Official Inquires

The Collision between the Bruiser (s) and the Haswell on the Suffolk Coast.

The inquiry into the circumstances attending the recent collision between the Bruiser (s) and the Haswell (s c) off the Suffolk coast was resumed and concluded on Saturday at the Greenwich Police-court, before Mr. Traill, the magistrate, and Captains Harris and Baker, Nautical Assessors (as briefly reported in our impression of that day).

Mr. H. Hamel appeared, as on previous occasions, for the Board of Trade; Mr. Cohen and Mr. Pearce for the General Steam Navigation Company; and Mr. Cooper for the Owners of the Haswell.

The statement of the Second Mate of the Haswell was then put in and read by Mr. Boustead, the clerk of the court: -- I, Wm. Slaughter, of No. 19, Alderson-street, South Shields, in the county of Durham, Master Mariner, say: I am certified by the Board of Trade as Master and Mate for the home and foreign trade, and have been so for several years last past. I am now the Second Mate of the screw steam collier Haswell, of London, and have been so for some months. The Haswell is of 560 tons register, or thereabouts, and has engines of 90-horse power. The Crew of the Haswell consists of 19 hands, and she is commanded by John Chase. At about 4 30 P.M. of the 18th of Aug., 1866, the Haswell left the Victoria (London) Docks, in water ballast, bound to Sunderland. When the Haswell so left the Victoria Docks, she was in all respects fitted and found for the then intended voyage, and she was provided with the Admiralty regulation lamps, and those lamps were cleaned and prepared for use. It was part of my duty to see that the lamps of the Haswell were ready to use, and before she left the Victoria Docks I had seen that they were cleaned out and trimmed. The Haswell, after leaving the Victoria Docks, proceeded down the River Thames, and at midnight my watch took charge of the Haswell's deck. The Haswell at this time was between two and three miles below the Sunk light vessel. My watch consisted of Andrew Smith, Able Seaman; John Cummings, Carpenter; Vincent Bax, Able Seaman; Patrick Fairgrieve, Able Seaman, and myself. At this time the Haswell had the Admiralty regulation lamps exhibited and burning brightly. The Haswell at this time was being steered N.E. ½ N., and she had her mainsail, mizen, mainstaysail, jibstayforesail, and foretopsail set, and was making from seven to eight knots an hour. I took the watch from Mr. Johnston, the Mate, and he gave me instructions to keep a good look-out and if we met with a number of ships, that I was to call the Master; or if there was a change in the weather, and in any event to call the Master when the Haswell reached Lowestoft. On taking charge I went on the bridge of the Haswell, and Peter Fairgrieve went on the topgallantforecastle, on the look-out, and John Cummings went to the wheel. The Haswell continued to steer her course until 2 A.M. of the 19th of August, and I remained on the bridge. At this time Peter Fairgrieve was relieved from the look-out by Andrew Smith, and John Cummings was relieved from the wheel by Vincent Bax. At about 2 20 A.M. the Haswell was abreast of Aldborough, and about from four to five miles from the land, and was still steering N.E. ½ N. and was making from seven to eight knots an hour. The Haswell had her Admiralty lamps burning brightly and the same sail set as she had when I took charge of the deck at midnight. The wind was about S.W., and the tide was flood and of the force of about two knots an hour. At this time I was on the bridge and Andrew Smith was in the topgallantforecastle on the look-out. On the bridge of the Haswell there is a telegraph communicating with the engine-room, and the orders to the wheel are communicated by means of two lights, a red and a green one. The red light indicates when the helm of the Haswell is required to be ported, and the green light indicates when it is to be starboarded. At about this time the look-out, Andrew Smith, reported to me that there was a bright light ahead of the Haswell and rather on the port bow. I then saw ahead a bright light. It was on the port bow of the Haswell withal, and I judge it was about from four to five miles distant. I took up the night glasses, and looked in the direction of that light, and ascertained that it was the masthead light of a steamer coming in the opposite direction, and I watched for her coloured lights. At about this time, another steamer going to the northward, passed the Haswell on her starboard side. That steamer was going faster than the Haswell, and she drew ahead and passed the Haswell. In about four or five minutes after I had first seen the said bright light, I saw the red light of the same steamer, which afterwards proved to be the Bruiser, and I then turned on the red light to the helmsman for him to port the helm of the Haswell. The said red light of the Bruiser was about one point on the Haswell's port bow when I saw it, and was about between one and two miles distant, and when the Haswell's helm had been ported, and this red light had been brought about two points on the port bow of the Haswell, I ordered the helm to be steadied, and this was done. At about this time I also saw the green light of a vessel standing off, and as the Haswell proceeded on she passed a vessel on her starboard side, which I have since ascertained was the Perseverance. It was not necessary for me to alter the course of the Haswell to pass the Perseverance, and no alteration was made in the Haswell's course to pass her. I watched the red light of the Bruiser, which came on without alteration, and I expected that the Haswell and Bruiser would have passed each other port to port side. In a short interval after this Andrew Smith, the look-out man, called out and said that the Bruiser was altering her lights, and I immediately went to the port side of the Haswell's bridge, and on getting there I saw both the red and green lights of the Bruiser. They were about two points on the Haswell's port bow, and the Haswell and Bruiser were closing fast, and I cried out "Good God, where is that man coming to? There is his green light." The Bruiser had then caused danger of collision, and I sung out for our helm to be put hard a-port, and telegraphed for the engines of the Haswell to be stopped and reversed at full speed. Both these orders were obeyed. The interval between these orders and the collision was very short, and the way of the Haswell was only partially stopped before that took place. The Bruiser with her starboard midships came into collision with the stem of the Haswell. I heard no hailing from the Bruiser whilst she was approaching the Haswell. When the collision occurred the head of the Haswell was about E. by N., and I judge the head of the Bruiser was about S.S.E. or something like that direction. The stem of the Haswell went some distance into the starboard side of the Bruiser. On seeing this, I at once telegraphed for the engines of the Haswell (which were then reversing) to be stopped, and turned ahead, in order to keep the vessels together. I then called to the people on board the Bruiser to try and save their lives. The Master and Mate, then came on deck, and the hold ladder of the Haswell was got up and put over to the Bruiser, and the people from her got up it and on board the Haswell. I was relieved of the charge of the Haswell by the Master, and I assisted in getting the people out of the Bruiser. The two vessels remained together until it was apparent the Bruiser was going down, and the Haswell then backed out of her. The Haswell saved all the people she could, and afterwards took them to London. I am quite sure that the masthead and both the side lights of the Haswell were burning brightly when the collision occurred, for I saw them from time to time as I walked the bridge. If either of the side lights of the Haswell had required trimming I should have had them trimmed. The collision between the Haswell and Bruiser was attributable to the Bruiser starboarding instead of porting her helm. If the Bruiser had not starboarded her helm the collision would not have taken place. It was the duty of those on board the Bruiser to have ported her helm. I ported the helm of the Haswell sufficiently to have passed the Bruiser on her port side.

William Slaughter

The Shipping and Mercantile Gazette,, Monday, September 17, 1866.

Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius

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Copyright © 1997 Lars Bruzelius.