British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 11

Testimony of Joseph T. Wheat, recalled

Further examined by the SOLICITOR-GENERAL.

13186. (The Solicitor-General.) You will remember, My Lord, he described what happened up to the time when he saw the water fall down the stairway from A deck to F deck, and he had just told us that he had gone up the stairway on his way to the upper deck. (To the witness.) That is right, is it not?
- Yes, Sir.

13187. I think you can tell us now [what] happened when you got to the boat deck?
- When I arrived at No. 9 boat Mr. Murdoch was there with quite a number of our men passing women and children over from the port side into No. 9 boat.

13188. When you say "with a number of our men" does that mean with a number of stewards?
- Yes; the victualling department.

13189. They were being put into No. 9 boat?
- The starboard side.

13190. I think you had been getting your stewards up to their stations, had you not?
- Yes, I had just come up from down below after doing that.

13191. Did you hear the orders which Mr. Murdoch gave as to what you were to do?
- Yes; he told me to take the rest of the boat's crew down on to the next deck as they had to send the people off A deck.

13192. This is a little important, and we must get it clear. The next deck would be a deck?
- Yes.

13193. Who was it you were to take down to A deck?
- Our own men.

13194. The stewards who were to go into different boats as crew?
- Yes.

13195. Did you do that?
- Yes. I took about 70 men down altogether, I think.

13196. Stewards?
- Yes.

13197. When you got your men down to A deck just tell us what you did - how you arranged them?
- When we got the men down to A deck, I lined them all up two deep round the boats, for fear there was a rush.

13198. Did that keep a clear space next to the boats?
- Yes, about six feet from the bulwarks.

13199. Had you heard the order that women and children were to go forward first?
- Yes, that was the general order right through - "women and children only."

13200. Having had your men up, as you say, two deep round the boats, what was done about the women and children?
- First I told the men off to make sure that the plug in No. 11 was in tight, and then I told five or six men, I cannot tell which, to get into the boat to hand the women and children in. Then the order was passed to pass the women and children along. After the women and children were all passed in we filled her up with as many as the boat would possibly hold, and Mr. Murdoch, looking over the top, said, "You have got enough there."

13201. All this time were you keeping your line of stewards?
- No; at that time I was standing with one foot on the rail and one foot on the bulwarks. We were passing women and children into the boat.

13202. You say you arranged your stewards to keep order with two lines; was that order kept after that?
- Yes.

13203. And were people kept back?
- Yes.

13204. Except the women and children?
- Women and children only were allowed inside the line.

13205. That, I think, was No. 11?
- Yes.

13206. Is No. 11 the boat in which you went away?
- Yes.

13207. Who ordered you in?
- Mr. Murdoch.

13208. We have already had some evidence about it from a Witness named Mackay, so that one only wants it very shortly. When your boat was lowered, you say Mr. Murdoch gave the order. Was she full?
- Yes, quite full she could not hold another soul.

13209. What were the proportions of women and children?
- I counted them at daylight as best I could. There were fifty-one women, nine children, seven stewards, two sailors, one fireman, and myself.

13210. Then there were no men passengers in that boat at all?
- Yes, there were three male passengers.

13211. I do not think you mentioned them?
- No, I did not.

13212. How did the three male passengers come to be there?
- I cannot say that.

13213. Was there good order kept in getting them into this boat, No. 11?
- Yes, very good order.

13214. Then No. 11 in due course was picked up?
- Yes.

Examined by Mr. SCANLAN.

13215. Your proper boat station was, I understand, No. 9?
- No. 11.

13216. This boat No. 11 in which you went off, I understand, had not a lamp?
- No, not to my knowledge.

13217. Nor a compass?
- No.

13218. Had it provisions?
- Well, I cannot say if there were any in the provision locker, because we did not look there.

13219. Had it water?
- Yes.

Examined by Mr. HARBINSON.

13220. Could you tell me if on the "Titanic" there was any general system of organisation amongst the stewards as to what their duties would be in case of emergency or danger?
- In regard to what?

13221. In case of danger - where their posts of duty would be in case of danger from fire or wreck?
- Emergency doors, do you mean?

13322. No. Was there any system of organisation among the stewards?
- No, only among the heads of the departments; it was left to them.

13223. There was no general system which had been established, was there, and positions allotted to the stewards in case of danger?
- Yes, all the stewards were allotted to boats; every man had his boat.

13224. Do I understand that they were allotted to the boats in case of wreck?
- Yes.

13225. Then there is no general system or instruction given to them as to taking charge of the different classes and the different sections of the passengers?
- No, that is understood with regard to the first, second, and third; they are each in charge of their own departments.

13226. Is it after they have discharged the duty of looking after their own departments that they are supposed to start at the boats?
- Yes.

13227. Not before?
- No.

13228. Do you say that it was after the stewards had warned the different departments or classes that on this occasion they went up to the boat deck?
- Yes, they did not get their orders until everybody had a lifebelt on to the best of their knowledge, and the people were all taken up to the boat deck.

13229. Did you hear instructions given to the stewards to see that all the people were taken up to the deck?
- Yes, I heard that instruction given by Mr. McElroy about a quarter-past twelve, or round about that time; he sent us down to Mr. Harding to get lifebelts on the passengers and get them on deck.

Examined by Mr. CLEMENT EDWARDS.

13230. Whose duty was it to close the watertight doors on deck F?
- They belonged to the turkish bath man.

13231. You, in fact, closed them?
- Yes.

13232. Did you get any orders to do that?
- No.

13233 Had he had any orders, do you know?
- Not that I know of. He may have had orders; I did not see him around until afterwards.

13234. You closed them entirely at your own discretion?
- Yes.

Examined by Mr. HOLMES.

13235. Was your boat lowered empty from the boat deck to the a deck?
- Yes, there was nobody in it.

13236. And it was filled from A deck?
- Yes.

13237. The deck was quite open?
- Yes; just as it is there (Pointing on the plan.)

13238. Further forward there are windows?
- Yes, just as on the plans here.

13239. Did Mr. Murdoch come down on to A deck to give his orders?
- No.

13240. He gave them from the boat deck?
- Yes.

13241. Over the side?
- Yes, we could hear him shouting over the side; he looked over the side when the boat was full and told us to lower her away.

Examined by Mr. COTTER.

13242. Did you go down to the gloryhole?
- Yes, I went down twice.

13243. Did you see any water at all on A deck?
- No.

13244. Did you see any water in the lower gloryhole?
- Yes, but our men were not down there, and I had nothing to do with that.

13245. Is it not the Rule to provide that there should be boat drills on the ship in each department so that the men may be mustered at the boats and know the stations allotted to them?
- Yes.

13246. And they receive their orders as to what to do in case of emergency?
- Yes.

13247. So many men on the boat and the rest as stand by men?
- Yes.

13248. They receive their orders from the Chief Steward, the second Steward, or yourself, and you receive your orders from the Captain?
- Yes.

13249. If there had been proper boat drill in Southampton and the men had been properly organised do you not think that they could have saved a lot more people than they did?
- That is a very hard thing to say; I do not think so under the circumstances.

13250. My reason for putting the question is that some of the boats went away not properly manned and with not a proper complement of passengers?
- Yes.

13251. My suggestion to you is that if everybody had known their station and known their duty they could have manned those boats properly and got the proper number of passengers in them?
- With regard to the boats on the starboard side Nos. 3, 5, 7 and 9, I have the idea that those men were away, provisioning the boats, because there were none of our men taken away in them.

13252. Is it not the fact that there are only two provision men to each boat and others to man the boat?
- Yes.

13253. What system had they got there?
- That the boats crews of 3, 5, 7 and 9 should provision the lifeboats.

13254. And not get into the boat?
- They will get into the boats afterwards.

13255. If you were having boat drill and the order came from the bridge that you were all to get into your stations at the boats, how many of the stewards' department would get into the boat?
- I suppose they would all do so if they all belonged to the boat's crew.

13256. Have you taken part in boat drill?
- Yes.

13257. Is it not the fact that there are so many men for all the boats?
- No, I have never seen it that way; I have seen the whole boat's crew get in if it was a case of taking the boat.

13258. What constitutes a boat's crew?
- I should think about 25 of our men are allotted to a boat.

13259. How many sailors?
- I do not know.

13260. How many firemen?
- I never saw the firemen muster at the boats.

13261. Have you taken part in a drill when everybody has taken their share of the work with regard to the manning of the boats?
- Not in this ship, I think.

13262. Have you done it anywhere else?
- No, I cannot say I have - not manning the boat.

13263. That is why I asked you the question - that if there had been properly organised boat drill and the men knew their stations I suggest more people would have been saved?
- The men did know their stations.

13264. Did you have any bulkhead door drill?
- Yes.

13265. On what day?
- On the saturday morning we had fire drill and bulkhead door drill.

13266. Were all the bulkhead doors closed?
- They were all closed.

13267. How do you account for the fact that when the ship came into collision with the iceberg they did not go and close the doors?
- They would have to go by the orders.

13268. Is it not the fact that this drill is for the purpose, in case of emergency, of making them go to their stations?
- They may have been at their stations; they may not have had the order, or they may have had the order.

13269. You did not hear the order given?
- No.

13270. Surely the proper thing is to close the bulkhead doors first?
- Yes, but that is just according to what the collision was - if they thought it was serious.

13271. I suggest to you that if they had closed the bulkhead doors the ship might have been afloat yet?
- I do not think so.

(The Witness withdrew.)