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4 October 2016

“DO or Die” - S.S. Walton Hall 1926

26th April.
In the grip of a fierce storm, pounded by huge seas the Walton Hall battles for survival just off the coast of Jervis Bay.



“It was do or die” and for 24 hours the gallant engineers of the Walton Hall  "kept her moving."  in accordance with the skippers instructions.


The Steamer Walton Hall bound from Freemantle to Sydney became disabled amid tempestuous weather condition while off the entrance to Jervis Bay.  She was in such a bad way she signalled for assistance.

The S.S Walton Hall was caught by a strong southerly gale and high seas which was sweeping along the south-east coast. The distress messages telling of her plight were picked up by many steamers along the coast as well as units of the Royal Australia Navy, who were fortunately at station inside Jervis Bay.  Cruiser H.M.S Delhi and Destroyer H.M.A.S. Anzac were dispatched to the vessel's aid and in a short time were heading out through mountainous seas.  Conditions were that grim the Anzac was forced to turn back and leave the task to the Deli.


Cruiser H.M.S Deli.
H.M.A.S Anzac.


When the Deli reached the Walton Hall she found her rolling fearfully.  Her deck rail forward as she heeled over was only a few feet above the water,  and every few minutes huge seas were shipped. The steamer was in very light trim being only in ballast having discharged her cargo at Freemantle. From the outset to Sydney she battled through bad weather which reached it's climax when she was off Jervis Bay at 6.30 a.m.  She had been having engine trouble and it was at the height of the storm the engine troubles became acute.  The high-pressure cylinder failed,  and her engineers set about the task of compounding two of the engines.


          "If we can stop,  we can get at it"   the chief engineer,  Mr. J.J. Rowan  reported.

          “We simply can't stop chief,  Do your best," replied Captain Reid.


The captain new if the vessel had stopped in such high seas she would have been swamped.  She heeled over with every sea and many of them washed the deck.

The steamer came within five miles of the shore,  The engines were doing their work well,  three knots, then four, with headway their hopes rose. The arrival of the Deli was hailed with relief.  The cruiser came within half a mile and signalled that she had come to stay, for with the engines as they were,  there was no telling what might happen.

Commander G.D. Williams Deputy Director of Navigation in Sydney,  dispatched a message to the master of the Walton Hall,  offering the services of a tug if necessary,  but at 3 o'clock the reassuring message was received that the Walton Hall making four knots,  was headed to Sydney and was not in need of further assistance.

imageThe ship was rolling to an angle of 45 degrees,  the men in the engine room surprised the master with their performance.   The chief engineers,  Masers, G. Brown and Redman worked below to keep up the slow speed,  seven knots was the best they could do. The engineers had to watch the engines the whole time during the slow passage to Sydney until she berthed.  For 24 hours.  The third engineer, Mr Henderson was in his bunk through it all,  with his lifebelt handy at all times. He was ill and left for the hospital soon after the Walton Hall berthed.

During the laboured passage up the coast the Cruiser Deli stood by,  almost 24 hours after the distress call the Walton Hall reached Sydney Heads at 6.45.a.m.  The Deli followed her in and her duty done she anchored in Farm Cove.  Two tugs took the Walton Hall to the coal berths at Pyrmont.


Left to right – Fourth engineer Redman, Chief engineer Rowan, Second engineer Brown.


Understating the whole affair the captain said. We had a little engine troubleApart from that there was nothing to report.

He was philosophical.  " There was a bit of a blow." he said,  "with a little east in it at first. 

'If life at sea were to easy,  then women would be manning steamers"

Captain Reid had been at sea 31 years,  in good humor he told his interviewer that he was 30 years to late for a good story. He explained that in his youth he was prepared to talk,  but now he was older he shunned publicity.

Bad news awaited Captain Reid.
On arrival in Sydney recieved bad news,  which stated his father had died.

The Officers on the Walton Hall had not been back to their home country England in over 23 months.

Jonah on board.
The men on the Walton Hall humorously declared that there must be a Jonah on board.  Their suspicions have fallen on an officer who joined the steamer in New York. He joined because his steamer,  the City of Florence,  was at the bottom of  the harbour.



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