British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 24

Testimony of Francis Carruthers

23945. Now what I am putting to you is this, that in the "Titanic," as passed by you, the bulkheads came to the height of deck E, and not to the height of D deck, as required by this variation which you are permitted to make under this Rule. I want you to explain it?
- I can only explain it by pointing out what is plainly stated here. "When the loadline disc of the vessel is placed at least as low" - it is placed a little lower. I think the margin was three inches - at all events, it was almost three inches; and when it is placed "as low as is required by Table C of the freeboard tables for awning deck vessels the remaining bulkheads may terminate at the deck next below the upper deck." The upper deck was defined as D deck, and if she has freeboard equal to table C, or slightly greater, then they may terminate one deck below.

23946. (The Commissioner.) That is at G deck?
- Yes, My Lord.

Mr. Edwards:
Has your Lordship the Rule before you?

The Commissioner:
No, but I am listening to you, More or less.

23947. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) I shall have to seek the shelter deck, My Lord. (To the witness.) So your reading of this Rule - the Court will have to interpret it by and by - is that in the case of the "Titanic" they would be complying with the conditions, if you so agree, if they brought the bulkhead to the height of deck E, and no higher?
- Yes, the bulkheads abaft the collision bulkhead.

The Commissioner:
It has taken a long time to arrive at this point, but at all events I understand him now to say that if the bulkhead is carried up to deck G that complies with the requirements.

23948. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) That is his interpretation of this Rule, but I shall submit that the Rule does not bear that construction. But that is another point which I shall deal with at the right time. (To the witness.) Were you ever asked to certify as to the efficiency of these bulkheads apart from the question of the relation of the strength of the ship. Do you follow me?
- No.

The Commissioner:
It is not material, but I do not.

23949. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Were you ever asked to certify as to the watertight character of these bulkheads?
- By whom?

23950. By Harland and Wolff?
- The vessel was submitted to be certified as a passenger steamer. They never said anything to me about the bulkheads any more than putting the plans before me and expecting they were going to get the certificate at the end of the survey.

23951. You probably know that in the Rules as to life-saving appliances, you can make a declaration allowing a ship to go to sea with a less amount?
- Yes, no application was made for that.

23952. Were you ever asked by Harland and Wolff to certify as to the bulkheads in relation to their watertight character and in relation to their efficiency to satisfy those Rules?

The Attorney-General:
Rule 12, do you mean?

23953. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Yes.

The Witness:
You mean did they apply for any reduction of life-saving appliances on board on account of the watertightness of the bulkheads?

23954. Yes?
- No.

23955. Was there any discussion between them and you as to the efficiency, or I will put it as to the watertight character of the bulkheads?
- No, not from that point of view.

23956. But only from the point of view as part of the structure of the ship for purposes of strength?
- Yes, and for watertightness of course, but not from a life-saving appliance point of view.

23957. I did not ask you that. My last question was as to their watertightness. There was a discussion as to whether they were or were not watertight?
- I do not think I ever had any discussion with them on the subject.

The Commissioner:
No, he did not; but it was part of his duty, I suppose, to see they were watertight.

23958. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) I will put that. If you are not asked by the builder or by the owner to certify as to the efficiency of bulkheads for the purpose of Rule 2, do you then consider it your duty to see if the bulkheads are watertight?
- Yes.

23959. You do?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
That is not quite the way to put it; does he, nevertheless, consider it his duty to ascertain that the bulkheads are watertight. I should have thought it was obviously his duty to do it.

23960. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) You heard his Lordship's variation of the question?
- I have.

23961. What is your answer?
- Yes, I think it is my duty.

23962. You do think it is your duty?
- Yes.

23963. Would you tell his Lordship precisely what you did to test whether the bulkheads were watertight?
- As these bulkheads were built I followed their construction. When they were riveted I inspected them to see how they were riveted and if they were well riveted; and when they were finished I went round and tested the caulking of the bulkheads and at the end of the survey, a few days before she was finished I went round the bulkheads to see that all the small holes that are drilled for carrying through the heating pipes and the electric light wires were all properly made fast, and the boiler pipes -

The Commissioner:
I do not know what you are doing, Mr. Edwards; you have been doing it a long time, but I do not know what it is quite you are doing. Are you going to suggest that this gentleman did not execute his duties properly, because I do not think you ought to suggest it unless you have some charge to make against him?

Mr. Edwards:
My Lord, with respect, the matter does not quite stand in that position.

The Commissioner:
Tell me how it does stand?

Mr. Edwards:
What I do want to get at is this. The official attitude of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade now stands thus: that because you may have watertight compartments and efficient bulkheads, therefore you may have less boat accommodation. Now, what I want to get from this Witness is to see exactly what steps are taken by him as a responsible Officer to see that the bulkheads are efficient. That is all. (To the witness.) You have explained in reply to the last question that you did a lot of things.

The Commissioner:
I do not see what Rule 12 has got to do with it. Neither Harland and Wolff nor the Oceanic Steamship Company ever applied to be relieved of the obligation of finding lifeboat accommodation under Rule 12.

Mr. Edwards:
Quite, My Lord, with respect, I have disposed of that, and now, accepting your Lordship's variation of the question. I am asking him whether, nevertheless, he deemed it his duty to test bulkheads.

The Commissioner:
He has told you that he did. Then you began to examine him as to what he did?

Mr. Edwards:

The Commissioner:
Are you laying a foundation for some charge against him that he neglected his duty or what?

Mr. Edwards:
No, My Lord. What I want to get at is what amounts to the fulfillment of the requirements of the Board of Trade, because if I may say so, we are not here merely in the nature of an inquest, to discover why the "Titanic" went down; we are here also for the purpose of ascertaining what things ought to be done to prevent future "Titanic's" going down. And what I do want to get at from this Witness is precisely what tests he applies.

The Commissioner:
Very well. I do not say you may not do it, but has it been suggested that these bulkheads were not watertight?

Mr. Edwards:
No, My Lord; what is perfectly clear is this, that in spite of the existence of bulkheads, this ship went down.

The Commissioner:
Yes, that is because she had holes knocked along her side. It has nothing to do with bulkheads.

Mr. Edwards:
It may not have anything to do with bulkheads qua bulkheads, but it may have a very great deal to do with bulkheads qua part of the strength of the ship relied upon for resisting a shock of this kind. I will be very short.

The Commissioner:
I am not sure about that.

Mr. Edwards:
Your Lordship has rather a suspicious mind. (To the witness.) I asked you whether you deemed it your duty to test these bulkheads for the purpose of seeing they were watertight?

23964. (The Commissioner.) And let me interrupt you for a moment. (To the witness.) Suppose you found some of the bulkheads were not watertight, would you have refused your certificate?
- I do not know; it would have depended which bulkhead it was, My Lord. I think if I had found any of the bulkheads not watertight I would have submitted the question to London.

23965. Did you find any of the bulkheads not watertight?
- No, I found them all very good indeed.

23966. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Now, what I want to get is what was the test you applied to see the bulkheads were watertight?
- I went over the bulkheads with a feeler, a small-bladed knife, round the caulking, and saw there were no rivet holes left unfilled.

23967. Is that the only test you applied for watertightness?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
Now suggest to him some other that he ought to have applied.

23968. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) You did contemplate the possibility of these compartments between the bulkheads, or some of them, being flooded?
- Yes.

23969. Did you apply any test of any kind to see the resisting strength of the bulkheads?
- You mean to resist that which would be placed upon them by the place being filled with water?

23970. Yes?
- No, excepting the collision bulkhead. I saw it filled with water up to the level of the forepeak tank top.

23971. That is the only one you saw tested with water?
- Yes.

23972. (The Commissioner.) Is it customary to test any other bulkhead except the peak bulkhead with water?
- No, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
I am told it is never done.

23973. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) What are the grounds upon which and the method by which you arrived at the conclusion that the bulkheads are efficient?
- Are strong enough to resist this pressure?

23974. Yes?
- There is a standard Rule -

The Commissioner:
Is there any reason to suppose that the bulkheads in the "Titanic" broke down?

Mr. Edwards:
I think there is some evidence.

The Commissioner:
Well, will you tell me what it is?

Mr. Edwards:
There is the evidence of Barrett, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
What is that, that he saw some water coming in?

Mr. Edwards:
No the evidence of Barrett is this that in Section 6 he saw water coming in, and in Section 5 he saw it trickling in and that afterwards when he skipped up out of section 5 he did it because there was a great rush of water as if something had given way.

The Commissioner:
Is that all? The side of the ship had given way?

Mr. Edwards:

The Commissioner:
Yes it had, and the water was rushing in?

Mr. Edwards:
Not in that section; this is section 5.

The Commissioner:
The ship was holed to between Sections 4 and 5, was it not?

Mr. Edwards:
No, My Lord, there is no evidence of that.

The Commissioner:
Was not it holed in No. 5?

Mr. Edwards:
Slightly, and the bunker on the starboard side.

The Commissioner:
You are not helping me much.

Mr. Edwards:
I am very sorry.

The Commissioner:
You are trying very hard, no doubt.

Mr. Edwards:
I am proceeding upon the principle that if at first I do not succeed I will try again.

The Commissioner:
You do not give the quotation correctly. It is "try, try, try again."

23975. (Mr. Edwards - To the witness.) Were you very frequently on the "Titanic" inspecting her?
- Yes, about every day.

23976. Did you apply any actual tests to anything on board the "Titanic" - any test of strength or anything - or did you proceed merely upon your general knowledge and experience by general observation?
- Do you mean the hull or the equipment?

Yes, any actual test of strength.

The Commissioner:
Help us by telling us what sort of tests.

23977. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) If he says he did not, there is no need to go into the particular kind?
- Yes, I did.

23978. Did you apply any test to the plates in the bottom of the "Titanic"?
- No; I saw the double bottom tested with water.

23979. Have you any views with regard to the advantage of longitudinal bulkheads?
- Of course I have views.

23980. Have you had any experience?
- I have had no experience of longitudinal bulkheads.

23981. No experience at all?
- No, I cannot recall it.

23982. Have you any views of what ought to be the height of transverse bulkheads?
- I am guided by the regulations.

23983. I asked whether you have any views apart from the regulations?
- Do you mean in my private capacity?

23984. No, as Surveyor, with 20 years' experience.

The Commissioner:
I hope you will say no.

23985. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) This is very great incitement, My Lord.

The Witness:
Well, I am satisfied if I get them as high as I got them in the "Titanic."

23986. That is as high as you say the regulations required?
- Yes.

23987. That satisfies you?
- Yes.

Mr. Edwards:
Very well that will satisfy me for the present.

Examined by Mr. HARBINSON.

23988. My point is simply about the steaming tests. Did you on behalf of the Board of Trade see the "Titanic" was subjected to steaming tests?
- I was on board the ship when she went through her steam trials and she made some tests.

23989. Where was this?
- Outside belfast Lough.

23990. Before she left for southampton?
- Yes.

23991. What steaming tests was she submitted to?
- She went from slow to full speed. She was put astern and the engines maneuvered and she was put through a number of circling trials.

23992. Was she put through any trial with the port propeller going astern and the starboard propeller going ahead?
- She was.

23993. What speed was she going at when she was put through that test?
- I could not tell you. About full speed she was supposed to be going.

23994. Going full speed with propellers going in that way within what distance would she turn?
- I do not know.

23995. Do you know within what distance she did turn?
- No.

23996. Could you give us any light?
- Well, she made a very small circle, I observed, and it was noticed.

23997. How many lengths of herself?
- I have no idea.

23998. You could not furnish it?
- I could not tell, I do not know.

Examined by Mr. HOLMES.

23999. For the purpose of the Emigration Survey and the Passenger declaration, it was your duty to inspect, amongst other things, the boats and the life-saving appliances, the compasses and other deck equipment?
- Yes.

24000. Have you ever served at sea in any capacity outside the engine room?
- No.

24001. Have you any sea experience at all to qualify you for the surveying of deck equipment?
- I was qualified when I came ashore to inspect deck equipment, I think.

24002. Have you had, for instance, any practical experience of compasses?
- Do you mean making them?

24003. Using them?
- No, except in a small boat.

24004. Have you, since you joined the Board of Trade, had any training under sea conditions as to the use of deck equipments?
- I have seen boats put out, of course, hundreds of times.

24005. Have you ever had the handling of a boat in rough weather at sea?
- Yes.

24006. Amongst other things the certificates of masters and two mates are part of your duty for passenger declaration?
- I inspect it and see that it is in order.

24007. Your object is to see that the merchant Shipping Act is complied with?
- Yes.

24008. Do you ask for any other certificates besides those of the master and two Officers?
- We get a certificate from the compass adjuster that the compasses are good.

24009. I am talking of the master and two mates' certificates. You asked for those certificates?
- Yes.

24010. Did you ask for others?
- And two engineers.

24011. Any others?
- No.

24012. So long as the requirements of the merchant Shipping Act are satisfied, you are satisfied that the ship is seaworthy?
- Yes, that is all I have to do with it.

24013. If the "Titanic" had them you would not -?
- I would not have withheld the declaration.

24014. Do you think it improper to allow a ship of that size to go to sea with two Officers?
- I would consider if I had got the certificates I had to enter on my declaration that I had got all that was required by me.

24015. You simply tie yourself down to the regulation?
- I must.

24016. The same thing applies to the Emigration Survey for clearance?
- I measured those spaces.

24017. I am still talking of the Officers' certificates?
- I did not give the clearance of this ship, not as Emigration Officer.

24018. You sign this report?
- I did certain things.

24019. You signed a report, and amongst other things it gives a list of Master and Officers; it only contains the names of the master and two Officers and two engineers?
- Yes.

24020. That satisfied you?
- Yes, as far as the certificates are concerned.

(The witness withdrew.)