Friday, 1 February 2019

Officers of the Waratah deliberately falsified ships articles.

A lot of criticism by readers  have stated that most of the evidence given by ordinary crew members was heresy and could not relied on after reading newspaper reports of the case.This was combined with the antics of the legal teams in the court room playing the true roll of thespians trying to belittle the less educated working class sailors who knew a great deal more about ships and their ways than their peers examining them. Some depositions by crew members were only partly published in the annex to the main report after being cherry picked for public consumption. Sorting the salt from the meat was a painstaking job and in the following deposition there were sections omitted which did not put the authorities in good light. Digging through the files I came across information which should have been removed but I felt it was overlooked by lazy public servants at the time which gives rise to a partial untruthfulness of the Waratah inquiry. The following deposition was given by a seaman who wanted to leave the Waratah as he felt she was unsafe, his family many years later repeated his claim. This man was articulate more so than some of the seamen or crew interviewed, because when reading their depositions it was obvious that they were dictated by more articulate persons versed in the use of correct language other than that used by  poorly educated seamen.

William Baker was to play a key role in furnishing information regarding the ss Waratah during the second voyage from London to Sydney in 1909. Baker's deposition (herewith) gives the clearest evidence about the stacking of the coal in No.1 tween decks and alley-ways on the vessel's last voyage to Australia,but he says he noticed nothing cranky about the behaviour of the ship. Baker's evidence however must be considered in relation to his experience on sailing ships in which the roll to leeward is, in a heavy wind so persistent and sustained that the top hamper of a sailing ship keeps the vessel almost rail down for days and recovery to windward is always slow. The behaviour of the Waratah on the voyage was not such as to cause Baker any misgivings possibly for that reason. Baker spent much of his time down in the bowels of the ship where the rolling motion is not as severe as one would feel when higher up above deck.



I am an able seaman by calling, and at present residing at the Railway Coffee Palace 822 George Street, Sydney, New South Wales. Since the end of June or the beginning of July 1909,I have been employed by Messrs Smith and Tims, Railway contractors in connection with the construction of the North Coast Railway in New South Wales, on the Gloucester to Taree section. Up to the 26th of March last I was working on this section, sleeper cutting and navving (labouring) My postal address while working at Taree was Post Office,Woodside. My father is an engine driver and resides at No.1. Harris Street Southampton street, Camberwell London. The number of  continuous certiicate of discharge issued by the Board of Trade to me is 408119. I am was a seaman on the articles of the ss Waratah on her second voyage to Australia which commenced on the 27th of April 1909, from Gravesend, London. On the 25th of April 1909, while the vessel was laying in the outer basin at the West India Docks London. I went aboard the vessel and saw the chief officer Mr.Owen. I said to him, "are you in want of any hands?" He said " leave your book and see me in the morning when we are signing on." I handed him my book which he took and then I left  the vessel. The following morning 26th, I again went aboard the vessel, and after waiting some time, I saw the chief officer. He then said to me, "well Baker, I could not sign you on as an able seaman because the Board of Trade officer won't sign your book." I said to him why? and he replied "Since you have been paid off from your last ship there have been new rules and regulations. You must have three years continuous service discharge before you can sign on as A.B." My last discharge prior to April 1909 was July 1906 at Cardiff from the barque Queen Margaret- Captain Scott.

                                 The  Barque Queen Margaret which William Baker signed off in 1906. 

 The chief officer said to me "You can sign on as a seaman passage worker. You can get paid off in Sydney, and you could get a good run home in a ship which would pay you."I said "Very good." He told me that I would require to be passed by the doctor before I would be permitted to sign the articles. I left the chief officer and submitted myself for examination by the doctor representing the Board of Trade and was passed medically fit. On that date the 26th April 1909 I signed the ships articles as a seaman but according to the arrangement I had made with the chief officer I was a passage worker. Nothing was said about wages between me and the chief officer, but I understood from what I heard that I would get 1 pound on landing in Sydney. The articles which I signed did not show me as a passage worker, but a seaman. (fraudulent entry by chief officer Owen).  On the 27th of April, I went aboard the vessel with my clothes. The vessel left the West India Docks on that day, and proceeded down river to Gravesend  and anchored in the river for the night. About noon on the 27th when off Gravesend, an inspection of the the vessel was made by by the officers of the Board of Trade and the doctor. Before the inspection, the ships uniform, consisting of a Guernsey and a seaman's cap was issued to me and the other passage workers by the store room steward. This was done on the order of the chief officer, I heard the order. Shortly afterwards, and also before the inspection,the order was issued by the chief officer, "all hands aft for inspection." I and five other passage workers, and the crew of the vessel, mustered aft on the main deck in uniform, I mustering with the seamen. An inspection was made of the muster by the Board of Trade and the doctor. I heard the Board of Trade inspector say after the inspection, "Seamen all correct." I know he was the Board of Trade inspector because I saw the letters B.T with a crown on his cap. The officers then left, and we were ordered to dismiss. Shortly afterwards an order was given - I can't say by whom-for all passage workers to return all uniforms, and I took off the cap and Guernsey, rolled them up and handed them in to the store room steward. No uniform was issued to me afterwards on the voyage. After inspection I was standing on the fore well deck leaning over the rail,and saw two of the ships boats pass around the the bow of the vessel manned by seamen in uniform wearing lifebelts, I didn't take particular notice of the boats. Shortly after the vessel left Gravesend the second engineer came into the fireman's f'ocastle and called out, "Where's Baker" I said stepping forward, "I'm Baker sir." He then said to me, reading from a slip of paper, "Your on the 12 to 4 watch in the stokehold."A passage worker named Cunningham was on the 12 to 4 watch with me in the stokehold. He told me that he had signed as an able seamen but working his passage.He told me he was an able seaman, and had a thee years continuous discharge. He was shown on the list in the forecastle of boat stations as A.B.  A paid coal trimmer,  whose name I forget, completed the number in the 12 to 4 watch. From  the time my watch  in the stokehold was allotted  until the vessel arrive in Sydney, I worked the 12 to 4  watch in the stokehold trimming. I did not particularly notice the behaviour of the ship on the first day, because the work was new to me and employed most of the time in the stokehold. About my third or fourth watch, which would be about the 29th April, I noticed the vessel had a list to port. It was not a very big list, but noticeable. I was in he No.1 'tween decks at the time trimming coal. I noticed the list because I was working in the No.1 tween decks, and had to throw the coal into the pocket of the port side bunker up hill. The next watch, I noticed the vessel had a similar list,but on the starboard side,and my mate who was working that side of he vessel had to throw the coal uphill into the side pocket of the starboard bunker, as I had done the previous watch in regard to the port side bunker, while the coal on my side practically ran itself on this occasion, as it had done with my mate on the previous watch. When we left Gravesend, No.1 'tween decks, for the full width of the ship was forward as far as the fore hatch (No.1 Hold) and passed the engine room towards the stern of the vessel, was filled with coal, to the height of the deck above (the main deck) as near as the trimmers could get, with the exception of the space reserved for the engine room, within the iron bulkheads.

I was working with this coal and the other coal trimmers who were working but not continuously, up to the time the vessel arrived at Capetown. For the first three days after leaving Gravesend, the coal from No.1 'tween decks was used up to feed the main bunker and the side pockets, but after that the coal on the tween decks was used,to feed the No.2 hold (the main hold) where a great quantity of coal was and which was then being used. About a week after leaving Gravesend I heard the second officer say to a lady passenger,referring to the coal in the main hold, "This looks like a coalmine doesn't it?" She said yes." He said "You would not believe it, but there's 4,000 tons of coal there." The coal on the vessel in the main hold practically extended from the top of the main deck to three feet below the stokehold. A water-tight door between the stokehold and the main hold where the coal was stacked, which is about mid-ships, was raised, and we wheeled the coal up from that hold, between two boilers, into the stokehold. The hold where the coal was stacked was forward of the main bunker.There was no hatch on that hold, and as the coal was taken from the bottom, so the coal in the 'tween decks subsided. The list on the vessel made work hard for the trimmer working in the 'tween decks on the side of the list, and the work easier on the side away from the list, and that is how I remember the lists of the vessel from time to time. For about 10 days after leaving Gravesend, the side bunkers were worked in conjunction with the coal in the main hold, but after that time they were not so worked, except occasionally, until all the coal in the main hold had been consumed.The third engineer told me that the coal from the hold was being used because the hold was required at Adelaide for cargo,(lead concentrates) Before the vessel arrived at Adelaide, the coal out of the main hold had been consumed and the seamen were engaged in cleaning it up. At this time however, all the coal that had been stacked in the 'tween decks had not been consumed, only the coal near the hatch coaming of the main hold.The decks around the coamings of the hatch of that hold had been cleared of coal for a distance of about 4 or 5 feet. When the vessel arrived at Adelaide a little more than half the coal in the 'tween decks had been used.When the vessel arrived in Sydney, there was a considerable quantity of coal still remaining on one side of the 'tween decks of the vessel When the vessel left Gravesend, the port and starboard alley-ways of the main deck, the deck above No.1. 'tween decks, from above mid-ships to the back of the bridge, were filled with coal from bottom to to top. The pockets of the side bunkers, and the main bunker were first fed with coal in the alley-ways, and at the end of the fourth day after leaving Gravesend the ally-ways were cleared of coal. So far as I could see, the amount of coal on board and its position in the vessel did not appear to affect the stability of the ship, but we worked coal on the instructions of the second engineer according to the list. The trimming of the coal appeared to control the list, and everything possible to have been done to keep the ship upon an even keel. Sometimes on the voyage the list was noticeable and sometimes the ship was on an even keel. If the ship was rolling it was impossible to say whether she had a list or not, but the roll to leeward seemed to be a longer roll than the roll windward. The  list continued at intervals throughout the voyage, sometimes on on side,and sometimes on the other. I did not consider at any time the list was a serious feature about the vessel.Up tp this time there had been a slight rolling and a slight listing, but Ushant she commenced o roll a great deal. The vessel rolled more to leeward than windward. When the vessel got to the end of a roll to leeward, she seemed to hang over a moment of time,and then appeared to slowly recover herself. The momentary stoppage at the end of the roll was very noticeable, because it was very much like the roll of a sailing ship under full sail of which I have more experience. On the return roll the vessel would hardly go to windward at all. She seemed to be very slow in recovering herself from leeward, and it appeared as if she would remain in that position,the recovery was so slow. I could not always see if the rolling was very heavy because of being so much in the stokehold, where I could only judge of the behaviour of the ship as to how it felt from there. The rolling continued for about two days until the vessel passed the Bay of Biscay, when the weather moderated. I do not think the ship was in any danger at that time, or any time. From there to Adelaide it was practically a fine weather passage, and I noticed nothing particular about the behaviour of the vessel on that part of the voyage. At Melbourne, on arrival of the ship, a considerable time was taken up in berthing the vessel, between four and five hours. This was due to the force of the wind on the top hamper of the vessel. Several hawsers were broken(thick mooring rope lines or steel mooring wires) . One of them as near as I can judge,was a new 8 inch manila rope.One of the strands of  a steel hawser was snapped. A quantity of silver ore cargo was, at Adelaide, put into the hold from which the coal had been taken on the voyage from London.At Melbourne after the vessel had been berthed, she had a list away from the wharf. At Sydney, after she was berthed she had a similar list, but on to the wharf. I noticed nothing particular about the behaviour of the ship between Melbourne and Sydney. The largest derrick I had ever seen on a ship was rigged over No.2.hatch, forward of the bridge. I have seen the derrick during parts of the voyage,(at Capetown and Adelaide) it was rigged with wire falls, she had a heavy "gin" (wheel for a wire rope rope)  on the end of the derrick, which was in mid- air when the derrick was hoisted. I cannot say if the position of the derrick at sea at any time affected the stability of the ship or the list of the vessel, or her behaviour in rough weather.   

The black arrow points to the large derrick, the circle shows the steel collar that holds it in place at sea. Other derricks  in picture could lift safely 5 tons, the large derrick was designed to lift 20 tons. At one stage the bosu'n and and some seamen threatened to leave the ship if the derrick was not stowed  on deck when at sea. He claimed it affected the stability of the ship and enhanced the ships rolling when up in the air.

During the voyage boat drill was held every Wednesday, it never lasted longer than ten minutes. According to the boat stations in the list posted up on the board, I was assigned to a position of No.10 boat. On the first occasion, I partly undid the covering of the boat, and while doing so the quartermaster who was in charge of the No.10 boat, gave me the order to fall in. Boat drill was taking place at the other boats at the same time.The covers of the boats were never removed except when they were being painted, nor as far as I know the lashings were never fully undone.The boats were never lifted off the chocks or hoisted into the davits or partly lowered over the side. One of the boats on the port side,No.1 was always swung out for emergency. With the exception of No.1 boat, all boats were lashed each end from clamps on the gunwales to ring bolts on the deck.None of these lashings were undone during the voyage. No instruction was given to me regards station or to any other of the crew,as far as I know, nor were any instruction given to me or any other crew that I heard, as to the method of launching the boats.The boat drill merely amounted to taking up the positions allotted by the lists and no more.No fire drill of any kind was held on board to my knowledge during the whole voyage. I left the ship at Sydney on the 17th of June,1909, and received a very good discharge and ability and conduct, on the termination of the voyage for which I was engaged. I had no misgivings about the seaworthiness of the vessel. While the ship was in Sydney I heard  a call for steam for one of the winches for the purpose of getting some boats out. During the voyage I saw seamen painting some of the lifeboats. The paint appeared to be very thick.I cannot speak as to the condition of the boats. If I signed for the round trip I should have no hesitation in leaving Australia in the Waratah.

(sgd) W.H.P. Baker

The foregoing deposition of WILLIAM HENRY PEARSON BAKER

was taken and sworn and signed at Sydney in the State of New South Wales on the eleventh day of
April, A.D.1910.

Before me (sgd) C.S. Hawkins
A police Magistrate and Justice of the Peace, for the State of New South Wales. 

Mr baker said he would sail in the Waratah again but in fact he only said that to appease the officer questioning him in order to make sure he was reimbursed for his costs of coming to Sydney to assist in the inquiry of the Waratah. Almost a year later we come across a statement made to the press in which he really said why he left the Waratah. By this time of course he was not under any pressure by officials and free to speak his mind. 

Daily Telegraph Launceston Tasmania Thursday 19th January 1911.

                                                             THE WARATAH

Mr. William H.P. Baker of Dover street, Richmond, who was an able seaman on board the missing Waratah on her last voyage to Australia and gave evidence at the inquiry held at Sydney last April, made some very interesting statements to a Melbourne Herald reporter on Monday. They said that he began,that the vessel was not top heavy if the cargo was properly stowed but it had not been stated how the coal had been worked coming out from England. I signed on with seven other men as A.B in London. As soon as the Waratah left the Thames we eight men were sent to trim coal, leaving 8 A.B's short on deck, if anything happened they would have been a watch short. The A.B's down in the hold were trimmers until we got to Sydney. In the Bay of Biscay the Waratah started to roll for two or three days in the only bad weather we experienced for the voyage, but she had a list to port or starboard all the time.I reckoned that she was top heavy. We worked the coal in the 'tween decks,and the main hold was full. After using some of the coal out of the bunkers and some of that in the 'tween decks, we worked the main hold, clearing out by the time Adelaide was reached, so as to take in cargo and leaving coal in the 'tween decks.At Melbourne we took three or four hours to tie up,breaking nearly all the lines, the steamer was lying away from the wharf. At Sydney the Waratah lay right over the wharf. I heard that they had trouble with the stevedores and I left the boat at Sydney, and two or three days later went inland, so cannot say anything about the loading there. Coming out from England no proper boat was held and there were no fire drills,  the boats were in a leaky condition and I saw a man laying paint on thick on one occasion. They wanted it on thick he remarked to me,the paint was running through the seams. Putting the cargo in the main hold as I have described, and filling the 'tween decks with coal, had the effect of making the vessel top heavy,the cargo in the hold being lighter than the coal. We had a 1,000 tons of coal in the main hold when we left London. Why did I leave the Waratah? I was paid off in Sydney, but would have left the ship in any case, I did not like her. When she rolled, instead of behaving herself like a normal vessel, she seemed to hang at an angle, it seemed difficult for her to recover herself after a roll. I reckon after leaving Durban, she got into heavy weather and turned clean over, being unable to recover after being struck by a big sea.


                                     William Baker with his wife Francis (nee) Robinson.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Waratah was badly managed at sea and here we have further proof that the faulty lifeboats were not properly fixed after the first voyage, yet were passed a second time by the Board of Trade surveyor Captain Maurice Clark whom I shall deal with and his evidence in a later post.  In my next post I will deal with faulty portholes allowing the ingress of water into the coal on the tween decks. To misrepresent the amount of seamen signed on in itself would have needed the co-operation of Captain Ilbery himself after all it would be his signature on the articles alone.

Note Captain Ilbery's signature bottom right, this agreement was when he last left Adelaide after taking on six crew, all perished with the ship.