Sea Gallantry Triple Award Medal Group 1904
1904 Sea Gallantry, Royal Humane Society and Lloyds Medal Life Saving Medal Group.
Sea Gallantry Medal, Royal Humane Society Medal, Lloyd’s Medal for Saving Life at Sea, British War Medal.
Sea Gallantry Medal, Edward VII, First Type Board of Trade issue, named to:
JOHN WEST. WRECK OF THE “LAURELWOOD” ON THE 11TH JANUARY 1904
Royal Humane Society Medal, bronze named to:
JOHN E. WEST. JANY 11 1904
Lloyd’s Medal for Saving Life at Sea NAMED TO:
JOHN EDWARD WEST. “LAURELWOOD” (S) 11 JANY 1904.
British War Medal named to:
JOHN E. WEST.
He is also entitled to the Mercantile Marine Medal as can be seen form the documents attached.
He was born 1887 in Sunderland and qualified later as Mate, First Mate and Master ending up as a Master Mariner. After his career at sea he appears on the 199 Register as Dock Gate Foreman, GWR, Swansea Docks. He died in Swansea in 1972 aged 85 years. His wife, Jenny, had also died, 1938, in Swansea, they had lived at 106 Pant-Y-Lyn Road, Swansea. He worked He is buried St Lukes, Swansea.
Gallantry medals were awarded for his part, as a 17 year old apprentice involving the Wreck of the Laurelwood. 11th January 1904
John Edward West.
Born 22nd February 1887, attended ST Paul’s School, Hendon, Sunderland.
Address on Census 1901 is 3 Whitehouse Crescent, Sunderland.
John West, apprentice. Writes full and graphic account of the incident in newspapers (Sunderland Daily Echo Friday January 22nd, 1904. It is transcribed below.
He went on to serve in the Mercantile Marine in the Great War and was awarded the British War Medal and Mercantile Marine Medal, as is confirmed on the accompanying original certificates.
Merchant Navy number 422606, ID Certificate number 12795. Royal Naval Reserve Number 004007.
A photograph of John E West can be found on his CR10 ID Ticket.
The medals have been worn and have sustained minor damage. The claw is very lightly loose on the Sea Gallantry. The spigot on the Royal Humane Society Medal needs attention, see photo.
THE WRECK OF THE LAURELWOOD. 11th January 1904
Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette Friday 22nd January 1904
Awful Experiences of the Crew – a 17 year old apprentice from Sunderland called John Edward West.
INTERVIEW WITH A SUNDERLAND SURVIVOR
The story of the wreck of the steamer Laurelwood and the thrilling and sad experiences of the thirteen survivors was graphically told to Echo ” representative interview with John West (17), an apprentice on the ill-fated steamer, and the only one of three members of the crew belonging to Sunderland who was saved.
He said the Laurelwood belonged to the Constantine and Pickering Steamship Co., Middlesbrough, and was on voyage from Rio de Janeiro with cargo of manganese ore. “We left Rio de Janeiro and called at Madeira for bunkers. There we stayed only a few hours, and then, January 4th, continued our voyage. We soon encountered exceedingly severe westerly winds and nasty fog 3. When got into the Bay of Biscay the sea was simply boiling, and with her cargo the ship rolled awkwardly.
Nevertheless, matters were all right until the afternoon of the 11th. It was ten minutes to two when we struck submerged rocks. The weather was hazy, and the sea was running mountains high. The second mate, Mr W. FORBES, a Sunderland man, was on watch, and the ship was forging ahead. We were then some 30 miles south of Ushant, and thirty miles from the mainland. The nearest land would be, I think now, the Ile de Seins which was about ten miles away.
Shortly before we struck Mr Forbes observed the light of a lighthouse abeam, and sent below to tell Mr Catchpole, the first mate. Our first immediately came up on deck, and promptly ordered our course to be altered to the southwest, tum-ng the steamer right round. But before she could be got round she struck rocks with terrifying crash. There she was held; I am confident the rock must have ran right into the vessel’s bottom. Rough waves, with herculean force behind them, struck us and though our engines were still working the steamer never moved. But she was lilted, up off the rock and dropped on again, and the first of thuds was frightful, and so great was the force with which the ship struck again that every man on deck was thrown clean off his feet.
Immediately the vessel struck Capt. Dixon of Redcar, rushed on deck and ordered the lifeboat to be lowered on the lee side. Alter a quarter of an hours hard struggle the boat was launched, but as soon as she touched the water the waves dashed her heavily against the side of the steamer, denting her shell, making it impossible to spring in, and then to make matters worse large wave caught her it receded from the ship and carried her away.
I had my life belt on and my oils and I jumped into the sea to try and reach the lifeboat and bring her back. I reached her certainly but could not get in, my oils and belt interfering with me. Clinging to the boat side I tried time after time to clamber in but without success and then one of the crew a German, jumped after me and quickly Teaching the boat got inside and pulled me in beside him were pulled back to the steamer by ropes thrown to us and then there was a rush and scramble as soon as we touched the side.
Ten men sprang in but not one was a navigation officer, the only officer being the third engineer. There were then 12 of us in. Inside the lifeboat were four oars but through the waves dashing us against the Laurelwood two got broken, one of the broken oars drifting away. With the other broken oar we were able to keep the boat’s head to the seas. We pulled away to some little distance off the steamer and then lay to in a position where could all 3ee what was going on aboard of the steamer on which were left eleven men all told. We saw the captain try to launch the jolly-boat on the lee side, and we saw it launched safely and the eleven men get in.
Then an awful thing occurred. Rescue for the others seemed to be denied by Providence, for just a3 they were going to leave the steamer a monstrous wave caught the jollyboat, lifting it right on to the deck of the steamer, smashing it to pieces and depositing safely on the deck again our eleven mates. The steamer all this “time continued roll badly. Then we could see as we were lifted on the crests of huge waves the last chance taken by those aboard the steamer. They made for the other lifeboat, which was on the weather side, and tried to launch her. The ropes seemed to work all right, but immediately the boat got into the water she was overturned by the seas.
Later she was whirled ahead past While these efforts were being made we lay about 100 yards away, but seeing the predicament the others were placed m we tried to get back to the steamer, but were held off the waves. The sea was beyond all human effort. was heartrending to hear the cries from the ship, and not be able to assist them in any way.
In a very short time the sea finished its work. First fell the maintopmast, afterwards the hatches were burst off and the ship broke in two halves. For ten minutes in two pieces the steamer hung on the rock and then she sank, carrying with her eleven of the crew. Oh! it was awful. I pray I may never see anything like it again. Her topmast just showed above the surface. Most of the eleven must have been carried down to their graves with the broken steamer, but as we looked round we saw, some 100 feet away, the head of a seaman clinging to a hatch. We made for him, but he sank before we could render assistance. Then we heard cries of “Help, help,” and saw a German clinging to a piece of wreckage, but again we failed to reach him before he was washed away and was drowned.
Immediately afterwards we saw the messroom boy, Wm. Manders, of Rotterdam, clinging to a hatch. He was only about 50 feet away, ahead of us, and we were able to save him. He. was the only one out of the eleven who had been left on deck that we saved. We lay to until it was nearly dusk, but there were no signs of anyone else floating about, and then old sailor taking charge of the boat we made for the mainland, which we could mark out by the flashes of a lighthouse, and which seemed about 20 miles away, the tide, having carried away from the scene of the disaster. | There was not a bite to eat in the boat, and many of had few clothes on. We were all exhausted, and some, notwithstanding the dire danger in which they were in, even tell asleep. All through the night we rowed, and at dawn the next morning” found ourselves close in 3hore near two lighthouses. It was impossible to land, however being a rock-bound inhospitable-looking coast. Fortunately, the keeper of one of the lighthouses had seen us, and made us aware of the tact that he had sent a message to Brest send a torpedo boat despatch steamer to our assistance. About ten o’clock in the morning, however, a French coasting steamer hove in sight, and eventually we were hauled up deck. All of us were more dead than alive. Our rescuers treated us with extreme kindness. The skipper gave up his cabin and the crew their bunks and they lent us dry clothing while our garments were being dried, and waited very attentively on us. Everything they had was at our service The steamer was the Beam, of Rouen, and after 24 hours on board we were j landed at Sables D’Olonne. We were sent on to Nantes, then to St. Nazaire where took the passenger steamer to Newhaven, and landed there on Sunday night. From there went to London, and then we left for our homes. Out of three Sunderland men was the only one saved, Bateman, the donkeyman, and Mr Forbes being drowned. Not officer was saved.
To corroborate the story please see the following transcription, which is the result of the official enquiry into the loss of the vessel.
IN the matter of a formal investigation held at Caxton Hall, Westminster, on the 22nd and 23rd days of February, 1904, before GILBERT GEORGE KENNEDY, Esquire, assisted by Captain J. KIDDLE, R.N., Captain A. RONALDSON, and Captain WILLIAM COSENS, into the circumstances attending the stranding of the British steamship “LAURELWOOD,” on the Ile de Sein, off the Coast of France, on or about the 11th January, 1904, whereby loss of life ensued.
Report of Court.
The Court, having carefully inquired into the circumstances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons stated in the Annex hereto, that the vessel was to the Eastward of the supposed position, and, the weather being misty with rain, the wind blowing a gale from the West, with sea very heavy, suddenly the lighthouse ChaussÃ©e de Sein was sighted on the starboard bow, and the vessel struck on the outlying rocks. The starboard life-boat was launched, and got away safely with 13 men. Efforts were then made to get out the port or weather life-boat, during which the vessel broke up, and the remaining 10 of the crew were drowned.
Dated this 23rd day of February, 1904.
GILBERT G. KENNEDY,
We concur in the above report.
Annex to the Report.
The inquiry was held at Caxton Hall, Westminster, on Monday, the 22nd, and Tuesday, the 23rd days of February, 1904, by Gilbert G. Kennedy, Esq., one of the magistrates of the Police Courts of the Metropolis, with Captain Ronaldson, Captain Kiddle, R.N., and Captain W. Cosens as assessors, when M. Muir Mackenzie, Esquire, appeared for the Board of Trade, and Daniel Stephens, Esquire, instructed by Messrs. Holman, Birdwood & Co., solicitors of 50, Lime St., E.C., for the owners.
The “Laurelwood,” official number 109233, was a British screw steamship, registered at the port of Middlesbrough, but formerly under the Norwegian flag, built of steel at Stockton in 1896, by Messrs. Ropner & Sons.
Her principal dimensions were:â€”Length 290 ft., breadth 43 ft., depth of hold from tonnage deck to ceiling amidships 16.5 ft. She had one deck, five bulkheads, and six water ballast tanks, their capacity being 514 tons. She was propelled by three inverted direct-acting triple-expansion condensing engines, of n.h.p. 170, and i.h.p. 850, to give a speed of 9 knots. These and the boilers were built by Messrs. Blair and Co., Stockton.
Her registered tonnage was 1595.12, and gross tonnage 2485.19. She carried two life-boats, one gig, and one jolly boat, which were placed on each side of the bridge deck, and were on chocks suspended from davits in the usual manner.
She was supplied with 37 lifebelts and 6 life-buoys.
Mr. Joseph Constantine, of the Docks, Middlesbrough, is designated as the person to whom the management of the vessel was entrusted, in conjunction with Mr. James Warley Pickering, of the Docks, Middlesbrough, who is designated as the managing owner (advice received 20th May, 1898 under the hand of James Warley Pickering, aforesaid, the holder of 64 shares).
In October, 1903, she had taken out a cargo of 3,000 tons of coal to Rio, under the command of Mr. Joseph Dixon, who held a master’s certificate (as did also the chief and 2nd officers), with a crew of 23 hands all told.
Having discharged this cargo, she loaded a full cargo of manganese ore for Middlesbrough, leaving Rio on 9th December, 1903.
All appears to have gone well during the voyage. She sighted the lighthouse on Cape Villano, passing it on the starboard beam. She proceeded across the Bay, with a strong S.W. wind and heavy sea, making, according to 3rd engineer’s account, only a full speed of 5 or 6 knots per hour.
On the 11th January, 1904, about 1.50 p.m., the weather being hazy, with showers of rain and a strong Westerly breeze, and a heavy sea, and the 2nd officer being in charge, a lighthouse was seen on the starboard bow, which has since proved to be ChaussÃ©e de Sein. The 2nd officer immediately went off the bridge to call the master and chief officer, who came on deck, and instantly ordered the helm to be put hard-a-starboard, but as she was coming round to port she immediately struck the reef of rocks near the lighthouse of ChaussÃ©e de Sein, and became a total loss.
The starboard life-boat was ordered to be got out, and it was stated that the master said “Every man for himself,” and a panic seems to have ensued.
There appears to have been some difficulty in getting the life-boat out, and some hands were ordered to get the jolly-boat out. On the life-boat being lowered into the water, the tackles got unhooked, and in consequence of having no painter in her, she got adrift, when an apprentice, J. E. West, followed by a German sailor, very courageously jumped into the sea. The boat was too high for the boy to get into it, but the sailor got in and helped the boy in, and the boat was thus brought alongside, when 12 hands got into her. The boatswain threw three rowlocks into the boat, and on getting a short distance from the vessel the men in the boat picked up the messroom steward. They then found they had only three oars in the boat, one having been broken when they were trying to push the boat off from the side of the vessel. This, they said, was cracked before. The sail in the boat was rotten and in rags, and there was no water or provisions, and no tiller or compass in the boat. There was a lantern, and a sea anchor with a hole in it. While lying off a short distance they saw the vessel break into four pieces, when the rest of the crew were drowned. After being about 20 hours in the boat, keeping her head on to the sea, they were picked up by the French steamer “BÃ©arn,” and landed at Sables d’Olonne and sent home.
It appears when the master said “Every man for himself,” that a rush was made for the lifebelts, which were in a box on the bridge. It was then found that many of them had no tapes, and the canvas of others was rotten. Only about 6 or 7 appear to have been in good order. The vessel having broken up so quickly, within half an hour of her striking, the 10 unfortunate men left on board, not being able to get another boat out, must have gone down with the vessel.
The master and all the officers having been lost with the vessel, the Court have not been able to obtain their evidence, which would more satisfactorily have accounted for her loss.
From the evidence of one of the apprentices, it would appear that during the passage from Rio, they had to watch the captain, who had been suffering from hallucinations, “thinking that he was going to die.” How far this illness of the master may have affected the navigation of the vessel there is no evidence to show. The 2nd officer, who was in charge when he sighted the lighthouse, instead of stopping the engines and putting the helm hard-a-starboard, went to call the master and chief officer. The vessel at the time was going at full speed, and up to the time of stranding.
The following is a list of the crew who were drowned:â€”
Joseph Dixon, master.
Harry Catchpole, 1st mate.
W. Forbes, 2nd mate.
T. Warsdorp, A.B.
F. S. Newby, 1st engineer.
W. W. Dawson, 2nd engineer.
I. Bateson, donkeyman.
W. Williams, fireman.
Mr. Joseph Constantine, who was a marine supertendent (and a marine engineer), stated that before the “Laurelwood” left Sunderland on the voyage, he inspected the vessel, and pronounced her to be in every way efficient.
The vessel originally cost the owners Â£22,600, and was, at the time of the casualty, insured for Â£20,500, the owner taking one-third risk. There was also an insurance of Â£2,500 on freight, and Â£1,000 to cover disbursements.
These were the facts of the case, and on the conclusion of the evidence, Mr. Muir Mackenzie, on behalf of the Board of Trade, put to the Court the following questions:â€”
(1) When the vessel left Sunderland on the 20th of October, 1903, was she supplied with, and did she carry the boats and life-saving appliances prescribed by S. 427 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, and the rules made thereunder, and were the boats and life-saving appliances which she then carried in good condition, and fit and ready for use
(2) When the vessel left Rio on or about the 9th of December last, was she supplied with, and did she carry the boats and life-saving appliances prescribed by the said enactment and rules, and were the boats and life-saving appliances which she then carried in good condition, and fit and ready for use?
(3) What were the circumstances in which on or about the 11th of January, 1904, the vessel stranded on the ChaussÃ©e de Sein?
(4) At the time when the vessel stranded, were the boats and life-saving appliances which she carried in good condition, and fit for use?
(5) What were the circumstances in which the lives of 10 of the crew were lost?
(6) Does any blame for the casualty attach to Mr. Joseph Constantine, the registered manager, and to Mr. William Constantine, the marine superintendent, or either, and which of them?
Mr. Daniel Stephens having addressed the Court on behalf of the owners, judgment was given as follows:â€”
(1) When the vessel left Sunderland on the 20th of October, 1903, she was supplied with and carried the boats and life-saving appliances prescribed by S. 427 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1894, and the rules made thereunder; but the Court is unable to say whether the boats and life-saving appliances which she then carried were in good condition, and fit and ready for use.
(2) When the vessel left Rio on or about the 9th of December, 1903, she was supplied with and did carry the boats and life-saving appliances prescribed by the said enactment and rules; but the Court is unable to say whether the boats and life-saving appliances which she then carried were in good condition, and fit and ready for use.
(3) The circumstances in which, on or about the 11th of January, 1904, the vessel stranded on the ChaussÃ©e de Sein, were, the weather being misty, with rain, and she being so far to the Eastward of her supposed position. It is to be regretted that when the lighthouse on ChaussÃ©e de Sein was first sighted on the starboard bow, the 2nd officer, who was in charge of the deck, did not stop the engines and put the helm a-starboard before going down to call the master and chief mate.
(4) At the time when the vessel stranded, the boats and life-saving appliances which she carried were not in good condition and fit for use.
(5) The circumstances in which the lives of 10 of the crew were lost were that, while trying to get out the port or weather life-boat, the vessel broke up.
(6) No blame for the casualty attaches to Mr. Joseph Constantine, the registered manager, or to Mr. William Constantine, the marine superintendent.
In consequence of the unfortunate loss of the master and executive officers, the Court has been deprived of much valuable evidence.
Dated this 25th day of February, 1904.
GILBERT G. KENNEDY,
We concur in above report. A. RONALDSON,
(Issued in London by the Board of Trade on the 22nd day of March, 1904.)