British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 15

Testimony of George t. Rowe

Examined by Mr. BUTLER ASPINALL.

The Attorney-General:
Mr. Rowe will give you some evidence, My Lord, about the starboard collapsible boat.

17573. (Mr. Butler Aspinall - To the witness.) Were you serving as Quartermaster on board the 'Titanic" at the time of this accident?
- Yes.

17574. I think you have served as Petty Officer in the Royal Navy?
- Yes.

17575. And you have also served as Quartermaster in the "Majestic" and "Oceanic"?
- Yes.

17576. And have been in the service of the White Star Company for the last two years?
- Yes.

17577. And during that time have you been voyaging in the Atlantic?
- Yes.

17578. Now you were saved in the starboard collapsible boat?
- Yes.

17579. On the 14th, when were you first on duty that day?
- 8 to 12 in the forenoon; 4 to 6 in the dog watch, and 8 to midnight.

17580. Now 8 to 12 you were on duty. Were you steering at any time?
- 4 to 6, the first dog-watch

17581. Did you hear any talk amongst the Officers whilst you were steering about ice?
- No.

17582. You heard nothing mentioned?
- No.

17583. During that watch, did you alter the course at any time?
- Yes.

17584. Do you remember when it was?
- Yes, at 5.45.

17585. At 5.45 you altered course?
- Yes.

17586. Now, before you altered course, do you remember what course your vessel was steering?
- Yes.

17587. What course was she steering?
- S. 85 deg. W.

17588. By the compass in front of you, I suppose?
- By the steering compass.

17589. That is all you would know about it?
- Yes.

17590. At 5.45 to what did you alter it?
- N. 71 W.

17591. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Mr. Pitman, the third Officer, gave evidence about this matter at page 351, Question 15173: "Do you know at what time the course that the steamer was to take was mapped out that day? - (A.) Yes, noon. (Q.) And, so far as you know, was the steamer's course deflected at all from the course that had been marked out at noon; did it vary to the south, or in any way from the course which had been marked out at noon? - (A.) Yes, I considered we went at least 10 miles further south than was necessary. (Q.) Do I understand you rightly that in marking the course at noon, the course was marked ten miles further south than you considered necessary? - (A.) No. We had a certain distance to run to a corner, from noon to certain time, and we did not alter the course so early as I anticipated. Therefore, we must have gone much further south. (Q.) When did you alter the course? - (A.) 5.50. (Q.) Who was responsible for the alteration? - (A.) The Commander. (Q.) To whom did he give the order? - (A.) The Officers of the watch. (Q.) Do you know their names? - (A.) Mr. Wilde. (Q.) Were you there? - (A.) No. (Q.) Do you know what conversation took place? - (A.) No. (Q.) But you say he gave instructions to alter the course of the ship? - (A.) The course was altered at 5.50. They were the Commander's orders. (Q.) Ten miles further south. Was any record made of that at the time? - (A.) No, and I thought that the course should have been altered at 5 p.m. (Q.) Why did you think so? - (A.) Judging from the distance run from noon." Have you any reason to remember that time, 5.45?
- Yes.

17592. Will you tell me what it was?
- We always make a practice of what we call rounding the corner, and the man at the wheel generally takes notice of it.

17593. And did you take notice of it on this occasion?
- Yes.

17594. And you noticed the time?
- Yes.

17595. Now that is the dog watch. You came off duty - ?
- At 6 o'clock.

17596. Then at eight did you go on duty?
- Yes.

17597. Your watch, then, would be 8 to 12. Now, during any part of that time were you at the wheel steering?
- No, on the poop.

17598. You were on the poop aft, were you?
- The whole time.

17599. (The Commissioner.) From 8 to 12 you were on the poop?
- Yes.

17600. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Were you on the poop when you felt a jar?
- Yes.

17601. And that proved to be a collision with an iceberg?
- Yes.

17602. What did you do?
- I thought it was something unusual being a fine night, and I went on the bridge and waited for orders to come through the telephone.

17603. Before you went on the bridge did you go and look at the taffrail; did you look at the patent log?
- I did, after the iceberg was cleared.

17604. Then you first went to the bridge?
- Yes.

17605. Did you see the iceberg?
- Yes.

17606. Did you look up at it?
- Yes.

17607. Then did you go back and have a look at the register of the patent log?
- I went on the bridge to find that out. The log was on the port side of the bridge.

17608. What did it register?
- 260.

17609. Do you know, of your own knowledge, when the patent log is set on board this ship?
- Yes.

17610. When?
- At noon.

17611. So that that would mean that since noon up to the time you had looked at it, she had run 260 knots, would that be?
- Miles.

17612. You mean nautical miles?
- It is marked "miles" on the log itself.

The Commissioner:
That means 260 knots.

17613. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Yes. (To the witness.) How long after the ship struck do you think it was you looked at this patent log - ten minutes or a quarter of an hour?
- About half a minute.

The Commissioner:
What does this work out at?

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
I worked it out, and I make it, subject to correction, very nearly 22 knots.

The Attorney-General:
That is right.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Twenty-one and three-quarters.

The Attorney-General:
It is rather more than that; it is between 21 3/4 and 22, but it does not matter.

17614. (Mr. Butler Aspinall - To the witness.) I do not want to go into this matter at great length, but did you, after that, see some boat in the water?
- Yes.

17615. Do you know which boat that was?
- No. I should think it was either 13 or 15.

17616. And was anything said by one of the Officers to you about that boat?
- No.

17617. Are you sure of that?
- I telephoned up to the fore bridge.

17618. Did this happen? Did you ask if the bridge knew that a boat was in the water?
- Yes.

17619. Where were you when you asked the bridge that?
- On the after bridge at the telephone.

17620. How did you ask them; by the telephone?
- Yes.

17621. And what was the answer?
- The answer was "No, is there." I said "Yes."

17622. And that is all you know about that incident?
- They asked me if I was the third Officer and I said no.

17623. What did you do?
- I said "I am the Quartermaster."

17624. That is all you know about that matter?
- That is all.

17625. After that did you notice that the boats were being lowered?
- No.

17626. Were the covers taken off the boats?
- I could not say.

17627. Later on were you saved in the starboard collapsible boat?
- I was.

17628. And did Captain Smith tell you to go into it?
- Yes.

17629. Were you told to take charge of it?
- No, I was not told to take charge because I was in charge.

17630. Who got into that boat?
- The boat was partially full when I got into it; I had 53 women and 3 children in the stern. Chief Officer Wilde was asking for more women. There were none forthcoming, and two gentlemen got in.

17631. Who were the two gentlemen who got in?
- One was Mr. Ismay.

17632. And who was the other?
- I never saw the man before.

17633. You do not know his name now?
- Well, I know by the papers.

The Commissioner:
Let me know his name.

17634. (The Attorney-General.) I think from the American evidence it is a Mr. Carter?
- Yes; Mr. Carter.

17635. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Did you know at the time that it was Mr. Ismay?
- Yes.

17636. You had seen him about, had you?
- Yes.

17637. How came it these two gentlemen came in? You said they got in. How came they to get in?
- There were no more passengers in the vicinity to get in.

17638. Did anybody tell them to get in?
- I never heard anybody.

17639. You did not hear anybody say, "Get into that boat"?
- No.

17640. No Officer?
- No.

17641. They got in. This was the starboard collapsible boat?
- Yes.

17642. Then was the boat lowered to the water?
- It was lowered to the water, yes.

17643. When the boat got down to the water, how many people were in it?
- 39.

17644. How was that number made up. Were there two gentlemen?
- Yes.

17645. And how many crew?
- Myself, three firemen and one steward.

17646. And the rest of the people were what?
- What I thought were women and children.

17647. Did they prove to be women and children?
- No, not at daybreak.

17648. Why? Tell me about that?
- I found four Chinamen aboard.

17649. Where were they?
- I could not see at the time.

17650. They were in the boat somewhere?
- They were in there at daybreak.

17651. How they got in you do not know, I suppose?
- No.

17652. (The Commissioner.) Were they all women and children, with the exception of three Chinamen?
- Four Chinamen and Mr. Ismay and Mr. Carter.

17653. I have the two male passengers. Were the rest all women and children with the exception of the crew and the four Chinamen?
- And the two gentlemen.

17654. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) How many women would that be?
- I cannot say how many women, because there were children there as well - 28, I think.

The Attorney-General:
It would be 28 if he is right about the 39.

Mr. Pearcey, who was a third class pantry steward, gave evidence about this boat. He took the view that there were some 60 or 70 people in. I will give your Lordship the reference to that. It is page 231. He was a pantryman who, your Lordship will remember, picked up two babies on the way to the boat.

The Commissioner:

17655. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) He goes on at page 238 and sums it up at Question 10417, that there were "66 passengers and 5 of the crew - 71" - he took that view. (To the witness.) You do not think there were as many?
- I am certain.

17656. That boat remained in the water and none of the passengers were taken out, and all of them were put out of the collapsible into the "Carpathia"?
- Yes.

17657. Before you left the ship did you see anything of the light of another vessel in the neighbourhood?
- Yes.

17658. What light was that?
- A white light, bright.

17659. What sort of distance did you think it was?
- Four or five miles.

17660. Was anything said by you about it to anybody, or did any of the Officers mention it to you?
- They did not mention it to me, personally, but we were morsing to her.

17661. You were not, were you?
- The fourth Officer and myself.

17662. After you had got into the boat and before you got to the "Carpathia," did you notice that same light?
- Yes.

17663. What I think you meant to tell us was, the ship had struck an iceberg, and then, after that, before you got into the boat, you saw this light?
- I went on the fore bridge.

17664. While you were on the bridge?
- Yes.

17665. And afterwards you go away in the starboard collapsible boat and see some light?
- Yes.

17666. At about the same sort of distance?
- About the same.

17667. When you saw this light did you notice whether the head of the "Titanic" was altering either to port or starboard?
- Yes.

17668. You did notice?
- Yes.

17669. Was your vessel's head swinging at the time you saw this light of this other vessel?
- I put it down that her stern was swinging.

17670. Which way was her stern swinging?
- Practically dead south, I believe, then.

17671. Do you mean her head was facing south?
- No, her head was facing north. She was coming round to starboard.

17672. The stern was swung to the south?
- Yes.

17673. And at that time you saw this white light?
- Yes.

17674. How was it bearing from you?
- When I first saw it it was half a point on the port bow, and roughly about two points when I left the bridge.

17675. Did you notice before you left the ship whether she had a list either way?
- Yes.

17676. When did you first notice that?
- When I left the after bridge to go on the fore bridge.

17677. Which way was she listed?
- To port.

17678. Was it a big list or a small list?
- When I left she would be about six degrees.

17679. When you left what?
- When I left the ship.

17680. In the boat?
- Yes.

17681. Was it increasing?
- I could not say.

17682. You did not notice?
- No.

17683. Did you take any part in firing distress rockets?
- Yes.

17684. How long do you think it was from the time you commenced firing the rockets till you finished firing the rockets?
- From about a quarter to one to about 1.25.

17685. Yes, that is right. You gave evidence in America about it, and I see what you said there was: "I assisted the Officer to fire them" - that is, rockets - "and was firing distress signals until about five and twenty past one." That is accurate?
- Yes.

(After a short adjournment.)

The Attorney-General:
Before your Lordship proceeds with this Witness's evidence, there is a matter which is, I think, of considerable importance upon which I would like to have some direction from you.

In Question 26, the last Question, the Court is invited to make any recommendations or suggestions that it may think fit, having regard to the circumstances of the casualty, with a view to promoting the safety of vessels and persons at sea. When the Court resumes after the adjournment and we proceed to deal with the evidence as to the construction of the vessel, it occurs to me it would be well to know how far your Lordship proposes to make recommendations with regard to watertight compartments, and as to any system which you may think should be adopted in the future.

The reason why I am asking your Lordship for some direction is that I can quite follow that after you have heard the evidence you may come to a conclusion that some improvement should be made in some particular form of the system adopted in the "Titanic." Of course, your Lordship came to that conclusion. If we were to inquire into that, of course, the evidence we should put before you would be directed to giving some indication of what is done, in other systems or in other vessels, in the way of some other method of construction.

What is troubling me at the moment with regard to the preparation of the evidence is whether we are to put before you evidence which will enable the Court to say which is the best system in the Court's opinion. The difficulty in regard to that is that if we are to inquire into it it would mean that we should have to put before you all the evidence that can possibly be obtained in reference to watertight compartments, and the various systems adopted. That would, no doubt, Make a very serious inroad upon the time of the Commission.

Your Lordship may know also that there has been an Advisory committee appointed by the Board of Trade to inquire into this and to report upon it. The point I desire to draw your Lordship's attention to is whether or not we are to pursue that method, namely, of giving evidence enabling you to pronounce upon the best system, or whether you think that in this Inquiry it would be better to confine the evidence to indicating generally the systems which may be adopted by other vessels, for the purpose of enabling you to report whether or not you think there may be some improvement in the present method of construction.

Your Lordship will see that if we are to pursue the more extended Inquiry it means getting together a great deal of evidence which we have not as yet got, and which must, of course, occupy a great deal of time. I would like to know whether you think it would be advisable to take the more extended form of Inquiry and to get all that evidence, or whether you would propose to confine yourself to considering the advisability of any improvement in the system, which will be proved before you, which was adopted in the "Titanic."

The same observations would apply with reference to boats, because at a later stage we shall call before you the evidence from the Board of Trade of the course that has hitherto been pursued, and the precautions that are taken by the Board of Trade with reference to boats. There again the question will arise whether this Court proposes to recommend particular boats or a particular form; for example, of collapsible boat, or whether it would confine its recommendations to more accommodation in the shape of boats, if you should think that to be advisable. Possibly, your Lordship may consider whether it is necessary to have more collapsible boats or more lifeboats.

Both of these matters are very vital to us in the preparation of the evidence we are going to lay before you. I should respectfully submit to the Court that it would be almost impossible to go into the wider consideration of both points, and, if you think fit to make recommendations that they should then be carried out by some special committees which may be appointed by the Board of Trade, or in such other form as may be deemed desirable.

It is for that reason that I am making the application to you so that we may be able both to form some opinion as to how long this Inquiry will last, and also as to the nature and extent of the evidence which we shall have to call before you; because it is useless to deal with evidence of that kind from day to day. It must be carefully prepared so as to be laid before the Court in the best form.

If your Lordship can assist us with regard to that I shall be very glad, so that we may occupy the time between now and the re -assembling of the Court in determining the evidence to be laid before you when we resume.

The Commissioner:
Well, Mr. Attorney, I regard the main object of the present Inquiry in which we are engaged here to be to ascertain the cause of this loss, and to fix, as far as we can, the blame on those who are properly to be blamed for it, if there be anybody. Our object also is to inquire into the loss of life following upon the disaster, and to report as to whether the means that were at hand were sufficient for the purpose of preventing loss of life, and, if not, in what respect those means were deficient.

Those are the two main objects that we have to deal with, and it is, in my opinion, very undesirable that the Report that we have to make should be delayed for more than a reasonable time. It is desirable that it should be dealt with, and that the Report should be made as speedily as possible. If we were to sit here to hear scientific evidence and expert evidence which would enable us to report in detail upon all the means that should be taken for the purpose in the future of averting a calamity such as this, we should be a very long time over it; indeed, speaking for myself, I should have to be instructed thoroughly in matters on which I am comparatively ignorant at the present time.

But, at the same time, I think it will be possible for the Board of Trade to gather together in a comparatively short time general evidence bearing upon these subjects which will enable us probably to say to what particular methods affecting construction and the provision of means for life-saving, attention should in the future be directed. And, inasmuch as I understand there is a Departmental Committee appointed for the purpose of inquiring into these matters, it appears to me that it would be a mistake if we were to inquire into the same matters, and that it would be sufficient if we were to confine our attention to what I may call general recommendations, leaving it to that tribunal which has been appointed for the very purpose of enquiring into these matters in detail, to act upon the recommendations as they think proper. I do not know whether I have expressed a view that will enable you to collect your evidence?

The Attorney-General:
Yes, My Lord, I think so.

The Commissioner:
I do not propose to sit here for six or twelve months, and we might have to do that, you know, in order to go into all the details which would possibly enable us to make useful recommendations upon questions of a scientific character. I do not think that when I was appointed Wreck Commissioner in connection with this matter it was ever contemplated or intended that we should do any such thing. Our great object is to ascertain the cause of this loss, and to see whether, the loss having happened, there were provided sufficient and proper means for saving the lives that were put in peril by the accident. When we have done that we can direct our attention generally to the question as to whether improvements are not possible both in the construction of the ship and in the provision of life-saving apparatus; and then, in a general way, and not in particular, Make our recommendation.

The Attorney-General:
I am much obliged, My Lord. That will enable us to prepare evidence to meet your Lordship's views, which we are very glad to have had expressed; and, of course, it will make it much shorter. At the same time we will call general evidence of that character on both the points I have mentioned; and if there is any evidence that your Lordship thinks will be of assistance, if you will indicate it, when we have called that, we will take care to have it brought before you either in respect of the Board of Trade matter or with regard to watertight compartments.

Mr. Scanlan:
My Lord, May I draw your Lordship's attention in this matter to question 26. It has reference to the Board of Trade and the administration of the merchant Shipping Acts. I submit that at the institution of this Commission it was contemplated and expressed most distinctly in the place where the setting up of this Commission was mentioned, that the conduct of the Board of Trade itself -

The Commissioner:
You need not go into that. I have not been dealing with that at all. I shall expect evidence from the Board of Trade as to the steps that they have taken to keep their requirements up to date.

Mr. Scanlan:
Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
The observations that I have been making are not directed to that part of Question 26 at all, but to the last part of Question 26, the last few lines.

The Attorney-General:
May I point out - I do not know if my Friend caught it - that I particularly drew your Lordship's attention to the fact that it was only with regard to the last few lines, and I said I was going to call evidence from the Board of Trade.

The Commissioner:
Yes. I do not think you need fear that this tribunal will not inquire and not require evidence into the conduct of the Board of Trade previous to this disaster.

Mr. Scanlan:
Yes, My Lord.

The Attorney-General:
I shall call whatever evidence is required about that.

The Commissioner:
I do not know whether you think that will be the proper course, Sir Robert?

Sir Robert Finlay:
I entirely agree, My Lord, if I may say so. I think if this tribunal were to be invited to go into detail as to particular improvements, either in construction or with regard to the boats to be used, it would occupy so vast a space of time that the report upon the matters for which this tribunal was really constituted, would be very unduly delayed. I entirely agree that it would be desirable that the evidence brought forward should be of a general nature, so as to enable the Court to indicate what are the points on which improvements may be possible, leaving the details to be investigated by committees or tribunals specially appointed for the purpose.

The Commissioner:
Very well. Now here is the witness. Are there any questions?

Mr. Scanlan:
I have no question, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Very well. I am delighted to hear that.

Examined by Sir ROBERT FINLAY.

17686. This collapsible boat you got into, was it the last boat put off from the starboard side? Yes.

17687. When you put off, was the vessel awash in the forewell deck?
- Yes.

17688. The forewell deck was under water?
- Yes; the forecastle head was not submerged.

17689. With regard to the situation of the patent log that you examined, where was that; what part of the vessel was that streamed from?
- The port side of the after bridge.

17690. The after bridge?
- Yes.

17691. The docking bridge?
- Yes.

17692. That is right aft of the upper deck?
- Yes.

17693. The port side of that docking bridge aft?
- Yes.

Examined by Mr. HARBINSON.

17694. Was this collapsible lowered by the davits that lowered the emergency boat on the starboard side?
- Yes.

17695. Were you present when the emergency boat was lowered?
- No, not the emergency boat.

17696. It was the same davits that lowered No. 1 boat that lowered your boat?
- Yes.

17697. I think you told us you took away all those women and children that you have mentioned, roughly speaking 28 women and children, with the crew, in your collapsible?
- Yes.

17698. That was after No. 1 boat went?
- Of course, because we were the last one to leave that side.

17699. And you were lowered by the same davits?
- Yes.

17700. (The Commissioner.) Did you see the "Titanic" go down?
- Yes.

17701. You know how the foundering has been described to us by some witnesses; that is to say that she was down by the head. Supposing this is the head (Indicating.), that she was down by the head in that way and then before she went down her afterpart righted itself and lay on an even keel, as far as the keel went, on the surface of the water. Is that so?
- I could not say that. I was looking at her practically stem on - what we call stem on.

You were looking at her stem on; very well.

(The Witness withdrew.)