British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 13

Testimony of Harold G. Lowe, cont.

Examined by Mr. HARBINSON.

15906. Is it not the function of lifeboats on a steamer, as far as possible, to take away the full complement of passengers?
- Yes; but I was working on the idea that the gangway doors were going to be opened and take people from there.

15907. And that was why you lowered the boats from the boat deck when they were not altogether full?
- Certainly; we were not going to load the boat with its floating capacity from the davits.

15908. What grounds or evidence had you for the opinion you formed that there were going to be additional people put in the lifeboats from the gangways?
- I really forget now. I must have overheard it.

15909. Do you remember whom you overheard saying it?
- I do not.

15910. Did you hear any instructions given for these gangways to be opened?
- Had I any instructions?

15911. Did you hear any instructions given?
- No; but as I say, I overheard a conversation somewhere referring to the gangway doors being opened, and that the boatswain and a crowd of men had been sent down there.

15912. With reference to these boats that were lowered on your side at which you assisted, did you, after they had been lowered, take any means of communicating with those on board in order to have them filled up through the gangways?
- Yes. I told them to haul off from the ship's side, but to remain within hail. That is what I told each of them with the exception of the boat that Mr. Pitman went in.

15913. What I want to get at is this: You having formed the impression that the boats were going to be filled to their full complement from the gangways, did you take any steps to have the gangway doors opened or in any way to have passengers brought to the gangways?
- Haven't I told you that the order had been given to open the gangway doors by somebody else?

15914. Were there people collected, do you know, at the gangway doors that had been opened?
- I do not, because that was in the hands of the senior Officers, and I was a junior.

15915. Beyond lowering these boats and forming that impression, you did nothing to open up communication with the gangways and have the people brought there and lowered into these boats?
- No, I did not.

15916. You just mentioned one fact that I would like to put to you. You say you saw five boats go away without an Officer?
- I did.

15917. Were there any Officers there to take control of the boats?
- How do you mean, were there any Officers there?

15918. Why did these five boats go away without an Officer?
- Because I suppose the Officers were busy working elsewhere.

15919. In your opinion would it have been better organisation if on this occasion there had been more Officers on board to look after the boats?
- No.

15920. Do you think that more Officers on the "Titanic" would have been necessary?
- No.

15921. Why not?
- For the simple reason that men, as long as there is somebody to look after a bunch of them, are all right.

15922. Do you think it was a proper system of organisation that would allow five boats to be lowered without any Officer in control?
- Certainly.

15923. You do?
- Yes.

15924. Who was in control of each of those five boats?
- I do not know who was in control of them.

15925. Do you know if anybody was in control?
- Certainly; there were men in charge of them.

15926. But did not you tell the Court that it was because you saw five boats go away without an Officer that you and Mr. Moody got into two of them?
- Mr. Moody got into a boat?

Mr. Laing:
Moody was drowned.

15927. (Mr. Harbinson.) You got into one and somebody else got into the other?
- I got into No. 14.

15928. Did not you say that it was because these five boats went without an Officer that you got in?
- Yes.

15929. Therefore you thought it desirable that an Officer should be in them?
- Not an Officer in each boat.

15930. But that an Officer should be there in control. So far as you saw did it take a fairly considerable time to launch these boats?
- No.

Mr. Harbinson:
How long did it take?

The Commissioner:
That question is of no use as far as I am concerned, because I do not know what you mean.

Mr. Harbinson:
The position I wish to lead up to is if he considers there were sufficient seamen there to secure the efficient launching and manning of the boats.

The Commissioner:
He has told us he can say nothing about the time, and then you put a question to him which contains the expression "a considerable time." I do not understand that. I do not know whether it is an hour or five minutes or twenty minutes or five minutes. I do not know what you mean by "a considerable time."

Mr. Harbinson:
Yes, My Lord, I understand.

The Commissioner:
You can put it right by stating a time, and then I shall understand it.

15931. (Mr. Harbinson.) Did it take half-an-hour to launch these boats?
- I do not know. It was not the launching of the boats that took the time. We got the whole boat out and in the water in less than ten minutes. It was getting the people together that took the time.

15932. Did you hear any orders given to the people brought up to the boat deck?
- Yes. I forget now who I heard, but I heard the order given anyhow; "Everybody on the boat deck."

15933. Do you think there were sufficient seamen on board the "Titanic" adequately to carry out the operation of launching the boats?
- Certainly, they did so.

15934. Did they do it?
- Yes.

15935. Did they take what you consider a normal time or an abnormal time to do it?
- It depends upon what you mean by "an abnormal time," less time or more time?

15936. Do you think it would have been done quicker if there had been more men?
- No. The thing was done as I do not suppose any other ship could do it.

15937. In the same time?
- No ship could have done it in better time, and better in all respects - in every respect.

15938. How do you account for it that when you went back you were only able to pick up four people?
- I do not know.

15939. What distance were you from the place where the "Titanic" had sunk when you returned?
- What is that?

15940. When you began to return with your empty boat how far had you to row to the place?
- About 150 yards.

15941. Only 150 yards?
- Yes; I stated before 150 yards.

15942. And there were five of you rowing?
- Yes, five I think, and there was one on the look-out, and myself steering.

15943. Did you return to the wreckage immediately after the "Titanic" had disappeared?
- I did not.

15944. Had you any reason for not doing so?
- I had.

15945. Would you mind telling me what it was?
- Because it would have been suicide to go back there until the people had thinned out.

15946. Your boat at that time was empty except for the crew?
- It was.

15947. And it was one of the ordinary lifeboats, with the gunwale a considerable distance above the water?
- Yes.

15948. I put it to you, as an experienced seaman, would not it be impossible for people who were struggling in the water to get into the boat without the assistance of those who were in the boat?
- No, it would not.

15949. They could not get in without help?
- Yes.

15950. Therefore if you had gone back to where the "Titanic" had sunk, it would have been impossible for these people who were floating about to have swamped your boat, because you could have detached them? Is not that so?
- How could you detach them?

15951. How could they get into the boat without you helped them in?
- Could not a man hold his weight on the side like that (Showing.) without help from me?

15952. Is not the gunwale three or four feet above the level of the water?
- No, the boat only stands up like that (Showing.)

15953. About what height would the gunwale of the boat be above the water?
- There are lifelines round the lifeboat too and they could get hold of those and hang on the rail.

15954. Do not you think it would have been possible for the crew of your boat to have got a considerable number of people out of the water?
- No, it would have been useless to try it, because a drowning man clings at anything.

Examined by Mr. HOLMES.

15955. Is it a fact that the same falls that lower No. 1 boat are also required to lower the collapsible boat underneath it?
- Yes.

15956. And that would be an additional reason for wanting to get No. 1 into the water as quickly as possible?
- Yes, it would be.

15957. Did you know Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon by sight?
- I did not. I did not know a soul on board.

15958. Did you ever say to Lady-Duff-Gordon, "Come along, Lady Duff-Gordon"?
- I said nothing to her. I simply bundled her into the boat.

15959. I think after you had got rid of your passengers and went back with the crew you spent a considerable time in rescuing one man from some wreckage?
- Yes, it was rather awkward to get in amongst it, because you could not row, because of the bodies. You had to push your way through.

15960. And that would account, perhaps, for the time you took to take one man off?
- Certainly it would.

15961. Did the wind get up after that?
- Yes, a breeze sprang up then.

15962. Did you put up your sail?
- Yes.

15963. Did you keep your sail up and tow the other boat while you were sailing?
- I kept the sail up from then until I got alongside the "Carpathia," and towed the collapsible and picked up the other collapsible - the sinking one.

15964. Have you any suggestion to make as to the sail that you had in the boat? Was it a suitable sail for the occasion?
- The sail might be improved.

The Commissioner:
What is the meaning of that? Was there ever a time when you used the sail?

Mr. Holmes:
He did, in fact, use the sail.

15965. (The Commissioner.) When did you use the sail?
- I used the sail from the time I got to the wreck until I got on board the "Carpathia."

15966. Then you were using it for several hours?
- I do not know about several hours. I suppose it was about 2 1/2 hours.

15967. (Mr. Holmes.) What is your suggestion?
- That they be made without a dipping tack - that the tack be lashed abaft the mast, the same as ordinary lugsails.

15968. Did you find it difficult to manoeuvre it with passengers in your boat?
- Besides that you want a man that knows something about dipping tack. You have to lower the sail and slacken the sheet before you can dip it.

15969. Can you tell us the last you saw of Mr. Moody on the "Titanic"?
- When I had that conversation with him. That is the last I saw of him.

15970. Did you see whether he actually got into any other boat?
- No, I did not.

15971. You are one of the Junior Officers to whom the two-watch system applies?
- Yes.

15972. Does that mean that you never have more than a period of four hours on a stretch off watch?
- Yes.

15973. Do you consider that is satisfactory, or do you think that the three -watch system should be applied to the Junior Officers as well as to the senior Officers?
- Of course, three watches would be far better.

15974. Do you think you would be better able to perform you duties?
- Oh, no, I do not know about performing your duties, but we would have more time to ourselves, naturally.

Examined by Mr. COTTER.

15975. Do you remember being at No. 5 boat with Mr. Murdoch?
- Yes.

15976. Do you remember meeting a gentleman there who was interfering with the
- Yes.

15977. Who was it?
- I afterwards learned it was Mr. Bruce Ismay.

15978. What did he say to you or say to anybody; was he giving orders?
- No, he was trying all in his power to help the work, and he was getting a little bit excited.

15979. What was he doing to help the work?
- He was going like this, "Lower away, lower away" (Showing.)

Mr. Cotter:
Do you consider any passenger on board a ship has a right to go to the Officers and give orders of that description to "lower away"?

The Commissioner:
You must not ask him that question. What he considers a passenger has a right to do has nothing to do with it.

15980. (Mr. Cotter.) What did you say to Mr. Ismay?
- I think you know.

15981. Did you see Mr. Ismay go into any boat?
- No. I told him what I said, and I told the men to go ahead clearing No. 3 boat, and Mr. Ismay went there and helped them.

15982. You did not see him go into a boat afterwards?
- No.

Examined by Sir ROBERT FINLAY.

15983. Did Mr. Ismay do all he could to help?
- He did everything in his power to help.

15984. You saw this chit, the note about the ice on the table?
- Yes.

15985. Did you work it out?
- I worked it out roughly.

15986. You were on watch 6 to 8?
- Yes. I ran this position through my mind, and worked it out mentally, and found that the ship would not be within the ice region during my watch, that is, from six to eight.

15987. You do not recollect what the figures were?
- I do not.

15988. But that was the result you arrived at?
- That was the result I arrived at.

15989. You have told us about your firing a revolver in consequence of two men trying to jump in?
- Yes.

15990. Who were they?
- One was - I do not know whether he was an Italian or what, but he was of the Latin races anyhow?

15991. And who was the other?
- I do not know who the other was. He managed to get out of the road.

15992. What was he like; was he fair or dark?
- I do not know. If I had I should have chased him out.

15993. You have told us how you tied the boats under your command together and went back with your boat with only the crew to help?
- Yes.

15994. Did you approach as soon as you thought you could do so with reasonable safety?
- I did. I had to wait until I could be of some use. It was no good going back there to be swamped.

15995. And you saved some. Then coming back you were under sail, if I rightly understand?
- I was.

15996. And you took your own collapsible in tow?
- That was the collapsible that I had in the string of boats, yes.

15997. And then you met another collapsible?
- I did not meet her. It was a good way off and I sailed down to her.

15998. I want you to tell me a little particularly about that collapsible. How many people were on her?
- I do not know. I do not want to appear sarcastic, or anything like that, but you do not count people in a case like this. I should say, roughly, about twenty men and one woman.

15999. And you took them off her?
- Yes.

16000. She was in a bad way rather?
- Yes.

16001. Did you leave anyone on that collapsible?
- I did. I left three bodies.

16002. Are you certain that the three bodies that you left were the bodies of dead people?
- Absolutely certain.

16003. Did you satisfy yourself about that?
- I made the men on that collapsible turn those bodies over before I took them into my boat. I said, "Before you come on board here you turn those bodies over and make sure they are dead," and they did so.

16004. Is there the slightest doubt in your own mind that they were dead?
- Not the slightest doubt.

16005. When you were on the "Titanic" did you get the revolutions?
- I did.

16006. What was the highest?
- The highest I remember was 75 revolutions per minute.

16007. That was on the 14th April, was it?
- I do not know that it was on the 14th; it may have been at any time as far as I know; but that is as far as I remember. Seventy-five was the highest revolutions.

16008. On the voyage?
- Yes.

16009. (The Commissioner.) Do you seen any reason why the lifeboats should not have been lowered full of people?
- Yes, I do.

16010. Did you see any one of them lowered full of people - I mean with about 60 in the boat?
- No, sir, I could not say that I did.

16011. What in your opinion is the reason why the boat should not be lowered full of people?
- The reason, My Lord, is that the boat is suspended from both ends, and all the weight is in the middle, and that being so the boat is apt to buckle, that is, break in the middle, and both ends buckle up like that (Showing.) and shoot the whole lot out of her.

16012. At all events you would not think it safe to do it?
- No.

16013. How many were in your boat when it was lowered?
- I mustered them when I got away from the ship and there were 58 passengers - that would be 65 altogether.

16014. That was lowered without buckling?
- Yes, but I said I was taking on risks, Sir.

16015. Did you see the "Titanic" sink?
- I did.

16016. Can you tell me anything about this righting of the afterend of the vessel; did you see that?
- No, I did not see her right at all - you mean to say that she evened up on her keel?

16017. Yes, the afterpart of her?
- No, My Lord, I did not.

16018. Did you see her actually go down?
- I did.

16019. If she had righted herself in that way would you have seen it?
- Yes, because I was within 150 yards of her. (Q.) And you did not see that?
- (A.) I did not.

(The Witness withdrew.)