2,019 Ton Steamship – Dive Dorset: 105 p94: GPS; 50 37.43N; 02 33.39W. Panels from the wreck were once in the Golden Lion Pub in Weymouth. Weymouth Library Pamphlet No. L769.942331.PY1. Photo Weymouth & Portland Museums (Also LARN) Captain J. Campbell. General Cargo. Off Langton Herring, Chesil Beach. The entire crew of twenty seven, three passengers and two nine year old stowaways!! were rescued by the Rocket Apparatus. (LePard: pages 124 & 125)
VERA – Ex VERCINGETORIX
Signal Letters – KLNR; No. 3; 1887; Port of Registry: Hull. (Board of Trade, 20th January, 1887, No. 22714)
British Built, Steam screw: Built Sunderland 1881 by John Blumer & Co.
Two decks and a poop; two masts; Schooner rig; Stern Round; Clencher build; Galleries none; Head none; Framework Iron.
Length 280 feet & 2 tenths; Breath 37 feet 2 tenths; Depth in hold from tonnage to ceiling at midships, 24 feet 2 tenths; Length of Engine room, 44 feet.
Engines: Two Compound Direct Acting, Inverted Cylinders, British made 1881, Thomas Clark & Co. Newcastle on Tyne. Diameter of Cylinders 35″ 68″. Length of Stroke 48″; Combined Horse Power, 200.
Gross Tonnage 2018.94: Deductions, as per Contra 727.02. Registered Tonnage 1291.92.
Deductions: Propelling Power, 646.06 tons; Forecastle 41.75; Petty Officers 13.03; Engineers 14.28 & Officers 11.90. Total 727.02 tons.
Name of Master: Thomas Campbell. Competency Certificate No. 06822
Owners: Walter Samuel of the Town or Borough of Kingston upon Hull – Shipowner 64 shares. (24th January, 1887. Registrar E. P. Bisshopp Smith.)
DCC: 04/03/1889; (Transcription by K. V. Saunders)
A Steamer Ashore on the Chesil Beach Information was received on Friday morning that a large screw steamer laden with grain for London, but the name of which was at first unknown, went ashore early in the morning on the Chesil Beach between the Langton and Fleet Coastguard Stations. It is a singular coincidence that exactly a year since a catastrophe occurred on this, perhaps the most dreaded part of the coast in the English Channel. It will, no doubt, be in the remembrance of many of our readers that on the morning of March 9th, shortly after midnight, of last year, an iron built barque of 665 tons register, named the LANOMA, homeward bound from Tasmania to London, having a crew of 18 souls all told, came ashore near Fleet and in an almost incredibly short space of time became a complete wreck. Sad to relate 12 of the crew lost their lives, including the captain and the first and second officers, notwithstanding the noble efforts put forth on that occasion by the coastguard. Happily it is not our duty to record any loss or injury to human life by the stranding of the unfortunate steamer which ran ashore on Friday morning, and has added another to the already numerous roll of vessels which have come to grief from time to time on this treacherous and dangerous beach. The VERA, it arrears, is a splendid steamer of iron construction, built at Sunderland in the year 1881 by Blumer and Co., and owned by Messrs W. S. Bailey and Leatham, of London and Hull. The vessel belongs to the latter port, her register tonnage being 1,292, whilst she is 2,109 tons gross, and classed 100 A1 at Lloyds. She is a screw steamer, very strongly built, and has no less than seven watertight compartments and a double bottom. The VERA is commanded by Captain Campbell, the officers being Mr. C. Butlin, chief mate, Mr. Rea, second mate, and Mr. Monkhouse, of Sheerness, third mate, the engineers being Mr. J. B. Pegdeu, Mr. W. P. Groves, and Mr. J. Starr, all of whom belong to Hull. The crew numbered, all told, 25 hands, including the captain’s wife, 2 stowaways, 2 passengers, one of whom was sent home by the Consul, and the other a soldier from Malta, who was returning to England on furlough. The steamer was bound from the Adriatic to London, her last place of call being Malta, the cargo consisting of grain, flax, oranges, and other produce. She arrears to have had a fairly good passage until Cape Finisterre was sighted about 5 days prior to the mishap. This was the last land seen, and in the passage through the Channel rather bad weather was experienced, although the ship had a strong fair wind behind her all the way across from the Cape. On Thursday night the weather was very dirty so that at sea navigation had to be carried on under considerable difficulty. There is no doubt the captain of the VERA, who had not sighted land for some days, did not exactly know his whereabouts, as it is possible the lights of Portland were not visible owing to the hazy weather which prevailed at the time. At midnight on Thursday soundings were taken, the result being that it was discovered the ship was in a mid-channel course. Some 3 hours after by the captain’s instructions the mate again sought to ascertain the depth of water by means of the lead and reported to the master, who was on the bridge at the time, 33 fathoms. About 10 minutes to four the VERA was seen by a coastguard named Lovell, who was on duty at the time, to run ashore on the Chesil Beach exactly opposite the Langton coastguard station. As soon as Captain Campbell had discovered his mistake, he ordered the helm to be put hard over, and at the same time telegraphed to the engine-room for the engines to be reversed. Both these injunctions were immediately complied with, but in spite of these precautions the vessel again “Hugged” the beach, ran ashore and became firmly imbedded in the shingle. Signals of distress were then seen to come from the unfortunate steamer, these being quickly responded to by the coastguard. When the VERA struck and her position became known Captain Campbell ordered all hands on deck, and the crew were instructed to stand by the boats in readiness to launch them in case of emergency. At this time there was a heavy sea running on the beach, and the wind blowing pretty stiffly from the south-west. Immediately after the distress signals had been answered the men at the coastguard station turned out, launched their boat and pulled over the Littlesea to the house in which the life saving apparatus is kept. With commendable promptitude the necessary appliance was got out under the directions of the chief officer, Mr. Bartlett. When all was in readiness the men proceeded to the scene of the disaster, which was easily ascertained as the steamer at the time was burning brilliant lights, her position being several hundred yards from the Langton station towards Portland. On the arrival of the coastguard the VERA was discovered lying broadside on some 120 yards from the shore, the tide at the time being low, whilst the sea was breaking over her. A rocket, to which was attached a line, was fired over the vessel from the shore with excellent judgement and accuracy, and immediately afterwards a hawser was run out from the shore, and this the crew firmly secured round the VERA’s mainmast. When communication with the shore had been established the breeches buoy was quickly despatched to the ship, and on its return to the beach was found to contain the captain’s wife, who was, therefore, the first to leave the vessel. One after the other of the crew were brought to terra firma without the slightest mishap or accident and with the greatest possible rapidity, and the zealous way in which the coastguardmen worked is deserving of the highest praise that can possibly be bestowed upon them. The last to leave the stranded steamer were Captain Campbell and his chief officer, Mr. C. Butlin, who reluctantly left their post some hours after she struck. The shipwrecked crew, who on landing were naturally drenched to the skin and in a pitiable condition, were at once conducted to the Langton coastguard station, where every conceivable comfort in the shape of dry clothing and other necessaries were bestowed on them by the coastguards and their wives, and after this their unfortunate situation was certainly not so embarrassing. The operations of rescuing the crew of the ill-fated steamer were not attended with the too often terrible scenes which have, unfortunately, been witnessed from time to time when wrecks have occurred on this highly dangerous beach. There was, as has proved to be the case, no immediate danger to the lives of those an board the VERA when she struck, but considering the fairly heavy sea breaking on the beach and the probability of the wind increasing, there was no certainty as to how long the steamer would hold together, therefore it was wisely determined on the part of the crew to abandon her as quickly as possible. The coastguard performed their difficult and hazardous work in a very cool and determined manner, with, in some instances, no little danger to their own lives, in order to bring safely to shore, without even, as we have said before, either the loss of a single life or injury to limb, no less than 25 souls who had had the misfortune to be wrecked early in the morning on the Chesil Beach during thick and hazy weather. This state of things speaks well for the efficient training the men periodically receive in the discharge of one of the most important and noble duties men can undertake – viz, that of saving human life. It is generally admitted by the shipwrecked crew belonging to the VERA that never was the life saving apparatus placed upon the scene of disaster with greater promptitude than was the case early on Friday morning. The men worked most indefatigably, and from the time the first signal of distress was sent up from the unfortunate steamer until the apparatus was in readiness to perform its labour of mercy, not more than 20 minutes had elapsed. This, considering the men had first to pull over the Littlesea, then to procure the apparatus, and afterwards proceed along the beach with it for nearly a quarter of a mile to the spot where the unfortunate vessel had come ashore, was performed in a most incredibly short space of time, and they certainly ought to be commended and highly complimented for the fact, quickness, and ability which they displayed on the occasion of the stranding of the VERA. From the time the vessel struck until the arrival of the coastguard with the rocket apparatus the captain and crew of the steamer displayed great coolness and presence of mind, and there was nothing in the shape of a panic or alarm shown by those on board. There were no heartrending scenes such as are frequently witnessed when the means for gaining the shore are within reach, for as soon as the breeches buoy was sent aboard the VERA her crew left one by one in a most orderly manner.
When the news of the disaster reached Weymouth early on Friday morning, Mr. William Butt, acting on behalf of Lloyds, at once proceeding to Langton coastguard station, in company with Mr. H. Fooke, the acting receiver of wreck, and Mr. S. J. Fowler, Messrs Cosens and Co’s manager. Prior to their leaving, under the direction of Lloyd’s agent, the tug QUEEN belonging to Messrs Cosens and Co., commanded by Captain Beale was sent out to see if she could be of any assistance in getting the unfortunate craft from her perilous position. On her arrival, however, it was found, owing to the heavy sea running, towing operations would be quite out of the question, in fact, there was far too much sea to permit of the QUEEN approaching anywhere near the stranded vessel with safety. This being the case, and as there was no necessity for the tug to remain in the locality, the manager, Mr. S. J. Fowler, who was on the beach, signalled to her captain to put about and return to Weymouth again which was done. When daylight had at length dawned, and it was considered there was no immediate danger of the vessel breaking up, although the wind was still blowing very fresh from the S.W., and the waves were breaking over the ship both fore and aft, some of the crew were put aboard the steamer again by means of the breeches buoy to secure the men’s clothing, ship’s papers, and other articles which could be easily conveyed to the shore. After this had bean accomplished the goods were stored in the building utilised for keeping the life saving apparatus. During the whole of Friday the steamer experienced a very rough time, and it was generally thought before night set in she would become a total wreck, but these expectations, however, were for once doomed to failure. On the day on which the VERA came ashore there was no attempt whatever made to save any of the cargo; in fact had such an attempt been undertaken the lives of a number of men would have been endangered and perhaps sacrificed, as seas were continually breaking over her, sweeping and regularly deluging her decks. There can be little doubt had the wind remained in the same quarter as it had been blowing during the previous night and following day, and especially with such a heavy sea running, very little of the hull of the VERA would have been seen on Saturday with the exception perhaps of a few of her spars floating about and the beach strewed with wreckage for miles around. Fortunately, however, during Friday night the wind veered round to the N.E., and the unfortunate vessel was once again in comparatively smooth water. On Saturday afternoon operations were commenced for unloading the VERA, Mr. W. Butt, Lloyd’s agent, having entered into a contract with Messrs Cosens and Co., to salve the vessel and cargo. Sometime after the steamer came ashore messages were despatched to London for two tugs to endeavour, if possible, to tow the vessel off from the beach. On Sunday 2 very powerful boats, belonging to Messrs Watkins and Company, of London, arrived in the bay; one of which was a paddle boat and the other a screw, for the purpose of attempting to tow off the VERA, but unfortunately just as they were making arrangements for doing so one of the tugs had the misfortune to loose her propeller, so that the attempt had therefore to be abandoned. The disabled craft was then taken in tow by the other tug and towed probably to London. It is stated the price agreed upon if the tugs were successful in floating the VERA was £2,000, and in the event of the attempt being fruitless they would receive no compensation whatever. There can be no doubt the owners of the tugs were not thoroughly acquainted with the locality in which the stranded steamer was lying, or of the arduous and dangerous task which they were called upon to perform, otherwise they would probably not have undertaken the study unless some different arrangement had been entered into between the respective parties. When it became generally known that an attempt was going to be made to get the vessel off the beach, a large number of people assembled, notwithstanding the unpropitious weather, to witness this novel sight, but much to their disappointment the experiment was not made, for the reason which we have already stated. In spite, however, of the damage which the steamer has sustained, the underwriters are somewhat confident of being able to float her, and for that purpose we are given to understand a very powerful tug is on her way to Portland to make the attempt; but whether her efforts will be crowned with success is a matter of speculation. The opinion of the majority of “old salts” is that she will never move from the position in which she is now lying, until she comes to pieces, which will probably be when the next good stiff southwest gale sets in. Even supposing the attempt to get the VERA off the Chesil Beach into deep water should be successful, then there is the probability of her going down, as there are several holes in her hull. Mr. R.B. Brown, of Dorchester, has furnished one of his monster tents, 200 ft by 60 ft, for the storage of the salvage, together with an office tent and other necessary requisites for looking after the wreckage.
The Wreck of the VERA – Since Tuesday no change has been made in regard to the position of this steamer, day by day the cargo being removed and carefully stored on the beach. We must not omit to state in connection with this vessel, that the crew, after leaving Langton, were conveyed to the Sailors’ Home, where they, received every attention and that the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, through their local agent, Mr. R. Damon, assisted the men to their respective homes.
BOT Wk. Rtn. 1889 Appx C Table 1 p132
Weymouth Library Pamphlet No. L769.942331.PY1
Day of Loss: 8
Month of Loss: 3
Year of Loss: 1889
Longitude: 50 37.43
Latitude: 02 33.39