Capt. Arthur David LINKLATER

Captain Arthur David LINKLATER 1879 - 1955

Work for the Calcutta Port Authority
on the River Hooghly and as a Hooghly Pilot.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks

chart.jpg Here is a summary of Arthur's time with the Calcutta Port Commissioners taken from a résumé which he prepared in 1923 when applying for a job with the Forth Conservancy. The chart is the only one of his that I have.

I have been in close association with the organization and administration of the Ports of Calcutta and Bombay. In the service of the Commissioners for the Port of Calcutta I was attached to the Port Approach and river Depts. On the completion of a years training in navigational and administrative duties on the river I obtained a Hooghly Pilotage Certificate, and was then transferred to the Survey branch of the service as an assistant surveyor in which branch I remained for one year being attached successively to the lower reaches, upper reaches and the town party sections.

I was then transferred to Command the Despatch Vessels Retriever and Guide and held continuous command of either one of these vessels for four and a half years.

I do not think this can be entirely accurate. The following "CONFIDENTIAL" letter dated 1st August 1914 was from the Commissioners for the Port of Calcutta.

Dear Captain Linklater,

You will receive official orders on your arrival to transfer to the Retriever, the reason for the transfer is that the situation in Europe at the moment is critical and the warning notice has been issued, which means that all branches of the Military-Naval Services have to make their preliminary arrangements in case of hostilities. The Guide has been taken over by Government and is to hold herself in immediate readiness to proceed down to Kulpee for the purpose of the examination of all ships entering the Port, etc. etc. I have ordered that the vessel is to be fully coaled and watered and handed back to Government in the same condition as we took her over. Please report immediately you are ready to hand over. Please submit a complete note so that I may be able to make the necessary debits and credits. We will debit Government for all trips made on their behalf.

The Government stores you took on board at Chingri Khal Fort should be handed over to the charge of the Gunner of the ship if no officer takes over charge from you.
Yours sincerely, F.A.Lovell

It would seem therefore that Arthur can have had very little time, if any, in command of the Guide. I certainly have no orders for him relating to the Guide and he himself makes no mention, other in the above letter, of being on board let alone in command of the Guide. The "situation" in Europe on 1st August 1914 was "critical" because war was widely assumed to be inevitable following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on 28 June 1914 by Serbian "terrorists" - the expression used by Borijove Jevtic, one of the leaders of the Narodna Odbrana who was arrested with Gavrilo Princip.

  • 28th June - assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
  • 28th July - the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia
  • 1st August - Germany declared war on Russia
  • 2nd August - German troops invaded Luxembourg
  • 3rd August - Germany declared war on France
  • 4th August - Germany invaded Belgium
  • 4th August - Britain declared war on Germany
The image at left is of a typical Light Ship, the Hesperus, moored at Lower Gaspar as shown on the chart detail at right. To put the chart detail in context, it is roughly at the centre of the large chart at the top of the page. Arthur's résumé continues;

While in command of the Despatch Vessels I was solely responsible to the Deputy Conservator for the proper execution of the following administration;- the correct working of the Saugor and False Point Light-houses; the regulation of the Light-house staffs, upkeep of the buildings and protecting bunds, and the whole maintenance of the establishments; the control of the Light-Vessel service which consisted of six attended vessels on station and one unattended vessel on station, the regulation of the Officers and Crews and their reliefs, the discipline of the service, the proper upkeep of the vessels, their cables, anchors, coir-springs, 20 inch hawsers, blue-light, oil, water, and stores etc, and the indenting for the whole requirements of the service; the responsibility of keeping these vessels "On Station", and when carried off station by cyclones the re-laying of them on station at the earliest possible time, with the various other duties associated, with a Light-Vessel Service.

The Channel Buoy work, which consisted in maintaining one hundred and twelve Obbard and Mersey buoys on station; the annual changing of each of these with their painting, marking, lettering etc and the lifting, breaking out and overhauling of their riding chains and moorings, the "fixing", laying and (when necessary ) shifting and the re-plotting was done by myself, as also the Gas-buoy work, which consisted of approximately twenty four Aga boats, [Amalgamated Gas Accumulator boats and buoys were lights able to run unattended for long periods of time at low cost] five ton Aga and Pinsch buoys being kept constantly on station. The flashing systems, the adjustments of the "flashers", the changing of the buoys and gas-boats, the whole maintenance of this section with its attendant indenting and the upkeep of the gas-transporters was solely under my care.

These images above are from an album of Arthur's step-son, Bruce. Pilots Ridge was the most south-westerly light vessel and shown at bottom left on the main chart [see image at top of page].

Night Navigation was introduced on the Hooghly up to Mud Point in 1915. The whole Pilot Service opposed the introduction. The complete system was laid by myself. I was the first to navigate the lighted channels after dark, and thereafter took several committees through the lighted sections with the result that by practicable demonstration the opposition was broken down, and night navigation introduced to the great benefit of the shipping interests of the Port.

Among other duties which embraced the Office I held was the up-keep of tidal semaphores, river marks, depots, the recovering of lost anchors and cables, river salvage over a distance of one hundred and twenty two miles from the Sandheads to Calcutta and deep sea salvage in the Bay of Bengal. My work also brought me in touch with the operations of the hopper and pipe-line suction dredgers working on the bars.

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