British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 20

Testimony of Leonard Peskett, cont.

The Commissioner:
Then this does comply with it?

Sir Robert Finlay:
"Above the top of the watertight bulkhead and from a position almost directly above the door. To facilitate the quick closing of the doors from deck, plates were affixed in suitable positions on the sides of the alleyways indicating positions of the deck plates, and a box spanner was provided for each door, hanging in suitable clips alongside the deck plate."

The Commissioner:
That is sufficient.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Your Lordship sees it results as to closing them from the bridge that the only method was by the electric switch.

21128a. (The Commissioner.) I will read this to the witness. Just listen, Mr. Peskett: "Each of the 'tween deck doors and each of the vertical doors on tank top level could be operated by the ordinary hand gear from the deck above the top of the watertight bulkhead, and from a position almost directly above the door." Would that be the hand gear to which you refer?
- That is so, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Very well, we need not go any further into it. Apparently the "Titanic" was furnished with machinery of the kind required by the Board of Trade.

Mr. Laing:
If I may just complete this, I think I have found the passage the witness refers to in the Board of Trade Regulations. It does not really appear in the Board of Trade Regulations, but it appears in the report of the bulkhead Committee, which Mr. Wilding said was treated as being the official Board of Trade requirements, and it says this: "A watertight door may be self-acting, or otherwise should be workable from above the bulkhead deck." [Cd. 6405, 1891.] That is the point this gentleman was on.

The Commissioner:
That is synonymous with the upper deck.

21129. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) There are 69 watertight doors on the "Mauretania"?
- That is the number.

21130. Are 10 of those above the waterline on the main deck, one on the lower deck?
- That is so.

21131. Are those on the main deck all closed by hand?
- Yes, they are hinged doors.

21132. And only by hand?
- Only by hand.

21133. That leaves 58 other doors?
- Yes.

21134. And 36 of those 58 are closed either by hand or by the Stone-Lloyd hydraulic system?
- Yes.

21135. There is one -question I want to ask you about the Stone-Lloyd system, because I am not sure it was made clear before lunch. I think you said if the hydraulic doors were closed from the bridge, it was impossible to open them locally?
- It is impossible to keep them open locally, is what I meant to say.

21136. Supposing they had been closed from the bridge, would it, or would it not, be possible for a person down below to open them on the spot?
- Yes, but not to keep them open. If a man was inside a compartment he could open the door and get out, and the door would immediately close again all the time the pressure is on from the bridge.

21137. You mean in order to keep it open he would have to hold on to the lever or handle?
- Yes.

21138. And as soon as he let go, the thing would close automatically?
- Yes.

21139. With regard to the question of having watertight decks, first of all watertight decks of a comparatively low level in a ship, and secondly on a higher level, what do you say as to the advantages or disadvantages of having a watertight lid or roof at some fairly low point in the vessel?
- The advantages of a watertight deck in the lower position would be that if damage occurred below the waterline it would confine the water to that place; and if above the waterline you could tip the ship, and allow the water to go in aft, and so get at the damage in that way.

21140. (The Commissioner.) It seems to be a sort of homeopathic cure. You cure one misfortune by creating another?
- Not exactly, My Lord.

21141. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) It has been suggested that there would be a danger of the ship capsizing if the water got in above the level of the watertight deck?
- That would depend entirely upon the subdivision.

Do you think there could be a system of subdivision which would enable such a watertight deck to be of use?

The Commissioner:
Are there any watertight decks here, Mr. Asquith?

Mr. Raymond Asquith:
Well, My Lord, there are in a way. The three after compartments, your Lordship will remember, are covered over by a watertight deck.

The Commissioner:
That is in the afterpart of the ship.

21142-3. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) Yes, and similarly in the forward part of the ship, I think. (To the witness.) Have you yourself ever considered the advisability, in constructing ships that you have built of having a continuous watertight deck?
- Yes.

21144. What conclusion have you come to?
- The conclusion we have come to is we are doing so on the ships we are building now.

21145. (The Commissioner.) But there was not such a thing on the "Mauretania"?
- Not a continuous watertight deck. There is only one hold there forward which has not got a watertight deck.

21146. That is above No. 2 hold?
- That is above No. 2 hold. Of course, the deck of itself is of sufficient strength and watertight, with the exception that water would come up the hatchway there.

21147. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) When you say a "continuous watertight deck," I suppose there would have to be some interruption over the engine room?
- The casings there would have to be made watertight - the casings round the hatchway.

21148. (The Commissioner.) Then you would have all the engineers in a watertight box?
- They would be able to come up on deck in watertight hatchways, yes, on the top deck; that is quite an easy matter.

21149. Is it? Is it usual to have the engine space sealed at the top of the watertight deck?
- No; you would take that right to the top deck watertight - the hatchway itself.

21150. You have not got it on the "Mauretania" or the "Lusitania"?
- They are watertight in that way, that there is no position in which any two compartments being flooded could bring the bulkhead sufficiently low so as to let the water come over the top; and the engineers' entrance to the engine room is on the weather deck.

21151. Which do you call the weather deck?
- The entrance to the engine room of the "Mauretania" and "Lusitania" is on the C deck.

21152. Looking at this plan, it does not appear now that the main engine rooms have any watertight seal - by sealing I mean above the E deck - what I call the E deck, which is on your plans called the lower deck?
- The transverse bulkheads are shown watertight there, and the deck with passes at the side is also shown watertight.

21153. But the E deck?
- The E deck is shown watertight, but the decks themselves are watertight into the hatchways. The hatchways might also have been shown there to be watertight.

21154. They are shown. Is there any watertight seal above the engine room?
- Not above the engine room hatch; certainly not.

21155. If you had a continuous watertight deck you would have to have it watertight above the engine room, would you not?
- Not if it took it right to the top of the ship?
- Watertight casings.

21156. However, you say you are building such a ship now. Has she got a name yet?
- The "Aquitania".

21157. Does she take the place of some previous "Aquitania"?
- No, My Lord.

21158. Was there never an "Aquitania" before?
- Not in the Cunard Company; I have never heard the name before.

21159. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) What is the length of the continuous watertight deck on the "Aquitania": Would it extend to the level of what is called E deck on this "Mauretania" plan?
- It would be a little higher, of course, the construction is different.

21160. A little higher in relation to the general structure of the ship?
- Yes.

21161. And then, I understand, when that continuous deck gets to the engine room the transverse bulkhead abaft the engine room is carried right up to the top of the ship?
- The engine room does not extend the full width after you get in this ship above D deck. Then the openings are comparatively small above that, and those are usually made watertight.

21162. (The Commissioner.) Do you make the hatches in the deck watertight now?
- Up to the level of the top of the bulkheads.

21163. Are they watertight in the "Mauretania"?
- Yes, all the hatches and all the main deck for 400 feet amidships is watertight also.

21164. For instance, in No. 1 hold are the hatchways watertight?
- No. 1 hold in the "Lusitania" and "Mauretania"?

21165. Yes?
- The hatchway on the deck which is shown watertight is a watertight cover secured by screwed bolts and rubber between the hatchway and the cover.

21166. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) With regard to the last point, it has been said that there is great difficulty very often in keeping the place watertight when cargo has to be put into it and taken out of it constantly. Have you experienced that difficulty in the "Mauretania"?
- Not any difficulty in the "Mauretania," no.

I will go back for a moment to the new design on the "Aquitania."

The Commissioner:
Who was it suggested that it was difficult to keep the hatchways watertight by reason of having to open them?

Mr. Raymond Asquith: I understood Mr. Wilding suggested that.

21167. (The Commissioner.) Did you suggest that, Mr. Wilding?

Mr. Wilding: I suggested that it was difficult to keep the deck watertight because it is difficult to keep the hatch cover which covers the hole watertight when cargo is worked through.

21168. (The Commissioner.) When cargo is being worked?

Mr. Wilding: No, but when cargo is being worked through it. The hatchway flaps gets knocked about and abused, and it is very difficult to keep it watertight after that. We have had some experience with small covers of that sort.

21169. (The Commissioner - To the witness.) What do you say to that?
- The "Mauretania" and "Lusitania" carry nothing but very light parcels, and all mail boats are similar in that respect, so that there is practically no damage to the hatchway.

21170. Does that mean that if she were carrying heavy goods the difficulty which Mr. Wilding suggests might arise?
- It might arise with some construction, but I have known ships where there is no difficulty arising from that.

21171. Who is to decide between you and Mr. Wilding? Are you making any changes in your new ships in respect to watertight hatchways?
- The general details of the watertight hatches have not yet been worked out.

21172. But do you propose to make any change?
- No, I think not. It may be we may do it in a different way altogether.

21173. You are not considering any change?
- No, at present we are not considering any change.

21174. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) When were these ships built, the "Mauretania" and the "Lusitania"?
- They have been out about five years.

21175. They have been on trial for five years?
- They have been out about five years.

21176. You were telling us when I think I interrupted you with another question, that in your view the danger which has been spoken of, of capsizing owing to water getting in above the watertight deck, could be sufficiently met?
- I think so.

21177. Is that your view?
- That is my view, yes.

21178. And are you making arrangements in the "Aquitania" with that object?
- Yes.

21179. The arrangements I think you said were in the nature of a transverse subdivision?
- Transverse and longitudinal. Of course, the points are in favour of transverse subdivision just as much as they are in favour of these - that is, for ordinary ships; but for large ships I would advocate this, from the point of strength of construction, for docking, and for general protection.

21180. I am speaking now of the level above the watertight deck. Are there both transverse and longitudinal divisions in the new designs you speak of?
- Oh, yes.

21181. Above the level of the continuous watertight deck?
- Yes. I might also add that the new German ships are being built upon the same system.

21182. (The Commissioner.) Will you speak up. I do not hear you?
- The new German ships are also being built on the same system as the "Mauretania" and "Lusitania."

21183. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) Have you ever considered the other suggestion that there should be a continuous watertight deck higher up still in the ship?
- We have not considered that yet, no.

21184. Do you agree with Mr. Wilding's view that that would be commercially unworkable?
- Well, it would be difficult. To do that you would need to take the bulkheads right to the top and bring out every compartment separate to the top, and you could not work that very well with passengers.

21185. And I suppose you could not keep your passengers underneath, in fact you could not keep any of them underneath the continuous watertight deck?
- No, there would be practical difficulties.

21186. Therefore there would not be very much room to carry people?
- That is so.

Mr. Scanlan:
I do not know whether your Lordship would think it would be useful to ask this Witness with regard to the boats. That is the only point.

The Commissioner:
Are you asking me?

Mr. Scanlan:
Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Very well, then I should advise you not to ask him. I have heard nearly enough about boats I think.

Mr. Scanlan:
I agree, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Very well, I am delighted to hear that.

Examined by Sir ROBERT FINLAY.

21187. Did you design these vessels, the "Mauretania" and the "Lusitania"?
- I had a great deal to do with it. The design was spread over a large number, but I was responsible.

21188. You were in the office?
- Yes, I am the naval architect for the company.

21189. Very well. Now are there any other British ships afloat on the plan of the "Mauretania" and "Lusitania"?
- No, not that I am aware of other than warships.

21190. I am speaking, of course, of merchant vessels. Those are the only two of the type?
- The only two of the type, yes, that I am aware of.

The Commissioner:
I daresay you are going to ask him how that arises that those are the only two of the kind.

21191. (Sir Robert Finlay.) Yes. (To the witness.) Were the "Mauretania" and "Lusitania" built in order that they might be auxiliary cruisers in case of war?
- That is so.

21192. And that is how they came to be built of this type?
- No.

21193. Well, partly?
- Well, partly that; but the Admiralty did not press that that should be so.

21194. But still that was regarded as a recommendation?
- As a recommendation, yes; but they did not put it forward as an absolute law that it should be so.

21195. Surely if a vessel is to be used for the purposes of a war vessel it is a great advantage that she should have this protection at each side against shot and shell?
- That is so, yes.

21196. For a vessel that is to be a cruiser it is a very great advantage?
- Yes.

21197. Was not that one reason for adopting this plan?
- One of the reasons.

21198. Are there any foreign vessels afloat that you know of which are built like the "Mauretania" and "Lusitania"?
- None that I know of.

The Commissioner:
I did not hear that.

21199. (Sir Robert Finlay.) I asked him whether there were any foreign vessels - my first question was as to British vessels - and he says there are none afloat that he knows of?
- Other than the "Imperator," which was launched the other day.

21200. She is afloat in a sense, but she is not completed?
- Not completed, no.

The Commissioner:
Are the steamers of the Norddeutscher Lloyd and the Hamburg-Amerika built so that they may be utilised in time of war?

21201. (Sir Robert Finlay - To the witness.) What do you say to that?
- I could not answer that question, My Lord. I think their principal mail boats are built with that intention.

21202. Now with regard to counteracting the list which might arise from the longitudinal watertight compartments; you propose to do that by a system of counteracting flooding on the other side?
- That is so, yes.

21203. That is a rather ticklish operation, is it not?
- No.

Well, you say no in a doubtful sort of way.

21204. (The Commissioner.) You do; you say it in what I call a speculative tone of voice. Have you ever known it put in practice?
- I have never known it, no. I hope not.

The Commissioner:
Well, I hope not too.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I think that is all I need ask.

Mr. Laing:
May I put one or two questions?

The Commissioner:
Whom do you represent now?

Mr. Laing:
My Lord, at the moment I am representing Messrs. Harland and Wolff.

The Commissioner:
Oh, very well.

Examined by Mr. LAING.

21205. How many watertight doors have you on your tank top?
- I suppose you refer to the bulkhead doors immediately above the tank top?

21206. Yes, that is what I mean - 49, is it not?
- Not quite that; they are not all above the tank top. There are 48.

21207. How many out of those are automatic?
- Are closed by hydraulic pressure?

21208. Yes.
- Thirty-six.

21209. That does not agree with your colouring of red on the plan. However, I will not take up time. There are a large number, are there not, which have to be operated by hand only?
- Yes.

21210. About 22, My calculation was?
- Yes, 22.

21211. Were the "Mauretania" and the "Lusitania" built on the two-compartment system?
- Yes.

21212. They are designed to float with two compartments flooded?
- Yes.

21213. Just the same as the "Titanic"?
- Yes; they will float with more.

21214. It is a little misleading, My Lord, the deck arrangements are not quite the same on the "Mauretania" as they were in the "Titanic." I want to check it in this way. I think I am right. If you take your waterline, which is on that plan, is your No. 1 bulkhead four decks above the waterline?
- Four deck, yes.

21215. The "Titanic" is the same?
- I am not familiar with the "Titanic."

21216. I have been looking at it on the plan. And your No. 2 bulkhead; is that three decks above the waterline?
- Three decks above the waterline, yes.

21217. The "Titanic" is four. And the after ones until you came right aft, are they all three decks above the waterline?
- All three decks above the waterline, yes.

21218. The "Titanic" is the same. I think, My Lord, the result of that is that the C deck of the "Mauretania" is equivalent to the E deck of the "Titanic."

The Commissioner:
Is that quite clear; I am told there is a doubt about that.

Mr. Laing:
Until you get right aft, the watertight bulkheads in the "Titanic" come up to E deck. The two forward ones are higher.

The Commissioner:
The C deck in the "Mauretania" is higher above the waterline than the E deck in the "Titanic"?

Mr. Laing:
We say they are the same.

The Commissioner:
It is suggested to me that C deck is higher above the waterline in the "Mauretania."

Mr. Laing:
As far as decks go, counting the decks.

The Commissioner:
We are not counting the decks. I do not know whether the spaces between the decks are the same in the two boats?

21219. (Mr. Laing.) I do not know, My Lord.

The Witness:
May I suggest the heights be given above the base line when a comparison is to be made - the base line to the bottom of the keel. That is the only fair comparison; "decks" are not a fair comparison.

The Commissioner:
I should have thought the proper way to ascertain it was to ask what is the height above the waterline.

21220. (Mr. Laing.) I have been taking decks; I have not taken it in heights. (To the witness.) Do you know sufficient of the plan of the "Titanic" to know whether the heights between the decks are the same as on your ships?
- No, I have never measured.

The Commissioner:
We were told the heights were 8 feet, were we not? I am told they vary.

21221. (Mr. Laing.) Yes, My Lord.

The Witness:
The heights above the waterline are these: Taking the waterline to be 33 feet, the height of No. 1 bulkhead is 34 feet above the waterline, and taking the No. 2 bulkhead 23 feet above the waterline; the next ones, 22 feet, 20, 19, 17, 17, 17, 18, 19, 22.

21222. That is fore and aft?
- That is fore and aft, My Lord.

21223. (The Commissioner.) I want to ask you two or three questions. We know how the "Titanic" was built; it was designed by Harland and Wolff and built practically by them without any control by the White Star Company?
- Yes.

21224. But the "Lusitania" and the "Mauretania" were designed by the Cunard Company?
- That is so; principally by them.

21225. Principally by them, and the builders were directed by them to build according to their design?
- Yes, My Lord.

21226. Now were the plans for your two boats submitted in the ordinary way to the Board of Trade?
- They were submitted to Lloyd's and from Lloyd's I believe to the Board of Trade.

21227. They were submitted to Lloyd's?
- They were submitted to Lloyd's.

21228. And they were also submitted to the Board of Trade?
- Yes, I believe so.

21229. Were they also submitted to the Admiralty?
- They were done in conjunction with the Admiralty people.

21230. Very well. Then they were boats which were designed according to the desires or requirements of the Admiralty?
- Up to a certain extent, yes.

21231. Did that extent include these watertight bulkheads that you have talked about?
- The longitudinal bulkheads?

21232. Yes?
- No, My Lord.

21233. Did those requirements include the transverse bulkheads?
- The transverse bulkheads, yes.

21234. That is the peculiar feature of those two boats?
- Yes

21235. Let me understand. Which bulkheads was it the Admiralty stipulated for?
- The Admiralty did not stipulate for any bulkheads as long as it passed the bulkheads Committee's requirements with regard to two compartments.

21236. What Bulkheads Committee are you talking about?
- 1891.

21237. Yes; but I am talking about the Admiralty. What was it that the Admiralty required to be in this ship, in connection with bulkheads, which would not have been required by the Board of Trade by Lloyd's?
- I do not quite follow that.

21238. Well, were there any bulkheads, or was there any provision for bulkheads, in the "Mauretania" or the "Lusitania" which would not have been there if these boats had not been built for Admiralty purposes?
- No, My Lord, there were no such bulkheads. They would have been built just the same whether built for the Admiralty or not, only the plans were duplicated to the Admiralty and received their approval. A great many people have to do with it.

21239. What I want to know is this: Did you put in the design for watertight bunkers?
- That was in the original design before it was sent out at all - before the Admiralty was considered.

21240. When were you building these vessels with reference to the Admiralty at all?
- The connection with the Admiralty came on after the original designs were first prepared.

21241. Then am I to understand that the arrangements which you made with the Admiralty were not contemplated at the time these vessels were designed?
- In the original designs, no.

21242. And did the original designs include these side watertight compartments?
- The original designs contained them. The ships were not quite as big as they were afterwards decided to be, but the side bunkers were a part of the original design.

21243. When did you first introduce the side watertight bunkers?
- On the "Mauretania" and "Lusitania."

21244. Then they are only five years old?
- That is all.

21245. Before that you had no such things?
- No.

21246. And these two boats are, as I understand, the only two boats which have been subsidised by the Admiralty with the object of possibly utilising them as cruisers?
- That is so.

21247. Is it the fact that the Admiralty have control over any other of your ships?
- They have not so much control over the other ships as they have over these two.

21248. Just tell me what the nature of the arrangement between you and the Admiralty is?
- That, I think, is a question for the management to answer, My Lord.

21249. You are unable to answer it - I will not press you if you would rather not?
- I am not able.

21250. Have you made any calculations to show the effect of flooding compartments, either bunkers at the side or forward?
- Yes.

21251. You have made calculations?
- Yes, such calculations were made long before the ship was started.

21252. So I should have thought. Have you them here?
- No, I have not them here.

21253. Could you get them?
- They could be obtained; yes.

21254. Perhaps you will get them for us?
- Yes.

(The witness withdrew.)