British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 16

Testimony of Alfred Crawford

Examined by Mr. BUTLER ASPINALL.

17829. Is your name alfred Crawford?
- Yes.

17830. And were you serving on the "Titanic" as first class bedroom steward on the 14th April of the present year?
- Yes.

17831. I believe you were on watch on that evening?
- Yes.

17832. At about 11.45 did you feel the shock?
- Yes, I did.

17833. You subsequently learned you had struck an iceberg?
- Yes.

17834. I think you got up and assisted passengers to put on their lifebelts. I do not want you to tell us the whole story. We have heard it very many times. I am just going to take you to the few main points. Later on I think you went to No. 5 boat and then eventually to No. 8 boat?
- Yes, I did.

17835. No. 8 was your proper boat?
- Yes.

17836. Did you assist to get the ladies into the boat?
- Yes.

17837. I think some ladies, one in particular at any rate you can tell us of, refused to leave her husband, did she not?
- Yes, Mrs. Straus. [Ida Straus.]

17838. And she and her husband were left behind?
- Yes.

17839. I believe you got all you could in and the boat was lowered to the water's edge?
- Yes.

17840. Now, before the boat was lowered down, did Captain Smith ask you how many crew were in the boat?
- Yes.

17841. And how many crew were in the boat?
- There were two in the boat.

17842. Besides yourself?
- No, he told me to get in then.

17843. That made three?
- Yes; and another man got in as well, Making four.

17844. Did the boat get away with four of the crew in it?
- Yes.

17845. How many passengers were in it?
- I should say about 35.

17846. What were they; were they women?
- All women.

17847. And before you left the ship's side did Captain Smith give you any directions with regard to a light?
- Yes, he pointed to a light on the port side, the two masthead lights of a vessel, and told us to pull for there and land the people and return to the ship.

17848. Did you see those lights yourself?
- I did.

17849. And what did you think they were?
- I thought they were a vessel with two masthead lights.

17850. A steamer's masthead lights?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
Is there anyone here representing the "Californian"?

Mr. Cooper:
Mr. Dunlop will be here in a few minutes.

The Attorney-General:
Somebody will be here, because we are calling somebody from the "Californian" today, and we have given them notice of it.

17851. (Mr. Butler Aspinall - To the witness.) I do not know whether you are a judge of distance of lights at sea, but what would you say?
- I should say she was 5 to 7 miles away from us.

17852. The Captain gave the directions?
- Yes, he pointed the ship out.

17853. Having got down to the water's edge did you obey that direction as well as you could?
- We did.

17854. And rowed in the direction of that light?
- Yes, we pulled all night in the direction of the steamer.

The Commissioner:
Does 5 to 7 miles away agree with the information from the "Californian" as to the position she took up when she anchored?

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
It is widely different, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
That is what I was thinking. The distance would be about 20 miles, would it not?

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
Yes; 19 was in my mind - 19 to 20.

The Commissioner:
We have had the log of the "Californian."

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
We have.

The Attorney-General:
The point your Lordship is upon is one which wants a little clearing up. Our attention has been directed to the same point.

The Commissioner:
Very well, I will not say anything more about it now.

17855. (Mr. Butler Aspinall - To the witness.) I was asking you your view of distance. It was a good night for seeing lights - a clear dark night?
- Yes, clear and very dark.

17856. You say you pulled all night, but were you ever pulling at any speed?
- I could not say the speed. We were pulling the whole night, the four of us.

17857. Who was steering?
- A lady was steering.

17858. Did these ladies behave well?
- Yes, very well indeed.

17859. One lady was steering. Did any of the ladies assist at the oars?
- They assisted the men, yes.

17860. They did?
- Oh, yes.

17861. Pulling towards these lights, you would have your back towards them, I suppose?
- Yes.

17862. Do you know what happened about those lights?
- There was a lady at the tiller; she reported the sidelights in view.

17863. You say she was at the tiller?
- Yes.

17864. Did she show a knowledge of steering?
- Oh, yes.

17865. Do you know her name?
- The Countess of Rothes.

17866. And was she making reports, as it were, from time to time to you about these lights?
- Yes.

17867. And what happened in the end about these lights?
- When daybreak came we saw another steamer coming, and we turned round and left that one; we could not seem to make it.

17868. What was the last you yourself saw of those two lights you told me about?
- It seemed as if the vessel was turning round and leaving us.

17869. How long before it was daylight was that?
- I could not say the exact time, but not long before daylight.

17870. Did you yourself ever see any sidelights?
- Yes.

17871. You did?
- Yes.

17872. What sidelight or sidelights of that steamer did you see?
- There was the red and the green light.

17873. You saw them both?
- Yes.

17874. I suppose you turned round to look?
- Yes, I stopped rowing then.

17875. Did you see those sidelights on one or more occasions?
- On the one occasion.

17876. (The Commissioner.) I do not understand that. Do you mean to say you saw both the red and the green lights at once?
- We drifted.

17877. I know you did; but you say you saw them both at the same time, as I understand?
- We were bow on.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
He might, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Of course he might; if he was in such a position as to see the vessel stem on he might see both.

17878. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Yes. (To the witness.) Do you think the vessel's head was pointing right towards you?
- Yes.

17879. How long have you been serving on the sea?
- Since 1882.

17880. So that you have had a good deal of experience?
- Yes.

17881. Is it your view that at the time you looked and saw the sidelights of that steamer that you were about dead ahead of her?
- Yes.

17882. Is that your view?
- Yes.

17883. Can you at all accurately fix the point of time when you saw those two sidelights?
- I cannot say.

17884. You cannot help us at all?
- No.

17885. Later on you were picked up by the "Carpathia"?
- Yes.

17886. At daylight did you see any icebergs about you?
- Yes.

17887. Many?
- Six or seven, I should say, round us.

17888. Those were bergs; were they large bergs?
- There were one or two very large ones.

17889. And was there ice as well?
- There was no field ice there.

17890. There was not?
- No.

17891. Only the bergs?
- Only the bergs.

Examined by Mr. SCANLAN.

17892. Do you know at what time lifeboat No. 8 was lowered and launched?
- After 1 o'clock, I should say.

17893. There was still some other lifeboats to be launched?
- Yes; there was No. 10 to go.

17894. You have stated that, in addition to the crew, there were only 35 passengers?
- Yes.

17895. What additional room do you think you had in this boat, No. 8, for passengers?
- I should say there was room for another 20 more.

17896. The "Titanic" did not sink and disappear for, I think, about an hour after your boat was lowered?
- No.

17897. Can you give any explanation of this boat No. 8 being lowered and launched with only 35 passengers?
- No. The only thing is that Mr. Wilde, the Chief Officer, said there were quite enough in that boat to be safe to lower it.

17898. Was that in reference to the strength of the falls?
- Yes.

17899. And the tackle for lowering?
- I should say that is what he thought.

17900. (The Commissioner.) That is rather a leading question, and I am not satisfied about it, Mr. Scanlan. (To the witness.) This boat was being lowered, like the others, from the davits?
- Yes, My Lord.

17901. And being lowered a long way?
- Yes.

17902. From the davits to the water?
- Yes.

17903. Does it occur to you that Mr. Wilde might have thought that the load in her was quite enough?
- Yes, I think that is about what he thought. He said there was quite enough in it to lower from the davits.

The Commissioner:
That is what I mean, Mr. Scanlan. I do not know that it alters your point at all, but I think that the idea was that these boats slung out from the davits at that great height from the water might buckle; not that the davits themselves were insufficient, or that the falls were insufficient; they were probably strong enough; but that there was a fear that the boat might collapse and throw the whole of them into the water.

Mr. Scanlan:
What has occurred to me is that some explanation is needed of the despatch of these boats with such a small number.

The Commissioner:
You are quite right.

Mr. Scanlan:
Considering that the boat accommodation was insufficient.

The Commissioner:
What occurred to me was that you were putting the blame on the davits and the falls, and I do not think myself, at present, that the davits and the falls had anything to do with it, but it was the fear of the boat buckling and throwing the people out.

17904. (Mr. Scanlan.) I quite agree, My Lord. (To the witness.) The davits were quite new?
- Yes.

17905. And all the equipment of this lifeboat?
- Yes.

17906. The falls were perfectly new?
- Yes, I think so.

17907. Was any difficulty experienced in lowering No. 8?
- None whatever.

17908. No. 8 was on the port side?
- Yes.

17909. And you had been assisting at the lowering of some other boats?
- No. 5.

17910. When No. 5 was lowered, can you say what its complement of passengers was?
- I could not say; the boat looked very full.

The Commissioner:
You may ask him; I do not know that he saw No. 5 lowered.

17911. (Mr. Scanlan - To the witness.) Did you?
- Yes. I saw No. 4 and No. 5 lowered to the water.

17912. No. 5 and No. 4?
- No, not No. 4.

17913. (The Commissioner.) And No. 5, you say was full?
- Yes.

17914. (Mr. Scanlan.) Had it considerably more passengers in it than you had in No. 8?
- I could not say about that. The boat was crowded and looked very full. I was standing alongside of her.

17915. And there was no difficulty in lowering No. 5?
- None whatever.

17916. Did you think, yourself, there would have been any difficulty in lowering No. 8 if it had been filled to its utmost capacity with passengers?
- I could not say.

The Commissioner:
I think, Mr. Scanlan, there was one boat lowered with 70 in it?

Mr. Scanlan:

The Commissioner:
And it did not buckle.

17917. (Mr. Scanlan.) That is so, My Lord, and there is considerable evidence on that point. (To the witness.) You did not see any difficulty yourself in regard to lowering this boat?
- No, I was in the boat; I could not see any difficulty in going down in the boat.

17918. It did not suggest itself to you as a difficult matter to lower one of these boats filled with the full complement of passengers?
- No.

17919. Did you know amongst other members of the crew that you had insufficient boats to take off all the people?
- No, I could not say that.

17920. When No. 8 was being lowered were there many passengers on the boat deck on the port side?
- There were a few, and Mr. Wilde told them to go along to No. 10 and get into that.

17921. Do you mean a few women passengers?
- Yes.

17922. And those women passengers were sent along to another boat?
- Yes, No. 10.

17923. (The Commissioner.) I do not like an expression of that kind. When you say "a few," give me a notion of how many?
- I should say about 20 or 30 probably, My Lord.

17924. (Mr. Scanlan.) And were there many men passengers on the deck near at hand at that time?
- Yes.

17925. So that if those who were responsible for ordering the lowering of No. 8 desired a full complement of passengers for it, they had the passengers there on deck ready to come in?
- Yes.

17926. Was there any other Officer superintending the lowering of No. 8?
- I did not notice.

17927. Except Mr. Wilde?
- Only the Captain, he came there; he came there and lowered the forward falls - he assisted in doing so.

17928. (The Attorney-General.) Which boat was this?
- No. 8.

17929. (The Commissioner.) As I understand, you crossed over from the starboard side to the port side?
- Yes, I went to my proper boat.

17930. (Mr. Scanlan.) Then you have stated that the crew you had for the boat consisted of two and yourself?
- Four altogether.

17931. There were three in addition to you?
- Yes.

17932. Who were the other three?
- Two were sailors and one worked in the kitchen, and myself.

17933. Two sailors and a kitchen hand?
- Yes.

17934-40. Was that crew sufficient to manage this boat in the sea?
- Yes, I think it was. [There were no questions 17935-40.]

17941. Did not you have to get the assistance of some of your passengers?
- It was not really necessary to have their assistance; they helped, to keep themselves warm.

17942. You did get their assistance in any case?
- Yes, they volunteered.

17943. Did they give you assistance in the lowering?
- No.

17944. In keeping the boat off the side?
- No.

17945. Had you any difficulty there whatever?
- No.

17946. (The Commissioner.) There was a list to port, was there not?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
They would not want to keep off the side; the list would keep them off.

17947. (Mr. Scanlan.) Yes. (To the witness.) But you needed someone to steer, did you not?
- The Countess of Rothes volunteered to steer.

17948. If she had not been steering, you would have required someone permanently?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
Never mind. You are going too far. If she was not there and if he was not there, does not help me.

17949. (Mr. Scanlan - To the witness.) Did you consider it necessary for the rowing of the boat to have four men, two on each side, at the oars, in addition to the services of one person at the tiller?
- If we had had more it would have been better for us, naturally.

Mr. Scanlan:
It would have been better.

The Attorney-General:
"Better for us," he said.

17950. (The Commissioner - To the witness.) Can you tell me now what better would have happened than that you were saved, if you had had more? You were saved?
- Yes.

17951. Then what better would have happened to you if you had had three or four more; you would have kept out three or four more passengers, but what better would have happened to you than did happen?
- We might have pulled quicker to this vessel - that is all I thought.

17952. Do you mean you could have pulled this distance to this vessel?
- We thought so when we left the ship, Sir.

17953. (Mr. Scanlan.) I want your opinion on this point, as a man of some experience. Would four men in ordinary circumstances be sufficient to row a big boat like No. 8?

The Commissioner:
I know what the answer to that would be; the answer is, No.

17954. (Mr. Scanlan - To the witness.) It would have been insufficient?
- It would not be sufficient.

The Commissioner:
But it happened to be sufficient on this night.

17955. (Mr. Scanlan.) In specially calm weather, My Lord. (To the witness.) In ordinary circumstances how many men do you think would be sufficient to row a boat like this?
- I cannot say; I am not on deck, and I cannot say.

17956. You have not had much experience of rowing yourself?
- Well, I have done a bit.

17957. Was the kitchenhand an experienced man at all?
- Yes.

17958. He was?
- Yes.

17959. And the two sailors?
- Yes.

17960. Was any order given to you to keep within hail of the "Titanic"?
- No, we were told to make for the steamer and return to the ship.

17961. And return to the "Titanic"?
- Yes, and return to the "Titanic."

17962. (The Commissioner.) What were you told to do, to make for the light?
- To make for the light, land the passengers, and return to the ship.

17963. Who gave you that order?
- Captain Smith.

17964. The gentleman who gave you that order must, I suppose, have thought that the lights that were visible were close to? Did Captain Smith say to you, "Make for those lights"?
- He did.

17965. "Put your passengers on board that ship with those lights and then come back here"?
- Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Then I presume - I do not know - that he must have thought those lights were close to. I do not at present think he is right about that. He may very well have been told to keep away, to go out a bit and be ready to go back.

17966. (Mr. Scanlan.) I will ask him to give the exact order he got, My Lord. (To the witness.) Will you tell my Lord exactly what the Captain said to you as to what you were to do when your boat was lowered; what order did you get?
- He pointed in the direction of the two lights, and said: "Pull for that vessel; land your people and return to the ship." Those were Captain Smith's words.

17967. And did you think you would go to that ship and land your passengers, and go back to the "Titanic" and pick up more?
- We did at the time.

17968. (The Commissioner.) This was about 1 o'clock in the morning?
- About 1, yes.

Examined by Mr. HARBINSON.

17969. In what direction were the lights that you saw?
- On the port side.

17970. Before the boat was launched, did you see the lights?
- No, not till Captain Smith pointed them out.

17971. It was he who directed your attention to them?
- Yes.

17972. After the boat was launched that you were in, did you see any rockets sent up?
- Yes, from the "Titanic." I also saw the morse code being used.

17973. About how many rockets did you see sent up?
- I should say I saw about a dozen go up; probably more.

17974. A dozen rockets from the "Titanic"?
- Yes, they kept going up.

17975. And you could see those quite distinctly?
- Yes.

17976. And should those lights have been seen by the steamer towards which you were pulling?
- Yes.

17977. Those rockets should have been seen?
- Yes, I think they ought to have been seen.

The Commissioner:
Well, we know they were, Mr. Harbinson.

17978. (Mr. Harbinson.) Yes, My Lord. (To the witness.) Seen distinctly?
- Yes, I should think they ought to have been at the height they were sent up from the "Titanic."

17979. Now, can you tell me about how long after the impact with the iceberg was it that you knew that the "Titanic" was doomed?
- Well, I should say about 20 minutes.

17980. Did you get any instructions from Captain Smith or any of the Officers as to what you should do then?
- The order came down below to see the passengers out, and get the lifebelts on and put them on the boat deck.

17981. I think you told us you were one of the first class bedroom stewards?
- Yes.

17982. Did you see any of the stewards of the second or third class carry out the order which had been given?
- No.

17983. And you know nothing about what took place there?
- No.

17984. So far as you were concerned, you attended to the first class?
- Yes.

17985. Did you know before you left the "Titanic" that the "Carpathia" was coming to the assistance of the "Titanic"?
- No.

17986. You had not been told anything about it?
- No.

Continued >