Wreck of the ship RAJAH, of Bremen, in December 1896

The two survivors are landed in Swansea 


The full rigged ship RAJAH, 1,230 tons, was owned by Diedrich Schilling of Bremerhaven. On the morning of 8 December 1896 she left Barry, South Wales, with a cargo of coal for Hong Kong. Captain Beltmann had a crew of eighteen all natives of Germany.

That evening the ship was near Lundy island when the strong south west wind increased to gale force. It was decided to put back for shelter but the ship was struck by a squall and went over on her beam. The end was so fast that exactly what happened will never be known.

Only two men were able to get a lifeboat launched and it was already damaged and its oars swept away. Soon after they were able to pick up two other men who they found swimming as the ship sank. Then a single oar was found floating and this was grabbed and helped them to keep the bow of the boat to the breaking seas. They saw other men swimming but were unable to rescue any more.

The boat drove north with the second mate (whose name seems not to have been recorded in newspaper accounts), Friedrich Wiltz able seaman, Herman Loper ordinary seaman and Heinrich Holtz aboard.

By 7.30 on Wednesday morning the second mate and Holtz were exhausted and swept overboard by the seas which broke over the damaged lifeboat which remained afloat simply because it had some airtight compartments. Wiltz and Loper were now alone.

At about 5.15 on Thursday morning they heard a steamship passing and shouted for help. Fortunately their cries were heard by the crew of the steamship Speedwell, of Sunderland, which was bound in ballast from Liverpool for Swansea. The ship was ten miles south west of Caldy island. Being December it was still dark so the crew were unable to see the men. The steamer launched her lifeboat with 1st mate Guy Potts at the helm and A. McGuire bos'n, N. Anderson carpenter, and A.Bs H. Hughes and P. Flynn at the oars. It took them an hour to locate the boat and found Wiltz and Loper standing with the sea up to their waists in the flooded boat. With a great effort they got the exhausted men aboard and back to the Speedwell. Lines were lowered over the ship to get them aboard. Clean warm clothes and a little food began to revive them. Later that morning the two were landed at Swansea and taken to the office of Messrs Rutherford and Co., brokers to the Speedwell, where they told their story and were interviewed by journalists from some of the South Wales newspapers. 

Swansea's German vice-consul Captain Frederick William Dahne, who lived at a house in Penllergaer which he named Friedrichsruhe, then took over and the men spent a few days at the Sailors Home before returning to Germany.