British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 26

Testimony of Sir Norman Hill, cont.

24724. And do you agree?
- I can only tell you this. Lloyd's, as we understand it, and all the builders do not believe in the particular arrangements recommended by Sir Edward Harland's Committee. They think there is something better to be got.

The Commissioner:
Did Sir Edward Harland's Committee recommend a longitudinal bulkhead?

24725. (The Attorney-General.) No, I do not think so.

The Witness:
I am not sure.

24726. (The Commissioner.) They did not? The recommendation goes on, "With longitudinal bulkheads in combination with transverse bulkheads, the vessel should not, under the above conditions, list so as to bring the deck on either side below the water level." That seems to me to contemplate longitudinal bulkheads?
- My recollection is this: we went into the matter very closely at the time that the longitudinal bulkhead was one of the difficulties.

24727. (Mr. Scanlan.) Surely you must have considered this matter on those two mornings that you sat as a Sub-Committee of the advisory committee of the Board of Trade?
- Yes, we made a recommendation about it.

24728. I see you made a recommendation and you stated to me just now that you yourself did not understand what is meant by this requirement of the Board of Trade. Am I correct?
- No, I think I do understand it clearly.

The Commissioner:
I think he said just the opposite, Mr. Scanlan - that he understood it.

The Attorney-General:
Has your Lordship paragraph 7 of that Committee's Report? I think that will supply the answer to your question, that they did undoubtedly contemplate it.

The Commissioner:
"7. Owners desiring to take advantage of any exceptions made in favour of efficiently subdivided vessels, should furnish the Board of Trade with the following particulars and drawings: -

"(a.) Longitudinal elevation in section showing the sheer, the bulkheads, the bulkhead deck and any other decks proposed.

"(b.) Plan and elevation of each bulkhead showing recesses and doors, if any, with their positions marked, together with details of the appliances for opening and closing them.

"(c.) Proposed bulkhead freeboard and corresponding loadline; also the lines of the sills of the sidelights between the bulkhead deck and the bulkhead loadline.

"Where bulkheads are constructed as specified in Appendix B they may be regarded as of sufficient strength without further calculation."

Is it necessary to look at the various things mentioned?

The Attorney-General:
No, I do not think so; it only shows that they did consider it.

The Commissioner:
You mean about the longitudinal bulkheads?

The Attorney-General:
And the particulars and drawing they were recommended to require.

Sir Robert Finlay:
There is nothing under 7 about longitudinal bulkheads.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, "longitudinal elevation."

The Commissioner:
No, I do not think so - "longitudinal elevation in section."

The Attorney-General:
Will you look at No. 6?

Sir Robert Finlay:
6 does touch upon it.

The Commissioner:
Yes, it does, but I do not think 7 contemplates it.

The Attorney-General:
7 was the point Sir Norman Hill was referring to - that they required certain particulars and drawings. I was referring to paragraph 7 to show that under that - and I think that is what Sir Norman had in mind - the Harland Committee did recommend certain particulars and drawings which had to be required and that apparently is what was guiding the Board of Trade. I have been enquiring about the "Mauretania" and the "Lusitania." There is no real difference of opinion except that they were not actually rejected. What happened was that they supplied their drawings, and then they were asked by the Board of Trade to make certain calculations with certain compartments bilged, and then they withdrew their application. That is how the matter stands.

The Commissioner:
Then they never did come within it.

The Attorney-General:
They withdrew, that is all.

24729. (Mr. Scanlan.) May I take it that when your Committee decided on paragraph 6 of its Report: "That vessels divided into efficient watertight compartments to the satisfaction of the Board of Trade should be exempt from the requirements of additional boats or rafts"?
- Will you go on, Mr. Scanlan? The next part is the substantial part.

24730. "The Committee suggest in this connection that the Board of Trade should review the requirements designed to attain the standards as to watertight compartments at present enforced by them under Rule 12, having regard to the developments of shipbuilding since the report of the Committee on the spacing and construction of watertight bulkheads"?
- That is right.

24731. Was this considered at those two forenoon meetings of the sub-Committee?
- With regard to vessels of 10,000 tons and upwards we understood that Rule 12 was not of any practical value at all. It was a Rule under which no vessels then worked.

24732. Was not the opinion of your Committee that the requirements of the Board of Trade should be modified - lessened?
- No.

24733. Made easier to qualify ships for getting the exemption given to ships regarded as efficiently divided into watertight bulkheads?
- Our view was this, that the standard of buoyancy should be fully maintained. We thought that after twenty years an Enquiry should be held as to whether the particular mechanical arrangements required by Sir Edward Harland's Committee were still the best, and we wanted that reviewed. We did not want the standard of buoyancy lowered.

24734. Did I catch you as saying just now that Lloyd's requirements were higher in some respects?
- They are different, I believe.

24735. From the Board of Trade's?
- From Sir Edward Harland's Committee. I do not want to interject anything, but when we talk of the Board of Trade's Standard we generally mean, I think, the standard which the vessel has to comply with in order to get her passenger certificate or emigrant certificate, and, of course, this Rule 12 has nothing whatever to do with that. It is something far and above that standard.

24736. It means a higher degree of efficiency in the watertight provisions than that which suffices to qualify a vessel for a passenger certificate?
- That is so.

24736. If your recommendation had been given effect to in the case of the "Titanic," does not it come to this, that you would have provided only for 830 people?
- If the "Titanic" had passed Sir Edward Harland's standard of buoyancy, yes, not otherwise.

24737. Did Mr. Carlisle make any suggestion to the effect that 64 boats should be provided for a ship like the "Titanic"?
- No. He showed us some plans, one of which showed 32 boats, and the other was a plan of a single davit showing 4 boats suspended in the davit.

24738. Have you in the minute, which I take it you have got with you, any reference to the suggestions made by Mr. Carlisle?
- Yes.

24739. Have you a Note of what he said with reference to 32 boats or 64 boats?
- I do not think there is anything about 64. The Note breaks off twice in this way: "Mr. Carlisle then showed his plan - explained his plan."

24740. Did he not suggest that you might have 64?
- I remember his suggesting four boats on each davit.

24741. I see here in the minute: "Mr. Carlisle: I think, if you will look at the model you will see there would be room in the 'Olympic' and the 'Britannic' for three or four more sets of davits on each side"?
- Yes.

24742. Then does he refer also to four boats on each davit?
- He showed us a davit which would carry four boats.

24743. There were 16 sets of such davits on the "Titanic"?
- I am not sure if he told us they were for four boats each, or if they were for three - I am not sure which.

24744. (The Commissioner.) If they were for four, that would be 64 boats?
- If you will look at page 54 I think you will find that that does not unfairly summarise the result of a somewhat long discussion. I say to Mr. Carlisle: "But you would not recommend us to adopt this plan and only to have one set of davits covering all those 4 boats.
- Mr. Carlisle: No, I would stick to your row of 16. I think this is perfectly correct." Mr. Carlisle, as I have stated, produced the scale showing the 16 boats under davits. You will find that on page 22. It begins with Mr. Rowe speaking. Mr. Carlisle handed his scale to Mr. Rowe, and Mr. Rowe sent it up to me, and then I summarised it: "I think Mr. Carlisle's suggestion comes to this, that for boats that are to be readily available from the davits in the case of ships of from 10,000 to 12,000 tons it stops as it is, 16, all of which must be under davits; 12,000 to 20,000, 18, 16 of which must be under davits. Then 20,000 to 35,000, 20, 16 always under davits; 35,000 to 45,000, 22, 16 always under davits; 45,000 to 50,000, 24, 16, always under davits. That is adding between 10,000 and 20,000 two boats"; and in the discussion we talked about it as Mr. Carlisle's scale.

24745. (Mr. Scanlan.) That is, Mr. Rowe did?
- No. It was referred to, you will find, on many occasions or several occasions.

24746. On this occasion it is Mr. Rowe you are talking of?
- Mr. Carlisle handed it to Mr. Rowe, and Mr. Rowe, who was sitting nearer to me, handed it to me.

24747. In fairness to Mr. Carlisle, I refer you to a passage on page 51: "I was asked if we were in a position to get boats. We could have got many more boats here if necessary, but there are only 16 required by the Board of Trade, and in getting out the plan we got it so as to work three or four davits under each set." I presume that is a misprint for "three or four boats under each set." "Whether he is going to fit in all this second lot of boats required by the Rule or not, I cannot say, but you could have it if you wanted it"?
- Yes, he showed us the drawings of the davits.

24748. On the whole, is it not fair to Mr. Carlisle to state that he did bring before the Committee a scheme for increasing the boat accommodation to 64 on such a ship as the "Titanic"?
- He showed us the plans; we debated them fully with him, and he also showed us his other scale. We debated both fully, and we adopted his own scale with modifications without any protest from him in any shape or form.

24749. And no doubt it is true, as Mr. Carlisle in his examination suggested to us, that he was influenced by the general discussion which went on and the persuasiveness of your argument amongst others?
- That is absolutely incorrect, Mr. Scanlan.

24750. He made the proposals anyhow?
- It is absolutely incorrect.

24751. It is correct that he made these proposals?
- Yes.

25752. And it is also correct that your Committee did not adopt them?
- It is correct that he placed two things before us. One was a scale based on sixteen boats under davits; one were plans based on a special davit with special means of launching. The Committee, as a whole, did not believe in the special arrangements; they did believe in modifications in the other plan that he suggested. Throughout that Committee the greatest deference was paid to Mr. Carlisle, and there was absolutely no pressure of any kind brought to bear on him.

24753. Great deference was paid to him but his suggested scale of 64 was not adopted?
- His other one was.

24754. But the 64 was not?
- And, as I say, I put it to him at the end, and he said the 16 was right.

Mr. Scanlan:
I see how you put it to him; I see the nature of the discussion. Did you state that your sub-Committee still adhere to this recommendation of July?

24755. (The Commissioner.) He did say so?
- The sub-Committee has never met since. I say that the general Committee, supplemented with the additional names, adhere to it.

24756. (Mr. Scanlan.) Do not your Committee now think that there should be a considerable addition to the lifeboat accommodation for all ships?
- Are you referring to the boats immediately under davits, or generally?

24757. Generally?
- That we are considering. Speaking generally, we consider there will have to be substantial additions to the bigger boats.

24758. Is not this the generally accepted view, that there should be lifeboat accommodation for every person on board, passengers and crew?
- I would much prefer not to go into this - not to express my own views on a point which is still before the Committee. I mean I am the chairman, and I would much prefer not to express my own view.

24759. But your Committee are still considering it?
- They are, still.

24760. Tell me how often have you met to consider it? You know you made these recommendations after two forenoon meetings?
- We have met, I think it is, 21 or 22 times since the loss of the "Titanic."

24761. You have given quite an amount of consideration to the matter since?
- We always give all the necessary time, Mr. Scanlan. Time is never grudged by the Committee.

24762. You have given yourself ample time since the "Titanic" in your 21 meetings - that is what I suggest, but the time you took before - two forenoon meetings - was, I also suggest, utterly inadequate?
- We have been asked to review the whole of the life-saving Rules.

The Commissioner:
What did you say, Mr. Scanlan?

24763. (Mr. Scanlan.) I suggest to him that the two forenoons taken by the sub-Committee to review those Rules when they came to this recommendation was utterly inadequate?
- Are you asking for my opinion?

24764. I am suggesting that view, yes?
- We gave ample consideration to it. I think you must remember that the members of the Committee are all experts. We do not have to examine witnesses - at any rate, I do not. I am the Chairman.

24765. Just a question on that. You say that the members of the Committee are all experts?
- Yes.

24766. I will begin with the Chairman. You belong to the honourable profession of the Law, do not you?
- I do; but since 1894 I have devoted a very great deal of my time to all matters affecting shipping, and I do really consider I am an expert on the statistics of shipping, but not on the building.

The Attorney-General:
I can vouch for that.

The Commissioner:
You are not likely to persuade me, Mr. Scanlan, that Sir Norman Hill is not an expert on this matter. I know him to be an expert.

The Attorney-General:
I know the assistance he has given us in some other matters.

24767. (Mr. Scanlan.) There are one or two other matters I should like to ask you about. Has the advisory committee of the Board of Trade made recommendations to the board as to the manning Scale for ships?
- It has never recommended any Manning Scale, no.

24768. Has it considered whether there should be a Manning Scale set up?
- Yes, it has considered it.

24769. But it did not come to any conclusion?
- It recommended the maintenance of an efficient watch scale, not the manning Scale.

24770. Has the question of the establishment of a Manning Scale frequently come before the advisory committee?
- Yes, at a good many meetings.

24771. But you mean to say that no decision has yet been arrived at?
- We have decided against a Manning Scale based upon tonnage or anything of that kind. We have based our recommendations on the maintenance of efficient watches. The things that were read to my Lord were wrong; they are not extracts from any Minutes or any letters written. They wrongly represent it; in fact, they never came from the Committee.

24772. Have your Committee considered the question of a standard of efficiency for seamen and men in the Engine Department?
- Yes, it has been debated, and we have made recommendations.

24773. You mean have made recommendations to the Board of Trade?
- Yes. The recommendations are that a man should not be passed as an efficient deckhand unless he has satisfied a Nautical Surveyor of the board.

24774. That has not been carried out by the board?
- They assure us it is. They assure us that no man is passed as an efficient seaman if there is any question raised, unless he has been examined by a nautical Surveyor.

24775. Have you ever heard of nautical Surveyors examining men?
- Certainly. I have heard them stopping ships because they have had inefficient deckhands on board.

24776. How often?
- Not very often, but there are some every year.

24777. Have your Committee considered the question of boat drills?
- Yes, we have considered the question of boat drills, but I would much sooner keep absolutely clear of what we have still under consideration, if I might.

24778. Yes, I respect the obligation?
- If I express an opinion in public it is a little difficult for me, as Chairman, to hold an absolutely impartial hand.

24779. That is one of the subjects you are still considering?
- That is one of the subjects we are still considering.

24780. Is the manning of lifeboats another subject which you are still considering?
- Yes, another subject.

24781. And the question of efficiency - is that still under consideration?
- That arises on the manning. We never would man with inefficient people.

Examined by Mr. CLEMENT EDWARDS.

24782. You are Chairman of this Sub-Committee that dealt with bulkheads?
- No; I have nothing to do with the bulkheads Committee.

24783. I mean of the life-saving appliances?
- Yes.

24784. You are also head of the firm of solicitors who are instructing Counsel for the White Star Line in this Enquiry?
- I am the second partner in the firm.

24785. Was the sub-Committee of which you are Chairman a sub-Committee appointed out of the General Advisory committee?
- Yes, subject to the point I have told you, that the board had added to comply with the 17th Section -

The Commissioner:
We have had all that - that there were some people co-opted.

Mr. Edwards:
I did not quite catch what was said by this Witness. He did not speak very loudly, My Lord.

24786. (The Attorney-General.) We had it before from Mr. Carlisle and Mr. Royden.

The Witness:
I am very sorry. May I give you the names again?

The Commissioner:
Oh, do not, please.

24787. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) I know the names?
- The only point I wanted to make is this. On the sub-Committee there were two members, Mr. Rowe, representing Lloyd's, and Mr. Ogilvie, representing the London Institute of Underwriters.

24788. (The Commissioner.) Who were necessarily put on?
- By the Board of Trade. We had nothing to do with that.

24789. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) In the minute I notice you say, "We have added to our Committee representing the merchant Shipping Advisory committee Mr. Carlisle and Mr. Royden"?
- That is right.

24790. Then you did not co-opt them?
- The sub-Committee did.

Mr. Edwards:
What I want to get at is this: Where is the power in the sub-Committee to co-opt anybody?

The Attorney-General:
It is page 21 of the memorandum we handed up yesterday. That gives the names.

The Witness:
The power, the basis upon which we work, is the speech that Mr. Lloyd-George made to us when we were formed. He told us that he thought our number was necessarily limited, and it would be very desirable when we were dealing with particular points that we should co-opt people having special knowledge on those points; and we have always worked on that basis.

24791. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) And that is the sole authority you have?
- Yes.

24792. What I want to get from you is this: The sub-Committee sat and the sub-Committee made certain recommendations?
- Yes.

24793. Were those recommendations ever submitted to the Committee as a whole?
- Yes.

24794. Were they adopted by the Committee as a whole?
- Adopted unanimously.

24795. Have you a minute to that effect?
- Yes.

24796. Will you, please, produce it?
- Certainly. I have it here.

24797. Will you, please, read it?
- "The chairman submitted to the Committee the Report of the Life -Saving Appliances Sub-Committee on the proposal to amend the life-saving appliances Rules as to the minimum number of lifeboats to be carried in vessels of more than 10,000 tons gross tonnage. The Report also dealt with a letter from the Board of Trade, raising the question whether the Rules should be amended so as to prescribe a maximum depth for lifeboats as compared with their breadth. On the motion of the chairman, seconded by Mr. Spencer, the Report of the sub-Committee was unanimously adopted."

24798. Have you had any experience yourself in the navigation of ships?
- None.

24799. Why did you express the view that it would be impracticable to carry a large number of boats on the boat deck of a ship like the "Titanic"?
- I do not know that I have expressed that opinion.

24800. I understood Lord Mersey asked you whether you did not think it was practically impossible, and I understood you to say yes?
- To carry them immediately under davits, it is impossible.

24801. You do not think it is impossible, then, in ships of this great size?
- Under davits it is impossible. I am distinguishing between what you carry under davits and what you do not.

The Commissioner:
We know it is not impossible because we have been told that the "Olympic" has done it.

The Attorney-General:
Not under davits, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
No, not under davits.

The Attorney-General:
That is the distinction Sir Norman Hill is drawing. He says that under davits it is impossible.

24802. (The Commissioner.) I did not understand the question was limited to boats under davits. Was it limited to boats under davits?

The Witness:

24803. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) No, My Lord, it was not. It was a general question. (To the witness.) Is there any difficulty in your view, and from the evidence which has come before you, in putting upon a ship of the character of the "Titanic" a larger number of davits?
- On the evidence before me there are difficulties. It is not that I am afraid of giving my own opinion, but I am Chairman of the Committee which is still considering this point and I think, in the public interests, it would be better I should not express it.

24804. (The Commissioner.) Cannot you give us your opinion, if I may say so, without prejudice?
- Well, My Lord, if I give you my opinion without prejudice, and I have got my committee meeting in a week - and sometimes we are very much divided in opinion - I weaken my position as Chairman. I have tried my Lord, to pursue an impartial course in the Chair, and if that is so I think the less the Committee know of what your own opinion is the better.

24805. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) Are we to understand, Sir Norman, that the one real purpose for which you have come here is to correct the statement made by Mr. Carlisle?
- That is the only purpose I asked to be examined for.

24806. And you do not feel inclined to express any views as to the future unsinkability of ships, provision of bulkheads, boat accommodation manning scale, or any other of the points which may arise in the nature of recommendations out of this Enquiry?
- I do not wish to express any opinion with regard to the future. My committee asked me to place before my Lord any information he wanted with regard to our recommendations of July last, and our reasons for those recommendations.

24807. If that is your attitude, I shall not ask you any questions as to the future, but I do want to get quite clear what you recommended last year. It is a fact, is it not, that you were informed by an Official of the Marine Department of the Board of Trade that there was not a single ship which complied with the Regulations of the Board of Trade as to efficient watertight compartments?
- I do not think at that time we had any statement from any Board of Trade Official. The statements we acted on were Mr. Royden's and Mr. Carlisle's and our general knowledge.

24808. I think I can refer you to a letter of the Board of Trade referred to in your Minute?
- I have forgotten it if there is a letter.

24809. I think you will find it on page 37 of your Minute?
- Oh, yes, I remember.

Mr. Royden said: "No ship is unsinkable. You are never quite safe. Something might give way," to which you, the Chairman, said: "Our secretary reminds me that there is now a Rule with regard to watertight compartments. It is on page 16." That will be Rule 12. "When ships of any class are divided into efficient watertight compartments to the satisfaction of the Board of Trade, they shall only be required to carry additional boats, rafts, and buoyant apparatus of one-half of the capacity required by these Rules." He also tells me there is no ship that has yet succeeded in satisfying the board that it comes under that Rule.

24810. (The Commissioner.) That rather agrees with what he says, that he obtained his opinion from Mr. Royden, I think it is?
- That is the secretary, My Lord. Our secretary is an official of the Board of Trade.

Continued >