British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 5

Testimony of James Johnson, recalled

Further examined by Mr. ROWLATT.

3509. Now, Mr. Johnson, you told us you rowed away and came back again. Did you see the "Titanic" sink?
- I saw her go down.

3510. How far off were you from her then in your boat?
- It might have been three-quarters of a mile, or it might have been a little bit less.

3511. Did you row back at all towards the wreck?
- Well, the boatswain told us to keep a star and keep looking at this star and not to lose it, and keep within the vicinity of it.

3512. Keep within the vicinity of what?
- Of the star, underneath it rather.

3513. Did you go back towards the wreck at all?
- Well, we might have pulled a little bit back. When we were all quiet he said, "Listen," and what we heard was the swish of the water against another iceberg.

3514. What I want to get at is this. You saw the ship go down?
- Certainly.

3515. You knew in what direction that was?
- Yes.

3516. Now did you try to row back in that direction with your boat?
- No; we stood off.

3517. Three-quarters of a mile away?
- Very near it, I think.

3518. At that time was your boat full?
- No; I told you yesterday it was not full.

3519. Was there any suggestion by anybody that you should go back in the boat?
- Yes; the Officer asked a question as to going back, but at that time we were just close to an iceberg, and the ladies said, "No," I think; they thought it was dangerous.

3520. Did anything more pass in the boat - a conversation about going back, that you heard?
- I was not listening. I was told by the Officer to listen, and I heard the swish of the water, and when we looked there was an iceberg right in front of us.

3521. You saw it?
- Certainly; we were close to it.

3522. Did you hear any cries of people in distress?
- Oh, yes, too many.

3523. You did?
- Certainly.

3524. Did you recognise from your boat in which direction those cries came?
- From the left-hand side where we were; we had pulled round astern and were on the left-hand side.

3525. Was anything said in the boat about the cries?
- Certainly, there were lots of remarks by the ladies. They said they were sorry and everything.

3526. But with reference to going back?
- The only thing I heard was he asked them; should we go back, and I heard the ladies distinctly say no.

3527. (The Commissioner.) I do not understand what you mean by your left-hand side?
- The "Titanic" - after we pulled round astern, we had left the port side and we came to the starboard side of her. After we went after the light we came right round astern to the left-hand side. You might say we were still on the port - my left hand was still on the port side of our boat. I mean the "Titanic," you know.

3528. Then the cries that you heard?
- You heard them every now and again.

3529. They came from the direction -?
- Of the left hand.

3530. Of the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

3531. (Mr. Rowlatt.) At this time how many oars were being used on your boat?
- Well, I know two were pulling strong - two of us.

3532. And two, you told us yesterday, were pulling easy?
- Yes.

3532a. There were two good oars on your boat?
- Yes.

3533. How did your boat travel through the water?
- Easy, Sir.

3534. I think you said yesterday that you think you had rowed a mile and a half away and back again?
- Certainly.

3535. I may take it the boat could have gone back towards the wreck, if it had been decided to do so?
- Yes, we had the only lights.

3536. What did you say?
- We had a light in the boat; all the rest of the boats followed us; we had flashlights in our boat.

3537. You had flashlights?
- Yes, Roman candles.

3538. What did you do then, did you lie on your oars or row, or do what after it was all over, you know?
- We did not row, we kept round the vicinity of the boat; we never rowed after we came round astern; we lay still and the Officer told us to keep our eye on this star.

3539. (The Commissioner.) I have taken that down - "We tried to keep stationary"?
- That is right, Sir.

3540. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Were there other boats near you?
- We did not see one; we heard a whistle, but I do not know where the boat was.

3541. In time I suppose it got light, did it?
- No. I think we were the first boat in the "Carpathia."

3542. Were you picked up before it was light?
- No, it was just dawn. We thought we saw an illumination of a boat coming; it was the Northern Lights.

3543. You did see the "Carpathia" ultimately?
- Yes.

3544. It was still dark then, was it?
- When we saw it, it was a little bit dark.

3545. (The Commissioner.) It was at dawn that the "Carpathia" picked you up?
- At dawn, yes.

3546. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Did you signal to her with your candles, or was it too light?
- I think all the boats followed us, because the Officer must have burned about eight or nine.

3547. Did you signal to the "Carpathia" with your candles, or how did you attract attention?
- With a lamp. The Officer put his hat in front of the lamp, and held it up. (Demonstrating.)

3548. The next morning did you see any icebergs or ice?
- Yes, there were fields of it.

3549. (The Commissioner.) Was the "Carpathia" in the ice-field?
- It could not have been 200 yards off some of the ice.

3550. Then they were off the edge of the ice?
- Yes.

Examined by Mr. SCANLAN.

3551. When you sighted the "Carpathia" was she going slow?
- I could not tell you that.

3552. Do you know if there was a compass on this lifeboat you were on?
- I know there was a lamp, and we had roman candles.

3553. But you do not know whether there was a compass?
- I never looked.

3554. Were the lady passengers frightened?
- They were quite satisfied, and they lay still.

3555. At the time your boat was lowered, had the "Titanic" begun to sink?
- Yes.

3556. Had she sunk much?
- Yes, she was right down by the bridge when we lowered our boat.

3557. Did you realise when you got into the boat that the condition of the "Titanic" was very dangerous?
- No, I do not think we thought about that.

3558. You yourself, I mean?
- I did not; I did not think so, in my own private opinion. I do not think any of us thought that.

3559. You had had an interview with Mr. Andrews?
- I had no interview; I only saw him.

3560. Did he not tell you, as the result of his inspection?
- No, Mr. Andrews did not speak to me. I said I sent a man down that was getting hot water, not Mr. Andrews. I followed Mr. Andrews, he never spoke to me.

3561. I think you said you were present when he said something re-assuring to a few ladies?
- Well, I thought so at the time too.

3562. And you then had a word with him?
- He told me to see that the ladies were quiet, or something to that effect, at the foot of the companion.

3563. But he did not tell you anything?
- He did not.

3564. Is it your evidence that instead of the Fourth Officer, who was in charge of your boat, deciding for himself as to whether it was possible for him to go and rescue the people from whom he heard shrieks, he consulted the lady passengers on the boat?
- He asked the lady passengers.

3565. There would have been no difficulty at that time in your rowing round to the place from which you heard the shrieks?
- Question?

3566. What was the difficulty, if there was any?
- She is not a big one, she is a dinghy.

3567. You had only 23 people, and you have told my Lord that the boat's capacity was 40 people?
- I did not say so; I did not know the capacity.

The Commissioner:
I took it down. I may have been wrong, or possibly someone else told me. "The boat is constructed for 40." I may have taken it from the Attorney-General.

Mr. Scanlan:
Yes, the cubic capacity is 40 persons.

The Attorney-General:
What did your Lordship say you took from me?

The Commissioner:
I have down in my note in this Witness' evidence that the boat was constructed to carry 40.

The Attorney-General:
That is right.

The Commissioner:
He says he did not say so.

The Attorney-General:
That is quite right; I said so.

The Commissioner:
And he did not know it, and I was saying I possibly took the information from you.

The Attorney-General:
Your Lordship did.

3568. (Mr. Scanlan.) It is so down in the official note. (To the Witness.) Do you know yourself how many additional people you could have accommodated in your boat?
- I have no idea - they might have crammed in.

3569. For the benefit of the Court, give us the best of your belief?
- I think if they had got five or six more in it would have been quite enough to pull, and if it had been heavy weather I do not suppose there would be anybody here to tell the tale.

3570. In the weather conditions which you had, I take it to be your view that you could at all events have accommodated five or six more?
- Certainly.

3571. In that calm sea, when you heard the shrieks of people struggling in the water, how far were you from them?
- Half a mile to three quarters, I should think.

3572. I thought when you rowed back, after rowing for a mile and a half, you came quite close to the "Titanic"?
- We came round astern.

3573. Was it not just in the immediate vicinity of the "Titanic" that people were struggling in the water?
- We did not see anybody struggling where we were.

3574. Were the crew of your boat rowing quite easily?
- Two of us were rowing very easy.

3575. I noted you said when you rowed this mile and a half each way you did it remarkably quickly?
- Well, I think we could do it again.

3576. Is it fair to assume that if the Officer had given instructions on his own account, on his own responsibility, instead of consulting frightened passengers?
- They were not frightened.

3577. You might have got back in a short time to the people struggling in the water?
- I do not think they were frightened.

3578. But they advised him not to go to the rescue of those people?
- I think that was their answer. And he acted on their advice, instead of on his own responsibility.

The Commissioner:
I understand, Mr. Scanlan, that they were in fear of some iceberg.

3579. (Mr. Scanlan.) What distance from you was the iceberg that you were in fear of?
- I think as to the one we saw we could hear the water swish up against it. We could not have been very far from it. We could not have been far because everyone distinctly heard it.

The Commissioner:
I wish you would put your questions to him quite plainly and distinctly, if you will. Was he of opinion that there was any cowardice on the part of the man who accepted the suggestion of the ladies, because that is, as I understand, what you are suggesting.

3580. (Mr. Scanlan.) If I may say so with deference, my Lord, do not wish to suggest cowardice. What I do feel inclined to suggest is that there was a great lack of discretion on the part of the Officer in charge of a boat which could be rowed easily, in not rowing to the rescue of those people. I would not like to say it was cowardice, my Lord. (To the Witness.) Can you explain why it was, with an unfilled boat, the Fourth Officer [Boxhall] failed to go to the rescue of the drowning people?
- I have answered the question.

3581. It was because the ladies protested?
- Yes. I have answered that question.

3582. If you had had charge of the boat, would you have gone back?
- I do not suppose I would have done any more than he did. He acted as an Englishman.

Examined by Mr. HARBINSON.

3583. Just one question. Have you any notion as to which class the majority of passengers in your boat belonged?
- I think they belonged mostly to the third or second. I could not recognise them when I saw them in the first class, and I should have known them if there were any prominent people.

3584. Most of them were in the boat when you came along?
- No.

3585. You put them in?
- No. Mr. Ismay tried to walk round and get a lot of women to come to our boat. He took them across to the starboard side then - our boat was standing - I stood by my boat a good ten minutes or a quarter of an hour.

3586. At that time did the women display a disinclination to enter the boat?
- Yes.

3587. Do you know as a matter of fact if reassuring statements had been made to them that everything was all right?
- I could not tell you. I could not tell you all those people.

3588. Did you say as a matter of fact yesterday that you heard Mr. Andrews say to some ladies he thought it would be all right?
- I think he did not know the full strength of it.

3589. You mean he did not know how dangerous it was?
- Certainly not; he could not have known.

3590. (The Commissioner.) I understand you to say that when you got into the boat you did not think the condition of the "Titanic" was dangerous?
- Oh, yes, I did; I thought so then, when I got into the boat.

3591. Then I have not got it down right?
- I thought so then.

3592. Is this right: "When we lowered our boat I did not think the condition of the 'Titanic' dangerous"?
- I thought it was sure to stand up, but my opinion was very little.

3593. Is that right - is that what you said?
- Yes, very likely.

3594. (Mr. Harbinson.) At the time you lowered your boat the water had risen almost to the wheel, had it?
- I do not know where the wheel was; I was not looking at it; I was not near the bridge.

3595. You did hear Mr. Andrews make these reassuring comments to the ladies?
- When I heard him it was just a quarter of an hour after she struck, not much more.

3596. What I want to ask you is this: Would the disinclination on the part of the ladies to get into the boats as a matter of fact be traceable to those reassuring statements which had been made to them by members of the crew?
- No, I do not think so.

Examined by Mr. COTTER.

3597. How long have you been going to sea?
- A few years, 25 to 30 very near.

3598. How long have you been in the employ of the White Star Line?
- Over 18 years.

3599. Have you ever taken part in a boat drill?
- Everybody in the White Star knows their boats. Every Sunday you have to have a boat drill, but I have never taken a boat drill for lowering a boat.

3600. Never in your life?
- I have not done it in one company; I have not done it in any. They generally ask for sailors to do that and to try the boats.

3601. Have you been in any other company where there has been boat drill?
- The Pacific Company.

3602. There you took part in lowering the boats?
- Yes.

3603. Did you learn how to handle a boat through that?
- Yes.

3604. Have you ever taken part in bulkhead door drill?
- Yes.

3605. Were there any hand-closing bulkhead doors?
- No; they were all bridge-closed.

3606. Were there any hand-closing bulkhead doors?
- No.

3607. Are you sure?
- Certainly. I can only tell you the working deck and the position I was working in.

3608. Was there any bulkhead door drill?
- I could not tell you. The ship had only sailed for the one week, and on Saturday they close all the doors. They try them at 12 o'clock; they are closed and opened again.

3609. Did not you take part in that bulkhead door drill?
- No.

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