Daily Event for December 6

December 6, 1875: The passenger liner Deutschland, sailing from Bremen to New York, crashed on to Kentish Knock Shoal near Harwich, England. For the over three hundred people on board this was only the beginning. The storm that caused the wreck worsened that night. Just after hitting the shoal the Captain ordered the ships engines to be put full speed astern, the strain caused the propeller shaft to break leaving the ship unable to free herself.

The three hundred and twenty five foot long North German Lloyd liner lay helpless in the storm while the people onboard began to panic. Launching the boats turned out to be a disaster in itself. At lease two boats made it into the water but, both capsized. One was righted and people tried to board but, the storm, still raging, caused the crew to loose control of the boat and it drifted away with only three on board. Only one was still alive when the boat reached shore.

For those remaining the situation deteriorated. The remainder of the boats were destroyed by the waves and help was unable to reach the ship. The Captain ordered all on board to take shelter. Many climbed the rigging, which seemed to be the best place to survive. This was a deadly mistake as many people froze to death in the rigging or became so cold they could no longer hold on falling to their deaths.

The next day the tug Liverpool managed to reach the stricken ship. The scene on the Deutschland was grim. Dozens of frozen bodies scattered around the ship and others barely alive after being in the elements for longer than a day. The tug and several fishing boats managed to rescue about one hundred and fifty five people. However, it is reported that the men on the fishing boats helped themselves to much of the valuable fixtures, furniture and other items on the Deutschland. Even worse it was said they also stripped the bodies of clothing and valuables. Looting the ship before helping the survivors. Over one hundred and fifty people died in the disaster.

© 2005 Michael W. Pocock