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° Yangzhou ° Xiamen ° Pirates in the China Seas
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PiratesDecember 19, 1890, North China Herald
THE NAMOA TRAGEDY.
By the Canton on Tuesday we received some particulars of the piracy on board the Namoa, which was briefly referred to in our telegram on Thursday last.
The Namoa was to have left Hongkong on Tuesday week but was postponed till daylight next day. She had on board among her passengers Chinese returning to their homes from Australia and America, some of whom had probably saved considerable sums of money. There was also on board a Mr. Petersen, a Customs lightkeeper who was returning to the Lamock Lighthouse. At noon the captain and officer not on duty went to tiffin, but Mr. Petersen, who was unwell, was lying down in a long chair in the after part of the steamer when some Chinese went aft and shot him dead. The Captain came up from the saloon to see what was the cause of the firing when he also was shot dead.
Chinese Pirate Boat at Canton
The Chinese then threw a stinkpot down the saloon where apparently the Chief Engineer was. Another gang of pirates were forward and they seized the second officer who was on the bridge, and fastened the chief officer in his room leaving two men with arms outside to prevent his getting out. Some more of them proceeded to the mess room and fired at the second engineer who was having tiffin, two bullets lodging in his arm.
Orders of the pirates went to the engine room where the third engineer had been on watch, but when he heard the firing, he hid himself and the pirates could not find him; the third mate also hid himself. The pirates got hold of the No. 1 fireman and holding revolvers over him made him look after the engines and attend to the telegraph, which was worked by the pirates who had taken charge of the bridge. Having thus got entire control, the pirates proceeded to loot the ship. They took the treasure out of the treasure room and got together all the passengers' valuables. At this time, the steamer had been turned round, and under the direction of the pirates was making for Mirs Bay, some thirty miles from Hongkong. The pirates drank all the liquors on board and when Mirs Bay was reached, they let go the steamer's anchor and whistled for junks to come off. These junks having come alongside, the pirates smashed all the steamer's boats, so that they should not be followed, and left the vessel with their plunder just as it was getting dark. The crew of the steamer then slipped the cable and made for Hongkong where they arrived on Thursday morning at daylight. The pirates were about forty-five in number, wore shirts of mail and were armed with revolvers and knives.
In addition to the Captain and passenger, one of the quarter masters was killed. It is reported that the pirates collected altogether about $100,000.
The Daily Press of the 11th inst. gives the following account: News of the most serious kind has this morning come to light, nothing less than the murder of two Europeans and a Malay on the high seas, and the wounding of six others, two of whom were Europeans. The particulars so far as can be gathered as yet, are as follows:
The coast steamer Namoa left Hongkong yesterday about eight o'clock, with, as- it turns out, a large gang of pirates among the passengers. After having been out five hours, the pirates seized the opportunity of the tiffin hour to begin their deadly work. One of the passengers, Mr. Petersen, lighthouse keeper, was on deck, not feeling very well. Fearing probably that he might give the alarm, the pirates at once fired at him and he fell dead with four bullets through the head. The pirates, keeping up a constant fire from the deck into the saloon, hemmed in the passengers at tiffin, who took refuge in their cabins. The pirates then induced Captain Pocock to come on deck to parley with them, but before he could reach the top of the companion he was shot through the right breast and died less than an hour afterward. One of the quartermasters was shot and thrown overboard and the third mate, second engineer, two quartermasters, and two cooks were also shot at and wounded more or less severely. On promise of their lives being spared the passengers and officers allowed themselves to be placed in the Captain's cabin, where they were kept under a strong guard while the pirates took all the money and valuables belonging to the passengers, the cargo being left untouched. The pirates left the ship in junks about nine o'clock and the officers regaining charge brought her back to Hongkong, where she arrived about eight o clock this morning.
According to Hongkong papers detailed accounts of the piracy on board the Namoa, it appears that the vessel left Hongkong, bound for the coast ports, at 8 o'clock on Wednesday morning, Dec. 10, with a general cargo, and having on board about 250 Chinese passengers and five European passengers. The names of the European passengers were Captain Saunders, Messrs. E. K. Chandler, Petersen, C. E. Mehta, and G. M. Wales. Among the Chinese passengers were a number of Chinamen returning from the Straits and California with the savings of many years. From what has been learned since, it appears that this fact must have become known to a band of desperadoes, who made their arrangements accordingly. This band, which it is estimated numbered between fifty and sixty, went on board with the other passengers without arousing the slightest suspicion. About one o'clock, that is after steaming about five hours and when the ship would be about 40 to 50 miles from Hongkong, the passengers sat down to tiffin. They had been seated scarcely a quarter of an hour, when at a given signal the band of pirates rushed on deck, and dividing themselves into four parties, covered the officers' and engineers' quarters in the fore part of the ship, the engine room, the bridge and the saloon, respectively. The pirates were all armed with revolvers and cutlasses and appeared to be acting under the orders of a leader who is described as being a tall man, above the average height of Chinamen, and better dressed than the remainder of the band. They had changed the dress in which they came on board for a kind of uniform, not unlike that worn by Chinese soldiers.
Although the attack on the four parts of the ship just named appears to have been carried out almost simultaneously, the attack on the officers' and engineers' quarters seems to have commenced a little in advance of the others. Here the second engineer and the second officer were at tiffin. Fire was immediately opened on them from the skylight, and stinkpots were thrown into the mess-room. One of the shots struck the second engineer, Mr. Ramsay, in the arm, and rushing out of the mess-room he took refuge in the engine room. The second officer, who keeps the key of the treasure room, was then taken prisoner by the pirates, who seemed throughout to have had a most thorough acquaintance with the regulations and routine of the vessel.
Having secured their man, the pirates marched him under guard to the treasure room, which being opened they found, much to their chagrin, to be completely empty, a somewhat unusual occurrence, it is understood, on these steamers, and one which doubtless the pirates were unprepared to find. While this search was being carried on the other attacks were progressing in the various parts of the ship. One of the passengers, Mr. Petersen, who was apparently somewhat unwell, had not gone down to tiffin in the saloon with the other passengers, but was taking his tiffin on deck. This trivial circumstance doubtless cost him his life. Fearing, probably, that he, seeing all that was going on, might raise an alarm and thus frustrate their diabolical inten tions, the pirates, as soon as they appeared on deck, without a word of parley, fired on the unfortunate man, who fell almost instantly dead with four bullets in his head. The pirates then fired shots into the saloon, carrying as can be easily imagined the greatest consternation among the assembled passengers by this unexpected attack. The leader, who spoke "pidgin" English, then called out to Captain Pocock, telling him that it was the intention of the band to rob all the passengers on board, and asking him to come on deck and make arrangements with them, promising that he should escape unhurt. Captain Pocock immediately went up the companion, but before he could reach the deck he was shot through the right breast. He managed to stagger into his cabin, where he died at 2.30 p.m. On seeing the captain shot the passengers rushed to their cabins and shut themselves in. The pirates endeavoured for some time to drive them out by firing into the saloon and throwing stinkpots down, and also, probably with a view to frighten them rather than with any idea of effecting an entrance that way, by cutting partially through the deck over several of the cabins.
Finding their efforts to get the passengers out of their cabins futile, the pirates sent down the second officer, whom they still detained as a prisoner, to tell the passengers, that if they came out and went into the captain's cabin and remained quietly there, they would be unmolested and the pirates would leave the ship at 8 p.m. On the strength of this promise the passengers left their cabins and proceeded under a guard to the captain's cabin, where they were placed under charge of a sentry. They were treated in every instance with but scant courtesy, being hustled into the cabin in the most summary way, while some of the less fortunate officers and engineers who were brought to the cabin later, after the pirates had routed them from their various places of refuge, were treated with every kind of contumely and abuse, their captors, not content with jeering at them and threatening them, striking them with the flat of their swords and spitting in their faces. These insults were naturally the more galling inasmuch as the victims were powerless to resent them.
The pirates in their well-planned scheme had taken the precaution, in the first instant of the attack, to seize the arms belonging to the ship, which were placed at the head of the companion, and those on board were thus left without an arm of any kind with which to resist the desperate attack made on them. Before the passengers were allowed to enter the captain's cabin all the valuables on their persons, such as rings, watches, studs, &c, were taken from them. In the mean time the gangs in charge of the engine room and bridge were carrying out their orders to the letter. A quartermaster, a Malay, stationed on deck, was promptly shot through the head and his body ruthlessly thrown overboard, it is said before life was extinct. Two other quartermasters, also Malays, were shot in their bunks, apparently out of mere wantonness, as were two of the ship's cooks, although neither of these four were killed. One of the quartermasters has, however, since died from the effects of his wound.
A View of Victoria, Hong Kong, with the Hulk H.M.S. Princess Charlotte
The chief engineer, Mr. Mackintosh, was taking tiffin in his room. On hearing the shots fired he rushed out and made for the captain's cabin, several shots being fired at him en route, but after running some hairbreadth escapes he managed to reach the cabin unhurt, and was not further interfered with.
The object of the pirates now appears to have been to get all the Europeans on board into the captain's cabin and secure them there, and they immediately therefore set about getting the remainder there. The third mate, Mr. Eddy, who was on the bridge when the attack commenced, was fired at, and jumping from the bridge escaped to the engine room, followed by a number of the pirates, who fired on him, a shot striking him in the arm just as he reached it. The three Europeans in the engine room the third mate second engineer, (Mr. Ramsay), and the third engineer, (Mr. Jones) hid themselves under the boilers. The pirates, therefore, sent the second mate to tell these officers that if they came up on deck no harm would be done to them. The men came up and after being searched to see if they had any arms with them, were escorted to the captain's cabin, which, all the Europeans being now safely placed therein, was nailed up by the means of spars, while a guard of four men was placed round it, who by the occasional clicking of their revolvers and rattling of their cutlasses on the verandahs reminded their prisoners of what they had to expect if any noise were made or escape attempted. In this latest type of the "black hole" the Europeans remained prisoners for eight hours, and their sufferings at that time may be imagined, as described by one of the party, as nothing less than terrible. The cabin is only an ordinary sized one, and into this were huddled eleven persons, one, the unfortunate captain, soon becoming a corpse. To the anxiety of mind caused by the uncertainty of their fate and the dying agonies of their ill-fated companion were added the physical suffenigs consequent on the want of fresh air, the unfortunate prisoners not being allowed to open a window even to allow of ventilation.
Having thus secured the Europeans, the pirates drove the Chinese passengers into the fore and after saloons and kept them there under a strong guard. The desperadoes now took charge of the Bhip. Some of their number took command of the bridge and wheel, while the firemen were made to perform their duties under threats of death for disobedience. The ship was kept going ahead till about 4.30 p.m., when she was turned right about face and brought back close to Pinghoi, as near as possible her position when the attack commenced at 1 p.m. Tne attack appears to have lasted for about an hour, by which time all the Europeans and the Chinese passengers had been secured. The pirates then began their work of plunder, for which purpose they utilised the labour of the crew. The pirates contented themselves with patrolling the deck, armed each with a couple of revolvers, while the crew were made to bring the baggage on deck, break it open and remove, under direction of the pirates, all money and such other articles as were considered by them of value.
Pinghoi was reached about 7.30 p.m. On approaching this port the pirates put out the lights, but blew two blasts on the whistle as a signal. This was answered by some junks, six in number, who were evidently awaiting their arrival, and who signalled back to those on the vessel by throwing blue lights on the water. On seeing that everything was in readiness, the anchor was let go, and the work of transferring the loot from the ship to the junks commenced. This labour was per formed by the crew of the Namoa assisted by the crew of the junks and occupied about an hour. It is a somewhat curious feature, seeing that they had the ship at their mercy for such a length of time, that no attempt was made to remove any of the cargo. In addition to the general cargo there were some eighty chests of opium on board, but none of this was touched, the hatches never being even lifted off the hold. It may be that the pirates thought it as well to run no further risks seeing that they had made such a good haul.
The amount of plunder they cleared is variously estimated at from $20,000 to $40,000, but from a remark made by one of the pirates and overheard by one of the seamen, it appears that the former amount is nearer the mark. Having completed their transhipment the pirates seated themselves on the deck and regaled themselves with a hearty spread. They then damaged the windlass 90' that the anchor could not be lifted, knocked holes in the lifeboats, threw the sidelights overboard, and made the hrenien draw the tires. Having thus made all risk of their being followed well nigh impossible and rendered the escape of the ship extremely difficult, the band left, after having thrown a bag containing about $200 to the firemen. As soon as the pirates had left the ship, which was about 9 p.m., the imprisoned Europeans were notified of the fact by some of the firemen. They burst open the cabin immediately, the officers and engineers at once set to work to get the ship ready for sea, the anchor was slipped, and in a quarter of an hour the ship was steaming towards Hongkong, where she arrived about eight o'clock the next morning. The police went on board on her arrival, and the wounded men were removed to the Hospital, and shortly afterwards the bodies of Captain Pocock and Mr. Petersen were brought ashore and taken to the mortuary.
Mr. E. K. Chandler, of Messrs. Watson & Co.'s, who was one of the passengers on board, has given the following account:
Fleet of Tea-Ships in the China Sea. c.1880
We left Hongkong about eight o'clock on Wednesday morning and up to the time of the attack nothing was noticed by any one to create suspicion. It was the absence of any warning of what was going to occur that found us in such an unprepared state and put us so much at their mercy. Shortly before the attack one of the officers noticed a number of Chinese come on deck with cigars in their mouths. From what we have since learned there is no doubt that these were the pirates, and that these cigars were used in some way as a signal. Although the fact at the time was noticed as unusual, it naturally was not thought enough of to arouse suspicion. Curiously enough as we went down to tiffin, Mr. Wales, one of the passengers, made some casual remark about the stand of carbines that was placed at the top of the cabin. The captain replied smilingly that they were a relic of the past, that they were frequently wanted years ago, but there was no use for them now. His remark came back painfully some hours afterwards to the memories of those who heard it.
Tiffin had only just commenced when the attack began by the firing of shots into the saloon through the skylight. One of the passengers, Mr. Petersen, who was sick and had not come down to tiffin, was the first to be shot. Four shots were-fired at him, two lodging in the upper part of the head and two in the lower. As soon as the pirates began firing, we all rushed to our cabins and bolted ourselves in. The pirates still remained at the skylight, and immediately a door opened, a shot was fired in that direction. I kept opening the door at intervals and trying to see what was going on, and every time I did so I was fired at. Fortunately the bullets struck the woodwork round the door and although I was fired at as nearly as I remember about half a dozen times I managed to escape. A stinkpot was then thrown at my door, which set fire to it, but I managed to put it out. Shortly afterward another was thrown, and although I managed to put it out my cabin became suffocating with the smoke from it. At the same time, I could hear the pirates chopping away at the deck, over my head, and fearing they were going to make an entrance that way, I thought it was about time to see if I could not get into a safer place, although by this time, seeing the determined way in which they kept, firing, I had begun to think it was about all over with us. However, I made a rush for it and got from my cabin into the bathroom, where I found Captain Saunders, another of the passengers. We bolted ourselves in, and the pirates made several attempts to drive us out. We were not far from land at this time, and Captain Saunders and I agreed that if the pirates succeeded in getting into the room we would jump through the port and endeavour to swim ashore.
In the meantime the pirates had sent down one of the ship's boys to tell Captain Pocock that they wanted the money and valuables of all those on board and they wanted him to come on deck and show them where to get them. At first Captain Pocock refused to come on deck. They again sent down to him and promised if he would come on deck and give up the valuables he should not be touched. The captain, then went up the companion, but before he could reach the top he was shot by one of the pirates in the right breast. He managed to get into his cabin, and throw himself on his bed. The pirates then sent clown to us and promised that if we came on deck and made no noise our lives would be spared. We accordingly came out of our cabins, and, surrounded by the pirates who held their pistols levelled at our heads and swords pointed at us, we were marched into the captain's cabin.
Before shutting us in they removed everything of any value that we had on us. They took all my money, my watch and chain, studs and even my pocket knife. Shortly after the passengers were placed in the captain's cabin the officers and engineers there by the pirates officer, who was on the attack occurred, had been shot in the arm while escaping to the engine room, and the second engineer had also been shot in the wrist. He was at tiffin in the foresaloon when the attack commenced and was fired at through the skylight. He immediately rushed to the engine room, and although the pirates fired on him they did not hit him again. He had a revolver with him and he tired, and I believe killed one of the pirates. He was the only one amongst us who had any arms at all. The pirates seized all those belonging to the ship with the exception of one sword, but as that would not have cut a piece of bread it was of no use to us. The second officer when he got into the engine room wanted to fix the hose and pour hot water on the pirates, but the firemen refused to assist him. When the pirates had driven all the Europeans into the captain's cabin they nailed up the door and put a sentry over us, and then drove the Chinese into the saloons. They then commenced to plunder all the passengers' baggage. There were ten of us in the captain's cabin, and the place soon became unbearable.
Captain Pocock, who was dying fast, was in great pain. He was conscious till the time he died, and although he bore up bravely I could see he was in great pain and he himself said several times that he was suffering greatly. After a lot of trouble we managed to get the pirates to give us some water, but as one of the sailors told us the pirates had poisoned it we were afraid to drink it. I don't know whether they really had poisoned it or not, Captain Pocock remained alive for about an hour after he was shot. He spoke to me continually of his wife and asked me to remember him to her. It was a terribly sad scene, a small window we could see a little of what was going on. We could see the pirates having the passengers boxes turned out.
preparing to attack.
The ship was kept steaming the whole time, but she was turned round a few hours after the attack began and brought back to very nearly the same spot as we were at when the attack was commenced. At one time I saw them have a number of tins of kerosene brought on deck, and it struck me that after having plundered the ship they were going to set her on fire. If such was their intention, however, they must have changed their minds, for they did not set fire to her. It was about seven o'clock when we got back to the spot from which we had started. It was close to a small island.
I noticed that a large fire was burning on the island, which could be seen for miles away and which no doubt served the pirates as a guide where to steer for. They had kept the firemen at work below, but had navigated the ship themselves. On arriving close to the island it would then be about seven o'clock they put out the lights and blew the whistle. This was the signal for a number of junks to come alongside and take off the plunder. This occupied some time and it was nearly nine o'clock when the pirates left. It is said that they took about $20,000 iu money and valuabes away. There were a numbe r of Chinese passengers on board returning from the Straits and other places to their native villages. It is supposed the pirates must have known of this and made their plans accordingly. As soon as the pirates left the firemen came up and knocked at the doors of our cabin to let us know. This first gave us a fresh scare as we thought it was the pirates coining again to attack us. As soon as we found out how matters stood we got out of the cabin. Then we found that the pirates had knocked holes in the bottoms of the boats, thrown the lights overboard, and broken the windlass so that we could not heave the anchor to. However, we slipped the anchor, and everything being got ready we started for Hongkong shortly after'nine o'clock. On our way dawn we ran into a junk and as far as we could see sunk her. We had some idea she was one of the junks that had taken off some of the plunder, but as we had no lights of course that was pure conjecture. We could only hope it was. We arrived in Hongkong about 8 o'clock this morning, when Dr. Bell and one of the doctors from a British man-df-war came off and attended to our wounded.
H.M.S was to leave Hongkong on the morning of the 12th for the scene of the attack, but it is to be feared that there is small chance of bringing any of the miscreants to justice. Those who saw the junks are positive that they were Hongkong junks, and it is generally believed that the pirates were Hongkong men. In the case of two at least this appears to be a certainty, as one of the engineers on being shown at the Police Station a book containing the photos of old gaol birds recognised among them the portraits of two men who had taken part in the attack.
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