HC Deb 14 December 1854 vol 136 cc295-8

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty on what day the Prince landed the 46th Regiment; whether the Prince was in the port of Balaklava when the troops were landed; and whether any, and, if so, what stores were landed in the interval between the disembarkation of the troops and the loss of the vessel?


said, in answer to the questions put to him by his hon. and learned Friend, he begged leave to state to him and to the House that as yet the Government had received no official information with respect to the loss of the Prince, and that the only information which had reached them was that which was in common with what had been made known to the public by means of a letter written by one of the survivors, and which was published in the Times newspaper. He was not positive of the fact, but he had reason to believe that the troops were disembarked on the 8th of November; and that they were disembarked, not within the harbour of Balaklava, but outside of it, and his belief was that for some days before the fatal accident occurred a heavy storm came on, and the wind set into the harbour, causing a very considerable surf, which impeded the disembarkation both of the troops and the stores. The troops, he believed, were disembarked, as well as a large portion of stores, by means of smaller steamers going along inside between the Prince and the beach. Perhaps the House would permit him, since there had naturally been a strong feeling excited by reason of the loss of that vessel, to state certain facts concerning the loss of that ship. It had been said that she had before the storm lost her bower anchor and her principal cable from the latter not being sufficiently secured before she left England. Now, he was in a condition to inform the House that the fullest inquiry had been made by the Admiralty as to that point, and that they had obtained the very best evidence to enable them to negative that statement. He held in his hand a letter in which the persons who secured the cable before the vessel sailed deposed to the fact of their having so secured the cables The letter had been received from the General Steam Shipping Company, of whom the Prince was bought for the public service. The letter had been forwarded to himself, as the First Lord of the Admiralty, by the chairman of the Company, and which he would read to the House— General Screw Steam Shipping Company, 27, Cannon Street, London, Dec. 8. Sir—As the Prince steamer was fitted for sea by the General Screw Steam Shipping Company, the board of directors think it their duty to acquaint you, for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that a statement which has appeared in the public papers, that the cables on board that ship were not clinched, is incorrect. I have to annex the copy of a joint statement made to the directors this day by Mr. Isaac Cole, a rigger, and Henry Tucker, his foreman. It will be seen by this statement that Mr. Cole himself saw the cables well and properly lashed with 3½-inch rope to a large ring fitted for that purpose in the chain locker, and that Henry Tucker did the work with the assistance of other hands. Other points connected with the ship and her cargo require explanation or contradiction, which will be given as soon as the necessary corroborative evidence as to the facts is obtained. I have, &c., J. U. ELLIS, Chairman. To that letter was appended the following statement— I, Isaac Cole, am a rigger, and have superintended the fitting out of all the Screw Company's ships. I saw the cables well and properly lashed (not shackled) on board the Prince to a large ring fitted for that purpose in the chain locker, sufficiently large to take about twenty turns of a 3½-inch rope. The ends of the two bower cables were securely lashed with about eleven turns of 3½-inch new rope to this ring. Henry Tucker was the foreman employed by me to lash them, with other hands under him; and this was not done to the Prince alone, but has been the case with every one of the Company's ships, commencing with the Queen of the South. We are both quite sure and will swear the cables of the Prince were so lashed. The Prince had Lenox's capstan and Lenox's patent stoppers, and she appeared to me to be in every way most efficiently fitted. The ring came up to the top of the chain locker, so that the lashing could be cut, if necessary, to slip. ISAAC COLE, Rigger, East India Road, Poplar. HENRY X TUCKER. Given at 27, Cannon Street, City, Dec. 8.

"Witnesses to the signature of Isaac Cole, and mark of Henry Tucker. F. S. ROWE, A. BAINES."
Another statement had been made, which was quite true, namely, that the loss of the vessel was to be ascribed to the snapping of the cables during the storm. Some doubts were entertained as to the sufficient strength of these cables before the vessel sailed, and, by a happy circumstance, to prevent all doubt upon the subject, they were tested by a machine which was used to test the cables of ships of war. Now, he might stop here in his answer to the questions of the hon. and learned Gentleman, but he thought the House would agree with him that there was an act of justice due to the memory of a man who had filled what certainly was a comparatively humble situation—he meant the late master of the Prince, whose memory had been most cruelly assailed. He thought, in justice to that man, who lost his life in the calamity that befell the ship, that he was bound to make the statement which he was about to make. It was quite true that, the Prince having been employed in the Baltic, it was stated by a captain of the navy, who was on board of her on that occasion, that the master of the ship was not sufficiently competent to discharge the responsible duties required of him. The Board of Admiralty, on receiving this statement, made the most searching investigation into the competency of that officer. Inquiry was made of Mr. Ellis, the Chairman of the General Steam Shipping Company, as to what was the opinion of that Company of Mr. Goodall, the master of the Prince, in reference to his past character and capacity as a naval officer; and the Admiralty received the most satisfactory assurance and proofs that he was a most trustworthy seaman, and that the Company felt satisfied that he was fit to be continued in the command of such a vessel. Being, therefore, satisfied with the result of their inquiries, the Admiralty continued him in command of the vessel after she had been purchased. After the ship was purchased, but before she sailed to the Black Sea, it was thought fit to put on board of her, considering the value of the vessel and her cargo, and the vast importance it was to ensure the safe arrival of the troops on board at the earliest period, both an experienced commander of the navy, and also a lieutenant of the navy. Accordingly, Captain Richards, who was a member of the Board of Admiralty, recommended Commander Baynton to be put on board the Prince, to whom specific instructions were given. He might state that Commander Baynton not only shared all the danger, but that he lost his life in that melancholy storm. It so happened, however, that Commander Baynton wrote to Captain Richards from Constantinople on the 5th of November, a few days before the Prince sailed from that port for Balaklava, and he conveyed to Captain Richards his opinion of the merits of the master of the Prince. The letter itself did not now exist, but Captain Richards made a memorandum of its contents at the time of its being written. The memorandum was in these terms— Under an impression that the disagreement between Captain Chads and the master of the Prince had arisen from what might be considered as too much interference on the part of the former with the details of the master's duty, I particularly cautioned Commander Baynton, when placed in the ship as agent, to be careful to avoid such an error, but resolutely to maintain his authority as agent; to be closely observant of the master's proceedings, and not only to correct anything that might appear to require his interference, but also to report without fail any neglect or indifference he might observe in the master. On the arrival of the Prince at Constantinople, Commander Baynton wrote me a private note expressive of his entire satisfaction with the conduct of Mr. Goodall, the master, not only in navigating his ship, but also in the good order he had maintained on board throughout the voyage, and the contentment of the officers and men of the 46th Regiment with their treatment on board. Commander Baynton particularly mentioned a heavy gale of wind the Prince encountered in the Archipelago, which had obliged her to seek refuge twice under Negropont, and that Mr. Goodall had in that instance proved himself a careful and experienced seaman, and had given the agent the utmost satisfaction. Commander Baynton was selected for the agency of the Prince from his known ability and high character in the Royal Navy, and having just returned from the Black Sea. The note has not been preserved, but its contents were communicated by me persoually to Mr. Ellis, the Chairman of the Screw Company, previously to the tidings of the disaster of the Prince having reached this country. The note was dated on the 5th of November, and received by me on the 17th. Previously to the sailing of the Prince, Mr. Ellis informed me that he considered Mr. Goodall the most capable man in the employment of the Company, and one in whom the Company had unbounded confidence. He hoped the House would pardon him for occupying its attention while doing what he conceived to be an act of justice to the memory of a departed officer. He could assure the House that every possible precaution was taken by the Admiralty to secure the safety both of the ship and of the cargo.


asked the First Lord of the Admiralty who was responsible for the order to the transports in Balaklava Harbour to leave that harbour and anchor upon an exposed coast and in deep water?


replied, that the officers commanding transports were subject to the authority and direction of the senior naval officer in the Queen's service in the harbour. His belief was that the transports were moved out of Balaklava Harbour on the 26th of October, when an attack of the enemy was imminent.

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