H.M. Hyndman

The Murdering of British Seamen

Preface to Fourth Edition

At last, after more than six years of protest and agitation – how many British seamen, firemen, and stewards have Mr. Lloyd George, Mr. Sydney Buxton, the Liberal Party, and the Board of Trade deliberately drowned in the interval? – we revolutionary Socialists have succeeded in rousing some public indignation against the official murderers of our fellow-men who go down to the sea in ships. But we have not yet by any means checked the murdering itself. That goes on steadily for the benefit of the shipowners, as it has done ever since the Liberal Party took office and Mr. Lloyd George raised the Plimsoll Load Line on old vessels. Let all readers of the facts and figures given in this pamphlet bear that truth constantly in mind.

The verbatim report of my speech has had an exceptionally wide circulation. Within a few weeks the British Socialist Party has sold out three very large editions, and the demand is still increasing. That is good evidence of the interest awakened. The BSP, therefore, in publishing this new edition, decided to add to it more officially certified facts and figures, the text of the letter of thanks to me from the Seamen’s and Firemen’s Union, an important statement and summary by Father Hopkins (President of the Union), the correspondence of the British Socialist Party with the Board of Trade, and a fresh preface by myself. I am glad to have the opportunity of putting again on record my cordial appreciation of the excellent service Father Hopkins has rendered in his constant endeavour to protect the lives of the men with whom he is so closely associated.

I am also glad to be able once more to express my opinion of the disgraceful conspiracy of silence which has been and is being maintained by the Liberal Party, the Tory Party, the Irish Party, and the Labour Party about this horrible business. The paltry discussion which took place the other night in Parliament only threw the whole nefarious transaction into still higher relief. Nothing more infamous has ever been known even in the capitalist-dominated House of Commons of our day. Seamen, firemen, and stewards are drowned in order to fill the pockets of shipowners, and even the Parliamentary Labour Party, as a Party, takes no heed of it. Its secret arrangements with the Liberal capitalist Government might be jeopardised if the crimes being committed by its friends and allies were fully exposed!

Mr. Sydney Buxton, the President of the Board of Trade, said, in the discussion referred to, that those who accused Mr. Lloyd George and himself of having raised the Plimsoll Load Line on old vessels for the benefit of shipowners were “not worth answering.” In whose interest was the Plimsoll Load Line raised, then? In whose interest does Mr. Sydney Buxton keep it raised? Why are masters of vessels, seamen, firemen, and stewards carefully excluded from the Shipowners’ Committee which Mr. Sydney Buxton himself has appointed? These questions also are, doubtless, “not worth answering.” I leave the public to judge as to that.

But Mr. Cathcart Wason, MP for Orkney and Shetland, had the assurance to state on the same occasion in the House of Commons that Mr. Lloyd George was “obliged” to sign the secret order formulated by the Board of Trade raising the Plimsoll Load Line on old vessels. This is absolutely untrue, and Mr. Cathcart Wason, MP for Orkney and Shetland, knew it to be untrue when he stated it. The usual Liberal lie, in fact. For Mr. Lloyd George, when challenged on the matter as President of the Board of Trade, took upon himself full responsibility for what he had done, and actually argued in the House of Commons that there could be no danger of increased loss of life, because the raised Load Line only applied to new vessels specially built to ensure safety under the changed conditions.

It seems incredible that, at the very time when Mr. Lloyd George was pledging himself to the correctness of this statement, he was actually according to British shipowners the right to raise the Plimsoll Line on old vessels, which saved those shipowners some £8,000,000 in the building of new craft to meet the increase of freight offering. Yet that is the simple truth. Mr. Sydney Buxton has continued and defended this murdering policy of Mr. Lloyd George at the expense of the lives of the seamen for the pecuniary profit of the shipowners.

Mr. Sydney Buxton has appointed a new Committee. Its object is said to be to inquire into the effects of the new Load Line and to come to some arrangement with foreign countries in the matter. Is that why all representatives of Seamen, Firemen, Stewards and Masters of vessels are carefully kept off the Committee? The real reason why Mr. Buxton has appointed it is to exonerate Mr. Lloyd George and himself from the charge of drowning British seamen and others in the interest of capitalists, and to show that Presidents of the Board of Trade £5,000 a year), the Liberal Party, and the Board of Trade itself are the salt of the earth and – of the sea!


H.M. Hyndman
9 Queen Anne’s Gate
Westminster, S.W.
August 8th, 1913

P.S. – Since this preface has been in type I have received a letter from the Load Line Committee, 7, Whitehall, S.W., inviting me to give evidence before it. I have replied calling upon the Committee to demand from the Board of Trade the crushing evidence at its disposal as to the murderous effect of the raising of the Load Line on old vessels. Should that evidence, when published in full, seem to be insufficient I may then endeavour to supplement it.



Last updated on 21.1.2006