A collision at sea

Posted: November 21, 2014 by saraherhodes in 1914

Saturday morning

Crash! Full speed astern!!  All men below and get life belts!!!!

These were sounds that greeted my ears on waking early this morning, combined with sounds of grinding steel, and smashing timbers.  We had run down the boat in front of us.  The impact threw us back, and we crashed into her again, and then slithered off finally becoming locked together by our sterns; the bows swung out, and we gradually drifted away.  For a few moments a fellow or two were a little panic-stricken, but the majority kept quite cool and collected.  The alarm bell was rung and everyone went below quietly and put on their life belts.  As soon as I heard the crash, I jumped on the bulwark and saw the other boat slide past just a few feet away from us.  She was a fine big boat, the “Shropshire” A 9.

When I went below everyone was there with their belts on, some were playing draughts, others reading, and everyone quite unconcerned.  Then we were marched out onto the boat deck and lines up three deep.  I didn’t feel at all frightened, it didn’t strike me that here was any immediate danger – everything was so quiet, and even if there were not enough boats, steamers were all round us, and the sea was fairly smooth.  My chief thought was for my glasses and my kit.  It didn’t appeal to me as a catastrophe, but more as an interesting sight, which I wanted to see as much of as I could.  It was an impressive sight, men lines up on all decks; the crew getting the boats ready for use, and all round us we could just see the dim lights of other boats.  From all directions lights were blinking out.  Morse code asking what was wrong.

Away on the horizon we could just see the armoured Cruiser, H.M.S.”Hampshire” steaming up at 23 knots, with all search lights full on.  After a while it was ascertained that there was no immediate danger, we were not injured below the water line, and we were dismissed.

The cause of the collision was, a man fell overboard from the “Shropshire”, and she stopped and lowered a boat and then we crashed into her, and in panic another man jumped overboard.  Two of our life bouys were thrown over, and another “Shropshire’s: life boats were lowered.  When the Hampshire arrived it was just breaking into daylight, and as there was no danger for us she cruised around astern, with her search lights playing on the water trying to find the men in the water.  I think she found them.  As we got going again she steamed up to within a hundred yards of us, and her skipper asked if we had anyone overboard, and then said “ You can congratulate your officer of the watch, in 30 years’ experience I have never known a boat to run into the boat ahead”.  I thought it was horribly sarcastic.  I had a look at our damage this morning, all the railing and stanchions on the fore-deck were buckled up, the paint was peeled off the yards, and a big dent in the iron plates, in parts shearing portions of the plates as with a knife.  Our number on the side has been completely erased.  Below this is a big rent about 20 feet long and eight inches wide.  Bolts, steel-bars, and plates have been snapped like matchwood.  Big pieces of paint curled off, and all the shape knocked out of the boat.  Our aft port boat was smashed to pieces, and the davits all bent.

I tried washing clothes in hot salt water this morning, it is a heart breaking job.  We are not allowed to use fresh  water, as we haven’t too much on board. Several tons of potatoes have been stored just under our troop, and lately they have been letting us know they are there.

The most putrid smells have been coming up.. On inspection bag after bag were found to be rotten, and had to be thrown overboard.  Some of them had great feelers on them a foot long.

One of our Corporals wrote the following lines :-
I see wild waves that break, and breaking run
And the wild sea birds winding round the ships,
But at the dawn – the coming of the sun
I see your red, red lips.

I see the cold moon rise now with fresh delight
And the new stars rise, and yet arise,
But in the night, the blackness of the night
I see your sad, sad eyes.

I hear the engines throbbing as we ride
And the men’s songs – I hear great throats rejoice
But in the stillness, when all the songs have died
I hear your soft, soft voice.


The official report on the crash is here: http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/scripts/Imagine.asp?B=828618

Lance mentions details that were not included in the official report.

Current location (approx):

ColoniesMap1914 19141119


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