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Clarification of Duties of Officer in Charge of the Watch.


Circular No. 313.

Admiralty, 22nd February 1858.

The attention of my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty having been called to minutes of several Courts Martial, at which it has appeared, in evidence that officers in charge of the deck when ships have been run on shore, have been ignorant of the neighbourhood of the land, and of the nature of the navigation in which the ships were situated at the time of such accidents, their Lordships are pleased to direct that the following instructions shall be substituted for Art. 2, chap. 6, at p. 202 of the Admiralty Instructions for Lieutenants, and for Art. 1. Chap. 5, sec. 4, at p. 105 of the Admiralty Instructions for Captains.

(To be substituted for Art. 2. chap. 6, at p. 202 of Admiralty Instructions for Lieutenants.)

"On taking charge of a watch he is to make himself acquainted, as far as is practicable, with the supposed position of the ship, especially when approaching land, or in pilot water, and whether he may be likely to see any and what land or lights ; he should also acquire any other information in his power, which may assist him in keeping the ship out of danger so long as he is in charge of the deck, and he is to be constantly on deck, until relieved by the officer who is to succeed him. He is to see that the men are alert and attentive to their duty; that every necessary precaution is taken to prevent accident from squalls or sudden gusts of wind ; and

that the ship is as perfectly prepared for battle as circumstances will admit. He is to be particularly careful that the ship be properly steered, and that a correct account be kept of her way by the log being duly hove, and by the lee-way for each hour being marked on the log board, on which is also to be marked every occurrence worthy of notice, and any accident that may have occasioned the loss .of any of her stores ; and he is also to see that all signals made in the fleet are correctly minuted on the log board in such manner as the Captain shall direct ; and he is, at the end of his watch, to sign the log board and the report of signals (if such be kept separately) with the initials of his name ; and when the occurrences of the day have been entered in the log book he is to sign that also with the initials of his name, at the end of each watch which he kept."

(To be substituted for Art. 2, chap. 5, sec. 4, at p. 105 of the Admiralty Instructions for Captains.)

"When a ship is in pilot water, or in the vicinity of land, or rocks, or shoals, the Captain is always to take particular care, whether the Master or Pilot think it or not, that the hand lead be kept constantly going, not only with a view of obtaining soundings, when they may be expected as a guide for conducting the ship, but also as a precaution against any mistakes of the pilot, or any irregularities of the tides ; and it is to be kept going even in the most frequented channels, and the Captain is at all times to take care that the officer in charge of the deck shall pay particular attention to Article 2, chap. 6, of the Instructions for Lieutenants.

"If it shall appear that the ship has been run on shore, or brought into danger of being run on shore or wrecked, and that this order has been disobeyed, the Captain will be held responsible for the same ; and in the event of the ship touching the ground, he is to transmit a statement of the whole circumstances of her getting ashore, with every particular as to the situation, and probable cause thereof, and the extent o! damage the ship may have sustained."

By command of their Lordships,

R. Osborne.

To all Commanders-in-Chief, Captains, Commanders, and Commanding Officers of Her

Majesty's Ships and Vessels.


Circular No. 351.

Caution Respecting Soundings when in the Vicinity of Land

Admiralty, 15th December, 1858.

Several cases having recently occurred, in which Her Majesty's Ships, and especially Steam Vessels, have been run aground, when, by proper observance of the Admiralty Instructions respecting Sounding, such accidents would most probably have been avoided, the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty hereby direct the attention of ail Captains, Commanders and Officers in Command of Her Majesty's Ships and Vessels, to Art. 1., Section IV., Chapter 5, at Page 105, of the said printed Instructions, which Article states that "When a ship is in pilot water, or in the vicinity of land, or rocks, or shoals, the Captain is always to take particular care that the hand lead be kept constantly going."

And on this Instruction, my Lords would further observe that it is not sufficient under such circumstances to place a leadsman in the chains and to keep the lead going, but that at the same time the rate of the ship should be reduced (in any case of doubt) to such a speed as shall ensure the leadsman getting correct soundings at every cast of the lead ; and all Captains and Commanding Officers are cautioned that, in case of a vessel going on share, this is a point which will be strictly inquired into.

By Command of their Lordships,

H. Corry.

To all Flag Officers, Commanders-in-Chief, Captains, and Commanding Officers of Her Majesty's Ships and Vessels


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