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120 lives saved from shipwreck

Year 1866

Read by Talal Malik – Ambassador, Royal Humane Society

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June 20, 1866

The ” Diamond ” of Calcutta, wrecked at Breach Candy, near Bombay.

The ship ” Diamond ” of Calcutta, from Jeddo for Calcutta, having on board the master, his wife, the mate, and another European, a crew of 47 Lascars, about 400 passengers (Mahommedan pilgrims), and a cargo of salt, experienced bad weather, and being dismasted, bore up for Bombay. About noon on the 20th June 1866, she was observed passing the Bombay light-house, but as it was blowing heavily, assistance could not be given to her, and she drifted on to the rocks at Breach Candy. A heavy sea was breaking over them at the time, the place being quite exposed to the force of the north-west monsoon.

Attempts were at once made by the people on the spot to render assistance, which were not then successful ; but on the two following days they were renewed, and by the unceasing exertions of those who took part in rendering assistance, the whole of the passengers and crew who remained on board (some having jumped overboard and swum ashore, or reached it by means of spars, etc., and some having lost their lives in the attempt), were safely landed.

The rescue of the shipwrecked persons was attended with much difficulty and danger, as, in consequence of the heavy sea breaking on the beach, several of the boats were capsized and damaged.

Amongst a large number of persons who rendered much valuable assistance on this occasion, two gentlemen, viz., Messrs. J. Lake, of the Bombay Reclamation Company’s Works, and W. H. Millitt, third officer on board the Peninsular and Oriental Company’s Steamship “E ,” made themselves conspicuous by their gallantry. Mr. Lake took command of the first boat that put off to the wreck on the 20th June. The boat was capsized, but the crew were saved by clinging to her. He also formed one of the crew of another boat which made an attempt to board the wreck on the following day, but which became waterlogged and unmanageable, and was driven on shore, where she was stove. The boat was repaired, and Mr. Lake again went in her. This time she succeeded in reaching the wreck ; Mr. Lake volunteered to go on board for the purpose of giving confidence to the shipwrecked people. He went on board and rendered great service in assisting the almost helpless passengers into the boat. When it became dark he swam ashore, promising to go on board next day. At daybreak he went off again in a surf-boat, and remained for some hours exerting himself in putting the passengers over the ship’s side, until all had left the wreck.

Mr. Millitt was in command of a life-boat sent overland to the scene of the wreck by the Superintendent of the Peninsular and Oriental Company at Bombay. Upon her. arrival on the 21st June, Mr. Millitt, accompanied by Mr.H. B. Greams, the Company’s Dockmaster, and a crew of twelve Chinamen, proceeded in her to the wreck, and in two trips brought ashore some of the passengers.

On the following day he made seven trips, and succeeded in landing in safety altogether 120 people.

During the time he was engaged in this service the sea was very heavy, and the boat was continually filled with water. On two trips, Mr. Millitt was washed out of the boat, and was with difficulty saved, but he continued his work until the last passenger was landed.

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