H.M. Hyndman

The Murdering of British Seamen

The British Socialist Party
and the Board of Trade

The following correspondence has taken place on the question of the Load Line between the Board of Trade and the British Socialist Party:–


The Board of Trade,
July 3rd, 1913.

To the Secretary,
British Socialist Party.

Dear Sir, – I am desired by the President of the Board of Trade to inform you that he has received from various branches of the British Socialist Party resolutions identical in terms condemning the alteration of the tables of freeboard by the Board of Trade in 1906.

Mr. Buxton presumes that the resolution, a copy of which I enclose, is founded on evidence in the possession of your society which, in their opinion, goes to show that the alteration of the tables of freeboard has actually resulted in increasing the loss of British vessels and in endangering the lives of sailors and others.

As you are probably aware, a Committee has recently been appointed by Mr. Buxton to inquire into the question of the Load Line. In view of the serious allegations made in the resolution, Mr. Buxton would suggest that the information on which these allegations are founded should be submitted to the Committee, so that they may be able to examine the facts and their bearing on the question under their consideration.

The Secretary of the Committee is Mr. C.J.O. Saunders, 7, Whitehall Gardens, S.W. – Yours faithfully,

(Signed) J.A. WEBSTER


The British Socialist Party,
Central Office,
21a, Maiden Lane,
London, W.C.
July 15th, 1913

The Rt. Hon. Sydney Buxton, M.P.,
Board of Trade,
Whitehall, S.W.

Sir, – I am directed to acknowledge and thank you for your letter of the 3rd inst.

It must be quite obvious to you, as it is to us, that the most complete evidence of the effects of the raising of the Load Line upon old vessels cannot be supplied, seeing that most of the men who unfortunately served upon the craft which foundered were drowned in consequence of the steps taken by order of your Department, The next best evidence is almost exclusively in the hands of the Board of Trade itself, of which you are the President, and the bulk of our information is drawn from the very imperfect answers which have been dragged out of your Department by questions put in consequence of our agitation.

I have to ask you now, therefore, to supply me with : –

  1. A sworn list of the vessels built and launched prior to 1900, with their respective tonnage, upon which the Load Line was raised during 1906 and since that year by the secret fiat of the Board of Trade;
  2. The names and tonnage of such vessels, upon which the Load Line was so raised, which foundered or were stranded after this was done;
  3. The names of the survivors, so far as they may be known to the Board of Trade, in order that we may obtain their sworn testimony to submit to you;
  4. Copies of the remonstrances, in regard to the raising of the Load Line on old vessels, which were addressed to various members of the Cabinet, including the then President of your Department, at the time when the Load Line was raised on these old vessels and afterwards;
  5. The actual amount that it would have cost to have given the statistics in regard to the foundering and stranding of overladen vessels asked for by Lord Muskerry in the House of Lords, the furnishing of which was refused by Lord Granard, speaking for the Liberal Government and your Department, on the score of expense.

I shall also be glad to know from you whether any action whatever has been taken by the Government, or by any of the shipowners who have benefited so largely, pecuniarily, by the raising of the Load Line, to provide pensions or reasonable compensation to the widows of the seamen, firemen, and others who have been drowned on vessels whose Load Line has been raised since the year 1906; and, in particular, whether anything in this way was done with reference to the relations of the men drowned on board the North Briton, whose foundering was directly attributed by a magistrate in his official judgment to the action of the Board of Trade and the Liberal Government.

When you have satisfactorily answered these questions and given this information, we shall be prepared to go farther with you into this matter. Meanwhile, I am instructed to publish this correspondence. – I am, Sir, yours faithfully,

(Signed) ALBERT INKPIN, Secretary

P.S. – I am further directed to call your attention to the facts that: –

  1. There is no record accessible to the public of the data upon which the Board of Trade decreed the raising of the Load Line upon old vessels;
  2. There has been no publication of any kind in Blue Book or other shape of the meagre array of facts disclosed in answer to questions put and answered in the House of Commons.


Board of Trade,
Whitehall Gardens, S.W.
July 28th, 1913

The General Secretary,
The British Socialist Party

Dear Sir, – With reference to your letter of July 15th on the subject of Load Line, I am desired by the President of the Board of Trade to remind you that the resolutions passed by the branches of the British Socialist Party stated definitely that the alteration of the Load Line tables made in 1906 has caused the loss of several vessels and of the lives of British seamen; and has caused the lives of many more to be seriously endangered.

On July 3rd Mr. Buxton called your attention to the fact that a Committee had been appointed to inquire into the question of Load Line, and invited you to submit to that Committee the information or evidence on which the allegations made in the resolutions were founded, so that they could be properly investigated.

To this invitation you reply by asking for information on a number of points in order apparently to enable you to discover whether or not the allegations already made and circulated by your Association have any foundation.

With reference to your request, Mr. Buxton instructs me to say that he proposes to place before the Committee all the information in the possession of the Board of Trade which they may desire to have for the purpose of their inquiry.

If the British Socialist Party are in possession of any fact tending to substantiate their allegations, Mr. Buxton does not doubt that the Committee will be prepared to receive and consider any information which you may place before them, and (if desired for the protection of any witness) to treat any part of said evidence as confidential. – I am, yours faithfully,

(Signed) J.A. WEBSTER


The British Socialist Party
Central Office
21a, Maiden Lane
London, WC.
August 5th, 1913

The Right Hon. Sydney Buxton, M.P.
Board of Trade,
Whitehall, S.W.

Sir, – I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 28th ult. In reply, I am directed by the Executive Committee of the British Socialist Party to state that until the questions which have been put to you in my letter of the 15th ult. are fully answered in such form that the correctness or otherwise of your replies can be checked the British Socialist Party will suspend its decision as to offering evidence before your Committee.

I am further instructed to say that your Committee, which comprises no representatives of the Seamen, of the Firemen, of the Stewards, nor any master of a vessel, looks like a body specially chosen in order to secure beforehand the whitewashing of yourself and your predecessor, Mr. Lloyd George, as Presidents of the Board of Trade, after the manner of the notorious Marconi Committee.

It is bad enough that British seamen, firemen and others should be drowned by the action of Mr. Lloyd George, yourself, and the Board of Trade, but it is nothing short of infamous that when a Committee has “been appointed to inquire into the question of Load Line” representatives of the class whose lives are endangered should be purposely excluded from that Committee.

My Committee observes also that you propose to restrict the information to be submitted by the Board of Trade, even to your Committee, to the evidence which that Committee may desire to have placed before it in support of your own desperate case. – Yours faithfully,

(Signed) ALBERT INKPIN, Secretary

Last updated on 21.1.2006