Part of the Acorn Archive

Hearts of Oak





Salvage of the SOUTHGARTH


The Times 21st May 1919

Stranded Steamer shelled and bombed : Salvage


(Before Mr Justice Roche and Elder Brethren of the Trinity House)

The Crown’s Solicitors were Bottrell, Roche and Temperley


In this action the owners, master and crew of the London steam tug CONQUEROR claimed salvage for services rendered to the North Shields steamship SOUTHGARTH.


On December 12 1915, the SOUTHGARTH, while she was under requisition by the Admiralty and on voyages from London to Dunkirk with Government stores, came to anchor off what her master took to be Nr 15 Buoy in Dunkirk Roads. At daylight, shells from hostile shore batteries began to fall around her and it was then discovered that she was really off La Panne and only about 15 miles from Middelkerke.


A little later a number of German Taubes hovered over the vessel and began to drop bombs, and when an attempt was made to get under way it was found that the SOUTHGARTH was aground on the Trapegeer Bank.


The crew were taken to Dunkirk, where steps for the salvage of the steamship were taken by the naval authorities. On the 12th and 13th the weather was too bad to do anything, but on the afternoon of the 14th the master and chief engineer, together with a boarding party from HMS ATTENTIVE, were put on board the SOUTHGARTH, which was re-floated and taken into Dunkirk. Throughout these services the Germans were continuing their efforts to destroy the steamship, and by some means of a bomb they succeeded in wrecking the rudder.


The dispute in the case was about the actual service rendered by the CONQUEROR. The plaintiffs, by their pleadings and evidences actually towed the SOUTHGARTH off the bank. This was denied by the defendants, who alleged that the CONQUEROR parted her hawser immediately after she went ahead, and that the only vessel fast to the SOUTHGARTH when she floated was HM destroyer VIKING, and that the CONQUEROR did not make fast again until the steamship was being towed towards port.


The case for the defendants was supported by Captain E R G R Evans, CB, DSO who at that time was in command of the VIKING, and afterwards in command of the BROKE.


The accuracy of Captain Evans' memory was challenged by the plaintiffs' counsel, who said

"A good many things have happened to you since 1915, Captain Evans"

Captain Evans replied "I do not think so; not to me"

Mr Dunlop replied "We all know you have done a great deal";

"I should rather say my men have helped me to do something".



Mr Justice Roche said that he was not satisfied that the CONQUEROR took any effective part in actually towing the SOUTHGARTH off the bank. He was saitisfied, howver, that the tug made fast soon after the vessel became afloat, and that she rendered very effective services in turning her and helping to navigate through intricate channels to Dunkirk. He awarded her £1,150, which included £250 for the repair of the damage suffered by the tug.


So, what are “German Taubes”? – They were an early aircraft; German forces had around 120 of these machines, built by the Rumpler factory. They had 100 hp engines; and their monoplane wings and tailplane had a swept trailing fin arrangement, which made them look like flying fish.


E R G R Evans, later Lord Mountevans, was second in command on the Terra Nova - Captain Scott’s ill-fated Antarctic Expedition. Captain E R G R Evans was a key member of the Dover Patrol; He was in command of HMS BROKE, when, with HMS SWIFT, on 20th April 1917 they intercepted German Destroyers G42 and G45, and (Jellicoe writes) after a hot engagement succeeded in sinking two of the enemy vessels, one being very neatly rammed by the Broke (Captain E.R.G.R. Evans, C.B.), and the second sunk by torpedoes.




Though Jellicoe continues …..

Our flotilla leaders were handled with conspicuous skill, and the enemy was taught a lesson which resulted in his displaying even greater caution in laying his plans and evincing a greater respect for the Dover force for many months. The success of the Broke and Swift was received with a chorus of praise, and this praise was undoubtedly most fully deserved, but once again an example was furnished of the manner in which public attention becomes riveted upon the dramatic moments of naval warfare whilst the long and patient labour by which the dramatic moments are brought about is ignored.


Captain E R G R Evans wrote the books …

“Keeping The Seas” 1920 and “South with Scott" 1925.




Southgarth 1891 from a gouache painting

by Captain George Olditch



Built 1891 John Readhead & Sons; Yard Nr 271; ON.96524

For W D C Balls

Single deck Steamship; 2,434 grt

12th December 1915 SS SOUTHGARTH, transport steamer laden with trench gear, on voyage from London to Dunkirk, anchored off La Panne;

13th December 1915 SS SOUTHGARTH Under aircraft attack, and became grounded on Traepegeer Bank (position 51.08N : 02.33E). Sustained some damage; HMS ATTENTIVE, cruiser, and HMS VIKING, destroyer, pulled her off on the next high water.

29th May 1916 On voyage Marseille - Benisaf in ballast; Captured by U-39; scuttled with explosives; 60 miles NNE of Algiers.




CONQUEROR ( “London Steam Tug” )

Iron Tug; paddle; 2 funnels

ON.108177; Signal Letters PNSG

224grt; 131 ft x 21.7 ft x 10 ft

Engines SL 2cyl  Hepple & Co; 115 nhp; 750 ihp

1897  Built J T Eltringham, South Shields; Yard Nr 188

For Thomas G Sandford, Gravesend

1902 John Page and G & W Sandford, London

1903 Elliott Steam Tug Company, London

1916 On UK Admiralty service at Dunkirk

1919 Returned to owners

1919 Jersey Steam Shipping Co Ltd, St Helier

1922 Edward R McNab, Edinburgh; Reg Kirkcaldy

1922 Kirk Deas & Co, Leith

1923 William S Taylor, Dunblane

1924 John Fenton, Edinburgh

1924 Stanley Butler Steamship Co Ltd, Kirkcaldy; Reg Middlesbrough

1925 Tees Towing Co Ltd, Middlesbrough; Renamed HURWORTH

1927 Renamed HUTTON CROSS

1934 Scrapped




Thanks to Ted Finch and Andy Adams


Raymond Forward