British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 26

Testimony of Guglielmo Marconi

Examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.

24850. Mr. Marconi, you are the inventor of your system of wireless telegraphy?
- Yes.

24851. I want to go at once to the date of the year when the first installation of wireless telegraphy was fitted on a large liner. Was that the "Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse"?
- Yes, in 1900.

24852. That is a North-German Lloyd boat?
- It belongs to the North-German Lloyd Company.

24853. And in the following year, 1901, wireless equipments were fitted to the "Lucania," the "Campania," and a number of other vessels?
- Yes.

24854. The exact number is immaterial. Has there been a form of agreement between your Company and shipowners which was arrived at in the early stages of your system of wireless telegraphy, and which is practically still adhered to?
- Yes.

24855. In substance?
- In substance, it is practically the same as the original agreement which was drawn up at the commencement of the business.

24856. Your Lordship has had the agreement produced to you with this Company in respect of this vessel. I want to ask you just a few questions about your regulations with regard to signals of distress. Circular 57, I think, is the first one which in the form of a circular deals with this. I have the documents, but I propose to summarise them so as to save encumbering the case with more documents. CQ, as I understand it - you will correct me if it is wrong in summarising the effect of this document - is a call which means "all stations"?
- Yes.

24857. And then the signal C.Q.D. is, or was, at any rate, the distress signal that is to be used?
- Yes, the distress signal.

24858. On and after the 1st February, 1904, was the call to be given by ships in distress or requiring assistance, C.Q.D.?
- Yes, C.Q.D..

24859. And, according to the Regulations, that signal must not be given except by order of the Captain of the ship in distress - is that right?
- Yes, that is right.

24860. Or by other vessels retransmitting the signals which they have received on account of the ship in distress?
- Exactly.

24861. According to your regulations I see all stations must recognise the urgency of this call and make every effort to establish satisfactory communication with the least possible delay?
- Yes.

24862. Then you have another regulation - it is Circular 102 - which provides for the possibility of a signal of distress being given by ships fitted with other systems of wireless telegraphy?
- Yes.

24863. And are your instructions that, "should such signals be received equal attention shall be given them as to calls of 'C.Q.D.,' and any message received from the ship shall be at once forwarded to the addressees?
- Yes.

24864. That is notwithstanding that they are vessels equipped with other systems?
- Any ship, however equipped.

24865. In 1906 the International Radio-Telegraph Convention laid down some principles and regulations which were to govern wireless telegraphic communications at sea?
- Yes.

24866. Which came into force in July, 1908?
- July, 1908.

24867. And those are substantially, with certain additions of your own, the regulations which are still in force?
- They are substantially the regulations still in force.

24868. The general orders?
- They are really the only regulations in force. Any regulation of our own counts in so far as it is not contrary to the regulations of the berlin conference.

24869. That is for the purpose of discipline and regulation, you make your own regulations, but they must not in any way conflict with the Regulations laid down by the telegraphic Convention?
- That is so; they do not in any way conflict.

24870. At that time was the distress call altered from C.Q.D. to S.O.S.?
- It was, but I might say that C.Q.D., being so well known amongst the operators on the ships, has been used as well as the S.O.S. as an additional sign.

24871. That means that a number of operators were in the habit of using the C.Q.D., or knew of it as a distress signal, and that sometimes that is used and sometimes the S.O.S.?
- I should say the S.O.S. is always used, but also the C.Q.D..

24872. Is the S.O.S. a very simple signal to give or receive?
- Yes, it is simple.

24873. Can you tell us why the S.O.S. was adopted?
- I really cannot say. I think C.Q.D. is just as good, but they wanted to make a change.

24874. (The Commissioner.) Who made the change?
- The International Convention on Wireless telegraphy held at Berlin in 1906.

24875. They made the change?
- They made the change.

24876. Of C.Q.D. to S.O.S.?
- Yes.

24877. What does S.O.S. stand for, anything, or is it simply three letters?
- Simply three letters, My Lord.

24878. I understand that C.Q.D. stood for "Come quick, danger"?
- It can be interpreted that way.

24879. (The Attorney-General.) It really is an easy way to remember it, and S.O.S. is, I am told, "Save our souls." It is simply an easy way to remember it?
- That is so.

24880. There is no mistake about it then; you remember it at once?
- Yes.

24881. Have the recommendations of that convention and the principles laid down by them been adhered to by the principal powers?
- They have been adhered by all the principal powers.

24882. Generally speaking, is the wireless installation licensed by the Government of the country whose flag the ship flies?
- Yes.

24883. You would get your license in this country from the Postmaster-General?
- From the Postmaster-General of this country.

24884. Will you just tell me about the wireless installation on board the "Titanic": the installation was your property under the contract?
- It was our property. It was what we call a 5 kilowatt installation; it was of very modern type and guaranteed I think for a distance of about 350 miles.

24885. (The Commissioner.) But it was capable of carrying a great deal further?
- Yes, My Lord, it would be capable of carrying a great deal further.

24886. (The Attorney-General.) In actual practice does it carry a great deal further?
- In actual practice it did, I think, carry a great deal further.

24887. The "Titanic," as we know, carried two operators?
- It carried two operators. I might also add that the wireless apparatus was in duplicate, and also that it had a spare battery by means of which it could be operated in case of the current being cut off from the dynamos of the ship consequent upon the flooding of the engine room.

24888. As I understand, it would take it either from the dynamos or from the emergency dynamos on the ship, and if both of those failed then it could get it from the storage battery which you supplied?
- Yes, from the storage battery which was put up in the wireless cabin on the top deck.

24889. To meet any emergency?
- Yes.

24890. You made use of an expression just now - I am not sure that I heard it quite accurately - that the installation was in duplicate?
- Yes.

24891. What does that mean?
- The essential parts of the apparatus were in duplicate.

24892. It does not mean that it was possible to transmit simultaneously two different messages?
- No, My Lord.

24893. (The Attorney-General.) Those precautions were taken in order to ensure that so long as the vessel remains above water it would be possible to transmit signals from it?
- Yes.

24894. That is the object of it?
- That is the object of it. It was done in consultation with the White Star Line.

24895. With reference to the two operators, you have regulations facilitating a proper watch being kept, have not you?
- We have regulations to that effect, but I should also say that in our agreement with the White Star Line it devolves on the Captain to see that the proper watch is kept, and that the operators are advised when a communication is expected.

24896. Do you make every month communication diagrams which are published and transmitted from your Company to the various lines, I suppose, using your system?
- Yes, we do. We do it in order to facilitate knowledge of the times when communications are expected.

24897. I am not sure that your Lordship has seen one at an earlier stage of the proceedings. Perhaps your Lordship will look at this, and you will see what it means. (The document was handed to his Lordship.) This is the one for April, 1912. As I understand, the object of those diagrams is this: For example, in dealing there with the North Atlantic route, you cover that trade route and show at what points vessels going one way or going the other way will intersect?
- Exactly, what time they are expected to intersect.

24898. That is to show approximately the time and position at which the ships may expect to be within range of each other?
- Exactly.

The Commissioner:
When are these things prepared?

24899. (The Attorney-General.) Every month.

The Witness:
On data collected from the shipping companies.

24900. (The Commissioner.) They are prepared in your office in London?
- They are prepared in our office.

24901. And then copies are sent to the different ships?
- To the different ships and stations - Governments, and anyone interested in the matter.

24902. (The Attorney-General.) So that anyone can tell, for example, if he had that diagram in front of him, what ships he might expect to get within range of at a given date?
- Exactly. Each day the operator, by looking at that diagram, can see which ships are likely -

24903. (The Commissioner.) To be within call?
- Yes, to be within call, and likely to get into communication with him.

24904. (The Attorney-General.) And also coast stations?
- And also coast stations. I might add that they have proved to be very useful.

24905. (The Commissioner.) Had the "Titanic" one of these on board?
- I am not certain that she had. I cannot say, as a matter of fact, I was aware that she had.

24906. In the ordinary course of events she would have?
- In the ordinary course of events she certainly would have one.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Not a copy of this particular one.

The Attorney-General:
No, not that particular one, because this is worked out after the accident.

24907. (The Commissioner.) This is later than the accident. What I mean is, had she a plan of this kind on board which would give this kind of information, and I understand Mr. Marconi to say that in the ordinary course of things she would have one.

The Witness:

24908. (The Attorney-General.) They can be produced for every month?
- Yes.

The Attorney-General:
This particular one is worked out to show what happened where the "Titanic" foundered, according to the diagram, and what vessels were close to it.

Sir Robert Finlay:
If the Attorney-General can produce one of the ordinary ones I think it might be convenient.

The Commissioner:
This, as I understand it, is prepared for this case.

24909. (The Attorney-General.) It is for that purpose. We will either have one produced, or we will get you one. I daresay Mr. Marconi can get one?
- We have got them for each month.

24910. (Sir Robert Finlay.) I simply want any one of the ordinary ones?
- You shall have it after luncheon.

24911. (The Attorney-General.) I was asking you about the watch which is kept at ship's stations which are manned by two operators, such as the "Titanic." Can you tell me, first of all; are there many vessels which are manned by two operators?
- Yes, there is a considerable number of vessels. All the larger passenger vessels have got two operators.

24912. So as to have a day and night operator?
- Yes. They have a continuous watch when there are two operators.

24913. When there are two operators, Must one always be on watch?
- One is always on watch. One has the telephone on his ears, on his head. It does not mean that he is necessarily under strain for a long period, but he can just hear if any call is made, or if any ship desires to communicate.

24914. (The Commissioner.) He is listening for whatever the length of his watch may be?
- Exactly. Of course he may talk, and he may read and do other things.

24915. There is no bell rings, or anything of that kind, he simply hears if he is being spoken to?
- Not at present, My Lord.

24916. (The Attorney-General.) I am going to ask you some questions about that. Where there is only one operator, of course, it becomes more difficult to establish communication, because he is not always on watch?
- He is not always on watch, he has to take rest at certain hours.

24917. And for that purpose are there circular instructions which are issued - I think it is Circular 183, which provides that he shall be on duty at certain hours: "In order to facilitate the establishment of communication between one-man ships at sea, operators, when not taking rest shall call 'CQ,' and listen in for 30 minutes each two hours (G.M.T. to be strictly observed.) in accordance with the following time -table." Then the hours are given. Every operator who is on what you call one-man ships would receive this circular, and consequently would have to comply with those regulations every two hours?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
How long is he to listen - for two hours?

The Attorney-General:
Thirty minutes.

The Commissioner:
That means that he can never take sleep for longer than 1 ½ hours at a time.

The Attorney-General:
No, I do not think so. It says "Operators when not resting."

The Commissioner:
I beg your pardon.

The Attorney-General:
It is in order to provide that a systematised time when they will all be listening. Now I want to ask you just a little about the priority of messages. I will take it quite shortly.

The Commissioner:
That is a matter of importance.

24918. (The Attorney-General.) It all appears quite clearly, and that is why I am not going to take up much time with it. I have two books here, Mr. Marconi, and perhaps you will just follow me in what I read. One of them is called "General Orders Part I, Service Regulations." That appears to be dated October, 1903?
- Yes.

24919. Another book I have is "Handbook for Wireless telegraph Operators," and that is published in 1912?
- Yes, I have got copies of them here.

24920. Those are two distinct things, are they?
- Yes.

24921. The General Orders are in force as well as the Regulations under this Handbook?
- Yes.

24922. I see in the Handbook, at paragraph 7: "In case of distress the obligation to accept messages is absolute in the case of every ship and coast station without distinction, and such messages must be accepted with priority over all other messages, they must be answered with similar priority, and the necessary steps must be taken at once to give effect to them." Then there is another rule which deals with it, Rule 73, which says: "Ships in distress make use of the following signals" - and then does that mean the S.O.S.?
- Yes, it would be S.O.S.. These are the Government Rules - that is it.

24923. The three short and three long and three short?
- It is not exactly an S.O.S. as shown here, but it is practically.

24924. "Repeated at short intervals. As soon as a station perceives the distress signal it must suspend all correspondence, and must not resume work until it has made sure that the communication consequent on the call for assistance has been completed"?
- Yes, they must do their best to render assistance.

Sir Robert Finlay:
What month of 1912 was this published?

24925. (The Attorney-General.) I do not know. I will ask Mr. Marconi. (To the witness.) I called your attention to the fact that this book was published in 1912. Was it before or after the "Titanic" disaster, can you tell us?
- I cannot say definitely, because I cannot find a date in it, but I think it was published before.

The Commissioner:
You are unable, then, to tell us whether there was a copy of this book on board the "Titanic."

24926. (The Attorney-General.) I think I can answer it. (To the witness.) You probably would not know the exact details?
- I certainly can say that I have read it before the "Titanic" disaster.

The Commissioner:
What was the name of the young man who was on the "Titanic"?

The Attorney-General:
Mr. Bride.

The Commissioner:
Bride was not asked about this, was he?

The Attorney-General:
No, I do not think so. I think he is in Court now, and perhaps he can tell us about this.

The Commissioner:
Is Bride here? (Mr. Bride stood up in Court.) Bride, had you a copy of this book on board?

Mr. Bride:
Yes, I had a copy on board the "Titanic."

The Commissioner:
Of this 1912 book?

Mr. Bride:
No, Sir, I believe ours was 1911.

The Commissioner:
That makes a difference.

The Attorney-General:
I do not think it does from what I am told.

24927. (The Commissioner.) If the same Rule is in the 1911 book that removes the difficulty, but I have never heard of this Rule before.

The Witness:
I think, My Lord, if you will allow me to say so, so far as I can recollect, the same Rule does exist in the 1911 book.

The Commissioner:
That removes the difficulty.

24928. (The Attorney-General.) Mr. Turnbull tells me exactly the same. The book that I have here happens to be the last edition. I did call attention, I think, to Rule 73, which shows what has to be done, and that it takes priority of everything?
- Absolutely everything.

24929. Everything else must cease until there is an answer to that call?
- Exactly.

The Commissioner:
Do I sum it up correctly when I say that the directions contained in these Rules to the operators orders them to give precedence to all messages affecting the navigation of the ship?

The Attorney-General:
Your Lordship will forgive me, but it is not quite the same thing, if I may say so with respect. I will give it you from a Rule.

The Commissioner:
Very well.

24930. (The Attorney-General.) Your Lordship will forgive me, I am sure. (To the witness.) Mr. Marconi, as I understand it, the message which takes priority over everything is the distress signal?
- Yes.

24931. Everything gives way to that?
- Yes, everything gives way to that - Government and service and shipping messages, and everything else.

24932. Then the next thing that would come would be the messages of the British Admiralty and the British Government Departments?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
We may omit those.

24933. (The Attorney-General.) "Messages relating to navigation" - it is a special Rule - Rule 49?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
Will you read it?

The Attorney-General:
I will, My Lord. It is "Priority of messages," paragraph No. 49: "In the transmission of radiotelegrams priority must be assigned, first of all, to messages of distress (see section 73.); then to messages of the British Admiralty and other British Government Departments and to the messages of other Governments (see section 74.)

"As between the two communicating stations themselves, the following order should be maintained: -

"(1.) Messages relating to navigation.
"(2.) Service messages relating to the conduct of the Radiotelegraphic Service, or to previous radiotelegrams transmitted by the station concerned.
"(3.) Ordinary correspondence."

24934. (The Commissioner.) It does come to what I was trying to say. Messages connected with or affecting the navigation of the ship take precedence of private messages?
- Yes, My Lord.

24935. The messages of passengers and other people?
- Yes, My Lord.

24936. (The Attorney-General.) That is the order and those are the Regulations?
- That is the order and those are the Regulations.

24937. Have you also some special Regulations with regard to navigation messages? So far as I follow, you are particular about those, that they must be signed by the Captain?
- We are particular that they should be signed by the Captain, and they should be entered on proper forms, so as to keep a record of them.

24938. A navigation message, as I understand it, would have to be written on a form which is supplied for the purpose?
- Yes.

24939. Of course that is important, among other things, because of the priority which they get?
- Because of the priority, and also as a record.

24940. And then they have to be duly signed by the Captain?
- Yes.

24941. And then they have to be delivered?
- They have to be delivered to the operator.

24942. And that helps you, to the best of your ability, to fix the responsibility?
- Yes.

24943. You have the document, the record of what has taken place?
- Yes; all telegrams should be kept that way.

24944. Just before I ask you some general questions as to the future there is one point to which I should like to refer. My Lord, there is one question upon which, I think, you have had no evidence so far - so far as I know there has been none given; and I want to ask Mr. Marconi about it. It refers to part of Question 18, which I will read to you: "Were any vessels prevented from going to the assistance of the 'Titanic' or her boats owing to messages received from the 'Titanic,' or owing to any erroneous messages being sent or received"? So far as you know was any vessel prevented by any such message from going to the assistance of the "Titanic"?
- As far as I know, none.

The Attorney-General:
I have a chart here, My Lord, which I should like to explain to you. (The chart was handed to his Lordship.) This is a chart of the scale of three to one of the North Atlantic chart which we have been using. On it you will see marked the places and references to the vessels from which ice reports were received. The spots that you see marked are the places indicated by the message at which the ice was seen. Will you look, first of all, at No. 1? Does your Lordship see No. 1 on the pink rectangle there? No. 1 is the "Titanic." That is according to all the evidence which has been given here; I think it is 41.46 and 50.14. Then the next, No. 2, is of no importance in this case. Then there is the "Caronia," which gave the message on the 12th, and that is marked No. 3. You see that continues between 51 and 49 West.

The Commissioner:
This plan shows where the ice was indicated by the telegrams.

The Attorney-General:
That is right, where the telegrams said the ice was. Then No. 4 is the "Amerika." I do not dwell on that. Your Lordship will remember that was the message that was sent to the Hydrographic Office at Washington. Then No. 5 is an important one; it is the "Baltic." That is marked with a cross. That is the spot at which, according to the message from the "Baltic," the ice was when the "Baltic" sent it. Just above that there is a new one, of which we have not heard anything yet - I do not think it is a very important matter - the "Nordal." It is referred to in a document I am going to hand up, or have handed up. Then there is the "Californian," which is No. 7, to the right of the rectangle. That is the one, according to the "Californian's" message. Then No. 8 is the "Mesaba," which is the one your Lordship will remember that has been shown to have reached the "Titanic," but has not been shown to have reached the bridge. That is how it stands. Those take in all the messages which can be of any importance, and the plan brings in one or two which I agree are of no importance.

The Commissioner:
The only difference, so far as I understand, is that this contains the "Nordal."

The Attorney-General:
That is right; and it is on a larger scale. It fixes the places, I think, very accurately, but it is all, of course, subject to any corrections which my friend may make. But I think it is right.

Sir Robert Finlay:
It really depends on the messages themselves and the messages which were received; it depends on what the messages themselves were and which of them were passed on to the bridge.

The Commissioner:
That is the really important point.

Sir Robert Finlay:
It does not, of course mean that the whole of that oblong was filled with ice, I suppose, and icebergs. It merely suggests the limits.

The Attorney-General:
Nobody has ever suggested that I thought it was perfectly clear. It is only a rectangle which marks the limits. That is all it is intended to do, as we have done before.

The Commissioner:
The limits that the telegrams refer to.

The Attorney-General:

(After a short adjournment.)

24945. (The Attorney-General.) Have you considered whether it would be possible on a ship which is manned by one operator for a person who is not an expert in wireless telegraphy, to receive some simple signal which could be devised so that he could then call the operator?
- I have considered that, and think that if the International Regulations allowed it, a member of the crew could be instructed to stand by the instrument, to be in attendance at certain hours when the operator is off duty, and give the alarm and inform the Captain in the event of a danger signal being sent. I think that might be done. At the same time I have got a certain feeling that it might not in many cases be altogether reliable. I have another way that suggests itself to which I have given a great deal of attention since the "Titanic" disaster, and that is, of making the wireless apparatus ring a bell and thereby give warning that a ship in danger needs assistance. In order to make this system effective, given that the apparatus was all right, it would be necessary to alter the regulations of the International Convention so as to enable the danger signal to consist of, or to be accompanied by, a long dash as we call it, an impulse or sequence of waves which would last for a period of 15, 20 or 30 seconds. This would cause a bell to give a prolonged ring like that which is given on shore by a fire alarm, and that would be a signal to denote that a ship requires assistance. Of course following that signal particulars might be given of the position of the ship and everything else.

24946. If a signal was once given, then the operator could be called and he could come and receive the particular message?
- Yes. Some tests have been made with an apparatus such as I have referred to, and I have considerable confidence that it can be employed, although so far it has not been tested in actual practice.

24947. You think that is more feasible than the first suggestion?
- I think that is more feasible than the first suggestion.

24948. (The Commissioner.) At all events, Mr. Marconi, at present the better plan is to have two men on board?
- Yes, My Lord; that is the only reliable plan at present.

24949. You know nothing about bulkheads, I think, or boats on the deck?
- No, My Lord. I have seen a lot of them, because I have crossed very often.

The Commissioner:
Then you do not want to ask him any questions, Mr. Scanlan.

Mr. Scanlan:
I do want to ask him one question, on manning.

Examined by Mr. SCANLAN.

24950. Has it been suggested to you, Mr. Marconi, that on first class ships, where there is a good deal of traffic in messages, it would be desirable to have a messenger boy, like a telegraph messenger boy, to assist the operator?
- Yes, I think, that is provided on every ship on which I have crossed.

24951. It is provided?
- It is provided, and not only is it provided but it is in our agreement with the shipping companies and particularly in our agreement with the White Star Line.

Examined by Mr. COTTER.

24952. Do you place much importance upon those charts which are issued to the ships each trip?
- I think they are very important in regard to assisting the operator, and letting him know approximately at what time he may expect to be in communication with a certain ship?

Mr. Cotter:
We have evidence of one operator not having one of these charts.

The Commissioner:
Have we, which one?

Mr. Cotter:
The operator of the "Californian," my Lord.

The Commissioner:
I do not remember it.

Mr. Cotter:
It is on page 192, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Will you read me the question and answer?

Mr. Cotter:
I asked him at Question 9174, "Did you have a chart at all? - (A.) No. (Q.) Have you seen a Marconi chart? - (A.) I should think so. (Q.) Had you none on the 'Californian'? - (A.) I had got some. (Q.) When did you get it? - (A.) The other trip before. (Q.) The voyage you were on, I mean? - (A.) The trip before that." He had none on the voyage he was on.

The Commissioner:
I am not at all sure about that; it does not at all follow. The voyage may be in the same month.

Mr. Cotter:
I will read the whole of the questions, My Lord. "The voyage you were on, I mean? - (A.) The trip before that. (Q.) You got none for the last trip? - (A.) No. (Q.) Is it not the fact that you get them every trip? - (A.) Yes, it was an oversight on my part."

The Commissioner:
Then it would be an oversight of the boy.

24953. (Mr. Cotter.) Would it not be advantageous to see that these men got one of those charts every trip?
- I think that is always done.

24954. This ship, the "Californian," played an important part in this Enquiry, and the operator had not a chart?
- You take it he had not a chart?

24955. It is admitted he had no chart. He took a trip down to New Orleans and he had one for the South Atlantic and not for the North Atlantic.

24956. (The Attorney-General.) That is right.

The Witness:
He certainly should have had a chart.

The Commissioner:
Do you want to ask anything, Sir Robert?

Sir Robert Finlay:
I only want to say we are very glad to have had the honour of seeing Mr. Marconi.

(The witness withdrew.)