19th July 1995. Danger of being, ‘Killed, Maimed or Hurt’.

The above heading relates to anyone, so affected, in resisting the Receiver of Wrecks under the 1894 Merchant Shipping Act.

The Receiver, who in theory was allowed to carry weapons until 1997, was also not subject to any punishment or damages by reason of the person being so ‘killed, maimed or hurt'(1)

A wreck is any part of a vessel, plane or cargo and if not claimed within one year proceeds go to the Crown.

Today the Royal Assent was given in 1995 to the Merchant Shipping Act, replacing the 1894 Act. 


Under the 1894 Act when a vessel is in distress the Receiver, ‘shall take command of all persons present, and assign to them such duties as he thinks, though he must not interfere between master and crew unless requested to do so by the master. Hence he should be a person of such powerful personality that, even though he is dressed in pyjamas and duffel-coat, the crew will instinctively obey him rather than the captain’ (2).

The 1894 Act required any owners of a cart, wagon or horses who unreasonably refused to lend them may have to pay £100 a penalty, which also included obstructing Receivers from passing over his land.

The Receiver of Wrecks also has the ancient charge to undertake the disposal of ‘Royal’ Fish which includes, dead whales, dolphins, porpoises and sturgeon, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, rights going back to Edward II.

Two wrecks of the amunition packed, SS Robert Montgomery and SS Castilian, administered by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, are ‘no-go’ areas as they were grounded in World War II. Their disturbance could result in such a catastrophic explosion that many in nearby settlements could indeed be ‘killed, maimed or hurt’.


(1) The term wreck includes ‘jetsam’ relating to items thrown overboard; ‘flotsam’ items floating on the water; ‘lagan’ includes items tied to a buoy and ‘derelict’ refers to property that has been abandoned.

(2) The Receiver of Wrecks comes under Admiralty Jurisdiction.


Royal Assent 19 July 1995. Salvage and Wrecks Part IX.

Punch Mag. Jan 10th 1968. E.S. Turner.



safety4sea.com. UK Maritime, Coastguard Agency.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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