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s.s.Britannia's lifeboat No.7.
s.s.Britannia's lifeboat No.7.

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Hugh Ferguson



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Registered: September 2006
Posts: 5,535
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As the 38 survivors from the s.s. Britannia, having landed in Sao Luis, North Brazil, were recovering from their incredible ordeal of 1535 sea miles in No.7 boat, people were so incredulous that 82 had originally abandoned the sinking ship that a trial was made to see if it could be simulated.
They only succeeded in getting 74 of Sao Luis's inhabitants into the boat!
· Date: Mon, 31 December 07 · Views: 749
· Filesize: 134.3kb, 134.4kb · Dimensions: 900 x 578 ·
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Ngaio 62

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Registered: July 2005
Location: Wellington, NZ
Posts: 1,726
Tue, 1 January 08 15:02

That's quite a lifeboat!
all those men in it and all that freeboard.
I would have expected it to be low to the gunwales.

Martin
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Hugh Ferguson

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Registered: September 2006
Posts: 5,535
Tue, 1 January 08 15:51

Yes, Martin, that thought had occurred to me. Maybe, when they conducted the experiment they took the precaution of making sure, on safety grounds, that the boat was not fully afloat.
When they abandoned ship somebody recorded the free-board as being a mere 6 ins.. As, at that time, they had quite a bit of leakage from sundry shrapnel holes below the water-line, I think they were lucky to have that amount of free-board. Some brave soul managed to nail some "tingles" over them and swallowed a lot of salt water whilst doing it.
It was also recorded that one of the them objected to being ordered to bale on account of having been a passenger: he was soon told what would happen to him if he didn't!
There are a lot of references in the book that would be regarded these days as being very politically incorrect-so, though I'm tempted I had better forbear. The book was published 48 years ago and cost 27 which, at that time, was mighty expensive. I wonder if there are any still around, or, more interestingly, some descendants of those people who still have no knowledge of the book, and the fascinating photographs of their ancestors. Hugh.
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Ngaio 62

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Registered: July 2005
Location: Wellington, NZ
Posts: 1,726
Wed, 2 January 08 16:39

On second tought the boat is grossly overloaded an may actually be sitting on a sandy bottom hence the unreal freeboard.

I reread your cap and revised what I was looking at.
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Ngaio 62

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Registered: July 2005
Location: Wellington, NZ
Posts: 1,726
Wed, 2 January 08 16:41

Imagine being stuck in the middle and suddenly "have to go"
Highly embarassing to say unhealthy for all on board.
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Hugh Ferguson

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Registered: September 2006
Posts: 5,535
Thu, 3 January 08 07:42

Yes, Martin, you're dead right and that's one of the reasons (on political correctness lines) why I was reluctant to disclose some of the gory details as they
involved racial factors. One of the Brits was head down in the bilge trying to bale, when one of the Indian contingent urinated on his head. It seemed impossible to persuade them to use a tin and one, who was remonstrated with, actually physically assaulted the guy making the point.
I have, on my bookshelves, many accounts of wartime lifeboat ordeals but this one, is by far, the worst that I have ever come across and the problems encountered, whilst being exacerbated by the horrendous over-crowding, were made far worse by racial tensions, and not just between the Europeans and the Asians but between the Asians themselves, who had a tendency to argue interminably and loudly amongst themselves!
To add to the problems caused by such horrendous overcrowding and the high death rate, one of those who had succumbed had tucked himself away in a locker to die, and the effort of two of the Brits to crawl all of the way fo'r'ard in order to extricate the body and put it overboard was almost too much for them in their weakened state.
I am simply amazed that they succeeded in sailing that boat 1535 sea miles in just 26 days and survived (well some did) to tell the tale.
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charles henry

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Registered: May 2008
Posts: 1,314
Thu, 19 June 08 08:57

This thread brought back too many memories and involuntary tears de chas henry
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stan mayes
Senior Member

Registered: July 2006
Location: Gravesend
Posts: 9,354
Sun, 7 November 10 12:44

This is the first time I have seen this thread and photo.
I am sure the boat is on the bottom for this experiment.
As it was a passenger ship I think the capacity would be
about 60 persons and that would be half the boats side
as freeboard.
I was in Viking Star when she was sunk by three torpedoes
from U 130..We were 180 miles SW of Freetown.
Captain Mills and six crew were killed.
Of four lifeboats -three were destroyed by the explosions.
My boat station No 4 was safely launched and we began
taking men from the water -those who had jumped overboard.
Many other survivors were on rafts.
The capacity of the boat was 28 persons and we eventually had 36.
This gave us a freeboard of 14 inches and with so many in the boat
some had to crouch in the bottom.
Being carvel built it was leaking badly so a rota was begun for the
continous bailing.
We made the coast of Sierra Leone in six days and the rafts drifted
ashore in Liberia in 12 days.
Stan
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Bob L
Member

Registered: July 2014
Location: Edinburgh
Posts: 53
Wed, 16 October 19 14:35

Hugh - Very interested to see the pics of Lifeboat No 7 - I sailed with the late Captain MacVicar who was Senior Master in The Anchor Line - a superb Master and a great pleasure to sail with.
He would never talk about his experience but one of the Stewards on Cilicia in the 1960's Albino d'Souza was in the Lifeboat and told me a little about it and he said he owed his life to Willy Mac
( as Captain MacVicar was known on board )
As a matter of interest were you a Pilot in Aden ?

Bob Logan.
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