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Netley Abbey - collision

Masters: 1880-82 RS Horn: 1883-89 H Vyryan: 1890 Cooper: 1891-92 E Barnett: 1894 G Batty: 1895 J Clark; 1899 GM Lewis

Netley Abbey foundered after a collision with the HMS Surprise 2 miles south of Shambles lightship off Dorset on 4 August 1899.

Netley Abbey left Cardiff in the early morning of 5 August 1899 on a voyage for Cronstadt with a cargo of 2,300 tons of coal, a crew of 24 & 1 passenger. Later that day off St Albans Head she struck a very thick fog so cut her speed to dead slow. The British warship Surprise entered the fog bank from the opposite end & reduced her speed to 8 knots & kept her siren on constant. The fog was so thick that the HMS Surprise, a 1650 ton despatch vessel-was almost on Netley Abbey before the two vessels became visible to each other. The Netley Abbey was just drifting across the bows of the Surprise when Commander FW Fane-Hervey ordered full speed astern but the Surprisecrashed into the collier with such force that 2 or 3 feet of her bows became wedged between the beams of Netley Abbey.  Because the two ships were locked together for upwards of 10 minutes-although there was no time to collect their belongings-those aboard Netley Abbey were able to clamber aboard the Surprise whose crew managed to free her &, badly damaged, they got her to port. The collision took place at 4.30pm & it was thought that Netley Abbey sunk in about 20 minutes, although with the heavy fog this would have been hard to ascertain. It was midnight when the Surprisereached Spithead. The stranded crew were taken to the Sailor’s Home & subsequently got back to Cardiff. The Surprise was a dispatch Vessel & had left Spithead that morning on a voyage for Malta to resume her Mediterranean duties. A court martial was held on board the Victory at Portsmouth with Commander Fane-Hervey & Lt. Ross on the charge of having hazarded the ship on the occasion of her collision. Lieutenant Ross was acquitted & Commander Fane-Hervey was admonished to be more careful in future.

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