Sunday, July 28, 2013

Waratah: R.I.P.

‘That ship will be a coffin for somebody,’ W Sharpe, able seaman, was told when seeking employment on SS Waratah in April 1909. Nothing better offering, he took his chances, shipping on her for a voyage to Australia. Off Ushant he noticed the vessel would roll to leeward, stop, continue the roll and recover. That was unusual in any ship. 

The prediction came true only two months later: Waratah would indeed became a coffin for over 200 souls in July 1909. 

Their memorials are scattered worldwide, showing how their deaths impacted on numerous and diverse families. If you can add a photograph of a relevant memorial inscription – or are a descendant of one of those who travelled on the Waratah - you are welcome to contact me via the blog comment form. Some inscriptions are shown below:

Browne Memorial Inscription at Buckland Filleigh, Devon:

'To the Glory of God and in loving memory of Col Percival Browne CB of Fifehead Magdalen, Dorset, born July 27 1862. Third son of William James Browne of Buckland Filleigh Esq. Lost in the S.S. Waratah July 26 1909.'

[Photos by Gail Dixon-Smith]

Brass plaque at Buckland Filleigh 

Click on pic to zoom

Ebsworth Memorial Inscription at Bridgnorth, Shropshire:

‘Also of John, eldest son of the above, who was lost on the Waratah July 1909 aged 52 years: Until the Day Break and the Shadows Flee Away’

Memorial Plaque, Trinity College Chapel, Parkville Victoria, Australia, to Howard Cecil Fulford, Surgeon of S.S. Waratah:

This tablet is dedicated as a tribute of affection and sorrow by his college comrades to the memory of Howard Cecil Fulford a resident student of this college from 1900 to 1905. He won high distinctions throughout his university course graduated with first class honours in medicine and was appointed resident physician of the Melbourne Hospital in 1906. He was a keen and public-spirited sportman and was thrice stroke of the college eight. He left Australia for England on July 1st 1909 as surgeon of the S. S. "Waratah" which on some unknown date after 26th July was lost in the Indian Ocean with all on board.
"Be ye therefore ready for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh."

Centenary Memorial Plaque, Queenscliffe Maritime Museum, Victoria, Australia

P&O was asked to make the above donation because the direct result of the loss of Waratah and the press publicity with searches and Court Inquiry, was that the Blue Anchor Line lost its reputation. P&O took over the fleet and dropped the Blue Anchor name, although the blue anchor painted onto the funnels was retained until 1912 and Lund’s flag continued to be flown at the foremast until 1914.

[Photo courtesy of Queenscliffe Maritime Museum]

The following announcement refers to Able Seaman T Newman of the Waratah: from The Times 18 December 1909: NEWMAN Lost in the SS Waratah, Thomas, eldest son of the late Richard & Mary Newman, formerly of Devon, England, late of the Civil Service, Tasmania, grandson of the late John Feneran of Kinsale, Ireland, and nephew of the late Revd. T H Newman, M.A. Cantab.


Harris Archibald Gibbs was an apprentice on the SS Waratah which was lost with all hands off the east coast of South Africa on 27th/28th July 1909. He was born in Bognor late 1890/early 1891 and his parents were Harris Hornsby Gibbs (born in Littlehampton) and his wife Ella (née Plucknett). 


Comment from a blog reader finally sums it all up:

The truly sad thing in all of this is lack of closure for families/descendants of victims and for those who wished to make ship travel safer (learning from mistakes). The truly marvellous thing is we have a mystery that is as solid and unbreakable today as it was 100 years ago.

UPDATE Sept 2013: 

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