British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 19

Testimony of Edward Wilding, cont.

20537. So that I may take it from you it is a question which is worth looking into, whether these falls cannot be simplified?
- Yes, and one which, whenever we get rid of this Inquiry, we hope to look into.

20538. If you could recover your fall easily and certainly from below, could you have two boats, one on top of the other, so to speak, served by the same davit; not of course hanging from the same, but served by the same davit, and in fact placed under it?
- One on top of the other is not, as a Rule, a very satisfactory arrangement. In practice it is much better if you possibly can do so, and want to carry two boats, to carry them side by side.

20539. Whether side by side or whether one is stowed under the other, you could have two boats served by the same davit much more certainly and safely if you are certain of recovering your falls?
- You are certain of recovering your falls as it is; it is only a question of time.

20540. But you recover them in a tangled state?
- But you can untangle them. There is nothing impossible in the untangling if you take a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes and disentangle those falls.

20541. (The Commissioner.) You must untangle them before you can recover them?
- No, My Lord, the best thing is to pull it up and straighten it out on deck.

20542. (Mr. Rowlatt.) We had a little demonstration of that, My Lord?
- Recover it by a hook, or something of that sort, and pull it out on deck.

20543. It would be much better if the falls could be simplified for the purpose of making the davits serve two boats?
- Yes. It raises certain other difficulties. The strain of the weight on the single fall in lowering the boat becomes much greater, and it is not so easy to handle that fall when lowering the boat, as you can understand, because there is three or four times the strain on it.

20544. You have not the benefit of the various blocks?
- Yes, and consequently it is not pure gain.

20545. You would have to have some way of gaining power on the deck - Against it.

20546. Instead of the blocks which now give you the power in the fall itself?
- Yes. The point of that is that any such gain takes up part of the time that you would lose in untwisting your present manilla falls so that it is not clear gain.

20547. I only want to take it in this way; all those are matters which are worth going into?
- Certainly, I quite agree.

20548. Very well. Now boats were stowed on wooden chocks. I do not think there is anything in that -

The Commissioner:
You are not going to ask this Witness, I suppose, any questions on the manning of the lifeboats?

Mr. Rowlatt:
I was not going to, My Lord; I do not think he comes here as a seaman.

20549. (The Commissioner.) Then I should like to ask this - it is only one of the innumerable suggestions which have been made to me - I do not mean by my colleagues - is it possible to have motor lifeboats? - Have you ever heard of such a thing?
- Motor lifeboats are allowed at present, My Lord, but the Board of Trade deduct from the volume of the boat the cubic space occupied by the motor in ascertaining the number of people it is eligible for.

20550. I know. But is a motor-boat more easily handled and handled by a less number of men?
- In a considerable sea-way, yes. As you have heard, on a very still night it only wants two men and someone at the tiller with the ordinary boat.

20551. Yes, I know that?
- You can hardly handle a motor-boat with less than three.

20552. Take ordinary conditions, not the exceptional conditions that existed here. Is there any advantage in having as a lifeboat a motor-boat?
- Well, there is this way of looking at it. In a given boat or a given area of boat, that is a given size of boat, with a motor in, you carry fewer people. Further, in a ship that is fitted with wireless telegraphy there is no object in the boat going any great distance. I mean if she remains near the scene of the accident she is more likely to be picked up quickly.

20553. I am thinking about the "Californian"?
- Well, the "Californian" operator woke up the next day.

20554. I am thinking of a motor-boat reaching the light?
- Quite. I agree, far faster than any crew that you could have put into her.

20555. Then it is suggested that a motor-boat could tow the other boats?
- Well, it can only do so at the expense of its own speed, to a certain extent.

20556. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Of its own petrol. It could not have towed the other boats to America. No motor-boat could have been sufficiently furnished with spirit to tow the other boats to land, I suppose?
- No, I think they were 500 miles from Cape Race - 400 or 500 miles.

20557. (The Commissioner.) Oh, no, I daresay they could not, it is obvious they could not tow them to land, but to a light?
- To the light, My Lord, it would be an advantage to have a motor-boat, except so far as the way might have been blocked by ice.

20558. Are motor-boats ever used as lifeboats?
- I believe we have supplied them to some companies, My Lord.

20559. You have?
- We have.

20560. Harland and Wolff?
- Harland and Wolff.

20561. Have supplied them?
- To some other companies, but not to the White Star Line. At the companies' request, I may say, not at our own suggestion.

Mr. Rowlatt:
There is a Board of Trade regulation upon the subject: "A motor lifeboat approved by the Board of Trade may be substituted for one of the boats required to be kept under davits," and it is to be kept with proper appliances for putting out into the water, and adequately supplied with fuel, and so on.

The Commissioner:
It is optional.

20562. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Yes. (To the witness.) Would there be any object in having more than one motor-boat? The Board of Trade seem only to allow one?
- I think if you are going to have them at all for the purpose either of towing or getting into communication with another ship you should have at least three or four. I mean 1 in 16 does not appeal to me as a satisfactory towing arrangement.

20563. Do you understand these Engelhardt boats, or did you not supply them?
- We purchased them from an outside contractor. I am only generally familiar with them. I do know something about them.

20564. The evidence is that one of them was washed off the deck and never had a chance?
- Quite.

20565. But another was found swamped. Apparently the sides were not up. But there was another question about her. There was a question as to whether the plug was in?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
I understood there was no plug?

Mr. Rowlatt:
Your Lordship thinks that matter has been cleared up? There is no plug.

20556. (The Commissioner - To the witness.) There is no plug, is there, in a collapsible boat?
- There is, but only in the ordinary sense of the word, not one that has to be put in before she is put in the water to keep her from sinking. There is a plug put in the outer bottom, but it is usually kept in. There is a plug. It is not a plug that has to be put in before the boat is launched, but one that is usually kept in the boat ready for service.

20567. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Is it necessary to have that in position in order that the boat may be seaworthy?
- The plug is always in the boat unless you specially take it out for repairs or getting at the inside of the boat. They keep a little water in the boats.

20568. (The Commissioner.) To let the water run out that has collected?
- Yes, or got in in any way.

20569. (Mr. Rowlatt.) We had evidence from one witness about the false bottom of the boat preventing him from getting at the plug?
- Yes.

20570. As I understand, there are two bottoms to this boat?
- Quite.

20571. But they are air-tight?
- Practically.

20572. And the two holes that are in the two bottoms are connected by a pipe?
- Yes, they are self-emptying boats like a lifeboat.

20573. Therefore the circumstance that he could not get underneath was a misapprehension of the witness?
- Yes, quite.

20574. (The Commissioner.) But although the sides of these boats are not in position they will nevertheless act as rafts, will they not?
- Quite as well. The bottom part of the boat, without the canvas sides, supplies the whole of the buoyancy of the boat. The boat does not depend upon its canvas sides for buoyancy. That is a distinction from the berthon type, My Lord.

20575. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Did you supply the distress signals?
- Yes, we obtained and supplied those, I believe.

20576. Will you tell us what they were?
- The cotton powder; the approved pattern of distress signal.

20577. I do not care about the powder. As to the effect when they were sent up, can you say whether they were indicative of distress as opposed to anything else?
- I believe it is a pattern of signal which is understood to be restricted to ships in distress, and registered for that purpose.

29578-9. You only believe that?
- Yes; it is not a thing I deal with.

20580. My friend Sir Robert Finlay asks me to ask about the boat equipment. I did not know that there was any question about it. I think the boat equipment was in accordance with the Board of Trade requirements?
- It has to be, or else the Board of Trade will not pass the boat.

20581. As it left your hands, at any rate?
- Yes, we supplied it, and the Board of Trade checked it, and the White Star Officers checked it on taking over the boats to see it was all there.

That is to say, it had the sails and the covers for the boats -

The Commissioner:
Except in so far as it is evidence, or may be said to be evidence of general neglect, I do not think the absence of biscuits or compasses or lights or anything else has any real bearing upon this Enquiry. Whether they had lights or biscuits or compasses or not they all reached the "Carpathia." There was nothing wrong with them which was of any consequence. If it was a question of seaworthiness that would be another matter, as we know.

20582-3. (Mr. Rowlatt.) As a matter of fact did you supply a compass for every boat?
- 14 compasses for the 14 lifeboats, but not for the emergency boats or the Engelhardt's.

20584. And had they all sea anchors and provisions?
- I believe so; except, again, I think the Engelhardt's -

20585. (The Commissioner.) The Engelhardt's are folded up when they are on deck?
- The sides are; the bottom remains the same.

20586. But the bottom is an empty space, full of air?
- Either full of air, or full of cork in some cases.

20587. There is no room for kegs, or whatever they are, of biscuits and barrels of water?
- Quite right, My Lord, but a certain small equipment is kept in the boats.

20588. In the collapsible boats?
- A little on the thwarts.

20589. What is kept on the thwarts?
- I could not say off-hand.

The Commissioner:
If it wants looking for, never mind.

Mr. Rowlatt:
Now your next page we have dealt with because it is all about "access of passengers to boat deck." On page 26, My Lord, there are many paragraphs about the electrical installation.

The Commissioner:
They are of no consequence.

20590. (Mr. Rowlatt.) I think not, My Lord. (To the witness.) You have told us about the electricity for the wireless. On page 32 there is the machinery.

The Commissioner:
We are not concerned with the machinery and the boilers, or with condensing plant or the auxiliary machinery. That seems to be all there is in this.

Mr. Rowlatt:
I think so, My Lord.

Examined by Mr. CLEMENT EDWARDS.

20591. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) By the Courtesy of my friends, My Lord, I will ask a few questions first. (To the witness.) You have spoken about the resistibility of the bulkheads?
- No.

20592. I rather understood you to say that the resisting strength of the bulkheads was dependent upon their height?
- No, but the resisting strength required in a bulkhead is dependent upon its height.

20593. What actual tests were made of these bulkheads?
- None; I presume what you mean is an actual test by applying pressure.

20594. Yes?
- None.

20595. None at all?
- None at all.

The Commissioner:
Now, will you ask him an additional question upon that, because I do not know. Is it usual or necessary to make such tests?

20596. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) I am coming to that. (To the witness.) First of all, is it the practice with your firm to make such a test?
- No.

20597. Are you familiar with the practice at Lloyds?
- Generally. We sometimes build ships to Lloyd's requirements.

20598. Is it not the fact that Lloyd's Surveyors do insist upon a water pressure test for bulkheads?
- No; I never saw one carried out in our yard.

20599. You never saw one?
- Not in my experience.

20600. (The Commissioner.) Have you had Lloyd's Surveyors on your premises?
- We have had them every day, My Lord.

20601. For the purpose of ascertaining whether their requirements are complied with?
- Just for that purpose and no other.

20602. Have you had them there when the ships they have had to inspect were ships with watertight bulkheads?
- Every ship that is built for Lloyd's must have them.

20603. Have they ever applied a test of the kind suggested by Mr. Edwards?
- Not to my knowledge.

20604. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Have you ever heard of such a test being applied outside your own shipbuilding yard?
- By whom?

20605. By Surveyors of Lloyd's?
- Not by Surveyors of Lloyd's.

20606. Have you ever heard of such a test being applied by representatives of the Admiralty in shipbuilding yards?
- I have.

20607. Is it to your knowledge a common practice for firms building for the Admiralty to insist upon such a pressure test for bulkheads?
- I do not know. The test I am familiar with of that sort was made in one of His Majesty's dockyards.

20608. Not in a private yard?
- No; whether it is done in any private yard or not I do not know.

20609. You do have a spraying test, as it is called?
- Yes.

20610. That only finds out -?
- Whether the local caulking and riveting is good.

20611. (The Commissioner.) Allow me one minute, Mr. Edwards. (To the witness.) You said no tests were applied to the bulkheads of the "Titanic"?
- No tests by pressure under head, My Lord.

20612. That is what I mean. Is it a fact or not that the bulkhead at the forepeak is tested?
- The lower part which forms the after boundary of the forepeak is tested because it forms part of the forepeak tank, and the double bottomed tanks are tested, but not the peak transverse bulkheads above the inner bottom.

20613. Is the bulkhead at the afterend of the ship tested at all?
- Only in the "Olympic" collision to which I have referred; they were tested because the aftermost hold was flooded.

20614. Yes, but that is not what I mean at all. Was the aftermost bulkhead of the "Titanic" ever tested by water being let in?
- Into the afterpeak, yes.

20615. You do it in the forepeak and do not do it in the afterpeak?
- Yes.

20616. Why do you do that?
- Because those are tanks in which water is frequently carried and which are connected with the pumps which can apply a considerable pressure head to them.

20617. Then it is done merely for the purpose of seeing whether they are fit to carry water that is required in the ship?
- That may be required in the ship without endangering the ship.

The Commissioner:
You will excuse me, Mr. Edwards, it was only that I wanted to exhaust the subject.

20618. (Mr. Edwards - To the witness.) What I will call the resistibility of the watertight bulkhead will not only depend upon the height, it will also depend upon its thickness; it will also depend upon what I think you technically call stiffeners, and it will also depend upon what I may call the construction?
- The putting together of the stiffeners and the plating.

20619. Yes, and not merely that, but also upon the form of construction immediately abaft the watertight bulkheads; that is to say, if I may use a simple illustration, if it is simply a bulkhead and no deck abaft it, it will want to be a good deal stronger in itself than if there are a series of decks running straight up against it?
- And supporting it at different points?

20620. Yes?
- Quite right.

20621. Then if you do not apply the water pressure test how do you arrive at your standard of resistibility?
- There are two well known standards in this country, one of them furnished by Lloyd's Rules, and the other furnished by the bulkhead Committee of 1891; and one is guided, in the first instance, in arranging bulkheads and the stiffeners and plating connected with them by those Rules.

20622. Then it is not by any scientific estimate of your own?
- That is how it was first arrived at. One does check it by making a calculation of one's own. In the case of these very large ships one does not take anything for granted that can be checked.

20623. What were the heights of the bulkheads in the "Titanic"?
- They were carried up to D deck after; after D deck forward.

20624. Will you tell me the height of the bulkheads forward?
- I can give it to you approximately by scaling from the plan. Which will you have?

20625. Give me the bulkhead immediately in front of Boiler section 6.

The Commissioner:
I am asked to ask you, Mr. Edwards, and I want to ask you myself, what is the object of this examination?
- There is no evidence that any of these bulkheads gave way.

Mr. Edwards:
I think there is. If your Lordship will remember, in the evidence of Barrett he was asked about leaving Boiler section 5, and he said he left when there was a rush of water, and your Lordship put it to him. It is at question 2060. "Something that had been holding the water back gave way," to which the witness answered "That is my idea, My Lord."

The Commissioner:
Is it based upon that and nothing else.

Mr. Edwards:
Not entirely. What I am leading up to is this: I have already put certain questions - that in the case of the construction of this ship there was no independent survey. There was no check of the construction by anybody other than by the builder.

The Commissioner:
That I understood. You made that point some time ago, and you suggested, as I understood, at one point in the case that these bulkheads were not as strong as they would have been if they had complied with Lloyd's requirements.

Mr. Edwards:
That is so, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
You suggested that.

Mr. Edwards:

The Commissioner:
Well now, I have not heard from you - you promised to give me the information, you know, what the requirements of Lloyd's would be in the case of a ship of this size.

Mr. Edwards:
What I promised to do was at the right moment, if necessary, by expert witnesses, to supply you with that information. But I may say at once that my next question but one to this Witness will disclose on this particular point what is the standard of Lloyd's in respect of it.

The Commissioner:
Very well, we will get it from him then, not from you.

20626. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Now, Mr. Wilding, will you take the bulkhead in front of Boiler section 6?
- Yes. You want the height of this d bulkhead from the tank top?

20627. Yes?
- 44 feet.

The Commissioner:
Mr. Edwards, the Professor on my left points out to me that my question referred to a bunker bulkhead, and not to a watertight bulkhead.

Mr. Edwards:
I think with respect, My Lord, that in that case the bulkhead between Sections 5 and 6 does not run fair across the ship, but there is for the purpose of allowing for the bunker an angle running back.

The Commissioner:
There is, that is quite true - a sort of alleyway.

Mr. Edwards:
Yes, My Lord; that is to say, if I may use it in this way; the ordinary bulkhead runs, of course, fair across the ship. In this particular case, as I understand it, the inner wall -

The Commissioner:
That is quite right, but what I was pointing out to you - my attention having been drawn to it - was that my question as to the rush of water contained a suggestion that the side of the bunker, not a watertight compartment, had given way.

Mr. Edwards:
With great respect, My Lord, the question arose in Barrett's evidence.

The Commissioner:
Will you read it; just read it, please. I daresay you are right, but I would like you to read it.

Mr. Edwards:
It is on page 60, My Lord, question 2057. (Q.) "You do not think it did come over the top"? - he is speaking of the water. "(A.) No. (Q.) Now, when it came through this pass between the boilers, did it come with a rush? - (A.) Yes. (The Commissioner.) I suppose he means by that as if something had given way. (The Solicitor-General.) So it came in with a Lord's question." That is not usually associated with a rush. "He is asking whether, when you said that, you got the impression that something had given way? - (A.) That was my idea. (The Commissioner.) Something that had been holding the water back gave way? - (A.) That is my idea, My Lord. (The Solicitor-General.) So it came with a rush."

The Commissioner:
Go on, please.

Mr. Edwards:
"How fast did it fall? - (A.) I never stopped to look. I went up the ladder. Mr. Harvey told me to go up. (The Commissioner.) Could it have been a bunker bulkhead that gave way, do you think? - (A.) I have no idea on that, but that is the bunker that was holding the water back. (Q.) It was the bunker that was holding the water back? - (A.) Yes. (The Solicitor-General.) It is entirely my fault, but I have not followed the meaning of that." Then take Question 2074, at the top of page 61: "You cannot tell what part of the watertight bulkhead it was which gave way? - (A.) No."

The Commissioner:
Is that my question?

Mr. Edwards:
No, My Lord; that is the Solicitor-General's question.

The Commissioner:
I was going to say, if it was my question, it was not a well-instructed question. As the Solicitor-General asked it, I will not make that observation.

20628. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) It was not a Lord's question, My Lord. (To the witness.) This bulkhead in front of boiler section 6, you say was about what height?
- Forty-four feet from the tank top.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I think Question 2106 makes it perfectly clear.

The Commissioner:
Will you read it, Sir Robert?

Sir Robert Finlay:
I will read from Question 2104. "(Q.) The water is coming through the skin of the ship into the bunker? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) And the bunker is about 9 feet along the side of the ship. Now I want to know, was the water coming in at this level right across the bunker, or only in part of it? - (A.) Water was coming in about two feet abaft the watertight bulkhead. (Q.) Do you mean that it was coming in from the watertight bulkhead and for two feet back? - (A.) No; only from the ship's side. The watertight bulkhead was not damaged."

Mr. Edwards:
That, you will remember, was at quite an earlier stage, in which Barrett had given evidence as to coming up out of Section 6 and going down into Section 5. It refers to a much earlier time.

The Commissioner:
As I understand the evidence at present, it does not indicate any breaking of any watertight bulkhead. I am aware of the uninstructed question and the answer to it. However, go on to these dimensions, which are more important.

20629. (Mr. Edwards - To the witness.) The bulkhead in front of Section 6, you say, was of a height of 44 feet?
- Yes.

20630. Now what was the thickness of the bulkhead plating on the lower decks? Take the thickness at the stokehold.

The Commissioner:
Does the thickness vary as the bulkhead goes on?

Mr. Edwards:
Now I am giving information, My Lord. According to Lloyd's requirements, it does.

The Commissioner:
And I suppose it gets thinner the higher it goes up.

20631. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) That is so, My Lord. (To the witness.) What is the thickness?
- Between which decks?

20632. Take the boiler section: What thickness is it in the boiler section?
- Pardon me, the boiler section is the whole height of the bulkhead. You must take it in sections. This is one of the bulkheads with a deck coming up against it.

20633. You shall take it, if you will, in different decks if there is a variation. What is the greatest thickness at the lowest deck?
- Pardon me, at the lowest deck or at the tank top?

20634. Take the lowest deck.

The Commissioner:
No, he had better take the tank top first, had he not?

Mr. Edwards:
I do not mind how it is done.

The Witness:
I want to give you the information you are really looking for.

20635. I have no doubt you do. Now, do you mind giving me first of all what is the thickness of the bulkhead on the level of the floor where the boilers are?
- That is down on the tank top.

20636. Very well?
- The plating of the bulkhead down on the tank top is 0.56 - 56-hundredths of an inch.

20637. Now will you give me the thickness at F deck?
- That is between F and E decks?

20638. Yes, that is so; the wall of F deck?
- Yes, the wall that extends from e to F deck.

20639. To the roof of F deck?
- 30-hundredths of an inch.

20640. What spaces are there on these bulkheads between the stiffeners?
- I think it is 30 inches - very nearly 30 inches; about a quarter of an inch less.

20641. Now is it a fact that for bulkheads of this height the minimum requirements of Lloyd's are 30 inches?
- I think Lloyd's specify for stiffeners 30 inches.

20642. Thirty-inch spaces between?
- We are about 29 7/8.

20643. So that in that particular respect, for what it is worth, you are something less than Lloyd's requirements?
- No, we are something better than Lloyd's requirements.

The Commissioner:
Better, not worse.

Mr. Edwards:
I am using the term "less" not as a standard of conduct, but as a term of measurement.

The Commissioner:
Do not slip it by.

The Witness:
In terms of measurement, yes.

The Commissioner:
It is better than Lloyd's requirements. It is so little that in my opinion it makes no difference.

The Witness:
I quite agree, My Lord.

Continued >