HC Deb 22 April 1895 vol 32 cc1401-2
MR. H. S. FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft)

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he has received a letter from the coxswain of the Walmer lifeboat and the coxswain of the Deal lifeboat, dated 20th March last, stating that in their experience it is very difficult to distinguish at times what is required when they see signals fired at sea, and assuring him that they have on several occasions launched their boats, at the risk of their lives, in answer to signals supposed to be distress signals, only to find that the vessels firing these signals did not require assistance; whether he is aware that, after the collision between the Rosa Mary and the W. A. Scholten off Dover, the latter showed signals of distress, which were seen by the captain of the royal mail packet Wave (Captain Bennett), and mistaken by him for pilot signals, with the result that, whereas the Wave could easily have rescued all hands, the W. A. Scholten subsequently foundered with a loss of 128 lives; and whether he can hold out any hope of inquiry or action by the Board of Trade on the subject?


Yes, Sir, my right hon. Friend has received the letter referred to by the hon. Member, and a reply has been sent to the effect that distinctive signals of distress are already provided by the international regulations, and that, if they are improperly used, claims as for salvage may be made under the Merchant Shipping Act against the masters and owners of the ships so using them. The collision between the Rosa Mary and the W. A. Scholten occurred eight years ago, but I am informed that the Board of Trade have no information confirming the statement that the Wave could have saved those lost from the Dutch ship if her distress signals had not been mistaken for pilot signals. As my right hon. Colleague has already stated to the House in reply to questions on the 15th of March and the 1st instant, he is advised that the existing distress signals are quite distinctive, and that if they are properly used no confusion should arise. These signals are international, and have worked well for many years, and the Board of Trade see no occasion for further action or inquiry with regard to them.


asked whether Roman candles were commonly recognised as danger signals, though not in the Code?


I have no information.