British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 18

Testimony of Harold A. Sanderson, cont.

19621. In point of fact these Rules which now apply to all the steamers, certainly all the steamers of the White Star Line, and probably to a great many others, are American Rules?
- No, My Lord.

19622. They are Rules issued, apparently, by the American Company, because I hold the book In my hand. "The International Mercantile marine Company" - that is the American company?
- Those Rules were drafted and prepared here by myself and my colleagues.

19623. That may be. But they are issued by the American company - "International Mercantile marine Company: Ships' Rules and Uniform Regulations." Is not that so?
- Their name is on the book, My Lord.

19624. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) May I take it that every one of the companies or lines controlled by the International Mercantile marine Company are guided by these Rules?
- They are.

19625. Does that apply to the Leyland Line too?
- I think they also have adopted the same book.

19626. Do you mind turning to page 23, paragraph 112? Before I read that, however, I should like to ask you a question. You have just said that before this International Company came into existence there were a number of separate Regulations for each of the Companies. You yourself have been for some years attached to the White Star Company, and you have said that you had drawn up these Rules. In regard to assisting vessels in distress do you remember whether this Rule here is at all similar to the old Rule of the White Star Company?
- I could not say at this distance of time whether it is identical with it or not.

19627. But this is the Rule to which, as far as its owners are concerned, Captain Lord would be subject?
- I believe so.

19628. "Assisting Vessels in Distress - (a.) In the event of falling in with vessels derelict or in distress, Commanders (of the passenger steamers especially.) should bear in mind that by deviating from their courses or from the usual employment of their ships, in order to render assistance to other vessels, otherwise than for the purpose of saving life, questions as to insurance may arise, and responsibility may be incurred to passengers and owners of cargo for detention or risk to which they or their property on board may thereby be exposed. As a general Rule, therefore, Commanders of the passenger steamers in the North Atlantic trade are reminded that it will be better not to interfere in such cases, unless the circumstances be of very special character, or it be for the purpose of protecting or saving life. (b.) In the trans -Pacific and Colonial trades, Commanders of the passenger steamers, in coming to a decision on this point, should bear in mind the great distances involved and the comparatively infrequent opportunities of obtaining assistance which may occur, and that under such circumstances a liberal interpretation of these Rules is permissible." That, of course, is not on the Atlantic. "(c.) In the case of the cargo steamers other considerations apply, and the Commanders of these vessels may, should they consider the circumstances such as to justify their doing so, exercise a wider discretion in carrying out this regulation. (d.) Commanders of all steamers are cautioned that under no circumstances are they, in assisting vessels in distress, to unduly risk their own vessels, or expose the lives of those on board to hazard." So that as far as the Company itself is concerned the thing that is impressed upon their Officers is rather in the direction of not helping than helping?
- I do not think that is a fair interpretation of the Rule.

The Commissioner:
Mr. Edwards, are you asking him to interpret what this means?

Mr. Edwards:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
Because, if so, that will not do. I must interpret it.

19629. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Yes, My Lord. With due respect, My Lord, I perhaps ought not to have asked the question. (To the witness.) Will you kindly look at Rule 113: "Commanders are required to navigate their vessels as closely as possible on the transatlantic routes adopted by the principal Atlantic Passenger Lines"?
- I am familiar with it.

19630. I only want to refer you to two other rules. The first is Rule 248. It is on page 45, "Examination of Coal Bunkers." The respective senior engineers of each watch, before going off duty, Must go through the coal bunkers, and note their condition on the, log-slate, and should there be any signs of spontaneous combustion taking place, they are at once to report same to the Chief Engineer, who is immediately to notify the Commander. All coal should, as often as possible, be worked out of the bunkers." We have had it in evidence that there was a fire in one of the bunkers when the "Titanic" was coming over from Belfast to Southampton?
- Yes.

19631. Would a copy of the log of the "Titanic" be taken for the use of the Company before she left Southampton?
- The Engineers Log from Belfast to Southampton?

19632. Yes?
- I presume there would be one, but I do not remember it. It is a very short trip, and perhaps the ordinary regulations might not have been carried out on it.

19633. You cannot tell me whether there was any entry in the log as to the fire?
- I could not tell you; but I know that there was a fire.

19634. When did you know that?
- I heard it at this Enquiry first of all. I then sent down to Southampton, and they said, "Yes, there was a small fire."

The Commissioner:
What are these questions directed to? Spontaneous combustion in a coal bunker is by no means an unusual thing. Are you suggesting that we are concerned in enquiring as to whether it was entered in the log, or not?

Mr. Edwards:
No, My Lord. With respect, that is not the point.

The Commissioner:
What is the point?

Mr. Edwards:
The point, with very great respect, is this - that the part of the particular bulkhead which showed damage, according to the evidence, was a bulkhead which stood in the bunker where there was evidence that a fire had existed continuously on the journey from Belfast to Southampton, and even subsequently; and that the coal had to be taken out down to a certain level, and black paint put on so as to hide whatever marks there might be, or the damage caused by the fire. It would be a matter, of course, for your Lordship's consideration as to whether -

The Commissioner:
Do let us confine ourselves to the real serious issues of this Enquiry. That fire in the bunker has nothing to do with it.

Mr. Edwards:
With very great respect, My Lord, I should have thought it was.

The Commissioner:
I differ from you there entirely.

Mr. Edwards:
With very great respect, I would suggest that it was a little premature for your Lordship to say this until after you had heard the expert builders, and perhaps other experts as to what is calculated to be the damage done by a continuous fire.

The Commissioner:
Will you tell me what the evidence hitherto with respect to this bunker is?

Mr. Edwards:
Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
What is it? That there was a fire in this bunker between Belfast and Southampton; that the coal was worked out; that some dent or dinge was observed (so one witness says.) in the wall of the boiler. Is there anything else?

Mr. Edwards:
Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
What is it?

Mr. Edwards:
That in order to get the hose through to work upon this fire a hole or holes had to be bored through the bulkhead.

The Attorney-General:
There is no evidence of that.

The Commissioner:
Who is it that says that?

The Attorney-General:
I have never heard that.

Mr. Edwards:
Barrett, I think, is the witness.

The Commissioner:
Will you refer me to the Question and answer?

Sir Robert Finlay:
There is nothing of the kind.

Mr. Roche:
I think your Lordship will find the evidence that my friend is talking about on page 70.

The Commissioner:
Will you read it?

Mr. Roche:
It is in answer to a question by myself. I think it is with reference to the same bunker, No. 5. It is Question 2249: "Now I want to ask you one question about the hole in this bunker you have described to my Lord."

The Commissioner:
He must have said something previously to this.

Mr. Roche:
Yes, My Lord. He had said fairly early in examination-in-chief that there was a hole in the bunker after the accident.

The Commissioner:
After what accident?

Mr. Roche:
After the accident with the ice - after the collision with the iceberg.

The Commissioner:
Do you mean a hole knocked through the ship's side by the iceberg?

Mr. Roche:
Yes, My Lord, that is Barrett's evidence.

The Commissioner:
That is not the hole Mr. Edwards is talking about.

Mr. Roche:
That is the evidence of Barrett. That is what my friend is thinking of.

Mr. Edwards:
Allow me to say, My Lord, that I had this so definitely in my mind when I went over the "Olympic" at the inspection that I made special enquiries as to the position where this hole was supposed to have been made.

The Commissioner:
Of whom did you enquire?

Mr. Edwards:
Of two Officers.

The Commissioner:
Two Officers of the Olympic?

Mr. Edwards:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
What did they know about it?

Mr. Edwards:
It so happened, My Lord, that two of the men employed by the White Star in helping to clear out the coal had also been employed on the "Olympic," and had conversed with the Officers on the subject.

The Commissioner:
Do you know their names?

Mr. Edwards:
The Officers' names? No, I do not, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Do you know the names of the firemen?

Mr. Edwards:
Yes, My Lord, the trimmers.

The Commissioner:
What are their names?

Mr. Edwards:
With very great respect, My Lord, unless the man is called here as a Witness -

The Commissioner:
Can you give me their names?

Mr. Edwards:
Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Then do so.

Mr. Edwards:
They shall be supplied to your Lordship.

The Commissioner:
Do so, please.

Mr. Edwards:
Very well, then.

The Commissioner:
What are their names? You seem at all events to be mistaken in supposing that any evidence has been given at this Enquiry of a hole in the wall of that bunker except possibly the hole knocked in it by the ice - which would be the skin of the ship. If you think it worthwhile pursuing it, by all means do so.

19635. (Mr. Edwards - To the witness.) I was only going to ask one short question upon it - as to whether the fire in that bunker had been reported to you independently of anything which might possibly appear in the log?
- I have no doubt it was reported to the superintendent at Southampton. It would not have come to my knowledge unless it was important.

19636. In these Rules issued by the International Company I see that with regard to the boat drill it is suggested that the crews might have boat badges. It is on page 11, paragraph 18, of the red book: - "Boat and Fire Drill." - "If boat badges are used, they will be distributed at the beginning and collected at the end of each passage, before the ship's arrival in port. A fine will be imposed for the loss of boat badges." When you drafted that Rule had you had any experience in your mind?
- I had not.

19637. Had either of the Companies which are now controlled by this Company had any experience of the working or the use of boat badges?
- I believe they have made a practice of it.

19638. Do either of the lines now controlled by this Company utilise boat badges?
- I think they do, but I cannot speak positively.

19639. Have you any knowledge at all which would enable you to express an opinion as to the advantage or disadvantage of the use of boat badges?
- I do not think there is much in it. If we had thought there was much in it we would have made it compulsory.

19640. Do you think, after the experience of this disaster, that it might be advisable, so as to avoid confusion, to have boat badges?
- I believe that our people are now using boat badges, but I know of nothing that happened in connection with the "Titanic" which would have been bettered by boat badges if they had been in existence.

Mr. Edwards:
I do not think I need pursue that point any further.

Examined by Mr. LEWIS.

19641. I have one or two questions I should like to ask. Are you acquainted with the methods of boat drill adopted by the Cunard Company?
- No, I cannot say that I am.

19642. Do you know whether their boat drills take place, for instance, the day before sailing instead of on the day of sailing?
- No, I do not know what their practice is.

19643. Do you think you would be more likely to get the men to drill effectively if the boat drills did take place on some other day than the day of sailing?
- I do not think so. We have tried to get the men to come the day before sailing, and they have refused.

19644. At Southampton?
- Yes, at Southampton.

19645. Is it not a fact that some two years ago the men made a request that, instead of their attending at eight o'clock in the morning and leaving and then returning just about the time of the ship leaving, they should attend boat muster at 10 o'clock and remain on board and serve the ship?
- We made that change because the firemen came on board when the other men did, early in the morning, and they refused, like the other men, to stay by the ship, and insisted upon going on shore. In order to keep them on board the ship after they once joined, we allowed the firemen to join at 10.30, expecting them to stay on board the ship, but we found, in practice, that they refused to stay on board the ship.

19646. That has been adopted quite recently, has it not?
- A year or two ago that was established.

19647. I understand that the system of starting at 10 or half-past 10 has recently been adopted. That suggestion was made by the men themselves as far back as two years ago - and it was refused by your Company - that they should start at that hour and stay on board the whole time?
- I think the regulation was altered at the request of the men. It must be all a year ago or more. I am speaking of the firemen, and they have sometimes only come on board at 10.30.

19648. Is it not a fact that a good many of your firemen are naval-trained men used to discipline?
- I believe so.

19649. Is it not also a fact that they are most anxious that they should have proper boat drill?
- You say so, but the circumstances do not seem to justify it.

The Commissioner:
He has answered that question, and he has been examined about it over and over again?

Mr. Lewis:
The point, My Lord, is this: that a great many men do not consider the boat drills which are adopted to be proper boat drills. They desire proper and efficient boat drills.

The Commissioner:
That is another and a different question. You may ask him that question.

Mr. Lewis:
I used the term "boat-drill."

19650. (The Commissioner.) Have the men who have been summoned to a boat drill, and have not come, Made the excuse that the drill was a useless drill?
- Never to us, My Lord.

19651. Or that it may be improved in any way?
- Never, My Lord.

19652. (Mr. Lewis.) Do you drill your men separately, the stewards and sailors and firemen separately?
- I was going to give you exactly what they are doing in Southampton when I was reading the telegram.

The Commissioner:
Please do not. Answer the question.

19653. (Mr. Lewis.) Is it a fact that the firemen are drilled separately from the sailors and stewards?
- I do not know what you mean by "separately."

19654. They do not take part in all drills?
- All at the same time. That is the intention.

19655. Then you do not know whether they drill together or not?
- I know that the firemen do not drill at all in practice, so far as my information goes. The stewards and the deckhands are doing it and the firemen are not.

19656. Not even at the present time?
- Not even at the present time. They are still refusing. That was my information here.

19657. I think you said that you tried it on in the "Oceanic," and that the men refused, and that you logged some of them?
- No, I did not say that. I told the Court that about a year ago or more the men while on the passage to New York refused to attend boat muster and were logged for not doing it. It is a different thing from the boat muster at Southampton.

19658. Quite recently on the "Oceanic" seven men left. You said that seven men left the ship?
- That was a boat muster at Southampton.

19659. They refused to attend, and left the ship?
- Thirty-seven of them.

19660. Those are not the ordinary men employed by you as a Rule?
- I do not know that.

19661. Is it not a fact that when the "Oceanic" came back from New York she was short-handed?
- I never heard of it.

19662. And that the men complained of the extra work they had to do, and, as a consequence, objected to the drill?
- It never came to my knowledge.

The Commissioner:
Would it be an extraordinary thing if they did?

The Witness:
Complain?

The Commissioner:
Yes.

19663. (Mr. Lewis.) I think in your evidence you complained of the shortage of A.B.'s. I think you said that in the event of extra men being required through new regulations it would be difficult to obtain a sufficient supply of A.B.'s?
- Yes, I think it would be.

19664. Do you not think that there are a large number of A.B.'s who prefer to work ashore owing to the irksome duties they have to perform?
- I am not aware of it. I am not aware that they regard their duties as irksome.

19665. Do you not think that the majority of sailors object to the system of four hours on and four hours off?
- It has not come to my knowledge if it is so.

19666. Do you not think that it would be desirable to have three watches of sailors instead of two watches?
- No, I do not.

19667. Are you satisfied with the number of petty Officers that are supplied?
- Entirely.

19668. Do you not think it would be desirable to have extra bo'suns or bo'sun mates?
- The necessity for it has never been suggested to me.

The Commissioner:
How many more men of your Union do you suggest ought to have been on board this boat?

Mr. Lewis:
How many do I suggest? I am not suggesting it from the Union point at all.

19669. (The Commissioner.) Never mind about that. How many of the men you represent do you think ought to have been employed on this boat in addition to those who were employed?
- I do not suggest that any particular number of my Union should be employed. I suggest that all we ask for is that enough men should be employed. It does not matter what Union they belong to.

The Commissioner:
Will you tell me how many more men you suggest there ought to have been on this boat?

Mr. Lewis:
I suggest, My Lord, that there should have been on the "Titanic" at least 15 extra men.

The Commissioner:
15 out of 890 odd?

Mr. Lewis:
Deckhands, I am speaking of.

The Commissioner:
How many deckhands were there altogether?

Mr. Lewis:
My information is that there were about 48 or 49 able seamen.

The Commissioner:
You think there ought to have been 60 odd?

Mr. Lewis:
I suggest, roughly, that there ought to have been 60.

19670. (The Commissioner - To the witness.) What do you say to that? What would the extra 15 men be doing during the voyage if you had had them?
- I do not know, My Lord. I suppose some work would have been made for them to do - polishing brass or something.

19671. You mean by that they would be doing useless work?
- Quite so, My Lord. Polishing brass or something like that.

19672. (Mr. Lewis.) You must remember that the "Titanic" and "Olympic" are extremely large boats - very heavy tonnage?
- I do.

19673. How many able seamen do you carry on the "Oceanic"?
- I am afraid I cannot give you the figure off-hand.

19674. Would I be right in suggesting that, approximately, there were 38 and 4 ordinary seamen?
- You may be right. You have the figures; I have not.

19675. I understand that there were 38 able seamen and 4 ordinary seamen. I understand you do not carry ordinary seamen on the "Olympic" or the "Titanic." The gross tonnage of the "Oceanic" would be 17,274?
- I think that is the figure.

19676. And the "Titanic" 46,328?
- Yes, that is right.

19677. In view of the fact that that is an increase of double, and that there were such a very large number of passengers, do you consider that is a sufficient extra number of men to carry?
- I certainly do. I do not think that you can measure the number of the deck crew by the tonnage of a ship.

19678. That works out at about eight more than on the "Oceanic"?
- I repeat that the question of the crew was fully considered, and we were advised as to what we should put and we put the men we were advised to put in her.

19679. I understand that to allay public feeling you have placed extra lifeboats on the "Olympic"?
- We have extra lifeboats.

19680. Collapsibles, I believe?
- Yes.

19681. And I understand that you placed about 24. Is that so?
- You first of all put a larger number on board and then took them off, did you not?
- We started to put on board a number that would be equal to the possible total of people that might be on board. We saw that that was so absurd that we took them off.

19682. And, finally, you took 24 extra boats?
- Yes, we put a number of boats equal to the number of souls on board the ship when she sailed on that voyage.

19683. How many extra men did you put on board to look after those boats?
- If my recollection is right I think we shipped five extra seamen.

Mr. Lewis:
My information is four.

The Commissioner:
I am not enquiring into the "Oceanic," but the "Titanic."

Mr. Lewis:
This is with regard to her sister ship, the "Olympic."

The Commissioner:
That may be, but I am enquiring into the "Titanic," and the circumstances attending the loss of that ship.

Mr. Lewis:
I understand that, My Lord, but Mr. Sanderson said in his evidence that the boats would be in the way if they were placed on the boat deck. I was anxious to find out whether they have found that the placing of those 24 boats upon a similar ship, the "Olympic," had occasioned any difficulty. After all, they are similar boats, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
You can ask him that question.

The Witness:
The boat deck, as those who have seen it know, with the number you speak of, is already very congested, and she is not nearly boated to her full capacity.

19684-5. (The Commissioner.) In your opinion, is she, with these 24 collapsible boats added to the number that were previously on deck, as seaworthy a boat as she was without them?
- I think she is quite seaworthy.

19686. What I mean is, can you work the boats quite as easily?
- You mean put the boats in the water as easily?

19687. Yes?
- I should not like to say that we could, and I would not like to say we could not. I think she is fairly well congested now.

19688. What do you mean by "congested"?
- The boats are very close together, and there would not be much room for the men to work. If the men started on these boats, which are amidships - opening them out and moving them to the side of the ship - they would have very little room to work in.

19689. I suppose - I do not know - there comes a point when an additional lifeboat, instead of being of service to the ship, is a disservice?
- That is my feeling, My Lord.

19690. (Mr. Lewis.) Is it not a fact that you contemplated - I want to find out the number of men that are really required for these boats - sending the "Olympic" away without any extra men to look after the extra boats that you put on?
- I should not have hesitated to do it.

19691. Is it not a fact that your Company did not contemplate, in the first instance, sending any extra men?
- I do not remember that; I do not remember how the matter came up. I know that five extra men were shipped, but at whose instance I cannot tell you.

19692. Are you not aware it was at the request of the men themselves that extra men were placed upon her?
- I will take your word for it.

19693. And that objection was taken by the Company that they could not afford the space?
- I will take your word for it; I attach no importance to it.

19694. Just one word with regard to the speed of ships during fogs. I understand you said in your evidence that you have never known your boats to proceed at full speed during a fog?
- I do not remember stating that. If I did find one of our ships proceeding at full speed during a fog, somebody would hear about it. I never said it.

19695. Your boats frequently run into fog off the banks of Newfoundland?
- Yes.

19696. Would they telegraph from the bridge to the engine room to stand by?
- I am sure they would.

19697. Is it not a common practice as long as no sounds of other steamers' whistles are heard to continue full speed even in a fog?
- My dear sir, I thought I had made myself abundantly clear on that point.

The Commissioner:
I put the question myself of this Witness yesterday.

19698. (Mr. Lewis.) So I understand, My Lord. I have read the evidence?
- I say the suggestion is an outrageous one.

Continued >