British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 19

Testimony of Edward Wilding, recalled

Further examined by Mr. ROWLATT.

Mr. Rowlatt:
We were on page 11, My Lord; we were dealing with the double bottom.

The Commissioner:

20188. (Mr. Rowlatt - To the witness.) Now, Mr. Wilding, I asked you yesterday about carrying up the double bottom a little higher. We have got here particulars of the way in which the "Mauretania" and "Lusitania" are built in that respect. Do you know, as a matter of fact, how they are built?
- In general terms; they are interesting ships, and one follows their general construction.

Mr. Rowlatt:
Would your Lordship mind looking at this plan. It will simplify matters enormously.

(Plan of the "Mauretania" and "Lusitania" was handed to the Commissioner.)

20189. (Mr. Rowlatt - To the witness.) Perhaps you might come down here, as the plans are rather few. Will you look, first of all, on the transverse section on the right of the plan here. You see the double bottom there is carried up 8 feet from the level of the bottom of the keel?
- Yes.

20190. I see there is "8 feet" marked up against it in the margin. Now how does that compare with yours?
- It is carried one foot higher than is shown on the amidships section.

The Commissioner:
What is the section I am looking at?

Mr. Rowlatt:
It is the transverse section of the "Mauretania" and "Lusitania."

The Commissioner:
Two Cunarders.

20191. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Yes, amidships. (To the witness.) Is this amidships?
- About.

20192. It corresponds roughly to that which we have on the wall?
- In general terms, yes.

The Commissioner:
Now, am I to understand that this double bottom of the ship in the "Titanic" is carried up from the external portion of the bilge 16 feet?

Mr. Rowlatt:
No, My Lord, 7 feet.

20193. (The Commissioner.) Then I misunderstood you. (To the witness.) In the "Titanic" it is one foot short?
- Yes, one foot less.

Mr. Rowlatt:
Your Lordship has the amidships section, I think, which will show you on the "Titanic." I have not a copy, but Mr. Wilding gave you one.

The Commissioner:
But it is quite enough. Mr. Wilding tells me they carry up the double bottom about 7 feet above the turn of the bilge.

Mr. Rowlatt:
No, from the bottom of the keel, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Yes, from the bottom of the keel.

Mr. Rowlatt:

The Commissioner:
From what one may call the external bottom of the ship.

20194. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Yes, the very lowest part of the outside of the ship. (To the witness.) The result of it being a foot higher is that it comes more round the bilge of the ship?
- The bilge of the "Lusitania" is rather rounder, that is it has a bigger sweep than the bilge of the "Olympic" or "Titanic," consequently 8 ft. in the "Lusitania" carries it up to about the top of the large curved part of the bilge in the same way that our 7 feet does.

20195. (The Commissioner.) Structurally you would say that their double bottom extends as high as the "Mauretania's"?
- Not in feet and inches, but relatively to the turn of the bilge.

20196. Not in feet and inches, but as a matter of construction, you say they are the same, I understand?
- To the same point up to the turn of the bilge - to the top of the turn of the bilge - it takes a foot more for the "Lusitania" to get there.

20197. It takes a foot more in the "Lusitania" to get to the point which you reach with your double bottom in the "Titanic"?
- That is right, as I understand it, My Lord. Of course I am not an expert on the "Lusitania."

Mr. Rowlatt:
No, I do not ask you to criticise the "Lusitania" for a moment; I am only just getting these facts.

20198-9. (The Commissioner - To the witness.) Let me ask you, do you mean to say that the space from what may be called the flat of the side to the skin of the ship is the same in both vessels?
- Owing to a rather larger sweep round the bilge in the "Lusitania" and "Mauretania" to reach the flat of the side you have to go rather higher up the ship's side.

But the space between the flat of the side and the skin of the ship in the "Titanic" and in the "Mauretania" would be the same.

Mr. Rowlatt:
Do you mean between the two skins?

20200. (The Commissioner.) Where the double bottom joins the skin of the ship in the one vessel and in the other is the space from that point to the flat of the side, the same in both ships?
- Roughly; that is, they are both round the turn.

20201. I do not know what "roughly" means?
- I have not the details.

20202. But when you say "roughly," do you mean within a few inches?
- As far as I know, My Lord.

20203. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Of course you do not know in detail anything about the "Mauretania" or "Lusitania"?
- Not in exact detail.

20204. You are just looking at this plan I put before you?
- Yes.

20205. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Now, would your Lordship continue to look at that plan for a moment? (To the witness.) The circumstance that the shape of the bilge is different in these two ships gives a different appearance of shape to the shaded part, representing the double bottom. In yours it comes straight across, and ends in a sharp point?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
Where shall I see the transverse section of the "Titanic"?

Mr. Rowlatt:
This is very good, My Lord, very good and very big. (Pointing to the plan on the wall.)

The Commissioner:
You mean up there on the wall?

Mr. Rowlatt:
Yes. What I was asking Mr. Wilding was this; the top line of the double bottom runs pretty well straight across till it meets the side of the ship.

The Commissioner:
Yes, I see that.

Mr. Rowlatt:
As the other ship is a little sharper, so to speak, and has not got such a rectangular bilge, to get to the turn of the bilge you have to run up the side a little, and therefore there is a corner and a different shape. So that it appears to be more different than it is.

The Commissioner:
That is to say, the sweep at the bottom of the transverse section in the "Mauretania" is much greater than the sweep there.

Mr. Rowlatt:
Yes, My Lord, it comes sharper. At that corner, as I understand it, it is cut off.

The Commissioner:
That is what I mean by saying the sweep is longer. The sweep, or curve, in the "Mauretania" is longer, so that it is a longer line to reach the perpendicular line of the outside skin of the ship.

20206. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Is that right, Mr. Wilding?
- Yes, that is right.

20207. Now also in this ship, in the "Mauretania," the bilge keel is fitted where the bottom is still double, if I make myself clear?
- Yes, and so it is in the "Titanic."

20208. I could not see it in the "Titanic." Is there a bilge keel on the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
The bilge keels are marked in both.

Mr. Rowlatt:
Yes. I had not that one in my hand, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Does anything turn upon the bilge keel?

Mr. Rowlatt:
No, My Lord, because they are the same.

The Commissioner:
They are both inside?

Mr. Rowlatt:
Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
They both project through what you may call the double bottom?

20209. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Yes, My Lord. (To the witness.) Now, if you look at the plan of the ship - the plan as opposed to the section - at the bottom here of this same piece of paper, you see there are longitudinal watertight compartments all along the side of the ship?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
I see that.

20210. (Mr. Rowlatt.) And is the same shown in section in this transverse section at this end here, where "W.T. Compartment" is written?
- Yes.

20211. That hard line?
- Just outside the boiler. It shows the section of the same watertight bulkhead.

The Commissioner:
So that every coal bunker on the "Mauretania" is a watertight compartment?

20212-3. (Mr. Rowlatt.) That is so, and laterally in the roof too, as I understand it?
- Yes, that is shown so, at any rate.

20214. As I gather the wings outside the engine room casing are also longitudinal watertight compartments. They are shown so?
- You say "outside the engine room casing." It is really bulkheads separating different engine rooms.

20215. (The Commissioner.) I do not hear you?
- It is really the bulkheads separating different engine rooms, not as Mr. Rowlatt worded it.

20216. (Mr. Rowlatt.) If your Lordship will look at the plan, your Lordship will see my question was inaccurate, because there is a big parallelogram marked "engine room" amidships, and I treated that as the only engine room. The wings outside it are also marked "engine room," and, therefore, My question was inaccurate in form. (To the witness.) But what I want to know is; as shown here are the engine rooms and other spaces outside the big engine room space also longitudinal watertight compartments?
- They appear to be so.

The Commissioner:
Just as the coal bunkers are?

20217. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Yes. (To the witness.) And further aft again, in the place where "auxiliary machinery" is marked, there appears to be again a longitudinal watertight division?
- By the plan, yes.

20218. I only want to ask you generally. I do not ask you to criticise this in any way. Can you say, as a naval architect, whether you think construction of that kind generally might be resorted to so as to protect against accidents such as this?
- It is a very much disputed point. There is much to be said on both sides, both for and against. One of the greatest of objections is that as each coal bunker is a watertight compartment it involves that the coal shall be worked through watertight doors, and it is very difficult under such conditions to ensure that the watertight doors shall work when they are wanted to. There are other objections, but that is a very serious one.

20219. (The Commissioner.) I am advised that that may be a serious difficulty?
- It is.

20220. The coal has to be got out of these watertight compartments through doors?
- Through doors.

20221. And if the ship is steaming 20 knots an hour, or whatever it may be, these doors are open and in continuous use?
- Continually.

20222. It may be a serious matter to consider whether in those circumstances it would be practicable to automatically close them?
- To do so with certainty.

The Commissioner:
Now is there any other objection to it?

The Attorney-General:
On that last matter which your Lordship dealt with we have some further evidence which your Lordship will have which deals with that precise point.

20223-4. (The Commissioner.) What strikes me about the "Mauretania" is that practically from stem to stern on the port side and starboard side she is encased in watertight compartments. That is so, is it not?
- That is so; it is one of the features of the design.

20225. It is a thing which, at all events, to my mind appears to be an advantage?
- On the face of it it is.

20226. I want you to tell me what the disadvantages are?
- I have named one to your Lordship.

20227. You have named one, yes?
- Another serious disadvantage is that, suppose some of these coal bunkers or side compartments are flooded and the doors are shut, the water is shut in to one side of the ship. That promptly produces a considerable list of the ship, and makes the lowering of the boats on the other side impracticable. It therefore practically destroys the value of half your boats.

20228. In answer to that, I want to remind you that the "Titanic" had a very great list to port?
- So far as I have followed from the evidence, I gather the list has been quite small as long as there were any boats.

The Commissioner:
I thought it was a serious list?

The Attorney-General:
Only at the end, I think, My Lord. That is my view of the evidence. A slight list to starboard first and then a slight list to port.

The Commissioner:
Perhaps it is in the evidence and I have overlooked it; but I have not yet understood what the cause of this list to port was.

The Attorney-General:
I agree it is very difficult to understand. Mr. Wilding has a view about it, and he might answer it at once.

20229. (The Commissioner.) Wait a moment. It is suggested to me that perhaps the list in the "Titanic" was very much smaller than the list which would be caused by one of the "Mauretania's" side bunkers being flooded. Is that so?
- Probably, My Lord.

20230. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Can you, to any extent, counteract the flooding, we will say, of one of the bunkers on the side of a ship like the "Mauretania" by letting in water to the double bottom on the other side of the ship, for a greater length of the ship, at the extreme wing of the double bottom? That has been suggested, you know.
- I quite understand the point, but the available arrangements, the pipe arrangements for flooding any bottom space, act comparatively slowly, and it would therefore take in the first place a long time to correct the list.

20231. But suppose, instead of flooding these spaces on the bottom of the ship, you were to flood a corresponding coal bunker on the other side?
- It would be very difficult to keep flooding arrangements in a bunker in good working order. It might be done, but it would not be easy. The same objection applies as to working the watertight doors. Coal dust chokes up the working of them; it is a practical difficulty, My Lord.

20232. (The Commissioner.) Oh yes; practical difficulties are serious. Have you ever considered the practicability, when one bunker fills with water, of an automatic arrangement by which a space at the other side of the ship could be filled at the same time?
- I have seen proposals for that, My Lord, but the same difficulty arises, that it is very difficult to keep any apparatus in a coal bunker, or through which coal is being continuously worked, in really good working order. We have had some experience of watertight doors and other apparatus in bunkers, and it has not been satisfactory. We have done everything we can of recent years to discourage any such arrangement.

20233. Had you no watertight doors in bunkers in this ship?
- No.

20234. None?
- None.

20234a. (Mr. Rowlatt.) In all cases I think the watertight doors which run through the bunkers, so to speak, were in a tunnel?
- Specially brought out into the stokehold so that they could be looked after.

20234b. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Your Lordship will see it by looking at the plan. (To the witness.) Now you have given us two broad heads of objection to these longitudinal watertight coal bunkers. One is the difficulty of working doors in them, and the other is the effect they would produce if flooded on the heel of the ship?
- Yes.

20235. Is there any other objection? Will you say all you have to say on the subject to the Court. Is there any other objection which occurs to you? I do not know whether there is or not, but if you have will you tell us?
- I would like to think the matter over.

20236. (The Commissioner.) The two real objections to the plan adopted in the Cunard boats from your point of view are these: That the filling of one bunker on one side of the ship will cause a list to that side of the ship, and make the use of the boats on the other side of the ship impracticable. That is one?
- That is a serious one.

20237. And the other, as I understand, is the difficulty in manipulating or working the watertight doors from the bunkers, which must of necessity be open while the ship is steaming. Those are the two objections?
- Those are the two very important ones. There are some other minor ones.

The Commissioner:
Upon this part of the case, Mr. Attorney, you know what I propose to do, and it is in accordance with what I said to you the other day. We propose to hear evidence of this kind, and if it occurs to us that the matter is of sufficient importance to engage the attention of the Committee which has been appointed, what we intend to do is not to express any definite opinion upon it, but to say that, in our opinion, the matter is one which requires full and proper consideration.

The Attorney-General:
If your Lordship pleases. It was in view of what your Lordship has said that we got the evidence from the Cunard Company to lay before you; and also I hope to put before you some evidence from the Admiralty with regard to it, and there I intend to leave this part of it, as otherwise we should never finish.

20238. (Mr. Rowlatt - To the witness.) Now, Mr. Wilding, just before we forget it - I want to get it clear on the Note - I think you did not see this before I showed it to you this morning?
- I had not seen that plan.

20239. Nor was it put before you with a view that you should criticise the "Mauretania." It was only to enable us to know what we were talking about when we were alluding to watertight coal bunkers and the different arrangement at the bottom?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
I do not think that what we are doing amounts to any adverse criticism of the Cunard boat at all.

20240. (Mr. Rowlatt.) No, My Lord, it is only so much more easy to deal with a concrete thing than an abstract idea. Now, will you think over that problem generally?
- Yes.

20241. And if anything further occurs to you, you will be able to give it to the Court later?
- Certainly.

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