British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 3

Testimony of Robert Hichens, cont.

1070. (The Commissioner.) I should like to have this clear. Would your name be on such list?
- Certainly, my Lord, in boat stations.

1070a. I rather understood you to suggest that it would not.

1071. (The Attorney-General.) I did. I understood from him that it would not, because it would depend whether he was on duty or not. (To the Witness.) I understood you to say that you would not expect to find your name on the list of stations. Is that right?
- No, Sir. I did not mean that at all.

1072. Tell us what you mean about it. - In every ship that I have been in we always have had every Quartermaster, or whatever he may be, seaman, fireman, steward, always have their boat stations, and they would have a proper muster every Saturday or whenever it may be - it lies at the Captain's discretion whenever he liked to give us a drill, and everybody is mustered in front of their boats, but I never saw it like that on the "Titanic."

1073. That means you never saw a muster?
- No.

1074. Where did you join the "Titanic"?
- Southampton.

1075. How long before the vessel sailed?
- Four days.

1076. Do you remember the day of the week that you went on board of her?
- I think the first day when we dressed ship.

1077. What day was that, do you remember?
- I think it was Good Friday, holidaytime.

1078. Then from that time until the collision occurred had you any boat drill at all?
- I did not see any; they might have had when it was my duty off. We Quartermasters were keeping gangways in harbour.

1079. You, personally, had not had any; is that right?
- That is quite right.

1080. Whether the others had or not you do not know?
- That is right.

1081. They might have had without your knowing it?
- That is right.

1082. Now will you come back to the order that you got to remove the cover of one of the boats?
- Yes.

1083. It was the cover of one of the collapsible boats on the port side?
- Yes.

1084. Did you do that?
- I did, Sir.

1085. Did you finish that job?
- Yes.

1086. Did you clear her, taking away all the coverings?
- I was ordered away to one of the next lifeboats before I had time to ship the rudder, and so on.

1087. You had the cover off?
- I had the cover off and got the boat's grips off.

1088. And then you were ordered to another boat?
- Yes.

1089. Who ordered you to another boat?
- Mr. Lightoller.

1090. And to what boat?
- No. 6 boat.

1091. Is that a lifeboat on the port side?
- Yes.

1092. It would be the third on the port side from forward, would it not?
- I do not know whether it was the second or third boat. It was one of the two.

1093. We have been told it was the third. When you got to No. 6 lifeboat was that all ready?
- Yes. She was swung out then.

1094. Did you take passengers on board?
- Yes.

1095. When you got to her were there any passengers on board?
- No.

1096. She had only been swung out ready?
- That is all.

1097. And then what happened - who was giving orders then?
- Mr. Lightoller was in charge of the port side.

1098. Did you hear any order given?
- Yes, I heard the captain say, "Women and children first," and the Officer repeated the words from the captain.

1099. "Women and children first"?
- Yes.

1100. (The Commissioner.) Where was the captain?
- Just standing by the collapsible boat by the Officers' quarters between the Officers' quarters and the collapsible boat.

1101. Will you just show us where that is on the model?
- Yes, here, in the centre; the Officers' quarters were here, and the collapsible boat under the emergency boat (Pointing on the model.)

1102. Are you speaking of the port side?
- Yes.

1103. You have indicated to us the corresponding point on the model on the starboard side?
- Yes.

1104. Was No. 6 boat that you went to a boat which was on the deck where the first class cabins were?
- Yes.

1105. The first class promenade?
- Yes.

1106. How many people did you take on board?
- Forty-two all told.

1107. First of all, will you tell me, how many crew there were besides yourself?
- One seaman, Sir.

1108. And how many passengers?
- Forty passengers.

1109. How many men passengers?
- One man and one boy.

1110. And the rest were ladies?
- Yes.

1111. Could you tell at all whether they were first, second, or third class passengers?
- Nearly all first and second class, I think, Sir.

1112. Do you know the name of the one man passenger?
- Yes, Sir.

1113. What is it?
- Major Pewan. [Arthur G. Peuchen.]

1114. P-e-w-a-n - is that it?
- Yes, I think it was spelt something like that.

1115. Very well, that is near enough. Was there room for any more in that lifeboat?
- The boat seemed pretty full, Sir, but from what I am given to understand she could carry five or six more. She seemed pretty well full up with the ladies with their lifebelts on, scattered about the boat.

1116. Were all the lifeboats the same size?
- I am not quite certain, Sir; I do not think they were. Some were smaller than others.

The Commissioner:
How is that?

The Attorney-General:
According to what we make out, they are all the same size except, of course, the two emergency boats. I asked him about the lifeboats. We make out that they are all the same as I understand it. The fourteen boats would all be the same.

The Commissioner:
All of them are marked on the plan as 30 feet?

The Attorney-General:
Yes, that is so.

The Commissioner:
They would all have the same beam?

Sir Robert Finlay:
I am told they are all the same size except the emergency boat.

1117. (The Attorney-General.) That is just what I stated. (To the Witness.) The lifeboats, I suppose, were bigger than the two emergency boats?
- Oh, yes, Sir.

The Commissioner:
Beauchamp said that on board his boat there were 60 or 70 persons.

The Attorney-General:
He did.

The Commissioner:
And I understand this Witness says there were 42 in his boat.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, we will get that from some other Witness. We can only get as far as that from this one. According to Scarrott's evidence there were about 60 in his boat all told. In this one we have only got 42.

The Commissioner:
Then I took a wrong note of it.

1117a. (The Attorney-General.) I think your Lordship will find that that is right - just about 60. (To the Witness.) According to what we have heard these lifeboats were all about the same size. If you only had 42 on board all told, there was room for something like 20 more. Did you notice that at all?
- Well, I do not think she would have held 20 more, Sir. That was nothing to do with me. That was the Officer's orders.

1118. Who gave orders for her to be pushed off?
- The Second Officer, Mr. Lightoller, ordered the boat to be lowered away.

1119. Where was he when he gave that order?
- Right abreast of the boat, Sir.

1120. On deck?
- Yes, on the promenade deck.

1121. Then she was lowered away?
- Yes.

1122. You were in her?
- Yes, Sir.

1123. Who was in charge of the boat?
- I was.

1124. Were there any other passengers on the deck so far as you could see when you got the order to lower away - when the order was given to lower away?
- Yes, there were some passengers there.

1125. Women?
- I think there were one or two women, Sir, besides gentlemen as well. They felt half inclined - they did not care about getting into the boat.

1126. Who felt half inclined?
- Why, the passengers, Sir.

1127. They did not like getting into the boat?
- They did not like to get into the small boat - no.

1128. Who is "they" that you are speaking of?
- Why, the passengers that were standing there on the deck that I heard talking.

1129. Do you know how you came to have the one man passenger and a boy in the boat?
- I do not know how the man passenger got in the boat at all, Sir - nor the boy.

1130. You do not know how they got in?
- No, Sir.

1131. You did not see them get in?
- No, Sir.

1132. Did you see they were in when the boat was lowered?
- Just after we got away from the ship I did.

1133. But not till then?
- No.

1134. As I understand it, when you saw the boat lowered you thought there were only ladies in the boat and yourself and another seaman. Is that right?
- Yes, Sir.

1135. Who was the other seaman?
- Seaman Fleet.

1136. That is one of the look-out men that we have heard about?
- Yes.

1137. When did you count the number of ladies on board?
- I counted them as near as I could when we got down to the "Carpathia," just before we got aboard the "Carpathia."

1138. Not till then?
- No.

1139. (The Commissioner.) That was hours afterwards?
- Yes, Sir.

1140. (The Attorney-General.) You may as well tell us - when did you get to the "Carpathia"?
- As near as I can tell you about 7 o'clock. We were the last boat to get alongside.

That does not tell me anything, but I will take the statement for the moment.

The Commissioner:
It does not fit in with the other evidence.

1141. (The Attorney-General.) It depends on clocks, and so on. There is some difficulty in arriving at the time. (To the Witness.) When the order was given to lower away, did you hear any question asked as to whether there were any others ready to go on the boat? Did you hear any such question as that?
- I do not remember, Sir.

1142. (The Commissioner.) I think you will remember if you think about it?
- No, I do not remember, my Lord.

1143. Do you know what you were asked?
- Yes, my Lord.

1144. What were you asked?
- If there was any more passengers asked to get on board before the boat was lowered away.

1145. Do you mean to tell me that you do not remember whether the people waiting on deck were asked to get into your boat. You know there was room in it; there was room in your boat. Was no one asked of those people who were standing about on deck if they were going into the boat?
- Oh, yes, my Lord. The Officer asked for them to get into the boat then - women and children first.

1146. And then what did they say - those that remained behind?
- They were talking between themselves; they would rather stay aboard of the ship.

1147. (The Attorney-General.) Now let us go back for a moment. You told us he asked to go on board - the women and children first. That was the first order to passengers to get into the boat?
- Yes.

1148. Then, as I understand you, a number did get into the boat?
- Yes.

1149. Then your boat was not full?
- The Second Officer would not allow any more in my boat.

1150. Did you hear the Second Officer give any order?
- I heard the Second Officer say; "Lower the boat away," yes, Sir.

1151. You said just now that he would not allow any more people to get into your boat. Did you see anybody wanting to get into your boat who was stopped?
- No, Sir.

1152. But there were people there then, I suppose?
- Plenty of men there.

1153. Did he stop them?
- He did not.

1154. I do not understand what you mean by saying he would not allow any more to get into the boat. How do you know that?
- Because the boat was lowered away. There was enough people in the boat.

1155. Did he say that?
- I think so, as much as I can remember.

1156. What do you remember he said?
- I think he said, "Lower away."

1157. Did you hear anything said at all about, "There is enough people in the boat"?
- I do not hardly remember, Sir.

1158. What! You can hardly remember? You said just now you thought "there was enough people in the boat" - I do not care about the particular words. Did you hear anything like that said?
- I do not remember, Sir - only "Lower away the boat." That is all I remember.

1159. Then, when the boat was lowered, did you have any order as to what you were to do?
- Yes, Sir.

1160. Who gave it to you?
- Mr. Lightoller, the Second Officer.

1161. What was the order?
- To pull for that light - to steer for that light.

1162. What light?
- There was a light about two points on the port bow, about five miles away, I should judge.

1163. You are speaking now of the time that the order was given to lower the boat?
- I am speaking now of the time when the boat was going to be lowered away.

1164. Then you got the order from Mr. Lightoller, the Second Officer, to steer for a vessel which was two points on the port bow, or, rather, I said for a vessel, you said for a light; it is the same thing?
- Yes.

1165. To steer for a light which was on the port bow?
- That is right, Sir.

The Commissioner:
A light two points off.

1166. (The Attorney-General.) Yes, on the port bow, and he also said about five miles distance. That is right, is it not?
- Yes, Sir.

1167. When you had first seen that light two points on the port bow?
- While we were in the boat, Sir, taking the passengers on board. That was the order then, to steer for that light.

1168. (The Commissioner.) Do listen to the question. When had you first seen that light?
- During the time that I was standing in the lifeboat taking the passengers into the lifeboat, my Lord.

1169. (The Attorney-General.) When you looked and saw this light, could you tell what it was at all?
- No. We surmised it to be a steamboat.

1170. As I understand, you saw that light for the first time when you were standing in the boat before the order was given to lower away?
- Yes, Sir.

1171. Then, when you got down to the water you started rowing away, I suppose, did you?
- Yes, Sir.

1172. Who rowed?
- When we got half way down the boat she was hanging at an angle, and I stopped them from above from lowering by shouting to the Second Officer to steady forward and lower away a bit astern, and I told him I had only one seaman in the boat.

1173. And then - tell us what happened.
- This major here was in the boat. When I looked around I saw the major.

1174. Was that while the boat was being lowered?
- When the boat was down in the water, just before we let go of the falls.

1175. How came you to see him?
- He was standing up there, standing up in the bows of her.

1176. The bows of the boat?
- Yes.

1177. Was there any difficulty in freeing her from the falls?
- No, Sir.

1178. Then, when you got free of the falls you started rowing?
- Yes, Sir.

1179. What I was asking you was who rowed - how many of you rowed?
- The sailor and the major and two or three of the ladies put out oars.

1180. What did you do?
- Steered for the light, Sir.

1181. How far did you go?
- About a mile, I suppose.

1182. A mile from the ship in the direction of the light, two points on the port bow. Is that right?
- Yes, Sir.

1183. Could you tell at all whether the light was moving or whether it was still?
- The light was moving, gradually disappearing. We did not seem to get no nearer to it.

1184. As I understand you, it seemed to get further away from you?
- Yes, Sir.

1185. Could you tell us how many boats had got away before you?
- I think there were two on the port side, but how many on the starboard side I could not tell you.

1186. On the port side you think there were two before you?
- Yes, Sir.

1187. Did any of the other boats travel in the same direction that you took?
- Yes, Sir, four or five of us there altogether.

1188. When you say "altogether" you mean close to each other - you do not mean lashed together?
- No, close together, going away to this light.

1189. When you stopped rowing were there any of these boats near you?
- One right alongside of us, Sir.

1190. Do you know who was in charge of that?
- Yes, the Master-at-Arms, Mr. Bailey.

1191. What sort of a night was it?
- It seemed a clear night, a starlight night.

1192. And calm, as we have been told - very calm?
- It was calm, Sir, till about three o'clock in the morning, when it came on choppy, a little breeze sprung up.

1193. Nothing to speak of, was it?
- No, Sir; but quite enough for a small boat.

1194. When you were rowing away did you see the "Titanic" still?
- Yes, I saw the lights of the "Titanic."

1195. You saw the lights of the "Titanic"; did you see any signals sent up by her?
- Yes, and before I left, Sir.

1196. What?
- Rockets.

1197. Before you left and after you left?
- Yes, Sir.

1198. Can you tell us what colour rockets?
- I did not take no particular notice of the colour, Sir. Some were green, some were red, and some were blue - all kinds of colours - and some white, Sir. I think, if I remember rightly, they were blue.

The Commissioner:
Have these colours a different significance?

The Attorney-General:
My Lord, that is what I am trying to ascertain. There is a special reason for wanting to know it. Has your Lordship got the "Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea"? Is that what you are looking at?

The Commissioner:
Yes, the last page.

The Attorney-General:
I am much obliged. That is what I was looking at myself.

The Commissioner:
"At night."

1199. (The Attorney-General.) Yes. That is Article 31, dealing with distress signals: "When a vessel is in distress and requires assistance from other vessels or from the shore, the following shall be the signals to be used or displayed by her, either together or separately"; and then, as your Lordship pointed out, "At night" No. 3 is "Rockets or shells, throwing stars of any colour or description, fired one at a time, at short intervals." That is it. (To the Witness.) Will you tell me how long it was before you left the vessel that you saw rockets sent up?
- I could not give you no estimate of time, because by the time I come from the wheel I was there working about the boat.

1200. It would be after you came from the wheel, because you could not see till then?
- Yes, Sir. I could not give you no time for that.

1201. Had it been going on any time before you left the vessel?
- No, not very long, Sir, I should not think it would be. It could not have been, in fact, because I was working there not more than a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes, I suppose, before I was sent away in the boat.

1202. When you came first of all to remove the cover of the collapsible boat, did you see any then?
- No, not at that time, I didn't.

1203. It was only when you went to No. 6 lifeboat; is that right?
- Yes.

1204. You saw it then?
- Yes.

1205. Do you remember how many boats got on board the "Carpathia"?
- No, Sir, I do not.

The Commissioner:
Are you leaving this point now?

1206. (The Attorney-General.) No; I was trying to get his mind to a particular question I wanted to put to him. (To the Witness.) You say you saw the rockets being fired as you were rowing?
- Yes.

1207. Did that continue during all the time?
- It continued for about half-an-hour, I suppose, after we left the ship, as near as I can tell you. I never had no time in the boat; I am only guessing the time.

1208. That is your best estimate?
- Yes, Sir.

1209. Did you see the "Titanic" go down?
- No, Sir.

1210. Did you see her lights?
- The last time I looked I saw her lights.

1211. Was your back to her then?
- Yes. I was steering away from her then.

1212. You were steering?
- Yes.

1213. The last time you looked you saw the lights, and then you did not see them any more?
- No, Sir.

1214. When you had got about a mile's distance away, did you see the "Titanic" then?
- Yes, Sir; I saw the lights.

1215. Were you facing her then?
- No, Sir, going away from the ship all the time.

1216. I thought you stopped when you got about a mile's distance?
- It was about that time when we did not see the lights - when me and Bailey made our boats fast side by side.

1217. And you did not see the lights of the "Titanic" any more, is that what you mean?
- Yes, Sir. I did not see the lights of the "Titanic" again after that.

1218. Let me see if I understand the story. You rowed away from the "Titanic," and when you looked round you saw the lights there. As you were being rowed away from the "Titanic" you saw her lights?
- Yes.

1219. When you got about a mile's distance you stopped; and then when you looked you did not see the lights any more; is that right?
- That is quite right, Sir.

1220. That is all you can tell us about what happened?
- Yes.

1221. Is that right?
- That is all, Sir.

1222. Did you hear any explosion?
- Well, no, Sir.

1223. What does that mean, "Well no"?
- Well, not that I could say that I heard any explosion.

1224. But you heard something - is that it? What is in your mind about it?
- I do not think I heard any explosion.

The Attorney-General:
Do you mean you have heard other people talking of it; is that what you mean?

The Commissioner:
That is what he means.

1225. (The Attorney-General.) Is that what you mean?
- No, I do not.

1226. (The Commissioner.) Do you mean to say you have not heard it said that there were explosions before the boat went down?
- Yes, my Lord. I have heard those questions repeated and talked about, but I never heard them myself.

1227. (The Attorney-General.) Now, we understand what you mean. Did you look in your boat for a light?
- I had a light served out to me before I left the ship.

1228. Who served it?
- A lamp-trimmer, Sir.

1229. Do you remember his name?
- No, I do not know his name - a stranger.

1230. And you took it on board with you?
- Yes, Sir.

1231. Did you hear an order given to the lamp-trimmer to bring a light, or did he give you the light without your hearing an order?
- I never heard any orders. I see him coming along with the lights, and he had orders to give me one of them.

1232. Orders from whom?
- From Mr. Lightoller, the Officer.

1233. Did he have any other lanterns with him?
- Yes, Sir, several.

1234. Of the same kind that you had?
- Yes, Sir.

1235. And he served you out one as he passed?
- Yes, Sir.

1236. And then went along as far as you could see to the other boats: Is that right?
- Yes, Sir.

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