British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 10

Testimony of George Symons

Examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.

11303. Is your name Symons or Simmons?
- Symons.

11304. And have you been at sea for nearly nine years?
- Yes.

11305. You are an able seaman?
- Yes.

11306. Have you crossed the Atlantic between England and New York many times?
- Yes.

11307. How many times?
- I say roughly about 58 to 60; I could not exactly say the correct number.

11308. As an able seaman?
- Yes.

11309. And have you also acted as a look-out man?
- Yes.

11310. (The Attorney-General.) Your Lordship will remember he comes into the story as look-out man also. (To the witness.) I will ask you first of all about the look-out. On board this vessel, the "Titanic," you went to the crow's nest?
- Yes.

11311. When it was your duty to go on the look-out?
- Yes, when it was my watch.

11312. What other vessels have you been in, liners, crossing between New York and England?
- I was in the "Oceanic" for four years and four months, and three years of that I did on the look-out.

11314. And you were actually acting as look-out with Jewell on the "Titanic," I think, from 8 to 10?
- Yes.

11315. You were relieved at 10 o'clock, the last watch really before she struck?
- Yes.

11316. Whilst you were on the "Oceanic" did you at any time see icebergs?
- Yes, once or twice.

11317. At night?
- No, not at night, only in the daytime; but we have had orders before to keep a look-out for them in the night in the "Oceanic."

11318. Did you use glasses, binoculars?
- Yes.

11319. Special glasses for night, were they?
- No; they were an ordinary pair of glasses.

11320. Were they kept in a box in the crow's-nest?
- In the "Oceanic" they were kept in a canvas bag.

11321. In the crow's-nest?
- In the crow's-nest.

11322. For your use or the use of your mate on the look-out?
- Yes.

11323. And you did find them useful?
- Yes; very useful.

11324. Were there any on the "Titanic"?
- No, none whatever. After we left Southampton and got clear of the Nab Lightship I went up to the Officers' mess -room and asked for glasses. I asked Mr. Lightoller, and he went into another Officers' room, which I presume was Mr. Murdoch's, and he came out and said, "Symons, there are none." With that I went back and told my mates.

11325. Was there a place for them in the "Titanic"?
- Yes, a box in the port after corner.

11326. Of the crow's-nest?
- Yes.

11327. Did you join the "Titanic" at Southampton?
- Yes.

11328. After you left Queenstown, which, as we know, was 11th April, did you see the boat list up?
- Yes, I saw a boat list after we got away from Queenstown, either on the thursday night or the Friday morning early.

11329. Did you find it in the forecastle?
- On the door of the forecastle, at the top of the companionway.

11330. Were there two boat lists posted?
- There was one in the forecastle, what they call the emergency boat list, and also on the forecastle door was a general boat list, on which I found my name was assigned to No. 1.

11331. That is an emergency boat?
- Yes, an emergency boat on the starboard side.

11332. You looked through the list? Did you notice how many seamen were assigned to the lifeboats?
- Yes; there was not one but what had two seamen, and some had an Officer. Whether there was more than that I could not say, but I know there was not one with less than two seamen.

11333. No one had less than two seamen, and to some of them there were two seamen and an Officer. Is that right?
- Yes.

11334. You know Sunday, the night of the 14th April; do you remember getting special orders from the bridge?
- Yes; we had special orders about 9.30.

11335. 9.30 that night?
- Yes.

11336. Through the telephone?
- Through the telephone.

11337. Do you know from whom?
- No, I could not say.

11338. From some Officer on the bridge?
- From some Officer on the bridge.

11339. Can you tell me what he said?
- "Keep a sharp look-out for small ice and bergs till daylight, and pass the word along." That was the order received by Jewell and me; we both heard it through the 'phone.

11340. Had you noticed anything to lead you to think you might meet icebergs before you got that message?
- Yes; just a small conversation, I think, about 9 o'clock. My mate turned round from time to time and said, "It is very cold here." I said, "Yes; by the smell of it there is ice about." He asked me why, and I said, "As a Rule you can smell the ice before you get to it."

11341. You thought you could?
- Yes.

11342. Did you notice the temperature?
- No, I could not tell you anything about the temperature. We were in the crow's-nest.

11343. You were relieved at 10 o'clock at night, and you went below?
- Yes.

11344. And was the word passed along?
- Yes, it was passed along at 10 o'clock by me and Jewell.

11345. You were relieved, I think, by Fleet and Lee?
- Yes.

11346. Then did you go below and turn in?
- Yes, I went below and turned in.

11347. What awakened you?
- What awakened me was a grinding sound on her bottom. I thought at first she had lost her anchor and chain, and it was running along her bottom. I would not get up. The others got up, but I would not get up as I thought there was nothing the matter.

11348. You did get up eventually?
- Yes; Hogg came down to me and told me I had better get up.

11349. Was he another look-out?
- Yes, he was another look-out man.

11350. Hogg and Evans?
- Yes.

11351. Hogg told you you had better get up and you started dressing, did you?
- Yes.

11352. Whilst you were dressing was an order given?
- There was an order came to the forecastle door by the boatswain to "Stand by, as you may be wanted at any moment."

11353. Was that to you only, or to all hands?
- To the hands in general who were in the forecastle.

11354. "All hands stand by"?
- Yes, "You may be wanted at any moment."

11355. You heard afterwards what the time was?
- Yes, I did not know the time then.

11356. What time was this?
- By the time I got on deck it must have been about one bell, a quarter to twelve.

11357. That was after you had this order from the boatswain?
- Yes.

11358. Then you went on deck. Did you notice ice on the fore well?
- No, I did not go to see the ice.

11359. What did you do when you got on deck?
- I came on deck and I went into the mess room in the course of ordinary events to see if there was any coffee. From there I heard the water coming in to No. 1 hold. I looked down No. 1 hold, and hardly had I looked down there when the order came for "All hands on the boat deck."

11360. You said you looked down No. 1 hold. Before you got that order, "All hands on the boat deck," had you seen any water?
- Yes, water coming in No. 1.

11361. Water in No. 1?
- Yes.

11362. Much?
- Yes, coming in a pretty good rush.

11363. (The Commissioner.) I thought you said you heard it?
- I heard it first, and then I went and saw it through the gratings, the hatch gratings, as the tarpaulins were off.

11364. (The Attorney-General.) Let us understand what it means. The tarpaulins were off?
- Yes.

11365. There is a grating there?
- Yes, there are gratings there.

11366. Were not the hatches on?
- No, there were no hatches on at that place.

11367. (The Commissioner.) What deck were you on when you saw the water through the grating?
- I suppose you would call that the main deck - on the same deck as the forewell deck.

11368. Is it the same deck as that on which the long alleyway is?
- No.

11369. Is it the one above it?
- Yes.

11370. Were you looking down No. 1 hatch?
- Yes, I was looking down No. 1 hatch through the grating when I saw the water.

11371. (The Attorney-General.) I think it must be two decks above, My Lord. I will ask him. (To the witness.) It is under the forecastle deck you were?
- Yes, under the forecastle.

11372. Then, did you have to go down two decks to get to the deck under the alleyway?
- Yes; you would go down the stairs and then down a small flight of steps again.

The Attorney-General:
What is called the shelter deck C is where he was, and your Lordship sees he has to get to deck E to the alleyway.

The Commissioner:
On deck C?

11373. (The Attorney-General.) Yes, just under the forecastle deck. He is looking down No. 1 hatch. (To the witness.) You saw through the gratings; the tarpaulin was off and the hatches were off?
- Yes.

11374. There was nothing on the grating between?
- There was nothing on the grating at that place then. Whether there were hatches at the fore end or afterend I could not say, but this was about amidships of the hatch.

11375. Could you see from which side the water was coming in?
- No, you could not exactly see because the water was nearly up to the coamings of the lower hatch.

11376. (The Commissioner.) You mean nearly up to the coaming of the hatch on the deck?
- Yes.

11377. (The Attorney-General.) Let us be clear about this. You were standing on the deck below the forecastle deck, which is deck C?
- Yes. As you stand on the C deck you look down through the gratings, and on the hatch below that is where the water was lapping around the tarpaulins and the hatch cover.

11378. There is a hatch with a grating over which you saw, from which the tarpaulin had been removed?
- Yes.

11379. Then how far below that would it be before you got to the coamings of what you call the next hatch?
- I could not exactly say the distance.

11380. How many decks would it be?
- It would be on the next deck.

11381. That makes it quite plain. Tell us as nearly as you can how many decks would you have had to go down to get to the water which was just touching, or just close to, the coamings?
- The coamings of the hatch. You would only have to take the gratings off and there was the next coaming to meet you.

11382. How many decks would you have had to go down?
- I could not say how many decks you have to go down to the steerage; but the coamings is the next hatch down below the one on C deck, the one we were standing on.

The Attorney-General:
Your Lordship follows. The effect of that would be that the water would be up to D deck. It was coming into the coamings of the hatchway, which would be above D deck.

The Commissioner:
No, I do not understand that.

The Attorney-General:
Well, I did not think he meant that, but it is what he said just now.

11383. (The Commissioner - To the witness.) Now, listen to me. There was a hatch upon the deck on which you were standing?
- Yes.

11384. And that you supposed to be C deck?
- Yes.

11385. Now, the hatchways were removed?
- Yes, all the blind hatches were removed.

11386. And the tarpaulins were off?
- Yes.

11387. And there was nothing but a grid or grating, through which you looked?
- Yes.

11388. Now, this hatchway goes right down to the bottom of the ship?
- Yes.

11389. There were coamings round the hatchway where you were standing?
- Yes.

11390. Where would the next coamings be, down below?
- I should think myself -

11391. Would it not be on the next deck?
- I think myself a good two decks below, because there is a wide space from that upper coaming to the lower coamings.

11392. That may make a difference. Now, can you show me in the Court, without telling me what the number of feet are, how far below you, when you were looking through the grating, the coamings were where you saw the water? Just show me. Give me an idea.
- I should think myself, from that deck there down to where that gentleman is sitting.

11393. Do you mean from the top; this roof that we see over this?
- Yes, this platform.

11394. Down to the floor?
- Yes, it may have been a little lower.

11395. That would mean two decks lower. The distance between the deck you were standing on and the next deck would be about how much - half that high?
- About halfway, Sir.

The Commissioner:
Then that would point to this, that it was two decks down?

The Attorney-General:
Yes. I thought it was more from what he said.

The Commissioner:
Well, it may be.

The Attorney-General:
I will tell your Lordship why I thought so. If you look at the plan I should have taken it from the section to be between F and G decks, because, according to the plan, that is the first indication of coamings.

Mr. Laing:
That is so.

The Commissioner:
Very well; that is right, probably.

The Attorney-General:
There is something like a coaming if you look at C, and then the next one is G.

11396. (The Commissioner - To the witness.) Will you come round here?
- (The witness explained the plan to the Commissioner.)

The Commissioner:
He tells me, looking at this plan, he thinks that the water he saw was by the coaming on G deck.

The Attorney-General:
Yes; I thought that is what he must mean.

The Commissioner:
That would be about 25 feet below it, or something like that.

The Attorney-General:
Your Lordship will remember - I do not know whether you noticed it on the "Olympic" - there was the same thing there. They go through various decks without coamings.

The Commissioner:
Yes, until you go to this deck G.

The Attorney-General:
Yes. That makes it right.

11397. (The Commissioner - To the witness.) Now will you tell me how far below the top of the watertight bulkhead was this water at that time?
- This water at that time, I should think roughly, was about a foot around the coamings, running around the coamings. What I want to know is, how far below the top of the watertight bulkhead would it be at the time?

Mr. Laing:
16 feet 3 inches.

The Attorney-General:
Which bulkhead is that?

The Commissioner:
The Admiral tells me it would be about 16 feet below the top of the bulkhead; so you see that the water he saw would have to rise, assuming the doors to be closed, 16 feet before it would break over the top of the bulkhead. Is there any watertight bulkhead, Mr. Laing, above deck E?

The Attorney-General:
That is just what I am asking, My Lord. According to the plan it looks as if it reaches D in this particular bulkhead. It looks as if the bulkhead b reaches this particular place, that is, this particular bulkhead reaches deck D. I am just asking the question.

The Commissioner:
I see the thick dark line which stops at the bottom of deck E, and then I see the line extending upwards, but it does not look to me as if it was intended to indicate a continuation of the bulkhead.

The Attorney-General:
My friend, Mr. Laing, ought to be able to tell us; but it looks from the plan as if it does. Mr. Wilding will tell your Lordship at once. (Mr. Wilding explained the plan to the Attorney-General.)

The Attorney-General:
It is right; it does go to D, My Lord; it is shown on this section. It does reach D.

The Commissioner:
The collision bulkhead a does not go higher than the floor of deck E, does it?

The Attorney-General:
I understand it does; it is stepped forward. This one is stepped aft.

The Commissioner:
It is not shown on the plan.

The Attorney-General:
No, My Lord; but I think this one is on my plan. It is stepped aft from G deck to D deck. Both A and b reach D deck.

The Commissioner:
Mr. Wilding, will you come round here? (Mr. Wilding explained the plan to the Commissioner.)

The Commissioner:
(to The Attorney-General.) Will you look at this plan? I have marked in red pencil how high the bulkheads extend. (The plan was handed to the Attorney-General.)

The Attorney-General:
Yes, My Lord, that is right. A is stepped forward to D deck, B is stepped aft to D deck.

The Commissioner:
The water that he saw would be about 5 feet above the external waterline?

11398. (The Attorney-General - To the witness.) You saw this water below the coamings? Is that below the coamings on which there are hatchway covers?
- Below the coamings is where the hatches come on, and also the cover.

11399. That makes it quite plain that it is G deck. As I understand you, you did not have much time to look at it?
- No, I had just time to see the water come in when the order came, "All hands on the boat deck."

11400. You say you saw water coming in; will you help us about that? Was it coming in fast?
- Yes, coming in at what I call a moderate pace.

11401. Could you see where it was coming in from?
- No, you could only discern by the look of it that it was rising from the starboard side.

11402. (The Commissioner.) I suppose the hatch covers and the tarpaulins were not on the hatchway of deck G?
- Yes; the hatch cover was there, all covered up and battened down.

11403. How could you see the water?
- I did not know it was coming in over this hatch.

11404. Through the hatch covers?
- I could not see whether it was making its way through the hatch cover, but it was running over the hatch, and it looked as if it was mostly coming up the far end of the starboard side - the foremost corner.

11405. (The Attorney-General.) The hatchway in G deck was covered up in the ordinary way by the tarpaulin and hatches?
- Yes.

11406. And battened down?
- Yes, it was battened down.

11407. Did you see water over that hatchway?
- No, it was not over.

11408. Where did you see it?
- All round the coamings.

11409. They would be on the deck?
- Yes.

11410. Raised on G deck?
- Yes.

11411. Do you mean you saw the water round the coamings there?
- Yes.

11412. Did you see any water on the tarpaulin?
- I never took that much notice of the water on the tarpaulin. The only thing I noticed was the water coming round the coamings of the hatch.

11413. And I think you said from the starboard side particularly?
- Yes, it looked as if it was coming from the starboard side in that corner, the foremost end.

The Commissioner:
I took down from you that the water was nearly up to the coamings on deck G; that is inaccurate.

The Attorney-General:
I am not sure that it is, with great respect.

The Commissioner:
Nearly up to the coamings. He says it was running round the coamings.

11414. (The Attorney-General.) Yes, I think I know what he means. (To the witness.) The coamings are above the deck, and the hatchways rest upon them in that way?
- Yes.

11415. Explain in your own way. Will you explain to my Lord what you mean by saying that it was nearly up to the coamings?
- Take that box, for instance; there is the hatch in the centre, and all round the hatch you would come to the bulkheads, which I suppose you would call watertight bulkheads, and all around there was a foot, or it may be a little more or less, space between, allowing for the battens to go over the hatches; that is where the water was, right round the hatch.

The Commissioner:
What he means, I think, is this, that the water he saw was nearly to the top of the coamings.

The Attorney-General:

The Commissioner:
He means he saw it outside nearly to the top.

11416. (The Attorney-General - To the witness.) After that you say as you looked at it you got an order to go on to the boat deck?
- Yes.

11417. When you got on to the boat deck, what order did you get then?
- The order I got on the boat deck from Mr. Murdoch, and also the boatswain was, they gave an order to uncover the boats and get the falls out. I assisted generally in the boats on the starboard fore end, 3, 5, and 7.

11418. Before you go on telling us what happened then, can you give us any idea what time it was when you noticed this water reaching nearly to the coamings of the hatch?
- I should think, roughly estimating it, it would be about five minutes to twelve, because, as I was on my way to the deck, so they struck eight bells in the crow's-nest.

11419. When you got up there you told us you assisted to get 3, 5, and 7 ready on the starboard side?
- Yes.

11420. Was No. 1 ready?
- No. 1 was already swung out.

11421. That is the emergency boat?
- Yes.

11422. It is always carried swung out, is it not?
- Oh, Yes.

11423. By the time you got to the boat deck had the seamen nearly all arrived on the boat deck?
- Yes, I think they were pretty well all there.

11424. Had they gone to the boats on the starboard side?
- They went to their respective stations, I believe, port and starboard side.

11425. Who was in charge of the starboard side?
- Mr. Murdoch.

11426. Was there any difficulty, speaking generally, so far as you could see, in getting out these boats on the starboard side?
- None whatever; they never worked better or more comfortably. I have never seen them work better in any ship I have been in.

11427. I did not catch that. I think you said you had never seen them work better on any other ship you had been in. Is that right?
- Yes.

11428. Were there passengers on the deck when you arrived there?
- Yes.

11429. Had they their lifebelts on?
- Yes.

Continued >