British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry
Testimony of Alexander Carlisle
Examined by Mr. BUTLER ASPINALL.
21255. I believe you have come here in compliance with the wish of the solicitor of the Board of Trade, but you preferred not to make a statement to them officially?
- That is so.
21256. Were you a member of the advisory committee which sat in 1911?
- Yes, I was at two of their meetings.
21257. And I believe that one of the subject matters before that Committee was the question of boats and additional boats to meet the large ships which have recently been put upon the seas?
21258. Now last week the attention of the Court was called to an interview which purports to be an interview between you and some representative of the "Daily Mail," dated thursday, June the 6th. Have you seen a copy of that interview?
- I do not think so.
21259. (The Attorney-General.) No, April the 18th?
- April the 18th.
21260. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) I see it is reprinted; it was April the 18th?
- Yes, that is correct.
21261. I got what was reprinted. Did such an interview take place?
21262. And have you read what purports to be an interview between you and the representative of the "Daily Mail"?
21263. Is it correctly reported in the "Daily Mail"?
- I consider it so.
21264. And are the statements of fact attributed to you in that report correct?
- I believe so.
21265. As I say, I have had no proof of your statement from you. I believe you would prefer to make a general statement to my Lord with regard to that matter. Is not that so?
- Well, whatever you like. I am quite prepared to do whatever you like.
Mr. Aspinall is in the position that he does not know what he likes.
21266. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) I will assist you if I can. Perhaps I might direct your attention - I am quite prepared to make a statement or answer any questions in connection with that, whichever you like.
21267. I will direct your attention to statements in the interview which were suggested and cross-examined to, in the case of one or more of the witnesses who were called. This is the statement: "When working out the designs of the 'Olympic' and the 'Titanic' I put my ideas before the davit constructors, and got them to design me davits which would allow me to place, if necessary, four lifeboats on each pair of davits, which would have meant a total of over 40 boats. Those davits were fitted in both ships, but though the Board of Trade did not require anything more than the 16 lifeboats 20 boats were supplied." I will stop there for one moment. The paragraph opens thus: "When working out the designs of the 'Olympic' and the 'Titanic.'" At that time did you occupy a position in the builder's firm?
- I was chairman of the managing directors and general manager of the whole works.
21268. At the present moment I think you have retired from business?
- I retired on the 30th of June, 1910.
21269. Did you take part in working out the designs of the "Olympic" and the "Titanic"? Deal with the "Titanic." - Yes, they were entirely designed practically by Lord Pirrie. The details, the decorations, the equipments, and general arrangements all came under me.
21270. Did you put your ideas before the davits constructors?
- I did.
21271. Who would that be?
- Welin's Quadrant Davit Company.
21272. And the paragraph goes on thus: "I put my ideas before those gentlemen and got them to design my davits which would allow me to place, if necessary, four lifeboats on each pair of davits, which would have meant a total of over 40 boats." Have you got those designs?
21273. Have you got them with you?
21274. Will you produce them?
- Yes. (Handing the same to the Commissioner.)
21275. (The Commissioner.) Where did you get them from?
- From the davit constructor. We made a rough design in Belfast ourselves, and then I sent it to him to draw the kind of davit he would recommend, seeing that prior to that he had designed one for the Union-Castle Line to carry two boats.
21276. Is that the same design as the smaller one?
- The first you have in your hand was got out about the middle of the year 1909. That was the original thing before the plan was made.
21277. Which was?
- That small one. That is the one for consideration which I put before Lord Pirrie and the directors of the White Star. Then when I pointed out that I expected the Board of Trade and the Government would require much larger boat accommodation on these large ships, I was authorised then to go ahead and get out full plans and designs, so that if the Board of Trade did call upon us to fit anything more we would have no extra trouble or extra expense.
21278. You would be ready to go on with it?
21279. How many boats does this represent?
- That represents 32 boats - 16 doubled. There they are as fitted in the Union-Castle Line. That was done in 1909. That was on the "Edinburgh Castle," I think. (The witness pointed on the plan.) When I saw that one I thought we would improve upon that, and this is the plan I got out.
(The witness explained the plan to the Commissioner.)
21280. (The Commissioner.) What I understand Mr. Carlisle to say is this: He was of opinion, or thought it possible, that, having regard to the size of the "Titanic," the Board of Trade might require greater lifeboat accommodation; and he mentioned this to Lord Pirrie and to other people connected with Messrs. Harland and Wolff, and he was then told to prepare plans for the instalment of larger lifeboat accommodation, and he accordingly prepared this plan. Now this plan provides for, as I understand, four boats upon one set of davits. (To the witness.) Is not that so?
21281. Later on he prepared another plan, which is this, which provides for two boats to each set of davits, instead of one, but neither plan was utilised because the Board of Trade did not require any increased accommodation beyond that which was originally contemplated before these plans came into existence. That is right?
- That is so.
May I see the plans?
Yes; (Handing same.) and then, Mr. Attorney, I did not tell you what he said and what has come out already; it is already in evidence. The davits on the "Titanic" were of the kind that would have been required if the larger number of boats, double the boats, had been provided.
That is the welin's.
Yes, and they were installed when the "Titanic" went down. Of course, the boats were not there.
21282. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Were these plans ever submitted to the White Star Company?
- Two or three times.
21283. (The Commissioner.) To whom were they submitted - the individual, I mean?
- Do you wish me to name the two directors?
- Mr. Ismay and his co-director; but Mr. Ismay was the only one who spoke or said anything about it.
21285. Who was the other director?
- Mr. Sanderson was present at one or two interviews.
21286. But did Mr. Sanderson examine them or look at them?
- He saw them, but he did not speak.
21287. Did he see them in such a way as to realise what they were?
- Well, that is quite impossible for me to say.
21288. I might come into the room and see them, and not have the ghost of a notion what they were?
- I came over from Belfast in October, 1909, with these plans that were worked out, and also the decorations, and Mr. Ismay and Mr. Sanderson and Lord Pirrie and myself spent about four hours together.
21289. Did Mr. Sanderson discuss those plans?
- Mr. Sanderson, I think, never spoke.
21290. Did he sit for four hours without speaking?
- No; but that was over the whole of the decorations; we took the entire decorations of that ship.
21291. Never mind about the decorations; we are talking about the lifeboats?
- The lifeboat part I suppose took five or ten minutes.
21292. Then, am I to understand that these plans which you are now producing were discussed, at this four hours interview for five or ten minutes?
- That is so.
21293. Now will you tell us what was said?
- It was said they thought it would be desirable to fit them in the ship.
21294. But what did you say first?
- I showed them the advantage, and that it would put them to no expense or trouble in case the Board of Trade called upon them to do something at the last minute.
21295. Then it was your view, was it, that it was desirable to have these on board the ship, so that if the Board of Trade made greater lifeboat requirements than you were intending to give you could easily comply with them?
21296. That was the object?
- That is it.
21297. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) When did this interview take place?
- One took place in October, 1909, and the other in January, 1910.
21298. Was the interview in respect of the "Titanic" alone, or was it in respect of the "Olympic" as well?
- Everything was taken to be doubled. It always meant the two ships. Anything which was taken up for one applied to the second ship the same.
21299. Was the second ship laid down at the same time?
- The keels were laid down within a few weeks of each other.
21300. Speaking as a practical man, do those plans which were prepared for you by the davit constructors commend themselves to you as being a good working scheme?
21301. Which? There are two; the davits which will carry two boats, and davits which will carry four boats?
- No, they all carry four.
21302. They all will carry four?
- They all will carry four.
21303. The scheme which will carry four - does that commend itself to you as being a good working scheme?
21304. And would you, as a constructor, have any difficulty in putting boats upon the decks - four boats, which the one set of davits could work and serve?
- I see no difficulty.
21305. (The Commissioner.) There is one which could never be on the deck at all; that is so, is it not?
- One would be hanging outboard by the spar.
- Yes, the same as the P. and O. Company generally carry their boats.
21307. It would not incommode the deck at all?
- I do not think so.
21308. I do not see how a boat hanging over the side would influence the deck at all?
- No, the one overboard has nothing to do with the deck, of course.
21309. Would there be any difficulty in filling all these boats with passengers?
- A great deal would depend upon the weather; in bad weather the boats would be little or no use.
21310. You are talking generally about lifeboats?
21311. Well, I was not talking generally about lifeboats, but I was thinking about these four boats. Assume that four boats had been placed upon the davits according to your first design?
- Well, I consider the whole of those boats ought to have been lowered into the water inside of an hour without any trouble.
21312. (The Attorney-General.) Does that mean the 32?
- The 32 ought to be done in half-an-hour easily, because the one boat is in the tackles ready for lowering, and then you have to pull them up. I think with the present falls the greatest time would be lost in getting the blocks up again. That is really the complicated part of the lowering of boats. Of course since that was made, if it was used on a large scale like that, I think very likely wire ropes with gearing would be the proper thing, because there is a block invented and made that always hangs plumb. The difficulty with the ordinary block is that when you go to pull it up it turns round.
21313. (The Commissioner.) You say Lord Pirrie designed this ship?
- Yes, what I call the design of the ship is the length, the breadth, the depth, and the modelling.
21314. Who was responsible for the supply of the lifeboats?
- The supply of lifeboats comes entirely practically under the Board of Trade.
21315. Oh, no, because we know this ship was supplied with considerably more lifeboats than the Board of Trade required?
- But we always do that. We always give something more.
21316. I want to know who was the person at Harland and Wolff's responsible for saying, "So far with lifeboats and no further." I am going to ask another question: Were you?
- If I had been there I very likely might -
21317. Were you?
- Was I?
21319. Well, that seems to me to be a grudging "No"?
- Not in the very least.
21320. Well, who was?
- The owners, in the first place, who would have to pay for them, would be consulted.
21321. We know perfectly well the owners left the whole thing to Harland and Wolff. Now, who was responsible for saying, "So many lifeboats shall be put on this boat and no more"?
- The White Star and other friends give us a great deal of liberty, but at the same time we cannot build a ship any bigger than they order, or put anything in her more than they are prepared to pay for. We have a very free hand, and always have had; but I do not think that we could possibly have supplied any more boats to the ship without getting the sanction and the order of the White Star Line.
21322. Did you try?
- You must remember that I retired on the 30th of June, 1910, prior to the ship being launched.
21323. Yes, but I suppose the boats were made, or ordered, before the ship was launched?
- Oh, no, they are very often, and in that case they would be left - a great many of them - till after the launch, because it takes so many months to finish a big ship.
21324. Do you suggest that there were not, according to the views which were entertained at that time, a sufficient number of boats on board the "Titanic"?
- Personally I consider there were not enough.
21325. You consider what?
- There were not enough boats.
21326. Did you ever say so?
- I have said so over and over again.
21327. To whom?
- I have said it in the works.
21328. To whom? You do not go and talk generally in the works at large. To whom did you say it?
- Well, I said it at the merchant Shipping Advisory committee on the 19th and 26th of May.
21329. What year?
- 1911, before either of the ships went to sea.
21330. To whom did you say it?
- I said it to the entire meeting, whoever was present heard me say it.
21331. Who were there?
- I could not name their names.
21332. Cannot you name one or two who heard you?
- These same plans which were passed round the table -
21333. Answer the question?
- I am very bad at names.
21334. Give me the names of one or two who heard you?
- Well, I think the Chairman of the Cunard Company was there for one.
21335. Do you mean Mr. Booth?
- Mr. Booth.
- And I think a representative of the Underwriters.
21337. Was any representative of the White Star there?
- None that I know of.
21338. Now we will leave that body, whoever they were. Will you tell me to which of the representatives of the White Star Line you ever said: "The 'Olympic' and the 'Titanic' are going away with an insufficient supply of boats"?
- To no person, as I was not there.
21339. But did you never say it? Did you never say to them, "If we are to supply only the boats that we have hitherto supplied, she will not have enough"?
- I showed them the plans of my proposals; I could not do any more.
21340. I know you did, and you have told us the reason, because it was thought that the Board of Trade would require more?
21341. And therefore it was thought advisable to have the davits prepared?
21342. Yes, that is a very good reason and quite intelligible, but I want to know from you whether I am to understand that you knew these two ships were going to sea with these boats, you thought they were insufficient, and you said nothing?
- I was never on board them, My Lord. I had nothing to do with the finishing.
21343. I suppose you knew about the boats?
- I knew nothing about the boats that she was leaving with.
21344. Whose business is it to know about the boats?
- It is the owners'.
21345. Then I do not understand this arrangement. I thought the owners left all these questions to the wisdom of Harland and Wolff?
- I have said they left a very great deal; at the same time they control us on certain points. They have to consider their other fleet and their other steamers.
21346. What do you mean by that?
- I mean if they go and make certain changes in these ships, naturally they would have to make them in the "Adriatic" and other boats.
21347. Then are you suggesting now that they were influenced to supply insufficient boats by the consideration that if they supplied more they would have to put more into their other steamers?
- Certainly not. I do not know what was their reason.
21348. What do you think was their reason?
- I cannot tell.
21349. Oh, yes you can?
- I have no idea, My Lord.
Had not those two plans better be marked, My Lord?
May we mark the small one C1 and the other C2?
Very well. Now you have the witness, Mr. Scanlan.
Yes, My Lord.
Examined by Mr. SCANLAN.
21350. We have been told in the course of this Enquiry that certain of the plans for the "Olympic" and the "Titanic" were submitted to the Board of Trade. I want to ask you whether this plan for boats was submitted to the Board of Trade - this plan which you have explained to my Lord?
- I could not say.
21351. (The Commissioner.) Do you really mean to suggest that it is possible this plan was submitted to the Board of Trade. Do you think it is probable that this plan was submitted to the Board of Trade?
- I do not think it was. At the meeting of the 19th of May, 1911, I think there was some person for the Board of Trade -
21352. (Mr. Scanlan.) I understand you, Mr. Carlisle, to be speaking of the meeting of the advisory committee of the Board of Trade?
- Yes, at the Board of Trade Office, Whitehall.
21353-4. Those meetings are attended by the Committee which consists of shipowners and representatives of the seamen's Union and certain officials of the Board of Trade?
The secretary of the advisory committee is an official of the Board of Trade, I understand?
What is his name?
I do not know.
Here is the letter. (Handing a letter to the Commissioner.)
What is the name of the gentleman who is the secretary?
21355-6. (Mr. Scanlan.) Is it Mr. Matthews?
- I have handed up the letter to my Lord, so that he will see exactly.
21357. (The Commissioner.) I do not see the important part of this, namely, the enclosure?
- That is merely some paper, I do not know what it is, whether it is here or not.
21358. (The Commissioner.) I will read the letter: "In accordance with the decision of yesterday's meeting of the Life-Saving Appliances Sub-Committee, I have arranged for the next meeting of the sub-Committee to be held at the Board of Trade at 11 a.m. on Friday, the 26th instant. I enclose a summary setting out the conclusions arrived at as the result of yesterday's meeting." Now, where is that summary?
- I have not it here. I do not know whether it is among my papers, but I remember what it is. The main thing is this: The Committee was practically at the end when I was asked to join it. I was only at the last two meetings, and the majority of the points had been well considered, and it was understood that if any Act of Parliament was brought in by the Board of Trade it would not only affect a ship like the "Titanic," but that it would go back on all the old ships afloat, and it would therefore be unfair to go in for putting too many boats when they possibly could not get room on the older ships, and on that occasion one or both of the two plans which you have there were kept by the Board of Trade; those you have there are only prints - I left them in the room; I did not take them away.
21359. Then you took these plans which you had prepared, as I understand, as early as 1909?
21360. You took those plans with you to this meeting at the Board of Trade in 1911?
- I did.
Your Lordship did not say by whom it is signed.
21361. (The Commissioner.) It is signed R. W. Matthews. (To the witness.) Now, did you take those plans with you in 1911?
21362. You had resigned your position with Harland and Wolff in 1910?
- I had.
21363. So that it stands in this way. You made the plans in 1909; you left Harland and Wolff in 1910; you went to the Board of Trade in 1911 and took these plans with you?
- I did.
21364. (Mr. Scanlan.) Of course, Minutes are kept by the Board of Trade of all those advisory committee meetings?
- I really do not know what they do.
I presume, My Lord it would be possible for us to get those minutes from the Board of Trade witnesses.
I should think so; we ought to see them.
Certainly, My Lord. It is the first we have heard of it, but, of course, Enquiry is being made about it.
They shall be procured, Mr. Scanlan.
21365. (Mr. Scanlan - To the witness.) Now, I want to make this clear. At the time of submitting your plans to the White Star Line Directors Mr. Ismay was present?
21366. And I suppose we may take it from you that the object of submitting the plans was to give the White Star people an opportunity of deciding for themselves whether those plans suited them?
21367. And with reference to the boats, giving them an opportunity of seeing whether they would have 20 boats or 64 boats which you could show them could be provided?
21368. (The Commissioner.) You say yes, but I am by no means satisfied?
- I shall be pleased to answer anything.
21369. I do not complain about the questions, but they are put in a very leading form, and you say "Yes," but I am by no means sure that these plans were not submitted for the mere purpose of showing to the White Star Line that in case the Board of Trade made the requirements there was a scheme ready by which they could be complied with. Do you see the difference?
- I see what you are at.
I have not got the reference at present, but I think it will be found in the evidence of Mr. Sanderson that he had discussed, at all events, in a general way with the builders.
You are quite right.
Because I put it to him, My Lord.
You are right, I remember it.
21370. (Mr. Scanlan.) I suppose on the occasion of this long discussion you had with the Directors various changes and alterations were made in the details of the decorations and otherwise?
21371. And there was no reason why, if the White Star people wanted more boats, they could not have ordered you to go ahead and install 64?
21372. (The Commissioner.) Am I to understand you advised them to install 64?
- I merely put my ideas before them.
21373. Did you say "There ought to be 64"?
- No, I did not.
21374. Did you think there ought to be 64?
- I thought there ought to be a very much larger number.
21375. Did you think there ought to be 64?
- I thought there ought to be three on each set of davits.
21376. How many would that make altogether?
- Forty-eight boats.
21377. You thought there ought to be 48?
21378. Whereas, in point of fact, how many were there?
21379. You thought there ought to be three times the number. Did you say so?
- I believe I did, but I could not swear.
21380. But it is a very important matter, is it not?
- You see I never put my ideas on paper unless I thought they were what should be carried out.
21381. You do not answer my question. You were there apparently discussing this matter. Did you say, as the chairman of the managing directors of Harland and Wolff's, "I think there ought to be three times as many boats on that deck as we are at present contemplating putting there"?
- No, I would not say that I did.
21382. Did you think it?
- I thought there ought to have been.
21383. Why did you not say so?
- Because I have always been accustomed to put the plans before the owners and let them judge. Unless they asked questions I did not give them an answer.
21384. Do you mean to tell me that on this important matter, having formed the opinion, and the matter being discussed and you being the chairman of the managing directors of the builders, you did not say that?
- Certainly not.
Examined by Mr. CLEMENT EDWARDS.
21385. You recalled an occasion when you produced that plan at a meeting at which Lord Pirrie was present, and Mr. Sanderson, and Mr. Ismay?
21386. You said that on that occasion the interview lasted some four hours?
- Three or four hours.
But only five or ten minutes were devoted to the boats.
21387. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) I am just coming to that precisely, My Lord. (To the witness.) And with regard to lifeboat accommodation, there was some five or ten minutes' discussion?
- Yes, of the davit question.
Do speak up. I did not hear the answer. Put your question again.
Will you excuse me speaking a minute. There were two occasions. The first occasion I only put the plan. I forget what number the Attorney-General marked it.
21388. (The Attorney-General.) The small one is C 1.
C 1 was the first one submitted, and that was at an earlier date than the large one.
21389. (The Commissioner.) I have not heard of this before. There were two conversations were there?
- Yes, I have mentioned that before.
21390. I daresay you have; it has escaped me?
- October and January.
October, 1909, and January, 1910.
21391. (The Commissioner.) But were the same people present at both conversation?
- I believe so.
21392. But you do not remember?
- I believe they were.
Now, Mr. Edwards, will you ask him about each conversation, because I have not yet realised that there were two?
21393. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Yes, My Lord. (To the witness.) Will you take your memory back to the interview which took place in October, 1909? Do you remember how long that interview lasted?
- It lasted all day.
21394. (The Commissioner.) And were you talking about lifeboats all day?
- No, we were talking about two or three thousand things in the day.
21395. How long did you talk about lifeboats on that occasion?
- I could not say; I should think probably not more than five or ten minutes.
21396. Five or 10 minutes on each occasion?
21397. That is 10 or 20 minutes altogether?
We shall get it by degrees.
21398. (Mr. Scanlan.) Now was it on that occasion that you remember Mr. Ismay and Mr. Sanderson being present?
21399. Was it on that occasion that you submitted the plans for the davits?
21400. Was it on that occasion that Mr. Ismay said something, but Mr. Sanderson did not?
In those interviews we generally arranged that only two should talk so as not to lose time, and generally, if Lord Pirrie was present, he did the talking on the one side and Mr. Ismay on the other.