British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 27, cont.

The Commissioner:
I am not arguing it. I am only mentioning to you the consideration that I think might be given to these facts and figures if they can be procured.

The Attorney-General:
The only thing I want to know is, where we are. Am I or am I not to proceed with this Enquiry in order to deal with the request which your Lordship made? We have done it as far as we possibly can, and we are waiting for the further documents. If objection is to be taken to it, and your Lordship Rules it out, then of course we will go no further. If on the other hand your Lordship thinks it of importance that you should have it then we must take steps, and we must call evidence properly before you and take care to subpoena the owners to produce the logbooks and get all the material before the Court.

Sir Robert Finlay:
What I said was, I object to it at present. We will give every help in our power to the Court, but it is absolutely essential that before a statement of this kind goes in, we should see not only the letters which are written, on which the statement is based, but also the logbooks of the several vessels.

The Commissioner:
I quite agree.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Subject to that, we will cooperate in every way in our power.

The Attorney-General:
That does not really meet the difficulty. If my friend wants to see the logbooks of the vessels we cannot get them except by subpoena.

The Commissioner:
You talk about subpoenaing these gentlemen to produce the logbooks, but you must remember these are German ships.

The Attorney-General:
There are only two German ships, and there are a number of other lines we have to deal with. Of course, I cannot get the German ships. I am not thinking of them for the moment, but so far as they are concerned they may give them. I do not know. We have asked for them, and they have said they will supply us with all information, but have not specifically dealt with the logbooks. On the other hand, there are companies which have answered and have given us the information, but do not answer with regard to logbooks. If we want to get those logbooks we have to bring them before the Court, and we should have to subpoena the companies to produce them. That is the only way we can get them. If that is required it must be done, and we cannot treat the evidence as concluded; that is all.

The Commissioner:
All I can say at present, Mr. Attorney, is this: proceed to get the evidence; try to get it together; but do not let the Enquiry be delayed for the want of it. I think we had better, on the whole, go on, although the evidence may not be gathered together in such a way as to satisfy Sir Robert. If it is not, I shall not accept it. But still I think it would be desirable to get the evidence if you can, so that you may show it to Sir Robert, and if he chooses he can allow it to go in. If he does not choose, he can object. Perhaps you would not like that.

The Attorney-General:
No, I object to that.

The Commissioner:
Yes, I can see why, because it would mean giving him the opportunity of letting it in if it favours his case, and of excluding it if it does not.

The Attorney-General:
Yes. Of course I represent no party, I am here merely for the purpose of putting the matter before the Court.

The Commissioner:
Sir Robert does represent a party. You do not.

The Attorney-General:
If the Court wants the information I can see how it can be got, but, at the same time, as I say, it will take a little time, and the one thing that would be impossible is for me to say that the evidence will be concluded today with reference to it. I must leave it there. I cannot do anything else.

Sir Robert Finlay:
We will give every help in our power, and we will make these investigations as soon as we get the materials, and we will go as far as we can if there is any difficulty in getting the logbooks.

The Attorney-General:
You have the letters; all the information that we have my friend has. He is probably not aware of the fact, but all the letters that are referred to from which that is collected, are in that bundle.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I did not know they were all there; I see there are some.

The Attorney-General:
All that I have are there.

The Commissioner:
There is really only one question: "Did you in consequence of ice reports slow down?" That is the only question.

The Attorney-General:
And that makes it necessary that I should formally put in the proces verbaux of all the various vessels which were in the vicinity during these material days. It has been prepared in consequence of a request which was made by your Lordship earlier, but owing to what your Lordship said yesterday as to the "Baltic" message and the "Caronia" message affecting it I do not think it necessary to go further.

The Commissioner:
I did not intend to qualify in the least what I said yesterday.

The Attorney-General:
Therefore I do not proceed with it, but I do think we ought to have the proces verbaux in, in case we have to refer -

The Commissioner:
To what was said in the messages.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, to what ice reports were received by a particular vessel. It may or may not become necessary, but we had better have it.

The Commissioner:
I should have thought not. Then I shall consider the evidence is not formally closed, but that it is closed subject to this question of the course adopted by other steamers in similar circumstances at the same time.

The Attorney-General:
Yes.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Yes.

The Attorney-General:
There are five Captains whose proofs we have, which have been supplied by the White Star Line, and whose evidence they have asked us to put before the Court. They are here today, and we shall call them. It is similar evidence to that which you have already had of four Captains, but I will call it as my friend thinks it right. The only reference I want to make further is this. Your Lordship asked for an analysis of the emigrants from Queenstown. That is being prepared, but it will be agreed so that your Lordship can have it on Friday as an agreed list. It will save discussion about it. You will not want it before that. The only other matter is with reference to the questions, which I would like to deal with at once.

The Commissioner:
Are you going to suggest other questions?

The Attorney-General:
There are two alterations that I want to make. One is in Question 21. This is a mere limitation. It is only because, as the question stands, it goes much further than the Enquiry should. Your Lordship will see in Question 21: "How many lost their lives?" There should be added: "Prior to the arrival of the 'Carpathia' in New York." It is a mere limitation of time. There is no importance in it.

The Commissioner:
I will tell you at once I should not have attempted to answer it in any other way.

The Attorney-General:
I knew your Lordship would not, but I thought it was better to limit it in form.

The Commissioner:
Yes, quite right.

The Attorney-General:
The other question is Question 24: "What was the cause of the loss of the 'Titanic', and of the loss of life which thereby ensued or occurred?" To that I propose to add this question: "What vessel had the opportunity of rendering assistance to the "Titanic," and, if any, how was it that assistance did not reach the 'Titanic' before the 'Carpathia' arrived?"

The Commissioner:
Will that involve my dealing with the "Frankfurt."

The Attorney-General:
Well, only a reference. It is quite simple, I think. The only one that gives any difficulty with regard to this - any examination - is the "Californian." As to the "Mount Temple," you have the evidence about that. That question will cover the "Californian."

The Commissioner:
Yes.

The Attorney-General:
Those are all the additions that I want to make.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I understand, My Lord, that it has been arranged that my friends who appear for the various parties admitted by leave will address the Court first.

The Commissioner:
The course that I understand is to be taken, and which I should approve, is that Mr. Scanlan should begin, and deal with this case. Then I shall ask Mr. Edwards, and I hope that Mr. Edwards will be able to obtain the consent of some of the gentlemen to his dealing with their arguments whatever they may be. Will you do that, Mr. Edwards?

Mr. Edwards:
Yes, I can already say, My Lord, that Mr. Cotter agrees.

The Commissioner:
I shall listen to Mr. Scanlan first, as he has been, as a Rule, the first Counsel to examine the witnesses, and then I shall call upon you, Mr. Edwards, and I want as many of the gentlemen who appear on that side of the Court as can be induced to do it, to entrust the case, so far as they are concerned, to you, so that you may deal, not only with your own arguments, but with theirs. It is in order to save some of the speeches. And then after I have listened to you there is a gentleman over there whom I have not seen for quite a long time, Mr. Lewis, and he is not here now.

Mr. Edwards:
I can already tell your Lordship that, acting upon a suggestion, Mr. Cotter has asked me to address your Lordship upon those points which otherwise he would have had to address you upon, and I believe I shall be able to make the same statement, from information which has been conveyed to me, with regard to Mr. Lewis. As to the others, I will put myself into communication with them.

The Commissioner:
Do as much as you can. I daresay Mr. Harbinson (I say this because I think it) would desire to address me himself. Then there is Mr. Dunlop, who appears for the "Californian," and I think I must listen to him, as I do not think he can leave his case in anybody else's hands. And then after I have dealt with all those, then, Sir Robert, I shall ask you to address me, and finally the Attorney-General.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, My Lord.

Sir Robert Finlay:
Then my friend, Mr. Laing, My Lord -

The Commissioner:
Mr. Botterell, do you want to speak?

Mr. Botterell:
No, My Lord, I do not think I can usefully employ the time of the Court by any observations.

The Commissioner:
That is the best speech I have heard for some time.

Mr. Scanlan:
I understand Mr. Holmes said he would like to address your Lordship. He is not here at the moment.

The Attorney-General:
Mr. Wilding has to be called on the turning circle, and also I propose to get from him something else -

The Commissioner:
There are two things Mr. Wilding must formally do. I understand he has made a diagram to show the space in which the vessel could turn.

The Attorney-General:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
I want him to come into the box and prove that diagram. Then there is another diagram which he produced showing what the condition of the "Mauretania" would have been having had a similar accident to that which happened to the "Titanic."

The Attorney-General:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
I do not know that it will be of much value, but still he has prepared it, and I should like him to put it in.

The Attorney-General:
The only thing which I think would be useful if he did - he has done it at my request on the model, and I want him also to put it on this sectional plan - is to indicate the spots at which, according to the evidence, there was water found. It is so much easier to see it than merely to describe it.

The Commissioner:
It will be very useful to me.

The Attorney-General:
He has done it on the model, but I think it would be better on the sectional plan as well.

Mr. Edwards:
There is one matter I am not quite clear upon. Your Lordship has had a discussion as to the question of possible negligence or error of judgment on the part of Captain Smith; I understand your Lordship said that we may conclude the Enquiry subject to that question. The point I want to ask your Lordship is this: Though your Lordship may keep open your judgment on that point, whether those who are addressing your Lordship are also to leave the matter over or whether we are to deal with it as far as we can on the basis of the evidence already before the Court.

The Commissioner:
I will tell you, Mr. Edwards, how it occurs to me. You and Mr. Scanlan and others are no doubt concerned generally in the question of this calamity and how it happened and who is to blame; but you are more particularly concerned in the matters that you so closely examined the witnesses about - boats, watertight bulkheads, and the construction of the ship. Those are matters that it appears to me you are more closely concerned with. At the same time I do not mean to say that you are not also concerned with the question of blame, if any, to be imputed to those who were navigating the ship; and therefore you will have to address yourselves, but I hope not at any great length, to that question. There is, of course, a very important distinction between what I call an error of judgment and negligence. You cannot have a better illustration of it than something that has happened in the evidence in this case. You remember, I daresay, that Mr. Wilding said that in his opinion if this vessel had gone stem on to the ice it would have been better for the lives of the people than if she had starboarded her helm and so torn a rent in her side for some distance aft. As at present advised, assuming Mr. Wilding's view to be correct (I am far from saying that his view is correct.) and that what the man at the helm was told to do was wrong, I should be very loth to say that such a direction given to the man at the helm was negligence. It was a mistake, possibly, but a mistake and negligence are very different things. I give you that as a sort of illustration.

Mr. Edwards:
Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
I am told, Sir Robert, and you can tell me if it is right - I did not know it - that it is not the practice to find negligence against a dead man. Is that so?

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
I have never known a case, and I have always known this, that the Court has shown the greatest reluctance to accede to any such suggestion.

The Commissioner:
That is what I feel. I feel the greatest reluctance to finding negligence against a man who cannot be heard.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
That is the point, My Lord. He has no opportunity of giving any explanation. He is a man with a good record.

The Commissioner:
But if there is a fixed practice, of course, I am relieved of the difficulty altogether.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
Mr. Laing will, I think, agree with me; I cannot say it has been laid down as a fixed practice, and I really do not know a case in which the Captain or the Officer in command has been lost, but there have been a good many enquiries in my experience, and I have never known a case in which the Court has found a dead man guilty of negligence, and I think I am right in saying I do not know a case in which it has been invited to do so even by adverse interests. The parties and the Court have always been very tender to the good name and the honour of a dead man.

The Commissioner:
You heard what Mr. Aspinall says, Mr. Edwards?

Mr. Edwards:
Yes, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
And you heard it, Mr. Scanlan?

Mr. Scanlan:
Yes, My Lord. There was a suggestion in the course of the Enquiry that the look-out men were to blame, and, of course, on that point, in exonerating them, I shall have to make some remarks generally on the question.

The Commissioner:
Different considerations arise in connection with them, because both of them are alive and have been heard.

Mr. Edwards:
At this point may I ask formally for the production of the certificate of approval issued by the Board of Trade for the "Titanic," that is the certificate of approval which shows the point at which the loadline disc had to be placed according to the Board of Trade.

The Commissioner:
Has not that been put in?

Mr. Edwards:
I am told that it has been handed to your Lordship, but it is not in the proceedings.

The Commissioner:
Is it not on the Note?

Mr. Edwards:
I am not able to trace it, My Lord.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
You shall have it.

The Commissioner:
Take care that Mr. Edwards has it.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
Yes, he shall have it at once.

Mr. Edwards:
We may take it it is in, because I shall want to use it.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
With regard to these sea captains, they are very short, and I propose to call them at once. They are very anxious to get away. And then, after that, I will put Mr. Wilding into the box.

WITNESSES.

John Pritchard - Captain - Cunard Line - Retired.
Testimony

Hugh Young - Mariner - Retired.
Testimony

William Stewart - Captain - "Empress of Britain."
Testimony

The Commissioner:
Who are the other two Witnesses?

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
They are both Allan Line Captains, and they both give the same evidence.

The Commissioner:
May we take it they say the same?

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
They do according to their proofs.

The Commissioner:
Give me their names.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
John Alexander Fairfull, who has held an ordinary Master's certificate since 1873, and been in command of Allan liners for 21 years. The other man is Andrew Braes, who is a retired Master mariner, and holds an Extra Master's certificate, and who has commanded steamers of the allan Line for 17 years.

The Commissioner:
Perhaps you had better put them formally into the box and swear them, and ask them if they agree with the previous evidence.

WITNESSES.

John Alexander Fairfull - Mariner - Retired.
Testimony

Andrew Braes - Mariner - Retired.
Testimony

Edward Wilding - Naval Architect - Harland and Wolff - Recalled.
Testimony

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
That is all, My Lord. Subject to the evidence of the master of the "Carpathia," and possibly two or three formal documents which the Attorney-General may seem fit to put in on Friday, that is the evidence put before your Lordship by the Board of Trade.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I do not know whether the table supplied to us by the Board of Trade with reference to the number of other British vessels has been formally put in?

The Commissioner:
I think we were to have a Note of the vessels over 10,000 tons which had been built since that Rule was extended from 9,000 to 10,000.

Sir Robert Finlay:
The object of this table was, as I understand it, to show in a considerable number of British vessels the boat accommodation, as compared with the number of passengers carried or the number of passengers which might be carried; a Table was prepared by the Board of Trade.

The Commissioner:
And I think one of the things we wanted to know was what number of vessels of 10,000 tons and upwards had been built for the passenger or emigrant service since the Rule was extended from 9,000 to 10,000 ton vessels.

Sir Robert Finlay:
The table that I had in my mind was a Table not directed to that precise point, but directed with reference to the number of other vessels, to show what the boating accommodation in fact was.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
Is not this it? (Handing a printed document to the learned Counsel.)

Sir Robert Finlay:
Yes. I saw it in manuscript and it is now printed, and I did not recognise it. I will not stop to comment upon it at any length. I will take the "Lusitania" and the "Mauretania," which appear upon it. The "Lusitania" could carry 2,889, that was her licence, and she had boats for 978. The "Mauretania" was licensed to carry 2,972, and had boats for 976; and so on - there are other cases.

The Commissioner:
This is not the list I was thinking of.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
It has only just been handed to me, but I think this statement contains the information. (Handing same to the Commissioner.)

The Commissioner:
Is this the list, Sir Ellis?

Sir Ellis Cunliffe:
I think so, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Yes, it is the one.

Sir Robert Finlay:
To avoid misconception, there is a Mr. Blackett in New York, who examined the boats on board after the "Carpathia." He has made an affidavit. He is not here. I do not know that it is of any great importance, but I may ask on Friday morning to put in that.

The Commissioner:
Very well; to what point is the affidavit to be directed?

Sir Robert Finlay:
Merely as to the condition of the boats and the equipment of the boats; the state of the boats as regards water and biscuits, and so on. However, Mr. Aspinall asks that that should stand over till Friday morning.

The Commissioner:
Was Mr. Blackett a passenger?

Sir Robert Finlay:
No, he was a Surveyor.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
He was one of Lloyd's Surveyors.

The Commissioner:
At New York?

Sir Robert Finlay:
At New York. We have had a letter from the marine superintendent of the Red Star Line at Antwerp, which bears a good deal upon the question your Lordship put as to the speed of vessels. It is, of course, a general statement, and I may ask leave to call the gentleman who made it. I could not put in a letter, of course, unless by consent, but I may ask on Friday morning if that gentleman can come over here. He will not take any time. His name is Captain Apfeld, Marine superintendent.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
With regard to the Board of Trade witnesses, I am instructed to ask your Lordship whether or not your Lordship wishes any of them to remain in attendance. They have been kept here at very great expense, and they are anxious to go to their business.

The Commissioner:
I do not think that we shall want them again. There is nothing more that occurs to me at present to call for, and therefore I suppose we had better now adjourn till Friday morning. That will give the gentlemen who have to address me an opportunity of considering the subjects upon which they are going to address me.

SUBMITTED.

White Star Line
Appendix -
Document submitted by the White Star Line.

(Adjourned to Friday next, 10.30 o’clock.)