British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 20

Testimony of Edward Wilding, cont.

20932. Another reference occurs in the evidence to the effect of moving the people across the deck with the view of correcting the list. I think Mr. Lightoller told us about that; have you made any experiment to see what effect moving a number of people would have?
- We have made an experiment to test the ship's stability, and from that it is possible to calculate the effect.

20933. I think you have made the calculation?
- Yes.

20934. Moving 800 people through 50 feet would right her 2 degrees?
- About 2 degrees.

20935. (The Commissioner.) That is to say, it is negligible?
- It would show quite perceptibly on the deck. You would think you were walking uphill on these very flat decks 2 degrees is about 1 in 28, and 1 in 28 on a road is quite an appreciable hill.

20936. (Mr. Laing.) There was a suggestion in one of the wireless messages said to have been sent out by the "Titanic" that the engine room was flooded?
- Yes.

20937. Do you think that is possible until a very late moment of the life of this vessel?
- Certainly not. The engine room being in the afterpart of the ship, as the forward end was flooded, would tend to be raised rather than lowered, and consequently there would be no tendency till a very late stage for water to get into the engine room.

20938. Is the term engine room often used for boiler spaces as well as the engine room?
- It is often loosely used for the whole space occupied by the motive power of the ship.

20939. I do not know that it is very material, but have you an explanation of the failure of the lights in Nos. 4 and 5 boiler rooms, which was described?
- The lights in all the boiler rooms are run on two circuits. There are two common circuits -

The Commissioner:
I do not think that is material.

20940. (Mr. Laing.) If your Lordship pleases. I only wanted to clear it up if your Lordship thought it was material. (To the witness.) With regard to the access from the third class accommodation both forward and aft, have you, for the sake of experiment, tried how long it would take to walk from the very lowest part of the third class accommodation on to the boat deck?
- I have.

20941. And what was the time - I mean at a walking pace?
- I went at a slow walking pace. On one occasion one of the assessors accompanied me; on one occasion one of the Board of Trade Counsel, and on one occasion the Counsel for the third class passengers. The times varied a little, but they were always between 3 and 3 1/2 minutes. That is right down from the lowest third class cabin that was occupied.

20942. Bringing your mind to the double bottom and the extension of it round the turn of the bilge, is that a usual thing or not, to extend round the turn of the bilge?
- Very few ships have it carried to the top of the bilge.

20943. Very few?
- Very few.

20943a. Again, referring to the longitudinal bulkhead question, and the number of watertight doors, how many watertight doors would there be on the tank top of the "Mauretania"? I believe it is 38, but I am not sure?
- I am not quite sure that my information is absolutely reliable, but I believe there were 47 doors on the tank top of the "Mauretania."

20944. Forty-seven?
- Yes.

20945. As against your 12?
- Against our 12.

20946. Again, with regard to the "Mauretania," she was, as I think is common knowledge, intended as an auxiliary cruiser?
- She was.

20947. Is the belting of coal put round her with the longitudinal bulkhead an Admiralty plan? Is that common in the Navy?
- The Admiralty adopted that plan in most warships, and it has always been put forward by the Admiralty as a thing they like to have in a vessel which they propose to subsidise at any time as a cruiser.

20948. I suppose they have to consider torpedoes, shot, and so on?
- Torpedoes and gun fire.

20949. There was one matter about the float. You know the float which operates all the watertight bulkheads?
- Yes.

Mr. Laing:
There was some little difficulty about explaining that, and Mr. Wilding has a very good photograph of it which I should like your Lordship to have.

The Commissioner:
The watertight door of the bulkhead?

20950. (Mr. Laing.) Yes; this is the picture. (Handing photograph to the Commissioner.) The engine room floor you will notice, your Lordship, is missing there; the plating has been taken off showing the box of the float underneath the plating. I believe when my friend, the Attorney-General, visited the "Olympic" a compartment was flooded for demonstration purposes to see whether it worked?
- Yes, the turbine engine room.

20951. Did it work?
- Yes.

20952. (The Commissioner.) Were you astonished?
- No, I expected it.

20953. (Mr. Laing.) Now I want to sum up, to see if I understand properly the flooding plan. If No. 6 boiler room and the compartments forward of it are flooded, am I right that the vessel, as she is designed, is lost - she must sink?
- If No. 6 boiler room and the three holds forward of it, and the forepeak are flooded, the ship is undoubtedly lost as built.

20954. If No. 5 boiler room is flooded in addition, supposing the bulkheads had been carried up to D, would that have saved her?
- It would not. There is a plan which I have put in which is marked E.

The Commissioner:
Will you repeat that question?

20955. (Mr. Laing.) If No. 5 boiler section is flooded carrying the bulkheads up to D would not save the vessel?
- No. There is another plan which shows it better than the one your Lordship has. Yes, that is the one. (Indicating.)

20956. And the last question is: With No. 4 section added on, no possible arrangement could save the ship?
- No possible vertical extension of the existing bulkheads.

Mr. Laing:
That is what I meant.

The Commissioner:
What is the evidence, Mr. Laing, as to the place from which the water came into No. 4 boiler room?

Mr. Laing:
I do not think there is any evidence as to where it came in. All the evidence is that it came up from under the floor.

The Commissioner:
Is it possible that it came over the top of the bulkhead between No. 4 boiler room and No. 5 boiler room?

Mr. Laing:
I do not think so - not on the evidence.

The Witness:
It would be visible coming down the bulkhead if it did. He would not get the impression it came up from below, but he would see it falling down.

20957. (Mr. Laing.) He would hear it probably too?
- He would hear it also. He would certainly see it, because it would be coming in like a sheet in front of him - like a waterfall.

Mr. Laing:
Mr. Wilding has added, My Lord, that not only would one have seen the water coming over, but would have heard it falling down, if it had come over the top of the bulkhead.

The Commissioner:
Thank you. The evidence on this point is very small.

Mr. Laing:
It is; there are about two men only, as far as I know, who speak to it. I read them to your Lordship on the last occasion.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I think your Lordship put this point to one of the witnesses within the last two or three days, I forget to which - I am looking for the passage. It is showing that there must have been some external lesion in this compartment.

The Commissioner:
What is suggested to me is that possibly there was no external lesion in this No. 4 boiler room. The evidence seems to point to the fact that there was an external lesion.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Yes; I think your Lordship put the point specifically. I will find the passage presently.

The Commissioner:
Very well.

20958. (Mr. Laing.) So far as the height of the watertight bulkhead is concerned upon the "Titanic," as designed, how does that comply with the Board of Trade requirements, as indicated by their Bulkhead Committee Report?
- The margin was about twice the margin suggested by the bulkhead Committee.

20959. The "Titanic" was twice the margin suggested?
- About twice.

20960. Is there any means by which you can compare Lloyd's Rules?
- Lloyd's make no requirements as to flotation at all.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I think it is at page 516. Your Lordship put it to Mr. Wilding on Friday last, at Question 20343. Shall I read it?

The Commissioner:

Sir Robert Finlay:
"I thought the evidence pointed," your Lordship says, "to water coming in as far aft as No. 5? - (A.) No, My Lord; you will find it in Dillon's evidence. (Mr. Rowlatt.) I think No. 5 is the furthest place aft where we have any evidence of a wound in the side of the ship, but water from some source not quite explained was rising in No. 4 also. (The Commissioner.) If the water was rising in No. 4, it must, if the watertight bulkhead between 4 and 5 was holding, have been through some external means? - (A.) Yes. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Only we have not direct evidence of it. (The Commissioner.) But if the evidence is to be believed, that water was rising in No. 4, it follows that No. 4 was externally injured, does it not? (Mr. Rowlatt.) Yes, My Lord. (The Attorney-General.) I do not know that. (To the witness.) Does it follow? - (A.) It follows, My Lord, because we know from the evidence that they were doing their best to pump out No. 4. If you remember, we have had evidence that they took pipes along," and so on. There is a good deal more of it.

The Commissioner:
The suggestion made now is that it is possible that the water came over the bulkhead separating No. 4 and No. 5 boiler rooms.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I do not think, speaking from memory, that is reconcilable with the evidence of Dillon and Cavell, who speak to its rising. They would have seen it coming over in a sort of cascade more or less violent.

20961. (Mr. Laing.) One last question about this matter of the welin Davit Company. Have you made a careful search through the correspondence and records of your company to find out whether any such suggested plan as my learned friend, Mr. Scanlan, suggests, was submitted by Messrs. Harland and Wolff to Ismay, Imrie and Company?
- Our secretarial department, which has charge of the letters, has made a most thorough search.

20962. With what result?
- We can find absolutely no evidence, either in letters, notes or plan, that any such plan was submitted to Messrs. Ismay. We often mark a plan which is submitted to the owners as approved or condemned, and the plan made bears no mark.

20963. With regard to the advisability of increasing the number of lifeboats on ships of this class, have messrs. Harland and Wolff formed any opinion whether it is better to increase the flotability or to increase the boats?
- We have a very strong opinion.

20964. What is the opinion that you have formed?
- We much prefer to increase the flotation after damage.

20965. (The Commissioner.) If you could secure absolute flotation, you would not require any boats at all?
- Except for collecting passengers from other ships.

20966. (Mr. Laing.) That is all I want, at all events - that your firm have formed that opinion and have expressed it to Messrs. Ismay?
- And have expressed it.

20967. A question has been asked you by some of my learned friends about the desirability of carrying lifeboats in the forward well and after-well, or on the poop. I think you have told us already that you do not think that is a good place to carry them?
- I do not.

20968. What are the reasons?
- Boats, whether in the forward or after-well, are in the way of parts of the vessel where it is a good deal narrower, where her form is changing considerably. If there is any seaway, boats in that position are very difficult to launch and are not unlikely to be capsized. To both ends that applies. In addition to that boats in the forward well or forward of it are very liable to get damaged in heavy weather in winter; and boats in the after-well, and on the poop even, if they reach the water safely and are released safely from their falls, and all that sort of thing, are very near the big propeller blades, and a slight send of the sea might easily let the boat down on the top of the blades and smash her up.

20969. This vessel, I think, was fitted with the morse system and with the submarine signalling apparatus?
- With Morse flashing lamps, one on each side of the bridge; and also the submarine signalling apparatus in the fore -hold.

20970. Have you anything you can tell us bearing on the question of the advisability of fitting searchlights on a ship?
- If you only want to look straight ahead of you, as, for example, in the suez Canal, a searchlight is a very useful thing; but if you want to be able to see all round, for over a considerable arc, whilst objects in the way of the searchlights are well lit, it is much more difficult with a searchlight going to see boats that are not directly in its beam than if it is not lit.

20971. Do you think that a searchlight carried on a vessel such as the "Titanic" is likely to interfere with her coloured lights being seen by any vessel approaching her?
- Undoubtedly. But of course if the searchlight is lit it would be a very conspicuous thing.

20972. Have you got a case in your mind where searchlights were tried on a steamer in the North Atlantic trade?
- Yes; I know one case which I remember very well.

20973. Were they kept on or removed?
- They were removed within twelve months.

20974. (The Commissioner.) Why?
- I never really heard why. I believe from my memory of the statement made - it is a good many years ago now - that they were removed because they were found to be useless; but I would not like to be quite sure upon that.

20975. What ship were they used on?
- The "City of Paris," as she then was, and the "City of New York."

20976. (Mr. Laing.) She is one of the American Liners?
- They are two ships of the American Line.

20977. (Sir Robert Finlay.) In the passage I was referring to, as bearing on the question of No. 4, at the bottom of the first column on page 517, there is a word, I think, Misprinted in the transcript. Perhaps Mr. Wilding will be able to correct it if it is wrong. It is in the answer to question 20347: "From a calculation, which I will refer to in a moment, I cannot believe that the wound was absolutely continuous the whole way. I believe that it was in a series of steps." My recollection is that he said "stabs."

The Witness:
I said steps.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I took it down as stabs, and I thought "steps" was a mistake; but what follows makes it quite clear that "stabs" is what is meant, because it goes on; "and that from what we heard Barrett say in his evidence it was the end of one of the series of wounds which flooded the different spaces; that before the ship finally cleared the iceberg, as the helm was put over, she would be tending to swing her side into the iceberg, and that a very light contact was made in No. 4"

The Commissioner:
That again points to an external injury in No. 4.

Examined by Mr. ROWLATT.

20978. You said to my learned friend, Mr. Laing, that your view was that increased flotation was more desirable than increased boat accommodation, with a view to saving life in these big ships?
- Yes.

20979. Do I understand that you propose to increase the flotation over the flotation that there was in the "Titanic"?
- I think it would be a very desirable thing to do.

20980. Have you in mind how you propose to do it?
- That is a matter that can hardly be answered offhand. It will have to be looked into, certainly.

20981-2. You are not prepared to say whether you will carry the bulkheads higher?
- No.

The Commissioner:
I understand the witness to say that, having regard to the circumstances of this case, he thinks that the object now ought to be, not to increase the lifeboats, but to increase the flotability.

Mr. Rowlatt:
Yes, Merely generally.

The Witness:
Quite so.

The Commissioner:
That is all, and it is quite obvious - speaking, of course, without consideration with the gentlemen with me - that if you can secure flotability - undoubtedly flotability - you do not want lifeboats, except, as Mr. Laing suggested, for the service of other ships which are not in your fortunate position.

20983. (Mr. Rowlatt.) We only wanted to know if he had anything definite in his mind. (To the witness.) With regard to searchlights, I quite follow all you say about the disadvantages of searchlights. What do you say to this: Supposing a ship had a searchlight for use only when such a danger as ice was expected?
- As I pointed out, the searchlight is only useful in one direction, and the question of whether you would run risks, for example, of derelicts, or anything of that sort, which the searchlight would not show up so well as it would an iceberg. Of course, a white iceberg would reflect any light from a searchlight falling on it exceedingly well.

20984. Do you say a searchlight would prevent your seeing a derelict which you otherwise would have seen?
- I am afraid it would not assist you.

20985. It would not hide it, would it?
- No - well, I do not know. I do not think it would.

20986. (The Commissioner.) Let me understand that. Do you mean to say that if a searchlight were directed on to a derelict, the searchlight would make the presence of the derelict plainer than it would otherwise be?
- A derelict in the North Atlantic is floating pretty well in the water.

20987. I suppose it is?
- And the amount of light it would be likely to catch would merely make it be mistaken for another wave crest, rather than a distinct and definite object. It would be something that just caught a flash of light as it rose and fell on the waves.

20988. (Mr. Rowlatt.) Would it be harder to see?
- After all, that is really a question for a seaman.

20989. I understand that vessels that go through the suez Canal are bound to have searchlights for use when they get there?
- Yes, they are bound to have searchlights. It is usual to fit a vessel going through the Canal with a portable searchlight.

The Commissioner:
What is the object of that? Why is it confined to the suez Canal? I am told it is to pick the buoys up. I follow it now.

Mr. Roche:
As a matter of indulgence, My Lord, Might I have one answer from the witness with regard to a plan?

The Commissioner:

20990. (Mr. Roche - To the witness.) I had not an opportunity of following at close range your various plans, and it was a little difficult to do so, but I have had prepared by my clients, who are engineers, a little plan of the section given in the "Shipbuilder." Perhaps you can tell me whether that corresponds, broadly speaking, with your results. (Handing a plan to the witness.) The bottom line is the draught of the ship as taken from your model?
- Yes.

20991. The raised line is the line at the moment of sinking, and the result of that is that the water had not got into the engine room at the moment of sinking?
- Pardon me; you say at the moment of sinking. There is still a good deal of the ship above water. But that condition approximately corresponds with the condition which is on the plan I put before his Lordship, which is called "Flooding by compartments," and which was indicated by a black line after No. 5 boiler room was flooded.

20992. Our results do approximately agree?
- In general terms.

20993. That, I think, agrees, if you verify it, in another way, approximately with Mr. Lightoller's evidence that the bridge was awash practically at the last moment?
- No, not at the last moment. The ship would float for some time - I think for ten minutes or a quarter of an hour after that - before the stern disappeared.

20994-5. (The Commissioner.) There are two or three questions I want to ask you. Can you give us the capacities of the peak tanks and of the ballast tanks?
- Does your Lordship want the gross capacity or the capacity of each individual tank?

20996. The capacities of the peak tanks and of the ballast tanks. Can you give me the gross capacities of all the ballast tanks put together?
- The total water ballast which could be carried in the ship was 5,754 tons.

20997. That is the ballast?
- The water ballast, and that would include the tanks in the double bottom usually used for fresh water, which could be used for water ballast, if required.

20998. But it does not include the peak tanks?
- It includes the peak tanks.

20999. Now can you give me the capacity of each of the peak tanks?
- The forepeak tank, 190 tons, and the aft peak tank, 115 tons.

21000. Have you formed any view as to the desirability of making the decks watertight?
- Like the construction of the "Mauretania," there are points both for and against it. In this particular case there is no question that a watertight deck about or a little below the level of the waterline forward might have saved the vessel. Forms of accident that are just as likely to happen as this one might result in the space of such a watertight deck being flooded, and that would almost inevitably lead to an immediate capsize.

21001. Then, on the one hand, it might be desirable, and, on the other hand, it might be fatal?
- Quite right.

21002. Taking into consideration the pros and the cons, what do you say? Is it desirable to make the decks watertight at the top of the watertight compartments. The compartments are only watertight up to a certain height?
- Certainly.

21003. They are not watertight at the top?
- Certainly not.

21004. So that if the water fills the watertight compartment and the water still comes in, it overflows and gets into other parts of the ship?
- It does.

21005. Taking into consideration the advantages and disadvantages, I would like your opinion as to the wisdom of sealing the watertight compartments by making the decks themselves watertight?
- That is not quite the question that I was answering before, because I had in mind the deck lower down.

21006. I intended it to be the same.
- I was referring to a deck lower down near the level of the waterline. You are mentioning a deck on the level of the top of the bulkheads.

21007. I am. Will you put aside the question I last asked you, and take my question in the sense in which you first understood it; that is to say, is it desirable that some of the decks should be made watertight so as to divide the watertight compartments - the compartment that is made watertight by the perpendicular bulkheads - laterally by watertight decks?
- Your Lordship will remember I pointed out that there was one disadvantage that might sometimes prove fatal.

21008. Yes, which would cause the ship to capsize?
- Certain forms of accident might cause the ship to capsize, as happened in the case of H.M.S. "Victoria" some years ago off the Coast of Syria.

21009. Then, do you think that it is not desirable to have watertight decks?
- I would rather obtain safety if possible in some other way. It is a thing which depends so much on the circumstances of the whole design as put to you, that it is difficult to give a quite general answer.

21010. Did you ever consider the question with reference to the "Titanic"?
- Never; and I would much prefer in a "Titanic" ship not to do it.

21011. You would? Can you give me generally your reasons - I do not want particulars - but generally what are your reasons. Is the danger of capsizing the main reason?
- That is the main reason, and also the difficulty of securing satisfactory watertightness in a deck through which cargo has, in the normal course, to be worked.

21012. Now, will you answer my question as I understand it originally: Would there be any advantage or disadvantage in making the deck which is at the top of the watertight compartments watertight?
- There are two points that your Lordship's attention should be drawn to in that. First of all, it is necessary to have large holes cut in the way of the boiler room and engine room to let the exhaust gases come away from the boilers and also to provide ventilation. Those holes are big holes; you cannot make the deck completely watertight; and then you would have to considerably extend vertically the casings surrounding those and make those casings watertight.

21013. Make them like funnels?
- Make them like watertight funnels. In addition to that there is the question which applied to the lower decks, that a hatch through which cargo has normally to be worked is not an easy matter to keep satisfactorily watertight; and there is a further consideration - a purely commercial one - that if this deck is made watertight and is at such a height above the waterline as to secure flotation with any two compartments flooded, it renders valueless either for passengers or crew a very large proportion of the total bulk of the ship on which her earning power depends.

21014. I suppose it is right to say that the moment a ship ceases to be commercially useful she ceases to be a sea-going vessel at all?
- Her type ceases to be built altogether.

21015. If vessels are made by different devices so secure that they cease to be commercially valuable, they cease to go to sea at all?
- They do.

21016. Can you tell me what would be the disadvantages, from the point of view of working the ship, of carrying up the transverse bulkheads to C deck?
- The most serious disadvantage in carrying the bulkheads up to C deck would be the difficulty of providing the necessary exits required by the Board of Trade from the third class dining rooms and similar places, and also from the crew's quarters, which are along "Scotland Road."

21017. Those are the disadvantages?
- Those are the disadvantages. That is a disadvantage in meeting Board of Trade requirements - not any structural impossibility.

21018. Supposing the Board of Trade requirements were altered, would you then see any disadvantage in taking the watertight bulkheads up to C deck?
- The only disadvantage would be a certain increase of difficulty in obtaining certain spaces, but I think it would merely become a difficulty to be overcome in the designing office and not a difficulty of any other sort.

21019. Then the real difficulty at present is that you would violate, or would not comply with, the requirements of the Board of Trade?
- We should find it impossible with the present design to comply with the requirements of the Board of Trade for ways out of the different spaces. Your Lordship asked for a list of the plans that we have submitted to the Board of Trade. Perhaps I may hand them in. (Handing plans to his Lordship.)

21020. This is a list of the plans submitted by you to the Board of Trade. Who was it that prepared the general arrangement plans of the ship?
- The small general arrangement plans are prepared at the designing office by the staff employed there.

21021. Are they submitted to the Board of Trade?
- They are not.

21022. Who prepared the structural plans to carry out the general arrangement?
- They are again prepared in the designing office.

21023. Are they submitted to the Board of Trade?
- At some stage or other, yes, they are supplied. You will find them as the sixth item on the list I have handed in, and they were submitted on the 3rd June, 1910.

21024. You have given me on this paper a list of the structural and other plans that were submitted to the Board of Trade?
- I wired to Belfast to obtain the list, and your Lordship has there what they have sent me.

21025. Can you tell me what the action of the Board of Trade was after these plans were submitted? Did they criticise them or did they accept them?
- We submitted the plans to them, and I think the situation is that they took no objection to them.

21026. I do not know what the procedure is. They would acknowledge the receipt of them?
- That is right.

21027. After they had acknowledged the receipt, would you hear further from them at all with reference to the plans?
- I am not quite sure, but my memory is that we did not.

21028. Then what happened to them at the Board of Trade you do not know?
- I do not know. I think they were sent to the local Surveyor to be passed on to the head office.

21029. Where is the head office?
- In London.

21030. Were they sent by you to the local Surveyor?
- I believe so.

21031. Not direct to London?
- I believe not.

21032. The Board of Trade will tell us this, no doubt, but can you tell me at present: Would it be the practice or the duty of the local Surveyor to forward them to the Board of Trade in London, or would it be for him to exercise his own judgment about them?
- He usually applies to us for them at the suggestion of the head office in London and sends the plans to them. The head office ask him to obtain from the builders copies of the plans.

21033. Are they obtained as nautical curiosities, or are they obtained in order that they may be examined and criticised?
- I understand they are obtained so that the board can satisfy themselves that the ship will be satisfactorily built.

21034. Your information is that they do examine them?
- I certainly believe so.

21035. Did you send these general arrangement plans and the structural plans for carrying out the general arrangements to the White Star Company?
- No, they are not submitted to the White Star Company.

21036. They are satisfied with what you do, I suppose?
- We are responsible for that part of the work. I may say, whilst you are asking whether the Board of Trade consider the plans, that I know in some instances the local Surveyor sends to London with the plans any criticisms or remarks he wishes to make.

21037. The reason I asked you was because you apparently do not recall any comment or criticism made by the Board of Trade upon the plans which you submitted?
- There were a few comments and criticisms on minor matters as the ship was built, but not any general ones.

21038. That would be as the result of surveys made during the construction?
- Quite right.

The Commissioner:
I am not thinking of that at all. Thank you very much, Mr. Wilding; your evidence has been of very great assistance to us.

(The Witness withdrew.)