HC Deb 16 June 1854 vol 134 cc261-4

said, seeing the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty in his place, he would take the opportunity of asking whether any information had been received by the Goverment with respect to the loss of the Europa?


Sir, I grieve to say that I received, this morning, a Report from Captain Carnegie, with reference to the loss of the Europa, which confirms the melancholy fact that that ship has been burnt on her passage to Gibraltar. A statement with respect to it will be sent by the Admiralty to the press, so that it may be communicated to the public in full detail, this evening. I believe the short statement of the facts is this, that, I think on the morning of the 1st of June, Captain Carnegie observed smoke in the offing, which, on further investigation, led him to believe that a ship was on fire. He bore down immediately towards the wreck, and found the vessel deserted, burnt to the water's edge, and not a living person on board. Having endeavoured, by sailing round the wreck, to see if any boats could be discovered, and finding none, he came to the conclusion that the crew had escaped, and had been taken on board some vessel, and he ultimately, not without anxiety, left the wreck. I think it was two days after that time that he was boarded by another ship, which communicated to him the fact that, On the night preceding the morning when he had seen the fire, they had been in the immediate neighbourhood of the Europe—that a portion of the crew had made their escape from the burning wreck to that ship, and that another portion had also made their escape to another ship, which was then in the offing; and on the whole, I think, out of the number of persons on board the Europa, amounting to eighty-seven, of whom fifty were soldiers and thirty-one sailors, the crew and officers of the ship, twenty-one, unhappily lost their lives. The House will be grieved to hear that among the officers who have not survived was Colonel Moore, the commander of the Enniskillens, who refused to leave the burning ship while a single private remained on board. He was, unhappily, too late at last to effect Ids own escape, and his life has consequently been lost. Colonel Moore and the assistant veterinary surgeon are the officers who have been lost, and there are six non-commissioned officers, and I think twelve or fourteen men, who have also unfortunately perished. The circumstances which gave rise to the fire are still doubtful; but a full investigation into the cause of it will take place at Gibraltar. I should be neglecting my duty if I did not also say that there are circumstances with respect to the conduct of the sailors on the occasion which are highly unsatisfactory. The whole of the officers of the transport and all the sailors made their escape immediately after the Commencement of the fire, and had not, in my opinion, used sufficient diligence in their exertions to preserve the vessel. I ought, however, to make an exception in favour of the captain of the transport, who remained until the very last, as did the carpenter and one sailor; but with these exceptions I am sorry to say the conduct of the sailors does not appear to me to have been satisfactory. A strict investigation, however, into the cause of the fire will be made at Gibraltar, and what information the Government may obtain upon the subject will be published.


said, he wished to ask the right hon. Baronet whether he had any idea of the cause of the loss of life? Did he suppose it arose from the insufficiency of boats? And, more particularly, he was anxious to ask, whether Sir Baldwin Walker, in the month of March in the present year, had made a Report to the Board of Admiralty of the advantage of supplying troop ships and emigrant ships with a certain class of boats, and whether the right hon. Baronet had any objection to lay that Report on the table of the House?


I am not aware, Sir, of the particular Report of Sir Baldwin Walker to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but if he will give notice of a Motion to lay it on the table of the House, I shall feel it my duty to give my immediate attention to the subject; and if I do do not find it objectionable upon public grounds, which in that case I shall state to the House, I shall be ready to assent to its production. I have great pleasure, however, in stating to the hon. Gentleman and to the House, that the very precautions which he thinks necessary, and which he says Sir Baldwin Walker has recommended, had been taken in the case of the Europa. She had been provided with boats of the description to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. And there were also safety-lamps especially supplied to this transport as a precaution against fire. The vessel, before she sailed, had been examined by Lieutenant General Sir Harry Smith, who thought that the magazine was imperfectly constructed; and in consequence of that the officers of the Board of Ordnance were called in to reconstruct it. The magazine was taken down and rebuilt at Plymouth, and all the precautions which are taken with respect to the magazine of a ship of war were taken with respect to the magazine of this vessel. Every arrangement was made which Sir Harry Smith and the officers of the Board of Ordnance thought necessary.