The loss of HMS Perseverance in 1860
The loss of HMS Perseverance in 1860

Royal NavyLosses
Royal NavyLosses

On 21 October 1860 the troopship Perseverance was wrecked on the island of Maio in the Cape Verde Islands

Extracts from the Times newspaper
Fr 23 November 1860The Peninsular and Oriental Company's steamer Tagus, Captain W.B. Hall, arrived at Southampton at 6 a.m. yesterday, with mails of the 17th inst. from Lisbon, and the 18th from Oporto and Vigo, in charge of Lieutenant Hamilton, R.N., Admiralty agent. ... On the 12th inst. the Portuguese steamer Africa arrived in the river Tagus with 13 officers and 97 of the crew of Her Majesty's late screw steamship Perseverance, which was lost off the island of Mayo on the 21st of October, at 4 20 a.m., while transporting 700 soldiers of the 2d West India Regiment; all on board saved. Five of the officers came home in the Tagus - viz., Dr. Wilson, surgeon ; Mr. Hinvest, second master; Mr. Cook, chief engineer; Mr. Rothery, second engineer; and Mr. Bartley, third engineer.
Sa 1 December 1860


Lisbon, Nov. 30.

The Royal Mail Company's steamship Tyne, with the above mail, has arrived, and will leave to-morrow for Southampton.
She brings 3,841 l. in specie, and 107 passengers, 60 of whom are the shipwrecked crew of the Perseverance.

Fr 7 December 1860The Geyser, 6, paddle, Commander G.M. Jackson, arrived at Spithead yesterday morning from Lisbon, with the remaining officers and crew of Her Majesty's screw troopship Perseverance, wrecked on the 24th of October last on a reef of rocks off the north-west end of Mayo, Cape Verde. The Geyser had an exceedingly rough passage out from the Channel to Lisbon, where she arrived on the 29th ult. Having received on board the officers and men of the Perseverance, she sailed again for England on the following day, the 30th ult. During the whole passage home she experienced a continued succession of very heavy gales from all points of the compass. She arrived in Plymouth Sound on Wednesday morning, and received orders to proceed on to Portsmouth. The Perseverance's officers and men wil l be transhipped to Her Majesty's ship Victory, on board which ship it is expected a Court-martial will be held for the trial of Commander Power and his officers for the loss of their ship. The division of the Channel fleet which had proceeded to Lisbon from England was lying in the Tagus at the time of the Geyser's sailing, but was to leave for Plymouth South on the 6th inst.
Sa 8 December 1860The officers and crew, lately belonging to Her Majesty's screw steamer Perseverance, and arrived at Spithead in the Geyser, from Lisbon, were transferred, at Spithead yesterday, to the Pigmy steam tender, and conveyed on board Her Majesty's ship Victory, where the officers and crew have to report themselves in readiness for the court-martial which will be held to inquire into the circumstances of the loss of their ship.
Th 13 December 1860Her Majesty's ship Industry reached Sierra Leone on the 20th of November, with troops from the wreck of Her Majesty's ship Perseverance.
Ma 17 December 1860According to present arrangements the court-martial for the trial of the commander and officers of Her Majesty's steamer Perseverance for the recent loss of that vessel will take place on board Her Majesty's steamer Victory to-morrow.
Fr 21 December 1860The naval court-martial which assembled on board Her Majesty's ship Victory in Portsmouth harbour on Tuesday last for the trial of Commander Power and Mr. M'Farlane the commander and master of Her Majesty's ship Perseverance, wrecked on a reef of rocks off the north-west port of Mayo, Cape Verde, concluded their sittings yesterday. The evidence for the prosecution closed on Wednesday evening, and the defence of the prisoners was appointed to take place yesterday morning. The Court opened at 10 a.m., and the written defence of Commander Power which was first taken, was read by the chaplain of the ship. The document was somewhat lengthy. In it Captain Power recapitulated and reviewed several points of the evidence. He referred to the rules and regulations of the ship, together with his own special orders in the event of the ship being at any time in a position of doubt or difficulty, and to the reason the watch was intrusted to a warrant officer, a man who had always conducted himself extremely well, and who had been appointed to the ship for this special duty by the Admiralty, in compliance with an application to that effect from him. The rate of speed the ship was going at the time she went ashore was well known, and had been accurately calculated, and the loss of the ship could only be accounted for by the strong current existing, of which but little was known, and which was afterwards found to be always extremely variable and irregular in its movements. The compasses were tried at St. Vincent's by cross-bearings. The deep-sea and hand-leads were not used, owing to the bold nature of the coast, as they would no sooner speak of danger than the ship would be upon it, Mr. M'Farlane, the master, had always displayed the greatest zeal and caution in his duties. In conclusion, Commander Power stated the conduct of all, officers and men, in landing the troops, and throughout the whole of the operations consequent on the loss of the ship, was everything that could be wished for. He had served 24 years at sea, six of which had been as commander. At the time of the occurrence he was suffering from illness, and had suffered much, since. He concluded by leaving his case in the hands of the Court, and called no witnesses. Mr. M'Farlane read his defence to the Court, which, like Commander Power's, was very lengthy, and reviewed the evidence given by the witnesses at some length. He respectfully submitted that the course the ship steered on the occasion of her loss was such as without any set would have carried her 11 miles to the north of Mayo, and 16 miles to the southward of the Laton Rocks, and that he should not have been justified in steering a more northerly course on account of those rocks, and the chances of a northerly current. He had no reason to anticipate a set of currents to the southward, having on former occasions experienced the contrary; the sailing directions were also silent on the subject, From the assumed position of the ship at 11 p.m., and the rate of steaming, it was not presumed that she was so near the land, not expecting to be within 12 miles at daylight, and, even if the ship had been steered direct for the land, she ought at daylight to have been 12 miles distant. The master of the bark Kingfisher, the master of the schooner (a coasting: vessel) which conveyed some of the troops to St. Vlncent', and the captain of the port of Porto Praya, a Portuguese naval officer, all stated in their testimony, which had been laid before the Court, that the currents in the vicinity of Mayo were exceedingly variable in their strength and irregular in their set. Two foreign men-of-war had been recently lost (within two years) near the same spot as the Perseverance, but no details had been published. Two days after the wreck it was proved by the bark Kingfisher's anchoring that the current was then setting in a contrary direction to what it did on the day of the wreck, and strongly. Star observations were frequently taken, but in those latitudes were of little use, owing to the hazy state of the horizon. In conclusion, Mr. M'Farlane said that he three days after the wreck navigated a bark to the river Gambia with troops, without the aid of charts or directions; that on his arrival at Sierra Leone he was struck down with fever, and had suffered severely; in fact, he had only come out of Haslar Hospital to answer the present charge. Certificates of the highest possible character for qualities as an officer, a navigator, and a pilot were then handed in by Mr. M'Farlane to the Court from numerous officers. Commander M'Killop, commanding Her Majesty's ship Bulldog, personally attended the Court, and testified to his knowledge of Mr. M'Farlane's ability and caution in his duties as master of a ship, and that he should feel great pleasure in taking Mr. M'Farlane as his master in any future vessel ha might have the honour to-command. The Court then closed to consider their finding, and remained in deliberation above four hours. On reopening, the sentence was read by the Deputy Judge Advocate, awarding a severe reprimand to Commander Power, and the loss of one year's rank. Also severely reprimanding Mr. M'Farlane, with the loss of three years' rank, accompanied by the observations, that there was no evidence of currents to account for the loss of the ship, nor to account for her being 16 miles out of her course; that precautions were not taken where currents were known to exist in running between the islands; nor were soundings taken with the deep-sea or hand lead-lines. Neither was the master on deck, as he ought to have been, when the watch was left in. charge of a warrant officer. The conduct of the remaining officers and crew after the grounding of the vessel was deserving of special mention from the Courts. Commander Power's conduct also on the vessel stranding, and the coolness and decision of his measures in getting the women and children, with the troops, on shore, and providing for their safety, were deserving all praise.


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