British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 4

Testimony of Reginald R. Lee, cont.

2622. Was there somebody on the bridge as well?
- Two quartermasters were there, and the Officer of the watch.

2623. What ship was this?
- The "Minnehaha."

2624. What line does she belong to?
- The Atlantic Transport.

2625. Is she a mail boat?
- No, Sir.

2626. (Mr. Scanlan.) As you have been stationed both in the crow's-nest and in other ships on the bows, I want you to give us your opinion as to whether it would be easier to see the iceberg if you were stationed at the bows than in the crow's-nest?

The Commissioner:
He has given you an answer to that which I believe to be quite true, that he does not know.

2627. (Mr. Scanlan.) You were assisting in the launching of all the boats from the starboard side?
- I did not say all the boats.

2628. A number of them?
- Some of them.

2629. How many of them?
- I do not know how many - about three or four.

2630. Were any of these three or four boats that you assisted in launching provided with lights, lamps?
- I did not look for them.

Examined by Mr. HARBINSON.

2631. I believe you went from Southampton to Cherbourg?
- Yes.

2632. Did you take many passengers on at Cherbourg?
- That I could not say.

2633. You do not know?
- No.

2634. Then you went from Cherbourg to Queenstown?
- Yes.

2635. Did you ship many passengers at Queenstown?
- A good number, but I cannot say how many.

2636. But a good number?
- Yes.

2637. Mainly, I suppose, third class passengers?
- Yes, third class passengers.

2638. (Mr. Harbinson.) Do I rightly understand that third class passengers were carried both fore and aft in the "Titanic"?

The Commissioner:
You do; you need not wait for an answer to that.

Mr. Harbinson:
Thank your Lordship.

The Witness:
Yes, fore and aft.

2639. You say you asked for glasses. Who did you ask?
- I did not ask.

2640. Did you know that anybody asked for glasses?
- Yes, I think Simmons asked.

2641. Who did he ask?
- He was supposed to ask one of the Officers on the bridge, but I do not know whether he asked. I am only just saying what I was told.

2642. (The Commissioner.) Simmons told you that he asked, did he?
- So I understand, that he asked the question on the bridge.

2643. Did Simmons tell you that he asked the question on the bridge?
- I think I am right in saying that he did.

2644. Are you sure about it?
- I will not swear that he did. I know that we all spoke about it, my Lord, and when they asked.

2645. When who asked?
- When one of them asked about the glasses they were told there were none for us.

2646. Who was the one that asked?
- I think it was Simmons.

2647. What makes you think so?
- Because I can remember the conversation about it. We all spoke about it together.

2648. Who was there at this conversation?
- Fleet, Hogg, Evans, Simmons, and myself were all there.

2649. And were you all talking about binoculars?
- They were asking why they could not have them, because they had been in use from Belfast to Southampton, and they wanted to know what had become of the glasses that we had used in that time.

2650. Then the binoculars, according to this conversation, had been in the crow's-nest coming from Belfast to Southampton?
- Yes.

2651. And therefore when she left Harland and Wolff's, if this conversation ever took place and it was accurate, the binoculars were there, and they had vanished at Southampton?
- I was not there at the time, my Lord.

2652. But, as I understand, the conversation was to the effect that they had been in the ship when she left Belfast?
- Yes.

2653. And the matter being discussed at this conversation was where they had gone?
- Yes.

2654. And where had they gone?
- I do not know.

2655. Did the conversation lead to any conclusion on that point?
- We did not have any to use.

2656. I know that, so you say; but did you in your conversation arrive at any conclusion as to what had become of them?
- We simply went without them, my Lord, that is all.

2657. (Mr. Harbinson.) You considered it was a serious matter not to have them?
- If you have got good eyesight it is not necessary to have them perhaps.

The Commissioner:
That is your statement, you know.

2658. (Mr. Harbinson.) You were told to look out for ice and "growlers"?
- Quite so.

2659. Had you been told there was ice about?
- Yes.

2660. Did you know, as a matter of fact - had it been communicated to you - that a warning had been given from the "Baltic" as to ice being about?
- No. The orders were passed over from the man that we relieved.

2661. Jewell and the others?
- Jewell and Simmons.

2662. You knew that ice was about?
- You could smell it.

The Commissioner:
"Smell it"?

Mr. Harbinson:
That is his reply.

2663. (The Commissioner.) This is the first time I have heard that. Does he mean that he felt the cold? (To the Witness.) Is that what you mean by "smell"?
- There was a sudden change in the temperature, my Lord.

The Commissioner:
Then I understand.

2664. (Mr. Harbinson.) But so far as you knew the boat was going at the same speed?
- Yes.

2665. Was the haze visible from the bridge, this haze that you saw?
- It should have been.

2666. Despite the fact that this haze was about, you saw no slackening of speed?
- No.

2667. And no alteration of the course?
- No.

2668. I think you said that off the banks of Newfoundland on previous occasions there has been an additional man in the bows - an additional look-out?
- Yes.

2669. How many times in your experience?
- In the Navy they have extra look-outs on each side of the foc'sle, and may be aloft as well.

2670. But you yourself have seen it on boats you have been previously employed on?
- Yes.

2671. Immediately after the collision, did you come down from the crow's-nest?
- No, I waited till our relief's came up at 12 o'clock.

The Commissioner:
You are taking him all over the same story again. He told you that he came down from the crow's-nest at 12 o'clock, the end of his watch.

2672. (Mr. Harbinson.) Immediately you came down from the crow's-nest, did you see any of the passengers come from the forepart of the boat?
- No, because underneath the foc'sle you would not see anybody there, only the sailor folk or some of the firemen.

2673. Were there many passengers about the front of the boat when you came down?
- No.

2674. Did you see any stewards about?
- Yes, there may have been one or two, but I did not see many.

2675. Did you see anybody giving any instructions or warnings to the passengers in that part of the boat?
- I saw the bos'un and he sent the watch up on deck to clear the boats.

2676. But you did not hear any instructions given as to warnings to be given to the passengers?
- No, I could not hear them there.

2677. You made your way immediately down to boat No. 13?
- No, up from the foc'sle to the boat deck here (Showing.) right along the starboard side.

2678. To boat No. 13?
- No. 11, down the side to No. 11 and No. 13. (Showing.)

2679. Were there any passengers about the place about the position of boat No. 13?
- We had no women or children there, but there were a few men that went over to the other side, or got into the next boat.

2680. Was it before or after the lowering of your boat that you saw the rockets first go up?
- They were sending them up before the boat was lowered into the water.

The Commissioner:
You have told us that already, you know.

Examined by Mr. LEWIS.

2681. How long have you been an A.B.?
- [No Answer.]

2682. (The Commissioner.) How long have you been a sailor? How old are you now?
- Forty-one.

2683. When did you first go to sea?
- In 1887.

2684. That is twenty-five years ago, so that you went to sea when you were about 16?
- Yes, 16.

2685. When did you become an A. B.?
- Last year.

The Commissioner:
It is a long time you know. He says he became an A. B. last year.

2686. (Mr. Lewis.) I do not press that point, Sir. How many times have you acted as look-out man?
- [No Answer.]

2687. (The Commissioner.) Have you counted the number of times that you have acted as a look-out man?
- I could not swear I have. I was a look-out man on the way to China in the "Cordelia," but I was not paid for it. I was 14 years in the Naval Service. I was in the "Minnehaha," and I was in the "Olympic," and I was in the "Titanic."

2688. (Mr. Lewis.) Is your sight good?
- I hope so.

2689. Never anything the matter with your sight at all?
- No.

2690. Is there an examination of the eyes before you are appointed look-out man at Southampton, or elsewhere?
- Yes.

2691. Who by?
- You go through the Board of Trade office.

2692. At Southampton?
- Yes.

2693. What doctor examined you?
- I do not know his name.

2694. A doctor did examine you at Southampton; did he particularly examine your eyes; did he test your sight?
- Yes.

2695. Do you swear that he tested your sight at Southampton at the Board of Trade Dock there; do you swear that?
- No.

2696. Let us be quite clear. You were examined by the Board of Trade doctor at the Southampton - is that so?
- I am not going to answer that.

2697. (The Commissioner.) What did you say? Were you examined at Southampton by a doctor?
- Yes, Sir, but not for eyesight though. He only just asked me - not a test to get a certificate for so that I can prove it. There is a doctor's examination when you fall in.

2698. Were you asked about your eyesight?
- Not specially.

2699. Were you asked in any way about it?
- I cannot say that I was.

2700. (Mr. Lewis.) Can you tell us what form the examination took then. Were you examined separately; were all the men examined separately? What sort of examination did the doctor make?
- I suppose he pleased himself. A medical man generally does, does not he?

2701. What sort of examination did he make of you? What did he say to you?
- You might ask me something easier because I cannot remember what the man said.

2702. You say you were examined by the doctor - this is very important. I want you to answer the question. What form did the examination take; how long did it take?
- We were falling in on the lounge deck and the doctor came and examined us all. I do not know that he particularly asked me anything.

2703. Just a casual examination?
- It was a casual kind of examination.

2704. He did not ask you anything at all about your eyes?
- No.

2705. No special examination. Has there been any examination by anyone since, by a ship's doctor or anyone else, with respect to your eyes?
- No.

2706. (The Commissioner.) Is your eyesight good?
- I think so, my Lord.

2707. Do you believe that it is good?
- I do.

Examined by Mr. COTTER.

2708. You said that the berg, when you first saw it, was half a mile away?
- I did not. I said I could not say whether it was half a mile or a little more or a little less. It was impossible to say.

2709. (The Commissioner.) I thought you said it was about half a mile away?
- About half a mile.

The Attorney-General:
He did say that he really could not say, but that that was it as it appeared to him.

2710. (Mr. Cotter.) If you had had a pair of night binoculars that night, and you were using them, I suggest to you that you would have seen that berg earlier?
- Quite feasible.

2711. And then there would have been a chance of telling the Officer on the bridge that it was ahead before you did.

2712. (The Commissioner.) Can you tell me the difference between day binoculars and night binoculars?
- No, my Lord, except that they are made in the trade for night use and day use.

Examined by Sir ROBERT FINLAY.

2713. Just a few questions. The practice varies a good deal, does not it, about supplying binoculars to the look-out men?
- Well, Sir, I do not know. They are supposed to be. It may be that some companies would supply them and some companies would not supply them.

2714. You know, I daresay, there is some difference of opinion as to whether it is desirable that the men who have to look out all round should have glasses?
- Yes.

2715. That is, I believe, because it leads them to fix their attention on the spot to which they are directing the glasses?
- Yes.

2716. There is a difference of opinion about that. Now about this light that you saw after you were in the boat. You saw it before the "Titanic" went down, as I understand you?
- Yes.

2717. Were there more lights than one?
- It seemed like a masthead light, or, as I said, it might be one of our own boats with a small light.

2718. How far off did you think it was?
- It might have been a matter of six miles; it might have been five miles.

2719. Five or six miles?
- It might have been that, five or six miles.

2720. How long did you see it?
- I could not say. I never know that I noticed it, because it was pointed out to me, and all the passengers were saying that they thought there would be a ship coming along. But really I could not tell whether it was a ship or whether it might have been one of our own boats that had gone away from the other side of the ship and pulled ahead.

2721. You thought it might be a masthead light of a ship five or six miles away?
- Yes, five or six miles away, of another ship; but as for being certain about it - I could not be certain.

2722. The haze could not have been very bad if you thought it was a masthead light, five or six miles off?
- This is afterwards, Sir. This is in the morning - when I say in the morning, it is about what time?

2723. The "Titanic" sank about 2 o'clock?
- Two something.

The Commissioner:
Half-past two.

2724. (Sir Robert Finlay.) Before the "Titanic" sank?
- This is after she had passed the berg, Sir. As she got clear of the berg the weather was clearer.

2725. Had the whole haze gone by that time? Had the whole of the haze disappeared by that time?
- It seemed to be clearer about that time.

2726. (The Commissioner.) About what time?
- I suppose about 2.30, my Lord.

2727. Then did this haze come on some time before 12 o'clock, and then lift just about the time the "Titanic" was sinking. Are you sure this haze existed at all?
- Yes, Sir, quite positive.

2728. (Sir Robert Finlay.) Was it ever very bad?
- It was so bad that you could not see the iceberg, Sir.

The Commissioner:
It was so bad that you could not see it.

2729. (Sir Robert Finlay.) It had lifted. When did it lift?
- It cleared.

2730. When?
- It was towards daylight. That is the only thing I can say.

2731. (The Commissioner.) But it was not daylight till about five o'clock?
- No.

2732. I understand that when you saw this light the rockets were going up from the "Titanic"?
- So they were.

2733. You saw the light before the "Titanic" went down, and when the "Titanic" was sending up rockets, and there was no answer from the light?
- Not as far as we could see.

2734. (Sir Robert Finlay.) There is just one other matter that perhaps you can tell me about. When you saw the water coming in you looked down No. 1 hatch?
- Yes.

2735. Could you see down to where on a lower deck the hatch was battened over and tarpaulined - battened down?
- Yes.

2736. You saw down to that?
- Yes.

2737. Below that would be the cargo?
- Yes.

2738. You know that, do not you?
- Yes.

2739. The various decks down to that would be decks with quarters for the firemen and so on?
- Yes.

2740. You saw this hatchway?
- I am not sure about this deck business. You could hear the water rushing in, but where it was coming from I could not tell you.

2741. What I want to know is did you see the water rising on the deck where the hatch was?
- Yes.

2742. That is what you mean?
- Yes, but I cannot tell you whether it was two decks or even below that.

2743. I will not trouble you about the number?
- The water was making its way into the ship.

2744. I quite follow. All I wanted to get clear was that you saw down to this hatchway?
- You could hear the water running in there.

2745. You saw the hatchway where it was tarpaulined over and battened down?
- Yes.

2746. The water was rising there?
- The water was washing round it as it came on to the deck.

2747. Did you see where the water was coming from - did you see any hole or anything like that?
- No, I could not see that from up top; you could not see that.

2748. From all you saw, the water may have been rising from below?
- Rising from below for all I know.

Further examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.

2749. If I understand you aright, I suppose you were examined by the doctor when everybody else was examined - when you were all told to fall in?
- Yes.

2750. And not specially because you were the look-out man, or anything of that kind?
- No.

2751. That is in accordance with the regulations. There is one question I would like to put to you, because I am not sure that we have got your answer clearly upon it. When you were in the crow's-nest did you first of all feel the impact, the blow of the vessel on the iceberg? Did you feel it?
- The ship seemed to heel slightly over to port as she struck the berg.

2752. You felt her strike, did you?
- Oh, indeed, Sir.

2753. Then she heeled a little over to port?
- Very slightly over to port, as she struck along the starboard side.

2754. Could you tell at all whether she had struck above or below the waterline? Can you say that?
- It was hard to say that - we would not know.

The Commissioner:
What is supposed to have caused the ice to fall on the deck? Was it some part of the ship, the "Titanic," striking the berg above the waterline, or was it something that fell from the iceberg without the iceberg being struck.

The Attorney-General:
I should have thought myself that it followed that the vessel must have struck the iceberg, and brought the ice on to the deck.

The Commissioner:
So I should have thought, but I was wondering what part of the "Titanic" would strike the iceberg.

2755. (The Attorney-General.) I do not think there is any such suggestion. (To the Witness.) You have told us that you saw some ice fall on to the forewell deck?
- It must have been overhanging from the berg as she struck, otherwise it could not have come there, because there were no yards on the mast or anything of that sort. It must have been.

2756. It must have been either the head or the side?
- It caused it to fall inboard. This is where it landed, just on that forewell deck. (Showing on the model.)

2757. You did not notice that, did you. Did you notice whether there was any overhanging part?
- No, I cannot say what was overhanging; I cannot say the size.

2758. Did you notice where it fell on the forewell deck. Was it amidships or on the starboard side or port side?
- It was on this side here, the starboard side. (Showing.)

2759. I think there is one other thing you may still be able to tell us. When she struck, did the blow continue? Did she seem to be ripping along?
- There was a rending of metal.

2760. Did you notice that?
- Yes. You could hear that from where we were.

2761. You could hear a rending of metal?
- Yes, you could hear a rending of metal right away. It seemed to be running right along the starboard side.

The Attorney-General:
That is what I wanted to understand from you.

(The Witness withdrew.)