British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 24

Testimony of Alfred Young, cont.

The Commissioner:
Who was it said there would be a difficulty because of the fact that you would take coal on one side and not on the other?

Mr. Clement Edwards:
I think it was Mr. Carlisle.

The Attorney-General:
I think there is a little misapprehension with regard to that. There was something said about the coal, but it was not that. It was the difficulty of shutting down the watertight doors when you had been taking coal from the bunker. I think that is what my learned friend is thinking of.

Mr. Clement Edwards:
I am coming to that. My recollection is that Mr. Carlisle spoke about the difficulty of coal being worked out on one side, and there was the difficulty put by Mr. Wilding as to the danger of leaving the bunker doors open in the case of the ship being struck, and the third point was put, which your Lordship is now on, that there was very great danger of a heavy list to one side, if on that side the outer skin was open to the sea.

The Commissioner:
Yes, and that was the only point.

23500. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) That is the point I want to deal with. (To the witness.) The suggestion was that there is very great danger in longitudinal bulkheads, because if the ship gets struck on one side there may be a big rush of water, with a consequent list to that side. What do you say as to that?
- In the first place, it would depend naturally upon the quantity of coal in those bunkers in the compartment or compartments pierced as the case may be. Naturally you cannot rely upon all the coal being displaced by the water, and the water taking its place. Certainly the water will fill up the interstices of the coal and add considerably to the weight, but it is not going to add the full value of that compartment if it is already occupied by coal, but undoubtedly it would give it a list.

23501. (The Commissioner.) And the compartment may be not full, or anything like full of coal. If the vessel is getting near the end of her journey the bunkers will be empty, or nearly empty?
- Yes.

23502. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Can you say anything as to the point put by his Lordship that when there is not coal there she might get struck?
- Yes; but even if she had two of the wing compartments filled under those circumstances it is quite likely that they would have means of running in water on the other side if she was taking a dangerous list. I do not know for certain, but I think it might be devised. It is quite within the province and within the skill of the marine naval architect to do so.

23503. (The Commissioner.) Is there any greater advantage in transverse bunkers over side bunkers?
- Not that I can see.

23504. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) As I understand you are the responsible technical head of the Marine Department?
- That is so.

23505. If we are rather to travel in the direction of what I will call bulkhead precautions, do you think that the present staff of the Marine Department - the local Surveyors with their particular training - are a fully competent body to decide definitely as to the safety of bulkhead construction?
- Absolutely.

23506. You think they are?
- Yes, absolutely.

23507. Without any further addition?
- We should like some more, and we are getting some more.

23508. Some more what?
- Surveyors.

23509. Of what sort?
- All classes - nautical Surveyors, engineering Surveyors, and what are termed ship Surveyors, but were formerly termed Shipwright Surveyors.

23510. Is there any suggestion that there should be very special attention paid to the experience and training of those men in the efficacy of bulkheads?
- We are not making any express provision with regard to that, because it comes in in the ordinary course of their duties. If they are not qualified, in the first place, to deal with the question of bulkhead structures, then we should not have them in the Board of Trade at all.

23511. I want to direct your mind for a moment from the question of bulkheads to the question of boat provision. You take the view that there ought to be an increase of boat accommodation?
- Yes.

23512. You have rather put it upon the question that the increase should be made as far as practicable?
- Exactly.

23513. And you have used certain expressions as to the height of decks in the construction of a ship?
- Yes.

23514. Have you any definite views as to the relation of boat accommodation to the erection of such superstructure as there is on the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

23515. Now, supposing there was less deck height from above the weather-line, would that in your view make any difference as to the practicability of carrying a less or larger number of boats?
- Not much.

23516. It would make some difference?
- If the height, or difference in height, was very marked, yes.

23517. Supposing what is now the boat deck were abolished and what is now the a deck - that is the deck immediately below it - became the boat deck, and supposing the whole of that deck were utilised for boat accommodation, what in your view would be the effect of that on the tenderness of the ship?
- Very trifling.

23518. So one may say if you had a complete sacrifice of, I will use the term, the luxury of that one deck, you could then without serious detriment to the strength and weathering capacity of the ship utilise one deck entirely for boat accommodation?
- If it were necessary to do so, but I do not consider it necessary there as regards the stability of the ship.

The Commissioner:
Would you diminish, by abolishing the boat deck, the registered tonnage of the ship?

Mr. Clement Edwards:
Your Lordship will remember that I asked one witness and he could not quite tell. (To the witness.) Have you any idea what would be the weight of that top deck?

23519. (The Commissioner.) I am not thinking about the weight at all. I am thinking about the registered tonnage. I suppose there is something in the top deck that would measure in the registered tonnage?
- The portion of the deck erections which come above the boat deck would naturally be measured.

23520. If you abolished the deck you would abolish those?
- Yes, you might abolish them.

The Commissioner:
This is outside this Enquiry, I think. These are details.

Mr. Clement Edwards:
The full point is this. It has been put by certain of the witnesses, and the term has been used - if you unduly increase the number of boats with the view to taking off all the passengers you thereby interfere with the weathering strength of the ship by making her tender.

The Commissioner:
You need not ask such a question as this: If you put the boats lower down do you make the vessel less tender. Of course you do. You can go on putting them down until you get them on the Orlop deck.

Mr. Clement Edwards:
Yes; but I am putting a specific question on lowering the ship.

The Commissioner:
I am pointing out to you that I am of opinion that is a detail, and a matter that has to be taken into consideration, not by us, but by some other tribunal.

23521. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) If your Lordship pleases. (To the witness.) Anyhow, in your view, if you did abolish the one deck - that is to say, lower the boat deck - to what is now A deck, and utilise that entirely for boats, it would not make any great difference to the weathering capacity of the ship?
- No, not in a distance of about nine feet, the height of the deck. It would make a very little difference at that height. It would be an appreciable difference, no doubt, but it can be provided for in most ships - not in all.

23522. That is to say the relative weight of the one deck and a large number of boats, say, 60 boats, would not be very great?
- You mean the total weight of boats and boat deck?

23523. No, the total weight of boats and boat deck together would not be much greater than the total weight of what is now A deck?
- The weight on the boat deck would naturally be the weight of the boats on it, and that is all.

The Commissioner:
Pass on to something else, Mr. Edwards.

23524. (Mr. Clement Edwards - To the witness.) Have you thought of any plan of providing boat accommodation apart altogether from their being placed on what is now the top deck - the boat deck?
- Yes, I have gone into plans.

23525. Do you think there is any possibility of getting an effective system apart from having boats on the very top deck?
- Yes. I think in certain ships it could be arranged for.

23526. What sort of suggestion would you make?
- Naturally, if a vessel has two or three promenade decks, as the case may be, and she has rails round, you can have them not only on the boat deck proper, but on the deck below.

23527. (The Commissioner.) Would that be a desirable thing?
- Not altogether.

23528. Would it be desirable at all, because if so, I do not know why the Board of Trade has not long ago recommended it?
- We do not care about it.

23529. Then you do not think it desirable?
- No, I do not, but I say I have gone into those questions.

23530. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Why do not you think it desirable?
- Because you would have one boat interfering with another. You would probably have two different sets of davits.

23531. (The Commissioner.) Does any big liner carry any boats there?
- Not to my knowledge.

23532. Did you ever hear of such a thing?
- No, I cannot say that I have - not on two decks.

The Commissioner:
Then leave it alone Mr. Edwards.

23533. (Mr. Clement Edwards - To the witness.) You are the supreme technical adviser at the Marine Department of the Board of Trade?
- Yes.

23534. What Mr. Archer might recommend would you have authority to override?
- Certainly, if I objected to it.

23535. What you recommend would the assistant-Secretary have power to override?
- Certainly.

23536. (The Commissioner.) And I suppose in the days when Mr. Lloyd George was there he would have the right to override that again?
- Yes, but whether he would be right or not is another thing.

23537. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) But so far as the permanent staff is concerned the position is this, is it not, that Mr. Archer, the responsible adviser on, say, bulkhead construction can be overridden by you with nautical experience?
- He can be.

23538. And you can be overridden by an entirely non-expert person, the assistant Secretary?
- Yes.

23539. (The Commissioner.) And then he can be overridden by the secretary?
- Yes, but it is an extremely unlikely contingency.

23540. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) I am coming to that. Presumably the secretary can be overridden by the President, the President by Parliament, and Parliament by an election, and so we go on?
- You cannot very well leave that out.

The Commissioner:
And that election by another election.

23541. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) This is my last question. In your view do you think that any permanent official ought to be in a position on matters of a technical character, to override the advice and recommendations of technical experts?
- That is not a matter which I need take into consideration at all, or you either, I think.

23542. You will allow me to judge of that, unless his Lordship intervenes, and you will kindly answer my question if you do not mind, unless you think there are very special departmental reasons why you should not?
- There are no departmental reasons at all.

23543. Then do you mind saying whether you think it a good plan that a permanent official who is non-expert should have the power to override the advice of technical experts?
- It is a question as to whether he would accept that advice, or not.

23544. (The Commissioner.) Have you thought of the matter?
- I have thought of it, naturally.

23545. You seem to have thought of everything. I give you so many opportunities of saying no?
- It is not a matter I would give very much thought to, because it is hardly necessary. In my opinion it is a contingency which is remote.

Examined by Mr. HARBINSON.

23546. I notice, as far as I can see, that in these Regulations the Board of Trade have framed no regulation as regards the location of lifeboats on steamers?
- No.

23547. It has been given in evidence, I think, by Mr. Sanderson, in the course of this Enquiry, as an explanation of why the percentage of third class passengers drowned was higher than the first and second class that the reason was the inaccessibility of the boat; that is, that the boat deck was nearer the first and second class quarters than the third class?
- Yes.

23548. Would you agree with that view?
- I do not see how it can be avoided.

23549. That is exactly what I wanted to put to you. Have you considered the question of how the boat accommodation on these huge vessels could be made more accessible to third class passengers?
- No, I have not.

23550. That is one question you have not considered?
- No, I have not considered it. I do not think it necessary to consider it.

23551. In view of Mr. Sanderson's explanation?
- I do not know precisely what his explanation was. I have not seen the whole of the evidence, but undoubtedly the boats will be carried as far aft as would be desirable, and as would be considered safe. If you have your boats too far aft you get under the counter, and it is not advisable.

23552. Then if it is not advisable you would consider it not advisable to place boats on the well deck and on the poop?
- I think you could carry boats in the well deck, certainly, but you would be rather close to the counter in getting them over.

23553. Assuming you did not consider it desirable to carry boats so far aft as the poop, would not you think it proper that ample arrangements should be made and adequate notices posted fore and aft of the ship to notify third class passengers in times of emergency and danger the readiest and quickest way to find their way to the boats?
- That is a matter of detail.

The Commissioner:
That is an argument rather than a question.

Mr. Harbinson:
I put it in the form of a question.

The Commissioner:
Yes, but it is an argument, and you can argue it before me.

23554. (Mr. Harbinson.) I hope to have the opportunity of doing so. (To the witness.) You do not consider it necessary to make any further provision or provide any further means of access for third class passengers to the places where the boats are located?
- Not beyond what is the ordinary practice. There are certain directions in all these ships for the passengers to get on to the deck. At nighttime you have red lamps showing the passengers the ladders so that they have their means of escape, so I do not think there is any necessity for an amplification of those things.

23555. Do your official regulations prescribe, as a matter of fact, emergency doors and other exits and means of ingress and egress?
- Yes.

23556. Is there any special instruction given to the surveyors of the Board of Trade to see that these regulations are carried out in every detail?
- No special instructions, because the instructions are laid down and the surveyors have to carry them out.

23557. And you assume they are carried out?
- I know it - I do not assume it at all.

23558. In your opinion, up to the present and in the light of the "Titanic" disaster, you do not think any further means of egress or communication from fore and aft of the ship to the boat deck should be provided?
- No; from what I saw of the vessel's plans I consider they were quite adequate for the purpose.

23559. The plans of the "Titanic" and the "Olympic"?
- Yes.

Mr. Holmes:
I have no question to ask, My Lord.

Examined by Mr. LAING.

23560. Yesterday you told us that you had considered this matter in 1911, and 26 boats, with 8,200 cubic feet capacity was the result?
- Yes, I had not all my figures with me yesterday. I was led to expect that I should be called not yesterday afternoon but today, and consequently I had not all my papers with me, and was not au fait with my figures.

23561. I did not understand it, that is all. May we strike out the 8,200?
- In that connection, yes. The table that I had in my mind at that time was in accordance with my recommendation from Liverpool. I mixed up my figures rather.

The Commissioner:
Do you want to ask any questions, Mr. Attorney-General?

The Attorney-General:
I only want to put one thing to prevent misconception.

Re-examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.

23562. According to the minute you, Captain Parke, and Mr. Harris were asked to report on this matter, but I find on looking through the Papers that Mr. Archer also made some suggestions?
- That is right.

23563. (The Commissioner.) That makes a fourth?
- Yes.

23564. (The Attorney-General.) If you want a figure with reference to the 45,000 or 50,000 tons so that you may have it altogether, I see he recommended the biggest number of boats?
- Yes.

The Attorney-General:
Twenty-four was the number of boats he required - 14,250 cubic feet capacity under davits, 24,937 cubic capacity with the addition of the supplementary boats. I have all the documents here, which I think your Lordship ought to see in order that you should have everything before you. I have here a Table from Captain Parke, and I see also some reference to German vessels which you will consider when it is printed. It is hardly worth stopping on it now. The table shows he was making suggestions also in reference to the deckhands, and he made a rough sketch of the boat stowage, showing how he thought 32 boats actually under davits might be placed on the ship. If your Lordship looks at that you will see what is meant.

(Handing document to his Lordship.)

The Commissioner:
What ship is this sketch for?

The Attorney-General:
I think it is only a suggestion, and not with reference to any particular ship. The point being considered was whether they should have more boats on. He makes the suggestion there of how it might be carried out. Some were under davits apparently, and some with inboard boats - and as I followed it some of the boats where you have five in a row I should have thought could not be carried in davits.

The Commissioner:
No; there are six, and four of the six, of course, could not be.

The Attorney-General:
I suppose the idea is that they should be with inboard, and that the davits at the side of the vessel could be used to put them into the water. That is what it means I expect. I did see - I do not know whether your Lordship did - when we went to see the "Olympic," a vessel with four davits on either side, and a deckhouse with two, three or four boats on it. I think it was the "City of Paris," but I am not quite sure. He also refers to the suggestion of a single wire rope instead of the manilla rope through various blocks. When we were on the "Olympic" we saw experiments made with a single wire rope for that purpose. It is very much in the experimental stage.

The Commissioner:
I think I did see such a thing. I do not think I saw it in operation. It was shown to me.

The Attorney-General:
I think the great point was that with this wire rope you would not require to have the number of reevings through the sheaves of the blocks, and therefore would not have so much difficulty in the recovery of your tackle, and moreover this particular kind of wire rope would not get the kinks and turns in it that there would be in a manilla rope. That was the idea.

23565. (The Commissioner - To the witness.) Can you tell me why the boat accommodation is based upon tonnage and not upon the number of persons carried?
- My only idea about it is that when the tonnage basis was adopted, it was at that time taken as a better indication of the size of the vessel and her capacity or her capability for bearing the boats required at a height than anything else. It was, I think, based upon the question of the safety of the ship herself.

23566. That was long before your time?
- It was before my time; but that is what I have gathered from time to time as the only possible explanation of it.

23567. (The Attorney-General.) There is one question I should like to put, if your Lordship is finished. (To the witness.) We see what view you hold according to that report, but between that time and the "Titanic" disaster, did you modify your views at all?
- I did.

23568. Were they put into writing?
- Yes.

23569. Have you got the writing in which you express the modified views?
- Yes.

23570. Will you let me see it? I only want to get the date and to see what the effect of it was?
- You are alluding, of course, to a date prior to the "Titanic" disaster?

23571. I said so - between your first report when you expressed your opinion in answer to the instructions of the board and the foundering of the "Titanic"?
- Yes. (Handing a paper to the Attorney-General.) That is my statement for brief.

23572. Then perhaps I may put the question to you compendiously in this form. Did you from the time that you made that report, and before the "Titanic" disaster, inquire very fully and further into this question of boat accommodation?
- I did, very considerably.

23573. Apparently there was a division of opinion or a difference of opinion between a number of you in the Board of Trade?
- That is so.

23574. Then you made a number of enquiries and went into the matter very fully as far as you could?
- Yes.

23575. Then, as a consequence of that, did you modify the view which you had expressed in the report?
- I modified my view in consequence of a visit which I paid to the shipyards on the tees, the tyne, and the Clyde, in January last, for the purpose of seeing whether my ideas as to the improvements in ship construction, the subdivision of the ships, the strength of the bulkheads and their disposition - were right or not. From what I saw I was quite confirmed in my original opinion, as expressed in my letter from Liverpool, to the effect that we should rely upon an efficient system of bulkhead subdivision of the ship rather than on any large increase in the number of boats.

23576. That is the substance of it?
- That is the substance of it.

23577. That was right according to your view. Did you, in consequence of that, think that a less number of boats might be required and demanded by the Board of Trade than you had actually put into your table?
- Precisely. That is exactly the course.

The Commissioner:
It does not say how many less.

23578. (The Attorney-General.) No, only that in principle he formed the opinion, being strengthened in that view about the necessity of paying greater attention to efficient bulkheads, that in his view it would not be necessary to make demands for so many boats or so much boat accommodation. That is the effect of it.

The Witness:
That is it precisely.

(After a short adjournment.)

The Commissioner:
I understand it will not be convenient to sit tomorrow, and therefore we shall not come back till Monday morning.

23579. (The Attorney-General.) There is one question I want to put to Captain Young, because my reference to the minutes and documents is a matter which I think your Lordship ought to know. (To the witness.) You said just now, before the adjournment, that you had not actually formulated your views as to the number of boats or the cubic capacity which would have to be provided, but you had modified the opinion which you had formed originally, when the table we have had before us, or to which I have referred, was made by you?
- Yes.

23580. You will remember that?
- Yes, that was an error.

23581. I find by reference to it that there was a scale which you, Captain Young, had formulated, and that scale, I understand, did go before the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee?
- Quite correct.

The Attorney-General:
So that your Lordship will see it is quite right, as we said before, that on the report made by the three gentlemen whose names I gave you, and Mr. Archer, those tables did not go before the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee, but a table did, and that was the modified table which Captain Young had made in consequence of the opinion he had formed after visiting these various places.

The Commissioner:
Very well.

23582. (The Attorney-General.) To make it quite clear, that was after the report had been made by the Merchant Shipping Advisory Committee. Your Lordship will remember they made their report in July of 1911. (To the witness.) Just follow this, please, Captain Young, I have only just got it. At the time that the Committee made its report in July, 1911, no scale had been placed before them?
- That is perfectly correct.

23583. But subsequently, I see, on the 28th March,1912, and on the 30th March, 1912, a scale was put before them?
- That is so.

23584. Your Lordship will remember we had the reference to these dates in the evidence of Sir Walter Howell, when we were enquiring as to whether he had given the direction on the 4th April for the letter which subsequently was written on the 16th April, 1912. A reference was made to a Minute of Captain Young, under the date of the 28th March, 1912, and the 30th March, 1912. Those documents, Captain Young says, did contain a scale. It is before the "Titanic" disaster, but after the report.

The Commissioner:
But after the report?

The Attorney-General:
Yes. I was anxious your Lordship should understand exactly how the matter stood. I see the proposed extension of boat scale which he then put forward, gave for the 45,000 tons and under 50,000 tons, twenty-six boats with a minimum cubic capacity for boats under davits of 7,900 feet. It was less actually than in the report which was put forward of 8,300.

The Commissioner:
Less than his original?

The Attorney-General:
Yes, and less also than contained in the report of the advisory committee of July, 1911, a little less - 400 cubic feet less.

23585. (The Commissioner - To the witness.) Can you recall an instance of the wreck of a ship where the boats have not been sufficient for the purpose of saving life?
- No, My Lord, I do not know that we have any case on record.

23586. There is no case like the "Titanic"?
- I think not, My Lord. Have I your permission, My Lord, to make a very brief statement?

23587. (The Commissioner.) What is it about?
- About the allegations that have been made against the Marine Department with regard to their degree of energy. It has been said, and great publicity has been given to it, that the Marine Department did nothing between the 4th July, 1911, and the 16th April, 1912. With your Lordship's permission I would just like to make this point perfectly clear that no blame can be attached to the Marine Department for the supposed delay which has occurred in that interval of time. If any blame can be attached to anyone it must be put upon the right shoulder and that is the Professional Officer of that period, that is myself. The question of the experiments which have been made with regard to the suitability and the safety of boats prior to the increase in their number, I think fully justified me in taking the time that I did to form my conclusions, and in making my deductions which I consider was highly necessary before we could advocate, with any degree of honesty the degree of increase which we should consider advisable. I can assure you, My Lord, that had I chosen to take the line of least resistance when I took up my post at whitehall, acting first as Deputy in July, I should have referred the Report of the advisory committee back to them without any alteration, practically without any comment, and carried on the enormous mass of work which I found awaiting me at that particular time. But I was so impressed from my knowledge and experience of ships and shipping in general of the importance of the point of having proper and safe boats, which I very much doubted we had, before we could advocate any large increase in the number, that it was imperative this matter should be looked thoroughly into. Consequently time was occupied in that, and I do not think that any blame can be legitimately attached to the Marine Department for going so thoroughly into that work as they did, hampered as they were by a great many pressing subjects of legislation, work with foreign Governments and negotiations of all sorts, and a very considerable amount of revision of the whole of our rules. Under the circumstances I wish it to be thoroughly understood that no blame can be attached either to Sir Walter Howell, or the President, or anybody else in the Marine Department beyond myself, as it was entirely upon my representations to the Marine Department that the boats took up so much of our time. That is the only statement I have to make.

The Commissioner:
Very well. I think you are quite entitled to make that statement.

(The witness withdrew.)