HL Deb 21 March 1905 vol 143 cc599-600

My Lords, I rise to ask His Majesty's Government whether they have lodged any claim for pecuniary compensation for the families of the captain, officers, and other members of the crew of the British steamer "Baron Innerdale," who, after the stranding of that vessel, were treacherously murdered within the domains of the Sultan of Muscat; and, if not, whether, in justice to the relatives of the murdered men, and for the protection of the crews of British ships, they will take into consideration the advisability of laying such a claim. I understand that there may be difficulties in the way of getting compensation. What were I would suggest is that if it is not thought advisable or if it would be too expensive for His Majesty's Government to obtain satisfaction from the potentate in whose domains these British subjects were murdered, His Majesty's Government might themselves consider whether they could not make some grant to assist the relatives of these murdered sailors.


My Lords, the facts with regard to this case are as follows:—On August 2nd the steamship, "Baron Innerdale," stranded near Kuria Muria Island. On August 6th—four days later—the captain and officers and a large number of the crew left the ship in two lifeboats, and about eleven days after that a passing steamer, the s.s. "Prome," rescued the remainder of the crew who had stayed on board. Of the two lifeboats that put away from the stranded vessel one has never been heard of. With regard to the other one, rumours reached the Government of India that her crew had been massacred somewhere on the coast, and after considerable difficulty the scene of the outrage was identified, the Sultan of Muscat affording every facility and himself proceeding to the scene of the murder. The result of the inquiries which were made and of the assistance which the ruler afforded us was, shortly, that the ringleader and nine of the murderers were executed on the scene of the murder. A number of other members of the guilty tribes, whose complicity in the murder was proved, are imprisoned at Muscat. The local sheikh has been removed, and the Sultan of Muscat has undertaken, with a view to preventing a repetition of similar outrages, to keep a guard of Muscat troops on the island during the south-west monsoon. The question of compensation about which the noble Lord asks me a question, was, I need not assure your Lordships, carefully considered by the Secretary of State in consultation with his advisers and with the authorities on the spot, and I regret to say that it was found impracticable to recover any appreciable amount from the tribes concerned. Some of them were too poor to pay anything, and others were in such a position of inaccessibility that it would have taken a considerable expedition to recover the sum. On the other hand, my Lords, in view of the goodwill which he had shown and of his prompt and energetic action in helping us to discover and punish the murderers, it was not felt advisable to press Sultan of Muscat on this matter. I might add that while we know from traces that were discovered that one boat's crew were murdered, we have no intelligence of the fate of the other, which I am afraid must have perished. We also have no knowledge as to which crew it was which was murdered, and it would be impossible, under those circumstances, to allocate any sums even if we were able to get them.