British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 8

Testimony of John Durrant

Examined by the SOLICITOR-GENERAL.

9416. (The Solicitor-General.) This is the Marconi operator on the "Mount Temple," my Lord. Your Lordship will find that he has heard a great number of messages going to and from the "Titanic," and he therefore can give us in chronological order a great deal of the story so far as it is told by means of those wireless messages. (To the Witness.) Is your name John Durrant?
- Yes.

9417. Are you Marconi operator on board the "Mount Temple"?
- Yes.

9418. Which was bound, as we know, for St. John's, New Brunswick. Were you the only Marconi operator on board?
- Yes.

9419. And in your ordinary day's work what time do you turn in?
- Never before 1 a.m. I have a good sleep after the midday meal, and I never turn in before 1 a.m..

9420. You take a time off?
- After my midday meal for about three hours.

9421. And then you can keep on working till 1 o'clock in the morning?
- Yes.

9422. At what time do you start work the next morning?
- Half-past seven.

9423. What is the range of your Marconi installation on the "Mount Temple"?
- I get about 150 miles in the daytime, and something over 200 at night.

9424. Why is it that it is more at night?
- They say it is the sun's rays cause refraction.

9425. Anyhow it is some scientific reason?
- Yes.

9426. I suppose you are on the Ship's Articles of the "Mount Temple"?
- Yes.

9427. But are you in the employ of the Marconi Company?
- I am.

9428. And does the Marconi Company require you to keep a log?
- Yes.

9429. A record of the messages which you send and receive and overhear?
- Yes - not overhear.

9430. Only send and receive?
- Yes.

9431. I know we are coming to some you did overhear. I think it is called a procès-verbal?
- Yes.

9432. Have you your copy there?
- Yes.

9433. You have a copy there of what I have here?
- Yes.

9434. Is this the procès-verbal of the "Mount Temple" which you kept?
- Yes, of that voyage.

The Solicitor-General:
I think the clear course is to ask this gentleman, in order the entries which appear to be significant and important. Of course, there are a great many others, which only confuse them. I will take them out in order of time, if I may, right through.

The Commissioner:
Can you let me have a copy of that document, or a copy of parts of it?

9435. (The Solicitor-General.) I can give your Lordship what has been extracted from it and I think that will be what your Lordship will wish. (To the Witness.) When one comes to the 14th April, the Sunday, you were on the American side of the Atlantic, and were you keeping New York time in your records?
- I was keeping New York time.

9436. We have been told that to get back to ship's time in the sort of latitude where the "Titanic" struck, you would have to add 1 hour and 55 minutes?
- In my case it is 1 hour and 46 minutes.

9437. Then if I add 1 hour and 46 minutes to the time you have written down I shall get what your ship's time was?
- Yes.

9438. Before I come to the record which you have kept about the disaster, I want to ask this question. Before you heard anything about the "Titanic" having struck, had you received any warning messages about ice?
- Yes; I think it was on the 13th, the day before, from the "Corinthian."

9439. The day before?
- Yes. I think it was the 13th. My P. V. will tell you.

9440. I thought it was on Friday, the 12th. Will you look and see (Handing a document to the Witness.)?
- Yes.

9441. I think you will find it is about midnight between the 12th and 13th?
- This is when I first had it. (Pointing out on the document.)

9442. Did you notice, when you pointed to it, what was the time?
- 8.45.

9443. 8.45 p.m. New York time would be the same thing in your ship's time as half-past ten?
- No, we were more to the east at that time; it would be later.

9444. At any rate it would be some time in that evening?
- Yes.

9445. And some time on that evening - is it on Saturday?
- Yes, you will see it at the top.

9446. Saturday, April 13th, you got a message?
- Yes; a formal message from the Captain of the "Corinthian" to the Captain of the "Mount Temple."

9447. Was it simply that they had seen ice?
- Yes.

9448. And did you report that to the Captain?
- Yes, right away.

9449. Except for that message, did you get any other message about ice up to the time you heard the "Titanic" calling for help?
- No.

9450. Now let us take the story in order of time, as you recorded it with the help of your Marconi apparatus. I am going to add 1 hour and 46 minutes to your time, so as to keep your ship's time all the way through?
- In this copy I have New York time and ship's time both together.

9451. That is very convenient. Now tell us the ship's time when you first got a message as to the "Titanic" being in distress?
- 12.11 a.m.

9452. Just read your account, as you have it there, of that message.
- "Titanic" sending C.Q.D. Answer him, but he says, "Cannot read you, old man. Here my position, 41º 46' N. 50º 14' W. Come at once, have struck berg." I advised my captain.

9453. I have before me a document which suggests that he told you he could not read your message.
- He did not get my call, but he knew it was somebody calling him, answering his C.Q.D., so he sent his position right away.

9454. That would mean that he told you what the latitude and longitude was?
- Yes.

9455. And asked your ship to come at once as he had struck an iceberg?
- Yes.

9456. Did you give the message to your captain straight away?
- I gave it to the night steward and he took it up.

9457. That is 11 minutes after midnight your time. Is your next entry 10 minutes after that?
- Yes.

9458. That would be 21 minutes after midnight?
- Yes.

9459. What was it you heard then?
- I have got down here, "'Titanic' still calling C.Q.D. is answered by the 'Carpathia' and says 'struck iceberg come to our assistance.' Sends the position."

9460. Does that mean that you could overhear the "Carpathia" answering the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

9461. And could you also overhear the message that the "Titanic" was sending to the "Carpathia"?
- Yes.

9462. Did you hear the same latitude and longitude repeated by the "Titanic" to the "Carpathia"?
- Yes.

9463. That is 12.21. Then five minutes after that, 12.26, is your next entry "'Titanic' still calling C.Q.D."? Have you noted there about that time that you had turned your ship's course?
- Yes.

9464. And started to their help?
- Yes; that was about 15 minutes after we got the signal. It may have been sooner.

9465. At any rate by that time you had turned round?
- Yes.

9466. Then 8 minutes after that, I think that will be 12.34, just over half-past 12?
- Yes.

9467. Did you hear the "Frankfurt" answering the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

9468. That is the North German-Lloyd boat?
- Yes.

9469. Did you hear the "Titanic" giving her position to the "Frankfurt"?
- Yes.

9470. Now, have you got your record of what he said?
- Yes. "'Titanic' gives position and asks, 'are you coming to our assistance?' 'Frankfurt' replies, 'What is the matter with you?' 'Titanic' says, 'We have struck iceberg and sinking. Please tell captain to come'; and then 'Frankfurt' replied, 'O.K. Will tell the bridge right away.' Then the 'Titanic' said, 'O.K., yes, quick.'"

9471. (The Commissioner.) What does "O.K." mean?
- All right.

9472. (The Solicitor-General.) It spells "Orl korrect." (To the Witness.) That was the first time you had overheard a message from the "Titanic" that she was sinking?
- Yes.

9473. Just about 25 minutes to 1?
- That is it.

9474. Then following on that, I think another 8 minutes later, did you hear her calling S.O.S.?
- Yes.

9475. Is there any difference from the point of view of urgency between this C.Q.D. call and the S.O.S call?
- Myself, I should say that C.Q.D. would be more quickly jumped at than S.O.S.; C.Q.D. got a good name in the time of Jack Binns, and the public know C.Q.D. is a distress call.

The Commissioner:
Can you tell me what it means?

The Attorney-General:
Yes. "Save our souls."

9476. (The Solicitor-General.) They are both used, are they?
- Yes.

9477. As I understand, you heard the "Titanic" about a quarter to 1 sending both signals?
- Yes.

9478. After that could you hear the "Titanic" talking to these other ships?
- Yes, she was calling the "Olympic."

9479. When was she calling the "Olympic"?
- 12.43 ship's time.

9480. (The Solicitor-General.) If your Lordship has a copy corresponding to mine - I think you have - the bottom entry on the first page is "10.57 MGY calling MKC," and "MKC" means the "Olympic." (To the Witness.) What is the time equivalent to?
- 10.57 is 12.43.

9481. Now tell us your next entry?
- The "Caronia."

9482. That is another ship she got in touch with?
- Yes, a long distance away.

9483. What was the time you heard her talking to the "Caronia"?
- 12.45 ship's time. It is the "Caronia," the Cunard Line.

9484. (The Solicitor-General - To the Witness.) You got one a minute later, 12.46. What is that?
- "'Titanic' calling 'Virginian' and C.Q.D."

9485. That is the Allan Line, the "Virginian"?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
This boat, the "Mount Temple," was never in a position to render active assistance.

The Solicitor-General:
It was 49 miles away, and it was making for her.

The Commissioner:
She could not possibly have reached her.

9486. (The Solicitor-General.) No, not possibly. She was doing her best. (To the Witness.) If you had broken in and tried to talk to the "Titanic" yourself, you would only have interrupted her talking to other people?
- I should.

9487. So you keep it and only listen?
- Yes, I never said a word after I got his position.

9488. And you told your captain of the "Mount Temple" the place, and then you spent your time in recording what you could hear?
- Yes, that is the first Rule in wireless telegraphy to avoid interference.

9489. (The Commissioner.) And all this time you were making your way towards the position of the "Titanic"?
- Yes, the captain had doubled the watch down below.

9490. (The Solicitor-General.) Now pass on to the next entry I think you have got a record of the "Titanic" speaking to the "Olympic"?
- Yes.

9491. What time is that?
- 1.6 ship's time. "'Titanic' is answered by the 'Olympic' and tells him 'Captain says, 'Get your boats ready,' going down fast at the head.'"

9492. That is six minutes past 1?
- Yes.

9493. "Captain says, 'Get your boats ready, going down fast at the head.'"?
- Yes.

9494. You notice that message which you hear is within a few minutes of an hour from the time when you had first heard the "Titanic's" C.Q.D.?
- Yes.

9495. Six minutes past 1. Then five minutes after that, 1.11, did you hear a message from the "Frankfurt"?
- Yes.

9496. Just read it?
- "Our Captain will go for you."

9497. That is the message sent to the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

9498. And the next one?
- Two minutes afterwards the "Titanic" was working the "Baltic."

9499. I think that is the first time we have mentioned the "Baltic," is it not?
- Yes.

9500. That is 13 minutes past 1?
- Yes.

9501. You have a record of that going on again three minutes later?
- Yes.

9502. Now, 1.21 is it not?
- 1.21. "'Olympic' sends M.S.G. to 'Titanic.'"

9503. Read that?
- I did not take that. That was an official message which I am not supposed to take.

9504. At any rate you could hear the "Olympic" was sending messages to the "Titanic"?
- Yes; it was an official message, something about lighting up all boilers.

9505. You could hear it was something of the sort?
- Yes.

9506. We have independent evidence that that message was sent. The Captain of the "Olympic" sent a message they were lighting up every boiler and making for her as fast as they could. Did you hear the reply of the "Titanic" at 1.21?
- Yes.

9507. What was it?
- "We are putting the women off in boats."

9508. Then six minutes after that, at 1.27 - what was it you heard at 1.27?
- "'Titanic' calling C.Q.D. says 'engine room flooded.'"

9509. And two minutes after that, 1.29?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
Can you indicate to me where the water which is referred to here would be?

9510. (The Solicitor-General.) My friend Sir Robert Finlay suggests to me that I perhaps should ask the Witness to look at the record to be sure he has got the actual words. (To the Witness.) Have you got your record there before you for 1.27?
- Yes.

9511. Just read it exactly as it is?
- You mean what I have in my log?

9512. Yes?
- "'Titanic' calling C.Q.D., says 'engine room flooded.'"

The Commissioner:
That is what you read to me just now.

9513. (The Solicitor-General.) Yes. Let us follow what that means. (To the Witness.) Was it a message that was being sent by the "Titanic" to any particular ship, or was it being sent all the way round?
- It was a general call, I take it.

9514. A general message?
- Yes. When she took up the "Olympic" or the "Baltic," it was just "C.Q.D. engine room flooded."

9515. Just like when a ship sends C.Q.D. to anybody in call, so they sent that message to anybody in call?
- Yes.

9516. Up to that time, except the C.Q.D. and S.O.S. message, had all the messages been addressed to particular ships?
- No, he only sent one official message - no, he never sent any official message. The "Olympic" sent one to him.

9517. And when you say the message was "engine room flooded," does that mean you heard the word "engine" and the word "room" spelt out?
- Yes; no abbreviation or code, or anything. Your Lordship will remember there are two engine rooms. The one where Mr. Asquith has the pointer is the more forward of the two - the reciprocating engine room, which drives the port and the starboard shaft.

The Commissioner:
Then comes the turbine.

The Solicitor-General:
Yes, behind that.

The Commissioner:
And behind it, again, is the dynamo?

The Solicitor-General:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
Do I understand from this Marconi operator that the water had by this time found its way aft very considerably?

The Solicitor-General:
Assuming the message was accurate.

The Commissioner:
Did this message come by any code word?

9518. (The Solicitor-General.) I will ask him, my Lord. I understand not. (To the Witness.) Is there any single code word for "engine room"?
- No; it was spelt out letter by letter. There was no abbreviation or code word in the message.

9519. (The Commissioner.) This was spelt out just as we read it here?
- Yes.

9520. "Engine room flooded"?
- Yes.

9521. (The Solicitor-General.) That is 1.27, your time?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
This is a little more than half-an-hour before the ship disappeared.

9522. (The Solicitor-General.) I do not know how much correction would be necessary from the point of view of time. I thought one might perhaps ask him. (To the Witness.) Of course your ship was getting nearer to the "Titanic" all that time?
- Yes.

9523. And she had been steaming towards the "Titanic" for an hour?
- Yes, since 12.26, I have here.

9524. Since 12.26 and this is 1.27?
- Yes.

9525. She had been steaming towards her for just an hour?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
You are giving us New York time, are you not?

The Solicitor-General:
No, my Lord, all the way through I am correcting the New York time to the ship's time, that is to say to this ship's time.

The Commissioner:
The black figures printed here are New York time?

The Solicitor-General:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
And the figures I am marking as you go along are ship's time?

The Solicitor-General:
Yes. I have no doubt they did not correct the ship's time while rushing to the assistance of the "Titanic," but it is the ship's time of the "Mount Temple" at the time she gets the C.Q.D. message.

The Commissioner:
It would make very little difference surely; there would not be much difference.

9526. (The Solicitor-General.) No. (To the Witness.) What did you do on the "Mount Temple" to correct your time? Is it corrected at noon?
- Yes, and I believe it is put on or back some time at night about 10, but that does not affect me at all.

9527. No, of course not. I quite understand. I think your Lordship will find if we have to go into it that the "Olympic" also received this message. I have here the print, and my record is that the "Titanic" says to the "Olympic," "Weather is clear and calm, engine room getting flooded." (To the Witness.) Just look in your record and tell me whether at this time you have any record of the "Titanic" saying anything about the weather?
- No, I remember distinctly the "Olympic" asking him, "Captain says how is the sea around there?" and he replied, "Sea calm."

9528. Have not you got that down?
- I have that after the "Engine room flooded."

9529. Within two minutes after?
- Yes.

9530. And that is a message to the "Olympic"?
- Yes.

9531. So that you have recorded within two minutes two statements which the "Olympic" has got recorded as happening at the same time?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
I suppose the "Olympic" would get this message, "engine room flooded"?

The Solicitor-General:
It is recorded by the "Olympic," my Lord.

The Commissioner:
I thought it was a general message.

The Solicitor-General:
Yes, it is sent out to anybody who can hear it.

The Commissioner:
And he heard it?

9532. (The Solicitor-General.) I was not quite accurate in saying the "Olympic" had recorded it. I do not know whether she did or not. What I was looking at was the corresponding procès-verbal of the "Carpathia" and the "Carpathia" has got a record that they heard the "Titanic" answering the "Olympic" and saying, "weather is clear and calm. Engine room getting flooded," (To the Witness.) You cannot tell, I expect, whether it was "engine room getting flooded" or "engine room flooded"?
- I took particular care to get all these messages absolutely correct.

9533. You think that is quite correct?
- I have it here, and I think it is correct too, "'Titanic' calling C.Q.D., says 'engine room flooded'." And answering the "Olympic's" question, he said, "sea calm."

9534. That takes one down to 1.29?
- Yes.

9535. Now, two minutes after that, 1.31, did you hear the "Frankfurt" sending a message?
- Yes, he asked, "Are there any boats around you already?"

The Commissioner:
Is that 1.29 or 1.27?

9536. (The Solicitor-General.) 11.41 is the same as 1.27 and 11.43 is the same as 1.29; and 11.45 is therefore the same as 1.31. I was taking them in order, I think. There are three, I am taking the third of those. At 1.31 what was it you heard the "Frankfurt" saying to the "Titanic"?
- "Are there any boats around you already?"

9537. Did the "Titanic" make any reply?
- No.

9538. Two minutes after that again, 1.33, did you hear the "Titanic" send a further message?
- No, I heard the "Olympic" send a message to the "Titanic"; the "Titanic" acknowledged it.

9539. The "Titanic" acknowledged it?
- Yes.

9540. I had better ask you now: is that the last message that you heard from the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

9541. What is the time?
- 11.47 New York time, that is 1.33.

9542. 1.33 your ship's time?
- Yes.

9543. (The Commissioner.) You do not know what that message was, the 1.33 message?
- I did not take it, but it related to "are you steering south to meet us." It was a message after that description.

9544. That was a message from the "Titanic"?
- From the "Olympic" to the "Titanic" asking if he was steering southward to meet him - an official message.

9545. And then you said that the "Titanic" acknowledged it. I want to know whether you hear what the "Titanic" said?
- Simply "R.D." which is the code word for "received."

9546. Simply "R.D." acknowledgment?
- Yes.

9547. But not saying anything?
- No.

9548. (The Solicitor-General.) That is the last message that you hear from this ship. Could you tell at all during this time whether the messages from the "Titanic" were getting fainter? Did you notice that?
- No, not in the least.

9549. You were getting nearer to her?
- Yes. Allowing for my getting nearer they never got weak at all.

9550. They did not get weak at all, as far as you could see?
- No. I presume the flooding of the engine room put the wires out of commission.

9551. (The Commissioner.) The flooding of the engine room did what?
- Put the wires out of commission, my Lord.

9552. (The Solicitor-General.) If the dynamo which is usually employed for the Marconi is not available, have you got any storage batteries? You have, have you not?
- Yes.

9553. Is it usual to have storage batteries?
- Yes.

9554. Are the storage batteries kept in the Marconi operator's room?
- Yes.

9555. That is high upon the ship?
- Yes.

9556. Would he need to change over to get to the storage batteries, or would they come on automatically?
- He could do it in a minute.

9557. He could do it at once. Do storage batteries send out as strong a message as the dynamos?
- No.

9558. Much weaker?
- Yes.

9559. That is 1.33. Then, I think, it was eight minutes after that, that is 1.41, that you heard the "Frankfurt" and the Russian ship the "Birma" calling the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

9560. And still there was no reply?
- No reply.

9561. At 1.56, four minutes to two, did you hear the "Olympic," the "Frankfurt," and the "Baltic," all calling the "Titanic" and no reply?
- And no reply.

9562. Then what is your next entry? I think it is just a quarter of an hour later?
- Yes, 2.11, "'Birma' tells 'Frankfurt' he is 70 miles from 'Titanic.'"

9563. This is the "Birma," the Russian ship?
- Yes.

9564. "'Birma' tells 'Frankfurt' he is 70 miles from the 'Titanic'"?
- Yes.

9565. Just give me the next two; I think they are important?
- 2.36 I have "All quiet now."

9566. That is your record?
- Yes, "'Titanic' has not spoken since 11.47 p.m."

9567. That means 1.33?
- Yes.

9568. That was your record?
- Yes.

9569. And then the next one?
- 3.11.

9570. Who is this from?
- "'Carpathia' calls 'Titanic' and says 'If you are there we are firing rockets.'"

9571. Just read the next two; I think we must have them?
- 3.26 "'Carpathia' calling 'Titanic,' no reply." 3.44 "'Birma' tells 'Frankfurt' that he thinks he hears the 'Titanic,' so calls him and says, 'Steaming full speed to you, shall arrive you six in morning. Hope you are safe. We are only 50 miles now.'"

9572. Then I think two minutes after that you heard the "Carpathia" calling for her again?
- Yes.

9573. And then an hour later I see you have an entry, 4.46, that is a quarter to five in the morning, "All quiet. We are stopped amongst pack ice." That is to say the "Mount Temple" was?

The Commissioner:
Which is the first message from the "Californian"?

9574. (The Solicitor-General.) I think, my Lord, the first message from the "Californian" in your copy would be numbered 3.25. Just run your eye down. Is not that right?
- Yes.

9575. Let us take it down to that point. You have given me the "Carpathia" calling out at 3.46., then 4.46 "all quiet; we are stopped amongst pack ice." That meant the "Mount Temple" is. Then at 4.51 you heard the "Birma" and the "Frankfurt" working.

The Commissioner:
I think the first is 3.25.

9576. (The Solicitor-General.) The next one, 3.20, what is that?
- They are still working.

9577. And now the next one?
- 3.25, were the "Californian" calls.

9578. What does that correspond to?
- 5.11.

9579. That is it. What is it you say?
- "Californian" call C.Q. I answer him and tell him the "Titanic" has struck an iceberg and sunk, and give him her position.

9580. That was 5.11 by your time?
- Yes.

9581. (The Solicitor-General.) Your Lordship will remember the "Californian" operator. (To the Witness.) Now, does C.Q. simply mean a general call round?
- All stations.

9582. So that anybody within range may pick it up and answer it?
- That is one of the reasons they altered the distress call.

9583. Because "C.Q." is so easily confused with "C.Q.D."?
- Yes.

9584. You have not, I think, got it recorded; do you remember what it was the "Californian" operator asked you at 11 minutes past 5?
- He called "C.Q." That was all. He never asked any question at all.

9585. Then you got into touch with him?
- Yes.

9586. And you told him the "Titanic" had sunk?
- Yes.

9587. And sent him its position?
- Yes.

9588. And then I see you have it recorded 15 minutes later, that is at 5.26, that you heard the "Californian" speaking to the "Frankfurt," and the "Frankfurt" sent him the same information?
- Yes.

9589. (The Solicitor-General.) That exactly corresponds my Lord. (To the Witness.) I think you heard about 8 o'clock in the morning, your ship's time, from the "Carpathia," that she had rescued -?
- Twenty boat loads.

9590. And, of course, as we know, your ship did her best, but could not get to the spot in time?
- No.

(The Witness withdrew.)