British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 33

Final Arguments, cont.

The Commissioner:
Will you remind me what it was?

The Attorney-General:
"Congratulations on new command. Had moderate Westerly winds, fair weather, no fog, large ice reported in latitude 42 deg. 24 min. to 42 deg. 45 min., and longitude 49 deg. 50 min. to 50 deg. 20 min." That is acknowledged by the Captain on page 5 of the telegrams received and sent.

The Commissioner:
What is the date?

The Attorney-General:
It is the 14th.

The Commissioner:
What time?

The Attorney-General:
Sent at 2.31, but any question as to the date is, I think, satisfactorily solved by seeing that the answer is received from the "Titanic" 3.29 p.m.

The Commissioner:
That is the "Titanic's" time.

The Attorney-General:
That is the "Titanic's" time.

The Commissioner:
And whereabouts on the chart does that telegram indicate it?

The Attorney-General:
It is to the Northward of the "Caronia" indication. Has your Lordship the chart that I handed up of the Marconi Company? It is the enlarged North Atlantic chart. Will your Lordship look at mine. (Handing same.)

The Commissioner:
How many miles to the North of the spot of the "Titanic" disaster is this ice indicated.

Sir Robert Finlay:
It is a good many miles North, my Lord; I am having it taken out exactly.

The Commissioner:
Then I want to know whether it is E. or W.?

Sir Robert Finlay:
I think, my Lord, it will be found - I am having it measured exactly - to be 38 miles -

The Attorney-General:
That is what I make it.

Sir Robert Finlay:
The most Southerly point, to the North of the scene of the disaster. This was reported on the afternoon of the Sunday, so that it could not possibly have got -

The Commissioner:
Is it this, that one may say that deductions ought to have been drawn from the telegram.

The Attorney-General:
That is the point.

The Commissioner:
But it cannot be said that the actual ice recorded was of any significance.

Sir Robert Finlay:
No.

The Commissioner:
It may be said against Captain Smith that it was a warning that he was within reach of the ice, and therefore he ought to have known, but as far as the particular ice itself goes it is quite without the reach of the "Titanic."

Sir Robert Finlay:
Nothing has hitherto been said about it.

The Commissioner:
I have always supposed that that telegram was immaterial.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I so treated it, my Lord.

The Attorney-General:
Of course, that is my objection. That is why I am calling attention to it. I do not think it is immaterial by reason of what was said yesterday. At any rate, my object in calling attention to it is that I am going to found some observations upon it, and call your Lordship's attention to the fact that there were telegrams, and that there was this telegram showing ice to the Northward.

The Commissioner:
Everyone knew there was ice to the Northward.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, but I mean that he had had an ice report. I have already indicated the point that I am going to submit with regard to those responsible for the navigation, that, having got four telegrams of ice reports, it was not sufficient, even if the Captain was justified in coming to the conclusion that the ice was to the Southward of him after he had turned the corner.

The Commissioner:
At present, Mr. Attorney, I do not see that the "Norddam's" telegram carries it much further, because there was the "Baltic," the "Caronia," and the "Californian," all indicating ice to the North and much nearer than the "Norddam."

The Attorney-General:
Yes. I quite agree, my Lord, that is why, at an earlier stage, when your Lordship said you did not think it was worth dwelling upon the "Norddam." I agreed, and the only reason I want it in now is because I am going to found some observations upon it, which I have indicated to my friend.

The Commissioner:
The telegram is in evidence.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, but I do not want it to be passed over, because originally we had said that three were the only ones that were material. I agree entirely when your Lordship said it has not anything like the direct materiality, but I think it has some.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I will say a word upon it as my friend has called attention to it. Your Lordship will see that the "Norddam" ice is to the North of the normal limit marked on the chart for field ice between March and July.

The Attorney-General:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
Yes.

Sir Robert Finlay:
And sensibly to the North of that limit. That ice cannot possibly have been the ice which caused the disaster.

The Commissioner:
Oh, no; that is not suggested. What is suggested is that it was another warning of ice.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, that is the point.

The Commissioner:
And it goes on, as it were, accumulating with the others.

The Attorney-General:
Yes.

Sir Robert Finlay:
The reply that I make to that suggestion that my friend, the Attorney-General, has called my attention to, is this; that the intimations that they had of ice which might be dangerous to them were the "Californian," the "Baltic," and the "Caronia." I have submitted that Captain Smith took a reasonable course with regard to that. I am not going to repeat that.

The Commissioner:
And a fortiori he did with regard to the other?

Sir Robert Finlay:
The "Norddam" was absolutely negligible. So far from impugning Captain Smith's judgment in the matter, I submit that it rather confirms it, because, having taken reasonable steps with regard to the "Caronia," the "Baltic," and the "Californian" ice, he is entitled to say to himself, "All the ice that I have warnings of are these three and the 'Norddam,' which is utterly beyond my range," and the fact that there is no warning of anything between the "Norddam" and the "Caronia" which might complicate the situation is -

The Commissioner:
I think I appreciate what you say upon that. Have you finished?

Sir Robert Finlay:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
Thank you very much for your assistance. It has been of great use to me - very great use.

Sir Robert Finlay:
I feel any assistance I have been able to render is almost entirely due to my friends, Mr. Laing, Mr. Maurice Hill and Mr. Raeburn, who have been good enough to help me.

The Commissioner:
I know their industry from experience.

Sir Robert Finlay:
And their ability.

The Commissioner:
Now, Mr. Attorney, I am thinking about how we are to go on with this work. I know you are engaged in many things, and some of them are engagements that cannot be neglected. I have some reason to believe that you must be away on Tuesday.

The Attorney-General:
Yes.

The Commissioner:
And possibly for further days.

The Attorney-General:
Yes, my Lord, quite so.

The Commissioner:
It is very undesirable that this case should be adjourned at all.

The Attorney-General:
Quite.

The Commissioner:
I remember what you said a few days ago, that you proposed to wait until the end of all the speeches before you addressed the Court. If that course is pursued it may land us in the difficulty of having to adjourn for a considerable period.

The Attorney-General:
I have been considering it, and I am much obliged to your Lordship for the suggestion. I do not think there is any danger of it. Your Lordship now has to hear my friend, Mr. Laing, who I know will be very short, and then there is only Mr. Dunlop, and I shall certainly be able to compress my observations within the limits of tomorrow and Monday, if your Lordship will sit tomorrow.

The Commissioner:
Yes, certainly I will.

Mr. Laing:
I do not wish to add anything to the words of Sir Robert Finlay on the description of this vessel, as built for her owners, the White Star Line. I only want to deal with a few technical matters that have been raised in this case by the cross-examination of Mr. Edwards, and to answer a question which your Lordship put to me a day or two ago.

The design of this vessel was that she was to be built and so spaced as to float with any two compartments open to the sea. That was the design that the builders had before them and it is the highest standard of any shipbuilding firm, certainly in this country, and also in Germany, as the evidence shows. The two other great vessels which one naturally thinks of in this connection, the "Lusitania" and the "Mauretania," are built on the same plan, too. Mr. Peskett, when he was in the box, said she was designed and built to float with two compartments open to the sea, and he thought that she could float with three. So with the "Titanic" - Mr. Wilding has proved that she undoubtedly could have floated with any two compartments open to the sea, and that on his flooding plans she certainly would have floated with three, provided they were forward ones, as they were in this case. Not only could she float, on her design, so flooded, but so flooded she would float with the tops of her bulkheads above the waterline by double the amount of the margin required by the Board of Trade. I think their margin is something like 18 inches and she would float from 2 feet 6 inches, I think, is the figure, to 3 feet. So she very fully complied certainly with the design which the builders set themselves to carry out when they started to build this vessel.

I should have been almost content to read one answer from Mr. Carruthers as to the supervision by the Board of Trade of the building of this vessel and the assurance from Mr. Carruthers that she in fact fulfilled every requirement and regulation of the Board of Trade. He says so in specific terms and I should have been content to leave it there had it not been for the points suggested over and over again by Mr. Edwards and repeated in his speech to your Lordship on the close of this case. On that account I feel that I must touch, by simply giving your Lordship the references on the several points which he raised and which were answered in the evidence which was given.

The first point that he raised was that there was no testing of the bulkheads, no actual testing by water test of the bulkheads, of this vessel, with the exception of the forepeak, and, I think, the tanks, while the vessel was under construction. The answer to that was given that it never is done, and that neither Lloyd's nor the Board of Trade require any testing by water pressure of bulkheads, and that the practice is not to do so. I will not trouble to read the evidence, but I will give your Lordship the reference, because your Lordship might like to have it. It is page 525, Questions 20597 to 20600.

The Commissioner:
I am told it is done in the Navy.

Mr. Laing:
Yes. I was dealing entirely with the Merchant Service. I know it was said it was done in the Navy.

The next point Mr. Edwards made was this. His cross-examination was directed to show that the bulkhead plating of this vessel was insufficient in strength according to Lloyd's Standard, and your Lordship remembers that putting the questions to Mr. Wilding, Mr. Edwards reached a conclusion which he did not expect, that instead of demonstrating that they were short of Lloyd's requirements, he demonstrated that they exceeded Lloyd's requirements.

The Commissioner:
I think Mr. Edwards was a little confused with the arithmetic.

Mr. Laing:
My Lord, I think he was. At all events he escaped with great agility from the situation. But the fact remains that what he did establish was that the bulkhead plating was in excess of Lloyd's requirements, and not below them; and the passage in the evidence which refers to that is at page 528, Question 20661. Again, a point which he made and which he also escaped from, was that the stiffeners in this vessel were not sufficiently spaced or properly spaced according to the requirements of Lloyd's Rules. There, again, he demonstrated in the course of his cross-examination, that, so far from being short of the requirements, they exceeded the requirements; and the passage which refers to that is at page 527, Question 20640.

My Lord, in fact, it was proved on these two heads that the ship, as built, was 50 percent over the requirements of Lloyd's, and in excess of the Board of Trade requirements, and the passages which show that are page 539, Questions 20907-8.

The next point that Mr. Edwards made was this. He suggested not once, but certainly more than once, that the bulkhead between No. 5 and 6 boiler sections broke down and gave way, and more than once during the course of this Enquiry the evidence as to that has been summarised and the conclusion arrived at was that it had not broken down. But Mr. Edwards reiterated the charge in his address to your Lordship, and my submission upon it is that there is absolutely no evidence at all that the bulkhead broke down, but that the evidence is the other way, that it did not break down. The evidence about it is all summarised on page 527, where the matter was gone into at some little length, and also at page 673.

The Commissioner:
Will you give me the numbers?

Mr. Laing:
I do not think there are any numbers; it is a discussion I think below 26625. It starts after that and the matter is threshed out again.

The Commissioner:
It starts on page 526, does it?

Mr. Laing:
Yes, my Lord.

The Commissioner:
How far does it extend?

Mr. Laing:
It extends right up to page 527, Question 26629.

The Commissioner:
And there it stops, does it?

Mr. Laing:
And there it stops. It breaks out again at page 673.

The Commissioner:
It is a sort of intermittent fever apparently.

Mr. Laing:
It frequently crops up, my Lord. On page 673 it commences at Question 23974 and goes down to 23975.

The Commissioner:
Mr. Edwards says, "I think there is some evidence. (The Commissioner.) Well, will you tell me what it is? (Mr. Clement Edwards.) There is the evidence of Barrett, my Lord. (The Commissioner.) What is that, that he saw some water coming in. (Mr. Clement Edwards.) No, the evidence of Barrett is this, that in Section 6 he saw water coming in, and in Section 5 he saw it trickling in, and that afterwards, when he skipped up out of Section 5, he did it because there was a great rush of water as if something had given way."

Mr. Laing:
The result of the evidence, which I think I can summarise quite shortly, was that Barrett saw that the plating of this vessel was fractured abaft the bulkhead which separated No. 5 from No. 6, and that some water trickling, or variously described, ran into an empty bunker which adjoined this fracture; thereupon Barrett lowered the door of the bunker, which was not a watertight door, and the water then accumulated in the bunker until it forced the light plating of the bunker door, and came in with what was described as a rush. On the rush Barrett escaped up a ladder. That is how it stood, and I am quite satisfied that your Lordship came to the conclusion, at least so it appears from the various discussions we have had, that the bulkhead did not in fact carry away, but that the bunker door carried away, and so it came in with a rush.

Mr. Edwards' next point was a more serious one, because he in terms said that Messrs. Harland and Wolff had either defied the Board of Trade, and had refused to carry out their regulations, or that the Board of Trade, in face of Messrs. Harland and Wolff had given way and had refused to carry out their own regulations or had been persuaded not to carry out their own regulations. The point which Mr. Edwards raises on this is of a very elaborate character, and it is very difficult to disentangle; but it all turns upon the correspondence which he so often referred to between Messrs. Harland and Wolff and the Board of Trade Surveyors, and between the Board of Trade Surveyors and their Department in London.

The two points so far as I follow it which evolve from this correspondence, according to Mr. Edwards, are these. The first one is that the intermediate bulkheads in the "Titanic" were all carried up a deck too low, that instead of stopping at E deck they ought to have gone up to D deck. That is his first point. His second point was that, as he described it, the watertighting of the fore part of the ship had not been done according to the requirements which the Board of Trade themselves had put forward.

Now, I think on the correspondence Mr. Edwards discovered a mare's nest of exceptional dimensions, because there is absolutely nothing in it which supports the two charges which he makes; in fact, it disposes of them. In order to arrive at the height to which the bulkheads ought to be carried. You have, first of all, to arrive at what the freeboard of this vessel is according to her deep-load draught. Mr. Edwards was perfectly right in this: If the freeboard assigned to this vessel does not exceed the requirements of Table C of the Regulations, the whole of those bulkheads ought to have been carried up to D deck. I accept that without any qualification. The whole question is whether they did equal or exceed the regulations of Table C. Mr. Edwards says they did not, and I submit with some confidence that they undoubtedly did. And if they did then these bulkheads were rightly carried up to E and not to D, that is the point.

The point emerges in this way. Mr. Edwards has given us some figures - where he got them from I do not know - but in his argument he gives us the following figures: He says Table C requires a freeboard of 11 feet 1 inch for this vessel, that she had in fact a freeboard assigned to her of 10 feet 11 1/2 inches, and that she was therefore 1 1/2 inches short of the requirements of Table C. But the true figures are that Table C requires a freeboard of 10 feet 11 1/2 inches.

The Commissioner:
Will you show me that?

Mr. Laing:
Yes, my Lord; I will show it you as far as I can, because these figures were never put in cross-examination at all. This matter has been evolved at a very late period. 10 feet 11 1/2 inches is what Table C requires.

The Commissioner:
No Witness was examined on this subject at all.

Mr. Pringle:
May I explain, on behalf of Mr. Edwards, that this correspondence was only produced when the Board of Trade Surveyor was in the box, and it was only possible to cross-examine after that.

The Commissioner:
I am quite aware of that; it was either a great point, or, as Mr. Laing says, a mare's nest, which you discovered at the last moment.

Mr. Pringle:
Mr. Laing says he has a difficulty in discovering where the figures were got. The figures are in the correspondence.

Mr. Laing:
I will show your Lordship the correspondence.

The Commissioner:
The first thing I want to find out is where the freeboard which this vessel ought to have had is indicated in Table C.

Mr. Laing:
I will show your Lordship the figures. They have never been given in evidence, but the actual measurements exist, and I have no doubt the Board of Trade have them. In fact, we have had them supplied. If I may just complete, just to show the fallacy of this argument, Table C requires a freeboard of 10 feet 11 1/2 inches.

The Commissioner:
Where do you get that from?

Mr. Laing:
I will show you the figures; it is a most elaborate calculation. The actual freeboard assigned to this vessel was 11 feet 2 1/2 inches; therefore, instead of being l 1/2 inches short of the requirements of Table C, she is 3 inches in excess of the requirements of Table C.

The Commissioner:
According to you, she was better instead of worse.

Mr. Laing:
Certainly; and the result is, if she is 3 inches better than Table C, then undoubtedly these decks were rightly taken up to E, and not to D, and the whole thing comes to an end.

Mr. Pringle:
It may save a little time if I say a word or two.

The Commissioner:
I will tell you why I think you may not at present. Mr. Laing is putting something to me at present which I do not understand, and if you get up to explain it I am afraid you will make me understand it less. You may interrupt afterwards, after Mr. Laing has made me understand what he is saying.

Mr. Laing:
My point is that on the figures - and I will show you how they are arrived at - this ship was 3 inches in excess of the requirements of Table C, and I think Mr. Edwards would agree, if he were here, that if that were so these bulkheads were properly carried up to E and not to D.

The Commissioner:
I am not sure about that. Perhaps he ought to agree, but I am not at all sure that he would.

Mr. Laing:
So far as the evidence goes, if your Lordship will look at page 672, Question 23945, Mr. Carruthers says that in fact this vessel was 3 inches in excess of the requirements of Table C.

The Commissioner:
Is that where he says, "I think the margin was 3 inches; at all events it was almost 3 inches"?

Mr. Laing:
Yes, it is Question 23945.

The Commissioner:
"And when it is placed as low as is required by Table C of the freeboard tables for awning deck vessels the remaining bulkheads may terminate at the deck next below the upper deck." Is that what you are referring to?

Mr. Laing:
Yes, that is E deck; that is where they did in fact terminate. Now, keeping away from the figures for a moment, because they are terribly complicated, there is evidence to show that in the opinion of Mr. Carruthers, the gentleman in charge of these operations, the vessel did in fact exceed the requirements of Table C by 3 inches.

Let me see if I can carry that a little further. The load draught at that freeboard is 34 feet 7 inches. That is at page 499, Question 19796. That is for the deep water loadline. That shows her load draught is 34 feet 7. That is one of the factors in this complicated calculation. Before I go again to the figures, in order to satisfy your Lordship on the evidence, Mr. Archer said that he was satisfied that these bulkheads were carried to the required height, and he, of course, had the whole problem before him and all the figures. He said that at page 692, Question 24433. Perhaps I had better read that question, because it covers the whole ground: "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? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) You were satisfied? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) Mr. Carruthers was not satisfied? - (A.) I do not understand that at all." That is quite a misleading question, because Mr. Carruthers was perfectly satisfied.

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

Mr. Laing:
I have given your Lordship the reference to Mr. Carruthers, that all the Rules and Regulations were fully satisfied, so that must be some error.

Then Mr. Archer, at page 693, Questions 24511 to 24513, said that the "Titanic," when she left, fully complied with all the Regulations and Rules of the Board of Trade, and, as far as he knew, with Lloyd's Rules too.

The root error of Mr. Edwards' calculation, I think is - it is difficult quite to put one's hand on it - that he has taken the moulded depth of the "Titanic" as 45 feet, whereas in truth and in fact it was 45 feet 1 1/2 inches, and it looks uncommonly like one of his 1 1/2 inches. The reason why I think my friend has gone wrong in his calculation is this. I will show your Lordship a series of figures which were submitted for the purpose of obtaining a freeboard, the approximate figures arrived at by calculation before the ship was finished. When the ship was in fact finished, and the actual calculations were applied to the actual measurements of the ship, the differences, which were worked out to a few inches - this 1 1/2 inches is one of them - resulted in the figure which I have given you, and I think Mr. Edwards must have based his calculation on the assumed figures and not upon the actual figures at all.

Now, if I may turn to these which refer to the correspondence - there are two volumes of it - one is called "Collision Bulkhead," which I daresay your Lordship has -

The Commissioner:
Yes.

Mr. Laing:
On page 2 of that document you will find a very complicated calculation which I think Mr. Edwards has taken as a basis for his own calculation. Your Lordship will see that they are assumed figures and work out at a result different from the result arrived at on the actual measurements of the vessel which I believe the Board of Trade have.

Now, if I may refer to some at all events of the figures which differ to a small extent. It is headed, "The Olympic," there being a note on page 1 of this volume to this effect, "The steamship 'Titanic' and the steamship 'Olympic' were sister ships, and the points raised in connection with the construction of the latter applied equally to the 'Titanic.'" On page 2 Mr. Archer is sending a letter to the assistant-secretary of the Marine Department, and he is giving a series of calculations for the purpose of arriving at the upper deck of this vessel, and he starts by saying, "Draught 34 feet 9 inches." The loadline of this vessel was 34 feet 7 inches, so there is a variation at once. The freeboard to upper deck is given as 10 feet 9 inches, making 45 feet 6 inches. Then the moulded depth is taken as 45 feet, whereas in truth and in fact the moulded depth was 45 feet l 1/2 inches, which again would, I should imagine, disturb this calculation.

The Commissioner:
This letter was written long before the vessel was completed.

Mr. Laing:
This is on the 30th April, 1910.

The Commissioner:
And she was not completed until 1912.

Mr. Laing:
No, and I am told - of course, no evidence has really been directed upon this point, because it has not been raised - that when you make these calculations on assumed or designed measurements, they are very apt to, and do, vary from the actual measurements taken of the ship when completed - by small figures, but they do vary, and vary sufficiently to upset this very nice calculation. My friend, Mr. Edwards, calculating with all the errors which I am pointing out on these figures, has only made a difference of 1.06, I think he said.

The Commissioner:
That is right.

Mr. Laing:
1.06 inches.

The Commissioner:
He said 1.06 was quite sufficient to bring it over the line.

Mr. Laing:
Yes, that is what his point is, that she was 1 inch or something below the requirements of Table C.

The Commissioner:
And therefore the deck ought to have gone up?

Mr. Laing:
Yes. It is all very well for Mr. Edwards to say so, calculating the best he can, but when your Lordship has Mr. Archer, the Senior Surveyor, and Mr. Carruthers, the gentleman at Belfast, all saying that is not true, and that in fact she exceeded the requirements of Table C instead of being under them, there is only one possible conclusion on the evidence as it stands, that Mr. Edwards is wrong, and I am pointing out how he is wrong.


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