British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 18

Testimony of Harold A. Sanderson, cont.

19441. (The Commissioner.) You mean to say, if they are amenable to take it?
- I find the stewards are very amenable, and the deckhands also; it is only in the firemen's case that we cannot get them to do it.

The Commissioner:
You must not say that, I am afraid, to Mr. Scanlan.

The Witness:
I think he wants the truth, and that is the truth.

19442-3. (Mr. Scanlan.) Now, with regard to speed, you have given verbal instructions to your Captains in regard to speed under certain circumstances since this disaster, have you not?
- No, we have not. I do not quite follow the question - Will you put it a little more clearly?

19444. With regard to precautions for safety and the emergency of meeting ice in the Atlantic, I take it you have given some instructions to your Captains since this accident?
- I think I told the Court yesterday what we have done, which is that we have impressed upon them the necessity for exercising even more caution in future than they have done in the past.

19445. But no special directions of any kind have been given?
- No.

19446. Does it suggest itself to you as a reasonable thing, that at nights the look-out should be increased?
- At nights, ordinarily, no.

19447. At nights when ice is expected?
- If it is clear I should think two men would see the ice as well as six.

19448. Now, I want to put this to you: Do you think with your knowledge and experience, which, of course, is very extensive, that it would be advantageous when running at night in a region where ice is expected to station a look-out man at the stem head in addition to the look-out men in the crow's-nest?
- Reasonable - if the Commander thought it would help him, he would do it, undoubtedly, but as to whether it is reasonable or not, I cannot say. There could be no harm in it, certainly -

19449. Do you think it is a desirable thing to do?
- I really do not think so. I think two men on the look-out in clear weather are sufficient for any purpose, whether it is for ships or ice or anything else, but perhaps when it was hazy it would be advisable.

19450. Do you think, for the purpose of detecting ice, that it is not desirable to have always a man stationed at the stem head at night?
- The term "desirable" bothers me. If you say "desirable" it might be desirable to have a score of people there, but I do not think it is necessary.

19451. Do you think, as a practical man, that it should be done?
- No.

19452. Now, do your Company have regulations in regard to sight tests for the look-out men?
- We have.

19453. Can you say whether all the look-out men on the "Titanic" had been tested for their sight?
- I cannot say of my own knowledge. I am informed that they have experienced difficulty in Southampton in getting men with sight certificates, but it is our wish that it should be done as far as possible.

19454. And that only men with sight certificates should be got for this purpose?
- Yes, that is right.

Examined by Mr. ROCHE.

19455. I just want to carry a very little further this question of the firemen in the boat (I represent the engineers.) As I understand it, you are agreed, and Mr. Scanlan's clients agree, that it is desirable that the firemen should be practised, if possible, in boat station work and in the manning of boats and in the rowing of boats?
- Yes, I think so.

19456. And your boat station list (I do not know that my Lord has seen the actual document.) contains in each boat some two engineers and some half a dozen firemen, or in some cases there are firemen allocated. There is space for them?
- I think so.

19457. Of course, as you say, everybody who is on the list is not meant to go in the boat?
- I think that is so.

19458. But they are supposed to be of some use at the boat stations?
- Yes.

19459. And the firemen included?
- Yes.

19460. Of course, if the firemen were no use in the boats there would always be a tendency to shut them out as being either of no use or as occupying space which passengers would take up; if they were no use that would be the tendency?
- I think, obviously, the Officers would select the best men.

19461. And, of course, if the firemen do not go, the tendency will be that the engineers and Officers' staff will not go either?
- I do not think that follows at all.

19462. You know, of course, that no engineers went in this case, and that there always is a very large percentage of firemen drowned in these cases?
- I think there is a very good reason which you need not be afraid of.

19463. I just want to pursue this topic at the moment. I want to carry this question of training a little further. Of course, you have a difficulty with the crew apart from the firemen; they do not like drills and matters of that sort, I understand you to say?
- I do not think we have had any difficulty except with one rating - the firemen.

19464. That may arise from reluctance to do another man's job, or it may be that they are tired?
- I am afraid I cannot say.

19465. Now I want you to consider whether that may not be overcome now with the goodwill of the unions, and whether, if some bonus is offered, that would not facilitate matters?
- It does not seem a reasonable thing that we should have to offer a man a bonus to make himself efficient.

19466. You know, of course, that in certain branches, for instance, in His Majesty's Navy, there are very important and laborious operations, such as coaling ships, that they have to go through, which are carried out with extraordinary facility.

The Commissioner:
What are you trying to make out?

Mr. Roche:
I want to make out or suggest to the witness that in some way some practical suggestion should be made by which all ratings could be made efficient to man the boats. I wanted to see whether the witness could not help us.

The Commissioner:
I thought you were suggesting that some additional pay ought to be made.

Mr. Roche:
Yes, that was the suggestion, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
That seems to me to be very remote from our enquiry.

Mr. Roche:
I have made the suggestion, and, having made the suggestion, I thought nothing was remote which could in a sense add to the efficiency of the boats.

The Commissioner:
But you know, I do not like these different suggestions coming from different gentlemen that these men ought to be paid more money.

Mr. Roche:
This is an entirely disinterested suggestion as far as my clients are concerned, My Lord. It is only in the interest of their lives that this suggestion is made; it does not touch their pockets at all.

The Commissioner:
As I understand, you suggest that they ought to be paid more money in order to make them more efficient in working the boats.

19467. (Mr. Roche.) I am suggesting that the firemen should do so for the safety of all concerned, but there was no suggestion made that the engineers should be so trained or should be paid extra. (To the witness.) I think you understand my suggestion, that it relates simply to firemen in the interests of the general safety of everybody concerned?
- Yes.

19468. But there was no suggestion made that this bonus should attach to them, or that they should participate in the drill. Now just a question about another matter, with regard to the question of speed at night when ice is about. I quite understand you to say that as things stood at the time of the calamity to the "Titanic," you did not think that any other liners did slacken speed under those circumstances, or that it was reasonable to expect a navigating Officer to do so?
- Yes, that is so.

19469. That I understand to be your position?
- Yes.

19470. But I want to quite understand. I do not know that you suggest now in the light of after experience that it would not be prudent under those circumstances, particularly when there is no sea to break on the ice to reduce speed?
- The circumstances were that the Officer over-estimated his ability to see. Under those circumstances, of course, he would have been wise to slacken speed.

19471. Do not you think that that may frequently happen at night in dealing with unlit objects, and that some general regulation from your Company, or better still, from a group of companies, that moderation of speed should be strictly attended to under such circumstances would be an advantage to navigation?
- I really do not think we can add anything to the instructions we have given our navigating Officers at the present time with regard to that, beyond cautioning them to carry out their instructions.

19472. As I understand it, there are no instructions whatever relating to speed when ice is in the neighbourhood or when ice is expected?
- That is part of a navigating Officer's duty, to exercise caution under those circumstances.

19473. One of your objections was that no other company did it, that if you could get the other companies, just as they attend to questions of track, to attend to the moderation of speed in the region of ice, it would be an advantage to the travelling public and to everybody concerned?
- I hope the Court will take my word for it, that we should not be influenced in the slightest degree by what other companies do about it. We shall do what we consider right in the interests of the safety of life.

19474. Now, I just want to get from you what you were going to tell your view with regard to the engineers. You said that there was a reason, in your view, why they were all to a man drowned?
- There was. Shall I give you my reason?

19475. If you please?
- My reason for saying that is that yesterday of Mr. Ismay you asked whether he did not think some regulation might be made whereby the engineers might be called on deck in time of emergency. I do not think any such regulation is necessary. I think the engineers on the "Titanic" were fully alive to the danger in which they stood, and that if they did not come on deck it was due to a magnificent conception of their duty.

19476. That is quite a possible explanation, but, of course, the reason for questioning whether that applied to all the engineers was very shortly this; that fairly obviously this water was driving everybody in the ship, in the lower part of the ship, back and back until they got to the engine room, and it is rather difficult to suppose that all the engineers were required in the engine room when the calamity was pending?
- You remember they sent the firemen on deck, and therefore there was more need for the engineers in the engine room

Mr. Roche:
I follow your reasoning.

Examined by Mr. HARBINSON.

19477. Am I right in saying that the firemen had to be sent down from the deck by one of the stewards?
- I believe the firemen behaved gallantly in the ship.

19478. Now, were your Company, the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, the pioneers in building these huge steamships?
- I think we did lead.

19479. And would I be right in saying that you found it necessary to do so owing to the increasing demand for luxury in ocean travelling?
- That is true.

19480. Now, with your experience, which is a very extensive shipping experience, and also in the light of this recent calamity, do you not think now that some of this space which is devoted to millionaires' suites and extra deck promenades could not possibly be better utilised for the purpose of ensuring the safety of all the passengers?
- If there was anything we could do to ensure the safety of the passengers the question of millionaires suites would disappear in a moment.

19481. Do not you think, with regard to the boat deck, the extra space devoted to promenade decks, especially on the boat deck and the a deck, that if the recommendation of my Lord should take the form of a provision for additional boats, emergency boats I mean, lifeboats and collapsible boats, you have no hesitation in saying that that space will be placed at their disposal?
- I do not say that space. We will find space on deck for the boats which my Lord recommends us to carry.

19482. Do you think that the provision of such an extra number of boats as would cope with the requirements of all the passengers that would be carried on such a ship as the "Titanic" - that the provision of those boats so high up would in any way endanger the safety of the ship?
- You are supposing something which I objected to from the first.

19483. (The Commissioner.) I did not quite catch that answer. Will you repeat it?
- I contend my Lord, that it is unwise to do, in the first place, what this gentleman is asking me to express an opinion about.

The Commissioner:
That I understand. But I understood his question to be whether, if you were to put the boats suggested - I do not know how many that is, double the number than at present are there - the question is if you were to double the number of boats would it imperil the safety of the ship? I do not know whether it means would it interfere with the working of the ship.

Mr. Harbinson:
It would make her top-heavy, My Lord.

The Witness:
60 boats would be required, and I say to put 60 boats on the "Titanic" would be ridiculous in the first place, if it is possible, and I do not think it is possible.

19484. (The Commissioner.) Would it make the vessel top-heavy?
- It would certainly make her tender. As to whether it would make her dangerously tender or not would be a matter for the builders.

19485. (Mr. Harbinson.) Am I right in assuming that that opinion is based on the theory of the unsinkability of the ship, that your opinion is that such a number of boats would not be necessary?
- Not only on that account, but I have told the Court that to put so many boats as that on the boat deck would make the boat deck so congested that it would leave very little space for those who wish to use the boat deck.

19486. You do not, I understand, suggest to the Court that to carry that number of boats, stowed away elsewhere, would be ridiculous?
- I do not suggest that such a number of boats would be carried under any circumstances.

19487. I suggest to you that, in the interest of public safety, there should be boat accommodation for every passenger and for every member of the crew?
- In the same interest my answer is that it is not necessary and it is not wise.

The Commissioner:
You know you can imagine a case of a different kind. People when they are ill require doctors - whether they get any advantage from them I am not sure, but they require them. If there were an epidemic of cholera on the ship would you suggest that sufficient doctors ought to be always carried to attend to all the people suffering from the epidemic.

Mr. Harbinson:
No, My Lord, because my suggestion there would be that, provided time allowed, one doctor would be adequate to attend to all.

The Commissioner:
I am assuming an epidemic to which one doctor, or two doctors or half-a-dozen doctors could not possibly attend.

Mr. Harbinson:
Then, My Lord, under such special circumstances my suggestion would be that, with notification to the Company beforehand, that that contingency was going to arise, it would be their duty to provide a sufficient number of doctors to attend to the passengers and crew.

The Commissioner:
Then you would have to carry a ship full of doctors.

19488. (Mr. Harbinson.) I cannot conceive the circumstances where that would be possible, My Lord. (To the witness.) Now, Mr. Sanderson, I would just like to ask you a question about this launching of the boats from such a height. Of course, you will agree with me, and with what other Witnesses have said, that in a heavy sea with a heavy roll on it is a very dangerous operation to launch these boats?
- From any height.

19489. Have you considered the matter, or can you offer any suggestion as to whether or not it would be feasible to launch the boats from slips further down, constructed nearer the water?
- I do not understand what you mean by a slip.

19490. I mean by a gangway or doors so constructed nearer the water's edge that it would be possible, probably by means of rails, to shoot the boat out on to the water?
- I think that would be quite an impracticable suggestion.

19491. And your Company have not considered any suggestions to that effect?
- We usually put a thing of that kind in the waste -paper basket.

19492. That suggestion was very seriously made in a debate which took place not very far from here quite recently, but you say you do not consider it practicable?
- We have a very great many suggestions sent to us, for which we are very grateful, but the majority of them go into the waste -paper basket.

19493. I presume you read them all -

Sir Robert Finlay:
Where was the debate?

Mr. Harbinson:
In the House of Commons, Sir Robert. I think he is a member of your party, I am not sure.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Who made it?

Mr. Harbinson:
Mr. George terrell.

The Commissioner:
I want to know what we are doing at present.

Mr. Harbinson:
My purpose, My Lord, is to ask Mr. Sanderson a question now about the classification at Lloyd's. (To the witness.) I understand your steamers are not classified at Lloyd's?
- No.

19494. Do you not think that it would probably add to the general efficiency of ships and increase the public confidence if there were some inspection made other than the inspection that is made by the Board of Trade?
- I am quite sure it would not.

19495. Why do you say so?
- Because the White Star ships are recognised as being of such a superior type to the ships which are ordinarily classed in Lloyd's that the fact that Lloyd's passing them would commend itself to no one in particular.

19496. That is to say, you consider that public confidence could not be increased by Lloyd's making an examination?
- I am quite sure it could not.

19497. Do I rightly understand that there is no examination made of your ships beyond that made by the Board of Trade?
- The Board of Trade, and, of course, the builders building up to their special specification.

19498. By the Board of Trade examination, do I understand that that was the examination upon which the certificate read by the Attorney-General is founded?
- Yes, that is correct.

19499. Would you explain to the Court of what exactly that examination consists?
- I prefer to leave that to the builders. The construction of the ship is supervised, to a certain extent, by the Board of Trade people.

19500. I understood that it was you, representing the White Star Line, who were on the "Titanic" when the trials were made. Is that right?
- No, it is not right, in so far as I only made the trip from Belfast to Southampton. It is true the engines were tried on that trip, but I took no part in the trial.

19501. Were you there as representing the White Star Line?
- Yes.

19502. Was any trial made as to the efficiency of the watertight doors?
- There was a trial made every day of those doors.

19503. Was there a trial made on this trip?
- No, there was not, because she was not on business then.

19504. Now, your Company have carefully considered the question of watertight doors, have they not?
- Very.

19505. (Mr. Harbinson.) Then, My Lord, I should like, if I may, to ask Mr. Sanderson a few questions on that point. (To the witness.) Would you agree with this view that if you pierce a bulkhead with the idea of making a watertight door you defeat your own object in making a watertight compartment?
- No, I do not think so.

19506. You would not agree with that view?
- No, I should not agree with it.

Would you agree with this view, that you cannot close the watertight compartments in a sudden rush. In a big compartment the rush of water is so terrific that you cannot close the door.

The Commissioner:
Who says this?

Mr. Harbinson:
Lord Charles Beresford, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
What is the rush of water? Where is it coming from? Is it coming from a burst pipe, or what?

Mr. Harbinson:
It came in in this case from the rip in the side of the "Titanic."

The Commissioner:
But I understand that is an observation about a rush of water the dimensions of which are not mentioned and the volume of water not given.

Mr. Harbinson:
Well, My Lord, it is a speech made on the same occasion as I read before, by Lord Charles Beresford.

The Commissioner:
Do spare me the House of Commons speeches, please.

Mr. Harbinson:
It was the opinion of Lord Charles Beresford, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
That may be.

19507. (Mr. Harbinson - To the witness.) Now, would you agree with the view that the lifeboats on the "Titanic" ought to have been provisioned in the same way as the lifeboats in a man-of-war are provisioned?
- I am not familiar with the man-of-war practice.

19508. I understand that the man-of-war practice is that the lifeboats have always got biscuits and all the requirements necessary on board?
- So have the White Star ships.

19509. They are supposed to have?
- I believe, in fact, they have.

19510. But in view of the evidence that has been given now in the course of this Enquiry, do you still adhere to that view?
- I do.

The Commissioner:
I am told that you are quite wrong in supposing that lifeboats on a man-of-war are provisioned in that way. They are not. There are two emergency boats that are provided with such luxuries.

19511. (Mr. Harbinson.) I think, My Lord, there were luxuries in the boats on the "Titanic." (To the witness.) Now you, I understand, disagree with the view that searchlights would be useful?
- My own opinion is that they would be worse than useless; they would be a positive source of danger to the ship.

19512. Upon what is that opinion founded?
- Because of the well-known fact that if you are going to keep a good look-out at night the worst thing that can happen to the man on the look-out is to have a glare to look into. I believe if they had a searchlight and the man looked down the lane of that glare he would not see anything on either side of him for some five minutes afterwards.

19513. You do not think it would enable the man on the look-out to see ice?
- I think it would help him to find the ice; but would get him into trouble with passing ships.

19514. Would there be any likelihood of coming into contact with passing ships?
- I am afraid we cannot look upon the system of meeting ships as perfect as that. In spite of our lane roads we are meeting and crossing ships constantly.

19515. Now, do you think, in view of what has occurred that the opportunities of getting from one part of a big ship like the "Titanic" to another part are adequate?
- I think they are as near perfection as they can be on the "Titanic."

19516. Do you think, with regard to the passengers fore and aft that their opportunities of getting from the very front and back of the ship to the boat deck might not be improved upon?
- I do not see how they could be.

19517. In this case you have read the figures, the percentage of loss was higher of that particular class. Now, do not you think that the intricate maze of passages may have been one of the reasons why these people did not find their way to the boat deck?
- I do not admit that there was any intricate maze of passages, and I do not think the position of the third class passengers was directly affected by that or that your point, that they could not get there, had anything to do with their not going away in the same number. I think that the position in which the boats are placed on the ship necessarily being the position which is the best for launching them, happens to be abreast of that portion of the ship in which the first and second class passengers are carried, and, therefore, when the call for women and children came, the women and children who were handiest came to the boats first, and that is the reason, I think, why there were more first and second class women and children saved than third class, because the nearest were taken first.

19518. Then the third class women were aft?
- Yes.

19519. Would it not be possible, in consequence of what you have just said, to place a number of boats for third class women somewhere about the well deck?
- It would be a very inconvenient place to carry a boat and almost an impossible place to launch a boat from, because of the overhang.

19520. Would it not be possible so to alter the construction of your ships that these boats for third class passengers could be carried in the rear of the ship (Pointing to the model.)?
- If you look where you are pointing, you will find the line of the ship comes there, and to put a boat out there would be a most dangerous thing.

19521. I mean carrying them in?
- I mean to launch a boat would be a most dangerous thing to attempt in that portion of the ship.

19522. Dangerous even with a steamer, as it was in this case, slowed down?
- That is an exceptional case.

19523. Then would you think it desirable, in view of the fact that you do not consider it feasible to put the boats so near the stern, that when you are issuing passengers tickets to all the passengers the number of the boat to which they are assigned in case of emergency should be put on the passengers tickets you issue?
- What am I going to put on the tickets for which we have not got places in the boats?

19524. I am assuming for the purposes of my question that you would provide -

The Commissioner:
That is very remote. First of all, you have to assume that there is boat accommodation for every soul on board. Otherwise, as Mr. Sanderson says, you could not fill up a ticket.

Mr. Harbinson:
I am assuming that for the purposes of my question.

The Commissioner:
It is too remote.

19525. (Mr. Harbinson - To the witness.) Would it be desirable to indicate upon the tickets the boats which the passengers would be assigned to?
- I can conceive no useful purpose that could be served.

19526. Do you not know that it is actually done in the case of some lines?
- I do not know.

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