British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 16

Testimony of Joseph B. Ismay, cont.

18802. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) I am coming to the question of Lloyd's Rules in a moment. (To the witness.) When you were considering the plans of the "Titanic" with your fellow directors, had you any discussion at all as to whether you should be classified?
- No.

18803. Have you any knowledge as to the standard laid down by Lloyd's for the resisting strength of a bulkhead?
- Have I any knowledge?

18804. Yes?
- No.

18805. Have you any knowledge at all as to the standard laid down by Lloyd's or either of the other registration societies, as to the method by which watertight doors should be worked?
- I have not.

18806. Have you any knowledge as to the standard of either of the registration societies of the relative height of the bulkhead in relation to the several decks?
- I have not.

The Commissioner:
Have you any information on this point, Mr. Edwards?

Mr. Edwards:
Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
I wish you would put it to him, and suggest what the provisions in the "Titanic" were as compared with the requirements of Lloyd's.

Mr. Edwards:
If this Witness has no knowledge as to the relative -

The Commissioner:
But I want your knowledge.

Mr. Edwards:
At the right time, My Lord, if evidence has not been forthcoming I shall be in a position to submit -

The Commissioner:
No, but cannot you tell me now?

Mr. Edwards:
What counsel says, My Lord, is not evidence.

The Commissioner:
Never mind that. I want to know: Can you tell me what the actual strength of the bulkheads in this vessel was, and what the requirements of Lloyd's are? Do you know?

Mr. Edwards:
I shall be able through the necessary expert witnesses to do that.

The Commissioner:
No; but can you do that?

Mr. Edwards:
I should not attempt to do it, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Does that mean you cannot. I am asking if you can do it?

Mr. Edwards:
With great respect, your Lordship -

The Commissioner:
You decline?

Mr. Edwards:
I propose conducting the cross-examination of this Witness in accordance with the Rules, and not putting forth the particular evidence upon which my instructions are based.

The Commissioner:
You call it a cross-examination, and I rather agree with you that it is. I do not think it ought to be. I think it ought to be an examination conducted for the sole purpose of informing the Court, and when you ask him whether he knows the difference between the "Titanic" and the requirements of Lloyd's I want you to assist me by telling me, if you can, what the difference is?

Mr. Edwards:
At the right time, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
But this is the time I want it. I suspect you do not know.

Mr. Edwards:
I shall not attempt to cross-examine you as to the foundation for that suspicion.

The Commissioner:
There is plenty of foundation for it.

18806a. (Mr. Edwards - To the witness.) You neither considered with your Board the relative standards of the different registration societies, nor are you in a position to say what those relative standards are?
- I have already said so.

18807. (The Commissioner.) Will you let me ask him a question. (To the witness.) Can you tell me whether you insure these vessels?
- Yes, we do.

18808. Is there any other line of steamers that get their property insured at a less premium than yours?
- No.

The Commissioner:
Perhaps you do not appreciate what I am asking.

18809. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Yes, My Lord, and I will follow it up with this further question. (To the witness.) Is there any other line of steamers that offers to bear so large a proportion of the initial loss as your line of steamers?
- I could not answer that.

18810. Am I right in saying that on the "Titanic" the initial loss which your Company bears is something like a quarter of a million?
- I do not think it is quite so large; I think it is £200,000.

The Commissioner:
If so, it shows the confidence that they have in their boats.

18811. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Yes, My Lord; and it also shows that they appreciate the kind of element that would appeal to the insurers to enable them to get excellent terms of insurance. (To the witness.) Can you tell me any other company that even approximates to your Company in the high proportion of initial loss the Company are prepared to bear before coming on the insurers?
- I have no idea what the other steamship companies do in regard to their insurance.

18812. When the plans were considered by you and your co-directors, do you remember any discussion taking place as to the number of lifeboats that you should carry?
- No, I do not.

18813. Do you know whether there was any discussion at all as to the extent to which safety might have been interfered with or militated against by the extra large decks on the top?
- No, I certainly do not.

18814. Have you and your co-directors at any time considered the relation between the luxurious equipment of a ship of this kind and the safety of the crew and the passengers?
- I do not understand your question.

18815. If there had been less of those high decks, take a deck - there would have been greater safety, probably, would there not?
- I should not think so.

18816. May I put this to you? If the bulkheads in the "Titanic" had gone much higher than they did, there would have been greater safety?
- I presume there would.

18817. And if the bulkheads had been taken higher they would have interfered somewhat with the luxury of the super decks?
- You mean to say, if they had been taken right away to the top? How high are you going to take them?

18818. I will put it this way; we will take it in stages. As I understand, the bulkheads go to Deck E?
- They are shown on the plan.

18819. (The Commissioner.) Are you a ship constructor?
- No, I am not.

The Commissioner:
I think you had better wait until the evidence of the expert comes. You are suggesting to him, as I understand, that the bulkheads ought to have been carried higher?

Mr. Edwards:
Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
I can perfectly understand that.

Mr. Edwards:
If I may say so, My Lord, with respect, as I understand the position from this Witness, it is this - that the plans of the "Titanic" are submitted to him and his co-directors, and they, in the last resort, decide what is to be the character of the ship.

The Witness:
In conjunction with the shipbuilders.

Mr. Edwards:
And my question is as to whether the directors, when deciding upon those plans, did direct their attention at all to the question of the effect that those plans, if adopted, was likely to have upon the safety of the people who were to be carried in the ships.

The Attorney-General:
I mean to call a Witness who can answer that.

The Commissioner:
All I am suggesting is this. This gentleman is not the constructor of the ship, nor is he a naval architect, as far as I understand; and I think it would be better if you waited until Witnesses of that character are called before asking these questions.

Mr. Edwards:
With respect, My Lord, I agree.

The Commissioner:
You are right to put the questions, but I suggest to you that you will probably find some witnesses far better qualified to answer them.

The Attorney-General:
I prefaced the questions I put to Mr. Ismay by saying that I was not going to ask him questions on construction, because Mr. Sanderson is going to be called, and Mr. Wilding will be called, and they are the gentlemen who will answer any questions, with regard to the suggestions of my friend. I understood that Mr. Ismay, although he knows something about the plans, was not the gentleman who could probably deal with construction.

18820. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) I am obliged to the Attorney-General. (To the witness.) I understand you to say that there are no printed instructions issued to your captains?
- In regard to what?

18821. In regard to the sailing directions?
- No; they have a book of general instructions. Every captain and Officer has a book of these general instructions.

18822. (The Commissioner.) That is the red book, is it not?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
Have you had a copy of it, Mr. Edwards?

Mr. Edwards:
I have not, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
I think you ought to have one.

18823. (Mr. Edwards - To the witness.) Is that the book to which you refer?
- Yes.

Mr. Edwards:
I do not think it has been formally put in.

The Commissioner:
I think it was not; it was handed up to me by Sir Robert Finlay.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I think it was on the second day of the Enquiry.

The Commissioner:
This is Ship's Rules and Uniform Regulations.

Mr. Edwards:
Perhaps Mr. Ismay will formally produce it to the Court.

18824. (The Commissioner - To the witness.) This is the book that you call the Rules issued to Officers?
- That is right.

18825. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Just one other question. You stated your view was - and I presume it was the view of your Company - that the "Titanic" was unsinkable?
- We thought she was.

18826. I am only going to ask you one question upon that, and that is this: What was the ground upon which you based that belief?
- Because we thought she would float with two of the largest compartments full of water, and that the only way that those compartments were at all likely to be damaged was in case of collision - another ship running into her and hitting her on the bulkhead.

18827. I only want to get it for the purpose of future witnesses; you based the belief of her unsinkability upon what was said to you by building experts?
- Absolutely.

18828. Now I will come to the question of the "Baltic" telegram. Did you before that particular Sunday know what was the practice with regard to Marconigrams received by the Officers on the ship relating to the navigation of the ship? Did you know what it was the practice to do with those marconigrams as soon as they had been received?
- I believe the practice was to put them up in the chart room for the Officers.

18829. Did you know that on Sunday, April the 14th?
- Yes.

18830. Was not the marconigram from the "Baltic" essentially a message affecting navigation?
- Yes.

18831. Then will you say why, under those circumstances, with that knowledge, you put that Marconigram into your pocket?
- Because it was given to me, as I believe now, just before lunchtime, and I went down and had it in my pocket.

18832. And you suggest that you put it in your pocket simply in a fit of absent-mindedness?
- Yes, entirely.

18833. And had it occurred to you when you were talking to Mrs. Ryerson that you had absentmindedly put this message into your pocket?
- It had not.

18834. It had not occurred to you?
- No.

18835. And you still retained it in your pocket until it was asked for by Captain Smith late in the evening?
- Ten minutes past seven, I think it was, he asked me for it.

18836. That is to say, it had been in your possession for something like five hours?
- Yes, I should think so.

18837. And you seriously say it was put into your pocket in a fit of absentmindedness and retained for five hours?
- Yes.

18838. Although you were discussing it with two of the lady passengers?
- I was not discussing it with them.

18839. You mentioned it?
- I mentioned it.

18840. And took it out and read it?
- Yes.

18841. If you had not taken the view that the "Titanic" was unsinkable, would you have insisted in the plans for provision being made for a larger number of lifeboats?
- No, I think not. She conformed to the Board of Trade requirements; in fact she was largely in excess of the Board of Trade requirements.

18842. I think you are sufficiently familiar with the Board of Trade regulations to know that the number of boats is treated in relation to the number of bulkheads, and bulkheads are treated in the regulations in relation to safety or unsinkability?
- Yes.

18843. If you had not taken the view that the "Titanic" was unsinkable, would you or would you not have insisted upon provision being made for a larger number of boats?
- I do not think so.

18844. So that the number of boats, in your view, had nothing at all to do with the relative sinkability of the "Titanic"?
- The "Titanic" had more boats than were necessary by the Board of Trade regulations.

18845. Will you answer the question?
- What is the question?

18846. The question was this, that according to your view the number of boats had nothing to do with the relative sinkability of the "Titanic"?
- No; I do not think so.

18847. So that if you had taken the view that the "Titanic" was not unsinkable you would not have had more boats provided?
- No, I do not think so.

18848. You were one of those, as the managing Director, responsible for determining the number of boats?
- Yes, in conjunction with the shipbuilders.

18849. When you got into the boat you thought that the "Titanic" was sinking?
- I did.

18850. Did you know that there were some hundreds of people on that ship?
- Yes.

18851. Who must go down with her?
- Yes, I did.

18852. Has it occurred to you that, except perhaps apart from the Captain, you, as the responsible managing Director, deciding the number of boats, owed your life to every other person on that ship?
- It has not.

The Commissioner:
I do not think that is a question to put to him; that is an observation which you may make when you come to make your speech. It is not a question for him.

Mr. Edwards:
I thought the witness ought to have an opportunity of answering before I attempted to make the observation.

The Commissioner:
You will make that observation, if you think it worthwhile, when the time comes.

18853. (Mr. Edwards - To the witness.) According to your statement you got into this boat last of all?
- I did.

18854. So that if a Witness says that you, in fact, got into the boat earlier and helped the women and children in, that would not be true?
- It would not.

18855. I suppose you know that it has been given in evidence here by Brown?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
What evidence?

18856. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) The evidence of Brown was that Mr. Ismay got into this particular boat some time earlier. On page 219, at Question 10520, the question was: "Was Mr. Bruce Ismay taking any part in connection with that boat? - (A.) Yes, he was calling out for the women and children first. He helped to get them into that boat, and he went into it himself to receive the women and children." That is not true?
- No, it is not.

18857. Now, it has been given in evidence here that you took an actual part in giving directions for the women and children to be placed in the boats. Is that true?
- I did, and I helped as far as I could.

18858. If you had taken this active part in the direction up to a certain point, why did you not continue and send to other decks to see if there were passengers available for this last boat?
- I was standing by the boat; I helped everybody into the boat that was there, and, as the boat was being lowered away, I got in.

18859. That does not answer the question. You had been taking a responsible part, according to the evidence and according to your own admission, in directing the filling of the boats?
- No, I had not; I had been helping to put the women and children into the boats as they came forward.

18860. I am afraid we are a little at cross purposes. Is it not the fact that you were calling out "Women and children first," and helping them in?
- Yes, it is.

18861. Is it not the fact that you were giving directions as to women and children getting in?
- I was helping the women and children in.

18862. Please answer my question. Is it not the fact that you were giving directions in helping them?
- I was calling for the women and children to come in.

18863. What I am putting to you is this, that if you could take an active part at that stage, why did you not continue the active part and give instruction, or go yourself to other decks, or round the other side of that deck, to see if there were other people who might find a place in your boat?
- I presumed that there were people down below who were sending the people up.

18864. But you knew there were hundreds who had not come up. That is your answer, that you presumed that there were people down below sending them up?
- Yes.

18865. And does it follow from that that you presumed that everybody was coming up who wanted to come up?
- I knew that everybody could not be up.

18866. Then I do not quite see the point of the answer?
- Everybody that was on the deck got into that boat.

The Commissioner:
Your point, Mr. Edwards, as I understand is this: That, having regard to his position, it was his duty to remain upon that ship until she went to the bottom. That is your point?

Mr. Edwards:
Yes, and inasmuch -

The Commissioner:
That is your point?

18867. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Frankly, that is so; I do not flinch from it a little bit. But I want to get it from this Witness, inasmuch as he took upon himself to give certain directions at a certain time, why he did not discharge the responsibility even after that, having regard to other persons or passengers?
- There were no more passengers to get into that boat. The boat was actually being lowered away.

18868. That is your answer?
- Yes.

Examined by Mr. HOLMES.

18869. You have told us at the conversation between you and the Chief Engineer the Captain was not present?
- He was not.

18870. And that you had no conversation with him during the voyage about speed?
- Absolutely none.

18871. Then will you tell us how it was he was to become aware of your decision to increase the speed on the Tuesday?
- I think the Engineer would probably have spoken to him.

18872. Did you make any arrangement with the Engineer about that?
- I did not.

18873. Then as far as you know the Captain was not aware that you were going to make this increase in speed?
- No.

18874. Do you know under whose instructions those extra boilers were put on on a Sunday morning?
- I do not.

18875. Is that a thing the Chief Engineer would be likely to do on his own account?
- I should say so.

18876. Unless he had had instructions from the Captain that the speed was to be increased?
- I think he would if he was going to work up to 78 revolutions.

18877. At all events, you had no conversation with the Captain about it?
- Absolutely none.

18878. We have been told that amongst the Junior Officers of this ship the two-watch system was in force?
- It was.

18879. That is to say, they never have longer than four hours off before they have to go on watch again?
- That is right.

18880. Do you consider that that is conducive to their being able satisfactorily to perform their duties on that ship?
- I think a Junior Officer can quite well. He has no watch to keep.

18881. Four hours from the time he leaves his watch till he goes back again?
- Yes.

18882. Have you had any complaints from your Officers about that?
- An Officer spoke to me coming home on the "Adriatic" about it.

18883. Have your directors generally had any petition or memorial from your Officers in this or other ships?
- A requisition came from the Officers of the American Line, who, in the olden times, kept four hours on and eight hours off. We changed that to two on and four off.

18884. You still consider that four hours is quite sufficient for them to come off watch and have their sleep and go on watch again?
- For a Junior Officer, yes.

18885. When you saw these boats 3, 5 and 7 being lowered, did you hear any orders given to the individual boats by any Officer or the Captain?
- No, I did not.

18886. No orders at all?
- No.

18887. Nothing as to coming back?
- No, I did not.

18888. You are still of opinion that it is perfectly good seamanship for your captains to go full speed ahead provided they can see far ahead enough to clear the ice?
- Yes.

18889. Can you suggest any reliable method by which they can say whether the weather is such as to enable them to see the ice in time?
- No.

Examined by Mr. LEWIS.

18890. How many first trips have you taken part in?
- Three, I think.

18891. Is it a fact that attempts have been made to make a record on trial trips?
- Never.

18892. Do you think your presence on board would encourage the Officers to make special efforts?
- I do not think it had the slightest effect.

18893. Can you tell me with regard to the boats, do you think more men could have been utilised to have got the lifeboats down quicker? I understand they went from boat to boat to lower them. Do you think more men could have been used?
- No.

18894. Did you see anything of the firemen; were they mustered up at all?
- No, I did not see them.

18895. When you were on the "Carpathia" can you tell me whether you were consulted by the Captain or by the marconi operator with regard to the sending of names of the passengers or of the crew?
- I was not.

18896. Not in any way?
- No.

(The Witness withdrew.)