THE SUNKEN GUNBOAT.
lire following realistic account of the circumstances attending the recent sinking of the Haytian gunboat Crete-a-Pierrot by the German cruiser Panther is by the special correspondent of the London "Daily Mail," and throws a most interesting light on the meagre cable messages received in the colony :
Port Au Prince (Hayti), Saturday, September 20. The main facts of the sinking of the Haytian gunboat Crete-a-Pierrot by the German cruiser Panther on September 6th. off Gonaives, Hayti, have been reported in the "Daily Mail," but there has been no hint of the dramatic story that underlay the brief facts set forth in the various telegrams that have been published. I am now able to tell the full storv as gathered from the personal narratives of survivors.
The Crete-a-Pierrot, it will be remembered, was a Haytian gunbo;it which was sent out from England in 1896 for the Republican Government. After the departure of ex-President Sam, Hayti was toin by revolution. The insurgent party was joined by Admiral Killick, who took the gunboat into their service and employed it in blockading the coast. This, however, he did not do effectively, and thereby arose the difficulty with Germany, the outcome of which was the sinking of the Crete-a-Pieirot.
Besides Admiral Killick, whose father was an Englishman and his mother a Haytian, there were three English officers among the personnel of the gunboat—Mr Oxley, the second commander, Mi' Cree, the chief engineer, and the first commander, who, however, had been ill, and was put ashore the day before the disaster in order to recuperate. They were employed under contract to woik the vessel.
One of my informants thus relates the storv :
" On September 2nd the Crete-a-Pierrot stopped the Gorman steamer Markomannia, and seized the arms and ammunition that she was carrying ta Cape Haytien for General Nord Alexi's army, but beyond taking these arms the Crete-a-Pierrot did not mole3t the German steamer. The English officer* on board the Crete-a-Pierrot drew Admiral Killick's attention to the fact that as he had not complied with international law as regards making the blockade of the Cape constant and effective he had no- right to interfere with foreign commerce, but he replied that he 'knew his business.'
" The Crete-a-Pierrot then proceeded to Gonaives, arriving there on September 4th, and having been running constantly for over three months. As the boilers had to be examined the fires were put out. On the morning of September 6th Admiral Killick invited xis to breakfast at his house. He had no idea that the ship would be interfered with; in fact, he received that very morning a message to the effect that both Germany and the United States would remain neutral. On receiving this cheering news the admiral said to us : ' This is excellent news; we will have a grog on tie strength of it.'
" We were all ashore when the German cruiser Panther fired the first gun at 11.30 a.m., having entered the port with no flag flying, only hoisting her colours when close to the Crete-a-Pierrot, simultaneously with two signals which the people aboard the Crete-a-Pierrot could not read, there being no code-book on board.
"Every one hurried to return to the Crete-a-Pierrot, and Admiral Killick immediately sent an officer to the Panther to learn the captain's intentions. The offi' cer returned in a few minutes, and reported that, the German captain refused to hold any conversation, but that he gave' the crew five miimt.es to abandon and surrender the ship. At this time the Panther was abreast of and about fiftyyards distant from the Crete-a-Pierrot, and all her guns were manned and trained on the Crete-a-Pierrot. On first receiving the message Admiral Killick gave orders to charge all the guns and prepare to fight the ship, for which tvery one on; hoard was ready, but before these orders could be executed Killick changed his mind. "He was evidently torn by conflicting emotions. He did not care one iota for saving his life, but he thought if he fought the German ship he would probably endanger the independence of his country by calling down the wrath of the-mighty Germain Empire. Yet had he had steam up and fought he could have given a good account of himself, since the Crete-a-Pierrot was far more powerfully armed than the Panther. . y "So with men carrying barrels of paraffin he descended the forward hatch and poured the inflammable oil over everything and set fire to it. The t crew then became demoralised. 'Do not burn us, ad,miral,' they cried; 'let us fight, but don't ask us to be burned to death.' "Admiral Killick then gave orders for the crew to abandon the ship. Fortunately, there was a light raft alongside, into which the majority of the men embarked, otherwise there would have been great loss of life, as there were only three small boats to take the craw, consistang of 142 souls, ashore. "All endeavours to persuade the Admiral also to leave were in vain. He would never be taken by the Germans, he said. He stood on the deck of the burning gunboat revolver in hand and warned us to' get away. "As the last boat .pushed off an explosion occurred aft, «nd blew np the poop, at the same time setting fire to the ship. This explosion was undoubtedly caused by Admiral Killick firing his revolver into a charge of gunpowder in. his own cabin, where he had. placed a number of kegs of powder in readiness for an emergency of this kind. He had frequently declared his intention of blowing up the ship rather than gurrsnder.
" The Panther immediately reopened with her big guns, and also with her VickersMaxims, bullets from which spattered the water around the boats pulling for the shore, the crews throwing themselves into the bottoms of the boats until the firing relaxed, when all hands landed. " Thinking that possibly some one besides, Admiral Killick had been left on board, I put off again with a boy in a boat, and returned to the Crete-a-Pierrot. On nearing the ship I observed, two men in the water, and the third engineer clinging to the ship's side.. These we succeeded in saving.
" During all this time explosions were occurring on the doomed gunboat, while the German, cruiser kept up a rapid fire; hut even at the short range many' shells failed to pierce the unarmoured side of the vessel. Having, so far as we knew, saved all hut the heroic admiral, we had nothing to do but to return to the shore, from which, shortly afterwards, we witnessed a tremendous e xpiosion, caused either by a torpedo or a shell fired from the Panther into the forward magazine of the Crete-a-Pierrot. The boiler at the same time exploded, the ship heeling over and sinking, the topwoTks on the starboard side alone remaining above water. The. Panther ceased firing and in a few minutes left the port, leaving the white inhabitants, both Germans and others, in considerable danger of their lives. " General Firman sent police to protect the German Consulate, and took all means to maintain order among the infuriated people. It afterwards appeared that there "were four killed on the Crete-a-Pierrot, inclttdicg Admiral Killick, the others being the doctor and two sailors. During all this time, by order of Admiral Killick, not a shot from gun or rifle was fired from the Crete-a-Pierrot, some of her guns exploding themselves as the fire reached them.
"It is fortunate that the Panther did not carry out her plans a day or two earlier. Had she done so, the loss of life would have been much greater. We had just landed a large number of prisoners and also the English commander. We ourselves escaped with nothing but our lives and what we stood up in."
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Timaru Herald, Timaru Herald, Volume LXXVIII, Issue 11938, 12 December 1902
THE SUNKEN GUNBOAT. Timaru Herald, Volume LXXVIII, Issue 11938, 12 December 1902
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