Details about Hartlepool Ship Losses - First World War
This section will, in time, contain the stories of more than 450 merchant ships built or owned in the Hartlepools, and which were lost during the First World War. As an illustration of the truly global nature of shipbuilding, these ships were owned by companies from 22 different countries, including more than 30 sailing under the German flag at the outbreak of war.
The following is a trabscription of the Board of Trade Wreck report into the loss of the steamer "SILVER WINGS" (S.S.).
IN the matter of the formal investigation into the loss of S.S. "Silver Wings," Official Number 118498, Registered Tonnage 1,826, single screw steamer built of steel at Hartlepool in 1904 by Furness, Withy and Co., S. Hartlepool, and owned by the Wing Steamship Co., Ltd., of 21, Great St. Helen's, London, England, and commanded at the time of the casualty by Mr. Edward O'Toole.
Inquiry held at Halifax, N.S., on 27th and 28th August, 1915, before Lieut. Commander GRAHAM C. HOLLOWAY, R.N.R., Acting Wreck Commissioner, assisted by Nautical Assessors, Mr. NEIL HALL and Mr. D. C. STEWART, Master Mariners, into the circumstances attending the stranding and loss of the British Steamer " SILVER WINGS," on or about 11.30 p.m., 17th August, 1915, on or near Sable Island. The Court after hearing evidence came to the following conclusions:
The Court having carefully inquired into the circumstances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty finds that the loss of the "Silver Wings" was caused by the stranding at or about 11.30 p.m. on August 17th, 1915, on or about Western end of Sable Island during thick weather.
The "Silver Wings" left New York on August 14th, 1915, with rails, etc., on holds (and two tiers on decks) bound for Archangel. The master did not have his compasses adjusted to ascertain if the steel rails had affected his compasses, from the evidence before the Court; even when he had cleared, the weather was clear enough to have swung his ship, but he only obtained the deviation on his then course being steered and again on the afternoon of the 14th August he obtained the deviation and on the morning of the 15th.
Though by the evidence given, the master had plenty of time after the stranding to save his deviation book, scrap log book and chart, he was working with, they were not produced in Court. As the master and mate were unable to inform the Court what deviation they had on easterly courses before loading rails, the Court is unable to state if the compasses had been affected by the carrying of steel rails on deck.
After shaping course on leaving Ambrose Light Vessel at 10.30 a.m., 14th August, 1915, to time of stranding the weather appears from the evidence to have been thick with a few clears, yet no soundings were taken, though the ship was constantly in soundings; even though he steered to pass Fire Island Vessel and Nantucket Light Vessel he did not hear the fog whistle; he changed his course without sounding.
The master stated he used the small scale chart of the North Atlantic Western Portion. At the Court he was given a large scale chart and asked to lay down his courses and distances from the data given in the log book. When plotted off, instead of taking the ship 45 miles to S.E. of Sable Island, his position placed the ship as really heading for Sable Island at 8 p.m. on the 17th August, 3½ hours before she stranded, and again at 9 p.m. the ship was hauled to the southward some two points. The master was asked by the Court what these manoeuvres were for, and stated: "I altered because I had so much fog and had read so much of steamers bound from New York to Archangel ramming fishermen."
The Court on laying down the course as shown by the log book and in applying the correct variation, places the position of the ship some 60 miles to the north and west of stranding position.
The Court is unable to understand why he should deem it advisable to haul out twice in the course of one hour to go to the southward of the Virgin Rocks, a distance of some four to five hundred miles off. The master gave his evidence clearly and was obviously a man of ability, and the Court can only conclude from the evidence given and the log book, that the master laid his first course in error and from then on shaped his course without referring to the chart, otherwise he must have seen his course took him 15 miles inside Nantucket Light Vessel instead of to the South. It has not been made plain to the Court upon what method of navigation the master was working as his assumed position and position as shown by courses laid in the chart are contradictory.
We find the master in default for not using the lead and reckless navigation, and therefore suspend his certificate for a period of one year, August 30th, 1915, to August 30th, 1916, but recommend he be granted a mate's certificate during the period under suspension.
The mate, Thomas Jones, kept his log in a very slack manner, only the compass course being shown; he also from his evidence showed he took not the slightest interest in the navigation and took over his watch without checking off the ship's position, and we find him in default for not realizing the responsibility of his position as mate and therefore suspend his master's certificate for three months from August 30th, 1915, to November 30th, 1915, without the option of a lower grade certificate being issued.
The Court feels called upon to comment upon the following facts: The "Silver Wings" left the United Kingdom with only the master and mate holding certificates; then the second mate left, shortly before the ship sailed, the boatswain was made chief boatswain (the Court does not realise what this term implies) and kept watch. The owners according to the master's evidence did not detain the ship for even a day to endeavour to obtain a second mate nor did they send a man out as passenger to catch the ship in New York; the Court hazards the opinion that if the two officers had been carried, at least one of them would have realised that his position carried great responsibility and he was not put on the bridge as a figure head, but the Court must point out that legally, for her tonnage, she had the full complement and the master and mate are alone to blame.
The Court finds that the type of log book as kept on the S.S. "Silver Wings" is not of a class to make the proper entries of ordinary navigation, and would recommend that uniform log books be issued by steamship owners whereby proper entries would be made.
Dated at Halifax, N.S., this thirtieth day of August, A.D. 1915. GRAHAM C. HOLLOWAY, Acting Dominion Wreck Commissioner. Concurred in: NEIL HALL, D. C. STEWART Assessors. (Issued in London by the Board of Trade on the 8th day of October, 1915.)