British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 23

Testimony of Alfred Young

Examined by Mr. BUTLER ASPINALL.

The Commissioner:
Is this the last of the Board of Trade witnesses?

The Solicitor-General:
No, My Lord.

23139. (Mr. Butler Aspinall - To the witness.) Are you the successor of Sir Alfred Chalmers in the post of Professional Member of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade?
- Yes.

23140. I think you came into office on the first day of September, 1911?
- That is correct.

23141. Do you hold an Extra Master's certificate?
- Yes.

23142. I think you have had seven years of command at sea?
- Yes.

23143. I think you joined the Board of Trade staff as nautical Surveyor in 1891?
- Yes.

23144. And were later on appointed to your present post as professional member?
- Exactly.

23145. Was Mr. Carruthers, the surveyor, surveying the ship whilst she was being built at Belfast?
- Yes, so I understand.

23146. Did anything relating to her construction or equipment come before you?
- Not directly.

23147. What do you mean by that?
- Well, any observations he would have to make with regard to the construction of that vessel would naturally go direct to the Principal Ship Surveyor.

23148. That we have been told is Mr. Archer?
- Yes.

23149. But did it reach you in the end?
- No, it did not reach me as a direct message, but I have seen papers in connection with it which I desired to see. That is all.

23150. You cannot assist us in any way with regard to the construction of the "Titanic"?
- No, not so far as that survey is concerned.

23151. Do you remember having brought to your notice the Report of the Advisory Committee of 1911?
- Yes.

23152. That Report has been read. In consequence of that Report did you yourself take any action to enable you to advise the Board of Trade as to the requirements of that Report?
- Yes.

23153. What did you do?
- First of all, I naturally looked through to see what it consisted of, and I realised that it was not quite in accordance with our ideas, and that there were certain points in relation to the Report of the Advisory Committee which would have to be referred back to them, because they did not quite fit in with our ideas, Mainly with regard to the depth of lifeboats.

23154. Sir Walter Howell told us yesterday with regard to this, and I think his evidence came to this, that you, the nautical adviser, in conjunction with other members of your staff, went into this question with a great deal of care?
- We did.

23155. And did it require some little time?
- It required considerable time.

23156. On the 16th of April of the present year a letter was written from Sir Walter Howell to the Advisory Committee, and he told us yesterday that you were the person who gave him the information which is contained in that letter. Is that right?
- Quite.

23157. And I find in that letter this statement: "The board are of opinion that a very careful and thorough revision of the table should now be made." That is the table dealing with -?
- The extension of the boat scale.

23158. Was that your opinion?
- Undoubtedly. It is a matter which should be carefully looked into.

23159. (The Commissioner.) Did you hear sir Alfred Chalmers' evidence?
- I did.

23160. Do you agree with it on this point?
- Not absolutely, with regard to the degree of extension.

23161. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) You think there should be an extension?
- I do.

23162. To what extent?
- To a reasonable extent.

23163. What does that mean?
- Well, it should be a reasonable extent in view of the object that we seek. In other words, what I had in my mind when I advised the board as to the action they should take in the matter was not that we should have an increase of boats for all persons on board, but that we should have a reasonable extension of the scale in order to provide for a proper and safe transfer of the passengers from one vessel to another in case of adversity. That was the primary idea in my mind in regard to the extension of the scale, and I indicated that to the board many months before that.

23164. Apply your opinion to the concrete case of the "Titanic." To what extent do you think the Board of Trade Rule should be extended to fit the case of the "Titanic"?
- Well, what I advocated myself and what I should prefer to give this afternoon is this: I laid it down that we should require at least 26 boats under davits.

23165. And what would be the cubic contents of those 26 boats? According to the present requirements the cubic contents of the boats required to be placed under davits on the "Titanic" is 9,625 feet. That is right, is it not?
- Yes.

23166. For 16 boats?
- That is, of course, altogether, with the three-fourths additional. That is not entirely under davits.

23167. No, not entirely under davits. You are quite right, I am wrong in saying under davits?
- What I had advocated as being required under davits was 26 boats having a capacity of 8,200 cubic feet.

23168. And if those boats were not sufficient to carry all on board, then I suppose you would consider that the Board of Trade should insist upon the three-fourths?
- Yes, the continuation of the old Rule.

23169. When you speak of 26 boats, do you mean each of the size that were placed upon the "Titanic"?
- Boats of 600 cubic feet, yes. That is what I had in my mind.

23170. Were the boats 600 cubic feet that were placed in the "Titanic"?
- A trifle over, I think.

23171. (The Solicitor-General.) They were 650?
- Yes, to hold 64 or 65 people.

The Commissioner:
They were smaller.

The Solicitor-General:
Inasmuch as one allows 10 cubic feet for each passenger in a lifeboat, it follows that a boat that will take 65 people is a boat with 650 cubic feet. This Witness suggests 600 cubic feet.

23172. (Mr. Butler Aspinall - To the witness.) In view of the fact that Sir Walter Howell told us that this letter was the outcome of material supplied to you before the disaster, it follows that this opinion that you have been giving us was not an opinion arrived at in consequence of the "Titanic" disaster?
- I cannot make it too clear that the opinions that I formed and the advice that I offered to the Marine Department of the Board of Trade was thought out many months before the disaster occurred.

23173. In view of the disaster, do you think that the scale suggested to us now should be increased?
- What scale is suggested now?

23174. Well, your suggestion?
- I do not think that there is any necessity to increase that scale beyond what I have already laid down.

23175. Do you think it would be practicable to increase it?
- In many cases it would be practicable, certainly; in some cases, I think, it would not. It depends a good deal upon the construction of the existing type of vessel.

23176. (The Commissioner.) I gather that you do not think it is desirable in all cases of emigrant and passenger ships that sufficient boat accommodation should be carried to accommodate all the people that under the certificate that vessel is authorised to carry?
- What I mean, My Lord, is this, that where it is practicable for a passenger ship to carry boats - I say practicable - for all persons on board, this is passengers and crew, I see no reason why the ship owner should not provide them. But there are certain cases in my mind of certain ships of a structure where it might not be practicable, and I do not think it is practicable in the ships I have in my mind to carry boats sufficient for all on board.

23177. Do you think the "Titanic" was one of them?
- No, I think not. I think the "Titanic" could have carried boats sufficient for all on board; but it would have necessitated the piling up of one boat on top of another.

23178. And when you talk about all on board, are you speaking with reference to the number that she actually carried, or are you speaking with reference to the number she was authorised to carry?
- I do not quite appreciate your question.

23179. Well, she did not carry nearly so many passengers as she might have carried?
- No.

23180. And I want to know whether, when you are talking about boats that you think she could have carried, are you speaking with reference to the number of passengers and crew actually on board, or the number of passengers and crew that might conceivably be on board?
- The latter, My Lord.

23181. She was certified for 3,547 passengers and crew?
- Yes.

23182. She only carried 2,000 odd?
- Yes.

23183. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Have you calculated how many boats would be necessary to carry her full complement?
- About 63.

23184. In your view would it have been practicable for the "Titanic" to have had placed upon her 63 such boats?
- Well, certainly, yes, it would have been practicable.

23185. You put emphasis on the word "practicable"?
- Yes.

23186. What do you quite mean by putting on that emphasis?
- Well, I do not think it would have been altogether desirable, for certain reasons which I have.

23187. (The Commissioner.) Will you tell us the reasons?
- In the first place, My Lord, you have to consider the method of getting boats that are placed inboard out to the ship's side. You have to have a certain time for that process. You have to take into consideration that you may not have daylight to assist you in that. In all probability, when a disaster arises it would be at nighttime and under adverse conditions. If the ship had any movement at all, it would be rather difficult to get the inboard boats to the ship's side with any degree of safety. It might not be difficult under ordinary circumstances, I may say, to go through the process of getting boats to the ship's side with deckhands properly trained for that purpose, but what I had to consider was the prevailing degree of training in the mercantile marine, of which I had no very high opinion. I have witnessed, if I am not taxing your patience too much, My Lord -

23188. Not at all?
- I have witnessed in the course of my duties as an Emigration Officer methods of putting out boats which were a disgrace to the service; and during the time that I was carrying out my emigration duties I did the best I could to remedy that defect. I was imbued with the knowledge that since that period when I was an Emigration Officer things have not materially improved in the merchant Service with regard to the training of deckhands. I may as well say at once that it is not the fault of those deckhands themselves; it is simply due to circumstances, the lack of opportunity, the lack of time in the hustle of the passenger service of the present day, which precludes those men from getting the training that they ought to have.

23189. Do you mean the ships do not remain in port long enough?
- That is the reason, My Lord. There are not sufficient facilities for the exercise of the deckhands in the boats. There are in some ports, but not in others.

23190. I do not know whether you have exhausted what you wanted to say, but you were giving us your reasons why you did not think it desirable to put upon the deck of the "Titanic" so many boats - 63?
- Yes.

23191. Have you any other reasons?
- Yes.

23192. What are they?
- The other reason is the height at which those boats would necessarily be placed. It is well known to seamen - and, of course, in my position as advisor to the Marine Department of the Board of Trade I rely upon my experience and service as a seaman - that in the majority of cases of accidents at sea, the difficulty of lowering a boat from a height is very great; and it is not only a difficulty, but the greater the height the greater the danger. The least movement of the ship laterally - that is rolling from side to side - is a great danger to the boat that is being lowered. Of course, it is well known that that boat acts as a pendulum and with a very small degree of angle in a rolling ship, if it has any people in the boat at all, the weight of that boat is enhanced and the danger when it comes into contact with the ship's side at the second roll is a very great one. I had all this in my mind when I advised the board to do what I did advise them to do, which I have embodied in the various memoranda which I laid before them.

23193. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Certain Witnesses who have been called here said that in their opinion if you put a large number of boats, probably as many as 63, on the boat deck it might render the ship tender. What is your view with regard to that? Have you considered that point of view?
- It depends, of course, largely upon the form of the ship itself, the weight of cargo in the vessel, the facilities for increasing the ballast in the bottom of the vessel, and also the height at which the boats are placed. Of course you must realise that these boats of 600 cubic feet capacity range at a weight of about two tons, and if you have 60 boats up there, it is not a light weight to be at such a height as 60 to 65 feet.

23194. Dealing with a ship like the "Titanic," if you put that weight on the boat deck, in view of the quantity of the cargo that class of vessel does carry and is likely to carry, do you think it would make the ship tender or not?
- I am not sufficiently acquainted with the "Titanic" to judge. As I say, it depends a good deal upon the circumstances in the ship itself and her statical stability. It is more a matter for a naval architect.

23195. Surely it is a matter you will have to consider, is it not, in your position as Advisory Member of this Department?
- Undoubtedly.

23196. Probably you have considered it?
- Oh, I have considered it, yes.

23197. What is the result of your consideration?
- Well, still that I do not consider it advisable to pile up a great number of boats at such a height. It may be all very well in fine weather, but when the ship is rolling heavily, then the ship begins to feel it; she may be tender or otherwise; I do not say that she would be seriously tender, but I think that under certain circumstances she might be tender; it is according to the way in which they work their bunkers out.

Examined by Mr. SCANLAN.

23198. Could not you correct tenderness by ballasting?
- Well, you can to a certain extent, yes.

23199. That is the recognised way of doing it?
- It is the usual method, yes.

23200. I observe your opinion is that the deckhands of the mercantile marine are not properly trained in the handling of boats?
- That is my opinion.

23201. I suggest to you, as I have to a number of Witnesses here that there should be some method of training by boat drills?
- I quite agree with you.

23202. Do you think a more thorough system of boat drills would be effective?
- I think it would very probably answer the purpose.

23203. Now it was pointed out in the course of this Enquiry that in New Zealand it is compulsory to have boat drills. Do you think it would help you in carrying out your idea to have boat drills made compulsory?
- I would not resort to compulsion until I had exhausted every other means of inducing the shipowner to carry it out.

23204. Have any means been taken by the Board of Trade to impress upon the shipowners the desirability of having effective boat drills, so as to give a training to the whole of the crew?
- No, I think not; not to the entire crew.

23205. Do you agree that it would be desirable to make such a recommendation?
- No, I do not think it is absolutely essential.

23206. You have heard the questions put to Sir Alfred Chalmers, your predecessor, as to a standard of efficiency?
- Yes.

23207. Do you think it would assist materially if a standard of efficiency were set up which would include competency in the handling of boats?
- Well, perhaps you would first of all, before I answer that question, give me some idea as to what your opinion is with regard to the standard you wish to set up?

23208. My opinion is not very material to the Court, and I am afraid it would not be to you. Have you any idea yourself?
- Certainly I have.

23209. Well, give us your ideas?
- Pardon me, after you!

23210. I think you mistake our relative positions. You are a Witness, you know?
- Yes. I think you might materially assist me if you give me some idea of the standard you have in your mind, because I do not think we are altogether in disagreement as to the fundamental principle.

23211. Very well, I am glad we agree about something. You say you have an idea as to what would be the training?
- Yes.

23212. We may agree further if you just tell me what that idea is?
- Well, undoubtedly the primary training that I have in view for a sailor is that he should first of all be sufficiently competent to handle a boat in every form, whether to steer or to pull, or to detach the tackle, or to hook them on again, or to get that boat out from the ship.

23212a. In your opinion would it be desirable to make the possession of that knowledge a condition of giving a certificate of efficiency as a seaman?
- If it were deemed necessary to have a certificate for that purpose I should say yes.

23213. With your own considerable knowledge and experience, do not you think it would be desirable?
- I do most decidedly.

23214. You agree that it would be desirable?
- Yes.

23215. Oh, we are getting on. It has been suggested to me that a way of testing the efficiency of seamen would be to examine them in their knowledge of the compass, steering, splicing of wire and rope, tying the ordinary knots, and the marks and deeps of the lead-line?
- Yes.

23216. Would it be desirable to have that incorporated as the standard of efficiency?
- You want too much I think for your money.

23217. Ah! But you do not know the price I am willing to pay?
- Well, I have a shrewd idea of it.

23218. That rests with the shipowners, you know?
- I certainly think that a certain proportion of the qualifications that you have just foreshadowed ought to be embodied in a certificate. We want certain qualifications, but what those qualifications should be, I am not prepared at the moment to say definitely, or decidedly at all events.

23219. But you think a standard of efficiency should be set up and certificates given?
- If it is possible to set up a standard of efficiency, I do not think the able seamen of the present day would be hurt by it.

23220. (The Commissioner.) Do you think they would reach the standard that you would set up?
- They might after a course of considerable training.

23221. (Mr. Scanlan.) Still, of course, a beginning must be made?
- I quite agree with you there. It is desirable.

23222. (The Commissioner.) Sometimes it is desirable that an ending should be made?
- Undoubtedly.

23223. (Mr. Scanlan.) Do you agree also that there should be some training of the men in the stokehold?
- Well -

23224. You have heard it suggested that before a man should be regarded as an efficient stoker, he should have served from three to six months as a trimmer?
- I think you could very well leave that degree of training to the judgment of the firemen with whom the new fireman has to work.

23225. This matter came up quite recently in the experience of your department as a practical question, did it not?
- Yes.

23226. At Southampton?
- Yes.

23227. I do not want to press it further than this, that seeing a recommendation was made by a Committee which investigated this, do not you think it is time now that something should be done to secure efficiency?
- No, I think, after a man has been for a short time as a trimmer on board a ship he would very soon fall into the duties of firing.

23228. That is exactly what is suggested is it?
- But to say that a trimmer shall have so many months' training as a trimmer in order to qualify him as a fireman, I say is altogether nonsense.

23229. In regard to your views as representing the Board of Trade as to the number of boats for a ship like the "Titanic," I want to ask you specifically, do you or do you not consider it desirable to make regulations compelling such a ship to carry either sufficient lifeboats or sufficient boats with rafts, to provide accommodation for all persons carried, including the crew?
- I have already replied to that question in the statement that I made to his Lordship, in that I consider that where it is practicable for a shipowner to carry boats or rafts for all persons on board, they should carry them.

23230. I think you said in the case of the "Titanic" you thought it would be practicable?
- So far as I can judge from the construction of the vessel I think it would be practicable, and that you could find room by piling up one boat on top of another.

23231. (The Commissioner.) Have you considered to what extent the lifeboat accommodation could be used in a rough sea?
- Yes, My Lord, I have considered it very seriously.

23232. To what extent do you think the lifeboat accommodation on both sides of the ship could be used in a rough sea?
- Of course that would depend in the first place whether the vessel was so disabled that when she got the boats on one side down into the water, she would be able to slew round and make a lee-side of the other side and get the other boats down.

23233. I am not a nautical man and I have not quite grasped that. You would not in such circumstances contemplate lowering the boats simultaneously on both sides of the ship?
- If it could be done, of course it would be an advantage.

23234. Could it be done in a rough sea?
- No, I do not think it could, My Lord.

23235. Then you could only lower the boats on the lee-side and then turn the ship round?
- Yes, that is it.

23236. And make the other side of the ship the lee-side?
- Quite so.

23237. And get the boats down?
- Quite so.

23238. That would be the only way of doing it?
- That is so.

23239. And if you could not do that, that is to say, turn the boat round, the boats on one side of the ship would be quite useless or nearly useless?
- Practically useless, unless there were means on board such as ways provided, that is, skids on which the boats were chocked so that you could slide the boats across.

23240. Across the deck?
- Across the deck. It is not an impracticable measure that could be provided for.

23241. Is that ever done?
- It is done, yes.

23242. On what boats? There was no such provision on the "Titanic" so far as I know?
- Some of the inboard boats that are carried on certain vessels have this arrangement; they are chocked on skids right across the ship, and they could be used for either side.

23243. Are the lifeboats chocked in the middle of the deck?
- Quite so, right across.

23244. Then those boats are not hanging on davits?
- No, they are not; they are inboard boats. Those boats are additional to the boats under davits.

23245. Additional?
- Yes, additional.

23246. Has it occurred to you that if you can only utilise one side of the steamer, subject to this observation about the chocked boats which you have spoken about, you must have double the number of boats; you must have sufficient boats each side to accommodate the passengers?
- That would not be practicable on a passenger steamer, not to have boats on each side for all.

23247. Does it then come to this, that it is not practicable to have boats on board a ship such as the "Titanic" which would be sufficient for all passengers if the vessel was in a rough sea?
- Quite so.

23248. Is that so?
- That is so.

23249. You follow my question?
- It is not practicable.

23250. So that, except in the case of a calm sea such as we know the "Titanic" was in, however many boats you had, you could not possibly save all the lives in the boats?
- Of course, under the calm conditions of the sea when the "Titanic" went down, it would be hard to say whether all the boats, if she had had the boats that are contemplated, could have been put down.

23251. I do not think you are quite following my question. It is in fact a statement of what I understand your evidence to be: If the sea is rough so that it becomes impracticable to lower the boats upon one side of the ship, and you cannot get the boat round in the way you have suggested, is it then practicable to have sufficient boats on board the vessel to save all the lives?
- It is not practicable.

The Commissioner:
I think, Mr. Scanlan, the evidence seems to point to that, More or less, that there may be conditions when it is not possible to meet the difficulty by means of lifeboats.

23252. (Mr. Scanlan.) I agree, My Lord; there has been a good deal of evidence to that effect. (To the witness.) With regard to the placing of lifeboats on a ship like the "Titanic," had you submitted to you the design of Mr. Carlisle, a member of your Advisory committee, who gave evidence here?
- No, I have not seen that design.

23253. This is a design showing three or four boats to be operated by each set of davits. Is that practicable?
- I suppose it is, but at the same time I have not seen that design, and I do not know whether it was a design that he produced when he was sitting on the Advisory Committee, or whether it was afterwards?
- We have it here in Court.

The Commissioner:
Yes, I saw it.

23254. (Mr. Scanlan.) And it was stated by Mr. Carlisle that it was submitted to the Advisory Committee, so I think we may take it, if you saw the plan submitted to the Advisory Committee, that that is what we are referring to?
- I do not remember seeing it.

23255. Did you see any plan submitted by him?
- No, I did not.

23256. You have referred to something he submitted to the Advisory Committee. What were you referring to?
- I have not seen that.

23257. But you did refer to it?
- I only asked you whether that design of Mr. Carlisle's was submitted when he was sitting on the Advisory Committee or afterwards. What I meant was whether it was before the "Titanic" disaster or after.

23258. Yes, before the "Titanic" disaster?
- Because I have not seen it.

23259. It would not have been brought under your notice?
- No.

23260. But you agree such a design would be practicable?
- Yes.

23261. Your view when you considered the boatage of the "Titanic" was that she should carry 26 boats?
- Yes, that is right.

23262. Do you mean 26 boats under davits?
- Yes, 26 boats under davits.

23263. Apart from that provision, do you contemplate also that she would carry a certain number of collapsibles of the Engelhardt type?
- As additional, or they might be open boats, wooden boats. She could carry the additional boats as wooden boats, not necessarily as collapsible boats.

23264. When had you arrived at that conclusion?
- When the "Titanic" was under course of construction.

The Commissioner:
You are alive to the fact, of course, Mr. Scanlan, that when you talk about collapsible boats, you may be including two kinds of boats.

Mr. Scanlan:
Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
The berthon boats and the Engelhardt boats.

Mr. Scanlan:

The Commissioner:
They are different, although they have been frequently in this Enquiry referred to as collapsible boats.

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