John Avery Heritage
Member Southampton Heritage Federation
 Sharing local history with the community
In 1967 the Queen Mary set off on her final voyage to Longbeach, California. This watercolour by Eric Crompton records the farewell.A stone carving on the RSH Hospital Chapel.An afternoon stroll on Plymouth Breakwater
John Avery is a Fellow of the Huguenot Society of Britain and Ireland, a member of Southampton
Heritage Federation, City of Southampton Society [Honorary Life Member], Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery [Honorary Life Member],  Friends of  Town Quay Park, National Federation of Cemetery Friends, The Southampton Fryatt Plaque, Devon Family History Society, West Country Historic Omnibus & Transport Trust , Landmark Trust, National Trust
Copyright 2018

   Home      Shipping Incidents

HMS Furious an early period aircraft carrier passing Drakes Island, Plymouth in 1934

HMS Furious an early aircraft carrier passing Drakes Island, Plymouth 1934

Laid down as a Courageous class battle cruiser in 1915, she was converted during the build to have a flight deck for aircraft. Further modifications were later added and in 1925 she was classed as an aircraft carrier. She was scrapped in 1948

RMS Queen Elizabeth


16 Tugs Fail to Move Queen Elizabeth

The Queen Elizabeth (83,000 tons), the world's biggest liner, is stuck fast on a mud bank at the entrance to Southampton Water, 16 tugs with a full head of steam having failed to move her at high tide this morning. Another attempt will be made this evening, the Cunard line having appealed for the assistance of every tug available. Most of the passengers and their luggage have been taken ashore to lighten the ship, while the jettisoning of water and oil fuel has already caused the liner to lift a little.

The Queen Elizabeth ran aground at 4.30 p.m. yesterday. Carrying 2,200 passengers and a crew of 1,200, the vessel was due at Southampton at 5.50 p.m. "There was dense fog in the Solent during the day, with visibility nil and several other ships had been delayed, but a resident of Calshot said that there was clear weather and sunshine when the Queen Elizabeth struck. Yesterday evening seven tugs attempted to refloat the great liner, but later their efforts were abandoned and it was decided to wait for this morning's high tide. At 6.22 am today, states Reuters, 16 tugs, with thick black smoke pouring from their funnels, exerted a great pull on the ship. They made four attempts within an hour, but failed to move the Queen Elizabeth.

Liner Safe "The Queen Elizabeth is as safe in her involuntary berth as if she were in dock," was the view of Cmdr. MacMillan, the Southampton Harbour Board's hydrographical surveyor. He says that the liner is resting on stiff clay, with about six inches of sand top-dressing. There are no rocks or hard material. The liner is stuck with the neap tides, but high spring tides will begin tomorrow. Divers are standing by- with Lloyd's agents ready to make a thorough investigation when the liner is re-floated. The "Evening News" says it is possible that some of the plates nave been strained.

Hundreds of people who had been waiting to meet the Queen Elizabeth last night drove to the Southampton water entrance to watch the tugs at work. An eyewitness at Calshot said "All her lights were on and she looked lovely. She seemed to be very calm in a calm sea, and you would have thought she was anchored there." The passengers were not worried when the vessel struck the bank. They danced to an orchestra and lined the deck rails, shouting and laughing at a Cowes yachtsman, who took his boat alongside. One American shouted at him "I have & business engagement in London tonight. Why the heck don't you dredge your channels?" The Queen Elizabeth is insured for £6,000,000—an amount so huge that Lloyd's London market and the marine insurance companies were unable to cover it. The Government thus insures the balance under the Cunard (Insurance) Agreement Act which was passed when the building of the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mary was projected in 1930. Insurance shared by Lloyd's and the marine insurance companies, for the year ended April 30, have insured the Queen Elizabeth for £2,270,500 and the Government has made up the balance. It is almost certain that the stranding of the liner will bring a claim because the re-floating of a vessel of her size is an expensive undertaking. The mud bank is in an intricate channel where the Aquitania grounded in 1935 and the Majestic, then the world's largest liner, became stuck a year later, ten tugs were needed to poll the Aquitania off into deep water, and she was only half the Queen Elizabeth's tonnage.

S.S. New York 
March 1904
The American liner New York came into collision in the English Channel with the transport Aswive, which had on board 300 troops bound tor Bombay. The discipline on the transport was magnificent, and the troops mustered on deck quietly, greatly impressing the passengers and crew of the liner. Both vessels reached Southampton safely.

Tug Tiger 

26th Dec 1902 

ACCIDENT TO A TUG. The new tug Tiger, during a trial trip at Greenock at the Tail of the Bank, lurched and shipped a quantity of water. This led to the explosion of the boilers and the vessel almost at once foundered. Six of those on board were drowned.

Disaster at Devonport

Submarine Sinks Aug 9th 1926

The Admiralty announces that sub marine H20 sank in the Devonport basin to-day whilst refitting. The chief engine-room artificer and four civilian workmen are missing. Submarine H-20 sank suddenly before a large crowd of horrified workmen with sixteen officers and men aboard. She had returned to her moorings in No. 2 basin after a short trip round the dock, and was undergoing a refit. The workmen had just resumed work upon her when she tilted and began to sink alongside the basin wall. One officer was blown through the conning tower and six men were swept overboard, while two or three of the others released themselves and dived overboard. Large crowds of workmen rushed to the quayside when the alarm was given, and saw the last man leave the vessel, struggling through the hatch as the water surged over her. Five of the workmates, who themselves had been rescued only a few moments before, leaped in and helped him ashore.

An Australia Steamer Disabled [news report 24th March 1880]

Some excitement was caused in Plymouth about 2 o'clock yesterday morning by a signal of distress from outside the Sound, and it was discovered that the Australian mail steamer Hankow had been picked up off the Lizard disabled, with loss of propeller, by two Falmouth tugs. On coming abreast the breakwater the tugs were unable to retain their hawsers, and the Hankow was riding with three anchors in a dangerous position half a mile off the breakwater. Two harbour steamers and two Government tugs went out, but were for a long time unable to render any assistance. One of them succeeded in making fast, but the hawser snapped in a few minutes and the Hankow was in great danger of being dashed against the breakwater. An attempt to remove the passengers by means of the lifeboat had to be abandoned. At 2.50, however, the combined efforts of the tugs succeeded in rescuing the vessel from her dangerous position, and the Hankow was towed to a safe anchorage. Further information concerning the Hankow's rescue shows her 15 passengers and 95 crew to have had a most marvelous escape. When the Falmouth steamer found the Hankow adrift, amidst a hurricane of wind and rain and pitchy darkness, she drove stern foremost before the wind into a basin between two sunken reefs not 100 yards apart, striking on either of which in such weather  would have been certain destruction. Moreover, to get there she crossed a shoal, grounding on which would have been fatal, and which an hour before would not have had water enough for her to cross. The lifeboat crew rendered essential service by conveying warps to the Government tugs. The difficulty and danger of this may be estimated by the fact that three of the lifeboat positively refused to go outside the breakwater in such a boat, and got on board the Trinity steamer, three volunteers from which took their places.

The Hankow was a 3594 ton ship with 3 masts [used for auxiliary sail], iron hulled single screw ship built by C. Mitchell & Co, at Newcastle. The vessel was launched on 7th Oct.1873 for E.H.Watts, London. The company later became Watts, Milburn & Co and the ship was chartered to the Colonial Line and sailed London to Australia, then in ballast to China where she loaded tea for the homeward voyage. This service lasted until March 1880 [the time of the propeller incident] when she was sold to Wm. Milburn & Co who formed the Anglo-Australasian Steam Navigation Co, but used the ship on the China route. As was common at the period she grounded on a few occasions and successfully refloated including in the Suez Canal where she was stuck for 3 days.

Later she was sold on to a Norwegian firm and renamed as Dunnet.  In April 1899 she left Barry bound for Genoa but went missing, probably lost at sea in the Bay of Biscay.

Suction by big ships
12th January 1912
In support of the Admiralty theory that the collision between H.M.S. Hawke and the s.s. Olympic was caused by the cruiser being sucked into the huge liner, same parallel cases have been cited, one of the instances concerns the Royal Yacht Osborne. Captain Myberg states that in 1902 he was taking H.M.8. Wizard, a torpedo boat destroyer of 320 tons, up Southampton Water when the German steamer Kron Prinz Wilhelm (15,000 tons) passed half a cable off. The ships narrowed in, and, although the helm was ported and the engine put full speed astern, the Wizard swung rapidly in towards the steamer and struck her 60 ft. from the stern. The great displacement of the Wilhelm and the greater speed at which she was travelling caused a rush of water and dragged the Wizard in. The other case quoted occurred in 1895 and concerned the Osborne and the cruiser Blenheim, which were escorting the Victoria and Albert (on board which was the late Queen Victoria) from Flushing to Sheerness. Captain Chapman declares that the Blenheim drew in the Osborne and a collision would have occurred had not the captain of the yacht promptly stopped the paddles. As it was, the collision was narrowly avoided.
  • HMS Wizard [Conflict class] was launched in 1895 and broken up in 1920. 
  • Kron Printz Wilhem was built in 1901. She became an auxilary 1914/15 but when her supplies were exhausted the then neutral USA interned the ship. On entering WWI, the US government used her as a Navy troop carrier Von Steuben . She later returned to service as a US liner until 1923.

Murder on the Melita [Oct 1925]
In October 1925, the S.S. Melita [Canadian Pacific] made a routine call to Antwerp to collect would be emigrants and other passengers heading to Canada.
Built by Barclay, Curle Ltd at Glasgow, the ship came into service in January 1918. Later in 1932 she was converted to become a cruise ship then sold to an Italian owner and was eventually scrapped in 1950.

On the night of 20th October all was being prepared as she was to board her 2000 passengers the next morning. Captain Arthur Honeywell Clews, a Birkenhead man who had served with Canadian Pacific for many years, took to his cabin to sleep for a few hours. It was to be his last sleep as First Officer Towers entered the cabin and holding a revolver close to the victim’s head fired so that the bullet entered the scull by the eye socket.

One of the engineer officers David Gilmour and Purser McLennan hearing the shot rushed to investigate and were joined by the 2nd engineer John Holiday. They saw Towers transfixed by the scene in Clews’ cabin and turned to face them and aimed at the two engineers. The gun jammed and the three cautiously approached Towers. Thomas Towers, a moody individual, was 56 years of age and held a grudge of his lack of promotion with the company. A struggle took place, Towers seemingly to have increasing bouts of anger and strength was not giving in too easily. Both the engineers were injured in the affray and were later taken to the hospital in Antwerp.

 He made one final attempt to clear the gun and aimed it at his own temple but was eventually over powered. Towers was locked in his cabin,  and, in the meantime  Dr James Benny, the ship’s doctor, attended the body of the captain but he considered that death had been instantaneous.

We imagine that in depth discussions took place between the company agent, the local police and possibly embassy staff. It seems that because it was a British registered ship and the deceased and injured officers and the perpetrator were British that a decision was taken that the Southampton police would investigate the crime when the ship arrived in port on the next stage of the voyage to Montreal.

Chief Inspector Luccy and his team including an official photographer boarded the tender Vulcan with a local undertaker. Clews was placed in a temporary coffin and as the handcuffed accused was led toward the tender, Thomas Towers stopped briefly to give a respectful look towards the coffin.

Thomas Augustus Towers was tried for the murder of Captain Clews and the attempted murder of two other officers at Winchester Assizes. He was committed to Broadmoor as criminally insane, the sentence being termed “at the King’s pleasure”.

In January 2015 the following arrived by e-mail in response to the article on my website.
Dear John, My grandmother emigrated to Montreal and married William Templeman who died there in 1902.
Not long after she married "Captain Thomas Towers of the CPR Line".  Grandma, now Mrs E Towers,
finished up in Gloucestershire with a daughter of her first marriage. 
 Nothing was ever mentioned about Thomas Towers.  The fact that he was a Catholic and perhaps
 there was a separation or divorce meant that nothing was known or discussed about him.
 It was not until I read your story of his misdeed and imprisonment in Broadmoor that I realised
 that he had been rubbed out of our family history.  Thanks you for your website.  

 Sincerely, Neil Padbury



Nine injured in liner's trials New Australia
15th May 1950
The 26,000 tons liner New Australia, on engine trials off the Isle of Wight radioed yesterday that nine members of the crew were sprayed with boiling water when a tube burst in the boiler room. They were landed at Southampton, where they were detained in hospital, some badly burned. The New Australia, formerly the Monarch of Bermuda, was undergoing engine trials after conversion for the Australian Government for migrant traffic.  It was announced that she received no material damage in  the explosion.

A Peculiar Accident
July 1916

A strange aeroplane accident occurred in Southampton Water.  A large vessel was outward bound, when three sea planes, manoeuvring overhead, were flying low.  One suddenly swerved, and crashed on the main mast, breaking down the steamer’s wireless and rigging. The sea plane fell on the deck, and the pilot was killed, and a seaman was seriously injured.

Alarming Accident at Plymouth [9th September 1875] – a news report

Great consternation was caused in Stonehouse and Plymouth on the night of the 9th September, by the news that a large boat, having onboard fifty non commissioned officers and men of the Royal Marine Light Infantry, had foundered in the Hamoaze.

  Although the fatal results have not assumed such serious proportions as were at first apprehended, there is reason to fear that at least three lives have been lost. The facts -so far as they could be gleaned amid the excitement and confusion which prevailed last night - are as follows: On Wednesday, the men of the Royal Marines held their prize shooting contests at Mount Batten and on Thursday the venue was changed, and the contests were concluded at Mount Edgcumbe range. The shooting concluded about half-past 6 o'clock and the officers who had been present during the firing left Cremyll for the Admiral’s Hard Stonehouse, shortly afterwards. A party of about twenty men was left on the range ground to strike tents, and to take away the mess utensils which were in the tents that had been erected on the ground for the officers’ luncheon. Besides these, there were about sixteen in charge of the divisional wheel boat, which is propelled by wheels worked by hand. In addition to these men there were a number of waiters and servants who had been on the ground, and the entire party, numbering between forty and fifty, embarked at Cremyll at about half-past 7 o'clock for the purpose of proceeding to the Admiral’s Hard. The tents, chairs, tables, beer-barrels and a light wagon were placed in the stern of the boat, which, at the time that was loaded, was aground. There was also a quantity of mess plate which had been used at the luncheon. Being so heavy there was some difficulty in getting her off, but at last she went off all right. The water was lumpy and though being heavily laden, was running in at the stern, which is very low, having been so constructed as to admit of carriages being taken on board. Sergeant George was in charge of the party, and Corporal Furniss was in charge of the boat. Corporal Furniss, seeing the water coming in at the stern placed a board against it but despite this, the water continued to gain and the corporal gave orders for the boat to go about. What ensued thereupon cannot at present be exactly determined. Some say that the order was obeyed and others allege that there was confusion immediately. At all events it is certain that the corporal seeing the position was a dangerous one gave the order so that the boat might be beached. Some of the men seeing the boat was sinking jumped into the water and struck out for shore which wins about a couple of hundred yards distant, while the boat sank almost immediately with everything on board and all the men were plunged into the water. The scene was a terrible one. The cries of the struggling men was dreadful to hear while on the Cremyll beach a number of women who thought that the ferry-boat  had sunk, uttered appalling shrieks thinking that it was their relatives who were drowning. Meanwhile the boatmen on the beach set off to the scene with commendable promptitude and a boat off the Princess Alice, which was the first arrival, did good service. Boats from other ships in harbour quickly hastened to the scene and what with those who were picked up and those who managed to swim ashore and rescue others, the majority of the men were happily saved. One man, an officer's' servant, swam right down to the Admiral's Hard which he reached in an exhausted condition. The men who reached Cremyll in safety were greatly excited at what had happened and a little boy, a drummer, was seen crying bitterly because he said, nobody had attempted to rescue him. Some of the men were in a very exhausted condition and had to be taken to the Royal Adelaide, where they were carefully looked after. These men were privates, Robert Alger, Shoebrook, Joyce, Yates, Murray, McCarthy, Benory and Burns, all of whom were late last night progressing satisfactorily. But, unfortunately, there is reason to believe that three men have lost their lives. One of them is Corporal Blatchford and the other Private Hitchcock (who had specially requested that he might be detailed for service at Mount Edgcumbe) and Private Sleeman. There are statements that others are missing, but these are all of whom it is certain that they have not been seen since the accident, and there is little doubt that they have been drowned. Immediately the news reached the barracks at Stonehouse, Lieutenant and Adjutant Bourchier and Sergeant-Major Phillips proceeded to Cremyll, and was followed by Colonel Penrose C.B., Colonel Ellis and Surgeon Griffiths, a number of men having previously been ordered by Colonel Penrose to proceed to the Hard to render any assistance that was necessary. Dr Blatchford had done good service at the time of the accident by getting men from out of the water into his boat, and on all hands the most commendable promptitude appears to have been exercised. In itself an unwieldy-looking sort of machine at the best, the heavily laden boat appears to have stood no chance at all against the waves and to have become perfectly unmanageable. Those who had charge of her must have, or at any rate ought to have been aware of this, now the fact would argue the necessity of great care and caution being exercised in loading her. Had the boat sank further from the shore the loss of life in the strong tideway would probably have been very great. Tables, chairs, some clothing which the men had hastily divested themselves of and a lot of gear that was floating about, were picked up by the various ships' boats and brought to shore, but the plate, which was valued at £50, went down with the boat. There is little doubt, however, that this will be recovered and a guard established on Cremyll beach will be sufficient to deter any parties who wish to acquire unlawful booty.

Sunk in collision tug Albert
December 1945
A curious shipping accident that occurred on the Mersey resulted in the lost of four lives. A sudden gust of wind over- balanced a coal elevator into the Canada dock, drowning one man. A little later the tug Albert as it passed struck the submerged elevator; the bows of the tug rose in the air, and the tug flipped back wards, filled with water, and bank. Three out of the seven men on board were drowned.

Highland Monarch and tug in collision
Four were drowned when a tug assisting the Royal Mail liner Highland Monarch (14,000 tons) at Southampton sank after a collision with the ship. Three members of the engine room staff were trapped and went down with the tug. A deck boy who jumped overboard was unable to swim and was also drowned.
The Highland Monarch [1932-1960] was a Nelson line ship, a subsidiary of Royal Mail Lines and carried refrigerated meat from the Argentine to Southampton. During WWII she was used as a troopship.

Admiralty Patrol Tug Char

16th January 1915 Channel Accident. Patrol Tug lost.

The Admiralty patrol tug Char [requisitioned from North Eastern Railway Co] had a hole cut in her side  while she was attempting to get alongside in very rough conditions at 0100 hours the steamer Erivan for examination purposes.

The Erivan was unable to render help, as she herself sustained damage, and was filling rapidly.

Rockets brought out the Deal lifeboat and. despite a hurricane that blew for 12 hours, the lifeboat remained afloat. She was unable, however, to find the Char, which, it is feared, drifted on to the Goodwin Sands [her crew of 17 being lost].

Severe gales January 1930


Heavy Loss of Life on Land and Sea NAVAL TUG FOUNDERS WITH ALL HANDS

Another severe storm, among the worst in British history, struck the English coasts on and swept across to the Continent. There has been enormous damage done, and the death roll so far is nearly 50. Three officers and 20 men were lost when a British naval tug foundered in the Bay of Biscay, while the deaths in England alone number 13. Shipping has also suffered severely, and several vessels are ashore.

The collision in 1936 of an RAF Aircraft with S.S. Normandie [French Line] 

The London Gazette records the brief career in the RAF of Guy Kennedy Horsey. “The under mentioned Pilot Officer was promoted to the rank of Flying Officer 15th June 1936:— Lieut. Guy Kennedy HORSEY, R.N., Flying Officer R.A.F.” But on the 1st September 1936 we find: “Lieut. Guy Kennedy HORSEY, R.N., Flying Officer R.A.F, relinquishes his temporary commission on return to Naval duty.”

Horsey was born in the Medway area of Kent in 1911 and entered service in the Royal Navy. In 1942 he married 22 year old Mary O’Brien Ram [1920-2009] and they had children Susan, Andrew and Nigel in the next few years. In September 1932 he joined as a sub lieutenant becoming a full lieutenant in 1935.

Pilots based at RAF Gosport [later to become HMS Sultan] were using a squadron of Blackburn Baffin bi-wing aircraft to drop unarmed torpedoes in the Solent and a launch was stationed with a target platform in tow. We learn from the court-martial that Flight Lieut. A. David described Lieut. Horsey as "an average pilot but inexperienced”. Lieut. David did not know the Normandie would be there when he gave orders for the torpedo practice. She came into the Solent after the training exercise had started. It was a regular practice for the Normandie and the Ile de France to lay off in the Solent to offload mail, passengers and their baggage before continuing to Cherbourg or Le Havre. Tug tenders such as the Calshot were regularly used on such duties but on 22nd June the old faithful Red Funnel paddle tender Her Majesty was alongside. The derricks of the Normandie were actually engaged with off loading the car of Arthur Evans MP for Cardiff South onto the tender when the   incident with the aircraft occurred.

Flying-Officer James MacLachlln, instructor to Horsey’s squadron revealed that the torpedo dropped just before the accident was the thirteenth used that morning. The arrival of the liner and her attending vessels now about 700 yards from the target was we assume in hindsight was an accident waiting to happen.

After a dive towards the target boat, he dropped his dummy torpedo, according to orders. It was then Horsey’s duty to see that the torpedo surface which did not prevent him from climbing, as he could see better at l000 feet than at 100 feet and then to return to the aerodrome. Instead, it was alleged, that he flew low along the port side of the Normandie below the height of the funnels, and after reaching the stern flew down the starboard side, still below the funnels. Eventually the plane crashed on the Normandie's deck. "When you hear," added Squadron Leader Walmsley, [prosecutor] ''that people were engaged in unloading on the decks and there were people on tankers  alongside,  you will probably come to the conclusion that it was a miracle indeed that nobody was injured as a result of the crash."

The prosecutor contended that there was no need to fly low near the Normandie.

Evidence would be given that the aircraft was in perfect condition when it left the aerodrome, but even if the engine had failed the prosecution held that the accident was due to Lieut. Horsey's negligence in flying low.

A tiny scale model of the Normandie was used to illustrate the evidence.

George Douglas Hasewell port representative of the French Line at Southampton, told the Court that the plane seemed to he side-slipping towards the ship

Another witness, Percy Jones, mate of Her Majesty, the tender alongside the Normandie, gave evidence that he heard the engine of the plane misfiring when it was 50 to 100 yards from the tender.

Lieut. Comdr. A. P. Cotthurst, officer commanding the training squadron at Gosport, stated that Horsey had made a statement that after dropping his torpedo he flew down the port side of the Normandie at a distance of about 150 yards.  When somewhere on her stern and starboard quarter his engine began to splutter and he realised it would be necessary to land in the sea.

Lieut. Horsey, giving his own account of what happened, declared that after dropping his dummy torpedo he felt himself being moved bodily side ways towards the Normandie. "I could-see the Normandie getting closer and closer," he continued "I was hoping that I might clear the deck and go into the sea, but I evidently hit some wire, and it tore the wing off and pulled the machine right round in the opposite direction. I do not remember anything about the crash after that. I jumped out of-the plane on the deck. The French sailors, when they saw it was not going to take fire, ran towards me and shook me by the hand. All that they could find to say was   Bravo!" Lieut. Horsey denied that he flew round the ship because he wanted to have a good look at her. Lieut. Horsey stated that he crashed two minutes after dropping his torpedo.

Horsey had in mind a warning from, his Flight Commander three weeks before, when a Baffin plane that he was flying got in the way of an experimental torpedo dropping machine. "I was warned personally that if I went anywhere near the measured mile again I should be run in,'' he continued, "I started my dive about level with the middle funnel of the Normandie. I should think I was 200 yards from the Normandie. I made my dive-from about 1000 feet and dropped my torpedo. "I had no particular reason for keeping low. I was gradually climbing”.

The Normandie now having been delayed by the incident headed off to Le Havre with the crashed aircraft twisted into the stern deck. A special RAF team were despatched to go over to France to recover the wreck. The machine, it was stated, cost £7000. Damages to its airframe totalled £5000 and to the engine £1000 and also the car belonging to Mr Evans MP was wrecked in the crash.

At the court, the Deputy Judge Advocate read two letters from the agent and the owners of the Normandie. That which had been handed in by the prosecution was addressed to the Secretary of the Admiralty and ran: "I learn that Lieut. Horsey is to be court-martialed in connection with his unfortunate crash. I do not wish to appear to be interfering with the due process of justice, but I would like to state on behalf of the company [French Line CGT] that we think the accident was due to his being unable to extricate himself from a dangerous position. We therefore make a very strong appeal, for the clemency of the Court to be exercised in Lieut. Horsey.”

The Court found Horsley guilty on two charges. 

Guy Horsey returned to Naval service. From late 1941 until 12th June 1942 he commanded the infantry Landing Ship HMS St. Helier. The St Helier had been built in 1925 as a passenger carrier but was requisitioned for war service and converted for landing troops.  In June 1943 Horsey was promoted to Lieut. Commander thus successfully rebuilding his career after being court-martialled in September 1936.

The day following the crash in the Solent, the concerns were raised in Parliament. Captain Peter MacDonald [MP Isle of Wight ]:
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the dissatisfaction at the amount of low flying that takes place in the Solent area, and will he take steps to see that this does not take place again? It is a growing nuisance.

Collision in the Channel
April 1902

The Alma, 1145 tons, a passenger steamer, when bound from Southampton to Havre, collided at night with the iron barque Cambrian Prince, 1391 tons.

The captain, chief officer, and nine of the crew of the barque were drowned.

[The Alma is a steel twin-screw steamer of 1145 tons, was built at Glasgow by J. and G. Thomson Limited, in 1894 and chartered to the London and South-western Railway

The Cambrian Prince is an iron ship of 1303 tons, built by T. R. Oswald at Southampton in 1876, and was owned by Messrs W. Thomas Company.]

February 1928


Survivor's Story of Channel Collision

A collision which occurred between tile Russian training ship Tovaritsch and the Italian steamer Alcantara in the English Channel presents mysterious features. The collision resulted in the death of 20 members of the crew of the latter steamer.
Alacantara was built in 1926, later modified with higher funnels 

A point which ls unexplained is the cancellation of the Russian ship's S.O.S. by a second message to the effect that help was not needed. This delayed the departure of lifeboats for three hours until the true position was ascertained from other sources.

The entire crew of the Russian steamer is at present confined to the ship and sworn to secrecy by a representative by a representative of the Arcos Steamship Company. It is impossible in the circumstances to clear up the enigma.

Olovannia Pavon, 28, an engineer of the steamer AIdantara, the sole survivor, who was picked up by the Tovaritsch, was found standing at the Quayside at Southampton, gazing at the battered Tovaritsch.

He said it was dark, and the strong wind was blowing when the collision occurred. The engines were reduced to 7½ knots. The Chief Engineer came down into the engine room. He was  ghastly white. He said the captain had ordered them to stand by, because there was terrible danger. A tremendous crash followed, and was accompanied by groans and curses.

The Chief Engineer shouted, "All hands on deck."

Continuing, Pavon said, "I rushed up in pitch dark. The Alcantara reeled. 1 saw the stern of the Tovuritsch wedged in our starboard quarter. 1 ran to the engine room stairs, turned and called to the mate. Two tremendous reports denoted the explosion of our boilers. I grasped the Tovaritsch bow-spit chain, and a Russian hauled me up. The Alcantara sank in three minutes. The Tovuritsch lowered boats - and searched for survivors without success."

.> LONDON, January 21 1923.

21st January 1923 Tug Albert


A curious shipping accident that occurred on the Mersey resulted in the lost of four lives. A sudden gust of wind over- balanced a coal elevator into the Canada dock, drowning one man. A little later the tug Albert as it passed struck the submerged elevator; the bows of the tug rose in the air, and the tug flipped backwards, filled with water, and sank. Three out of the seven men on board were drowned.


With 110 people on board, a floating bridge began to sink in the River Itchen at Southampton. Boats rushed to the scene from every point, and the last passenger, a man, was taken off just as the floating bridge foundered. The bridge, which plies between Southampton and Woolston, was struck by a tug towing a barge. The collision occurred about. 5 o'clock when the floating bridge had reached the middle of the stream. It bad left the Southampton side for tie suburb of Woolston carrying about 110 passengers and a motor lorry laden with provisions. The bridge was struck by a tug which had a barge in tow. Fortunately, the tug was able to maintain her position by the side of the floating bridge, so that within a short period all the passengers were transferred to the tug and the barge. Within a few minutes of the last person leaving the bridge it sank, taking with it the motor lorry laden with groceries. It was not until late next evening that another bridge could be put into service. In the meantime hundreds of rowing boats appeared from all parts of the river, and did a roaring trade carrying workmen backwards and forwards. A motor bus service, although it had to make a Iong journey round, also did an exceptional trade. The tug named Fawley apparently struck the bridge near the engine-room, so that a considerable quantity of water was taken on board. Hawsers which guide the bridge across the river were snapped by the collision and for a considerable time it prevented the second bridge being used. The driver of the sunken grocery van Joseph McGinnity of Brintons Road, Southampton, said: "I was: taking about £100 worth of groceries to be delivered in Woolston and was standing beside the van on the bridge when I felt a terrific shock. The bridge seemed to lurch with the heavy impact and I saw immediately that the position was serious. The bridge had been moved down stream and water began to rush into her. We became waterlogged, and it seemed pretty obvious that we were not going to get across the river. I scrambled into a boat as the bridge went down." Most of the 110 passengers on the bridge were rescued by clambering on to the Fawley and the barge which the Fawley was towing. Others were rescued by small boats. No one was injured. Mr. A. Matthews, who is employed at the Imperial Airways premises on the Woolston side of the River said there was a tremendous crash, one of the cables of the floating bridge parted and the bridge was carried downstream. There was no panic.”
The floating-bridge, built by Day Summers was salvaged. It wasn't used again but ended it's days as a pontoon at the Supermarine works.


January 1852

It becomes our painful duty to report the particulars of a most appalling accident. The Royal Mail Steam-ship Amazon, Captain Symons, which left Southampton on Friday for the West Indies and the Gulf of Mexico, has been totally consumed by fire, and of 156 persons who were on board her when she left, it is feared only twenty one have been saved.

Of the passengers only two or three escaped, Mr Neilson being one of them. He arrived in Liverpool on Wednesday morning, and has furnished a contemporary with the following most interesting account of the sad catastrophe, of his wonderful escape, arid of the dreadful fate of nearly all the rest of the passengers:

Mr Neilson’s Narrative.

The Amazon sailed from Southampton on Friday evening, with 150 people on board. At 9 p.m. on Friday night, the bearings of the engines became so hot that they were stopped till cooled. At 10 they proceeded. and at noon on Saturday reached lat.49° 12 lon.4°.S7. At 9 30 p.m., Mr Neilson was in the engine room, and saw the grease fly off like steam, from her bearings being again heated. The engines stopped, and engineers commenced pumping on them, and did not resume her course till 11-30. Mr. Neilson remained on deck until half-past 12, up to which time all was safe, he proceeded to the engine-room, and thence to his cabin, leaving Mr Vincent, midshipman, on duty on deck. After ten minutes Mr Vincent went down the fore hold, saw flumes near the galley and gave the alarm to the captain and started the fire-bell. Many hands turned up, and the scene of confusion beggared all description. Most of those on deck were in their night-clothes, and, from seeing Mr Burnett in a life-buoy, Mr Neilson returned to his cabin for an India-rubber belt. Before he could return on deck the flames had burst the class panels, and, rushing across, prevented several passengers gaining the deck. Mr Neilson urged them forward in vain, and rushed past them. Captain Symons was exerting himself most heroically to instruct others to stem the flames, but in vain. His last order was "For God's sake. Mr Roberts, put her before the wind!”  This was done; but Mr Roberts left the helm, and young Mr Vincent, who was lowering the dingy from the stern, jumped outward put the helm hard up, and the vessel played off. The mail boat on the port side was lowered, with about twenty-five people; it swamped alongside, and all perished. The pinace was also lowered; she hung by her fore-tackle on being lowered and the sea swept all hands out of her. On the star-board side the gig was being steadily lowered full of hands; the second cutter in front of her, also full, was lowering down, when a sea struck her bow, unhooked the tackle, and as the ship rose to the sea, lifted the cutter by the stern tackle, and canted all but two into the stern, who hung, doubled over the thwarts, screaming for help. On the starboard side was No. 2 lifeboat, in which were twelve sea-men trying to lower her, but were prevented by her being fast to the keel. Mr Neilson joined those men, in vain trying to get her over the side, when one of the men begged him to regain the deck, and assist in raising her with the tackle. This was done, and the boat was raised out of the keel crane and lowered down; but before half in the water, the flames had burst through the companion and caught the men at the fore tackle, who sprung into the boat, followed by Mr Neilson and two others, who were the last to quit the ship. In this state the boat was dragged until an oar could be got out to fend her off from the cutter, still hanging in the tackle, when the word was given to cut away the fore tackle, and she drifted clear of the doomed ship; which flew through the water at a fearful pace, and soon left the boat astern.  The lifeboat was shortly after joined by the dingy, then in a sinking state, with ten people, including Mr Vincent. They were immediately taken on board, and every effort made in order to assist and save others.  The gale had increased, the sea running fearfully high, and the first effort of the crew to reach the burning ship was paralyzed by a tremendous sea, which swamped the dingy, tore off the lifeboat's rudder and nearly filled her with water. There was nothing for it but to bring her bend to the wind, watching the seas, and directing the men to pull so as to meet them right ahead. While in this state a barque hove in sight, and passed between the burning ship and the boat: they answered the joyful cheer of the boat's crew, and then left them to their fate. The mainmast of the Amazon went first, then the foremast, but some time elapsed before the mizzenmast went by the board, chimneys were red hot, and the hull one mass of flames. About 4 p.m., it rained very heavily, which bore down the sea; the boat was put about and pulled before the wind. As she passed the stern of the ship, the fire reached the magazine and the rockets exploded, and in three-quarters of an hour the ship rolled over and disappeared.

Without a rudder, compass, water, or food, the crew pulled on and headed for the coast of France, as near as they could guess. They broke clear, but without any prospect of relief, and Mr Neilson and Mr. Vincent proceeded to divide the crew into two watches, when the man at the look-out announced a sail ; for upwards of on hour of deep anxiety her course could not be ascertained. She, however, at last was made out to be an outward bound brig, and proved to be the Marsden, of London, Captain Evans, who took the exhausted crew on board, and fronted them with the greatest possible kindness. He tried to land them on the coast of France, but could not and eventually bore up for the English Channel, and landed them at Plymouth, where they were received and treated with the greatest hospitality and kindness by the landlord of The Globe. To Mr Vincent's conduct throughout too much praise cannot be given, and we are assured by Mr. Neilson, from whom we receive this narrative, that he never for one moment witnessed the least symptom of fear or hesitation, or uttered a murmur of discontent, his chief care seeming to be for his men, who, encouraged by his example, noted with a steadiness, uniformity, and discipline, which alone under Divine Providence, could secure, any chance of escape from such a combination of dangers.

The value of the Amazon when ready for sea was about £100,000, and she is understood to have cost the Royal Mail Steam-packet Company fully that sum. We are informed that she is not insured, and the loss will consequently fall entirely upon the insurance fund of the company-a fund exclusively devoted from annual grants, derived, from the profits of the company towards casualties of shipwrecks and loss of their vessels. The value of the specie and quicksilver when added to the value of the ship, will give a total loss of property by this melancholy occurrence of little less than £200.000 sterling.

The West India Mail Company has been the most unfortunate of all the great steam packet associations in the loss of their steam-ships. Since the establishment of the company in 1811 no less than eight of their fleet of steamers have been destroyed by casualties on the sea.

Captain Symons was only provisionally appointed to the Amazon. He recently distinguished himself by great bravery in the Isthmus of Panama, where, by his intrepidity and coolness, he prevented the slaughter of a great number of American passengers by the infuriated natives, and where, under a heavy fire of musketry ammunition, he succeeded in convoying gold [to the value of upwards 2,000,000 dollars] in the boats of the Medway to board the United States mail steamship.

In St Michael’s Church in Bugle Street, Southampton there is a memorial to the disaster.
























The ship had a consignment of cargo destined for the mining industry in Argentina and other South American countries. This included mercury used in fuses and sticks of explosive and gunpowder. When the ship caught fire, these components would add to the imminent fate of the ship.

The vicar of St Michael’s the Rev T. L. Shapcott who had lost a nephew in the tragedy arranged for the memorial to be placed in the church.

The Amazon built of fir pine followed the Admiralty specification that ships with a mail contract were not to be built of iron. Following this disaster the policy was changed and iron ships were used.

New Australia


Nearly ready to bring out new immigrants to Australia

February 1950

Work on the liner New Australia, which used to be the Monarch of Bermuda, is nearing completion at Southampton. When she has been completely refitted after the fire which almost destroyed her, she will enter the Australian run as a migrant ship

June 1950

Nine injured in explosion on liner

With nine injured men on board, the liner New Australia puts into Southampton after a boiler-room explosion during trials off the Isle of Wight. The liner, formerly the Monarch of Bermuda, has just been converted to a migrant ship after being gutted by fire on the Tyne three years ago.

The A8 Submarine

June 14 1905

Disaster result of accident or mistake

 When the sunken submarine A8 was raised in Plymouth Harbour yesterday, the dead bodies of 15 men, who went down with the vessel were recovered. The bodies show the effects of a violent explosion. There are indications that accident or mistake in the manipulation of certain levers caused the A8 to submerge, with the result that the disaster occurred.

June  16 1905

Imposing funeral of the victims
A8 Submarine disaster funeral 

The dead bodies of the men who were drowned in connection with the disaster to submarine A8 in Plymouth Harbour, were accorded an imposing funeral.

June 21 1905

  A missing rivet

Capt. Reginald Hugh Spencer Bacon, D.S.O., Naval Assistant and expert adviser to Admiral Sir John Fisher, G.C.B., has reported upon his examination of the hull of the submarine A8, which was raised after the recent disaster. Capt. Bacon has deposed that a rivet was missing from one of the plates of the forward petrol tank, causing a leakage into the compartment of a volume of water, which, he computes; would equal one per ton per minute. He says it is possible that the submerged crew were imprisoned in the compartment for an hour and 40 minutes before the explosion which proved fatal to them occurred. Thought probably they would have been rendered, unconscious within 20 minutes after, the boat dived.

The Royal Charter


The Royal Charter shipwreck was so famous at the time that the gale is still referred to today as The Royal Charter Storm. During the storm, 133 ships sank, 90 were badly damaged and more than 800 souls were lost

The Royal Charter was sailing from Melbourne. South Australia was going through a gold frenzy and much gold was being carried in the cargo from Ballarat and the South Australian gold fields.

Prospectors returning to England to visit wives and families also carried gold, in some cases worn in a body belt which for sure caused drowning when later they were struggling in giant waves.

Heading for Liverpool, the ship and its valuable cargo was driven off course and headed onto rocks off Moelfre, Anglesey with a loss of 400 men, women, children and crew.

Charles Dickens visited the scene and reported the disaster in a magazine that he published called “All the Year Round” and later featured it in his book “The Uncommercial Traveller”.

The Militia were brought in to guard the wreck and all the scattered suitcases and cargo boxes scattered along the coast.

 The late Alexander McKee a very experienced diver wrote a fascinating book “The Golden Wreck” which highlights that the ship missed a shingle beach by a few yards where it would have safely grounded but fate drove it on to menacing rocks where it soon filled with water and sank.

During the time he was researching the wreck two rival diving families quarreled about salvage rights resulting in the death of one man. McKee as a result had to be ultra careful checking his facts [and omitting some from the book] before going into print as he had to avoid contempt of court action. Nevertheless he leaves us a first class book.

The Rhone


In 1843 Royal Mail Steam Packet Company selected St Thomas in the Danish Virgin Islands as the hub of its West Indies operations. The Danish authorities exempted RMSPC ships from harbour dues as this important frequent trade attracted other lines to use the port and build the local economy. The company maintained 8 moorings in the port and developed its own coaling port. However the down side was with such a busy harbour allowed yellow fever to spread from ship to ship so on occasions the company used the more remote islands to moor and shelter. Such moorings included Peter Island and Salt Island about 15 miles distant.

A hurricane struck, one of the fiercest since 1837 and the Rhone took a battering. Thinking that the worst of the storm was over, the master Captain Woolley moved position thinking that he would find a better shelter but it was but the eye of the storm and it soon continued its velocity. The Rhone was swept onto the rocks at Salt Island. Other ships in the company the Dewent, Solway and the Tyne [all the ships in the company were named after rivers] were de-masted and they lost an inter island older ship the Wye.

Rhone Memorial Southampton Old CemeteryAt Southampton Old Cemetery there is an imposing memorial in the shape of a church steeple dedicated to the Rhone and the Wye.

The wreck is often visited by divers and is well known in diving circles. The film “The Deep” used the wreck as its location but altering the time to the 60’s of divers searching a WWII freighter where they discovered a gang were using the wreck to stash heroin.
The residents of Salt Island with no life saving equipment showed great bravery and determination in trying to rescue crew and passengers. They had previously been slaves but on emancipation were kept on at a very low wage to prepare salt. Ships would purchase blocks of salt to preserve meat and fish in the days before refrigeration. It has been suggested that Queen Victoria granted the islanders the freedom to gather salt in return for an annual shipment of salt for the Royal table. In spite of a personal memory in 1977 when the TV news featured a man arriving at the Royal kitchen to present the salt for the Queen's Silver Jubilee I have been unable to establish any credible source in support of the much quoted legend. Research with the Royal Archivist at Windsor Palace and at the National Archives at Kew have so far proved unsuccessful.
In 2012 volunteers with Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery discovered parts of the monument badly smashed and vandalized. There was nearby beer cans of East European manufacture and outer wrappings of discarded chemicals. Police had the powder analyzed and although not a listed drug, the contents were used mainly in hair dyes used in Poland. Information was that the powder was known to create hallucinations and it is believed that persons taking it as a recreational drug were responsible for the vandalism. Later police and Trading Standards raided premises in Southampton for retailing non EEC approved additives.
Visitors exploring the Rhone and Wye Memorial at Southampton Old Cemetery 


17th June 1940

An accurate figure has not been disclosed but it is estimated that the ship was carrying between 7/9000 troops. The ship was designed to carry 2500 passengers and 500 crew.

She was attacked by an aerial bombardment off the French port of St Nazaire when strafe by enemy fighters and further aircraft soon arrived. A bomb entered the funnel and exploded in the engine room, the doomed ship sank immediately. As men attempted to swim in the thick burning diesel oil the sea became a mass of flame as the aircraft continued to strafe the area. Some men were in the water for several hours and their lungs were to become damaged with the fumes.

Survivors were taken into Weymouth and Millbay at Plymouth. Churchill immediately ordered that the loss should be kept secret as morale would have been severely damaged. The facts only emerged after the war and there has never been an official account released.

The French Government later declared the submerged wreck as a diving exclusion zone but the Lancastria Association wants the UK government to formally classify the wreck as an official war grave. In 2005 the Scottish Parliament set up a book of remembrance on the site of the former Beardmore shipyard where the vessel had been built. On a FOI request correspondence has shown that the UK government “has a growing annoyance with the issue that the wreck should be classed as a war grave”.  A hard pill to swallow for the thousands of relatives who lost loved ones on 17th June 1940 and subsequently of wounds from the attack.


21 February 1917

S.S. MendiThe Mendi was on charter from her owners Elder Dempster to the British government as a troop ship.

The black native community in South Africa had willingly volunteered to fight for the mother country and had joined the South African Native Labour Corps.

On 16th January the ship left Capetown calling at Lagos with the destination of Le Havre. She carried 805 black privates, 5 white officers and 17 NCO’s.

On the morning of 21st February the S.S. Darro travelling at full speed and emitting no warning signals rammed the Mendi amid ships. The Darro hoved to about ½ mile off. The Darro made no effort to lower her life boats or to assist in anyway. An escort destroyer HMS Brisk took on the role of picking up survivors but as very few of the men could swim it was mainly dead bodies being piled onto the deck. The captain and crew of the Darro did not raise a finger to help.

The Reverend Isaac Wauchope Dyobha loudly sang words of comfort to support the dying men. 607 black troops and 33 crew members were lost in the icy waters off the Isle of Wight. The Darro suffered no casualties.

The Inquiry into the collision found the captain of the Darro, Henry W Stump, to be at fault for "having travelled at a dangerously high speed in thick fog, and of having failed to ensure that his ship emitted the necessary fog sound signals." The captain of the Darro had his licence suspended for a year. His failure to render assistance to the Mendi's survivors was publicly criticised at the Inquiry.

H.M.S. Montagu 


Total loss feared
HMS Montagu ashore on Lundy Island 

May 30.

 The first-class battleship HMS Montagu, 14,000 tons, during a fog went ashore at Shutter Point, Lundy Island, at the mouth of the Bristol Channel. The vessel has been badly damaged.  The crew is safe. Assistance has been sent

 May 31.

 The Montagu is badly torn and is filled with water.  It is feared that she will become a total wreck. Her officers and crew have landed.

 The Montagu struck heavily. She Iles across a ledge and her bottom is pierced in several places. Some of the crew have broken arms and other injuries.

 The Montagu, one of the Admiral Class light battleships, was only completed three years ago, though the advent of fighting monsters of the Dreadnought typo would in the next few years have considerably diminished her fighting value. She cost £1,041,992. Her crew consisted of 760 men. The Montagu, which had a displacement of 14,000 tons, was a battleship of the Channel Fleet and according to the April Navy List was commanded by Captain Thomas B. S. Adair.

 Lundy Island consists almost wholly of a mass of granite thrust through sedimentary rocks. The Shutter Rock Is a great cone of granite; so large indeed, that It Is said that if it could be hurled into the Devils Lime Kiln, a cavity upwards of 350ft

Attempts to re-float

July 11th.

 Heavy weather foiled the attempt to re float the battleship Montagu, which went ashore in January at Shutters Point, Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel. Another attempt will be made on 5th August.

 A Battleship in peril

 A Narrow Escape

 July 3.

 During Monday's efforts to tow the battleship Montagu off the rocks H.M.S. Duncan struck a rock, flooding a compartment aft and only narrowly escaped suffering the same fate as HMS Montagu.

 Bombarding HMS Montagu.

 Nov. 16.

 For the purpose of testing the effect of heavy gun-fire on armour, the Doris and Vixen bombarded the battleship Montagu, 14,000 tons, which to towards the end of May last went on the rocks at Lundy Island. The Doris, a 5000-ton cruiser, carries 11 guns. The Vixen is a torpedo boat destroyer.


It took 15 years to fully dismantle the ship and remove the remains. To facilitate access steps were cut in the granite and the Montagu Steps are all that remains of the incident.

HMS Bulwark
HMS Bulwark 

It was on 26th November 1914 when the ship was moored west of Sheerness that a huge explosion occurred. Of her complement of 750 officers and crew only 14 of the crew survived [and two of those subsequently died in hospital]. Of those that survived each struggled with horrific wounds for their remaining years.

The news breaks

Though the world is becoming calloused in regard to reports of great loss of life, the news of the blowing up of H.M.S. Bulwark caused a general feeling of grief.

The cause of the explosion is a mystery that may never be solved. It may have been caused by an accident within the ship, but many people will believe that it was of the machinations of an enemy prepared always to adopt the methods of the assassin.

Loading ammunition

At the time of the explosion, ammunition was being loaded from a barge.

Inquiry into loss

A naval court of inquiry into the causes of the explosion was held on 28 November 1914. It was established that it had been the practice to store ammunition for Bulwark's 6 in (150 mm) guns in cross-passageways connecting her total of 11 magazines. It suggested that, contrary to regulations, 275 six-inch shells had been placed close together, most touching each other, and some touching the walls of the magazine, on the morning of the explosion.

The most likely cause of the disaster appears to have been overheating of cordite charges stored alongside a boiler room bulkhead, and this was the explanation accepted by the court of inquiry. It has also been suggested that damage caused to one of the shells stored in the battleship's cross-passageways may have weakened the fusing mechanism and caused the shell to become 'live'. A blow to the shell, caused by it being dropped point down, could then have set off a chain reaction of explosions among the shells stored in Bulwark's cross-passageways sufficient to detonate the ship's magazines.

Submarine M2

January 1932

The British submarine M2 dived and has not been heard of since. Destroyers searching the area have located an object lying on the bottom in 17 fathoms which is presumed to be the missing vessel. The mine sweeping flotilla and divers have been sent o the area. M2 is fitted with the latest safety appliances and it is possible for all her crew to release themselves If necessary and come to the surface unharmed. Her sister ship, Ml, was lost six years ago, together with her crew of 68 officers and men.

February 3rd

The Admiralty announced tonight that the submarine M2, which has been missing, with 60 hands, since she made a dive during exercises on Tuesday of last week has been located five miles off Portland Bill.

The position of the M2 is where the captain of the coastal steamer Tynesider saw the submarine submerge stern first.  It is also close to where a canvas bag containing the submarine's hand-flags was found.

The position was detected by the destroyer Torrid, using powerful sound-detecting apparatus which picked up sound indicating the presence of a newly-sunk submarine. Mine-sweepers swept the area, and discovered the M2.

Divers descended, but were unable to reach the bottom owing to a strong tide.  They are waiting until slack tide.

The Torrid located a wreck In this vicinity on January 26 but divers subsequently found that the wreck was that of a Q boat, which had been sunk in war time. The spot has been marked by a buoy.

The probable cause

The naval expert of the "Daily Telegraph” quotes a submarine officer as saying that the most likely cause of the loss of theM2 was the explosion of a battery . The M class are probably the safest submarines in existence he said, but they carry storage batteries to feed the electric motors, and these batteries are a perpetual deadly peril If the boat heels at an acute angle the tall batteries may break loose It is very likely that the cause was a hydrogen explosion while the batteries were being charged.  The batteries occupy a space extending from the bows to the conning-tower.  Thus the entire forepart of the vessel may be wrecked instantly, which would explain the complete silence from the wreck. There would not be even time to close the watertight door. It is possible that the doors of the seaplane hangar on the fore deck were prematurely opened but the battery explosion is the only theory that covers all the available facts.

20th March 1914 The sinking of the hospital ship Asturias

Asturias was built in 1908 by Harland & Wolff at Belfast for the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. The British government requisitioned the ship in 1914 and converted her into a hospital ship.

The Asturias was not carrying any wounded soldiers at the time she was torpedoed six miles off Start Point, Devon on the night of 20th March 1917. Her wounded had been disembarked at Avonmouth and she was returning to her base at Southampton when she was attacked by U-boat UC-66. There were 300 persons aboard at the time.

Two torpedoes struck the Asturias at midnight. The weather was fine, and the night dark. The majority of the crew and the hospital staff were asleep in their bunks. The first torpedo struck the rudder and the second the engine-room, where it damaged the machinery and put out the electric light throughout the ship. Patrol vessels quickly answered the distress signals. Many of the survivors were towed to Salcombe and Brixham in boats. They were mostly thinly clad as they had jumped out of their bunks when the alarm sounded.


As far as the German submarine could tell, the Asturias might have been full of sick and wounded. The men aboard knew of Germany's threat to torpedo hospital ships, but most of them considered that such dastardly conduct was impossible, and was unbelievable.

The newspapers recalled the Foreign Office’s declaration of January 31 that if the threat to sink hospital ships were carried out reprisals would immediately be taken. A few days after the attack, reprisal bombing raids were undertaken by the RFC against Germany and leaflets highlighting the breach of the International Convention were dropped as well as bombs.

This was the second attempt to torpedo the Asturias, the first having occurred north-west of Havre, on February 1, 1915. Following outrage from neutral countries the German Ambassador in Washington in a statement “regretted the attempt to torpedo the Asturias, which had been mistaken for a transport”. [The hospital ships were painted white with very large Red Crosses painted on the hull and had a distinctive green waist band. These were illuminated at night].

In the 1917 incident, the first torpedo passed right through the stern. Another larger hole, directly above that made by the torpedo, was caused by the breaking or twisting of the propeller. Water poured in, and the Asturias drifted to the rocky coast of South Devon, where she grounded. Meanwhile the boats which were already out were lowered, and the Army Nursing Sisters were the first to be placed in them.

There were an exceptional number of women aboard owing to sisters whose period of service had expired being brought back from the war zone. One fully-loaded boat capsized. Some of the occupants were in the water for an hour. A few hours earlier there would have been a thousand sick and wounded troops aboard. The villagers in the Salcombe area hearing of the incident generously supplied the hospital staff and crew with clothing, blankets, and boots.

 This time the enemy far from admitting an error claimed that hospital ships were used to carry combat troops and arms contrary to the International Convention. Neutral countries had powers to inspect hospital ships and there had been no evidence produced that Britain and her allies were breaking the Convention. In the following months the German U-boats specifically targeted the hospital ships. The British government  saw that the white hulls and distinguished markings now made the ships an easy target and by 1918 they were all painted grey to appear as normal merchant ships.

There were 11 dead, 3 missing including a nurse, 17 injured in the army medical staff and of the crew 20 dead, 9 missing including a stewardess and 22 injured.  It is estimated that about 9 of the survivors died of their wounds. At the time the 12,000 ton ship was the largest ship to be attacked by the enemy.

Names of those killed are commemorated on the CWGC Memorial at Tower Hill, London. The RAMC personnel were buried mainly at Torquay Cemetery. Many of the crew lost were from Southampton and are buried at the Old Cemetery and at Hollybrook. The web page

http://1914- gives much research on the Southampton graves associated with the tragedy.

The damaged ship was towed to a dockyard and used for ammunition storage for the remainder of the war and in November 1918 the ship was towed to Belfast to repair the stern. In 1920, RMSP decided to bring her back into service as a cruise liner and renamed her as Arcadian. The ship was finally scrapped in 1933.

[Acknowledgements and appreciation to Chris Harley and Dave Jacobs for researching the location of graves]

Captain Henry Down RVR of P&O

Captain Down died on approaching Southampton on the 22nd of January 1864 aged forty-four.  The deceased's death was attributed to a sun stroke which he sustained in the Indian seas in the summer of last year. Captain Down during about eighteen years has been attached to the Peninsular and Oriental Company, by whom he was held in the highest estimation, not only for his ability as a commander, but for his other estimable qualities. When the contract for the Australian overland service was accepted by the company, Captain Down was selected for the command of the pioneer steamer, the Chusan in 1852, and he continued for some years on these coasts afterwards, in the Madras, and finally in the Malta. No man was more deservedly popular.  His remains were interred in Southampton cemetery.

Chusan was the first P. and O. steamship to operate a regular mail ship service between the United Kingdom and Australia, via Singapore. On the first inaugural voyage, she left Southampton on 15th May 1852, and arrived in Sydney on the 3rd August. Her arrival was greeted by large crowds at the dock, a subscription ball and supper was arranged, and an especially composed 'Chusan Waltz' marked the occasion in fine style.

Tug Turmoil

Tug’s crew get cheques Feb 1st 1952

 The Isbrandtsen Company, owners of the freighter Flying Enterprise, which sank in the English Channel last month, to-day presented cheques totalling £2,500 to Captain Dan Parker, Chief Officer Kenneth Dancy, and the crew of the tug Turmoil.

Captain Parker received £750, Mr Dancy £500, and the crew £1,250.

The attempt to tow the freighter through gales failed and legally the Turmoil’s owner was not entitled to salvage money.

Ken Dancy was awarded The Daily Herald Working Hero of the Year and in 1953 Dan Parker was awarded the MBE. Ken Dancy later left a career at sea and after his marriage moved to Holland where he worked in the electronics industry [IBM and Philips]. He died in October 2013.

Following a fall on the Turmoil in the English Channel in 1954, Dan Parker died of his injuries. His ashes were scattered off the IOW and his widow presented a porch light in his memory at Bitterne Parish Church.

November 7th 1910

The mystery sinking of SS Abhona

SS Abhona was a British Passenger Liner of 4,066 tons built in 1910 by A. Stephen & Sons for the British India Steam Navigation. She was powered by two quadruple expansion steam engines of 1,317nhp powered by 6 large boilers giving 14 knots.Abhona was a new ship, having just completed her steam trials consisting of 12 thorough runs [4 at top speed] on the Clyde before proceeding to Plymouth, whence she sailed for Rangoon via Gibraltar and the Suez Canal on November 4th, 1910. The ship was intended for service in eastern waters and did not carry any passengers on her voyage out from England. Her crew numbered 90 all told, of whom 13 were Europeans, and she was commanded by Capt. T. B. Tilling, an officer of long and proved service with the British India Line. The ship was not equipped with radio.

 On November 7th, when in lat. 44 N., long. 90 W., the Abhona was sighted by the Danish steamship, Boscia, which took her to be in difficulties as she had a heavy list to port. The Danish vessel was unable to render any assistance as the weather was very rough and she was some distance away. Shortly after the sighting the liner sank but a black ship's boat with a brown sail was seen for a time but eventually disappeared as if it had sunk. Those on board the Boscia were not aware of the identity of the liner, but saw that she had a black funnel with a white ring. This circumstance and the black ship's boat led the British India Company to believe that this was the Abhona. No word of the ship ever came to hand, but on November 27th a Spanish steam-trawler picked up flotsam from the Abhona off Gijon, Spain.

As was the custom of the BI fleet, none of its vessels were insured.

At the BOT Inquiry a suggestion was made that the ship struck a submerged wreck but this was never proved. There has been some discussion as to whether the water in the ballast tanks was adjusted to give a better pitch in rough seas and an error had occurred.

Copyright John Avery 2011/12/13/14

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