British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 4

Testimony of John Poingdestre, cont.

Examined by Mr. LEWIS.

3198. I understand you assisted in lowering a number of boats before you went to your own?
- Yes.

3199. How long did it take you before you reached your own boat?
- About 45 or 50 minutes.

3200. When you came to your own boat were there any other sailors there?
- Yes, three.

3201. They assisted to lower the boat?
- Yes, and went in the boat.

3202. Were you ordered out of your boat?
- Yes, I was ordered out of it.

3203. You subsequently returned?
- I was ordered out of the boat by Mr. Lightoller.

3204. Did you go?
- Yes.

3205. Did you subsequently return?
- I said to Mr. Lightoller, "There is no seaman in that boat." He said "all right, go back again."

3206. Because there was no seamen in the boat you were allowed to go back?
- Yes.

3207. With regard to third class passengers, from your general knowledge, would they be allowed under ordinary circumstances upon the boat deck?
- No.

3208. They would be kept back if they made any attempt?
- No doubt they would.

3209. Who would they be kept by - the Master-at-arms?
- The Master-at-arms and the stewards.

3210. I suppose the Master-at-arms was on duty upon this evening?
- Yes.

3211. And as far as you know the Rules would be in operation then as on ordinary occasions?
- Yes.

3212. (The Commissioner.) Do not you know that all barriers were down?
- All barriers were not down.

3213. We have been told all barriers were down. Were any barriers down?
- I never saw any.

3214. If they were not how did the third class passengers get to the boat deck?
- Up the ladder leading from the after-well deck.

3215. And how then?
- Up through the second class companion way.

3216. Would there be no barriers there, keeping them from getting through the second class?
- The doors were locked at the time; the second cabin doors, where they had entrance to go on to the boat deck, were locked.

3217. Those had been unlocked, had they?
- I could not say.

3218. How do you account for the third class passengers being there?
- That is the only way up, my Lord, from the afterpart of the ship.

3219. They had been able to find their way there somehow?
- [No Answer.]

3220. (Mr. Lewis.) How many third class passengers did you observe, grouped together? I think you said you saw passengers grouped?
- On the forewell deck - about a hundred.

3221. Under ordinary circumstances would it be difficult for third class passengers to get from one portion of the vessel to the other?
- Yes.

3222. I suppose more difficult when there is a crowd?
- Sure.

3223. When you took the men off the up-turned boat. I think you took a number of men into your lifeboat?
- Quite right.

3224. About how many had you in the boat then?
- About 90.

3225. Was it dangerous?
- The starboard gunwale was getting under water every time anybody moved.

3226. If there had been a slight breeze it would have been dangerous?
- There would have been no chance whatever.

3227. I understand you have served in other companies besides the White Star?
- Yes.

3228. The Union Castle?
- No.

3229. The Royal Mail?
- Yes.

3230. Do I understand that in that company they have a larger number of hands in proportion to their tonnage than the White Star?
- Yes.

3231. (The Commissioner.) Have you studied the subject?
- Yes.

3232. Then you can tell me the tonnage of one of the Royal Mail boats and the number of lifeboats on her?
- There is one Royal Mail boat that I was in about 3,000 odd tons.

3233. Can you tell me the tonnage of a Royal Mail boat and the number of boats on board that vessel, and the name of the vessel?
- I can tell the name of the vessel but I could not tell you the tonnage.

3234. Then how do you know that the proportion is greater?
- Because the "Titanic" was four times her size.

3235. I want you to answer not too readily but after thinking. I want to have accurate evidence if I can get it. You told me there is a larger proportion of lifeboats according to the tonnage, on the Royal Mail boats than there was upon the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

3236. Now can you give me the tonnage of a Royal Mail boat and the number of boats upon that Royal Mail boat, and her name?
- I do not know exactly the tonnage, but it is 3,000 odd.

3237. What is the name of the boat?
- The "Arragon."

3238. Over 3,000 tons?
- I have the tonnage in my pocket.

3239. The "Arragon" over 3,000 tons?

The Attorney-General:
He says he has it in his pocket.

3240. (The Commissioner.) Very well, let me see it. (To the Witness.) What is the proportion of lifeboat accommodation?
- Sixteen.

3241. And how many is each boat intended to carry?
- Fifty to sixty.

3242. Now let me see it. (The document was handed to the Commissioner.) The tonnage on this paper is 5,397?
- Yes, my Lord, it would be. That is from the Board of Trade.

3243. You said "over 3,000."

Sir Robert Finlay:
"Three thousand odd" was his expression.

3244. (The Commissioner.) On this paper it is 5,000 odd - 5397. Where does the lifeboat accommodation appear on this paper?
- The lifeboats do not appear upon that, but I know from experience.

The Attorney-General:
I think he was on her. I do not know whether he served on her; I think he did.

3245. (The Commissioner - To the Witness.) Did you serve on her?
- Yes, my Lord.

3246. (Mr. Lewis.) The tonnage is something over 5,000 tons I understand?
- Yes.

3247. What is roughly the tonnage of the "Titanic"?
- Forty-six thousand odd, I believe.

3248. How many boats were on the "Titanic"?
- Sixteen, and four rafts.

3249. And how many on the boat you speak about?
- Sixteen.

3250. Would they be the same size, or smaller?
- Near about the same size.

The Commissioner:
It is really no use whatever. If this evidence is to be of value it must be accurate. "Near about" conveys nothing to my mind.

Mr. Lewis:
You have the evidence that this boat was over 5,000 tons.

The Commissioner:
Yes, he began by saying 3,000.

Mr. Lewis:
Yes, but he had the figures in his pocket, my Lord.

The Commissioner:
It makes a good deal of difference if he was thinking of 3,000 tons, when he said the proportion of lifeboats was in excess. He may have been right, but it makes a great deal of difference if the 3,000 is altered to 5,000.

Mr. Lewis:
And also if the lifeboats are smaller. It is common knowledge that the accommodation provided by that particular company is much better than that provided by the White Star Company.

The Commissioner:
That may be important, but if it is to be important to me it must be accurate.

Mr. Lewis:
Well, as near as possible, my Lord, but sailors as a Rule are not particularly accurate.

Sir Robert Finlay:
There cannot be the slightest difficulty in getting authentic information.

The Commissioner:
The Royal Mail office will give you the information.

The Attorney-General:
We will take care that that evidence shall be brought before your Lordship. I quite appreciate it must be accurate.

The Commissioner:
He does not remember whether it was 3,000 or 5,000. It is no good.

3251. (Mr. Lewis - To the Witness.) If you will tell us the number of boats carried on the Royal Mail boat I am content. Can you tell us?
- 16.

3252. Can you tell us the number of men carried by the Royal Mail Company on the boat I referred to?
- 50.

3253. How many A.B.'s?
- Two to a boat.

Examined by Mr. COTTER.

3254. How long have you been in the employ of the White Star Line?
- About six months.

3255. When did you join the "Titanic"?
- When she left Southampton. I joined the "Titanic" in Southampton.

3256. What do you mean by when she left Southampton?
- I joined the "Titanic" in Southampton.

3257. How many days before she sailed?
- On Good Friday.

3258. That is about five days before she sailed?
- Yes.

3259. (The Commissioner.) She sailed on the Wednesday, did she not?

3260. (Mr. Cotter.) Yes, my Lord. (To the Witness.) You understood your way about?
- Yes, slightly.

3261. When did you first go upon the boat deck?
- Upon the Friday.

3262. Were you one of the men who took part in the boat drill?
- Yes.

3263. Have you ever taken part in first class ships in boat drill?
- Yes.

3264. Will you tell the Court what really constitutes a boat's crew at boat drill? Firemen, trimmers, stewards, and sailors.

3265. Can you tell us the numbers and the places in the boats?
- On an average ten to a boat, two sailors, four firemen and perhaps four stewards.

3266. I put it to you that the boats' seats are all numbered No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4?
- That is quite right - to No. 6.

3267. Had you got any seat on any boat on the "Titanic"?
- No.

3268. You simply got the number of a boat. Did you muster?
- Yes.

3269. Who gave you the number of the boat?
- I was told to get into the boat by Mr. Lightoller.

3270. Who gave you the number of the boat the day your name was called out at Southampton?
- We never had a boat muster at Southampton - only the Board of Trade muster.

3271. When you answered your name, the day you joined the ship -?
- Who mustered us?

3272. Yes?
- The Chief Officer.

3273. Did he give you the number of a boat when he called your name out?
- No.

3274. How did you get the boat?
- By looking at the boats' crew list which was posted up in the forecastle.

3275. Now, you said that the boats on board the "Titanic" numbered 16 and four rafts?
- Yes.

3276. Did you mean rafts or Engelhardt boats?
- I term the collapsible boats rafts.

3277. But there is a collapsible boat and there is an Engelhardt boat and there are rafts?
- These boats the "Titanic" had had a wooden bottom with a canvas top.

3278. They are Engelhardt's. Was there any collapsible boat there?
- No.

3279. Were there any rafts?
- No.

3280. Simply sixteen boats and four Engelhardt's?
- Yes.

3281. When you saw those third class passengers and the stewards amongst them, were they making any effort at all to get to the boat deck?
- None.

3282. Is there any way to the boat deck forward?
- Yes.

3283. How?
- From the forecastle, up two ladders.

3284. Where are they situated?
- On the foremost port side of the ship.

3285. Where are the ladders? Will you show them to us?
- There is one on the port side coming here along the well deck and going up on the promenade deck here - (Pointing on the model.) On the starboard side there is no ladder, but on the next deck, on the lower promenade, as we call it, there is a ladder here, and also another one going on this deck.

3286. There is only one ladder going to the next deck?
- Yes, on the port side.

3287. That is for the third class passengers who want to get up, or the crew?
- Yes.

3288. Are there any indication marks for finding the way up to the boat deck?
- No.

3289. When you got to the boat deck you said you assisted to put out the boats. Were the boats in the chocks or were they slung?
- They were already on the falls, but they were resting on half a chock - on the inboard chock.

3290. Had you any difficulty in getting the chocks from under the boats when you wanted to string them up?
- No.

3291. How were the falls fastened to the davits holding the boats?
- On to a clutch in the deck, a staghorn in the deck.

3292. Whereabouts were the ends of the falls? Were they situated near the boat or near the house?
- The coils? Do you mean when the falls are in the boat?

3293. When you put them out where did you sling them?
- On the deck - coiled them down on the amidship part of the deck.

3294. When the people came up they were standing on the falls?
- They were.

3295. The result was they interfered with the falls in the middle of the deck and you had a difficulty in getting the people out of the way?
- Yes.

3296. You stated somebody attempted to rush the boats?
- Yes.

3297. Were they English people?
- Foreigners.

3298. Were they members of the crew?
- No, I never saw any members of the crew.

3299. She had no foreigners in the crew?
- No, not that I know of.

3300. You do not know?
- No.

3301. When the boats were hung out you were on the starboard side?
- I was on the port side.

3302. The ship had a list?
- Yes.

3303. Had you any difficulty in getting the women into the boat?
- No.

3304. Did any women refuse to go in?
- Yes.

3305. Why?
- Because they would not leave their husbands.

3306. Did any refuse to go into the boat because they were afraid to step over the gap to the boat-side?
- No.

Examined by Mr. LAING.

3307. When Mr. Lightoller told you about the falls not being strong enough was that when the boat was being rushed?
- Yes; the boat was already full.

3308. (The Commissioner.) No. How many were in the boat?
- There were 40 in the boat, but the falls would not take any more.

The Commissioner:
Well, that is what Mr. Lightoller said. Apparently the falls had taken more in the other boats.

3309. (Mr. Laing.) When Mr. Lightoller said that was the boat being rushed or were they trying to rush the boat?
- They were trying to rush the boat.

3310. Afterwards he told you to lower away?
- Well, he did not tell me, he told the other two men.

3311. (The Commissioner.) They were men passengers to rush the boat?
- Yes.

3312. Not the crew?
- No.

3313. Not women?
- No, my Lord.

3314. But men?
- Yes.

3315. Trying to rush into the boat?
- Yes.

3316. And was it then and in order to prevent them rushing into the boat that Mr. Lightoller said that the falls would not stand it?
- No.

3317. What was it then?
- When the boat had sufficient in he said that.

3318. There were not sufficient?
- That is nothing to do with me, my Lord. I do not know if there is sufficient or not. I have to obey orders.

3319. Yes, but I thought you told me the capacity of these boats was 65?
- So it is, my Lord.

3320. Then did not you know that the boat was not full?
- No, my Lord.

3321. You knew the capacity was 60 to 65. Did you know there were only 40 in it?
- No, not at the time, my Lord.

3322. (Mr. Laing.) Mr. Lightoller was there, at all events?
- Yes.

3323. And he was the Officer who said this about the falls, you say?
- Yes.

3324. The boat looked full to you as far as you could see?
- Yes, it did.

. Did you mean to say that the Master-at-arms was keeping the passengers back?
- I did not see him, I said it was his duty to do so - to keep people off the next deck.

3326. Do you mean under ordinary circumstances?
- Yes.

3327. During the voyage?
- Yes.

3328. But you did not mean to say - at least, I hope not - that the Master-at-arms was keeping these passengers back at this critical time?
- I never saw him. If he was, no doubt he was the same as myself and he did not think any harm was coming.

3329. Now, with regard to the lights on the boats you saw none at all after the boats were all in the water?
- No.

3330. Do not you think you may be mistaken?
- I saw a light, I saw another accident boat burning a blue or a green light.

3331. I mean ordinary boat lights?
- No, I did not.

3332. (The Commissioner.) The ordinary boats' light is white?
- Yes.

3333. (Mr. Laing.) Did you see the lamp trimmer carrying about a lot of lighted lamps on the boat deck?
- No.

3334. And serving them out to the boats?
- I never saw the lamp trimmer whatever.

3335. Now, when you say that in the White Star Line they have a man forward in the forecastle head as a look-out as well as in the crow's-nest, do you mean in dense fogs?
- No, in any hazy weather whatever.

3336. In foggy weather?
- Yes.

3337. Then they have a man forward on the lookout?
- Yes, they generally put two extra men on the look-out.

3338. That is when they are blowing the whistle for a fog, is it?
- Yes.

3339. (The Commissioner.) There was no fog on this night, was there?
- No, my Lord.

(The Witness withdrew.)