HC Deb 21 December 1934 vol 296 cc1531-2W

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the loss of 17 lives in the sinking of the Newcastle steamer "Usworth" in mid-Atlantic, due entirely to the fact that boats had to be launched and that rescue lines could not be used; and whether he is satisfied that all ships are provided with all possible rescue appliances and the means of using them so as to obviate the necessity of launching boats in heavy seas?


I have seen reports of the loss of the "Usworth", and inquiries are being made into the casualty. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing the sympathy of His Majesty's Government with the relatives of those who lost their lives in this disaster, both those belonging to the "Usworth" and those who gave their lives in a gallant attempt to effect a rescue. I have no reason to suppose that efficient line throwing apparatus was not available both on the "Usworth" and the "Ascania". Indeed, according to the reports available, many attempts were made to establish communication between the "Usworth" and other ships by lines, and for some time the vessel was actually taken in tow. It seems that after the tow line had parted it was not possible to get another line on board owing to the exceptional weather conditions and to the exhausted state of the crew of the "Usworth". Lifeboats were only launched as a last resource in response to urgent requests from the master of the "Usworth" when the position had become precarious and no other method of saving the crew was practicable.

There is nothing in the reports so far received with regard to this casualty to lead me to think that the life saving appliances provided on British ships are inadequate. In the case of all seagoing vessels of over five hundred tons gross these appliances include an approved line throwing apparatus.

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