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Arthur Wilmshurst R.N.
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|Arthur Wilmshurst R.N.||Explanation|
|Date (from)||(Date to)||Personal|
|25 November 1817||Born (Warwick, England), son of John Wilmshurst and Catherine Dubourdieu|
|1 February 1872||Married (Bembridge, Isle of Wight, England) Sophia (1837-1919), daughter of William Henry Fisher (1792-1858) and widow of Augustus Gardiner (1836-1869)|
|10 September 1891||Died (Belvedere Hotel, Douglas, Isle of Man), but living at 52 Cranley Gardens, Kensington, London, England|
|5 August 1839||Mate|
|30 December 1845||Lieutenant|
|13 November 1854||Commander|
|9 July 1861||Captain|
|1 January 1872||Retired Captain|
|5 August 1877||Retired Rear-Admiral|
|8 May 1882||Retired Vice-Admiral|
|Date from||Date to||Service|
|3 September 1845||29 December 1845||Mate in Excellent, commanded by Captain Henry Ducie Chads, gunnery ship, Portsmouth|
|10 January 1846||12 May 1846||Lieutenant in Excellent, commanded by Captain Henry Ducie Chads, gunnery ship, Portsmouth|
|13 May 1846||29 October 1846||Lieutenant in St Vincent, commanded by Captain John Shepherd, flagship of Francis Augustus Collier, Channel squadron|
|6 November 1846||28 September 1850||Lieutenant in Albatross, commanded by Commander Arthur Farquhar, west coast of Africa, then East Indies|
|9 April 1851||1 August 1851||Lieutenant in Excellent, commanded by Captain Henry Ducie Chads, gunnery ship, Portsmouth|
|2 August 1851||14 January 1855||Lieutenant in Trafalgar, commanded by Captain Henry Francis Greville, Mediterranean|
|15 January 1855||23 April 1855||Lieutenant in Vengeance, commanded by Lord Edward Russell, Mediterranean|
|20 December 1855||28 July 1856||Commander (2ic) in Princess Royal, commanded by Captain Lewis Tobias Jones, Mediterranean|
|5 May 1857||27 May 1858||Commander in Racehorse, East Indies and China|
|14 May 1859||28 August 1861||Commander (2ic) in London, commanded by Captain Henry Chads, Mediterranean|
|18 January 1864||8 March 1864||Additional captain in Royal Adelaide, commanded by Captain Henry Caldwell, flagship of Henry Ducie Chads, Devonport, flag-ship of the Port Admiral, for service in Research|
|9 March 1864||25 September 1865||Captain in Research, for trials in home waters|
|26 September 1865||31 January 1866||Additional captain in Fisgard, commanded by Commodore Hugh Dunlop, flagship of John Kingcome, Woolwich, for service in Prince Albert|
|1 February 1866||10 October 1866||Captain in Prince Albert (until paying off at Plymouth), in home waters|
|10 December 1866||21 December 1868||Captain in Flora (until paying off), guardship, Ascension, and Governor of Ascension (until sent home for court-martial)|
|17 May 1870||31 December 1871||Captain in Valiant, Coast Guard, Tarbert, River Shannon|
|Extracts from the Times newspaper|
|Tu 22 December 1868||The Megaera, screw storeshïp, Staff-Commander J. Loane, which was ordered to leave Spithead for Woolwich on Sunday afternoon, after her arrival from Ascension, was detained in the roadstead owing to the violence of the weather, which prevented the transfer of the passengers and invalids on board to the Government steamer sent out to her. She consequently remained at Spithead until yesterday morning, when, the weather continuing rough, she steamed into Portsmouth harbour, and disembarked her passengers and invalids at the dockyard. Among the passengers brought home by the Megaera is Capt. Arthur Wilmshurst, R.N., lately commanding Her Majesty's ship Flora and Governor of the island of Ascension, who has been superseded as the result of a Court of Inquiry held by Commodore Dowell, C.B., and sent home for trial by Court-martial. The charges brought against Capt. Wilmshurst relate to his alleged purchase of the wreck of the ship Bremensis, lost on the north point of Ascension, and other alleged illegal matters connected with his government of the island. It is understood that the Court-martial for the trial of Captain Wilmshurst will be held on board Her Majesty's ship Victory, at Portsmouth, on Monday next, under the presidency of Admiral Sir Thomas Pasley, K.C.B., Rear-Admiral George Greville Wellesley, C.B., and the Captains of Her Majesty's ships in commission at the port forming the Court. Several officers and seamen belonging to the Flora have come home in the Megaera as witnesses for the prosecution and the defence. The last Cape mail brought the following items of intelligence respecting the charges which have been brought against Capt. Wilmshurst:—|
"Capt. Grant returns to England from the inquiry that he was sent out to make into the loss of the ship Bremensis, 1,359 tons, from Bombay, with 6,181 bales of cotton for Liverpool, which was wrecked on the north point of Ascension on August 11, under circumstances which are expected to lead to grave legal complications, as after 2,084 bales had been salved the vessel and the rest of the cargo were sold to Capt. Arthur Wilmshurst, the governor of the island, for 20l. Extraordinary proceedings are expected to be disclosed in reference to this affair, and some other matters at the island. A Court of Inquiry has been held by Commodore Dowell, C.B., the Commander-in-Chief at the station, and Capt. Wilmshurst is superseded and returns home in the Megaera to take his trial by Court-martial. Lieut. Forrest, Navigating-Lieut. Molloy, Paymaster Lewis, and the carpenter and several seamen of the Flora, are coming home also as witnesses. Capt. Wilmshurst had succeeded in saving a large quantity of the material of the wreck and 700 bales of cotton on his own account, it was alleged, by the services of Government servants, and partly in Government time. An inquiry had been previously made by Capt. Wilmshurst into a charge of alleged trading brought against Paymaster Lewis, and the charge was adjudged to be false and malicious; but it was rumoured at the island that the inquiry and the survey held on the Bremensis, by which she was condemned, are likely to undergo further investigation. Extraordinary disclosures relative to the government of the island are also looked forward to, on account of a notice having recently been exhibited that, as the island was the property of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, and bonâ fide part and parcel of Her Majesty's ship Flora, all persons on the island were to consider themselves subject to naval discipline."
|Th 31 December 1868||The Admiralty have cancelled the charges framed some ten days ago for the trial of Capt. A. Wilmshurst, R.N., recently commanding Her Majesty's ship Flora, and Governor of the Island of Ascension, appointed to commence on Monday next on board Her Majesty's ship Victory in Portsmouth Harbour, and have substituted others which have been drawn up in a somewhat milder form in the first charge. Admiral Sir Thomas Pasley will be president of the court, and Rear-Admiral Superintendent G. G. Wellesley, C.B., vice-president. The other members of the court will be composed of captains commanding Her Majesty's ships in commission at the port and senior to Capt. Wilmshurst. Capt. George F. Blake, Royal Marine Light Infantry, will officiate as judge-advocate on the occasion, and Mr. George P. Martin, Paymaster of Her Majesty’s yacht Victoria and Albert, has been appointed by the Admiralty to act as the prosecutor. Mr. Vernon Harcourt will appear in the court as Capt. Wilmshurst's "friend;" and conduct his defence, assisted by Mr. Henry Ford, solicitor, of Portsmouth.|
|Tu 5 January 1869|
COURT-MARTIAL UPON CAPTAIN A. WILMSHURST, R.N.
"First Charge.- For that he, the said Arthur Wilmshurst, being a person subject to the Naval Discipline Act, 1866, and captain of Her Majesty's ship Flora, and having the command and authority in the Island of Ascension, in the absence of the Commodore commanding on the West Coast of Africa, was, during such absence of the Commodore, guilty of conduct unbecoming the character of an officer, in this - that the merchant ship Bremensis, Thomas Webster, master, laden with a cargo of cotton and other good and merchandise, having been wrecked on the said island on or about the 11th day of August, 1868, and a part of the cargo of cotton having been saved by the officers and men under captain Wilmshurst's orders, he did, on or about the 19th day of August, 1868, order the work of clearing the wreck to be suspended, with intent to compel and oblige the master of the said ship Bremensis, to apply for a survey of the said ship, whereby she and the remainder of her cargo might be sold; that the master of the Bremensis was, in consequence, obliged to apply, and did apply, to captain Wilmshurst, for a survey on the said ship, and that the surveying officers reported that the ship and remaining cargo ought to be sold in consequence of Captain Wilmshurst informing them that no labour would be provided for clearing the said wreck and saving the cargo; that the said ship and remaining cargo were sold by auction, and at the sale were improperly purchased by captain Wilmshurst for the sum of 20l.; that the work of saving the cargo was afterwards resumed by orders from captain Wilmshurst, and about 600 bales of cotton saved; that the purchase by captain Wilmshurst was not for the benefit of the owners or underwriters, or other persons legally interested, and that the cargo and other articles and portions of the wrecked vessel saved subsequently to the purchase were not saved for the benefit of those interested, as it was Captain Wilmshurst's duty to have done.
"Second Charge:- For that he, the said Captain Wilmshurst, being a person subject to the Naval Discipline Act, 1866, and captain of Her Majesty's ship Flora, was guilty of an act unbecoming the character of an officer , in having, on or about the 1st day of October, 1868, sold to messrs. Solomon, Moss, and Gideon, merchants of St. Helena, some of the cotton and other articles saved from the wreck of the Bremensis for a sum of about 365l., for his own benefit and advantage, and not for an on behalf of the owners and underwriters of the said ship, or others legally interested, as it was his duty to have done."
The court was composed of the following officers:- Admiral Sir Thomas S. Pasley, president; Rear-Admiral George G. Wellesley, C.B., Vice-President; Captains E.R. Rich [should be: E.B. Rice], Her Majesty's ship Asia; G Le Geyt Bowyear, Her Majesty's ship Victory; T. Cochrane, Her Majesty's ship Duke of Wellington; Lord Gilford, Her Majesty's ship Hercules; G. Brooker, Her Majesty's ship Wivern; and E. Harding, Her Majesty's ship Juno. Captain G. F. Blake, R.M.L.I., officiated as Judge-Advocate; Mr. Marten, paymaster of her Majesty's yacht Victoria and Albert, acted as prosecutor. Mr Vernon Harcourt, Q.C., M.P., assisted by Mr. Henry Ford, solicitor, appeared as the "friend" of Captain Wilmshurst.
After the swearing in of the Court and the reading by the Judge-Advocate of the usual official documents, and of the charges brought against the prisoner, witnesses were called to prove the authenticity of certain documents.
Mr. George Gordon Scott, Admiralty clerk, produced the victualling list of Her Majesty's ship Flora, and alterations attached, signed by the prisoner.
Mr. James Lewis, paymaster, Royal Navy, at present belonging to Her Majesty's ship Flora, recognised the signature attached to certain documents now before the court as being that of captain Wilmshurst - to musters and victualing list of Her majesty's ship Flora for Michaelmas quarter, 1868; monthly return for October, 1868; the account of moneys received and paid with regard to the Bremensis, dated October, 1868; and an inventory of all articles salved from the Bremensis prior to the sale by auction, dated October 21, 1868.
Navigating Lieutenant John Molloy, R.N., sworn, and examined by the prosecutor.— Was serving on board Her Majesty’s ship Flora in 1868. Captain Wilmshurst had command of the island of Ascension in August last, and resided on shore in an official residence. Witness kept the Ascension pier log, and now produced it to the Court. It was submitted to the prisoner from time to time as a record of events occurring at the pier head. Remembered the merchant ship Bremensis being wrecked on the evening of the 11th of August on the reef on the north point of Ascension. Received orders at night from Captain Wilmshurst to proceed in the tug to the wreck and render assistance. Took about 15 men in the tug, and boarded the ship Bremensis. Saw the captain and explained what the tug had come for. The precise orders given by the prisoner were to render assistance, the first object being to save life, the rest being left to the witness’s discretion. Found the sails of the Bremensis furled and the ship bumping, though not very heavily, on the reef. The cargo consisted of cotton, dyenuts, and coir. On the following day witness had her fore and main masts cut away, and took five bales of cotton from her. On first going to the wreck that day he was present at a conversation between the prisoner and the master of the Bremensis. When the prisoner boarded the Bremensis the crew had abandoned the ship. The crew went on board the Bremensis again immediately after the masts were cut away. Heard no orders given by the prisoner to the crew of the Bremensis at that time. Received orders from the prisoner on the 12th to cut away the mainmast of the Bremensis and to save cargo, the crew of the Bremensis to assist. First received orders from the prisoner to employ the Bremensis' crew on board their ship; and, secondly, that they were to be employed on shore and kept by themselves. They were not permitted to work on board the wreck after the second order. Had about 30 men in the Flora's working party at the wreck. Could have employed more hands at the wreck on that day, as there was a great deal of sailors' work to be done. Was employed four days at the wreck, including the day the ship was wrecked. Remembered accompanying the master of the Bremensis to the prisoner’s house on the 12th or 13th of August, in consequence of a representation he made that his crew had struck work, A conversation ensued between the prisoner and the master of the Bremensis, in reference to what course the prisoner should pursue under the circumstances. Could not remember the exact words that passed, but it was to the effect that Captain Webster should induce his crew to turn to at work again. The prisoner expressed to witness considerable doubt as to what course he should pursue with reference to the wreck. Could not remember exactly what he said. The next morning the prisoner ordered witness to take charge of the wreck, but attend to Captain Webster's suggestions. Did so, and during the time so in charge was superintending the saving of cotton from the wreck by the Flora's men, the crew of the Bremensis being employed in English Bay in landing the cotton, and it was necessary the whole of the latter should be so employed, it being very hard work. This was by prisoner’s orders, Marines would have been competent to perform that duty had the crew of the Bremensis been employed on board their own ship. No Marines were so employed. Witness was one of the officers employed to survey and report upon the wreck. Thought the order was given on the 22d by Captain Wilmshurst. (Written order for the survey to be held handed in to the Court by the prisoner.)
Examination resumed.— On the 24th of August went to survey the wreck with Lieutenant Forrest, Mr. Turner, carpenter, and Mr. Goodridge, master of the merchant ship Rajasthan. Found the ship hogged and with her back broken in two places, the butt ends of her planking started, and outside planking under the fore chains started, the ship full of water, many of her main deck beams and deck broken up. One bale of cotton taken from the main hold was opened. The water had penetrated but very little, excepting at the ends, where the lashings had been carried away. On the upper deck there were eight or ten bales of cotton not as wet as those in the hold. There was a little loose cotton on the upper deck torn from the bales as they were sent over the side. The ship’s anchors were there and pumps. Believed the cotton remained on board until after the sale. Witness and the other surveying officer[s] on the way back in the tug consulted as to the nature of the report to be made. The naval officers were unanimous, but there was a difference of opinion. Received a communication from Mr. Lewis, as coming from the prisoner, relating to the survey. In consequence of that communication the surveying officers recommended that the ship and cargo should be sold for the benefit of the underwriters.
A copy of the recommendation of the surveying officers in writing was here produced and read; it was to the effect that the ship and cargo be sold "for the benefit of all concerned,” and was addressed to the prisoner.
Examination resumed.— That report was not in accordance with witness’s original opinion, which was that the ship should be sold and the cargo saved. That opinion was not committed to writing, the report not being fully drawn up. Witness’s opinion was changed in consequence of a statement made in the first instance to Mr. Lewis by the prisoner.
Court here cleared, and on re-opening the witness was requested to confine his answers to his own individual knowledge.
Examination resumed.— Witness's opinion was altered in consequence of a statement made to him by Mr. Lewis in the first place, and secondly by Mr. Forrest. The saving of cargo was suspended on the 19th of August, everything being carried on under prisoner’s direction. In witness’s opinion, labour was available at the time. Was present at the sale of the wreck and remaining cargo; prisoner was also present. The sale was held on the 26th of August, outside the Victualling Office. The ship and cargo were sola for 20l. Made an entry in the Ascension pier log of the occurrence. Read from the log as follows:—
At the sale the wreck and cargo were knocked down to Mr. Lewis for the prisoner. Mr. Lewis said in bidding, "Twenty pounds for Captain Wilmshurst." After the sale the work on the wreck was resumed on the 29th of August by Captain Wilmshurst's orders, volunteer labour being sent for on that day. Thought no commissioned officer was in command of the men after the sale, but always before the sale. Commodore Dowell arrived at Ascension in the Rattlesnake, on the 22d of September. By the merchant vessel Rajasthan cotton was shipped for England. The loading commenced on the 20th of August, and continued to the 4th of September inclusive. On board the steam mail packet Roman, on the 1st of October, cotton was shipped by order of Captain Wilmshurst.
By the COURT.— To the best of witness's knowledge the cotton sent by the Rajasthan was for the underwriters. That sent by the Roman was the property of Captain Wilmshurst. It was daylight when the Bremensis struck on the reef, and when witness boarded her the next day her mainmast was through her bottom, and the means available at the island could not have got her off. When the work of saving cargo on the 19th was abandoned there was a certain amount of risk to life, one man having already been killed. Thought there was nothing in the state of the weather between the 19th and 29th to make the work of saving cargo more difficult than it had been previously. The sale was a public one, but no one bid excepting the prisoner. The men generally commenced work at the wreck at 6 a.m., and left off at 6 p.m. The Bremensis was wrecked about half or three quarters of a mile from English Bay, where a portion of the cargo was landed. This cotton was discharged from the ship into lighters, and they were afterwards towed by the tug to the pier-head and to English Bay. Was on board the Bremensis within three hours after she struck. The masts were cut away by the request of the master of the ship, he offering a reward of 10l. to any man who would cut away the lanyards of the main rigging. Thought all the available seamen of the Flora were employed on the wreck. Told the prisoner frequently that were there more men more work could be done. A store porter was the auctioneer at the sale. No merchants from St. Helena were present. The master of the Rajasthan was present. Did not think there were 20 persons altogether present. Thought all the island heads of departments were present. Due notice was given of the sale, but was not aware of any notice being given that volunteer labour would be allowed if any person bought the wreck. Only two persons lived on the island besides persons under the Government. When the wreck was first boarded by witness she was between 300 and 400 yards from the nearest shore. When the wreck broke up it was not more than 200 or 300 yards. On witness first visiting the Bremensis the tug was made fast to the ship's stern twice, and had the tug been a more powerful vessel the ship would have been got off the reef with the greatest ease. The tug at Ascension is about 10-horse power. Heard the crew of the Bremensis ordered to abandon the ship by the captain, and all that night she was left with not a soul on board. In witness's opinion, had the crew remained on board and on the upper deck that night, there would have been danger, as the mainmast was threatening to go by the board at every surge, but thought the crew might have been safe under the ship's topgallant forecastle.
Cross-examined by the prisoner.— The wind was fair with fine weather for the Bremensis, when she struck on the reef. In the first instance, on the 11th, no attempt was made by the crew of the Bremensis to save the cargo, but they did their best to save the ship. While on board the sails were reset. On witness quitting the ship some remained set, others were clewed up. The state of the masts rendered it dangerous to send men aloft. There was a difficulty in inducing the crew of the Bremensis to save cargo. In witness's judgment the crew of the Bremensis, so long as they remained under the command of their captain and his officers, if left to themselves, would have saved the cargo. When the ship got on shore the captain and his officers had proper command over the men. Afterwards the crew were asked to volunteer to cut away the masts, but none came forward. The captain of the ship told witness that he considered the service of such danger that he would not order any of his men on the duty, and at this time the reward of 10l. was offered. It was essential to the safety of any one going on board the Bremensis that the masts should be cut away. Two petty officers, under witness's direction — boatswain’s mates Hannan and Boyce — cut away the port lanyards of the main rigging and freed the ship of her masts. While the masts remained standing the saving of any cargo could not have been attempted. The crew of the Bremensis at one time did strike work. Was on board the wreck three or four days saving cargo, and was incapacitated from remaining longer by a sunstroke. Several men of the Flora were injured and one killed in the work of salving the cargo. During the time employed on board the Bremensis everything was done that could be done with the men at witness's disposal. They averaged about 30 or 35 in number. On the inquiry before Commodore Dowell he remembered making some statement, but no more men could have been spared from his department than he had. As more men than were employed on the wreck were required, he would have employed the carpenters, sawyers, wheelwrights, and all the marines. The carpenters, sawyers, and wheelwrights were employed in the dockyard at Ascension, and the marines on the public works on shore. Thought that considering the valuable nature of the Bremensis' cargo, and with none of Her Majesty’s ships in harbour at the time, the public service would not have suffered much for a few days by the withdrawal of these men from the public service. The claim for salvage on the part of the Flora's ship’s company, witness thought, might have been greater had that course been pursued. While witness was in charge of the Bremensis her master did not complain in any way of the manner in which the ship was dealt with, or the cargo being saved. Did not know the prisoner’s sole reason for allotting the work of the crew of the Bremensis on shore was because they were located in English Bay. There was one tug and seven lighters available at the island for saving the Bremensis’ cargo. To a certain extent the fact of there being but one tug limited the number of men who might be usefully employed on the wreck. Was aware that a part of these men were employed in loading the Rajasthan. The loading of the Rajasthan commenced on the day after the men were taking off the Bremensis. Government stores had been landed from the Rajasthan, and were lying on the beach exposed to the sun previous to the 19th, but could not say whether any remained at that date, they being rolled away as opportunity offered. Some of the Flora's men were employed on this duty. At the time of making the survey on the Bremensis, the work of saving the cargo was, in witness's opinion, such as the prisoner would have been justified in ordering to be done. In the inquiry before Commodore Dowell, remembered saying that the ship and cargo being the private property of Captain Wilmshurst after the sale, he did not think he would be justified in ordering men to work at the cargo.
A statement alleged to have been made by the witness at Ascension before Captain Grant was here read by the prisoner as follows:— "There was a very great stench down below, when she was surveyed, and does not think that, having reference to their health and usage of the service, it would have been a proper place in which to order men to work, the ship and cargo being private property."
Witness.— "Those were precisely my words, but had reference to the ship and cargo after both had been purchased by Captain Wilmshurst, and that is what I meant by private property." At the time of the survey the sale had not been made. Commodore Dowell's inquiry was held long after the survey, and he put the question to witness as to the policy of employing the men on the wreck after she was sold. Believed that Commodore Dowell sent volunteers from the Rattlesnake to the wreck after the sale to assist in saving cargo. At the time of the survey the Bremensis was breaking up very fast between decks, and had the north-east rollers set in the ship would soon have gone to pieces. The master of the Bremensis appeared very anxious to get away from the island at the time of the survey, as he said it would not pay to save the cargo. At the time of the survey did not remember the master of the Bremensis protesting against the ship being condemned without the cargo, but he said it was not legal to condemn one without the other. He was very anxious indeed that both should be condemned and became so loud in his remarks that witness was compelled to request him to leave the office. At that time all the dry cotton had been taken out of the Bremensis, but was not all on board the Rajasthan. At the time of the survey there were some few bales of cotton on the upper deck of the Bremensis, some floating about in the hold, and the greater part under water. The master of the Bremensis said that the wet cotton left in the ship's hold was not worth salvage, but witness did not believe him. He said further that as soon as the dry cotton was shipped in the Rajasthan it would become a negotiable article. The master of the Bremensis expressed a wish to go home by the first mail, but heard him say nothing about bills of lading. He did say, witness thought, that as soon as he got a cargo for the Rajasthan he should have done his duty by the underwriters. Mr. Goodridge, the master of the Rajasthan, saw both the hull and cargo of the Bremensis. He did not positively refuse to sign any report that he did not do this, as such a report was never fully drawn up, but he demurred to the opinion entertained by the naval officers as to one cargo, saying that he did not think it was legal to condemn one without the other. Witness gave as a reason to the master of the Rajasthan for endeavouring to save the cargo, instead of condemning it, the fineness of the weather, and the cargo being very valuable. Very possibly might have said to Mr. Goodridge that the more got out of the ship the greater would be the salvage, and that if a recommendation were made to sell the ship and cargo, and Government should buy her, no salvage would be got. Was not aware that the master of the Rajasthan had any interest in desiring that the cargo should be condemned; nor could he say whether his judgment in this respect, as an experienced merchant captain, was unbiased or not. The wreck of the Bremensis could have been sold to the captain of the Rajasthan, and her pumps, anchors, cables, windlass pumps, and various other gear would have been worth to him 300l. or 400l. A recommendation to sell the ship or cargo, one without the other, was never made, as the surveying officers were under the impression it would be illegal.
The Prisoner.— Was that not what you insisted should be done, and is it not one of the charges against me that I sold the cargo as well as the ship?
Witness.— We did not insist that one should be sold without the other. We recommended that both should be sold in consequence of your having stated that you were not prepared to give any more labour to clear the ship. Witness continued, in answer to further questions.— Believe now that it was wrong at the time to sell either ship or cargo. The first recommendation of the surveying officers was not made officially, and the second was made purely in consequence of the statement by Captain Wilmshurst that he had no more labour. Personally, the prisoner said nothing to witness on the matter. Thought it possible the captain of the Rajasthan might have bought the vessel and cargo after signing the recommendation that it should be sold. Thought so while acting with him on the survey. He did not say he meant to purchase. Could not say why he did not bid for the ship. Should think fewer men were employed on the wreck after it was sold than while it continued the property of the underwriters. Believed that the property (cotton) sent on board the Roman belonged to the prisoner, he having bought the whole for 20l. Did not know it was sold to pay the expenses of the volunteers who saved it. Knew nothing then of certain conditions of the sale, or to whom sold. Had heard since his return to England. Knew that volunteers were paid for saving the cotton before it was shipped, and was under the impression that the money came from the prisoner's private purse. Was now aware that the property salved after the sale, after the payment of the salvors, was held over for, and had now been handed over to the underwriters. Knew Mr. Mathews, of Ascension, who claimed to be a representative of Lloyd’s. In his capacity as such was not aware that he protested in any way against the sale. He was not present at the sale. There had been a question in Ascension of establishing a canteen store and doing away with the sutler's store kept by Mr. Mathews. Messrs. Webb and Co., the owners of the sutler's store, were under notice from the Admiralty to quit the island. Remembered the prisoner having alluded to the salvage of the cargo after the sale, when he said, "We shall now overcome the obstacle we had in not having capital to start the canteen." Don't remember anything being said about the underwriters. At the time the survey was being made out, Captain Webster, of the Bremensis, he thought, said "Yes, the survey is at my requisition, and I shall act upon your recommendation or not as I think proper."
Re-examined by Prosecutor.— On the evening of the 11th of August quitted the wreck about 12 o'clock, and took her crew, excepting the master and a boat's crew, who remained by the ship all night. Could not term this an abandonment of the ship. The offer of 10l. on the following day he should think was not the act of a master abandoning his vessel. Believed the crew of the Bremensis were willing to work if allowed to work on board their own ship; their great objection seemed to be to working ashore. The man killed on board the wreck was a Krooman. Heard that he was jammed against the side of the lighter by a bale of cotton. Of sawyers and carpenters on the island there were about 12 or 15 who could have been employed on the wreck. The Rajasthan had been chartered by the captain of the wrecked ship to convey a certain quantity of cotton to England, and he was anxious to get her loaded. This was the only reason witness knew of why the loading of the Rajasthan was gone on with in preference to the work at the wreck. The loading of the Rajasthan occupied 16 days. Mr. Mathews in no way interfered with witness at the wreck at any time so as to lead to the belief that he had been asked by the master of the Bremensis to act as Lloyd's agent.
By the PRESIDENT.— Knew of no reason for Captain Wilmshurst selling the cargo saved from the wreck in preference to saving and storing it for the benefit of the owners and underwriters.
This concluded the witness's re-examination, and the Court now, at 4 30 p.m., adjourned until this morning, having sat continuously since 9 30 a.m.
|We 6 January 1869|
THE COURT-MARTIAL ON CAPTAIN WILMSHURST, R.N.
The Court for the trial of this officer held its second day's sittings yesterday, on board Her Majesty's ship Victory, at Portsmouth, the Court opening at 9 30 a.m., as on the previous day,
Navigating-Lieutenant Molloy recalled, and examined by the Acting Judge-Advocate.— The Ascension pier log, containing the entry to the effect that the wreck was sold to Captain Wilmshurst for 20l. was submitted to that officer on the following Sunday. Was not aware of any demands from the ships of the African squadron requiring the services of the carpenters and sawyers. Could not say what work the marines were employed about on shore, nor if their withdrawal would have been detrimental to the public service. Could have saved more cotton from the wreck had there been more labour for the work. On one day, a Sunday, all hands in the garrison were employed at the wreck, and that day between 5,000l. and 6,000l. worth of cotton, about 500 bales, were saved. Had all the men been employed on the wreck, thought the greater portion of the cotton would have been saved, but would not undertake to say all. No labour was available at the island of Ascension for clearing the wreck after purchase, except such as could be obtained from the Governor of the island or from ships in harbour.
In reply to a question here put by Admiral Sir T. Pasley, relative to an answer given by witness in his cross-examination of yesterday, the witness replied that Captain Grant told him after his arrival in the island that all the cargo saved after the sale was sold on behalf of, and the proceeds handed over to, the underwriters. There were seven or eight hundred bales of cotton salved from the wreck after the sale. Had said in previous day's cross-examination that the use of only one tug had limited, to a certain extent, the number of men employable, but on the one day on which all the men were employed at the wreck the one tug was found sufficient. (The prisoner here handed in a written protest against the course now being pursued by the Judge-Advocate, but the Court overruled the objection raised, the members of the Court taking up the examination.)
By the COURT.— The pencil entries in the log (Ascension pier log) were entered after the log had been made up for the time, but previous to Commodore Dowell's inquiry. They were not made by order of the prisoner, but witness believed he had seen them. The Sunday on which all the men in the garrison were engaged on the wreck was before the sale.
In answer to questions in cross-examination allowed to the prisoner, and put through the Court, the witness said,— On the Sunday spoken of I was not at the mountain or on board the wreck; I was in the garrison landing cotton. The only day on which all the men were employed was a Sunday, on which no work on shore required to be done. Commodore Dowell was at Ascension when the cotton was shipped on board the Roman, that had been sold to pay the volunteer salvors. The pencil marks in the margin of the Ascension pier log were made by witness to refresh his memory as to the number of men employed on the Bremensis, as witness had been named to give evidence on the inquiry to be held by Commodore Dowell. The entries ranged from the 12th to the 24th of August, and the entries of men employed at the wreck each day ranged from 20 to 35. The entries for Sunday, the day on which all the men on the island were employed on the wreck, a pen mark was run through the number (40) placed opposite the day, and an explanatory remark made in the log to the effect that "all hands" on that day were employed in clearing the wreck of cargo, and stowing away the same on shore and on board Her Majesty's ship Flora.
An hour was now occupied in reading this witness's evidence over to him, after which Lieutenant Charles Forrest, R.N., was sworn and examined by the prosecutor.— Was senior lieutenant of Her Majesty's ship Flora. Her complement of men consisted of 100 seamen and 10 marines. Thought there were 60 marines on the island besides. The day after the wreck of the Bremensis had orders from the prisoner to send all the available men as a working party to the wreck to assist Mr. Molloy, and lent about 40 daily up to August 19. Received orders from Captain Wilmshurst, the prisoner, to discontinue sending a working party to the wreck. Discontinued the working party, therefore, and afterwards received counter orders. Received orders to survey the remains of the ship and cargo of the Bremensis, in consequence of a requisition to that effect from her captain. The working party sent by witness from the Flora had been discontinued. As one of the officers on the survey witness went on board the wreck of the Bremensis. (Witness in describing the general appearance of the wreck corrected the evidence previously given by Navigating Lieutenant Molloy). Witness's opinion on returning from the wreck was that the ship should be sold and the cargo saved, providing labour for the latter purpose was available. A rough draught of a report to this effect was at once drawn up, but not then signed. Before the final drawing up of the fair report had some conversation with the prisoner. On arriving on shore from the survey was met by the paymaster, Mr. Lewis, who inquired the result of the proceedings. Received a communication from the prisoner through Mr. Lewis. Told the prisoner the opinion of the officers on the survey, to the effect that the ship should be sold and the whole or the greater part of the cargo saved, provided he could give the labour. The prisoner replied that he could not give any more labour, as the public service was going behind and would not admit of it, and he also thought the Commodore would find fault with what had been already done. The surveying officers all then came to the conclusion that the ship and cargo should be sold for the benefit of the underwriters, the reason for coming to this conclusion being the declaration of the prisoner that he could give no more labour. The fee paid to the officers who held the survey was two guineas each — eight guineas in all. The final report, after being signed by the surveying officers, was delivered to the prisoner. Afterwards had some conversation with the prisoner on the report made. On the following morning waited upon the prisoner at the request of the other surveying officers, and asked to be allowed to put in the report of the survey the reasons for coming to its conclusions, to which the prisoner replied, "No, he did not see any reasons for it." After the sale received orders to send all the working party out from the ship to the wreck, with the exception of a boat's crew and four marines to keep watch on the gangway.
By the COURT.— Received orders to cease sending working parties to the wreck on the 19th of August. When witness again received orders to send a working party (after the sale) to the wreck the men were to volunteer for the work, and all the ship's company did so. Believed that 10s. was to be given for every bale of cotton saved. Thought the master of the Bremensis was justified in asking for the survey from the actual state of the ship and cargo alone. Was not in the habit of consulting the officer ordering a survey to be held, when serving on such surveys, as to what should be the contents of a report of survey. No alteration could be made in the report of the survey, witness thought, after it had been handed in to the prisoner without the latter's permission. The master of the Bremensis came into the office where the surveying officers were consulting and said, "It was his survey, and he should act upon it as he liked, whatever was recommended." Upon this he was ordered out of the office. Neither the master of the Bremensis, nor Mr. Mathews, Lloyd's agent, to witness's knowledge, made any objection to the sale of the wreck and remaining cargo.
Cross-examined by the prisoner.— All the crew of Her Majesty's ship Flora, including the Kroomen, but excepting the cooks and stewards, were employed on the wreck to the 19th of August. There were 200 of them at work in all. The bandsmen, officers' servants, and others, were at work on shore. Only the cooks and stewards and sergeant of marines were kept on board the Flora while the wreck was being cleared. 1,500 bales of cotton were stowed on board the Flora. The master of the Bremensis wanted the Rajasthan loaded very much, to enable him to pay off the crew of the Bremensis and get away from the island. Was not aware that the discontinuance of the work on the wreck on the 19th of August was in consequence of an order to load the Rajasthan. As soon as the Rajasthan was loaded, or nearly so, with sound cotton, the work was resumed at the wreck. Before going on the survey of the wreck, witness had received no communication from the prisoner on the subject of labour. At the time of the survey the wreck was breaking up, but he did not expect she would soon go to pieces so long as the then weather continued, and the north-east rollers did not set in. There was a great stench on board the wreck at the time of the survey, which might probably have brought on sickness. The men left their work on the wreck sick from time to time.
Copy of evidence taken at Ascension, at an inquiry into the wreck and sale of the Bremensis, held by Captain Grant agent to Lloyd's Salvage Association, at Ascension, was here placed in the witness's hand by the prisoner's counsel, with the intention of refreshing the witness's memory on a question put. Prosecutor objected to any copy of a document being used for such a purpose, and insisted that the original only could be received. Prisoner explained that the original document was in the possession of Captain Grant. The President of the Court and members ruled that the defence must summons Captain Grant to attend the Court, and produce the original document on the defence.
Cross-examination resumed.— The master of the Bremensis told witness that the reason he called for a survey upon the wreck was the small amount of cargo being saved and the consequent great expense it would entail upon the underwriters. When waiting upon the prisoner with the surveying officers' application that their reasons for drawing up the report might be appended to it, he was not aware that the prisoner had then handed over the report to the master of the Bremensis. The master of the Bremensis messed with witness and saw him daily. He never made any complaint in witness's presence relative to the ship or cargo, or the manner in which it had been taken possession of. Knew that he claimed to act as the agent for the underwriters. Believed that Mr. Mathews, as Lloyd's agent, might have protested against the master of the Bremensis selling the wreck of the ship if the former thought it illegal. Thought he did not so protest. Knew of no reason why the master of the Bremensis did not stay at Ascension to salve the remainder of his vessel's cargo, instead of selling ship and cargo, excepting that he would have to apply to the prisoner for lighters. He had his own boats. Believed the tug was not used after the sale to bring in cotton, as the cotton had to be dried in English Bay, and the tug was laid up from leaks in her boilers. Believed the repairs to the tug were rendered necessary by the great quantity of work she had done at the wreck, and in loading the Rajasthan.
Re-examined by prosecutor.— All the men from the ship, including cooks, stewards, and boys, were employed in loading the Rajasthan on the 20th and following days, and in sending in cotton from English Bay landed from the wreck. Had stated in examination that there was no apparent reason why the master of the Bremensis should not have remained at Ascension and salved the remainder of his vessel's cargo, but when the master left the island the vessel and her cargo were sold and beyond his control.
By the PRESIDENT.— Volunteers to salve the cargo from the wreck were called for by an order from Captain Wilmshurst, but it was open for them to go or not, as they liked. Believed the hours of work to have been from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. They lived ashore in English Bay, and the whole party did not return to the Flora until the 13th of October. They left the Flora on this salvage work on the 29th of August. About 30 men were away, Mr. Hawkins, the boatswain, being in charge.
The Acting Judge-Advocate next read over the evidence of the witness in examinations and cross-examinations, after which the Court adjourned until this morning.
|Th 7 January 1869|
COURT-MARTIAL UPON CAPTAIN A. WILMSHURST, R.N.
The Court for the trial of this officer opened for its third sitting at 9 30 a.m. yesterday morning, on board Her Majesty's ship Victory, at Portsmouth.
Mr. Scott, Admiralty clerk, produced the cash accounts of Mr. Lewis, paymaster of the Her Majesty's ship Flora, from 1st April, 1868, to the 31st of October, 1868.
Mr. John Hawkins, boatswain, Royal Navy, lately serving on board the Flora during the time of the wreck of the Bremensis, examined by the prosecutor,— Had charge of the tug at the time and went in her to the Bremensis directly after the latter struck on the reef. Went on board the wreck some days afterwards to assist in clearing cargo. Afterwards went to English Bay to ship the cotton that had been landed there on board the Rajasthan for conveyance to England. In witness's opinion it would have been the wiser course to have allowed the bales of cotton landed in English Bay to have dried in the sun, and have continued salving more from the wreck, rather than have discontinued salving and sending the cotton at once on board the Rajasthan. The ordinary working hands with witness would have not been sufficient to both salve the cargo and load the Rajasthan. If the crew of the Bremensis had been employed at the wreck, there would then have been sufficient men to do both. On the 29th of August the prisoner said to witness:— "I want to give you a job, to save what you can from the wreck." Could not remember the precise words that followed, it being five months ago, but the instructions were to raise what volunteers witness could, and they would be paid 10s. per bale for all cotton saved. Did not take these instructions as an order, but as a request. Resumed work on board the wreck on the afternoon of Saturday, the 29th, with the volunteers. Found bales of cotton on the upper deck, landed them, and the service was paid for. On the 31st of August received orders from the prisoner to ask the commanding officer on board the Flora for what hands could be spared, and to continue saving all that could be saved. Drew the salvage money from time to time from Mr. Lewis, the paymaster, and paid it over to the volunteer salvors of the Flora. Saved some anchors from the wreck, and ten per cent. on their value was paid as salvage by Mr. Lewis. (Receipts for moneys paid for salvage produced by prisoner, and handed in to the officiating Judge-Advocate.) The prisoner told witness the rate of salvage for the anchors was to be ten per cent. on the full value, and also that other stores salved was to be paid for at the same rate. Witness had charge of the working party of volunteers. With double the number of hands more of the cargo from the wreck could have been saved. Continued working at the wreck up to the 2d or 3d of October.
By the COURT.— Understood the cargo was being saved, in the first place, for the owners or underwriters, and secondly — after the sale of the vessel — for Captain Wilmshurst. The whole of the time witness was working at the wreck with the volunteers was after the sale of the vessel, and, witness understood, on behalf of Captain Wilmshurst. Of the salvage Kroomen received half a share, white men one share, and witness two shares. This was by the prisoner's orders. Only a portion more of the cargo could have been saved had more hands been employed at the wreck. The stores recovered were valued by the heads of departments to which they belonged. Took what was given for them, asked no questions, and was satisfied all was right. On the prisoner wanting volunteers to work at the wreck witness went to the petty officers of the Flora's quarters, explained the terms, and told all who agreed to them to go to the Captain's office, where the prisoner met them, and explained the terms to them as he had to witness. The "heads of the departments," who valued the stores recovered from the wreck were the engineer and carpenter at the Government stores. Considered that, not up to the time of the sale, but up to the time of the withdrawal of the men from the wreck, everything was done by the prisoner for the interests of the underwriters. The clearing of the wreck and the loading of the Rajasthan could have been carried on at the same time, and sufficient men found for the purpose if the work on the island had been suspended. No one did the work on the island of those volunteers who worked at the wreck after the sale. The volunteers were excused from all other duties. They consisted of petty officers, seamen, Marines, and Kroomen. Knew of no reason why the crew of the Bremensis should not have been employed on the wreck with the crew of the Flora before the sale. They would have been of great assistance in saving cargo.
(A medical certificate was here handed in to the Court, to the effect that Captain Grant, agent to Lloyd's Salvage Association, who had been summoned to attend the Court and produce a certain document in his possession, would be unable from illness to attend the Court during the next three days.)
Cross-examined.— The offer to the Marines to volunteer was made through the petty officers and word passed, but made no offer to the Marines on shore. (What the Court wished to discover was, not what the crew of the Bremensis did after the sale of the wreck, but before. Referring to the log of Her Majesty's ship Flora). Eighteen of the crew of the Bremensis had been discharged and sent home previous to the work on the wreck having been commenced by the volunteers, on the 27th and 28th of August. The remainder of the crew, excepting the captain and chief mate, went home in the mail packet Saxon on the 31st. Did not know whether the prisoner handed over to the agent of the underwriters the salvage of the wreck after having sold sufficient for paying the salvors, having left the island when the agent arrived there. Thought cotton could have been carried from the wreck to the shore and also to the Rajasthan, at intervals of time. The crew of the Bremensis were employed in loading the Rajasthan, and from the 19th to the 29th of August believed all available hands were so loading. Equal numbers of men could have been employed to land cotton from the wreck and to tow lighters backwards and forwards, which would have enabled the party on board to get up more cotton, as they were forced to discontinue getting it up earlier each day than they would otherwise have done, so as to discharge the lighters the same day. Half as many more men would have been of little or no use. The lighters had frequently to be left at the buoys all night loaded. If the work had been left to the crew of the Bremensis, witness did not think the cargo would have been saved. Thought the Flora's men working at the wreck and the crew of the Bremensis on shore the best arrangement that could be made for saving the cargo, considering that the Bremensis men lived on the beach. After the survey only 600 bales were saved in five weeks, while 2,000 bales had been recovered in one week previously. After the 29th of August the holds of the wreck were full of water, and the cotton had to be fished up from depths varying from two to six feet, then hoisted out into the lighters, towed to the beach, and landed through the surf. No man would have volunteered for the work but for the promise of immediate payment. Men suffered to their health from the work, and frequently had to go in and apply to the doctor. Believed the sum paid to the volunteers to have been fair pay for the work. Men from the commodore’s ship, the Rattlesnake, and the Vestal were sent to the wreck and paid as volunteers. Knew that the commodore visited the wreck with the prisoner after the sale. It was a very unusual circumstance for the water to remain smooth so long a time at Ascension as it did at the time the wreck lay there. Had eventually to partially blow up the wreck to liberate the cotton, but did not think this partly caused the ship to go to pieces. The explosion appeared to have liberated the cotton further aft as well as immediately around the spot where it was fired. Thought there were 2,000 or more bales of cotton left in the ship when she went to pieces, hardly half the cargo having been saved.
Re-examined by the prosecutor.— Know that the crew of the Bremensis had struck work by their refusing to assist the Flora's men in loading the lighters with cotton from English Bay, but all of them assisted again the same afternoon. Never heard that the crew of the Bremensis refused to work on board their own ship, if permitted to do so. About the time of raising volunteers the remainder of the crew of the Bremensis left on the island were on board Her Majesty's ship Flora doing nothing. Did not inform them personally that they could volunteer and receive the same rate of salvage. A boatswain's mate passed the word for volunteers, but understood that to apply to the crew of the Flora only. The crew of the Bremensis might have been useful on board their ship from their local knowledge of the ship and stowage of the cargo, but did not think the crews of the two ships would have agreed in working together.
Mr. John Turner, carpenter, R.N., examined by the prosecutor.— Was serving on board the Flora at the time of the wreck of the Bremensis. Had about 22 carpenters, wheel wrights, &c., under him at Ascension. Two of these men were employed at the wreck before the sale, and about six afterwards. Could not say whether any more than two of these men could be spared to go to the wreck, as witness was anxious to get the work done on the inland, consisting of repairs to boat sheds, work on a ship in harbour, repairs to turtle boats and to lighters. If the ship was not then in harbour she was expected there; the turtle season commenced on the following January, and there were then seven lighters fit for duty. Was one of the surveying officers on the wreck, and went with the others from the wreck to the office of Navigating-Lieutenant Molloy. The report was not drawn up and signed in accordance with witness's original opinion. Was induced to change opinion on tho subject by the masters of thy Rajasthan and Bremensis saying it was not legal to sell the ship without the cargo, and also in consequence of a communication from Lieutenant Forrest, which he had brought from the prisoner. Lieutenant Forrest left the office to see the prisoner, and on his return the report of the survey was drawn up and signed.
By the COURT.— Was induced by what Lieutenant Forrest said to change his opinion on the required nature of the report of the survey.
Cross-examined by the prisoner.— Had said before Commodore Dowell that no more hands could be spared from the carpenter's department, and that the two men on the wreck were wanted back. Still held that opinion. The ship requiring the work in the harbour (a pair of sheers to raise stone out of the hold) was the Rajasthan. [A question was here put to the witness relative to any urgency that might exist for the immediate construction of these sheers, or whether the men might not have been taken from the work for a time without injury to the public service, but the witness could not comprehend clearly the question, nor could the Court understand his answers.] Many things were recovered from the wreck by the men under witness after the survey. Had said at the inquiry before Commodore Dowell that it would have been a hardship to men if ordered to work below in the wreck. When on board the wreck at the time of the survey there was something said about the supply of labour. The master of the Rajasthan said the cargo ought to be sold with the ship as he did not think to salve it would pay for the labour.
Prisoner (to the witness).— Did you not hear the master of the Bremensis say that he had heard the surveying officers intended recommending that the ship should be sold and not the cargo, and that such a course would not suit him, as then he would have to stay at the island until all the cargo had been saved, and would thereby be put to a good deal of expense?
The prosecutor objected to the question, the prisoner by it putting words into the witness's mouth which could not be received in evidence.
Prisoner handed in a submission to the Court, to the effect that this was fact, and not hearsay evidence, spoken by a party interested, and that it was perfectly legal to put the question to a witness in its present form in cross-examination.
Court cleared to deliberate.
On the court being reopened, the Judge-Advocate announced that the Court had decided not to allow the question to be put in its proposed form. On the question being put in another form, the witness said that he heard the captain of the Bremensis say to the surveying officers that he had just left Captain Wilmshurst, who had told him that he could not spare any more labour. The master of the Bremensis then said that he, the master, wanted the ship and cargo sold together — the cargo with the ship; and further, that he did not want the surveying officers to draw up the report of the survey in the way they wanted to do, as that would occasion him a great deal of expense, and he wanted to get away as soon as he could.
By the Judge-Advocate.— It would have taken but a short time to remove it. Can't say how many hours it would have taken all the Marines.
The JUDGE-ADVOCATE.— You say you saw a portion of the cargo of the Rajasthan lying on shore exposed to the sun; how long would it have taken all the Marines there to have rolled it away to store?— A very short time.
Objection to the form of the question here raised.
The JUDGE-ADVOCATE.— About how many Marines are quartered in Ascension ?— I suppose about 70; I don’t know.
How long do you suppose it would have taken those 70 Marines to remove that portion of the Rajasthan's cargo which you saw exposed ?— About an hour.
By the Prisoner.— Believed the greater portion of the Marines were artificers. Some of witness's own men were Marines also, and the engineers and masons were Marines.
At the close of this witness's evidence the Court adjourned until 9 30 a.m. this morning.
|Fr 8 January 1869|
COURT-MARTIAL UPON CAPTAIN A. WILMSHURST, R.N.
The Court assembled yesterday morning for the fourth time on board Her Majesty's ship Victory, in Portsmouth harbour, for the trial of this officer, under the presidency of Admiral Sir Thomas S. Pasley, K.C.B.; Mr. Marten, Paymaster of Her Majesty's yacht Victoria and Albert, continuing to conduct the prosecution, and Mr. Vernon Harcourt, M.P., the defence, with Captain Grant, R.M.L.I, officiating as Judge-Advocate.
Navigating-Lieutenant Molloy, recalled, stated that Captain Grant, agent to Lloyd's Salvage Association, on his arrival at Ascension from England, claimed all salvage from the wreck for the underwriters. Lieutenant Molloy further said,— I wish the Court to understand that Captain Grant did inform me so, and that I know of my own knowledge that he did claim the property on behalf of the underwriter.
By the prisoner (through the President.)— Since you gave your evidence have you been in communication with Captain Grant; or have you seen him since you have been in England? I have seen Captain Grant since I have been in England. Hearing that he was ill I went to inquire after his health. I do not remember when I went. I am not quite certain whether it was before or after I gave my evidence, but I should like Captain Grant to be asked the question. I saw him at the India Arms, Gosport, and it was either on Sunday or Monday night. My conversation with Captain Grant had no reference to this case. That I declare most solemnly.
The PRESIDENT.— Do you mean with reference to the question now put to you, or to the whole question of the court-martial ?— The whole question of the court-martial.
Binns Dawson, gunner's mate, R.N., said.— I was gunner's mate of the Flora, at Ascension, in August, September, and October last. I remember the circumstance of the wreck of the Bremensis. I first went to work on her on the afternoon of the 12th of August. I did not go to the wreck the following day, but went out shortly afterwards to work again. I do not, however, remember the day, although I know I went out again within a week of the 12th. I was at work about four days altogether, and left off, I think, on the 17th. I resumed working on the wreck on the 29th of August. The reason I did not go to work between the 17th and the 29th of August was because we had orders from the commanding officers to go to our daily work as we were employed before the wreck.
The prosecutor.— If you had gone on working between those dates, could more of the cargo have been saved?- Yes. Before the wreck I usually worked in the sail loft with four others. We were engaged at our ordinary work between the 14th and 29th. I think we could have been spared from that work for the purpose of clearing the wreck. When I resumed work I continued from the 29th of August to the 13th of October. I was working the whole of that time as a volunteer. I was not paid salvage for the whole of the stores recovered while I was working as a volunteer. I do not know why we were not paid for all. I know that there was a diver at Ascension; he was Charles Sayers, captain of the forecastle. There was also a diving apparatus. During the time I was working at the wreck I never saw it used upon it. I was led finally to cease work on account of the N.E. rollers setting in and breaking the ship up.
By the COURT.— During the time that I was first employed on the wreck I did not observe that there were a number of stores exposed to the weather.
Cross-examined by the prisoner. — At the time the hands were employed on the wreck, before the 19th of August, more hands, in my judgment, could have been usefully employed on the wreck. I did not say before Commodore Dowell that we had from 20 to 30 seamen employed on the wreck, and that more would have been in the way, as only one hatchway could be worked; but I said that 20 to 30 were quite sufficient to work the wreck as she was then. That was after the wreck, about 14 days before the ship broke up. I mean, about the 1st of October. You are to understand that my work was not important, as we were not busy at the time. I cannot say whether sailmakers from the Vestal worked on the wreck, but volunteers from that ship and the Rattlesnake did work on the wreck. I was not there when the commodore came on board the wreck, nor was I on shore when he visited English Bay. I have not seen Captain Grant since he has been in Portsmouth.
By the President.— I don't know the date when Captain Grant visited the island.
(The prisoner requested that witness might be shown the ship's log, but the question was not pressed.)
George Hannam, boatswain's mate, deposed to being borne on the books of the Flora during the period referred to by previous witnesses, and added,— I was first employed on the wreck of the Bremensis on the first night that the ship went on shore. On the following day I cut away the lanyards of the post [port?] main rigging. I received payment for this. The reason I was paid for this particular duty was because a volunteer was asked for. I was paid by Captain Webster. (The receipt for the money, bearing witness’s signature, was here produced by the prosecution.) I do not remember the date when I stopped working. I was employed one day on the wreck before I left off. I was next employed in attending the lighters in English Bay landing cotton, which was work in connexion with the wreck. I do not remember when I ceased minding lighters in English Bay. I was on the sick list soon after this, and when I first came out I volunteered to work at the wreck. Under the agreement we were to receive 10s. per bale for every bale that was got out. I received payment for cotton saved. I do not know how many hands worked on board the wreck from day to day. No part of the crew of the Bremensis worked on the wreck.
By the COURT.— I was working one day on the wreck before the sale, and about five or eight days afterwards. I was engaged at least a week in English Bay in charge of the lighters.
Cross-examined by the prisoner.— I was hurt in the service of the Bremensis somewhere about this time. I was then engaged in getting cotton from English Bay into the lighters for the purpose of loading the Rajasthan. I was laid up over a fortnight. As soon as the men left off taking cotton from the wreck to English Bay they commenced to load the Rajasthan. When I recovered I returned to the wreck as a volunteer. During the whole of this time, except when sick, I was engaged about the cotton, either in removing it from the wreck, taking it from English Bay, or loading the Rajasthan, until I came to England. After the sale the smell about the wreck was very bad, and the work was disagreeable. After the sale I think as much cotton was saved as could have been saved from the wreck.
Mr. John Goodridge, the master of the bark Rajasthan, was next examined. He said that the tonnage of the vessel was 637 registered, and her complement 22. Last August she was at Ascension. She arrived there about the 6th. Her cargo then consisted of stores for the Government, The cargo consisted principally of bread, beef, and compressed hay, and was discharged into lighters. Witness was at Ascension when the ship Bremensis was wrecked. The day after she was wrecked witness sent seven men on board to assist, and on the following day he sent 15 others. He did not send after that, because his men refused to go. The second mate went to Captain Webster to know what they should get for their trouble, and as they could get no decided answer the men would not go again. Witness was never directed or asked by the prisoner to continue to send them. The work of discharging the cargo of the Rajasthan was suspended for six days after the wreck. The crew during that time had the ordinary ship’s work.
The Prosecutor.— Could you have spared them to render assistance at the wreck if a promise of payment had been held out to them?— Yes, About the 23d of August I received a written order signed by the prisoner. The order was to go and survey the ship and cargo then on the reef, and to make a report on our return as to the state of both. We went on board in the tug with Mr. Molloy, Mr. Forrest, and Mr. Turner, carpenter. We surveyed the ship, and found her greatly hogged and fast breaking up. We saw several planks and beams floating about in the hold, the ship being full of water and the cargo under water. We recommended that the ship and cargo should be sold. I was present at the sale. The ship and cargo were sold for 20l.
The Prosecutor.— After the sale, did you receive any proposition from the prisoner with respect to any part of the gear saved from the wreck?— Yes; I stood on the pier, and saw the anchors there. Captain Wilmshurst told me it would be a very good chance to buy the anchors, provided I was not loaded. I told him I could not buy them, and he then asked me what I thought they were worth, and I told him about 50l. each. That was some time after the sale. There were two anchors lying there when we had the conversation. I left Ascension on the 5th of September with a cargo of cotton. I took in 2,084 bales and a quantity of loose cotton. The cotton was brought off to the ship by lighters, and my crew hoisted it in. It was put on board in about eight working days, and 28 days were allowed by the charter-party. All the cotton was not quite dry. Cotton not quite dry being shipped on board a vessel is calculated to occasion a fire. I had to do something to prevent the cotton catching fire. I found the top part of the bales much heated, and I then had them brought on deck and opened, and the damaged was thrown overboard. About 25 bales of damaged cotton were thrown overboard.
The Prosecutor.— You have said that 28 days were allowed for loading your vessel, and that it only took eight days to put on board the cotton yon received. Which do you think would have been the better course to pursue — to allow the cotton saved to dry in the sun while more cotton was salved, or to partly load your vessel with wet cotton?
The prisoner interposed, raising an objection to the question being answered, on the ground that he was not responsible for the loading of the Rajasthan.
The COURT, however, held that the question should be answered. The prisoner was no more bound by this than by any other question.
The question was then repeated, to which witness replied,— The cotton that came from the hold was, I believe, in a worse state when it was shipped than it was when it was landed. When I am chartered it is my duty to get my cargo on board as quickly as possible.
By the COURT.— The charter-party to which I refer was between Captain Webster and myself, and was dated the 19th of August.
At the request of the prosecutor, his previous question was repeated, with the addition of the words "for the underwriters."
After deliberation the Court objected to the question being put in that form.
The Prosecutor.— Was any reference made to the prisoner as to the terms of the charter-party?— Not that I am aware of.
Where was it drawn up?— At Captain Wilmshurst's office.
Was the prisoner present at any time while the arrangements were being made?— No. There was an arrangement made as to how the cotton was to be brought to the vessel. The cotton was brought off to the ship by Government men.
Could your ship have been loaded in eight days if Government assistance had not been rendered to bring the cargo alongside?— No.
Had you a full cargo?— No. I had not seen any cotton on the island when I sailed.
Was any proposition made to you by the prisoner to remain and complete cargo?— No.
If the Rajasthan had been longer taking in her cargo, would that have given more time to dry the cotton shipped?— No; I explain this on account of the bales not being opened to dry as they ought to have been. If any more of the salved cargo had been put on board the ship, it would not, according to the terms of the charter-party, have cost the underwriters or owners more for freight. The cost of freight was 1,400l. That was fixed by Captain Webster. I wanted 1,600l.
By the COURT.— When the wreck was surveyed the weather was fine, and no rollers. I recommended wreck and cargo to be sold instead of saving more than the cargo, because the expense of recovery I thought at the time would be more than the cargo would fetch — I mean payment for labour and freight of the cotton to England. I considered that the best course to be pursued for the underwriters. I did not bid for the wreck and cargo at the auction because I could not see my way clear to buy it. I considered the sale a legal one. But by "not seeing my way clear" to buy, I mean that from the position the ship was in, as the rollers might have set in at any time and in an hour have broken the ship up, my money might have been lost. I consider that, irrespective of any question of labour, the ship and cargo were in such a critical condition that to myself they were not worth 20l. On the day of the sale I had 21 lay days on my charter-party unexpired, but I had no boats that I could have used during that time, had I bought the wreck, to fetch anything away that was valuable, such as anchors, chains, or windlass. I bought three boats from the wreck before leaving the island from Mr. Woods, in the prisoner's office. From my experience as the master of a merchant ship I am of opinion that there was nothing unusual or irregular whatever in the sale of the wreck of the Bremensis. If my crew had not refused to work on the Bremensis I should still have been enabled to comply with the terms of the Government charter in clearing the ship.
By the JUDGE-ADVOCATE.— I knew that the anchors, cables, windlass, and boats were to be sold with the remainder of the wreck, I did not endeavour to procure boats for the purpose, as I had no intention to bid for the wreck.
By the Prisoner.— In my judgment, before the survey everything was done that could be done to save the cotton from the wreck. At the time of the survey all the dry cotton was out of the wreck. It was no part of the prisoner's business, as captain of Her Majesty’s ship Flora, to order my men to go and do work on board another merchant ship. The reason my men would not work at the wreck was because the master of the Bremensis would not offer any reward on behalf of the underwriters. At the time of the survey a large quantity of stores from my ship, the Rajasthan, were lying on the beach, and were such as would suffer from exposure. Six of the crew of the Bremensis were employed in loading the Rajasthan up to the time they left the island, and others I saw in lighters and boats one day fetching the cargo alongside. The captain of the Bremensis several times expressed to me his anxiety to get away from the island as quickly aa possible. He gave as reasons for wishing to hurry the Rajasthan his anxiety to save the first September mail, but I don't know why. As master of the Bremensis he claimed to act as agent to the underwriters. The prisoner had no right whatever for interference between me and Captain Webster in the loading of the Rajasthan. The cotton landed in English Bay was entirely under the control of Captain Webster and the crew of the Bremensis. I would not have consented to take wet cotton on board to fill up the cargo, as to have done so would have risked the safety of the ship. At the time the conversation of about the purchase of the anchors I believe the Flora's men had been working on the wreck for some time after the sale. I bought the boats of the Bremensis at a sale by auction.
A letter was here handed in to the Court by the prisoner, written at Ascension by the master of the Bremensis, and addressed to the prisoner, in which the latter was requested to sell the boats saved from the Bremensis by auction.
Cross-examination resumed.— Paid the money over to Mr. Wood by his request. The money was handed to Mr. Wood to pay certain fees and expenses owing by the master of the Bremensis. I returned the fee I received for the court of inquiry into the cause of the wreck of the ship, owing to the master of the Bremensis sending a message to me to the effect that, as a brother shipmaster, I ought not to have taken the fee, as he would have to pay it out of his own pocket.
Letter handed in by the prisoner, written by the master of the Bremensis to the prisoner, requesting the latter to give notice of the sale of the wreck, and with as much publicity as possible.
Re-examined by the Prosecutor.— Before the survey I had been three times on board the wreck. Three days previous to the survey I was on board. I don't know of any cargo or stores being salved after the survey. From what I saw everything was done that could be done, to the best of my knowledge. When I went on board to the survey I saw the anchors there, and afterwards saw them on shore.
Do you still say you are not aware of any cargo or stores being salved after the survey?
After the survey and sale I saw no other stores on shore besides the anchors. I have stated that I was on board the wreck three days before the survey; then the state of the weather was fine, but they would have had to knock off the men from discharging the cotton to land the anchors. They were not landed on that day. The work of salving from the wreck was going on pretty favourably with the hands they had there, and in my judgment everything was being done that could be done. About 30 men were then employed on the wreck, the rest were in the lighters, and a great many on shore receiving the cotton as it was landed from the ship.
An objection was here handed in by the prisoner to the effect that the course being pursued by the prosecution in the re-examination of their own witness was unexampled in all criminal proceedings in courts of law.
The prosecutor replied that his object was merely to allow the witness to correct an evident error.
Re-examination resumed.— I gave 5l. for the boats. No one bid against me. About 12 persons were present at the sale.
By the President.— Taking into consideration the fineness of the weather on the one hand, the probabilities of the rollers setting in on the other, and the question of the supply of labour, I would not have given 20l. for the wreck, I consider from the position the ship was in under all the circumstances, and to any one, the wreck was sold at a fair commercial value. There was no cotton on shore at the time the Rajasthan sailed. There were no dry bales on the wreck on the day of the survey. When I had my conversation with the prisoner about the anchors I considered them to be the property of Government. Being an experienced master of a merchant vessel, had I been placed in the position of the master of the Bremensis I should have applied for a survey at the time he did, and have adopted the same course.
By Captain Rice.— From 300 to 400 bales of the cotton were saved from the wreck perfectly dry and fit for immediate embarkation. About 100 bales were unfit to be shipped, from wet. About 1,500 bales were sufficiently dry to be fit for embarkation without being opened. The 100 bales I have described as being unfit to ship were eventually shipped on board the Rajasthan.
By the JUDGE-ADVOCATE.— The stores lying exposed on the shore extended from the pier head to the Naval Stores, a distance of about 500 yards. I should think 70 or 80 men would have been two or three days removing these stores to the storehouses and packing them away properly. If I could have commanded labour and worked upon the wreck until she broke up I would not have given more than 20l. for her.
Mr. Thomas Webster, sworn, and examined by the prosecutor.— Was master of the Bremensis at the time of her loss. She was then on a voyage from Bombay to Liverpool, laden with cotton, seeds, dyenuts, and coir. The document produced is the snip's manifest, and bears my signature; 6,181 bales of cotton were shipped on board. The ship was 1,351 tons, and her complement of hands numbered 32, including myself. On the 11th of August the ship was wrecked on the north point of Ascension. Assistance was rendered to the ship by the steam-tug Turtle, under the command of Navigating Lieutenant Molloy, of Her Majesty's ship Flora. About 7 p.m. Mr. Molloy came on board the Bremensis and told me that he had received orders from the captain of the island to proceed to the wreck with the tug, but to do nothing further that evening than save life, and that they should not have come out then but for fear of our landing in the ship's boats, the landing being dangerous from the surf and the sharks. I asked him to take a hawser to the tug from our port quarter. The ship moved slightly astern after, I think, one hawser had carried away. As soon as I found the ship free I had all plain sail set upon her, with the tug towing on the port bow. The latter carried away two hawsers towing, and the ship drove inshore, and about 11 o'clock p.m. the ship began to strike the ground heavily. Then I ordered the canvass to be taken off her. The chief officer then came aft and said that he could not get the men to stand under the spars. The ship bumped still more heavily, the decks started, and I believe her bottom was soon driven in, her hold filling with water. I asked Mr. Molloy to stay by me during the night, as I feared the ship would go to pieces. It was impossible to get my boats out, and I had only one small gig in the water. My crew were on the poop. I called my officers and consulted with them in the presence of Mr. Molloy as to the best course to pursue. We were all of opinion that the people should be got out of the ship while it was daylight. I then ordered them into the boats, my own and one of the Flora's. The chief officer and myself left the last. I went in my own boat to the Turtle and called for volunteers to watch the ship with me, intending to board her again at daylight. The chief and second officer, boatswain, my steward, and four able seamen volunteered and remained with me. Mr. Molloy promised to come out at daylight and see how I was getting on. We remained by the ship till daylight. The next forenoon, as Mr. Molloy did not come out, according to his promise, I made several unsuccessful attempts to got on board the ship. I then determined to go to Clarence Bay and ask the authorities to blow the masts out for me. I met the Turtle coming out, and went on board. I saw Captain Wilmshurst on board, and asked him to be kind enough to blow the masts out for me. He said he could not, as he had not the appliances. We went down in the Turtle to the Bremensis. After getting on board the wreck the lanyards of the port main rigging were cut. In going to the wreck the second time in the tug I had conversation with the prisoner respecting the wreck. He proposed that I should abandon the ship and cargo to him. I told him I dared not do anything of the sort. The same evening I saw the prisoner again at his own house, in the presence of Mr. Molloy. I told the prisoner that my crew were dissatisfied at having to work on shore, and wanted to go to their own ship to work. After talking to him for some time, he told Mr. Molloy that he had advised me how to act that I had refused to take his advice, and that he should advise me no more. But he did; he advised me to go on board the Flora, and reason with them. The advice I refused to take was to abandon my ship and cargo to him. On the following day, the 13th, my men went on board the wreck and worked. At the same time about the same number of men belonging to Her Majesty's ship Flora was also at work on board and saving the cargo. My men were saving stores, boats, sails, and landing them in English Bay, and in the afternoon about half of my crew were engaged in saving cargo. I don't know the work was pre-arranged by any one. Captain Wilmshurst, the prisoner, made the proposition to me to abandon the ship to him the day after the wreck. On the 14th, in the afternoon, I went to the wreck in my own boat, I believe Mr. Molloy was in charge of the working party on board. He made a communication to me in respect to his orders, and in consequence of that communication I went on shore to the prisoners house, and saw him there. I asked him if he had given Mr. Molloy the orders related by him to me, and he replied that he had. I then asked him if he was going to take forcible possession of my ship. I also told him of the dissatisfaction of my crew at not being allowed to work on board, and said he was clearly to understand that this was no salvage case, and that I had not abandoned my ship, nor did I intend to do so to long as two pieces held together. I requested permission for part of my people to go on board the wreck. Prisoner refused the permission, saying that he considered there was more danger on board than there was on shore, and therefore he gave it to his men as the post of honour; the island of Ascension was in every sense of the word a man-of-war, and part and parcel of Her Majesty's ship Flora, and that he was captain of the Flora. He drew my attention to the pennant flying in front of his house, and said that every man, dog, rat, cat, stick or stone on that island belonged to Her Majesty, and was under martial law, and said further that I was not to dictate terms to him. He asked me what I would do if he refused to give me any assistance. I replied that I would save all I could in my own boats, and when the ship broke up I would tow all I could ashore from the wreck, and that I would anchor my boats off the wreck. He then said that I could not land a bale of cotton on the island without his permission, and that I could not get a drink of water only through him. I told the prisoner that I considered I was better qualified to go on board the wreck to salve the cargo than any of his people could possibly be, and that my crew knew how it was stowed. He said that I might go on board and stay there from morning till night, but that none of my officers or crew would be allowed on board. If I could suggest anything to facilitate the saving of the cargo, I could do so, but that l was in no way to interfere with the work. My crew never worked on board after the evening of the 13th. The work of salving the cargo was continued up to the 19th of August, Up to that time about 500 bales had been landed in English Bay. The work assigned to my men was hauling the cotton through the surf from the lighters. and hauling it up the beach. I don't think this kept the whole of them employed. I remember seeing an entry in the ship's logbook of only 28 bales of cotton being landed in one day. I certainly think the work of salvage would have been expedited if all the cotton had been landed in English Bay. I chartered the Rajasthan to take cotton saved from the wreck to England. The charter party was executed in the prisoner's presence, who asked me if I would split the difference with the master of the Rajasthan, and I did so.
It being now half-past 4 p.m. the further examination of this witness was postponed until this morning, and the Court accordingly adjourned.
|Sa 9 January 1869|
COURT-MARTIAL UPON CAPTAIN A. WILMSHURST, R.N.
The Court reassembled for the trial of this officer on board Her Majesty's ship Victory, at Portsmouth, yesterday, at the usual time — 9 30 a.m. Mr. Webster, late master of the ship Bremensis, who was under examination at the rising of the Court on Thursday, was now recalled, and his examination continued.
By the prosecutor.— It was not by my wish that the work was discontinued on the wreck on the 19th of August in order to load the Rajasthan. Two empty hulks were lying in Clarence Bay, and had they been towed round and moored near the wreck more of the cargo might have been saved, providing there were labour to be had. The cause of my application to the prisoner on the 23d of August for a survey on the wreck and remaining cargo was the discontinuance of the salving of the cargo, my crew and officers not being allowed to go on board the wreck, and the fear of rollers getting in at any time. I saw the report of the survey. On the day of the survey's date I was outside prisoner's office, when he called me to him, and said he understood the surveyors were going to report that the ship should be sold, but not the cargo. He told me to go to Mr. Molloy’s office, and say that he, the prisoner, could not allow it, and that he had no more labour to give. I did so. After this, and receiving the report of the survey, I asked for a sale of the wreck and cargo. After the sale I went into the paymaster's (Mr. Lewis) office, where a receipt was drawn out. I refused to take the 20l. for which the wreck was sold, desiring that it might be placed to my credit on behalf of the underwriters. The prisoner was present, and had directed Mr. Lewis to pay me. I signed the receipt drawn up by Mr. Lewis. (Receipt produced, which stated that for the sum of 20l., the wreck with all its remaining cargo and appurtenances was transferred to Captain A. Wilmshurst, R.N.) From the time of signing this receipt I did not interfere in any way with the wreck and cargo. At the time of the sale there ought to have been somewhere about 4,000 bales of cotton on board the wreck. The whole of the cotton could have been salved from the wreck if I had been in superintendence on the wreck and had had all the assistance the island could have afforded me. If I had been lent launches, the use of the steamer, and supplied with labour, I think, taking into consideration the state of the weather at Ascension after the loss of the ship, the greater part of the cargo might have been saved.
Cross-examined by the prisoner.— When prisoner first proposed to me to abandon my ship when on board the tug, Mr. Molloy, Dr, Pratt, and the master of the Rajasthan were on board, but I cannot say whether they heard what passed. In the conversation with the prisoner on shore at the time of the survey, Mr. Woods might have been in his office, but no one was present but Captain Wilmshurst and myself. I had 12 men belonging to the Rajasthan and the second officer of that ship engaged to assist me in salving cargo, but they were not permitted on board the wreck; that was on the day my own people were forbidden to go on board. The crew of the Rajasthan on the day they were not allowed on board the wreck were at English Bay, and I believe they did assist my people there, but that was not the work l wanted them to do. The prisoner would not allow the Rajasthan's men to work on board the wreck, and I told him that I had too many men already in English Bay, and I suppose they would have been doing in English Bay, had I employed them there, the same as my men often did — fishing and skylarking. I never refused to employ them, and was never asked to do so. My men volunteered to cut away the foremast of the wreck and the prisoner's men the mainmast. The prisoner's men were provided with lifebelts and axes, and my men had nothing; the former then cut away the lanyards of the main rigging. In the afternoon of the same day my men were prepared, but the prisoner sent them back again. I told the prisoner that I could not order any merchant seaman upon any work that imperilled his life, and for that reason I offered a reward of 10l. to any man who would cut away the masts. I certainly still assert that some of my men volunteered to cut away any of the masts of the wreck. There was no person at Ascension to make complaint of the prisoner except himself, and I did complain to him about the manner in which he had taken possession of my ship. I messed with Lieutenant Forrest on board the Flora but I certainly did not make the statements to him that I have made in this court, but at the same time I told all the officers on board the Flora that it was no salvage case, and they were often angry with me for doing so, and on one occasion I was told it would be my fault if it was not. The chief officer of the Bremensis was present at the time. I can't say that I ever complained to Lieutenant Forrest of the way in which my ship and cargo was being dealt with, because it would have been unbecoming for me to do so to a junior officer. I made my complaints to the prisoner in person. I could not have said to Mr. Molloy that I wished the ship and cargo to be condemned because it would not pay for the salving. I never said so to my knowledge; I don’t think it possible I could have said so. I don't think I can give any other answer; I have said distinctly that I don’t think I could have said so. When I took the message from the prisoner to Mr. Molloy at the latter's office I told him that the prisoner said he believed the surveyors were going to report that the ship should be sold without the cargo, that the prisoner could not allow it, and that he had no more labour to give. Mr. Molloy asked, in return, how the prisoner knew what the surveyors were going to report? I replied that I did not know; I had nothing to do but to deliver the message. Other surveyors coming in at the time, I asked Mr. Molloy if I had not better leave the office while they consulted? He said I had, and I did so. Mr. Molloy seemed rather annoyed at the message I had brought to him from the prisoner. I certainly did not urge the surveying officers to condemn both ship and cargo. I won't say that I did not say it would be illegal to condemn the ship without the cargo, as I now believe it would be illegal to condemn one without the other. As far as my memory serves me I did not say so. Had I known the matter was going to be investigated I might then have paid more particular attention to these matters. I could not have said to the surveying officers the wet cotton was not worth saving, as all the cotton in the ship at that time, I believe, was wet — in fact, we had been saving wet cotton.
The prisoner submitted to the Court that the witness should be compelled to say whether he did or did not say so.
The COURT ruled that the witness be desired to give an answer to the best of his recollection.
Witness.—To the best of my recollection, no. Mr. Molloy did not desire me to leave his office; I suggested that I should do so. After the sale of the wreck I was anxious to have the Rajasthan loaded as soon as possible to enable me to send bills of lading and advices home to my owners, and I did grumble at the "roller" flag being hoisted one or two days before the steamer sailed that l expected to send my bills of lading by. I never said to Mr. Molloy that when I had loaded the Rajasthan with cotton I should have done my duty to the underwriters, because the prisoner gave me no opportunity of doing so, the cotton saved having been saved by the Flora's men. If the cargo had not been condemned, the course I should have taken then would have entirely depended upon the prisoner. Under the circumstances as they stood at the time, and the prisoner having told me what he had, had the surveyors not condemned the cargo, I certainly should not have sold the ship, as the purchaser could have prevented any one going on board to recover the cargo. (In reply to a question put by the prisoner as to what the witness would have done under certain conditions, the latter replied, "I should have been entirely guided by what you did.") I have said on board this ship within the last two days that at the time of the sale there might have been no wreck to buy, and I did not know any hour that she might go to pieces, and I say again now that she might have gone to pieces at any moment, as the north-east rollers were expected in at any moment. It is very likely that I told the prisoner so myself more than once. There is a slight difference in the prisoner's version of what I said and what I really did say within the past two days, but had I known that Lieutenant Forrest was then "pumping" me I should have been more careful. The difference lies in the words "most probable." When any of the officers of Her Majesty's ship Flora have come to me since I have been on board this ship, I certainly gave them answers, but I never sought their society. Mr. Molloy has spoken to me, so has Mr. Turner, and so has Lieutenant Forrest, and upon one occasion Dr. Banks. I don't know who Dawson the gunner's mate is. I never saw Captain Grant (agent to Lloyd's Salvage Association) in my life, to my knowledge. I cannot say that I have conversed with any of these officers on the subject matter of this trial. I was asked a question, and I gave an answer. It was Lieutenant Forrest. Have never seen Mr. Molloy anywhere since leaving Ascension except on board the Victory. Whenever I have seen him on board he has generally passed the compliments of the day with me, and upon one occasion he said, "This is a very bad job," or words to that effect, to which I replied, "It is." I think that has been the extent of my conversation with Mr. Molloy. I am not aware that I ever spoke to Mr. Hawkins (the boatswain of Her Majesty's ship Flora) in my life. I knew Mr. Matthews at Ascension, and also Mr. Webb at Ascension. I have heard that Mr. Nicholls, of London (Leadenhall-street), is a member of the firm represented by Messrs. Matthews and Webb.
By the Prosecutor.— Since this trial commenced the prosecutor has certainly not communicated directly with me on the subject of my evidence.
The PRESIDENT.— When you were at Ascension, which did you think the most important — to load the Rajasthan as soon as possible, or to save more cargo from the wreck if you had not labour enough to do both? — Considering that I had 28 clear working days to load the Rajasthan, I considered it best to continue saving the cargo.
Was it for the interest of the underwriters to ship cotton as fast as possible in the Rajasthan? — I don't think the underwriters benefited anything by it.
Taking all the circumstances into consideration, do you think 20l. was a reasonable commercial value to pay for the wreck and cargo?— Taking into consideration that the prisoner could have prevented any person landing cargo or parts of the wreck on the island of Ascension, and that he had all the available labour at his own disposal, I don't think the wreck was worth a shilling to any person except it was the master of the Rajasthan.
Should you have applied for the survey on the wreck and cargo at the time you did if the work had been proceeding of saving the cargo from the wreck?— No, certainly not; as all that possibly could have been done would have been done had they continued working.
By Admiral WELLESLEY.— Captain Wilmshurst, the prisoner, told me that neither my crew nor officers would be allowed on board the wreck, but myself and chief officer and a boat's crew did go on board the ship on Sunday, the 23d of August. I don't think any person knew we were going except ourselves. The prisoner had told me that he considered there was more danger working on board the ship than there was on shore; therefore he gave it to his men as the post of honour. I was anything but satisfied with that decision, and asked the prisoner to allow part of my people to work on board and part on shore. He replied that I was not to dictate terms to him. I said he must clearly understand it was no case of salvage, nor would I abandon my ship. He replied that he would not discuss the salvage question with me, but leave it to others to judge. By the expression that it was not a "salvage" case, l mean that I never abandoned the ship, nor ever had any intention to do so. I, my officers, and crew were anxious to save the cargo ourselves. I consider that any person rendering assistance to the Bremensis would not have been entitled to salvage, but to payment for the labour employed. Salvage I consider to be a very heavy claim upon the underwriters, not the actual expenses incurred in saving the cargo. The two hulks I have spoken of as being available to send to the wreck were two old men-of-war. I believe their names were the Tortoise and the Maeander. I think, considering the valuable cargo on board the wreck, it would have been worth the risk of anchoring these two hulks near the wreck. I mean the risk to the hulks themselves. If the rollers had set in and the cargo from the wreck had been on board them it would have been exposed to a second loss, but not so great as on board the wreck. I did not ask the prisoner for the use of these two hulks, because when I asked the prisoner to allow part of my men to work on board the wreck he told me I was not to dictate terms to him. I made no complaint to the master of the Rajasthan of the objectionable nature of the arrangements made by the prisoner, as I considered him to be the wrong man, he having advised me on two occasions to abandon the ship to the prisoner. There was no person on the island to apply to except Mr. Matthews and Mr. Webb, and Mr. Matthews had declined to act for me, as I had refused to give up my ship to him. It was on the evening of the day of the wreck and following morning that the master of the Rajasthan gave me that advice. I am not aware that he had any interest in the matter. He was a perfect stranger to me, and the advice was voluntary. I scarcely ever spoke to him afterwards. Upon another occasion he deceived me with regard to the size of his ship; that was at the time I was desirous to charter his vessel. I told him in the presence of the prisoner that I wanted to have nothing further to do with him. With all due deference to the Court I respectfully beg to state that I have not come here as a complainant, but have been called by the Admiralty as a witness. [Admiral Wellesley had put the question, "You still persist in making complaint that your crew were not allowed to work on board the wreck?”] At the wreck I should have liked to have had seamen from the Flora, in addition to my own men, working under their own officers. At that time I never dreamt that a claim for salvage would have been made, and I told the prisoner that I was prepared to pay for any labour that he might be kind enough to afford me.
By the COURT.— The crew of the Bremensis have been paid their wages up to the time, not of the wreck, but of the sale of the wreck. I am not aware that I have given any certificate as to the conduct of the crew of the Bremensis at the wreck, but, as far as they were allowed, they worked well. Mr. Matthews wrote to witness at Ascension, declining to act as agent to witness. [Letter produced by the prosecution and handed into the Court.] When I applied for a survey I did not do it under protest, because I applied to the captain of one of Her Majesty's ships, and I did not think I could go to a better person for advice. I never was asked whether I agreed or disagreed with that advice, but upon the face of that survey I requested that the ship and cargo might be sold. Had l protested at the sale of my ship and cargo matters would have just been as they were before the survey, and the ship and all have been lost at any time. On the morning of the 14th of August, in prisoner's own house, I offered to pay him for any assistance he might give me. The arrangements for saving the cargo from the wreck were made by the prisoner without any stipulations for remuneration to the crew of Her Majesty's ship Flora, and, so far as I was concerned, I paid for nothing of that kind except for cutting the lanyards of the main rigging.
Cross-examined by the prisoner through the COURT.— I have read the Acts of Parliament relative to salvage by Her Majesty's ships, and I think they are to the same effect as the clauses pointed out in the copy of the Queen’s regulations now handed to me.
A statement of the services rendered in saving the cargo of the Bremensis was read, signed by the master, in which it is stated that, being unable to name the sum to be awarded as salvage, the matter must be left to the Admiralty Court. The bond, signed by the master and by the prisoner, was to the effect that the latter agreed to abandon his lien upon the cargo, &c., for the sum of 12,654l., 150l. of which should cover costs of Court. [These are merely formal documents, the real value of which can only be determined in the usual legal manner.]
Cross-examination resumed.— The statement was not signed on the same day. It was two or three days after the bond was signed.
Admiral Pasley.— If you had objected to the terms of either the statement or the bond could you not have insisted that application should be made to the Vice-Admiralty Court at St. Helena?
The Court now adjourned for half an hour, and on its being reopened the witness was asked by the Judge-Advocate, referring to a former answer given by the witness, what advice he alluded to when he said he thought he could not go to a better person than the prisoner. He replied, "I wanted general advice." Captain Wilmshurst advised me to sell the wreck and cargo. I did not agree with that advice. When I applied for the survey I did not receive any advice from Captain Wilmshurst, I recognize the letter now produced as the one written by me to the prisoner requesting the sale. The "public" at Ascension to whom I desired the sale to be made known as soon as possible were Messrs. Matthews and Webb, Mr. Goodrich, and the officers of the Flora. I did not know what arrangements they might make with the prisoner.
By the COURT.— I did not apply to the prisoner on the subject of the survey. I don't know that I had any particular reason for waiting four days from the discontinuance of work on the wreck before I asked for a survey. I asked for the survey after visiting the wreck on Sunday, the 20th. of August.
By the Prosecutor (through the Court).— The statement of salvage read to the Court was not drawn up at my dictation. One was drawn up before the one put before the Court, and I objected to sign it. I gave the bond to obtain possession of the cargo salved, and left the amount of salvage open to be decided in the Admiralty Court. Upon my signing that bond the prisoner gave up his lien on the cargo salved. It was given up conditionally on my signing that bond, and such I believe to be always the case in the signing of salvage bonds. The bond is drawn up in the form proscribed by Act of Parliament and the Queen's Regulations.
Mr. John Walter Stevenson, sworn.— Examined by Prosecutor.— Was chief officer of the late ship Bremensis at the time of her wreck. Deposed to the circumstances connected with the wreck of the ship, and a communication received by him from Captain Webster that the officers and men of the ship were not allowed on board the wreck. The Brememsis' crew were afterwards employed ashore in English Bay, but their time was not fully employed there. Went on board on Sunday, August 23, with Captain Webster. On the upper deck were several whole bales of cotton, loose cotton, studding sails, tins of oils, paints, and other articles. The weather was finer then than previously, if possible, and as many men could have been employed on that day as on any previous one. My opinion was that the work at salving the cargo ought to have been continued for fear the ship should break, which she was likely to do at any moment. At that time I could have gone on salving the cargo even with our own ship's company. A few days before leaving Ascension I witnessed a bond signed by the master of the Bremensis with respects to salvage in the prisoner's presence. As nearly as I can recollect there was a bond drawn up, but it was disapproved, and then another was drawn up by Mr. Lewis, and the latter I signed.
By the Prisoner.— I did not ask at all for leave to go on board the wreck with my captain on the 23d of August, and as far I know I went on board without leave. Captain Webster went with me, and I was under the impression he had liberty to go when he pleased. No one but our two selves and the boat's crew were present, and the boat's crew were ordered not to leave the boats. Captain Webster asked my opinion, and I told him the best plan would be to call for a survey. We were powerless to carry out my silent opinion. Pressed upon this point by the prisoner as in why he should have a silent opinion when alone with Captain Webster, witness replied, "I can have no opinion of my own, I suppose, like the rest of my fellow creatures." I should not think Captain Webster took me to the wreck to form a silent opinion. Most likely Captain Webster took me to the wreck that he might have the benefit of my judgment and advice, and I thought what I told him as regarded the survey was sufficient. I can't say why I did not tell him the cargo ought to be saved. To the best of my belief he wanted it saved.
The cross-examination of this witness was continued at much greater length, but nothing of moment was elicited, after which the Court adjourned again, until 9 30 a.m. to-day.
|Su 11 January 1869|
COURT-MARTIAL UPON CAPTAIN A. WILMSHURST, R.N.
The Court assembled again on Saturday morning on board Her Majesty's ship Victory, Portsmouth, at 9 30 a.m., and sat until 5 20 p.m., when the case for the prosecution was brought to a close, and there is now, therefore, some chance of this long trial being brought to a conclusion.
Navigating-Lieutenant Molloy, on the Court being opened, was recalled and examined relative to the position of the stores landed at Ascension from the ship Rajasthan, which the defence were endeavouring to prove, by cross-examination of witnesses for the prosecution, were becoming damaged by exposure to the sun, and the distance between the pier head and the storehouse on the island and the stores and the houses or sheds in which they were stored.
Mr. Lewis, Paymaster R.N., was the next witness called by the prosecution, and in examination by the prosecutor said,- I was serving at Ascension, at the time of the wreck of the Bremensis, as storekeeper on the island. Mr. Woods was assistant-paymaster, doing duty in Captain Wilmshurst's office on shore. After the wreck of the Bremensis, on or about the 24th of August, the prisoner said to me in his office. "There is some question about the survey being held on the Bremensis. I hear that the officers are about to make a report which will have the effect of tying my hands, and of making me give labour whether I can or not. I have already informed the master of the Bremensis that I can spare no more labour at present," I replied, "Perhaps the officers do not understand it; shall I explain it to them?" He said, "Yes, do so," or words to that effect. I returned to the naval store and did so. Early on the forenoon of the 20th of August the prisoner said to me, "I think I shall buy that wreck for Government, and in that case I shall require you to bid for me". I replied, "Very good, Sir." A little before the time of sale the prisoner came down to the Victualling-office, and said to me, "I have changed my mind. I shall buy the wreck for myself, and do what I can with it for the canteen, and you bid for me." I asked what I should bid, and he replied 20l, and that he should be there and tell me how high l could go. The wreck and cargo were shortly after put up and sold. The notification of sale was posted in the usual place, and signed, l believe, by the prisoner. I should consider that no sale could have been held without the prisoner's sanction. The man acting as auctioneer stood on the steps of the Victualling-office with the prisoner and the master of the wreck, the latter consenting that the man should sell. The wreck and cargo were then put up. I offered 20l., and there being no other bid it was knocked down to me. The only civilian, I think, that I saw present was the master of the Rajasthan. In my office, after the sale, I was going to pay over to the master of the wreck the 20l., when the latter said to the prisoner, "I have an account, Sir, at your office, and it can be settled all at once." So it was left. A receipt, draw up by myself. was then signed and given for the money by the master of the Bremensis. On the arrival of Captain Henry Duncan Grant, R.N., agent to Lloyd's Salvage Association, at Ascension, the prisoner called upon me for all papers connected with the Bremensis. The account now produced by the prosecutor (purporting to be a debtor and creditor account between the prisoner and underwriters or owners of the Bremensis) I have never seen before. It is signed by the prisoner. After the sale, volunteers were called for to salve the cargo, at a salvage rate of 10s. per bale of cotton, and other stores in a relative proportion, and I was directed by the prisoner to keep a very strict account of all payments I made for salvage, as secretary to the canteen committee. The prisoner on the 31st of August came to me at the office and said that the salving of the cargo of the wreck was far exceeding his expectations, and he did not know what he should do for money to pay the men. I replied that I had some money which I could place at his disposal, and this money I advanced from time to time. This money was not distributed according to the rules laid down in the Queen's Regulations and Prize Proclamation. It was distributed in the proportion of one share to a Krooman, two shares to a white man, and three shares to the boatswain in charge of the party.
Original lists of persons borne on the books of Her Majesty's ship Flora, alleged to be entitled and not entitled to share in salvage awarded for saving the cargo from the wreck of the Bremensis, signed as "approved" by the prisoner, was here produced and handed in to the Court by the prosecutor.
Examination of witness resumed.- I was desired by Captain Wilmshurst to attend with the paymaster of the Flora to see that the bond signed by the master of the Bremensis was properly drawn op. The document now handed to me, a "statement" respecting salvage, was submitted to me by Mr. Woods for my opinion. I told him he must be careful to comply with every point in the Admiralty instructions. The amount claimed as salvage in the bond is 12,654l. I believe this claim is at the ratio of 6l. per bale for all saved up to the 19th of August. On and after the 29th 10s. a bale only was paid for the recovery of the cotton from the wreck. On the 1st of October I was in my house when I received a message from the prisoner, and waited upon him at the Victualling-yard. I found him there with Messrs. Solomon and Gideon, of St. Helena, and the master of the mail steamer Roman. The prisoner said, "Here are Messrs. Solomon and Gideon, who have come to make a bid for the cotton. What do you think they ought to give for it?" I, of course, could not tell, as it depended on the last quotations. It ended in the prisoner saying they should have it at 4d. per lb. They demurred to that, and said it was only damaged cotton, and remarked, "Of course, you know that it can be followed by the original owners; but we will take all responsibility in that respect, and will give you 3¼d. per lb," The prisoner refused that offer. He afterwards remarked to me that he required money to carry on the survey, and that he had better take Solomon and Gideon's offer. A man was sent to the pier-head to recall them, and l was directed by the prisoner to inform them on their returning that Captain Wilmshurst would accept their offer. I delivered this message to Mr. Gideon, but he said that he and his partner had been talking the matter over, and they would now only give 3d. I conveyed this message to the prisoner, who made some complimentary (?) remarks with reference to the St. Helena merchants, and observed that he must take their offer; and the bargain was so concluded. On the delivery of the cotton it was weighed as it left the store for shipment on board the Roman. I made out a total account of weights of cotton delivered and its money value, and went on board the Roman, where I received the money for the cotton from Mr. Gideon, to whom I delivered the prisoner's receipt. The document now produced is that receipt, and is signed by the prisoner. The receipt was for 365l. 13s., paid by Messrs. Solomon and Gideon, for 29,252lb. of cotton at 3d. per lb. The prisoner desired me to keep the money and account for it in the account I was keeping for the Bremensis. In not taking it on charge in my public cash account I was acting under the prisoner's orders. Looking at Article 15, page 209, of the Appendix to the Admiralty Regulations, I think I was not acting in accordance with the instructions there. The prisoner repaid me from the money the amount I had lent him, and the remainder was paid to the men for subsequent salving. Referring to the Bremensis' account, the 20l. for the purchase of the wreck was repaid with other moneys on that list. The canteen referred to in my evidence is an establishment to supply necessaries and stores of all kinds to the community at Ascension and the crews of the West African squadron, and it was to be established. under orders from the Admiralty, to displace the store of R.P. Webb and Co. About April last the prisoner, finding R.P. Webb and Co. were running out of many actual necessaries, appropriated all the money at his disposal - 400l. - to provide the people with those necessaries, and continued to do so for some months. About the same time he assembled all the principal officers in the island as a committee to take the canteen question into consideration. The executive committee was composed of the prisoner as president, and the principal officers of the island, with myself as secretary. A meeting of the committee was held in July, and a sub-committee of four appointed to continue the business of the canteen on January 1, 1869. (Messrs. Matthews and Webb's store on the island was to close by Admiralty notice on December 31, 1868). The prisoner, as president of the committee, did not inform the committee that he had purchased the wreck and cargo for the benefit of the canteen. After the sale I asked the prisoner whether he would not so inform the officers. He replied, "No: the officers will know it soon enough if anything comes of it; it is a man's question, not an officer's." The 400l. advanced by the prisoner for providing necessaries and stores was taken from the "island fund," and transferred fully and entirely to the canteen fund. The prisoner told me that whatever he obtained as bonus, or otherwise, over and above the expenses on the cotton saved should be given to the canteen fund. The 400l. transferred from the island fund to the canteen fund was transferred as a donation from one fund to the other, and not as loan capital. (The island fund appeared, from a long string of questions put by the Court and but very obscurely answered, to have been formed from payments made by merchant ships visiting the island, to discharge Government stores or otherwise, requiring ballast, which was supplied to them from the island by the Government officials there at a fixed price). A letter from the prisoner to the Admiralty was here read to the Court. It referred to the wreck of the Bremensis, the sale of the wreck and remaining cargo, the execution of the "statement" and the "bond" by the master of the Bremensis, and the claim made on behalf of the officers and crew of Her Majesty's ship Flora of half the estimated value of the cotton saved as salvage.
By the COURT.- I considered there was a difficulty in the matter of the establishment of a canteen, and that the prisoner thought the best way to get out of it was to purchase the wreck and its remaining cargo. I considered that the prisoner bought the wreck on his own responsibility, with the liability of its being claimed by its original owners. I observe by the manifest of the Bremensis that the average weight of the bales of cotton was 3½ cwt. According to this estimate, therefore, there were about 74 bales shipped on board the Roman. The remaining number, 526, forming the 600 bales saved, were delivered to Captain Grant, Lloyd's Salvage Association agent, with other stores saved from the wreck. The prisoner said to me that he had placed all the papers relative to the wreck in the hands of Captain Grant, and had told him that everything belonging to the wreck would be delivered to him. That day the prisoner said to me, "I have received this very 'bumptious' and unnecessary letter from Captain Grant. I have already told him that everything is ready to be delivered up." At the time of the arrival at the island of Messrs. Solomon and Gideon, all the cotton saved from the wreck since the sale, and dry and fit for shipment, was purchased by them. I considered that the prisoner's interest in the cotton delivered to Captain Grant ceased at the time of delivery, excepting so far as related to any bonus for its recovery. I entertained an opinion that, after a considerable quantity of cotton had been saved, a Lloyd's agent would be sent out to claim it, and this opinion was confirmed by the observation of Mr. Solomon, two or three times repeated, "that it would be followed by its original owners." I believe that Captain Grant after his arrival recovered the cables, or portions of them, from the wreck, and I saw a portion of the wreck itself towed ashore near the pier.
By the JUDGE-ADVOCATE.- I believe a portion of the stores and bulkheads saved previously from the wreck was used in the repair of the sheds on the island. Payment was made for them by my assistant to Captain Grant, by order from Commodore Dowell.
This closed the examination in chief of the witness.
In the course of the examination the prisoner and his counsel had been requested by an officer of the court not to converse in so auditable a tone. The prisoner now tendered a "submission" to the Court that permission should be given to his counsel, Mr. Vernon Harcourt, to speak to him (the prisoner), in order that he might suggest questions to be put to the witness in cross-examination. The Court graciously accorded the permission, conditionally that neither the witness nor procedure of the court should be improperly interfered with.
This bit of burlesque concluded, the cross-examination of the witness was commenced and continued for a great length of time, and a good deal of evidence was taken that had no direct bearing, except by alleged interference, upon the charges brought against the prisoner, A copy of the Rajasthan's charter-party was produced by the prisoner to question the witness upon, but the prosecutor objected to its being received in court, as it was merely a copy of an original document. Counsel for the prisoner replied through his client that the master of the Bremensis had been examined by the prosecutor as to the contents of the charter-party, and claimed the right of putting in the copy produced for the purpose of cross-examination. The prosecutor upon this consented that the copy should be received, if certified and accepted with its legal liabilities.
This question having been fought and decided in the usual antiquated form, the document was read by the Judge-Advocate.
Cross-examination of witness continued.- The charter-party produced was drawn up on the 18th and executed on the 19th of August. Immediately after the execution the men, steam tug, and lighters that had been employed at the wreck were all transferred to loading the Rajasthan. Some of the hands who had been previously employed on shore about the cotton were afterwards occasionally employed in loading the stores, but some, the landsmen, preferred working at the cotton, for which they would have received salvage payment, rather than in storing. I considered that the general service of the island had then been already too much neglected. All the available labour was used in loading the Rajasthan. I had very little labour at the stores until after the survey, the loading of the Rajasthan appearing to be the paramount object.
The witness was questioned at considerable length relative to the number of men employed in the different departments of the island, and the numbers from each employed about the cotton, without any particular date being given, however. He said,-The withdrawal of the marines from the farm on the mountain that was kept up for the hospital was an inconvenience to the sick, causing cultivation to be stopped and the gathering of wild vegetables to cease. When the prisoner first spoke to me about purchasing the wreck for the Government I remarked that I did not think the Admiralty would care to have the public accounts hampered by such a transaction. I never understood that the prisoner ever intended purchasing the wreck for his own use and benefit. By the "bonus" I meant the sum of money the prisoner expected would be given by the original owners of the property salved after the sale after being claimed and taken possession of by them. I understood that any such bonus given would go to the canteen fund. The prisoner gave out publicly to the volunteer salvors, when they were mustered on the 29th of August, that he intended to apply any bonus given for the cotton saved to the canteen fund. I never saw a claim for salvage before, but I know 50 per cent. claimed on the cotton from the Bremensis was considered the highest that could be claimed, and was made on account of the arduous and trying nature of the service rendered. I supposed that a bonus would be paid on the cotton being claimed over and above the 10s. per bale paid to the men for its recovery, and all other expenses incurred. In witness's opinion, the insertion of the 20l. - the original purchase money for the wreck - was rightly inserted in the Bremensis, debtor and creditor account between the prisoner and the underwriters.
The COURT here interposed, and objected to a document that was merely an account between the prisoner and some one alleged being received as a document between the prisoner and the underwriters of the cargo of the wrecked ship Bremensis.
A submission to the Court by the prisoner followed upon this objection, and after some remarks by Captain Blake, the Judge-Advocate, the prisoner offered to withdraw the document. The Court was cleared for a time, and on its reopening the question on the document was allowed.
Cross-examination resumed.- I should have considered any towing of the hulks Meander and Tortoise from Clarence-bay to the wreck for the reception of cotton impracticable. They had scarcely any decks, no appliances for hoisting heavy weights, and as soon as they had got down in the water, in my judgment, they would have sunk. It would have been a great misapplication of manual labour. With the small steam tug at Ascension, under the conditions of a strong trade wind and swell round Pyramid-point (which did not exist, it should be observed, at the time of the wreck or salvage of the cargo), I think the tug and hulks would have drifted to leeward.
Lieutenant Forrest, senior lieutenant of Her Majesty's ship Flora, was recalled before the Court, and questioned by the prisoner relative to an alleged discrepancy in the evidence given by him in an enquiry before Lloyd's Salvage Association agent, and that he had given before the present Court. The result, however, was immaterial to the issue of the present trial.
The President of the Court, Admiral Sir Thomas Sabine Pasley, now announced that the case for the prosecution was closed, and called upon the prisoner to state at what time he should be prepared to enter upon his defence. Captain Wilmshurst replied "on Wednesday next," and to that day, accordingly, at 9 30 a.m., the Court was formally adjourned.
By the ancient ponderosity which, as a rule, weighs down all documents issued from the Admiralty, the order for the present Court-martial directs that a Court shall be formed each day from the first until the Last day's sittings of the Court; consequently, in the interval between last Saturday and Wednesday next, Admirals Sir T. Pasley and G.G. Wellesley, with the other members of the Court, attended by the prosecutor and Officiating Judge-Advocate.
|Th 14 January 1869|
THE COURT-MARTIAL UPON CAPTAIN A. WILMSHURST, R.N.
The Court in this case assembled yesterday for the seventh and last time, by adjournment from Saturday last, on board Her Majesty’s ship Victory at Portsmouth, After the list of witnesses had been called over the prisoner asked permission for his counsel, Mr. Vernon Harcourt, to read to the Court his written defence, which the Court grunted. The document was most exhaustive and voluminous, and its reading occupied the learned gentleman upwards of an hour and a half.
It was to the effect (after a few introductory remarks) that the Island of Ascension was under the sole control of the prisoner as Governor of the island. That he had the crews of the Flora and Bremensis together on board the wreck. Referring to labour on the wreck previous to the sale, the prisoner said the witnesses proved that the men could not be spared from the island, and if the Marines, of whom so much had been said by the prosecution, had been drawn from the island, it would have stopped all work. The one tug and lighters practically limited the number of men who could be usefully employed on the wreck. As far as could be, with a due regard to the public service, all was done that could be done for salving the cargo of the wreck. The despatch of the two rotten hulks from the bay would have been an act of insanity. The greatest act of absurdity on the part of the prosecution was the question as to divers at Ascension. The cotton saved from the wreck was saved in less time than it took to load it in the Rajasthan, thus all was done that could he done previous to the 19th. The loading of the Rajasthan in preference to salving from the wreck was owing to the expressed wish of Captain Webster. On the 20th and following days the men were employed in loading the Rajasthan. To have condemned the ship without the cargo on survey would have been impracticable, for then there would have been two claimants for labour — the owners of the ship and of the cargo. He had declared that he would give all the labour he could as far as the public service admitted. The work at the wreck was unhealthy, but it was five days after the survey before any more labour could be sent to the wreck, the primary objects being the loading of the Rajasthan and the preservation of the stores landed from her. Prisoner next complained of the course which had been pursued by the prosecution, in withdrawing the original charge brought against him, and the substituting of others and more modified ones. The grammatical and illogical perplexity of the charge was sarcastically alluded to as being incomprehensible, by reason of its profound obscurity. The sale was the natural consequence of the survey, which was brought about by Captain Webster alone. Captain Webster's evidence was incredible, but, happily, uncorroborated in any point, and the Court would not allow the character or fortune of any man to be blighted by such testimony. On the word and honour of an officer and gentleman — although he could not be sworn — he (Captain Wilmshurst) made no proposition to abandon the wreck. Captain Webster made no complaint to anyone at Ascension; he had, in fact, nothing to complain of. He wished the cotton salved, and it was done. He wished to load the Rajasthan, and it was done. The most signal proof of Captain Webster's satisfaction of what had been done at Asceunsion was the absence of any letter of complaint by the mail leaving Ascension on the 1st of September, for had such a letter been written it certainly would have been forwarded from the owners or underwriters to the Admiralty for the use of the prosecution. The proposition to abandon the ship was for Captain Webster to return at once to England, see his owner, and bring a ship to take home the cotton salved in the meantime from the wreck. This he declined to do. A second alternative was also declined by him. The next part alluded to the grounds for buying the ship and cargo. The whole labour of the island was the crew of the Flora, and could only be obtained from prisoner. If, therefore, any one was to buy the wreck, who could do so but himself, as captain of the Flora, and as responsible for the actions of her crew? Did not purchase it for his personal benefit, and the prosecution admitted that by their modification of the first charge. Never expected to save any thing from the wreck but the anchors. The promise to the volunteers to apply the bonus to the canteen fund roused the hostility of Matthews and Webb. Never intended to hold the 600 bales of cotton against the owners or underwriters. They had been unexpectedly recovered from the wreck, after the sale, by the extraordinary coutinued fineness of the weather. Certainly expected that the underwriters would have given a bonus, but the only bonus they had given was the present prosecution. Commodore Dowell was at the island during the salvage, and sent volunteers to the wreck from the Rattlesnake and Vestal. He was perfectly cognizant of all that was occurring, and also when part of the cotton was sold to Messrs. Solomon and Gilead. The second charge, he said, was utterly disproved by the evidence of the witnesses. The cotton sold to Messrs. Solomon and Co. was sold for and on behalf of the underwriters. A great deal had been said as to salvage. The underwriters were endeavouring to establish their own views on salvage in its relation to tho Royal Navy. The "statement" and "bond" signed by Captain Webster were prepared by him. The statement was voluntary on the part of Captain Webster, and proved by his altering the wording. Imputations had been made that the labour was starved on the wreck to force a sale to the prisoner's benefit and not of the underwriters, and that for this reason the wreck was eventually purchased. This was false; as, while the underwriters had gained by all the transactions, prisoner and his men had lost seriously. The public service was the paramount service, although the underwriters seemed to think that the public service must he utterly neglected to serve their interests alone. They might as well have said that all the men could be taken off from the work in Portsmouth dockyard in order to save the cargo from a wreck in the Channel without detriment to the public service. The prisoner concluded his defence by saying that after 37 years of honourable service his present position was a painful one, but he placed every confidence in the Court. They would consider the peculiarity of his position, and that he had acted to the best of his judgment in a very responsible situation. Had he not acted as he had done, the property that was salved must have been lost; and if the course he pursued was unusual it was warranted by the surrounding conditions, all which he knew full well would be viewed by the Court with impartial fairness. After the reading of the defence had been concluded, the following evidence was taken for the defence:—
Captain L.H. Somerset, sworn and examined by the prisoner, said, — I recently commanded Her Majesty's ship Bristol flagship on the West Coast of Africa, for nearly two years, and am well acquainted with Ascension. From what I have seen at Ascension I should certainly consider that the supply of salving labour to any wreck is very limited, and if the men on the island were continued to be used for the purpose of salving from the wreck the public service would very much suffer, and the necessary relief of the ships on the coast be materially interfered with. Had I been captain of the Island of Ascension and a ship was wrecked there I should have considered it my duty, after saving life, to think more of the efficiency and health of the cruisers than to saving the cargo. The crew of a wrecked ship and everybody would be under the prisoner's command, there being no other authority on the island. I do not think it would have been an expedient course to have employed the crew of the Flora and Bremensis at the same time on the wreck. I should have employed the men as the prisoner did. The cotton could have been carried from English Bay to the pier-head, but it would have cost a good many cotton ships to have paid for the transport. The character of the ground between the two points is like that of an extinct volcano. With regard to the proposal to tow the two hulks, Tortoise and Maeander, to the wreck and transfer the cotton to them, the hulks were perfectly useless. In the first place, I do not think they would have floated when they got there, and in the second place there were no means to get them there. I curtainly would not have started off to tow them against a strong trade and a heavy swell. I certainly would not have sent any man down into the hold of the wreck in a diving dress, into the midst of the stinking bilge water, as I think one man's life is worth more than all the cotton to be saved. A private person would be quite at liberty to risk his own life. I have seen a good deal of diving in the navy, and have seen two men killed, and I would certainly not have sent a man on such a duty. A ship in the position of the Bremensis, in the presence of the rollers, might not hold together six hours. ln some rollers l have seen there the ship would go to pieces immediately. The rollers set in at short intervals, sometimes within two hours, particularly in the months of August and September. The canteen on the island was established after I left. I think the prisoner did a very kind and natural thing in establishing the canteen. Commodore Hornby, who had better opportunities of judging the matter than myself, was strongly in favour of the establishment of a canteen in lieu of the sutler's store. Assuming that the master of the Bremensis determined to sell the wreck of his vessel at Ascension, in my judgment, had there been any merchant ships lying there, perhaps one or two of their captains might have been foolish enough to bid for it, hoping to pick up something with their crews; but I certainly think I should not have allowed any of the officers on the island to bid for it if I had been captain of the island. On the spur of the moment, and to assist the master of the wreck and the underwriters, I might have been tempted to offer a trifle for her for the benefit of the island,— to provide firewood for the island and to build fowl-houses, &c.; but at the same time, after what has now occurred, I should certainly allow masters and underwriters to take care of themselves. I do not think it would have been a proper position for the prisoner to be placod in for requisitions to have been made to him for labour from other purchasers of the wreck. Having known Ascension during the prisoners command there. I think he did what was quite right there in insisting upon being captain of the island and not allowing other people to interfere. The prisoner worked hard himself and insisted upon other people working, which did not make him very popular with some of them. I think, as I told him before, he was foolish, to interfere quite so much about the women, and a little more tact with them would not have made them so hostile, and no doubt indirectly influencing their husbands.
Captain Charles Domville, R.M.A., was next examined, for the defence, and deposed that he was captain of Marines at Ascension at the time of the wreck. On the 15th of August every marine that could be spared from works in progress, as well as the marines from the mountain, were employed in landing cotton at the pier-head from lighters, and if more had been employed the public service would have suffered materially.
William Marks Biden, Chief Engineer, R.N., examined by prisoner.— I was superintending engineer at Ascension in August last. All the hands from my department were at times taken, with the exception of the civilians, for the purpose of saving the cargo of the Bremensis. At the time there was a deal of work to be done for the coast squadron, and civilian engineers had arrived out to put up machinery in the factory, and they required labour, which could not be given them owing to the men being taken away. The men sent out to do this work, I believe, were only to be out nine weeks, but they were delayed for a longer period owing to the hands being taken for the salvage of the wreck. At that time the cargo of public stores brought out by the Rajasthan was lying about the pier head and victualling yard.
George Mitchell, carpenter's mate, R.N., remembered the prisoner calling the men of the Flora together for volunteers to work on the wreck. The prisoner said stores and cotton were to be saved from the wreck, valued, and paid for, the cotton at 10s. a bale. After everything was paid the surplus was to be for the benefit of the canteen of the island. We were in no way to endanger ourselves, and to be very careful how we worked. We were not to be particular about saving the cotton, as it might be too much damaged. We were to open the bales now and then to see if they were worth taking. I worked on board the wreck on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. I did not go afterwards because I thought we should not save enough to pay expenses, and I would not go to work out there for less than 1l. a day. At the rate we were being paid we should not have saved cotton enough to pay for the work.
By the COURT.— It had been remarked among us that we should be able to get things cheaper from the canteen. I myself firmly believed at the time that the proceeds of this salvage after the sale would be devoted to the purposes of the canteen alone.
Mr. Goodridge, master of the Rajasthan, examined by the prisoner.— After the survey of the wreck, and before the report was made, Captain Webster, of the Bremensis on my return on shore said to me "How is it going to be? " I told him I did not know, and he would soon know of it. He then said. "For God's sake condemn both ship and cargo, for my sake." I offered the Rajasthan to Captain Webster shortly after the wreck for five days, at 60l. per day, to take in the cargo, and at the end of the five days another agreement to be made, but he refused my offer. The Rajasthan was to be taken out to the wreck within a prudent distance. I don't know why he declined my offer.
Cross-examined by prosecutor.— When I made this offer to Mr. Webster it was the day after the wreck. At that time the Rajasthan had part of her Government cargo on board. When the wreck of a ship is sold the cargo most go with it.
Re-examined by the prisoner.— When I made the offer to Captain Webster I had 45 tons of stores and about 50 tons of stores on board the Rajasthan. To have taken these out and set the ship at liberty to take in the Bremensis' cargo, if the tug and all the lighters had been given me, would have taken 12 hours and placed us alongside of her.
The prisoner now announced to the Court that he had concluded his evidence for the defence except as to witnesses to character. The president ordered the Court to be cleared, and on its being re-opened after a short time the Court called and examined
Charles Farquharson, A.B., gave similar evidence.
Certificates of character, handed in by the prisoner, were reod to tho Court by the Judge-Advocate, from Admirals S.C. Dacres, W.F. Martin, and A. Farquhar. Admirals H. Chads and T. Jones also bore personal testimony to the prisoner's character as an officer.
At 4 p.m. the court was cleared for deliberation, and remained closed for an hour and 45 minutes. On its being re-opened the Judge-Advocate read the "finding" of the Court, which was to the effect that neither of the charges had been proved, and that Captain Wilmshurst was fully and honourably acquitted. Admiral Sir Thomas S. Pasley, then, as president of the Court, returned to Captain Wilmshurst his sword, and expressed his pleasure at doing so.
|Fr 15 January 1869|
For the last ten days our columns have contained the reports of a trial in which, though the proceedings were technical and the evidence obscure, questions of great public interest were directly involved. Captain Arthur Wilmshurst, an officer in the Royal Navy, being in command of Her Majesty's ship Flora and Governor of the Island of Ascension, was charged with "conduct unbecoming the character of an officer," in respect of transactions which, if the allegations had been established, would certainly have sufficed to support the imputation. It appeared that on the 11th of last August the Bremensis, a merchant vessel laden with a valuable cargo of cotton, was wrecked on the coast of Ascension. Captain Wilmshurst gave orders in due course that assistance should be lent, and labour furnished for saving what could be saved, and the work of salvage accordingly went on for the space of a week. At the expiration of that time, however, Captain Wilmshurst ordered the work to be suspended, so that the salvage was suspended too, though nearly two-thirds of the cargo still remained in the vessel. Under these circumstances, the master of the Bremensis consented to the sale of the ship and her contents as she lay, and Captain Wilmshurst himself became the purchaser of the lot at the price of 20l. On behalf, therefore, of the prosecution it was contended that Captain Wilmshurst had starved the work for the purpose of inducing the master of the wrecked vessel to sell her in despair, and had then turned the affair to his own profit by buying in the ship and cargo together at a price ruinous to underwriters and owners. Now, when we state that the bare facts of this case were admitted — in other words, that the work of salvage was actually suspended, and the wreck actually bought and sold, according to the recital — it will be seen how urgently an explanation was needed, and how amply it must have been given before the Court could pronounce, as it has pronounced, that Captain Wilmshurst was "fully and honourably acquitted" of the charges brought against him.
We must premise that the "Island of Ascension" is not exactly such a region as may, perhaps, be imagined. It is simply a small naval station, and its population is little more than, a ship's crew. It follows from this, as the reader must bear in mind, that whatever was to be done must be done under the directions of the officer who was at one and the same time Governor of the island and captain of a sloop with her 110 seamen and marines. He, and he only, could give orders about furnishing labour or withholding it; he, and hardly any but himself, could practically become the buyer of the wreck if the wreck was to be sold. For the defence, therefore, it became necessary to prove, first, that as much labour was furnished as could conveniently or properly be given; next, that when this work was suspended there was reason for the suspension; and, lastly, that when Captain Wilmshurst became the purchaser of the wreck he bade a fair price for it, and did not misapply the proceeds. Of course, it will be evident from the judgment recorded that these points were established to the satisfaction of the Court, but the public will naturally desire a little information on a subject so remarkable.
So far as we can collect from evidence which was not only technical in its character but very conflicting in its purport, the question at issue turned upon the rights or interests of the several parties in a case of salvage and the complex duties of the defendant as Governor of the island. The master of the Bremensis contended that the case was not in strictness a case of salvage at all; that he and his crew did not intend to abandon their vessel; that they were willing to give their own work in saving the cargo, and that all the assistance supplied to them should have been paid for on terms of ordinary labour. On those conditions it was maintained that the whole cargo might have been saved from the wreck, whereas, out of upwards of 6,000 bales of cotton, barely 2,000 were originally saved as things actually went. To this it was replied, for the defence, that Captain Wilmshurst was the best judge of the amount of labour to be spared from the island, and of the manner in which it could be best employed. He could not neglect those exigencies of the public service for the satisfaction of which he was stationed at the island, and he could only spare, therefore, a certain number of hands. Moreover, whereas it was clearly necessary that labour should be provided on shore as well as on board the wreck, so that the cotton saved might be properly landed, it was best that the Government force, as it may be termed, should be kept distinct from the crew of the merchantman; and, inasmuch as the work on the wreck required the greater skill and involved the greater danger, it was reserved for the seamen of the Royal Navy, while the merchant sailors were employed on shore. That was the justification for the proceedings as detailed up to the 19th of August; but why at that stage was the labour suspended? It was suspended, according to the defence, because it seemed best that it should be diverted to another object. Off the island lay another merchant vessel, the Rajasthan, on board which the cotton saved from the Bremensis was to be shipped for England, and it was thought better to effect that shipment at once instead of proceeding with the work of salvage. But in the meantime there lay the wreck, and what was to be done with her? So exposed was she to the action of "rollers," which might at any moment have set in, that, unless she were sold at once, there might be nothing to sell, and whoever bought her might find, when the sun rose next morning, that he had bought nothing at all. In fact, the master of the Rajasthan, presumably an impartial appraiser, testified to this point very conclusively:- "I did not bid for the wreck and cargo at the auction, because I did not see my way clear to buy it. I considered the sale a legal one. By not seeing my way clear to buy, I mean that from the position the ship was in, as the rollers might have set in at any time, and in an hour have broken the ship up, my money might have been lost. I consider that, irrespective of any question of labour, the ship and cargo were in such a critical condition that to myself they were not worth 20l." It was under these circumstances that, Captain Wilmshurst became the purchaser. As it happened, the weather continued for some days unexpectedly fine, and the men who were again put on the work of salvage by Captain Wilmshurst's orders succeeded in recovering about 600 bales of cotton more or less damaged, for which it seems a sum of about 360l. was afterwards obtained. For the defence, moreover, it was again contended that this money was not misappropriated by Captain Wilmshurst, and certainly not applied to his own benefit or advantage. The work of salvage was resumed by volunteers, who were invited by the promise of 10s. reward for every bale of cotton saved, so that their pay alone on a salvage of 600 bales would have absorbed 300l. out of the 360l.
We have now probably said enough to give the public an idea of the questions raised and resolved in this extraordinary case. The circumstances, it must be owned, were sufficient to place a captain in the Royal Navy and a responsible public servant in a very ambiguous position. It was owing to the orders of Captain Wilmshurst that the work of salvage on board the Bremensis was interrupted at the expiration of the first week. It was owing, or it might be thought owing, to this interruption that the wreck and cargo so abandoned became worth no more than 20l. at an auction; and the fact that at this auction, so brought about, Captain Wilmshurst himself became the purchaser of property depreciated by his own proceedings would have assumed a very ugly complexion, but for the justification produced and the finding of the Court upon the whole evidence of the case. We should be disposed, as we have already intimated, to refer the conflict of testimony and opinion which the trial produced to the different views taken of the original affair by the parties concerned. Captain Wilmshurst looked at the Bremensis as an ordinary wreck, yielding salvage to be dealt with according to custom for the fair benefit of the salvors. The master of the Bremensis looked at the case differently, and wished to have his cargo, not "salved", but simply saved by the aid of just so much labour as he wanted at so many shillings a day. The result was an amount of dissatisfaction which produced at first great scandal, and has at length culminated in a Court-Martial; but Captain Wilmshurst, in our opinion, while he may justly congratulate himself on the finding of the Court, has no reason to regret the investigation which brought the whole story fairly to light.
|Tu 19 January 1869||A court-martial assembled yesterday on board Her Majesty's ship Victory, at Portsmouth, for the trial of Lieut. Thomas Ramsbotham, R.N.,serving on board Hor Majesty's screw lndian relief troopship Crocodile. Capt. G.W. Watson, on the charge "that he, the said Lieut. T. Ramsbotham, being a person subject to the Naval Discipline Act of 1866, and serving on board Her Majesty's ship Crocodile, did, on or about the 27th day of November, 1868, negligently perform his duty as officer of the watch, in that he allowed Her Majesty's ship Crocodile to come into collision with a merchant bark named the John Dwyer, whereby the said bark was sunk and four of her crew were drowned." The court was formed as follows Capt. E.B. Rice, commanding Her Majesty's ship Asia and the steam Reserve at Portsmouth, president; Capt. G. Le Geyt Bowyer, Her Majesty's ship Victory; Capt. T. Cochrane, Her Majesty's ship Duke of Wellington; Capt. A. Hood, C.B., Her Majesty's ship Excellent; Capt. Lord Gilford, Her Majesty's ship Hercules; Capt. A. Wilmshurst; Capt. Brooker, Her Majesty's ship Scorpion; Capt. Harding, Her Majesty's ship Juno; Capt. Phelps, Her Majesty's ship Orontes. Capt. G.W. Watson, Her Majesty's ship Crocodile, appeared as prosecutor. Mr. E. Hoskins afficiated as Deputy Judge-Advocate. The prisoner was assisted by Mr. H. Ford, solicitor, of Portsea, as his "friend." Mr. Ernst Emile Wendt, with Mr. Hill, from the office of Messrs. Pritchard and Sons, Doctors'-commons, were present in the court to watch the case on behalf of the owners and underwriters of the John Dwyer. After evidence had been taken, the prisoner’s defence was read to the Court, and written and oral testimony was adduced as to character and qualifications. The Court then adjourned for deliberation, and on its being reopened the verdict was read by the Deputy Judge-Advocate to the effect that the charge against the prisoner was found partly proved, in that he did not ease the engines of the Crocodile on seeing the light of the John Dwyer, or take other means to avoid a collision; but, taking into consideration that it was the first night watch at sea kept by the prisoner on board the Crocodile, with the ship under steam, and the high written and personal testimony to his previous good character and abilities, the Court only sentenced the prisoner to lose two years' rank and to be severely reprimanded.|
|Fr 22 January 1869||WILMSHURST DEFENCE FUND.- In consequence of the great expence incurred by Captain Arthur Wilmshurst R.N., in defending himself from the charge lately preferred against him — namely unofficerlike conduct while in command of H.M.S. Flora (the depot ship at Ascension), of which he was fully and honourably acquitted — the undermentioned Committee has been formed for the purpose of raising FUNDS to DEFRAY the COST of his DEFENCE, which will amount to about £500.
President—Admiral Sir CHARLES TALBOT. K.C.B.
Subscriptions will be thankfully received by Messrs. Glyn, Mills, Currie, and Co., London; Messrs. Grant, Gillman, and Long, Portsmouth; Messrs. Harris, Bulteel, and Co., Plymouth; Messrs. Stilwell and Co., Aruodel-street, Strand; Messrs. Chard and Co., 3, Clifford's-Inn; Messrs. Woodlhead and Co., Charing-cross; Captain L.E.H. Somerset, 5, Cadogan-place. London, S.W.; and Capain GEORGE HENRY PARKIN. R.N., Royal Naval Club, Portsmouth. Hon. Secretary.
|Sa 3 July 1869||We understand that the Admiralty have determined upon continuing the command of the Island of Ascension and Her Majesty's ship Flora under the pennant of a commander, and not of a captain, as heretofore. Under these altered conditions, Capt. Arthur Wilmshurst will retire for the present upon half-pay, and the appointment be given to an officer of the junior rank.|