British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 19

Testimony of Edward Wilding, cont.

20444. I do not think we want too much detail about it; I think that is enough subject to what my Lord may say. What is that photograph of?
- Of the door.

20445. I think your model is sufficient. In the first place, you have spoken of the descending door. Supposing that water was gaining access into the compartment on one side of the door in volume, so that there was water flowing along rapidly, would that stop the door descending?
- It would not; we have had proof that it would not.

20446. You have had proof?
- Quite.

20447. In what way?
- In the case of the "Olympic" accident. A stoker was standing by the door in O bulkhead in the tunnel in the aftermost section of the tunnel, forward of the propeller here. (Pointing on the model.) It was put in evidence at the "Olympic" trial, and can be turned up therefore, that he saw the ram come through, and as the ship drifted out he saw the water come in with a rush; the automatic release from the bridge had not yet been worked, and he took the hand lever, standing on the fore side of the door, and released that door, and it fell and closed properly, but during the time it took to do so sufficient water had come through the door to bring about 3 feet of water into the next forward section of the tunnel - some 300 or 400 tons of water had come through. The door closed, and the water was pumped out; so that it closed against the rush of water.

20448. How are these doors held in position when they are open?
- When open they are held in by a clutch, that is, there is a disc clutch, a multiple disc clutch such as is frequently used now in motor cars for transmitting the drive, and the principle is that as long as there is a weight on a bell crank lever, a weight keeping the contact up between these plates, and as long as the contact exists, the door cannot overhaul and run, because the shaft outside to which the case of these friction discs is attached is locked, and the weight on the outside disc, keeps the other locked against them. The door is held simply by this friction between one set of discs which are locked and the other set of discs which are connected with the door.

20449. How is it released?
- As soon as anything is done which lifts the weight on the bell crank lever and releases the pressure on the discs connected with the door, it is obvious the door will be free to fall.

20450. How is that applied?
- That can be done in three ways, either by the magnetic solenoid which can be worked from the bridge, and which can pull up a lever and so lift the weight - it only needs to lift the weight by a very small amount consequently one can use multiplying gear and not a solenoid strong enough to lift the actual weight employed for the contact; or it can be worked by a float between the tank top and the floor level in the machinery space in which one walks about; or it can also be released by the hand release which is at a working height beside the door.

20451. Very well. Now the float apparatus consists in a thing of the nature of an ordinary ball cock arrangement?
- Yes, only much larger. It is a cylinder about, I think, 18 inches by 12.

20452. That is below the plates?
- Below the plates you walk about on, and above the watertight tank top.

20453. Above the watertight floor. Now, will that cause the clutch which you have spoken of to be released if the water rises so as to lift the float?
- That is quite right.

20454. How far has it to rise to do it?
- It varies a little in the different compartments, but between 18 inches and 2 feet.

20455. If the water is 2 feet above the tank top these floats will rise?
- And automatically release the door, whether it is released from the bridge or anywhere else.

20456. Would the operation of those floats be affected or hindered by there being a sudden inrush of water?
- Not in the least. A cork will bob up just as quickly in a rush of water, and they are rather lighter than cork in proportion to their size.

20457. I see at the bottom of page 13, just before you come to watertight doors, you say this: You are speaking of the subdivision, and then you say, "By this subdivision there were in all 73 compartments, 29 of these being above the inner bottom." I think I know what you mean, but just explain what that exactly means?
- In the preceding part of that clause under "Watertight subdivision," various bulkheads and decks have been described, and it means that the ship is cut up into that number of independent watertight boxes.

20458. Seventy-three of them?
- Including those in the double bottom between the two skins.

20459. You have told us the double bottom was divided four-fold in one part of the ship, two-fold in another, and not at all in another part, and then, of course, it is again divided by -?
- The transverse divisions.

20460. Making altogether 29?
- No, 44 in the double bottom and 29 above.

20461. Twenty-nine above?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
What paragraph are you on?

20462. (Mr. Rowlatt.) It is the last few words of the paragraph immediately preceding "Watertight doors." I only thought the sentence was not quite clear, and, therefore, it was wise to have it explained. (To the witness.) Are the watertight doors on the alleyways of the same character as the ones below?
- The doors themselves are made of plate instead of being castings, but the principle of the tightening is identical.

20463. You mean they fit tight in the same way?
- Exactly.

20464. And they are actuated by hand?
- They are only actuated by hand from two positions, by something which you can turn round - a rack and pinion.

20465. You have a paragraph about steering gear. Subject to what my Lord says, I do not propose to ask you anything about that or the telegraph. Now you came to pumping arrangements on page 16. You say: "The general character of the arrangement was that it was possible to pump from every compartment flooded by a system of duplex mains with suitable cross connections controlled from above the level of the bulkhead deck in such a way that it is possible to isolate any flooded space" and so on. Perhaps you will just amplify that a little?
- One fore and aft pipe goes fore and aft the ship. It is duplicated in certain parts of its length in order to get round the isolation question.

20466. Are you speaking of above the tank?
- Above the tank top but below the stokehold floor. Then in each compartment there is a branch pipe taken off this, controlled by a valve which leads down to the level of the tank top where it has what you call a strum-box. It is practically a plate to prevent the pipe getting choked. On this pipe in each boiler room and also in the engine rooms are connections leading to the pumps which can draw through this fore and aft main and then throw overboard.

20467. Where are the pumps you speak of?
- I think you had better refer to the plan.

20468. Whereabouts in the ship are the pumps. I want to be clear. What deck ought one to look at to see it clearest?
- At the afterend of No. 6 boiler room there is an ash ejector pump which can be connected with this pipe.

20469. What is an ash ejector pump?
- It is a pump normally used for pumping water through a hose and carrying ashes overboard. That water is in the normal course drawn from the sea and returned overboard, but can be taken from the bilge by a suitable valve.

The Commissioner:
What part of the case is this on?

Mr. Rowlatt:
I do not think it does matter, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Does it Mr. Attorney?

The Attorney-General:
I think not.

The Commissioner:
Do not confuse my mind - it is a very easy thing to do - more than you need do.

Mr. Rowlatt:
The document you have before you is not very easily understood.

The Commissioner:
No, and I do not want to understand it in parts where it is not material.

Mr. Rowlatt:
If your Lordship pleases.

The Attorney-General:
There has been no attack or suggestion made that there was anything defective in the pumping arrangements.

The Commissioner:
No, there was no suggestion against the pumping arrangements.

20470. (Mr. Rowlatt.) There is only one matter on this. (To the witness.) My Lord asked yesterday about the fresh water and the salt water?
- Yes.

20471. Now that is explained I think in the middle of page 17. You are speaking there of the 17 transverse watertight divisions under the tank top?
- Under the tank top.

20472. You say, "Fourteen of those compartments have 8-inch suctions and three 5-inch suctions; six compartments were used exclusively for fresh water with 4-inch suctions to fresh water pumps"?
- The compartments used exclusively for fresh water were tanks under Nos. 1, 2, and 3 holds, and also those under Nos. 4, 5, and 6 holds. That is, the tanks outside the machinery space, as I explained.

20473. That answers what my Lord was asking yesterday. Now, I think we can pass from that, and nothing arises upon the "ship's side doors"?
- There has been some cross-examination on them.

20474. Has there? - Where are the ship's side doors; just explain on the model?
- (The witness explained on the model.) Starting forward, there is a side door on D deck, which is only for use in New York for baggage. The foremost passenger door is on E deck at the forward end, abreast of the forward end of Scotland Road.

The Commissioner:
The suggestion, I understand, was that those side doors might have been utilised for the purpose of getting passengers into the boats.

20475. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Had they all gangways?
- They can be used without gangways.

Mr. Laing:
The suggestion I understood was that if the doors were open they could not readily be shut again owing to their weight, and that water might have come in from the sea through them. That is the suggestion.

The Commissioner:
I did not understand that.

Mr. Edwards:
Your Lordship will remember that an instruction was given to the boatswain and certain men to go down and open the gangway doors. Whether in fact they were opened or not there is no evidence clearly to show.

The Commissioner:
No, but I understood your suggestion, or Mr. Scanlan's, I do not know which, was that these doors might have been utilised for the purpose of getting people from the decks on to which they opened into the boats?

Mr. Scanlan:
Yes, My Lord, that is exactly how the point was raised in connection with Mr. Lightoller's evidence, and it was impressed on my mind by a statement made to me down on the "Olympic" while she was lying in Southampton and we were inspecting her, that those doors there were capable of being used for that purpose, and were meant to be used in emergencies for that purpose.

Mr. Rowlatt:
Perhaps it would be better if I left Mr. Wilding to answer questions from Mr. Scanlan.

The Commissioner:
You have heard what was said, Mr. Wilding; what do you say to that?
- There was evidence - whether it was reliable or not it is not for me to say at present - that directions had been given, I think, by the Captain -

Mr. Scanlan:
Yes, My Lord.

20476. (The Commissioner.) Directions by the Captain that these side doors should be opened, and, as I understood, it was suggested in the examination of the witness by, I think, Mr. Scanlan (possibly by Mr. Edwards, I do not know.), that if they had been open people who were either on that deck or could have been brought to that deck, could then have been put into the half-filled boats, and so more lives would have been saved. Now what have you to say to that?
- The door that would most likely be used was this, that door, at which there is an accommodation ladder; that is, a portable sloping ladder is provided just inside the ship opposite this door, which can be shipped on either side, and the order would probably be intended to apply to that door.

20477. (The Commissioner.) There is a corresponding door on the other side of the ship?
- There is a door on each side with a broad passage leading through from one door to the other. If this accommodation ladder was put in position from one of these doors it would be very easy for anyone, even ladies and children, to go down the accommodation ladder to get into the boats in smooth water, which we understand prevailed. There would be no difficulty once the accommodation ladder was rigged, which would be a matter of perhaps half-an-hour, to use it in that way.

20478. But we have no evidence at all, as far as I know, that anybody from the ship got into a boat from that doorway?
- I have heard none, My Lord.

The Attorney-General:
No, My Lord, there is no suggestion.

Mr. Edwards:
May I recall to your Lordship's mind Mr. Lightoller's instruction was, when they were lowering boat 6, that the boatswain and certain men were to go down and open these gangway doors, his view, as he expressed it, being that certain of the boats should come back when they saw the light and take away certain passengers from them?
- So far as my questions were addressed to him they were simply to ascertain his view as to whether if the gangway doors had been opened forward -

The Commissioner:

Mr. Edwards:
Yes, forward. He gave the order both forward and aft, and my questions were addressed to him to show whether, in his view, if at the stage when the order was given in fact the gangway door forward was opened on the port side, that might not have accounted for a big rush of water and a sudden list to port.

20479. (The Commissioner.) I do not remember that; it has escaped me. (To the witness.) What do you say to that?
- Mr. Lightoller did not convey to my mind that he had given any very distinct order, that is any order that made itself clear which door was intended; but there was evidence that the boats were told to go round to the after door which was the door where this accommodation ladder was provided, and which would be the natural door to go to.

20480. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Is there any ladder for the forward door?
- There is none.

20481. If they had gone there and the ladder had been shipped could people have gone down the ladder and stepped into the boats?
- Very easily. It is like a yacht or warship accommodation ladder.

Mr. Rowlatt:
I think there is no other question of construction which concerns this gentleman which arises. The compasses we have had no question about, and the accommodation ladder -

The Witness:
The accommodation ladder we have just been referring to.

20482. Masts and rigging - that does not matter. We know quite well what the crow's-nest is; I do not think we need trouble about that at all.

20483. (The Commissioner.) By whom were the compasses adjusted?
- A representative of Messrs. Kelvin and White, the makers.

20484. And when were they adjusted?
- In Belfast Lough - we got down in sufficiently deep water to swing the ship, on the 2nd of April.

20485. (Mr. Rowlatt.) I think no question arises about the lifeboats. There were 48 as a matter of fact, you say?
- Yes.

20486. And the lifebelts or lifejackets you say, they are the improved overhead pattern?
- Yes.

20487. As I gathered it is a sort of breast-plate of cork on the front and behind?
- I understand the pattern is to be produced.

20488. Very well. I do not think anything arises upon that. Then I see you give the size of these boats and their accommodation?
- Yes, the size and accommodation I may say are furnished to us by the Board of Trade officially after measurement.

20489. That appears upon the paper?
- I do not know whether it appears in that form.

20490. It appears on your proof which my Lord has before him; therefore I need not take up time by asking the question, but over the page you give the strength of these boats, the construction of them: "Keels of elm, stems and stern posts of oak, all clinker built of best selected well-seasoned yellow pine, double fastened with copper nails clinched over rooves; the timbers were of elm spaced about 9 inches apart, and the seats pitch-pine secured with galvanised iron double knees." Now a question has been raised as to the ability of these boats to be lowered through the air, holding 60 people in them without buckling?
- Yes.

20491. Will you just address yourself a little to that question?
- I remembered when that point was first raised that I had actually seen one of the lifeboats on the "Olympic" in the air loaded with a weight which would correspond to the passengers, and I wrote for the date. On the 9th of May, 1911 - that was shortly before the "Olympic" left Belfast - we put into one of the lifeboats of the "Olympic" half-hundredweight weights distributed so as to represent a load equal to about 65 people, and then we raised and lowered the boat six times. It was done with the object of testing the electric boat winches, not with the object of testing the boat. I happened to see it coming up one time myself after the weights had been removed (the boat was lowered without weights into the water.), and there was nothing the matter with her; she was watertight. I do not think there was any doubt the boats were strong enough to be lowered containing the full number of passengers, and I think that it was in the evidence of Wheat that he lowered a boat with about 70 in her. I think that confirms our Belfast test.

20492. I suppose there was a little specification for these boats; were they designed by you?
- We design and construct them ourselves.

20493. And you designed them for that purpose?
- We designed them for that purpose.

20494. (The Commissioner.) They are constructed for the purpose of carrying that number?
- Of carrying that number and of being lowered - sufficiently strong to be lowered with that number.

20495. Where can they be lowered from except from the davits on the boat deck? That is the only place you can lower them from?
- It was a boat under davits that was being tested.

20496. And therefore they must be constructed with the object of carrying this number of people when slung out on the davits?
- Certainly.

20497. And keeping them in the boats until the boats reach the water?
- Quite.

The Commissioner:
I do not see what good the boats would be otherwise.

20498. (Mr. Rowlatt.) It is not contemplated they would go round and take people from the gangway?
- That, of course, is a question of sea discipline; but we feel that we must provide, at any rate, that the boats can be lowered from the boat deck with their full number, whatever way they are actually used.

20499. And you say you did so provide?
- To the best of our knowledge and belief we did so.

20500. And so far as the evidence in this case goes that answered?
- Yes; and so far as the test to which I have referred has gone, it showed they would.

Very well, I think we can pass from that.

20501. (The Commissioner.) Would the Officers on board this ship have any knowledge or instruction as to the number that the boats were intended to carry?
- Not from the builders, My Lord. As far as I know there was no special direct intimation given to the Officers that they would carry their full number, but I should have thought it was a matter of general knowledge that they were so constructed. If I had thought there was any doubt on the matter in the Officers' minds I would have done my best to remove it.

20502. The reason I ask is this, that it may be suggested that the Officers, when they lowered the boats without the full complement of people, that the boats would carry, thought that the boats were already sufficiently full for safety?
- Of course, what the Officers thought one really cannot tell.

20503. (Mr. Rowlatt.) You belong to the builders, of course?
- Exactly. If the Officers had asked about it, or had expressed any doubt about it at Belfast, they would have been told, and the test would have been mentioned to them.

20504. (The Commissioner.) One of these boats was, in fact, lowered with 60?
- Certainly, My Lord.

20505. I do not know whether that was the last boat of all?
- Not quite, My Lord.

Mr. Raymond Asquith:
I think it was boat No. 11, not the last boat.

The Commissioner:
Not the last boat to be lowered?

The Witness:

The Commissioner:
It had not buckled?

Mr. Rowlatt:
I do not know how far it would come to their attention under the circumstances, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
The Officer who permitted that boat to be loaded to that extent did not think that it was going to buckle.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I think he said he was taking a risk.

Mr. Rowlatt:
Mr. Lowe, I think.

The Commissioner:
It turned out to be a risk that was not of any consequence. One had 59 - I am taking the larger ones - another 74, another 70, another 64, 70, 71, 56 - a great many of those boats carried a large number. Some of them carried very few for some reason.

20506. (Mr. Rowlatt.) There is a general question raised in this case as to the utility of boats in the case of a ship of this class and size. From that point of view just tell me about the disengaging gear at the bottom that lets the boat escape from the falls after it has been lowered. What is that? I mean describe how it acts, never mind the detail?
- It is a hook which is thrown out by pulling over the lever amidships in the boat. You will remember one of the witnesses could not find the lever and had to cut the falls; but there is a hook hooked into the eye under the block through which the ropes pass and the hook which is thrown out is released - is thrown apart, by this lever.

20507. I happened to see it myself; so see if my explanation is right. This is a very magnified representation of what you are describing?
- Yes.

20508. That is in the boat?
- Yes.

20509. The fall comes down from here?
- Yes.

20510. And underneath the block there is a big loop?
- Yes, the eye, as we call it.

20511. An eye of iron?
- Yes.

20512. Like that?
- Yes.

20513. Then in the middle of the boat is there a lever going across the boat?
- Yes.

20514. And when the man pulls the lever over, that happens (Demonstrating.)?
- Yes, it throws the top part of the hook out of the eye.

20515. That is more or less right, is it?
- Yes.

20516. (The Commissioner.) Then the falls are released?
- Yes.

20517. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Then the boat is released and there is no danger of one end being released before the other?
- No; that is the object; both ends are connected up with one lever; when one is thrown over both are.

20518. Released before the boat reaches the surface of the water?
- There is sufficient power in the lever to draw out that hook which is in the eye while the weight of the boat is still on it.

20519. So that the boat can be released in the air?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
Well, not too soon, I suppose?

20520. (Mr. Rowlatt.) No. One was done for our edification in the air, an appreciable distance above the water?
- Quite. The reason for doing it is to facilitate launching in a seaway. When there is a sea running a man stands by the lever and watches his chance.

20521. And they can do it instantaneously?
- Practically.

20522. Instead of making his boat float first and then work away at clearing it?
- Yes.

20523. I think the evidence was that one of the boats was dropped 5 feet?
- I think that was it. That was Mr. Lowe's evidence. I think that is so, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
I have no doubt, but it would be unpleasant I should think.

20524. (Mr. Rowlatt.) It looked very easy when we saw it. Would it be a very easy thing? Mr. Lowe described it as being dropped 5 feet?
- I think that occurs in the evidence. There was no reason why it should not.

20525. (The Commissioner.) There is no reason why it should not be dropped 20 feet or 30 feet?
- If it is more than a moderate height - more than 10 feet - the shock when the boat strikes the water is apt not to be good for the boat.

The Commissioner:
No, nor for the people in it.

20526. (Mr. Rowlatt.) It is not quite a flat-bottomed boat. That appliance enables you to launch boats in a sea?
- That is right. The object is to facilitate launching in a seaway.

20527. You had here manilla falls?
- It might perhaps be mentioned that that is the invention of a White Star captain for that object.

20528. That releasing gear?
- Yes.

20529. We saw here the falls made -?
- Of manilla rope.

20530. Is that the best form of fall which has been invented hitherto?
- Yes, it is the best type of fall. It is a type which is required by the Board of Trade, and is generally held to be the best.

The Commissioner:
There is no charge against these falls, except that in one case they had to be cut.

Mr. Rowlatt:
No, My Lord, there is not. The point is, there is a question in this case as to how far it is any use multiplying boats in view of the various difficulties in working them, launching them, and operating them also from the deck, getting your tackle back, and lowering another boat with them. That is the sort of question, and I was only going to ask this gentleman whether he can suggest any simpler way of lowering a boat than this multiplication of ropes forming the tackle.

The Attorney-General:
There is a point in it, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Very well.

20531. (Mr. Rowlatt - To the witness.) Can you suggest any simpler way, say, for instance, having a single wire rope to each end of the boat, worked in some way on deck? Is such a thing possible?
- Well, it is a thing which wants looking into; but I think I may fairly say that something of the sort was done in the Navy some years ago in the case of torpedo depot ships carrying second class torpedo boats, where a big crane was on deck and took a boat out and lowered it, and I believe it was lowered by a single rope.

20532. I was not speaking of a single rope for a boat, but instead of having eight ropes at each end, is it?
- Six ropes, three doubled.

20533. Instead of six, whether you could have one rope?
- It is possible. I have seen a patent which proposes to do it in that way.

20534. Over a drum on the deck in some way?
- Yes.

20535. It was pointed out on the ship. It is the case, is it not, that it is very difficult to recover the fall?
- Yes, especially with a new manilla rope.

20536. Because the block capsizes?
- It tends to twist itself up, owing to the way the rope is made.

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