British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 4

Testimony of Reginald R. Lee

Examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.

The Attorney-General:
This is the Witness about whom you asked when my friend the Solicitor-General was examining the look-out man who had been relieved at 10 o'clock. Your Lordship asked whether he was alive.

The Commissioner:
I do not know whether there is any significance at all in this evidence of explosions before the sinking of the ship. I do not know what it points to, and I do not know whether it is important or relevant, but you did not ask the last Witness about it.

2362. (The Attorney-General.) I did not think he could tell us anything about it; that is why we did not ask. Your Lordship will appreciate that in regard to a number of the questions we are putting, when all the facts are ascertained they may or may not be relevant, but we thought it right that all the facts should be ascertained, so that then your Lordship can select such as you think relevant and material after hearing it all. (To the Witness.) Are you an able seaman?
- Yes.

2363. And were you on the "Titanic" when she sailed in April on her first voyage?
- Yes.

2364. You were the look-out man?
- Yes.

2365. You have had about 15 or 16 years at sea altogether?
- Yes.

2366. Just tell us, in your experience, speaking generally, have you had experience in mail steamers?
- Yes.

2367. Are glasses usually supplied to the lookout man in mail steamers?
- Not that I know.

2368. Have you acted as look-out man in other ships before the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

2369. On mail steamers?
- Yes.

2370. Have you ever had glasses for use as look-out man?
- Yes, but I do not know whether they were private or supplied by the company.

2371. You have had them, but you do not know whether they were private or not?
- No.

2372. Have you found them of use?
- They are better than the ordinary eye-sight

2373. Are they of use at night at all?
- Certainly, night glasses.

2374. I think I caught what you said just now, "night glasses"?
- Yes.

2375. There are different glasses used at night from those used in the day; is that right?
- Well, they are called that by the trade, I believe.

2376. Glasses to be used at night?
- Yes.

2377. Do you know whether they are supplied in any other vessels of the White Star Line?
- I cannot say they are for certainty, but my mate in the crow's-nest, who was for four years in the "Oceanic" as look-out man, told me they had them there.

2378. Who is your mate in the crow's-nest?
- Fleet.

2379. (The Commissioner.) Fleet told you they were in the "Oceanic"?
- They used them there.

2380. (The Attorney-General.) Were there any on the "Titanic?
- No, not for our use anyway.

2381. Was there any place in the crow's-nest for glasses?
- Yes.

2382. On the "Titanic"?
- Yes, there was - a small box.

2383. There was a box in the crow's-nest?
- Yes.

2384. If I understand you aright, there was a box there for glasses, but no glasses in the box?
- I could not tell you if they were for glasses, but there was a box there that would hold glasses.

2385. Did you look for glasses at all in the crow's-nest?
- We asked for them.

2386. On the "Titanic"?
- Yes. I did not personally ask for them, but one of the other fellows did, and they said there were none for us.

2387. Who was the one of the other fellows who asked for them, do you know?
- Simmons [Symons] or Jewell; I cannot be sure which one it was.

2388. I think we know Simmons was Jewell's mate on the look-out?
- Yes.

2389. Fleet was yours?
- Yes.

2390. And I think Hogg and Evans were the other two?
- Yes.

2391. Did you come on the look-out at 10 o'clock?
- Yes.

2392. On Sunday night the 14th April?
- Yes.

2393. How long did you remain on the look-out? - What was your duty?
- 4 to 6 and 10 to 12.

2394. I suppose that would mean that you and Fleet came on at 10 o'clock?
- Yes.

2395. And relieved Simmons and Jewell?
- Yes.

2396. Did one of you take the starboard side and one the port side of the crow's-nest on the look-out?
- I generally took the starboard side and Fleet took the port side.

2397. You were on the starboard side. Do you know whether there was any other look-out than you two?
- I could not say. We do not know what orders are given from the bridge.

2398. Then when you relieved Jewell and Simmons did they pass any word to you?
- Yes, they told us to keep a careful look-out for ice and growlers in particular.

2399. They told you to keep a careful look out for ice and growlers?
- Yes; by the Officer of the watch before 10 o'clock, Mr. Lightoller.

2400. I think I heard you say you remember that very well?
- Yes, I think I do.

2401. What sort of a night was it?
- A clear, starry night overhead, but at the time of the accident there was a haze right ahead.

2402. At the time of the accident a haze right ahead?
- A haze right ahead - in fact it was extending more or less round the horizon. There was no moon.

2403. And no wind?
- And no wind whatever, barring what the ship made herself.

2404. Quite a calm sea?
- Quite a calm sea.

2405. Was it cold?
- Very, freezing.

2406. Colder than you had had it yet on the voyage?
- I would not say that - but it was the coldest we had had that voyage, yes.

2407. It was colder that night than ever you had had it that voyage in the "Titanic"?
- Yes, on that trip.

2408. Did you notice this haze which you said extended on the horizon when you first came on the look-out, or did it come later?
- It was not so distinct then - not to be noticed. You did not really notice it then - not on going on watch, but we had all our work cut out to pierce through it just after we started. My mate happened to pass the remark to me. He said, "Well; if we can see through that we will be lucky." That was when we began to notice there was a haze on the water. There was nothing in sight.

2409. You had been told, of course, to keep a careful look-out for ice, and you were trying to pierce the haze as much as you could?
- Yes, to see as much as we could.

2410. At the time you came on watch, up to the moment just before the collision, can you tell us whether there was any difference in the speed at which the vessel was travelling compared with the rest of the voyage. What I mean is, was she going the same speed?
- She seemed to be going at the same rate all the way.

2411. Do you know who was in charge on the bridge?
- Yes; Mr. Murdoch.

2412. The First Officer?
- Yes, that was his watch.

2413. There would be other Officers on the bridge with him?
- Yes.

2414. Do you know who they were?
- I think Mr. Moody was there, but I could not say for certain, because when you are up in the nest you do not know.

2415. You would not be able to tell who the Officers were?
- No, unless you happened to see them.

2416. Did you receive any orders from the bridge at all during this watch?
- No. The orders were turned over by the people we relieved.

2417. Those are the orders that you told us of, that you got from Simmons and Jewell?
- Yes.

2418. May I take it those were the only orders you received during the time you were on watch?
- Yes.

2419. Before half-past eleven on that watch - that is, seven bells - had you reported anything at all, do you remember?
- There was nothing to be reported.

2420. Then what was the first thing you did report?
- The first thing that was reported was after seven bells struck; it was some minutes, it might have been nine or ten minutes afterwards. Three bells were struck by Fleet, warning "Right ahead," and immediately he rung the telephone up to the bridge, "Iceberg right ahead." The reply came back from the bridge, "Thank you."

The Commissioner:
This would be about 11.40.

The Attorney-General:
That is right, my Lord; ten minutes after seven bells.

2421. (The Commissioner.) Seven bells struck, and ten minutes after, about 10 minutes, Fleet struck three bells?
- Yes.

2422. And telephoned?
- And telephoned to the bridge, "Iceberg right ahead."

2423. And you got an answer, "Thank you"?
- "Thank you" was the answer from the bridge.

2424. (The Attorney-General.) I want you to tell the story from this point. You were watching the iceberg?
- Yes.

2425. Did you notice what the ship did?
- As soon as the reply came back "Thank you," the helm must have been put either hard-a-starboard or very close to it, because she veered to port, and it seemed almost as if she might clear it, but I suppose there was ice under water.

2426. (The Commissioner.) She veered to port. Her helm must have been put hard-a-starboard?
- Yes.

2427. (The Attorney-General.) He then said it looked as if she was going to clear it. (To the Witness.) It looked as if she was going to clear it, and then did you feel a blow?
- As she struck on the starboard bow there was a certain amount of ice that came on board the ship. That was the forewell deck. It seemed as if she struck just before the foremast.

2428. (The Commissioner.) Did you say anything about the ship striking part of the iceberg under the water?
- The formation of the berg is, there is more under water than there is above.

2429. I daresay. What I want to know is, did you say anything just now about the ship striking the iceberg under the water?
- I did not hear it.

2430. (The Attorney-General.) He did, my Lord; he said it "Felt as if," and I was trying to get to it. He said it just after he said "I thought she was going to clear it." I think we will get it from him in this way. (To the Witness.) You saw the iceberg as the vessel veered to port, did you?
- I saw it before that.

2431. Yes, you had seen it before, but that had been reported?
- Yes.

2432. Then you said you saw her head veer to port?
- Yes.

2433. Where did you get the iceberg - on what side of you?
- On the starboard hand as she was veering to port.

2434. You had the iceberg on your starboard side?
- Yes.

2435. You were on the starboard side of the crow's-nest, you told us?
- Just at that time I happened to be right in front of the nest, because as the nest is semi-circular the telephone is in the corner of the nest on the starboard side. My mate was telephoning from there, and I was standing in the front of the nest watching the boat.

2436. Do you mean you were standing just about amidships?
- Just about amidships in front of the nest.

2437. You were watching the berg. You had got the berg on the starboard side as the vessel's head veered to port?
- Yes.

2438. And you watched it?
- I watched it.

2439. Now could you give us any idea of what height there was of ice out of the water? I only want to have some idea of it?
- It was higher than the forecastle; but I could not say what height was clear of the water.

2440. (The Commissioner.) How high does the forecastle stand out of the water?

The Attorney-General:
I think it is about 60 feet.

The Commissioner:
I do not think it is as much as 60 feet.

The Attorney-General:
I think she drew about 34 feet.

The Commissioner:
I was not thinking about her draught, but how high the forecastle would stand from the water.

2441. (The Attorney-General.) I said 60 ft.; I am told it is about 55 feet. (To the Witness.) Can you give us any idea of the breadth? What did it look like? It was something which was above the forecastle?
- It was a dark mass that came through that haze and there was no white appearing until it was just close alongside the ship, and that was just a fringe at the top.

2442. It was a dark mass that appeared, you say?
- Through this haze, and as she moved away from it, there was just a white fringe along the top. That was the only white about it, until she passed by, and then you could see she was white; one side of it seemed to be black, and the other side seemed to be white. When I had a look at it going astern it appeared to be white.

2443. At that time the ship would be throwing some light upon it; there were lights on your own ship?
- It might have been that.

2444. Can you give us an idea to the best of your ability how far off she was when you passed her to starboard?
- She hit us.

2445. How far was the vessel from the iceberg?
- What did you say?

2446. You have told us your vessel veered to port and then you got the iceberg on your starboard side?
- Yes, that is where she hit.

2447. Quite right; that is where she hit, but can you tell us how far the iceberg was from you, this mass that you saw?
- It might have been half a mile or more; it might have been less; I could not give you the distance in that peculiar light.

2448. You are speaking of when it was you first saw it?
- Yes.

2449. I understand that; you think it might have been half a mile or rather less, and of course you cannot give any better indication than that. I am much obliged to you for that, but it is not quite what I wanted you to tell us. You have told us that she veered to port and then she struck on the starboard side. But when you were looking at her, could you see whether this darkness which you have told us of was any distance from the ship or was it quite close up against the side of the ship?
- Close up against the side of the ship on the starboard bow.

2450. Did you see at all how much ice there was that fell on the forewell deck?
- I knew there was some there, because I saw it when I went on to the boat deck.

2451. You did not pay particular attention?
- No, I had something else to think about.

2452. Give us, to the best of your ability, where it was according to you the vessel struck. I want to get some idea from you?
- Just before the foremast. It must have been there because when I went down from the crow's-nest the water was coming into - I do not know whether you call it No. 1 or No. 2 - it was level with here (Pointing on the model.) that is about where it was.

2453. That would be just before the foremast. I am going to ask a little more precisely about that?
- The water was coming in down below - I do not know whether it is No. 1 or No. 2.

2454. No. 1 or No. 2 what?
- Hold - water coming in there down in the firemen's quarters. I was not relieved till 12 o'clock.

The Commissioner:
I am not following this.

2455. (The Attorney-General.) Neither am I, my Lord; I did not even hear it. Do you mind telling us again what you said then? I could not hear you. Try to speak up?
- I did not leave there until 12 o'clock. When I went down at 12 o'clock water was coming into that compartment. That was just outside the seamen's quarters, down below.

2456. I think that does help us. Did you know the seamen's mess?
- Yes, that is what I am talking about.

2457. That is what I want. Then I know where it is. It was just about there that the water was coming in?
- Just outside there. The door is on a level, and the water was coming in down below. The ship was making water down there. You could see it from underneath the tarpaulin; you could look down below and watch the water coming in.

2458. Is No. 1 hatch just opposite the seamen's mess amidships?
- Yes.

The Attorney-General:
Your Lordship has that plan, and you will see at once where it is.

The Witness:
This was at 12 o'clock though.

2459. That is what you saw at 12 o'clock?
- When I came down from aloft, yes.

2460. Did you see the water coming in?
- Yes, I could hear it, and then I looked down to see what it was, and it was water pouring in from the ship's side or the bottom, anyway.

2461. Which side?
- The starboard side apparently.

2462. Where did you see the water coming in?
- It was coming on the deck down there.

2463. What do you mean by that?
- Down in the firemen's quarters.

2464. On the starboard side of the firemen's quarters; is that right?
- Well, it is amidships there; their quarters are down below there. Perhaps it is the deck below that.

2465. I do not know whether you understand it. You know where the seamen's mess is?
- Yes.

2466. That is on the port side is it not?
- That is on the port side.

2467. Is the firemen's mess on the starboard side?
- Oh, I mean down below, on the deck below there. If you look you will see; there are firemen's quarters down there.

2468. The quarters are below that?
- Yes.

2469. That gives us the side, at any rate?
- I think it is about two decks below that where those other quarters are.

2470. Yes, you are quite right. I think we can follow it from the plan: First of all, there is a deck where there are the seamen's messes and the firemen's messes?
- That is under the forecastle.

2471. Then below, and again below that, that is in the next deck and the deck under that, there are quarters for the firemen?
- Yes.

2472. For the firemen and the greasers and some of the other men. Is that what you mean?
- That is where water was coming in then, because the men brought their bags up from there who were going on the 12 to 4 watch, because the watch was coming in there.

2473. Wait a minute. You say the men were bringing up their bags from the one deck?
- They could not stay down there with the water coming in.

2474. We understand that, but from what deck was it that they were bringing their bags up? Perhaps we can get at it if you will tell us where they brought the bags to?
- I cannot tell you the name of the deck, but from their quarters.

2475. Where did they bring their bags to?
- They put them on the forecastle on top of the hatch there, and then they were no good to them; they had to leave them behind.

2476. That was because of the water coming into their quarters where they slept?
- That is so.

2477. And is that where you saw the water?
- I saw the water coming through - well, I saw water down there.

2478. In their quarters?
- I saw it down there as I looked through the top of the hatch. I saw water coming in.

The Attorney-General:
I think it must be No. 1 hatch, my Lord; it might be No. 2.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I think it must be No. 1.

2479. (The Attorney-General - To the Witness.) Was that the most forward hatch?
- Yes, I think it was No. 1; it is just outside the seamen's mess.

2480. Yes, that is No. 1. You were looking down that, and looking down there you saw the water?
- Yes, the water coming in. That was at 12 o'clock when I went down below.

2481. Could you hear it?
- Yes; hear it plainly.

2482. Was it rushing in or simply pouring in?
- It was not coming in so fast, but you did not know where it was coming from. It was coming from somewhere else further over to the starboard side; it must have been, but I did not know where it was coming from.

2483. All you could see was that water was coming in from somewhere on the starboard side?
- Yes.

2484. And it was getting into the firemen's quarters. That is right, is it not?
- Yes.

2485. And getting into their quarters so much that the firemen were driven up, and were carrying up their baggage on to the forecastle deck?
- They came up on deck there, and some of them were standing by; they did not know whether they would have to go below or not.

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