British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 4

Testimony of John Poingdestre

Examined by Mr. BUTLER ASPINALL.

2762. Were you serving as an A.B. on the "Titanic," at the time of this accident?
- Yes.

2763. When did you join her; what day?
- At seven o'clock on the Wednesday morning.

2764. Have you been on other liners?
- Yes.

2765. What?
- Some other White Star liners.

2766. Give me their names.
- The "Oceanic" and the "Teutonic."

2767. Have you been in any other liners?
- Yes.

2768. Give me their names.
- Nearly all the Royal Mail liners leaving Southampton.

2769. Any other liners?
- No, Sir.

2770. How many years' experience have you had on liners?
- I have had three years' experience on liners.

2771. You joined on the Wednesday, I think you said?
- Yes.

2772. And then the ship proceeded to sea?
- Yes.

2773. Did you know what your boat was?
- Yes.

2774. Which was your boat?
- No. 12.

2775. How did you know No. 12 was your boat?
- Because I made it my acquaintance to find out which boat I was in.

2776. How did you make it your acquaintance to know which boat you were in?
- On the top of the foc'sle ladder leading down to our mess-room the list was put up acquainting each man of which boat he was in.

2777. You looked at it, and there you saw No. 12 boat for you?
- Yes.

2778. Now I want to take you to the night of the accident. Was it your watch from eight to twelve?
- Yes.

2779. What were your duties that night?
- Standing by.

2780. What sort of weather was it?
- Grand weather.

2781. What do you say?
- Fine weather.

2782. Was it cold?
- Rather cold.

2783. You call it "rather cold"?
- Yes, rather cold.

2784. You had come on duty at eight?
- Yes.

2785. Did the coldness continue, or did it get worse?
- It got worse.

2786. And at the time of the accident how would you describe the weather, was it cold or very cold?
- Terribly cold.

2787. And did you appreciate that it was getting colder and colder as you got along?
- Yes, Sir.

2788. That is with regard to the temperature. With regard to the clearness of the atmosphere, how would you describe it?
- Well, on the evening that the accident occurred it seemed to be fine weather.

2789. By "fine weather" - do you mean a good clear night for seeing lights?
- Yes.

2790. At the time of the accident was it fine weather then?
- Yes, Sir.

2791. Weather in which, according to you, you could see ships' lights at full range, do you mean?
- Yes.

2792. Did you feel the shock from the ship striking the iceberg?
- Yes.

2793. Where were you?
- Underneath the forecastle, outside the mess room, on the port side.

2794. On the port side, do you say?
- Yes.

2795. Can you tell me this; at the time you felt the shock do you think your engines were working astern or working ahead?
- I felt the vibration, but I could not say whether the engine was going ahead or astern.

2796. But it was a big vibration, was it?
- Yes.

2797. A sort of vibration that would tell a sailor that probably the engines were going astern?
- Yes.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
During this watch of yours from eight to 12, did you notice at what sort of speed your ship was travelling? Would you say she was travelling at her full speed?

The Commissioner:
I do not understand you. You say the vibration was such as to indicate that the engines were going astern. The engines were stopped, were they not?

The Attorney-General:
According to our view.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
"Stopped." I think the order came, "Full speed astern," according to the earlier evidence.

The Commissioner:
Were the engines ever reversed? They were stopped, I know.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
I think, my Lord, there has been evidence that they were reversed.

The Commissioner:
Very well.

2798. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Or we have it coming. (To the Witness.) At any rate, your view is that there was that vibration going on in the ship which one feels when the engines are put astern?
- That is quite so, Sir.

2799. Having felt the shock, what did you do?
- Came out on the forewell deck.

2800. When you got out on the forewell deck, did you see anything?
- Yes.

2801. What did you see?
- I knew we had struck an iceberg.

2802. Why did you know you had struck an iceberg?
- I saw the ice on the deck.

2803. Did you see the iceberg itself?
- No, Sir.

2804. Did you remain there, or go elsewhere?
- I picked a piece of ice up and went underneath the foc'sle with it outside the mess room.

2805. You went back to your mess room?
- Yes.

2806. Were you alarmed then, or not?
- No.

2807. You thought nothing of it?
- No.

2808. Having gone back to your mess room, did you remain there, or did you leave the mess-room?
- I remained outside the mess-room for a few minutes.

2809. And then?
- I saw the carpenter.

2810. Before you saw the carpenter, while you were remaining outside the mess-room, what was your ship doing? Did you notice?
- I think the ship was stopped, Sir.

2811. Now I will just go back for one minute. With regard to the coldness of the night. Did you hear any orders which came from the Officer of the Watch to anybody?
- Yes.

2812. What orders were those?
- I saw Quartermaster Hichens about half-past nine, and he had orders to go and tell the carpenter to look after the fresh water as it might freeze.

2813. This was something that was told you, was it?
- Yes, by the man himself that went and put the question to the carpenter.

2814. Hichens had orders. Did Hichens tell you who gave those orders?
- Yes.

2815. Who?
- Mr. Lightoller.

2816. And who is he?
- The Officer of the Watch from 8 to 10.

The Commissioner:
I have got that evidence somewhere already.

The Attorney-General:
Hichens himself said it.

2817. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Now, to go back to where we were before; you were just telling me that you saw the carpenter?
- Yes.

2818. Did anything pass between you and the carpenter?
- Yes.

2819. Will you tell me what was said by the carpenter to you?
- The carpenter told me, and said the ship was making water; "Get up to your boats."

2820. Did he give you any more definite information than that?
- No.

2821. He did not tell you how much?
- He said about 7 feet, Sir.

2822. Did he tell you whether he had been sounding himself?
- He had been sounding the wells down in the firemen's compartment.

2823. He had done that?
- Yes.

2824. He told you 7 feet of water was the result?
- Yes.

2825. Now when the carpenter gave you that information how long do you think that was after the ship had struck the iceberg?
- I think about 10 minutes.

2826. What did you do after the carpenter had told you that?
- Stayed where I was.

2827. For about how long?
- A matter of a couple of minutes.

2828. And at the end of a couple of minutes what did you do?
- The boatswain piped.

2829. What did the boatswain pipe?
- "All hands up and get the lifeboats ready."

2830. Now after the first pipe what did you do?
- Went up on to the boat deck.

2831. Now having got on to the boat deck what did you do?
- I went to the first boat I came to and cleared her away.

2832. On which side of the boat deck were you?
- On the port side.

2833. And which boat did you go to?
- I went to no particular boat; I cleared all away.

2834. How many boats did you help to clear away?
- About 10.

2835. All on the port side?
- No; I went from the port side over to the starboard side.

2836. Was there good order whilst those boats were being cleared away?
- Yes, because there were only the sailors up there to do it.

2837. You were up the whole time on the boat deck?
- Yes.

2838. Then the boats would be lowered down to the deck below for the passengers to get in?
- No, not necessarily.

2839. Where were the boats lowered to?
- Some boats were lowered to the promenade deck and some were lowered in line with the fish plate that is on the boat deck.

2840. Now, having assisted in getting these boats lowered away, what did you next do?
- I went down the forecastle.

2841. Back again to the forecastle?
- Yes.

2842. Now, why did you go back to the forecastle?
- To put my boots on.

2843. When you got back to the forecastle did you find any water coming in?
- Yes.

2844. How long do you think it was after the ship had struck that you went back to the forecastle to put your boots on?
- About three-quarters of an hour.

2845. Now I want you to tell me about the water. Where was the water that you saw when you went back to the forecastle?
- Coming in through a bulkhead that had broken outside our forecastle, a wooden bulkhead from the third class.

2846. Was it coming from abaft this bulkhead, or forward of it?
- It was coming in from the starboard side.

2847. On the starboard side?
- Yes, in line with our forecastle, where we slept.

2848. Was it coming from a place abaft where you slept?
- No, forward of where we slept.

2849. From a place which was forward of where you slept?
- Yes.

2850. About how far aft of the stem of the vessel did you sleep? Perhaps you do not know?
- Well, I reckon 50 to 60 feet.

2851. Were you sleeping in a place which was forward of No. 1 hatch or aft of No. 1 hatch?
- Aft of No. 1 hatch.

2852. Was this water coming in fast?
- Yes, it was pouring in.

2853. Could you hear it as well as see it?
- I was in it; I had to come through it up to my waist in water to get out.

2854. And it was pouring in?
- Yes.

2855. (The Commissioner.) How did you get your boots?
- While I was in the forecastle, getting my boots, this bulkhead broke as I was coming out - the wooden compartment leading from the third class.

2856. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Was this a watertight bulkhead which broke?
- No, a wooden one.

2857. The ordinary wooden bulkhead?
- Yes, separating our forecastle from the third class cabins.

2858. On which deck were you at the time you saw this bulkhead go?
- I was in our forecastle.

2859. On which deck would that be?
- I could not say; we call it the lower deck.

2860. One of the lower decks?
- Yes.

2861. Do you know where the seamen's wash place is?
- It is right opposite.

2862. Is it the same deck?
- Yes, right opposite the washroom door.

2863. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) That is deck E, my Lord. (To the Witness.) Is your place aft of the seamen's wash place?
- Yes.

2864. I see there is a space on the place for "seamen"?
- Yes, just abaft the bath room.

2865. On the port side?
- Yes.

2866. Now the bulkhead that carried away, is that a bulkhead which is aft of that?
- No.

2867. Forward?
- Directly opposite our bathroom door.

The Commissioner:
Is this wooden bulkhead worked on any plan?

The Attorney-General:
That is what we are trying to find, my Lord.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
Has your Lordship got deck E? Deck E, 44 seamen on the port side?

2868. (The Commissioner.) Was it a fore and aft bulkhead that gave way?
- Yes, a fore and aft bulkhead.

2869. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Did the water come from the starboard side?
- Yes.

2870. Now, did you remain below?
- No, a matter of half a minute.

2871. You cleared out?
- Yes, as fast as I could.

The Attorney-General:
Has your Lordship got it now where it is on the plan?

(The Attorney-General pointed out the position on the plan to his Lordship.)

2872. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) It is difficult to measure time on these occasions, but how long do you think it was after the ship struck the iceberg that this fore and aft bulkhead carried away?
- About half-an-hour.

The Commissioner:
He first said he went to this place to get his boots three-quarters of an hour after the collision, and that when he got his boots and was coming out then the wooden bulkhead gave way. That must have been, if anything, longer than three-quarters of an hour.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
It is very difficult, my Lord.

The Witness:
Well, about three-quarters of an hour, my Lord.

The Commissioner:
It is near enough.

2873. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) You cleared out, you say?
- Yes.

2874. Where did you go to then?
- I was going up on to the boat deck to go towards my own boat, and I heard the Captain pass the remark, "Start putting the women and children in the boats," and then I went to my boat, No. 12.

2875. Now, on your way from your quarters up to the boat deck would you go near where the third class passengers could get out from their quarters up to the deck?
- Yes, they were already out.

2876. How do you know that?
- I passed them on the forewell deck on the port side.

The Commissioner:
Which were those?

2877. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Those were third class passengers, my Lord; he says he knows the third class passengers were out because he passed them on his way. (To the Witness.) I want you to explain that.

2878. (The Commissioner.) Now you are talking about the third class passengers in the fore part of the vessel?
- Yes.

2879. By the forecastle?
- Yes.

2880. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) How do you know they were out? - You say you passed them; what do you mean by that?
- Well, I saw them with my own eyes, with their own baggage on the deck.

2881. Did you see them coming up?
- They were already there.

2882. Was there a large number of them there?
- Yes.

2883. And when you say "there" what do you mean precisely by that?
- On the port side of the well deck, outside, from under the forecastle.

2884. As you passed, I suppose it was a short time?
- Well, it was directly I came out of the forecastle.

2885. You saw them gathered there?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
I want to know where they were gathered?

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
I think he could point out to your Lordship.

2886. (The Commissioner.) Were they gathered on the well deck or did he see them on the boat deck?
- Gathered on the well deck, my Lord, port side.

2887. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) It is difficult to tell numbers on a dark night?
- There may have been 50 or there may have been 100, I could not say.

2888. Were they not only gathered, but were they remaining there?
- Yes.

2889. Stopping there?
- Yes.

2890. Were there men, women, and children?
- No.

2891. What were they?
- They were men, foreigners.

2892. You saw no women?
- None whatever.

2893. It may be the women are berthed aft of the ship?
- Yes, aft, away from the men altogether.

2894. Now, was there anybody connected with the ship, stewards or sailors, or anybody else, giving any information to these people?
- Yes.

2895. Who was giving information?
- The third class stewards were with them, some of them.

2896. They were with them?
- With the passengers.

2897. Were they telling them anything?
- They were conversing with them.

2898. What do you mean by that?
- Why, speaking to them.

2899. Did you hear anything they said to them?
- No.

2900. Were there any orders being given - you know what I mean - orders in a loud voice?
- I never heard any.

2901. They were gathered together?
- Yes, in a bunch.

2902. And talking?
- Yes.

2903. Then you passed along?
- I went up the ladder then to go to the boat deck.

2904. And when you had gone up to the boat deck did you leave behind you these people on the well deck?
- Yes.

2905. Now having got up what did you do?
- I went along to No. 12 boat.

2906. That's your station boat?
- Yes.

2907. When you got to your station boat in what condition was it? Where was it?
- Hung to the davits.

2908. Was it swung out?
- Yes.

2909. (The Commissioner.) What number was your boat?
- No. 12.

2910. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) That is on the port side?
- Yes.

2911. The last boat but two?
- Yes.

2912. Now having got to your boat, was it in a line with the boat deck or had it been lowered?
- It was lowered, but in line with the boat deck.

2913. In a line with the boat deck?
- Yes.

2914. Was there anybody there looking after it?
- Yes.

2915. Who?
- Mr. Lightoller.

2916. Is he an Officer?
- Second Officer.

2917. Was there anybody else with him?
- No, only myself.

2918. Only you two?
- Yes.

2919. Were there any passengers up there?
- Yes.

2920. Were they males or females, or both?
- Both.

2921. Children?
- Yes.

2922. Many of them at that boat?
- There were hundreds gathered round waiting to get into the three boats.

2923. When you speak of three boats, which boats do you mean?
- Nos. 12, 14, and 16.

2924. Were you able to distinguish between these people whether they were first, second, or third class passengers?
- No.

2925. Now what happened with regard to your boat, No. 12?
- We filled her up with women and children - me and Mr. Lightoller, the Second Officer.

2926. How many women and children?
- About 40.

2927. This was a lifeboat, was it not?
- Yes.

2928. How many would it hold?
- The full carrying capacity of the big lifeboats is 65.

2929. Now having, to use your own phrase, filled it up with about 40, what was done with that boat?
- It was left there.

2930. Left on a level with the boat deck?
- Yes, with the boat deck.

2931. How long was it left there?
- I went away, and helped fill another boat after that

2932. Which boat did you go to help with?
- No. 14.

2933. That is a boat immediately abaft No. 12?
- Yes.

2934. How long were you away with No. 14?
- A matter of about ten minutes.

2935. Was there any Officer looking after No. 14?
- Yes.

2936. Who?
- Mr. Wilde, the Chief Officer.

2937. Anybody besides him?
- No.

2938. So you helped the First Officer?
- Yes, the Chief Officer.

2939. Were people put into that boat?
- The boat was filled with women and children also.

2940. About how many?
- About 40.

2941. And was that boat left, as you call it?
- No, the boat was lowered.

2942. That boat was lowered into the water, and who went away in that boat?
- I could not say.

2943. Did the Officer go away?
- No.

2944. What did you do next?
- I went to my own boat.

2945. No. 12?
- Yes.

2946. When you got back to No. 12, was there any Officer there?
- Yes.

2947. Who?
- Mr. Lightoller.

2948. Any seamen, firemen, or anybody else?
- Yes, there were some sailors there.

2949. Do you know their names?
- Yes.

2950. What were their names?
- There was Lucas, who lowered the boat, and another man who lowered the other end I did not know, but another man I asked to come in the boat by the name of Clinch.

2951. Did he come in the boat?
- He came in the boat at my own request.

2952. That is an Officer and three seamen?
- No, they were gone.

2953. Two of them helped to lower?
- And two of us were in the boat.

2954. You and the third one were in the boat?
- Yes.

2955. So that the boat, when it was lowered to the water, contained two sailors, you and Clinch?
- Yes.

2956. When the boat was lowered to the water how many people were in her when you last left her?
- About 42.

2957. You are precise; did you count the number?
- No. I never had any time to do that.

2958. Do you know how it comes that there were not more than 42 put into this boat?
- Yes.

2959. Why?
- Well the reason is that the falls would not carry any more.

2960. You mean somebody was frightened of the falls?
- Yes, the Second Officer, Mr. Lightoller.

2961. Now having lowered her down to the water did Mr. Lightoller give you any orders as to what to do with the boat?
- He gave me orders before the boat was lowered what to do.

2962. What orders did he give you?
- To lay off and stand by close to the ship.

2963. Were there any left on the boat deck as the boat was being lowered?
- No women.

2964. Men?
- Yes.

2965. How did the passengers behave - well?
- Well, they did not where I was.

2966. (The Commissioner.) What were they doing?
- They were trying to rush No. 12 and No. 14 boats.

2967. Men, you mean?
- Yes.

2968. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Did you have to keep them back?
- Yes, to the best of my ability.

2969. Who did that?
- Myself and Mr. Lightoller and the other two sailors who were standing by to lower. They could not lower the boat as it should have been lowered because of the passengers. Men were on the boat falls; they could not get them clear.

2970. Could you tell the Court who those were who were trying to rush the boat?
- Passengers.

2971. What sort of passengers?
- Second and third.

2972. (The Commissioner.) Men passengers?
- Yes, my Lord.

2973. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) No. 12, I see according to the plan, is somewhere in the neighbourhood of the second class promenade, is it not?
- Yes.

2974. At any rate, the boat only contained women and children?
- Yes, and two hands.

2975. Now having got her down to the water, did you obey Mr. Lightoller's orders?
- Yes.

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