British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 17

Testimony of Harold A. Sanderson, cont.

19189. Then your information now is that such a sketch was put forward by Mr. Welin before the disaster?
- Oh yes, something like a year ago, I imagine, or more.

19190. And put forward by him to Messrs. Harland and Wolff?
- That is my understanding.

19191. That is your information. Have not you enquired of Messrs. Harland and Wolff whether they have got it now?
- I have not asked them whether they have got it. I asked about this matter and I have just told you the information I got from them.

19192. One of their gentlemen is here, and no doubt he will take a note of that?
- I have no doubt they have it.

19193. We should like to see the sketch. That is the first branch of Question 5, My Lord. Now one comes to the arrangements for manning and launching boats on board the "Titanic," and were they proper and sufficient.

The Commissioner:
Will you ask him whether the number they determined to put on this boat was fixed according to any principle?

19194. (The Solicitor-General - To the witness.) You heard the question?
- I find that rather a difficult question to answer. I believe there are certain requirements for deckhands which are based upon the boating arrangements. There are requirements for firemen in regard to their service and the amount of coal which a man has to handle on the watch.

19195. Certainly there are?
- But over and above that we are guided by the recommendations of our various superintendents, and I fancy that the "Titanic" would be found to be manned very largely in excess of any requirements.

19196. (The Commissioner.) I was not talking about the manning. You did provide the "Titanic" with considerably more boats than you were bound to provide her with under the Board of Trade Rules?
- Yes.

19197. Now what I want to know is, upon what principle did you proceed, if any, when you fixed the number of boats that you would provide. Why did you stop at the number which you stopped at?
- I do not think there was anything more definite in our minds than that we should comply with the requirements, and, as is our usual practice, go a little in excess of them, without any particular theory as to what that excess should be.

19198. You went a great deal in excess of them?
- I do not think we went on any theory; I think it was mere guess or rule of thumb.

The Solicitor-General:
Your Lordship says "a great deal." Of course your Lordship has the figures in mind. The Board of Trade requirement would have been 9,625 as a minimum, and they provide 11,325.

The Commissioner:
Twenty percent.

Sir Robert Finlay:

The Solicitor-General:
No, My friend must not take that, that would only arise if there had been an application to the Board of Trade for approval, and it had been approved.

Sir Robert Finlay:
That is so, on the Board of Trade being satisfied; but there is not the slightest doubt the Board of Trade were satisfied with the watertight compartments, and that being so, they could if they had applied to the Board of Trade have got the necessary certificate and in that case only 7,562 were wanted.

The Commissioner:
You did not apply?

Sir Robert Finlay:

The Commissioner:
And not having applied, and not having got the permission, you were bound to provide the larger number?

Sir Robert Finlay:
Oh, yes.

The Solicitor-General:
I do not think it had better be assumed until the Board of Trade evidence comes, that the Board of Trade would have been satisfied. I do not say they would not.

The Commissioner:
It is a mere suggestion.

19199. (The Solicitor-General.) Perhaps I might ask this further question following up what my Lord was putting to you. Supposing you build a new ship. Probably you decide what her size is to be, and get her general dimensions determined, the number she will carry, and her horse -power and the like, but who is it that decides how many boats she will have?
- I think we should be very largely influenced by the builders. They would on their plans no doubt show us boating arrangements to comply with the requirements, and they would say: "We suggest that over and above those you put boats here and there," and so on. We should then consult our Marine superintendent, and we should be very largely guided by his advice on the matter.

19200. Do you anticipate that there are documents in existence which show in the case of the "Titanic" what the builders suggested, what your marine adviser suggested, and what you determined on?
- I doubt it very much. These plans are submitted to us and we examine them round a table and talk over the different points and make little notes of what we would like to speak of with the builders when they next come to us, and then we go over them again.

19201. I daresay you will have a search made to see whether there are such documents?
- I will.

19202. And ask Messrs. Harland and Wolff?
- I should doubt it, but I will have them looked up.

19203. (The Commissioner.) I should have thought there would have been correspondence on the subject?
- There may be, but I have no recollection of it.

19204. I do not know whether Messrs. Harland and Wolff send someone to Liverpool to talk over these matters or whether you talk them over with your Marine superintendent at Liverpool, and then write to Harland and Wolff?
- They send us plans and we consider them amongst ourselves, and later on they send one of their people over to us and we go over it with him, or we have the advantage of conferring with Lord Pirrie himself in London.

19205. It may be there is nothing in writing?
- I am pretty sure that is so, My Lord, but I will have it traced if there is.

19206. (The Solicitor-General.) I understood you to say just now that you thought you had on such a ship as the "Titanic" a crew abundantly sufficient to deal with a larger number of boats?
- That is my feeling.

19207. Were you referring then to the launching of the boats?
- I was referring to the launching and the manning of them, too, for that matter.

19208. Let us just take the manning. To man these boats, do you want sailors?
- You want a man who understands something about using an oar for the purpose of rowing; he need not be a sailor.

19209. I suppose a fireman or a trimmer or a greaser does not necessarily know anything about it does he?
- I like to think that sailors do, and as to the firemen, I think the majority of them have a general knowledge of it. It does not require a highly educated man, as you can understand.

19210. We are speaking of the possibility of disaster. Is it your view that one of your boats would be properly and efficiently manned if it did not contain a sailor in it?
- No, I should think there ought to be a sailor in it.

19211. How many?
- I should like to have a couple.

19212. Two sailors?
- I should think so.

19213. Then if you have two sailors for each boat, and you are to increase your number of boats by adding another 14, would you have enough sailors, taking the crew of the "Titanic," for the purpose?
- I have not offhand the number of sailors in my mind that we had on board.

19214. Have not you considered the question of the supply of additional sailors, supposing that you had more boats; that is what I want?

The Commissioner:
I do not quite know what you are doing now, Sir John.

The Witness:
The suggestion has been made that only people who are qualified to do boat work (I have heard it made in this Court, I think.) are sailors. Now if we were to provide sailors in adequate number to man all our boats efficiently, then I say the sailors are not in existence, but I do not think we need sailors.

The Solicitor-General:
Very well, I will not pursue it.

19215. (The Commissioner.) I do not know what that means - the sailors are not in existence - what do you mean?
- I do not think there are qualified a.B.'s in the country sufficient to carry out any such programme.

19216. You mean in the whole of your fleet?
- No, I mean in the country; in Great Britain.

19217. I do not understand that at all. Do you mean to say that if you wanted to get sufficient sailors to man the lifeboats upon all the vessels in your lines you would not be able to find them in Great Britain?
- No, I did not mean that.

19218. Then what is it?
- I mean if it is the decision of this Court to make a regulation which would require all steamship companies to man their boats efficiently with sailors - A.B.'s I am speaking of - those a.B.'s do not exist in the country.

19219. (The Commissioner.) Now I understand. I am wondering have you any figures upon which this opinion of yours, just uttered, is based?
- I have not got the figures with me, but they are in existence, and I have been advised by those who are well qualified to express an opinion that what I state is correct.

19220. Because you know we should require to know in order to check the opinion that you are forming, and I should think also to enable you to form an opinion, how many lifeboats would be required under the new suggestion for the whole of the steamers leaving the United Kingdom, and then how many available a.B.'s there are. Otherwise I do not see how you can arrive at the opinion?
- That is quite true. My statement is a rough and ready one, but I believe it to be a correct one all the same.

19221. I do not see what your belief is founded on. It must be founded on some sort of figures. I have not any notion at all how many available a.B.'s there are in the ports of Great Britain and Ireland, and I have not the vaguest notion how many lifeboats would be required by all the steamers if this new system which Sir John Simon suggests were introduced?
- May I put it in this way, My Lord? We know today there is not a very large margin of A.B.'s. We are approximately working on a very small margin. Now, if you are going to increase the requirements of the mercantile marine of Great Britain in an appreciable percent, which, I take it, you would do if you are going to increase the number of boats, and then make it a requirement that those boats must be manned by A.B.'s. I think it automatically follows that the a.B.'s are not there.

19222. (The Solicitor-General.) I will not pursue it, but you might tell me this. In what you have just been saying to my Lord, how many people have you assumed as manning one of your lifeboats: how many do you think it takes to man one properly?
- I should think to pull a boat, under ordinary conditions, you ought to have four oars and a helmsman.

19223. That makes five men?
- Yes, that is to do boat work.

19224. Now, about boat drill and the like, what is your Company's regulation or practice about boat drill in respect of these Atlantic liners?
- The Company's requirements are that boat drill - a boat muster that is - shall be held once each passage. I am not referring to the Board of Trade muster. Over and above that it is required that there shall be a boat muster once each passage.

19225. Does that mean the passage from one side to the other, or do you call it one passage going backwards and forwards?
- No, one side to the other.

19226. (The Commissioner.) Will you tell me exactly what a boat muster consists of?
- As many of the crew as can be spared are required to muster at their boats in accordance with the boat lists which are posted in the ship.

19227. What does mustering at their boats mean?
- Well, they come to their stations alongside the boat. I am not sure to what extent the covers are taken off. I do not think they are. I think it is more a muster to see that people are familiar with their boat positions and that they come to their stations when they are told to do so.

19228. It means the muster is nothing more than this: the men come on deck and go to the boats that are allocated to them?
- Yes; but over and above that we give an instruction that whenever it is possible a certain number of the boats are to be put into the water and pulled.

19229. And pulled?
- Yes, pulled away from the ship and back again.

19230. Is that ever done?
- Yes, My Lord, it is.

The Commissioner:
How often? That is what I should call a boat drill.

19231. (The Solicitor-General.) I have a document here which I think throws a little light upon it, if I may say so. (To the witness.) Do your Commanders make reports to your firm from time to time when they return to this country after crossing the Atlantic and back?
- They do.

19232. I think you have furnished us with three as specimens. One is a bundle of reports by captain Haddock, of the "Oceanic," extending from the 30th September of last year to the 17th March this year, and there is another one from the Commander of the "Majestic," and a third is from Commander Smith from the "Olympic," his last boat. I will take Commander Smith. I see he reports when he gets to Southampton after each double voyage?
- Yes.

19233. This is the first one, "Southampton, 15th December, 1911. "It gives the date when he left outwards and left homewards. He then reports the conduct of the Officers and crew, the Chief Officers, and then "General Remarks." I find on the 15th December, 1911, he was reporting, "Boats Nos. 1 and 3 lowered and crews exercised at Southampton. All davits and falls in good order." Then the next return, which is on the 6th January, 1912, he reports, "Boats Nos. 6 and 8 lowered before leaving Southampton, and crews exercised. All davits and falls in good order and condition." The next one is the 31st January, 1912, "Before leaving Southampton Nos. 10 and 12 boats lowered and crews exercised. All davits and falls in good order." The next is the 28th February, 1912, the last but one. He says, "February 6th, Boats Nos. 9 and 11 lowered, and crews exercised. Everything working well. Davits and falls in good order." Then the last one is the 30th March, 1912. He puts, "Tuesday, 22nd March." that, as I see from high up on the page, is the day before he left New York: "Nos. 13 and 15 swung out, lowered, and crews exercised. All davits and falls in good order."

The Commissioner:
What boat was this on?

The Solicitor-General:
This is all the "Olympic"; this is all Captain Smith; and your Lordship will note, therefore, from those documents that it would appear as though two boats were selected on each occasion, but they do not take the same two boats, and by taking different boats it does appear as though there was a gradual testing of different people.

The Commissioner:
Is there any drill during voyage?

19234. (The Solicitor-General - To the witness.) What do you say to that?
- I think nothing more than the muster in addition to what Sir John is speaking about.

19235. While a ship is under way there cannot be a question of lowering a boat, so that if that is to be done it must be done in harbour?
- Quite so.

19236. I gather from these documents it is done in some cases at Southampton, and then apparently not done in New York, and in some cases at New York, in which case it is not done at Southampton. Is that so?
- We leave a considerable discretion to Commanders as to where it shall be done. Sometimes it is done in Queenstown, and sometimes in Liverpool, but rarely, and sometimes in New York.

19237. Each of these pages refers to the double voyage?
- It does.

19238. And each of these pages contains a report of two boats being lowered on a particular day, and that is all?
- Yes.

The Solicitor-General:
Perhaps my Lord would like to see it. (The document is handed to the Commissioner.)

The Witness:
I should like to say in regard to this boat muster or boat drill, that we have experienced very great difficulty in carrying it out. In the first place we have a difficulty, which is a natural one from the fact that we carry large numbers of passengers, and that many of the crew cannot be spared from their duties. But, over and above that we have experienced a very serious difficulty arising from the unwillingness of certain portions of the crew to comply with the Company's regulations. To such an extent has that existed that they at times refuse duty on the voyage.

19239. But what rating are you referring to now?
- I am particularly speaking of the firemen.

19240. I think that the trouble you speak of began some short time back?
- I think it is only within the last two years it has occurred. Up to that time we had no difficulty of the kind.

19241. Where did it arise in what port?
- The one I refer to was on the "Oceanic," on a voyage to New York. The men refused duty on the voyage when ordered to a boat muster.

19242. On the voyage the firemen would not muster?
- That is true.

19243. (The Commissioner.) What excuse did they make, if any?
- I am not aware that there was anything more than a reluctance. They did not think it was fair to ask them to do it. Captain Haddock was in charge of the ship and he logged the men for not complying with orders, and there was so much friction about it that we decided to modify the orders and allow him to muster the men in New York instead of mustering them on the voyage, if that would make it easier to get the firemen to do it; and I believe, in fact, they have been mustering them in New York occasionally instead of mustering them on the voyage.

19244. (The Solicitor-General.) Just let me take the last instance. Since this disaster, on the 8th May, 1912, had you an instance of this?
- I am not clear of the date, but we have had two occasions.

19245. That is the date, I see, that is in the statement?
- Then I am sure you are right.

19246. I see according to this "the firemen were instructed by the Captain personally to muster at the boats at 11 am, but of the total engine department of 157 as many as 37 did not muster, and 7 deserted"?
- That occurred in Southampton since the disaster.

19247. As far as regards these boat drills at Southampton which we see take place before the vessel leaves sometimes, are those done voluntarily by the White Star Company or are those the drill which the Board of Trade surveyor, Captain Clarke, requires?
- I think they take advantage of the Board of Trade drill requirements to do their rowing at the same time. As a matter of fact we asked the Board of Trade recently, having regard to statements which have been made, that these men do not get the necessary opportunity to familiarise themselves with the boats, if they would be so good as to help us by making their examination and drill, so-called, More extensive than had been their practice. And we have experienced, as you have seen from those reports, great difficulty in getting this drill carried out in Southampton owing to the reluctance of the men to comply with the orders.

19248. There is one further thing about it. Take one of these drills at Southampton when two boats are lowered, Manned and pulled round. I want to understand. Are the crew that go into the boat on that occasion the people that are allotted to the boat - a steward and a trimmer, a fireman and a sailor or two - or are they a crew of sailors?
- I am afraid I am not able to answer that, I would not like to say.

19249. Who would be able to tell me?
- I do not know whether the marine superintendent could tell you.

Captain Bartlett:
They are generally a crew of sailors.

19250. (The Solicitor-General - To the witness.) It is a crew of sailors?
- Yes, it seems so.

19251. So that it is not a practice of the people who are allotted to the boats?
- No, it does not seem to be so.

Sir Robert Finlay:
The lists are not made up for the boats until the ship is sailing. The men join up at the last moment.

19252. (The Solicitor-General.) It looks rather as though the object of this boat drill is rather to be sure that the boat is in good order and the falls work and all that sort of thing than to give any practice to the crew?
- It would seem so from what the marine superintendent has said.

19253. I think you can give me the number of lifebelts and buoys. We ought to have those. I have the figures. It is 48 lifebuoys with beckets. What are beckets?
- Just ropes round them, weaved round them.

19254. Of the Board of Trade approved pattern, I think, and 3,560 lifebelts?
- Those are the figures.

19255. (The Solicitor-General.) I think one can go to question 6 now, My Lord. (To the witness.) We have heard a good deal about wireless telegraphy. Have you got the agreement which exists between your Company and the marconi Company, or are we to get that from the marconi people?
- It will be handed in; it is in Court.

(The document was handed to the Solicitor-General.)

19256. (The Solicitor-General.) It is "Agreement of the 9th August, 1909, between the marconi International Marine Communication Company, Limited, and the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company. The marconi Company undertakes to maintain at its own cost on board such of the White Star steamers as are already equipped with the marconi system of wireless telegraphy a set of all necessary apparatus for the transmission and receipt of messages." Then: "The marconi Company undertakes to provide and pay the salary of the necessary operator or operators." Of course the ship provides the current. And then paragraph 6 is "The marconi Company shall receive and transmit free of charge messages having relation to the navigation of or any business connected with ships passing between the masters of the ships and the ship owners or between the masters of the ships and the master or other person in charge of any other ship," with a limit of number of words, and a charge for excess. So that those masters' messages by this agreement are to go free?
- That is so.

19257. Your company, the White Star Company, by paragraph 7, is to provide suitable cabin accommodation for the exclusive use of two of the company's operators and their apparatus, and you are to feed them and you are to sign the operators on the ship's articles, and through your Master supervise and report to the company on the operators' general conduct?
- That is for purposes of discipline.

19258. And save to that extent do the marconi operators remain the servants of the marconi Company throughout?
- Absolutely. We pay them certain wages by agreement, but only on account of the marconi Company.

19259. There were as we know, two operators on this ship so that you had a continuous Marconi service?
- We had.

19260. Have you also got two on the "Olympic"?
- Yes.

19261. What is your practice with regard to the rest of your fleet?
- With few exceptions in the Atlantic trade we have two, but those exceptions cease to exist. We have made two on all the ships.

19262. That is what I was going to ask. Is that since the disaster?
- Yes, but we do not do that with the ships trading with the Colonies, because you will understand that for many hours and days they are out of touch, and, to have two men doing nothing is not good.

19263. As far as regards your North Atlantic service today as I follow you, you have two operators on every single ship?
- We have.

19264. Was that change made in consequence of the disaster?
- Yes.

19265. And it is one which I suppose you intend to persist in?
- Absolutely.

19266. I did not notice it in the agreement, but you may be able to tell us: is there any provision by which your navigation Marconigrams, the master's messages, have any sort of precedence?
- I think not; there is nothing in the agreement to that effect.

19267. As I follow, if the marconi operator is sending private messages there is payment being made for them?
- Yes.

19268. They are a source of income?
- Yes.

19269. The other messages, of course, are going gratuitously?
- Yes.

19270. There is no provision, so far as you know, for priority as between one and the other?
- I recall none.

19271. I think that will do for No. 6. Now one comes to the instructions as to navigation given to the master, No. 7. Sir Robert Finlay has read a number of documents about that. I do not think there is anything you want to add, is there, about instructions given to the master?
- I think I can only add that when we do appoint a Master we supplement what Sir Robert Finlay has read by remarks to him. I see of late years - I have seen most of them myself, and we never fail to tell them, in handing them these letters, that we do not wish them to take it as a mere matter of form; that we wish them to read these letters and to write an acknowledgment to us that they have read them, and that they will be influenced by what we have said in those letters; and I always assure them that if they get into trouble, notwithstanding that they have carried out the Company's regulations, and complied with our wishes, they will find us kind and considerate employers; but if they neglect anything in the way of a precaution which we might expect from them as good seamen they may expect no mercy at our hands. I never fail to tell them that, and that is thoroughly understood throughout the service.

19272. I should like to know this about it. In the ordinary course, when one of your ships leaves Southampton, is there some understanding or arrangement made as to when she is to aim at reaching the other side?
- None whatever, with this possible exception, that we have with certain ships that have high speed from time to time told the masters not to arrive before a certain time. In other words, we do not want to have them pushing for an arrival which might be an inconvenient one from the passengers' point of view and which might put the ship under pressure to arrive. We have repeatedly told them with certain ships of high speed at certain times of the year to make a landing. They have never been told to make a landing by any particular time.

19273. I am not suggesting that they should be recommended to do anything improper, but I want to know what the course of business is. If one of your ships leaves Southampton at some advertised time, presumably if one asks at the White Star Office they can say when she is expected to arrive?
- In a general way.

19274. Is it any part of the arrangement for the voyage that she shall leave at such a time, and aim at arriving at such another time?
- Yes.

19275. Who decides that?
- We do, to this extent: We have told the Commander, for instance, of the "Olympic" that we do not want him to land on the Tuesday evening at certain times of the year when he is on a long voyage; we do not want him to try to do it. We have told him again and again to make a Wednesday morning arrival. To that extent we have given instructions, but not beyond that.

19276. The Attorney-General has just given me the mail contracts with the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, and one looks at them to see if there is any provision in them for a minimum of speed. One of them is the contract for the conveyance of American mails, dated 31st July, 1899, and clause 10 provides: "Provided also that whenever the mail ship employed by the Company for the conveyance of mails under this agreement is of less speed than 17 knots per hour, the Postmaster-General shall be at liberty to transmit by any steamship available all or any part of the mails which would otherwise be delivered under this agreement, but so that no postal packet specially superscribed by a sender for transmission by the said mail ship shall be transmitted otherwise." That gives the Postmaster-General the right to go elsewhere if the ship does not go 17 knots.

Sir Robert Finlay:
If it is not capable of going 17 knots?

The Solicitor-General:
Yes, I think it means that.

Sir Robert Finlay:
It means, the capacity of the ship for doing 17 knots; not its actually doing it.

The Witness:
That is quite right.

19277. (The Solicitor-General.) And as far as we have noticed it that is the only provision in your mail contracts which has anything to say on speed?
- That is true. It is only put in because occasionally we replace a ship.

The Commissioner:
With whom is that contract?

The Attorney-General:
The Postmaster-General with the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company. You will remember I asked about it yesterday.

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