British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 3

Testimony of Robert Hichens

Examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.

893. Are you a quartermaster?
- Yes.

894. And did you sail on the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

895. Do you remember the Sunday, the day of the collision with an iceberg?
- Yes.

896. During that day can you tell us whether it was particularly cold or not?
- Yes, intense cold towards evening; in the day it was not very cold.

897. It got colder towards evening?
- Yes.

898. I do not know whether you took the temperature of the water or whether you only speak of what it felt like about in the air?
- I took the temperature of the water.

899. As well?
- Yes.

900. (The Commissioner.) Was that part of your business?
- Yes, my Lord.

901. (The Attorney-General.) When did you take it last before the collision?
- A quarter to 10 - between a quarter and ten minutes to 10.

902. Did you take it at all before a quarter to 10 on that evening?
- No.

903. Then you took it about a quarter to 10, and what was it?
- I entered the reading in the logbook, but I can hardly remember at present.

904. Did you notice whether it was particularly cold?
- Yes, intense cold.

905. Do you mean that is what you found from taking the temperature of the water?
- Yes.

906. Can you tell us when it first began to get colder on that day?
- As far as I remember I went on watch at eight o'clock; it was bitter cold then.

907. Colder than when you had been on watch before?
- Yes.

908. When did you go off watch before?
- At six o'clock, the first dog-watch.

909. You were in the first dog-watch, and you went off at six?
- Yes.

910. And then you came on after the second dog-watch?
- Yes.

911. When you came on watch at eight o'clock did you act as stand-by on the bridge?
- Yes.

912. Who was at the wheel?
- Quartermaster Oliver.

913. You remained there on the bridge?
- When I was not running a message.

914. Did you get any instructions from the second Officer to give to the carpenter?
- Yes.

915. About when in point of time?
- Just immediately after I got on the bridge; I could not tell you to a few minutes.

916. It would be a little after eight o'clock?
- Yes.

917. What were the instructions you were to give to the carpenter?
- To take his compliments down and tell him to look after his fresh water; it was going to freeze; the thermometer was very low.

918. He was to look after the fresh water; it was going to freeze; the thermometer was very low? - Yes.

919. Is that the fresh water in the tanks?
- Yes.

920. Is that the carpenter's business?
- Yes, it is the carpenter's duty.

921. When you had done that did you come back to the bridge?
- Yes.

922. Did you see the carpenter?
- Yes.

923. Did you tell him?
- I came back and reported to Mr. Lightoller, the second Officer in charge of the bridge.

924. (The Commissioner.) And he was the man who sent you to the carpenter?
- Yes.

925. (The Attorney-General.) Soon after you returned to the bridge, did you hear a conversation between the second Officer and another Officer about the look-out?
- Yes.

926. The second Officer and what Officer was it?
- The sixth Officer, Mr. Moody.

927. Tell us what you heard?
- I heard Mr. Lightoller speak to Mr. Moody and tell him to speak through the telephone to the crow's-nest to keep a sharp look-out for small ice and growlers until daylight and pass the word along to the look-out man.

The Commissioner:
Send a message to the crow's-nest to do what - to keep a sharp look-out for ice?

928. (The Attorney-General.) Small ice and growlers, I think he said (To the Witness.) That is right, is it not?
- Yes.

929. Until daylight and pass the word along to the look-out man?
- Yes.

930. That would be sending the message to the man in the crow's-nest and telling him to pass it along to the man who would relieve him?
- Yes.

931. Who was in charge of the bridge at that time?
- The Second Officer, Mr. Lightoller.

932. Who were the other Officers with him at this time?
- The Sixth Officer, Mr. Moody, and Mr. Boxhall, the Fourth Officer.

933. Mr. Lightoller, the Second Officer, Mr. Boxhall, the Fourth Officer, and Mr. Moody, the Sixth Officer?
- Yes.

934. Were they all on the bridge at this time?
- Yes.

935. Did you relieve Quartermaster Oliver?
- I did.

936. At what time?
- Ten o'clock.

937. What was the course given to you?
- N. 71º W.

938. Do you know what was the course which was given to Quartermaster Oliver?
- That was the same course.

939. Was there a course-board in the wheelhouse?
- Yes.

940. Was there anything on the course-board to indicate the course you were to steer?
- Yes, N. 71º.

941. That was on the course-board?
- That was on the course-board, the steering compass.

942. Was she a good steering ship?
- Fairly well, yes.

943. Up to the time of the collision did she vary from her course at all?
- Not that I am aware of, not more than a degree on either side.

944. Were there two clocks in the wheelhouse?
- Yes.

945. Do you remember the vessel striking?
- Yes.

946. Did you notice the time when she struck?
- Yes.

947. What was it?
- Twenty minutes to twelve.

948. Had you had any instructions before she struck? Had you been told to do anything with your helm before she struck?
- Just as she struck I had the order "Hard-a-starboard" when she struck.

949. Just as she struck, is that what you said?
- Not immediately as she struck; the ship was swinging. We had the order, "Hard-a-starboard," and she just swung about two points when she struck.

950. You got the order, "Hard-a-starboard"?
- Yes.

951. Had you time to get the helm hard a starboard before she struck?
- No, she was crashing then.

952. Did you begin to get the helm over?
- Yes, the helm was barely over when she struck. The ship had swung about two points.

953. She had swung two points?
- Yes.

954. (The Commissioner.) Do let me understand; had she swung two points before the crash came?
- Yes, my Lord.

955. (The Attorney-General.) I am not quite sure that I understand what you had done to the helm before this. You had got an order, "Hard-a-starboard"?
-"Hard-a-starboard," yes.

956. You proceeded at once to put the wheel hard-a-starboard?
- Immediately, yes.

957. Before the vessel struck had you had time to get the wheel right over?
- The wheel was over then, hard over.

958. (The Commissioner.) Before she struck?
- Oh yes, hard over before she struck.

The Attorney-General:
I rather understood him to say the opposite before. I do not think he understood.

The Commissioner:
Let me see if I understand it. Someone gave an order, "Hard-a-starboard"?

The Attorney-General:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
This was before she struck?

The Attorney-General:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
He put the wheel hard over?

The Attorney-General:
Yes; and got it hard over.

The Commissioner:
And got it hard over. The ship moved two points?

The Attorney-General:
That is right.

The Commissioner:
She did not move any more, because, as I understand, the crash came?

959. (The Attorney-General.) Exactly; that is the story. (To the Witness.) Who gave the order "hard-a-starboard"? - Mr. Murdoch, the First Officer.

960. When had he come on the bridge?
- He relieved Mr. Lightoller on the bridge at ten o'clock.

961. Did the Fourth and Sixth Officers, Mr. Boxhall and Mr. Moody, remain?
- Mr. Moody was standing behind me when the order was given.

962. And was Mr. Boxhall on the bridge?
- From what I am given to understand, Mr. Boxhall was approaching the bridge.

963. Was Captain Smith on the bridge?
- No, Sir.

964. Do you know where he was?
- Yes, Sir; in his room.

965. So far as you know was there any change in the speed at which the vessel was travelling before she struck?
- I took the log which was part of my duty at half a minute to ten, as near as I can tell, and the vessel was going 45 knots by the Cherub log every two hours.

966. Forty-five knots? - Forty-five was registering on the log.

967. (The Commissioner.) Was the speed altered before the collision?
- Well, the crash came immediately.

968. I know it did. Had the speed been altered before?
- No, I could not say, my Lord, because I could not see the Officer on the bridge. I am in the wheelhouse. I cannot see anything only my compass.

969. (The Attorney-General.) I think we can get at it in this way. What was the first notice to you that there was something ahead?
- Three gongs from the crow's-nest, Sir.

970. That you would hear in the wheelhouse, would you?
- Certainly.

971. And you knew what that meant?
- Certainly, Sir.

972. That meant something ahead?
- Yes.

973. How long was that before the order came "Hard-a-starboard"?
- Well, as near as I can tell you, about half a minute.

974. In order that we may understand, if there was a telephone message from the crow's-nest to the bridge, would you hear it? Would you know anything about it?
- Certainly so, Sir.

975. Would you indicate on the model where you were, where the wheelhouse is?
- Yes. (The Witness indicated the position on the model.)

975a. (The Commissioner.) And the crow's-nest is just on the mast in front, is it not?
- Just above the eyes of the fore-rigging.

976. (The Attorney-General.) Put your finger on it?
- Yes. (The Witness did so.)

977. I think that is the indication of it; is it not?
- Yes.

978. Then there is the telephone. What was the telephone message? Did you hear any?
- I did not hear the message, but I heard the reply.

979. What was the reply?
- "Thank you."

980. Who gave it?
- Mr. Moody.

981. Then it means this, that Mr. Moody, the Sixth Officer, got a telephone message after the three bells had been struck?
- Immediately after.

982. You did not hear what was said to Mr. Moody, but you heard him acknowledge the message, and say "Thank you"?
- Yes. I heard Mr. Moody repeat, "Iceberg right ahead."

983. To whom did he repeat that?
- To Mr. Murdoch, the First Officer.

984. "Iceberg right ahead"; is that what he said?
- Yes.

985. Repeating what he had heard from the telephone message?
- Yes.

986. And then what happened?
- I heard Mr. Murdoch rush to the telegraph and give the order, "Hard-a-starboard."

987. When you say he rushed to the telegraph, is that the telegraph to the engine room you are speaking of?
- Yes.

988. The order, "Hard-a-starboard," was to you?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
What order did he give to the engine room?

989. (The Attorney-General.) I do not think he knows. (To the Witness.) Do you know what order it was that was telegraphed down to the engine room?
- No.

990. I think your Lordship will hear that it was, "Stop: full speed astern." Now just for a minute give me your attention on the point of speed. You have told us according to the log that the speed was 45 knots in two hours?
- Yes.

991. Up to the time of hearing the three bells struck, was there any change of the speed at which the vessel was proceeding?
- No, none whatever.

992. And the order, if any, that was given with regard to the speed would be the order by telegraph to the engine room, which you have told us you do not know?
- I do not quite understand you.

993. You have told us what happened; first of all, the signal of the three bells, then the telephone message, then it was repeated to the First Officer, "Iceberg right ahead"; then the First Officer went to the telegraph to give an order to the engine room and gave you the order, "Hard-a-starboard"?
- Yes.

994. At any rate up to his going to the telegraph as I follow you, there was no change of speed? - No, Sir.

995. What that order was you do not know?
- No, Sir.

996. Then "Hard-a-starboard," and you immediately put up your helm?
- Hard-a-starboard.

997. Right over?
- Yes.

998. What is it, 35 degrees?
- Forty degrees.

999. Then you got the helm right over?
- Right over, Sir.

1000. Then she comes round two points and then strikes. Is that right?
- The vessel veered off two points; she went to the southward of west.

1001. And then struck? - Yes.

1002. Were there blinds in the wheelhouse?
- Yes.

1003. They were all closed?
- Always closed just after sunset.

1004. And no lights were in the wheelhouse at all except the compass light?
- And the small light.

1005. And the small light on the course board?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
Have you a green board here with some small wooden models?

The Attorney-General:
No.

The Commissioner:
You know what I want?

The Attorney-General:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
The report from the crow's-nest was "Iceberg ahead."

1006. (The Attorney-General.) "Iceberg right ahead." (To the Witness.) The helm was put hard-a-starboard? - Yes.

1007. And the ship moved two points?
- Yes.

1008. Assuming the iceberg was right ahead, I should like to see what difference the two points would make, and what part of the ship would then be presented to the iceberg? - Yes.

The Attorney-General:
We can do it, of course. I quite appreciate what your Lordship means.

The Commissioner:
Mr. Laing could do it for me in a minute.

1009. (The Attorney-General.) It is a mere question of taking the indication of course. (To the Witness.) Did any one of the Officers see you carry out the order?
- Yes.

1010. Who?
- Mr. Moody, and also the Quartermaster on my left. He was told to take the time of the collision.

1011. Let us get the fact of what happened. Was Mr. Moody there when you put the helm hard-a-starboard? - That was his place, to see the duty carried out.

1012. Was it his duty to report it?
- Yes; he reported the helm hard-a-starboard.

1013. To whom?
- To Mr. Murdoch, the First Officer.

1014. Then you had put the helm hard-a-starboard and Mr. Moody had reported it hard-a-starboard to Mr. Murdoch?
- Yes.

The Attorney-General:
That is the only fact your Lordship had not got in the story.

The Commissioner:
I do not see the significance of it.

1015. (The Attorney-General.) It is only because you cannot fix the time except by seeing exactly what happened. That is the point of it. The estimate of time is of very little value, but if you can get what happened you can form an estimate. So that he had reported, and then it was after that that she strikes, is that right?
- She struck almost at the same time.

1016. Almost as he reported it?
- Yes.

1017. How long did you remain at the wheel?
- Until 23 minutes past 12.

1018. And who relieved you?
- Quartermaster Perkis.

1019. After she struck, did you notice at all what happened?
- No.

1020. Did you notice whether the ship had stopped?
- Oh, yes, the ship had stopped.

1021. Can you tell us how long it was after the collision that you noticed that the ship had stopped? - Immediately.

1022. While you were remaining at the wheel until 2.23, could you see what was going on on board the vessel?
- I could not see anything.

1023. You remained at your post?
- Yes.

1024. I suppose you heard something of what was going on?
- I heard a few words of command, that was all.

1025. Tell us what you heard in the way of command?
- Just about a minute, I suppose, after the collision, the Captain rushed out of his room and asked Mr. Murdoch what was that, and he said, "An iceberg, Sir," and he said, "Close the watertight door."

The Commissioner:
Wait a minute. A minute after the collision, Captain Smith -

1026. (The Attorney-General.) Came out of his room on to the bridge do you mean?
- Yes, Sir; he passed through the wheelhouse on to the bridge.

1027. He rushed out of his room through the wheelhouse on to the bridge?
- Yes.

1028. And asked Murdoch, "What is that?" - Yes.

1029. And Murdoch said, "An iceberg." Is that right?
- Yes.

1030. Mr. Murdoch said "An iceberg," and then?
- The Captain immediately gave him orders to close the watertight doors. He said, "They are already closed." He immediately then sent for the carpenter to sound the ship.

The Commissioner:
The Captain gave orders to close the watertight doors?

1031. (The Attorney-General.) Yes. Mr. Murdoch said, "They are already closed." Do you know where they were closed from?
- Yes, the fore-part of the bridge.

1032. Could you see them being closed?
- I could not see anything but my compass.

1033. Where you were you would not be able to see it?
- No.

1034. (The Commissioner.) Do you know what these doors are?
- Yes, my Lord.

1035. Would that order from the bridge refer to all the watertight doors, or only to those that close automatically?
- Only those that close automatically, my Lord.

The Attorney-General:
That is what I understood, my Lord. I think all the lower ones closed. I think that is how it stands; but, of course, your Lordship will hear it.

The Commissioner:
Some of them are worked by hand.

Sir Robert Finlay:
There are 12 lower doors which close when the button is pressed.

1036. (The Attorney-General.) Let us follow it. Mr. Murdoch said, "They are already closed"?
- Yes.

1037. And then what happened?
- He then gave orders to send for the ship's carpenter to sound the ship.

1038. That is what Captain Smith did?
- Yes.

1039. Do you know whether the ship's carpenter was sent for?
- I do not know; I only heard the order given.

1040. Did you hear any other order?
- No other order after that. That was the last order I heard with the exception of the boats.

1041. What was that you heard about the boats?
- I heard the Captain say "Get all the boats out and serve out the belts." That was after 12.

1042. I am rather anxious to get the time if I can?
- I could not barely tell you the time.

1043. That is enough - as near as you can; it was after 12?
- Yes, the Captain then looked at the commutator and he found that the ship was carrying a list to starboard.

1044. And were those all the orders you heard until you were relieved from the wheel?
- Yes.

1045. When the vessel struck, did you feel any shock?
- Yes. I felt the ship tremble, and I felt rather a grinding nature along the ship's bottom.

1046. While you were in the wheelhouse you had the compass in front of you?
- Yes.

1047. Could you see ahead at all through the wheelhouse?
- I could not see anything.

1048. You would not be able to see the iceberg even if it had been quite clear. Is that what you mean?
- No, I could not see it, on no account whatever could I see it.

1049. You said that the Captain rushed out of his room through the wheelhouse to the bridge?
- Yes.

1050. Where was his room? I do not know if you can point it out on the model. Was it on the starboard or port side?
- The starboard side.

1051. That model is the starboard side. Where was the Captain's room?
- About here. (Pointing on the plan.)

1052. Was it quite close to the wheelhouse?
- Yes, quite close to the wheelhouse.

1053. We have a plan which will show it. I do not know whether your Lordship has the plan, but we need not stop to consider it very carefully now. It is quite close. (To the Witness.) Then, when you were relieved by Quartermaster Perkis, what did you do? Did you get an order first of all?
- Yes, orders to carry on, helping to get a collapsible boat uncovered - getting the cover off a collapsible boat.

1054. Carry on and get the cover off the collapsible boat?
- On the port side.

1055. Who gave you that order?
- I think it was the Chief Officer, Mr. Wilde, or Mr. Lightoller, I am not sure which.

1056. Had you any station on the boats?
- Yes.

1057. What boat were you stationed to?
- I think it was one of the emergency boats.

1058. Do not you know which?
- No; we never had any boat drill while we were there.

1059. There are only two emergency boats, one on the starboard and one on the port side?
- Yes.

1060. But you were stationed to an emergency boat. You do not know whether it was port or starboard. Is that it?
- There were two Quartermasters with their names specially picked out for those two boats, but I was not told off to anyone of them. I never went to either one of them for any drill.

1061. That is not quite what I want to know whether you went to drill. I will ask you about that directly. What I want to know is whether you had any station to which you were to go?
- Not that I am aware of, no.

The Commissioner:
I am getting a little in confusion. I have written down, "I was stationed to one of the emergency boats."

The Attorney-General:
He did say so, my Lord.

1062. (The Commissioner.) Am I to understand you were not stationed to any boat?
- I had no proper station. I had no station to go to on paper that I was notified where to go on a station.

1063. What did you mean by saying just now, "I was stationed to one of the emergency boats"? - One of the Quartermasters was at the wheel at that particular time and it would be my duty to go there and fill his vacancy during his absence at the wheel.

1064. (The Attorney-General.) It would be the duty of the two Quartermasters to go to the two emergency boats. Is that right?
- Yes.

1065. What he means is that if the Quartermaster was on duty, and somebody had to go to the emergency boat it would be his duty to act as one of those Quartermasters. Is that right? - Yes.

1066. But to which of the two boats, whether it was port or starboard there were no orders?
- No orders.

1067. Did you see the lists of the stations for the boats on board?
- No.

1068. If I understand you correctly, your name would not be on the list, would it?
- Not that I am aware of.

1069. You would not have any cause to look at the list for yourself?
- I have never seen any list put up anywhere. The usual thing is to have the fire and boat stations marked on a sheet of paper and put up for everyone to see, but I did not see it.

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