A Naval Scandal of 1871: The Loss of HMS Magaera
The running aground and loss of the Magaera at St Paul’s Island and the subsequent casting away of the crew for over two months was the final act of a story of neglect and incompetence that ran from dockyard to high Government. The ship was designed as an early iron warship but the inferior quality of the material used precluded its use as such, and it was relegated to troop and stores duties. Procedures for inhibiting rust using cements were introduced in several ships, but were discontinued as unsuitable and withdrawn – except in the Magaera, and it rusted through. The continuing deterioration of the ship came in a time of swinging Government cuts and a difficult period of Admiralty administration that left supervision of the ship’s safety badly neglected despite numerous reports and complaints. The ensuing investigations exonerated the captain but severely castigated the administration.