HC Deb 19 March 1918 vol 104 cc800-1

According to information obtained from the owners of the vessel and the authorities in India, the facts appear to be as follows: On the arrival of the ss. "Ormonde" in Bombay on 12th January the captain reported that a large number of the engine-room crew had behaved in a mutinous manner throughout the voyage, this behaviour commencing within twenty-four hours of sailing. On the next day a number of the firemen and trimmers attacked some of the stewards in their quarters and stole their money and clothes, and when the second officer intervened he was severely handled by the mutineers, as was also the fourth officer. Owing to non-identification of assailants, they could not be immediately brought to trial. On the same day orders were given to raise steam to take the vessel out into the stream, but this was found to be impossible, as at the time only two or three men were working in each watch, the remainder having verbally, or by their absence, refused to carry out the orders of the first and second engineers, and on the 14th the captain, after consultation with the police and civil authorities, charged fifty-two men with refusing to obey orders and holding up the ship, which was due to sail on the 15th. In addition, seven members of the mutinous crew were convicted on charges of assault and broaching cargo of another ship, and of sale of arms in contravention of the Arms Act.

The temper of the crew was such that it would have been prejudicial to the interests of the State and the tranquility of Bombay if they had been at large. They were, therefore, interned, pending repatriation under escort, for which arrangements are now being made.

The balance of wages of the men now in gaol for the period up to the date of their arrest has been paid over by the owners of the vessel to the shipping master in Bombay for disposal to the men concerned, in accordance with the terms of the Merchant Shipping Act; allowances to their dependants were stopped as from the same date.

Owing entirely to the impossibility of replacing the men arrested by a white crew, it was necessary to engage a full complement of natives for the engine-room crew, and consequently the remaining twenty-one men. who were not implicated in the mutiny had to be repatriated at the owners' expense, and they are now in this country. The balance of wages due to these men was paid over by the owners of the vessel to the Mercantile Marine Office in London on 5th March for remittance to the shipping offices in the localities in which the men reside in accordance with the usual practice.

In view of the reports which have been received on the conduct of the mutinous members of the crew, it would not appear that there is any justification for the suggestion that the case has been dealt with without proper investigation.

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