British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 24

Testimony of Alfred Young, cont.

The Solicitor-General:
"Reasonably practicable."

23410. (Mr. Scanlan.) What is the limit of practicability?
- You would have to see what the arrangements of the boat deck were, and see what the space available was, and see whether it was essential in order to get the number of boats that you require stowed on that deck to pile them up indiscriminately one over the other, which is a practice the board is extremely averse to.

23411. Will you tell me - and I wish you to be very short because I do not wish to detain the Enquiry - according to your view now, with the knowledge you have of the "Titanic" accident and of the construction of ships like the "Titanic," what provision do you think it would be desirable to make in the way of lifeboat accommodation in such a vessel?
- I would certainly increase it considerably.

Give me the extent to which you would extend it. If you would not provide for all on board, for how many would you provide?

23412. (The Commissioner.) Do not give us a guess about a matter of that kind. If you have not considered it, say that you have not considered it?
- I have considered it.

23413. Have you considered the number?
- Yes, and I am still of the opinion that for all ordinary purposes, all ordinary cases of collision, which is what we are chiefly concerned with, she need not be required to carry more than about 50 percent of the persons on board.

23414. Do you mean this, that notwithstanding the experience which you gained by the circumstances of this casualty, you think that the right thing to do for a vessel of this kind would be to carry lifeboat accommodation for 50 percent of the permitted number of crew and passengers?
- I think, in accordance with the opinions I have formed and have had for some time, that for all ordinary cases of collision that would be sufficient, because I am relying upon the bulkhead system for ordinary cases of collision.

23415. I am asking you something more than that; having in view this particular casualty, would you increase the 50 percent?
- I think I should be inclined to do so; I think it should be extended.

23416. How much would you increase it?
- I would extend it in accordance with the merits of the ship itself. If I could stow the boats on the boat deck, so that one boat would not impede another, so that the crew would have easy access to them, and there would be no impediment in getting them out, then I should say by all means have a considerable extension. I would not like to say what it is at the present moment, because it requires much consideration.

23417. That is a question I should like an answer given to, if you have considered it?
- I have considered it.

23418. Then have you formed an opinion?
- I have formed an opinion.

23419. Then will you express it?
- The opinion I have formed is this, that you require boats more for transfer purposes than for the saving of people on board.

23420. I mean on the question of number, or percentage, if you like?
- No, I have not decided upon that.

23421. Never mind whether you have decided; have you formed an opinion?
- Certainly I have.

23422. Well, what is it?
- That the boat scale should be considerably extended.

23423. But how far; have you formed an opinion on that point?
- Not exactly; no.

23424. If you have not, then I do not want you to express any opinion. You know, what occurs to me is this (and it will be my difficulty, I can see, in this matter.), that to provide boat accommodation to the extent of 100 percent of the numbers carried, or permitted to be carried, as I would really say, Might be a burden upon the shipowner, which would be unnecessary and extremely expensive; and I want to know whether that is true or not, because it is no use having boats without having men?
- That is one of the considerations which has prevented me from arriving at a decision in my mind, or an opinion as to the precise number of boats that a particular ship should have. It is on account of those side issues, which are very important, and the necessity, as you remark, of having a proper number of qualified deckhands to deal with them - all these points tend to prevent one making up one's mind at the present moment as to what should be a reasonable and proper increase. The danger of getting boats down from a height in ordinary Atlantic conditions is so great that it would be, in my opinion, absurd to pile the ship's deck up with a whole heap of boats that you could not possibly handle.

23425. (Mr. Scanlan.) With all those considerations, what I gather to be at the back of your head is that there should be a considerable increase on what was carried on the "Titanic" for such boats?
- By all means, yes.

23426. But you have not formed a definite idea of the increase which you yourself would be prepared to recommend?
- Quite so; it has to be thought out yet. We have to get the various reports in from the different Committees that are sitting at the present time dealing with the subject.

23427. As to any increase in boat accommodation, is it necessary that an increase should be provided of the crew for manning those boats?
- Oh, Most decidedly.

The Commissioner:
It is of no use having boats if you have not men to manage them.

23428. (Mr. Scanlan.) I want to get from the witness how he would make up the crews. (To the witness.) How many seamen do you think it would be necessary to have on board for each lifeboat?
- I would not have less than two - call them sailors or what you like. I would regard them as men qualified to deal with boats.

23429. Do you speak of deckhands now?
- Well, yes, certainly, to a great extent; but, at all events, two boatmen - I will put it in that way.

The Attorney-General:
May I say with reference to what your Lordship said just now - that was an expression of opinion which I know is not intended to be final - of course, your Lordship is not shutting out, and I am sure your Lordship did not intend to shut out, the considerations of unduly encumbering the deck or of impairing the stability of the vessel in any way by making it tender. Your Lordship, of course, will take all that into consideration. You were, I think, dealing with one aspect of it, as I understand?

The Commissioner:
Yes, one aspect - the commercial aspect - which, I think, is a very important one.

Mr. Scanlan:
Yesterday, while the learned Attorney-General was not here I think a Witness was asked questions on tenderness.

The Commissioner:
Yes, I did ask him a question as to the boats making the vessel tender.

The Attorney-General:
I know your Lordship had it in mind; I was only anxious to have it on the Note in order that it should not appear that it had been left out of consideration.

The Commissioner:

23430. (Mr. Scanlan - To the witness.) I think it is quite within your knowledge that the shipowners of this country have expressed their willingness to provide accommodation for all on board?
- Yes, they have, certainly.

23431. In one of the documents which you read today reference was made to the manning scale for boats?
- Yes.

23432. Do you think it is desirable to set up a manning scale?

The Commissioner:
When you come to deal with it, Mr. Scanlan, you will have to remember that, in point of fact, only a comparatively small percentage of the space in the boats on the "Titanic" was used. What I mean is this: If you provide boats for every soul that can be carried by the ship, it does not at all follow that would be sufficient for the purpose of getting the people from the ship.

Mr. Scanlan:
Of course, My Lord. That is the reason why I have insisted so much on the manning scale, on the question of efficiency and boat drill.

The Commissioner:
But even the manning scale would be no good. I am satisfied - and I am not astonished at it - that a large number of people would not go into the boats. They preferred to stick to the vessel.

Mr. Scanlan:
I have grave doubts as to whether any person who believed this was their last chance, and who had the knowledge which some Officers must have had as to the condition of the vessel, would have refused to take that chance.

The Commissioner:
Perhaps you do not know what ladies will do and will not do, sometimes.

23433. (Mr. Scanlan - To the witness.) It appears from what you have read from Sir Alfred Chalmers that the consideration of the manning scale was postponed?
- Yes.

23434. Can you say why it was postponed?
- No, I cannot very well, excepting that naturally the manning scale would depend to a great extent upon the boats that would be recommended.

23435. Do you think it is desirable to set up a manning scale?
- What for?

23436. For the crews of ships?
- What ships in particular?

23437. All ships?
- We have scales for emigrant ships. That is already dealt with, and that we have under consideration for extending.

23438. That is what I want?
- It is under consideration now.

23439. You think it is desirable to extend it?
- Undoubtedly, under certain circumstances; only, if you increase your boats, then you must extend your manning scale; that is a foregone conclusion.

23440. But even without extending your boats you have not a manning scale applicable to the stokehold and engine room?
- No, not absolutely; not a compulsory scale.

23441. I want to ask you, then, without having a long discussion about it: Is it desirable to have an exact or fairly exact manning scale or standard that will apply not only to the deck department, but to the engine department as well?
- We have that scale, which is adopted for the stokeholds of large passenger vessels already, but it is not a compulsory scale, excepting that with regard to an emigrant ship, if the Emigration Officer finds there is not a sufficient number of men in the stokehold in accordance with our rule of three tons or of 36 square feet of fire -grate surface, then he would naturally require more, and he has the power to enforce it.

23442. But there are no figures and there is nothing set up in the nature of a scale to guide him what he should insist on?
- Pardon me, but there is.

23443. On a ship like the "Titanic" what is to guide him?
- As to the number of men in the stokehold?

23444. Yes?
- I can soon tell you that.

23445. (The Commissioner.) We are getting a little wide of the mark. There is no suggestion that there were not sufficient men in the stokehold?
- We had this the other day, My Lord, that there should be one fireman for every 18 square feet of fire -grate surface in the boiler room.

23446. (Mr. Scanlan.) How many would you think, according to that, for the "Titanic"?
- I have not got the fire -grate surface at the moment in my possession.

The Commissioner:
Have you calculated it, Mr. Scanlan?

Mr. Scanlan:
I have been told that the number carried was adequate.

The Commissioner:
Then I do not want to go into it.

Mr. Scanlan:
What I am informed is that the figures given here on page 10 of this Minute of Instructions give no guidance whatever for deciding how many men should be carried.

The Commissioner:
Well, that may be, but in this particular case, the fact that there was no guidance does not seem to have mattered at all, because you admit, and it appears to be the case, that there was a sufficient number of firemen carried.

23447. (Mr. Scanlan.) Yes. I do quite agree to that, My Lord. Of course, it is one of the complaints against the Board of Trade that they have failed to set up the manning scale. (To the witness.) Now, I want to ask you this question. Has the Board of Trade made any regulation as to the speed which ships should be permitted to go at in fog or at night in the presence of ice?
- There is a regulation with regard to fog and rainy weather in the International Regulations: "The ship shall then proceed at a moderate speed." That is the only reference to speed there is.

23448. There is no regulation about ice, and travelling at night in the presence of ice?
- No, that is left to the individual discretion of the master.

23449. Is it desirable, in your view, as a seaman, that there should be such a regulation?

23450. (The Commissioner.) Have you thought about that?
- I have, My Lord, but I cannot say that I have quite made up my mind yet as to whether we should insist upon having ice included in the International Regulations. But I do not think there would be any great difficulty in doing it.

23451. In what?
- In including it.

23452. Will you suggest to me so that I may understand it, what the direction would be; put it into words?
- That when a vessel is proceeding in fog or thick weather generally - I forget the exact wording of the article at the present moment - but ice could be included.

The Attorney-General:
It is Article 29.

The Commissioner:
I think it quite unnecessary for my own part, but would there be any objection to amending Article 16 so as to include ice, "Every vessel shall in a fog, Mist, falling snow, or ice-field, or in presence of icebergs, go at a moderate speed."

The Attorney-General:
There is a regulation in the International Regulations for preventing collisions.

The Commissioner:
I think it would be useless, because it says nothing more than that the Captain shall be careful.

The Attorney-General:
Article 29 says the same thing, as your Lordship remembers from your experience of the Admiralty court, the one which says you must take precautions, and that nothing in the Rules will excuse you failing to take the proper precautions.

The Commissioner:
If you are going to suggest that there should be something additional will you, Mr. Scanlan, express your suggestion on the point and let me know what it is?

Mr. Scanlan:
What is pressed on my mind is, that to run a ship at full speed on a track in which ice has been reported, is bad seamanship, and likely to prove disastrous.

The Commissioner:
That I can very well understand.

Mr. Scanlan:
It exposes passengers and crew to very grave risk, and I would suggest that the recommendation, whatever it may be, should relate to the modification of speed in such circumstances. I am not prepared to say to what extent the direction should go, how specific it should be, but I think it is desirable that there should be some recommendation as to speed in such circumstances.

The Commissioner:
Do you mean to say a recommendation that it should be moderate?

Mr. Scanlan:
At least that, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Well, that the ship should stop? I do not know what it is to be, you know.

Mr. Scanlan:
Evidently with respect to fog there is a recommendation that the speed should be moderate.

The Attorney-General:
That would be the International Regulations for preventing collisions; it would not apply to this.

The Commissioner:
I understand your point, Mr. Scanlan.

Mr. Scanlan:
A recommendation on the lines of the Instructions to Captain Moore.

The Commissioner:
Captain Moore of the "Mount Temple," you mean?

23453. (Mr. Scanlan.) Yes. (To the witness.) Do you think it desirable to make men engaged in look-out work submit to an eye test and to qualify by an examination, such as is prescribed for masters and Officers?
- I do not think that it need necessarily be as searching. I think that some form of sight-testing for men on the look-out should be obligatory, just the same as you have for an engine -driver. But you do not require it to such an extent as in the case of an engine -driver or in the case of an Officer, for the simple reason that the man on the look-out has to report a light, and the Officer decides himself as to whether that is a red or green light. That is one of the reasons why a seaman need not be subjected to precisely the same test as an Officer. There is no reason why he should not be asked to distinguish boats at a certain distance. That would be a sort of form vision test rather than colour.

23454. Have you applied your mind to the question of the use of binoculars?
- I have applied my mind to it to a certain extent, and I cannot say I have been altogether satisfied.

23455. Do you think the look-out man should be provided with binoculars?
- It is an additional safeguard and by all means let them have it.

23456. (The Commissioner.) Is it an additional safeguard?
- It is an adjunct, and it may be so considered, but it is not absolutely essential.

23457. No, but is desirable. I should say at present that it is not, but you may think differently, and I want to know what you think?
- I do not think differently, because in my experience of binoculars I have far oftener relied on the unassisted eye than anything else.

23458. It occurs to me that a man in the crow's-nest has nothing to do with binoculars; he has to use his eyes and pick up lights and report them to the bridge, and the man on the bridge uses binoculars if he wishes. I should have thought instead of being an assistance it is a distraction to have binoculars?
- It is to a certain extent, but there is another feature connected with it, that when a man is looking through his binoculars his field of vision is necessarily restricted. A man may frequently pass a dark boat with his binoculars which he would readily pick up if his eyes were open to a wider field, because he would have a greater expanse of the atmosphere, say, or the horizon, to compare the object with, which would give him a distinct lead.

23459. (Mr. Scanlan.) After all that, is it your opinion that it is desirable to provide binoculars for look-out men?
- No.

Examined by Mr. CLEMENT EDWARDS.

23460. There is one point I want to get cleared up at once. As I understand from what you have read, your report went to the Marine Department of the Board of Trade together with a report from the London District Official, and the Glasgow District Official, and that Sir Alfred Chalmers made a note to the effect that only the Glasgow scale recommendation should go to the advisory committee?
- No, he did not make a note of that sort. He only made a note to the Department to the effect that he preferred that - not that that recommendation was to go to the advisory committee.

23461. What I want to get at is that he made a note suggesting that the only one of the scales - that is to say yours, Glasgow's, and London - was the Glasgow one which should go to the advisory committee?
- That it should be considered under those circumstances, but it was not, as a matter of fact, sent to the Committee.

Would you mind giving me the note?

The Attorney-General:
I have it. This is not the thing apparently sent, but it is what my learned friend means: "I am of opinion that the scale submitted by the Principal Officer for Glasgow should quite meet the necessities of the case, and should be the one submitted to the advisory committee for their guidance."

23462. (Mr. Clement Edwards - To the witness.) Is it within your knowledge or not that that scale, and that scale alone, was submitted by the Marine Department of the Board of Trade to the advisory committee?
- No, I do not think it was submitted to the advisory committee.

23463. Can you tell me what is the scale that is referred to in the letter to the advisory committee?

The Attorney-General:
Will you look at it?
- I have read it. You have not the document before you. It is a blank scale. The scale is at the bottom.

23464. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) If that is so, it is all right, but I want to get it quite clear. (To the witness.) Then that apparently is the scale referred to?
- Yes.

23465. Do you, of your own knowledge, know whether the Glasgow scale was submitted to the advisory committee?
- No, I do not think it was submitted to the advisory committee.

23466. Do you know?
- To the best of my recollection the Committee were not sent any particular scale from us, because, after consideration, it was decided - I am only going from the previous history according to my recollection - that it was not advisable to influence them in any way.

23467. Let us be perfectly clear and precise upon this point. Do you, of your own knowledge, know whether, in accordance with that minute, the scale from Glasgow was submitted to the advisory committee?
- No, I do not know.

23468. Can you tell me who would know that?
- Yes, Sir Alfred Chalmers would know.

23469. (The Commissioner.) Will Sir Alfred tell us?

Sir Alfred Chalmers:
No scale was submitted. Although I advised that in my minute, and conferred with Sir Walter Howell afterwards, and we came to the conclusion that it was much better to leave the Committee a free hand altogether, and send nothing but a skeleton scale.

23470. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) May I ask Sir Alfred this: Did you, or did any other official of the Board of Trade give any evidence at all before the advisory committee before they came to their conclusions?

Sir Alfred Chalmers:
None at all.

23471. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) That is to say, the advisory committee on their recommendation were entirely unguided and unaided by the Marine Department.

Sir Alfred Chalmers:

The Commissioner:
Do you complain of that failure, if it be a failure, on the part of the Board of Trade to advise the advisory committee?

Mr. Clement Edwards:
Not after the view I have formed.

The Commissioner:
Do you complain of it?

23472. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) No, I do not complain of it. (To the witness.) The recommendations of the Glasgow official which Sir Alfred Chalmers approved gave, for boats under davits, less cubic capacity than that which in fact was provided by the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

23473. You have heard the evidence of your predecessor?
- Yes.

23474. And you heard him say that in his view there was no single regulation of the Board of Trade that should be modified in the light of the "Titanic" disaster. That, I gather, is not your view?
- No, that is not my view.

23475. This term has been used, and I suppose you regard the "Titanic" disaster, apart altogether from its colossal character, as being of an extraordinary nature?
- Naturally; yes.

23476. What is there extraordinary about it?
- This, that it was not what you may consider a fair blow. There is very little doubt that had it been an ordinary case of collision, or an ordinary running into an iceberg, the vessel would still be afloat; but when her side impinges against the side of the berg then something else is going to happen, and it is a matter which has not been provided for.

23477. Let us come to that because it is leading up to something else. Do you not as a fact test the turning capacity of a ship to see within what space she can answer to her helm, so that she may avoid objects in front that are seen?
- The capacity of vessels is put through a course of experiments as a Rule before they have their passenger certificate granted. The surveyor takes a note of it, but he does not demand it.

23478. But is not that for the purpose if an object is seen in front of enabling the ship to be steered off to clear the object?
- Of course that is the idea, no doubt.

23479. Therefore, is it not a perfectly common thing that over and over again it happens in seeking to avoid an object immediately in front it is not entirely avoided, and you get your side or glancing blow?
- Undoubtedly.

23480. Do you see any reason in the natural course of things why that should not happen with an iceberg at any time in the future?
- No; having happened once it may happen again.

So it cannot be on that ground that the accident was extraordinary.

23481. (The Commissioner.) Oh, yes, it may be?
- It is out of the ordinary altogether.

23482. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) As I understand, you take the view that there may be boat accommodation less than that required to take every soul off a ship?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
Have you left the last point - the question as to why this was an extraordinary accident?

Mr. Clement Edwards:
Not quite. I am coming back to it another way.

The Commissioner:
Because it occurs to me there is another matter - the fact that for some reason or another, assuming the look-out to have been good, this iceberg was not seen until it was too late. That was a most extraordinary thing to my mind, assuming that the look-out was good.

Mr. Clement Edwards:
I am not quite certain that that is really extraordinary, because if objects could be seen there would be no collision.

The Commissioner:
If they could be seen at a sufficient distance.

23483. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Quite so; I mean at a sufficient distance. (To the witness.) I understand you take the view that there need not be a boat accommodation to carry away every soul, provided that the watertight bulkheads are as they ought to be?
- Yes.

23484. Watertight bulkheads in the case of the "Titanic" did not save her?
- No, they did not.

23485. What I want to ask you quite specifically is this: Can you make any suggestion at all what should be done to save life under precisely the same circumstances, if they should happen, as have arisen in the case of the "Titanic"?
- With the same system of subdivisions?

23486. No. Here we have this appalling fact that 1,400 lives have been lost, and if another "Titanic" disaster took place, according to your recommendation, we should only have a few additional lives possibly saved. I want to know have you any suggestion of precaution or remedy or provision that may avoid that in future?
- I do not care altogether to anticipate the findings of the present Bulkhead Committee, which is sitting, but we should naturally go into the finding of that Committee very, very closely indeed before we decided as to whether we should increase the number of boats to the extent that is desired or not.

23487. May I put it that your mind is being directed to the possibility of such bulkhead construction, perhaps transverse and longitudinal, as might in the event of a ship like this striking an iceberg under similar circumstances enable her to float?
- Precisely.

23488. I quite understand that you do not want to go into it too definitely, but your view rather is that opinion ought to be directed to that point than to the provision of boats after an accident?
- Precisely. That has been my contention all along - the main principle which has guided me.

The Commissioner:
Mr. Wilding said that if the "Titanic" had gone stem on to the iceberg she would in his opinion have continued to float, but all the men in the firemen's quarters would have been killed. No lifeboats would have saved them; they would have been killed there and then.

23489. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) If I may say so, with respect - and I am very much obliged to your Lordship for raising it - it rather suggests the question as to whether, in a case of this sort, the risk is to be taken even for a section of the crew or passengers. I can quite understand, in view of the very weighty opinion expressed by Mr. Wilding, one of the constructors, that if an iceberg is seen under similar circumstances again, the order being given to go dead straight ahead, and risk the smash up in front.

The Attorney-General:
I hope I am not on it, that is all.

The Commissioner:
I do not know that it may not be better in that case.

Mr. Clement Edwards:
That clearly is the suggestion of Mr. Wilding.

The Commissioner:
But I should be very far from saying that the man who put the helm hard-a-starboard was wrong.

Mr. Clement Edwards:
I am not suggesting it; but in the light of precisely what happened here, with the oblong stroke, and with the evidence of Mr. Wilding, the constructor, that if instead of the stroke being along the side it had been a direct blow, it would have killed the men in the forecastle, but undoubtedly in his view the "Titanic" would have floated, and the others have been saved. I can understand that having a very great effect on the minds of Officers who are responsible for the navigation of ships.

The Attorney-General:
It would be telescoped 100 feet, according to Mr. Wilding.

Mr. Clement Edwards - To the witness:
I do not want unduly to press you on this point, but in your recommendation to the Marine Department you laid some emphasis upon the bulkhead construction?
- Yes.

23490. Have you yourself given careful and exhaustive consideration to this question of bulkheads?
- I have given very careful consideration to it indeed.

23491. As far as your opinion can now be expressed, do you think that much might be done with longitudinal bulkheads?
- Yes, I daresay you could provide a form of longitudinal bulkheads which might under circumstances be of very great value to the ship, but you would have to proceed with very great caution.

23492. Are you familiar with the construction of the "Mauretania"?
- I am.

23493. As far as you can say, does that form of bulkhead on the "Mauretania" meet with your approval, and do you regard it as making fairly for safety?
- I think it is an improvement for safety, inasmuch as the inner skin is very fairly well removed from the outer skin and the spaces occupied by bunkers.

The Commissioner:
Three feet, is it not?

23494. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) I think it is six feet.

The Witness:
It is about ten feet, I think.

23495. (The Commissioner.) What is the space between the outer skin and the inner skin of the "Mauretania"?
- I should say about ten feet. I do not know for certain.

23496. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) It must be fairly considerable. On the "Mauretania" the space between the outer skin and the inner skin is utilised, as a matter of fact, for bunker coal?
- That is so.

23497. (The Commissioner.) The space is utilised for bunker coal?
- Yes.

23498. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) I want to get your view upon this. Two things have been suggested with regard to these longitudinal bulkheads. One is that if you bunker the coal you may be giving a list to one side, because of the coal being worked out. Do you see any difficulty in trimming from either side pretty evenly?
- I do not see any difficulty at all as regards the distribution of the bunkers.

23499. It has further been suggested that with longitudinal bulkheads, if there is a blow on one side, with openings to the sea there may be very great danger of a ship heeling that side?
- It would depend, no doubt, to a certain extent.

The Commissioner:
The suggestion was not that there might be a difficulty by reason of your taking coal from one side and not from the other, because you could easily regulate things of that kind. The suggestion was that you might get a great list on one side of the ship if the ship was holed on that side.

Mr. Clement Edwards:
With respect, there were the two suggestions, and I have just put the question to this Witness.

Continued >