British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 14

Testimony of Herbert J. Pitman, recalled

Examined by Sir ROBERT FINLAY.

17018. You were third Officer, as we know?
- Yes.

17019. You were on duty, we have heard, from 12 to 4 in the afternoon, and then from 6 to 8 on this Sunday?
- That is correct.

17020. Did you ever hear anything about the message from the "Amerika" stated to have been received about 2 p.m. for transmission to Cape Race, or about the "Mesaba" message?
- Nothing whatever.

Examined by the SOLICITOR-GENERAL.

17021. I will put the same question to you. How many messages about ice on this 14th you know of?
- I can only recollect one.

17022. We have been told that messages are posted in the chart room. Did you see any message posted in the chart room?
- Yes, only one; that is the "Caronia" message.

17023. You are quite clear about that?
- Well, there were a few other messages posted there, but they related to the time we left Southampton.

17024. We are talking about ice?
- Yes, there was ice on those reports.

17025. I refer to what you said on page 346. I am going to read you five or six questions and answers beginning at 14921. Mr. Asquith asked you: "Was it within your knowledge that the ship would probably meet with ice that evening? - (A.) We knew that we should be in the longitude of ice. (Q.) Who told you that? - (A.) I saw it in a Marconigram. (Q.) Do you know from which ship that Marconigram had come? - (A.) I have no idea. (Q.) Did you particularly concern yourself with that matter? - (A.) No. I simply looked at them, and saw that there was no ice reported on the track." Now listen to this: "Did you see one marconigram or two Marconigrams? - (A.) Two, I think" Is that right?
- No, I am not absolutely certain about that.

17026. But you were absolutely certain three minutes ago that there was only one, were not you?
- Yes, I can only recall one.

17027. Just get your memory, now, to serve you as well as it can. I am sure you will. Just tell us frankly. Do you remember posted in the chart room one, or more than one, Marconigram?
- I am not certain.

17027a. I do not want to treat you other than fairly, but just listen to the next answer. You were asked, "Were these posted" - those are the two you have just spoken of - "in some part of the ship? - (A.) Yes, in the chart room. (Q.) And you read them, did you? - (A.) Yes." Is it not clear to you that when you gave evidence on the 22nd May your then impression was that there were two separate messages about ice posted in the chart room.

17028. (Sir Robert Finlay.) It is quite clear he says, yes. I think.

The Witness:
It may be, but I am not clear on that.

17029. (The Solicitor-General.) When did you cease to be clear?
- I have forgotten that I said there were two there.

The Commissioner:
I think the right question would be, when was he first clear, if ever.

The Solicitor-General:
You will see it was not the learned Counsel that suggested two to you; he suggested that you had seen one, and you corrected him and said, "No, two."

Sir Robert Finlay:
Forgive me; what the learned Counsel said was: "Did you see one marconigram or two Marconigrams?" and the witness says: "Two, I think."

17030. (The Solicitor-General.) I think I am quite right. Two questions further up he was asked: "Do you know from which ship that Marconigram had come?" and his answer was: "I have no idea. (Q.) Did you particularly concern yourself with that - matter?" Up to that time Mr. Aspinall has not known anything of more than that one. The witness says "No, I simply looked at them." And then he is asked: "Did you see one marconigram or two Marconigrams?" and he says: "Two, I think"?
- I think it quite possible there were two there, but one related to the oil tank steamer.

17031. Let us keep to the same point. Did not you understand me just now to be asking about messages about ice?
- Yes.

17032. And did not your answers refer to messages about ice?
- No, I think you asked me about Marconigrams on the notice board.

17033. Is that the explanation?
- Yes.

17034. Now I will put it beyond the possibility of doubt. As far as your knowledge goes, Mr. Pitman, had you ever seen or heard of more than one marconigram about ice on the 14th April?
- One only.

17035. (The Solicitor-General.) Now, My Lord, May I refer you to page 349. (To the witness.) I want you to hear your answers and just consider. You were asked by Mr. Scanlan at Question 15107: "Was the whole of the knowledge that you had of icebergs obtained from the chart? (The Commissioner.) From the chart room. (Mr. Scanlan.) From the chart in the chart room? - (A.) No, from the marconigrams." That is more than one, is it not? - Then the next question is: "Were any Marconigrams handed to you from 12 to 4? - (A.) Not to me. (Q.) Had you seen any Marconigram that reached the ship with reference to ice from 12 to 4 on Sunday? - (A.) I saw two that reached the ship that day." Now, is that right?
- That is correct. They did not relate to ice.

17036. I will read the question again. The question was: "Had you seen any Marconigram that reached the ship with reference to ice from 12 to 4 on Sunday?" That was the question.. Did you hear it?
- Yes.

17037. That is with reference to ice, do you see?
- They did not relate to ice.

17038. But your answer is: "I saw two that reached the ship that day. I have no idea what time they arrived." Then I ought to read on, I think: "You saw two that day? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) Do you know whether they were marconigrams that had come the previous day, on the saturday? - (A.) No, they came on the Sunday. (Q.) Are you quite sure of that? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) Did you read them? - (A.) Yes, I read one - yes. (Q.) You read one, but you did not read the other? - (A.) No, not to remember what was on it." Now, do you mean to represent that when you were asked those questions you thought Mr. Scanlan was asking about the tank steamer?
- No, I do not know what he was relating to.

17039. The next question was: "With respect to the one that you did read, can you tell us what was on it? - (A.) No, no more than it stated. "Ice in longitude 40 to 51 W." (Q.) Where did it come from? - (A.) I have no idea." Is that the best you can tell us about that matter?
- That is it.

The Commissioner:
That looks as if he had only read one telegram.

The Solicitor-General:
Yes, but that is a plain question.

17040. (Sir Robert Finlay - To the witness.) You went off duty at 8?
- Yes.

(The Witness withdrew.)