The Bruiser left Hull for London about eleven o'clock on Saturday night. She was a very strong iron-built screw steamer of 506 tons register, with engine-power of eighty-horse, and formerly belonged to the Government. She was under the charge of Captain Charles Hartly, and was manned with a crew of sixteen hands (not including steward and stewardess). The number of passengers is said to have been ninety; twenty chief cabin or saloon, and the rest fore-cabin passengers. These are the numbers as supplied by the company's agent at Hull, who, it appears, collected the fare money from the passengers before her sailing; but it appears from other sources that several got on board after he left the vessel. It is, in consequence, difficult to state with exactness the total number who were on board. It is believed, however, they did not exceed 110, which, with the crew, made 128 souls in all. Most of the saloon passengers retired to their sleeping-berths as soon as the steamer got under way, and the sleeping-berths in the fore-cabins were also occupied. The bulk of the passengers remained on deck. Some made temporary beds under the seats, others got into the boats, while the larger number promenade the deck. It was a clear, fine night, the sea was quite smooth, and the weather so clear that every object for miles distant could be plainly observed. Captain Hartly, the master, remained in charge till one o'clock, when he was relieved by the chief mate, Mr. Scott, who took his post on the bridge, Captain Hartly retiring to his cabin. Two men were forward on the look-out, and all was proceeding as favourably as could be desired. The first that was observed of the vessel with which they came in contact was about ten minutes past two o'clock on Sunday morning. They were approaching Aldborough, steaming along some four or five miles off the coast. There was no alteration in the weather, and the light of the vessel was plainly seen. It was a masthead white light, and no other light being observable it was concluded it was the ordinary light of a vessel at anchor, and that was their opinion up to within a few moments of the collision. The Bruiser kept her course, and on nearing the vessel, which proved to be the Haswell, Captain Chase, from London for Sunderland, under steam and sail, the chief mate signalled the man at the wheel to starboard the helm, which order was obeyed. The distance between the two vessels rapidly shortened the Bruiser continuing her course to starboard, and the result was that in a few moments both steamers came in contact with terrific force. The Bruiser was struck on the starboard side, abreast her engine-room, the Haswell's bows demolishing her plate down almost to the Bruiser's keel. Indeed, so great was her damage, it was miraculous she did not instantly founder. The scene that followed among the passengers was heart-rending. There was a frantic rush to gain the Haswell whose bows remained buried in the Bruiser's hull. Frightful shrieks and screams filled the air from the poor creatures who were crushed amid the broken woodwork. Captain Hartly and his officers and men strove to extricate them, but were unable to do so. The passengers were got up as fast as possible on the bridge of the steamer, whence they were hauled up hand over hand by the crew of the Haswell on board their vessel, while others pulled themselves up by ropes that were thrown to them. In this way nearly the whole of those on board were saved, and it was in but a very period, for all assert that within nine minutes the Bruiser went down in deep water. It is due to Captain Hartly to state that he was the last to quit the sinking ship. His last act was to rescue the stewardess, Mrs. Hyde, who was seen struggling in the sea as the steamer went from under her. Two or three ladies were also picked up floating away; they had nothing on but their night-dresses, and were much bruised and hurt. A boat was lowered from the schooner Perseverance, of London, which was near the spot at the time, and it was fortunate enough to pick up three other passengers who were drowning. They were landed safe at Yarmouth. The Haswell lowered her three boats, and these rowed about for a long time in the hope of saving those still missing, but they saw none, and the Haswell, after remaining nearly three hours on the spot, put back London and landed the Bruiser's passengers at Victoria Dock about five o'clock on Sunday evening. Respecting the Haswell's course prior to the accident, it appears she was bound to Sunderland in ballast. She belongs to the General Steam Iron Screw Collier Company, is of about 500 tons register, and was manned by a crew of nineteen hands. It was the second mate's watch on deck; Captain Chase and the first mate were both below. They assert that the Haswell's three lights were burning brightly when they went below at two o'clock, and there was nothing to obstruct their being seen. After the collision both the port and starboard lamps were found still alight, though the port light was rather dim, which might have been caused by the concussion. The second mate states he never quitted the bridge when he first saw the Bruiser's lights some three miles off, and as the steamer came closer he ported his helm, in accordance with the rules laid down, and kept it so, fully expecting the other steamer every moment would do the same. The bows of the Haswell were stove completely and the fore part of her filled with water. He kept the engine still going slowly in order to keep the vessel fixed in the Bruiser, as the only chance of saving the lives of the passengers. This was done as long as practicable. Then to prevent the Haswell from receiving further damage the engines were backed astern, and the moment she was clear the Bruiser disappeared. Among the passengers known to have perished are the following:-- A son of the Rev. Mr. Barth, Yarmouth; a woman named Dewhurst, and William Knock, an engineer residing at New Holland, near Grimsby; a woman name unknown, was asleep in one of the boats; she was fearfully crushed, and could not be got out; she was alive, and went down in the vessel. Two little boys met with a similar fate, as also two foreigners (names unknown). The names of the crew who lost their lives were Robert Bland, George Atkin, and Thos. Mills; the latter two were firemen; they were in their berths asleep on the starboard side of the ship, and must have been literally cut in two by the bows of the Haswell. No list has yet been made out by the company of the sufferers. The latest accounts from the coast do not state that any of the bodies have been picked up.
Mr. Joseph Fry, bookseller, Chelmsford, who was a passenger on board the Bruiser, gives the following account of the catastrophe:--
"I had gone to bed in the saloon part of the cabin about eleven o'clock on the previous evening, the weather being calm and the sea smooth. I went to sleep soon after, and remembered nothing more until I was suddenly awoke in the morning about three o'clock. The noise which awoke me was as of a strong loud crash, and when I looked out I saw a gentleman who slept in the adjoining berth already on the cabin floor. I hurriedly asked what was the matter, but received only as a reply that something had happened to the ship. I then put some articles of dress on, and at once hurried on deck, where I found the greater portion of the passengers half dressed. Everything was in the greatest confusion. The captain told the passengers to take to the rigging, as the ship was sinking. A great number of people obeyed the order, but I was so unnerved by the sight that I was unable to mount into the shrouds. The boats, which were suspended to the davits amidships, were both stove in, and there was only a small boat on the quarter-deck that could be launched. In the meantime the ship that had run into us was entangled in the rigging. Her bowsprit extended right across our vessel, and all her crew were in the bows. They lowered ropes to bring the people on board, and by this means some were hauled up, while others managed to scramble on board by the bowsprit or any other means that they could command. In the meantime the captain gave orders that the only remaining boat should be lowered, and the women and children were ordered to be ready to get in. The sea was perfectly calm at the time, and there appeared no difficult about getting all the passengers transferred from the one vessel to the other. The boat was got down and all was ready, but some of the women, in the dim twilight of the morning, hesitated about being lowered down the side of the ship into such a small boat, and after endeavouring to persuade a young girl to go in after two sailors, who had taken charge of the boat, and finding she would not go in, I descended by a rope, and was the third person in the boat. I think there were nine or ten of us got in, and we pushed off. We reached the side of the other ship, and got on board, but not too soon. The vessel we had left had been gradually settling down, and although in the hurry, which distracted every one except the captain, we could not see exactly what injury our own ship had received, we discovered when we felt safe that our own vessel was almost cut in two. She was going down rapidly, and half naked figures of helpless women were seen clinging to the shrouds. Just then a schooner hove in sight, and seeing what had occurred bore down upon us. She arrived in time to be of service, for she succeeded in taking off several of the unfortunate persons who were left on the wreck. That vessel afterwards proceeded to Yarmouth. I was not among those who were rescued by the schooner, but I went in the other steamer to London. I never shall forget the scene which presented itself when the ship went down. As I have said, there was a great number of persons clinging to the shrouds, and their wailings for help were heard above the bustle and hurry which possessed every one. Orders were given for all manner of things to be done, and everything was done to save life which it was possible to do under the circumstances; but above all the shrieking of terrified women was heard, and half frantic men rushed in every direction, with the hope of rendering assistance to those who were yet on the wreck. The ship into which I had got had steamed astern, so as to clear herself from the sinking vessel; but we had not gone further away than was absolutely necessary for safety. I have said that I got into the small boat, and so reached the other ship; but my time of relating it far exceeds the time in which occurrence took place. Indeed, so rapidly did one event succeed another, that it is with difficulty I can recollect what took place. One thing I do remember -- the sinking of the ship with those on board. All of a sudden she seemed to reel, and then, plunging head foremost beneath the waves, a boiling surge succeeded, and for ever drowned the cries of the unfortunate creatures who had been unavoidably left on the wreck. I afterwards inquired of the captains of the two vessels how the accident occurred, but they replied they were unable to say. Both ships showed lights, and both had men stationed on the look-out, but no signal was given to the helmsman until the collision took place."
Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius
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Copyright © 1996 Lars Bruzelius.