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On 11 March 1846 the sailing brig HMS Osprey was wrecked at Herekino (or 'False Hokianga') on the northwest coast of North Island, New Zealand (Google mapExternal link). The beach was mistaken for the bar at Hokianga about 20 miles to the south.

Extracts from the Times newspaper
DateExtract
Sa 12 September 1846

11 September 1846

Portsmouth, Friday.

By the latest advices from New Zealand (11th of April) we are informed that the Osprey, new 12-gun brig, Commander Patten, was totally wrecked on that coast prior to the above date; but whether any lives have been lost we are uninformed. The Osprey was a brig built at this port in 1844 by Mr. Blake, then master-shipwright of this dock-yard, to compete with the first batch of experimental brigs, a squadron of which soon afterwards put to sea under the command in chief of Captain A.L. Corry, in the Firebrand steam-frigate, now of the Superb, 80.
Tu 15 September 1846

WRECK OF HER MAJESTY'S BRIG OSPREY.


The following account of the loss of this beautiful vessel is taken from the New Zealander of March 28:-
"It is with the deepest regret we have to announce the loss of this beautiful brig-of-war, mounting twelve guns, on the western coast, about 18 miles to the northward of Hokianga, on Wednesday, the 11th inst., about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. On Tuesday, the 10th inst., the Osprey made the western coast, and was enabled to take an observation, which proved that she was in the latitude of Hokianga; but the weather coming on thick and hazy, she kept off the land until the evening, when it cleared away. She then stood in, fired two guns to announce to the pilot at Hokianga that she was off the harbour, and again stood to sea for the night. On the following morning, on nearing the coast, a high southern headland, similar to Hokianga, was seen, with what was presumed to be the pilot's house; but which, subsequently, proved to be a white spot on the cliff. Soon afterwards, perceiving a red flag run up, it was confidently anticipated that it was the entrance of the Hokianga, and the brig stood on, over the surf, bringing the northern and southern heads in one. After crossing the breakers, which were judged to be the three of Hokianga, the vessel touched ground; but it was thought that she was just merely on the bar, over which she would soon forge; but almost immediately she struck again with increased violence, and succession of shocks brought the alarming conviction that she was ashore, and that it was not the entrance to Hokianga but that of Haere-kino, or False Hokianga. The guns were instantly hove overboard, and the masts cut away, which falling, with the sails set towards the shore, dragged the vessel still higher on the beach. On the tide receding, the vessel being about half-way between high and low water mark, the officers and crew were enabled to land about 2 o'clock on Thursday morning, with their small arms and some dry ammunition, which had been fortunately saved on deck, the greater part having been thrown overboard. The vessel stands upright on her keel, in the sand, and is but slightly injured, the heel of the keel only being knocked away. The stores are being landed, and the crew are assisted by 150 natives, who are well disposed, and behave very friendly and peaceably. Two of them had been caught pilfering, and had been taken into custody. After the stores are all taken out of the Osprey, there is no hope of her floating without a number of empty casks to raise her, or of hauling her off. The shore on that part of the western coast is extremely shallow for a long distance outwards, with a heavy surf and breakers continually rolling in, even when the wind is off the land: so that no vessel of proper size and power could approach with safety sufficiently near to render the Osprey efficient assistance in hauling off. This untoward circumstance has arisen, it appears, from mistaking the headlands; and likewise from being misled by the hoisting of the red flag, similar to the practice at the true Hokianga, to apprize vessels that there is sufficient water for them on the bar. From information we have received we learn that this little harbour of Haere-kino is precisely a miniature of Hokianga, and the principal native chief has adopted the plan of the pilot at the latter place, to announce high water to the smaller vessels that may approach his settlement. We consider that some measures should be taken to prevent the future recurrence of similar disasters to large vessels. The harbour of Hokianga itself, although a bar harbour, can be approached and entered with proper precautions; therefore the accident should not, in any degree, tend to the detraction of it. If some wooden beacon, or some other landmark, was erected at Haere-kino, and public notice given, the access to Hokianga would be more easily ascertained, and the strand of Haere-kino more certainly avoided. The Aurora schooner, of Hokianga, is employed to convey the stores of the Osprey to that port, and the Adelaide brig has sailed from here to take them on board for their ultimate destination. Her Majesty's ship Racehorse likewise sailed on Thursday morning, for the Bay of Islands, to be in communication with the officers and crew of the Osprey."

Fr 30 October 1846On the 21st of April last, Lieutenant Octavius Benthall, R.N., drowned in endeavouring to cross the bar of Hokianga Bay, New Zealand, in the pinnace of Her Majesty's ship Osprey.
Ma 23 November 1846

21 November 1846

FALMOUTH, Nov. 21, 9 p.m.

The Penguin packet, Lieutenant Leslie, came in this evening at about 7 o'clock from the Brazils, bringing mails and dates from Rio Janeiro to the 3d of October; Bahia, the 15th; and Pernambuco, the 22d. ...
The hired bark Palestine, from New Zealand, having on board Sir George Gipps and lady, as also Lieutenant Wharton, and part of the crew of Her Majesty's late brig Osprey, touched at Bahia on the 15th of October; and the hired bark Posthumous, having on board Commander Patten and the remainder of the crew of the Osprey, arrived at Rio on the 30th of September.
The Penguin has made a quick passage home, but experienced very bad weather the last three days.
Th 17 December 1846

16 December 1846

Portsmouth, Wednesday.

Commander Patten, of the Osprey, arrived here yesterday. The other officers and part of the crew are on their passage to this port, where the court-martial upon them for the loss of the brig will take place.
Tu 22 December 1846

21 December 1846

Portsmouth, Monday

The Palestine freight ship arrived last evening with the remaining portion of the crew of Her Majesty's late brig Osprey, from New Zealand. The men were removed from her to the Victory this afternoon by the Echo.
Tu 29 December 1846

THE LOSS OF THE OSPREY.

PORTSMOUTH.

This morning at 9 o'clock, by signal gun and previous order, a court-martial, comprising Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker, C.B., President; Captain Pasco, of the Victory; Captain Chads, of the Excellent; Captain Lushington, of the Vengeance; Captain Henderson, of the Sidon; Captain Milne, of the St. Vincent; Captain Giffard, of the Penelope; and Mr. George L. Greetham, Deputy-Judge Advocate of the Fleet, assembled on board the St. Vincent, 120, flag-ship of Admiral Sir Charles Ogle, Bart., Commander-in-Chief, to try by order of the Lords of the Admiralty, on the information of Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Cochrane, Commander-in-Chief on the East India and China station, Commander Frederick Patten, of Her Majesty's late sloop Osprey, 13 guns, and the officers and ship's company of that vessel generally, for the loss of the said vessel on the western coast of New Zealand, in March last.

Commander Patten was not assisted by any "friend."

It is quite unnecessary for us to give the evidence adduced: the whole case rested upon this fact - the waters where the ship was wrecked had never been surveyed, and False Hokianga to closely resembles True Hokianga that mistaking one for the other was most natural under the circumstances detailed before the Court; but the whole of the circumstances are comprised in the excellent and highly interesting defence of the prisoner, which he was called upon to make about [blank] o'clock this afternoon, and which was as follows:-

"Mr. President and Gentlemen of this Hon. Court, - In appearing before you to account for the loss of Her Majesty's sloop Osprey, under my command, on the western coast of New Zealand, I would earnestly engage your attention to the peculiar circumstances attending the unfortunate wreck of that beautiful vessel; trusting the evidence submitted for your judgment will have convinced this Hon. Court that the much-to-be-lamented loss of the sloop did not occur through inattention, want of judgment, due precaution, or unseamanlike proceedings, but from the extraordinary fact of two places, 15 miles apart, so strongly resembling each other in every feature and bearing, that the one is called 'False' and the other 'Real' Hokianga, with (apparently) the established flag, "to take the bar - there is no danger," hoisted by a native chief, on observing the Osprey in the offing. In the fullest confidence that we were about to enter the river, from the landmarks and compass bearings being precisely the same at Real Hokianga as those we had on board, and having ascertained my position by latitude at noon the previous day, when off it the same evening we fired two guns to draw attention, and stood off for the night, during which period the weather became very boisterous, with much rain, a current also setting to the northward. I was not aware that two places so strongly resembling each other existed, until after we were wrecked; no mention whatever being made of it when at Real Hokianga two months previously. On approaching the land the following day, the officers and ship's company were at their stations to shorten and trim sails, and they were under the same impression (as shown in evidence) as the master and myself, or there was ample time to have drawn my attention to any feature in the land unlike Hokianga, when standing off or on looking out for the signal - 'to take the bar' which signal was answered on its being observed; the time of tide also being most favourable, with regular soundings from 14 to 5 fathoms, with the lead constantly going at the time we grounded fully three miles off the shore. Every effort was instantly made by bracing the yards round to extricate Her Majesty's sloop from her dangerous position. This, unfortunately, could not be accomplished, as the rudder soon became unshipped and the main boom carried away, which rendered the vessel unmanageable. The after-part of the upper deck was also knocked up from striking the bottom with much force. Four feet of water being in the well, and the heavy rollers pouring down, I directed the mast to be cut away, the guns thrown overboard, and hatches secured down, which was most promptly and ably done, reflecting the greatest credit on the officers and ship's company, by whose energy the lives of all were saved at that critical period; and the Osprey being a new vessel, and very strong, fortunately held together. Being relieved from this important weight, and by keeping the lower stays fast, it assisted very much in dragging the hull nearer the shore, the heavy rollers forcing the mass of yards, masts, and sails before it. The starboard bulwark was then cut away, and with the assistance of the spare topmasts, the pinnace was launched overboard with safety through a heavy surf. I opened a communication with the shore, which enabled the crew, with their arms and ammunition, to land in detachments from the bowsprit on the following morning. Not knowing whether the wreck would fall over on her broadside the following tide, or a gale of wind knock it to atoms from the exposed position, as much ordnance material and provisions as could possibly be got was saved that night, guarding against the numerous natives that assembled near us (the country being in a very unsettled and excited state), but fortunately they were amicably disposed, although previous to our departure thence a large tribe at night plundered a quantity of lead for warlike purposes, which with some difficulty I compelled them to return on making preparations to attack them.

"I trust, Mr. President and gentlemen of this hon. court, that the evidence laid before you will have shown that every exertion was made to save the vessel, also to heave her keel out of water to ascertain the extent of damage sustained, and to save nearly everything belonging to Her Majesty's service, including shot, tanks, ballast, and nearly all the copper off the ship's bottom, and 1,800 copper bolts drawn from the hull, and transporting them through a deep sand of more than a mile in extent, which the surveys laid before you {taken by the officers of Her Majesty's ship Castor at Auckland) will certify. Having accomplished everything that could be effected during two months of the most indefatigable labour by the officers as well as the ship's company, and the provisions being expended, I proceeded with them to the Bay of Islands, 110 miles overland, with their arms, ammunition, and three days' provisions, crossing a country little known, through forests and rivers, where we embarked on board of Her Majesty's ship Racehorse, after a most severe march of five days during the most inclement weather; in addition to which various circumstances have transpired since the unfortunate wreck, a period of 10 months; their conduct has been so exemplary that I feel it my duty to state it to this hon. court, eight months of which time they have been victualled at two-thirds allowance, agreeably to the Queen's regulations.

"I would now call your attention, Mr. President and gentlemen, to the importance of the orders which I received from Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Cochrane, Commander-in-Chief in India, China, and New Zealand, he having placed me in command as senior officer of the last-named station, and, previous to my departure, was pleased to say that he had selected me for this service as being an officer of some experience, as he anticipated the country was in an unsettled state. On my arrival at New Zealand, after an unparalleled quick passage of 28 days from India, the country proved to be in the situation anticipated by the Commander-in-Chief, as shown in his orders. Extensive reinforcements, at the urgent application of his Excellency the Governor of New Zealand, arriving from South America, Sydney, England, and India, and Captain Charles Graham, C.B., of Her Majesty's ship Castor, arriving at that important period, and assuming the naval command on the station, I became the junior officer. And I would earnestly solicit the attention of this hon. court to the several complimentary documents which I received at various periods from that officer whilst under his command, expressive of his Excellency the Governor's and his own entire approbation of the various important and delicate duties which had devolved on me. And I would remark that Her Majesty's brig had been most actively employed for some time previous to the arrival of reinforcements on the station, and had more officers, seamen, and marines engaged on shore co-operating with the united forces, for some weeks, than any other vessel, in comparison to the number of her complement, transporting heavy guns and materiel to attack the enemy's pah, and were only withdrawn from it, after the heavy work was accomplished, a few days previous to its being taken possession of by the united forces during the temporary absence of the enemy outside their pan at their devotions. And on the detachment belonging to the Osprey returning on board, the senior officer was pleased to express to me his and Commander Hay's, of Her Majesty's sloop Racehorse. (now Capt. Hay, C.B.), marked approbation of their general good behaviour. His Excellency the Governor requiring Her Majesty's brig under my command, at that juncture, for immediate important service to-keep the enemy in check pending the result of the contemplated attack, and to protect the British settlers, their wives and families, from being plundered, murdered, &c., which they anticipated, this service I successfully accomplished, and much to the satisfaction of his Excellency the Governor, and the senior officer, as shown in the letters laid before you. And I was subsequently employed on that dangerous line of coast so little known, not surveyed, and where no other vessel of war had been previously sent, to visit various places (without either guide or directions), which I fortunately accomplished, but not without great risk and anxiety attending it, previous to the Osprey being wrecked, And I cannot but feel painfully sensible how my misfortunes have been followed up, where my standing and experience caused my being selected for important service, and losing my promotion in India: also at the favourable result of hostilities in New Zealand, and employed on most dangerous service, which occasioned the loss of Her Majesty's brig.

"Mr. President and Gentlemen, I would respectfully submit that although I may have been so unfortunate as to have lost Her Majesty's brig under my command in the anxious performance of my duty, circumstances have occurred which I trust will show it was not occasioned through neglect or want of any possible precaution being taken by me, or in any way bearing on the 26th article of war. And permit me to observe that during my command of Her Majesty's brig on several occasions squadrons of Her Majesty's sloops, varying from four to seven in number, have been placed immediately under my orders in England, and once in India, and the duties intrusted to me were accomplished to the entire satisfaction of the several Commanders-in-Chief. And I beg further to trespass on the indulgence of this hon. Court in reference to my services, having been upwards of 30 years actively employed in Her Majesty's navy principally on foreign stations, 24 years of which time a commissioned officer, meeting the approbation of the undermentioned, and several other distinguished officers under whom I have had the honour to serve: viz. Admiral Sir R.W. Otway, Sir F.L. Maitland, Sir Fleetwood Pellew, and Captain G.W. Hamilton. I feel conscious that I have on every occasion discharged my duties to the utmost of my ability, which I trust my testimonials will certify. When first-lieutenant of Her Majesty's ships Gannet, Ranger, and Briton, I was not fortunate enough to be employed on stations at a period when promotions occurred. I was consequently 14 years a lieutenant, and when commanding Her Majesty's brig Rapid on the South American station for three years, the Commander-in-Chief, Rear-Admiral Sir G.E. Hammond, Bart., was pleased to approve of her effective state and discipline at all times, and the manner in which I performed the various responsible duties assigned to me, and very kindly made a favourable representation to the Right Hon. the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty on my behalf. The Earl of Minto and Vice-Admiral Sir William Parker, then presiding at that department were pleased to express to me personally their favourable commendations, and in consequence gave me my promotion; and with some delicacy I engage your attention, that when a lieutenant I had the happiness at three different periods to save the lives of three men by jumping overboard after them - twice, when belonging to Her Majesty's ship Cambrian, in the Mediterranean; and once when first lieutenant of Her Majesty's ship Briton off Oporto; and when Commander of Her Majesty's brig Rapid, I received a serious injury on duty, which since the unfortunate wreck of the Osprey has caused me much pain, brought on by two months' great exertions, and followed up by a most tedious march. And I should ill reply the indulgence of this Hon. Court, did I not express my most grateful acknowledgments for the patient attention you have given to the various evidence and my defence. In the earnest hope that the peculiar circumstances attending the unfortunate loss of Her Majesty's brig will meet with the favourable consideration and judgment of this hon. Court, I rely with confidence upon your decision," &c.

The prisoner then handed in two or three certificates from captains under whom he had served, all which were highly creditable and honourable.

The court was then cleared, and remained closed upwards of an hour. On our re-admission the members had put on their cocked hats, and the Judge Advocate delivered as the finding that the Court fully acquitted Commander Patten as well as the officers and ship's company of the Osprey from all blame in her loss; and further the Court were of opinion that every exertion had been made by Commander Patten, and the officers and ship's company under his command, in the endeavour to save the said ship.

The President then returned Commander Patten his sword, and the Court was dissolved.

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