A preliminary inquiry into the loss of the SS Wimmera was opened on Wednesday 3 July 1918, a week following her sinking. The inquiry, which was held before the local Superintendent of Mercantile Marine, Captain Charles Fleming, was convened in the Customs Building in Auckland.

Custom House, Auckland, N.Z.
Custom House, Auckland
Location of the preliminary inquiry into the sinking of the SS Wimmera
Postcard. Author’s Collection.

This inquiry was completed within a week and the evidence gained forwarded to the Marine Department in Wellington.

On the 19th of July, at the direction of the Minister for Marine, Captain Fleming applied for a Stipendiary Magistrate to…

“…make an investigation into the circumstances of the loss, to summon necessary parties and witnesses, and hear and try the same, pursuant to section 235 of “The Shipping and Seamen Act, 1908.” Section 235 of the Act being…

At 10.30 on the morning of Wednesday 31st July 1918, a little over a month since the Wimmera sank; the official investigation into the circumstances surrounding her loss was opened in Court Room 1 at the Magistrate’s Court in Auckland.

Magistrate's Court, Auckland
[Magistrate’s Court, Auckland]
Location of the official inquiry into the sinking of the SS Wimmera
Photograph. Author’s Collection.

Wednesday 31 July 1918

The Chairman of the Court was Mr Ernest Cargill Cutten, Stipendiary Magistrate, and the nautical assessors were Captain R. E. Smith of Auckland, and Captain Charles McArthur of Wellington. The New Zealand Minister for Marine was represented at the inquiry by Mr Selwyn Mays; Huddart Parker were represented by Mr. R. McVeagh. Mrs Kell, as the widow of the Master of the Wimmera, was also represented by Mr. Blomfield, and the widow of the third officer was represented by Mr. Alexander.

‘The notice of investigation set forth the following questions for the decision of the Court:-

(1)  Generally, what was or what were the causes of the casualty?

(2)  In particular, whether the said casualty was due or contributed to by the negligence, wrongful act, default, disobedience of Admiralty instructions or want of supervision of or by any person or persons on the ship or elsewhere, and, if so, who was or were such person or persons, and what was the nature of such negligence, wrongful act, default, disobedience or want of supervision?

(3)  Could the said casualty have been avoided, and, if so, how?’

On that first day of the investigation two witnesses and their depositions were taken by the court. Both Daniel Ryan, the Auckland manager for Huddart Parker and Charles Frederick Wilson appeared to give evidence.

[to be continued]

© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021

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