In Hong Kong’s Marine Court on the 28 October 1921, the Magistrate, Lieutenant Conway Hake RNR gave his judgement in the case in which John Walter Edward Drake, Junior Engineer Officer of RFA Pearleaf was charged at the instance of the Master, Alfred S Leech RFA with absenting himself without leave from his duty in the engine room or stokehold at 1am on 16 October 1921 under the Transport Discipline Regulations

 

In Hong Kong’s Marine Court on the 28 October 1921, the Magistrate, Lieutenant Conway Hake RNR gave his judgement in the case in which John Walter Edward Drake, Junior Engineer Officer of RFA Pearleaf was charged at the instance of the Master, Alfred S Leech RFA with absenting himself without leave from his duty in the engine room or stokehold at 1am on 16 October 1921 under the Transport Discipline Regulations

 

  Pearleaf date and location unknown

RFA Pearleaf (1)

 

Mr D J Lewis appeared for Captain Leech and Mr A H Crew for the defendant who pleaded Not Guilty. 

Mr Lewis said the Pearleaf was at six hours notice for sea. At 1a.m. on the 16th the Chief Engineer came on board from Blue Buildings in a sampan. He noticed thick black smoke coming from the funnel, which should not happen. When he went onboard he went to the ventilator and saw the stoker and asked him where the engineer was. The stoker said “no savee”. The Chief and 2nd Engineer went aft and found the defendant asleep in a deck chair on the poop. The Chief Engineer shook him and woke him up. The defendant expressed his regret, presumably for being asleep. The Chief Engineer sent him back to his duty and in due course reported the matter to the Captain who made an entry in the log. Shown the entry the defendant had nothing to say.

Captain Alfred Leech gave evidence of reading to the defendant the entry in the log. The defendant said he had no answer. He explained that Pearleaf was an Admiralty tanker and burned fuel oil

  Captain Alfred S Leech

Captain Alfred S Leech RFA

 

Mr Crew asked Captain Leech if the Junior Engineer denied the charge but wished to make no statement. - Yes  

 CEO Christopher T Brockbank

Chief Engineer Christopher T Brockbank RFA

 

Chief Engineer Christopher Tom Brockbank RFA gave evidence of seeing smoke coming from the funnel. This lasted for ten to fifteen minutes which was an unusually long time. One engineer and one stoker were in charge at one time. Excessive smoke was preventable by ordinary care. When he went on board he saw the fireman and asked where the engineer was – the Chinese fireman replied “no savee”. He called the 2nd engineer and asked who the engineer on duty was. The 2nd engineer replied “Drake”. They went together and found him in a deck chair asleep. More care was required in an oil-burning ship. Serious danger attended shortage of water in the boilers and there was risk of explosion and loss of life. Mr Brockbank said he was on the same terms with the defendant as with the other engineers. The defendant had been warned on a previous occasion for not being on watch and his excuse then was that he was not called. 

Cross examined by Mr Crew the Chief Engineer denied having a good deal to drink that night. If the Civil Service club book showed he had signed for eleven drinks then he supposed he did so but that did not mean he himself had consumed that amount of liquor. There was no objection to an officer leaving the stokehold for two or three minutes provided he kept awake and returned within a reasonable time. He denied finding Drake drinking cocoa on the poop at 3.30am to 4am.

2nd Engineer Fred Kitchen gave evidence that when the Chief Engineer came aboard at 1am he was sober. In fact, he said, he had never seen him drunk. 

Junior Engineer Officer Drake giving evidence said he went on duty at midnight to stand his watch from 12 to 4. He went below and saw everything was in proper condition. He came up at 3.30am and went to the poop to drink cocoa. The Chief Engineer came aboard and said the fireman was asleep and the funnel was smoking. He looked at the funnel and saw a lot of smoke.  He went below and found that this was owing to lighting the fires in the wing boiler. This was usually done at 3.30am. He told the court he had seen the Chief Engineer drunk on numerous occasions 

When crossed examined by the prosecutor Mr Drake could not explain by two senior engineer officers should conspire against him. Their evidence, however, was absolutely false.

Junior Engineer Thomas E Lismore RFA gave evidence that when he returned to the Pearleaf at about 1am that night he saw no smoke what so ever. He further stated when cross examined that the Chief Engineer had no grudge against anyone, but the way the engineers were treated generally was not good. 

Mr Lewis in his final statement to the Court contended that the charge had been absolutely proved. The Chief Engineer was a senior officer and if the charge was a trumped up one it amounted to criminal conduct part on his part. The only suggestion of drunkenness in connection with the Chief Engineer was an unsupported charge wilfully made by Drake in order to vindicate himself

Mr Crew addressing the Court said it was a question who was telling the truth. He thought that if Drake had done what he was accused of he would have pleased Guilty and asked for leniency. Mr Crew suggested that the defendant was being victimised

The charge was found proved but the magistrate, taking into consideration the inexperience of the defendant thought the case would be met by a fine of $50 with the alternative of four weeks imprisonment without hard labour.

 

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