1903 – Charles Chalmers

Brig ‘Charles Chalmers’; unknown artist; Aberdeen Maritime Museum

The iron framed brigantine Charles Chalmers was built by the Walter Hood yard in Aberdeen, and named after a local Aberdeen worthy. Her length was 102′ 7″, breadth 23′, and depth 12′, and her gross tonnage was 176 tons, and her signal letters MQKP (Shipping and Mercantile Gazette, 17 March 1874). She had one deck, two masts, was snow rigged, and had a shield figurehead. She was launched in February 1874 and was registered in Aberdeen on 10th March 1874. Her manager was William Black in 1874 and Alexander Copland in 1884. Her maiden voyage was on March 11th 1874, sailing for Victoria Dock, London, under Captain Duncan. In her early days she mainly carried coal, but as time went on she carried other materials such as lime.

On 18th September 1903, when she was en route from Aberdeen with a crew of six and a cargo of granite, the armoured cruiser HMS Sutlej collided with her, fifteen miles east of St Abbs Head, and she was sunk. H.M.S. Sutlej, which was commissioned at Chatham in May of 1902, was a new first-class twin-screw steamer of 12,000 tons and was commanded by Captain Paul Bush.

News of the fateful collision was telegraphed to the Admirality and Lloyds List and was shared in newspapers all around the country.

CHARLES CHALMERS

London, Sept. 18. Following telegram received from Vice-Admiral Channel Squadron at St Andrews :—Regret to report Sutlej collided with and sank barque Charles Chalmers, bound from Aberdeen for Sunderland, at 3 a.m. this morning, Friday; four hands drowned including captain and passenger; two hands saved. Names reported as Andrews McKay and David McKay. Vessel sank almost immediately. Sutlej and Doris remained on spot until daylight. Court of inquiry will be held to-day.

Lloyd’s List, Friday 18 September 1903

The Admiral sent a similar telegram to Lord Provost Walker, who replied:

Received your telegram with deep regret. Have called on owners of vessel, who are to communicate the sad intelligence to relatives.

Shetland News, Saturday 26 September 1903

At 10am on the very day of the accident a party of Town Councillors from Aberdeen, led by Provost Murray, had been invited on board the Fleet’s flagship, the Majestic, to meet the Admiral and enjoy a reception and tour. The visit went ahead, despite a choppy sea, but the return appointment at the Town Hall was cancelled. Lord Charles Beresford, Vice Admiral of the Channel Fleet, wrote to Provost Murray from his flagship, the Majestic:

My dear Mr Provost, I was so sorry that I was unable to come and return your courteous visit. But you kindly told me that you would quite understand if circumstances prevented me. I found after you left the Majestic that the report of the Court of Inquiry I ordered to be held with regard to the unfortunate loss of the Charles Chalmers would take up all my time and attention until the hour of sailing, if I was to get it away as I naturally wished to do at the earliest possible moment for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. The sad loss of the poor fellows who died doing their duty in the Charles Chalmers has cast a gloom over the whole Fleet. Men-of-warsmen thoroughly appreciate the difficulties, dangers and hardships attending the life of their brother seamen of the mercantile marine. I have the honour to be, my dear Mr Provost, your obedient servant, Charles Beresford.

St. Andrews Citizen, Saturday 26 September 1903

By Monday evening the Aberdeen Press had more news of the accident and the enquiry on the Majestic.

THE DISASTER TO AN ABERDEEN VESSEL.

Additional Particulars, Five Lives Lost, Statement by Survivors.

Additional details to those in our columns of Saturday, with reference to the disaster off St Abbs Head on Friday morning, by which the brigantine Charles Chalmers, belonging to the Aberdeen Commercial Company, was run into and sunk by the battleship Sutlej, one of the Channel Squadron at present on a cruise in Scottish waters, are now to hand, the survivors of the ill-fated vessel – David Mackay and Andrew Mackay – having arrived in Aberdeen, and having been interviewed by a representative of the Aberdeen Daily Journal. It now appears that there were five lives lost, in place of four formerly reported, the fifth person drowned being a lad, John Pratt, a stoker, and a native of Newcastle, who had persuaded Captain Wishart to give him a passage home, as he was unable to pay his fare. The complete list of the drowned is as follows:

George Wishart (58), master, 19 Cotton Street, Aberdeen, married, leaves a widow and two grown up sons and two daughters.

William Smith (59), mate, 48 St Andrew Street, leaves a widow and a grown-up family of one son and two daughters.

John McIntosh (21), 637 King Street, Abererdeen, unmarried.

Frank Dunnen, A.B., a Swede.

John Pratt (10), Stoker, Jarrow, Newcastle.

The survivors are David Mackay (23), A.B., Portmahomack, and Andrew Mackay (25), A.B., Portmahomack.

According to the statement of David Mackay, the night on which the disaster occurred was perfectly clear. There was no moon visible, but the stars were shining brightly, and as the brig prceeded on her southward course, the crew saw successively the lights of the Isle of May, Barners Point, and St Abbs Head. The crew also saw the battleships coming along, and knew them to be part of the Channel Squadron. The ships were proceeding northwards in two lines – one of four vessels and another of five – one line being outside the other. It was Captain Wishart’s watch on board the Charles Chalmers, he having gone on deck at midnight. The others on the watch were David Mackay and John McIntosh, the cook yutube herunterladen. After going on watch, Mackay was on the outlook for an hour, when McIntosh, who was steering, relieved him, and Mackay went to the helm. The course steered was S. by E., a wide berth being given to the projecting coastline. The huge battleships were seen distinctly approaching, with all their lights burning brightly. The lights on the Charles Chalmers were also burning, and with regard to this matter, Captain Wishart was always very particular, his custom invariably being to see that everything was as it should be, and particularly to make certain as to the trimming and placing of the lamps. The warships were sailing according to the usual plan, the second being two cables’ length in rear of the first, the third being an equal distance from the second, and so on. The Charles Chalmers was evidently seen by those on the lookout on board the first ship of the ‘inside’ line, which was nearest to the brigantine, as her course was suddenly altered, and she cleared in safety the smaller craft. The second vessel of the line also followed the tactics of the leader, her course being also altered in order to prevent fouling with the Charles Chalmers. As the brigantine was passing the first vessel, Captain Wishart shouted, either in irony or in joke, “You do not give a man a chance”, his remark no doubt referring to the narrow escape his vessel had had from being run down. As the third battleship of the line came slowly along, Captain Wishart saw that his vessel had apparently not been observed, as there was no indication that the ship was to follow the others in front and alter her course. He thereupon shouted to those on board the battleship – “Starboard your helm”. There was no response however to his appeal, and the huge ship, which afterwards proved to be the Sutlej, continued in the same course. David Mackay, who was, as already stated, at the wheel, then asked Captain Wishary whether he should alter the course of the brigantine, when the Captain replied – “No; keep your course, they are supposed to clear us. Almost immediately afterwards, the ram of the Sutlej penetrated the Charles Chalmers amidships on the port side. For about five minutes afterwards the warship carried the small craft forward on her ram. The shock of the collision was very slight, and was scarcely felt by the crew of the brigantine. Indeed, those members of the crew who were below at the time hardly felt it, but were alarmed by the shouting of the captain, and all with the exception of John Pratt – the lad who was getting a passage to Sunderland – rushed on deck. [According to the St Andrew’s Citizen, John Pratt was in his bunk]. Shouts were raised for help, Captain Wishart frantically crying, “Where is your assistance now?” Had the Sutlej continued her forward motion, all on board the doomed vessel might have been saved; but, unfortunately, the order was given on board the warship, “Full steam astern”. No sooner had this been done than the Charles Chalners slid off the ram and began to sink. The steersman of the brigantine rushed forward, and in a desperate attempt to save his life, got hold of the bow of the Sutlej, but as there was nothing to get a firm grasp by, he gave up the attempt, and proceeding to the stern of the brigantine, and fortunately securing a lifebuoy, jumped into the sea. He was drawn down by the suction of the sinking vessel, but afterwards came to the surface, when he saw floating beside him the cook’s galley of the brigantine, which had probably been forced from its position by the action of the air getting into the aperture made by the ram. He clutched at the galley, and managed to keep himself afloat for a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes, until boats came from the Sutlej and rescued him. Such, in effect, is the story of the sad disaster, as given by David Mackay. Andrew Mackay gives a similar account of the occurrence. He had been on watch from 8 o’clock till midnight, when he went below. At that time the night was clear, and the light on St Abbs Head was distinctly seen about 15 miles away. The three lights on the Charles Chalmers were also buring brilliantly. He was asleep in his bunk, but about a quarter to three o’clock was awakened by the shouting of Captain Wishart to those on board the Sutlej to starboard their helm. Alarmed at the unusual noise, he sprang from his bunk, and proceeded up the companion ladder from the forecastle. It was not until he reached the deck that he discovered what was amiss. He was astonished to see looming over the small craft the immense bows of the battleship. The Captain at that moment ordered the mate to get out the boat, and the crew to get on board of it at once. The crew got into the boat and the captain endeavoured to cut the lashings, but as his knife was blunt, he failed in his efforts. The crew then looked each man to himself, and Andrew Maolray, getting hold of a lifebuoy, leapt into the water as far away from the sinking vessel as he could. He succeeded in keeping on the surface for, he thinks, about twenty minutes, when assistance came, and he, along with David Mackay, was taken on board the Sutlej, where they were kindly treated by the officers and crew. After sprnging into the water he saw no sign of the Captain, the mate, or of the other men who were drowned.

Both the survivors were examined at an inquiry held on board the Sutlej on Friday afternoon, when they gave evidence in similar terms to those now published facebook videoen. They were afterwards put ashore at St Andrews, and came to Aberdeen, when they proceeded to their lodgings in Clarence Street. Both survivors are looking well and seem to have suffered but little harm from the thrilling experience and hairbreadth escape which they had with their lives. Andrew Mackay joined the Charles Chalmers in the month of July, and was on his third voyage with the vessel. He joined the vessel at Aberdeen. David Mackay joined the brigantine at Sunderland last month, and was on his second voyage with her when the accident happened. Both have lost all their effects, one of them stating that his kit was worth at least £20.

It may be mentioned that Frank Dunnen, the Swede, who was amongst those who perished, was taken on board the brigantine as she was on the point of sailing, to take the place of a man Wills, who had not put in an appearance in time for the departure of the vessel. Wills had thus what looks like a providential escape.

Mr Alexander Copland, manager of the Aberdeen Commercial Company, has shown the greatest solicitude for the bereaved families, and is greatly distressed at the loss of so good a servant as Captain Wishart, of whom he speaks in terms of the highest praise. Mr Copland communicated with Sir Charles Beresford, commanding the squadron, on Saturday regarding the survivors, and received a courteous reply from the Vice Admiral, informing him that the men would be sent on to Aberdeen. Mr Copland, on the arrival of the Mackays, had them conveyed to his residence in Dee Street, and afterwards to their lodgings.

Sir Charles Beresford, we understand, volunteered to land the men at Portmahomack, but they preferred to come to Aberdeen, the home port of the vessel.

Aberdeen Press and Journal, Monday 21 September 1903

The experience on board the Sutlej was reported in the Shetland News.

It appears that the disaster had occurred off Fife Ness [sic] in the middle watch. The night was very dark. Those on board the Sutlej were alarmed at hearing a loud crash, quickly followed by cries for help. The cruiser was at once put about, and it was then ascertained that she had run into a small coasting craft. Orders were given for the Sutlej to stand by, and the Doris was also detached to help in the work of rescue. The unfortunate vessel had a crew of six men, and of these the captain and two men were drowned, and also a passenger. The survivors were taken on board the Sutlej.

Shetland News, Saturday 26 September 1903

It later transpired that one of the drowned men was from Inverness. The local Inverness paper provided more details.

Sad Death of an Inverness Young Man.

In connection with the sad disaster which resulted from the collision last Friday morning between the Charles Chalmers, of Aberdeen, and H.M.S. Sutlej, of the Channel Fleet, it transpires that among the four drowned was a young man belonging to Inverness, John Rennie Mackintosh, youngest son of the late Angus Rennie Mackintosh, shipmaster, Inverness, who was well known in shipping circles, and died in Spain about nine years ago. Young Mackintosh who was twenty-one years of age, was a most capable seaman, and popular among all with whom he came in contact. He had served as quartermaster with the Allan Line from Glasgow to Montreal, and it was his intention, on returning from the unfortunate voyage, to still further prosecute his studies in navigation. He was a smart and promising young man, and his death will be regretted by a wide circle of friends. His eldest brother was for some years assistant-registrar in Inverness. Mrs Mackintosh and family now reside in Aberdeen, and much sympathy will be felt for them in their sudden bereavement.

Inverness Courier, Friday 25 September 1903

More information later emerged about William Smith.

The Mate of the Charles Chalmers.

Mr William Smith, mate of the Charles Chalmers, struck off the Forth Friday morning last week in collision with H.M.S. Sutlej, was a native of Turriff, and had been for a considerable time engaged in the coasting trade. He served for some years in the American Navy, and previous to joining the Charles Chalmers was mate on the Alexander Nicol, also belonging to the Aberdeen Commercial Company. He was a highly respected man, and is survived by a widow and three of family—a son and two daughters.

Peterhead Sentinel and General Advertiser for Buchan District, Saturday 26 September 1903

The full enquiry was held in May the following year, and was reported in Lloyds List.

Charles Chalmers and H.M.S. Sutlej Collision.

In the Admiralty Division today, before the President and Trinity Masters, the hearing was commenced of an action arising out of a collision in the North Sea, off St Abbs Head, between the brigantine Charles Chalmers, of Aberdeen, and H.M.S. Sutlej. The plaintiffs were the Aberdeen Commercial Company (Limited), the owners of the brigantine, and the owners of the cargo of that vessel, and the survivors of her crew, and the defendant was Mr. John A. INGLES, the officer of the watch on board the Sutlej. The collision occurred on the early morning of Sept. 18 last, when the Charles Chalmers was on a voyage from Aberdeen to Sunderland, with a cargo of granite sills, and the Sutlej was one of a squadron of eight warships proceeding in divisions, line ahead disposed to starboard, and was the fourth ship in the port column. The brigantine, which was rammed on the port side, sank almost immediately, and all the deck watch, with the exception of one man, were drowned.

Lloyd’s List, Monday 02 May 1904

The following day Lloyds List published a complete account of the enquiry to date microsoft stream video herunterladen.

Collision in the North Sea.—The Charles Chalmers v. H.M.S. Sutlej.

(Before the President, Sir F. Jeune, and Trinity Masters, May 2.)

This action arose out of a collision between the Aberdeen brigantine Charles Chalmers and H.M.S. Sutlej, resulting in the sinking of the merchantman and the drowning of all the deck watch except one man. The plaintiffs were the Aberdeen Commercial Company (Ltd.), the owners of the brigantine, the owners of her cargo, and the survivors of her crew, suing for their lost effects. The defendant was Lieutenant John A. Ingles, who was officer of the watch on board the warship. According to the statement of claim, the Charles Chalmers (George Wishart, master) was a composite built brigantine, of 187 tons, and shortly before 2.45 a.m. on Sept 18 last, was in the North Sea, between 10 and 15 miles to the eastward of St Abbs Head, in the course of a voyage from Aberdeen to Sunderland, laden with a cargo of granite sills and manned by a crew of six hands. The wind was about S., a moderate breeze, and the weather fine and clear, and the Charles Chalmers, under all sail except the gaff topsail, was close-hauled on the starboard tack, beading about E.S.E. and making between three and four knots. In those circumstances those on board her observed the masthead and red lights of a number of vessels, which proved to be the Channel Fleet, distant between five and six miles and bearing broad on the starboard bow. The brigantine was kept on her course by the wind, and as they approached the vessels of the fleet were made out to be steaming in two lines, there being four vessels in the port line, of which the Sutlej was the sternmost ship. The Charles Chalmers kept her course, and, the third vessel in the port line having passed close across her head, the Sutlej was seen to be coming on with her red light open on the starboard bow of the brigantine, causing danger of collision. The Sutlej was loudly hailed to starboard her helm, and at about the same time the sailing ship was found to be out of command and to be coming up into the wind. The helm of the Charles Chalmers was at once put hard up, but she continued to come round against her helm, and the Sutlej, instead of keeping out of the way, came on at a high rate of speed and with her ram struck the brigantine on the port side, between the fore and main rigging, doing her so much damage that she almost immediately sank, all the deck watch, with the exception of one man, being drowned. It was alleged that the warship improperly attempted to cross ahead of the Charles Chalmers and failed to slacken her speed or stop or reverse her engines at all or in due time.

According to the defence, the Sutlej, shortly before 2.58 a.m. on the day in question, was about 35 miles S.S.E. of St Andrews, proceeding from Sunderland to St. Andrews on a course of N. 23. W. mag., at a speed of 7½ knots. She was one of a squadron of eight ships proceeding in divisions line ahead, disposed to starboard, and was the fourth ship in the port column. H.M.S. Majestic, Prince George and Hannibal were respectively the leading, second and third ships in the column, and the distance between each of the ships and the ship astern was 400 yards, less the length of a ship, over 100 yards. In those circumstances the defendant, who was the officer of the watch on the Sutlej, saw about two points on the port bow, and distant about a mile, a green light which proved to be the starboard light of the Charles Chalmers. Shortly afterwards the Prince George and the Hannibal ported their helms and passed ahead and well clear of the brigantine, which was then less than a point on the port bow of the Sutlej, and the defendant immediately caused the helm of the Sutlej to be put hard a-starboard so as to go astern of the sailing vessel. Directly the order to starboard was obeyed, however, the red light of the Charles Chalmers was opened and her green light disappeared. The defendant at once put the helm of the Sutlej hard a-port, and went full speed astern with the starboard engine, and then, finding a collision was inevitable, went full speed astern with both engines and blew three short blasts on the whistle. Immediately afterwards, however, the port side of the Charles Chalmers struck the ram of the Sutlej, and the former vessel shortly afterwards sank. It was alleged by the defendant that the Charles Chalmers improperly attempted to pass through and break the line of a squadron of warships; and that later she improperly failed to keep her course and speed. As an alternative plea it was contended that if the Charles Chalmers was out of command and her helm was at once put hard up, but without effect, then the collision was an inevitable accident.

Mr Pickford. K.C., and Mr. L. Balloch (instructed by Messrs. T. Cooper and Co.) appeared for the plaintiffs; the Attorney-General (Sir R. Finlay, K.C.), Mr. Acland, K.C., and Mr. Wm. Wills (instructed by the Treasury Solicitor) for the defendants. The hearing was not concluded.

Lloyd’s List, Tuesday 03 May 1904

The Judgement was delivered on May 9th 1904.

MARITIME & COMMERCIAL LAW, HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE. ADMIRALTY DIVISION. Disastrous Collision off St Abbs Head.—The Duties of Men-of-War.—The Charles Chalmers v. H.M.S. Sutlej. (Before the President, Sir F small pdf herunterladen. Jeune, and Trinity Masters, May 9.)

The COURT delivered judgment in this action, which arose out of a collision in the North Sea, off St Abbs Head, between the brigantine Charles Chalmers, belonging to the Aberdeen Commercial Company (Limited), and H.M.S. Sutlej. The plaintiffs were the owners of the brigantine and her cargo, and the survivors of her crew, whilst the defendant was Lieutenant John A. Ingles, who at the time was officer of the watch on board the warship. The casualty, as already reported, occurred on the early morning of Sept 18 last, in fine weather, when the Charles Chalmers (Geo. Wishart, master) was bound from Aberdeen to Sunderland with a cargo of granite sills, and the Sutlej was one of a squadron ot eight ships of war proceeding in divisions line ahead disposed to starboard, and was the fourth ship in the port column. The brigantine, which was rammed on the port side, between the fore and main rigging, sank almost immediately, and the captain and all the deck watch, with the exception of one man, were drowned. The plaintiffs charged the man-of-war with improperly attempting to cross ahead of the sailing ship, and failing to slacken speed or stop or reverse in due time. On the other hand, the Admiralty, for the defendant, relying on the decision ot the Court of Appeal in the Sans Pareil, charged the brigantine with improperly attempting to pass through and break the line of a squadron of warships steaming in company; and also with failing to keep her course and speed when the Sutlej starboarded to go under her stern.

Mr. Pickford, K.C., Mr. Aspinall, K.C., and Mr. Balloch (instructed by Messrs. Cooper and Co.) appeared for the plaintiffs; the Attorney-General (Sir R. Finlay, K.C.), Mr. Acland, K.C., and Mr. Wm. Wills (instructed by the Treasury Solicitor) for the defendant.

The Court pronounced the Sutlej alone to blame.

The President, in giving judgment, said: In this case the questions to be determined are in the main, not entirely, questions of good seamanship. The principles on which this case is to be decided have, fortunately, for all practical purposes, I think, been decided by decisions of this Court and of the Court of Appeal in the case of the Sans Pareil. Two main matters of law are, I think, there decided, and made law for the authority and guidance of this Court. I say matters of law because as regards the question of fact or expert seamanship decided in that case the matter stands on a somewhat different footing. The principles of law which are decided in the main are, I think, two. In the first place it has been made quite clear that men-of-war have no special privilege in respect of their manoeuvres carried out at sea, or the formation in which they think it right their ships should proceed; but they have a right to go in such formation as the rules of the service prescribe, and in doing so they give rise to circumstances which impose or may impose special obligations on others with whom they are brought into relation, and, to some extent also, on themselves. There is nothing special about that. It simply arises from the fact that men-of-war have a perfect right to proceed in the special formations which the rules of their service require, and proceeding in that way they do give rise, of course, to circumstances other than those ordinarily to be found on the seas; but there is nothing special or peculiar about that. To compare great things with small, the position is only that of one vessel towing another or towing more than one. In such circumstances, a duty arises on the part of those brought near the vessel which is acting as a tug, to take special precautions, as the circumstances demand, and, on the other hand, the vessel towing and those behind her have to obey such special rules of seamanship as the circumstances they have properly created necessitate. Coming to the case of men-of-war in particular, the case of the Sans Pareil shows that in certain cases Rule 21, which applies to a vessel keeping its course and speed, may be overridden by Art. 27, and by the decision of the Court of Appeal, though not by the decision of this Court, and by the decision of the experts of the Court of Appeal, though not the decision of the experts of this Court, circumstances did arise in that instance in which the principle laid down in Art. 21 was, owing to the special circumstances of the case, overridden by the obligation imposed by Article 27. I think what I have been laying down seems to me to arise particularly in the decision given by Lord Justice A. L. Smith in the case I have mentioned. He says at page 280 :— “It is now urged by the Attorney-General that the East Lothian is also to blame, and the proposition contended for by him really amounts to this— that a squadron of H.M. ships proceeding in the formation I have described, and occupying about two square miles of water, has a right to the road, and that it is the duty of H.M.’s subjects and of everybody else to get out of the way; but I cannot find any regulation, or Act of Parliament, or rule of law, which will support that proposition; and it seems to me that when H.M.’s ships are navigating in waters like this they must observe the principles of good navigation just like any other of H.M.’s subjects, and must obey the rules of the road.” Then again, at page 182, the Lord Justice says: ” I am, therefore, of opinion that the East Lothian cannot be held to be in fault under the statute, and the result is that the cause of action by the merchantman against the Sans Pareil is really for negligence.” In the same way Lord Justice Romer laid down exactly the same proposition (page 289). He said : “It cannot be disputed that the Channel Fleet had a right to come up Channel in that formation. On the other hand, the fleet had no special right beyond that which all ships have, but it cannot be said that in coming up in that formation, and in the way they did, the Channel Fleet was acting improperly.” I do not think the language used by Lord Justice Vaughan Williams, although at first sight it may look a little different from that of the two learned Lords Justices I have just quoted — in the main I do not think the view of Lord Justice Vaughan Williams in any way differs from that of the other two Lords Justices. He says (page 285): “It seems to me that under those special circumstances the ordinary rules of navigation and the ordinary rules for the prevention of collisions at sea, do not apply, not because there is any special favour or exemption of his Majesty’s ships of war, but because, when they are steaming in company, as they have a perfect right to do, a special state of circumstances arises which makes it dangerous and bad seamanship to apply the ordinary regulations.” I should think it would be universally admitted that it is a little too strong to say that a special state of circumstances which makes it dangerous and bad seamanship to apply the ordinary regulations is the reason why the ordinary regulations do not apply to H.M.’s ships. It is going further than I think Lord Justice Vaughan Williams intended to go. What, no doubt, he intended to say was that a special state of circumstances may arise or arises which makes it dangerous and bad seamanship to apply the ordinary regulations, and that in the case before him be thought it did arise. Therefore I think the views of all the Lords Justices support the proposition which I have ventured to indicate. The second principle of law which appears to me to arise in the case of the “Sans Pareil” is that although in terms some of the articles cease to apply to other ships in the case of their relations with ships of the Royal Navy, because the royal ships are not bound by the articles themselves, but by regulations in the same words, which have no statutory force, but which otherwise are in the same terms, and it follows that in terms some of the articles cease to apply, and do not apply, to merchant ships. Art. 21 is a conspicuous example. It provides that “Where by any of these rules one of two vessels is to keep out of the way, the other is to keep her course and speed.” Of course, it is not by any of these rules that the man-of-war has to keep out of the way instagram videos herunterladen ios. It is by regulations which are in the same terms, but which are not, in fact, “any of these rules.” Therefore in terms Art. 21 would cease to apply to the merchant ship, but that, although it seems to me to be an indisputable proposition, is not one of great practical importance, because the principles of seamanship as indicated by those rules do apply just as much as before. Therefore the questions which arise in a case of this kind appear to me to be questions of seamanship rather than involving the application of the regulations in their terms. I take first the question of the seamanship of the brigantine in question. It is obvious that the decision of the “Sans Pareil” in that respect lends us no assistance, because the circumstances of that case are totally different. Even were it not so, I am by no means certain that it would be my duty, necessarily, to follow the decision arrived at in the Court of Appeal on the advice of their expert advisers; because matters of seamanship are, of course, matters of expert guidance, and I do not know whether or no, where experts in the Court of Appeal differ from the experts in this Court, I am in every case bound to follow the decision of the experts in the other Court. In this case, fortunately, the circumstances are so very different that I do not think any such question can arise, and this case must be decided upon its own merits. One of the broad distinctions between this case and the “Sans Pareil” is that in fact in the “Sans Pareil” there were four lines of men-of-war—four parallel lines—and the tug and tow in question endeavoured to cross ahead of the whole of those four columns. In this Court, the experts thought there was nothing improper, even in those circumstances, in what the tug and tow did. I do not intend to say whether or not I think they were wrong. I desire to express no opinion one way or the other. In the Court of Appeal the experts took an opinion the other way, and I have no doubt their opinion is sufficiently indicated in the clear judgment of Lord Justice Romer. He laid great stress upon the fact that there were four columns, so that if the tug and tow succeeded in crossing ahead of the first she would still have to pass the others. This case is wholly different. There were only two columns, and the endeavour made was not to cross ahead of them, but to cross either before the last two ships of the port column or even only before the last ship—circumstances of great difference, because as, I think, learned counsel justly observed, in this case the second column became wholly immaterial. There was a mile of water, I think—a very considerable distance, at all events, separating the two columns, such as to render it by no means impracticable or impossible to deal with the second column in a satisfactory manner. I am not at all prepared to say that the circumstances in the Sans Pareil have any resemblance to the present case. My view of this case is based on its merits, and I have asked the Elder Brethren whether in their judgment there was any want of propriety in seamanship as regards the conduct of the brigantine; or, in other words, was it proper for her to approach these columns in the way she did? I have received very clear advice from the Elder Brethren that there was nothing improper in her navigation in that respect, and although the men-of-war were proceeding in this formation, there was nothing wrong in the brigantine keeping her course and speed until close upon them—keeping her speed and crossing ahead therefore of the Hannibal, or at any rate, as regards the Sutlej, in allowing the Sutlej to go under her stern. But there comes another question in this case which, I think, if I had to decide it, would be one of very considerable difficulty indeed; and in fact I am not sure I could decide it. That question is whether, when this brigantine threw herself up into the wind, or was thrown up into the wind, there was any negligence or improper seamanship to be imputed to her in respect of that matter. Now, the great difficulty about that is that it is extremely hard to ascertain what the facts were. There is only one survivor of the watch on this unfortunate ship, and, in his view, the helm was never put down, and it was not due to any act or default on the part of those navigating the brigantine. I see no reason myself why I should disbelieve what he says on that subject, but of course the question then arises, how was it that the vessel did come up into the wind? I confess I cannot answer that question, and I have no means of doing so. Several ways are suggested in which the thing might have happened. It was said, I think, by the man who gave evidence from the brigantine, that the wash of the men-of-war which had passed threw the brigantine up into the wind. It is extremely difficult to suppose that was the case, though I do not say it was not, and on the expert advice I have received I am by no means sure that that was the cause or could be the cause which threw the vessel up into the wind. Then there is another cause, and that is that it is suggested that the Sutlej, after she starboarded, may have blanketted the brigantine, and so caused her to come up into the wind. I am told that might very well have happened, and in the circumstances of the case it looks to me very much as if that may have happened, but of course I cannot say so for certain. Therefore I am obliged to say I cannot fix upon any cause as the certain cause why this vessel came up into the wind. All 1 am prepared to say is that as far as I am able to judge, no negliglence whatever is proved against this brigantine. The suggestion has been made, of course, that it is not true she never altered her helm, and that she must have done so; but I do not think it is proved she did, and it is denied by the one person who is able to give direct evidence on the subject, and I am not prepared to disbelieve him. Even if it is true in fact that the helm was put down there would still arise the by no means easy question whether in all the circumstances, with the Hannibal crossing her bows so very close as she did—whether or no there was not created in the minds of those on the brigantine a state of things which rendered them incapable of navigating their vessel properly, so as to shift responsibility from their shoulders to those of the persons in charge of the Hannibal. Still, it renders it much more difficult for me to say there was any negligence on the part of the brigantine. But I do not think it necessary when I come to consider the position of things as regards the Sutlej, because I cannot, on the advice I have received, myself doubt that the navigating officer of the Sutlej made more than one mistake, and that those mistakes were the cause of the collision, and that but for them the collision would not have happened, even if the brigantine had made some mistake in throwing herself up into the wind. Those two matters appear to me to be extremely simple, and both stand on very clear grounds. It was the duty of the Sutlej to keep out of the way of the sailing ship, the obligation arising in the way I have mentioned, and secondly it was her duty under what corresponds with Art. 22 to avoid crossing ahead of the brigantine. What happened, I think, was that the Sutlej did starboard, but that she did not starboard or take any action soon enough, and that is the first criticism which appears to me to be made, and to be unanswerable. We have the account given by Lieutenant Ingles. He has told us what happened, and in the first place be seems to have seen this vessel, her green light, not quite so soon as one would have supposed, because he appears to have had somewhat remarkable confusion or hesitation about this green light. He seems to have confused it for some moments with a powerful shore light, which I should have thought would have been extremely difficult for him to have mistaken. That caused some little delay in his action. He saw the green light about a mile off, and after three or four minutes he saw it one point on his port bow, about half a mile away. Now that was, as I think, on the advice I have received, the time at which he ought at once to have taken action. I do not know whether or no he was influenced by the knowledge of the notice given by the Board of Trade to merchant ships, warning them to avoid passing through squadrons of men-of-war. I am sure that notice was given by the Board of Trade with the best of all possible intentions, on the advice of competent experts; but if its result is to lead those on men-of-war into a belief that merchant ships are bound to avoid passing through squadrons in all circumstances, and bound to go about whenever there is a chance of their so doing, then I think it is a little unfortunate, because it would certainly be going outside the obligations of merchant ships on those occasions. However, I lay no stress upon that, because I do not know whether Lieutenant Ingles’s mind was influenced by that notice. However, he did think the brigantine would go about, and in those circumstances he did not take any action himself at that time. Then comes the question at what time did he take action? It is not quite easy to say, because he said himself that as soon as the Hannibal ported he starboarded, and then gave the order to hard a-starboard. I am not quite sure it was not later, because the defence certainly puts it in terms after the Hannibal had passed, and not at the time when the Hannibal ported; and the fact that the lieutenant did not give two blasts at the time of starboarding seems to show that the starboarding was done under the influence of hurry and at the last moment. I am rather inclined to think, therefore, that the starboarding did not take place until after the Hannibal had passed or while she was passing; that is to say, a very late time indeed. In the opinion of those who are advising me, that was a great deal too late, and he should have starboarded a great deal earlier — indeed, I think when it was made out that it was the green of a sailing vessel — and that his failure to do that really led to the danger which arose. Then there is another point, and that is as to the Sutlej stopping. Now, what he did was to starboard and hard a-starboard, and then he ported back, and put his starboard engine full speed astern. He did that when he saw the red light of the brigantine, because what happened was that the brigantine came up into the wind and showed her red light, and was run into on her port bow. It appears to me to be quite clear on the evidence that the moment he saw this green light alter, indicating that the vessel was coming up into the wind, he ought at once to have reversed with both screws. If he had, it is extremely probable that the collision might have been avoided. Those views appear to me to decide this case, because I am unable to say that the Sutlej is not to blame in the two respects I have mentioned; and although I have avoided deciding the question of cause of the coming up into the wind of the brigantine, it appears to me unnecessary to decide that, because even taking the extreme view that she was negligent, I think — without going beyond the duties that might be expected of such a ship as the Sutlej, of such navigating skill as was, no doubt, at the disposal of those on board her — it is not too hard to say that the effect of this negligence might have been and should have been avoided. It was not. Therefore, I think that decides all the facts of the case. I do not think it necessary to go further into the question of the brigantine’s action, and I think those broad principles of seamanship which I have indicated dispose sufficiently of this question. I think, therefore, that in the circumstances I am bound to say that the Sutlej is alone to blame. Before parting with the case I should just like to add this :— I have indicated, as far as I could, what I think the law is with regard to the position of men-of-war proceeding in formation, drawing it from the principles indicated in the “Sans Pareil.” It is not for me, I think, to say in this Court, or elsewhere, whether or no the law, as it stands, is amply sufficient for the common protection both of men-of-war and merchantmen. I will only say that it seems to me quite clear that if the law as it stands does not afford that perfect facility for manoeuvring which undoubtedly ships ought to have, and at the same time does not afford such complete safety for merchantmen as they ought to possess, the law ought to be altered. I do not disguise from myself the difficulty of altering the law, having regard to two things: first, the difficulty of providing properly for British merchantmen with regard to foreign men-of-war, and also foreign merchantmen with regard to British men-of-war, and there might be practical difficulty in providing sufficient signals to indicate in all weathers and all lights with sufficient clearness when his Majesty’s ships are proceeding in a particular formation. I do not wish to say more than that I take the law as it was laid down in the “Sans Pareil” — without for a moment meaning to say that the law is in a perfectly satisfactory condition; if it is not, I suppose those who are responsible will feel it their duty to take steps to alter the law, keeping always in view the safeguarding of those two objects I have mentioned.

On the application of counsel for the defendant, a stay of execution, pending an appeal, was granted.

Lloyd’s List, Tuesday 10 May 1904

The Court of Appeal gave their judgement in March 1905.

MARITIME & COMMERCIAL LAW. SUPREME COURT OF JUDIVATURE. COURT OF APPEAL.

Disastrous Collision off St Abbs Head. — The Duties of Men-of-War and Merchantmen. — H.M.S. Sutlej v. the Charles Chalmers.

Beore the Master of the Rolls and Lords Justices Mathew and Cozens-Hardy, sitting with Captain Duckrell R.N., and Captain Higginson, nautical assessors. March 7 and 8.)

This was an appeal by Lieut. John A. Ingles from a decision of the late President (Sir Francis Jeune) pronouncing him solely to blame for a collision between Sutiej — of which the appellant was at the time in question officer of the watch — and the brigantine Charles Chalmers, belonging to the Aberdeen Commercial Company. The casualty occurred on the early morning of Sept 18, 1903, in the North Sea, off St Abbs Head, when the brigantine was bound from Aberdeen to Sunderland, with a cargo of granite sills, and the Sutlej was one of a squadron eight ships of of war proceeding in divisions line ahead, disposed to starboard, and was the fourth ship in the column. The Majestic, Prince George, and Hannibal were respectively the leading, second. and third ships in the column, and the distance between each of the ships and the ship astern was 400 yards, less the length of a ship, over 100 yards. Between the columns there was a distance of about a mile. As a result of the collision the brigantine, which was rammed on the port side, between the fore and main rigging, sank almost immediately, and her captain and all the deck hands, with the exception of one man, were drowned. In the Court below the case for the plaintiffs, the owners of the merchant vessel, was that the Charles Chalmers, under all sail except the gaff topsail, was close-hauled on the starboard tack, heading about E.S.E., and making three to four knots, when those on board her sighted the masthead and red lights of the squadron at a distance of five to six miles, broad[?] on the starboard bow; that the brigantine was kept on course by the wind, which was about south, and the third vessel of the port column passed close across her bows, when the Sutlej was seen to be coming on with her red right open on the starboard bow of the sailing vessel, causing danger of collision; that at about the same time the brigantine was found to be out of command, and although her helm was at once put up, she continued to come up into the wind, against her helm, and that the Sutlej, although she was loudly hailed to starboard her helm and keep out of the way of the sailing vessel, came on at a high rate of speed, and in improperly attempting to cross ahead of the Charles Chalmers cam into collision with her. On the other hand, the case for the defence was that when the freen light of the Charles Chalmers was less than a point on the port bow of the Sutlej the helm of the warship was put hard a-starboard, in order to pass astern of the sailing vessel, but that immediately afterwards the brigantine ported, and, although the warship’s helm was at once put hard a-port, and her starboard engine and afterwards both engines were reversed at full speed, the collision could not be avoided. It was alleged by the defendant that the Charles Chalmers improperly attempted to pass through and break the line of a squadron of warships; and that later she improperly failed to keep her course. Alternatively the defendant contended that if the sailing vessel was unavoidably out of command, and refused to answer her helm, the collision was an inevitable accident. In the course of an exhaustive judgment, delivered on May 9 last (fully reported in the Shipping Gazette on May 10 1904), Sir Francis Jeune said he thought the principles on which the case was to be decided had been laid down by the Admiralty Court and the Court of Appeal in the case of the “Sans Pareil”. That case had made it quite clear that though men-of-war had no special privilege in respect of their manoeuvres carried out at sea, or the formation in which they thought it right to proceed, they had a right to go in such formation as the rules of the service prescribed, and in so doing they imposed, or might impose, special obligations on others with whom they were brought into relation, and, to some extent also on themselves. In the same case it had also been laid down that inasmuch as the ships of the Royal Navy were not bound by the ordinary regulations, but by other regulations in the same words, but having no statutory force, certain of the ordinary regulations ceased in terms to apply to merchant vessels when they were brought into relation with warships. Therefore in terms Article 21, which provides that “Where by any of these rules one of two vessels is to keep out of the way, the other is to keep her course and speed,” would not apply to the Charles Chalmers, because the Sutlej was not bound “by any of these rules” to keep out of the way. That seemed to him to be an indisputable proposition, but it was not, in his opinion, one of great practical importance, because the principles of seamanship, as indicated by those rules, did apply just as much as before. Therefore the questions which arose appeared to him to be questions of seamanship, and taking first the case of the brigantine he distinguished it altogether from the case of the sailing ship which collided with the Sand Pareil. In the one case there were two columns; in the other there were four. In the present case the sailing vessel had attempted to cross ahead of either the last two ships of the port column, or even only before the last ship, and had to take no account of the second column, which was a mile away; in the case of the Sans Pareil the ship and her tug had attempted to cross ahead of all four columns. The two cases were wholly different, and, dealing with that which he was considering on its merits, in accordance with the clear advice which he had received from the Elder Brethren, he held that there was nothing improper in the Charles Chalmers approaching the squadron in the way she did. With regard to the allegation that she failed to keep her course, he was unable to fix upon any cause as the certain cause why the vessel came up into the wind. All he was prepared to say was that as far as he was able to judge no negligence was proved against the brigantine. Even if it were true in fact that the helm were put down there would still arise the by no means easy question whether in all the circumstances there was not created in the minds of those on the merchant vessel, by the navigation of the warships, a state of things which rendered them incapable of navigating their vessel properly. Turning to the position of things as regards the Sutlej, the learned President said he could not, on the advice he had received, doubt that the navigating officer of the warship made more than one mistake, and that but for those mistakes the collision would not have happened, even if the brigantine had made the mistake of throwing herself up into the wind. It was the duty of the Sutlej to keep out of the way of the sailing ship, and also her duty, under what corresponded with Article 22, to avoid crossing ahead of the brigantine. The Sutlej, though she had starboarded, had not done so soon enough, and had not reversed with both engines soon enough. Sir F Jeune therefore pronouned Lieutenant Ingles solely to blame for the disaster. The defendant now appealed. It was urged on his behalf that on the evidence the Court below was not justified in finding that the fact of the Charles Chalmers coming up into the wind was not due to the negligence of those on board her; that having regard to the opinion expressed in the Sans Pareil the barque was guilty of improper conduct in throwing herself across the line of warships proceeding in formation; and that she ought to be held alone to blame for the collision.

The Attorney-General (Sir R. Finlay, K.C.), Mr. Acland, K.C., and Mr. Wm. Wills (instructed by the Treasury Solicitor) appeared for the appellant; Mr Pickford, K.C., Mr Aspinall, K.C. and Mr Balloch (instructed by Messrs. Cooper and Co.) for the respondents.

The COURT allowed the appeal, with costs.

The MASTER OF THE ROLLS, in giving judgement, said:

This is an appeal from the decision of the late President, Sir F Jeune, who has held that the warship Sutlej is responsible for the damage done by a collision with a brigantine called the Charles Chalmers. Against that decsion the Crown appeals. It appears that the Sutlej was the last of four men-of-war, which were proceeding in a N. 23 W. direction, up the coast, somewhere in the neighbourhood of St Abbs Head. The Charles Chalmers, which was a brigantine of about 180 tons burden, was steering a S.S.E. course, which would take her across the line which these men-of-war were pursuing. These four warships formed the port division of a squadron which was sailing in two parallel lines, distant about a mile from each other. The brigantine was first sighted by the officer in charge of the Sutlej, or the look-out man on the Sutlej, some six or seven miles away, showing her green light. As the column moved on the Charles Chalmers gradually approached it, and she was under close observation, so to speak, from a distance of about a mile. The ship next in front of the Sutlej was called the Hannibal, and the ship in front of that the Prince George. As the line thus passed along the Prince George — the Majestic does not appear to have been called upon to make any alteration at all in her course — she was the foremost — the Prince George ported, having regard to the position of the Charles Chalmers, and presently the Hannibal came to be the ship nearest to the Charles Chalmers. The Hannibal ported. At that time the Sutlej was, perhaps, rather more than 400 yards behind the Hannibal, and at the time the Hannibal ported the Charles Chalmers was close to the Hannibal, and at a distance of 400 yards from the Sutlej. At the time that the Hannibal ported the officer in charge of the Sutlej caused the helm of the Sutlej to be starboarded, so that those two movements — porting by the Hannibal and starboarding by the Sutlej — took place as nearly as possible simultaneously, and at a distance of rather more than 400 yards. Now, the course that the Charles Chalmers was pursuing at the time the Sutlej starboarded would, in the opinion of our assessors, if she had continued upon that course and the Sutlej had starboarded at the time she did starboard — the joint effect of those two movements would have been that the Charles Chalmers would have passed perfectly clear, without risk or danger of any kind. Then the question is why didn’t they? A most curious phenomenon seems to have taken place with respect to the Charles Chalmers. For some reason or other she was said to have come up into the wind just at this time when the Sutlej starboarded, and various explanations are given of why she did do it. As a matter of fact she came off her course at least eight points, and came round so as to expose her red right to the Sutlej. Under those circumstances the officer of the Sutlej, when this vessel, the Charles Chalmers, which he had every reason to suppose was going to keep her course according to the rules, suddenly changed her course in this way, so as to bring her red light in front of the Sutlej — in the emergency the officer of the Sutlej ported to meet that alteration , and at the same time backed with his starboard engines, so as to assist the action of his port helm. That was a manoeuvre taken in an emergency, and seemed to be the best practicable manoeuvre to meet the quite unexpected emergency created by this sudden change of course on the part of the Charles Chalmers. Under those circumstances it seems to us that nothing whatever which was unreasonable or unseamanlike was done by the officer in charge of the Sutlej. He had adopted a manoeuvre which in the opinion of our skilled assessors was one which would have taken him perfectly clear of the Charles Chalmers had the Charles Chalmers continued upon her course. The Charles Chalmers did not continue upon her course. Was the officer of the Sutlej bound to think such an extraordinary event would happen as that the Charles Chalmers would suddenly come off her course and turn round in such a manner as to create an emergency and make it quite impossible for him to avoid a collision? He seems to have taken prudent steps to avoid a collision, face to face as he was with an emergency entirely brought about by a change of course on the part of the Charles Chalmers, and therefore in my opinion the plaintiffs have entirely failed to establish any negligence whatever on the part of the Sutlej — at least negligence which was the cause of the accident. Of course one feels a very great diffidence in expressing an opinion which differs from that of the learned judge below, but the learned judge appears to me to have to some extent complicated this question by taking into consideration those larger topics involved in the argument that appears to have been addressed to him, namely, whether there are special rights incident to men-of-war when coming near other vessels sailing the sea. No doubt those are very large and important considerations, and the learned President considered them at some length ; but to some extent I think they may have embarassed him in his consideration of the very simple circumstances of the present case , which appear to me to stand clear of those larger considerations of the relations between men-of-war, moving as tbey are entitled to do, in a defined order, and other vessels. Stripping all those larger considerations from the simple facts in this case. I must say it does not appear to me that either of the two grounds of negligence which the learned judge found have been sustained. The grounds of negligence upon which he held the Sutlej to blame were, first of all, that he says the Sutlej starboarded too late, and then that he says, having starboarded too late, her manoeuvre of porting and reversing the starboard engine was also a faulty manoeuvre. Did the Sutlej starboard too late? That is the only point upon which these considerations as to the duties of ships of war may come in, and it seems to me they have some bearing upon the discussion, not necessarily because these were ships of war, but because they are ships of the character and size described, and were manoeuvring, as they are bound and intended to do, in a particular order. Moving in that particular order. it seems to me they came under particular obligations contained in the rules applicable to the purpose. Rule 597 (2) of the regulatins binding upon the King’s Navy says that: – “On every occasion before taking charge of a watch when the ship is in a squadron, he (i.e. the officer of the watch) will see that she is in her station; if out of station he will not take charge until the captain has been informed and his order received to take charge. In every such case the bearings and distance of the next ahead and of the flag are to be noted in the log book.” Then (6) of the same rule provides that “He is to be extremely careful to keep station when sailing with other ships, and is to report at once to the captain if unable to do so”; and (12) is as follows: ” He is never to change the course without directions from the captain, unless to avoid immediate danger.” The Sutlej was undoubtedly the last of the ships of this port division, and she was under an obligation that is put upon her by the rules to which I have referred, and therefore she was not at large to drop out of position with regard to the other vessels in the squadron and sail out to sea by starboarding her helm at any considerable distance – so large a distance as would put it beyond all possibility that she should come into collision with the Charles Chalmers. She would have been violating one obligation in order to attempt to perform another. Obviously there were two duties upon the officer in charge of the Sutlej. He had to respect, so far as possible, the rules of navigation, and also to respect the ordinances specially formulated for his guidance as forming part of a squadron. He had to conciliate the two in a reasonable way. It seems to me that in order to keep his position, he was not bound to take steps to clear the Charles Chalmers at any time before he did actually do so, which, in the opinion of our skilled assessors, gave a sufficient distance in which to carry out with perfect success the manoeuvre which he attempted to carry out, namely of starboarding and attempting to pass under the stern of the Charles Chalmers. It was the purely unexpected movement on the part of the Charles Chalmers which prevented that being effected. In this emergency, having starboarded, and having to meet this unexpected movement on the part of the Charles Chalmers, he took the course he did take of porting and backing with the starboard engine. Having regard to the central position, established by the opinion of our assessors that the initial manoeuvre was a proper manoeuvre, and one that would have been successful, having regard to the distance, but for the unexpected movement of the Charles Chalmers, I do not think any reasonable ground of negligence is shown in the fact that he attempted to meet the unexpected movement of the Charles Chalmers by a counter movement which did not turn out to be successful. On these grounds it seems to me that the judgement of the learned President was wrong, and the appeal must be allowed.

Lord Justice MATHEW: I am of the same opinion. The case stripped of details appears to me to be a very simple one. It is agreed that the Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea apply to the King’s ships, and the important regulations for the purpose of this matter are those which are contained in Articles 19, 21, and 23. It was the duty, under the circumstances, of the Sutlej, the King’s ship, under the provisions of Article 19, to keep out of the way of the sailing vessel. Reference was made to the excellent advice furnifhed by the Board of Trade, advice which any sensible man, whether seaman or not, would perceive to be well worthy of being borne in mind. I need not repeat the statement or advice given by the Board of Trade. It cannot for a moment be suggested that that advice was intended to control, or did control, in any way, the articles to which I have referred. It merely points out that it is prudent to avoid the chance of a collision which would occur where a sailing vessel crosses the line of a squadron; but under the rules to which I have referred the Sutlej was bound to keep out of theh way of the other vessel. That advice did not have the effect of transposing the position of the vessels under the rules. It did not have the effect of compelling the sailing vessel to keep out of the way and of directing the steamer to keep on her course. That being the state of things, we came to the material point, the question of what the Sutlej ought to have done under the circumstances in which she found herself with reference to the sailing vessel. Here we have the assistance of the nautical assessors that at a distance of 400 yards the Sutlej did the right thing in starboarding, and that if the sailing vessel, under Article 21, had kept her course and speed, no collision would have happened. It is perfectly clear that the right course was taken in starboarding, and that the starboarding would have carried the steamer clear of the sailing vessel if, as stated by my lord, something which it was impossible to foresee had not occurred. Under what circumstances the sailing vessel departed from her course it is not necessary to inquire. There is the fact. The green light was exposed and suddenly the red light was seen. What was the Sutlej to do? She was bound to do all she could to avoid the collision, and it may be said at once that these regulations are subject to that primary duty of those in charge of vessels to avoid collision. That appears to be abundantly provided for in Article 27, which provides that – “In obeying and construing these rules due regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision, and to and special circumstances which may render a departure from the above rules necessary in order to prevent immediate danger.” The rules are intended to prevent collision, and if strict adherance to the rules would bring about that which they are intended to prevent it is the duty of those in charge of ships to take proper steps for the protection of life and property. It is not necessary to fo into how far Article 27 is applicable to this particular case, if it is established that the Sutlej did what was right, and it was the misfortune of the sailing vessel that she was not able to adhere to the rule prescribed for her. The consequence was the collision. The result is that this appeal must be alllowed.

Lord Justice COZENS-HARDY concurred, and had nothing to add.

Lloyd’s List, Thursday 09 March 1905

Two days later Lloyds List stated in their editorial:

It was reasonable to expect that the Sutlej appeal would throw some further light on the difficult question raised in both cases – whether the merchant vessel should give way to the squadron and every ship composing it. The result of the appeal is disappointing, as the real question of general importance has not been dealt with directly, and it seems as difficult as ever to understand what is the real duty of the merchant vessel.

Lloyd’s List, Saturday 11 March 1905

Captain John Alexander Ingles of the Royal Navy was, at the time of the collision, 28 years old and a Lieutenant. His career was undamaged by the incident. He was later promoted to Commander and served in WW1. The Enquiry papers are at the National Archives in Kew, but they are not yet digitised.

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