HC Deb 15 January 1913 vol 46 cc2046-7

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty whether his attention has been drawn to the numerous accidents which occur to officers and men in coaling the ships of the Navy; whether he will give a Return of the number of accidents which have occurred, distinguishing between fatal accidents and others, during each of the years 1910, 1911, and 1912; whether his attention has been drawn to the death of midshipman G. W. Greenwood, killed on board His Majesty's Ship "Bellerophon," at Portland, on the 31st December; whether an inquiry has been held, and with what result; and whether he will consider the desirability of adopting a system of coaling which will avoid the sacrifice of so-many lives?

The FIRST LORD of the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Churchill)

I am advised that it would not be practicable to prepare the Return asked for unless it were confined to fatal or serious cases in which a Court of Inquiry has been ordered. Many minor accidents occur which are not reported, and the Return would, therefore, be incomplete. If my hon. Friend wishes it, I will give instructions for the Return in this modified form to be prepared, but I am very doubtful whether it would serve any useful purpose. The risks attached to coaling are great, but in many cases accidents occur through want of care at a critical moment, and this, no action on the part of the Admiralty can prevent. The circumstances in which serious accidents from time to time occur are closely investigated, and their bearing on the efficiency of coaling arrangements and appliances considered; all practicable safeguards and improvements that experience can suggest are adopted. I am informed that as compared with the large quantities of coal handled under so many varying conditions, the number of serious accidents is small. I made personal inquiry at the time into the distressing circumstances in which Mr. Greenwood lost his life. The Court of Inquiry that investigated the case found that no blame was attributable to anyone, and that all proper precautions had been taken. It appears that by some regrettable mischance this young officer failed to realise that there was a bracket in the way, which prevented his stepping clear of the coal hoist, and before he could get clear the hoist had caught him.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the distinguished character of the career which has been cut short by this accident, as Mr. Greenwood had passed out first from Osborne, Dartmouth, and the Cruiser Squadron, respectively; and will he make inquiries as to the system of coaling in the mercantile marine, where it is believed that the accidents are much less frequent than in the Royal Navy?