British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry
Testimony of George Symons, cont.
Examined by Mr. LEWIS.
11880. You really expected an order to return to the ship at some time?
- Yes, I expected to go back with my passengers and land them aboard the ship again.
11881. And you knew when the ship sank you could not get an order from the ship?
11882. You were either taking passengers off the ship or rescuing passengers after you were asked to be in readiness?
- I do not know what that order was. The order that was given was to stand off and wait orders.
11883. What is the length of the boat you were in?
- That I could not say.
11884. If Hendrickson had spoken loudly would you have heard?
- I should think so.
11885. You have no reason to doubt Hendrickson's statement?
- No reason to doubt it whatever. Had he spoken loud I was bound to hear.
11886. Do you know a fireman named Taylor?
- No - I only just knew their names afterwards. I did not know none of them.
11887. You do not know where he was sitting?
- No, not properly.
11888. And whether he was sitting alongside Lady Duff-Gordon and heard Hendrickson?
- That I cannot say.
11889. If he heard Hendrickson it is possible you would have heard?
- I should think so; if he heard him I suppose I ought to have heard him.
11890. If he said that a suggestion was made by someone, you would not doubt his statement, would you?
- No. You cannot doubt his statement, because I cannot say whether he said it or whether he did not.
11891. (The Commissioner.) Or whether it is truthful or not?
- Or whether it is truthful or not.
11892. (Mr. Lewis.) If he said he was opposed by a lady passenger, you would not doubt that would you?
- You cannot doubt a man's word till you find out for certain.
11893. Or if he says a man passenger said it was dangerous?
- Then you cannot doubt that.
11894. You would not doubt that?
11895. And the lady may have said she was afraid of the boat being swamped?
- She may have said it, yes.
11896. You said you went back to the wreckage after the ship sank?
11897. (The Commissioner.) He went back and saw nothing?
- Saw nothing.
Not to any wreckage.
11898. (Mr. Lewis.) The wreckage was mentioned in the American evidence. You went, at any rate, to the scene of the wreck?
- As soon as possible.
11899. How long do you think it took you to get back to what you thought was the spot?
- Half-an-hour or more; three -quarters of an hour nearly.
11900. Was there any conversation of any sort at the time of the sinking of the boat?
- I never heard nothing.
11901. Nothing whatever?
- No. If they were speaking between themselves, I was not hearing. I never heard nothing.
11902. I understand you to say that Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon was quieting Lady Duff-Gordon?
- Yes; once I heard that.
11903. Calming her?
11904. Soothing her. Did he speak to her?
- Yes, he spoke to the lady.
11905. You heard that?
- That was at daylight, at the break of day; that was when the "Carpathia's" lights were in sight.
11906. If I were to suggest to you that immediately after the sinking of the boat, a few minutes afterwards, you gave the order to pull away, and that you did not pull to the scene of the wreckage, would I be speaking an untruth?
- Yes, you would.
You are not assisting me in the least by these questions.
Not in the least? I believe, My Lord, you will have evidence -
That may be, but I am thinking about the assistance that you are affording to the Court, and in my opinion, at present you are affording the Court none.
11907. (Mr. Lewis.) I am very sorry, My Lord, that you should think so. Personally, I think I am. (To the witness.) You expected the people in that boat to say something?
- Yes, you would expect to hear something of some description.
11908. What did you expect them to say?
- You expect -
I will not allow such questions to be put - "What did you expect them to say." How can it assist me in any way?
Because I want to know -
You may ask him about facts - what he saw, what he did, what he said, what other people did and what other people said, but you must not ask this man about his expectations.
I want to know, My Lord, whether he thought that the people in the boat would suggest going back.
He has told us already that he was surprised they did not suggest it.
11909. (Mr. Lewis.) You have heard that all the other boats picked up passengers out of the water?
- I heard it in the morning.
11910. Without any danger?
- Yes, but how long was it afterwards?
Don't you ask questions or we shall never get through.
11911. (Mr. Lewis.) And are you still of the opinion, after hearing that, that it would have been dangerous to your boat?
11912. You do not think you could have saved a few?
- Not at that time.
(After a short adjournment.)
I made a statement to your Lordship this morning with regard to an interview which was had by some gentleman, whose identity at that moment I was not aware of, with the witness. As I made that statement, and as I now know the facts, I should like, if I may at some time, to tell your Lordship what I would have said then if I had been aware of it when your Lordship mentioned it to me, which will make clear what the position is, and, if need be, I will call the people who were concerned.
I do not quite understand what it is you wanted to say.
It is very little, My Lord; it is this: Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon were at sea; they were on their way from America to this country. Their solicitor, Mr. Tweedie, had no instructions except a cable message to inform the Board of Trade that they desired to attend at any Inquiry which might be held. He complied with those instructions. A member of their family, a connection of theirs, communicated with a firm of solicitors, and that firm of solicitors supposed they would act for sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon, and thought it was the proper thing to try to ascertain, in view of Hendrickson's statement, what the other members of the crew said about this matter. One of those gentlemen saw the witness, and I have now the witness's statement here, which I am quite ready to hand to the Attorney-General. But that firm did not in fact act; and Mr. Tweedie, although he became aware that the interview had taken place, had no sort of connection with it, and Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon had no sort of connection with it at the time it took place. If there is any question which is desired to be raised about it I will deal with it.
Well, I think it would be better if you hand to the Attorney-General the statement that was taken down by this gentleman.
If your Lordship pleases, and if my friend thinks fit to enquire of me anything which will put him in a position to examine or cross-examine, of course I am at his disposal.
I have a few questions to ask of the witness, but I will follow my friend Mr. Duke.
I understand my friend intends to deal with totally different matters from those that I have to deal with.
Examined by Mr. DUKE.
11913. Just answer me two or three questions. First of all, with regard to the sending off of this boat. So far as you are aware did anybody interfere with Mr. Murdoch's discretion as to the sending off of that boat?
- No; I saw nobody interfere.
11914. Did the boat come along in its order to be sent off? Was it sent off when it was reached in its order, along the ship's side?
11915. The boats, I suppose, were floated so that they would go astern?
11916. And this was the forward boat?
- Yes, this was the last boat forward.
11917. And below it was the surf boat, either below or outside?
- That was inboard, the surf boat.
11918. The surf boat was inboard?
11919. Would she have been swung from the same falls?
11920. When she came to be floated?
11921. Would that have anything to do with using despatch in getting off this boat or not?
- Very likely, to get the falls up again for the other boat.
11922. They would have been wanted for the surf boat if she was wanted?
11923. How long were you there during the getting out of that boat, getting her ready and getting her to the sea level and getting her afloat before she was actually afloat?
- Do you mean the emergency boat?
11924. The emergency boat?
- From the time we were there till she was afloat was about ten minutes.
11925. You think about ten minutes?
11926. During the whole of that time was there anybody in communication with Mr. Murdoch, except the members of the crew under his orders?
- Nobody except the members that were there that he was giving his orders to.
11927. Were you there for any length of time before that, before this boat was taken in hand?
- No, we were working our way down through the line.
11928. Were you under Mr. Murdoch's orders while that was being done?
- Yes, under his sole orders.
11929. Did anybody, so far as you are aware, during the whole of that time interfere at all with Mr. Murdoch's exercise of his duties?
- No, I saw nobody interfere with him all the time he was in my sight.
11930. Now, a suggestion has been made, I do not know on what authority, that Mr. Ismay interfered in some way with regard to the launching of these boats. Did you see any interference by Mr. Ismay?
- Nothing whatever.
11931. You knew Mr. Ismay by sight?
11932. Was he there at all while these boats were being launched?
- I never saw anything of him.
11933. So far as Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon is concerned, did you see anything of him while the lifeboats were being launched?
11934. Did you see what took place, or how it was that Lady Duff-Gordon was not one of the ladies who were put into one of the lifeboats?
- I could not say.
11935. You did not see anything of it?
11936. The first you saw was they presented themselves for this boat?
11937. Now, with regard to the boat, you were a seaman?
11938. Was she the sort of boat which would be adapted for navigating in the Atlantic?
- I should not think she was, in any weather. She is there for saving life, being a lifeboat for any accident.
11939. For use in case of accident?
11940. How far were you from land at this time?
- I could not say; I should think by my own estimation about 1,300 miles from New York.
11941. You say it was dark on board the ship?
- It was not very dark on board the ship, it was dark when we were going down the side.
11942. Was it dark, or light in the boat?
- It was dark, very dark.
11943. You had no lamp?
- No lamp whatever.
11944. Do you know how it was that the oars, and perhaps boat masts, or whatever they were - the tackle that was there - had been stowed in the sides against the thwarts?
- They were stowed to the side.
11945. Would they in ordinary circumstances have been cleared out if the boat had been intended to be launched for a number of people?
- No, I have always seen them kept in them before.
11946. They are kept there?
11947. But did they occupy a good deal of what would have been sitting accommodation in the cross -seats?
11948. Now with regard to the distance which you got from the "Titanic," how far away were you according to your judgment when the "Titanic" went down?
- About a quarter of a mile; it may have been a little more.
11949. Are you pretty confident as to whether you were a quarter of a mile or not?
- Oh yes, I am pretty confident of the distance.
11950. How long would it have taken you to row back?
- It would have taken a good twenty-five minutes to half-an-hour to have got back to that ship, under the conditions, with four oars. There were only four oars there for pulling - four pulling places.
11951. There were four pulling places?
- Yes, two each side.
11952. From first to last till the time you had made up your mind, did anybody try in any way to interfere with your judgment?
- Nobody whatever.
11953. Now, it is suggested by gentlemen who were not there that you were afraid to go back. What do you say about it?
- I was not afraid to go back - not in the least - no fear whatever. The only thing I knew was it was not safe to go back at the time.
11954. Were you clear in your own mind about that?
11955. Had Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, or anybody else in the boat, anything to do with your making up your mind about that?
- No, nothing whatever.
11956. Did you take the responsibility for it then?
11957. And I understand you take it now?
- I take it now.
11958. I daresay it is a good deal easier to talk about cowardice here than it is to make up your mind in a position like that?
- That is right. Some of those people that talk like that should have been there.
11959. We will not discuss it, because they might not have got back. Now with regard to the money, when was the first time you heard any suggestion that anybody would get anything from Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon?
- About the second day before we got into New York.
11960. Even among yourselves, the men who had been in the boat, as far as you were concerned had you heard from them?
11961. That Sir Cosmo had said something?
11962.You had had your name taken by somebody?
11963. Who was it?
- By one of the firemen. I found out afterwards that Hendrickson was there.
11964. Hendrickson and another fireman, you think, were there together, and one of them took your name?
- Yes, Horswell and myself both came together.
11965. That is the other seaman?
- Yes; we had to stay in the boat around the bow till some of the other boats came alongside.
11966. Were you in communication with Hendrickson and the other men who formed the crew of the boat while you were on board the "Carpathia"?
- Just once or twice.
11967. Were they there? Were they on board the "Carpathia"?
11968. Did they come back in the same ship with you to England?
11969. While they were there on board the "Carpathia," did either Hendrickson or any other man who was there suggest that you did wrong in the decision you came to not to go back at that time?
11970. No one?
- No one.
11971. When was the first time you ever heard a suggestion that you had been guilty of cowardice in not going back in that welter of people?
- When I read the paper in Liverpool on Saturday.
11972. You had made your deposition in New York while you were there?
11973. And you had attended before the sub-Committee of the senate?
That was earlier; April, I think it was.
I am much obliged. (To the witness.) You had attended before the sub-Committee and made a deposition before the British Consul?
Yes, the 2nd May.
11974. (Mr. Duke - To the witness.) I do not know what the suggestion is about that money, but tell me this, while you were in New York were the newspapers full of scandalous stories about people who had been on board this boat, and whose lives had been saved?
- Yes, also scandalous reports about myself.
11975. Was there any truth in them?
- No, none whatever.
11976. Was this story about Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon the only story that was set on foot about the people on board the ship?
- That is all, Sir, the cowardice and the money. It was the only story that was in the papers.
11977. Was there a suggestion at that time that an American millionaire had bribed the crew to take him away, and that Mr. Ismay was a party to it?
I do not know that you need go into that.
These suggestions were made in cross-examinations by learned counsel; they go through the country, and are read by all sorts of people, and there seems to be no remedy.
Mr. Clement Edwards:
I was the counsel who put the questions with regard to the money. I then had no knowledge whatever of similar statements having been made concerning this man in America.
Perhaps we shall find out why somebody suggested it.
I know nothing about these things.
11978. (Mr. Duke - To the witness.) I will ask you one other question about this matter. Were you aware of any inducement held out by anybody to take any particular person in that boat?
- No, none whatever. I simply obeyed my orders.
11979. And was there any inducement to you to do anything which you did while you were in the boat?
11980. What became of the lifeboats when they got to the "Carpathia," were they taken on board?
- Some were, and there were one or two set adrift.
11981. Was this boat you were in, the dinghy, set adrift?
- No, she was put on board.
11982. She was put on board?
Examined by Mr. LAING.
11983. While you were on the look-out, up to 10 o'clock, what sort of a night was it?
- Pretty clear, Sir, a fine night, rather hazy; if anything a little hazy on the horizon, but nothing to speak of.
11984. Would you describe it as a very clear night?
11985. With stars?
11986. With regard to what you said about binoculars, would you rather trust your eye for picking up anything than a binocular?
- Well, it is all according to what you were picking up.
11987. If you were on the look-out on a fine, clear night would you rather trust to the eye than a binocular to pick up anything?
- Yes. You use your own eyes as regards the picking up anything, but you want the glasses then to make certain of that object.
11988. You mean when you have picked up something with your naked eye, you like to examine it with the glasses?
- That is right.
11989. I suppose your duty as a look-out man is directly you pick up anything with the naked eye to report it and then examine it with glasses?
- No, as a Rule you examine it before you report.
11990. Would not you report something before you took time to examine it if you had already picked it up?
- It is all according to the weather you are in. You may have a beautiful clear day or night when you see these things a long time before they see them on the bridge. In hazy weather it does not matter, because whatever you see coming through the gloom, you report it at once.
11991. On a clear night do you mean you do not report?
- Yes, but you make sure before you report because you see such a long way.
11992. You see such a long way with the naked eye, do you mean?
- Yes, you can see a long way with the naked eye.
11993. When are the glasses useful to you? In foggy weather or hazy weather?
- In hazy weather, in making the land, and also if you have an order to look out for bergs or derelicts, they are very handy. Also on a clear night if you are going west with stars falling, they are handy to pick up the difference between a star and a light.
11994. As a Rule, do I understand you prefer to trust to your naked eye to begin with?
- Well, yes, you trust your naked eye.
11995. With regard to Mr. Murdoch, was he loading and lowering all the boats on the starboard side you saw go?
- Yes, all the ones I saw go.
11996. Did you hear any order given about a gangway?
- No, I never heard any order about a gangway.
11997. You know what I mean by a gangway?
- Yes, I know what you mean.
11998. You heard nothing about that?
11999. Did he tell you to lie off a short way?
12000. And come back when called on?
12001. Did you hear anyone with a megaphone on the "Titanic" after you got down to the sea?
- No one whatever.
12002. Is this your first shipwreck?
- My first one.
Re-examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.
12003. Do you know Mr. Lowe, the fifth Officer?
- I only knew him personally this trip.
12004. Was he close to the emergency boat No. 1?
- I never saw him at all that night.
I have read the statement. I have no objection to my friend putting it in if he thinks it desirable.
I merely produced it for the information of the Board of Trade or the Law Officers.
I have only been very hurriedly through it, but I think I am right in saying that you do not mention in that statement that you had been ordered to pull away, to stand by, and to come back when you were called?
No, in a statement like that you would not give it; you would give it to the proper people.
12005. It is not in it?
- No, it is not in it.
12006. Did you hear an order given for the emergency boat to remain within hail of the ship?
- No; the only order I heard given is what I have said.
12007. It is suggested that Mr. Lowe, the fifth Officer, gave this order three times in a loud and distinct voice. Do you say you did not hear it?
- I neither heard it, nor did I see Mr. Lowe. The only Officer I saw was Mr. Murdoch.
(The Witness withdrew.)