Fred Fleet and his discharge book


Dave Gittins

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Prior's book is on the same lines as Fleet's. Both look nothing like an original, current book. I have a high quality scan of one and it's totally different, with almost all of it filled in with rubber stamps. I regret that I am not permitted to post it here or elsewhere. It's not from Titanic but it has close Titanic connections and the owner wants to keep it private, due to its great value.
 

Dave Gittins

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Paul, it probably merely results from people not being familiar with the usages of the sea. That's a common problem with Titanic fans. Very little has been written about Titanic by seamen. Also, the hype surrounding Titanic has produced incredible profits for those lucky enough to own something remotely connected with the ship. The recent sale of Annie Caton's replacement seaman's book was an example. Medals owned by Captain Steele, whose connection with Titanic was very small, also fetched big money. O tempora, O mores!
 
Jul 9, 2000
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>>It makes me think that the hype surrounding Fleet's book is less than honest...<<

Wouldn't be the first time something like that happened. I knew these documents were important, but I never knew they were locked up for safekeeping until Dave and Noel pointed it out. It makes sense though. I suppose it would act as something of a deterrant to desertion as well. Not foolproof, but better then nothing.
 

Inger Sheil

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quote:

Medals owned by Captain Steele, whose connection with Titanic was very small, also fetched big money.
They did? Cheers, Dave - you've just send me googling! I realised I hadn't seen the results of the auction.

I'm rather partial to the notes in the surviving officers' applications for replacements of their Master's certifications...in the space for where/when lost, they all have a variation on 'on Board RMS Titanic, mid-Atlantic 15 April 1912'. All of them had their fees for re-issuing the certifications waived.​
 
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>>All of them had their fees for re-issuing the certifications waived.<<

I should hope so. Considering that it was a circumstance beyond their control (another discussion for another time and place), I wouldn't have blamed them for raising hell if they had to pay.

Sorry for the interruption, Inger. I felt a need to say that. Now, go on, what were saying?...
 

Noel F. Jones

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Further to my above posting, Chris Dohany had previously said:

".....there is a peculiar stamping on the actual documents that the crew signed - most if not all signees have the notation "Discharge A not produced."

I am intrigued. Upon what document was this stamp placed?

If it was the Articles of Agreement then I can only assume the vessel was so desperate for crew that she would sign on anything capable of walking aboard, whether documented seaman or displaced sagger-maker!

And the B.O.T. 'shipping masters' were turning a decidedly blind eye in illicit compliance!

To my knowledge, in Southampton in April 1912 such an extreme deficit of manning did not obtain.

Please advise....

Noel
 

Inger Sheil

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I seem to recall seeing this stamp (and its counterpart, 'Dis A Produced') through quite a few of the Articles of Agreement for the Olympic, Oceanic, etc etc as well, Noel - I'll look through my copies of crew agreements when I get home to see if I can find some examples.
 

Dave Gittins

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Paul Sopin has just pointed out to me that Annie Caton's book actually failed to sell. It appears that I jumped to a conclusion, based on material sent to me from Southampton.

At a quick glance, I see that a quite a number of Titanic's crew did not produce discharge books. Notable characters that didn't include Jack Phillips and Herbert Pitman. The event must have been pretty common. There was a little rubber stamp specially made for the case. Where large groups produced books, the lists are marked "Discharge A produced" along the left hand edge. As Noel said, it seems rather irregular. Did they get away with producing union membership records?
 

Noel F. Jones

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It occurs to me that some contract staff (restaurant, musicians, wireless ops. etc.) may not have been required to be documented seamen at that time.

Another tack could (improbably) be that some otherwise documented signatories were repeat voyagers of known benign propensity and trusted as such. If this was the case then both parties to the Agreement were taking a lot on trust, respectively as to their present performance and future career histories.

I'll await clarification with bated breath....

Noel
 

Dave Gittins

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It occurred to me that the crew may not have had the books with them when they signed on, mostly on 6 April. Perhaps they handed them in when mustered on 10 April.

Musicians were not crew on Titanic. They were second class passengers. The restaurant staff and the radio operators signed articles. Practically all the restaurant staff are stamped 'Discharge A not produced'.
 
D

David Haisman

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For information only,

My first Discharge Book issued in January 1955 was very similar to those issued to Titanic's crew.
On signing on, all books were retained by the Master or Pursers Office for disciplinarian purposes if necessary and weren't seen again until signing-off day.
The best discharge was a double ''Very Good'' discharge for ability and conduct.
A ''Good'' discharge for either ''ability'' or ''conduct'' could make life difficult for a seaman when attempting to sign again with a good shipping company.
Just ''Good'' conduct or ability was generally frowned upon by ship's masters and usually deemed as a questionable engagement by the shipping line.
A single ''DR'' (decline to report) for either ''ability '' or ''conduct'' would make life extremely difficult for the seaman, trying to find a ship to sign them on again.
A ''Double DR'' would entail looking for a shore job somewhere unless some desperate tanker or cargo ship company needed to crew up in a hurry.
Employment under such circumstances and then receiving a ''Very Good'' discharge at the end of the voyage would be helpful for the seaman to find further work at sea. However, that ''stain'' on their seagoing career will remain for the rest of their lives in the Merchant Navy.

The first 6 pages of the Discharge Book were used for the holders particulars and all training and certificates held.
From pages 7 to 26, comprising of 60 discharges, apart from discipline, pages contained details including name of ship and number,tonnage description of voyage and engagement and discharge dates.
From pages 27 to 34, there are spaces for vaccination and inoculation certificate details produced, along with spaces for Ministry of Transport eye sight tests.
Other spaces were used for gunnery courses taken etc.
My second Discharge Book issued in 1977 was laid out slightly differently although the usual information was asked for on the first 7 pages.
Again there are 60 discharge spaces although the last 20 pages were for other service record discharges.
Most seamen in my day would guard their discharge books with their lives.
The issueing of ''second'' discharge books was usually harder to attain than the first due to discipline issues etc.

David Haisman
 

james savage

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continuous certificate of discharge book A in 1912 only had provision for 42 ship discharges and comments on the seamans ability and conduct it would have taken about 5 years for a seaman on regular transatlantic liner voyages to fill his discharge book. discharge books were first introduced in october of 1900, discharge books were also not mandatory until 1918 and were definitely always kept by the ship after signing on, when the statement that"discharge A not produced" only meant that the seaman had not yet been issued with a continuous certificate of discharge book and could be issued with a dis I. paper discharge on completion of the voyage. a considerable amount of the stewards would have been first trippers who had experience ashore in the catering industry hence "discharge A not produced" i did my first trip to sea in 1953 on the cunard white star line ship mv georgic.
jim savage
 

Dave Gittins

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Welcome aboard, Jim! You must have some tales to tell.

What you say about the books makes sense. The 1912 book I have a copy of seems to show that its use was not compulsory. The master was required only to give a departing seaman a discharge certificate "in a form approved by the Board of Trade". I think I have one or two such forms in my collection. If the book was used, it definitely had to be given "into the safe keping of the Master." I'll see what I can dig up.
 

Inger Sheil

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Cheers for that input, James - as Dave says, it certainly makes sense.

Good to have you here, and looking forward to your input - particularly given your background!
 

Dave Gittins

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I found those forms. They are headed "Release on Termination of Service with Note of excepted claims (if any)." They carry the Board of Trade badge and are marked "Issued by the Board of Trade in pursuance of 57 & 58 Victoria ch 50." They must be a very old form but they were used for Titanic crew in 1912.

They amount to a form showing wages earned for a voyage. The seaman agrees to make no further claim against the ship and the Master agrees to make no further claims on the seaman. Unless there was something on the back, they have no provision for remarks about ability or conduct.

The files are too big to post here at a reasonable resolution.
 

james savage

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i have in my possession a number of british discharge books from one of the very first issued in december 1900, upwards to my own discharge book,i also have about 100 seamans discharge papers from one of the first issued in july 1854 to the 20th century.of particular interest is a discharge book that i have, belonged to a rick donovan who started his career in 1929 with cunard on the "rms berengaria" as "boots", his first discharge was signed by captain "arthur h rostron" of carpathia fame the signature is hand written. rick donovan did a further 37 trips on the berengaria including the last trip of captain rostron when he retired in 1930, the captain who then took command of the berengaria was captain e britten who was 2nd mate on the carpathia on that fateful night in april 1912. another discharge book i have has discharges off the white star liners PERSIC,MAGENTIC,CANOPIC,ADRIATIC,MEDIC and the BALTIC. the seaman concerned was a hairdresser, i guess he had cut the hair of some of the rich and famous of the time. dave the forms that you found wouldn!nt be discharge papers, discharge papers are "DIS I" forms,if any one would like a scan of one please contact me. thanks guys for the welcome to the site. PS i will be away until the 2nd of january. i hope that you all have a happy and prosperous new year. jim savage
 

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