asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty whether His Majesty's Drifter "Blue Sky" left, Portsmouth on 12th June; whether she was last sighted off Beachy Head on the lath at 12.15 p.m.; what steps were taken to ascertain here whereabouts after that; and whether her loss was published in the newspapers before the relatives of the officers and men on board had been notified?
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Mr. Amery)
The reply to the first two parts of the question is in the affirmative. The "Blue Sky" should normally have reached Invergordon about the 17th June in pursuance of orders given to her by the Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet. Her instructions were to report her position at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily, and she was last heard calling Sheerness Wireless Telegraph Station at 17.53 on the 13th June, but no actual message was received, as that station does not receive messages on the wave length used by naval drifters. I may add that many vessels and drifters were proceeding north at the time.The Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, reported at 8 p.m. on the 17th June that the vessel had not arrived, and at his request inquiries were made immediately, and at 10 am. on the 18th June the Commander-in-Chief, More, reported that wreckage was coming ashore at Herne Bay and Margate and that the Duty Destroyer was being sent out to search. Further inquiries elicited the information that on the night of the 13th June nothing was heard or seen by Foreness Signal Station, Kentish Knock Light Vessel or North Goodwin Light Vessel which could throw any light on the disappearance of the "Blue Sky." These facts were communicated to the Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet, who at 11.58 p.m. on the 18th June reported that he was informing the next-of-kin of the officers and men who had been embarked that it was feared that the vessel was lost. I am not aware at what times the various relatives concerned received the Commander-in-Chief's telegrams. The toss of the "Blue Sky" appeared in the evening newspapers of Monday, the 19th June, and it was anticipated that all the next-of-kin of those who had lost their lives would have been informed before this time.
Was not the interval between the 13th and 17th rather long before inquiries were started, and is there any reason to know how this accident occurred?
As to the last part of the question, we are still making inquiries. So far, there is nothing at all to throw any light on the disappearance of this vessel. A large number of drifters and trawlers were proceeding north all the time, and the mere cessation of wireless reports for two days would not, in the ordinary course, give reason for anxiety in reasonably calm weather. But instructions have been given that in future drifters are to go in pairs.
Is it not a fact that the interval between the 13th and 17th was unduly long?