British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 1


Examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.

54. Were you the Master of the "Lusitania"?
- I was.

55. On the voyage from New York to Liverpool?
- I was.

56. You started your voyage on the 1st May?
- Yes.

57. I will not go into the particulars of the crew and cargo, because we know what it was. What certificates do you hold?
- Extra Master.

58. Have you got it?
- The Company has it.

59. At the time when the ship started, so far as you know was she in good condition?
- Yes.

60. And well found?
- And well found.

6l. Was she armed or unarmed?
- Unarmed.

62. Had she any weapons of offence or defence against an enemy at all?
- None whatever.

63. Or any masked guns?
- None whatever.

64. Before you left New York was there boat drill carried out?
- There was.

65. And fire and bulkhead drill?
- And fire and bulkhead drill also.

66. Were these in accordance with regulations issued by the owners?
- Yes, sir.

67. Can you tell me, during the voyage between the 1st May and the day when the ship was sunk, was there daily muster drill at the boats?
- At the sea boat, one boat.

68. How often was that?
- Once a day.

69. Tell us what course you came across?
- I steered a course from Sandy Hook to 40.10 N. and 40 W., thence on a circle course to within 100 miles from Fastnet, and then steered about 20 miles south of Fastnet.

70. When you got to Fastnet how far out from the shore were you?
- I estimate about 25 to 26 miles south of Fastnet; we did not see it.

71. On the morning of the 7th May was there a fog?
- There was.

72. Up to what time?
- I forget the time; I could not tell you.

73. Then we will prove that by another witness. Did it clear off?
- It cleared off.

74. And being 25 miles, you say, off Fastnet, what did you do then?
- We held up a bit, to make the land closer, to make out something, and we saw the Brow Heads shortly afterwards, and then, if I remember aright, we put her on her course again parallel with the land.

75. Do you remember the time she was struck?
- My watch was 2.15; it stopped at 2.36¼.

76. According to your statement, whereabouts was the ship at that time?
- I estimate about 15 miles out.

77. Off where?
- The Old Head of Kinsale.

78. Going to Liverpool?
- Bound for Liverpool.

79. At the time was the weather quite clear?
- Beautifully clear.

80. Was the sea smooth?
- Quite smooth.

81. Do you know anything about the tide?
- It was slack water.

82. How far were you from Liverpool at that time? If you cannot tell me I will get it from another witness. - Kinsale is about 255 miles, as near as I can remember.

83. I have a calculation here made, which I daresay you will accept, of about 240 miles. - From the Don Ship it is 240 miles to Liverpool.

84. And you say you were 250 miles away?
- 250 miles-all that.

85. At 2.15, at the time you were struck, what speed were you going at?
- 18 knots.

86. Can you tell me what was the average speed at which you had come from New York across?
- About 21 knots.

87. What was the highest speed you were able to make if you put full speed on?
- 24½ or 25 knots.

88. Could you have made that during this voyage?
- No, not under the condition of boilers.

89. That is what I want you to tell his Lordship. W hat was the condition of the boilers?
- We were only working 19 out of 25.

90. Was that by the direction of the owners?
- It was.

91. Where were you at the time when the ship was struck?
- On the port side of the lower bridge.

92. Will you tell his Lordship and the Assessors in your own way what happened?
- The officer called out "There is a torpedo coming, sir," and I went across to the starboard side and saw the wake, and there was immediately an explosion and the ship took a heavy list.

93. Could you observe where she was struck-which side first?
- The starboard side.

94. Do you know where she was struck?
- A big volume of smoke and steam came up between the third and fourth funnels, counting from forward-I saw that myself.

95. Did you say that you yourself saw the wake of the torpedo?
- I saw a streak like the wake of a torpedo.

96. Somebody cried out that there was a torpedo?
- Yes, the Second Officer, on the bridge.

97. When the ship was struck tell us what happened?
- I headed her for the land to see if I could make the land.

98. Did she list?
- Heavily to starboard.

99. Were you yourself thrown down?
- No.

100. What did you do then?
- Ordered the boats to be lowered down to the rails, to get the women and children in first.

101. Before doing that, did you go on to the navigation bridge?
- Yes.

102. I want to take it in order, you know. You went up to the navigation bridge?
- Yes.

103. What did you do then?
- Put her head on to the land, and then I saw she had a lot of way on her and was not sinking, so I put her full speed astern, to take the way off her.

104. When you did that, was there any response from the engines?
- None whatever.

105. What did you conclude from that?
- That the engines were out of commission.

106. When you had ordered full speed astern and had headed her for the land, what did you do?
- I told them to hold on lowering the boats till the way was off the ship a bit, which was done. I told the staff captain to lower the boats when he thought the way was sufficiently off to allow them to be lowered.

107. Did you notice any other concussion that would lead you to believe there was a second torpedo?
- One immediately after the first.

108. When you told them to lower the boats, was there any difficulty about any of the boats?
- They could not very well lower them on the port side because of the heavy list.

109. Can you give us a little more information as to the extent of the list?
- I should say about 15 degrees.

110. What happened to the boats on the port side?
- They caught on the rail and capsized some of the people out. Some were let go on the run, and some of them fell inboard on the deck and hurt some of the passengers.

111. Did you give any directions about the women and children?
- I said "All women and children into the boats first," and I told them to lower them down to the rails.

112. Was there any panic on board?
- Not that I saw.

113. How long was it from the time when the ship was first torpedoed until she sank?
- I should think about 18 minutes. My watch was 2.10, and it stopped at 2.36¼.

114. The Commissioner: You went into the water, did you?
- Yes, my Lord.

115. The Attorney-General: How long did you remain on the bridge?
- Until she went down under me.

116. You put on a lifebelt, I suppose?
- Yes, I put on a lifebelt.

117. How long were you in the water?
- That I do not know; I did not take the time.

118. I daresay it seemed a very long time?
- Well, yes, it did.

119. Then were you picked up?
- Yes, they picked me up in one of the ship's boats, and transferred me to the "Bluebell" trawler and landed me at Queenstown.

120. So far as you were concerned, or could observe, was everything done that was possible to get the boats out and save lives?
- Yes, everything possible.

121. You got certain instructions from the Admiralty, I think?
- I did.

The Attorney-General:
I do not say more than that at the present moment; that I shall have to deal with later on.

The Commissioner:

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
I have some questions to ask this gentleman, but I do not know whether your Lordship might not think it better that I should wait until the other interests have put their questions. It is the more usual course.

The Commissioner:
By all means.

Mr. Butler Aspinall: And it may save time.

Examined by Mr. ROSE-INNES.

Mr. Rose-Innes:
I desire to put this question to the witness: whether the boats on the port side were swung clear or only lowered to the deck?

The Commissioner:
Do you mean whether they were swung out?

Mr. Rose-Innes:

122. The Commissioner: (To the witness) Were the boats on the port side swung out?
- They were.

123. Mr. Rose-Innes: Did that apply also to the starboard side?
- It applied to the starboard side.

Mr. Rose-Innes:
The other questions I desire to put are such as cannot be put at the present moment having regard to your Lordship's ruling.

The Commissioner:
I do not know what that means. What does it mean?

Mr. Rose-Innes:
They have reference to the Admiralty instructions.

The Commissioner:
I shall not, I think, allow you to put any questions about that.

Mr. Rose-Innes:
No, my lord, I understand so, if the Inquiry takes place in camera. If we are excluded, according to your Lordship's ruling, from so much of the Inquiry as takes place in camera, I cannot put them.

The Commissioner:
No, I do not want to go into those matters at all now.

The Attorney-General:
May I say as regards my learned friend, that if he has any communications he likes to make to me, I will consider what questions I can put upon them.

The Commissioner:
You hear what the Attorney-General says, Mr. Rose-Innes: If there are any questions you would like to put you may submit them to him, and if we have to retire and hold any part of the Inquiry in camera he will consider whether they are questions which he ought to put.

Mr. Rose-Innes:
I am obliged, my Lord.