HC Deb 18 June 1874 vol 220 cc72-4

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty, Whether, it is true that in the month of November last the yellow fever broke out on board Her Majesty's Ship "Aboukir" at Port Royal, and that in a crew of two hundred and forty Europeans there were a hundred and twenty cases of the fever, twenty-one of which were fatal; whether the ship was then cleaned out and the crew sent to the North; that now orders have been despatched for their return to the "Aboukir" at a season when the fever is likely to break out again, and that this has been done in opposition to the opinion of the medical authorities; whether this ship was surveyed and condemned twelve months ago, the officers who conducted the survey recommending, on sanitary grounds, that she should be either burnt or sunk; and, whether the Admiralty are in a position to send out any ship to replace her?


, in reply, said, reports of the outbreak of yellow fever on board the Aboukir were received at the Admiralty at the end of December last. Previous to the receipt of this intelligence a body of supernumeraries, numbering 140, had been sent to Jamaica en route to the Pacific Station. At the time of the outbreak, which was caused by a marine returning from leave—yellow fever being prevalent in the town of Kingston—there were about 283 officers and men on board. Besides cases of ordinary fever, 33 cases of yellow fever occurred, of which 21 in all were fatal, some of these being seamen living on shore as the Commodore's boat's crew. On receipt of the news of the outbreak of fever, orders were sent on the 1st of January last by telegraph to the Commodore at Jamaica to move the officers and men into barracks or tents on shore, and, if necessary, to charter a ship to take the sick to Halifax or Bermuda. Previous, however, to the receipt of these orders, the Commodore had considered it expedient to embark the officers and men of the Aboukir on board Her Majesty's Ships Sphinx, Niobe, and Seagull, and to send them to the northern division of the station. The Commodore also adopted vigorous measures for cleansing, fumigating, and ventilating the ship, and on the return on the 27th of April of the Sphinx with the regular crew of the Aboukir, the supernumeraries having gone on to their destination, he was of opinion that they might without danger be re-embarked in their own ship, in which opinion the Deputy Inspector of Hospitals concurred. No order, however, for their re-embarkation had been sent from England. At the end of May the Commodore reported that, although objections had been offered by the new Deputy Inspector General of Hospitals and the Staff Surgeon of the ship to the re-embarkation of the crew, which had been carried out with the concurrence of the previous Deputy Inspector, he was of opinion that there was no danger of a fresh outbreak; but that the vessel was not permanently fit for a receiving ship, and that fresh cases of fever might occur at the unhealthy season of the year. After due consideration of this Report, it was decided to prepare Her Majesty's Ship Urgent with the utmost despatch to take the place of the Aboukir, and instructions were sent by the last mail to the Commodore, in case of any fresh outbreak, to remove the crew to quarters on shore, and to employ native seamen, who were not so susceptible of infection, as far as possible on the duties of the ship. The ship was surveyed in March, 1873, was reported unfit to go to sea, and the surveying officers recommended that as soon as relieved she should be sold. In a subsequent Report of the 10th of May, 1873, she was reported to be healthy and sweet.