These broadside sheets relate the sad tales of ships that went down on voyages to and from Australia

of interest

Read Chapter II from The Uncommercial Traveller by Charles Dickens. In it he describes the wreck of the Royal Charter.


Shipwreck Broadsides

© name

Royal Charter

The Loss of the Royal Charter   (50kb)

Come all you tender christians
And here my mournful theme;
While I relate the hardships great,
Upon the watery main.
The steamship Royal Charter,
From Australia she set sail;
In hopes to reach old England
With a sweet and pleasant gale.

On the 25th October 1859, bound for Liverpool and close to the end of its long voyage from Melbourne, the Royal Charter was lost off Moelfre on the island of Anglesey. She was was carrying gold from the Australian goldfield valued at £320,000 and four hundred and fifty two passengers and crew, when she sailed into the worst storm that had occurred in the Irish Sea during the seventeenth century. It was to become the worst shipwreck in Welsh history. Twenty eight local men formed a human chain to save 18 of the 376 passengers, 5 of 11 riggers working their passage home, and only 18 of more than 100 crew. None of the officers survived.

Loss of the Amphitrite    (74 kb)

Come all you gallant Englishmen who ramble at your ease,
While I do unfold the horrors and dangers of the seas;
It's of a ship, the Amphitrite, with a hundred and eight females,
And children, crew and cargo, bound for New South Wales.

The Amphitrite convict ship sailed for New South Wales from Woolwich on August 25 1833 carrying 108 female convicts, 12 children, and a crew of 16. She ran aground near Boulogne and as the Captain refused assistance, only three sailors survived. In Australia's transportation history only five convict transports were lost with a total death toll of 602 convicts and their children.

"The female convicts who were battened down under the hatches, on the vessel running aground, broke away the half deck hatch, and frantic, rushed on the deck. Of course they entreated the captain and surgeon to let them get ashore in the long-boat, but they were not listened to, as the captain and surgeon did not feel themselves authorised to liberate prisoners committed to their care.

About seven o'clock the flood tide began. The crew, seeing that there were no hopes, clung to the rigging. The poor 108 women and 12 children remained on deck, uttering the most piteous cries. The vessel was about three quarters of a mile from shore, and no more. Owen, one of the men saved, thinks that the women remained on deck in this state about an hour and a half! "
[source: broadside - 152 kb]

The Melancholy Loss of the Ship, Tagus    (85kb)

The loss of the Tagus, an Emigrant Ship, on her passage from London to Sidney (sic), off the coast of Boulogne.

When the ship sank, the shrieks of the women and children, mingling with the oaring of the angry waves; the hissing and crackling of the fire rent the clements, and was truly dismal, until the victims were swallowed up by the remoreseless waves and sank to te bottom of the deep.

From the Port of London the Tagas did depart
With near two hundred emigrants, with blythe and joyous hearts
But oh! how sad a tale to tell, while on the boistrous wave,
One hundred and ninety eight poor souls meet with a watery grave.

The British AdmiralThe British Admiral   (81kb)

Who have friends or relations at sea,
I pray give attention and listen to me,
'Tis a sorrowful story that now must be told,
Of the dangers awaiting the emigrant bold;
By hardships in England he's driven from home,
Over the wild waters with his family to roam,
And it too often happens when gone from our shore,
They are shipwrecked at sea, and return here no more.

    Out on the ocean on the deep sea,
    The Emigrant Steamer was their destiny.
    Eighty poor souls with hearts true and Brave,
    In the depths of the ocean have now found a grave.

The Liverpool steamer, The British Admiral, bound for Australia, struck on the rocks at King Island, Bass's Straights (sic), on the 25th of May, 1874, when out of 89 all told, 80 were drowned.

[thanks to Benjamin Tubb for the use of this MIDI file of Driven From Home from his website at Public Domain Music]

The Wreck of the Mary Ann    (40 kb)

The wreck of the Mary Ann took place on Wednesday October 24 in Red Wharf Bay, on the coast of Wales, with the loss of 400 lives.

Good people now all attend to me,
While I relate this calamity;
The dreadful wreck near Bangor town,
Of the "Mary Ann" while homeward bound.

From far Australia with a pleasant gale,
The "Mary Ann" for England sail'd,
With her human cargo, but the fates did rule,
She never more should reach Liverpool.

The Loss of the London    (37 kb)
Gustavus Vaughan Brooke
The S.S. London left Plymouth for Australia on 1 January 1866 and went down in a storm ten days later. On board was the Shakespearean actor, Gustavus Vaughan Brooke, who was returning to Australia for a two year contract. "Brooke toiled bravely at the pumps of the sinking vessel, and when all hope was gone was seen standing composedly by the companion way. As the only surviving boat pulled away he called 'Give my last farewell to the people of Melbourne'."

The sea ran high, the winds were wild,
As thro' the waves the London toiled.
Each lip was blanched, and terror there,
Filled e'en the bravest heart with care;
But as she passed through storm and rain,
And tried to conquer, but in vain;
For with two hundred souls or more,
The London sank near a foreign shore.

The Wreck of the London    (32 kb)

Now I'm going to say a word of the shipwreck that occurred,
On board the steamship "London", which no doubt you all have heard,
It is fearful to tell of the sorrows that befel,
Of this ill-fated vessel and the passengers as well,
Oh, they danced with right good glee, as they sailed out on the sea!
Never dreaming for a moment but safe landed they would be;
But their hopes they soon were blighted as they looked both far and wide,
When they found their chance was hopeless in the fearful running tide.

The Wreck of the Northfleet    (44 kb)

NorthfleetOn 22nd Jan.1873 The Northfleet was lying at anchor off Dungeness. There were 379 persons on board, most of whom were railway workers on passage to Tasmania to construct the Tasmanian railway. Her cargo was mainly railway iron. Her lights were burning brightly and the night was clear. At about 10.30pm, the Spanish steamer Murillo, 300 tons, Capt. Berrute collided at speed with the anchored ship, most of the passengers being asleep below. The Northfleet was struck amidships and cut down to the waterline, the Murillo without waiting to ascertain the extent of the damage made off in the darkness. . Of those on board, 320 were drowned including the Captain.
[source: Dictionary of Disasters at Sea by C. Hocking]

You have heard of the wreck of the London, and the Captain, too, as well,
Those two ill-fated vessels which so sorrowful did tell,
But the Northfleet lay off Dungeness, at anchor, safe and sound,
With 412 souls on board, to New Zealand they were bound!
The flower of England's country, that touil with the spade,
Were these poor emigrants, At least so I've heard said,
To cut the new Tasmania line, it was their good intent,
When they by a foreign steamer to a watery grave were sent.

Kapunda    (72 kb)

The Kapunda left London, on December 11th 1886 for Freemantle, Western Australia. There were 313 persons on board, namely crew of 41 and 272 passengers. They were mostly poor people from the agricultural districts, including a good many Scotch and Irish. Many of them were "nominated" emigrants, sent for by friends already in the colony, others were going to help in making a railway from Beverley to Albany. On January 20 1887 off the Brazils, the Kapunda came into collision with a British barque named Ada Melmore, of Belfast and sank in five minutes. Two persons belonging to the latter vessel were drowned, while all the Kapunda's crew and passengers perished except sixteen persons.
Source: THE GRAPHIC Feb 5, 1887

While we're at peace at home how little here is known,
Of the trials and dangers of the sea,
When waves run mountains high and perhaps no help is nigh,
And ship wrecked the crew are doomed to be,
The sails to pieces torn and every hope is gone,
And the gallant ship's timbers they sever.
With one despairing cry brave men alas must die,
The waves close over them forever.