Horlock v Beal Case

The Board of Trade’s papers for this legal case including a copy of the House of Lords appeal judgement dated 21/1/1916, are in folder M2886 in file MT 9/1166.

The case arose because the shipowner F W Horlock & Co of Mistley, Essex decided they were unable to pay the crew of “Coralie Horlock” (Official Number 114649) in whole or part whilst they were interned in Germany.

The “Coralie Horlock” was captured at the start of the war in August 1914 at Hamburg.

Following representations to the Board of Trade wages/allowances were paid until March 1915. On 27/4/1915 the South Shields Superintendent of the Board of Trade reported that he had received a letter from Fredick William HORLOCK stating that he is unable to make further allowance to dependents owning to the stoppage of payments by the War Risks Association

On July 30th 1915, Mr. Justice Rowlatt of the Court of Appeal found in favour of Mrs BEAL, saying that an owner was liable for the wages of seamen serving on a vessel captured or interned by the enemy. (See FO 383/38)

However the House of Lords overturned the ruling in January 1916 and found in favour of the shipowners. See MT 9/1166 and FO 383/165.

The following summary of the consequences of the case is to be found in MT 9/1307 :-

“It was decided by the House of Lords, sitting as a. Court of Law, in the case of Beal v. Horlock, that owners of ships captured or sunk by the enemy could not be held legally responsible for the wages of the officers and men serving on the ships, who were taken prisoner. This operated harshly, for the wage-earning power of the men was non-existent during internment. It has been suggested that either legislation should be Introduced to force shipowners to pay wages, or that the Government should undertake to meet this claim out of Public Funds. It would, however, have been unreasonable to pass legislation to require owners to pay wages while their men were interned and rendering no service, perhaps for four years or more. On the other hand, there was no case for the Government paying wages to merchant seamen or to other civilians, especially in view of what was done for prisoners of war, by supplies of food, payment of “officer status” allowances, payments to dependents, extra wages, compensation for loss of effects, and arrangements for repatriation. The Board of Trade in a circular letter to shipowners, recommended that wages, either whole or in part, should be paid to interned crews. Many shipowners were doing this of their own free will, and most of the others responded to the suggestion.”

Additional References

  • Frederick William HORLOCK on 1891 census (born 1872 Mistley. Essex) was on board ship the Reliance at Pimlico London RG 13/90 Folio: 175.
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