Friday, 28 June 2019

Into Oblivion But Not Forgotten.

                                                                            Into Oblivion       
At 8.00 pm on the 26th of July 110 years ago the the crack liner of the Blue Anchor Line Waratah departed from her berth at A shed in Durban bound for Cape Town. The ship never made it and was lost in a storm of exceptional violence somewhere along her course line, the exact spot where she disappeared has never  been established. We in Australia have always paid tribute to the lost souls as each year passes by and they will never be forgotten by us.


Remembrance is a golden chain
Death tries to break all in vain;
To have, to love, and then to part 
is the sorrow of one's heart
the years might wipe out many things,
But they wipe out never
The memories of those happy people
When they were altogether. 

We in Australia will never forget.

                                                        The ss Waratah in Capetown in 1908.
   Curious readers have asked me about the origin of the pencil sketch of the above ss Waratah being buried under a high wave.When the Waratah was on her last Voyage home she was in Sydney at the same time as the P&O ship Ortona under the command of Captain Collins. From there they both sailed  for Melbourne and where berthed  next to each other once again. It was these occasions that both the officers of each ship had a meal and drinks together.

                                                                            ss ORTONA 
It was in Melbourne that the officers of the Waratah told the the officers of the Ortona that they would be unloading their full cargo of mutton carcasses in Durban as the agents had informed the owners that they could get a better price than in London due to the glut of lamb and mutton from other countries such as New Zealand and South America. The Waratah would then proceed to Cape Town and take in a load of Maize to make up the tonnage. There must have been some discussion between the  ships officers and those of the Ortona as to the stability of the Waratah. One officer of the Ortona who later told the the press in New Zealand that the truth of this matter would come out at an Inquiry, of course it never did like so many other incidents kept out of the public eye. The pencil drawing was made by a former officer of the Ortona and was his version of what happened to the Waratah. 

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Wreckage occasionally dredged up by trawlers.

One reader asked the question has there been any wreckage brought up in trawlers nets that has been identified as coming from the ss Waratah.?

Answer, Not to my knowledge as this would have indicated her position on the sea bed, however, over the years since her loss there was a steel plate thought to have come from the Waratah  which had been brought up in a deep trawl net from the main shipping route between Bird Island and Durban and was to be sent off to England for forensic tests to see if the steel was of the same molecular structure that was used in the construction of the ship which was manufactured by the Siemens Steel Company.There was another report of a piece of steel plate being recovered and sent to Capetown for analysis yet nothing was ever reported back to confirm that either of the steel plates recovered had any connection with the Waratah. Then there was the report of a trawler finding a set of head phones when the bag of the net was emptied out. This immediatley  indicated that the ships from that area were of a much later vintage due to the fact that the Waratah was not fitted with radio telegraphy at the time of her sinking. This leads one to the conclusion that these wrecks along that part of the coast were probably part  of the world war two conflict and victims of submarine attacks as was the ss Nailsea Meadow further to the north east which was carrying munitions and tanks.

                                                              ss NAILSEA MEADOW

 Two ships come to mind the first is the Deer Lodge and the beautiful three deck Dutch ex passenger ship the Motor Ship Colombia often misprinted as the ss Colombia.

                                                                        ss DEER LODGE

The ss Deer Lodge was carrying general cargo including oil and steel with a deck cargo of 3 trucks and four steam locomotives all bound for Aden, Suez. The ship was registered as being 6,187 tons with dimensions of 409 feet x beam 54.12 feet x depth 29.84 feet and was built in the U.S.A in 1919.
The ship was attacked in the early hours of the morning of February 17 at 0230 hrs. After being hit by a torpedo the master tried to zig zag but was hit with a second torpedo and the the ship sank at 0430 hours. Out the crew of 57 two were killed in the action and the rest were split up into three boats, one boat  with 13 crew members  were rescued by the armed trawler H.M.S.A.S AFRICANA  (T.01) and taken to Port Elizabeth. Another 32 crew members were picked up by the E. London trawler and taken to Port Elizabeth, the remaining ten crew in another lifeboat were rescued by the British hospital ship H.M.H.S ATLANTIS and taken to Capetown.

                                                    Hospital ship H.M.H.S ATLANTIS.

The second vessel the motor ship Colombia which was such a waste of a beautifully designed ex passenger ship being of  a size of 10,782 tons with the dimensions of 459 feet x 59.04 x 26.5 feet.

                                                           M.S. Colombia in peace time.

                                    Colombia a three deck ship showing her well designed lines.

                                                                First class dinning saloon. 

                                                          Second class dinning saloon.

                                                                      First class saloon.

In August 1942 Colombia was assigned to East London in South Africa to provide support and maintenance facilities to Dutch submarines on passage from the far east.Columbia remained at East London until February 1943 when she was to sail to Simon's Town for dry docking. At dawn on the 27th of February Colombia left East London and was headed for Port Elizabeth where she was to anchor inshore overnight. Due to several convoys at sea there was a shortage of escort vessels and only the corvette H.M. Genista was available, the RAF was to provide air cover throughout the day as far as port Elizabeth. 

                                  HMS GENISTA , escort undergoing a refit in Port Elizabeth. 

Not long before noon on the 27th the Colombia with her escort ahead of her were zig zagging at Colombia's best speed with the current of  12.5 knots some 10 miles off shore. Her bottom was probably well fouled after sitting idle in East London for six months her maximum speed was usually about 15 knots. This distance offshore was a compromise between the British Naval Authorities in East London who would have preferred the Colombia to be sailing five miles offshore and the captain of the Colombia J. Hoeke who wanted stay twenty miles off the coast. At this time the sky was clear with flat seas ideal conditions for the twenty five lookouts that had been posted to spot submarine periscopes. None of these lookouts spotted the periscope of Uboat 516 commanded by Gerhard Wiebe's nor did the escort or Colombia detect the submarine by hydrophones prior to the attack which led them to believe that the attack was carried out from a long distance. At 11.41 am U516 attacked with a spread of 3 torpedoes at a distance of 1,500 metres hitting the ship forward of the bridge collapsing the bulkhead between the two forward hatches causing her to list heavily and filling her rapidly with water. Realising damage control was impossible the captain ordered abandon ship and lifeboats were got away in short time with 318 men, at a later roll call it was discovered  8 men had perished with the ship.  A sad end to a beautiful ship.

                                         Side profile of Colombia almost the size of the Waratah.

Monday, 1 April 2019

Professor Bragg lied to the Court.

In my last post The Maiden Voyage I made mention of Professor Bragg and his concern for he stability of the ship, below I have included a condensed version of his evidence to the Court in which he clearly lied to a key question and it would have remained undiscovered had I not  came across a book showing he did mislead the Court.  He was questioned by Mr. Laing who was acting on behalf of the Board of Trade.


                                                                  Sir William Bragg.

Friday, 29 March 2019

Maiden Voyage of the ss Waratah.

Please note; this is an uncorrected copy, on page 15 third page back, it reads Clan Ranald which capsized on the north coast of Kangaroo Island is incorrect and should read, Clan Ranald capsized on the south coast of York Peninsular.


Thank you to my many readers

Thank you to those of you that have written their objections to a  vitriolic attack made on me for simply reporting the truth about the Waratah Disaster based on solid research for publishing an article on Monday the 23rd of July 2018 under the heading of my blog page, The Waratah Explained,which can be found on  Google. I was accused of castigating Emlyn Brown and of professional jealousy over articles he wrote in a magazine. I should like to point out that my post in no way was written with malice, or jealousy, but meant to be informative backed up with solid research and nautical expertise and to unravel the the mystery of the ss Nailsea Meadow for the readers. I expressed my opinions in an honest and forthright manner,  and will continue to do so which is my right, the Waratah story is not the personal property of one person, it is maritime history and must be shared for posterity and that is exactly what I am doing. The question arose why have have I not searched for the Waratah, I could have, and have been approached on a number of occasions over the years but the truth is she is deep down and there is no cargo or gold on board the ship that would warrant an expensive salvage operation which would not offer  a profitable monetary return to the investors. Other than finding an archeological  relic which wouldn't tell us any more than what we already know about the ship and her actual resting place, there would be no point in mounting such an expensive operation. The object of my pain taking research was to open up the story of the Waratah which takes away some of the mystery that has surrounded her and to give an insight into what caused her demise. 
My next post coming shortly will be a chapter from my manuscript entitled  The Maiden Voyage.
Once again thank you for your patronage and kind words and support.


Friday, 22 March 2019

Conspiracy by a senior officials to misuse affidavits to favour Waratah

When reading and transcribing documents from the Waratah inquiry, a pattern began to emerge  that some affidavits sworn before appointed public notaries by crew members and passengers,they were in some cases coached as to how their affidavit should be written for presentation before the Court in  order to favour the Waratah and her owners. This was not in the spirit of the law regarding affidavits which makes it quite clear that when a person makes an affidavit, it is, for himself or herself to give their own honest version in relation to the matter that is to be put before the inquiry. All depositions taken in Australia on behalf of the Board of Trade Solicitor in England, had to be sworn in accordance with the provisions of section 691 of The Merchant Shipping Act 1894.

The Board of Trade Solicitor Mr.R. Ellis Cuncliffe wrote to all Australian ports and Durban in South Africa giving the terms of reference for an inquiry and at the same time requesting affidavits from former passengers and crew members that could be located in Australia. The following letter illustrates what the  B.O.T. Solicitor required when he wrote to the Registrar of Shipping in Adelaide dated the 1st of February 1910.
The following two affidavits shown are identical almost word for word it would appear that the normal process for obtaining depositions had clearly been breached by the Crown Solicitor.

                                      Commonwealth Crown Solicitor Sir Charles Powers.


Monday, 18 March 2019

Waratah's lifeboats and Captain Clarke Surveyor.

Note, Mr. Laing represented the Board of Trade.
A typical life raft of the the period as mentioned in the evidence of Captain Clarke, the rafts were placed next the hot funnel causing the timbers to become warped.