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CORRESPONDENCE RESPECTING THE SINKING OF SIX BRITISH VESSELS IN THE RIVER SEINE BY PRUSSIAN TROOPS.
Prussian officer who seized said vessels CONSUL BERNAL TO EARL GRANVILLE,
saying he took them as a military requi(Received December 27.)
sition, giving the several captains an
acknowledgment for their value written Havre, December 26, 1870.
in German : these papers I have now in MY LORD, I have the honour to enclose my possession. There are three other herewith copy of an official letter from vessels at this moment discharging coals Acting Vice-Consul Herring to Vice- at the quay here, which are threatened Consul Lee-Jortin, which has been for- with a like seizure and sinking. warded on to me by that gentleman, I have protested formally to the General narrating the seizure by the Germans of commanding the forces occupying Rouen six English merchant-vessels (colliers) against this arbitrary proceeding and and their subsequent sinking by them violation of a neutral flag. in the River Seine at or near Duclair.
Not being able to communicate with Mr. Windsor, an English gentleman our Consul at Havre, I address myself to living at Rouen, who brought Mr. Her. you, sir, requesting you will communicate ring's letter to Dieppe, and hence here, this serious affair to the British Governcrosses to England to-night. He will ment immediately. The several crews, bring this despatch to the Foreign Office, amounting to thirty-four men, I send on and be ready, should your Lordship wish, to you at Dieppe, begging you will please to give further information on the subject. forward them on to their homes. The He informs me that there are three more captains remain for the present at Rouen. English colliers at Rouen.
I may add that some of the vessels were I also learn from him that the British fired upon by Prussian soldiers, the crew residents are about 250 in number in and narrowly escaping from being struck. about that town.
I am, &c.
(Signed) H. D. HERRING. (Signed) FREDERICK BERNAL.
EARL GRANVILLE TO LORD A. LOFTUS. ACTING VICE-CONSUL HERRING TO
Foreign Office, December 28, 1870.
My Lord,-I transmit to your Excel
lency herewith without delay a copy of a Sir,- I have to inform you of very grave despatch and its enclosure from Her events occurring at this port. On the Majesty's Consul at Havre, and of a report 21st and 22nd instant Prussian troops made to the Board of Admiralty by the took forcible possession of and scuttled Commander of Her Majesty's ship “Helisix British vessels in the River Seine, near con” at that port, respecting six British to Duclair (port of Rouen), where they vessels having been sunk in the Seine were lying taking in ballast for England. near Duclair, by order of the commander
Notwithstanding the several captains of the Prussian troops occupying Rouen ; energetic protests against this proceeding and I have to instruct you to lose no time and violation of the British flag, the crews in calling the attention of the Prussian were forced ashore and had to sleep in the Government to this matter. With the open air during a severe frosty night. information now before them, Her MaTime was hardly given the men to save jesty's Government cannot but consider their effects, which many of them have the seizure and sinking of those vessels to lost, together with money, &c. Permis- be altogether unwarrantable, and the sion had been previously given to the firing upon them, if it took place, a vessels by the Prussian authorities to matter which requires the fullest excome up to Rouen and discharge their planations. cargoes of coals, which they had done, You will express the hope that immeand were on their return when seized, diate inquiry will be made into the
transaction, and the conviction that if no the payment of the compensation, to satisfactory explanation of the proceeding which they are undoubtedly entitled, is given by the Prussian General, the Prus- should be unduly delayed. sian Government will at once take such steps as the case, as it now stands, appears
No. 9. to call for.
Count BISMARCK TO COUNT BERNSTOJEF. I (Signed) GRANVILLE.
(Communicated to Earl Granville
by Count Bernstorff, January 9.) No. 7.
Versailles, January 8, 1871. LORD A. LOFTUS TO EARL GRANVILLE.
The report of the Commander of that
part of our army by which the English (Received January 2, 1871.) collier-ships were sunk in the Seine has Berlin, December 31, 1870.
not yet arrived, but as far as our intelli
gence goes, the general outline of the My Lord,—I have the honour to ac- facts is known. knowledge the receipt by yesterday's You are authorized in consequence, to messenger of your lordship's despatch say to Lord Granville that we sincerely of the 28th instant, with its several regret that our troops, in order to avert enclosures, referring to the arbitrary pro- immediate danger, were obliged to size ceedings of the Prussian military autho. ships which belonged to British subjects. rities at Rouen by the seizure and sinking We admit their claim to indemnification, of six British merchant-vessels at the port and shall pay to the owners the value of Duclair.
of the ships, according to equitable esti. I lost no time in bringing this matter mation, without keeping them waiting under the notice of Baron Thile, and, in for the decision of the question who is conformity with your lordship's instruc- finally to indemnify them. Should it tions, I addressed a note to his Excellency, be proved that excesses have been comof which I have the honour to annex a mitted which were not justified by the copy.
necessity of defence, we should regret it Baron Thile stated to me yesterday that still more, and call the guilty persons to no report had reached him as yet on this account. matter, and that he was therefore unable The official answer to Lord Augustus to express any opinion upon it, but that Loftus' note will follow after the Report he would immediately forward my note to from the army has been received. Count Bismarck. I have the honour to enclose to your
No. 10. lordship herewith copy of a letter I have
EARL GRANVILLE TO LORD A. LorTUS. this day received from Baron Thile, acknowledging the receipt of my note of
Foreign Office, January 18, 1871. yesterday's date, and stating that it would be forwarded to Court Bismarck by My Lord, I enclose herewith to your this evening's courier.
Excellency copy of a telegram from I have, &c.
Versailles which has been communicated (Signed) AUGUSTUS LOFTUS. to me by Count Bernstorff, in which it is
promised that the owners of the British No. 8.
vessels sunk at Rouen shall be at once EARL GRANVILLE TO MR. ODO RUSSELL.
indennified. It is added that an official
answer will be sent to your Excellency's (Extract.)
representations after the Report from the Foreign Office, January 7, 1871.
army shall have been received. Her Majesty's Government learned with I have to instruct your Excellency to much satisfaction from your telegram of take an early opportunity of expressing to the 1st instant that Count Bismarck had M. de Thile the great satisfaction with expressed his regret at the sinking of the which Her Majesty's Government have British vessels, and that he was prepared, learnt that the Government of the North after a proper inquiry had been instituted, German Confederation have so readily to pay compensation for the damage sus- adopted a course which from its prompti. tained thereby; and I lost no time in tude and friendly character promises, if instructing you by telegraph to thank him carried out in the same spirit, to turn a for his courteous and satisfactory com- painful incident into a means of confirming munication. I should, however, wish you the good understanding which exists beto lose no opportunity of pressing an early tween the two Governments. settlement of the matter, as considerable
I am, &c. injustice would be done to the sufferers if
pretation of the law in the present case MR. ODO RUSSELL TO EARL GRANVILLE. and preferred to adopt one that would (Received January 13.)
meet the wishes of Her Majesty's Govern
ment and give full satisfaction to the Versailles, January 3, 1871. people of England. My Lord,-I sent your lordship a
He deplored the treatment to which telegram on the 1st instant in answer to
the masters and crews of the colliers had your lordship’s telegram of the 31st
been subjected, according to the accounts ultimo, respecting the six English colliers
he had read in the newspapers, and begged fired into and sunk by the Prussian autho
I would assure your lordship, with ex. rities at Duclair, near Rouen, to say that
pressions of deep regret, that when the Count Bismarck greatly regretted this
reports from the Prussian authorities had disaster, and that his Excellency had
been received he would obtain the King's ordered an immediate inquiry into the
permission to pay any just compensation transaction, and was ready to pay com
to the owners and sufferers your lordship pensation if called for by the circumstances
might think right to recommend. of the case.
I have, &c. Since then I have received and commu
(Signed) Opo RUSSELL. nicated to Count Bismarck your lordship’s despatch to Lord Augustus Loftus,
No. 14. but his Excellency had already received COUNT BISMARCK TO COUNT BERN. an official note from Her Majesty's Ambassador at Berlin, which he said he would (Communicated to Earl Granville by answer officially as soon as the result Count Bernstorff, February 1.) of the inquiry had been received and submitted to the law officers.
Versailles, January 25, 1871. I have also conveyed your lordsbip's
(Translation.) thanks to Count Bismarck for his courteous
I do myself the honour of transmitting and satisfactory reply of the 1st instant. to your Excellency, in pursuance of my I have, &c.
preliminary communication of the 4th, (Signed) ODO RUSSELL. and my telegram of the 8th instant, a
copy of the Report from the 1st Army,
on the sinking of English ships in the No. 12.
Seine, near Duclair, the preparation of
which has been delayed by the manifold MR. ODO RUSSELL TO EARL GRANVILLE,
movements of the Corps concerned. Your (Received January 13.)
Excellency will find therein, with the same
satisfaction as myself, that the measure in Versailles, January 8, 1871.
question, however exceptional its nature, My Lord, --After receiving this morning did not overstep the bounds of internayour lordship's telegram of yesterday tional warlike usages. The Report shows afternoon, I called on Count Bismarck that a pressing danger was at hand, and and again talked over the question of every other means of averting it was the six English colliers shot at and sunk wanting ; the case was therefore one of by the Prussian authorities at Duclair. necessity, which, even in time of peace,
His Excellency said that he had not may render the employment or destrucyet received a circumstantial account of tion of foreign property admissible, under the transaction, but he found that the reservation of indemnification. I take law officers held that a belligerent had a the opportunity of calling to mind that a full right, in self-defence, to the seizure of similar right in time of war has become a neutral vessels in the rivers or inland peculiar institute of law, the jus angarie, waters of the other belligerent, and that which so high an authority as Sir Robert compensation to the owners was due by Phillimore defines thus : that a belligerent the vanquished Power, not by the victors. Power demands and makes use of foreign
If conquering belligerents admitted the ships, even such as are not in inland right of foreigners and neutrals to com- waters, but in ports and roadsteads within pensation for the destruction of their pro- its jurisdiction, and even compels the perty in the invaded State, they would crews to transport troops, ammunition, open the door to new and inadmissible or implements of warfare. I hope the principles in warfare. Claims for indem- negotiation with the owners, for which nity were submitted to him daily by you are already authorized, will lead to neutrals holding property in France which an understanding as to the indemnificahe could never admit. He valued, how- tion for the damage; if not, it would have ever, the friendship and good-will of to be submitted to an arbitrator's award. England too highly to accept this inter- In the negotiation, also, the difference in
the statements of the 1st Army and of Another considerable evil was, that the the English Consul at Dieppe, as to the men-of-war entirely stopped the road to number of English ships sunk, will be Candebec, as it runs close to the bank at explained.
the foot of the steep rocky cliffs. I respectfully request your Excellency Finally, the appearance of the men-ofto communicate this despatch, with its war kept the inhabitants of Rouen in enclosure, to the Secretary of State of Her continual excitement, which was the Britannic Majesty, and to be so good as more to be avoided as the quartering of to express, at the same time, my apology troops, the closing of the manufactories, for the delay, as well as my thanks to Her &c., already made the temper of the workMajesty's Government for the just appre- men worse from day to day. ciation of the military necessity with
Under these circumstances, General von which Lord Granville has apprehended
Bentheim ordered Lieutenant-Colonel von and treated this matter.
der Burg, Chief of the General Staff, to (Signed) BISMARCK. have the Seine completely blocked up.
Fresh examinations and conferences with
the first engineer officer, Major Fahland, (Inclosure in No. 14.)
gave the following result:Report of the 1st Army Corps on the It is impossible to block up the channel Sinking of Ships off Duclair. completely by means of the low river (Translation.)
ships; this can only be effected by sinking
high-built sea ships. The great expense The 1st Army Corps having received of attaining the end in this manner makes orders to occupy Rouen with three in
it appear desirable to attempt the blockfantry brigades (one was left at Amiens), ing up in another and less costly manner, and to secure itself by proper positions in for example: advance on both banks of the Seine
1. By the formation of batteries which against an enemy who was known to be
were made near La Fontaine. numerically stronger than the Army 2. By torpedoes. Corps, the attention of the General in The first measure proved insufficient, as command was the more necessarily di- it was soon ascertained that some of the rected first of all to the Seine itself, as small steamers were armour-plated, and information had been received that French
the commander had only field artillery at men-of-war had but a short time before his disposal; the second failed from the left the port of Rouen.
want of the requisite materials at the time. A close examination of the Seine was Therefore the only possible means of therefore ordered ; and soundings taken
blocking up the channel was by the sink. by engineer officers showed that the
ing of sea ships. So Lieutenant-Colonel channel was from 30 to 35 feet deep von der Burg ordered Major Fahland to throughout, and the depth was increased seize all the sea ships which were off from 4 to 10 feet by the tide.
Duclair. This measure was necessary, Several French inen-of-war also soon because if a requisition had been made for appeared, and steamed with the rising ships to the mayoralty here, probably all tide as far as off Duclair ; they returned the ships, timely warned, would have with the ebb to Candebec, where most of
gone to Havre. them remained for the night. Our All the ships seized immediately hoisted patrols, where they showed themselves, neutral flags, especially English. In the were hotly fired upon by the men-of-war:
urgency of the matter researches could hostile detachments were
not then be made bow far the neutral flag barked on the left bank of the Seine. It
covers ships also in rivers, and lying espe. is clear that the troops were thereby cially between belligerent parties: the really endangered in their positions and suitable ships were pointed out for sinking. operations.
The work began on the 19th December; It was not only possible for the enemy altogether eleven ships were sunk, amongst to flank an advance of our tropps on the them seven English ones. right or left bank by a direct artillery fire, It is hardly worth mentioning that the but a change from one bank to the other reports of some French newspapers, stating was extraordinarily facilitated for the that the British crews were brutally treated, hostile troops--nay, they might even be are quite unfounded. As only three ships disembarked in the rear of ours.
were sunk daily there was time enough to According to the statement of com- warn the crews to save their papers and petent judges, a large wooden ship, which effects, which was done. Besides, an was stationed in the Seine with two or order was handed to the captains in which three small ships, alone held 1000 troops the value of the ship, according to the for landing.
captain's own statement, was entered.
Finally, it must also be mentioned that, it appears not unlikely that after they are in order to spare the ships as much as raised they may again be fit for use. possible, the ballast-ports only were a For the General in Command, little enlarged. Therefore, if they have (Signed) VON BENTHEIM, not been tossed about and damaged by
Lieutenant-General and Com. the ebb and flow in the bed of the Seine,
mander of Division.
CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN BRITISH SUBJECTS
RESIDING IN FRANCE AND THE FOREIGN OFFICE, IN REFERENCE TO LOSS OF PROPERTY SINCE THE ENTRY OF THE GERMAN ARMY INTO FRANCE.
Lastly, I enclose herewith a copy of the EARL GRANVILLE TO LORD LYONS.
answer which I have made to Mr. Kirby,
and in which I have informed him that I Foreign Office, September 2, 1870. have forwarded a copy of his letter to your MY LORD,-Having received from dif- lordship. ferent parties applications for the protec
I have, &c. tion of their property and for exemption
(Signed) Lyons. from military requisitions, I thought it best to consult the law officers of the
(Inclosure 1 in No. 2.) Crown on the subject; and as your Excellency will doubtless have received many
MR. KIRBY TO LORD LYONS. similar applications, I think it may be Chateau de la Ferté Imbault, près convenient for you to be made acquainted,
Salbris, Loire-et-Cher. for your guidance, with the nature of the
December 28, 1870. answer which, under their advice, I return to such applications : namely, that My Lord,- I have the honour to lay “ British subjects having property in
before your lordship a statement of the France are not entitled to any special pillage, menaces, and ill-treatment which protection for their property, or to exemp- we, a family of British subjects, have tion from military contributions to which suffered at the hands of the Prussian they will be liable in common with the troops, and to beg for the redress your inhabitants of the place in which they lordship may think proper to obtain for reside, or in which their property may be
We have been settled in this comsituated.”
mune of La Ferté Imbault for many &c.
years, my uncle having bought this pro(Signed) GRANVILLE. perty and left it to us. My father is a
clergyman of the Church of England, we
have all been educated in England, we No. 2.
are purely English, and I enclose a certi. LORD LYONS TO EARL GRANVILLE. ficate of our British citizenship. (Received January 10.)
On the evening of the 7th instant, on
hearing of the entry of the Prussians into Bordeaux, January 6, 1871.
Salbris, two leagues off, we hoisted the My Lord, I have the honour to trans- British flag over the gate of our chateau, mit to your lordship a copy of a letter trusting that respect for a neutral flag which I have received to-day from Mr. would protect our persons and property ; Robert William Kirby, who appears to be in this expectation we were entirely disa British subject established at La Ferté appointed. On the morning of the 8th Imbault, in the department of the Loire- instant, Colonel von Rosenberg, command. et-Cher, and who complains of the treat- ing the whole or part of the Yellow Lancers ment suffered by him and his family at or Uhlans, I think the 5th Regiment, came the hands of German troops, and demands up and peremptorily demanded, through redress. I enclose also a certificate from one of his officers, lodging for the night, the Maire of the Commune which accom- although we announced our nationality, panied the letter.
and directed his attention to the British