British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 2


Examined by the SOLICITOR-GENERAL.

411. Were you an able seaman on the "Lusitania”?
- Yes.

412. And I think you were extra look-out on the forecastle head, starboard side, during the 2 to 4 watch on Friday, 7th May?
- Yes.

413. Had you had any particular instructions that you were to look out for anything?
- Yes, to keep a good look-out for periscopes.

414. Did you know what a periscope was?
- Yes.

415. Do you remember, about 10 minutes past 2, looking at your watch?
- I do.

416. Tell us what happened after that?
- At 10 minutes past 2 I looked at my watch and putting it into my pocket, I glanced round the starboard side and as roughly as I could judge, I saw a big burst of foam about 500 yards away four points on the starboard bow. Immediately after I saw a thin streak of foam making for the ship at a rapid speed, and then I saw another streak of foam going parallel with the first one and a little behind it.

417. Are you quite clear in your recollection that you saw two of these streaks of foam?
- Absolutely.

418. Did you say anything to your mate who was with you?
- Yes, I turned round to him and said, "They have got us this time."

419. Could you tell us, as to these two streaks of foam, how each of them was heading, explaining it in relation to the funnels?
- They were fired, it seemed to me, at right angles to the ship's course. The first one seemed to hit her between Nos. 2 and 3 funnels, and the second one just under No.3 funnel, as far as I could judge from forward.

420. Were you conscious of any shock to the vessel?
- Yes, a great shock.

421. One shock or two shocks?
- There was a continual quiver.

422. When the first torpedo hit the vessel was there a distinct shock?
- Yes, a shock all over the ship. It shook me off my feet.

423. Did you notice anything fresh or different in the quiver, which you have described, when the second torpedo, according to your story, hit the vessel?
- No, it was very similar.

424. What did you do next?
- As soon as I saw them coming, before they exploded, I reported them to the bridge with a megaphone.

425. What did you shout to the bridge?
- I reported: "Torpedoes coming on the starboard side."

426. What did you do next?
- I made for the forecastle to go down below to call my brother who was asleep at the time.

427. The Commissioner: How long were these streaks which you say you saw in the water?
- They were lengthening all the time as they got nearer to the ship.

428. I know they were; but when they started, how far were they from the ship?
- About 500 yards.

429. So that you saw the streak coming all along 500 yards?
- Yes.

430. How long after you saw the streak begin did the torpedo hit the ship?
- I should say about 25 or 30 seconds.

431. Half a minute?
- Yes, if as long as that.

The Commissioner:
I wonder whether that gentleman from the Admiralty can tell us how quickly a torpedo travels?

Commander Anderson:
They vary. I do not think it is a question, if your Lordship would excuse me, that I should answer here.

The Commissioner:
Is it not a matter of common knowledge?

Commander Anderson:
Torpedoes vary in their speed a good bit, according to their brand.

The Commissioner:
I daresay they do; but how quick will a quick one travel?

Commander Anderson:
40 miles an hour.

The Commissioner:
I should have thought it would travel quicker.

432. The Solicitor-General (To the Witness): What did you do next after you had told your brother?
- I went along the starboard side of the main deck and up on to the starboard side of the boat deck.

433. What did you see?
- As I looked at the starboard boats I saw they were useless because they were swinging inboard owing to the heavy list, so I went across the fidley deck to the port side, to my boat, No. 13, the emergency boat.

434. Did you see anything of the conning tower?
- As I was running towards the forecastle I saw what appeared to be a conning tower just submerging.

435. What was it like?
- It looked to me like the top portion of a silk hat just going under the water.

436. When you got on to the port side, what was the position of the boats on that side? Did you get into your boat?
- Yes.

437. What did you do next?
- Put my lifebelt on.

438. And next?
- Knocked off the patent screw at the after-end of the boat and released the boat from the davit falls, and she was all ready for lowering away aft.

439. Did the passengers begin to fill your boat?
- They were getting in all the time.

440. What happened next?
- There was someone in the fore end of the boat doing a similar thing, and when the boat was ready for lowering away I got out and went to assist at the next boat.

441. That would be No. 11 boat, would it not?
- Yes, the next boat forward.

442. What was the sex or the age of the people who were going to these two boats?
- They were chiefly women: there were some men.

443. Any children?
- Yes.

444. But they were chiefly women?
- Chiefly.

445. What happened when you got to No. 11 boat?
- I helped to fill that one; the rest of the crew were helping. Then I saw my brother in a boat down alongside the ship and I went down the davit fall into that one. It was No.1 or No. 2.

446. Did you get into it?
- Yes, and that boat filled up with people. We pushed the after-end off and called to the passengers to push the forward end off; but some of the people seemed as if they could not leave go, and she turned over and sank, and just before she turned over I swam for it.

447. Could you see anything of the "Lusitania”?
- When I got what I thought far enough away I turned on my back and looked at her. And she was just going down by the head on the starboard side. The last thing I remember was Captain Turner on the bridge just by the signal halyards.

448. The Commissioner: She had a great list at this time?
- Yes.

449. The Solicitor-General: Was there any explosion as she sank?
- Yes, there seemed to be an explosion which dislodged No. 3 funnel.

450. And you say that almost the last thing you saw was Captain Turner standing on the port side of the bridge?
- Yes.

451. Then I think you saw a collapsible boat empty and climbed into it, with a sailor named Parry?
- Yes.

452. Did you rip part of the cover off and pick up a large number of people?
- Yes.

453. About how many?
- There must have been over 50 in the boat.

454. Did you set up the sides?
- We tried to set them up as far as they would go.

455. And with all those people what did you do?
- Made for a fishing kedge about 6 miles away.

456. Were you successful in reaching it?
- Yes, and we landed the passengers on that boat and went away for some more.

457. I think you dropped astern from the smack after landing your passengers and took some 20 or 30 people off a lifeboat that was sinking?
- Yes, and by this time the "Indian Empire" mine sweeper had reached us, and they took us out of this collapsible boat.

458. Was there any panic at any time among passengers or crew?
- Individually, but not on the whole.

459. I do not know whether your brother was saved or not?
- Yes; he is in Court at present.

460. Mr. Butler Aspinall: How old are you?
- Eighteen.

Examined by Mr. CLEM EDWARDS.

461. How far away was it when you saw what you thought was the conning tower of the submarine?
- She was almost abeam of the vessel, between 450 and 500 yards away, I should say.

462. Was it in precisely the same direction as you saw the streak of foam?
- It did not seem to be travelling at all: it was just submerged.

463. But was it precisely in the direction from which you saw the streak of foam starting?
- No, it was further aft.

464. I thought you said you saw the streak of foam for 400 or 500 yards?
- Yes, I said so.

465. Did you see the conning tower 400 or 500 yards away?
- What appeared to be a conning tower I saw.

466. In what direction was the conning tower from the line of what you call the streak of foam?
- It seemed to be at the end from where it was discharged

467. At the end in the same direction?
- Yes.

468. The moment you saw the streak you megaphoned a message to the bridge, did you?
- Yes.

469. Who was on the bridge at the time?
- I do not know. I could see some officers.

470. And you do not know what instructions followed?
- No.

471. Who gave you instructions with regard to the boats?
- Do you mean on the voyage or on the special day?

472. You said you got to a certain boat, I did not catch quite clearly which, but I thought you said you got into No. 11 boat?
- No. 13 first.

473. By whose instructions did you get into No. 13 boat?
- We had boat practice on the passage across and we knew which particular boats to go to in case of emergency.

474. Then did you decide yourselves that an emergency had arisen?
- Yes.

475. So that you got no instructions?
- No.

476. Did you hear any instructions of any sort or kind given with regard to any of the boats?
- Yes.

477. By whom?
- By the officers.

478. What officers?
- I do not remember their names. I did not know half the officers.

479. Did you hear any instructions given by Captain Turner?
- I think I heard him sing out off the bridge, "women and children first."

480. How long was that after the torpedo had struck the ship?
- It was immediately after I got into the boat. That would be about 5 minutes later. I presume he sung it out before because they were in.

481. You heard that shout after you got on to the boat deck?
- Yes.

482. You knew the men who were to form the boat's crew of No. 13 with you, did you?
- Yes.

483. Did any other of the ship's company get into that boat than those who according to the regulations were attached to it?
- Not one.

484. Were all the men there that were supposed to be there?
- No, there were two of them missing. They were in the baggage room at the time.

485. Was there any muddle on the part of the crew?
- Everything was done clearly and in the right way as far as I could see.

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