British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 25

Testimony of William D. Archer, cont.

The Commissioner:
Mr. Attorney, the gentlemen who advise me on this matter seem to think that the Committee which is to take into consideration these matters, should among other things consider the desirability of having watertight decks either above or below the waterline. I do not know whether you or Sir Robert Finlay would suggest that that is not a desirable thing to be submitted.

The Attorney-General:
I think it would be quite right that it should be suggested for their consideration. It was occurring to me during my friend's examination, but I did not attempt to ask your Lordship's view about it. It would be obviously impossible to decide upon this question without a mass of evidence which we have not called.

The Commissioner:
Oh, yes.

The Attorney-General:
But it occurred to me that might be the right course.

The Commissioner:
That is probably all you want at present, Mr. Edwards?

Mr. Edwards:

The Commissioner:
I said long ago we cannot sit here - I should have to sit for months, or years, possibly - to decide a question of this kind; but the gentlemen who are with me are of opinion that the question of watertight decks either above or below the waterline is a matter that requires examination and consideration. That probably is all that you would ask, Mr. Edwards?

Mr. Edwards:

Sir Robert Finlay:
I quite agree with what the Attorney-General has said. Of course, there are a great many balancing considerations which need to be taken into account.

The Commissioner:

Sir Robert Finlay:
That is without in the slightest degree prejudging the question which is undoubtedly one which deserves consideration. What the result may be of course will appear later.

24432. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) That intimation is quite sufficient for my purpose. I shall not attempt to pursue it. (To the witness.) Now I want to ask you one or two questions as to the correspondence which passed between you and Messrs. Harland and Wolff. First of all, May I just point out that apparently there is a letter of the 1st June, 1910, from either you or your surveyor at Belfast, to Messrs. Harland and Wolff, which appears to be a very important letter. It is missing from this bundle?
- I have not got it.

Mr. Edwards:
Is Mr. Carruthers here?

The Commissioner:
A letter from whom?

Mr. Edwards:
I have a letter from Messrs. Harland and Wolff to the Board of Trade surveyor at Belfast, and in that letter they say, "In view of the difficulties raised by your letter of the 1st inst. to the wording of your regulation."

The Commissioner:
A copy of that letter must be in the possession of the Board of Trade, and the original must be in the possession of Messrs. Harland and Wolff.

Mr. Edwards:
Yes. Perhaps Mr. Carruthers will say whether he has a copy of that letter?

Mr. Carruthers:
Yes, a copy can be got out of my letter-book at Belfast.

The Commissioner:
Where is your letter-book?

Mr. Carruthers:
At Belfast.

Mr. Edwards:
I suppose that could be sent here?

The Commissioner:
It must be possible to get the original letter, because Harland and Wolff would undoubtedly keep it.

Mr. Laing:
I have just asked if Mr. Wilding has it here, and he has not.

The Commissioner:
Well, but he could telegraph for it.

Mr. Laing:

Mr. Edwards:
I would ask your Lordship to direct that Mr. Carruthers's letter-book be sent also so that we may see it.

The Attorney-General:
There is no necessity to direct it; it shall be done.

The Commissioner:
You must not assume that the Board of Trade are attempting to stifle things.

Mr. Edwards:
I do not, My Lord. I was not suggesting that.

The Commissioner:
And I hope, Mr. Edwards, you do not think so.

Mr. Edwards:
I have a way, My Lord, of expressing quite frankly what I think. I am not thinking anything different from that which I am expressing when I say that I do not suggest for a moment that the Board of Trade are attempting to stifle things at all. On the contrary, I am rather inclined to think in this matter that the letter to which I refer will very considerably redound to the credit of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade.

The Commissioner:
Well, now cannot you leave the witness alone.

Mr. Edwards:
That might be taken, My Lord, as a declaration of clearance.

The Commissioner:
I do not mean that you have not helped us, because I think you have very much, but I think you have had enough from him.

24433. (Mr. Edwards - To the witness.) I would just like to ask you this. Were you yourself satisfied when the question of the bulkheads was referred to you, that Messrs. Harland and Wolff in the building of the "Titanic" were taking the bulkheads to as high a deck as you thought was required by your regulations in Circular 1401?
- Yes.

24434. You were satisfied?
- Yes.

24435. Mr. Carruthers was not satisfied?
- I do not understand that at all.

The Attorney-General:
No, I did not understand that.

24436. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Then I will call your attention to your Minute. Take the collision bulkhead first of all. The plans of the "Titanic" and the "Olympic" were identical?
- Yes, so far as bulkheads were concerned.

24437. On the 30th April, 1910, you write: "Steamship 'Olympic.' Sir, the surveyor's report requesting instructions regarding the collision bulkhead of this vessel is forwarded. The board's regulation Circular 1401 requires that the collision bulkhead is in all cases to extend to the upper deck, but there is a provision that in vessels of the shelter deck type the deck next below the shelter deck may be regarded as the upper deck, subject to the sheer being sufficient. The shelter deck stem deck, page 44 of Freeboard table, May for this purpose be defined as one having a greater freeboard measured from the second deck than required by Table C, and having all openings in the second deck battened down as on a weather deck. The surveyor reports that the freeboard of this vessel, Measured from the so-called upper deck, will be about 10 feet 9 inches, but the freeboard required by Table C is about 11 feet 2 inches, as shown in detail on the attached sheet. The sheer will also be somewhat less than the standard, and there will be a large number of openings in the upper deck. As the deck marked 'upper' will be nearer the water than the main or second deck, with an awning deck vessel, it cannot be regarded as the upper deck within the meaning of the Circular. The surveyor should, I think, be instructed to inform the builder that the collision bulkhead must be carried up to the deck marked 'saloon deck,' and that no part of the bulkhead below this deck should be nearer the stem than one -twentieth of the vessel's length, as required by the Circular referred to. It may be observed that in the event of the upper part of the bulkhead where marked in red being damaged by collision, there would be some danger of water entering the space above the upper deck, unless the weather conditions were unusually favourable, when it would pass below down the open stairway." So that clearly it was in your view at that time that the collision bulkhead was not being taken as high as your regulations required?
- Pardon me, it was not a question of the height of the bulkhead. The height of the drawing then submitted to me was the same as it stands there in that drawing, that is to D deck.

24438. (The Attorney-General.) That is the saloon deck?
- Yes, but the upper portion of it, that is the portion above the f deck, was crashed forward; it was too near the stem of the vessel.

24439. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) You say that that had nothing to do with the height of the particular deck?
- The bulkhead was quite high enough, but it did not go up in a straight line.

The Attorney-General:
It was carried up to D deck; it was stepped forward and stepped aft.

24440. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) That is so; it did not go far up.

The Witness:

The Commissioner:
It did not go straight up?

The Attorney-General:
That is so.

24441. (Mr. Edwards - To the witness.) Now, did you on the 28th May, 1910, report this to your department: "I do not think that the increased sheer now reported materially affects the question. As there will be open stairways in the upper deck, the collision bulkhead should, I think, extend to the saloon deck"?
- That is right.

24442. "No report has been received as to the height to which the remaining bulkheads extend"?
- Yes.

24443. "The surveyor should note that as the intended freeboard measured from the upper deck appears to be less than given in Table C by clause 16 of the Regulations re passenger steamers and Circular 1,401, the engine room and stokehold bulkheads at least should extend to the saloon deck"?
- Yes, that is right.

24444. As a matter of fact, in the "Titanic" they did not extend to the saloon deck, did they?
- No.

24445. The stokehold bulkheads did not extend?
- No.

24446. Why did you permit a departure from this view? That is to say, on the 28th May your view was that the stokehold bulkhead should come right up to the saloon deck. When the ship was finished they did not so extend; what was the reason for the alteration in your attitude?
- I did not alter my attitude at all. The builder's altered their attitude. They lowered the centre of the freeboard disc so as to make the freeboard a little greater than Table C.

24447. And that slight lowering of the disc?
- Pardon me for a moment. When I say they lowered the disc, they lowered the position that they had intended to put it in. The disc was never marked on the vessel in the position in which they originally intended to mark it, but they agreed to lower it a few inches, so that the distance from the centre of the disc to the E deck should not be less than Table C.

24448. Did that alteration satisfy you?
- Yes.

24449. Was it after that that you reported this to your department. On the 1st June Mr. Carruthers reports: "Since the builder's were informed of the board's decision, I have had several interviews with them on the subject. They inform me that the arrangement of the vessel makes it very difficult for them to comply, and they point out" - apparently this is referring to your proposal about the trunking. There is a letter missing. Will you see if it can be obtained? It is somewhere about the 24th June. If you will kindly look you will see this report is stamped 25th June, and Mr. Carruthers' report is the 1st of June (The document was handed to the witness.)?
- I notice Mr. Carruthers had interviews with the builder's. I do not see any reference to a letter on the subject. It may be only verbal.

24450. Where would he get the board's decision from? And there is the reference there to what should be done in holds 1 and 2. What I am leading up to, and what I want to ask you about, is this. (Perhaps the letter can be found in the morning so that it can go on the Notes.) You advised that the cargo hold should be trunked, and you also advised that the spiral staircase in front of the firemen's passage should be trunked?
- Yes.

24451. Why did not you insist upon both those proposals?
- Because the builder's objected to do so, and they made a calculation which they handed to Mr. Carruthers, and which was forwarded to me, showing that even if the first compartment and the second compartment and the firemen's passage were all filled with water simultaneously, the vessel would sink by the head only 2 feet 6 inches.

24452. If the trunking had been carried out as you suggested - you know the evidence which has been given here - and the trunking had been effective, do you think that. might have had a very important bearing on the sinking of the "Titanic"?
- Not the very slightest effect.

24453. You do not think so?
- Not the very slightest.

24454. In the light of the 'Titanic" disaster, do you still think it advisable that there should be trunking of what are now open stairways, such as the spiral staircase on the "Titanic"?
- On the "Titanic," no.

24455. Then why did you suggest it?
- I suggested it for this reason. It is very difficult to explain it without pointing to the plan.

24456. Well, you can go over and point to the plan?
- Thank you. (The witness went to the Plan on the wall.) The board's Regulations require that that bulkhead should extend up to the D deck, and that the distance of this part of the bulkhead from the stem should not be less than one -twentieth of the vessel's length. As the builders were unwilling to carry it up like that I suggested they should carry it up like this, (Indicating.) but if it had been carried like that, and if this had been broken away by the vessel colliding with another, water might have got in here, and in order to prevent water going down that hatchway and going down that spiral stairway it would be necessary to trunk that hatch up like that and trunk this spiral stairway up watertight to the D deck.

24457. Is not that a reason that exists as much today as when you recommended it to the builders?
- Yes, quite. But when the builders said: "Supposing we do not do that; supposing this part of the bulkhead is broken away; supposing water does get over there and does go down that hatch, and supposing it goes down that spiral staircase and fills the tunnel, the vessel then will only go down by the head 2 ½ feet," and when I had ascertained myself that the top of this bulkhead would then be 15 ½ feet above the water, I felt I had insufficient ground for insisting that that should be done, and withholding the declaration.

24458. Now, in the light of what has happened to the "Titanic," do you think that your view was the best one, or the builders' view was the best one?
- I think that my view was the only right one within our powers under the merchant Shipping Act.

24459. And that applies today?
- Yes.

24460. I only want to touch on one other aspect. There has been something said here as to the difficulty that there might be in utilising the boat deck for a larger number of boats, and it has been suggested that if you put the number of boats there, an increased number, you increase the tenderness of the ship. It has also been suggested that you might correct such tenderness by increasing the ballasting. Do you take the view that any greater tenderness which may be caused by the larger number of boats may be corrected by a process of ballasting?
- Yes, it may be corrected by ballasting.

The Commissioner:
I think I can relieve you also in this part of the case. One of the matters which the Committee will be asked to consider - they will have, I think, to have the submission to them amended in order to enable them to do it - will be the provision of boats. It is quite obvious that it is a matter of importance, and ought to be taken into consideration and dealt with. I think you will probably agree with me.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, My Lord. I do entirely.

Mr. Edwards:
I purposely put it because of that.

The Commissioner:
You are quite right to put it.

24461. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) I did say that I was going to ask Mr. Archer some questions on this matter, and you asked him to be prepared, but since then your Lordship gave the intimation which you did on Friday, and therefore having got this reply to a comprehensive question. I will not pursue it any further at all. (To the witness.) You will see, Mr. Archer, that this correspondence is got into order for the purpose of being printed, and I will have the letters marked for you.

The Witness:
I will endeavour to get them.

Examined by Mr. HOLMES.

24462. We have been referred to you by Sir Walter Howell. We have been told that he relied upon you to satisfy yourself as to the capabilities of the Board of Trade surveyors when they were appointed?
- Yes.

24463. Can you tell us exactly what test you put to them to satisfy yourself that they are capable of performing their duties. For instance, do you appoint a large number of Surveyors as engineer and Shipwright Surveyors?
- They are appointed.

24464. One man does the two things?
- Yes.

24465. They are in a great many cases men who have had nothing but engineering experience at sea?
- They have had workshop experience as well as engineers.

24466. What test do you put to them as to their practical experience as shipwrights, or as nautical men?
- As nautical men, none. I put to them a test as regards their ability to construct and repair - their knowledge of the construction and repair of iron vessels.

24467. Do you put them through examination?
- Yes, both written examination and verbal examination.

24468. Is that before their appointment, or after it?
- That is after they have served a probationary period of about six months.

24469. And during that six months, do they have any instruction from the Board of Trade?
- Yes, they do.

24470. In what form?
- I do not know exactly in what form.

24471. Do you give them a book to read, and then examine them on that?
- Oh, no, so far as I understand the matter they go with a senior colleague and assist him in the performance of his duties.

24472. And at the end of that time you consider they are competent. For instance, an engineer is competent to survey boats?
- I do not consider that unless I find it so after I have examined him.

24473. Do you examine him as to deck equipments, compasses and that kind of thing?
- Not compasses, no; it is not part of my duty.

24474. Is it not part of his duty when he becomes a fully qualified Surveyor?
- He has to examine certificates with the compass adjuster and see they are in order.

24475. Things like sea anchors and patent logs?
- I do not examine him in sea anchors or logs because I am not a nautical man; I am a shipbuilder.

24476. It becomes part of their duties to see that the ships are properly equipped with such things?
- The ship is not equipped with a sea anchor; the boats are.

24477. The ship's boats?
- Yes.

24478. But you put them through no test?
- As to sea anchors, no.

The Commissioner:
Can you tell me what a sea anchor is?

Mr. Holmes:
Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Describe it to me.

Mr. Holmes:
I am not an expert, My Lord. I believe the one supplied to the "Titanic" was a canvas bag. It is required for riding in a rough sea.

The Commissioner:
I know what it is for, but I thought you might be able to describe it to me.

Mr. Holmes:
They can be made of all sorts of things.

The Commissioner:
Have you ever seen one?

Mr. Holmes:
I have.

The Commissioner:
Well, I have not.

The Attorney-General:
They were on the "Olympic" when your Lordship went to see it.

24479. (Mr. Holmes - To the witness.) You have told us you made calculations as to stress and that kind of thing?
- Yes.

24480. Do you ever see that your recommendations are carried out yourself? For instance, did you ever survey the "Titanic" yourself?
- I did not survey the "Titanic," but I inspected the "Titanic"; I visited her once.

24481. And you rely, to see that your recommendations are carried out, on the local Engineer surveyor?
- I get a report from him.

24482. There is one other matter in which we were referred to you by Sir Walter Howell, and that is as to the reason why the regulations only provide for four of the ship's boats being equipped with compasses and so on. Can you tell me why that is?
- That is a matter upon which I speak with great diffidence as I am not a nautical man, but I imagine the idea is that the boats will keep in company.

24483. And the four they had sufficiently equipped would guide the others; is that your idea?
- That is my idea on the subject.

24484. Do you suggest that four masts and four sails would be sufficient for sixteen boats?
- I am under the impression that it would not be necessary to have a mast and sail for every boat.

24485. You think four masts and four sails are sufficient for all the boats on the ship?
- On the whole.

24486. Four compasses for all the boats?
- Yes.

24487. Four lanterns?
- I think I would be inclined to have a lantern in every boat.

24488. In that respect at least, you think the regulations might be with advantage altered?
- Yes.

24489. But you still think that four compasses and four masts and sails are sufficient?
- Yes.

Mr. Pringle:
May I ask a question, My Lord? I promise not to take long. I was referred by Sir Walter Howell to this Witness as to his experience as a naval architect.

Examined by Mr. PRINGLE.

24490. Are you a naval architect?
- Yes.

24491. What experience have you as a naval architect?
- I was for about seven years, or rather more, from 1891 to 1898, naval architect in the employment of Messrs. James and George thomson, Limited, Clydebank, Glasgow.

The Commissioner:
He comes from your country.

24492. (Mr. Pringle.) It was in 1898 that you joined the staff of the Board of Trade?
- Yes.

24493. As a naval architect you will have an opinion upon the effect which would have been introduced, had the bulkheads been extended to deck D instead of only extending to deck E. Can you express an opinion on what would have been the effect in the case of this disaster if the bulkheads had extended to deck D instead of only extending to deck E?
- I desire to point out first that many of them did extend to deck E.

24494. Yes, the aft bulkheads did?
- Yes. If the forward bulkheads had extended to deck d the vessel would have floated longer. I am not able to say how much longer.

24495. You would not express an opinion as to the additional time. Would the extension of the bulkheads, together with the trunking of the hatchways, not combine to still further increase the time?
- I do not think the trunking of the hatchways would be of any use.

24496. (The Commissioner.) Let me put this question to you, Mr. Archer. Do you think the "Titanic" would have been safer if the bulkhead b had been carried up to the next deck?
- That would be to C deck, I think, My Lord; it already goes to D deck.

24497. What do you say?
- It would have been safer under certain eventualities, but not any safer under the damage that was done to her on this occasion.

24498. You do not think so?
- Not in the least.

24499. Now, would she have been safer if No. 1 hatchway had been trunked up to the a deck?
- I think not.

24500. (Mr. Pringle.) You say that you did not insist on the extension of these bulkheads in view of the alteration of the loadline disc?
- Yes.

24501. What effect has that in relation to safety, the fact that there was an alteration of two inches or so on this disc?
- It is this; the vessel is not allowed to load any deeper than the centre of the disc. Therefore, if you lower the disc a few inches, the top of the bulkheads is so many inches higher above the water than it was before.

24502. Is that a consideration which would have any very material consequence in the case of a ship like the "Titanic," which is not a cargo steamer?
- I do not quite understand the purport of your question.

24503. I thought in a ship like that, which does not carry cargo, you are not in the habit of loading to the loadline at all?
- I think passenger vessels very often load to the loadline.

Examined by Mr. COTTER.

24504. In regard to boats, you stated you agree they ought to carry motor-boats?
- I did not say they ought to carry motor-boats; I said they might under certain circumstances be an advantage.

24505. Do you think the present system of lowering boats, especially from ships of the dimensions of the "Titanic," is a good system to go on with - I mean from blocks and tackles and davits?
- I do not think it is the best system that can be devised.

24506. If I were to suggest to you that they use a crane for that purpose now, a long-armed crane with a single fall, would it not be more expeditious for lowering boats and just as safe?
- It all depends what you are going to put on the end of the fall. Are you going to do it by man power or steam power or electric power?

Mr. Cotter:
Well, if I may be allowed to suggest it, I should certainly, with your permission, My Lord, suggest it should be oil engines independently absolutely of the machinery of the ship at all, attached to the crane.

The Commissioner:
How long would it take to get an oil engine to work?

Mr. Cotter:
I do not think it would take long, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
I do not know I should think in the circumstances of the "Titanic," it would have been rather a disheartening job to have begun to light oil engines and work them. I should think men's hands were probably readier and quicker.

Mr. Cotter:
We have had evidence that the boats took forty minutes to get ready and swing out.

The Commissioner:
Yes, some of them, but not all.

Mr. Cotter:
They were the first boats. It has been suggested, My Lord, that there should be more boats -

The Commissioner:
Ask him a question, please.

24507. (Mr. Cotter - To the witness.) If there were more boats on the deck, and those cranes were got into operation, would it not be a quicker method than the present method of lowering the falls through blocks and tackles, and then pulling them up again?
- It would be quicker if the oil engine is always there to do this work.

24508. Now it has been stated here that there was a fear of the boats buckling. Can you suggest any way to strengthen those boats so that there would be no fear of buckling?

24509. (The Commissioner.) They did not buckle, you know, and it was an ill-founded fear, it was only in the minds of people who did not know.

The Witness:
I understand the boats had been tested with the full weight on board, and they did not buckle.

24510. (Mr. Cotter.) I suggest to you it would be a good thing to let the Captain and Officers know that the boats have been tested to carry a certain weight or carry a certain number of passengers, so that there should be no fear?
- Oh, yes, it would be a good thing.

Examined by Mr. LAING.

24511. I only want to ask one question. On the freeboard, as fixed, of the "Titanic," did the height of these engine room bulkheads fully comply with your rules?
- Fully.

24512. And with Lloyd's Rules?
- I cannot quite speak as to Lloyd's Rules; I do not quite know how they interpret their own Rules. So far as I know they would comply with Lloyd's Rules.

24513. So far as you know from your examination of the plans and what you know about this vessel, was she properly constructed and an efficient ship when she left?
- Perfectly efficient.

24514. (The Commissioner.) I am asked to ask you this question. Are you satisfied that an engineer and Shipwright Surveyor is competent to survey nautical equipment and the hulls of passenger vessels?
- As regards nautical equipment, My Lord, I am not a nautical man, and with your permission I would ask to be allowed to confine my remarks to the second part of the question.

24515. Very well, the hulls of passenger vessels?
- The hulls of passenger vessels, yes.

(The witness withdrew.)