British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 5

Testimony of George Cavell

Examined by the SOLICITOR-GENERAL.

4182. Are you a trimmer?
- Yes.

4183. And at the time of the accident on the 14th April were you at work?
- Yes.

4184. Trimming coal?
- Yes.

4185. Can you tell me which section you were in?
- No. 4 section.

4186. Were you one of the regular trimmers for No. 4 right through the trip?
- Yes.

4187. How many coal bunkers are there in No. 4 section?
- There are six doors and four bunkers.

4188. Two on the starboard side and two on the port side?
- Yes.

4189. And six doors?
- Yes.

4190. How many trimmers are there to a section?
- Four trimmers to a section.

4191. So that you would have three mates with you?
- Yes.

4192. Had the fires in No. 4 been lighted the first day when the ship started?
- Yes.

4193. And had they been burning all the time?
- Yes.

4194. At the time this accident happened, do you remember which bunker you were in, starboard side or port side?
- Starboard side.

4195. Were you in the bunker at the time?
- Yes.

4196. Is that bunker in No. 4 aft of the furnaces of the boilers?
- Yes.

4197. The boilers are in front of it?
- Yes.

The Solicitor-General:
If your Lordship has the plan which we have referred to as No. 3, the one with the tank top, you will see which bunker it was. The bottom plan, which is the tank top plan, shows a thick black line marked "G," which is one of the watertight bulkheads. Does your Lordship see "G"?

The Commissioner:
It is not marked "G" on my plan.

The Solicitor-General:
It is between No. 4 and No. 3.

The Commissioner:
Yes, I see.

The Solicitor-General:
I think your Lordship in your plan will find that the word "coal" is written on the starboard side in the place where the bunker is.

The Commissioner:
Yes, and on the port side too.

4198. (The Solicitor-General.) Yes. This man was on the starboard side. (To the Witness.) Were you actually in the bunker at the time, Cavell?
- Yes.

The Solicitor-General:
Your Lordship says there is no "G" on your plan. If your Lordship will look for a moment at the big plan I will have the spot pointed out for you.

The Commissioner:
The fact of the matter is this: I have had a plan furnished to me of the "Olympic." They are practically the same - for all purposes they are the same, but I have not got the same letters.

The Solicitor-General:
We will find it for you.

The Commissioner:
It does not create any confusion.

4199. (The Solicitor-General.) Mr. Rowlatt is just putting the point of the pointer on the bunker. Your Lordship will see that the vertical line is marked "G" there at the bottom. (Pointing.) (To the Witness.) That is where you were, Cavell?
- Yes.

4200. Was there anybody else with you in the bunker at the time?
- No.

4201. Tell us what happened?
- I felt a shock, Sir, and with that all the coal round me fell around me. I had a job to get out myself.

4202. You felt a shock and the coal fell in the bunker. Did the shock knock you over?
- It did not have time to knock me over. The coal surrounded me before I knew where I was.

4203. You were carried down with the coal?
- Yes.

4204. And you got out?
- Yes.

4205. You got out into the stokehold there, I suppose?
- Yes. After that I came up right up to the bunker door, and then came into the stokehold.

4206. Is that higher up, at a higher level?
- Yes.

4207. And you climbed out of that, did you?
- Yes.

4208. And you got into the stokehold?
- I came down the ladder and came into the stokehold.

4209. On to the plate?
- Yes.

4210. When you got there did you find that the signal for "stop" had appeared on a red disc?
- Yes.

4211. Who was in charge - who would be the leading hand?
- A leading fireman.

4212. In charge of No. 4?
- Yes.

4213. Did you hear him give any orders, or had they been given already?
- I never saw him, Sir.

4214. Did you notice - had the dampers been put in by the time you got down?
- No.

4215. Now tell us what happened or what you did?
- After I came into the stokehold the lights in the stokehold went out.

4216. In No. 4?
- Yes.

4217. Did that happen at once or was there a little time before that happened?
- It happened as soon as I got into the stokehold.

4218. Out went the lights?
- Yes.

4219. Did you notice whether the watertight doors fore and aft of your stokehold had been closed?
- I heard the bell go and I knew in a minute what it was for.

4220. You heard the warning bell?
- Yes.

4221. And so you knew they had closed?
- Yes.

4222. When the lights went out what happened?
- I went on deck to see what it was, and I saw people running along wet through with lifebelts in their hands.

4223. Did you go up the alleyway?
- My mate said we had struck an iceberg.

4224. How far up did you go; what deck did you go up to?
- The alleyway.

4225. Was it along the alleyway that you saw the people going?
- Yes.

4226. Were they passengers?
- Yes.

4227. (The Commissioner.) And they had lifebelts on?
- They had lifebelts in their hands.

4228. (The Solicitor-General.) This alleyway that you came up to, I think, is on E deck. Is it the working alleyway on the port side or is it the one on the starboard side?
- On the port side.

4229. And to get up to it from No. 4 - I think we were told about No. 5, that there was a stairway that went over the boilers and came out in the alleyway?
- You have to go across the boilers and up an escape ladder.

4230. Is there a different escape ladder from each section?
- Yes.

4231. Did you get into the alleyway immediately above No. 4?
- Yes.

4232. When you got up into the alleyway and you saw these passengers, was there any light in the alleyway?
- Yes.

4233. So that the lights had not gone out there?
- No.

4234. You said you saw people going along with lifebelts wet through?
- Yes.

4235. And saying that she had struck an iceberg?
- Yes.

4236. Can you remember which way they were going?
- They were going towards after-way.

4237. Coming from the forward end?
- Yes.

4238. Could you tell what class passengers they were?
- I should think they were the third class passengers.

4239. Your Lordship will see - perhaps it is possible for you to see it there on the plan - that the E deck on which the alleyway is, is the E deck, if you carry your eye forwards, which runs forward to the part marked "third class and crew" (Pointing). (To the Witness.) They were coming from there, were they?
- Coming from forward to aft.

The Commissioner:
The alleyway runs straight aft?

The Solicitor-General:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
The whole length of the ship?

4240. (The Solicitor-General.) Yes, practically. (To the Witness.) You went up, I understand, to get some lamps. Did you get them?
- Yes.

4241. Did you go back to your stokehold?
- Yes.

4242. With the lamps?
- Yes.

4243. What about the lights in the stokehold?
- They were on by the time I got back.

4244. (The Commissioner.) The lights only went out for a few minutes?
- Yes.

4245. (The Solicitor-General.) It is the same story as No. 5, your Lordship sees. (To the Witness.) There is a thing I have not asked you that I ought to have asked you before. Up to the time that you left No. 4 and went up to the alleyway, had you seen water in No. 4?
- No.

4246. Not coming through the floor, or the sides, or anywhere?
- No.

4247. When you came back to No. 4, and you found the lights were on again, did you see any water in No. 4?
- No.

4248. When you got back to No. 4, do you remember hearing an order being given?
- Yes.

4249. What was it?
- Draw fires.

4250. Is that any part of a trimmer's work as a Rule?
- In an emergency.

4251. In an emergency you would do it, of course?
- Yes.

4252. And did you lend a hand to draw the fires in No. 4?
- Yes.

4253. And were they drawn?
- Partly drawn.

4254. What would there be - 30 furnaces?
- Yes.

4255. Were the firemen there helping to draw, too?
- Yes.

4256. You say they were only partly drawn?
- Yes.

4257. What happened then?
- The water started coming up over her stokehold plates.

4258. In No. 4?
- Yes.

4259. Did that happen gradually or did it happen suddenly?
- It came gradually.

4260. The water - you moved your hand, you raised it; did it seem to come up from below?
- Yes.

4261. As far as you saw in No. 4, did any water come in from the side of the ship?
- Not so far as I saw.

4262. When the water came up through the plates what was done then?
- We stopped as long as we could.

4263. That is right?
- And then I thought to myself it was time I went for the escape ladder.

4264. They were still drawing the fires, these men, were they?
- Yes.

4265. How high did the water get above the plates they were standing on? How much water were they standing in before they left?
- About a foot.

4266. Working up to their knees?
- Yes.

4267. Scraping the cinders out?
- Yes.

4268. Just one other thing. When you were in No. 4, as you have described, did you see anything of the engineers coming in through the emergency door behind?
- No.

4269. You did not notice that?
- No.

4270. Through the watertight door?
- No.

4271. You know what I am referring to, Cavell, do not you?
- Yes.

4272. There was a watertight door behind and a watertight door before you?
- Yes.

4273. As far as you knew, and as far as you observed, was the watertight door which was abaft of you raised at all?
- No, Sir.

4274. Not as far as you know?
- No, Sir.

4275. Of course, there would be a lot of steam in No. 4, would not there?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
Are you suggesting that that door was open?

The Solicitor-General:
My Lord, we have had evidence that it was. The last Witness said he opened it.

The Commissioner:
Which door are you talking about? You are talking about the door between 4 and 5.

The Solicitor-General:
I was not, my Lord, with great respect. If I said No. 5 I made a mistake. I said there were two doors, one in front of him, and one behind him.

The Commissioner:
The one in front of him was not open.

4276. (The Solicitor-General.) I know, my Lord. I wanted to draw his attention to the difference. (To the Witness.) Just to be quite clear, I am talking, you know, about the one?
- Through the passage between the bars.

4277. As far as you know that was not opened when you were there?
- I cannot say that.

4278. (The Commissioner.) You mean to say that you do not know?
- I do not know.

The Commissioner:
That is all it comes to.

4279. (The Solicitor-General.) Yes, my Lord. (To the Witness.) There would be a lot of steam, would not there?
- There would.

4280. And were all the men there working as fast as they could?
- Yes.

4281. This watertight door is in a sort of tunnel, is it not?
- Yes.

4282. You say you worked as long as you could, and then you came up the emergency ladder?
- Yes.

4283. Where did you go?
- I came down again.

4284. What, down into No. 4 again?
- Yes.

4285. Why did you do that?
- Because I could see nobody about in the alleyway.

4286. (The Commissioner.) Why did you go back?
- I thought it was all right, my Lord.

4287. (The Solicitor-General.) You got up again as far as the alleyway; you found nobody in the alleyway; you thought it was all right and went down again?
- Yes.

4288. Did anybody else do that with you?
- No.

4289. When you came down again from the alleyway to No. 4, were there any other men in No. 4, or had they all gone?
- I could not see any.

4290. Was the water the same height, or was it still rising?
- I could not say. I never went right to the bottom.

4291. Then you came down, and I suppose you went up again?
- Yes.

4292. When you got into the alleyway where did you go?
- I went along on to the boat deck.

4293. The top deck?
- Yes.

4294. Whereabouts on the boat deck did you go?
- Right aft.

4295. Did you see whether the boats had been lowered, or whether they were still there on the boat deck?
- There was only two boats left, and one they were lowering.

4296. Two boats left, and one they were lowering?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
That is three he means.

4297. (The Solicitor-General.) No, my Lord, I think he means two?
- Yes, two.

4298. Two boats left; one had not yet been lowered, and one was being lowered?
- Yes.

4299. Did you look at both sides, the port side and the starboard side?
- No.

4300. Which side did you look at?
- The starboard side.

4301. When you say there were only two boats left you mean there were two boats left on the starboard side?
- Yes.

4302. Do you know one way or the other whether there were any left on the port side?
- I could not say.

4303. The two boats you refer to were the two right aft?
- Right aft.

4304. Which was the one which was being lowered?
- The second one from the end.

4305. The last but one?
- Yes.

4306. Were there people on the deck?
- They were all in the boat, barring five firemen.

4307. Was not there anybody left on the boat deck?
- Only the men that lowered the boat.

4308. No women left?
- I never saw any.

4309. And the men who were lowering the boats, were they members of the crew?
- Yes.

4310. Did you see any Officer?
- Yes.

4311. Who was he?
- I do not know his name.

4312. You do not know which Officer it was?
- No.

4313. What did you do?
- I be alongside the other boat.

4314. I did not quite hear what you said?
- I stopped alongside No. 15 boat.

4315. What happened to you after that?
- The Officer ordered five of us into it.

4316. And you were one of the five?
- Yes.

4317. And the boat was lowered?
- Yes.

4318. No. 15?
- Yes.

4319. No. 15 was the last one; we have not had any evidence about that. It was No. 13 we have had evidence about. Did it get down to the water safely?
- We lowered it just aft the boat deck to the first class. We called out there for women. We got a few there till we got no more, and then we lowered down to the third class, and we took more till we could get no more.

4320. First of all, you lowered from the boat deck to what you call the first class?
- Yes.

4321. Is that what one sees there, the open deck just below the boat deck (Pointing.)?
- Yes.

4322. When you got there, you say you called out for more women?
- Women and children.

4323. You mean called out from the boat?
- Yes.

4324. And were there people there?
- Only a very few came, Sir.

4325. And when they did come, was there room for them in the boat?
- Plenty.

4326. Plenty of room?
- Yes.

4327. And they got in?
- Yes.

4328. About how many?
- About five we got off the first class.

4329. That is from the first class deck - A deck?
- Yes.

4330. Were there any men on that deck?
- I never see any, Sir.

4331. You mean that you took into your boat everybody who came on deck A?
- Barring what the Officer may have stopped alongside the davits.

4332. The davits would be on the boat deck?
- Yes.

4333. Then you were lowered a bit further, were you?
- Yes.

4334. What do you mean by saying you were lowered to the third class?
- To the lower deck - here. (Pointing on the model.)

4335. My Lord, may I just ask him to point out the place, because I think it is a little important to know. Will you show me where your boat got to? You mean here (Pointing on the model.)?
- There. (Showing.)

4336. (The Commissioner.) Just show me again, please. Go back to the model?
- Here. (Pointing.)

4337. (The Solicitor-General.) As it is in this model here it looks as though those decks were shut in with windows and casing. Was that so?
- No.

The Commissioner:
Well, Sir John, they were perhaps shut in for a certain length with windows, but perhaps the windows stopped at a point. It occurs to me that possibly there were no windows there, though there may have been windows towards the middle of the ship.

The Solicitor-General:
Yes, my Lord. There is a boat at any rate which comes down here. (Showing.)

The Commissioner:
But I thought you were suggesting, you know, that the passengers on this deck that he is now talking about could not get on to the boat because of the glass in the windows.

The Solicitor-General:
I was not quite clear which deck he meant, my Lord.

The Attorney-General:
I understand that these windows are windows that you can open and pull up just like you do in a railway carriage, only that they are bigger. They are to protect the passengers from wind and rain - for shelter purposes.

The Commissioner:
I think those windows do not extend the whole length of the ship?

The Solicitor-General:
No, they do not.

The Commissioner:
And therefore it may be at the place where he was pointing there were no such windows?

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