British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Report

Account of the Saving and Rescue of Those Who Survived
Boats

The "Titanic" was provided with 20 boats. They were all on the Boat deck. Fourteen were lifeboats. These were hung inboard in davits, seven on the starboard side and seven on the port side, and were designed to carry 65 persons each. Two were emergency boats. These were also in davits, but were hung outboard, one on the starboard side and one on the port side, and were designed to carry 40 persons each. The remaining four boats were Englehardt or collapsible boats. (Sanderson, 19115-22) Two of these were stowed on the Boat deck and two on the roof of the officers' quarters, and were designed carry 47 persons each. Thus the total boat accommodation was 1,178 persons. The boats in davits were numbered, the odd numbers being on the starboard side and even numbers on the port side. The numbering began with emergency boats which were forward, and ran aft. Thus the boats on the starboard side were numbered 1 (an emergency boat) 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 15 (lifeboats), and those on the port side 2 (an emergency boat), 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16 (lifeboats). The collapsible boats were lettered, A and B being on the roof of the officers' quarters, and C and D being on the Boat deck; C was abreast of No. 1 (emergency boat) and D abreast of No. 2 (emergency boat). Further particulars as to the boats will be found on page 18.

In ordinary circumstances all these boats (with the exception of 1 and 2) were kept covered up, and contained only a portion of their equipment, such as oars, masts and sails, and water; some of the remaining portion, such as lamps, compasses and biscuits being stowed in the ship in some convenient place, ready for use when required. Much examination was directed at the hearing to show that some boats left the ship without a lamp and others without a compass and so on, but in the circumstances of confusion and excitement which existed at the time of the disaster this seems to me to be excusable.

Each member of the crew had a boat assigned to him in printed lists which were posted up in convenient places for the men to see; but it appeared that in some cases the men had not looked at these lists and did not know their respective boats.

There had been no proper boat drill nor a muster. It was explained that great difficulty frequently exists in getting firemen to take part in a boat drill. They regard it as no part of their work. There seem to be no statutory requirements as to boat drills or musters, although there is a provision (Section 9 of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1906) that when a boat drill does take place the Master of the vessel is, under a penalty, to record the fact in his log. I think it is desirable that the Board of Trade should make rules requiring boat drills and boat musters to be held of such a kind and at such times as may be suitable to the ship and to the voyage on which she is engaged. Boat drill, regulated according to the opportunities of the service, should always be held.

It is perhaps worth recording that there was an inspection of the boats themselves at Southampton by Mr. Clarke, the emigration officer; and that, as a result, Mr. Clarke gave his certificate that the boats were satisfactory. For the purpose of this inspection two of the boats were lowered to the water and crews exercised in them. (Clarke, 24096-103)

The collision took place at 11.40 p.m. (ship's time). About midnight it was realized that that the vessel could not live, and at about 12.5 the order was given to uncover the 14 boats under davits. (Boxhall, 15367) The work began on both sides of the ship under the superintendence of five officers. (Lightoller, 13800) It did not proceed quickly at first; the crew arrived on the Boat deck only gradually, and there was an average of not more than three deck hands to each boat. (13809) At 12.20 the order was given to swing out the boats, and this work was at once commenced. There were a few passengers on the deck at this time. Mr. Lightoller, who was one of the officers directing operations, says that the noise of the steam blowing off was so great that his voice could not be heard, and that he had to give directions with his hands. (Lightoller, 13811) (Hart, 9926, 9879) (Wheat, 10943, 13229)

Before this work had been begun, the stewards were rousing the passengers in their different quarters, helping them to put on lifebelts and getting them up to the Boat deck. At about 12.30 the order was given to place women and children in the boats. This was proceeded with at once and at about 12.45 Mr. Murdoch gave the order to lower No. 7 boat (on the starboard side) to the water. The work of uncovering, filling and lowering the boats was done under the following supervision: Mr. Lowe, the fifth officer, saw to Nos. 1, 3, 5 and 7; Mr. Murdoch (lost) saw also to 1 and 7 and to A and C. Mr. Moody (lost) looked after Nos. 9, 11, 13 and 15. Mr. Murdoch also saw to 9 and 11. Mr. Lightoller saw to Nos. 4, 6, 8, B and D. Mr. Wilde (lost) also saw to 8 and D. Mr. Lightoller and Mr. Moody saw to 10 and 16 and Mr. Lowe to 12 and 14. Mr. Wilde also assisted at No. 14, Mr. Boxhall helping generally. (Various Witnesses, 15809, 14987, 14048, 10393, 13326, 708, 13187, 13835, 13931, 14011, 13929, 13984, 13819, 15832, 2969, 383, 16526, 17926)

The evidence satisfies me that the officers did their work very well and without any thought of themselves. Captain Smith, the Master, Mr. Wilde, the chief officer, Mr. Murdoch, the first officer, and Mr. Moody, the sixth officer, all went down with the ship while performing their duties. The others, with the exception of Mr. Lightoller, took charge of boats and thus were saved. Mr. Lightoller was swept off the deck as the vessel went down and was subsequently picked up.

So far as can be ascertained the boats left the ship at the following times, but I think it is necessary to say that these, and, indeed, all the times subsequent to the collision which are mentioned by the witnesses, are unreliable.

No.

Starboard Side.

No.

Port Side.

7
5
3
1
9
11
13
15
C
A

At 12.45 a.m.
12.55 a.m.
1.0
1.10
1.20
1.25
1.35
1.35
1.40
Floated off when the ship sank and was utilised as a raft.

6
8
10
12
14
16
2
4
D
B

At 12.55 a.m.
1.10
1.20
1.25
1.30
1.35
1.45
1.55
2.5
Floated off when the ship sank and was utilised as a raft.

(Various witnesses - 15809, 147, 156, 15593, 15000, 17911, 4937, 4987, 11071, 2134, 10120, 13303, 13200, 2266, 5647, 10456, 5950, 1018, 1054, 1085, 1094, 13931, 5841, 17920, 14014, 15426, 15832, 14068)

As regards the collapsible boats, C and D were properly lowered; as to A and B, which were on the roof of the officer's house, they were left until the last. There was difficulty in getting these boats down to the deck, and the ship had at this time a list. Very few of the deck hands were left in the ship, as they had nearly all gone to man the lifeboats, and the stewards and firemen were unaccustomed to work the collapsible boats. Work appears to been going on in connection with these two boats at the time that the ship sank. The boats seem to have floated from the deck and to have served in the water as rafts. (Brown, 10530) (Lightoller, 14011, 14035)

The following table shows the numbers of the male crew, male passengers, and women and children who, according to the evidence, left the ship in each boat. In three or four instances the numbers of women and children are only arrived at by subtracting the numbers of crew and male passengers from the total said to be in the boat (these are in italics). In each case the lowest figures are taken: -

Starboard side Boat No.

Men of crew

Men Passengers

Women and Children

Total

Port side Boat No.

Men of crew.

Men Passengers

Women and Children

Total

7
5
3
1
9
11
13
15
C

3
5
15
7
8
9
5
13
5

4
6
10
8
6
1
-
4
2

20
30
25
2
42
60
59
53
64

27
41
50
12
56
70
64
70
71

6
8
10
2
12
14
16
4
D

2
4
5
4
2
8
6
4
2

2
-
-
1
-
2
-
-
2

24
35
50
21
40
53
50
36
40

28
39
55
26
42
63
56
40
44

A

Utilised after the ship sank.

B

Utilised after the ship sank.

Totals

70

36

355

461

Totals

37

7

349

393

General Total:

107 men of the crew
43 men passengers
704 women and children

This shows in all 107 men the crew, 43 male passengers, and 704 women and children, or a total of 854 in 18 boats. In addition, about 60 persons, two of whom were women, were said to have been transferred, subsequently, from A and B collapsible boats to other boats, were rescued from the water, making a total of 914 who escaped with their lives. It is obvious that these figures are quite unreliable, for only 712 were, in fact, saved by the "Carpathia," the steamer which came to the rescue at about 4 a.m., and all the boats were accounted for. Another remarkable discrepancy is that, of the 712 saved, 189 were, in fact, men of the crew, 129 were male passengers and 394 were women and children. In other words, the real proportion of women to men saved was much less than the proportion appearing in the evidence from the boats. Allowing for those subsequently picked up, of the 712 persons saved only 652 could have left the "Titanic" in boats, or an average of about 36 per boat. There was a tendency in the evidence to exaggerate the numbers in each boat, to exaggerate the proportion of women to men, and to diminish the number of crew. I do not attribute this to any wish on the part of the witnesses to mislead the Court, but to a natural desire to make the best case for themselves and their ship. The seamen who gave evidence were too frequently encouraged when under examination in the witness-box to understate the number of crew in the boats. The number of crew actually saved was 189, giving an average of 10 per boat; and if from this figure the 58 men of the 60 persons above mentioned be deducted the average number of crew leaving the ship in the boats must still have been at least 7. The probability, however, is that many of the 60 picked up were passengers.

The discipline both among passengers and crew during the lowering of the boats was good, but the organisation should have been better, and if it had been it is possible that more lives would have been saved. (Various Witnesses, 104, 723, 14006, 1504, 6448)

The real difficulty in dealing with the question of the boats is to find the explanation of so many of them leaving the ship with comparatively few persons in them. No. 1 certainly left with only 12; this was an emergency boat with a carrying capacity of 40. No. 7 left with only 27, and No. 6 with only 28; these were lifeboats with a carrying capacity of 65 each; and several of the others, according to the evidence and certainly according to the truth, must have left only partly filled. Many explanations are forthcoming, one being that the passengers were unwilling to leave the ship. (Various Witnesses, 1127, 1146, 5955, 13996, 15931, 9924, 25566) When the earlier boats left, and before the "Titanic" had begun materially to settle down, there was a drop of 65 feet from the Boat deck to the water, and the women feared to get into the boats. Many people thought that the risk in the ship was less than the risk in the boats. This explanation is supported by the evidence of Captain Rostron, of the "Carpathia." He says that after those who were saved got on board his ship, he was told by some of them that when the boats first left the "Titanic" the people "really would not be put in the boats; they did not want to go in." There was a large body of evidence from the "Titanic" to the same effect, and I have no doubt that many people, particularly women, refused to leave the deck for the boats. At one time the Master appears to have had the intention of putting the people into the boats from the gangway doors in the side of the ship. This was possibly with a view to allay the fears of the passengers, for from these doors the water could be reached by means of ladders, and the lowering of some of the earlier boats when only partly filled may be accounted for in this way. There is no doubt that the Master did order some of the partly filled boats to row to a position under one of the doors with the object taking in passengers at that point. It appears, however, that these doors were never opened. Another explanation is that some women refused to leave their husbands. It is said further that the officers engaged in putting the people into the boats feared that the boats might buckle if they were filled; but this proved to be an unfounded apprehension, for one or more boats were completely filled and then successfully lowered to the water. (Various Witnesses, 13887, 13954, 16011, 17897, 2156)

At 12.35 the message from the "Carpathia" was received announcing that she was making for the "Titanic." (Bride, 16798) This probably became known and may have tended to make the passengers still more unwilling to leave the ship; and the lights of a ship (the "Californian") which were seen by many people may have encouraged the passengers to hope that assistance was at hand. These explanations are perhaps sufficient to account for so many of the lifeboats leaving without a full boat load; but I think, nevertheless, that if the boats had been kept a little longer before being lowered, or if the after gangway doors had been opened, more passengers might have been induced to enter the boats. And if women could not be induced to enter the boats, the boats ought to then to have been filled up with men. It is difficult to account for so many of the lifeboats being sent from the sinking ship, in a smooth sea, far from full. These boats left behind them many hundreds of lives to perish. I do not, however, desire these observations to be read as casting any reflection on the officers of the ship or on the crew who were working on the Boat deck. They all worked admirably, but I think that if there had been better organisation the results would have been more satisfactory.

I heard much evidence as to the conduct of the boats after the "Titanic" sank and when there must have been many struggling people in the water, and I regret to say that in my opinion some, at all events, of the boats failed to attempt to save lives when they might have done so, and might have done so successfully. This was particularly the case of boat No. 1. (Hendrickson, 5011) (Symons, 11501, 11527) It may reasonably have been thought that the risk of making the attempt was too great; but it seems to me that if the attempt had been made by some of these boats it might have been the means of saving a few more lives. Subject to these few adverse comments, I have nothing but praise for both passengers and crew. All the witnesses speak well of their behaviour. It is to be remembered that the night was dark, the noise of the escaping steam was terrifying, the peril, though perhaps not generally recognised, was imminent and great, and many passengers who were unable to speak or to understand English, were being collected together and hurried into the boats.