British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 2


Examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.

552. Is your name Hugh Robert Johnson?
- Yes.

553. Were you the Quartermaster on board the "Lusitania”?
- Yes.

554. Do you recollect - I have no doubt you do - Friday the 7th May, the day she was torpedoed?
- Yes.

555. Can you tell us where you were at the time she was torpedoed?
- At the wheel.

556. Could you tell us in your estimation how far she was from the Old Head of Kinsale?
- At half-past one Kinsale was 10 points on the port bow and 20 miles away. That was the message I had to take down to the Captain, at half-past one, from Mr. Jones.

557. In what direction were you going then, were you going closer in?
- I was not at the wheel then, but we altered the course two or three times in towards the land; I do not know what for.

558. Did you form any estimate of how far away you were from Kinsale when the ship was torpedoed?
- I should say she was about 15 miles away. I mean, Kinsale was almost abreast. That was 15 miles from the shore.

559. I do not understand the distinction you draw?
- The ship was almost abeam of Kinsale and I thought there was about 15 miles between the land and the ship.

560. Have you ever formed an estimate that it was less than that?
- No.

561. Did you state at any time that it was about 8 to 10 miles?
- Well, I cannot remember to be exact to one or two miles, or what statement I gave.

562. Please call to mind. Did you state at any time that the ship was about 8 to 10 miles south of Kinsale?
- That was when the torpedo struck us. We were steering south 68 east.

563. What I asked you was, did you say the ship was about 8 to 10 miles south of Kinsale?
- Yes.

564. Was that accurate?
- That is as far as I could tell you.

565. I do not know now why you say 15 miles?
- I say the ship was 15 miles from the shore.

The Commissioner:
I think he is right.

The Attorney-General:
Very likely, my Lord; I only want to understand it.

The Commissioner:
He may be right.

The Attorney-General:
I do not myself see that can be when he says 8 to 10 miles and then 15 miles.

The Commissioner:
He did not say according to the way you put it, that it was 8 to 10 miles on the way from Kinsale, but that he was 8 to 10 miles south. Now the ship might have been 8 to 10 miles south of Kinsale, but she may have been 15 miles away from land.

566. The Attorney-General: Your Lordship may under stand it but I do not follow it, I confess. (To the Witness.) Tell us what it was you first observed, or knew, as regards the ship being torpedoed?
- The report that came to the bridge, "Here is a torpedo coming."

567. Whom did you hear say that?
- I heard Mr. Heppert [sic], the second officer, repeat it from the look-out.

568. What happened next?
- Shortly afterwards the torpedo struck us.

569. Did you get any orders from the Captain when that happened?
- Not before the torpedo hit the ship.

570. What was the next order?
- "Hard-a-starboard."

571. Who said that?
- That was from the Captain.

572. What did you do when he said "Hard-a-starboard"?
- I carried out the order and put the wheel hard a starboard - 35 degrees.

573. What did you say; did you report that to the Captain?
- I reported " Helm hard-a-starboard."

574. What did he say?
- He said "All right."

575. When you did that did the vessel answer the helm?
- Yes.

576. And swung round. Would her head go toward Kinsale then?
- Yes.

577. Did you get any order from the Captain when you had done that?
- Yes.

578. What was it?
- To steady and keep her head on to Kinsale, as she was swinging towards the land.

579. Did you carry out that order?
- Yes, I repeated the order and carried it out.

580. What happened then?
- I was doing all I was supposed to do, steadying the ship; but she was swinging off again and he gave me another order to hard-a-starboard again.

581. What did she do then; did she answer her helm?
- I put the wheel round, but she would not answer her helm but kept on swinging out towards the sea.

582. After the Captain had given you the first order "Hard-a-starboard," did you hear him say anything to the second officer, Mr. Heppert [sic], as to the list on the ship?
- Yes.

583. What did he say?
- He said "Have a look what list the ship has got."

684. What did Mr. Heppert [sic] say?
- "15 degrees."

586. To starboard?
- Yes.

586. Did he say that?
- Well, it is not likely the ship would list to port.

587. I am only asking you what he said. Did he say merely "15 degrees"?
- "15 degrees to starboard."

588. What did the Captain say then?
- "Keep your eye on her to see if she goes any further."

589. Were you given any instructions then as to watching the indicator?
- Not until Mr. Heppert [sic] was given an order to go down to the forecastle head to close the doors leading down to the forecastle. Mr. Heppert [sic] looked into the wheelhouse and said "Keep your eye on the indicator on the compass and the spirit level, and sing out if she goes any further."

590. What did Mr. Heppert [sic] say to you when he was going down to carry out the Captain's order?
- He told me to keep my eye on the indicator on the compass and sing out if she listed any further.

591. That was the object of the order?
- Yes.

592. Then what happened. Did she list further?
- She stopped at 15 degrees for a matter of just a couple of minutes.

593. The Commissioner: And then what happened?
- Then she steadily started to go further over, and I sung out what she was doing - 20 and 25.

594. The Attorney-General: Accordingly as she listed more and more you gave information?
- I gave information, and sung out to the Captain on the bridge.

595. As the list increased did the Captain say anything to you?
- When I sung out that she had 25 degrees of list, the Captain told me to save myself.

596. Was there anything else you could have done at that time?
- No.

597. Then did you, when he told you to do that, get a lifebuoy?
- I got a lifebuoy that was in the starboard wing of the bridge.

598. And at the time you proceeded to put the lifebuoy on, had the water come up to the bridge?
- Yes, the starboard side was well under.

599. Where was the Captain then?
- When he gave me the order to save myself he was on the port side of the bridge.

600. That would be the high up side?
- That would be the high up side.

601. Then what happened to you?
- I simply had to go wherever the tide took me.

602. You were washed off the bridge, I suppose?
- I was washed right across the ship.

603. Eventually, what happened to you?
- Eventually, through a bit of luck, I was swept amongst some wreckage, some of which was a boat turned upside down, and I managed to get on it and was picked up.

604. What picked you up?
- It was a trawler that picked me up.

605. And you were brought into Queenstown?
- I was brought into Queenstown.

606. The Commissioner: Was there more than one trawler on the scene then?
- Yes, there were 5 or 6 trawlers and 2 torpedo boats.

607. The Attorney-General: Do you know whether certain trawlers or other vessels came out from Queenstown?
- They all steamed down from that direction and one or two sailing boats put off from Kinsale.

The Commissioner:
How many hours' steaming were they from Queenstown?

608. The Attorney-General: Do you remember how far you were from Queenstown at that time?
- No.

The Attorney-General:
I am told it is a little over 20 miles.

Examined by Mr. WICKHAM.

609. Were you on the "Lusitania” the last time she sailed from New York to England?
- Yes.

610. Did she follow the same course on both voyages?
- I cannot tell you that to a degree. We have a good many courses to follow.

611. When you got off the Old Head of Kinsale could you see the Admiralty wireless pole from where you were?
- No, I was in the wheelhouse. I could not see the land except a little bit.

612. Did you see that portion of the land or any portion of land on your former journey?
- Yes.

613. Then you did follow the same course?
- Somewhere off the land.

Examined by Mr. COTTER.

614. Did you hear any orders given after the torpedo had struck the ship?
- Yes. The captain gave orders to lower all boats to the rail.

615. Did he give any other orders to the crew. Did you hear the captain give any orders to the officers to give orders to the crew?
- No, I did not pay any attention to those orders. I had enough to look after.

616. How long was it after the ship was struck that she went down?
- I do not know. There was a clock right at the back of me but I did not trouble to look - about 20 minutes, I should say.

617. Did you look at the clock when you heard she had been struck?
- No; I did not look at any clock.

618. How far was she down by the head when you were washed off the deck?
- Well, the forecastle was all awash.

619. Did you stop till she struck bottom?
- I left her before she struck bottom. She went down in about 300 feet of water.

620. You did not feel any bump or anything of that description after she had been struck?
- No.

621. Did you see any boats lowered?
- No. The only boat I saw was the boat Mr. Lewis was in, when I was leaving the ship. You cannot see any bo ats from the wheelhouse.

622. What boat was that?
- I cannot tell you.

623. Was it on the starboard side or port side?
- The starboard side.

624. You did not see the port boats?
- No. You can see no boats from the wheelhouse.

625. Were there any officers on the bridge with the captain at the time?
- Mr. Heppert [sic] was up there and two or three other officers. They were relieving one another for lunch.

626. What officers, exactly, were on the bridge at the time?
- Mr. Heppert [sic], Mr. Stevens, and, I think, Mr. Bestwick [sic].

627. What did they do after the captain had given orders to lower the boats to the rail?
- They went away to see the orders were carried out, I suppose, leaving Mr. Heppert [sic] and the captain and myself on the bridge.

628. Did you see any passengers there?
- I saw one or two foreigners come up on to the bridge.

629. Did you see any of the crew assist in any way the passengers getting to the boats?
- No. You could not see anything of that from the wheelhouse.

Examined by Mr. CLEM EDWARDS.

630. Did you hear the last witness megaphone to the bridge that there was a torpedo coming?
- No, the only man I heard it from was Mr. Heppert [sic].

631. Was any instruction given as soon as that occurred, to alter the course of the ship?
- Yes, I was given an order, "Hard-a-starboard."

632. Between the time that you heard the message that there was a torpedo coming and your carrying out that instruction, how long was it?
- Only a few seconds. The officer only had time to get from the starboard to the port side before it hit the ship.

633. So that there was no time to alter her course before she was struck?
- There was no time at all to alter her course before the torpedo hit her.

634. Going at 18 knots, how long would it take the "Lusitania” to come round in a half circle?
- It all depends on the weather. She steered different in different kinds of weather.

635. Quite, but on a day like that, supposing there had been time for her to answer to her helm, how long would it take her to swing round in a half circle?
- I cannot tell you. It would not take her long. She was answering very well.

The Commissioner:
Do you mean half a circle or a quarter of a circle?

Mr. Clem Edwards:
I mean half a circle, my Lord.

636. The Commissioner: To turn right tail on so as to be heading the other way?
- I could not tell how long.

637. Mr. Clem Edwards: You could not?
- No.

Examined by Mr. PRIEST.

638. When the vessel was struck, who gave you the first order from the bridge?
- The captain.

639. The captain, then, was on the bridge at the time?
- When I got the order he came from the port side of the bridge.

640. How long did he stay there after that - on the bridge?
- He was on the bridge when I left.

641. Was he there all the time?
- Yes, he was running from one side to the other giving orders.

642. Therefore, he did not leave the bridge?
- No.

643. Who gave those orders you mentioned?
- All orders concerning the wheel I got from the captain.

644. Did you hear him give any orders as to the passengers getting into the boats?
- I heard him sing out: "Women and children first."

645. Were there any other officers on the bridge at the time giving directions to passengers?
- The other officers were sent down.

646. You were quite close enough to hear any orders?
- Yes. There was only a glass partition between us.

647. Did you hear any other orders given by the captain?
- No.

(The Witness withdrew.)