely announcing his safety. From the other at Singapore we received, on the same date, a letter dated "Singapore, August 19, 1871," which contained the following passage:- "Of course you have heard by this that all the officers and crew of the Megaera are safe in Sydney now. I saw it in a telegram to-night."

If this was known at Singapore on the 19th of August it appears unaccountable that the Admiralty were not advised of it.

Your obedient servant,
RICHARD DICKSON. 43, Bedford-row. W.C.,
Oct. 4.
Fr 6 October 1871



Sir,- In The Times of to-day is a letter from Mr. Richard Dickson, In which he says that he cannot understand why the news of the safety of the crew and passengers of Her Majesty's ship Megaera was not sooner known in England than from Captain Thrupp's telegram from Point de Galle, because his brother, Lieutenant Dickson, of the 75th Regiment, in a letter dated Singapore, August 19, 1871, says, "Of course you have heard by this that all the officers and crew of the Megaera are in Sydney; I saw it in a telegram to-night."

Now, if Mr. Richard Dickson had just taken The Times and noted the dates of the various incidents in the Megaera drama, he would have seen plainly enough why the news of the safety of the crew and passengers was first known from Captain Thrupp.

Lieutenant Jones got away from St. Paul's Island about the 17th or 18th of July, in the Dutch ship Aurora, to Sourabaya, Java, and telegraphed the first news of the Megaera disaster to England ; about the 9th of August my firm in Batavia despatched from Batavia the screw steamer Oberon, en route to England, with provisions for the east aways. and Lieutenant Jones as passenger in her. The next day Her Majesty's ship Rinaldo left Batavia for St. Paul's Island, the Peninsular and Oriental steamer Malacca, chartered in Hongkong, following, which vessel, as we now know, rescued the shipwrecked; how, therefore, could it be known in Singapore on the 19th of August that "all the officers and crew of the Megaera were in Sydney?"

Lieutenant Dickson says in his letter that he saw it in a telegram. Lieutenant Dickson must have been mistaken.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
22 Laurence Pountney-lane, London,
Oct. 5.
Tu 24 October 1871


The following despatches relative to the stranding of Her Majesty's ship Megaera have been received at the Admiralty from Captain Thrupp, through the Post Office, from Batavia. No other letter or telegram on the subject has reached the Admiralty by this opportunity:-


"H.M.S. Megaera, at St. Paul's Island, June 17.

"Sir, - At midnight on the 8th inst., in lat. 39 40 S., long. 44 22 E., the chief engineer having reported to me that the ship leaked considerably, I manned the pumps by employing a part of the watch, who contrived to get the water under. On the 12th the water from the leak gained, and then I employed men in addition to bale her out and used the donkey pumps. On the 13th it was reported that the leak was caused by the loss of a rivet in the ship's bottom, under port bunker, nearly abreast of the mainmast (which was afterwards found to be incorrect, as a plate was discovered to have been considerably worn away, and the edges of the hole so thin that they could be easily bent with two fingers). We continued using the hand pumps and donkey engines, at the same time baling out, until the 15th, when finding the water gaining on us so considerably, I was obliged to get up steam to enable me to use the bilge pumps, at the same time shaping my course for the island of St. Paul's to enable me to send the divers below (we fortunately having demanded before leaving England a diving apparatus) and examine the state of the ship's bottom.

"If by putting a plate on from the outside with a spindle, and lined with fearnought supplied for that purpose, and another plate inside screwed to the outside one, the poop awning thrummed, doubled, and placed over that part of the ship, then carefully frapped round with ropes to keep it in its place, I trust that the ship may be made sufficiently seaworthy to continue our voyage to some part of Australia; should, however, our ship not have arrived soon after you receive this letter, we have found the ship too bad to proceed, and are waiting at St. Paul's for a ship to convey us on.

"In making this report, I have taken the opinion of the officers whom I ordered to survey the ship and give me their opinions as to the ship being sufficiently seaworthy to proceed on our voyage.

"I have to add that on the 14th a plate lined with india-rubber was put on from the inside, being gently pressed, but would not stop the leak.

"On the night of the 16th, being about 20 miles from St. Paul's, rounded the ship to until daylight; it was blowing a very heavy gale, the ship being under fore staysail, gaff foresail, with head not set, and the same with storm main trysail, using steam to keep the ship free of water. The ship behaved beautifully, riding quite easily, notwithstanding the very heavy sea running. After an anxious night just at daylight the clouds lifted for a short time and we made out the island of St. Paul's about nine miles nearly astern, ran in under steam with four boilers, at 9 a.m. anchored with S.B. anchor in 14 fathoms, veered to 3½ shackles. 11 40, the ship dragging, weighed and found the crown and both flukes of anchor gone, steamed in again, anchored with B.B. in 12½ fathoms, veered to 5 shackles, sent the diver down to examine the ship's bottom, sent a boat away to sound and ascertain if the ship was anchored on a sandy bottom or rock. Mr. Lloyd, navigating lieutenant, reported the bottom to be black sand; steaming during the continued heavy squalls to ease the cable.

"In the afternoon the diver discovered the leak, but it was too late to put a plate on that evening, housed top gallant masts, kept yards pointed to the wind, men working continually at the pumps. I ordered the two chief engineers, Mr. Mills, of the Megaera, and Mr. Brown, of the Blanche, also Mr. Richards, engineer of the Rosario, to send me in reports as to the capabilities of the ship (copies of which I enclose). They reported that even in the event of the present leak being thoroughly stopped, the plate is so honeycombed from corrosion, which they attribute to age and wear, that they consider it most unsafe to proceed on the present voyage unless a thorough examination of the ship's bottom could take place, removing the cement, and putting new plates on, which under the present circumstances is utterly impossible. Notwithstanding this report, I still anticipated being able to proceed when the leak was stopped. Sunday, June 12. - At daylight the ship dragged again; weighed, and found cable had parted close to the anchor. 8 30 a.m. - Anchored again with port sheet anchor in 13 fathoms, veered to five shackles; it was not possible to veer more cable as the wind shifted to suddenly in squalls, that ship would have grounded with more cable; neither would it have been safe to let go two anchors with the chance of drifting, and not having time to weigh both.

"The diver reported the ship's bottom was generally clean, but there were several rusty spots; the leak he discovered by placing his hand over each until he felt the motion of the leak through the hole, he could not say whether the other rusty spots were nearly leaks or not, but the corners of two overlapping plates were eaten away near the bad plate to the extent of 4in. by 1½in. He could easily have picked through the rusty iron left with his knife, but thought it would not be right to do so. Besides these rusty spots, damaged corner-plates, and the leak itself, the diver reported five or sir plates, from the keel upwards, looked very rusty under the stokehole. Between 8 and 9 a.m. on that Sunday, the 18th of June, Messrs. Mills and Brown reported again to me that, upon a further examination when the ship was pumped out dryer, we found many of the girders eaten through at the bottom, and others nearly so, one of those quite through ran across the plate through which the leak had taken place.

"The bilge pumps were constantly being choked, and on the doors of the valve boxes being taken off to clean them, also the lid of the non-return valve, pieces of iron were taken out about a quarter of an inch think and an inch and a half diameter, evidently having been washed from the bottom, for some of them had remains of cement on them. On receiving this second report, and also that of the diver, I came to the conclusion that, evidently breaking up as the ship was, the girders separating from the bottom, that bottom leaky in one place and very thin in many more, the pumps continually being choked with pieces of iron and those thick pieces - that in the face of these reports from men who knew the nature and endurance of iron better than myself or any other officer of the ship, I could not longer persist in proceeding on our voyage with so many lives at stake, we being 1,800 miles from the nearest part of Australia; so at 9 15 a.m. I turned the hands up, read prayers, and then informed the ship's company that the ship was not fit to proceed on her voyage, and ordered provisions and stores to be at once landed.

"At about noon the diver succeeded in putting a plate on, and nearly stopped the leak. I then got a Frenchman living here to pick out a nearer berth for the ship to the shore, where the whalers generally anchor, and the anchor might not get foul of the rocks; we shifted into 8½ fathoms, sandy bottom, with good shelter from the Ninepin Rock.

"We landed most of our provisions the first day, and employed the men at night filling coal bags ready to be landed in the morning. We also kept men at work clearing the store-rooms and troop-decks, everything we could from the lower part of the ship, keeping the pumps going at the same time. Monday, June 19. - Steaming up to anchor, very heavy squalls, ship's quarter close to rocks. 7 30 - Dragging weighed anchor, found one fluke gone, remained then under weigh, steaming in and landing boats with coals, wind increasing, no use anchoring, signalled to boats inside to remain, hoisted up those alongside; twice the ship's head paid off in shore, though steaming with four boilers, and we were only just saved by steaming full speed astern. 1 30 p.m. - Blowing very heavily in squalls, ship only just able with four boilers to remain near the land; deemed it advisable to beach, the ship having only one anchor left, three having parted since anchoring at 9 a.m. on the 17th, and the impossibility of the remaining one holding, or of our steaming all night, clear, and close to the land. 1 40. - Steamed for the bar. 1 52. - Took the ground, 10ft. forward, 13ft. gangway, 18ft. under the stern.

"Marks.- Points, S., 20 deg. E.; gap, N., 5 deg. W.; ship's head west about 30 zeros from inside of bar; ship bumped heavily at first; water soon rose in the holds; let go remaining sheet anchor from the bows to prevent the ship slipping offshore, and steamed full speed ahead to keep the ship in position, until the water rose and extinguished the fires; ship settled down and remained perfectly stationary and upright; a shore was put over to keep the ship upright, but snapped immediately; a raft had been constructed to land stores upon, but with the assistance of four boats belonging to the island we did not use it. Hoisted out three tanks to use as boilers for condensing; charts reported no water on the island. 10 p.m. - Up boats, bar being unsafe in the dark at low water. Midnight, water in fore compartment 7½ft., engine room 12½ft., aft 14ft. At daylight on Tuesday, the 20th June, lowered boats and went on landing stores all day; during the night we had been hoisting all we could above the water. Many casks of lime, paint, oil are under water, some shell and powder. The sails were all saved and most of the slops and bales; some are wet and damaged. I hope to get up many things yet by using the diver. Though wine and beer stores of all sorts were landed; together, I have not heard of anything being missing or any drunkenness, the officers and men both working willingly. Some officers were filling coal bags, working under the maindeck, where we had opened it to get out coal for condensing.

"There are several sheds and houses on shore that, with tents, have enabled us to get many stores under cover. Two shore boats were manned, loaded, and discharged by some of the officers entirely. We have about 13,000lb. of bread, and about six weeks' flour. So the men are on one-third allowance of these provisions, or, using one bag per diem, they will last 130 days. We have found 3,000lb. of rice on the islands besides. Of rum and other provisions we have more than four months'. Any quantity of fish. Cray fish can be caught, and water, our chief difficulty, has been found in abundance. Twenty men can fetch for every one in two hours. This is rain water, but it rains frequently during the next four months.

"June 24. - The draught of water, 12ft. 9in. forward, 15ft. engine-room, 17ft. 8in. aft. Punished Jethro Spear, ordinary second class (second class for conduct), with 48 lashes for refusing to work. This is the only case of insubordination that has occurred.

"The condensing arrangements are now complete. 300 gallons with coal, 150 gallons with turf can be made daily; but as long as a supply can be obtained from the wells by means of hoses, we do not intend to use any coals; the turf cut and dried we find answers for fuel, using a little wood as well.

"This afternoon all the men, with their bags and hammocks, are under tents and well protected from the weather, though about 40 men and 13 officers are still living on board. As soon as sufficient tents and houses are erected all will be landed. They are quite able at present to live on board, but the smell of bilge water is increasing. I therefore propose in a few days to land every one.

"Sunday, June 25. - Read prayers on board; the wind very light, I consider to be the cause of heavy rollers coming in, there being no lee side to the island unless a strong westerly wind is blowing. The First Lieutenant read prayers on shore. During the afternoon the weather was better for landing. No work was carried on, the day being Sunday.

"Monday, 26th. - Sent a party of 100 men to finish hoisting up a studding sail boom for a flag-staff; signalmen and a party of marines to carry water from the water pools to the starting hose at the top of the cliff, 860ft. above the ship, are quartered there under canvas, with turf sides to their tents.

"We have completed the length of hose the whole distance, 860ft., to the camp this day, and the water runs down freely in about 10 minutes, being a great saving of sending men all the way to the top with barricoes.

"It is estimated that there are about 100 wild goats on the island, a large quantity of mushrooms, some few cabbages and potatoes. There are hot fresh water springs, strongly impregnated with sulphur, and not healthy to drink, but very well suited for washing, with a clay close to it that lathers well and makes excellent soap; this spring is within a quarter of a mile of the encampment.

"There are only five men at present on the sick list, with sores and wounds. The climate, as far as we can judge at present, is very healthy; great care has been taken that any men getting wet are shifted immediately.

"One red light has been seen at night, and two ships passed the island on Friday, the 23d inst. We fired guns and sent a boat out, but they passed too far off to recall them. A 'sea message' has been prepared, and we trust to send it adrift shortly, as well as using two life buoys for the same purpose.

"June 29. - Commenced building large barracks; abandoned ship; all hands encamped on shore.

"I have, &c.,

"P.S. - 9th July, 1871. - Encamped at St. Paul's. The divers have been at work ever since the 27th of June; they could not get into the magazine, but have recovered from the forepart of the ship a great quantity of the cargo. In one day they got up three coils of rope, four wooden casks, 12 bales, two rolls of lead, two tubes, 14 casks of oil, 11 casks of tar. This was the most recovered in any one day. Some of the wet bales contained hammocks, others canvas, flags, stockings, serge, and duck; these are all being opened, dried, and sewn up in canvas. Nearly all the marine clothing packed in casks could not be got at before the ship grounded; they are nearly all wet and not fit for issue. Cases of mess traps have been opened, oiled, and repacked, more or less damaged. The new sails for the Clio, Blanche, and Rosario I had hoped to save from being used at all; but the weather is so cold, the Megaera's sails so thin and worn, the men getting wet at night, that I reluctantly gave permission for these new sails to be used to cover stores and tents, with orders not to cut any of them; but I am afraid they will get very much damaged from exposure to the weather. It is a question of health or saving of sails; I think the former most important. Every bit of canvas, except new in bolts, has been used to shelter men and officers. Probably they will be here for many months. The thermometer is below 48 deg. at night and the weather wet and stormy. A leading stoker got wet in his tent last night, and is suffering acutely from rheumatism; others have had diarrhoea, and some slight attacks of dysentery among the officers; but there are only eight on the sick list at present, owing to the great care of the medical men, attending, inspecting, and seeing tents are kept clean and dry.

"On Thursday, the 6th of July, a large old building, containing stores and candles, was blown down by the violence of the wind. The men inside escaped without injury, crawling out from among ruins; it was built of loose stones.

"The same day I had to recall the working party from the ship because the bar was so bad. Many of the roads have been repaved and pieces of ground levelled ready for building; one or two small houses of stone erected, as well as those for the officers. Parties of men and officers are fishing in boats, and fish caught are served out by the ship's steward, 1lb. to each man as far as they will go. From 100lb. to l50lb. are caught by this means every day. Still, having been here now three weeks, and not having been able to send word of our want of provisions, I have thought it advisable to reduce the allowance of provisions. The men have now only 4oz. of biscuit, 1/3lb. of salt or preserved meat, half an allowance of tea every other day, quarter allowance only of sugar. Lime juice without sugar is served out every other day; no flour issued at all; but, having plenty of cocoa, they have that instead of their tea every other night.

"The men's clothes suffer very much from the hard work they have had, carrying water barricoes, digging, cutting turf, rolling casks, working in mud over their boots or shoes. I have ordered canvas leggings to be made to save their trousers. The boats require constant repair; one cutter, a very old boat, is so damaged that she cannot be repaired. A great number of bottles, weighted with lead, with a tin flag above the cork, containing an account of our position, have been thrown overboard from our lifeboat some miles out to sea, as well as one lifebuoy and a barricoe; more bottles are ready, and will be sent from time to time.

"I have ordered Acting Lieutenant Lewis T. Jones to hold himself ready to leave at a minutes notice, should any chance occur from sighting a vessel. I have ordered Assistant-Paymaster Cummins, who is sick, also Navigating Sub-Lieutenant Roxby and Haslewood, both for surveying duties in Australia, to be ready as well, and will send Mr. Farie, midshipman, a ship's corporal, and 30 supernumerary boys if any vessel will take them.

"A second tank has been strengthened to use as a boiler, another sunk below high-water mark for condensing, and an additional quantity of piping laid down by the engineers. Their men are also employed in cutting, drying, and stacking turf.

"The blacksmiths are constantly employed repairing spades; nearly all we had have been broken. Our work is much delayed by the few picks and spades we have.

"Parties have been sent out to collect different grasses, with herbs, dandelions, and other substitutes for ordinary vegetables that can be found, to prevent the men from suffering from scurvy, as there is very little lime-juice left. They have succeeded in cooking some tolerable vegetables. The weather has been very cold indeed - below 42 deg,, with snow lying on the ground at the signal-station; continual hail in squalls for nearly a week, accompanied by wild, stormy weather. During the bad weather very few fish have been caught.

"The Secretary to the Admiralty."

(Enclosure No. 1.)

"Her Majesty's ship Megaera, St. Paul's Island, June 17, 1871.

"Sir - In answer to your memorandum of the 17th inst,, calling upon me to state my opinion of the capability of the ship, I respectfully beg to state that, after a careful examination of the leak through the plate and of the plate itself (as far as I could see and reach), I am of opinion that, even in the event of the present leak being temporarily stopped, the plate is so honeycombed from corrosion, which I attribute to age and wear, I consider it most unsafe to proceed on the present voyage unless a thorough examination of her bottom could take place, which, under the present circumstances, is utterly impossible.

"I have, &c.,
"GEORGE MILLS, Chief Engineer.
"To Captain Thrupp."

(Enclosure No. 2.)

"Her Majesty's ship Megaera, Island of St. Paul's, June 17, 1871.

"Sir, - In compliance with your memorandum of this day's date, calling upon me for my opinion as to the capabilities of the ship, I beg to state I have carefully examined the plate in which the leak has broken out, and find it is gradual decay of the iron, and that the plate for some distance round the hole is much corroded, and large nut holes found in the plates, and the place where the leak is broken through is not more than 1-16th of an inch thick. This fact I ascertained by placing my finger through the holes (from the inside), and taking the state of the plate and the age of the ship (upwards of 23 years) into consideration, in my opinion, as an engineer, the ship is absolutely unsafe to continue her voyage to Australia without being placed in dry dock, in order to remove the coating of cement on the bottom so as to thoroughly examine it.

"I have, &c.,
"ED. BROWN, Chief Engineer."

(Enclosure No. 3.)

"Her Majesty's ship Megaera, Isle of St. Paul's, June 17, 1871.

"Sir - In compliance with your memorandum of this day, calling upon me for my opinion as to the seaworthiness of this ship, I beg to state that, considering the age of the ship, and that one of her bottom plates has given way and caused a leak that scarcely the pumps could keep under, in all probability other plates are in as bad a condition, and therefore we might expect other casualties, I consider her unsafe to proceed on the voyage.

"I am, Sir,
" J. E. RICHARDS, Engineer.
"To Captain A.T. Thrupp, Her Majesty's ship Megaera"

(Sub-Enclosure of Nos. 1 and 2,)

"Her Majesty's ship Megaera, June 18, 1871.

"Sir, - We, upon a farther examination when the ship was pumped out drier, found that many of the girders were eaten through at the bottom, and others nearly so; one of those eaten quite through ran across the place through which the leak had taken place.

"The bilge pumps were constantly being choked, and on the doors of the valve boxes being taken off to clear them, also the lids of the non-return valves, pieces of iron were taken out a quarter of an inch thick and an inch and a half in diameter, evidently having been washed from the bottom, for some of them had remains of cement on them.

"We are, &c.,
"To Captain T. Thrupp, Her Majesty's ship Megaera."

In addition to letter, dated 19th of June, 1871.

"Her Majesty's ship Megaera, aground at St. Paul's Island, July 18, 1871.

"Sir, - I have the honour to inform you that on Sunday, the 16th of July, in the afternoon, a vessel was reported in sight; seeing our flag hoisted upside down on the hill as a signal of distress she shortened sail and came close in under the land; the lifeboat, with Acting-Lieutenant Lewis T. Jones, got alongside of her with a few Admiralty returns and a remittance list. She proved to be the Aurora, a Dutch ship, from Amsterdam, bound for Batavia in ballast, with a small general cargo. In a few minutes the lifeboat came back, leaving Mr. Jones on board, sending a message that she could take 20 men, and would do anything I wished. She then filled with the intention of getting closer to the shore; it was getting late, and she never came back, though her lights were reported in sight at 4 S.W. next morning, which could not have been correct, for at daylight two hours afterwards, though fine and clear (the island of Amsterdam, 50 miles off, in sight), nothing was seen of her.

"I very much regret that so good an opportunity of sending my despatches was lost; on all other occasions, when sighting a vessel they have been sent out in the lifeboat. Unfortunately, on this occasion, I was on the opposite side of the island, examining to find a new path up the crater, that we might more easily communicate with the south side of the island. On returning, I was going out in the lifeboat to make arrangements with the Dutch captain, when the vessel made sail. We expected her all the next day, but she never came back.

"Knowing that water would be the chief difficulty, we have had prepared a number of casks that are filled with condensed water and water from the hills. By these means we could send on board any vessel three tons a day, and in a few days get sufficient to take a large number of our men to Australia.

"But in case of any ship being sent to take the men and stores the vessel should have steam power at her command especially at this stormy season of the year, as the anchorage is unsafe, owing to the heavy squalls and rocky bottom.

"As soon, as Lieutenant Jones reaches Batavia he has orders to communicate with the Senior Officer at Singapore, as well as telegraphing to England and Australia, if possible.

"I have ordered a duplicate of all these letters to be forwarded direct to England, so that no time may be lost in acquainting their Lordships of our present position. I have done this in case the ship should not be proceeding direct to Sydney or Australia at all.

"I am, &c.,
" ARTHUR T. THRUPP, Captain.
"To the Secretary of the Admiralty."
Tu 24 October 1871If any persons have fancied that the censures directed against the Admiralty when the news came of the loss of the Megaera were impatient, exaggerated, or in any way unjust, let them read the official despatch of Captain THRUPP which we publish. to-day. It is fortunate for My Lords that the House of Commons is not sitting, and that the feelings which this document must excite will in some measure subside before any formal notice can be taken of it. The country, however, will read it with a mingled sentiment of indignation and pride. The courage, the resource, the promptness in command and the readiness in obedience of British seamen are what they were in the most heroic period of our annals, while the bungling, the recklessness, the stupidity which sent the Megaera to sea cannot have been exceeded in the days when the Dutchman sailed into the Medway with the broom at his masthead. It is now clearly proved by the testimony of the Captain and the three Engineers that the Megaera was utterly rotten and falling to pieces, that she could not safely make the shortest voyage where heavy weather was to be expected, and that, furthermore, this absolute unfitness for service could have been ascertained with the greatest ease by any person of ordinary skill who examined the ship. We now see that when she was placed at the bottom of the list of vessels of her class, and declared unfit to be employed for any kind of freight in the Abyssinian War, there was no excessive caution or scrupulosity displayed, but simply such common judgment as would be exercised by any shipowner or trader who knew his business. This vessel, built in 1844, had been brought, by long service and natural decay, to such a point of crankiness that a hole might have been kicked in her bottom when the Admiralty, on the advice of some one or more of its familiars, decided on fitting her with sailors and stores, and sending her half round the world. The sailors fancy that if it had been a question of transporting soldiers there would have been more care for their safety, but we doubt much whether the people who selected the Megaera could have had the intelligence to make complimentary or even invidious distinctions.

The ship sailed in February, and the incident after putting into Queenstown will be remembered from the referent to it in the House of Commons when the news of the loss arrived. At Queenstown she was inspected by the Admiral; some attention was paid to the complaints of the officers, and a portion of the stores taken out to give them room, but the vital point of her unseaworthiness was never ascertained. She was favoured with exceptionally fine weather during the voyage, and this enabled her to make her way to the remote region where the Island of St. Paul is situated. On the 8th of June she sprang a leak, and her subsequent history is related in the Despatch of Captain THRUPP. He tells the incredible tale with all simplicity. First, let us notice what kind of vessel the Megaera was found to be when her Captain and crew got her in comparative safety to the shores of St. Paul's. The Captain naturally desired to proceed on his voyage if there were a possibility of doing so. The captain who loses his ship loses with it professional reputation and the chance of further employment, unless he can prove clearly that the event was due to causes absolutely beyond his control; and no man is willing to subject himself to such an ordeal. So when the leak was first reported, and even after it was determined to run for St. Paul's, Captain THRUPP thought he might be able eventually to reach Australia. But it was not "the loss of a rivet in the ship's bottom," as he and the Engineers sanguinely hoped, which caused the leak, but "a plate was discovered to have been considerably worn away, and the edges of the hole so thin that they could be easily bent with two fingers." The weather was terrible when, on the night of the 16th of June, they neared St. Paul's. The next day they anchored in 12½ fathoms, and sent down a diver to examine the ship's bottom. The three Engineers who were on board were ordered to report, and their opinions accompany the Despatch. Mr. MILLS says he is of opinion that, even in the event of the present leak being temporarily stopped, the plate is so honeycombed from corrosion - which he attributes to age and wear - that it would be unsafe to proceed with the voyage. Mr. BROWN found that the leak was due to the gradual decay of the iron; that the plate for some distance round the hole was much corroded, and that large rust holes were in the plates. "The place where the leak has broken through is not more than 1-16th of an inch thick." Subsequently the two Chief Engineers found that "many of the girders were eaten through at the bottom, and others nearly so; one of those eaten quite through ran across the place where the leak had taken place." The bilge pumps being constantly choked, the valve boxes were taken off to examine them, as also the lids of the non-return valves, when "pieces of iron were taken out a quarter of an inch thick, and an inch and a half in diameter, evidently having been washed from the bottom, for some of them had remains of cement on them." The captain states that on receiving this last report, and also that of the divers, he came to the conclusion that, "evidently breaking up as the ship was, the girders separating from the bottom, that bottom leaky in one place and vary thin in many more, the pumps being continually choked with pieces of iron and those thick pieces," he could not longer persist in the voyage with so many lives at stake, they being 1,800 miles from the nearest part of Australia. "So, at 9 15 a.m., I turned the hands up, read prayers, and then informed the ship's company that the ship was not fit to proceed on her voyage, and ordered provisions and stores to be at once landed."

On the 19th of June heavy squalls blowing, and only one anchor being left, the Megaera was beached. What follows is as interesting as Robinson Crusoe. They found themselves better off than they expected. They took out three tanks to use as boilers for condensing, the charts reporting that there was no water on the island. But there had been a rainy season, and water was to be had in abundance. The bread was sufficient for 130 days if the men were placed on very short allowance, and, besides this, there were 3,000lb. of rice found on the island. Fish could be caught in any quantity, and crayfish also were to be had. With the usual cleverness of the sailors a hose 860 feet long was carried up to the top of the cliffs to the neighbourhood of the water-pools, and the water ran freely in about ten minutes. But, in spite of all these devices, the crew of the Megaera must have been a prey to intense anxiety. The island, though in the track from the Cape to Australia, is rarely visited, and their little store might be exhausted before aid could come to them. It was not till the 16th of July, a month after they had sighted the island, that a vessel was reported in sight. It was the Aurora, a Dutch ship, and Lieutenant JONES got alongside. She sent word that she could take 20 men, but disappeared during the night. However, she carried the news which in due time was to bring deliverance to the crew of the Megaera in their island prison. Such is this strange history; and our first feeling, now that we know it, with its details, on good authority, must be thankfulness that Captain THRUPP and his crew should have escaped such imminent danger. Never were men more near destruction than those who were sent to sea in the Megaera. But for their proximity to the island they must all have perished. It is pleasant, in this miserable story of perverse and obstinate folly, to be able to pay a tribute of admiration to the seamanlike qualities which those on board displayed in the hour of need. We may congratulate ourselves that as long as we have men like them no amount of official imbecility can quite ruin the British Navy.
Th 26 October 1871



Sir,- We have this day received a letter by the Cape mail steamer Norseman, from Captain Burgoyne of the Oberon, dated September 22, lat. 30 S., long. 13 E. in which he says:- "I landed the provisions at St. Paul's Island on the 26th of August and sailed on the 27th; people all well there."

We remain, Sir, your obedient servants,
SHAW, MAXTER, and Co. 2, Royal Exchange-buildings, Cornhill, London, Oct 25.
Tu 31 October 1871Capt. Thrupp, late of Her Majesty's ship Megaera, has arrived in London. Capt. Thrupp has reported himself at the Admiralty. A court-martial has been ordered to assemble at Portsmouth to try him, and Rear-Admiral Loring, C.B., is to be the president.
Ma 6 November 1871The Simoom, iron-built screw troopship (built in the same year as the Megaera), now lying in dock at Portsmouth ready for commission, has been subjected during the past few days to a most thorough and careful survey to ascertain the exact present condition of her bottom plating and also of her frames and general structural strength. The results of this survey prove unmistakably that the ship's plates over fully eight-tenths of its area is as sound and perfect as when the ship was first placed in the water upwards of 20 years ago. Over the remaining fifth part there is proof of slight wear at the water-line and round the bluff of the bows. Here there are one or two very small spots where the plating has worn down or been chafed down to three-eighths of an inch in its thickness. Where the ship has been opened up inside the iron of the frames, &c., has been found perfectly free from all corrosion, and the frames as effective in strength as the day they were first put together. The Simoom has been always known as a ship built of unusual strength, both structurally and in her outer plating; but until the present survey had been concluded no one could well have anticipated that the outer plating would have been found in such an exceptionally good state of preservation. Nearly 600 holes have been drilled through the plating, and a careful measurement has been taken of the thickness of the plate in each instance. These holes extend all over the ship's bottom to about 13 inches or two feet above the load water-line. Looking along the water-line on the starboard side, from aft to forward, and taking the three-feet band of plating where the greatest amount of wear and chafe is met with - i.e., from 18 inches above to the same distance below the water line - the thickness of the plating runs eight, nine, ten, eleven, and twelve-sixteenths of an inch in thickness, the eighth, or half-inch, only occurring in a few places where then has been chafing from coaling or lying alongside a wharf. The majority of the holes are marked ten-sixteenths. On the bluff of the how there are one or two thin places - one in a repaired plate marked three-eighths, and there are also slight indentations of the plating where the ship his bumped against a wharf or wall. The plating of the under part of the ship's bottom reaches a maximum, very generally spread over it amidships of seven-eighths thickness. In the run of the hull, under the quarter the plating is five-eighths. Round the Kingston valve four holes have been drilled. Two of these give the plating a thickness of ten-sixteenths, one a thickness of nine-sixteenths, and the other a half-inch. The plating on the port side of the ship, over the three-feet band, as before, below, at, and above the water-line, appears to be worn slightly more than on the starboard side. Looking from the port quarter gallery forward to the bows, the drilled holes give the thickness of the plating, in consecutive order, as 9-16ths, 7-16ths, 10-l6ths, ⅜ , ⅜, ½in., ⅜, 9-16ths, ½in., 9-16ths, ½in., ⅜, 9-16ths, 9-16ths, ½in., 7-16ths, ⅜ (these last two holes were drilled through the plating over the coal bunkers at the fore end of the boilers), 9-16ths, 9-16ths, 9-16ths, 9-16ths [difficult in original to distinguish ⅜ from ⅝]. The port bow plating was found, like that on the starboard side, to be slightly indented, and in parts chafed down to half-inch, and, in one instance, to three-eighths. The under plating of the bottom reached a maximum thickness of seven-eighths, like that on the starboard side, and the plating in the run under the quarter was of five-eighths thickness. The Simoom was built at Glasgow at the same time as the Megaera was built at Millwall, in 1849. Both were built from designs and according to specifications prepared by the Admiralty, the Simoom being of 1,980 tons, and intended to carry 14 guns, and the Megaera having a measurement of 1,380 tons, and being intended to carry ten guns. Each must have been built of equal strength in proportion to size, and it certainly now seems impossible to account for the vast difference which must have obtained in the bottom plating of the two ships previous to the Megaera being last commissioned - that is, if the Megaera's bottom plating was really so bad as has been represented. Any difference in the quality of the iron plating originally worked upon the ships' frames would not account for it, for the reason that it must be presumed as the bottom plating was found faulty on the Megaera being put out of commission, she would receive all requisite repairs at the dockyard where she was held in the steam reserve. There are, however, records at the Admiralty which show the exact amount of work the Simoom and Megaera have done since they were built, and also the exact amount of repairs and of what kind each has received. In the present survey of the Simoom a correct knowledge is obtained of the condition of her hull throughout. Is there no similar record in existence at the Admiralty showing the condition of the Megaera's hull? Even should there be no such document in existence, there are lying at Whitehall the quarterly returns from the Reserve in which the Megaera was stationed before she was last placed in commission, and these, signed by the master shipwright and the chief engineer of the yard, must certify to the condition of the ship's hull and her engines. It is to be hoped that any such returns made to the Admiralty have been carefully made out.
Tu 7 November 1871Vice-Admiral W. Loring, C.B., Superintendent of Portsmouth dockyard, yesterday morning shifted his flag from the mizen to the fore of his flagship the Asia, Capt. E.B. Price, aide-de-camp to the Queen, on his promotion from Rear-Admiral to Vice-Admiral.

Vice-Admiral Loring will preside over the court-martial ordered to assemble on board Her Majesty's ship Duke of Wellington in Portsmouth harbour, to try Capt. Thrupp for the recent loss of the Megaera. The Court is expected to commence its sittings about Thursday next.

Tu 7 November 1871



Sir, - In your paper this morning I observe a comparison drawn between the present condition of Her Majesty's ship Simoom and the late Megaera, which might lead the public to believe that the condition of the Megaera was less unsound than she was known to be at the date of her being despatched from England last winter.

I quote from the official document supplied to me for my guidance when superintending lord at the Admiralty of (inter alia) the troop and store ships:-


"Comparative statement of the number of screw troop ships afloat, effective and ineffective, on 31st March, 1867, and on 31st March, 1868:- 1867. - Total afloat, 11; ready for sea, 6; ineffective, 5. 1868. - Total afloat, 11; ready for sea, 11; ineffective, 0. Six of these ships (the Adventure, Simoom, Tamar, Urgent, Himalaya, and Orontes) have been more or less extensively repaired since March last.

"The five others (the Indian transports) have been completed for sea service since March.


"March 31, 1867. - Afloat, 11 - 1, the Adventure, effective; 2. the Himalaya, effective; 3, the Orontes, effective; 4, the Simoom, effective ; 5, the Tamar, effective; 6, the Urgent, effective; 7, the Crocodile, fitting out; 8, the Euphrates, fitting out; 9, the Jumna, fitting out; 10, the Malabar, fitting out; 11, the Serapis, fitting out.

"March 31,1868. - Afloat, 11 - 1, the Adventure, effective; 2, the Himalaya, effective; 3, the Simoom, effective; 4, the Orontes, effective; 5, the Tamar, effective; 6, the Urgent, effective; 7, the Crocodile, effective; 8, the Euphrates, effective; 9, the Jumna, effective; 10, the Malabar, effective; 11, the Serapis, effective.


"Comparative statement of the number of screw store ships afloat, effective and ineffective, on the 31st March, 1867, and on the 31st of March, 1868: - 1867. -Total afloat, 7; ready for sea, 7; ineffective, 0. 1863. - Total afloat, 7; ready for sea, 6; ineffective, 1. The Industry and Supply have been partially repaired during this financial year. The others have not had any repairs of importance. The Hesper has recently been paid off, and will probably require an extensive repair.


"March 31,1867. - 1, Buffalo, effective; 2. Dromedary, effective; 3, Fox, effective; 4, Hesper, effective; 5, Industry, effective ; 6, Supply, effective; 7, Megaera, effective.

"March 31, 1868. - 1, Buffalo, effective; 2, Dromedary, effective; 3, Fox, effective; 4, Hesper, ineffective ; 6, Industry, effective; 6, Supply, effective; 7, Megaera, effective."

The foregoing extract is from a confidential report on the state of the steam ships of the Royal Navy, signed by Sir Spencer Robinson as Controller of the Navy, and which has since been quoted in Parliament.

It will be seen from this that though, the Simoom and the Megaera are of the same age, the Simoom had an extensive repair, which advanced her from No. 4 in 1867 to No. 3 in 1868 on the list of troopships. This repair was of the most complete character. The Megaera was merely patched up for short voyages, and was reduced by us from a captain's command to the command of a navigating commander, standing in both years at the bottom of the list of store ships. Since that time the Megaera was, I believe, further deteriorated by being sent to sea with a description of fiery coal of a cheap quality, when her bunkers caught fire on crossing the line, a fact acknowledged by Mr. Childers on the 1st of April, 1870, in reply to a question in the House of Commons.

The Megaera had, therefore, no extensive repair which would justify a comparison between that ship and the Simoom, as suggested in your Naval Intelligence to-day.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
J.C.D. HAY, M.P.
108, St. George's-square, S.W., Nov. 6.
We 8 November 1871THE MEGAERA. - A Royal Commission will be appointed to inquire into the case of the Megaera, and will begin its sittings immediately after the Court-Martial has concluded its work.
Fr 10 November 1871


The naval court-martial ordered for the trial of Captain Thrupp and the officers and crew of the Megaera at present in England, for the loss of Her Majesty's screw troop and store ship Megaera on the island of St. Paul, assembled yesterday morning on board Her Majesty's ship Duke of Wellington, in Portsmouth Harbour. The Court was composed of the following officers: - Vice-Admiral W. Loring, C.B., President; Captains E.B. Rice, aide-de-camp to the Queen, Asia, and the Portsmouth Steam Reserve; Hancock, Duke of Wellington, and flag captain to Admiral Sir James Hope; Hynsley, Monarch; Waddilove, Inconstant; Graham, Immortalité; Culme-Seymour, Volage; Richards, Jumna; Boys, Excellent, and Superintendent of the Royal Naval College.

Mr. Martin, banister-at-law, and paymaster of Her Majesty's yacht, officiated as Judge-Advocate; Commodore Dowell, C.B., appeared, by permission of the Court, as the friend of Captain Thrupp.

The Court having been sworn, and the witnesses having answered to their names, Captain Thrupp, at the request of the Court, read a statement relative to the breaking out of the leak and the subsequent beaching of the ship on the island of St. Paul, the substance of which has already been published in the letter addressed to the Admiralty by Captain Thrupp. After Captain Thrupp had concluded the reading of this document, the Court was cleared, and on being reopened in about an hour's time the Court proceeded to receive evidence.

Navigating Sub-Lieutenant Lloyd, sworn. Deposed that he was serving on board the Megaera at the time of her loss, and produced the ship's log from the 8th to the 19th of June. The navigating chart was sent on to Australia. (Produced the chart of St. Paul's island, with the places marked where the anchors were lost.)

Mr. Brown, chief engineer of the Megaera. produced the engine-room register of the Megaera from the 1st of May to the 1st of September, also an extract from the engine-room register from the 6th to the 19th of June, 1871.

Captain Thrupp, sworn. - The statement read by me is a true account of the circumstances connected with the stranding and loss of Her Majesty's ship Megaera. I have no complaint to make against any officer or man present.

PRESIDENT. - Has any officer or man present any objection to make to any part of the statement made by Captain Thrupp? - Answer: None.

In answer to the President. Captain Thrupp said, - I had no reason to suspect anything wrong with the ship's bottom prior to the leak being discovered. To my knowledge she had never touched the ground or her own anchor. (The sketch produced marked " D.") The leak was discovered 7ft. 4in. from the keel on the port side, abreast the mainmast, under the coal bunker. I hand in a sketch of the girders showing the leak. The step of the mainmast was in the after part of the stokehold and before the engine-room, a small piece of the coal bunker coming in between the boilers and the engine-room. When the leak was first discovered I had to kneel down and put my hand through a hole under the mainmast. Turning my head round I looked seven feet to my left and saw the water coming into the ship in the same manner as would be seen from a fire-plug in a road, making a small fountain. After the coal bunker was cut away to get at the leak I got a nearer view of the leak. It was immediately under the bunker. I believe the floor of the bunker was lined with iron. The leak was got at through the girder, as shown in sketch G. By girder I mean a frame of the ship. The girder is the after one entering the coal bunker and the engine room. I afterwards lay down in the engine room and looked through the space cut in the girder, and put my hand through. In the aperture through which the water was coming in there was room for about three or four fingers - about 2in. long by 1½in. wide. That is as near as I can say. The edges of the iron were quite sharp. The strength of the jet of water was such as to force my hand away from it. I did not put my fingers through the aperture. The jet of water spurted up against the floor of the coal bunker violently, in jerks. I did not take notice whether the jerks were as the ship rolled. I examined and felt the hole where the leak was, I think both before and after reaching St. Paul's. I do not recollect whether there was any difference in the leak when I first and when I last examined it. Referring to the engine-room register, 733 tons 6 cwt. of coal was on board when the ship was beached. At full speed the average consumption of coal on board the Megaera would be about 40 tons. Using the bilge injection pump, if sufficient sail was available to drive the ship 8 or 9 knots, about 24 tons of coal would have to be burnt a day to prevent an overrunning of the screw. I think the water in the stokehold of the ship on the day the leak was discovered, the 8th of June, was then the deepest, being then about four or five inches over the stokehold plates. The ship was under sail at the time, between 12 and 1 in the morning, when the leak was reported to me, and no steam was then up. The ship was going nine knots, the direction of the wind being W. by S. The ship was then in lat 39 10, long. 49 11 E. Looking at the chart upon which the track of the Megaera (produced) is laid down, the ship appears to have been about midway the Cape and St. Paul's, the wind being dead foul for the Cape and fair for St. Paul's. Continual search was made from the time the leak was first reported for any other probable leak, but I don't think any other leak was supposed. No one was suggested until the discovery on the 13th. The water was heard to be rushing into the ship for some time before the leak was found. As far as we could see round the leak the plates were honeycombed and very thin, but not quite leaks. By honeycombed I mean the plates were "pitted," like puddles in a road. I think the space between the girder marked "G" and the one next to it was about 12 or 13, or it might have been 15 inches. The distance between the skin of the ship to the under part of the coal bunker was, I think, about one foot. As far as I can remember, the edges of the girder were quite sharp and thin. I don't remember whether the skin of the ship was affected in any way by the girder being broken away, except in being weakened in thus having no support in one part for six feet. I have seen the girders near the step of the mainmast, but I do not know whether they were eaten away like the one near the leak, and shown in the sketch produced. The ship anchored at the Cape of Good Hope, from England, on the 8th of May, and remained there some time. During that time there were some small defects made good, but they were nothing to speak of. I had no reason then to suppose the ship would be likely to leak. I do not think I had any doubt about the ship's strength and seaworthiness. When I decided to run for the island of St. Paul, after discovering the leak, it was my intention to examine the ship and stop the leak. At that time I did not think it would be necessary to land the crew and passengers from the ship. The leak was reported at midnight on the 8th. It was on the 14th that I decided to run. to St. Paul's. After the diver had examined the ship's bottom at St. Paul's on the 18th of June, the day before she was run on shore, I decided, having so many lives in my charge, that the ship was unfit to continue the voyage. At that time I had received the reports and opinions of the ship's engineers relative to the condition of the ship's bottom. The first report I received on the 17th, and the other reports on the 18th. It was not until the 18th that I came to the conclusion that we could not proceed on our voyage. In examining the ship's girders, or frames, after the first was found defective, two others forward of the one first found and two others immediately abaft it were also found defective. I am not certain whether the Megaera had a box keelson. (None was shown in the sketch of the girders and skin before the Court, which had been prepared by one of the ship's engineers.) When the water was first reported, to me as having been 17 inches and over after midnight on the 8th, but it had been reduced by pumping to 15 inches - correcting himself, Captain Thrupp said, I meant in my former answer that the water was four or five inches over the ribs and not over the stokehole plates. I believe the ends of the pump hoses were examined frequently to see that the roses and other fittings for keeping such matters as the pieces of iron from getting access to the pumps were clear. I cannot say positively how often the pumps were choked, but it was about eight or nine times in two days. The matter choking the pumps was brought to me by the chief engineer. Sometimes three or four pieces of iron were taken out of the pumps. I produce a piece which came out of the pump. Mr. Richards was then officer of the watch. (The iron was apparently a piece of sheet iron, and nearly as large as an old crown piece.) A good many such pieces of iron were taken out.

If your pumps had been kept clear, and you had sufficient coal to have steamed to the nearest port in Australia, would you have gone on or would yon have beached the Megaera at St. Paul's? - The ship was not safe to have gone on for one day.

Why do you consider her not safe for one day, putting the pumps out of the question? - Because there were so many places round the leak, some of them so large and so thin that they were likely to give way any minute and sink the ship.

Do you say that of your own knowledge, or opinion, or on the reports of your engineers? - On both.

Bearing in mind that the frames of the Megaera were probably about 15 inches apart, and that you saw the leak through a hole cut in one of these frames, is the Court to understand that the thin places, not leaks, were between the two frames? - All the thin places I saw were between those two girders, but not all the weak places in the ship.

But those were all the weak places you saw? - Yes; the other places were outside the ship, and were seen by the diver. The engineers saw the same as I did. I am not certain whether the engineers saw other places besides those in question between the two frames. I think the pieces of iron produced were all thicker than the bottom plating of the ship, and were parts of the girders or frames near the ship's bottom. Up to the date of the 8th of June I had often asked the chief engineer whether the ship was all right when I was going the rounds, and his reply had been "Quite sound, as far as I know." When leaving the Cape I purposed burning coals to reach Australia in calms and light winds as wanted. We steamed from the Cape until we got the Westerly winds.

The Court here adjourned for a short time, and on its being re-opened Captain Thrupp was recalled and his examination resumed.

The Megaera had three watertight compartments, I produce the diver's report. ('Read by the Judge Advocate. It spoke of rusty spots that could easily have been picked through with a knife, of rough corner edges to the plates, and of a place punctured something in the form of a Maltese cross). Captain Thrupp, in further continuance of his examination, said, - At first the engine-room hand pump kept the leak under. Afterwards, with steam in one boiler and using the donkey pump, the leak could not be kept under. We then baled with the ash buckets. We afterwards found it a necessary to use the bilge pumps by working the engines, and had to turn out the middle watch as well as the watch on duty to keep the leak under while waiting for daylight to get the screw down, as the men could not be spared from the pumps for those few minutes. I think 17 inches was the greatest amount of water ever reported to me in the ship. We never used the bilge injection, as far as I remember. During the three days we were off St. Paul's the wind was at the first from off the land. It afterwards was from N. and N.W. along the land, or a little on the land, when we lost the fluke of one anchor. The stern of the ship was then close to the rocks.

To what do you attribute the loss of the anchors and cables?

To the thinness of the land covering the rocks and the frequent heavy squalls. The strain might have been lessened by a longer scope of cable, but the frequent changes of wind in squalls would have rendered a longer scope of cable dangerous to the ship's tailing on to the rocks. Had the anchors and cables held on, the leak certainly could not have been repaired sufficiently to have enabled the ship to proceed on her voyage. The nearest accessible port from St. Paul's was King George's Sound, in Australia, I estimate that in fine weather, and with two boilers, in a calm, the Megaera could steam from five and a half to six knots, burning about 10 cwt. per hour. With a strong wind and using steam to keep a leak under the consumption would be not less than 24 tons a day, for fear of overrunning the screw with less. I have said that on leaving the Cape I considered the ship safe and fit for the voyage. That was owing to the ship having been commissioned, and I presumed her to be seaworthy and not leaky. Her hull had shown no signs of weakness, she had had no collision, neither had she touched the shore. The after Downton pump on the main deck and in the cockpit were used in endeavouring to keep the leak under, but not the foremost Downton pumps because they "sucked" at 14 inches; and we did not wish to have so much Water in the ship as to prevent the engineers cutting a hole through the girder or frame to get at the leak. With 10 or 12 inches they had great difficulty in working owing to the rolling of the ship, the water covering the girder they were at work upon. The two after pumps were sufficient at first to keep the water from increasing in the ship, but not afterwards when the leak increased. When the engines were at work we were able to rest the other pumps occasionally. But when steam was up and the bilge pumps set to work, the latter were sometimes able to keep the water under, but they frequently became choked, and, the water then gaining, other pumps had to be used - the Downton's, the steam donkey-engine pumps, and baling. The donkey pumps were choked at times. The engine room pumps were choked. We bad to work every pump as hard as we could, and then we could only just hold our own against the leak. The engine room donkey-pump would work by steam without propelling the engines. The engineers asked me to work the bilge pumps, using the engines before the screw was got down, as the water had gained, but I thought the risk too great to work the engines without the screw, and I waited till daylight. To have worked the engine-room pumps before the screw was down would have entailed a consumption of fuel due to a working of the engines. The coal we had on board would have lasted four or five days if the ship had floated as long as that, but not long enough for us to have reached the nearest land. Owing to the weakness and extensive thinness of the plates surrounding the leak, I think the ship would probably have sunk in a day or two, using all the pumps. There were two divers in the ship, and the oldest and most experienced was sent down while the ship lay afloat. The other diver was not sent down when the ship was beached to verify the other's statement. The whole of the bottom of the ship inside was covered with bricks and cement, except where we cut through the girder to see. The same on the opposite side of the ship and a small place forward, and could be examined. I believe the whole of the interior bottom of the ship, except certain places which were covered over and out of sight, was covered up with brick and cement. Where we found rusty spots and places round the leak we found the iron so thin as to be just on the point of leaking, and as the rusty places extended length by five or six plates in breadth where the diver went down, we had every reason to suppose that there was very little in those parts but bricks and cement between us and the sea. I produce a rough sketch, by the diver, of the rusty places, which were considered nearly leaks. (Sketch handed in to the Court.) The extent of the ship's bottom plating that could be seen from the inside was about 7ft. 6in. from the keel up between the two frames, and about 15 inches in width on the space between the frames. There was a rise and fall of the tide of four feet where the ship laid. When the ship broke up we could see from the stem nearly to the keel. At 11 p.m. on the night before the ship arrived at St. Paul's the leak nearly took up, as stated in the engineroom register. Something thrown overboard got sucked in the leak and remained there some time, nearly stopping the leak. The whole time the ship, with the exception of the first few hours, was lying at anchor at St. Paul's it was necessary to use the engines to keep the water under. The ship broke up where she was beached on the 3d of September. The ship had made a bed for herself and entirely covered all bad parts, so that a diver could not possibly get under her bottom. The ship's bottom between the four frames, other than where the leak broke out, was bricked over. On the ship beaching the water bubbled through the fore part of the stoke-hole, filling the ship with water soon afterwards to a depth of 7ft., 12ft., and 14ft. in the three several compartments by midnight. I pressed the edge of the iron at the aperture where the leak was without attempting to use much force, but without putting my fingers through the hole, and bent the iron. I could, with my hand or an iron hook, have with the greatest ease torn the hole considerably larger. There was, with reference to a former question, very nearly 6ft. of the ship's frame rusted away from the bottom of the ship. Previous to the leak being discovered, I do not think the ship had been unduly strained in any way, because she was a very good sea boat, and never made very bad weather. After the ship was beached I had no means of verifying my previous opinion relative to the state of her bottom.

By the Deputy Judge Advocate. - The Megaera was commissioned on the 31st of January last. I cannot say when she was last docked for examination. The ship's log, from information supplied from the dockyard, states that she was docked on the 21st of January. The quarterly examination of the bottom of the ship inside was by the carpenter at Ascension on the 6th of April last, who then reported every part of the cement quite sound. The chief engineer's quarterly return upon the condition of the machinery of the ship and the boilers was made on the 6th of April.

The Court adjourned at 4 30 p.m. until 9 30 a.m. to-day.
Sa 11 November 1871


The Naval Court, under the presidency of Vice-Admiral W. Loring, C.B;, held its second sitting yesterday on board Her Majesty's ship Duke of Wellington, in Portsmouth harbour, for the trial of Captain Thrupp, with the officers and seamen of the ship now in England, and lately belonging to the Megaera, for the loss of that vessel at St. Paul's Island.

The first witness examined by the Court was:-
Thomas Coles White, draughtsman of the Construction Department of the Admiralty, who produced a block model of the Megaera taken from drawings at the Admiralty, and also a sectional model of the ship, showing the interior fittings of the ship as to coal bunkers, &c., in the vicinity of the leak. The girder underneath the mainmast, he said, has been made from drawings taken by the officers of the ship, dated the 8th of June, and sent home by Captain Thrupp. I produce - 1. A drawing of the midship section of the Megaera, with a fly leaf appended, sent home from the ship; 2. A plan of the hold, as taken from her when fitted; 3. A plan of these pumps, with the quantity of water they would pump. The situation of the leak (on the plan sent home) is under the port bunker, and is seven feet four inches from the middle line of the ship. The thicknesses of skin plating marked on the block model have been placed there by authority, and are taken from the report of the survey held on the ship in 1866. A note on the model stated that the survey in 1866 reported the hull of the ship to be in good condition, the thinnest part of the entire plating on the outside of the ship, above, at, and below the water line being three eighths of an inch in thickness, and this was under the bows, or rather under the hawse pipes at the bows. Over a wide band of plating at and in the vicinity of the water line the plating was marked of a uniform thickness of five-sixteenths of an inch. No figures showing the thickness of the plates appeared on the bottom of the model under the 5-16 band; one spot above load water line was marked 3-16. I examined the report of the survey of 1866, with Mr. Barnaby, the Chief Constructor of the Navy, to see whether any information was given as to the thickness of plates in the vicinity of the hole where the leak occurred in the ship, and there was no information on the subject. The survey, I believe, was made at Woolwich, dockyard. There is in the office at the Constructive Department of the Admiralty a report of a survey held upon the Megaera since 1866, but I have not seen it. There must also be a report upon the ship when she was docked in January last at Sheerness now lying at the office of the Constructive Department of the Admiralty. The thinnest plating marked on the model is three-eighths of an inch in thickness. There is a plate marked 3-16 above the load waterline.

By Captain Thrupp. - The throw of water by the pumps would, of course, depend upon the amount of manual or steam power applied to work them.

The Court here was cleared, and remained closed for a considerable time. On re-opening,
Mr. White was recalled, and his attention being called to the figures on the block model representing the thickness of plating, witness said he now found that there was one small place just below the water line where the thickness was marked 3-16.

Mr. W. Weston, Admiralty ckymist at Portsmouth Dockyard, sworn, - I produce a substance sent to me this morning (the supposed piece of scaled iron from the frames or plating of the inside of the ship, handed into the Court by Captain Thrupp). It is oxyde of iron. I consider that no part of it is solid iron. I have merely made a sufficient examination to determine its nature, but the substance is mainly the peroxyde of iron, and, roughly, the proportion of solid iron required to form this oxyde would be about three-fourths the weight of the substance produced. The difference between oxyde and peroxyde is caused by the proportions of oxyde combined with the iron. Peroxyde is simply rust. This substance has, no doubt, been part of an iron plate or beam, but whether it represents the whole thicknesses of the plate or beam from which it came I cannot say. I think it has most probably scaled off from some place and left another thickness of iron behind it. A mere coating of rust would not appreciably diminish the thickness of an iron plate, but if it amounted to a scale it would cause a diminution of the thickness of the plate in, proportion to the thickness of the scale thrown off.

Mr. George Mills, chief engineer of the Megaera, was the next witness. He produced a written statement of facts which witness said had come within his own knowledge. (Read by the Judge Advocate.) Described the depth of water found in the ship, and his examination of the pumps. &c., on the discovery of the unusual entrance of water in the ship. Tuesday, the 13th, at 1 30 p.m., the leak was discovered, and it was at first thought by witness and Mr. Brown that the leak appeared to be from a rivet hole, but this was afterwards found not to be correct. Eleven places were found near the leak where plate was very thin and "gave" to pressure from the hand. Witness passed his finger through the hole of the leak. On the 18th a patch was put on by the diver from the outside, consisting of a piece of bunker plate. The first piece came off again, but a second piece was got on and made fast. When the ship was beached one girder broke in the middle. The other parts of the document were simply corroborative of Captain Thrupp's statement and evidence.

Examined by the COURT. - As chief engineer of the Megaera, I had charge of all the pumps. The hand pumps comprised one Downton of 12-inch of the top deck, two 7-inch pumps on the main deck, one 7-inch pump on the after baggage deck or cockpit, and a 6-inch pump in the stokehold with two plungers, this latter being also the steam pump. There were two bilge pumps attached to the engines, of 3¾in. diameter and 2ft. 6in. stroke. The bilge injections, which is the air pump, two in number, were of 17in. diameter and 2ft. 6in. stroke. There was also a steam donkey for pumping the boilers, but in no way connected with the engines. When I first saw the leak I was kneeling on one of the girders and looking under the step of the mainmast in line with the fore part of the coal bunker and right in the centre of the ship. I was on the third frame abaft the heel of the mainmast. There was no keelson, in the ship as represented in the model. The frames ran quite smooth across. The first I saw of the leak was a jet of water coming up through the plates of the ship's bottom, and appearing as if a rivet had dropped out. The jet struck against a strengthening plate, not the bottom of a bunker, about 14 inches from the bottom. The bottom of the bunker was nearly two feet above this plate. (Captain Thrupp had stated in his evidence that the jet of water struck against the bottom of the bunker.) When the stokehold plates were taken up the ship's frames abaft the bunker there and between the bunker and engine-room were quite open. I lay down flat on the frames and passed one of my fingers through the hole and felt all round the plate as far as I could reach. The edges of the hole were quite sharp, and for at least an inch all round the hole the plate was quite eaten away, and so thin that I could have bent it easily. Then the hole was about two inches long by a little over one inch wide. It appeared like a larger hole in the centre with smaller ones on each side, all three eaten into one hole as shown in the sketch before the Court, I never examined the hole in the same way again. The indiarubber and iron plates were never taken off until the diver was ready with the outside patch, when the bolt was passed through as quickly as possible. The indiarubber was five-eighths of an inch thick; the iron plate was a piece of quarter-inch plate, the two, as a patch, were fixed down over the leak on the leak being discovered, by screwing a straight brace between the back of the patch and the strengthening plate above. The appearance of the state of the ship's bottom was of such a nature that I would not allow the brace to be screwed up by a lever, but merely by hand for fear of further injuring the- ship's bottom. The patch, I think, kept no water out. It merely prevented it striking the plate above. As much came round from under the indiarubber as before the patch was put on. I tried no other method for stopping the leak, as, feeling the state of the plate, I was afraid to try a shot plug. I have reason to believe the hole afterwards increased in size, from the quantity of water that found its way into the ship, and the greater difficulty met with in keeping it under with the pumps. Above the leak there were rust-holes, but not so many below the leak. I should think that for a distance of three feet each side the leak I examined the plates inside the ship both by sight and touch, using a hand lamp lashed on to a piece of wood and passed through the hole cut in the girder. There were 11 rust-holes over this space, and three of them very bad places, the plate "giving" to the pressure of the hand. At a part where the plating of the ship's bottom inside was cemented the cement was in good order, but the plating underneath the cement could not be seen, Five of the frames of the ship in the vicinity of the leaks were very much eaten away. I have saved none of the pieces of substance thrown up by the pump. I had ten or a dozen which I showed to Captain Thrupp, but they were left in my cabin on board the Megaera. I cannot say positively how often the pumps were choked, but on the average I should think the engine bilge pumps were choked four or five times a day. On the 31st of January and on the 30th of April I examined the suction of the pumps and they were then in good condition. Both the roses on the bilge pumps suction pipes were new ones, put on after the ship left England. The foremost one was put on on the 24th of April last The "rose" of the suction was a perforated box with the pipe through the top of it, but nothing on the end of the pipe. The box rested on the bottom of the ship, in fact, and the Suction pipe dipped into it. The ship rolling heavily the rush of water in the bilges may have slightly canted these rose boxes, and I suppose may have admitted the pieces of iron pumped up. The suction pipe passing through the top of these rose boxes would have their ends about three or four inches from the bottom of the ship. I had no opportunity after the ship was beached to examine the leaky plate. There wire 133 tons of coal in the ship when the ship was beached. It would have been possible to have worked the engine pumps without the screw previously to the ship being beached, but I should have been afraid of the engine running away, and I did not like to lose the chance of using the bilge pumps. Captain Thrupp also objected to such a course. On the 8th of June the ship had the greatest amount of water in her at any one time - 17 inches. I do not think that the water at any one time overpowered the pumping force. I think the pumps just managed to hold their own. To have raised the sluices of the water compartments and manned all the hand pumps continuously, I do not think would have kept the water down without steam. The whole of the ship's bottom on the inside was examined, where accessible, but no other weak places were found beyond those mentioned at and near the leak. The forward of the five decayed frames over the 6ft. of rust hole plating and leak, the witness proceeded to state, was corroded at the bottom near the plating, but he could not see how far through. The one immediately abaft was eaten away by corrosion at the bottom to about a depth of three-eighths of an inch and to a length of seven or eight feet. The thickness of the frame was about five-eighths of an inch in its original form. Another frame was eaten away in the same manner, but not to the same extent. The Megaera had been docked in April and in August in 1870, her bottom being then cleaned and coated with composition. In January, 1871, she was placed in dock at Sheerness, and had her bottom again cleaned and coated with composition, but I did not hear of any survey being held, I never heard of any leaks or weaknesses in the ship's hull, and until June 7th nothing of the kind had occurred. From conversations at Sheerness or other causes I never had any reasons to doubt the ship's seaworthiness for the duty she was employed upon. I have heard some reports, but could not trace them to any authority. After the leak broke in I think nothing could have been done from the outside of the ship to have stopped the leak. It is in evidence that something from the outside got into the leak and nearly stopped it for a time, but that did not suggest the possibility of stopping the leak from the outside. A piece of compressed felting supplied by the carpenter, and coated, was put on the outside of the leak by the diver. I have no positive knowledge that the leak became larger in size than shown in the sketch in the engine-room register. When the plate over the inside of the leak had been screwed up as far as it could be by hand, I felt it, and then decided not to use any more force from fear of further damaging the plate. Replying to a question respecting the lining of brickwork and cement, witness said the position of the bunkers prevented his seeing how far upwards from the keel the cement was laid over the ship's plating. Looking at the sectional model of the ship on the table of the Court, the fore and aft keelson there represented was to be seen in the stokehole, but not further than the after line of the coal bunker. I do not think it passed beyond the after part of the stokehole, and not under the step of the mainmast. The girder I cut through to get at the leak was certainly not less than half an inch in thickness, and was there in good condition. After the ship had been beached at St. Paul's it was impossible to get at the bottom plates, the ship being buried. After she broke up there was no possibility of getting at the bottom plates. "Bad places" and "rust holes" of which I have spoken in my evidence as on the six-feet space about the leak mean one and the same thing - holes eaten down into the plate and below the surface. These holes the greatest depth below the surface of the plate (the witness is speaking of the inside of the ship and under the corroded frames) were about three-quarters of an inch, or nearly an inch, but not in a straight line. The worst part in the plate where eaten into by these holes I could not cover with the palm of my hand, I examined the plating of the ship in the screw alley to about ten feet upwards on each side of the keel, and found it all in very good order. Close to the bad six-feet place where the leak broke in there was the suction pipe from the hand pump, made of copper, and its rose, and I have thought it possible that the water washing backwards and forwards as the ship rolled, and the iron plating of the ship being there unprotected by cement, that might be the cause of the corrosion of the ship's plating. With regard to the rose boxes referred to, the copper rose of the foremost bilge pump rested on some bricks that were on the bottom of the ship. To prevent choking of the bilge pumps men were stationed to lift the rose boxes and clear out any dirt that might accumulate there. (The rose boxes have no bottoms, and as the end of the suction pipes inside them are quite open, any substance getting out of the ship's bilge under the edge of the boxes became liable to be sucked up through the pipe and thus choke the pump.) It was thought better to station men to clear these boxes than to bolt the boxes down. There was always from 12 to 15 inches of water in the ship when the fires were drawn, and there never was more than 17 inches of water in the ship; but if the water could have been kept down to or under that height I would not have recommended the captain to have continued the voyage, for the reason that we had not coal to burn over the distance to go, and from a knowledge of the dangerous condition of the defective plates seen, and the probably defective state of other plates not seen. The defective plates over the six-feet space at the leak was a sufficient reason for beaching the ship, even supposing the other parts of the ship were all sound. I don't think I expressed an opinion either verbally or in writing, that the ship would break up. The iron or oxide pumped up by the bilge pumps I think came from the frames of the ship. Portions of the interior of the ship's bottom between the frames, where it could be got at, were coated with cement; other parts, as under the coat bunkers, where the bottom plates could not well be got at, there was no cement. The engine bilge pumps, speaking from memory, threw 17 tons of water out of the ship at 40 revolutions. The steam donkey pumps threw 11 tons, with the same number of revolutions. The bilge injection was never used. We were obliged to keep the water down to enable the artificers to work in cutting the girder through to get at the leak, and the water then in the ship would probably not have covered the suction rose of the injection. The danger to the engines in working pumps without the screw would be from their "racing," and the cylinder covers would probably have gone, as there was already one or two cracks in the flanges. There was, in fact, in this working of pumps without the screw danger to the engines, involving, in the event of actual damage, the loss of their pumps. With the coals on board the Megaera when at St. Paul's, she might have steamed eight days at five to five and half knots in smooth water.

At nearly 5 p.m. the Court adjourned until 9 30 a.m. to-day.
Ma 13 November 1871


The Naval Court appointed for the trial of Captain Thrupp and certain officers and men who have served in Her Majesty's ship Megaera, for the loss of that vessel on St. Paul's Island in June last, re-assembled on Saturday for the third time on board Her Majesty's ship Duke of Wellington, in Portsmouth Harbour, under the presidency of Vice-Admiral W. Loring, C.B. The court opened about half-past 9 in the morning.

With one important exception, the evidence given before the Court up to this time represents simply the opinions of Captain Thrupp and the officers and crew of the Megaera relative to the loss of the ship. The exception appears to be the evidence given on Saturday by Mr. Banister, the Assistant-Engineer of Portsmouth Dockyard, in his statement as to the throwing power of the Megaera's pumps. It may not be of much moment of itself, but, looking at this estimate of the Megaera's hand-pumping power in comparison with that by the chief engineer of the ship, the evidence given by Mr. Banister appears indicative of the course the Admiralty intend to pursue in their defence.

Mr. George Mills, chief engineer of the Megaera, recalled and examined, in describing the position of the hand-pump and the lead of the suction pipe, with its copper rose box, between the ship's frames, said, - The pump was fixed about two feet from the central line of the keel on the port side, abreast the mainmast. The bent copper pipe led aft from the pump right down into the bilge, the upper bend over the frames and the up and down part of the pipe between the frames in a line with the position of the leak, the rose being about five feet from the leak itself and between the same frames. The pipe was copper. A length, of about 2ft. 6in. of this copper pipe was actually between, the two frames, but no part of the up and down part touched the iron framing of the ship. I am not sure whether the other part of the pipe was or was not resting upon the frames Between the two frames where the leak broke through the space, one part, about 2ft. from the centre line, was cemented. The other part was bare. The whole of the bottom in the stokehold was covered with brick and cement, the cement over the bricks giving a smooth, floor. Under the engine-room flat and in the screw-passage the bottom was cemented. There was a small platform of bricks, about 2ft. square, in the fore part of the engine-room upon which the suction, or rose box, from the foremost bilge pump rested. The after rose box was fitted in the same manner. The hand pomp rose box was a circular one of copper. The end of the copper pipe from the hand pump was in a well of about 2in. in depth in the cement on the bottom of the ship. On the day previous to, and on the day the ship was beached, I never stopped the pumps to sound the depth of water in the ship. I cannot state what was the depth of water in the ship on those days. When the pumps were stopped to clean them when choked, it took half-an-hour to do so, and the water in the ship then increased. When the pumps were set going again I saw the water rapidly diminish, but I cannot say how long it took the pumps to get the water down to its previous level.

Is the Court to understand that, speaking from your own knowledge, you are not aware of any other part of the ship being defective except that particular place between, the two frames in the vicinity of the leak? - I know of none.

Questioned relative to the possible means for repairing the leaky plates from the inside, the witness said that a plate large enough to cover the defective part at the leak would have been too large to pass through the hole cut in the girder. To get such a plate in a position to cover the bad place, caulk, and secure it there, the main coal bunker, then holding 60 tons of coal, would have to be cut through in its double bottom plates, and after that the strengthening plate (spoken of by Captain Thrupp as the plate against which the jet of water from the leak spurted) would have also to be cut through. All this done it would be doubtful whether the defective plating on the ship's side would bear the pressure of the caulking of the inner plate. Had there been no means of covering the leak with the ship at sea, the hole, from the appearance of the iron, might have extended eventually to about five inches in length, and three inches in breadth. With steam and hand pumps worked very smartly, they ought to have kept the water entering through such a leak under. With the ship rolling, the suction, and consequently the throw, would have been decreased. There was not sufficient coal on board to work the pumps over the 1,800 miles, the distance to the nearest land. I have no doubt other leaks would have opened over the other defective places in the plate I have spoken of in the vicinity of the existing leak. I know of no means that could have been taken to enable the ship to make the remainder of her voyage from St. Paul's in safety. During the time I have been in the ship none of the cement or bricks were removed from the bottom for any examination of the bottom. The end of copper pipe from the hand-pump would be constantly in the water flowing over the defective plate.

In the course of his further examination, many points of which elicited no facts of importance, the witness said that from the quantity of water coming into the ship on the increase of the leak, he thought other damage must have occurred to the ship's plating in its faulty part than the one known hole. Considered it possible that the pieces of iron thrown up by the pumps might have come from both the frames and plating of the ship. As a practical engineer I have found that the practical work by hand pumps at sea is one-third less than their calculated power. The rose-box of the hand-pump suction-pipe was abreast the mainmast, and made, I believe, of copper. The box was about 7in. in diameter, and the pipe about 3in. I think it was placed between the two frames where the leak was, but it was either placed between those frames or the next. The rose-box rested on the cement covering the ship's bottom plating, but I could not see how far the cement extended there. I am not now positively certain whether the copper pipe from the hand pump passed between the two frames where the leak was, or the next two. I should not think the Downton pumps at sea throw more than half the quantity of water they are calculated to throw. I cannot say positively, from my own knowledge, that any part of the iron of the ship's bottom or girders was in contact with the copper pipes, &c., from the pumps.

With reference to an answer given by him on the previous day relative to the pitting of the plates in the vicinity of the leak, the witness said that, judging from the depth of the deepest holes being nearly three-quarters of an inch, and nearly through the plating, the latter there must have been an inch in thickness, or very nearly so.

The witness's attention being directed by the Court to Art. 391 of the "Appendix to the Admiralty Instructions," which was read by the Deputy Judge-Advocate, the witness said that the part of the ship's bottom where the leak broke out was totally inaccessible for the examination directed by the article referred to to be made quarterly in the interior of the bottom of iron ships. In answer to further questions, the witness said that when the ship lay in dock in January last he went down under her bottom, picked up an eyebolt, and with it sounded the lower plates on that side of the ship as he went along. On the other side of the ship there was a staging at about the water line of the ship. He went along this staging and sounded the plates on that side. He found nothing the matter on either side. When the leak broke out he considered from what he then saw that there were three or four plates defective.

The substance defined, as peroxide of iron by Mr. Weston, the Admiralty chemist at Portsmouth dockyard, in his examination by the Court on the previous day, being handed to witness for his opinion, as a practical engineer well acquainted with the nature of metals, as to the nature of the substance, he said that he still thought it "iron" from a "plate" or "frame" of the ship. It was taken out of the valve box of the bilge pump.

By Captain THRUPP. - I think that the weak places on the inside of the ship's plating at and in the vicinity of the leak were probably caused by the copper pipe from the hand pump passing between the ship's frames.

Mr. James Thomas Banister, assistant engineer of Portsmouth dockyard, sworn and examined by the COURT. - The piece of iron taken from the valve box of the engine-room bilge pump being handed to the witness, he described its nature as oxide of iron. Its specific gravity was 3.86. That of plate iron was 7.8. The appearance of the substance was that of a thick oxide, such as is frequently met with on removing boilers from their seats, on which, there has been corrosive action. It might have scaled off from the boilers, but no limit could he placed as to the part in the ship from where it might be detached. Should think the formation of the substance must have been the work of a year, or nearly so. It represented in thickness or bulk half its thickness in pure iron.

The Court adjourned at about 1 30 p.m. for half an lour, and on re-opening,
Mr. Banister was re-called, and his opinion asked whether the position of the hand-pump copper piping and the box between the frames in which the leak was could lave caused sufficient galvanic action to have damaged the plating of the ship for three feet on each side of the leak. The answer given was that no injury could have resulted to the iron, owing to the distance between the copper pipe and the iron plating. With water changing in form and washing over a copper pipe and iron plating, as was the case in the Megaera, no galvanic action, in witness's opinion, could follow. With water in a small quantity and in a state of rest, covering copper and iron, galvanic action might be set up without the metals being in actual contact. Could not recognize any indication of the action of copper upon the piece of oxide of iron before the Court, and which had been taken from the valve box of the Megaera's engine bilge pump.

By the PRESIDENT. - Taking the speed of the engines of the Megaera for working the pumps at the reduced number of 40 revolutions, the throwing power of the pumps would be: - Bilge suction pumps, 30 tons per hour; ditto, injection ditto, 300; donkey pumps, 21; band pump, 12 ; Downton 12in. pump, 40; three 7in. Downton's, 36; total throw, 439 tons per hour. Witness considered that, in practical working, there could be no difference in the throw of pumps from their calculated force. Forty revolutions by the Downton pumps was a practicable speed, three gangs of men, 12 at each pump being sufficient for the purpose, using half their force. Forty men could have worked the 12-inch Downton pump. In both instances the men would require relieving after half an hour's work, and would require one and a half hour's rest. The pumping, according to the calculations made, might be continuous and without limit of time. In making the calculations 24ft. had been taken as the greatest height to which the water would be lifted. I have made (continued the witness} calculations as to the area of a hole in the Megaera's bottom, the water coming through, which her pumps would clear in the following proportions: - Bilge injection, 17 square in.; suction, 15-10 square in.; donkey pump, 1 square in.; hand pump, 6-10 square in.; Downton 12in. pumps, 2 square in.; the three 7in. Downton's combined, 1.7 square in.; united area that would be cleared, 23 8-10 square in.

At the conclusion of Mr. Banister's examination the Court adjourned until this morning.
Tu 14 November 1871


The fourth day's sitting of the Court for the trial of Captain Thrupp and officers and crew of the late Megaera, for her loss on St. Paul's Island, was held yesterday on board her Majesty's ship Duke of Wellington, in Portsmouth Harbour, Vice-Admiral W. Loring, C.B., again presiding; and the members of the Court comprising Captains Hancock, Duke of Wellington; Rice, Aide-de-Camp to the Queen, Asia, and Steam Reserves at Portsmouth; Boyse, Excellent Gunnery Establishment and Superintendent of the Naval College; Waddilove, Inconstant; Aynsley, Monarch; Graham, Immortalité; Richards, Jumna, and Colme-Seymour, Volage. Mr. Martin, paymaster of the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert, barrister-at-law, again officiated as Judge-Advocate, and Commodore Dowell, C.B. appeared, by permission of the Court, as the friend of Captain Thrupp.

The Court opened at half-past 9 in the morning, and the first witness called was -
Mr. Nathaniel Barnaby, President of the Council of Construction at the Admiralty. -The block model is designed to show certain thicknesses of plates, and I propose to show when the plates were of that thickness. The survey from which those thicknesses were obtained was made at Woolwich in 1866. In the preceding year the Megaera had received at Devonport new boilers, another set of engines, had been completely cemented throughout the inside of her hull, and had received a general refit, at the cost of 37,400l. On the 20th of January, 1865, she was, by Admiralty order, transferred from the list of troopships and made a store-ship, commencing from that period a new life. In 1866 she was taken in hand at Woolwich, and, although she had been newly cemented in the previous year, her plates were bored throughout the bottom and at the water-line. Referring first to the bottom of the ship below the water line, the witness said, - I produce the report of the officers who made that survey. All that they say in that report with regard to the bottom plating is - "The hull has been examined and found to be in good condition, the thinnest plates being ⅜ of an inch thick." The report of these officers is borne out by a recent survey on the Simoom at Portsmouth Yard, with regard to which it may be said in precisely the same terms - i.e., that "the hull has been found to be in good condition, the thinnest plates being ⅜ of an inch thick." The recent survey on the bottom of the Himalaya bore out still further the correctness of the survey of the Megaera, and also that of the Vulcan. Like the Megaera, and built for a ship-of-war, she was a most inconvenient troopship, but she received a first-class certificate from Lloyd's when sold by the Admiralty, although her plates and frames had not been renewed, and she is now running between London and India, classed A1 at Lloyd's.

The Court was here cleared, and after some time was reopened, the Judge-Advocate stating that the Court desired the witness to confine his evidence more directly to answering the questions put to him. The examination of Mr. Barnaby was then resumed.

The word "hull" of the ship, as used, must be understood to mean the bottom of the ship. The figures and words on the block model represent the state of the Megaera before she was repaired at Woolwich in 1866, but the thinnest plates at the water-line were then removed. There has also been a survey of those plates at the water-line in 1870, respecting which I can give evidence if desired. The survey of April, 1870, which I now produce, is in general terms, and does not give the actual thickness of the plating at the water-line at that date. I know the thin plates were removed from the ship's side after the survey in 1866, but I cannot give the thickness of the new plating. The report of 1866 before the Court does not give the positions of the borings in the ship's bottom, but is confined as to positions to the borings made at the water-line. The bottom was then bored throughout, but the report does not give the exact positions of the borings. The bottom of the ship on the inside was last cemented throughout in 1864, but the cement would be repaired after the borings in 1866 at Woolwich. Speaking of my own knowledge, I can only say that the complete cementing of the inside of the ship's bottom was ordered. The block model before the Court is an indication of the state of the ship in 1871, because we have a right to infer that those plates that were ⅜ of an inch thick in 1866 would have been of the same thickness if the cement and paint had been kept perfect. So far as I know, the facts represented by the figure on the block model were not communicated to Captain Thrupp and his officers, but they were told by the Admiralty instructions to take care none of the paint or cement was removed. (The Court objected to the latter part of the answer.) Of my own knowledge, I cannot say whether the facts I have given in my evidence were known by the officers of the Megaera or not. When giving the order to cement the Megaera we should understand that all parts, accessible for inspection by the ship's officers or not, should be cemented. On the supposition that all parts were cemented in 1864, such cement may get cracked, water may get in, and then the cement may become detached and washed into the bilges. It would have been the duty of the officers of the dockyard, when the Megaera was cemented, to make every part of the inside of the ship accessible, and cement all places, as well as those places easy of access. It was the duty of the dockyard officers to make a thorough and searching examination of the inner surface of the ship's plating, because they would have to report as to the complete efficiency of the ship when she left their hands. The boring alone of an iron ship's side would be insufficient to determine its efficiency. I cannot accept the test of the depth of the fitting of the Megaera's plates, because the plates there were only half an inch thick when the ship was built, but the fact would be explained if there was a copper rose-box in the vicinity of bored plates. With bilge water lying on or washing over the bored plates, a hole might have been worn through even in a few weeks. The survey at Sheerness was made in consequence of a report of defects by the officers of the ship in April 1870. In that report it is stated that the ship required docking to clean and paint. The second defect reported is, "Iron bulkhead in fore hold defective." "Wing bunkers require repairing next the ship's side." On these three defects the dockyard officers at Sheerness report as follows:- "The bottom is stated to be very thin in many places, which cannot be ascertained until the vessel has been placed in dock." I would observe that there has never been any report from the ship's officers as to the thinness of the ship's plating. With regard to one of the other defects, the dockyard officers say in their report that the repairs were required. An order was given on the 16th of April, 1870 ; the dockyard officers at Sheerness were ordered to proceed with their work, but to reconsider their estimate, and report whether it could not be reduced, the amount of the estimate having been sent in at 722l. The estimate was reduced to 563l. They report: - "On being docked the ship's bottom was found in a better condition than was expected," and this would enable the estimate to be reduced. Four new plates would be required in the bulkhead in the forehold. The iron lining in the wing bunker would be temporarily repaired, but would require to be more effectually repaired when the ship could be spared for a longer period. On the ship's return to England from Malta in June last she was ordered to be paid off into the fourth class reserve at Devonport. To this order Captain Luard telegraphed to the Admiralty, - "The defects of the Megaera have just been made good. She is ready for one year's service at any moment. Do you intend her to be put in the fourth class of the reserve? These are our present orders, but thinking there may be some mistake I venture to trouble you with this telegram." To that telegram Sir Spencer Robinson replied "Keep the Megaera ready for one year's service; disturb nothing, and return her perishable stores only." The date of these telegrams is Aug. 13, 1870. To complete his answers on the survey of the ship at Sheerness, the witness wished to hand in a document signed by the foreman of the shipwrights at Sheerness yard, but the Court declined to receive it.

Witness continued. - The Megaera was removed from the list of troopships and placed on the list of storeships because she was a most uncomfortable passenger ship and disliked by those who took passage in her, and because the Tamar and the Orontes had been built to perform the service she had been previously employed upon. Built as a fighting ship it was impossible to make the between decks as light, airy, and comfortable as the between decks of a passenger ship. The dislike of the ship was not entirely military. Naval officers had also been used to more luxurious accommodation. I most undoubtedly consider that a storeship should be as seaworthy as a troopship. I know that any such consideration as a deterioration of the Megaera's hull, or anything connected with her general seaworthiness had nothing whatever to do with the change in her duties from a troop to a storeship. The fact that she had just had 20,000l. spent upon her sufficiently proves that. I cannot say how much of that sum was expended upon the ship's plating. I cannot conceive it possible that there should be any spaces on the inside of the ship's bottom that would not be covered with cement. Had there been any such omission, as under the bunkers in the vicinity of the leak, it must have been afterwards brought to light by the subsequent inspection by the ship's carpenter and the dockyard officers. There undoubtedly should have been the same amount of cement between the two frames near the leak as in other frames. The ship with the bare iron there would be in constant peril of having a hole worn through her bottom from the wash of bilge water, to say nothing of copper in the neighbourhood. I am quite sure that there would be galvanic action in the case supposed of a rose-box placed on an iron ship's bottom, If the galvanic circuit between the copper and the bare iron was completed, as it was in the Megaera, and if the bare irons were constantly immersed in salt water or wet, such as would be left on the surface of the cement by the rolling of the ship. The Admiralty instructions to both dockyard officers and officers of a ship are based upon these assumptions. There are distinct orders at every dockyard that rose-boxes are not to be made of copper. The oxidation of iron nearly always shows itself in pits, whether caused or not by galvanic action. But when there is galvanic action, the pits are usually much cleaner and more decided. I can only account for the fact of there having been a copper rose-box to the hand pump of the Megaera, by attributing it to the neglect of the dockyard officers, and to both ignorance and neglect on the part of the officers of the Megaera. The report of 1866 does not state whether the bunker plates was taken out or not. The Sheerness officers surveyed the Megaera themselves subsequent to the date of their report, which stated the plates were thought to be thin. That report is dated the 22d of April, 1870. In August, 1870, she was reported as fit for one years' service at the least. She was commissioned six months afterwards. While she was in the Steam Reserve there was a continuous inspection of the ship by her carpenter and engineer. They reported to the Captain of the Steam Reserve monthly that the hull was in good order, and the bilges dry. The outside of the bilge and the bottom were carefully surveyed by the Sheerness Dockyard officers both in August 1870, and in January, 1871. The monthly reports of survey or examination in the Reserve referred to, were signed by the chief engineer of the Megaera, but not by the carpenter. These examinations apply only to such parts as could be seen on careful and minute inspection. It would not he supposed that any permanent fittings would be removed to facilitate the survey. So long as the cement or paint upon the ship's plating remained sound, neither bilge water alone nor bilge water, intensified in its action by galvanic current would injure the plating. I cannot account in any way for the absence of cement between the frames where the leak was, but undoubtedly the cause of the leak in one space might be expected to occur in any other space. When the ship was coated with cement in 1864 I can only say that the cement ought to have been laid on the plating athwartships to a greater height than where the leak broke out. The survey by boring at Woolwich in 1866 was undertaken without any order from the Admiralty to that effect. Rose-boxes and suction pipes in iron ships are made either of lead or galvanised iron. The examination of the Megaera in January, 1871, was made on a list of defects, which I produce, dated January 19, 1871. It says, with regard to the hull -
"Docking and undocking, paying the bottom with two coats Hay's protective varnish, and one coat anti-fouling composition, and an examination of the Kingston valves." On this, the dockyard officers say: -
"Is necessary for service at sea, observing that the composition on the bottom was repaired in the early part of August, 1870."

As the ammount estimated for the hull was only 170l., I conclude the Sheerness officers meant to refer to the outer bottom only. It is hardly possible that the deterioration can have been going on since 1864, for although I have no report to produce from the Sheerness yard officers as to the state of the cement, it must be remembered that the ship underwent repairs at their hands in 1870. The bunkers were not then removed, but they were thoroughly examined and repaired. I do not understand the evidence before the Court to mean that the ship's bottom could not be examined without the bunkers being taken out. The bottom there was accessible for inspection, but not for repairs. I cannot state that the plates where the leak occurred were cemented in 1864 or not. Of my own knowledge I cannot say when the place where the leak occurred was last seen by dockyard officers; I consider that the engineer of the Megaera ought to have known, and that the carpenter of the ship ought to have known, that the pressure of the copper rose-box between the frames was very dangerous. It is on this account I make the charge of ignorance. The charge of neglect is established by the "Queen's Regulations," page 328, art. 16, which directs that no copper articles shall be allowed to rest on the bottom of an iron ship in immediate contact with the iron. I am not aware that the Admiralty instructions are so peremptory as to forbid officers of Her Majesty's ships removing fittings placed on board by the dockyard, but I am aware that in this very ship, the Megaera, while making her last passage, the rose-boxes were changed from a harmless material to a dangerous one - i.e., from iron to copper, by the officers of the ship themselves.

Questioned by a member of the Court relative to the "charge" of ignorance and neglect imputed by him to the engineer and carpenter of the Megaera, Mr. Barnaby withdrew the word "charge" and substituted the word "assumption."

The Court here adjourned for half an hour, and on reopening Mr. Barnaby was questioned by the President in relation to the throw of the Downton pumps of the Megaera. The exact information on this point could only be obtained from the Master Shipwright of Sheerness dockyard. Copper rose-boxes to pump suction pipes in iron ships were abolished by Admiralty circular, dated June 3, 1867. Orders were then given that capper rose-boxes were to be taken out of all iron ships. It was quite possible that copper rose-boxes to the bilge injection and bilge suction pipes were left in the Megaera, the date of the order referred to being subsequent to the ship's examination.

Cross-examined by Captain Thrupp. - I cannot give the value of the engines and boilers placed on board the Megaera in 1864. The bottom of the Megaera was examined at Sheerness in April, 1870, with special reference to the assumed thinness of the plates, but I am unable to say what the results of the survey were. Of my own knowledge, I cannot say if any of the plates were bored. I have no knowledge of any report of survey but that before the Court. I cannot give the number of holes bored either in the Simoom or the Megaera, In the Euphrates there are two bottoms. The outer bottom was carefully cemented and the bilge pipes do not draw from between the two bottoms, but from pockets formed on the top of the inner bottom. Copper pipes may have been fitted by dockyard officers on board the Megaera leading between and over the frames, but I presume they would be carried sufficiently clear of the ship's bottom and bilge water. Such an assumption cannot be made with regard to the roses of pumps, which require to be carried down as low at possible to draw out the bilge water. If the rose-boxes in the Megaera had not been made of copper, no danger would have resulted from their position. If the hand-pump suction pipes of the Megaera had been in contact with the bare iron of the ship, galvanic action would have followed. When the Megaera was ordered to Australia certainly none of the surveying officers who pronounced her fit for one year's service expressed their surprise that she was going so far away. It was known at Sheerness that the ship was going to Australia. The ship was not put into the fourth class. She was ordered to be so, but that order was withdrawn in consequence of the report from Sheerness which is before the Court All the reports with regard to the seaworthiness of the ship down to 1870 are contained in what is called the "Ship's Book," which I can produce to the Court, if required. (Book produced and handed in to the Court.) This book contains the various official reports received at the Admiralty from the ship. The date of the last survey recommending the ship for one year's service was August, 1870. She performed no service between that date and January, 1871. In a ship in the first class of the steam reserve the instructions will not allow of any defects, or, if defects are found, they are made good by the artificers of the reserve. In my opinion no limit can be assigned to the life of a ship in the first class reserve. My inference is not that a ship not sent to sea would last for ever, but that the ship would be renewed and defects made good while the ship remained in the reserve, as was done with the Megaera in the autumn of 1870. There are many other papers relating to the ship's early history than those now before the Court, but the Court has all the information since 1865 of any importance relating to the ship. The paper before the Court contained every report relating to the survey of the ship of 1866, and I have good reasons for believing that no other written report was made upon that survey.

By the PRESIDENT. - A telegram to Devonport dockyard would find the proper official to inform the Court whether the space where the leak broke out was laid bare and properly cemented when the ship's engines and boilers were changed in 1864.

Cross-examination resumed. - I do not know whether the step of the mainmast was removed when the ship was cemented.

This concluded the cross-examination, and the witness then handed in to the Court a sketch of the position of the girders, frames, &c., of the ship, corrective of one prepared on board the ship, as showing the corroded frames.

Captain Thrupp explained to the Court that the sketch sent home by him represented a section of an athwartship frame or girder. To the best of his belief, the sketches being taken from rough drawings made at the time, the sketch was quite correct.

The PRESIDENT called Captain Thrupp's attention to the difference existing between his sketch and the one handed in by Mr. Barnaby.

In reply to the Court, Mr. Barnaby said, - Such a girder as that shown on the sketch produced by Captain Thrupp could not have been constructed by any machine in existence, nor could it be now.

George Bridges, carpenter second class, sworn and examined by the Court. - I have held a carpenter's warrant five years, and have served in the Bristol and Megaera. At the time of the springing of the leak in the Megaera I was ordered to man all pumps and report every half hour, and did so. I never saw anything of the leak until I was sent for by Captain Thrupp to build a dam to keep the water from washing the men away from the ratchet brace in cutting through the frames. The indiarubber by this time was on the leak. The iron was very much pitted at the place, and there was no sign of any cement there.

At this stage of the witness's examination the Court rose and adjourned until this morning.
We 15 November 1871


The Court was opened yesterday morning on board Her Majesty's ship Duke of Wellington, in Portsmouth, harbour, at about a quarter to 10, Vice-Admiral W. Loring, C.B., again presiding and the Court being composed of the same officers as on the previous sittings. Mr. Nathaniel Barnaby, President of the Council of Construction to the Admiralty, was first recalled before the Court, and his evidence given before the Court on Monday having been read over by the Judge-Advocate and corrected, a re-examination of Mr. Barnaby was made by the Court, the witness handing in to the Court a sketch from the Master Shipwright of Sheerness Dockyard, showing the position of the Megaera's pumps, with an explanatory paper attached. The examination, was then resumed:-

In, a submission made to the Lords of the Admiralty by the Controller of the Navy in July, 1866, the Chief Constructor of the Navy had made a careful examination of the ship, and was of opinion that an accompanying supplementary estimate should be allowed, so that the ship should remain fit for service for 18 months or two yean longer when repaired. In the report on defects it is also stated that "the plates between wind and water all round the vessel to about 30ft. from the stem, from the wall down to the first lap for about 8ft. in breadth amidships, and a breadth of 5ft. fore and aft, are very thin, and, although the vessel, if repaired, may be used for troop service, we are of opinion that she will shortly require to be doubled in the parts above-named." (The document is signed by the Chief Engineer of Sheerness Dockyard and by the Captain Superintendent, the latter remarking that the defects should be made good.) Witness.- The estimate referred to was a supplementary one, and provided for removing the plates referred to in my evidence of yesterday. The estimate was approved. The defects - the thinness of plates referred to by Sir S. Robinson on the authority of the Chief Constructor - were confined to the marked belt on the block model at the water-line. There is evidence that the then Chief Constructor of the Navy signed the amended estimate of April, 1870, from Sheerness. The thin plates referred to have never been doubled or wholly removed. I believe that not more than two or three of the plates in the belt or band at the water-line were replaced by new ones. The Megaera was employed on ocean service continually after the expiration of the two years named, and up to the date of the Sheerness survey. No official record exists of any survey having been held on the ship between the survey of 1886 and that of 1870. There was a list of defects of April, 1870, some of which, such as the coal-bunker linings, had not been completely made good, and the ship had been in commission for a long time. I know of no other reason for the decision to pay her off into the fourth division of the Reserves. The report of survey of April, 1870, does not fix any time in which the ship may be considered fit for service. It only certifies as to the completeness of the ship for sea, but not as to the period for which she was good. The statement that the Megaera was fit for one year's sea service was submitted to the Admiralty on the authority of Captain Luard, the Captain Superintendent of Sheerness Dockyard. The telegram before the Court from Captain Luard contains all the report on the subject, but the original message is posted in the office, and that contains the initials of the officers consulted by Captain Luard. Referring to a previous answer of mine as to the galvanic circuit being completed in the Megaera, the "circuit" was there completed by the metal fastenings which secured the pump to the ship. With regard to another answer given by me, respecting the artificers of the Steam Reserve at Sheerness making good the defects on board the Megaera in. the autumn of 1870, that would apply to minor defects only. The statements in the surrey of 1866 as to the thinness of plates and the limit of time fixed for two years related to the water-line belt. It will be seen by the revised estimate before the Court from the Sheerness Dockyard that the bottom of the ship, on her being docked, was found in not so bad a condition as had been expected. (Mr. Barnaby was proceeding to read from the supplementary estimate when the Court directed that the original estimate of the ship's defects should be read by the Judge-Advocate first. This having been done, Mr. Barnaby proceeded with his evidence.) The bottom was found in a better condition than was expected, and the estimates were thus enabled to be reduced, and the late Chief Constructor submitted to the Controller in these words: - "With reference to the paper enclosed, I am of opinion that this revised estimate may now be approved. The work is in hand, and the ship will be completed on the 30th inst." The submission was approved by the Lords of the Admiralty, signed by Sir S.C. Dacres, Lord John Hay, and Mr. Baxter, I have no reason to suppose that Mr. Reed's opinion as to the Megaera was founded on improper evidence, and I cannot doubt the wisdom of his opinion.

The COURT objected to the answer given, and desired to have the witness's opinion. This the witness declined to give, and continued his answers to other questions put by the Court, and said - I consider that the bottom of an iron ship 20 years of age is fit for sea service if the cement and paint on the inside and outside of the plates have been kept perfect: otherwise, I do not. When the ship was bored at Woolwich her plates were in a satisfactory state, except at the water-line, and there they were satisfactory for a service then approved. My answer refers to the condition of those plates when the ship left Woolwich on service. At the time of boring, on the survey, the plates were not in a satisfactory state. At the time the ship left Devonport, when so large a sum of money had been spent upon her, I have no means of forming an opinion as to then condition of the ship's plates. So far as I know, the surveying officers of 1870 had not a copy of the survey in 1866. The estimate of 1866 has two items for hull; one for the shipwright department, 1,050l.; and for the engineer department, which had at that time the conduct of the examination of the hull, for 497l., and a supplementary estimate for 250l., all of which were approved. There is no estimate of the cost of the proposed doubling at the water-line, but a memorandum attached to the report of 1866 appears to show that a sum of 2,070l. would be required to double the defective plates. I cannot fully explain this memorandum. This estimate of 1866 does not show the difference between engine and hull defects. The factory at that yard had change of hull defects as well as engines, but the total sum is 1,797l. 2s. 2d.

Questioned relative to a previous answer given by him on Monday relative to the perfect or imperfect cementing of the interior of the ship's bottom, the witness said - I assume from the evidence given that with a little trouble the place in the ship's bottom that might have been left without cement (at and near the leak) might hare been seen. I understand that the place was accessible for inspection from near the foot of the mainmast. Referring to the revised estimate, I find the surveying officers state that, on the Megaera being docked, the bottom of the ship was found in a better condition than was expected, which would allow the estimates to be reduced. With reference to the block model and the thicknesses of plating shown there, the plates which were less than one quarter of an inch thick at the water-line belt were removed at Woolwich in 1866. With those exceptions, I believe the plates over that belt were not removed, but I am not sure.

Cross-examined by Captain THRUPP, through the Judge-Advocate. - There was never any intention that the Megaera, so far as I know, should be never again employed (when the fourth class steam reserve was spoken of). I do not consider that it would hive been necessary to bore the bottom of the Megaera more frequently than once in six years, because the most important examination is that of the cement. So long as the latter remains perfect the plates are safe. If it is imperfect, boring may fail to find the imperfect place. I lay before the Court a list of defects of the 2d of August, 1870, sent from the Megaera, signed by the engineer and carpenter. The dockyard officers say the estimate for this is 231l., with the exception of an item named, which the captain of the steam reserve would make good with the dockyard artificers. I can see no such item in the paper, nor have I any knowledge of it.

Mr. Bridges, carpenter, late of the Megaera, re-called and examined by the Court. Describing the pumps on board and the manner in which they were manned, the witness said, - All I saw of the leak and felt with my hand was between the two frames when the leak broke out, where the iron plating was very much pitted and the frames very rusty. I felt the plating of the bottom between the frames to a depth of about 18in. below the leak towards the keel, but I did not feel it sufficiently to ascertain if the plates were thin. After the second plate was put on the leak I went below and felt the place again without a light, in the manner I had done before. This was after the diver had been over the side. He was under the directions, I think, of the chief engineer. As a practical shipwright who has served his time in Sheerness dockyard, and having worked in Chatham dockyard in 1865, and having a fair knowledge of iron shipbuilding, I could not suggest any means to stop the leak better than that adopted by the chief engineer - i.e., a plate on the outside, with a screw in the centre, and screwed up to a similar plate on the inside of the ship. I think it very probable that the aperture at the leak would have increased to a large hole. I periodically examined, as her carpenter, the hull of the Megaera, and did to about the 6th of April, as shown in the engine-room register, and I found everything in good order. I had not seen at any time that particular spot in the ship's bottom, under the port main bunker, where the leak broke out. I cannot say how much coal there was in the banker, but there was a good quantity. I had been carpenter of the ship since August, 1870. I had never applied to my commanding officer to take steps for examining the ship's bottom under the bunkers. The cement in other parts being good. I did not think such a course necessary. Not having applied for means to examine the ship's bottom at the leaky place where, according to the evidence before the Court, the plates were not properly cemented, I do not think the responsibility rests upon my shoulders. I found no faulty frames in the ship in my examination. I saw no frames in the ship defective as shown on the sketch before the Court. Had I known of any other plan than the one tried that might have stopped the leak I should have communicated it to Captain Thrupp. The hand pumping power in the ship was not sufficient to keep the ship clear of water before the outer patch was put on. The Megaera was a very tight ship previous to the breaking out of the leak. With the two after Downtons going, after the leak broke out, I could scarcely keep down the leak to ten inches water in the ship. With all pumps (hand) going I reduced the water below ten inches. When the diver went down outside the ship, under the lee of St. Paul's Island, to the leak, before the outer plate was put on, there was more water in the ship than when the leak first broke out, and the leak must have increased since it was first reported to about twice as much, I should think, but I cannot say exactly. The steam power and the two after Downtons just kept the leak under. (The witness by "steam power" was supposed to refer to the steam bilge suction pumps.) The two 7-inch Downtons on the main deck had their suction pipes in the stokehold compartment. The pumps were often taken to pieces between the breaking out of the leak and the arrival of the ship at' St. Paul's - between the 8th and 17th of June - to clear them of coal dust. The steam pumps were not used, by log, until the 15th. By the two pumps spoken of, with their occasional stoppages to clear them, assisted occasionally by the after 7-inch Downton on the baggage deck and the engine-room hand pump, we were just able to hold our own against the leak. When I first saw the leak through the hole in the iron girder I am quite certain that l saw no cement. I never saw any indications there that the space between the girders had been cemented. I do not know the position of the copper suction pipe of the hand pump and rose abreast of the mainmast on the port side. After the leak was sprung I sounded the well myself once every quarter of an hour. I kept a record of the depth of water in a small book, but I have lost it. The pumps spoken of were kept going by hand about eight hours out of the 24, from the time the leak broke out until the morning of the 15th. I don't think the pumps stopped for an hour together, with the two 7-inoh main-deck pumps, three or four times a day. The men worked these two pumps in half-hour spells, in three reliefs. The two pumps were worked more than the others. The 12-inch pump would cease to draw with less than ten inches of water in the ship. The frame of the ship I saw through the hole cut in the girder, looking rusty, appeared to be corroded. The plates appeared to be very much pitted: The largest I felt I should think to have been about three-quarters of an inch over, like a large marble. The greatest depth of water I ever reported in the ship was 17 inches, and if was reduced to 10 inches in five hours. There was 15 inches of water in the ship on the day the plate was put on by the diver, and before the plate was put on. When the steam pumps were working it was occasionally necessary to use the Downtons at the same time. The bad or pitted surface of the plating extended, as far as I felt, over seven or eight inches. Of my own knowledge alone, that was the extent of the damaged surface of the plate. I could suggest nothing better than was done for stopping the leak over that surface from the inside. In my quarterly examination in April of the inside of the ship's plating - the cement covering of the plating - I did not examine the place where the leak broke out. It was not accessible. I cannot say what the extent of the hole of the leak was, as when I examined it, it was covered with the indiarubber patch. At the examination of the ship by the Sheerness Dockyard officers in January, 1871, I was not present. It was not possible to examine the plating where the leak broke out. to ascertain the condition or actual presence of cement there, without cutting away the floor plates of the main coal bunker. The water in the ship was reduced to ten inches in five hours by the use of all the hand pumps.

Cross-examined by Captain Thrupp. - The commanding officer of the ship could not have given me access to the ship's bottom under the bunker without lifting the bunker. In the hull of the ship, after the ship was on shore, in tearing away the lining for firewood on the island, I found the plates in several places very bad, almost eaten through, so much so that Mr. Barrow, the boatswain, in the presence of Mr. Wrapson and myself with a hammer knocked away the rust until the pen of the hammer was driven through. That was in the wake of the scuttles, and near about the water-line. The rivet heads were so defective there that Mr. Barrow knocked them away to rust altogether. I saw nothing the matter with the ship's hull before the leak was sprung. From my experience as a shipwright and my knowledge of the ship's bottom, nothing more could be done than was done to make the ship seaworthy and enable her to continue the voyage. The part of the ship where Mr. Barrow knocked the hammer through was just abaft the mainmast on the port side (near the leak). It was a common clinch hammer, such as is used by shipwrights, a flat pen, of about two or two and a half pounds weight, and with a handle of about 15 or 16 inches in length.

By the COURT. - It took Mr. Barrow, the boatswain, about ten minutes, with hard striking, to get the pen of the hammer through the iron. He struck the side quite 30 times during the ten minutes. From my own knowledge and the reports of the engineers I do not believe the ship was seaworthy and fit to go on to Australia. (A hammer was here produced in court, of moderate size, and the witness was asked if the hammer he referred to was as large as that. The witness replied, "Three times as large.")

Mr. Joseph Peters, foreman of boilermakers at Sheerness yard, called and sworn. Examined by the COURT. - Old boilers are tested by drilling holes in parts before tested by the hammer, one of six or seven pounds weight. With such a hammer and room to use it, I could penetrate the iron at one smart blow to an 8th or 3-16ths of an inch in thickness, if it was deteriorated there, leaving the substance round it. I could penetrate an 8th thickness of sound iron.

The Court adjourned until half-past 9 this morning.
We 15 November 1871



Sir, - The evidence of Mr. Mills, the chief engineer, conclusively reveals the cause of this vessel's bottom breaking up - viz., the copper pipe which fed aft from the pump down into the bilge, over and between the frames, in a line with the position of the leak; the rose, which was also of copper, being between the same frames, about five feet from the leak itself. The loss of the vessel is thus fully accounted for.

The corrosive action of copper upon iron, especially when sea water is introduced as a most active agent in promoting the destruction of the latter metal, is so well known to all connected with shipping that one really marvels how in the world a vessel fitted out under, it is presumed, the skilful supervision that ought to dominate in our Government yards should be sent to sea in the state the engineer's evidence indicates.

Some few years ago there was exhibited in a cause in the Court of Queen's Bench a plate of some thickness from the bottom of a steamer that met with some disaster at the Cape of Good Hope: in the plate was a circular hole of about the size of a billiard ball, the inner rim of which was rounded off quite smoothly as if by turning in a lathe, but the edge of the hole was sharp, the same as described in the Megaera's plates; and it was stated in evidence that the cause was the dripping from the pump, which had brass bearings (and maybe, also, some copper fittings), the hole in question being just under the pump.

It is to be hoped that the fate of the Megaera may serve as a practical lesson for those who have the care of fitting out vessels, and that an agent so powerful for mischief to iron at is copper be not placed in contiguity with the former.

Lloyd's, Nov. 14.
Th 16 November 1871


The Court assembled again yesterday morning on board the Duke of Wellington, in Portsmouth Harbour, the Court opening at the usual time, half-past 9.

Mr. Barnaby, President of the Council of Construction at the Admiralty, produced official documents from the Admiralty relating to a leak which occurred on board the iron store ship Supply, off the West Coast of Africa, in 1867. These documents were read to the Court by the Judge-Advocate, and appeared most important as giving a clue to the cause of the leak sprung in the Megaera:-

"3rd June, 1867.
"A very serious leak having recently occurred in the Supply, iron store ship, owing, as reported, to a hole being worn in one of the plates of the bottom of the ship by the galvanic action arising from the proximity to the plate of the copper rose covering the end of the bilge injection pipe, your attention is called to this subject, and to cause to be examined the roses of all bilge injection and bilge suction pipes of iron ships when opportunities offer, and should you find any of these pipes fitted like the bilge injection pipe of the Supply to remove the copper rose and to fit in lieu of it a tinned or zinced wrought iron rose.
"You are informed that in any case where they may find the end part of a bilge injection or a bilge suction pipe, when made of copper, fitted so near the skin of an iron ship as to raise any apprehension of galvanic action taking place, they are to remove the part of the copper pipe and fit in place of it a piece of pipe made of lead.
"You are further directed to see that the bilge pipes and roses are properly fitted by the contractors in all new iron ships which may receive their machinery on board at the dockyards. The papers relating to the leak which occurred in the Supply are enclosed for the information of the officers.

"Her Majesty's ship Supply, off Sierra Leone, March 9, 1867".
I have the honour to state for the information of the L.C. of the Admiralty that on the 4th inst., at about 3 50 p.m., Cape Palmas (West Coast of Africa) bearing N.W. ½ W. (true) distance 28 leagues, the ship at the time under easy steam, steering W. by N. ½ N., wind N.W. (force 1), and a very light swell from the S.E., the engineer in charge reported to me that he had found a sudden extraordinary increase of water in the bilges, upon which he examined the bilge pump and found it working satisfactorily, he also started the donkey to pump out the bilges, and finding the water still increasing turned on the bilge injection to keep the water under; he next examined all pipes and cocks in connexion with the sea, and found them all tight, and finally had the plates taken up around the engines, &c., and on looking under the air pump discovered a hole in the ship's bottom, two inches long by one inch broad, in the lower edge of the starboard garboard strake. Immediately sent for the carpenter, who, in conjunction with the engineers, set to work to endeavour to stop the leak, which, after great difficulty, owing to their having to work in a very confined space under the air pump, with the water washing over them, was temporarily completed at 5 20 p.m. by means of fearnought well saturated with white lead, on which was placed a clump of wood 14 by 6in., and wedged down with great care, as the plate was so thin at the hole it could be bent by the fingers as easily as a piece of tinfoil.
"2. The only way to account for this leak is that within about three inches of the hole the copper injection pipe is placed, the action of which on the iron-plate has, no doubt, in course of time caused it to corrode.
"3. In consequence of this serious leak immediately proceeded at increased speed for Sierra Leone, at which port my instructions directed me to land ten Africans.
4. Up to this moment we have not been able to arrive at a correct estimate of the quantity of water the ship makes during the hour. The bilge pump of itself is not sufficient to keep the water under, the injection having to be applied at least 15 minutes during each hour.
"5. On the 8th inst. the fracture, having been again examined, was found to be in all respects free from leakage, the ship still making great quantity of water according to the calculation of the engineer in charge about eight tons per hour.
"6. The carpenter and engineer are of opinion that other plates under water are defective, the extent of which (the ship being under steam) is impossible at this moment to determine.
"7. As a measure of precaution, and to relieve any undue strain upon the hull of the vessel, the lower yards and topmasts were at once struck, the ship's course directed at an easy distance from the land, and everything done that common prudence could suggest, having in view that, besides the ship's company (55, including officers), there are likewise borne on the books of this vessel 26 invalids and supernumeraries from Ascension, together with 10 Africans (six men, three women, and one child). The boats of this ship, four in number - viz., one cutter, two gigs, and a dingy - being quite inadequate to contain so many persons in the event of having to abandon the ship, should such a proceeding be found absolutely necessary.
"8. I have only further to remark that, most fortunately, my instructions directed me to the West Coast of Africa; had it been otherwise, and the vessel proceeded direct for England from Ascension, under sail, by the long sea route, and encountered bad weather, or been unable to reach the Cape de Verdes from scarcity of fuel, supposing that the north-east trades blew strong, the engines at this moment leaking, and the consumption of fuel being above the average owing to the engines being out of repair, it would have been quite an impossibility to keep the vessel afloat.
"C. BOWDEN, Staff Commander."

"Her Majesty's ship Bristol, at Sierra Leone, 11th of March, 1867.
"In compliance with your order, I have repaired on board the Supply, and made a careful survey of the interior of her bottom, and report as follows:-
"1st. The state of the bottom. - That the leak is caused by an aperture 3 by 1 situated in the lower 'port' or garboard plate of bottom under the air pump of engines, and caused by the galvanic action of a copper rose over it, that the rest of the bottom is apparently sound except within a space of two inches of the defect, due allowance being made for 5½ years' service; further, that the leak when discovered apparently seemed on the starboard side, and was due to deflection of the water from the rose not being removed.
"2d. Temporary repairs and materials. - A plate 8 by 5, with vulcanised indiarubber over it, to be placed on bottom outside, and secured by a 7/8 bolt passing through a similar plate interior, and bedded with felt and red and white lead on bottom, also that cement on bottom be not disturbed. The materials can be supplied by the engineer and carpenter of the Supply. That the following artificers be sent to assist the engineer and carpenter of the Supply to make good the defects:-
"One engineer, one diver (with the necessary apparatus), one shipwright, one blacksmith - time, 16½ working hours from noon.
"I have further to recommend that coals or munitions of any kind be not received on board till the defect is made good; that steam be kept up, and the ship's company assist as required to keep the bilge perfectly dry while the joints on bottom plates are making.
"CHARLES P. TURNER, Chief Engineer, Her Majesty's ship Bristol."
"To Capt. L.E.H. Somerset, H.M.S. Bristol"

"H.M.S. Bristol, at Sierra Leone, March 14, 1867.
"Sir, - Her Majesty's store ship Supply put in here on the 10th inst., having a serious leak, as reported in the enclosed copy of a letter of the 9th inst. from Staff-Commander Charles Bowden. I directed the whole of the interior of the bottom to be carefully examined by the chief engineer of the Bristol, whose report is enclosed. The temporary repair suggested by him has been completed, and the Supply will leave on the 15th inst., calling by my direction at Bathurst in the Gambia to fill up with coal, and then at Gibraltar, Cadiz, or Lisbon (as may be most convenient with reference to the condition of the ship) in order to communicate with and if necessary receive from their lordships further instructions.
"G.T.P. HORNBY, Commodore Commanding-in-Chief.
"The Secretary of the Admiralty."

"I think some special order should be given to test the iron plates whenever copper or brass comes through the ship's bottom. Had this been done when last in dock the defect would probably have been discovered.

"Woolwich Dockyard, April 15,1867.
"In obedience to your minute on the Controller of the Navy's letter of the 10th inst., 'S.M. 727.' directing us to report the nature of the fitting referred to in the enclosed papers as the cause of the leak in the Supply.
"2. We beg to report that the end of the copper bilge injection pipe is placed within about three inches of the bottom of the ship, and is surrounded by a copper box, perforated by holes, the lower part of which is about 1½in. from the bottom of the ship, and supported by a flange on the upper side of the box, resting on wood packings on the framing of the ship.
"When this fitting was put in in 1861 the inside of the vessel in, the engine-room was coated with Roman cement and sand. Latterly we have substituted wrought iron boxes, zinced, or cast iron, instead of copper in iron vessels.
"J. TRICKETT, Chief Engineer.
"D. PATRIDGE, Assistant Engineer."

Mr. Joseph Peters, foreman of boilermakers at Sheerness Dockyard, recalled and examined by the Court, - I was at Devonport Dockyard in 1864 when the boilers and engines of the Megaera were renewed.

The witness was here told by the President that he need state nothing that would tend to criminate himself.

The JUDGE-ADVOCATE. - Or that, as an official of the Government, it would be impolitic as concerns the public service to state.

The PRESIDENT.- I do not recognize anything of the kind. The witness is sworn to speak the truth, the whole truth, so far as he knows it.

The JUDGE-ADVOCATE. - I am only telling the witness what is the law of the land.

The PRESIDENT. - I do not believe it is the law of the land, nor anything like it.

The matter then dropped and the examination proceeded.

The cementing of the ship's bottom was under the supervision of the shipwright officers, the representative of the patentee supplying the cement. I cannot give the names of the officers. The bunkers at that time were entirely new, and the flooring on the bed of the boilers was of wood, and extending as far as the level of that flat and was covered with sheet-iron. Everything between the two bulkheads forming the boiler and engine-room was removed, leaving the frames and skin of the ship entirely bare. To the best of my knowledge the whole of that space was thoroughly cemented. Only in connexion with the fittings I was overlooking being fitted by the factory at that time was it my duty to examine the ship's bottom. I wish the Court to understand than it was not my duty to attend to any scaling of the iron from the ship's inside. With regard to the information I am able to give, it came under my notice that the plates of the ship were thoroughly clean and free from rust by a double inspection by the shipwright officers and also of the representative of the firm supplying the cement at that time. The cement consisted, to the best of my recollection, of Portland cement and bricks, about four feet on each side of the middle line. The other part of the ship, extending to the under side of the lower deck, was coated with Spence's cement, and in parts of the ship likely to be exposed to wear, the cement was protected by sheet iron, about an eighth or three-sixteenths in thickness. I have no practical experience as to the durability of Spence's cement, but as regards boilers and steam pipes I have an ordinary knowledge. Spence's cement, I believe, at that time was only an experiment as far as ships were concerned. As far as boilers and steam pipes are concerned this cement, if properly put on, will last, to the best of my knowledge, four or five years. It is a non-conductor of heat, and not at all likely to ignite. Spence's cement has been on. the cylinders and steam pipes of one of the hydraulic engines in Portsmouth-yard for years. The boilers of the Megaera were replaced in 1864 at Devonport Dockyard. I believe they were bedded on mastic. That would prevent scale from the boilers getting in the ship's bilges providing there were no holes in the wooden flat supporting the boilers. The boilers flat stood on the top of two longitudinal iron girders. These arrangements would place the ash-pits of the furnaces about 4ft. 6in. or 5ft. above the ship's skin or bottom. It was no part of my duty to attend to the fixing of the bilge suction pipes and rose-boxes. The duration of the cement would decidedly depend upon the firmness and freedom from working of the plating upon which it was placed. The removal of the Portland cement from the bottom of a vessel could only arise, if properly put on, from the extreme vibration of the vessel, or from a hard blow on the spot from a hard substance. I believe it was ascertained that the cement was placed on the ship's bottom, under the main coal bunker (at the leak). I have two reasons for believing this. First, there was the shipwright officers' inspection, and secondly, it was necessary to displace many of the rivets in order to fix the appliances in the work I was then executing. There was no part of the iron ascertained in its thickness by the removal of the rivets less than ⅜ or 7-16 of an inch. The "laps" of a ship's bottom plates, where amalgamated by the line of rivets, would not, if the seam was tight, deteriorate as fast as the middle of a plate. I do not know whether the experiment in placing Spence's cement on he interior of iron ships has been approved or not. The kelson shown in the block model existed in the Megaera, and to the best of my recollection it was a box kelson, but I will not be positive on that point. With a hammer of 2½ pounds weight, a common shipwright's hammer with sharp end, and plenty of room to use it in, the sixteenth of an inch of iron would be penetrated without difficulty by not a single blow, but a succession of blows. As an approximation to the number, say a dozen blows. The Megaera being on sea service. I think there were practical means by which the officers of the ship could have made an inspection of the ship's bottom without removing the floor plates of the bunkers. With energy the part named might have been examined for a distance of about 10ft. to 15ft. on each side of the middle line. An ordinary sized man could have done this. By energy I mean that such a man could have gone for the examination without clothing, speaking from the sectional model as to the distance between the ship's frames. The facility afforded for such an examination, to the best of my recollection, was, that the height from the top of the bows was increased by the extended flat I have before spoken of. Pipes from an iron ship's boilers (the ship cemented) communicating with the bilge are generally made of copper to a certain distance from the ship's bottom to the Kingston valve. I mean to say that these copper pipes are in no way in contact with the bottom of the ship.

(The witness's explanation was not clearly understood by the Court, but it was intimated that an officer was in court to give evidence, whose duty it was in superintend such fittings.

Cross-examined by Captain Thrupp. - I am not aware that the plates forming the step or support to the mainmast, unless they had been fitted since the ship was fitted out under my inspection, were limited to the distance you name in the parts you speak of. (The question put by Captain Thrupp was a very lengthy one, and related to the space available for an ordinary sized man to get through to examine the plates where the leak broke through.) I am not aware that the plate supporting the mainmast was in any way connected with the bunkers, but only by connexion with the frames of the ship, I am not aware that Spence's cement is discontinued in its application to boilers and steam-pipes. I have no knowledge of its qualities in its application to the interior of ships' sides. I am not aware of the result of any fancy application of Spence's cement on board the Euphrates. It is necessary to keep Spence's cement dry when put on boilers if possible, so as to prolong its duration. I can state nothing positively as to the properties of Spence's composition.

Cross-examined by Navigating-Lieutenant Rapson. - Referring to an answer given, by you, you say that with a 7lb. hammer, you could knock a hole through a plate from an eighth to three-sixteenths in thickness. Do you mean with a swinging blow, and a. hammer long-handled and using both hands, or otherwise? - I mean to say that in a boiler plate reduced to that thickness by decay, I could, by a swinging blow with both hands, cause a hole in such a thickness of plate, the hammer having an optional length of handle.

Mr. William Owen, assistant master shipwright of Portsmouth Dockyard, examined by the COURT. - I was foreman of shipwrights at Devonport when the boilers and engines of the Megaera were renewed. I remember nothing being left in the ship's hold on her being then cleared out, in the space between the fore part of the stokehold, but the mast step. I don't believe there was any part in the space of the bottom plating that was not exposed to view, cleaned, and coated with cement. I do not remember anything of a fore and aft binding plate. There was a kelson from bulkhead to bulkhead, as well as I remember, a vertical plate with two angle irons on the upper and the lower edges. The main-mast rested on four or five longitudinal girders, plated over, and which formed the step. The length of those girders was about eight or nine feet. There were no holes cut in those girders. They were not, I think, necessary. The plates on the bottom were found in good condition on their surface on the old cement being taken off, and before the new cement, Spence's, was placed on. That was the only occasion on which that cement was applied, and I have had no opportunity of seeing it since. In my opinion the cement would last but a very short time. I have no knowledge of any repairs having being given to that cement since 1864. I can conscientiously state that the space in the bottom of the ship referred to was properly cemented. (The bottom proper of the ship was coated to a certain distance - 10 feet - on each side the central line, or keel line, by bricks and Portland cement. Above this central band on either side and upwards the Spence cement was laid on. Neither questions nor answers defined these limits.) The main coal bunker could have been easily lifted in the Megaera, if empty, and the ship's bottom there examined. The bottom of the ship was examined at Devonport by the removal of a large number of the rivets, by sounding the plates with a hammer, and by the new holes cut through the ship's bottom for the new engines then given to her. Boring a ship's plate alone is not a satisfactory method of examining a ship's bottom by itself. There were about 200 rivets then removed from the Megaera's bottom. No bottom plates were then renewed, but one or two patches were put on where the plates were indented. The whole of the rivets in the ship's bottom were examined, Some were found defective at the laps of the plates, and some in the angle irons. I don't remember any place in the plating of the ship's bottom less than three-eighths of an inch in thickness. There were no "pits" in the bottom plates where Day's cement had been, to ten feet on each side from the middle line. The iron there was well preserved. The three-eighth inch found were at the old holes that belonged to the pipe outlets from the old engines. These plates were doubled over afterwards by covering pieces. The only thoroughly satisfactory way of examining an iron ship's bottom is by exposing both surfaces completely and combining that with boring. With the Megaera the boring was omitted for the reason that so much of the bottom was seen through the large number of rivet boles distributed over the whole bottom. The plates would not waste probably so much at the laps as elsewhere, but the amount of any difference between the thickness of the plates at their laps and in their centre would be seen on the inside of the ship. I don't remember any difference in the thickness of the cement in the stokehole and engine-room. There was no difference made, I believe, in the thickness of the cement between the frames where the suction pipes were placed and the other frames: The thickness of the cement on the ship's bottom plating was, I think, about one inch. I cannot state what the rose-boxes in the Megaera were made of. If the drawings of the original engines are referred to they will show their pipe outlets through the ship's bottom. The Spence cement was ordered to be generally applied in the ship, and no exceptions were made. I do not think it would be a difficult thing, with the appliances on board the Megaera, and if the coal bunkers were clear, to have lifted the bunker platform, and have examined the ship's bottom (over the leak) at sea.

Cross-examined by Captain Thrupp. - My opinion that Spence's cement would not last long, is founded upon what I have seen of its appearance on boilers, its tendency to go to dust, and its liability to fall off and into the bilges. (A sketch was here handed to witness which showed a plate covering in the two frames under the bunker in which the leaks occurred, from the step of the mainmast upwards, and he was questioned as to the existence of the plate there, a fact asserted by Captain Thrupp and his officers.) I have no remembrance of such a plate.

James Alexander Bell, diver, late of Her Majesty's ship Megaera, sworn and examined. - The sketch of the leak and the statement handed to me I prepared. (The statement was then read, but has already been published in evidence.)

Examined by the COURT. - The ship was anchored when I went over the side to examine the leak. The water was clear. I saw everything before me as plain as I now see in this room. The appearance of the leak was as three holes in one, the largest in the centre, the second on its after and the smallest on its fore side, all seemingly at an angle across the plate. I felt it worn away in the inside, and so thin that in one minute I could have made it large enough to have put my shut hand into it by breaking the edges away with only my finger arid thumb. The appearance of the leak, after I examined it from the inside, had a circle of eight or nine inches of bright air bubbles round it. Underneath these, as large as the palm of my hand, and nearly of the shape of my hand, there was a rusty patch. I believe that rusting of the plate proceeded from the inside. The next worst place on the outside of the ship was about 4½f t. before the leak, and I think the next line of plates above it. The corners of two plates where their butts met and the lower edges the two corners were either rusted or knocked away to the extent of four inches along the plate, and 1½ inch up the ends. The under corners, where the leak was, were gone completely for half an inch, and the seam where the two plates should meet was open so that I could get the point of my knife into it with the greatest ease. I took my knife out of my belt and tried it, nothing resisting the knife. From the keel, commencing within a foot after of the leak, for five or six plates from the keel upwards, and 10ft. forward from where I went down first, it looked very rusty. On the plates in line with the leak, and the one some of the patches looked the largest. About 4½ft. before the leak, where I went down before the leak; I touched each rusty spot with my hand, and they seemed to be below the level of the plate. About 10ft. aft of the leak there was a patch which I have described as looking like a Maltese cross. It was out of my reach, but seemed to be about 5in. by 12in. The space I examined was about 6 feet fore and aft on the port side, and, from the water-line down to the keel I think that if a patch had been kept on, a larger hole would soon have been there, four times the size the first was, as where they were screwing the plate on from the inside I thought, from what I could see of the bend of the ship's plating from my place on the outside of the ship, that they would have screwed the plate at the leak out altogether.

After some further answers to questions of no material importance, the witness said, - I passed in the Cambridge as a diver in 1864, and received my certificate in 1865. I never examined iron-built ships before, but I have other ships - wooden ships ironplated, the Caledonia. When over the Megaera's side, I could see pretty well through my helmet to a distance of 10 or 12 feet. I went down on two different days, and I do believe it was larger on the second occasion than on the first.

Cross-examined by Captain THRUPP. - On the night the ship broke up I believe the mainmast first went over to port. One sea struck her stern and parted her right in two, the boilers falling out of her as if placed there. The second sea buried the ship's stem and brought her broadside on, leaving the engines and boilers in the water exposed to view nearly as they had been in the ship. This was done in less than 10 minutes.

Mr. Edward Brown, chief engineer, taking passage in the Megaera to join the Blanche, sworn and examined upon a statement read by the Judge-Advocate for him to the Court.

The principal facts contained in the statement have already been made public by the documents sent to the Admiralty from the ship.

Examination. - The statement read is a correct one. In the Megaera on the passage I did no duty except instructing the young gentlemen in steam until Thursday, June 13, at 10 o'clock in the evening. The leak increased in the ship after its first breaking out to twice the extent, speaking relatively.

Cross-examined by Captain Thrupp. - With reference to the rose-box, said to have been made of copper, of which so much has been said, would you have considered it your duty to have removed it had you been chief engineer of the Megaera?

I should have considered it an absurdity to have asked Captain Thrupp to allow me to remove it, without also asking him to allow me to remove all other copper pipes and fittings washed with bilge water, and which were 100 or 200 times the surface of the copper rose-box, if it was of copper. I think I could also show to the Court that a very large number of those pipes in the bilges were within a few inches of bare iron surface, and these surfaces were not in the least effected by galvanic action. When the rose-box was washed with bilge water; all these pipes were washed with bilge water. Nothing was left undone to enable the ship to prosecute her voyage.

Thomas Edward Richards, engineer, sworn and examined by the Court. - I took passage in the Megaera to join the Rosario. I am of the same opinion now as that expressed in the opinion read to the Court. (The statement has already been published, with Captain Thrupp's letter to the Admiralty announcing the ship's loss.)

Cross-examined by Captain Thrupp, and questioned as to whether he should have considered it necessary to remove the rose-box placed on the cement in consequence of the instructions on that point referred to, he replied "No."

Th 16 November 1871

Lieutenant S. Evans, senior lieutenant of Her Majesty's late ship Megaera, on being sworn, read, by permission of the Court, a statement relative to the breaking out of the leak, and the manning and working of the pumps.

Examined by the COURT. - I have been in the service nearly 13 years, and four years and eight mouths a lieutenant.

PRESIDENT. - After the patch was put on the outside of the ship under the lee of St. Paul's Island what would in your opinion be the result if the captain had ordered the ship's helm to have been put up and the ship put on a course for Australia? - I think it would have been an improper risk to have run. I do not think anything more could have beep done than was done. I did not anticipate before reaching St. Paul's that the people would have to be landed there. I believe the propriety of making for the Mauritius or other port was not mooted. The pumps were kept going until after the outside plate was put on. After then, as far as I can recollect, the donkey pump kept the ship clear. I consider the state of the bottom of the anchorage at St. Paul's was the cause of the loss of the ship's anchors there. (A previous witness had attributed the loss also to the fact of the thinness of the sand covering the rocks.) The bottom was rocky. I consider, as her first lieutenant, that the Megaera's anchors and cables were sufficiently large, and were well adapted to the size of the ship. I looked at the broken parts, recovered very carefully for any symptoms of fracture from bad manufacture, but found none. The Malacca and Rinaldo lost two anchors each at St. Paul's anchorage while we were there.

Naval-Lieutenant Lloyd recalled and examined by the COURT. - From the time of the leak first breaking out no other place occurred to me for the ship to run for than St. Paul's, the island being dead to leeward. I have been 15 years and four months in the service, and four years and five months a naval lieutenant. Having once got hold of the island I do not certainly consider that under all the circumstances of the case that it would have been advisable to have proceeded on from thence to Australia. I know the difference between the Mauritius and St. Paul's in the way of a good or bad harbour. We could not have gained the Mauritius with the same facility, or in less than treble the time we did St. Paul's. We should most probably have not picked up the trade wind at that time of the year on the Mauritius route before reaching lat. 28. The reason for re-consideration of diverging so far from the ship's course as to steer for Mauritius was owing to a belief that the leak was not so serious as it afterwards proved to be. Captain Thrupp said that he hoped to repair the leak by the aid of the diver on getting under the lee of St. Paul's. I consider the loss of the anchors under the lee of St. Paul's owing to the force of the squalls there, and to the nature of the ground. The sounding lead showed the bottom to be coarse, dark sand. I imagined the sand to have been not more than two or three feet deep, and under that the ground was rocky. The greatest scope of cable the ship was riding at when the anchors parted was eight cables. When she parted from her first anchor, it was in a very heavy squall blowing from the centre of the crater (St. Paul's Island), from the westward. She lost her second anchor in heavy squalls from northward to west, with occasional southerly squalls. The rocks on the island were volcanic, but with no lava. The cliffs are formed of a kind of porous crumbling rock. There are a number of small craters on the island inactive. A foot or so below the surface of the earth the heat was so great that the hand could scarcely bear the heat. The ship's cables and anchors had been surveyed in April and were in very good condition, and were in proportion to the size of the ship. I examined the remains of the best bower, about half the shank; and as far as I can remember the metal was bright with the exception of about one-tenth of the surface, and the fibre was good. That one-tenth part was surrounded by bright iron, and it was impossible to say how it was caused. On the 8th of June when mid-way between the Mauritius and St. Paul's and the leak broke out it was supposed that only a rivet had dropped out. On the 13th Captain Thrupp directed me to steer for St. Paul's.

John Thomson, leading man of fitters at Sheerness Dockyard, sworn and examined by the COURT. - The rose suction boxes of the steam bilge pumps in the Megaera I fitted before the went away on her last voyage. The old one was put back again for the hand-pump. The new ones fitted for the steam bilge pumps were made of lead. The one fitted to the hand-pump abreast the mainmast was wrought iron, and, to the best or my knowledge, was placed between two frames. The copper suction pipe leading to the rose-box was about 2 or 2½ inches above the frames of the ship. The pipe was stayed by a wooden block on the cement to prevent its being bent down upon the frames. The suction rose-box was between 10 and 11 inches in depth. The copper suction pipe through the top of the rose-box went down to within an inch and a half or two inches of the cement. I am speaking from my recollection of the Megaera as well as the general manner in which these fittings are applied. The leaden bilge pump rose-boxes were placed in the Megaera when she went up the Mediterranean about March. The hand-pump rose-box was all made of wrought iron and bolted together by ⅜in. iron bolts. I am certain the top was not copper.

Cross-examined by Captain Thrupp. - The bilge pump had a single throw. The rose-box of the engine-room hand-pump rested on the cement between the ship's frames. It could easily be lifted by hand for a few inches.

The Court adjourned at nearly 6 p.m. until this morning.
Fr 17 November 1871


The Court for the trial of Captain Thrupp and the officers and men who were serving in Her Majesty's late ship the Megaera, for the loss of that ship assembled yesterday morning on board Her Majesty's ship Duke of Wellington, on the seventh day of its sittings.

The first witness called before the Court was Mr. John Trickett, chief engineer and inspector of machinery at Keyham Dockyard. He said. - I was chief engineer and Inspector of machinery at Woolwich when the Megaera was inspected and surveyed there in 1866. At that time the Engineer Department examined and repaired the hulls of iron ships, so far as related to the condition of the plates. So far as I remember now I have no knowledge of the port main coal bunker being then lifted so as to allow of an examination being made of the ship's bottom, and cement covering underneath. I don't remember any renewal of cement on the inside of the ship's bottom, particularly beyond where the borings had been made. The cementings of the ship would have been done by the shipwright department. The whole of the information that I can give the Court is contained in my report of 1866. (The report merely said: - "We have examined the hull and find the bottom in good condition, the thinnest plating being ⅜ths of an inch in thickness.") One part of Mr. Barnaby's evidence being referred to, relative to the boring of the Megaera's side-plating at Woolwich, the witness, in answer to questions put by the Court, said, - I have no recollection of any statement having been made by the officers of the ship relative to the condition of her bottom, and any list of defects sent in would be among the papers before the Court. I apprehend that the fact of my being responsible for the condition of the ship's hull when at Woolwich induced me to make some examination. Finding some thin places near the water line, I then had the ship thoroughly sounded all over the bottom, and the thinnest parts, ascertained by sounding, were then bored. The results are recorded in the report signed by me, and now before the Court. While the ship lay in dock at Woolwich her under-water fittings would be examined and repaired according to the standing orders, Admiralty directions being previously given to dock the ship. The Master Shipwright, the Master Attendant, and the Chief Engineer are the three dockyard officials concerned in the docking of a ship in one of Her Majesty's yards. Mr. Reed, the late Chief Constructor of the Navy, made a careful inspection of the Megaera when at Woolwich, as stated in the submission to the Admiralty. He went with the yard officers over the ship, and saw exactly what condition she was then in. One or two of the thin plates at the water line had been previously removed for the purpose of making the inspection as thorough as possible. So far as my experience goes I should say that it would be rather unusual for the Chief Constructor of the Navy to come down to a yard and inspect a ship on a supplementary estimate, but on this occasion I attributed the visit to the fact of the recent large expenditure of 27,000l. upon the ship at Devonport. The supplementary estimate had principal reference to the thin plates in the neighbourhood of the water line, the thinnest of which were removed and replaced by new. Sounding iron to detect thin plates, when the iron is supported by bricks and cement, is a satisfactory mode of test. The whole of the surface of the Megaera's bottom outside was sounded, and the thinnest plates, ascertained by sounding, were bored. I cannot say now whether the plating where the leak broke out was bored, but it was undoubtedly sounded, and was, no doubt, as thick there as at other parts. The ship underwent such a thorough examination at my hands with reference to her plating as enabled me to report of its efficiency.

Was the ship at that date thoroughly and in all respects seaworthy and fit for sea, as far as regarded her hull, and fit for any service for which she might be required? - Yes, she was in July, 1866. I am not aware whether the doubling of thin plates or other repairs was executed afterwards. As regards Spence's cement, in its application on steam pipes it is very durable, but I cannot say for how long. I have had no experience of its application on ships' bottoms, or where it would be liable to become wet.

Cross-examined by Captain Thrupp. - When I stated that the Megaera was fit for any service, that must be understood as relating to the time given - from 18 months to two years - and after that time of service the doubling and other repairs would become necessary. I spoke of the soundings and borings of the Megaera's plating at Woolwich from my own personal knowledge. The word "temporary," made use of in my report, I apprehend meant there that the ship should not be commissioned for four years, and should not be sent anywhere beyond the time given of 18 months or two years.

By the COURT. - We are generally directed to repair a ship for four years' commission. By the use of the word "temporary" in my report, I contemplated the sending of the ship anywhere within the limits of the time given.

Mr. Owen, assistant master shipwright of Portsmouth Dockyard, recalled and re-examined. - With reference to the cementing of the inside of the Megaera's bottom in 1864, the centre portion was covered with brick and Portland cement to bring the upper surface above the lower frames and angle-irons, probably to a distance of 2ft. to 3ft. on each side of the centre line, or keelson. Beyond that, as far as I remember, Spence's cement was used up to the shelf-piece. I said yesterday that I had no recollection of the two frames between which the leak broke out being covered in with a piece of plating. If the plate really was there it must have been placed there after the ship's, bottom was cemented, to take, probably, one of the bearings of the transverse flat. I do not know of any instance of a similar plate being placed in any other iron ship for that purpose.

Would not the existence of this plate in the Megaera effectually prevent any examination of the ship's bottom at that part? - Yes, if the plate extended down to the step of the mainmast, for which, however, there would be no necessity - and if no holes were cut in the plate.

(A sketch produced by the officers of the ship showed this plate as extending over the two frames and extending down, to the step of the mast; but none of the dockyard officers called could recognize it. If there, it boxed in the space between the frames and prevented any view of the ship's bottom plating underneath.

Alexander Brown, leading stoker, called and examined, stated that be was on duty in the first watch on the night the leak was discovered. Stepping down on the skin of the ship, and kneeling down in the water, he saw by the light of his lamp a stream like a waterspout rushing up on the port side, under the main coal bunker. Examining the sectional model of the ship, the witness pointed out to the Court the position on the bottom of the ship, beneath the. engine-room flooring on which he stood or knelt when he discovered the leak as between the engines and the coal bunkers.

The witness's examination being then resumed, he said, - I saw no rose-box from the engine-room hand-pump suction-pipe between the two frames where the leak was. If such a box had been there I must have seen it. It might have been between the next, or the next to them. I don't know what the rose-box was made of. The two frames where the leak was were covered in with an iron plate from the bottom as far as I could see up.

The witness's attention having been drawn to the model, he explained that the two frames were not covered over for two feet from the centre line, or keel of the ship. This two feet uncovered portion allowed witness to look up between the ship and see the leak by the light of his lamp. (No explanation has been tendered why the witness could look up between the frames and see the leak, the same place at other times could not be examined by the same means, to ascertain the condition of the cement there and position of the rose-box.)

Examination resumed. - I know the rose box was about two feet, or two girders, distant from the leak, because I had to take it out two or three times to clean it. I don't recollect what the box was made of. I don't recollect whether it was light or heavy. My attention was called to the leak by hearing the rush of the water, and between the engines and the bunkers. I could not see it. The rush of water I heard was the water coming through the hole and striking against the iron plate over it. I think the plate over the two frames was to support the coal bunker, because the end of another came up flush against the gridiron - I mean the girder.

By a reference again to the model the witness endeavoured to explain his ideas as to the position of the covering plate, and its use there. He believed the plate was to support the bunker, because the end of a beam of wood came out there, which could not be prized out with a crowbar.

The remainder of the evidence given by this witness was simply a waste of the Court's time.

William Bodfield, leading stoker, sworn and examined, - I assisted in putting on the inside plate on the bottom of the Megaera. It secured the outside plate on the leak by a seven-eighth, bolt, screwed down close to the head by a nut. By what I saw of it myself it seemed to stop the leak. At the time the piece was cut out of the girder I felt the leak hole with my hand. I put my three fingers in, and believe I could have bent it like the cover of a book.

Captain Thrupp was here called to the table, and in answer to a question put by a member of the COURT, said, - On the 8th of June, when the leak was first discovered, I had no idea of making for the nearest place of safety, nor even then of calling at St. Paul's.

Captain Thrupp then read the remainder of the "statement " begun by him on the opening of the Court. This part described the landing of the stores of the Megaera on St. Paul's Island, the abandonment of the wreck, the precautions taken on shore for berthing and provisioning and preserving the health of the officers and men. On the 16th of July a communication was made with the Aurora, a Dutch vessel that had run in to the island on observing the flagstaff. Other vessels afterwards communicated, and Lieutenant James [Jones] returned to the island in the steamship Oberon with provisions. On the 2d of August Her Majesty's ship Rinaldo arrived, and the Malacca, the next day. Both were blown off the land after losing their anchors, and prevented embarking the Megaera's officers and men by the extreme violence of the weather and the tremendous rollers on the shores of the island until Tuesday, the 5th of September, when all embarked on board the Malacca, the Rinaldo having no coals and only 15 days' provisions. The stores of the Megaera left on the island were left in charge of the two Frenchmen who live there, under an agreement to pay them 5s. each per week for doing so. The prevailing condition of the weather at St. Paul's would render the recovery of these stores very improbable.

The details of this part of Captain Thrupp's statement, as also of the previous one, have been made public by preciously published documents.

After Captain Thrupp had finished reading his paper, Vice-Admiral W. Loring, C.B., the President of the Court, addressing Captain Thrupp said,- The Court has now all the evidence before it that is required. Do you wish to make any further statement or require any time for preparing it?

Captain Thrupp. - In consequent of the great number of the witnesses examined for the prosecution, and the evidence given by them with regard to the state of the Megaera, I should like to have some time to prepare my defence, and also to decide whether it would be necessary to bring forward other evidence to refute that laid before the Court.

The PRESIDENT. - When do you propose to be ready to meet the Court?

Captain Thrupp. - By half-past 10 to-morrow morning.

The PRESIDENT. - Then the Court is adjourned until half-past 10 to-morrow.

The Court adjourned accordingly.
Sa 18 November 1871


The Court opened yesterday morning on board Her Majesty's ship Duke of Wellington, under the presidency of Vice-Admiral W. Loring, C.B., to receive Captain Thrupp's defence to the charge brought against himself, his officers, and men for the loss of Her Majesty's ship Megaera at St. Paul's Island, and to deliver their verdict.

The Court was opened at 10 30 a.m., and the President, addressing Captain Thrupp, said, - Are you prepared to go on with your statement, Captain Thrupp?

Captain Thrupp. - Yes, Sir.

Captain Thrupp then read to the Court the following statement in defence:-

"To the President and members of this honourable Court,
"Before making any remarks on the loss of the ship I wish to be allowed to state that on the Megaera leaving Queenstown on the 14th March, 1871, neither I nor (that I am aware of) any of the officers or ship's company had any knowledge that the bottom of the ship was in any way weak or likely to leak; she was a newly commissioned ship just out of dock, where her bottom had been cleaned and fresh coated, the defective bobstay and ports had been made good, the ship had been lightened of 100 tons of cargo, so that we had every reason to be satisfied with all that had been done to remedy our defects, and I so expressed myself to the admiral commanding before leaving that port. On the leak first breaking out it was true that I was as near the island of Mauritius as St. Paul's, and if I had then any idea of danger, it is probable I should have at once hauled up for that island, but I had none whatever. It was not until four days afterwards, that finding the leak did not proceed from a rivet-hole, but was of a more serious nature, I decided on calling at St. Paul's to examine the bottom and stop the leak. It was only after the diver had examined the ship's bottom, and the frames were found so defective, and I had further inspected the weak places myself, that I fully realized our position, and for the first time discovered the impossibility of continuing the voyage, and then it was, of course, equally impossible to proceed to Mauritius. I did not at that time enter minutely into the question as to whether the plates became defective by the use of any particular cement, or the absence of cement, or whether it arose from galvanic action. My anxiety was centred in discovering what the extent of the damage was and in slowly realizing to myself the fact that it would be impossible to proceed on the voyage without the most imminent danger. With reference to the evidence given by Mr. Bannister, assistant engineer of Portsmouth Dockyard, and Mr. Weston, chymist, as regards the substance taken from the non-return valve of the bilge pump, it is evident, whether they contained three-quarters or half pure iron, that they must have come from somewhere, and we found certain parts of the frames or girders missing, so it was but reasonable to suppose that they did come from those girders, and as I saw many pieces taken out myself there can be no doubt that they did get into and choke the bilge pumps. In Mr. Bannister's evidence relating to the pumps he included a hand pump, which could only be used for filling the boilers, and could not be used for pumping the ship out. As regards the bilge pumps, Mr. Mills, the chief engineer, calculated that they only threw 17 tons an hour, having only a single action, which was confirmed by the dockyard fitter, who was examined before this court. The injection, it was proved, could not be used rolling as the ship was, without allowing the water to rise to such a height as to endanger extinguishing the fires. The Downton pumps were also calculated by Mr. Bannister to be worked at a greater speed in theory than we found possible in practice; but after the plate was put on over the leak it was requisite to use the steam donkey pump continually, and when the engines were at rest for any time we had to work the Downton pumps as well, but we judged their capabilities only by their power of keeping the water under, and not by the quantity of water discharged. It was, however, no deficiency of pumping power that induced me to decide as I did; it was the fact of the extreme weakness of the ship in the neighbourhood of the leak, and the moral certainty that the plates would not hold together for many days longer. Mr. Peters, boilermaker, stated that the bottom was covered in 1864 with bricks and Portland cement to a distance of four feet on each side of the keel, but the rest of the ship was then cemented with some experimental material called Spence'a cement, his experience of which was chiefly confined to covering boilers, and that it was absolutely necessary to keep it quite dry. Yet it appears the bilges of this ship were coated with this material. In conclusion, I wish to state, on behalf of the officers and men who have returned with me, that I have always considered myself solely responsible for the steps I took in beaching the Megaera, and I feel it my duty to express my great satisfaction at the conduct of the whole of the officers and crew under the very trying circumstances in which we were placed; it was mainly owing to their exertions that, under Providence, no more serious casualties occurred.

"I think, Sir, it will be unnecessary to call any further witnesses, and I am willing to leave my case in the hands of this Court."

When Captain Thrupp had read his defence the Court was cleared at 20 minutes to 11, and remained closed until 35 minutes past 12, when it was again opened, and all officers and men, with the witnesses in the case, were called in. The President and Members of the Court sat round the table of the Court wearing their uniform cocked hats, and it could be at once seen that the case, so far as the Court's jurisdiction extended, was over. After a short time, during which the prisoners, witnesses, Press reporters, and the few spectators present settled in their places in court, the Judge-Advocate read the preamble of the "finding" of the Court which related to the charge of stranding the Megaera on St. Paul's island brought against Captain Arthur T. Thrupp, Lieutenant E.S. Evans, Navigating Lieutenants J.M. Lloyd and T.J.H. Rapson, Chief Engineers George Mills and Edward Brown, Engineer Richards, Assistant-Paymaster Charles Roxworthy, and officers and men lately belonging to Her Majesty's late ship Megaera, serving in her at the time, or taking a passage in her to join other of Her Majesty's ships on the Australian station, and afterwards read the actual finding of the Court in the following words:-

"The Court, having heard the statements of the said Captain Arthur Thomas Thrupp, and also his evidence, together with such other evidence as was deemed necessary, and, having deliberately weighed and considered the whole of the evidence before it, doth find that Her Majesty's ship Megaera was stranded on the island of St. Paul, on Monday, the 19th of June, 1871, by Captain Arthur Thomas Thrupp. The Court is of opinion that, although it does not appear that the leak which was the cause of the said ship touching at St. Paul's island, did at any time overpower the pumps, yet the state of the ship's bottom in the neighbourhood of the leak was such that, taking all the circumstances of the case into consideration, - the position of the ship, 1,800 miles from any available port, the fact that the ship had parted from three anchors at St. Paul's anchorage, and that it was evident that she could not then maintain her position at St. Paul's anchorage at that season of the year, taking also into consideration the small quantity of coal remaining in the Megaera, and the number of lives at stake, the said Captain Arthur Thomas Thrupp was fully justified in beaching the ship, and that he would not have been justified in continuing the ship's course from St. Paul's Island to Australia; and the Court doth, therefore, acquit him of all blame in respect to it. The Court is further of opinion that no blame whatever is attributable to the other officers and men under trial, hereinbefore named, for the stranding and loss of Her Majesty's ship Megaera, and does, therefore, acquit them of all blame. And the said Captain Arthur Thomas Thrupp and other officers and men are hereby acquitted."

Vice-Admiral LORING then, as the President of the Court, presented Captain Thrupp his sword hiltwards, and said, - "Captain Thrupp, I have much pleasure in returning to you your sword." The Court was then dissolved.

It will he seen that the finding of the Court only relates to the stranding of the ship on St. Paul's island and her consequent subsequent loss. The cause of the leak in the Megaera's side plates which led to the ship's loss has yet to be inquired into and reported upon by the Royal Commission about to assemble under the presidency of Lord Lawrence.

The numerous reporters present on board the Duke of Wellington during the trial were afforded all requisite accommodation in the Court-room, and received every possible courtesy at the hands of Captain Hancock, and the officers of the ship.
Sa 18 November 1871The Court-Martial upon the loss of the Megaera has completely acquitted the captain and crew of the ship. They consider that Captain THRUPP was fully justified in beaching the ship, that he would not have been justified in continuing his voyage to Australia, and they are further of opinion that "no blame whatever is attributable to the officers and men under trial for the stranding and loss of Her MAJESTY'S ship Megaera." It will be seen, that this verdict relates solely to the question whether the circumstances of the ship, when the leak was discovered, justified the Captain, in running her on shore. In addition to the imputation more or less distinctly raised on this head on behalf of the Admiralty, it remains to be inquired to what cause those circumstances are due, and the latter inquiry must ultimately prove the more important. The first concerns in the main the reputation of an Officer, though, of course, any material failure on his part in energy and resource would throw some discredit on the service. It is satisfactory on both accounts that a verdict of complete acquittal should have been pronounced, and no other decision upon the evidence we have published could have satisfied the sense of justice in Captain THRUPP'S countrymen. The only hopeful element in the circumstances he had to deal with is that specified in the verdict, and made the most of in some ungenerous suggestions by official witnesses. The leak did not at any time actually overpower the pumps. But it was increasing; an attempt to patch it had failed; the whole plating in the neighbourhood bore dangerous indications of weakness; the pumps were continually choked by pieces of iron which must have by some means washed off the ship's frame; the quantity of coal on board was not sufficient to meet any exceptional risks; and when the ship was anchored off St. Paul's, in the hope that it might be possible to patch her, three of her anchors parted; she was 1,800 miles from any available port, and, last not least, Captain THRUPP was not merely answerable for the ship, but for the lives on board of her. This last consideration scarcely seems to enter into the calculations of members of the Constructive Department of the Admiralty; but the public and the experienced members of a Court-Martial will never be insensible to the heavy responsibility for the lives of his crew which must always weigh on a Commanding Officer. Few positions, in fact, are so difficult as that of a Captain called on to decide between deliberately sacrificing his ship and risking not only his own life, but those of others. Unless he can fully justify the former coarse he imperils his whole professional career, and the alternative risk is most distressing and momentous. In this instance Captain THRUPP did all that a skilful and energetic seaman could do to save his ship, and when the danger became too great to be any further encountered he acted with promptitude, resource, and foresight. Before the Court-Martial delivered their verdict he with honourable spirit accepted the whole responsibility of the course he adopted, and this unfortunate incident in his career ought to increase, and in no way to compromise, his reputation at the Admiralty.

By this decision, then, we are advanced one most important stage in the case of the Megaera. It is now established that, as a matter of fact, the ship was at the date of June, 1871, in such a rotten condition that her officers had no option but to abandon her. She had, however, met with no accident, nor encountered any unusual stress of weather since she left port. It is indisputable, therefore, that she was sent to sea in an unsafe condition. After the verdict of the Court-Martial there is no escape from this conclusion; and, whatever distribution of blame may ultimately be made, it is at least certain that the Admiralty are responsible. Attempts were made, to which we shall presently refer, to show that the Ship's officers, as well as other subordinate officials, ought to have detected the sources of danger to which the disaster is now attributed. By all means let such points be fully investigated for the sake of out future guidance. But they cannot in the least degree affect the responsibility of the Admiralty itself for any defects of construction or repair under which the Ship received her commission. If the Admiralty were not aware of such defects they ought to have been, and it was their business to be sure that they possessed a full and satisfactory knowledge of the Ship's condition. It is difficult to treat with patience the complacency with which Mr. BARNABY throw his "charges," or "assumptions" of ignorance and neglect upon the Dockyard officers and the officers of the Megaera. It appears by the evidence that the CHIEF CONSTRUCTOR of the NAVY did, in 1866, make a careful examination of the Ship, thereby admitting his full responsibility for it; and, when Mr. BARNABY, as the chief witness on the part of the Admiralty, tells us that he "cannot state" and is "not sure" whether certain things were done which were directed to be done, he condemns the whole system of administration.

It is not, indeed, necessary to go beyond the evidence of Mr. BARNABY in, order to convict the Admiralty of gross recklessness. Let the reader simply consider the following facts, which are wholly independent of the technical question afterwards raised. On the 20th of January, 1865, the Megaera, being then 20 years old, was transferred from the list of troopships and made a store-ship, "commencing from that period a new life." Mr. BARNABY positively declares that this change of employment had nothing to do with the seaworthiness of the ship. However, before she commenced this new life she was taken in hand at Woolwich, and her plates were bored, as was lately done with the Simoom, through the bottom and at the water-line. The official Report of that survey is that "the hull has been examined, and found to be in good condition, the thinnest plates being three-eighths of an inch, thick." This Report is compared by Mr. BARNABY with that just made on the Simoom, and great stress is laid on it. We obtain, therefore, an instructive illustration of the value of these Reports when we take into account a further statement of Mr. BARNABY. In July, 1865, the Chief Constructor of the Navy "made a careful examination of the Ship, and was of opinion that an accompanying supplementary estimate should be allowed, so that the Ship should remain fit for service for eighteen months or two years longer when repaired." That was the length of the "new life" which the Chief Constructor designed for the Megaera in 1866. But in the Report on defects it is also stated that "the plates between wind and water all round the vessel to about 20 feet from the stem, from the wall down to the first lap, for about 8 feet in breadth amidships, and a breadth of 5 feet fore and aft, are very thin, and, although the vessel, if repaired, may be used for troop service, we are of opinion that she will shortly require to be doubled in the parts above named." This sufficiently accounts for the fact, already known, of the ship having been placed at the bottom of the list of vessels of her class, and not having been deemed fit for service in the Abyssinian Expedition. But what follows would be incredible, did we not learn it on the same official and self-satisfied authority. "The thin plates referred to," says Mr. BARNABY, "have never been doubled or wholly removed,'' so that a precaution thought to be "shortly" necessary in 1866 was never taken, and a vessel then pronounced to be fit for service "when repaired" for two years or less was five years afterwards sent one of the longest voyages possible without those repairs having been made. Not only were these repairs omitted, but no official record exists of any survey having been made until 1870. In April of that year, in consequence of representations that the bottom was very thin in many places, the vessel was examined at Sheerness. The Report was that repairs to the amount of 722l. were required. They were ordered accordingly, but "the officers were directed to reconsider their estimate and report whether it could not be reduced." After receiving these instructions, the officers reported that they found the ship's bottom better than they expected, and the estimate was accordingly reduced by the large sum of 160l. The last item in the history is not the least instructive. On the ship's return from Malta to England only last year "she was ordered to be paid off into the fourth class reserve at Devonport." In reply to this order Captain LUARD telegraphed to the Admiralty that the ship was "ready for one year's service at any moment," and, accordingly, Sir SPENCER ROBINSON telegraphed, "Keep the Megaera ready for one year's service." This was in August, 1870. It appears, in short, that the Admiralty sent on a six mouths' voyage, in the spring of 1871, a vessel they had themselves ordered into the fourth class reserve in 1870, and which had only been respited till August, 1871; that the plates of this vessel were "very thin" in 1866; that the repairs then directed were never executed, and that even a paltry estimate for repairs in 1870 was cut down by their own direction. It is worth while to add to this recital that this revised estimate is signed not only by two Lords of the Admiralty, but by Mr. BAXTER.

These facts must be sufficient, in the judgment of the public, to convict the Admiralty of inexcusable carelessness, and to preclude any kind of surprise at the catastrophe which resulted. We are at a loss to conceive how any subsequent investigations can remove the condemnation involved in this official evidence. It is still, however, incomprehensible how a ship on which such Reports had already been made, and which proved, in fact, to be so dangerously decayed, could ever have been sent out for service by dockyard officials in the spring of 1871. Captain THRUPP very reasonably says that the ship "having been commissioned, he presumed her to be seaworthy, and not leaky." An attempt is made, however, which is at all events most ungenerous, to throw a large portion of the blame for the circumstance to which the actual leak is attributed upon Captain THRUPP and the subordinate officers of the ship. It seems highly probable that the leak was caused by corrosion, resulting from the action on the iron plates of a "copper rose-box" for bilge water which rested on the inner skin of the ship. This cause, it appears, has already placed one ship in imminent danger. Admiralty instructions forbid the use of copper for such purposes. It is alleged that the engineers of the ship ought to have detected this defect, and to have remedied it. Moreover, even this danger would have been powerless unless the cement on the inside of the ship had been broken up, and it is alleged that the carpenter or engineers, in their periodical inspections, ought to have seen the danger and averted it. Even if these charges be true, the primary blame for such defects of construction must rest on the dockyard officials, and Mr. BARNABY admits their responsibility on this point. Should this prove to have been the immediate cause of the leak, it will only be still more clear than before that the ship was sent to sea in an unfit condition. These, however, are the points which remain for the consideration of the Royal Commission, and we do not wish to prejudge them. For our future guidance it is of great importance they should be accurately determined. It is still more important that any blame which rests with our naval authorities should be fixed on them by the voice of a competent authority. But the broad results are already established before the Court-Martial. They do honour to the gallantry of our seamen, but they convict the Admiralty of parsimonious recklessness and of a cruel incompetence which deserve the most severe reprobation.
Ma 20 November 1871


On Friday evening Mr Knatchbull-Hugessen [Edward Hugessen Knatchbull-Hugessen, 1829-1893] and Mr R. Brassey [Henry Arthur Brassey, 1840-1891], the members for Sandwich, addressed their constituents in the Town-hall, Deal. There was a large attendance, and the Mayor, Mr. F.S. Bird, occupied the chair.


Turning to the Navy, he had to meet a perfect torrent of abuse; but he did not want to meet opponents with such weapons. Take the case of the loss of the Captain, which was too serious to be regarded in the light of mere party. (Hear.) He would point out, that the Captain was ordered while the Duke of Somerset held office under Lord Palmerston, and built under the responsibility of Sir John Pakington, and he would leave them to determine whether the officials of preceding Governments were more or less responsible than the officials who sent the Captain to sea. Mr. Childers gave the best proof of his confidence by sending on board his own son, and no one had suffered more than Mr. Childers from the terrible loss. For such calamities as this the Government could no more be visited with censure than they could be blamed for a bad harvest or a bad catch of whiting in the Downs. (A laugh.) The opponents of the Government said that the Megaera was sent to sea in an inefficient condition from false motives of economy, and that precious lives were therefore endangered. But in the time of the previous Government Mr. Reed made a report upon the defective state of the bottom of the vessel; Mr. Corry had that report. He would ask them who were the more culpable in letting the Megaera go to sea. Not the present Government, for they had not been made acquainted with these facts, and all the complaints which had reached them of the neglect, of the over-loading and defective cabin accommodation, they had remedied. But he was not there to indulge in recrimination. What was wanted was a searching inquiry into the system which prevailed, and to make it impossible for British sailors to be sent afloat in such ships as the Megaera. (Cheers.) Inquiry had been promised by Mr. Goschen, and he could answer for him and for himself that what he undertook to do he would perform. He therefore hoped that good would come out of evil, and that benefit would result to the British Navy by these misfortunes. He was certain that Government would not long retain the confidence of the country which did not give unremitting attention to the service on which England must rely as her first line of defence (Cheers.) ...
Fr 8 December 1871


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-
"It has been several times brought to the notice of their Lordships that the expense of the Megaera is quite disproportionate to the value of her services; but it was concluded that some special reason existed for keeping her in commission, and the suggestion for the appropriation of the ship for the conveyance of stores to and from Malta, in this instance, was made on the supposition that their Lordships intended to keep her in commission, in which I was confirmed by the Minute of Sir Sydney Dacres, on the 23d of June last, when on my submission that she should perform the Channel Islands troop service, as being suitable for such service, it was stated that he was anxious to send the Megaera to the Mediterranean."

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 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


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


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


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


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
Mr. Alfred Barnes Sturdy, the Master Shipwright of Sheerness Dockyard, examined by Lord LAWRENCE, stated that in 1859 he was assistant master shipwright at Portsmouth when the Megaera was brought in, and at the time when her defective condition was reported on, as given in The Times. He stated that he, on this occasion, recommended that Day's cement should be used on her inside, and, as a fact, it was used. He was examined at considerable length upon his acquaintance with the ship, and he owned that he did not examine her interior when she was at Sheerness in 1870. He thought it sufficient if a ship was examined every six or eight years. He signed a report that the ship was then "complete and fit for sea," and he had done so from an examination of the outside, and from an inspection of holes which had been ripped above the water-line; but no examination was made at this time of the cement at the bottom and of the plates, as "no defects were supposed to exist" As a matter of fact, all such reports were made on assumption only, and were usual. Lord Lawrence remarked that the use of such terms as "usual" were excuses, that ships should not be certified as "complete and fit for sea" without complete examination, and that the want of such an examination probably caused the loss of the ship and risked the loss of the lives in her. To this the witness said what he had stated "was the usual system," and it was not possible to examine fully every ship. The witness's attention was called to a report made by officers previous to her coming to Sheerness, recommending a careful and full examination of the ship before she was sent to sea, but he said the ship was not so examined before proceeding on her voyage to Australia. In 1871 the ship was examined on the outside; but not in the inside, for it never struck him that the wash of the bilge water would wear off the cement. In February, 1871, the vessel was again reported "complete, and perfect in every respect," and that certificate was given without any examination of her interior. He was aware of the Admiralty order against copper being allowed to come into contact with iron, and this order, he believed, was complied with. There were copper pipes in the Megaera, but he questioned whether these were washed by the bilge water on the roll of the ship.

The further examination of the witness was adjourned until to-day.
Tu 19 December 1871


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


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


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 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.

Rear-Admiral Sir William Edmonstone, C.B., stated that he was director of Woolwich Dockyard in 1866, when the Megaera went there.

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


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


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.
Tu 16 January 1872


Yesterday this Commission resumed its sittings at Committee-room No. 11 of the House of Commons, Lord Lawrence presiding, when the relations of the Admiralty with the Royal Dockyards again came under review.

Mr. E.J. Reed, the late Chief Constructor of Her Majesty's Navy, was recalled, and his examination by Lord LAWRENCE was proceeded with. The witness's attention was directed to his correspondence with The Times in August last on the subject of the Megaera, and his examiner told him he should want some explanations on this correspondence. Lord LAWRENCE said he gathered from the witness's answers on Saturday that be did not consider the plates of the Megaera were so dangerously thin as to prevent her going on a voyage to Australia, and the witness replied that he said this of her respecting her condition when he saw her last, but that this was five years before she was sent on the last voyage. He wished to read an extract from one of his letters in The Times, showing that he had argued that the public should suspend judgment as to the loss of the ship until more was known of the circumstances; but his examiner told him that the Commissioners had his letters before them, and preferred to take his views in evidence. The witness then said he had no opinion upon the subject of the ship's condition when she was sent on her last voyage, and that the limit of his opinion was expressed in his saying that he thought, when they found she was leaky and badly reported on, she should then have had a searching examination. Taken over the letters in The Times written upon the loss of the vessel, he said he had not modified the views he had expressed in those letters, beyond wishing to retract the word "only" in the sentence "I reported her (in 1866) fit only for a very brief period of further service." As to the information which he had it in his power to give to the Admiralty, and which he had offered to give to his successors, it was the result of his services, and Mr. Goschen himself acknowledged that the department was without this information, though they would not allow him to give it. This was with respect to general matters, and of course it was to be seen that the Admiralty had the information with regard to the Megaera, and the only mischief was that the information was not used. Asked how long a vessel like the Megaera should have gone without a general survey, and whether she should have gone her last voyage without a survey, he said certainly the voyage to Australia should not have been undertaken without it. Certainly, too, if there were inaccessible places they should have been opened up periodically. The clearing out a vessel for a full search, taking out boilers and bunkers, would have cost 1,600l. or 1,800l.; but, in reply to the question whether the Megaera could have been searched without going to this expense, he said this was a difficult matter to answer, as what applied to one ship would not apply to another. In some ships man-holes were cut to get at sealed places, and to his mind the officers who signed the quarterly reports always made on ships that the ship's cement had been examined, and did not state that there were inaccessible places had kept the Admiralty in the dark. Dockyard officers would not be justified in going to the expense of a thorough examination, or the expense involved in taking out the boilers and bunkers, without first reporting that such an examination was necessary, and obtaining the sanction of the Admiralty to the expense.

Adopting the words of Lord Lawrence, he certainly thought there was laches on the part of officers of the ship and officers of the dockyards in not reporting that there were inaccessible places, and, more than that, he could not think how any master shipwright could have been contented with making a partial examination in face of Sir Spencer Robinson's request in 1870 that the ship should be reported on with regard to her plating. Attention was then drawn to the statement of Captain Luard and others connected with Sheerness dockyard that they had no suspicion of the vessel's cement bring otherwise than in good condition, and the witness replied that these officers were the only persons who could be aware that there were confined places in her, and they should, before reporting her to be "complete" and in a "fit condition for sea," have seen the condition of those confined places. It was pointed out that the ship went late to Sheerness, and without such a history of her as the witness had himself said should have been passed on with her, and he replied that the ship was paid off in 1870, and ordered into the fourth division of the Steam Reserve, as the Admiralty papers showed, and before she was brought into the first division for general survey she should have been thoroughly examined. But it seemed that the dockyard officers, with what he thought was an excess of economy, classed her in the first division for general service without any such examination as she would otherwise have had. Asked whether he did not think the Admiralty should have given the information regarding the ship to the Sheerness yard, he said he was not in a position to make any distinction of blame in the matter, and he did not want to fix the responsibility; but he thought that before the officers at Sheerness should have advised that she should go into the first reserve, instead of into the fourth, they should have obtained complete information regarding her condition. The witness was referred to the forms of reporting on a ship's condition, and he said he had over and over again urged the dockyard officers not to confine themselves to forms, and the Admiralty had issued an order bearing upon the bona fides of these reports. The dockyard officers were always told not to allow the safety of the ship to run out of their minds, and they were always urged that matters affecting this were, above all, to be first thought of. When he saw the ship in 1866 he saw nothing which would have led him to object to her going to Australia then, but he could not say whether or not, if it had been then suggested to have sent her to Australia, he should have required her first to be thoroughly overhauled, and he desired to be relieved from answering what he should have done in a matter of duty which had since been performed by others.

Upon this answer being given, Lord LAWRENCE remarked that seeing how strongly the witness had written in The Times, it was not to have been expected that he would shrink now from giving an opinion, especially when the subject was being considered, not so much with a view of attaching blame in the past as to provide for the future care of the Royal Navy.

The witness replied that the Commission was sitting to obtain the information regarding one ship which he had been desirous of imparting to the Admiralty when he left office respecting 600 or 700 ships, and the Commission would now see the importance of this information having been accepted.

Lord LAWRENCE said he still could not appreciate the witness's reticence on the point upon which he had been asked to speak, especially when it was seen how uncompromisingly he had come forward in The Times.

The witness again replied that he had so come forward to point out that the Government should avail itself of the information he had, and to say that when he offered the information no notice was taken of it. Still pressed upon the point of responsibility, he said he would say this, - that his impression at present was that the ship was actually lost through a local defect resulting from neglect of that local department. He was of opinion that no mere outside "tapping" of a vessel would be any indication of the whole condition of the vessel. By tapping by a skilled person a good idea might be obtained of the condition of the place struck, but this would be no clue to any bad place unless such bad place were actually struck. Nothing short of a thorough examination of the cement of a ship would allow of judgment being formed as to the condition of a ship. It would not be necessary, in his opinion, to remove good cement so as to look at the plates, for the cement being good would be the best proof that the iron was protected. Taken over the estimates which had been reduced, the witness said it was quite necessary that some check should be exercised over yard officials, but the estimates were never reduced in any matters of vital importance in a ship. The reduction of an estimate of cost of doing "the bottom of the Megaera" was owing, he said, to the scraping and painting of the bottom not being required, as had been estimated before she was docked. He again strongly declared that the Admiralty could not take the responsibility of knowing the condition of a ship, or of seeing that the master shipwrights did their duty. Certainly the constructor's department could not take the responsibility, which, in his mind, attached to the master shipwright, for the condition of ships, for if the Admiralty were supposed to be directly responsible for the condition of ships, and the local officers were to be eased of their responsibility, for one casualty which had occurred in the Navy there would be ten in the future. He acknowledged that at the present time there was much inconvenience, to say the least, from the mixture of naval officers in the responsibilities of dockyard officers, and the two should be kept separate, the practical officers of shipbuilding and ship repairing being more distinctly responsible for detailed matters. He could not see that there was any neglect of the Admiralty in the case of the Megaera. After 1866 he never took steps to have those plates seen to, said at that date to be thin in the water line and to require doubling, and he did not think they required this proposed doubling for the reasons he had given; and, moreover, he did not wish it to be thought, as it might be implied by his Lordship's question, that witness thought she was unserviceably thin on the water line in 1866, for he considered she was strengthened above the thickness of her plates by the manner in which her water line plates were put on. He considered she was serviceable for the duty she was intended for and what she was on - namely, home duty, as she was then repeatedly in the hands of dockyard officers and her plating was constantly under observation. His views as to her capabilities was borne out by the fact that the ship did this class of duty for five years after he saw her. In answer to another question he said that the action of bilge water on unprotected iron bottoms would be to eat it through, and that without any other action whatever, so that if the part of the ship where a leak was sprung was uncemented, that would account for the whole thing.

Mr. BREWSTER, who acknowledged that Lord Lawrence's examination had been very full, proceeded to question the witness upon some points of detail. The witness stated that there was a book kept of ships' performances, but that book was very imperfectly kept, being kept in a clerk's department, but no such book was kept in the Chief Constructor's department, where one should have been kept. This was the reason why he was anxious to give his successor information which was only carried in his knowledge. It was not his place there to enter upon a statement of the manner in which he had to do his work in 1869 and 1870, or his doing so would explain many things; but he would remark that the present Administration was the first which had attempted to give more responsibility to the Constructors department as to practical work, and if it had not been for other matters which, had arisen - in point of fact, it was because he had objected to the presence of the late Captain Coles in his office - the system would have been changed, and what was going on in the Admiralty in 1870 would have lead to the Admiralty being in possession, on paper, of all information regarding ships in the Navy. He would go further and say that the officers in command of vessels should have communicated to them particular points regarding those ships; as, for instance there were now five composite ships in the Royal Navy in which there were iron, copper and wood, and important matters respecting those ships should be known to the officers in command of them; but this particular information would drop out of notice for want of a proper record having been kept. When he saw the ship in 1866 he contemplated her being kept on the service she had been on - namely, short terms, so that her wearing condition, the state of the composition on her outside, and of the cement inside, upon the good condition of which the safety of an iron vessel depended, should be constantly under attention. If the cement in the inside of a vessel failed in any part, and attention was not given to it, the consequences would be fatal to the ship. The witness was then taken over the evidence of the assistant-engineer of Woolwich, who stated that he bored 600 holes in the bottom, to see the thickness, and the witness, questioned about the details of this, said that the putting in of screw rivets in these holes must have caused some amount of disturbance to the cement, and in his opinion the statement of the assistant-engineer that the screw rivets could be inserted without a disturbance of cement in the inside conveyed the idea of a refinement in the work carried out which would be impossible. Witness was not aware at the time that the ship was to bored at the bottom, and all the boring he examined was that of the water line, where there was no cement.

In reply to Sir M. SEYMOUR, the witness expressed himself as unable to give any opinion upon Admiralty accounts, and he spoke of the system under which they were kept as having been frequently altered.

The witness was then taken by Sir FREDERICK ARROW to the repairs of the Megaera at Devonport in 1864 - repairs which came to 27,000l. and so might be regarded, the witness said, as most thorough. He could not think, he said, but that every part of the ship was at this time seen, and his examiner then took him over the evidence given in the early part of the Commission, showing that the ship was at this time stripped by one set of artificers, cemented by another set, and finally refitted by a third set, Under these circumstances, the witness was asked if it was likely that this part, where the leak was, was overlooked, especially as there was a change of master shipwrights there at that time, and the witness said the foreman shipwright, he should think, would have seen the work fully carried out.

After some other questions as to the structure of the Megaera on the disputed points, as the existence of the plate under the bunker, of which the witness could give no information beyond surmise, he was questioned as to the system of accounts in the Admiralty, and the manner in which the expenditure was governed. His replies were to the effect that the expenditure now was governed, in a great measure, by reference to the political Secretary, and that the choice of a political Secretary was now chiefly dictated by a desire for economy rather than by a desire to maintain the efficiency of the Navy.

Upon this Lord LAWRENCE interposed some questions, and the witness said the public well knew that the Administration was above all desirous of what was termed economy, and the effect on the minds of the Government officials all over the country was apt to be injurious to the service, when it was known that the Parliamentary Secretary was greatly desirous of keeping down expense. Pressed upon the point he went on to say it must be obvious to the public that men were appointed to administer naval affairs not for the reason that they were able from special knowledge to make it efficient so much as to make its administration economical.

The examiner asked the witness if he held that the appointments referred to - those of Parliamentary officers - were now made in the interests of economy rather than in the interests of efficiency; and the witness replied the appointments were made primarily in the interests of economy.

Lord LAWRENCE remarked that if anything detrimental to the service arose from such economy the officer referred to would be blameable.

The witness said it was not to be expected that the politicians would acknowledge the truth of what he had said, but what he had said he considered to be a fact. He said he could speak from his own experience as to lowness of cost now being primarily considered. He would not go so far as to say that the Admiralty had refused any necessary price of service; but the effect of economy being the ruling thing at the Admiralty had, he thought, un unconscious effect on officers, such as was seen in the captain of the Steam Reserve at Sheerness (Captain Luard) reporting the Megaera on the first division of the Steam Reserve and fit for sea, instead of passing her to the fourth division, where she would have been dismantled and examined. Witness did not believe that four or five years ago any superintendent of a yard (Captain Luard being superintendent of the yard as well as Captain of the Steam Reserve) would have reported an old ship like the Megaera for service on which the was sent in 1871 without having her passed through the fourth division.

The examination by Sir FREDERICK ARROW was then resumed, and the witness said he did not attach any blame to the Admiralty for sending the Megaera to sea, and he had, he thought, endeavoured to show that the blame did not rest upon the Admiralty. The ship should have been placed in the fourth division, and there should have been a new transport ship built, but one had not been built because the money for it could not be got into the estimates. He proceeded to say that he heard nothing of the ship going to Australia, until she put into Queenstown, and he thought then the Admiralty should have had her looked after. With regard to stowage of ships, be said this was a most important labour, and affected the labouring of ships, and the Megaera had always been reported as easy at sea.

The subject of the responsibilities of dockyard officers was then returned to by Lord LAWRENCE, and the witness replied that he certainly considered the dockyard officers responsible for the condition of the Channel Fleet as the vessels left the yards, and this in regard to the action of the officers on commission defects as well as after repair when off commission. In point of fact, he placed the dockyard officers in the position of a representative of an owner's interests for, if he as a shipowner appointed an agent to watch the ship in a foreign port, he should feel greatly dissatisfied if his agent turned round, when some neglect was apparent, and said he had only given attention to those matters to which his attention was called or which he could see, and held himself as not responsible for such defects as he could not see or to which his attention was not called.

Lord LAWRENCE then pointed out that it had been given in evidence that the Megaera was not examined for seven years, and had during that time been knocking about the world, and he asked to be distinctly informed whether the witness was in opposition to the view expressed by Captain Luard, that the time for a full examination of the ship had not arrived in 1870 on the Admiralty order of August, of that year, and the witness replied in the affirmative.

The witness was taken at very great length (the examination lasting nearly seven hours) over other points, and he held that the Admiralty would have been justified by the reports of what had occurred between Sheerness and Queenstown in ordering the ship back to Sheerness to be thoroughly examined. The superintendent of a dockyard was a naval officer, and in no place was the superintendent a shipwright, although the work of the master shipwright was liable to be supervised by the superintendent. The witness thought it would be advantageous to the public service if the reports of the master shipwright went direct to the Constructor's department. Advantageous changes had of late been made in dockyard administration by making the master shipwright the chief engineer, by abolishing the office of storekeeper, and by having individual reports in place of conjoint reports by the officers responsible for the various departments.

The Commissioners adjourned until Thursday.
Fr 19 January 1872


Yesterday the proceedings of the Royal Commission on the Megaera were resumed in the House of Commons' Committee-room No. 11, Lord Lawrence presiding. On this occasion some suggestive evidence on the conduct of business in the Admiralty was given, and the "Board of Admiralty" itself came under review.

Mr. John Jarvis, foreman of the Royal Dockyard at Sheerness, was the first witness called. He said he remembered the Megaera coming to Sheerness in 1869, and assisted to examine her on that occasion. The examination was only on the outside. He had no knowledge of the previous history of the ship. He prepared an estimate of the cost of repairs. The carpenter of the ship expressed to witness an idea that the plates of the bottom were thin, and witness went over the outside of the bottom with the carpenter, and they found the under parts all right, but the plates rusty about the water-line on the bows, He reported the carpenter's statement to Mr. Sturdy and Mr. Mitchell, witness's superiors, and told them that he saw nothing but the rust about the bows. He did not examine the inside, and he could not say whether he had suggested that the ship should be examined inside. He thought he did, but he should not like to say whether he had done so or not. He assisted in preparing the ship for commission in 1871, but he did not examine the inside. He could not say why on all these occasions the outside only was examined, but the reason why the officials did not survey the inside was, that they had no suspicion of the inside being out of condition, and they could not take a mere "carpenter's suspicion" that the plates were thin as a reason for making such a survey.

The witness was asked by Mr. BREWSTER if he still held his position in Sheerness Royal Dockyard, and, on the reply being given in the affirmative, this Commissioner said he would not ask him anything else.

In answer to Sir M. SEYMOUR the witness gave replies which showed that the estimate which he had made for the Megaera's repair in 1869 came to upwards of 900l., and this was afterwards reduced to 700l.

Sir F. ARROW then questioned the witness as to who was responsible for ordering the inspection of the inside, and he replied that he thought his superior officers were thus responsible. He further said it was generally understood that the cement of an iron ship would last as long as the boilers.

Questioned by Mr. CHAPMAN, the witness said the system of examining ships in the dockyard was now the same as when the Megaera was there.

Vice-Admiral Arthur Forbes, examined by lord LAWRENCE, stated he was Admiral Commander at Queenstown when the Megaera put in there on the 28th of February, 1871. When she put in there she was reported as having broken her bobstay, and also that there was general discomfort from the leaking of her ports. He ordered an officer to see to the ship while he went on other duty in inspecting the Audacious, but when he returned he found papers from the Admiralty ordering him to inspect her. He did so, and on going on board he found that her ports were defective and let in water, and that she was very ill-stowed. The Admiralty asked by telegram if he thought she was able to go on her voyage, and he reported her as fit. The Megaera's ports were much worn at the edges, were not properly lined, and the woodwork of them was generally decayed. He thought the ship should not have started from Sheerness in this condition of her ports for Australia. He could say of his own knowledge that the ship was very ill-stowed, for he saw the cargo jammed in any how; but this, he thought, had in no way affected her labouring at sea between Plymouth and Queenstown - the weight being in her it mattered little about the manner in which she was stowed. Taking the fact that she had 341 persons on board and upwards of 400 tons of cargo, he did not think she was overloaded for safety, but that she was for comfort. As far as safety went the ship was in a fit condition, in witness's opinion, to undertake the voyage to Australia; but she was not for the comfort of those in her. He answered the question as to whether she was too deep in the water in the same words - that she was not for safety, but she was for comfort. He took out of her, he thought, 127 tons, and that would reduce her about four inches. He thought, if it was necessary to send the officers and men out it would have been better if another ship had been selected, and he should not have considered her a proper ship for the voyage if he had known she had not been examined in the inside for seven years. Most certainly she should have been thoroughly overhauled before being sent out.

In reply to Mr. BREWSTER, the witness said it was perfectly impossible for him to examine her at Queenstown, and, moreover, no one on board of her doubted her perfect soundness, and she was spoken of as perfectly tight. She was equally uncomfortable for officers as for men.

The witness was further questioned by other Commissioners, and he said that the woodwork of the ship was much worn, and he found the ports in such a condition as led him to believe that they were not properly done when the ship left Sheerness. He held it that when a ship was commissioned the dockyard was responsible for the ship's condition. If he had known that the ship had not been overhauled for several years when he saw her at Queenstown, he should have thought it necessary that she should be overhauled before she went on her voyage. He did not think it was his place to have ordered the ship back to be overhauled. He had never commanded an iron vessel, and had never been in charge of a dockyard.

Captain Alan Gardner, commander of Her Majesty's ship Mersey at Queenstown, the officer who reported the ship to the last witness, was then called. He said he noticed the ship coming into the port, and then thought she was very low in the water, and that she was overloaded, having regard to the fact that she was a man-of-war with a large number of persons on board. She would not have been overloaded for a merchantman, but she was for her then service. He believed the ship was not affected in her sailing by the manner in which she was stowed, but there was a want of neatness in her stowing, as he saw it on examining the ship. He thought that ports of such ships as the Megaera would leak in a gale of wind, and as to the discomfort suffered by those on board the ship he never saw greater on any ship than on the Megaera, and this might have been greatly lessened if more care had been given to the ports before the ship left Sheerness. As to whether, from what he saw at Queenstown, he thought she was fit for the voyage to Australia, he said, after giving the question consideration, that if he had been placed in command of her he should have liked to have a thorough overhaul before going round the world, such as a voyage to Australia was. He advised the 127 tons to be taken out of her for the comfort of her people, and not on any consideration of her safety. He went round the ship and spoke to her officers, but there was not the slightest suspicion in the mind of any one on board that she was in any part unsound.

Questioned by Mr. BREWSTER, the witness said he had no experience of iron ships, and positively knew nothing of cement in ships. He had commanded an ironclad, but that had a wooden bottom. Two new ports were made for the Megaera while she was at Queenstown. The ports must have been warped, old, and generally defective when she left Sheerness.

Mr. Vernon Lushington, the permanent Secretary of the Admiralty, was then called and examined by Lord LAWRENCE. He said he was appointed to his office in 1869. The Controller's Department was in the same building as the office of the Secretary to the Admiralty, but the departments were quite separate. The Chief Constructor was, previous to 1869, an officer under the Controller, and was so still. Mr. Childers made important changes in the department, and these changes, to a certain extent, changed the relative positions of the Controller and the Chief Constructor. At the Admiralty a book was kept in which were recorded particulars respecting each vessel in Her Majesty's service.

Examined by Mr. BREWSTER, the witness said he had no instructions as to his duties beyond those in the Orders in Council as to being at the Admiralty to carry out the First Lord's orders. He had no administrative powers, but he had, of course, many office duties. The letters were opened in various departments, and the very name of the Secretariat of Admiralty was in question as to its extent. Letters from the dockyards would be opened in the Third Lord's department, and a "reader" assisted witness in opening departmental letters. There was no general register of letters, and no officer with the duty of registering letters, but some clerks performed that duty. As to registering letters received at the Admiralty there were, in point of fact, two systems - one part of the old system and one part of the new. Every letter was not registered, but the system pursued in the new part of the office was more complete than in the old. He did not say that every letter received having to do with what the examiner called "the going part of the concern" was registered, but he should say it was. There was a vast number of letters received in a year - one department alone received 11,000, and these were opened by different persons. He thought there were nine or ten of what were called departments in the Admiralty; he should call them branches. Perhaps, he added, after consideration, he had better say there were 12 departments of the Admiralty. Practically, each department was under the control of a Lord of the Admiralty, but this was not absolutely so. In the old times there were "Superintendent Lords," but the term was not liked, and that title was abolished, and it was now only in effect that a Lord had the ruling over a department. In answer to the examiner, who, on this, remarked that there must be considerable confusion under such a system in which there was no official recognition of the superintending powers of the Lords, the witness said that it was not so, and that this was part of the machinery. In point of fact, the First Naval Lord had the management of the fleets of England, and the witness said he was not there to deny that this was an important work, and it was true, too, that the First Naval Lord, although having the management of the fleets, had to leave the appointments and promotions entirely in the hands of the First Lord - in the hands of a civilian. This was true, in fact, for the First Lord was first man in the Admiralty, and he had power over everything, although, of course, he consulted the Naval Lords. If the First Lord differed in opinion from the First Naval Lord as to matters of management, then there would soon be a change at the Admiralty (a laugh); but it was part of the machinery of the Admiralty - extremely cumbrous machinery he allowed - that the First Lord had the sole power, but the First Lord always placed the most implicit trust in his Naval Lords. There was no obligation, witness believed, resting on the First Lord to call a Board meeting. There used to be Board meetings in the days of his predecessor, and regular Board days, but there were no Board days now, Notwithstanding there were no Boards, he was sure there was abundant consultation between the Lords. It would, of course, be the Permanent Secretary's duty to attend Board meetings, but of these duties he had no experience. There was a "Financial Secretary," but the term was a misnomer, for the Financial Secretary did not hold the purse-strings, and was more of a financial adviser. This official was often called the "Political Secretary." The witness, questioned as to the preparation of the Estimates, said these were prepared in departments, but he could not say they were examined by a Board as a whole, they were examined by certain Lords. Every important estimate would come before the First Lord or the financial Secretary, after being seen by the First Naval Lord. He could give no definite opinion of the steps which would be taken, or in what form the requisition for a new troop-ship would come, and he said this would come from the First Naval Lord. Witness was not aware that there had been any application for a new troop-ship, or that any statement was made that a ship ought to be supplied to take the place of the Megaera. He could not say there was no such application, but if there had been it did not concern him, and he should not have charged himself with learning anything about it. He could not say who could give information about the course adopted in such a case; but certainly Sir Sidney Dacres, Sir Spencer Robinson, and Captain Hall were the officers who would be charged, he thought, with such matters. The sending out of supernumerary crews and bringing back other crews was a new system, or rather a system not pursued until latterly.

Questioned by Sir M. SEYMOUR, the witness said the Board used to meet five days a week, and although there were no Board meetings now, there was other work outside the Board. He was, perhaps, wrong in saying there were no Board meetings; there was now and then a meeting on some formal business which had been determined beforehand, but what he meant was that there were now no meetings for the discussion of questions. There was, he might put it, a consultative, but not an administrative, Board of Admiralty. The Controller was a member of the Board as a Lord.

In reply to Sir F. ARROW, the witness said there were more than 100,000 letters received by the whole Admiralty every year, and the examiner then pressed for an answer as to how this mass of business was administered, but the witness could give no evidence as to the control exercised over the whole. There was no synopsis made of the business to be transacted so as to facilitate a controlling administration, and all the work, he said, was done in departments. In point of fact, although he was called "Secretary of the Admiralty," he did not administer to the Admiralty or any department of it, but the business was "done here and there." On being asked if he thought this was a satisfactory way to the people of England of conducting so important a national charge as the Navy, the witness said the question opened a very wide subject, which affected his relations with the Lords of the Admiralty. The question was pressed upon the witness, and it was put to him that he was from his office "generally informed as to what goes on," and he said the words "generally informed of what goes on" were capable of 20 different interpretations. He was told to place his own interpretation upon them, and he said that though he might say he had a general knowledge of what went on, he had no detailed knowledge. No one could deal with the whole business. Acknowledging this, Sir Frederick Arrow still pressed for some information as to how the orders of the Board of Admiralty were issued, and the witness stated that in departments where letters were opened the letters were minuted and passed on, and when the answers were written they would, some of them, come to him to be signed, and he signed them. He confessed that he had thus no knowledge of the papers on which the letters were written, but he signed them as Secretary of what he called a "phantom Board." He did not defend the system, and he was certain, he said, that a revolutionary change would be made in this system sooner or later, for he was sure things could not go on like this. Of course, when he looked at letters and found anything which struck him as wrong, he made inquiries before sending them out; but necessarily his knowledge was imperfect. There was not, he owned, any real control by the system pursued, for only patent defects could have a finger laid upon them, while the latent defects could not be touched, and the latent defects to the patent defects were as ten to one. With all this be thought that if any one had written about the Megaera the information would not have been lost. He acknowledged that the changes made in 1869 gave additional powers to the First Lord.

The witness was also examined by the other Commissioners on a few points.

Mr. Ibbett, the Chief Engineer of Her Majesty's ship Mersey, at Queenstown, when the Megaera came there on her voyage out, spoke as to the examination of the ship's machinery on reported defects.

Another witness was called, but gave no information.

Mr. Henry Morgan, the professional secretary to the Chief Constructor of the Admiralty, examined by Lord LAWRENCE, said he first took his title in January, 1869, but he had done the work of his office since 1862. He had been a dockyard officer. He received reports on the surveys of ships and reported on these surveys. His duties, as at present arranged, were to deal with the wooden ships of the Royal Navy, while a colleague, Mr. Grassland, was appointed to deal with the iron ships. Since Mr. Reed had left the Admiralty the Chief Constructorship had been "in commission," Mr. Barnaby being president and witness secretary, and, though they held no council meetings, yet the Constructors did consult together. Previous to 1869 witness used to deal with other matters than wooden ships, and he wrote letters on matters which he decided himself, as well as on matters for his colleagues. He said that the cementing the Megaera with Spence's cement was not regarded as an experiment at the time, or the record of it would not have gone out of sight. It was pointed out to the witness that the official papers described it as an experiment. He stated that there was no book kept at the Admiralty, nor in any department, which would give a complete history of a ship. The reason why no information was given from the Constructors' Department to the Sheerness Yard as to the history of the ship and her wants was, that the ship was ordered into the fourth reserve, which was equivalent to her being paid off to be thoroughly overhauled, and then no history of her would have been required; but Captain Luard, on his own judgment, reported her as fit to run on, and this was out of the ordinary course. This report did not come before the Constructors' Department, and the Constructors were not consulted about it, but the Lords of the Admiralty disposed of the matter at once. The witness held that the dockyard officers at Sheerness might be supposed to be placed in full possession of the history of the ship by the fact that her carpenter, who had been on commission with her since 1865, was in her when she arrived there, and upon hearing this, Lord LAWRENCE remarked that it seemed to him the officials wanted to put upon the carpenter the responsibility of doing what the Admiralty itself could not do.

On Mr. Brewster's examination the witness stated that he was authorized to sign all orders; and he stated that he sent back the estimate sent from Sheerness for the Megaera's repair in 1870 with the order that it "should be reconsidered with a view of being reduced, as it appeared rather high." He did this on his own judgment. It was reconsidered and reduced, and Mr. Brewster said the reduction was made by not doing the work estimated for in the original estimate.

The witness's examination will be resumed this morning.
Sa 20 January 1872


Yesterday, the Royal Commissioners appointed to inquire into the history of the Megaera, an inquiry which embraces also the important subject of Admiralty administration and the management of Royal dockyards, was resumed in No. 11 Committee-room of the House of Commons - Lord Lawrence presiding - when the "system" of the Admiralty was again brought under consideration.

Mr. Henry Morgan, who was examined on the previous day, and gave in evidence that he had acted as secretary to the Constructor's Department, was recalled. The witness had stated in evidence that since Mr. Reed had left he had signed for the "Chief Constructor," although no one had held that position, and he had ordered estimates to be re-considered. Examined now by Sir M. SEYMOUR, he said he had considerable experience in dockyard matters before he went to the Admiralty, and he proceeded to describe the mode in which an estimate was made on a ship's defects. He stated that the estimates were made entirely by the dockyard officials, and not on any list of prices, but entirely on their own judgment as to the cost. It was called to the witness's attention that there were several instances in which the estimates, in the case of the Megaera, had been reduced on orders signed by himself, and he said that he only could call to mind having done so once on his own responsibility; but the others in the Constructor's department could do the same thing, and he would write the letters. He added that it was a "very common thing indeed" in sanctioning the doing of work for the Constructor's department to call upon the dockyard officers to "reconsider the estimate." He thought this was a very proper course to adopt, but, at all events, "it vas a very common thing to do." That would apply to any case - the letter would say the work was to be done, but the estimate was to be reconsidered. There was no accountant in the Constructor's department, and the questioning of estimates made by dockyard officers would therefore rest entirely upon the judgment of those in the Constructor's department. The office of inspector of work in the dockyards was now abolished, and the work formerly done by that officer was carried out by the foremen and "leading men." In place of the "measuring up" formerly carried out in the dockyard, the work was now noted with considerable minuteness by the foreman and the "leading men" and then brought up in account by a "writer." He knew nothing about the ship Megaera more than had come before him in papers, and it was never known in the Constructor's Department that Spence's cement was used in her. He held that responsibility attached to the captains who had been in charge of the Megaera for not knowing about the cement, as there was an Admiralty Order that the captains should make themselves acquainted with the ship's cement, and his department would suppose that the captains would make themselves acquainted with the cement. If there were inaccessible places which the captains could not get at, then the dockyard officers should have made the parts accessible; and he could never have supposed that there was a part of the ship which had not been examined for six or seven years. The dockyard officers were constantly surveying the ship during the seven years since 1864, and they should have made all her parts accessible, or should have reported to the Constructors that parts were inaccessible. The witness was here informed that competent witnesses had stated to the Commission that these inaccessible places were in the ship, and he replied that he believed the only really inaccessible place was the small part under the bunker. His examiner said this place was quite sufficient to have caused the loss of the ship, and the witness answered that he supposed the object of the questions was to search out the "system," and he would at once say that it was impossible for him to form an idea why the dockyard officers should have disobeyed the rules in not fully examining the ship when they were instructed to survey her. It was pointed out to the witness that his name was found attached to papers ordering the estimates to be cut down, and the reply made was that he had not done this in any "vital matter." He had not thought of limiting the work to be done upon the ship, but had "only invited" the dockyard officers to reconsider the estimates. "Any one would have concluded from the report from Woolwich Dockyard that there was a full survey of the ship in 1866, and no one would have supposed that any part of the ship was unsurveyed then, for it was no use making a survey of the ship and leaving any one part uninspected." Such, he said, was his opinion of the 1866 survey at Woolwich.

Examined by Sir FREDERICK ARROW, the witness said he was properly understood to say that the Chief Constructor's department was now "in commission," Mr. Barnaby being the chief, while he held the office of secretary. Mr. Barnaby was not Chief Constructor, and the office was otherwise the same in the manner of conduct as when Mr. Reed was there.

Sir FREDERICK ARROW then called upon the witness to look over the Admiralty papers for the purpose of seeing that on the 2d of August, 1870, the witness sanctioned an outlay of 231l. upon the ship while she was at Sheerness, and on the 24th of August an expenditure of 360l. was estimated. The papers showed that Captain Luard, the Captain of the Steam Reserve and also Superintendent of the Dockyard at Sheerness, did not consider that these repairs, thus estimated, should be taken in hand; but the papers did not show, as the Commission had within the last few days ascertained, as might have been the case, that the repairs in these estimates could have been carried out by the artificers of the Steam Reserve. These repairs, whether done or not, were not such as affected the safety of the ship. He only drew these facts to the witness's attention in order to elicit how the estimate of the 2d of August, 1870, had been sanctioned; for it appeared from the papers that the sanction given to that estimate prevented the ship from going into the fourth division of the Steam Reserve, when she would have been examined as a paid-off ship. Now, that estimate of the 2d of August was sent to the Controller of the Navy, and what the commission wanted to know was whether it depended upon that estimate being done whether the ship was or was not sent into the Fourth Steam Reserve, and so passed out of commission, by which she would have escaped the danger.

The witness replied that it did not at all depend upon the work in that estimate being carried out as to what reserve she should be passed, as that question was not then raised. The examiner said that if it was not intended to send the ship on service the money was thrown away; and the witness's attention was directed to other papers, about the same date, in which Sir John Hay wrote a letter to Sir Sidney Dacres telling him that the Megaera was being repaired at a cost of 231l., and that Sir Sidney Dacres wrote back to say that he was not aware of this, and that he had intended the ship should be paid off, as she was a "most expensive vessel," and "her cost was quite disproportionate to her services." The witness owned that from these papers it was shown that Sir Sidney Dacres, who had the control of all Her Majesty's ships in commission, did not actually know what was being done to the ship. Witness said he decided that the estimate should be done, and he did this without knowing that it was intended by the First Naval Lord to pay the Megaera off. It was evident, he said, from the correspondence that Sir Sidney Dacres had an idea of paying the ship off, and there was evidently, the witness acknowledged, "some little misunderstanding" between the department of which witness was secretary and that controlled by the Chief of the Navy. It was certain that this estimate should have gone to Sir Sidney Dacres' department - "there was a mistake in its not going to him before it was ordered to be done;" but though there was a break in the chain, although, as the examiner put it, "there was a want of continuity between subordinates and the chief," the witness did not hold that "it was fair to suppose there was any want of organization in the Admiralty;" but, being told to say what it showed, he said he would say there was "a lapse" in this case. He desired to add that with respect to the Admiralty organization, it was the "invariable rule" that all matters regarding commission ships should go to Sir Sidney Dacres' department, and that this was not the case in this instance was the fault of a clerk. It was not at all likely that the sanction given to the outlay of what the witness called the "mere bagatelle" of 231l. on the ship on the 2d of August would have influenced the minds of the officials at Sheerness into supposing that nothing else was to be done to her, although he could not deny that it was from this point that the ship was kept from going into the fourth division of the Steam Reserve, when she would have been "paid off." There was no record kept of what was done to ships, and of other particulars, and his idea was that private owners of ships would look to the persons in charge of ships for information of them.

Sir FREDERICK ARROW said he could tell the witness that no private owners would look to persons who simply run the vessels as those who should keep a record of the ship's condition from time to time; and, placing the Admiralty in the position of owners, he asked how the Admiralty would obtain this knowledge.

The witness replied that he would expect that the dockyard officers would give the information required, and would be in possession of all this knowledge of the ship's condition. The witness was then shown pieces of iron of the thickness of the Megaera's bottom plating, bored, as was stated by the Woolwich Dockyard officials to have been done from the Megaera's outside, and he allowed that a disturbance of the inside of the ship might have thus been caused in some of the 300 or 600 places, and, moreover, he could never take it that such a boring could have been taken as a survey without a concurrent examination of the ship's interior. He owned that he was greatly astonished to hear that the survey of 1866 only rested upon this boring from the outside.

The witness was then taken by Mr. ROTHEBY over the correspondence between the Admiralty and the dockyards of Woolwich and Sheerness, and the witness expressed the belief that though there were papers produced signed by him, one dated 1867, which referred to "our knowledge of the state of the ship's plates," and another with regard to her being made good for a twelvemonth's service, he thought he must have signed these formally. In another letter, on an estimate being forwarded to his department, he wrote to the dockyard officials, "the hull charges appeared rather high," and he formed the idea that they were high from his own judgment on reading the items down. This was in April, 1870, when the ship was at Sheerness, and reported for repairs, and he thought he was justified in so saying, although he admitted that he did not look at any previous papers to see what the ship's wants were likely to be. Though it was possible he had before him a paper in which the statement was made, "The bottom of the Megaera is said to be very thin in many places," he did not call upon the dockyard officers to survey her bottom to see if there was any foundation for the statement. The work for the sum of 231l., he had ordered to be done at the same time that the estimate was to be reconsidered received the authority of Sir Spencer Robinson. When the witness ordered this expenditure it was in his mind that Mr. Reed had examined the plates in 1866, and had found them thick enough for the work; that the Woolwich officials in 1869 had passed her again, and, again, that she had been passed at Sheerness. It was not in his mind that the ship had run two commissions without being properly inspected, and he had thought her surveys had been complete surreys in every part. It was after this estimate had been approved that Captain Luard reported that the ship was ready for a twelvemonth's work.

Questioned by Mr. CHAPMAN, the witness stated that Mr. Grassland had to deal with iron ships under repair, and Mr. Barnes did work in connexion with building ships. Witness had no experience when in the dockyard of iron ships. He thought all information concerning a ship should be recorded, and should use his best endeavours to have such a record-book provided for the future.

Admiral Sir Frederick Grey, who was First Naval Lord of the Admiralty from 1861 until 1866, was then called and examined by Lord LAWRENCE. The witness stated that when in command of the Cape station in 1857 the Megaera came under his attention, and he described the work which she did in carrying horses, artillery, and men from station to station. In 1859, he remembered being not altogether satisfied with her, and he then had her cleared and examined, It was reported to him that she leaked at the rivets, and on a survey some of her rivets were found to be bad. He ordered her to be sent to England for repair. He remembered that the surveying officer said there were parts of her which could not be examined owing to cement being in her. He did not find that any danger was shown by this survey, and so far from thinking she was dangerous then he sent her to Ascension to fetch as much water as she could carry to St. Helena. That was in fine weather. Of her further history he knew nothing.

The witness was then taken to the period when he was Senior Naval Lord, and he said he was in this position from July, 1861, until July, 1866. He was in office when the ship was ordered into dock at Woolwich; but his tenure of office did not go beyond her being ordered into dock, for there was a change of Government at that time; and if he was at the Admiralty when she was docked he was only "clearing up" before going out of office. Asked if he could explain in what way the duties of the Admiralty were distributed among the various Lords at that time, he said there was a paper which described those duties at that time, but of the present distribution of duties he knew nothing, there having been changes introduced in 1865 or 1866. He could only state some of the duties then, and he could say the First Naval Lord had the distribution of the fleets, and he had the charge of ships commissioned and to order ships to be paid off. The manning of the Navy was under the Second Naval Lord, but the First Naval Lord had to concern himself with this also. Then all commands in line-of-battle ships were vested in the First Naval Lord, but other commands were in the Second Naval Lord, who advised with the First Naval Lord on these and general matters. The First Naval Lord was so far responsible under the old regime for ships being properly repaired that it was through him the Controller submitted all plans, and witness was in daily communication with the Controller when in office, and looked to him to have a full knowledge of every ship. The whole Board of Admiralty was responsible to the public, for to the whole Board each matter came. When Mr. Childers came into office a change was made, and the Controller's statement of repairs was brought before the First Civil Lord, that he might check the expenditure. All the statements of repairs then came through the Controller, who made every year an estimate of the cost of repairs, and no repairs could be done to a ship without passing through the Controller. He certainly thought the Controller should be in a position to refer to the history of a ship, and if there were two practical officers in the Admiralty who knew of radical defects in a ship, the dockyard officers ought to have had their attention called to those defects. He held that dockyard officers were only to be held responsible for reporting on the list of defects of a ship in commission and whatever other defects might meet their eye, but he could not conceive of their making a full examination of a ship unless with the order of the Admiralty. If the dockyard officers had a suspicion that there were latent defects, they would report to the Admiralty, but not unless they did. He held that Captain Luard did his duty in reporting the ship ready for service when he did in 1870, although she was not in repair, and had boilers fit only for a year's service, but that report, witness thought, should have gone to the Controller's Department to be checked, and he believed, as a matter of fact, that it did so go to the Controller, who was now a Lord of the Admiralty, but it should have gone to the Constructor's Department. The witness then said he could hardly say what the instructions of the superintendents of dockyards and commanders of the Steam Reserve were, for the Revision of Instructions to those officers had been commenced in 1862, but had not yet been completed (a laugh), and, besides, there had been a change in the system of keeping accounts, and this had not been completed. Undoubtedly it was "some one's" duty to have known about the Spence's cement being put into the Megaera, and it should not have been left there when ordered out of other of Her Majesty's ships. When a ship was repaired by a dockyard to be given over to the commander of the Steam Reserve the latter should inspect the vessel while being repaired, for he was responsible for any defects which might be found afterwards. He looked upon it as "very unfortunate" that the office of Superintendent of Sheerness Dockyard and Captain of the Steam Reserve should have been vested in one officer. That officer should have inspected the ship, and if he found inaccessible places he should have referred to others to see if any one knew the condition of such places. The witness could not consider the defects which caused the leak to be latent defects, for the ceiling should have been removed, or the commander of the Steam Reserve should have reported that parts could not be seen, and, before he sent her on service, should have called for information concerning her.

Mr. BREWSTER then said he should only ask one question of the witness, and that question he prefaced by entering on the history of the ship since 1870, of her being employed on home service, being reported by the chief (Sir Sidney Dacres) to be paid off into the fourth division of the Reserve, of having repairs estimated for her and not done, of laying for five months in the waters at Sheerness after being reported for a year's service only; and he asked whether it was a proper thing that the ship should then have been ordered to take a large number of men and a large amount of stores such a voyage without being overhauled.

The witness answered. "Certainly not."

In reply to Sir M. SEYMOUR the witness said the Admiralty Board sat every day in his time, with the exception sometimes of not sitting on Saturday. The Lords had all the papers on important matters of their Departments docked before them, and the general business, not the routine business, was transacted before the Board in such a manner that all the Lords would know of the business, although it might not concern them. These Board meetings were valuable means of giving all the members of the Board a knowledge of what was being done. A monthly list was issued, too, giving information as to the position of the ships in the Navy.

Mr. Nathaniel Barnaby was then called. He said, in examination by Lord LAWRENCE, that he was now President of the Council of Constructors of the Admiralty, but that office was not exactly equivalent to the Chief Constructorship, for the other members of the Council were more independent than they were when Mr. Reed was there. In the former days the assistants used to minute reports, and the Chief Constructor had to pass them, but now the assistants acted on their own responsibility to a certain extent. The Chief Constructor used to be professionally responsible for the design of ships, their repair, and for their maintenance, but the Controller could take action upon these matters, being primarily responsible for them. In addition to the former duties of the Chief Constructor's Department, there was an extension of duty, as the Department could authorize the expenditure of money up to 100l., in repairs of ships out of commission without reference to the Controller, and could correspond directly with the dockyards. Witness would have these expenditure orders pass through his hands, and if he approved them they would go out signed as for the Chief Constructor. He held that it was not a duty charged upon his department to communicate facts regarding a ship to a dockyard, but the dockyard from which a ship came should pass on the facts to the dockyard where she went next. He produced an exceedingly bulky volume, which he said was an abstract of the orders sent from the Admiralty, and though the book had been in hand for ten years it was not yet complete. (A laugh.) The last book of the kind was issued in 1844, and the order he received was, he believed, issued in 1854, but he could not say it was, and then the Commissioners decided it had no bearing on the case, as it referred to a ship which had been partially repaired at one place and sent on to another to be completed. He owned that it was a misfortune and an oversight that the survey of 1866 was not communicated to Sheerness yard, and on being asked why it was not given, he was about to refer to Mr. Reed's name, but was told that would be invidious. He owned that when that reported survey was received at the Admiralty it should have been entered in the books, and there was an oversight in its not being entered. He would not say whose duty it was to have entered this; but it was part of the "system" that he could not say whose duty it was. He quite acknowledged that it was a "bad system" - which did not provide for this. He stated before the court-martial that a large number of holes had been bored in the bottom, and he believed those were bored in the bottom and side; but he could not say that these bored holes were confined to the sides. As to the responsibility of dockyard officers on the duty of examining a ship on commission for reported defects, the witness read an order No. 238 (or No. 237, as in other places), issued in 1854, showing that the dockyard officers were held responsible for properly carrying out all repairs reported to be necessary. In regard to the duty of dockyard officers to see to the bottom of iron ships, he said there was an order of 1854, and this he read, laying down that superintendents of dockyards should see to the inside as well as to the outside of ships, as a case had occurred of an iron ship's inside having been found oxidized through want of proper "cleaning and coating." He held that under this the dockyard officers should report as to this being necessary to be done, and that they should initiate the inquiry, and leave it to the Admiralty to sanction the cost of this investigation. He thought the dockyard officers should have been in possession of the fact of the Megaera's condition in the cement, and if that had been done the Admiralty would, he considered, "stand in a better position before the public" at the present day. With regard to Captain Luard's report that the ship was ready for a year's service, witness thought it would have been better if that report had been preceded by an examination of her inside, and he held it was Captain Luard's duty to have done this. He contended that as the Lords of the Admiralty had taken the report of Captain Luard without consulting the Constructor's Department as to the condition of the ship, that, therefore, the dockyard officers and his department were not responsible for any untoward event arising from her true condition being unknown.

The witness was further examined at great length on his evidence before the court-martial, and on some very material points he withdrew some of the evidence he gave there, that evidence not being founded on the facts of the case. He acknowledged that the "system" was imperfect" in not keeping a record of a ship.

In the course of the examination Lord LAWRENCE and Mr. BREWSTER made some very severe remarks as to the character of some of the witness's answers, and it was said that some of these were likely to mislead the Commissioners.

The examination of the witness will be resumed this morning.
Ma 22 January 1872


The proceedings of this Commission were resumed on Saturday, Lord Lawrence presiding, in No. 11 Committee-room of the House of Commons. The evidence on this occasion, while still dealing primarily with the circumstances under which the Megaera was sent to sea, added to the information already gained through this Commission as to the management to which the Royal Navy is subject.

Mr. Nathaniel Barnaby, the President of the Council of Constructors of the Admiralty, who had given some remarkable evidence respecting Admiralty departments on the previous day, was recalled. The witness on this occasion proceeded to give what may be termed illustrated testimony on the action of copper on iron, he having before him a model of two frames of the ship, with a copper rosebox resting upon a wooden frame. He said this model would give the Commission an idea of an experiment made at Portsmouth lately to test the action of copper on unprotected iron, and this experiment made showed that if a ship had an uncovered piece of iron on her bottom, and a rose-box of copper, or copper in any shape, in connexion with it, however circuitous that connexion might be, and however far distant the copper might be from the unprotected iron, the galvanic action would commence, and would be rapid in the destruction of the iron. The connexion between the copper and iron might only be damp, but where the connexion was bilge-water the action would be very rapid. The experiment he referred to was carried out by a gentleman connected with the Admiralty, and the surface of iron exposed to the action of copper placed at five feet distance was only the size of the leak - three inches long by an inch and a half wide, - and yet in six days 58½ grains of the iron was dissolved, the connecting fluid being sea-water. When once this galvanic action commenced, he said, it would go on very rapidly. If, therefore, a copper rosebox was anywhere near the leak, that would account for the deterioration and the calamity. He held that the frames of the ship about the leak could not have been corroded as the ship's officers stated they were. He said this statement of the ship's officers concerning the frames "could not be accepted," and his examiner said it would be for the Commission to say whether the statement could be accepted or could not. The witness apologized and said he meant to say he could not accept it, and he described the plan drawn by the ship's officers of these alleged corroded frames (drawn from memory) as an accurate representation of the ship's framing. Asked how he accounted for the large use of copper on iron ships when it was known that it was so deleterious, the witness said copper was so used because the metal bent easily; but an order had been issued by the Admiralty against this use in particular cases, though he allowed there were many ships in which these copper pipes and rose-boxes were still used in opposition to the Admiralty order, and he could only account for this by the "division which existed between the Constructor's Department and the Engineer's Department of the Admiralty."

Lord LAWRENCE said that while there was in existence an order to the dockyard officers against the use of copper in iron ships, there did not appear to be any order to the same effect to officers of ships.

The witness said he knew of no such order being issued to ships' officers, and the engineer and officers of the Megaera were justified in making use of copper, seeing that they had no order. In January, 1871, Lord John Hay wrote him a letter with reference to the Australian voyage of the Megaera, asking him his opinion with regard to the ship, and witness replied that she was "sound and strong," and a "good sea boat." The grounds he had for this answer were to be seen in two documents from which he asked leave to quote. One of these was called "A List of Her Majesty's Ships for the month of January, 1871," prepared for the use of the Admiralty, and this gave the state of the ship. It stated that the Megaera was in the first division of the Steam Reserve, and reported as "complete in every respect," and he knew that no ship in the first division of the Steam Reserve would have any defects in her. He therefore assumed that she was without defects, and he turned to the ship's books, where he found she was by her officers spoken of as a "good sea boat." These were the grounds upon which he had reported to Lord John Hay. The witness was told that this explanation was all very well if he had had no other data upon which to inform his mind, but then he had had before him reports as to the thinness of the plates of the ship, and he could have turned to papers in the office which would have aroused his suspicions if he had taken the trouble to turn to them. He replied that he was not aware at the time (1871) of the result of the 1866 survey, and he assumed the ship was ready for the voyage to Australia, but it was pressed upon him that be could by some inquiry in his office have obtained other information of the ship's real condition, and his attention was directed to papers dated August, 1870, in his own office, reporting the ship for only 12 months' service, stating that at the expiration of that time she would require a complete examination, and stating that the "known condition of the ship" should be borne in mind. He was told to account for this not being borne in mind, and he answered in effect that the words "known condition of the ship" referred to the boilers, he thought. The question was pressed upon him, and, as he did not answer the questions directly,
Lord LAWRENCE at length said that what he was driving at was that in 1870 there was information in the Admiralty which would have led any one to doubt the seaworthiness of the ship, and to doubt the capability of the ship to go the voyage to Australia, and he wanted to know why the witness had not referred to that information.

The witness said that particular information of 1870 would show the ship was fitted to go to Malta, and he held that if she was fit to go to Malta she was fit to undertake the voyage to Australia. He repeated this answer on its being asked him if he really held that because she was able to do a short duty in 1870 she could do a long duty in 1871, and he asserted that he had a right to assume, even looking at these papers, that the ship was fit for the Australian voyage. As a matter of fact he had not, before he answered Lord John Hay's communication, consulted these papers. He did not think, with his examiner, that he should have gone deeper into the matter than he did before answering Lord John Hay's letter, for that letter he regarded as a private one, and he thought he only was giving information - accurate he considered it - for the information of Lord John's mind, and not for him to found upon it the selection of a ship. In point of fact, the communication was out of official order. Asked how he accounted for the list read not being posted up with the information which was at the Admiralty as to the condition of the ship, and whether there were not faults on the part of some one in not bringing that forward, the witness replied that, in fact, the ship should not have been placed in the first division of the Steam Reserve at Sheerness. It was then put to him that Lord John Hay had the list of ships before him, but still had doubts about the ship, and then referred to witness, as an official who had every information, for all particulars, and whether it should not have come into witness's mind that Lord John Hay wanted information other than was to be found in the printed list. The witness replied that he had no suspicion at all of the ship not being fit for the voyage to Australia. If the question had been an official one, and had come in official routine, he should have handed it over to one of his subordinates as an official communication. Lord John Hay's letter should have gone to Sir Spencer Robinson, who, as Controller, was supposed to know all about the ships. It was a question entirely, looking from an official point of view, between Sir Spencer Robinson and Lord John Hay. As to what occurred after the ship left for Australia and had to make for Queenstown, that did not raise any suspicion as to the ship's condition.

Lord LAWRENCE finished his examination of the witness with the remark, - Then, you were all sleeping in a Fool's Paradise? To which the witness, on having the question repeated, replied, - I think that is right.

Examined by Mr. BREWSTER, the witness said that the department of which he was the head was composed of five persons, who occupied three rooms near to each other. The five met together sometimes to consult on some points. He had been connected with the Admiralty since 1855; two of the others had been there longer than he, one came with him, and Mr. Morgan had come since. Thus they had all been there more than ten years. When Mr. Reed was there they all had been in the habit of consulting officially, with the exception of Mr. Wright, the engineer, whose department had been added to witness's of late. Witness acted as chief assistant to Mr. Reed, and was in daily communication with his chief, and it might be assumed, the witness said, that he had all the information which Mr. Reed had concerning the ships in Her Majesty's navy. Witness was aware of the examination by Mr. Reed of the ship in 1866, but he was only aware of the result of that examination in 1867. Witness did not know the result of the Woolwich officers' survey until of late. That report of the survey came to Mr. Reed's office, but witness was quite certain he did not see that report. He was quite certain of this, and the papers were searched for when it was desired to obtain all information of the Megaera, but for some time without success. The papers were ultimately found in the New-street (Spring-gardens) office. There was a current opinion in the Admiralty when the ship was lost that there was a report on the thinness of the plates. It was known in 1867 that Sir Spencer Robinson was of opinion that the plates were thin, and witness was aware that Mr. Morgan in 1867 made a report that Mr. Reed had examined the waterline plates of the Megaera and found them extremely thin, and witness had noted this, and suggested in 1867 that a survey should be made. Asked what a "survey" meant, the witness said the word had several meanings. The examiner said he could see the dictionary for himself, but he wanted to know what the witness meant by it. The answer was that he had several meanings to the word. He was sharply questioned upon this, and he said if he meant a full survey he should put the word "thorough" before "survey," but if he did not mean a full survey he should mean an "inspection." "Inspection" and "survey" would not mean the same thing; he said, after consideration, not always, but sometimes it would mean "inspection." The word ''examination " was in use in the office, and that would mean something different from "inspection," he thought, and something different from "survey." He thought "inspection" meant a person walking round, as suggested by the examiner, but if he told a person to make an examination he should expect a "thorough examination" to be made of all parts which could be got at. He should expect such persons to follow the order, whatever that order was; but they would have to send an estimate if they thought things should be removed in making the examination; but if the order were sent they should do the work and send the estimate, even though the estimate would come up afterwards. "Survey" was a somewhat stronger word in his mind than "examination," and it would not be used when a ship's defects were only to be reported on. The word "survey" would not apply to a ship as a whole on reported defects. The witness then had his attention called to his evidence at the court-martial, when he called the 1866 examination a survey, and he spoke in justification of the use of the word on that occasion when it appeared to have been used in a sense contrary to the definition he had given. He "assumed," when giving evidence at Portsmouth, that the survey had been made. He had given evidence on oath at that court-martial, and he gave evidence on facts. The facts upon which he had given evidence were in the reports he had received from the dockyard officers as to that survey of 1866. He considered that "knowledge" upon which he could give evidence on oath, and he did volunteer to give other evidence as to the ship's condition in regard to the thickness of the plates on the court-martial. He certainly considered he had a right to give such evidence, stating that the ship was examined in the inside, and he had a "right to assume" that the officers at Woolwich had examined the inside of the ship, and to assume this to the extent of stating on oath that they had done so. It was only since this Commission had taken evidence that he had arrived at the opinion that this inside examination had not been so complete as he had thought. He had not come to the conclusion now that there was no examination of the interior. He had read the evidence given, but he had not arrived at the conclusion that there was no interior examination at that time.

Questioned by Sir MICHAEL SEYMOUR on the action of witness's department in reducing the estimates sent up from the dockyards for remedying the ship's defects from time to time, the witness said it was common to send down to the dockyards requiring them to reconsider the estimates; but as a matter of fact the estimates were never reduced except with the concurrence of the dockyard officers themselves, unless the Department sent down an inspector, and then the Department would take the responsibility for the new estimates.

In answer to Sir FREDERICK ARROW, the witness allowed the fact that from 1866 the ship was not reported as "good" for longer periods than 18 mouths and a year showed that there was considerable caution to be exercised in her use. As a matter of fact, the ship was taken off the list of troop-ships, and any proposition for again putting her on that list, as was proposed and abandoned only when it was found the ship would not pay, would only be made after consultation with the Controller.

The examination by Mr. ROTHERY brought from the witness the admission that it rested upon the Constructor's department to know that the ship had been constantly at work since 1866, and this knowledge should have been in the mind of some one in the witness's department, but he disclaimed all responsibility for this omission on his own account.

The witness was taken by Mr. CHAPMAN over the system of promotion in the Royal dockyards and the service of the Admiralty, and he denied in very precise terms that any outside influence could be used to raise an officer in the service, and the only regard paid was to merit.

Captain Lord John Hay was then called and examined by Lord LAWRENCE. He stated that he held office from December, 1868, until June, 1871, as Junior Naval Lord of the Admiralty. For the selection of troop-ships he said the Junior Naval Lord was responsible, but for all other seagoing ships the First Naval Lord was responsible. The Third Lord (now the Controller) was responsible for the repair and maintenance of ships, but witness could not speak of the relative positions of the Controller and the Constructor's department, for he was not well informed enough to speak upon the point. He only knew the Megaera by reputation. He did not remember the transfer of the Megaera from the Woolwich Dockyard to Sheerness, and he thought the information about the ship should have gone to Sheerness with her, but he was not an authority to speak on the point. He spoke diffidently as to whether the information should have gone direct from dockyard to dockyard, or through the Admiralty, but he thought the matter should have been communicated. The witness's attention was then directed to the papers before him, and he was asked if he directed a letter to be sent to the Director of Transport Ships (Admiral Mends) in March, 1870, and it was pointed out to him that in this correspondence reference was made to the alleged thinness of the Megaera's plating. He said the papers had evidently been before him, but he had not borne them in mind; but, looking at them now, and seeing the report of the Woolwich "survey" of 1866, he thought it would have been as well if there had been a closer examination of the vessel before she was commissioned for Australia. He saw by the correspondence before him that it was proposed in August, 1870, to pay off the Megaera, and it was with Sir Sydney Dacres' concurrence that she was to be paid off, but Sir Spencer Robinson ordered that she should go into the fourth division of the Steam Reserve at Sheerness. The question was put as to which division she should go in, and Sir Spencer answered, in the fourth division of the Reserve; and he was the best judge. Witness could not say that he had anything to do with the matter, but if the papers had come before him he should almost certainly have decided with Sir Spencer Robinson, who of all men knew most about it. Referring to the minute of the 13th of August, 1870, by Admiral Mends, that there "appeared to be some special reason for keeping the ship in commission," considering what she did and her great cost, the witness said he did not know what "special reasons" there were, but there was the fact that she was a convenient vessel. She was not a condemned vessel, and although she was not liked by military men for the conveyance of troops, she was not a bad ship in his opinion. Complaints were general as to her leaking in her ports, but not of other leaking. She was put aside as a fighting ship, but she was taken out of the list of troopships only because she should not be exclusively a troopcarrying ship, but that she should carry stores and troops or supernumeraries (seamen). He found a report saying she was not a good troop-ship, and should be employed on home service. This was made by the Director of Transports (Admiral Mends) in 1864, but Admiral Sir Frederick Grey made a minute in 1865, in which there was no such limitation. It was true that between the report and the minute the ship was thoroughly repaired, and she was sent after 1865 to Rio Janeiro. Practically, Sir Frederick Grey's minute set aside the Director of Transport's report of 1864. Witness had not the slightest recollection of Captain Luard's telegram from Sheerness reporting the ship for a year's service after the order for the ship to go into the Fourth Reserve. If the Controller decided upon that to keep the vessel in commission it would not be going against the Board of Admiralty, for though the letter ordering the ship to be paid off was signed by Mr. Vernon Lushington, it would have been so signed on the minute of the Controller. The witness's attention was directed to a letter from Sir Sydney Dacres to Mr. Childers, saying with regard to the Megaera, "I propose to pay off this most extravagant vessel,'' he giving the opinion that she required a large crew and was unfit for a troop-ship; but the witness held that Sir Spencer Robinson still could decide what should be done with the ship. He held that the fact that the ship was put into the first division of the Reserve showed that the Controller thought that she was "complete in every respect," for that would be implied by her being put into that Reserve. It was possible - indeed, very probable - that Sir Spencer Robinson was influenced by the telegram of Captain Luard, who telegraphed that the Megaera's defects had been made good; that she was then complete in every respect, and that he sent the telegram thinking there might be some mistake in putting her in the fourth division. Witness did not think that the opinion expressed by Sir Sydney Dacres should have induced Sir Spencer to consult his chief, and the reason he did not think so was because the opinion of Sir Sydney had nothing to do with the ship's condition, as it was then supposed. Witness had no doubt now, speaking after the event, that it would have been better if the ship had gone into the fourth division at that time, but it was not at all necessary that Sir Spencer should have consulted Sir Sydney respecting the division she should go into. Sir Spencer did not employ the vessel, nor would he have employed her without reference to Sir Sydney. Witness said he did not select the Megaera for the Australian voyage, but Sir Sydney Dacres would have selected her after consultation with Sir Spencer Robinson. When Mr. Barnaby made the report to witness that the ship was in good condition, witness thought the head of the Constructor's department was in a position to know the condition of the ship, and that was why he consulted him. Witness did not remember that Admiral Mends had referred to the thinness of the Megaera's plates, but he thought that it was likely the Admiral spoke to him about the ship's condition, and he followed it out by referring to Mr. Barnaby.

In reply to Mr. BREWSTER, the witness said when he wrote to Mr. Barnaby he held he was writing in a manner semi-officially to a head of a department, and in a way which was done to gain information in the readiest manner. If, however, there had been any defect reported to witness he should not have thought it fair to write the letter to Mr. Barnaby without stating it. The letter to Mr. Barnaby he regarded as an extreme measure of caution, to ascertain the true condition of the vessel, and it was made semi-officially, as was usual in all Government departments.

Answering Sir M. SEYMOUR, the witness said that when he employed the Megaera he was not aware she cost 20,000l. a year and victualling, but he always considered the relative cost of employing her and of sending out by other ways. So far as the personnel of the Admiralty was concerned - meaning Sir Sydney Dacres and himself - it was fully believed at the time she was sent to Australia that she was in good repair, and then, too, she was known to be a first-rate sea boat.

The witness was questioned by Sir FREDERICK ARROW as to how the ship came to be selected for this service, after she had been kept very tenderly and watched most carefully over several years - a service in which she would have men to take her out and others to bring her home who were not attached to her, and who, in fact, were "scratch" crews. The witness denied that she had been tenderly watched, as she had been to Rio Janeiro and to the Falkland Islands, and he was strongly of opinion that a vessel which could thus be sent to the southern hemisphere was not a tender vessel. He thought that the ship had been selected after consultation by Sir Sydney Dacres with Sir Spencer Robinson; but witness was not consulted, and he held that Sir Sydney was quite competent to judge without consultation with him.

Some other questions were asked on points spoken to before, and the Commissioners then adjourned until to-day.
Tu 23 January 1872


Yesterday the Royal Commissioners resumed their sittings in the Committee-room, No. 11, of the House of Commons - Lord Lawrence presiding, and during the whole of the sitting the late Controller of the Navy was under examination. The public part of the room was thronged during the day, among those present being many well-known public men, and the late Controller's evidence was listened to with keen interest throughout the six hours the Commissioners sat.

Admiral Sir Spencer Robinson, K.C.B., who was Controller of the Navy from 1861 until 1871, was the witness on this occasion examined by Lord LAWRENCE, and, in reply to the question as to his rank, said he was a full Admiral, but he had had the misfortune to have been retired from active service against his will. Questioned as to the duties of the Controller of the Navy, he handed in a paper with the Admiralty instructions. He said he had served under two different systems - one of them being the system commenced by the Duke of Somerset in 1859. There were instructions under that system defining the duties of the Controller, but not wholly, for it was held that the Controller was to act in accordance with the instructions or orders of the Senior Naval Lord. That went on until 1869, when an Order in Council of the 14th of January defined his duty in a different way. The order of 1869 so far modified the orders in existence previously that whereas he was a servant of the Board under the old orders he was a Lord of the Admiralty under the new. Under the first he gave his advice to the Admiralty, which could be taken, or rejected, and he had no independent action whatever, except that allowed to him by those under whom he had the honour to serve. Under the instructions of 1869 the Controller became responsible to the First Naval Lord for some matters relating to the building and repair of ships, the charge of guns and stores, and the Constructors' Department was also put under the Controller. It did not necessarily follow that the Controller and the Constructors would be consulted in the selection of a ship for service. If the First Naval Lord wanted a ship he would have the list before him, and sometimes the question would be put to him if a certain ship was in order, but he would not always know what service the ship would be going on. The dockyards were specially under the Controller's management, but the orders up to 1869 came more directly from the Admiralty than from the Controller. After the order of 1869 it was the theory that no orders would go to the officers of the dockyard without going through the Controller's department; but this was often departed from, and he thought rightly so in some cases, as that in which the Commander-in-Chief of any station was empowered to give orders direct to dockyards in cases of emergency. With regard to orders going to the dockyards from the Admiralty, in theory they would go from the Controller, but this was not always the practice, and when orders went otherwise it was by an oversight. If any orders were thus sent out of the authorized way, it would be right for information to be sent at once to the Controller of the case, and when the information was not sent it was by an oversight. The Controller was responsible for dockyard departments and for estimates; but he referred them to the Constructor, and, when he was in office, the Chief Constructor, Mr. Reed, delegated portions of this duty to his assistants; but witness, as Controller, was responsible, and this delegation of duly was done under witness's cognizance. Whatever advice was given by the Constructors' Department, and for whatever the Constructors did, witness was responsible. Everything which came from Mr. Reed, or through his secretary as coming from him, witness had perfect confidence in, and he desired it to be publicly known that a more able, zealous, intelligent officer no senior ever had than he always found in Mr. Reed while at the Admiralty. He was certain, as far as one man could be certain of another's actions, that Mr. Reed did his duty throughout in a most painstaking manner. Referred to the order in which the witness had given instructions for the application of Spence's cement to the inside of the Megaera in 1864, he proceeded to say that in this matter there was certainly a great lapse, the danger of which he had pointed out to the Lords of the Admiralty as likely to arise, before this occurred, by the manner in which the business was carried on. The paper referring to the cement was opened in the Chief Engineer's Department in Spring-gardens, and witness's offices were in the Admiralty, and the paper should have been noted in the "Ship Branch," when it would have been recorded; but the fact was there was no superior clerk of the two departments, consequently they were coordinate. The letter had not been properly registered by the fault of an unsupervised clerk, and so the matter slipped through. He wrote a letter to the Lords of the Admiralty in 1863 asking for a superior clerk to supervise the departments, and the answer written on it was that the Lords did not consider that course should be adopted. As to the cement being placed in the Megaera on the advice of a navy captain he was of opinion that it was a good course to adopt to encourage captains to make suggestions; and, looking at the position and the rank of a captain in Her Majesty's Navy, he could not suppose that any suggestions, without at all referring to the particular case of the Megaera, could have been made improperly or was likely to lead inventors to improperly press their inventions upon officers. As a matter of fact, the cement had been used in 1863, and the cement was referred to the chymist of the dockyard, who, on his part, suggested that this and another cement should be fairly tried on their merits. The experiment of this use of cement should have been recorded; and if the Controller had had nothing else to do, it might have been expected for his office to look after such things; but anyone who knew the state of the case and the amount of business would know that it was quite impossible to do more than was done. As to the use of the cement at all upon what might be regarded as scanty information, looking at the few references in the official papers before him, he might say that these were not the papers which were placed before him. He could not tell the Commissioners how much or how little was done, but he could tell them that he did take such pains, and so far satisfied himself, as justified him in ordering the use of the cement on the Megaera. With regard to the cement being taken out of the Northumberland and two other ships afterwards, the same course would have been adopted in the case of the Megaera but for the failure of the clerk to register the letter in the Ship Branch. It was the duty of one of the clerks to make the entry of that in the Ship Book, and there was a neglect in the Steam Branch in not sending that letter so that it might be registered. A circular letter went to Devonport to take the cement out of the other ships cemented with Spence's cement, but, although that circular did not go to the other dockyards, there were strict orders already in force as to the examination of the cement in the interior of iron ships which should have prevented any evil resulting from the letter not being registered. An order was read by witness which called attention to a case of oxidation in an iron ship's bottom through the neglect of examining the cement and requesting such attention to be given, and this order was sent to every dockyard station in the service. The witness read another order pressing upon all in the service of Her Majesty in the Admiralty and dockyards to carry out not only the letter but the spirit of the orders in regard to the examinations of the ships' bottoms and cement, and these orders, he again strongly urged, ought to have been sufficient to have prevented any evil arising from the "slipping through" of the letter. In further argument upon this point he read another order issued to the captains of iron vessels in Her Majesty's service, requesting them to satisfy themselves that the composition in the interior was preserving the iron. The examiner said it appeared from the evidence which had been given that the composition had to be cut out before it was found to be defective, and that therefore the examination by captains or others of the top of this particular cement would have been delusive, as it would have appeared to be good when beneath it water was absorbed. The witness said that if the dockyard officers examined the cement properly they would do so to prove to themselves that the cement was protecting the iron, and nothing less than this was demanded of them. It was impossible that Admiralty officers could supervise dockyard officers to see that they did these duties. The master shipwrights were responsible officers, who were placed in positions to rule these matters, and they should have satisfied themselves as to the condition of the vessel thoroughly when she came into their hands. When it was known that the Woolwich officers had in 1866 the vessel in dock, a letter was sent down, saving that Mr. Reed was coming, and this letter was sent only because there was some jealousy of the Chief Constructor going down without orders. Mr. Reed stated to witness the result of his visit, and witness adopted the Woolwich report, that the ship was fit for the eight months or two years' service, and at the end of the two years he should have had her re-examined. Those papers, no doubt, have been recorded, so as to insure this, but the registry of these papers was not in the Controller's power, and they did not stop in his department; witness knew there were grave defects in the registering of letters. These reports were exceedingly important. He had advised upon these points, but his advice had not been taken, and so there was very great difficulty in getting papers. All papers from every department of importance were, according to regulations, recorded and registered in one Record-office of the Admiralty, but other matters of lesser importance were kept in the Constructors' office. The Record-office of the Admiralty was under the Secretary of the Admiralty, but this was not under the jurisdiction of any particular Lord. He had earnestly urged that the papers of departments should be under the heads of departments, and this was the more necessary under the changes of 1869; but it had been decided to maintain the system of "general recording" of papers, in place of a departmental recording. There being no subdivision, it was necessary to send to the general Record-office when papers were wanted, and all the papers were called for on any matter. It would have been the Constructor's duty to recall, in two years from 1866, the condition of the Megaera at that date, but there was nothing to bring up that matter, the papers not being registered. There was in the Admiralty no system by which the previous reports of ships could be precisely brought up, but he had ordered and instituted a system of bookkeeping on ships, which, if properly done, would give a good idea of a ship's condition. There was no mention in the Megaera's book about the Spence's cement. There were 600 or 700 such books, and they should be posted up regularly. The book contained all the cost of the ship it referred to, and the numbers of the papers, so that they might be referred to. The advantage of the book was, it would show at a glance what cost had been incurred upon a ship from time to time, so that if the book showed that the ship had had much spent upon her within a limited time, attention would be roused, and the papers referred to. A perfect record of ships would be very valuable, but a very limited amount of clerical assistance was afforded in the Admiralty, and if more records were to be kept, a larger staff would be necessitated; but the book showed what papers would be required to be looked at, and gave more information than was had before. As to the necessity of an increased number of clerks in the Controller's department, the last year he had 70,000 letters, and 30 clerks and writers, but it was only at last that he had a chief clerk. The Constructors would not supervise the clerks, and the mere fact that there were 70,000 letters in a year to 30 clerks would give some idea of the work which his department had to do. It was true that many letters were matters of little or no importance; but at the same time, many were as large as pamphlets and had to be studied most carefully. The witness again referred to the letters he had written about the want of clerical assistance, and the special want of a chief clerk. This was in December, 1863. The answer was that "the Lords of the Admiralty were not prepared to make any alteration in the office of the Controller." He then went on to state that the Megaera was paid off in 1867, and when the list of defects came into his hands he wished to refer to her previous papers. The order to be paid off was that she was to be so "paid off all standing," for, if she did not want repair, she would be re-commissioned. He asked for information as to the thinness of the plates, having some idea that she was so reported, and the answer given from the "Ship Division" of the Admiralty was that there was no such report; but the information was accorded by Mr. Barnaby, who stated that Mr. Reed had examined the water-line plates in 1866 on their being considered to be thin. The Woolwich officers (the same who had made the report of the 1866 survey) reported that there was no such report.

Lord LAWRENCE remarked that it was most extraordinary that these Woolwich officers should have made such a report.

The witness said if this 1866 report had come to hand the action in regard to the ship might have been different from what it was. Then, although there was a letter from Commodore Edmonston at this date, there was what the witness called another "extraordinary lapse " about it, for although it came to the Admiralty, it never went to the Controller. The Commodore's communication went to the First Naval Lord, and it stated that the ship would require 1,500l. to be spent on her hull. This should have come to the Controller; but it never did through the fault of some clerk, and what came next was the amended (or reduced) estimate for making good defects for 12 months' service. If, the witness said, he had seen Commodore Edmonston's statement, he should certainly have hunted out the 1866 report.

Lord LAWRENCE said it was most remarkable that when he asked the Woolwich officers for the information they had acquired in 1866 they should have returned such answer; but it seemed as extraordinary that what the witness could recollect and Mr. Barnaby recollected did not make more impression.

The witness allowed that the remark was perfectly just, and he held that he was open to be questioned on the point; but as a matter of fact it never came into his mind. As to the general character of the ship, he had heard a very great deal of her since her loss, and he could hardly say what he had heard of her before, but he might, he thought, say he had heard she was not a comfortable troopship, and he should have been glad to have got rid of her years ago. The Megaera was again docked in December, 1869, when the two years had expired, but no reference was then made to the thickness of the waterline plates, held two years before to be necessary to be relaid. He could account for this only by the fact that the dockyard officers had the ship so often in their hands that they attached less importance to their own report, they seeing no defects in the plates referred to in the list of defects; but they should certainly have examined those plates under his order, and he could not but suppose it was done. With regard to the information not having gone to Sheerness as to the history of the ship, there were two faults - in that the Sheerness officers were in fault in not asking for it, and the Woolwich people as well, or the Controller's Department, were in fault in not supplying it, Taken to the Admiralty papers again, the witness stated that when the ship was at Sheerness, and the order came up from the dockyard in August, 1870, stating that the ship required to be docked and her bottom cleaned and coated, and also stating "her plates at the bottom are said to be very thin in many places," the order was at once sent to have the ship docked and examined. The dockyard officers were then fully empowered to examine the ship thoroughly, and they were there only to do their duty. They did not do this duty by examining the outside only on such a statement as this, for the statement of defect referred to the reported thinness of the plates, and the order sent the officers did not limit them in any way.

Lord LAWRENCE then read the evidence of Captain Luard, in which that officer stated that the examination of the ship was not a full one at the time referred to, as she had only served two years of her commission, and that the dockyard officers would not have been justified in making a full examination except under special instructions. His Lordship asked if the witness agreed with that statement of a dockyard officer's duties.

The witness said he did not agree with any part of Captain Luard's evidence, if applied to the list of defects of August, 1870. This list of defects stated that the bottom was to be examined, as some of the plates were "said to be very thin," and this was one of the defects reported; and when they reported the ship as "complete in every case, and fit for service at sea," they should certainly have fully satisfied themselves as to the condition of her bottom plates. In most emphatic terms the witness went on to say, on its being told him that Mr. Sturdy the master shipwright, had given a similar view of his duties, that it was quite impossible to accept any such idea of a dockyard official's duties and responsibilities, and that if he were in the Admiralty and any dockyard official had been proved to have acted thus he should not have accepted the excuse, but should have advised his dismissal from the service. Most distinctly it was not the duty of dockyard officials to go hunting for defects on a ship in commission; but they must be certain that when a ship was certified under their hands as "complete and ready for sea," they were responsible for the condition of the ship in every way. Then, too, Captain Luard, as the captain-superintendent of the yard, was supposed to be the Controllers eye at Sheerness, and he should have corrected any error the dockyard officials made, and he should have seen and reported that the dockyard officers had not examined the ship in the inside; but if the dockyard officers did not do their duty, and if the Controller's eye there did not see that those plates were examined, then the Controller himself could not know the true condition of the ship. If he had had that 1866 report, and if he had had his attention drawn to the fact of her running on like this, he should not have allowed her to have gone this long voyage without making a reference to Mr. Reed as to what had been done with her.

The witness was then taken to another interesting point in the history of the Megaera, the manner in which she came subsequently to be selected for the Australian voyage. The Admiralty, he said, resolved to pay off the Megaera in August, 1870, as an "extravagant vessel." There had been a correspondence between Captain Lord John Hay, the Junior Lord, and the Director of Transports, and between Lord John Hay and Sir Sidney Dacres, This was up to the 2d of August, when it had been resolved to pay the ship off; and on the 3d witness received a list of defects and the statement that the ship was in dock from Mr. Morgan. On finding the ship to be in dock, at which he was much astonished, he approved the small defects being repaired, for he was desirous of the work going on and also of keeping up the harmony of the departments, but he resolved to speak to Sir Sidney Dacres about the interference with the work of his department. It would be remembered that it was just before this time that the First Lord had made his speech about the condition of the Navy, and witness, on the day after the first Lord made that speech, told him that he had not given a correct representation of the facts and also told him the condition the Navy was really in. The Government then reversed the policy it had hitherto adopted up to that time, for up to then the dockyard artificers and labourers had been discharged, but on the 2d of August the Controller had a reversed programme put into his hands. The condition of affairs was most uncertain; there was a war raging on the Continent [the Franco-Prussian War], the awkward question of Belgium was in hand [Gladstone was negotiating a treaty with the two combatants that would allow Britain to intervene if either invaded that country], and altogether there was a disturbing state of things; and he had told Mr. Childers that the reductions he was making were practically peace reductions, and that the Navy was wholly unprepared for anything untoward which might arise. Then when the change came and pressure was put on, the Controller's time was fully taken up in getting the work done, and that caused him to neglect calling Sir Sydney Dacres' attention to what had been done with the Megaera without the Controller's orders. There were papers in the Admiralty which would confirm every word he said, for though the papers before the Commissioners gave some of the facts they did not give all, and they were so very badly arranged that he could only understand them, as laid before him and the Commissioners, by reading "between the lines." Between the 2d and the 10th of August he had a paper asking him what Reserve the ship should go into, and he said Fourth Division of the Steam Reserve, and he did so hoping she would not be required again. Shortly afterwards Lord John Hay asked if the Megaera could not do certain small services, and he got a telegram about her, and told Lord John that if he wanted the Megaera for any small service - meaning for a Cork or Channel Islands service - she could do it, and witness sent to Sheerness the order to keep her for a twelve month service. Lord John Hay had stated that he did not recollect speaking to witness, but witness had a positive recollection that Lord John did speak to him, and witness went to Sir Sydney Dacres, to whom, he spoke about it. Although witness had a right to order ships in commission to be repaired to the extent of 300l., he should not have sanctioned the expenditure of the 251l. without reference to Sir Sydney, only that he thought Sir Sydney had ordered the ship to be docked. Witness never knew of the suggestion of Admiral Mends that there was any "special reason" for keeping the Megaera in commission under the circumstances of her great cost; but there was a special want of such a vessel; he might say they were almost stuck fast;. at all events, there was inconvenience at not having a vessel in her place to carry bodies of men. It would have been a saving to the country if the ship had been got rid of a long time before, but there was the ship, and while she was there they had to fall back upon her. The service to Australia had been done the year before by the Donegal, and the Revenge had actually been prepared for the relief taken out by the Megaera, and he was much disappointed when the Megaera was selected against his advice. He did not think it advisable that relief crews should go out in merchant ships, for in going out in ships like the Revenge and the Donegal the crews could be disciplined and taught their duties on the way out, and men would not be under discipline as passengers on merchant ships, but freight was taken out cheaper by merchantmen than by warsmen. He then went on to explain about the classing of ship in the Reserve, and he declared that ships with defects were not classed in any division, but were under orders "to be prepared for Reserve." Dockyard officers, too, he said, were strictly enjoined not to make too favourable an impression as to ships' condition. Under all the orders the dockyard officers had, the Controller, he held, was quite justified in taking it that their duties were carried out. The witness was then examined on the report which came from Sheerness, when her than defects were made good, stating that the ship was ready for a twelvemonth's service, and that from "the known condition of the ship, after this short term of service, she shall undergo a thorough examination in dock." He had looked upon that report as one which gave the Admiralty an idea that the dockyard officers had examined her and knew her condition to be such as to be ready for sea service, for if they had thought her unfit in any way for service, they would not have reported her as for sea. A ship so reported as she was, he should take it, would be fit for any service during 12 months. This was his view, but others might not think with him. Coming to January, 1871, when the Megaera was selected, he took [no?] part in that selection other than in advising she should not be taken. He told Sir Sydney Dacres that he hoped the ship would not be taken. Some remark was made by Sydney about the cost, but none about her seaworthiness - there could be no doubt about that, seeing the papers Sir Sydney had in his hand at the time. Sir Sydney held that the Revenge would have been more expensive: it was not to be supposed that there was a regular disunion upon the matter. Sir Sydney came to his room, and said that he thought of sending the Megaera and witness, after saying what he had stated, sent a telegram to Sheerness regarding the ship being made ready for Australia. He was certainly of opinion that she was overloaded when she was sent from Sheerness, judging from the evidence given by the Queenstown officers, and he also strongly held that the Sheerness dockyard officers had been neglectful of their duty in sending out the ship as she was, for it had been given in evidence that her ports were rotten and had to be repaired at Queenstown. Under these circumstances, the ship should have been thoroughly examined, and he held that the action of sending the Megaera on her voyage to Australia was unjustifiable on the part of the Admiralty. He held, too, that the Sheerness officers having made the last examination of the ship should have reported on her having inaccessible places, and were to be held responsible for not doing so and for not examining those places. He also held them severally and collectively responsible for their signatures to the certificate regarding the completeness of the ship, and there could be, he said, no other interpretation of the Admiralty orders. He knew that this had been questioned; but he could bring paper after paper in proof of this having been pressed upon the dockyard officers; but, he added, until the dockyard management was got under one head there would always be some one omitting something because it did not exactly happen to be in his department.

The witness was questioned by Mr. BREWSTER upon the great want of a proper register in the Controller's Department, and the witness said that all papers which came to his department, if they were of any importance, were returned to the general secretary for registration; but he was not perfectly aware of the "system" carried on, but he believed this was the "system." Of course, the business of a department could not be carried on with an imperfect system of registration, and steps were taken with a view to remedy this; but although some improvements were made, the defects which he with others had endeavoured to remedy remained in a great part, Mr. Childers not accepting the propositions made. Every estimate of repairs of ships in commission of less than 100l. could be dealt with in the Constructors' Department, and witness dealt with all the estimates under 300l., but beyond that the estimates were referred to the Financial Secretary. It was not necessary that Mr. Baxter should have made any communication in regard to the estimate for the ship's repair for Mr. Morgan to have written to a dockyard, "the estimate appears to have been rather high," and was to be re-considered, Mr. Baxter made no communication which led to that. Witness did not exercise his power of spending 300l. without reference to his chief simply because he wished the work to go on harmoniously, and it might have seemed discourteous to Sir Sydney Dacres not to have consulted him.

The witness was examined on many other points by Sir M. SEYMOUR and Sir FREDERICK ARROW, and his further examination was adjourned until Thursday.
Fr 26 January 1872


Yesterday the Royal Commission on the Megaera resumed its sittings in No. 11 Committee-room of the House of Commons, Lord Lawrence presiding. Evidence was taken on the occasion from competent witnesses relative to the past as well as the present system of Naval Administration. A very large audience, principally composed of eminent men in naval and governing circles, attended throughout the day.

Admiral Sir Spencer Robinson was re-called. Addressing Mr. Brewster, Sir Spenser referred to the questions asked on the previous occasion with regard to the clerical assistance in the Admiralty, and said that he was now ready to give the details concerning the staff at his command when he was in office.

Lord LAWRENCE said the questions should be asked the witness in due course, and if, at the end of the examination, there were matters which the witness should still like to state, he should have the opportunity of giving them in evidence.

Sir Spencer Robinson said he would avail himself of the offer, as there were two or three matters upon which he should desire to give explanations if they were not brought out in the course of his examination. In answer to Mr. ROTHERY the witness then gave some explanations with regard to the reduced estimates for the repair of the Megaera, and his explanations were to the effect that the estimates for the ship's repair were only reduced on two occasions by the action of his department, and in those reduced estimates, it was shown, nothing was taken off which related to the efficiency or seaworthiness of the vessel, but only what related to fittings and alterations suggested by the ship's officers and considered "trivial." Another estimate which was not carried out was not stopped by his department, but was stopped by Captain Luard. The witness was then taken by his examiner over the history of the vessel as shown in the official papers. The examination was not very clear, for the examiner and the witness dealt with the papers before them, and in many cases they only referred to the numbers of the letters, and not to the dates or to the plans referred to. The matters dealt with were generally abundantly gone into on the previous examination of the witness. In the course of answering questions the witness spoke of the great trust he placed in the opinion of Mr. Reed in regard to the matter related to him by Mr. Barnaby as to the thinness of the plates on the water-line not affecting the structural strength of the ship at the time he examined it - namely, 1866; and Mr. Reed's opinion was justified by what was shown at the wreck, for the water-line plates, even five years after, were no source or danger, No one in England, the witness said, that he knew, was so well qualified as Mr. Reed to speak upon iron ships, for that gentleman - a man of first-rate ability and genius - had devoted his mind to ascertain where the strain fell in iron vessels, and to all such questions. The witness was, in the course of his long examination, referred to the letter which Captain Sir John Hay wrote to Mr. Barnaby asking about the ship in the latter end of 1870, when Mr. Barnaby, who held the letter to be of a private character, only troubled himself to give the information at hand. The witness said that such communications as this were certainly of an official character, for two-thirds of the communications in the Government departments were carried on in that manner; and he said that if he had known of Sir John Hay's letter it would have struck him that Sir John had heard something which had raised his doubts about the ship. The witness was then taken to Captain Luard's evidence with regard to his conduct when the ship came into his hands in his double capacity of Superintendent of Sheerness Dockyard and Captain of the Steam Reserve. The witness said Captain Luard was mistaken by 18 months in stating that the Megaera had only run half her four years' commission, a reason he had given for not examining her thoroughly, and in justification of his reporting her fit for the first division of the Steam Reserve. The witness said Captain Luard was in error if he held that he should not have examined the vessel fully, for, undoubtedly, it was his duty to have seen that the ship was as he certified, and to have satisfied himself, both as Superintendent of the Dockyard and as Captain of the Steam Reserve. The evidence of Captain Luard was read in extenso, stating, in effect, that the duty of examining the ship did not rest at Sheerness, and the witness said that the whole of it was entirely incomprehensible to him; for there were instructions after instructions fixing the responsibility upon the dockyard officials of doing this duty. The laxity these officials at Sheerness had displayed, the witness said, was without example in the whole ten years' experience he had at the Admiralty. Their conduct was wholly culpable, and they must have seen they had committed a fault, and this being the case their evidence was wholly untrustworthy. What they had said as to their ideas of their duty should be received, he would not say cum grano salis [with a grain of salt], but he would use the stronger term of saying it could not be received at all. The witness was then taken over the evidence given of the Megaera's going into Queenstown after leaving Sheerness, and he read Admiralty orders to show that it would then have been the duty of the Admiral commanding at the station to have sent the ship to a yard, where she could have been thoroughly examined. The defects shown on this short portion of the ill-fated voyage were so grave, he said that the Admiralty should have ordered the ship to the nearest yard - to, say, Devonport, and there should have been an. officer from Sheerness yard and an officer from the Admiralty, and the whole ship should have been examined. He thought the defects shown at Queenstown to be existing were of a diameter to call out the gravest suspicions of the manner in which the Sheerness officers had discharged their duty in regard to the ship, and not only would the Admiralty have been justified in sending the ship to a port to be fully examined, but it was a duty to do this as a check upon the dockyard officers, and to prove to them that a failure in doing their duty in regard to a ship could be brought home to them. Moreover, he said, it was especially the duty of the Admiralty to have done this, seeing the large number of persons in the ship and the rotten condition or her ports as stated by the officers of the Queenstown station.

The witness was then examined on a matter which has cropped out in the course of the Commission - the "system" of the Admiralty. In answer to the examiner the witness said that in 1869 a committee was appointed to report upon the system of "registration" carried on in the Admiralty. The committee were himself, Mr. Vernon Lushington, and Mr. George Trevelyan. Mr. Vernon Lushington especially took great trouble in ascertaining what practice in regard to registering papers was carried on in other offices of the Government, the committee desiring to advise upon the adoption of a better system of registration than then existed. At the end of 1869 the committee reported that the existing system was such that documents of importance were lost sight of, and was most imperfect and defective, and he entirely disapproved it. He held that the documents relating to departments should be registered in those departments. The word "departments" brought up another class of questions, in which it was attempted to follow up the examination of Mr. Vernon Lushington, the Permanent Secretary, and to explain, what that gentleman's evidence did not make clear with reference to the "departments" in the Admiralty. The witness said his view was there were three great "divisions" in the Admiralty - namely, the "personal," the "material,'' and the "financial." He held that these were divisions, and not departments, and these "divisions," again, were subdivided. In explanation of Mr. Vernon Lushington's doubts as to the number of the branches or departments there were in the Admiralty, the witness adopted the words of his examiner, and said he did not think any one could say how many branches there were in the Admiralty offices, for in some cases a branch was subdivided. The report, he went on to say, made by the committee was only partly adopted in the Admiralty. It was adopted in witness's own department, but not without modification; but it was not carried out in other parts through the extreme opposition of the clerks in the several branches. Had it not been for this opposition he had no doubt it would have been approved altogether by Mr. Childers, who gave the committee to understand that he could not carry it out generally through the opposition of the staff. So far as the Megaera was concerned, he held that her loss was not connected with these changes not having been carried out. It would be hardly possible for a document concerning the ship to be lost sight of under this new system as was the case with the document of the ship's survey of 1866 under the old system (a matter of which much has been said during the inquiry), and there would be an extraordinary number of accidents occurring to render such a thing possible now, and he would certainly say that such a thing was less likely to occur now than before. The changes in the system which Mr. Childers found it possible to carry out in witness's department commenced in 1870, but they were not taken retrospectively, they only commenced with the registration of the communications from that time forth. The letters and papers which had been numbered and kept on the old plan - all departments in one department - were kept as they were, and these were not re-arranged.

Lord LAWRENCE here interposed a question, and suggested, if it had been determined at this time to re-arrange the papers, the Controller would have obtained the information in the Admiralty as to the past condition of the ship, and said he thought this should have been done, for that might have saved the ship, the witness having stated that a different course might have been adopted with the ship if these papers had been forthcoming.

The witness asked leave to read the report made by the committee, and this dealt at some length with the difficulties found to exist in the Admiralty in regard to the papers, and the advice given by the committee was, in short, that there should be a departmental assistant-secretary's registration of documents in each department, and the signing of papers left to the heads of those departments. It was not advised that the operation about the departmental registration of letters should be retrospective, for it was found that the needed reform would have stood less chance of being carried out if any retrospective registration had been advised. If that report was objected to, the proposal to have a retrospective registration would have stopped everything.

Mr. ROTHERY remarked that the question would then have arisen as to where the line should be drawn if they had proposed to go back.

Lord LAWRENCE said that, surely, common sense should have suggested that the line should not be drawn at the particular years when the reforms commenced, but to have been of practical value the registration should have gone back some 10 or 12 years. As a matter of fact, by the want of going back in this way, these valuable documents in reference to the past history of the Megaera had been lost sight of, and they might as well have been lost altogether, or have been at the bottom of the sea, for all the good they were in the Admiralty office, then in such a state of chaos that no one could make a reference to them.

The witness could hardly, he said, go with his Lordship in his remarks; for though it was only with great difficulty the documents could be referred to in the Admiralty, still they were there, and some very practical officials in the Admiralty still declared that the old system was an admirable and excellent system, Under these circumstances it would not have been advisable to propose that the new system should be retrospective.

Lord LAWRENCE replied that, taking the witness's own description of the matter, the documents, as they were registered under the old systems were of little use, and by not adopting a retrospective registration of these documents the witness had deprived himself of the use of papers recording matters of importance, and these might have been used to the advantage of the Megaera in 1870.

The witness, however, still held that the best course had been adopted to remedy defects in the system, so far as that course had been adopted. If the committee had advised that the registration should be retrospective, they would have deprived themselves altogether of this plan, even so far as it was taken.

In continuance of his examination by Mr. ROTHERY, the witness said that so far as Mr. Childers had carried out the changes he deserved very great credit. The fact that Mr. Vernon Lushington would at about 4 or 5 o'clock in the afternoon, have a number of letters brought him to him, with the papers relating to them, was a part of the system which was not changed. In witness's opinion, there would never be good administration at the Admiralty until the departmental system was brought about, in which the chiefs of departments signed their own letters and had an assistant secretary.

In reply to Lord LAWRENCE, the witness said the system now carried out at the Admiralty was that the chief of a department "minuted" a letter; the letter was taken away and an answer written; but the answer did not come back to the chief of a department to sign, and that chief might really not know what answer was sent out, or whether any was sent. He considered that system was a bad one.

Sir FREDERICK ARROW said, in fact, the witness recommended the system carried out in the Board of Trade, a system which had been organized about four or five years, and to his knowledge worked very well.

The witness, in answer to several questions put by the Commissioners generally, said that Captain Luard was an officer in whom he had great confidence, and should still have confidence, notwithstanding the error ho believed he had committed in regard to the Megaera. The dockyard officers, he maintained, should have examined the ship when they were instructed to do so, and if there were inaccessible places they should either have made those places accessible or have reported the fact of there being such parts. Then, too, the chief engineer and the master shipwright of a dockyard were responsible for a certificate under their hands of a ship's being "complete" and "fit for sea," and they were responsible for this certificate being a fact and not a sham.

The witness was then thanked for his evidence.

Mr. William Edward Baxter, M.P., the late Financial Secretary to the Admiralty, was then called. Examined by Lord LAWRENCE, he said he was appointed to his office in 1868, but he did not, in consequence of illness, come to London. until 1869, and he acted in the position until 1871. He had control at the Admiralty, subject to the supervision of the First Civil Lord, of all matters which affected the finances of the Admiralty, and he also took in charge all matters of sales and purchases, for which he was responsible in his place in the House of Commons. In point of fact, he said, he had the general supervision of all matters which involved expenditure, but he had nothing to do with the general working of the Admiralty secretariat. He had nothing to do with receiving or sending out letters. The superintendent of contracts, an officer in his department, wrote letters and signed them himself, without reference to the permanent secretary, as was done in the Controller's department, the Victualling department, and others; but "general" letters were opened by the "reader" in the general secretary's department. If a letter intended for one of the other departments happened to be opened in the secretary's department it should be sent to the department for which it was intended. The general secretary had very important duties in having to take a general supervision of the Admiralty offices, and see that the clerical work was carried out, also to see that all papers were sent to the general record office to be recorded. The witness held that the superintendent of contracts was not a sort of assistant secretary, though he did send out letters signed by him on behalf of the department. The witness had explained to him the proposed reforms in the registration of letters by departments, as suggested by Sir Spencer Robinson's Committee; but he, on his part, held that the "general recording" was far superior to the "departmental," for the old system was one which caused very few complaints, and such cases of failure "would arise in every well-regulated family," and were not the fault of the "system," The examiner then drew the witness's attention to the repeated cases of failure of registering matters of the most vital importance in the history of the Megaera, matters which, if seen at proper time, would have saved her from being sent on this voyage, but he could not see that a departmental officer would have been more likely to bring such a matter to light than the general recording officer, nor could he recommend any better system than the one now carried out. It was then pointed out to him that the Admiralty had been sub-divided, and he was asked if he did not think a departmental secretariat was required. In answer to this he expressed himself as not competent to give an opinion, and added that he was not aware of any difficulty arising in the present working. He owned that he believed there was an advantage in the sub-division of labour, such as that indicated by the Admiralty being divided into three; and the First Civil Lord, he said, took no division to himself, but held a general supervision. The witness said he never dreamt of interfering with the estimates for the repair of ships, except that he should go and see the Controller if it should be proposed to repair an old ship, say at the cost of 20,000l.; but in the case of ordinary repairs he never thought of disturbing the judgment of officers who had to perform the duty of making the estimates. He was never consulted with reference to the sending to the dockyard to "reconsider" estimates, nor with regard to recommissioning her. He then said he should like to read an extract from a letter from Mr. Childers defining his duty. This letter was sent to him before he took the post, and the extract he read said the Financial Secretary would have under him all matters relating to the finances of the department, and all matters of charge would be dealt with by him in conjunction with the First Lord, the Controller, and the Contract Office. On the first interview witness had with Mr. Childers he cautioned him against interfering with the movements of ships and the personnel of the Navy. All the time witness was in his position he acted, he said, most strictly on these instructions. When the ship was at Queenstown Mr. Childers was away, and the question about the ship was asked in the House of Commons. The question he answered, and that answer came from Sir Sidney Dacres. Witness was not consulted about the ship being detained or going on, and he should have considered it a most presumptuous act on his part if he had offered any suggestions on the matter. When asked if he could offer any suggestions on the reform of the Admiralty, he said he could not; that was a subject he would leave to others of greater experience.

In reply to Mr. BREWSTER the witness said all he did with regard to the Megaera was answering the questions in the House of Commons. Not only was that answer supplied to him, but Admiral Elliot called upon him and strongly represented that the ship was all right. In regard to his Admiralty duties he had nothing to do with the "fighting part of the concern," and he desired to add that besides being responsible for getting material for the Navy he had much of his time taken up by superintending the changes introduced by Mr. Childers, and this would have precluded him from doing anything with regard to commissioning ships.

In reply to Sir M. SEYMOUR the witness said he thought that no suggestion for the sale of the Megaera was ever brought before him, and in answer to Sir FREDERICK ARROW he said he had never "stopped the supplies" on any occasion, though he had the power to do so, and he had not interfered with the supplies for the Megaera's repair.

The examination by Mr. CHAPMAN touched another subject - the offices and officers in the Royal dockyards. The witness said he did not think the officers were overpaid, but rather under than over. He thought, however, there were too many officers in the yards. He thought it would be advantageous for Her Majesty's service if in the yards where iron ships were built and repaired there presided a gentleman conversant with iron shipbuilding, and with him witness would associate a naval assessor. In a matter of difference of opinion reference should be made to the Admiralty. It was all very well to have a master shipwright at the head of a yard where wooden ships were built, but now that naval architecture was changing day by day he held that it was a matter of the highest importance that a gentleman of ability conversant with iron shipbuilding should be at the head of every yard. Asked if he did not think one such superintendent might be spread over two or three yards, the witness replied that that would be according to the work to be done. As to this officer being a naval officer, he said he would not say it was impossible for a naval officer to become a superintending iron shipwright, seeing the amount of practical knowledge acquired, for instance, by Admiral Sir Spencer Robinson, but he thought the position he indicated should be a civil one for a gentleman of attainments on matters connected with iron shipbuilding.

Admiral Milne, who was senior Naval Lord from July, 1866, until December, 1868, was then called and examined by Lord LAWRENCE. He said be took office when the Megaera was docked at Woolwich, and received the alternative estimates for her repair. The smaller estimate for the repair of the Megaera was adopted on the advice of the Controller, who was the responsible officer. When a ship was put into the dockyard officer's hands they were bound to look out for all defects on the ship being paid off, but they should only look for reported defects when she was on commission, she being "warranted" for a certain time on being prepared for that commission. He held that Captain Luard was not justified in recommending that the Megaera should be posted in the first division of the Steam Reserve under the circumstances already known, when she had been ordered to be prepared for the fourth division, until the ship had been properly and fully examined. Witness ordered the Megaera to be laid off in 1867 to be re-commissioned because she had been carrying to Ascension and other places with a captain and three lieutenants, and he thought she should only have a post captain. She was an expensive vessel, but still it would not have been well to have had her work done by merchants, considering that the duty she had to do - to bring home from Rio and other places supernumeraries, invalids, and officers - could be best done under commission, and these should be carried only under pennant. The witness was then examined on the subject of Admiralty administration. Asked whether he thought the Admiralty system a good one - that under which he served formerly - he said he had no reason to find fault with the way in which the work was done. The Lords used to meet at the Board table with the officers every day except Saturday, and missing, too, sometimes, Thursday. The change made in 1859 by the Duke of Somerset was one principally giving increased powers to the Controller of the Navy, who previous to that time had held the title of Surveyor. The change witness thought was a good one, for previous to 1859 the Controller had to make "submissions" to the Lords with regard to the dockyards, but after that time he dealt with them directly. Then, too, the Board business was done so promptly that every letter received was answered the same day. The routine of the office was that letters were opened at half-past 8, and each department's letters were placed in a basket for the superintending Lord having charge of the department. The Lords came at 10 o'clock, minuted the unimportant letters, and handed these to their clerks. At 12 o'clock the Board met, when the more important letters were brought forward, so that not only did the Civil and Naval Lords hear all the business transacted, but the Secretary knew all that was done. When the important documents were minuted according to the Board's views they were taken to the General Record Office to be registered.

The witness held that the General Registry Office had its advantages under this system, and he thought the proposed new system was disadvantageous, as it would be hard to distinguish what was properly departmental and what not.

In answer to Mr. BREWSTER, the witness said there was no inconvenience arising from the Board meetings. The First Lord was held, as representing the Government, to have an excess of power; but witness, in the whole course of 14 years' experience, never knew of any difficulty arising from the First Lord desiring to carry out his own opinions. There were very great advantages from these Board meetings, for every one present - the Civil and Naval Lords and the two Secretaries - in having matters practically dealt with. He believed that the English people placed great trust in such a system, from knowing that the business was supervised by well-skilled naval officers, and he was of opinion that where the First Lord did not thus call Board meetings difficulties were likely to arise, and the public confidence would be shaken in the system. The witness owned he felt very strongly upon the point, and he concurred in the opinion of his examiner, that a First Lord could not gather so much experience of the business if there were no Board meetings as he could by attending them and hearing the opinions of practical men on practical measures. He recognized under the Admiralty system as he left it no practical difficulty in working, for then there were officers for every detailed work, there was the Storekeeper-General, the Accountant-General, the Surveyor of the Navy, the Controller of Victualling, the Director of the Medical Department, and the Director of the Transport Department. These services were well superintended, as he well knew, for he had been at the head of two, and he believed the matters of naval control could never be carried out except by a body of naval officers, and the system which attempted to grasp all matters of detail would be sure to bring confusion, and perhaps disaster.

In answer to Sir F. ARROW, the witness said that in the former days the First Lord sat as one of the Board, and if any matter had been put to the vote he could have been outvoted. He was not then regarded as having absolute power over the administration of the Admiralty, but as sharing that power with his colleagues under the patent. No vote was ever now taken on any question.

The Commissioners then adjourned until this morning.
Sa 27 January 1872


Yesterday the past and present administrative system of the Admiralty was again brought under review before the Royal Commissioners sitting to enquire into the circumstances of Her Majesty's ship Megaera being sent on the voyage which ended in her wreck. Lord Lawrence presided, and the Committee-room of the House of Commons, where the inquiry was held, was filled throughout the day by an audience largely composed of well-known authorities on naval matters.

Admiral Sir John Hay, C.B., M.P., was the first witness called on this occasion and examined by Lord LAWRENCE. He stated he was in office as Fourth Sea Lord from the 16th of July, 1866, until the 21st of December, 1868, a time during which there were successively two First Civil Lords, Sir John Pakington and Mr. Corry, Asked as to his duties he handed in a paper, and said his duties were defined in a return made to the House of Commons, on the duties of Lords in the Admiralty on the 16th of March, 1869. One of his duties was that he was Superintending Lord of the Victualling Department, an office under a director; then he was also Superintending Lord of the Store Department, which was under a director. He took charge, too, of the Gunnery Department, over which it was found when the Administration of Lord Derby took office there was no principal officer, but it was under the general charge of the First Sea Lord. Admiral Key was given the charge of that department, and witness held the superintending of it from shortly after he came into office. Then the transport service and emigration ships and the convict service had also to be arranged by him. The appointment of paymasters and assistant paymasters, clerks and assistant clerks, rested upon him, for he had to make recommendations upon them to the First Lord. There were other matters which came under his cognizance as well as experiments, with the exception of those in the steam department, then the salvage of naval stores, and matters about ships' libraries. He had nothing to do with the selection and commissioning of ships, but he was cognizant of what was done in those matters after they had been arranged by the First Sea Lord, then Admiral Sir Alexander Milne, with the Controller. He had knowledge of these matters as being part of the Board, and hearing all matters brought daily to the Board, where his colleagues heard his business and he heard theirs. Witness was not, as Fourth Sea Lord, in direct communication, with the Controller, but only in communication with him as a member of the Board. The witness was asked with reference to his knowledge of the Megaera on coming into office, and he replied by saying that he could best state this by showing the circumstances under which he took office. He believed he did not discharge precisely the duties which were discharged by his predecessor, Captain Lord John Hay, who also had charge of the Hospitals and Medical Department; but when witness came into office that duty was taken over by his late friend, Admiral Seymour. Sir John Pakington took witness to Somerset House and introduced him to the heads of the Department, and they gave him information about the troop and store-ships. The work for these ships was arranged by Mr. Macgregor, who had been Lord John Hay's private secretary, and filled the same position to witness. Mr. Macgregor prepared a "skeleton service" at the end of the year for the next year, regarding the movements of ships and stores in ships kept in commission. By this "skeleton," unless some changes were made, those in the office would know throughout the year where each ship was, and. what her service was. This "skeleton" was given to the Director of Transports, and he then arranged with the Horse Guards what troop-ships should be hired for the year, and it would also then be arranged what would be done in regard to the moving of freight by general service after seeing what could be done by Her Majesty's ships. In the list furnished for 1867-8 the Megaera's name occurred, and Lord John Hay told him what Admiral Mends had reported, that the Megaera was an expensive and costly ship for transport service. That was all the knowledge he had of her on coming into office. He found she was in commission in 1865, but he had no knowledge of her sea-going qualities. He knew there was a report from Admiral Sir William Mends that the ship was not, so far as comfort was concerned, a good ship for transport service, and also that she was not, on account of her cost, a good ship for carrying stores. Asked by the examiner if, bearing in mind these facts regarding her, it would not have been well to have got rid of the Megaera and had the service performed otherwise, the witness said he was not sufficiently well informed to answer the question with authority on all points, but it was to be remembered that at the time the country was not very well off for ships for such work as the Megaera did. The dockyards were busy with the ironclads, and, moreover, the estimates were full, owing to the cost of carrying on the work of completing the ironclad navy. This, therefore, would not have been a good time to have proposed building another ship. As to there being any other ship which could have done the Megaera's work he knew of no other which was lying idle at that time to have replaced her. Then, too, there were special reasons why the Megaera should do the work to which she was put, instead of taking that work to be performed in some other way, for she went to Ascension to bring people who should be under pennant, and she had also to go to Rio Janeiro, when the charges for any other than a ship under pennant were at that time almost prohibitory. Whatever might be the question of cheapness to have replaced her by building another ship, there was first the difficulty of getting the money, and then the difficulty of finding room in the dockyards, which were then very busy. He thought the difficulty would have been very great in obtaining the money from the House of Commons to build a ship of a class of which they already possessed one.

Lord LAWRENCE asked if the fact of its being understood that the Megaera was not a useful ship, and that she was not, in the broad sense of the term, an "economical" ship, would not have been accepted as sufficient reasons for supplying another ship in her place.

The witness replied that these facts would not have altered the circumstances; for, as Sir John Pakington and Mr. Corry could affirm, there was the greatest difficulty in obtaining the money necessary, as they believed, for the defence of the country. The subject of the alternative estimates for the repair of the Megaera in 1866 was referred to, but the witness said these did not come before him. After that he ordered her to be paid off from her full complement, and reduced in staff, but that was after a personal visit to her by Admiral Milne, and, on his request, he thinking she should not have a captain and three lieutenants for the work she did. He had no thought or doubt as to her further employment; and words he had used in a despatch, "If she is employed on such service," having reference not to the expediency of her being employed but to whether Sir Alexander would employ on her a Staff Commander. No question came before witness as to the thinness of the Megaera's plates in 1867, nor before the Board of Admiralty - not, at all events, in the ordinary course, for the Controller would have communicated any such thing to the First Lord, and then it would have come before the Board.

Lord LAWRENCE said it seemed to him that if the subject of the Megaera being employed had been mentioned before the Lords, they must have searched back into the papers and estimates to see what account of the ship was there, and then they must have been informed of the thinness of the plates in 1866, and this would then have been borne in mind.

The witness replied that he had no special information regarding the ship, and he believed Sir Spencer Robinson to have been in possession of all such information.

Lord LAWRENCE pressed the witness to answer whether he did not think the information in the survey of 1866, as to the thinness of the Megaera's plates, ought to have been brought before the Board before they decided the service she should go on, or what should be done to her.

The witness replied that for his own part he believed that if it had not been for the fire which occurred on board the Megaera in 1870 she would have been afloat now.

The mention of this matter occasioned some surprise, for it has not been touched upon before, but Lord LAWRENCE said that might be spoken to presently; but he wanted to know whether, when ships were to be recommissioned, the Lords should be informed of the ships' condition. The witness replied that he did think so, and it was the Controller's duty to furnish that information. So far as his experience went, the Board would accept the Controller's opinion upon ships, but he said this without having had the experience gained by being a First Naval Lord. The First Lord had a list of ships before him and a statement of their condition, and he would, if he heard from the Controller that the ship was in the condition she was represented to be in, state to the Board that it was intended to commission such and such a ship for such and such a service; and if the members of the Board made no objection, the secretary would make the required minute, upon which the order would go commissioning the ship. But if the Controller knew of anything doubtful about the ship he would mention it; but unless something doubtful was known about it, the Lords present would accept the seaworthiness of the ship as being in the Controller's return.

The witness then entered upon the matter which he was anxious to state before - the affair of the alleged fire in the Megaera in 1870. This had reference to what was termed by his examiner "the heat of the coal in the bunker." The witness said he would relate facts. The present Administration made considerable changes in the supply of coal when it came into power. Sir John Pakington had resolved that smokeless coal only should be used in the ships in the Royal Navy, and bituminous should be used in the factories. This was reversed by Mr. Childers. Witness had consulted the late Sir Roderick Murchison and Dr. Percy, of the School of Mines, who were possessed of much information with regard to the geological character of the coalfields, and witness had acquired the information as to the fields which gave off coals with a large amount of sulphur, and one colliery was reported as supplying a coal of a very fiery nature to the Admiralty in 1870, and a great deal of that was sent to Sheerness, and some put on the Megaera. A portion of it was consumed, but about 120 or 130 tons was left at the bottom of her bunkers when she coaled at St. Vincent in that year. He was told that the fire was of a very fierce nature, that it scaled off the paint, and the question which he asked of Mr. Baxter, as the Commissioners could see by Hansard, had referred to the quality of coal, and not to the nature of the damage done to the ship. His idea was that that fire might have melted the cement, and might be accountable for the damage which all now regretted. The fact of the fire and the use of coal of this character were not denied.

Lord LAWRENCE said that from what was in the Admiralty papers before him it seemed that there was a great heat, but that no actual fire broke out.

The witness said it was so reported to him, but his view still was that the heat might have melted or have destroyed the cement. Reference was then made to the official papers regarding this fire, and it was questioned whether the occurrence was in the starboard or in the port bunker, but it was proved to have been in both, and so was immediately over the leak, which was on the port side. The heat was stated to have been 132 and then 145, and the witness suggested that the heat beneath, the bunker, being in a confined place and conducted by the iron plate, might have been greater.

Examined as to the system under which the Admiralty worked, the witness was asked if he thought the system under which instructions were given to the dockyards was capable of improvement, and he replied that, speaking for the system which he saw in working when in office though it might seem clumsy, it was admirably suited for its purpose. The Lords met five days a week and they and their chief officers knew at each sitting everything which went on with regard to Her Majesty's service in every part of the world; and all the business of the dockyards was brought forward and settled. It was then put to him to answer how it was there were so many slips in regard to the Megaera in regard to the 1866 report not being known as to the thinness of her plates; then as to the experiment with Spence's cement not being reported or noticed from the time it was put into her; then as to no steps being taken to give her history to the Sheerness officers when she was taken there for repair, and on Captain Luard's reporting her for the first division of the Steam Reserve, that report being taken without any reference being made as to her services and necessities. These, the examiner said, were serious mistakes, and these having been made in reference to the Megaera, it became a question how far similar mistakes had been made with regard to other ships. The witness, in answer, said there did appear to have been some mistake regarding Spence's cement, but Sir Spencer Robinson had given information how these mistakes had arisen, and they might have occurred under any system. As to the system being defective which would allow of so many consecutive mistakes, - well, he considered the account kept in the ship's book should have been well kept up. He acknowledged that it seemed that this had not been kept up, but the head officials, even Mr. Corry, had told him he believed this account of the ship's history was kept posted up, but he thought that if the Commissioners would take ten other books of ships it would be found that this was not a general occurrence.

Lord LAWRENCE said he took these instances to show that the system of the Admiralty, though it might seem to work well, had great latent defects, and it was evident that whoever had to make up this book of the Megaera had not written up the history at all, for if the book had recorded one of the facts left out the ship might not have been lost, for her defects would have been seen. Now, this being so, he asked the witness what system be thought the better for the country - the present one carried out, or the one carried out by the late Administration.

The witness replied that he held the system which formerly prevailed to be far superior to the one now adopted. In the one under which he served there was power of discussion among the Lords on any subject brought before them. Information was given one to another, and opinions were so freely exchanged among the Sea Lords that the First Lord could form a judgment of his own upon every matter which came before the Board. Such a system as that must be better than a system where the First Lord could only hear one opinion at a time, as was the case, he understood, in the system now adopted.

In reply to further questions from Lord LAWRENCE,
The witness went on to describe the working of the old Board of Admiralty. At 8 o'clock in the morning, he said, the Secretary attended, and all letters were opened, and in the course of the day every letter thus opened was answered, with the exception of such as were kept for further consideration. At that time no Lord was authorized to sanction an expenditure of more than 500l. When the Board met, which it did at 12 o'clock, the reader read telegrams and information from all parts of the world, so as to give all present information with regard to the service everywhere. Then the First Lord, if he had any subject for the Board to consider, stated the business he had on hand. He was followed by the First Sea Lord, and the business was so continued until the Junior Lord had made his statement. Each matter of business was discussed and adjusted, and the minute upon the Board's arrangement was made upon each matter. Then Mr. Romaine gave information or advice upon legal or routine matters, and when the members left the Board-room they had a perfect knowledge of what was going on in the Navy and every part of the world, and each one had a knowledge of what his colleagues did. Witness was sure this system, which gave the First Lord an opportunity of hearing independent naval officers give their opinions upon matters of which they had a knowledge, and gave them an opportunity of learning the policy of the country, was a most desirable system for the country.

The witness was questioned at some length as to the possibility of the Board being able to discuss and discharge its business in two hours or an hour and a half a day in this way, and he declared that it was possible, for only important matters were discussed, the others having been arranged and taken as a matter of course.

Lord LAWRENCE differed in opinion from the witness as to the advantages of the system he had described.

The examiner then remarked that these questions did not bear on the inquiry, but they had cropped up, and it appeared to him they could not be passed by sub silentio [in silence; without formal notice being taken], but that they should be gone into to a certain extent. As the witness had spoken of the old system, perhaps, the examiner said, he would favour them with his views on the subdivision system now carried out. The witness said he had had no experience of it, but, pressed upon the point, he said, as a matter of opinion, he thought it far more advisable that the Lords should give their minds to the management of the fleets of England, and to the policy of the nation, than that they should encumber them with every minute detail. He was, of course, assuming that the present Lords did not meet as a Board, and he found warrant for that assumption on the evidence taken before the Duke of Somerset's Committee, where a member of the present Administration said there were, as a matter of fact, no meeting; and, he added, the matters which the Admiralty administered so overlapped that the details could not be properly carried out except by Board meetings. He still held that the system of giving opinions to the First Lord separately, and not in collision, would not work so well for the service as the Board's expression of opinions. In regard to the registration of documents, he held that the general registering carried out by Mr. Romaine was far superior to any departmental registration. The system which was in use when he was there was very complete. The staff in the Record-office should be increased, but still that was a far superior system to any departmental system which could be devised. One difficulty of making a departmental registration was that it would be very hard to apportion the letters to departments, for some of the letters referred to several matters, and while it was easy to register such letters in the general Record-office, it could not be said to which of the other departments they should go for registration if the departmental system should be adopted. It might be Sir Spencer Robinson's opinion that the departmental system would be better, but though he had a great respect for Sir Spencer as a most able man he could not adopt his view in this particular.

The witness was questioned by Mr. BREWSTER regarding the alleged fire on the Megaera, and the examiner pointed out that the cement was put on wet and not hot, and, therefore, that the heat would not melt it. The witness said it was a theory which had been raised by the information given to him, and if there were heat sufficient it appeared to him to be reasonable that the cement could have been thus flaked off. The examiner pointed out that the bottom of the bunker was not burnt, and then that there was a plate between the wood and the cement; but the witness held that so great a heat might hare been engendered as to have caused the flaking off of the cement.

In answer to Sir M. SEYMOUR, the witness said that in his time it was always before the minds of the Lords that they could have a cheaper ship, and it was most desirable to employ the Megaera for freight to Rio Janeiro, as freight carried under pennant did not have to meet the almost prohibitory dues then levied by the Brazilian Government on freight in merchant bottoms, and, besides, the Megaera used to bring home supernumeraries and soldiers, whom it was necessary to keep under discipline, and, therefore, to bring home on a man-of-war. These were the reasons why the Megaera was employed, and the subject of her cost as a freight-carrying ship was also taken into consideration. He was then questioned as to the sale of surplus stores carried on of late years, and the witness agreed that such a course was very unwise for a country placed like England; for she might, he said, need a large amount of stores at a very short notice. Referred to the use of smokeless coal, the witness agreed that the use of bituminous coal in steamships of war would be a most advisable course to favour an enemy, as it would be impossible for a fleet burning such coal to see the signals, and, moreover, the smoke would soon telegraph to the enemy as to the position and neighbourhood of our fleet. This was pressed upon his notice by the fact that a slaver was actually able to elude a cruiser which burnt bituminous coal. On this coming to the notice of the Administration it was resolved, at a great Parliamentary risk, for many of their Parliamentary friends represented bituminous coalfields, that smokeless coal should be used in the ships. That was done through all Lord Derby's Administration. This was one of the first things reversed by Mr. Childers when he came into office. The use of bituminous coal would damage the furnaces of the ships, too, from the want of experience of the coal.

In reply to Mr. ROTHERY, the witness said he should not have used the Megaera for the service on which she was last sent, for, though she was called a good boat, her history showed she could not scud before a gale, and yet she was sent round the Capes. He would not have employed her, however good her plates might have been, for her logs showed she steered wildly in running on a head sea.

Admiral Sir Sidney Dacres, the present First Naval Lord of the Admiralty, stated in examination by Lord LAWRENCE, that he had been in his position since December, 1868. He was responsible for the selection of ships for particular services, and though he might make this upon his own responsibility, he generally consulted the Controller. The Controller was responsible for the repair of ships, and if witness selected a ship he should rely for her condition in the matter of repair upon the Controller's Department, but as for the fitness he should trust to his own knowledge for that or to the knowledge of the officers with him. He was once on the Megaera, but he know nothing about her build or repairs. The question of her repairs came before him immediately on his taking office in regard to the question of finance. As to her transfer from Woolwich to Sheerness in 1870, he should have thought her papers should have gone with her from the Controller's Department, especially as at the time the officers of Woolwich were dispersed; but at the same time it was incumbent upon the Superintendent at Sheerness, before he reported the ship for the first division, to have obtained information about her. He never heard any thing to create suspicion about the ship's efficiency. He held that under the orders sent to Sheerness the dockyard officers ought to have examined her interior plates and to have satisfied themselves as to her condition. The witness read a letter from Captain Luard, saying that he was not at Sheerness in April, 1870, and was, therefore, not responsible for what was then done, and to this Lord Lawrence said he was there in August of that year and sent the telegram reporting the ship seaworthy and complete at that time, and the witness allowed that these points were beyond doubt. The witness said the grounds upon which he had formed the opinion that the Megaera was a most extravagant vessel were that he could get her freight - she could carry 470 tons - carried for 1,000l., and the Megaera cost double that money to carry it, besides the wear and tear. He could not employ her at double the cost, and he would not embark soldiers in her, for she was not fit for a troopship, and, but for sending her trips to Rio and such like service, he would not have kept her in commission. When the ship was reported to him from Sheerness as "complete and fit for sea" the officers of the dockyard should certainly have known her condition. Before he selected the Megaera for the voyage to Australia he went to Sir Spencer Robinson and asked him if the Megaera was fitted for the voyage. Sir Spencer made no technical objection to the employment of the Megaera, and the mere fact that he himself sent a telegram asking if the ship was ready showed that he raised no objection. The evidence of Sir S. Robinson on this matter was read, and the witness differed as to the statements with regard to this interview. Witness said Sir Spencer spoke about the Revenge being sent, but this was at a time when there was war on the Continent and the Belgian question was cropping up, and therefore it was not likely that he should send a ship out with 400 men to look after 300 without knowing, too, when to expect them back. The Revenge had taken out 1,100 man, and later 800 or 900, and he was not going to send her out with 300. With regard to the stores, they were sent on the report of Admiral Eliot; but there should have been no more stores than could have been carried in her bottom without encumbering her decks. Certainly the defects found at Queenstown should never have been left at Sheerness, and he thought, too, that all inaccessible places should have been opened by the officials at Sheerness.

Lord LAWRENCE then said that perhaps the witness would like to give his views as to the past and present system of Admiralty administration.

The witness said he did not like it much (a laugh); but, of course, he would answer any question put to him. In answer to further questions, in which he was asked to compare the system just adopted with that which it preceded, he said the part he felt the administration to be wanting in was the necessity of there being first-rate naval assistance in the Admiralty - an assistance which the last Order in Council destroyed. As to there being three "divisions," there was only another officer and himself, Admiral Tarlton. There was the Controller, certainly; but he might be a civilian, and although he was not, still he was not a responsible officer to be consulted, for he could turn round and say it was not his duty to be consulted, and that virtually threw all the responsibility upon the First Lord's shoulders. The Controller had quite enough to do of his own work. In the old system every Lord had a department to manage, and all relating to that department was brought before the Board as a whole; but now it was taken to the First Lord. Formerly when witness had something which he was not quite "up to" he took it to the Board, and then three or four able Naval Lords and two or three able civilians would give their opinions upon it, and the Board would come to an agreement upon it which was regarded as unanimous; hut this was gone now. The only questions which really came on for discussion, he believed, were such questions as Lords felt they could not grapple with by themselves, and all knew what was done. The great loss now to the service was that subjects were not known to the officers in the Admiralty as to how they were settled, and he was fully of opinion that the "consultative" principle was not so good as having a deliberative Board. With that deliberative Board there would not be the dissensions there were from the conversations which now arose. The Admiralty Board had a meeting now and then, but very rarely.

Lord LAWKENCE asked if the present system did not necessitate a more careful selection of individuals who composed the Admiralty.

The witness said that for one who occupied his position this was an awkward question to answer, but he might answer it by saying that the Navy did not like to be governed by Sir Sidney Dacres as they would be by four responsible officers.

The system of registration was spoken upon, and the witness gave his voice in favour of the general recording carried out before, and he said that since the Board had been centralized there were more papers in a day than there were before in three months. Now, he said, they were "always losing papers."

The witness answered a few questions on general points put by some of the other Commissioners, and then retired.

James Burnett, a ship's carpenter, borne on the books of the Mersey, gave evidence as to all the parts of the Megaera requiring to be seen to when the ship came to Queenstown. He said the ports must have been defective when the ship left Sheerness.

Captain Thrupp was re-called to give an opinion as to whether the ship grounded upon her anchors when off the Island of St. Vincent. He said this was impossible, and he demonstrated the truth of his statement by reference to facts stated in the ship's log. In answer to other questions he said he was certain as to the existence of the horizontal plate under the bunker, and the perpendicular plate could have existed, though he did not know of it.

The Commissioners then rose until to-day.
Ma 29 January 1872


The Royal Commission on the Megaera met on Saturday forenoon in the House of Commons' Committee Room No. 11, Lord Lawrence in the chair.

The only witness examined was the Right Hon. Hugh C.E. Childers, M.P., ex-First Lord of the Admiralty.

Lord LAWRENCE, addressing the right hon. gentleman, said, - I believe you were First Lord of the Admiralty during the years 1869 and 1870?

Mr. Childers. - I was First lord of the Admiralty from the 22d of December, 1868, to the 12th of March, 1871; but from two or three days after Christmas, 1870, I was incapacitated by illness from discharging any of the duties of that office.

Lord LAWRENCE. - Will you explain to what extent the selection and details of the arrangement and equipment of ships came under your personal supervision?

Mr. Childers. - It would be difficult to give any precise answer to that question, because the word "ship" includes vessels of very different character, used for very different objects. If the question applies specially to the Megaera, I can state exactly all I know about her; and possibly I may be examined afterwards on the general question.

Lord LAWRENCE. - Will you state, then, in what manner the Megaera came under your notice during your tenure of office?

Mr. Childers. - The first I heard of the Megaera was a few days before I took office. After it was known that I was at the head of the Admiralty I received from Sir John Hay, the former Fourth Sea Lord of the Admiralty, I think, a note enclosing a paper giving a list of the troop and store ships. The enclosure, to what was a private note, addressed "My dear Childers," I have here. It gave a list of the troopships, commencing with the Himalaya, and ending with the Euphrates and Malabar. It then proceeded to give a list of the storeships, with the Megaera at the head of the list, and going to the Supply at the bottom. It stated with respect to some of these vessels whether they were in want of repairs, but with respect to the Megaera all it stated was that on the 4th of September she left Rio for Spithead, and might be expected home very soon. I am not certain of the exact day on which I received this letter and paper, but upon the day when I formally took office I handed the paper to Sir John Hay's successor, Lord John Hay, and I presume that he dealt with it as a communication from his predecessor. The next occasion on which anything connected with the Megaera came under my notice was a few days afterwards, on the 14th of January, when Sir Spencer Robinson and Sir Sydney Dacres thought it not satisfactory that an accident should have happened to her and no information be sent to the Admiralty, and I approved a communication being sent to Woolwich Dockyard on the subject. This involved what I may call a provisional censure of a high officer, and naturally the paper would come to me. In the result, however, the explanation was satisfactory, and no censure was pronounced. I heard nothing of the Megaera except what may be derived from the ordinary printed papers till sometime in March or April, 1870, when a question was asked in the House of Commons as to some coal supplied to the Megaera. I asked for the facts, and I gave the answer in Parliament. The question related to some coal having got heated; I was asked what coal it was, and my answer is, I presume, in Hansard. I have not referred to it. The next occasion when I heard of the Megaera was in August of the same year, when Sir Sydney Dacres brought under my notice some papers relating to her, and reported to me that in his opinion she was an extravagant vessel, and had better be paid off. I approved her being paid off. That is the whole of my personal information with respect to the Megaera.

Lord LAWRENCE. - When you approved her being paid off, was it with the understanding that you would not employ her again?

Mr. Childers. - No such question was put to me. I approved her being paid off in the ordinary course. Whether she should be at some future time employed or not was not submitted to me by those who advised that she should be paid off.

Lord LAWRENCE. - But I presume her being paid off implied that for a time, at least, you would not employ her?

Mr. Childers. - For a time she would be put out of commission. She was employed as a storeship, and I concurred in the opinion that as a storeship she was extravagant. As to whether more was communicated to me - in the multiplicity of business I can only speak to the best of my memory on questions of that sort.

Lord LAWRENCE. - Were you consulted in any way with reference to her employment on the Australian voyage ?

Mr. Childers. - No. I think I have stated that I was taken ill a few days after Christmas, 1870, and the question of so employing her, to the best of my knowledge, came up some time after that.

Lord LAWRENCE. - Had you not been ill, that, as a matter of importance, would have come before you?

Mr. Childers. - I think so. I think Sir Sydney Dacres would have consulted me about it.

Lord LAWRENCE. - It has been stated that the changes of organization introduced in 1869 considerably affected the working of the various departments of the Admiralty; will you be good enough to explain the nature of those changes?

Mr. Childers. - I will do so, and perhaps I ought to apologize to the Commission in answering that question if I detain them at some length, as I am very anxious that my answer should be as full as possible. I propose, therefore, to state, in reply to the question, the nature of the organization of the Admiralty before I took office at the end of 1868, the motives which induced me to make certain changes in that organization, and the results so far as they were verified up to the time of my leaving office, or rather when I became incapacitated for work at the end of 1870. I must ask the Commission to be good enough to make some allowance if my statement is not so perfect as I could wish, first because of the interruption for a whole year of my attention to business, and the difficulty I feel of going through a very detailed statement; secondly, because I am on this occasion deprived of the assistance of both my private secretaries - one unfortunately being dead, and the other commanding the Flying Squadron, somewhere about the Cape of Good Hope; and thirdly, the Commission will excuse me if it has not been in my power to peruse the evidence and details of the papers adduced before the Commission as minutely and fully as I could wish, I think I may also be forgiven if I say this - observations in connexion with the subject, but not in some cases very directly connected with it, have been made by some witnesses, and are in the minutes of the Commission. I am, therefore, in this difficulty - that if, in describing these matters, I omit to refer to some observations of that kind it might be supposed that I have no answer to them, and, on the other hand, if I do refer to them I might possibly draw the Commission into a discussion which they would not wish, and might appear to be not pertinent to the inquiry; and the request I would, therefore, make of the Commission would be this - that if after what I am going to state on the present occasion the Commission think the observations made by others were relevant, and any doubt exists in their minds on the subject, so far as affects me, I shall ask them to examine me on those points; but if no doubt exists in their minds, of course, I would not dream of asking them to go into any matters of that sort. I will now proceed to describe what was the state of things as to the organization of the Admiralty when I took office. The first and salient point in that organization was the extraordinarily scattered condition of the department. The Lords and Secretaries transacted their business in the square at Whitehall, the centre of the department. The Controller of the Navy transacted his business in an entirely separate house at the corner of that square. One of his sub-divisions - the Steam Office - was at some distance, in Spring-gardens. The most important sub-department connected with shipbuilding - that is, the Naval Store Department - was the better part of a mile away in Somerset-house. The Works Department, also a most important department in connexion with the dockyards, was also in Somerset-house. The whole of the accounts of the department were away in Somerset-house, except a very small branch which, with somewhat undefined discipline, was in the Controller's Office. The Transport Office was away in Somerset-house. With respect to the First Reserve of the Navy - what is generally called the Coastguard, though its preventive duties are the least important - that was administered by a small Admiralty of itself located in a house in New-street. The Victualling and Medical Departments were also away at the considerable distance of Somerset-house. In each of these departments there was a large clerical staff, each on its own organization, and between each of those departments correspondence was carried on and the necessary records kept just as if they were perfectly independent bodies. The supreme government of the Admiralty was in the hands of a Board, and those who have perused former inquiries on the subject will be aware that the extent to which these affairs were administered, in the ordinary way by a Board, personally by members of the Board, was always a question in controversy. Formerly, I understand, when Sir James Graham was First Lord, the different lords had not separate rooms, except the first Lord and, I think, the First Sea Lord, but transacted all their business in the Board-room itself, in. which also one of the Secretaries sat - each lord going from time to time to the different departments of the principal offices, exercising a superintendence over them at Somerset-house, including the Controller, then called the Surveyor, and carrying on their general supervision strictly as it would be carried on by the Board in the Board-room. Before, however, I became First Lord of the Admiralty that system was found to be utterly unworkable, and, by degrees, the different Lords had their own rooms, transacting a large amount of business in those rooms, and meeting together in a Board in a manner I shall describe later. The position, in the same way, of the Secretary, of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty had always been one of some difficulty and controversy. I remember well its being said that Lord Clarence Paget, with whom I served at the Admiralty for some time, was only the mouthpiece of the Board of Admiralty - that he was their servant - a very different position from what out of doors it was supposed to be - when in a Parliamentary point of view he was second only to the First Lord. The system of work was most complicated. I will take, for instance, the manner in which the dockyards were governed. Some instructions went to the dockyards directly from the Board, and communications were received from the dockyards directly. Of the result of this the Commission have had an instance in Commodore Edmonstone's telegram, which, most important as it was, went directly to the Board, was never seen by the Controller, and by some accident or confusion was lost. Some instructions went to the dockyards through the Controller, and some were sent by the Controller not coming from the Board, but acting on his own authority. In the same way with respect to the manufacture and custody of stores; inasmuch as the Storekeeper-General, an officer of high position and equal is rank to the Controller, was responsible for these matters. He also conveyed, in many instances, direct instructions to the dockyards; and, in this way, the want of system and responsibility was very great. At the dockyards there was a similar want of responsibility. There was nobody there who could be called the manager of the work of the yard. At the head of the yards was a Superintendent - a naval officer, but the reports made to him were joint reports; the different civilians charged with different parts of the work, and it was a very difficult thing to fix responsibility on any one of them. Coming back to the Controller's Office, there was a most extraordinary division; so much of the business as related to the construction of ships was placed in the hands of the constructor in one building, but so much of the business as related to the construction of engines in the hands of the engineer in New-street, and great confusion, to my knowledge, resulted from this anomalous position - the direction of naval ordnance being placed under a different lord from the lords who superintended either the construction of ships or the purchase of stores. In the Secretariat it was the opinion of the very experienced gentleman who managed that department that the system was admirable, and at the present time I will not question that opinion; but it had very grievous defects, patent, I should think, to almost every man of business. In the first place, there was no register whatever of papers inwards, and the registration was not for a considerable time afterwards made when the paper might be held to have been for the time finally dealt with. There was a very cumbrous system of copying - copying machines apparently being unknown at Whitehall; there was practically no use made of the printing press, which is so exceedingly useful in the transaction of business of that kind. I won't refer to other imperfections, as I don't wish to travel outside the questions which have specially come before the Commission; but I may say this, in illustration of what has come before the Commission, that there seems to me a great absence of foresight in regulating the dockyard business - for one reason, because of the retention of a large number of old wooden ships which had become obsolete, and from the practical difficulty of getting rid of these ships in consequence of the state of the Store laws, which prevented anything like a reasonable price being got for them. This apparently very small difficulty was removed by a clause in an Act, but it was not easily surmounted, from the great opposition of the officers concerned. Its practical results, however, may be seen by any one who will peruse the evidence before Mr. Seely's Committee in 1868. Coming into office and finding this state of things, I think I ought to tell the Commission why I deemed myself bound to take up the matter as vigorously, and at the same time as slowly and prudently, as I could. I had paid great attention to the Dockyard Report of 1860-61 - the report of the Royal Commission on the administration of the dockyards; and not only to the report itself, but to the very valuable memorandum attached to the report by the present Sir Spencer Robinson, who was then Captain Robinson, one of the Royal Commission. He had pointed out as far back as the 6th of February, 1861, a great many of the imperfections which I have just been stating to the Commission, and his paper and the report itself recommended what I may call a radical change in the organization of Admiralty business, under which, the mode of proceeding would be entirely altered. Sir James Graham was quoted by the Commission as stating that the Board could only work well when it was made as unlike the Board as possible; and the Commission unanimously recommended that the administration should be by responsible heads immediately under the Minister for the Navy Department, one of whom should be the Controller-General, having charge of all matters connected with the materiél of the Navy. I had also perused with great care the evidence taken before the committee of the House of Commons in 1861 on this subject, though I had not the advantage of any report from that committee. For reasons connected with the time at which they met the committee made no report. I had also read and since 1864 had taken part in almost yearly debates in the House of Commons on this subject - yearly debates in which the want of responsibility and the necessity of unity of action, instead of the divided Board action, was very markedly pointed out. And, in 1868, a few months before I took office, I was a member of the committee which is known as Mr. Seely's Committee, and perhaps I may say, without arrogating too much to myself, that I took a very active part in the discussions of that committee. The evidence before that committee pointed to unmistakable failure in a very large amount of Admiralty administration; and inasmuch as it was partly owing to my own action, that the committee made no report on that part of the business, but confined themselves to reporting on the accounts, I conceived myself all the more bound when I took office vigorously to take up the question. Another reason which had great influence with me with respect to the imperfections of the then system of control was this - when I was at the Admiralty as Junior Lord in 1864 I became aware, and pointed out to the Duke of Somerset, that practically, under the then system, there was very little financial control over the operations of the Admiralty; that each of the great spending departments was placed under the superintendence of a naval officer of high rank, without any direct check on the part of civilian authority; and when I had satisfied the Duke of Somerset of this he asked me to undertake the duty - which has been alluded to, I think, by Sir Frederick Grey in his evidence before the Commission - of Financial Lord, in which capacity I was to exercise a check over all spending departments. Before, however, I had completed the arrangements for exercising that check I was promoted to the office of Secretary to the Treasury; and what influenced me so much afterwards, to which I have just now alluded, was this, that, although I think I had established the absolute necessity for that financial control, yet, when I was out of the department, no Civil Lord was appointed to succeed me for six months, and when a Civil Lord was appointed, the functions of Financial Lord were not given to him as they had been given to me, and the department lapsed back to the former absence of financial control. When I came into office, at the end of 1868, there was no Financial Lord, only a Civil Lord with the functions which I had when I originally took office. Another matter which had great influence with me was the view strongly expressed on this matter by Admiral Robinson in the year 1867. I was on terms of personal friendship with him, though I was not at the time in office. And if the Commission desire to study his views, which so much influenced me, I would refer them to the paper dated 1867 - I cannot supply the omission of the month - which is printed in Sir Spencer Robinson's evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the Board of Admiralty, presided over by the Duke of Somerset last year. The paper occurs at page 45, and is headed "confidential." In that paper - and we had many conversations on the subject before I took office - Sir Spencer Robinson points out the great blots in the then prevailing system. He speaks of what arrangements ought to be made as the best; and what arrangements ought to be made, "keeping a Board of Admiralty as long," he says, "as the Navy is administered by such an expedient;" and all I would venture to say to the Commission is that, whether in every word of that Minute I entirely agree or not, I look upon it as a most admirable statement of the faults which then existed in the system. Perhaps I may add that it will hardly be denied that public opinion, however expressed, and it was very frequently expressed at that time, pointed unmistakably to the advantage of departmental administration with individual responsibility over the system which prevailed of administration by the Board constituted as it was. I determined, therefore, to carry out to the best of my power an entire system of reform in the Admiralty which during the time that I had been more free - out of office between 1866 and 1868 - I had every means to carefully study. The new Cabinet was formed in December, 1863, and on the 22d of that month the Board was formally constituted. In the preceding fortnight, since the change of the Government had occurred, I had carefully discussed with my colleagues the details of a memorandum which is printed, I think, and at any rate has been alluded to before this Commission. That memorandum is dated December 22, 1868. It defines, as I shall show directly, the new functions of the different heads of the Board under myself. It was carefully discussed with those with whom I was about to act, and on the following day, the 23d of December, the first day on which the Board actually took up business, this memorandum was read at a meeting of all my colleagues, and the following Minute was made: -

"The first Lord reads to the Board a memorandum which he has prepared on the subject of the changes proposed to be made in the transaction of the business of the Admiralty. My Lords concur and direct that a copy of the First Lord's memorandum be transmitted to the Lords of the Treasury, and that their Lordships' assent be requested."

This was departmentally necessary before an Order in Council could pass confirming the new arrangements. The changes so made under that memorandum were in one respect thorough and immediate, and in other respects very gradual in their introduction. They were thorough and immediate in this, that at once departmental action - that is the popular word, though not perhaps so clear as I could wish - departmental action with individual responsibility of the chiefs, was distinctly substituted for the action of a Board. The old form of Minutes remained. The letters were written in the name of "My Lords," and signed by the Secretary to "My Lords;" but from the very first day of the new arrangements discussions at the Board came to an end, and this was the distinct understanding of those who with me formed the new Board of Admiralty. The Board was, however, still used for certain purposes. All, what I may call the legislative business of the Admiralty - that is to say, rules and circulars - were passed through the Board, the papers, if they were important enough, being read through, if not the heads of them being read at meetings of the Board. All removals from the service and larger punishments were also in the same way passed through the Board; and during the time of the war between France and Germany, when a great mass of confidential papers came to the Admiralty, it was the rule that these papers should be read at the Board to all the members present in preference to the system of sending them round to every individual member first. After being read at the Board they were circulated so far as imperatively necessary to one or two members of the Board. I also occasionally made use of the Board as a place of discussion, though very rarely. One instance occurs to my recollection, and that was the introduction of the new Civil Service arrangements in, I think, 1869-70. A totally new charter, if I may so call it, for the Civil Service, was proposed by the Government, under which patronage was practically abolished, and a system of appointment, after open competition, was introduced; and, as the whole of my colleagues were more or less interested in that question, it seemed to me a very convenient one to discuss very fully at an ordinary Board meeting. But in other respects, with the exceptions I have named, from the very first discussions at the Board were discontinued; and I don't hesitate to give my opinion that that change had very marked advantages. Under the former system, for two or even three hours a day, I have known the Parliamentary members of the Board, my Lords, and the Secretaries collected round the table and discussing small questions, those of importance being settled practically outside - some hearing the recital of business which belonged to others, and vice versa. The waste of time which this involved was, in my mind, appalling, and I felt it severely while I was at the Admiralty in an inferior position to that I at last held; and, however the former system may be described, I venture to say that it did, both in appearance and in fact, produce a great weakening of responsibility. The fact that business was avowedly conducted, not only in the name of, but by a Board, did and must prevent responsibility being carried strictly home. That I am describing correctly the proceedings of the Board I think will be clear on reference to the evidence of one who, to a great extent, was in favour of the former system, - l mean Sir Frederick Grey. I refer to his evidence before the Commission, at page 33, question 13,872, where he says: - "When a subject of importance was to be brought before the Board, I would prepare a Minute for carrying out the directions of the First Lord; I would bring that Minute to the Board, and there it would be read and approved. Sometimes some little discussion might arise upon it, but generally the members of the Board who were concerned had seen it and considered it, so that when it came to the Board it was merely formally approved." That I think is, on the whole, a very fair account of the manner of discussing the business of the Board. But Sir Frederick Grey points out a very great advantage of the former system, which was this - not that important business was discussed at the Board, but that the members of the Board became acquainted with the business of the day; and I thoroughly go with him in considering such an advantage a very great one. But I believe that what we substituted for that, as to which there has been very little evidence before the Commission, produced the effect desired in a very much more satisfactory way; and it is this. Every afternoon the whole of the important business of the day was collected in a manner I need not describe in detail from all parts of the department, and was placed in the hands of the printer, and the next morning, when the heads of the Admiralty came to their work, they found on their table the voluminous printed Minutes, giving so far in detail as might be necessary the whole of the current business. These Minutes were carefully classified; they ran their eye through them, and if any question arose on any of them in their judgement they could at once send for the papers and see the whole story. If they were primarily concerted in the matter, they would have known it before. This, I believe, has been a thoroughly sufficient safeguard, and, if well carried out, was calculated to secure the object of the Board put forward by previous witnesses. But I may be asked, - Why did you not go farther and abolish the Board altogether? And to that I reply that there is something in traditionary forms; and as a wise statesman once said: - "If the object is to reform the substance, it may be well not to alter the form; but if the object is to avoid reforming the substance you might do a great deal in the eyes of the public by altering the form." Now, I believe that, within certain limits, is not an incorrect view; and further, I had some experience of the action of another Department, which I apprehend followed that statesman's principle, I mean the Treasury. In times past the action of the Treasury was, strictly speaking, a Board action. All questions affecting finance came before a Board, and were discussed at the Board. The Board Minutes were recorded by the Secretary, and communicated to the different sub-Departments concerned. Those who have read the history of the latter part of the last century may still see very interesting accounts of the business and discussions at the Treasury Board but that system was found unworkable with the accumulation of business and the requirements of responsibility in the present day, and if you want to find a meeting of the Board of Treasury, except in very rare cases where they act judicially under a statute, you will have to go back a long way indeed. The Board of Treasury acts simply departmentally, under the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is practically head of the department for financial purposes; the Financial Secretary takes departmental rank just as an under secretary in any department nominally governed by a Secretary of State, and having that example before me of the perfect ease with which Board action could be entirely dispensed with while the form was retained, I did not anticipate any difficulty in a similar procedure at the Admiralty. And now I will pass from this subject to the actual division of work which I made at the end of 1868. The great business of the Admiralty was divided into three sections - the first, relating to the Fleet and the personnel of the Navy; the second, concerning the matériel of the Navy; the third, Finance. I may say there was a fourth - that is, the conduct of the routine and machinery, - in my opinion, the key to the harmonious and good-working of the whole system. In charge of the personnel was Admiral Sir Sydney Dacres, whom I had recommended for this office first, because I believe he is the sailor of his rank who has seen more sea service and who knows more of the wants of the navy and of the seamen than any other officer; and, secondly, because he was a member of the previous Board of Admiralty; and I hoped with his assistance to insure continuity of action. Under him were placed two officers of high rank in the navy - one the Junior Naval Lord, the other an officer who is now called the Chief of the Staff, and who, though not in name a Lord of the Admiralty, transacts, under the Senior Naval Lord, business in the same manner as the Junior Naval Lord. There were, therefore, for the transaction of the personnel business three officers of high rank.
Ma 29 January 1872
For the matériel Sir Spencer Robinson was appointed, with the title of Third Lord and Controller. I have already alluded to the very valuable proposals in Sir Spencer Robinson's papers of 1861 and 1867, and having had occasion in the Committee of the House of Commons of the previous year, when a very strong attack was directed against Sir Spencer Robinson, from which be considered that he was insufficiently defended by his superiors in office, to take the labouring oar to defend him, I felt confident we should secure unity and cordiality of action. Assisting the Controller there would be three great officers, the Constructor, under whom Steam would also be brought, and who would act with respect to the dockyards as a quasi-Assistant Controller: the Director of Naval Ordnance, no longer an acting officer, but a regular member of the Department, in charge of gunnery questions, and the head of the Naval Store Department, the bringing of which under the Controller was one of the most pointed recommendations of the Committee of 1861 - a recommendation which had not been carried out. With reference to finance, my colleague, whom I was very glad to see in that position, was Mr. Baxter, under whose charge were placed all the financial operations of the Department with respect to the ordinary control and expenditure, and also with respect to the purchase of stores and the large contracts made by the Department. Mr. Baxter's position has, I think, been somewhat misunderstood, and I will try to define it. The Department responsible for each branch of expenditure made its recommendation; it was Mr. Baxter's duty to criticize it in the financial sense before it came to me, where my decision was necessary. Presuming that Mr. Baxter and the head of the Department concurred, the matter was simple enough. If they differed, it was my custom to see both, hear what they had to say, and come to my own responsible decision. Under Mr. Baxter were placed the Civil Lord - I did not alter the title - who took the minor business and some miscellaneous entirely connected with finance, and the two great departments of the Accountant-General and that concerned with contracts. I ought to explain to the Commission why I did not make that arrangement in the first instance with Mr. Baxter which, under other circumstances, I should have made. Mr. Baxter, when he joined the Department, was in bad health, and in assigning to him the charge of the question of stores, the part of the Admiralty business which had most thoroughly broken down before the close of 1858, I thought I should be assigning to him too much if I also gave him the usual business of an Under Secretary in Parliament. That is to say, I did not pass through Mr. Baxter's hands as the Second Parliamentary Officer of Government the ordinary business of the Department not connected with finance, and for the deliberate reason that, at first, if I had done so, I thought it would be too much for his health. It had been my intention when the store business had been disposed of then to place Mr. Baxter as a Parliamentary officer in precisely the same position as the second Parliamentary officer holds in all other Departments. In consideration of these great changes in the business of the Department some alterations were made in the salaries of the officers. I won't go into details, or I could show to the Commission, as I showed in Parliament, that with respect to the cost of the superior officers of the Department several thousand pounds, 5,000l., or 6,000l., were saved by the new arrangements in respect to the salaries of officers of 1,000l. a year or more. But to encourage and remunerate the great additional labour and responsibility thrown on the First Sea Lord and on the Third Lord and Controller by the altered arrangements, the additions of 500l. and 400l. were made to their salaries, and accepted by them as part of the new organization; and I must repeat what I said before, that from none of the officers concerned did I hear the smallest whisper of misunderstanding as to their new functions, which were brought into operation at once, these new functions mainly consisting in the substitution of what is properly called departmental individual for Board action. I will now state to the Commission the reforms following up this change, which were established one after another. Within a few days the Controller's office was amalgamated with the Secretariat - I forget exactly with what economy in the number of persons who required to be employed, but it was very considerable indeed. I previously stated that each of these Departments wrote and copied its own letters, kept a separate record, and treated each Department as if it were outlying. All this was of course stopped at once. Then the Chief Constructor and his assistants were brought departmentally more under the Controller. Instead of 62 in one and 39 in the other - that is, altogether 101 officers - there were left only 79, a reduction of 22 officers in these two Departments occurred at once, in consequence of the stoppage of this reduplication of business when brought departmentally under the Controller. The Chief Constructor was made practically an assistant to the Controller, having at his disposal the clerical staff, which was very great indeed under the former system; and the Controller and Chief Constructor under him were assigned a limited authority as to expenditure without taking superior orders. The separate steam branch was abolished, and the business brought under the Constructor. The clerical and professional staff, about which there had been a pile of correspondence in past years, was, I think, finally and satisfactorily settled, and a new system in accounts was matured which brought to the Controller and to the Constructor under him rapidly and correctly the most complete information, in a financial point of view, as to their business. And on this point perhaps the Commission will permit me to say that the subject had for years past received grave attention from committees, in, I think, all of which I had borne some part. In 1854-65 a Finance Committee in the Admiralty, of which I was the chairman, reorganized from head to foot this branch of the accounts. In 1868 Mr. Seely's Committee took the subject up, and devoted themselves for some days, if not weeks, specially to the great object of having the accounts for the use primarily of the Controller and the Constructor, and ultimately of Parliament, made thoroughly effectual; and that report endorsed, with entire approval, the changes I had assisted in making in 1864-65. In 1869 we subjected the whole matter again to the most careful internal revision, and I ought to say that, in doing so, we followed the intention of our predecessors. We placed at the bead ultimately of this Department of Account for the purpose of ships and repairs in connexion with the Controller, the gentleman who before the Committee of the House of Commons had shown the most perfect and satisfactory knowledge of the subject - I mean Mr. Fellows - and I am in a position to say that, while I believe that nothing can be final, and improvements must be made in all systems and organizations from time to time, the system of account is thoroughly satisfactory, is working entirely well, and has justified the anticipations of the Controller when it was started, who stated it was exactly what he wanted. We also at the dockyards endeavoured to follow up the principles of reform which I have already indicated. The Committee of the House of Commons had recommended that three dockyards should be closed - Woolwich, Sheerness, and Pembroke. I differed with all humility as to Pembroke. I should be sorry to see that dockyard closed. But as our predecessors had closed Deptford, so we determined to close Woolwich; and within a month of the appointment of the new Board it was decided that in nine months' time Woolwich Dockyard should be closed. It was also my intention prospectively greatly to reduce Sheerness Dockyard, though not by any means to close it, as Chatham Dockyard became extended and could undertake its work; and one, though not the chief, of the reasons which actuated me in the matter was the knowledge that probably Sheerness was the least satisfactory dockyard the Government had. I know it has been stated there was a wish on the part of the Chief Constructor to postpone the closing of Woolwich. He says so in his evidence at question 11,952 and he gives it as the apology for not having transmitted the history of the Megaera from Woolwich to Sheerness, but after the search which I have been allowed to make I have found no record of that opinion, and if given it most have been given verbally. So far as I am aware, at the present moment, it never reached me. We commenced, as to the internal administration of the dockyards, reforms of a very valuable and, I believe, in the end thorough character. I have said it was my opinion that the great shipbuilding and repairing establishments should for this purpose, and use the words "this purpose" markedly, be put under the administration of a civil manager, so that while the Admiral or Captain Superintendent, where such officer exists, would have the general charge, it might be practicable to bring home professional responsibility to the civil manager. I proceeded in this, however, very cautiously and tentatively. We took an early opportunity of combining the shipwright and engineer, just as we had combined them in the Controller's office. I think that operation is carried out at three dockyards, the old system being allowed, for valid reasons, to go on pari passu [with equal step; without partiality], at the others and later also tentatively - that is to say, in only two dockyards we placed in the hand of a person holding the combined office the supreme charge of stores, attaching a store officer to him; and in that way we hoped by degrees to work out a system under which all the branches of shipbuilding and repairs could be put under one civil officer. We also reduced the number of grades of officers, and we improved the organization of the dockyards by giving greater latitude to the local officers with respect to expenditure, and - a task which is by no means complete - we endeavoured to abolish masses of useless forms, useless writings which took up the time of the professional officers, and did all in our power to encourage them to promote reforms of this kind, so that they might be as little at the desk and as much at their work as could be arranged. Meanwhile other reforms, more or less connected with these, were being carried out at the central office. It is no easy thing to bring together a mass of clerical establishments under, or nearly under, one roof in a few months. But one by one we did so. The Coastguard Department, with great advantage to the public, was abolished as a separate little Admiralty, its business conducted at Whitehall, and we found that, instead of, I think 17 clerks who formerly did the business, the business could be as well done by the existing clerks with the addition of only two.

Mr. ROTHERY. - There were 18 clerks before, and they have been entirely abolished.

Mr. Childers. - There were, I think, two clerks retained at first; but, with that exception, the duties were absorbed in other departments. The Works Department and the Accountant-General's Department in New-street were brought up to Whitehall. The Stores Department and the Victualling Department were also brought up, and, later, the Transport Department; so that, with the exception of a portion of the accounts, as to which very little reference is made from Whitehall, and with the exception of the Medical Department - I don't know whether that has been brought up since I left - and the Solicitor's Department, the whole of the Admiralty Departments have been concentrated. After great pains and the reports of successive committees and of individual officers, the whole business connected with the purchase of stores and material has been concentrated in one hand, the principles of the office being more commercial than they were before, with, I believe, very decided advantage both as to efficiency and economy. And on all these matters, so far as they concern the matériel of the Navy - and I have travelled outside that as little as I could possibly help - I received great assistance from the Controller of the Navy, and I did my best cordially to support him. I have had opportunities of making inquiries which I believe are full, and I find that in the 18 mouths which elapsed from the time of my appointment to the time when I was first taken ill in May or June, 1870 - the time when Mr. Reed left the Department - all the arrangements which I had made, so far as they exclusively refer - and I use these words deliberately - so far as they exclusively refer to the business of the Controller of the Navy and matériel, both in respect to business, with respect to accounts, with respect to expenditure, and with respect to his staff, were made in entire accord with him, and his proposals were approved by myself. I would refer, for one moment, at this point to the statement made by the late Controller of the Navy in his examination the other day, which would appear not quite consistent with what I have just said, and as to which I wish to make the clearest explanation. In page 24 of Sir Spencer Robinson's evidence, question 14,879, - the question being, "Will you explain what your duties were and what you did in the case of the Megaera?" - the witness brings in, if I may so say, head and shoulders, a matter not germane to the question, and says that on the l5th of July he had remonstrated with the First Lord against the unprepared condition of the Navy, and also he had strongly remonstrated with me on the speech I had made on the 1st of August in the House of Commons, telling me that was not a correct statement of its condition. I think, in fact I am certain, that in making this statement Sir Spencer Robinson's memory was at fault. Between the beginning of July, when the first apprehension at the war between Germany and France was felt, and an early day in August, when Her Majesty's Government decided what additional preparations to secure our neutrality were necessary, I had frequent, earnest, most important communications with the Controller of the Navy, and I believe that, in the end, what Her Majesty's Government decided to do was not very far, if at all different, from what he had proposed. But if, in the answer, taken in connexion with another, No. 14,971, in which Sir Spencer Robinson alludes to the policy of the Government as being to cut down everything to the lowest - it he implied by those answers that to that policy he had objected, I must repeat that his memory was at fault. I believe so because in one of the papers - a very confidential paper in some respects - which he addressed to me, its date being the 25th of July, he uses these words, "I have taken an active part in the reduction of establishments and expenditure, and, far from regretting that part, I rejoice at having been able to take my share in very large and important reductions of the national expenditure. If it were all to be done again, notwithstanding recent events, I should not hesitate to advocate the measures which have been carried out; and the only change I would have desired would have been more thoroughness and decision in dealing with certain establishments and persons who have thwarted all genuine reforms." That, I think, fairly exonerates me, I do not say from any charge, but any suggestion contained in these answers.

Lord LAWRENCE. - What is the date of that letter?

Mr. Childers. - The 26th of July, 1870. I could not with propriety put in the whole letter. It would not be for the public interest that I should do so, relating as it does to confidential matters; but there can be no objection to putting in so much of it as I have read.

Lord LAWRENCE - If there is any serious objection to put in the whole -

Mr. BREWSTER. - I have some doubts if any portion of it should be put in if the whole cannot be put in. My difficulty is this - Sir Spencer Robinson alluded to documents which he had in his possession, but which it would not be good for the public service to produce. He did not read any part of them. I should look on the passage you have read as if he were endeavouring to found on it an argument in favour of some particular arrangement to show that it was not from any desire to stop reform that he made that communication.

Mr. Childers. - There is nothing in the document ultimately of controversy between us. It was an intermediate letter while the Government were considering what they ought to do. I think I have read all that bears on the past transactions. I don't think it would be convenient for the public service to put in the proposals for the future, which had to be dealt with by the Government, and which were of the most delicate and confidential nature.

Mr. BREWSTER. - It would appear to me that what you have read is a portion of his argument, used in order to have his views adopted.

Mr. Childers. - What I have stated it is quite proper to state.

Mr. BREWSTER. - In all probability Sir Spencer Robinson, as soon as he sees your evidence, will say to us - now you have heard so much of this paper from Mr. Childers, I have a claim to put forward that the whole document which I submitted to the First Lord should be put in, and between the two the public service may suffer, which both of you desire should not be the case.

Lord LAWRENCE. - You can state the fact yourself.

Mr. Childers. - I am entirely in the hands of the Commission, and I will quote only what they approve. The fact is simply this - Sir Spencer Robinson's statement was made in forgetfulness of what passed in July, 1870. He has quite properly excluded from his evidence proposals he made for the future, and I don't propose to state anything of that kind; but there is a sentence in that letter as to the past necessary to justify me, which could not in any way prejudice the public service.

Mr. BREWSTER. - Yon may refresh your memory by reference to the letter.

Lord LAWRENCE. - Put it simply as a verbal statement.

Mr. Childers. - I will put it as a verbal statement.

Mr. BREWSTER. - I don't put this question as a matter of legal refinement, by which a court of law would regulate itself. I go on the broad fact the world will judge us by.

Mr. Childers. - I refer to this subject simply to show that at the time to which Sir Spencer Robinson alluded he had assured me that he had taken an active part in the reduction of establishments and expenditure, and that far from regretting that part he rejoiced at having been able to take his share in very large and important reductions of the national expenditure - that if it were all to be done again, notwithstanding recent events, he should not hesitate to advocate the measures which have been carried out, and that the only change he would have desired would have been more thoroughness and decision in dealing with certain establishments and persons who had thwarted all genuine reforms.

Lord LAWRENCE. - That will meet the difficulty.

Mr. Childers. - Then, coming to the second statement, the late Controller of the Navy says that I made a speech on the 1st of August, and that after making that speech he remonstrated with me, telling me that my speech was not a correct statement of the condition of the Navy. I am confident that Sir Spencer Robinson forgot the whole facts when he made that statement. What happened was this - On the 1st of August a debate in the House of Commons was anticipated with reference to the comparative strength of the English and French Navy. I was occupied a considerable part of the morning in making a thorough preparation for that debate. I had in my room my private secretary, for part of the time Sir Spencer Robinson himself, and the head of the military branch; and there was a very careful elaboration of the facts which we possessed, as to the relative strength of these two navies, present and prospective, and their state of preparedness. The result of this very careful investigation was reduced to the form required for use in the House of Commons, and when I spoke, which was rather late in the evening, in answer to remarks on the other side, I held this paper in my hand and read it verbatim. I believe I spoke during the dinner hour, and as sometimes then happens, the reporter! who commonly send down to members for figures and documents, omitted to send for mine, and in the report next morning my figures were only partially quoted, and I think not quite accurately. When I came to the office t received, somewhat to my surprise, a memorandum from Sir Spencer Robinson in rather strong language, calling attention to the inaccurate statement which I had made the day before. I sent for him; I told him that I thought before preparing such a memorandum it would have been convenient if he had spoken to me to know whether the newspaper report was correct, and I showed him the paper from which I had read in the House. He then prepared a fresh memorandum, the original of which I hold here, and which only says that the First Lord's speech on Monday, the 1st of August, had been erroneously reported. I think he must have forgotten that, and I don't think I am wrong in calling attention to it when he speaks of me as having made an inaccurate statement. Now, passing from this to the main question, as I was stating it before, I have said that as to the staff and the accounts of the Controller's Office, I believe there was no divergence between as, and I mention this, because in the evidence of Mr. Reed, the late Constructor, at question 12,229, a statement is made that the staff is too small. I have been allowed to cause the fullest inquiry to be made, and I am told that there is no instance in which any application was made for additional staff where the application was not complied with. But here also I am bound to allude to a statement in Mr. Reed's evidence - question 12,410 - in answer to which he says that the sizes of ships have been fixed on, as the first condition, because of economical objects - that the ruling condition had been economy and not efficiency. Now, I am bound to give the most absolute contradiction to that statement, I don't think it appears in any other part of the evidence - so far as I am aware; but it is not only incorrect, but I may say it is the opposite - the very reverse of correct. I have had an opportunity of conferring with Sir Sydney Dacres, because the imputation is a serious one to him as well as to me, and he authorizes me to say, as it rested with us to decide on the Controller's proposals, that we never made economy the first consideration in dealing with questions of the size of ships. I will give some instances which I think are conclusive. The first ships we approved were the Devastation class. They were very much larger than the Glatton, and when they were approved we were told by Mr. Reed that the design of 4,400 tons was an advance and could be rapidly brought to completion. There was no suggestion on our part to cut it down. The next we approved was the Rupert; that also was an enlarged ship of the type already approved when our predecessors laid down the Hotspur. The next was the Fury, which is an enlarged Devastation, It was proposed to be longer by the Controller; and its construction was approved by Sir Sydney Dacres and myself without hesitation. There is a remarkable instance of controversy as to the size of ships on which, if I am to be blamed at all, it must be for having come to a decidedly uneconomical conclusion. The Fury, Rupert, and Devastation were the three descriptions of ironclads, the only three approved before Mr. Reed left office. But, in the early part of 1870, there was a very great controversy in the Admiralty as to the size of unarmoured frigates and corvettes. The Controller and Constructor desired to maintain and continue building ships of the two classes - the Inconstant class of 4,000 tons and the Volage class of 2,000 tons. My naval adviser, especially Sir Sydney Dacres, desired very much an intermediate class of ship, and pressed very strongly on me to commence the construction of a new class of 3,000 tons. They did not ask for the 4,000 tons type; - they did ask for the 3,000 tons type. The Controller and Constructor desired to construct the 4,000 and the 2,000 tons ships, and I in the end uneconomically decided on the construction of the 4,000 and 3,000 tons ships. So that in any case of controversy as to the size of ships I did not take the economical point of view, but distinctly the uneconomical view, and I believe my decision was a sound one. There is also another point in connexion with those matters of concurrence with the recommendations of the Controller and Constructor on which I must say a word, and it is with respect to the sale of old ships. It has been suggested that we ought to have sold the Megaera, and it has been hinted that we did not sufficiently carry out that policy of the sale of old ships which would have ended in the greater efficiency of the Navy. In that respect I certainly am in a peculiar position at this moment. I have been subject to considerable reproach in Parliament for having sold too many ships, and now, for the first time, I am told I did not sell enough. The real facts are these: - Not very long after the New Admiralty was formed we obtained from Parliament an amendment of the Store Act, under which the sale of old ships will be more easy; and I then directed schedules to be prepared showing with respect to all the ships in the Navy those which were proposed to be retained for service at sea, which were brought under schedule A; those which were to be retained for harbour and coast service, which were placed in schedule B, and those to be considered disposable; and having obtained that return, we carried out as vigorously as we could the sale of those ships which were considered disposable; and I find that the number of ships sold between the time of our taking office and July, 1870, when Mr. Reed left the department, was no less than 69 - a very large number, indeed, compared with those sold over a long series of years before. But I find this, and my attention was never drawn to it before, that in that list of ships, all, of course, unarmoured, no account seems to have been taken of troops or storeships, of coastguard vessels or others of that kind. I allude to this to show that we endeavoured to systematize the sale of old and obsolete ships, and if the Megaera ought to have been sold, and if she was not sold it is because she was not included in that schedule on which we act.
Ma 29 January 1872
And, now, having, I think, made all the statements which appear to me to bear on that part of my answer to the question, I mean how far in the new arrangements of the Admiralty there was entire accord between myself and the officers in charge of the material, I will proceed to explain to the Commission what was done with respect to the Secretariat and the registry, record, and dealings with the papers of the department. Between December, 1868, and Midsummer, l869, Mr. Romaine was the Secretary of the Admiralty, and I think I may say carried out the new arrangements with remarkable vigour and success, and well deserved the promotion to the very high office in India which he has since held. He left us in Midsummer, 1869, and soon after the appointment was notified to him he was good enough to speak to me about the selection of a successor. I asked him whom he recommended. He strongly recommended Mr. Lushington, who accordingly received the appointment. When he was appointed the arrangements under which the different sub-departments were being brought one by one into connexion with the central office at Whitehall were still incomplete, though a good number had been carried out; and feeling the greatest interest in the subject and great anxiety that we should in no way suffer damage from the change in the hands charged specially with matters of this kind, I had frequent and very earnest conversations with Mr. Lushington, for whom I have always had the very highest regard. My instructions to him on coming into office were these - I said to him, in the first instance make yourself thorough master of the procedure and routine of the office in all its parts. When you have done that, make it your first business to superintend and keep an eye on that procedure and routine. See that all papers go right to the proper people, accompanied by the papers which ought to accompany them, and that the results, the decisions of those at the head of the office, are duly executed. I said, then by degrees take up, little by little, the duty of advising upon the larger questions on which the heads of the department seek advice from the permanent officials, and at the same time do your utmost to improve the routine, which, considering the coming in of so many sub-departments, naturally would require, no doubt, some considerable changes. I told him to bear in mind this principle, that all the heads of the clerical branches in the department must be considered as parts of himself - as his agents, who, so far as it might be found convenient, would send minute papers directly to the heads who gave the orders (for it was impossible he could do everything, or that everything should he gone into by himself), but he was the embodiment of the permanent Admiralty Department; and in process of time this state of things ought to exist, that if all the heads of the office whose tenure depends on considerations of a political character were removed, he and the heads of branches ought to have such a grasp of the business that they could carry it out until new heads of the office were warm in their seats. I told him that in carrying out this he might always rely on all the care I could possibly give to the subject, or spare from the other very important duties of the First Lord of the Admiralty. Shortly after this a committee was appointed to deal with the whole of the business of the branches of the Admiralty, especially from the clerical point of view. The committee consisted of Sir Spencer Robinson, Mr. Trevelyan, the Civil Lord, and Mr. Lushington, and they sat for a very considerable time, and ultimately furnished me with an exceedingly valuable report. I hold in my hand the original report. It extends over 59 pages, and goes into every possible detail. It deals with hundreds of questions connected with the detailed business of the department. It is very exhaustive, and, if I may venture to say so, it is very sound, with certain exceptions to which I will allude. With respect to the staff of the office, dealt with very largely in this report, I am in a position to say - Mr. Wolley, the Chief Clerk of the Admiralty, authorizes me to say - that the staff of the office is ample for its business; that the reductions made in 1869 are fully justified by the event, and that, in fact, the report is fully carried out, except that there are now two junior clerks, instead of two writers, pending the absorption of two in the establishment in excess. But the report, most able, exhaustive, and most satisfactory as it was, contained three proposals as it was originally put before me, for I ought to say I had frequent meetings with the committee during the progress of their inquiry, and I devoted hours to these questions - the report dealt with three matters involving some difficulty. The first was a suggestion which does not appear in the final report, that, instead of the letters of the Admiralty being signed by Secretaries or Assistant Secretaries, they should be signed by the lords themselves. For instance, the letters to the dockyards should be signed by the Controller, and the letters to the fleet by the First Sea Lord or some one representing him. I called the committee's attention to the fact that there would be no inconsiderable difficulty in this, and that so long as the Board of Admiralty was constituted as a Board such a plan would not be feasible, and that instructions must be written in the name of the Secretary. The other difficulty in dealing with the whole subject was one to which I attached much importance, and in which I thoroughly concurred with the committee. It appeared to me most necessary to establish some fresh classification of salaries of officers, not in the sense of reduction, for I agree with those who think what we had to deal with vigorously was numbers, not salaries, and that in bringing together all the scattered branches, paid on very different systems, some new classification of salaries should be devised; but I said it was an exceedingly difficult and complicated matter, and it was far better that the different branches should be brought together that year, and next year, before next year's Estimates, we should have time to take up and deal with a new classification of salaries. The third difficulty was that which has been so frequently before the Commission. I mean the best arrangement for the registration, the digest, and the record of official papers. The committee recommended a system of a novel character which had very great advantages, and at the same time was open in my judgment, to no small criticism. The committee proposed that each sub-department should open its own letters, keep its own registry, direct the letters through the necessary channel, execute the orders made on them, and then send those letters into a central record office for the purpose of digest; that those letters should then come back to the sub-department, remain there for the current year and the whole of the next, and then go to the final registry office. On the other hand, the system in force in the old departments of the Admiralty was nearly the converse. The letters there are all opened in one place. There was no original registry. They were sent from that to the proper officers to be dealt with as their subject required, and when dealt with, having been only kept in the sub-department, as it were, in transit, till the subject was concluded, they would be sent at once to the record office to be digested and put away.

Sir F. ARROW. - There was no registry at all when they were entered.

Mr. Childers. - I don't wish to dogmatize on a question of this kind. I don't feel competent to do so for this is eminently a question of experience, and one on which I should wish to have the very careful service of the most experienced persons. But it seemed to me there was a great advantage in both the arrangement, therefore, which was come to was that the new system should be adopted for the new branches and every department connected with the matériel and the Controller, but there should be a suspension for one year in the old branches, except that the inwards register should be at once formed. I emphasize suspension for a year because both Mr. Lushington and Sir Spencer Robinson speak of me as disapproving the suggestion, which was not the case. I wish to see the two systems working pari passu, and the report distinctly says that this would occasion no difficulty. At the end of the year uniformity was to be adopted. With reference to past records there was no express recommendation, but the Controller's had been kept upon a plan satisfactory to him, and they are still in charge of one of his former officers and as accessible as ever. These reforms and the others to which I have alluded were being steadily carried one by one up to the middle of 1870. In May, however, I was first taken ill, and partially incapacitated for work. At the end or June Mr. Reed resigned to accept a lucrative offer from Sir Joseph Whitworth [1803 - 1887, engineer and entrepreneur], and in the following month the French and German war broke out, diverting our attention from questions of organization. In September the Captain was lost, and the nearly undivided attention of the heads of the office was given to the consequences of that great disaster. In December my own illness removed me finally from business. But for this I had fully hoped in the autumn and winter of 1870-71 to complete the reforms of organization which had been carried out continuously till the previous summer, and Mr. Lushington had received my instructions to prepare the draught of voluminous regulations defining the duties and procedure of every department and sub-department in the service.

At the conclusion of Mr. Childers's statement the Commission adjourned for a quarter of an hour.

In answer to questions by Lord LAWRENCE, Mr. Childers said that it was his custom, when questions were discussed in which more than one division of the Admiralty were concerned, to summon the heads of departments together, and to allow the question to be debated in his presence. An instance had been adduced in which he was supposed not to have done this - namely, in the case of the difference of opinion about the Inconstant class of 4,000 tons, the Raleigh of 3,000, and the Volage of 2,000 tons; but he had seen the papers, and on the face of them the allegation was conclusively disproved. On the 11th of February, 1870, he made a formal minute requesting Sir Sydney Dacres, Sir S. Robinson, Lord J. Hay, and Mr. Reed to meet in his room to discuss this question on Monday, the 14th. They so met, as did (be rather thought, but was not quite sure) Captain Hood, the Director of Ordnance, and his private secretary, the present Admiral Seymour. His minute ordering both a second Inconstant end the Raleigh was dated the same day, the 14th; and it was made after carefully weighing the arguments for and against each of the proposals made. In reply to further questions, Mr. Childers said that be saw no objection to special meetings for discussion of the Lords and Secretaries, or of the Lords without the Secretaries (which Lord Lawrence suggested) if they happened to be exactly the persons whose advice was most useful on a particular question; but he strongly objected to the waste of time and inutility which were involved in keeping seven or eight gentlemen together when the advice of two, three, or four only was wanted. He was for full consideration and discussion of every question, and for the record on paper, before final decisions, of differences when necessary; but he saw no object in bringing gentlemen together merely to hear (as a previous witness had said) each others' business. Lord Lawrence asked whether he thought the practice at Calcutta a good model for the Admiralty, explaining the system under which points of difference were discussed and the protests of the minority recorded, to which Mr. Childers replied that he knew little of Indian practice, and that the system might be excellent for a Government conducted at such a distance from the head-quarters in London, but he could conceive no greater mistake than to allow a member of a governing Board under Parliamentary Government in London to record, after a decision, his protest against it. Such an arrangement would be pernicious in the extreme.

Lord LAWRENCE having called Mr. Childers's attention to the mistakes which had followed the imperfect system of registration and record of letters,
Mr. Childers said that it was not for him to justify the arrangements before 1869. No error had arisen in the present case from the system adopted then, and he proceeded to explain, that there appeared to be some great misapprehension about the Controller's previous papers, all of which were still in the charge of a gentleman in the former Controller's office, so that there still practically existed a double record of these former papers. The two papers which had gone wrong - namely, the Report of 1865 and Commodore Edmonstone's telegram - were mislaid in consequence of the vicious arrangements to which he had put a stop in 1869. Every such telegram would now go to the Controller and his office; and the separate steam branch in another street, where the report was buried, had been abolished. In answer to further questions Mr. Childers thought Sir S. Robinson's, Mr. Reed's, and Captain Luard's evidence made the matter quite clear as to the responsibility for the repairs to the Megaera up to the time of her being put out of commission. He could give no opinion as to the conflict between Sir S. Dacres', Sir S. Robinson's, and Lord John Hay's recollections of conversations subsequently. In his opinion the present division of business and regulations enabled responsibility to be clearly brought home; and no system of duplicate or triplicate checks would be infallible to prevent mistakes. In the end yon must look to the efficiency of the administrators, and the real security to the country lies in the selection of competent men, their sense of responsibility, and the power of bringing them unmistakably to account.

Mr. BREWSTER commenced his examination of Mr. Childers by saying that he would not ask any questions on some matters to which he had alluded beyond the reference to the Commission, to which Mr. Childers replied that he had referred to no matters which the Commission had not allowed to remain on their minutes.

In reply to Mr. BREWSTER, the witness explained that the list of ships prepared for the question of sale, and divided into classes, A, B, and C, was the result of a minute by Sir S. Robinson, made after communication with him; that in that minute no special reference was made to troop-ships, store-ships, yachts, &c., and that they were not included in the list, although many small ships not so included were sold; and that no recommendation to sell the Megaera was ever made to him. He had been so much attacked for selling too many ships that he was hardly prepared to be told he had not sold enough. He explained in come detail the position in which he thought the "civil manager" at a dockyard, as he had called him in the House of Commons, should be placed, having, under the naval superintendent, where such an officer was required, responsibility for shipbuilding and repairing, and the stores. He had fully weighed the difficulty as to the stores being under the control of the officer who had to use them; but the civil manager would be like the professional manager of a great engineering firm, responsible to the partners.

Mr. BREWSTER having asked whether, in Mr. Childers's opinion, the Board of Admiralty should be abolished in name as well as that it should cease to administer as a Board, Mr. Childers said, - I have long thought over this question, but it involves questions of policy of such importance beyond departmental administration that, unless forced to give offhand the opinion to which my mind inclines, I would rather not do so now.

In answer to other questions, Mr. Childers said that if it were contended that under the patent all the members of the Board were responsible for all the business, and were entitled to be consulted on every question, the state of things during the last 40 years was unjustifiable, and Board administration in any shape became absolutely impracticable. He did not think that anything would be gained to the country by such a contention, or that such a supposed responsibility insured any advantage. Practically it would only act as a shield to incompetency.

Sir F. ARROW asked a series of questions as to the wisdom of a weekly meeting of the Board, at which such a question as the putting the Megaera into the first or fourth division of the Reserve might be discussed, to which Mr. Childers replied, recapitulating his former statements of the wisdom of frequent discussions with all the persons concerned in the special branches of business, but he added that, inasmuch as such a question as had been adverted to would not have come to the Board when it met five times a week, having always been settled by the First Sea Lord and Controller, he was sure it would not be discussed if meetings were only weekly. Sir F. Arrow having suggested that in cases of differences between the chiefs the junior members of the Board might with advantage make suggestions, Mr. Childers replied by reference again to previous evidence, showing that in such questions of importance the discussions were never held in the Board-room.

In answer to Mr. ROTHERY, Mr. Childers said, emphatically, - I deny that, in the case of any ship requiring money to be expended on her, efficiency has ever in my time been sacrificed to economy. Noticing that about the same month in which the Megaera's repairs were discussed, in 1870, the Simoom, a ship built at the came date, a second-class transport, was also ordered to be repaired, I asked yesterday leave to see the papers, and I hold in my hand the minutes made. Mr. Reed reported that to put her into thorough repair would cost nearly 3,000l., and to make her good for short services under 900l., and asked which was to be done. Sir S. Robinson referred to the Director of Transports to know whether she could be spared for six mouths, and his report that she could be spared was approved by the Naval Lord, Lord John Hay. On this Sir Spencer recommended the larger expenditure; Mr. Baxter concurred, and I approved. This is a fair sample, and I looked it up without any recollection of the facts.

Mr. ROTHERY. - Can you account for the Megaera having been put into the first Reserve?

Mr. Childers. - I have read the answers of Sir S. Robinson, Lord John Hay, and (in The Times) of Sir S. Dacres, and I suspect - but it is only a guess - that they all omit one element in the question. At this time, the beginning of August, 1870, the public mind was much agitated by the war, and by the prospect of our having to strengthen our reserves; and I strongly suspect that both Captain Luard and the officers at Whitehall were influenced by this when it became a question to dismantle a ship of the Megaera's capabilities, which, however uncomfortable and oldfashioned, was supposed to be seaworthy. A somewhat similar question passes through my mind as illustrating our feelings at that time. We had been just before that time asked to promise certain assistance to learned societies, under which two or three ships would have been placed at their disposal in the following December to convey astronomers to Spain and Sicily; but in view of the war, and the special precautions under the vote of credit, it was impossible to pledge ourselves to allot these three ships, and it was suggested that the application might be made three months later. I suspect that a similar feeling guided these officers in not advising that the Megaera should be dismantled, but I offer this as a guess only.

Mr. ROTHERY then took Mr. Childers through portions of Mr. Barnaby's and Mr. Reed's evidence, and Mr. Childers expressed his concurrence with the explanations given. He spoke of Mr. Barnaby as, in his opinion, an honourable and able officer. Mr. Rothery also referred to Mr. Lushington's evidence, and Mr. Childers said he believed he understood Mr. Lushington's meaning in the cases of answers which have been criticized. One answer and the question which led to it were equally ill-expressed. Being asked whether he saw anything to object to in Mr. Lushington's evidence, he replied that Mr. Lushington was a man of honour, and doubtless would not say anything he did not believe to be true. In answer to a question whether Mr. Lushington had received written instructions, Mr. Childers replied no, and that no general written instructions were, so far as he was aware, ever given to any permanent head of a great department. Mr. Rothery having carried Mr. Childers through the answers as to the registration and other proposals made by Sir S. Robinson's Committee, asked whether Mr. Childers remembered the separate confidential paper of the 15th of December, 1869, given at full length in Sir S. Robinson's evidence?

Mr. Childers. - I do not remember it, and it is not with the official papers, nor have I been able to lay my hand on it among my own. But, of course, as Sir S. Robinson mentions it, I must have received it. I have, however, found another paper, which he gave me during the inquiry of the committee, in which he recommends the appointment of three chief clerks, and expresses a doubt as to the necessity of a permanent secretary. But his opinion was not then fully formed, I think. There is, however, one passage in this paper, which reads so like a prophecy, that, although it tells against myself, I think I may read it, - "I presume that it is evident that Admiralty reform is more or less on its trial, and that in pushing it forward the First Lord will be subjected to the keenest and most malevolent criticism, both for what he has done, and for what he intends to do."

Mr. CHAPMAN asked Mr. Childers some questions as to the promotion of master shipwrights, and the feasibility of having two at one dockyard of the same rank, to which he replied that Mr. Chapman's suggestions would doubtless receive full consideration by the Admiralty, but he hardly felt competent to give an opinion on them off-hand.

Mr. Childers, who appeared in vigorous health, and whose examination lasted over five hours, was complimented by Lord LAWRENCE upon the very able and satisfactory manner in which he had given his evidence. The noble President of the Commission also expressed his satisfaction that Mr. Childers' health was sufficiently restored to stand so long an examination. The right hon. gentleman replied he was not at all fatigued.

The Committee room was crowded during the whole day, several ladies being present, among whom was Mrs. Childers.

The Commission adjourned till Monday (this day), at 11 o'clock.
Ma 29 January 1872The sir hours' examination of Mr. CHILDERS by the Megaera Commission on Saturday last will at once re-assure his friends on the subject of his recovered strength and explain to the public the break-down of his Admiralty administration. His part in connexion with the Megaera was narrated in the first ten minutes, and only completed the chain of evidence we now possess, that from the Chief to the humblest official absolute ignorance as to her condition prevailed. The apportionment of blame for this miscarriage of administration, at once so astounding and yet so easily accounted for, we may safely leave for the present to the Royal Commissioners. The Admiralty system remains to be considered, and lies outside the Megaera reference. Both parties have been heard, and the time has come to decide between them.

Unless we wholly misconceive the temper both of the Navy and of the country, the Board of Admiralty must be maintained. As an organ of administration in time of peace it has exhibited undoubted defects, but they are not of the essence of the institution, and may, we believe, be wholly remedied. As a governing body it has at all times performed its work with more real efficiency than has attended the working of the sister service; and in time of war, when such institutions are practically tried, it has more than held its own in comparison with its rival. Englishmen will not forget that in the Crimean War the double government of our Army thoroughly collapsed, while the Navy, so far as occasion served, maintained its ancient reputation; nor will the glories of the Navy, all won under a Board of Admiralty, ever cease to be remembered while history exists. The Navy has been always and in every sense the popular service of the country. The Government of the Army has been aristocratic, while the Navy has been the profession of the middle class; and it has been its boast that it has furnished a more open career to merit than under a less professional constitution would be likely to prevail. There is no alternative - and naval reformers will do well to remember it - between a Board, in which government and administration are blended, and the dual government of a Minister of State and a Commander-in-Chief. Neither the country nor the profession would ever tolerate a civilian as Lord High Admiral, combining in himself the functions both of discipline and of administration. The usage of more than a century has limited and defined the partition of power in a professional Board with a politician at the head, and, unless it be certain that the Board of Admiralty is incapable of administrative reform, neither Parliament nor the country will consent to its abolition.

Mr. CHILDERS detailed with great clearness the history and shortcomings o£ the ancient régime. Prior to the naval reforms of Sir JAMES GRAHAM, the administrative business was conducted by the Navy Board at Somerset House, while the government of our fleets was intrusted to the Board of Admiralty at Whitehall, The latter business was on the whole, well conducted, while the former was held to have failed, and it was with general approval that Sir JAMES GRAHAM abolished the Navy Board and transferred its business to the Board of Admiralty. His principal aim was to put an end to the dual government, which had been found to be intolerable, but which in another form it is now sought to reproduce. His great difficulty was to secure administrative efficiency in combination with a Board. He felt the necessity of clearly defining each man's work and holding him individually responsible for its performance. With this view he divided the Civil business of the Admiralty into five great divisions - Dockyards, Stores, Victualling, Medicine, and Public Works - and left the "military" business of the Admiralty, as he found it, under the joint and several control of the old Board. At the head of each of the five great Civil Divisions he placed or continued a permanent officer of the first rank, and then came the problem how best to establish a connexion between the heads of sub-departments and their masters, the Board. There were only two modes of effecting this. The usual organ of communication between a Board or Commission and the world outside, whether the communication be with its own servants or with independent strangers, is the Secretary of the Commission. He is the confidential servant of the collective body, and receives and communicates their instructions. It is his business to collect the information they require, and by virtue of it he becomes their adviser in all matters upon which they choose to consult him. But Sir JAMES GRAHAM probably felt that the Secretaries of the Admiralty were then fully occupied, that their experience had up to that time been exclusively confined to the military branch of the profession, and that without an extension of the Secretariat, involving some expense, he could hardly impose on this branch the new duty of being the medium between the Board and its five great Civil Officers. The alternative was to intrust the function to the individual members of the Board itself, to enlarge the Board so as to consist of five Lords in addition to the Parliamentary Chief, and to give to each of the five junior Lords, in addition to certain military duties, the supervision of one of the five Civil Departments, and the office of communicating between it and the Board itself.

We hold, and we have the authority both of Sir JAMES GRAHAM and of Mr. CHILDERS for holding, that in practice this system of "superintending Lords'' has proved as defective as it is in theory. The advantage of a professional Board consists in its collective wisdom, and the security it gives that radical changes affecting a peculiar service will not be introduced by any rash or inexperienced landsman. The military branch has been conducted with the old measure of success, but the quality for which individual members of the Board of Admiralty have been selected has not been their capacity for civil administration. The first thing which, struck Sir JAMES GRAHAM, on returning to the Admiralty after an absence of more than twenty years, was that the "superintending Lords" were no longer channels, but had become sources, of direction. They had originally no sphere, except as members of the Board, sitting in the Board Room, and with the Secretaries at hand. They had acquired in the course of time separate rooms with separate private secretaries, and superintended their Departments with the same amount of ill-directed control and the same blundering failure which was then and is still the characteristic of the Naval Superintendents of Dockyards. The Accountant-General of the Navy declared, before a Committee of the House of Commons, that he himself, in his private experience, had served under thirty-four different superintending Lords, not one of whom was chosen for any knowledge of the subject-matter or stayed long enough to acquire what at the outset he did not possess. It was the same, or nearly the same, with the rest of the Civil branches. How is it possible that any administration so conducted could succeed? Was there anything in the previous training of the naval Officer to qualify him for the civil post? Was it not disheartening to the permanent servant of the Board to subject him in all the details of administration to a fluctuating body? Was it not contrary to the analogy of all the other Departments of the State? You may govern by a Board or by a single Minister; but if you adopt a Board, it is through the Secretary, and through him alone, that the course of administration must proceed.

It was from the failure to appreciate, at any rate in practise, these important distinctions that, in our opinion, Mr. CHILDERS failed as a Naval Reformer. It would be unjust to refuse him the merit of having, at great and exhausting labour to himself, introduced many important changes. In concentrating all the Offices at Whitehall, instead of keeping them under several roofs, he did much to secure both economy and efficiency. But his reforms were in one sense too daring, and in another sense too timid. He hoped to do things in their nature irreconcilable - to retain the Board and yet abolish it, and to retain, while superseding, the Naval Superintendents of the Dockyards. Whatever is to be our course of policy, we are sure that we do not want a "phantom Board" for the Navy. It pleases no one; it does not gratify, it only insults, the great profession it is meant to conciliate; and you cannot, on any clear principles of administration, work the Civil business without either abolishing the Board or making it a reality. Whether Mr. CHILDERS was more unfortunate in his Secretaries or they in their Chief it seems difficult now to decide. They were both opposed to the existence of a Board, yet both invited to be its organs. He appears to have consulted neither of them in the general business of the Department, and so, when he left, neither of them was able to take his place. In our opinion, whether a Board be or be not retained, the Permanent Secretary must always hold the key of the citadel. But Mr. CHILDERS did all he could to detract from the position of the Permanent Secretary, and Mr. LUSHINGTON did all he could to assist him. Mr. CHILDERS reduced the emoluments of the office, both absolutely and relatively, while Mr. LUSHINGTON voluntarily abandoned to the Controller of the Navy the conduct of the correspondence relating to the greater part of the Civil administration. The conscientious objections which Mr. LUSHINGTON entertained to a Board made him a bad adviser if a Board was to be retained. The result has been an entire collapse of all this branch of the Navy business. The remedy is not far to seek. The Board must again be made a reality, and the Permanent Secretary's functions extended and invigorated. The superintendence of individual Lords of the Admiralty ought to be confined to the personnel of the Navy, and for this there is enough to employ at least three Naval Officers. The Civil Departments appear to have been too much concentrated by Mr. CHILDERS, at any rate if we are to continue the old practice of appointing heads who have to learn the work after the date of their appointment. But, whatever we do, whatever be our scheme of organization, we may be sure that scandals like that of the Megaera and the biscuits will recur if, either at Head-Quarters or in the Dockyards, we select officials on any other grounds than those of experience and capacity for the post.
Tu 30 January 1872


The last sitting of the Royal Commission on the Megaera was held yesterday, in No. 11 Committee-room of the House of Commons, Lord Lawrence presiding. The public interest in the inquiry appeared to be as great as ever, judging by the fact that the room was crowded until the end.

Mr. Burnard Weymouth, one of the chief surveyors of Lloyd's Registry of British and foreign shipping, was called and examined by Lord LAWRENCE, and said that he had had a great amount of experience in regard to iron ships. His attention was called to the report of the survey of the Megaera in 1866, and after an examination of the report, which dealt, it will be remembered, with the thickness of the plates of the ship, he said he regretted having to answer the question whether the ship should have been sent to sea in that condition, for he had to give an opinion in opposition to the opinions of able men who had spoken on the same matter. He held that the vessel was not fit to go to sea with plates as thin as those of the Megaera. were shown to be in 1866 at the water-line; and, moreover, if he had found the water-line plates so thin it would have induced him to make a thorough overhaul of the ship. The wear of plates at the water-line would be less than the wear in the interior of the flat of the bottom if these were not properly protected by cement; but if they had this protection the circumstances of the case would be entirely altered, for there was no saying how long a cemented ship would last. No examination of the outside of the vessel would indicate the condition of the inside, and, in fact, the inside of a vessel would be likely to deteriorate from various causes, while the outside would be quite sound. The witness was shown the pieces of bored iron which the Commission have had placed before them to illustrate how the plates of the Megaera were bored, in 1866 from the outside, and the witness said this boring would be no indication of the ship's interior condition, and wherever there was the boring there the cement in the interior should have been examined. He regarded the Portland cement as the best cement to place on the bottoms of ships, and though he thought that this would protect the insides of ships for 50 years, yet, he said, it would be necessary to make periodical examinations of such ships. Formerly, he said, there were inaccessible parts in iron merchant ships, but owners had been shown how dangerous these places were by heavy losses, and modem ships were so constructed that all parts of the bottom could be got at readily. He spoke as to deterioration to interiors of iron ships being caused by the wash of coal dust in the bilge, and he had seen actual holes in the bottoms of ships caused by galvanic action. In a case which he had seen the iron was worn so thin as to cut the fingers, the edges being sharp and jagged. Another case he mentioned was in a ship in which there was but a quarter of an inch thick of cement, and this cement having been knocked off, the iron was exposed, and became deteriorated by oxydation, being much pitted. The plates in this ship originally were nine-sixteenths of an inch thick, and the deepest indentation in the plates was seven-sixteenths of an inch, so that the iron in that particular part was left at only one-eighth of an inch thick. This particular ship had carried some copper ore, and he thought that some dust of this ore might have got on to the bottom and so raised galvanic action. Lord Lawrence read out the ingredients of which Spence's cement was composed - bone dust, clay, cowhair, soot, fish oil, and Portland cement. The witness said he should certainly not have allowed such a mixture to be placed in a ship under him. He then exhibited some rusted and thin iron plates, illustrative of chymical action. The plates were the floor plates of a composite ship, a ship built of wood and iron, which carried sugar, and these plates, he said, on the annual examination of the ship were found to have quickly deteriorated, and in some places to have wasted away altogether. The rules of Lloyds required that a ship should be subject to an annual examination, and if anything striking were found in that examination, then the owner was required to have the ceiling altogether removed. He thought it quite possible that if plates were worn so thin, a man pressing his thumb on the thinnest part might deflect the iron.

Questioned by Mr. BREWSTER, the witness said, taking the whole history of the ship, with her known condition, she should never have gone to sea without being thoroughly repaired in 1866, and she was still less able to go in after year.

In reply to Sir M. SEYMOUR, the witness said he had had experience in Her Majesty's dockyards, and be thought the position of "inspector" - between the "leading man" and foreman - a desirable position to have been retained. It was now abolished. The witness was then taken over his experience in the Government dockyards. He said he thought officers and workmen in the Government pay were cruelly used. Comparing his experience of the Royal dockyards with his experience of the merchant service, he said he was sure that if the dockyard men were properly led and properly officered, there would be better work, as regards quantity and quality, than could be obtained in the merchant service.

In answer to Sir FREDERICK ARROW the witness said Lloyd's surveyors, who inspected ships, saw every portion of the ships themselves, and were themselves responsible for the condition of every ship they reported upon. It was also elicited that if the surveyors of Lloyd's were not satisfied with a ship's condition as seen on a general survey, they would recommend the owners to have a full survey, and would recommend to the committee that the class of the ship should be suspended until she had had such a survey. He thought the Admiralty "system" was in fault in regard to Royal ships, as these were not inspected with the same precision and completeness as in the merchant service. He thought the responsibility of the officers in the dockyard was too much spread.

In answer to Mr. Rothery, the witness held that the great commercial companies of shipowners should have a system of survey, as, speaking from experience, he said he had known some iron ships bought after use by a company shown to be in a condition that proved them to have kept afloat by luck, as the scraping of the plates had caused a hole to be made in them.

Answering Mr. CHAPMAN, the witness held that the damage which caused the Megaera to be wrecked could not have been caused by her grounding on her anchors. He also held that the system of divided responsibility in the examination of ships existing in Her Majesty's dockyard was a less effective system than the one or direct responsibility in Lloyd's.

Dr. Odling [William Odling, 1829 - 1921], Professor of Chymistry at the Royal Institution, gave evidence with regard to the oxydation of iron. He gave it as his opinion, having considered all the circumstances attending the Megaera, that the means existed in the ship for the oxydation of the iron by the contact of the bilge water with the plates. He thought that the defective iron where the leak was had deteriorated over a course of years, and not rapidly, and he said the piece of metallic substance given to him by Mr. Bidder, the Secretary - the piece of metallic substance which came up in the pumps - was entirely without metallic iron, and was in the condition which iron would be after years of exposure to deterioration such as it would have by the washing of bilge water. He also said that Spence's cement would not have been any good whatever to iron, and he thought he should not have tried this composition on a ship first of all, before trying it on iron; and if the experiment had been tried in a ship it should have been carefully watched. Wherever there was corrosion in iron there was galvanic action to a certain extent, but speedy galvanic action could not have been the cause of the leak in the Megaera. Still further pressed, the witness said he was decidedly of opinion that the deterioration of the Megaera was a matter of years and not of weeks. The case of the Megaera's leak was that of gradual decay lasting over years, resulting from exposure to the action of sea water.

Dr. Edward Franklyn [possibly Sir Edward Frankland, KCB, FRS, 1825- 1899], professor of chymistry, was also of opinion that the leak was the result of continuous exposure to the action of sea-water. Asked if there might not have been some effect of copper on the leak, he said there might in an infinitesimal degree - just as a ton of salt might affect the ocean, but in point of fact the leak was the result of a long-continued deterioration of the particular part.

This was the whole of the evidence forthcoming, and Lord LAWRENCE then said that the Commission, so far as taking evidence was concerned, would adjourn sine die [without a date fixed, i.e. indefinitely].
Sa 3 February 1872



Sir, - In your report of the evidence given by Mr. Childers before the Royal Commission on the Megaera you print an extract from a letter of mine dated July 26, 1870, which was read by Mr. Childers, and to which the Commissioners very properly objected, as Mr. Childers declined to put in the remainder on the ground that it would be inconvenient for the public service that he should do so. As it is manifestly unfair to quote a sentence of the kind without its context, I must beg of you to give me space for some explanation, as it might otherwise be supposed that I accepted the imputations made by Mr. Childers.

I will only say that that part of the letter which you gave to the public was written to show that an earnest reformer, an unflinching economist, as Mr. Childers well knew me to be, could and would at the right time urge a proper expenditure of public money, and looked upon the safety and dignity of the country as paramount to all other considerations. If this letter were produced it would prove that my memory was not at fault, and that I was justified in stating I had strongly remonstrated with him on the unprepared condition of the British Navy.

Mr. Childers is mistaken in supposing that any part of my evidence implied that I disapproved the policy of the Government, which I stated had been reversed. I am obliged to him for showing that when in office I pointed out to him that want of thoroughness and completeness in his reforms which has led to their failure.

There are other points in Mr. Childers' evidence, to discuss which would occupy too much of your space, but to the accuracy of which I cannot assent, especially that part of it which refers to the evidence I gave before the Duke of Somerset's Committee respecting the decision come to on a question as to the class of ship which should be built, I can prove that the ultimate decision on this subject was not arrived at on the 14th of February, and that it was made under the circumstances stated by me in answer to the Duke of Somerset's questions.

I do not understand the object of the remark made by Mr. Childers with reference to my appointment as Third Lord and Controller in 1869.

He says:-
"Having had occasion, in the Committee of the House of Commons of the previous year, when a very strong attack was directed against Sir Spencer Robinson, from which he considered that he was not sufficiently defended by his superiors in office, to take the labouring oar to defend him. I felt confident we should secure unity and cordiality of action."

I will only observe that I felt, and still feel, grateful to Mr. Childers for the part he took during the sitting of Mr. Seely's Committee. I do not consider, however - and in that opinion the chairman of that committee bears me out - that any attack was directed against me personally, or against the Controller of the Navy, but that it was against the system, for which I was not responsible, and not against the official, that these attacks were directed.

I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
61, Eaton-place, Feb. 2.
We 14 February 1872The Megaera inquiry appears to be already producing practical results. The Admiralty have despatched an order to the dockyards giving vary positive directions as to the survey and inspection of ships in future, with a view to making the officials directly responsible as to the fitness of the vessels for the services required. The dockyard officials must have a history of each ship which passes through their hands, and must be very careful in making surveys and reports as to the repairs needed in any case. This order appears to be framed so that there shall be the fullest responsibility cast upon the dockyard officials in the matter, the Megaera inquiry having shown how much that has hitherto been wanting. The Admiralty have also appointed a committee to inquire into a matter which was very prominent in the Megaera inquiry - the galvanic action which may arise from the proximity of copper and other metals on the bottoms or in the interior of the hulls of ships. The committee consists of Mr. Farqnharson, an Admiralty official, Mr. Weston, of Portsmouth Dockyard, and Mr. James, head of the metal mills at Chatham Dockyard. These gentlemen will make the necessary inquiries and inspection at the various dockyards and report thereon.
Fr 8 March 1872


The Report of the Commission has been issued. The Commissioners have come to the following conclusions: -

"84. We express our decided opinion that the state and condition of the Megaera was such that she ought never to have been selected for the voyage to Australia, and that as a matter of fact she was an unsafe ship when she left Sheerness, and had probably been so for some years. It is right that we should add that Sir Spencer Robinson informed Sir Sydney Dacres that he did not consider her well adapted for this service, and it is much to be regretted that more weight was not attached to his representations, and that, when he expressed an opinion unfavourable to the employment of the ship, Sir Sydney Dacres did not call for and discuss the reason and grounds for that opinion before incurring such a responsibility.

"85. When the Megaera left Sheerness her ports were leaky, some being decayed, and others worn out by long service. She was also overladen with reference to the comfort of the officers and men on board, bearing in mind more particularly the nature and length of the voyage and the numbers she carried.

"86. We consider that the Admiralty were justified in ordering the Megaera to continue her voyage after she had put into Queenstown, the Admiral on the station having declared that she was fit to proceed. The defects which were then reported were not of a character to affect her seaworthiness, and were such as were remedied without docking her.

"87. The defects in the ship's hull, at the time when she was beached at St. Paul's, were local. The leak itself was an oblong aperture about two inches in length by one and a half in breadth. The plates for a space of five or six fest in the vicinity of the leak were more or less corroded, and dangerously weak over an extent of from two to three feet. In several of the ship's frames also in the same part the floor plates were more or less eaten by corrosion. These circumstances raised a feeling of insecurity in the minds of the officers as to the soundness of her bottom. It was this which induced Captain Thrupp and the officers he consulted to decide upon running the vessel ashore.

"88. The cause of the leak and of the defective condition of the plates in its vicinity was the continued corrosive action of bilge water on unprotected iron. The loss of the ship is in our judgment to be attributed to the want of adequate protection to the inner surface of those plates. The corrosive action had in our opinion been at work for some years, and was not appreciably, if at all, accelerated by galvanic action, occasioned by the presence of copper.

"89. The plates in the vicinity of the water line of the Megaera were ascertained in 1866 to be very thin; but it must be borne in mind that it is not to the weakness of these plates that the loss of the ship is in any way attributable. This circumstance, however, ought to have led to a thorough and complete examination of the whole of the plating. The sound condition of the plates was not to be satisfactorily ascertained by mere boring from the outside, which was the only process adopted subsequently to the above discovery; such a boring, limited as it was to a mere puncture of the inner surface of the iron could not afford any indication of the condition of the interior face of the plates.

"90. It is a matter of doubt whether the plates ought at that time to have been doubled or replaced, but it is certain that their comparative weakness should never have been lost sight of, and should have been constantly brought to the notice of the dockyard officials, and that their soundness should have been carefully tested before the vessel was despatched to Australia.

"91. Nevertheless, after 1864 the Megaera was never sufficiently examined. Every official at the time of examination confined his attention to the exterior, and to such parts of her interior as were readily accessible, and relying, it would seem, as to her interior, upon the supposed lasting qualities of cement, omitted to make the necessary examination, though it is obvious that whether her age, her extended service at sea, or the period which had passed since the repairs in 1864, be considered, such precautions should have been observed. It has been proved to our satisfaction that there were parts of the interior which could only be examined by opening up the ship to an extent which was never done; anything short of this prevented the real state of these parts from being ascertained. It is in evidence that at the termination of a ship's commission, which usually lasts four years, such an examination should be made as would thoroughly satisfy the authorities as to the state of the ship, so as to make it clear whether further examination or repairs are necessary. But counting from February, 1865, the time when the Megaera left Devonport Dockyard, until February, 1871, when she sailed from Sheerness, six years had elapsed since she was thoroughly overhauled. It was owing to this that the corrosive action was allowed to go on until it resulted in the loss of the vessel.

"92. We will now proceed to state upon whom, in our opinion, rests the responsibility for the mismanagement which allowed the vessel to remain so long in an unsafe condition.

"93. We are of opinion that responsibility rests on Sir Spencer Robinson, who was Controller from 1861 to 1871.
"1st. Practically he had the power of controlling the operations carried on in Her Majesty's dockyards, the superintendents and dockyard officers being subject to his orders.
"2d. The Constructor's department was also under his direction.

"94. It was for the Controller to take care that the organization of his department was such that all the duties connected with it were efficiently performed. The attention of the Sheerness officers was never called to the report of 1866 on the Megaera, and the reports of subsequent years on the ship seem never to have been scrutinized with the necessary care nor examined with reference to the information regarding her, which was then obtained, and even when, in 1870, the carpenter of the ship had called the attention of the dockyard officers to the alleged thinness of the plates at the bottom of the vessel, they satisfied themselves with an examination of the outside, and their report was accepted without challenge by the Controller.

"95. We have shown that Sir Spencer Robinson was responsible for the application of Spence's cement to the Megaera, and for its having been subsequently suffered to remain there without examination, though ascertained to be a failure in other instances. From the day it was put into her, until the day she was beached at St. Paul's, no one ever thought of the matter; although it is impossible to suppose, judging from the effect of bilge water on it, as reported in the cases of the Sharpshooter and the Northumberland, that it could have afforded any lasting protection to the plates of the bottom of the ship.

"96. No advantage was taken by the Controller of the opportunity of fully ascertaining her condition during the five months she lay unemployed at Sheerness, although so many questions had been raised and doubts entertained with reference to it; nor did he, when informed by Sir S. Dacres of his intention to send the Megaera to Australia, recall to his mind that doubts had existed for years as to the general character of the ship. Hence it follows, in our opinion, that the Controller is mainly responsible for the misfortune which befell the vessel. The arguments which he has adduced in explanation of this neglect are not, in our judgment, satisfactory. We say this with much regret, for there can be no question of the zeal and ability of this officer; and it is difficult, we think, to have taken part in this inquiry with forming a high appreciation of his merits as a devoted public servant.

"97. We also consider that neither Mr. Reed nor Mr. Barnaby is free from responsibility, the former in not, when undertaking in 1866 to make an examination, making it a complete one, the latter in not calling the attention of Lord John Hay to the weakness of the ship's plating when asked as to her condition in 1871.

"98. We think also that blame attaches to Mr. H. Morgan, of the Chief Constructor's Department, because when he received the report of the Sheerness officers in April, 1870, containing the observation that the bottom was stated to be very thin in many places, he neglected to inform them of the previous reports, and of the known thinness of her plates.

"99. We are of opinion that Captain Luard incurred a grave responsibility in sending to the Admiralty without further examination of the ship or any knowledge of her previous history the telegram, of the 13th of August, 1870. But for this she would have been placed in the 4th Division and thoroughly examined, when in all probability her defects would have been discovered. We say this with regret, for it is clear that the error into which he fell arose from zeal in the public service, he having no suspicion of the real state of the case. We think also that he is responsible, together with the dockyard officers, for the defective condition of the ports when the Megaera left Sheerness.

"100. We further consider that Mr. William Ladd, the Master Shipwright, and Mr. W.H. Henwood, the Assistant Master Shipwright at Woolwich from 1866 to 1869, and Mr. A.B. Sturdee, the Master Shipwright, and Mr. William Mitchell, the Assistant Master Shipwright at Sheerness from 1869 to 1871, are severally deserving of censure for not having discovered either the unprotected condition or the inaccessible position of the plates in the part where the leak was afterwards discovered; and for never making a thorough examination of the interior, although both at Woolwich and Sheerness there were ample opportunities of so doing. Nor do we think that the Superintendents at those yards were free from blame in not seeing that these duties were efficiently carried out.

"101. We consider that Mr. Ladd and Mr. Henwood are further to blame for having neglected to institute an examination of the Megaera's plates in the interior in December, 1867, though they were then expressly directed by the Controller of the Navy to report whether she was in want of repair.

"102. Mr. Sturdee and Mr. Mitchell are also especially deserving of censure, because when informed by the carpenter of the Megaera, when she was in their hands in April, 1870, that the bottom was stated to be very thin in many places, they took no steps, whatever to ascertain whether that was true or not.

"103. The engineers and carpenters of the Megaera in her several commissions are in some degree to blame for not having called attention to the circumstance that parts of the ship were closed up and inaccessible even to view.

"104. Captain Thrupp also appears blameable for not taking care that the cargo was properly stowed before leaving Sheerness.

"105. We are of opinion that it was an unfortunate circumstance that Sir Sydney Dacres should have placed officers in charge of the Megaera, very few of whom had ever sailed in iron vessels, as it must be difficult, for those who are not familiar with their construction, to form a sound opinion as to the character of defects or accidents which may occur at sea, or to adopt the best methods for repairing them.

"106. On the question of the general responsibility of dockyard officers it is doubtful what are the precise rules in force. They all unite in declaring that their duties are limited to the examination and remedy of reported defects and of such other defects as may become apparent in carrying this duty into execution; and these views are supported by the evidence of their immediate naval superiors, who hold or have held the post of dockyard superintendents. On the other hand, the Admiralty officers urge the very opposite statements, and point to the Circular Orders in existence and to the impossibility of their being able to ascertain whether the dockyard officers have done or have not done their duty in examining ships. It is clear to us that while the intentions of the Admiralty were to enforce adherence to these circulars, nevertheless their orders have always been understood and obeyed by the dockyard officials in the limited sense above referred to. But it appears to us that it would be quite possible to mature a system whereby the respective duties of all these officers could be defined and checked, so as to render it very difficult for any serious mistakes to occur, and that without such a system, responsibility in practice becomes little better than nominal.

"107. We think that a complete survey should be made of every iron ship at suitable intervals. But the circumstance that such survey had been made should not release a superintendent of a dockyard from the duty of at all times making sure that a vessel has left his charge in good order.

"108. We feel compelled to add that we have formed, however unwillingly, an unfavourable opinion as to the mode in which the administration of Her Majesty's dockyards is generally conducted. The important work of the survey of vessels seems often to have been done in an incomplete and unsatisfactory manner. Officers too often appear to us to have done no more than each of them thought it was absolutely necessary to do; following a blind routine in the discharge of their duties, and acting almost as if it were their main object to avoid responsibility.

"109. As regards the Admiralty, we have endeavoured to restrict our inquiry to matters which immediately bore on the loss of the Megaera; but owing to witnesses often travelling into points which seemed to affect their own character and which it was difficult to check, we have been led to exceed such limits. We do not consider that there is any evidence to show that the Admiralty ever cut down an estimate from a feeling of parsimony, or sacrificed efficiency from a desire to reduce expenditure. We do not believe that in any case connected with the Megaera the reduction of an estimate contributed to her loss. We consider, however, that it would have been sound economy to have got rid of the vessel long ago, as being an expensive ship to maintain and of comparatively little value for any service.

"110. We feel bound also to state that, in the course of the inquiry, it has been clearly shown to us that the system of administration at the Admiralty is defective in some important points. Its secretariat arrangements are insufficient, and its mode of registration of correspondence defective. It is an extraordinary circumstance indicative of this that when Sir Spencer Robinson asked for the report which Mr. Reed was supposed to have made in 1866 on the thinness of the iron plates of the Megaera that reference did not lead to the production of the report of the dockyard officers of the same year to a similar effect. A very little reflection ought to have led the clerk intrusted with the search to endeavour to ascertain and to produce any documents of the period which bore on the subject under inquiry. The explanation of Mr. Claude Clifton in this matter is very unsatisfactory.

"111. The checks by which responsibility is to be enforced, judging by the case of the Megaera, appear to be practically almost nominal. There was, indeed, a ship's book for the Megaera; but neither the circumstance that she was coated with an experimental cement, nor the nature of the different surveys which had from time to time been held on her, nor, indeed, a word whereby a suspicion would arise as to her real condition at the time she was selected for the voyage to Australia, was to be found therein. Such a record was worse than useless; it was simply misleading. When estimates for the repair of ships are received at the Admiralty, judging from this case, they are disposed of without sufficient reference to previous reports and former outlays. Reports from dockyards seem to be received with too much reliance on their correctness. It is with difficulty that the details of the actual work performed under each estimate can be traced. Nothing like completion statements of the work done in each instance to it ship appear to be furnished. No one seems to have known or to have recollected in 1870 and 1871 that the Megaera had never been thoroughly overhauled since 1864; that she had been once declared only fit for 18 or 24 months' service in her then existing condition, and on two subsequent occasions fit for 12 months' service only; that when pronounced equal to the voyage to Australia more than six years had passed, and that before she could have returned to England seven years at least would have elapsed since she had been properly examined and really made efficient for sea service.

"112. We have come to the above conclusions after careful and full consideration. It is with reluctance and pain that we express unfavourable opinions with respect to the conduct of officers and the management of a great department. But, in doing so, we hare acted on a strong sense of duty and of the imperative obligations which have been placed on us by your Majesty.

"GEORGE P. BIDDEE, Secretary.
"6th March, 1872."
Fr 8 March 1872A long and searching investigation has enabled the Commissioners intrusted with the inquiry into the loss of the Megaera to issue a Report dealing fully with the history of that ill-fated vessel. They have done their work impartially and unsparingly. So far from taking the official view that nobody is to blame in these cases, and that accidents happen from causes which man cannot foresee or obviate, the Commissioners trace the negligence and the blundering of the Admiralty and its servants step by step, from year to year, and apportion to each delinquent his share of blame. The unfortunate old ship has done its last piece of mischief by damaging a number of respectable reputations, and for years to come her name will be one of evil memory among officials of every degree. The chief responsibility for the calamity is thrown by the Commissioners on Sir SPENCER ROBINSON, who was Controller from 1861 to 1871; but Mr. REED, Mr. BARNABY, Captain LUARD, and the Master Shipwrights at Woolwich and Sheerness, are held not to be free from blame. Persons disposed to generalize are sure to say in such cases as this that "the system" is in fault, and will be encouraged in this opinion by finding that the censure of the Commissioners involves a vast number of officers and public servants; but the Commissioners themselves do not admit that because a number of persons, each in his capacity, have been guilty of negligence, or because a general relaxation of official duty prevailed, the fault must, therefore, be visited on an abstraction. They show historically how the ship came into the condition which made a long voyage dangerous, and they give their reasons for believing that, if certain specified persons, had done their work with common care, that condition would have been remedied, or the vessel would not have been sent to sea at all.

The first sentence of the Commissioners "Conclusions" is as follows: - "We express our decided opinion that the state and condition of the Megaera were such that she ought never to have been selected for the voyage to Australia, and that, as a matter of fact, she was an unsafe ship when she left Sheerness, and had probably been so for some years." The "Conclusions," which we publish elsewhere, come at the end of a very useful summary of the ship's history, digested from the evidence taken by the Commission, and, after reading that summary, it is difficult to refuse assent to the opinion we have quoted. The Megaera was one of the oldest steamships in the QUEEN'S service. She was launched as far back as 1849, and was originally intended for a ship of war, but in 1851 her guns were taken out of her, and she was converted into a troopship. Although subjected to this rather ignominious transformation, the Megaera seems to have been a well-built vessel according to the construction of the time. Her framing was exceptionally strong, though, on the other hand, the plating was in parts somewhat lighter than would now be usual for a vessel of her description. These facts explain and excuse the continued use of the vessel, and prepare us for the conclusion of the Commissioners, that her loss was not due to defects inherent in her construction or inseparable from her age, but to those which had supervened through a long period of official neglect. The immediate cause of the loss of the vessel was a leak - an oblong aperture, about two inches in length by one and a half in breadth. When the ship was beached at St. Paul's it was discovered that "the plates for a space of five or six feet in the vicinity of the leak were more or less corroded, and dangerously weak over an extent of from two to three feet. In several of the ship's frames, also, in the same part the floor plates were more or less eaten by corrosion." These defects the Commissioners declare to have been local. We will assume this to be the case, though it may well be that, if Captain THRUPP and his engineers had examined other parts of the vessel with the same anxiety as the part near the leak, they would have discovered defects in them also. Now, what was the cause of this local defect? It did not arise from the original thinness of the plates, nor from their abrasion by age or collisions. "The cause of the leak, and of the defective condition of the plates in its vicinity, was the continued corrosive action of bilge water on unprotected iron. The loss of the ship is, in our judgment, to be attributed to the want of adequate protection to the inner surface of those plates. The corrosive action had, in our opinion, been at work for years, and was not appreciably, if at all, accelerated by galvanic action occasioned by the presence of copper." This paragraph forms the foundation of the Commissioners' Conclusions. The Megaera came to ruin, not because she was old, or clumsy, or weakly constructed, or in any way inherently unfit for sea, but because a certain chymical action had been going on inside her plates for years, and not one of the persons whose business it was to examine her had paid the smallest attention to it. To fix the responsibility for this, the Commissioners give a "general history" of the ship. We may pass over the first fifteen years of her existence, which was one of great activity, though not of popularity. She was constantly employed, but had to bear a good deal of adverse criticism, on account of her deficient steaming and sailing powers, and the small number of troops she could carry in proportion to her crew. In the year 1864 she was thoroughly refitted at a very great expense, and at this time a change was made, which has a most important bearing on this inquiry. Our readers may remember that in the inquiry of the Commission much was said about cements. On the question of cement the loss of the Megaera turns. Now, in 1864 "DAY'S cement, which had been put into her in 1859, was removed, and, at the request of Commander MADDEN, the officer then in command of her, she was cemented with a composition called SPENCE'S Patent Cement." To SPENCE'S cement the Commissioners devote a whole section of their Report. It was brought to the notice of the Controller of the Navy in 1863 by the agents for the patentee, who recommended it as an unequalled and invaluable composition for coating internally the bottoms of iron ships. The Controller very properly agreed to give it a trial. It is of the very greatest importance to discover the best means of protecting the plates of ships from corrosive action. If they could be completely and constantly protected, iron ships might last almost for ever, but as yet no preparation seems to have been discovered which serves the purpose effectually. The Megaera was one of the subjects on which SPENCE'S cement was tried. As we have said, DAY was discarded and SPENCE substituted in February, 1864. Similar experiments were made on other vessels. The result was that SPENCE'S cement turned out a total failure. In April, 1867, it was removed from the Northumberland, and in January, 1868, Sir SPENCER ROBINSON wrote to the Storekeeper-General that it had wholly failed, and would not again be used for the purpose of coating iron ships. The ground on which the Commissioners censure Sir SPENCER ROBINSON and others is that this cement, proved to be defective and condemned after repeated trials, was left in the Megaera from the time it was placed there, in 1864, to the day she was sent on her last unfortunate voyage. After 1864, in fact, the Megaera was never really examined at all. A sort of examination certainly there was, but "every official at the time of the examination confined his attention to the exterior, and to such parts of the interior as were readily accessible, relying, as it would seem, as to her interior, upon the supposed lasting qualities of the cement." As a rule, every ship is examined at the completion of her commission - that is, after four years - in such a manner as to make it clear whether repairs are necessary. "But, counting from February, 1865, the time when the Megaera left Devonport Dockyard, until February, 1871, when she sailed from Sheerness, six years had elapsed since she was thoroughly overhauled. It was owing to this that the corrosive action was allowed to go on until it resulted in the loss of the vessel."

Having thus fixed the cause of the disaster, it remained only to fix the responsibility. The Commissioners, with one dissentient, declare that the responsibility for the disaster rests on Sir SPENCER ROBINSON; because, in virtue of his office, he had the power of controlling HER MAJESTY'S Dockyards, because the Constructor's Department was under his direction, because it was his duty to see that the duties of his subordinates were efficiently performed, because he had ordered the application of SPENCE'S cement to the Megaera, and suffered it to remain there without examination, though it was ascertained to have failed in other instances. From this judgment Mr. ROTHERY dissents, and makes a separate Report. He considers that the Report of his colleagues unduly blames the Controller and unduly shelters the Dockyard officials, and especially the Sheerness officers, with whom, in his opinion, the blame of the misfortune principally rests. The reasons for and against are sufficiently given in the Report, but, however the responsibility may be apportioned, the public will be glad to find that the cause of the Megaera's loss has been sufficiently ascertained and, every excuse removed for the recurrence of such a disaster.

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