British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry
Testimony of George Symons, cont.
11430. Did they crowd round the boats at all?
- No; they all kept good order; they kept back to give the men working room.
11431. Was there an order?
- Yes, there was one order when we were at boat No. 3. Two or three men of some description, whether stewards or passengers I do not know, were asked to keep back to give the men room to work.
11432. And they did?
11433. Were the boats lowered to the deck rail?
- After we got all the covers out, the orders were given by Mr. Murdoch to start swinging them out. We started No. 5 first, and then we came back to 3, and then to 7.
11434. Five first, then 3, then forward again, and then?
- that is aft?
- Yes, that is the next one.
11435. Did you assist in putting passengers in any one of the boats?
- I assisted in putting passengers in No. 5 and No. 3, and also assisted to lower No. 3 with the boatswain -
11436. Were you acting all this time under the instructions of Mr. Murdoch?
- Under the instructions of Mr. Murdoch and the boatswain.
11437. What is the boatswain's name?
11438. Were the passengers that you put into the boats men, women, or children?
- Women and children. That was the order, and they were put in.
11439. That was the order you got from Mr. Murdoch?
- That was the order, "Women and children first."
11440. Can you tell us when you began to help getting the boats out, was there any list of the vessel?
- Oh, yes, there was a slight list, if anything in our favour, to starboard.
11441. (The Attorney-General.) Your Lordship asked the question yesterday about the list to starboard. We have heard from one man who says he saw it distinctly from the ship. We have heard of a list to starboard from a Witness on the ship, but this Witness says that he noticed a list to starboard at the first. (To the witness.) Whilst you were on the ship did you see any list to port?
- I never took particular notice of a list to port. The only way I know she had a list to starboard was when we were lowering away we were clear of everything. When we were being lowered away ourselves we were clear of everything.
11441a. (The Commissioner.) The list to starboard helped you?
- Yes; it was all in our favour.
11442. (The Attorney-General.) You might have cleared away everything without a list, Might not you?
- Yes; but if she had had a list to port it would have made it difficult.
11443. Yes. Nobody said she had a list to port at that time. Now tell us about the emergency boat, No. 1.
I suppose you will have some theory to explain the great list to port that there was, according to the evidence, on this ship before she went down?
11444. (The Attorney-General.) Yes. It is said the water came in on the starboard side, and so it requires some explanation. (To the witness.) Speaking of boats 3, 5, and 7, did you see seamen placed in these boats under the order of Mr. Murdoch?
- Yes, under the orders of Mr. Murdoch. They were given an order to get in, to get the plugs ready, to see everything was right in the boat, and told to stay there and take the women and children.
11445. Three lifeboats had been lowered away, 3, 5, and 7; were they lowered before you went to No. 1?
- No, after we got the three boats out I went and assisted Wynn in clearing away one of the guys on B deck.
11446. Of what?
- Of No. 1 boat. From there I went back to the boat deck and assisted generally in putting the passengers in Nos. 3 and 5.
11447. That was the first you had to do with No. 1?
11448. You had already cleared away one of the guys?
11449. And you went back again and helped to get out the boats 3 and 5?
11450. And then after that what did you do?
- After I went back on the boat deck we had orders to put the women and children in. I assisted generally, and they lowered down. I do not know whether 5 or 7 went first; I could not say for certain. I was at No. 5; whether No. 7 went before it I could not say. When we got No. 5 away I went back to No. 3 and assisted there generally, and then I helped to lower the forward end of No. 3 along with the boatswain.
11451. Then you saw 7, 5 and 3 lowered and away?
- Yes, they were away when I went to No. 1.
11452. Then you went to No. 1, and did Mr. Murdoch speak to you then?
- No, we did not go to No. 1; we were ordered to No. 1.
11453. And then you went?
- We went to No. 1, and Mr. Murdoch asked who was assigned to that boat. I said I was, and he said, "Are you a sailor?" I said "Yes." He said, "Jump in and see the plug is in." After that he asked if there were any more sailors. Horswell replied, "I am assigned to that boat." He said, "Jump in." He next gave an order for five firemen to jump in, because there were no passengers around the deck at that time. Other members of the crew were assisting in getting the cover off of the surf boat lying under the emergency boat, if she had been in her place, if she was swung in.
11454. That is the collapsible, we call it?
- As he gave orders I saw two ladies come running out of the foremost end of the top saloon deck, running towards the boat, and from there they asked Mr. Murdoch if they could get into that boat, and Mr. Murdoch said, "Yes; jump in." And then, after that, I saw three gentlemen come running up, and they asked if they could get into the boat, and he said, "Yes; jump in." Mr. Murdoch then looked around for more, and there was nobody in sight, only just the remaining members of the crew. He then gave an order to lower away. On the way down, just as we started lowering, he asked who was in charge of the boat. I replied, "Symons, the look-out." He replied, "Symons, take charge of that boat; make all those under you obey you; make them do what you tell them." I replied, "All right." When we were lowered down, just below B deck, we got hung up by a wire guy. I told them on the boat deck to stop lowering. They stopped lowering almost immediately. Then they asked me what the trouble was, and I said we were hung up by a wire guy. Someone came down on the next deck and chopped it away, and from there we proceeded to the water without a mishap and released the boat very satisfactorily.
11455. There was plenty of room in your boat?
- Oh, yes.
11456. For a good number of passengers besides those you were taking away?
- What do you mean?
11457. I mean there was plenty of room in your boat for more than you were carrying?
- Yes; but the order was, "Lower away," and you had to obey orders.
11458. I am not making any complaint against you; I want to get the fact.
11459. (The Commissioner.) I want to be sure about this. Was there plenty of room in the boat for more persons when Mr. Murdoch ordered the boat to be lowered away?
11460. Now why did he order the boat to be lowered away while it was not full?
- Because, I suppose, he had looked around the deck for other people, as well as I did myself, and there was not another passenger in sight, only just the remainder of the crew getting the surf boat ready.
11461. I do not understand. What time was this?
- I could not tell the time; I do not know.
11462. How long before the ship foundered?
- Well, I should think myself if I say it was within half-an-hour I should not be far out. It may have been less.
11463. Half-an-hour is a long time?
- Yes, it may have been less.
11464. Was there no time to find women and children to put into the boat?
- I saw Mr. Murdoch running around there. I could not tell why he gave the order. I could not criticise an Officer. He gave the order to lower away, and I had to obey orders. It is not a seaman's place to criticise an Officer in that case.
11465. I am not asking you to criticise anybody; I am asking you to help me to find out, if I can, why Mr. Murdoch ordered this boat to be lowered into the sea when it was more than half empty?
- That I could not tell you; that was his own discretion, I suppose; it was not for me to say anything to him.
11466. How soon after the two ladies had got into the boat, and the three men passengers, did Mr. Murdoch give the order to lower?
- I should say, roughly, about three or four minutes.
11467. Three or four minutes after the three men passengers and two ladies got in the order was given to lower that boat?
11467a. (The Attorney-General.) Was there any list to port at the time this boat was lowered?
- The list was to starboard at the time the boat was lowered. That was everything in our favour going down. It was not much; it was very slight.
The list was still to starboard?
11468. (The Attorney-General.) Yes. (To the witness.) Before you left the boat deck had you noticed any rockets being fired from the bridge?
- Yes, the rockets were going up simultaneously every minute, Minute intervals, and that steamer's light was in sight, about a point and a half on the port bow, roughly between five and ten miles away, when they fired the rockets, and they were also working the starboard and port Morse lights.
11469. This was all, of course, before you left?
- Yes, before we left.
11470. Whilst you were still on the boat deck?
11471. Was this going on on the bridge?
- This was on the bridge.
11472. Working the port and starboard Morse light?
11473. Could you see the light?
- Yes, plain.
11474. The light of a steamer, I understood you to say, or a vessel?
- Well, a vessel, one white light.
11475. Where was it?
- About a point and a half on the port bow as the ship was standing then.
11476. On the port bow?
- On the port bow.
11477. How far distant did it appear?
- Between five and ten miles.
11478. And after you put off in No. 1 boat did you still see this light?
- Yes. I took the light to be that of a cod-bankman - or fishing vessel.
11479. You did not see any sidelights?
- No sidelights whatever.
Will you ask him when he first saw the white light?
11480. (The Attorney-General.) Yes. (To the witness.) When did you first see the white light of which you have spoken?
- After No. 3 boat was away.
11481. (The Commissioner.) Yes, but what time of night would that be?
- That would be in the early part of the morning.
11482. What time?
- That I could not say, because I did not know the time at the time. I should think myself it would be about one o'clock; it may have been a little after - between one and half-past.
11483. That would be about an hour before the vessel foundered?
11484. (The Attorney-General.) At any rate it was before you went to work on the boat deck at No. 1 boat?
- It was after No. 3 boat was away that I saw the light.
11485. It was after that that you went to No. 1 boat to work?
11486. Could you detect at all whether there was any more signaling about? Could you see if there was any vessel Morse signaling to you?
11487. All you could see was your vessel Morse signaling to some other?
11488. Do you remember getting an order from Mr. Murdoch to stand off a little way when the boat was lowered?
- Yes, My orders were to pull away from the ship, not too far, and to stand by if I was called back.
11489. That we have not had from you yet. That is what I wanted. That is quite right. Your Lordship will see the importance of it all. You have it in mind. Question 5011 is what Hendrickson said about this He was cross-examined about it. That substantially agrees, I think, with what Hendrickson says. I will read you what he says: "We were told to stand off a little way and come back when called." That is right?
- That is what Mr. Murdoch gave me.
11490. Now, at the time you left that No. 1 boat, was the forecastle head of the "Titanic" under water?
- After we got away the forecastle head, the first lot of ports - that would be C deck under the forecastle head, I think. What deck would you call that? That lot of ports there (Pointing on the model.) was just awash under her name.
11491. That is at the top, just under the forecastle head?
- No; these here. (Pointing on the model.)
11492. It is the second row, really?
- Yes, the second row.
11493. The first row under the well deck?
- Yes, that is right.
11494. That was after you had got away in your boat?
- After we got into the water.
11495. (The Commissioner.) And how far aft were those lights below the water?
- They were just coming awash then.
11496. How far aft? Just turn to the model; take note of the ship and tell me how far aft those lights were under water?
- Certainly the foremost ones were more submerged, if anything, than the after ones.
Of course they were.
11497. (The Attorney-General.) Perhaps I may put it in a different form. Had it reached the mast?
11498. Not as far aft as that?
- No; not quite so far as the mast.
11499. Then you pulled away?
11500. And did you see the "Titanic" go down?
- Yes, I watched her.
11501. Now just tell us about that?
- After I left the ship I gave the order to pull away. We were pulling very hard; we were pulling very steady; a moderate pull. After I gave that order we pulled away I should say about 200 yards, and I told them to lay on their oars, and just a little while after that, after I saw that the ship was doomed, I gave the order to pull a little further and so escape the suction.
11502. Now, just one moment. Just tell us why you say "after I saw the ship was doomed" you pulled away 200 yards? What was it that you saw that made you think that?
- Because her forecastle head was well under water then. Her lights had all disappeared then. You could see her starboard sidelight, which was still burning, was not so very far from the water, and her stern was well up in the air.
11503. When you say all her lights went out, do you mean right away astern too?
- No, just her foremost lights had disappeared, and her starboard sidelight left burning was the only light, barring the masthead light, on that side of the bridge that I could see.
11504. Then you saw her with her stern out?
11505. Will you give us an idea what angle was her stern as far as you could see? How did it look to you; was it all up?
- More like that with a cant. (Describing.) I do not know what position you would call it altogether.
11506. Was it out of water?
11507. Did you see her keel?
- No, you could not see her keel.
11508. (The Commissioner.) Could you see the propellers?
- You could just see the propellers.
11509. (The Attorney-General.) You could see the propellers?
11510. Then when you saw her like that, what was the next thing that happened?
- Being the master of the situation, I used my own discretion. I said nothing to anybody about the ship being doomed, in my opinion. I pulled a little further away to escape, if there was any suction. A little while after that we pulled a little way and lay on the oars again. The other boats were around us by that time, and some were pulling further away from us. I stood and watched it till I heard two sharp explosions in the ship. What they were I could not say. Then she suddenly took a top cant, her stern came well out of the water then.
11511. A top cant?
- You know what I mean to say, she took a heavy cant and her bow went down clear.
11512. Head downwards?
- Head down, and that is the time when I saw her lights go out, all her lights. The next thing I saw was her poop. As she went down like that so her poop righted itself and I thought to myself, "The poop is going to float." It could not have been more than two or three minutes after that that her poop went up as straight as anything; there was a sound like steady thunder as you hear on an ordinary night at a distance, and soon she disappeared from view.
11513. Let us see if we quite understand what you are saying about it. Suppose that is the stem and that is the stern. (Describing.) You saw her first of all with her stem downward?
11514. I understand you to say you saw her stem downwards?
11515. Did you see her head going well down?
- Her head was going well down.
11516. And you saw her stern out of the water like that? (Describing.) - Yes, her stern was well out of the water.
11517. I understand you to say that at one period you saw her stern right itself?
- It righted itself without the bow; in my estimation she must have broken in half.
11518. Can you form any idea from what part of the vessel it was that she appeared to right herself?
- I should think myself it was abaft the after expansion plate.
11519. (The Commissioner.) Where is that?
- That is the expansion plate. They have two expansion plates.
Show it to me on that wooden model.
11520. (The Attorney-General - To the witness.) Can you tell us where it was; which one you mean?
- The one furthest aft.
11521. Where was it?
- I should say it would be about abeam of the after funnel, or a little forward.
11522. About there?
I do not know whether your Lordship saw on the "Olympic" what he means by the expansion plate; it is noticeable on the deck.
I understand that.
11523. (The Attorney-General.) Then you saw her right herself - this part of her?
- Yes; I saw the poop right itself.
11524. And then it went up?
- Yes; then it went up and disappeared from view.
11525. And then went right down?
11526. When you saw the "Titanic" go down did you hear any cries from the people that went down with the boat?
11527. Did you try to rescue them?
- I thought at the time, being Master of the situation, it was not safe in any case to go back at that time.
11528. Do I understand from that, then, that your answer is that you did not try?
- Not at that time; not as soon as the ship disappeared.
11529. Let us understand that. You heard cries?
11530. And cries which you knew were of persons in distress?
- Quite so.
11531. Gone down with the vessel?
11532. Many, I suppose?
- Yes, a decent few it sounded like.
11533. And you had plenty of room in your boat?
11534. If you could have reached any one of those persons you could have saved the life of that person?
- Yes, but I thought at the time, by using my own discretion, that it was not safe in any way to have gone back to that ship as she disappeared.
11535. But, apart from going back to the ship, you could have gone back, could you not, some way to pick up persons, without going into the seething mass of people?
- The thing is those people, I suppose, would be together when they go down.
11536. But they do not all stop together?
- No, that is true. They do not stop together as a Rule.
11537. You were there with ample room?
- Yes; we had room say for another eight or a dozen more in the boat. I do not know what the boat's complement is.
11538. The boat's complement is 40, and you had 12?
- If there were 40 in that boat there would not be room.
- I think myself if there were 40 in that boat practically when the sea rose in the morning it would not be safe.
11540. The sea did not rise. If the sea had risen I daresay it might have been so; but we are speaking of a calm night. The sea was quite calm at this time. You quite understood you were to be ready to go back if called?
- That is right.
11541. Do you tell my Lord that you determined, without consultation with anybody, that you would not go back?
- I determined by my own wish, as I was Master of the situation, to go back when I thought that most of the danger was over.
- I used my own discretion, as being Master of the situation at the time, that it was not safe to have gone back at that time until everything was over.
11543. (The Commissioner.) I want to know why? What was it that you were afraid of?
- I was not afraid of anything; I was only afraid of endangering the lives of the people I had in the boat.
11544. How? What was the danger? The ship had gone to the bottom. She was no longer a danger. What were you afraid of?
- At that time the ship had only just disappeared.
11545. Never mind, it had disappeared, and had gone down to the bottom, two miles down, or something like that. What were you afraid of?
- I was afraid of the swarming.
11546. Of what?
- Of the swarming of the people - swamping the boat.
11547. That is it, that is what you were afraid of. You were afraid there were too many people in the water?
11548. And that your boat would be swamped?
I am not satisfied at all.
11549. (The Attorney-General.) Now, I want to know a little more about that. Was the question raised about your going back to the people who were shrieking at this time?
- None whatever.
11550. Do you mean to tell my Lord that nobody ever mentioned, amongst the people that you had in that boat, going back to try to save some of the people who were in the water drowning?
- I never heard anybody of any description, passengers or crew, say anything as regards going back. Had there been anything said I was almost sure to have heard it.
11551. You mean nothing was said, either by you or anybody?
- I used my own discretion.
11552. You have told us that several times. I understand that you used your discretion, and that you were master of the situation; we have got those phrases. What I am asking you about now is whether at that time you heard anything said by anybody on the boat about going back?
- None whatever.
11553. Either by you or by any of the crew?
11554. Or by any of the passengers?
11555. Then, if I understand correctly what you say, your story to my Lord is; the vessel had gone down; there were the people in the water shrieking for help; you were in the boat with plenty of room; nobody ever mentioned going back; nobody ever said a word about it; you just simply lay on your oars. Is that the story you want my Lord to believe?
- Yes, that is the story.
11556. (The Commissioner.) You told me that there were what you called "a pretty good few" - I think that was your expression - "in the water"?
11557. Calling for help?
11558. Could you see them?
11559. Then you could not tell whether there was a swarm round your boat?
- No, Sir; I was only going by the cries.
11560. Did not you think it was worthwhile trying to get near one or two of them. You could hear them, you know?
- Yes, you could hear them.
However, you did not do it.
11561. (The Attorney-General.) Did you ever go back to try to pick up any of these people?
- Yes, after we rowed a little way, as we were going for this self same light of my first story, we stopped; we laid on our oars. Then I gave the order to pull back, and told the men in the boat we would pull back to the other boats. I was going my way back then as near as I possibly could to the scene of the disaster after we met the other boat. I strained my ears to hear whether I could hear anybody, any person whatever making a cry.
11562. (The Commissioner.) And you heard no one?
- I heard no one.
11563. They were all drowned by that time; is not that so?
- I could not say that, Sir, because there were some picked up in a boat out of the water before daylight, according to the other story. Of course, I cannot say about other people.
11564. (The Attorney-General.) Did you know Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon before he got into that boat?
- No, Sir.
11565. Did you know Hendrickson?
- I did not know Hendrickson then. I knew nobody only Oswald.
11566. Did you hear anybody in the boat say that you ought to go back to try and save some of the people?
11567. Did you hear anybody talking in the boat at all at this time?
11568. You were all silent?
- We were all doing our work. They were saying nothing. I heard no conversation whatever.
11569. From the passengers or anybody else?
11570. What part of the boat were you in?
- I was in the stern.