I recently had a client ask me to find when her father, Charles Hawker, had come to Australia. I have her permission to write about the fantastic discovery I made.
The story that she had grown up with was that he had jumped ship in Australia and then stayed here. But many of the things that he said – such as the place of birth he gave on his marriage certificate – proved to be incorrect, so there was always the possibility that the story she was told was not true.
She spent years searching for a ship of arrival into Australia, or for any report she could find about him being a ship's deserter, all without success. Eventually she did manage to discover that he had been orphaned at a young age and sent from Plumstead Workhouse to the Training Ship Exmouth. She had obtained a copy of his records for his time there, which stated that he was discharged on 12 September 1907 to SS Orita as a deck boy for a salary of £1 per month. She had also found proof that he was in NSW by 1911.
The only voyage the Orita made to Australia was in 1903. Normally she sailed to Valparaiso, so the question arose as to whether he ever did serve on the Orita and if so, how did he get to Australia.
An enquiry made to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich elicited the answer that they did not hold any crew lists for the Orita, but I was informed that the Maritime Archive at Newfoundland should hold a crew list for 1908 and also for some later years when he was known to already be in Australia. However my client had already checked with them to no avail.
I suggested that since I would be going to the National Archives at Kew soon, it might be worth looking at the Ship's Logs of the Orita. It offered only a slim chance of turning anything up, but if he had jumped ship from the Orita and then made his way to Australia on another vessel, the desertion might be recorded in the log.
Extract from BT 165/301 showing C Hawkes
(from the National Archives, Kew)
Thus I consulted the logs for the Orita in BT 165/301 and BT/358, and I struck gold. Unexpectedly (but luckily) I found that the log, as well as containing a report of the voyage of 12 Sep 1907 to 3 Dec 1907, also contained the crew lists. These were all in the pre-printed "Official Log Book". Amongst the Deck Boys was a C Hawkes (not Hawker).
|BT 165/301 (from the National Archives, Kew)|
The log for the next journey, from 19 Dec 1907 to 8 March 1908, again included C Hawkes in the list of Deck Boys. The 1908 log checked at Newfoundland was evidentally for a different voyage in that year.
In both cases the log sections, which did name crew members who failed to return to the ship after stops in port, never mentioned Charles. As these logs were submitted to the Board of Trade when the ship arrived back in port in the UK, it is reasonable to say that Charles did not jump ship on either of these voyages.
The next two voyage logs for the Orita did not include Charles, so it seems he only made the two voyages. But we can now account for Charles up to 8 March 1908, and we know he definitely did sail on the Orita. We still don't know how or when he got to Australia, only that he was here by 1911, but we have slightly narrowed down the period in which he could have arrived.
And, of course, I have discovered that at that period in time, the Ships' Logs contained Crew Lists!