British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 20

Testimony of Edward Wilding, recalled

Examined by Mr. SCANLAN.

20749. Did you see the plans prepared for the "Titanic" boats?
- Some of them.

20750. You personally, I take it, had nothing to do with the preparation of those plans?
- Not directly; no; they were made in the drawing office.

20751. You had nothing to do with it yourself?
- Not personally. Some of the information in connection with the boats had a bearing on the design, and I was consulted about that.

20752. Who was the manager, or who was responsible for the preparation of the plans in Messrs. Harland and Wolff's yard?
- Of which plans?

20753. For the boats; I am confining myself entirely to the lifeboats?
- They are made in the drawing office, in the principal shipyard drawing office, under the direction of whoever is taking charge of that work.

20754. Would it be done under the direction of Mr. Carlisle?
- If Mr. Carlisle chose to interest himself in it, yes.

20755. Were those plans to your knowledge submitted to the White Star Line?
- Some plans, I believe, were submitted to the White Star Line.

20756. You have stated that you saw some of the plans, not all of them, for the lifeboats?
- I saw some of them prepared. I think I have seen all the plans.

20757. I want to ask you if the plans, which you saw, provided for two or more lifeboats for each set of davits?
- I saw plans prepared for discussion amongst ourselves which did show two boats under each pair of davits.

20758. Did you see any plans showing three boats?
- I think there was a plan submitted to us by Welin showing three boats. I do not think we made any plan ourselves.

20759. You do not know whether any plan was prepared by yourselves for three boats?
- I do not remember; I do not think there was; I think only two.

20760. Would those plans in the ordinary course be submitted to the White Star people?
- Not of necessity.

20761. So far as your knowledge goes, you cannot say whether or not?
- We, of course, have been making a search in all our records, and as far as I can ascertain they were not.

20762. As to your own knowledge you cannot say?
- Of course, I was not at all the meetings with the White Star Line.

20763. If lifeboats to the extent necessary to provide for everyone on board have got to be provided for vessels like the "Titanic," what do you say as to the suitability of having such an arrangement as is indicated in that plan, that is working three boats on each set of davits?
- Pardon me, I did not quite take your question.

20764. You say you saw a plan for two?
- Yes.

20765. And you think there was a plan showing three boats to be worked from each set of davits?
- Supplied to us by the davit patentee.

20766. Would that be a suitable arrangement if the number of lifeboats were to be considerably increased?
- Broadly speaking, yes.

20767. (The Commissioner.) Before you answer that question, tell me whether you have considered the matter?
- In general terms, yes, My Lord.

20768. Very well, then you are able to express an opinion?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
Then answer the question.

20769. (Mr. Scanlan.) Just give my Lord your opinion then with regard to that?
- It is possible to carry three boats in the manner that was indicated to us on the sketch prepared by Mr. Welin. Whether it is altogether a desirable arrangement or not, is the question we were discussing amongst ourselves at Belfast.

20770. (The Commissioner.) What conclusion did you arrive at, if any?
- As far as my memory serves me, the conclusion we arrived at was that it was not one which we cared to recommend to the owners.

20771. Why not?
- In our opinion, the number of boats was sufficient for the purposes for which they were most likely to be wanted.

20772. (Mr. Scanlan.) As some consideration was given by builders to the provision of additional boats and to the plan, I want to know why you did not give the owners, that is the White Star people, the benefit of your consideration and give them an opportunity of deciding?
- A great many matters of technical detail are left by the owners, the White Star Line, to us as their experts for decision.

20773. Have you considered whether it is practicable to carry lifeboats on the poop?
- Yes; it is practicable to carry them there.

20774. Have you provided lifeboats on the poops of some ships made at Messrs. Harland and Wolff's?
- Yes, I believe we have, for foreign owners.

20775. On these Welin davits?
- No.

20776. (The Commissioner.) I should like to ask you with reference to that last question. Can you give me the name of a foreign ship for which you provided lifeboats to be placed upon the poop?
- In the "Amerika," I believe it was, for the Hamburg-Amerika Line.

20777. Did you ever build steamers for the Hamburg-Amerika Line?
- Yes, a number.

20778. Did you build the "Amerika"?
- We did.

20779. You can tell me something about that. Can you tell me what the size of the "Amerika" was, the tonnage?
- I am quoting from memory, but I think it was 670 feet by 74 feet, and about 23,000 tons measurement.

20780. 23,000 tons?
- About that.

20781. She was then a smaller boat than the "Titanic"?
- About half the size.

20782. Can you give me any idea how many passengers and crew that boat was designed to carry?
- I could give the figures, but I do not recollect them; I could readily get them.

20783. You would assist me if you will get those figures?
- Very well, My Lord, I will arrange to have them here.

20784. Perhaps you can answer this question without those figures. What proportion did the lifeboat accommodation bear to the number to be carried in the ship, passengers and crew?
- I would like to get the correct figures, but my impression is that the "Amerika" could carry about the same total number of passengers, or rather more than the "Titanic" could carry, and that she had somewhere about the same total capacity in lifeboats.

20785. Do you mean to say then that the accommodation on the "Amerika" was much more confined than it was on the "Titanic"?
- It was.

20786. Although she was only about half the size of the "Titanic," she was designed, you think, to carry about the same number of passengers?
- The two ships were designed to carry about the same total of passengers.

20787. That is to say, the "Amerika," being about half the size of the "Titanic," was designed to carry the same number of passengers as the "Titanic"?
- She was a much earlier design.

20788. I daresay she was, but that involves, it seems to me, putting the passengers in the "Amerika" much closer together than you would have them in the "Titanic"?
- It does my Lord. Perhaps I may explain that the number in the "Amerika" was largely made up of third class passengers, who take less space than the first class.

20789. Yes, I am sure they do not get as much accommodation as the first class passengers; but it comes to that, that the "Amerika," being half the size, carried about the same number of passengers and crew?
- Yes.

20790. Or passengers, at all events?
- Yes; I have the figures, My Lord.

20791. Wait a moment. And that the boat accommodation was substantially the same?
- Broadly speaking, yes.

20792. You will get me the particular figures?
- Yes.

20793. I have no doubt you can do that. Were there lifeboats on the "Amerika," carried on the poop?
- My memory says that they were; I will verify that.

20794. The "Amerika," of course, sails under the German flag?
- She does, My Lord.

20795. Have you taken any pains to ascertain what the requirements of the German law as to lifeboats are?
- In general terms, My Lord, they are very similar to the British.

20796. "Very similar" does not quite satisfy me?
- I do not think the difference exceeds about 10 percent, or something of that sort.

20797. You mean to say the German requirements are 10 percent in excess?
- For the very large ships; that is my impression. They are in excess, but not very much in excess.

20798. Can you tell me this? I shall no doubt get it later on, but I want now the information from you, if you can give it to me. Can you tell me whether there are specific requirements in Germany as to lifeboat accommodation in ships ranging, we will say, from 10,000 to 40,000 tons?
- There are.

20799. In that respect the requirements differ from the requirements of the Board of Trade?
- The British requirements say all above 10,000 tons. They class them all; they do not separate them.

20800. There are no specific requirements for steamers above 10,000 tons under the Board of Trade Rules?
- Well, they are specific; they say they will only require the same as for ships of 10,000 tons.

20801. That is what I mean by not being specific. They say that a certain number of boats shall be provided for steamers of 10,000 tons, and then they say for all steamers above that it will be sufficient if the same number is carried?
- That is the British Board of Trade.

20802. What I want to know is, whether the German requirements proceed step by step as the tonnage increases from 10,000 tons, and specify what boat accommodation is to be provided?
- Yes, My Lord, they do. I do not remember the details of the steps, but there are steps.

20803. I daresay you do not remember at what point the German requirements stop?
- I might be able to find out now. I think the Germans go up to 50,000 tons.

20804. What was the tonnage of the "Imperator"?
- That is just about the tonnage of the "Imperator."

20805. Then, if they intend to build ships bigger than the "Imperator," and continue the policy which dictated the drawing up of those Rules, they will have to extend them. I suppose that is so. It follows?
- My impression of the German Rules is that they would automatically extend them for a larger ship.

20806. But there is no provision in the requirements as at present drawn up for what one may call an automatic increase?
- The words as far as I can follow them are these: It says for 50,000 and upwards a proportionately larger number.

20807. Have you the information there?
- It was a privately printed copy from some of them.

20808. Will you show it to me?
- Certainly, My Lord. (Handing the same to the Commissioner.)

Sir Robert Finlay:
I am told by Mr. Furniss that he had the German and French regulations on this subject, and has handed them to the Board of Trade.

Yes.

The Commissioner:
You have got them?

Sir Robert Finlay:
We have handed them to the Board of Trade, and they have them.

The Commissioner:
Then I will not pursue this.

We have all the various regulations, My Lord.

The Witness:
There is one point which I think will interest you, My Lord, before we pass from that. There are other German ships which we have built which are still smaller.

20809-10. (The Commissioner.) You did not build the "Imperator"?
- No, she was built by the Vulkan Company, of Stettin, at their Hamburg yard; but we have built some other ships under the German flag which carry an even larger number of passengers than either the "Titanic" or the "Amerika," and I have particulars here. I got them because they are the ships which carry the largest number of passengers of any ships which have ever been built, and I have particulars here of their boat accommodation.

20811. And what do you find?
- I find that the proportion of the total accommodation in the boats provided to the total number of souls on board is much about the same as in the "Titanic." In one ship, the "President Lincoln," the number of souls on board in our records is shown to be 4,108, and the boat accommodation provides for 1,465 people.

20812. Did you build that boat?
- We did, My Lord.

20813. Is she sailing still?
- She is, My Lord.

20814. And under the German flag?
- Yes.

Examined by Mr. HARBINSON.

20815. All these huge steamers which you have mentioned in your evidence to my Lord were built on the theory that you built the "Olympic" and the "Titanic" on as regards unsinkability?
- Yes, I may say that for the very large German ships, the equivalent of our Board of Trade, the "Seeberuffsgenossenschaft," make it a requirement that a ship shall float with any two compartments flooded.

20816. Therefore, it was on the basis of unsinkability that this number of lifeboats was provided?
- Pardon me; "unsinkability" does not describe the thing quite rightly. It is that ships shall remain afloat with any two compartments flooded.

20817. I will say, on the theory of flotability, two compartments being submerged?
- Quite right.

20818. It was on this basis that the number of boats were apportioned?
- Quite right.

20819. But that now that theory, being more or less destroyed -

The Commissioner:
What theory?

Mr. Harbinson:
The theory of flotability with two compartments submerged.

The Commissioner:
I do not know that it has been destroyed at all.

The Witness:
The theory or statement is still correct that the ship would float with any two compartments flooded.

20820-1. In your view, if only two compartments of the "Titanic" had been full of water, would she have floated?
- She would undoubtedly, and if any three compartments at the forward part had been flooded.

20822. Then I do not see that the theory has been misplaced?
- Not at all, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Four or perhaps more of the compartments were flooded in this case?

Sir Robert Finlay:
Two, and six partially.

Mr. Harbinson:
Is it not popularly supposed that these huge boats, with watertight compartments the same as you have put on the "Titanic," are regarded as unsinkable?

20823. (The Commissioner.) I do not know what "popularly supposed" means. What do you mean? Do you mean to say that an ignorant man in the street supposes it, or what do you mean?

Mr. Harbinson:
I mean the view held by the general public.

The Commissioner:
Who are the general public? I am not going to sit here to enquire into what the general public think.

Mr. Harbinson:
It was you who elicited the answer, My Lord. The point I am on is as regards unsinkability.

The Witness:
Flotability.

[There is no question 20824.]

Mr. Harbinson:
Yes, I think that is better - flotability. It now having been proved that these boats in times of danger will sink like other boats -

The Commissioner:
That has not been proved.

Mr. Harbinson:
My Lord, it has been proved that -

The Commissioner:
There are many other boats that have not got any watertight bulkheads at all.

Mr. Harbinson:
I do not think any of the first class liners -

The Commissioner:
That may be, but you talked about "other boats."

20825. (Mr. Harbinson.) I think Mr. Wilding pretty well understands what I mean. (To the witness.) That being so, did you not consider it desirable that lifeboat accommodation should be provided for all?
- No, I am of the same opinion as Mr. Sanderson, which he put very well in his evidence.

The Commissioner:
It is for this tribunal to express an opinion upon that point. You may ask him any facts which will guide us.

20826. (Mr. Harbinson.) That is what I am going to do. (To the witness.) Do you know whether or not, during the construction of the "Olympic" and "Titanic" any conversation took place with Mr. Andrews regarding ample boating accommodation for all passengers and crew on these steamers?
- As far as my memory serves me there was no proposal made that boats should be fitted, or even a plan prepared showing accommodation for everyone on board.

20827. (The Commissioner.) Can you tell me this: Was there at the time the "Titanic" was built any liner in existence that you know of that had boat accommodation for everybody on board, and, if so, what is the name?
- Some liners of moderate size, My Lord.

20828. Do you mean the P. and O. boats?
- And the Royal Mail boats.

20829. When you say the Royal Mail, you mean the company?
- The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company's boats.

20830. They stand in an exceptional class. I mean liners on this trade between this country and america. Do you know of any liner carrying immigrants to America or emigrants from this country to America that had lifeboat accommodation for every passenger and member of the crew intended to be carried?
- I believe there is no boat which -

20831. Will you answer the question?
- I am trying to, My Lord.

20832. You can say yes or no, and then I will ask you another question. Do you know of any such boat?
- No.

20833. Then I do not want to ask you any other question?
- Your Lordship's question was not quite clear.

20834. Do try to answer the questions simply, and then we will get on possibly?
- Quite, My Lord, but your Lordship said ships which would carry boats for everyone on board.

20835. Ships which did in fact carry such boats at the time of the "Titanic" disaster?
- Boats do not always carry their full complement.

20836. I am asking you about boats calculated to carry all the persons that a steamer may carry?
- To that, My Lord, My answer is quite right. There was no such ship; I can say that emphatically.

20837. (Mr. Harbinson.) You have not built any in your yard to do so - Messrs. Harland and Wolff?
- No, nor do I know any built by any other company.

Mr. Harbinson:
I do not wish to suggest particular lines at present. I shall be able to give evidence presently.

The Commissioner:
Do you suggest them?

20838. (Mr. Harbinson.) Then I will suggest a line which does. I suggest the allan Line carries boats for all?
- It does now.

20839. And they did?
- I am not sure.

The Commissioner:
Give us the name of the steamer.

Mr. Harbinson:
I respectfully decline until the proper time comes, and then I will produce evidence.

The Commissioner:
You are, in fact, cross -examining this Witness. I do not think you ought to do it, but you are doing it, and if you are going to adduce later on particular cases of particular ships it is your duty to put the cases to him now. That is your duty.

Mr. Harbinson:
I have put the questions to him, My Lord, of course, always subject to what your Lordship says -

The Commissioner:
When the time comes I may object to your adducing any evidence with reference to particular boats. It is not right of you to keep the information up your sleeve.

Mr. Harbinson:
If your Lordship thinks so, I shall be obliged to bow to your decision.

The Commissioner:
Yes. Now put the cases to him.

20840. (Mr. Harbinson.) For the present I do not propose to put any further questions on that subject (To the witness.) Will you tell me what is the thickness of the outer skin of these ships, the "Olympic" and the "Titanic"?
- Whereabouts?

20841. The outer skin?
- One inch.

And, therefore, liable to give at very slight pressure?

The Commissioner:
Really, that question is of no use to me. Do you really say likely to give at very slight pressure?

Mr. Harbinson:
Relatively, yes.

The Commissioner:
What is the pressure?

Mr. Harbinson:
I am putting a concrete question.

The Commissioner:
Tell me the pressure. "Very slight pressure" conveys nothing to me.

Mr. Harbinson:
My information is that at the launch of the "Olympic," the sister ship of the "Titanic," built on the same principle, when the boat was being launched from the dry dock, a gale of wind, not strong, blew it against the side of the buttress, and the side of the ship crumpled up like tinder.

20842. (The Commissioner.) That is very good. Now let us stop. (To the witness.) Did the side of the "Olympic" ever crumple up like tinder?
- It did not crumple up like tinder.

20843. Do you know what crumpling up like tinder is? I do not. Put your own interpretation upon it, whatever it may be, and tell me, did you ever know of the side of the "Olympic" crumpling up like tinder?
- I never knew of it, My Lord.

20844. Did you ever hear of it?
- Not like tinder, My Lord.

Mr. Harbinson:
Did you know of it crumpling up at the launch?

The Commissioner:
Now we will strike out the tinder.

20845. (Mr. Harbinson.) That is an illustration; it may be too graphic. (To the witness.) I will ask you now, did it crumple up?
- No, it did not crumple up.

20846. Did it give?
- It was slightly dented.

Mr. Harbinson:
I thought so.

The Commissioner:
If you thought it was slightly dented, why did you translate "slightly dented" into "crumpling up like tinder"?

Mr. Harbinson:
That is Mr. Wilding's description

The Commissioner:
But you told us you thought so.

Mr. Harbinson:
That is his euphemistic way of describing what I have previously suggested.

20847. (The Commissioner.) It gave under pressure?
- Under pretty big pressure.

20848. (Mr. Harbinson.) Did not that suggest to you that this thin skin would give when subjected to pressure?
- It depends upon the amount of the pressure.

20849. And would not that have suggested to you as builders the desirability of having a second skin in these boats up to the waterline?
- I do not see it follows in any way. We do not build ships to bang into stone walls or come into collision.

20850. But you build them to avert a catastrophe, if possible?
- Reasonable precautions against it.

20851. That did not suggest to you the desirability of having a second skin?
- Certainly not. I believe the denting was so slight -

The Commissioner:
Will you answer the questions, and do not dilate upon them.

20852. (Mr. Harbinson.) Do you think it would be possible to install in these boats some kind of mechanism for giving a general alarm in cases of supreme danger?
- It is quite possible to install such a mechanism.

20853. Was that mechanism installed in the cases of the "Olympic" and the "Titanic"?
- No, and it would be most unwise to put it there.

20854. (The Commissioner.) Have you ever known of such an installation in other boats?
- I do not remember one, My Lord.

20855. (Mr. Harbinson.) In answer to a question of mine, Question 19519: "Would it not be possible, in consequence of what you have just said, to place a number of boats for third class women somewhere about the well deck?" Mr. Sanderson said: "It would be a very inconvenient place to carry a boat, and almost an impossible place to launch a boat from, because of the overhang." Do you agree that it would be an inconvenient place to carry boats?
- It would, very.

20856. That is an inconvenient place to carry boats to swing out. Would it be an inconvenient place to carry collapsible boats?
- Yes.

20857. Why?
- Because the deck is part of the accommodation clear deck space which we are required by law to provide for third class passengers.

20858. I suggest it would be possible to provide it further forward?
- But you were asking a moment ago about the well.

20859. Yes, but I mean at the afterpart of the ship?
- Certainly.

20860. Would it be possible to carry boats, if not open boats, collapsible boats and rafts?
- Quite; there are a large number on the boat deck of the "Olympic" now.

20861. Mr. Sanderson expressed the opinion with reference to the third class passengers at Question 19517, "I think that the position in which the boats are placed on the ship necessarily being the position which is the best for launching them, happens to be abreast of that portion of the ship in which the first- and second class passengers are carried, and, therefore, when the call for women and children came the women and children who were handiest came to the boats first, and that is the reason." He means for the large number who were drowned. Do not you think it would be desirable to make provision for third class passengers by providing boats of some kind at the aft of the ship?
- That was one thing in Mr. Sanderson's evidence that I did not altogether agree with.

20862. You do not agree with it?
- No.

20863. Do you agree with my suggestion?
- On the whole, no.

20864. Have you any suggestion to offer of your own?
- If additional boats are to be carried I would much prefer to have them on the boat deck.

20865. You see what Mr. Sanderson says, that being so far from the third class quarters they did not find their way there?
- We have had evidence that they did find their way there.

20866. But we have evidence that there were more third class women, a greater percentage of third class than other classes, drowned?
- I agree, but I do not think that was due to any lack of ability to reach the boat deck.

20867. You have a theory of your own?
- A very general theory; it is not one that Mr. Sanderson's evidence covers.

20868. Are not the "Olympic" and the "Titanic" and all these big steamers built in such a way that the third class passengers are shut off from the quarters of the second and first class during the voyage?
- They are not allowed to wander through the second and first class accommodation.

Continued >