British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 3


Examined by the ATTORNEY-GENERAL.

The Attorney-General:
This is one more passenger who desires to make a statement and I had then hoped that Mr. Thomas, a Member of Parliament, would be here, and then my Lord, I should close the case for the Board of Trade. Of course if any specific passenger desires to be heard-

The Commissioner:
Of course, if anyone desires to say anything they can do so.

1790. The Attorney-General: (To the Witness.) You were a passenger on board the "Lusitania"?
- I was.

1791. I think you started from Liverpool to New York, and you came back again on the return voyage on the 1st May?
- Yes.

1792. Do you desire to make any statement about the crew?
- I have made a statement.

1793. I only want to give you the opportunity if you have anything to say about the crew?
- I see. I want to repeat that to me there appeared to be not a question of discipline but no competent men about.

1794. Does that apply to the whole time?
- No, only applying to the lowering of the boats and the advice to the passengers as regards lifebelts.

1795. Let me take you a little into detail about that. When the ship was torpedoed did you notice an effort to lower one of the boats opposite to the main entrance?
- I was in my cabin, and when I got up they were lowering-I could not tell you the number-the boats opposite the leading room on the port side. I remained on the port side the whole time. I think-I am sure it was opposite the reading room, and I saw that boat run away because the man at the bows could not hold the falls. At the stern the rope fouled and left the boat bows in the water, and at an angle of about 45 degrees.

1796. Was there an officer in her?
- There was a young officer in the water when I looked over. I did not see the start of lowering the boat, but when I looked over to see what had happened, there was a young officer trying to climb into the bows. The stern post had been wrenched away from the sides, so that when the boat did get into the water she could not possibly keep afloat.

1797. At that time we know there was a very heavy list on?
- I know there was a bit of a list. When I got on to the deck there was a greater list than later on. The ship appeared to me to gradually right herself, because when I got to the second boat we were able to shove the boat out and had got her clear when we got orders to clear the boats, all women to come out.

1798. That was the boat opposite the reading room, was it?
- No, that boat had gone. I came next to the boat opposite the main entrance and we had filled that boat.

1799. Was that on the starboard or the port side?
- On the port side. We had filled her with women and children and we were trying to shove her out, the list having brought the boat in. We stood on the collapsible boat and tried to shove her out, and while we were attempting to do it the list was so great that the number of men there at the time could not do it. We called for more men; we had not much purchase as we were standing on top of the collapsible boat, but finally we got steady and with one shove got her clear and lowered her a foot or so, when the order came "Stop lowering the boat. Clear the boat," and we got everyone out.

1800. Where did that order come from?
- I believe from the staff captain from the bridge.

1801. That was Captain Anderson?
- Yes.

1802. Did you know it was he who gave that order?
- I will swear that it was he.

1803. Then did you help a number of ladies out of the boat?
- I helped some ladies out of the boat.

1804. This was all on the port side?
- This was all on the port side. Then I told them to go for their lifebelts.

1805. Did you see any other boats lowered or attempted to be lowered?
- Yes, I came then to very nearly the smoke room and they were at work launching a boat there; but as there seemed to be plenty of men, I started on the collapsible boat and did not attempt to help with the third boat.

1806. What happened to that?
- I heard it run away and collapse and smash up like a matchbox. May I say with regard to the second boat, while that was being lowered I came to the conclusion that there were not enough men in the boat to help shove her off the side as she ran down. I made it five men, but I will not swear to it.

1807. I think you loosed the grips of one of the collapsible boats?
- When I saw the boats going down and they could not hold them, I realised that it was a question of moments. I looked round to see what was being done with the collapsible boats, and I could not see one being got ready nor the canvas tops taken off, so with a penknife I cut one clear and was working on a second when I saw the water coming.

1808. And the general purport of your evidence is that there was a want of general control and an absence of authority?
- An absence of authority and of competent men at the falls.

Examined by Mr. THOMAS PRIEST.

1809. Do you say you heard an order for the women and children to come out of the boats?
- Yes.

1810. Did you hear the first order given by the captain?
- No, I was not on deck at the time.

1811. Are you sure it was Captain Anderson who gave the order to clear the boats?
- Yes.

1812. Did you hear any other order by Captain Anderson afterwards to take to the boats again?
- No.

1813. Is it your opinion after what you have stated that if the people had remained in the boats they could have got clear?
- My view was that I could not understand why we were stopped lowering the boats, at any rate lowering them empty down to the "C" deck, where they could have been filled easily.

1814. And you consider time was lost by negligence or incompetence?
- I would not like to say negligence or incompetence. I think it was probably an optimistic view that the ship was going to float.

1815. Well, we will call it a mistake. Did you see any boats overturned when they were getting them out?
- No.

Examined by Mr. CLEM EDWARDS.

1816. At what time did you hear the instructions given that the people were to get out of the boats or that they were to stop lowering?
- I should say it would be between ten and twelve minutes after the torpedo struck us.

1817. Whom did you hear give that instruction?
- Captain Anderson.

1818. Did Captain Anderson express any opinion as to the ship floating?
- Yes. He said: "She is not going t o sink; there is no danger."

1819. Did you hear Captain Turner express that view?
- No.

1820. Where was Captain Anderson when he expressed that view?
- On the bridge on the port side.

1821. You do not know whether he had taken any soundings. You heard what Captain Turner said, that he gave instructions to Captain Anderson to take soundings?
- I know nothing about that.

Examined by Mr. BUTLER ASPINALL.

1822. You were a passenger you told us. What are you?
- I am a director of a company trading in America, London and the near East.

1823. As you told us, during the time you have given your evidence about, you were on the port side?
- Yes.

1824. The whole time?
- Yes.

1825. The Commissioner: What is the business of your company?
- Oriental carpets.

1826. Anything to do with shipping?
- Nothing to do with shipping.

1827. Mr. Butler Aspinall: Were some of the passengers like yourself helping to get the boats out?
- Yes.

1828. You and others were doing your best?
- Yes. Unless there had been passengers we could not have put those boats out.

1829. You and some of the passengers were doing your best to get these boats out on the port side?
- Yes.

1830. And you found the difficulties were such that you could not do it?
- I personally felt that I could not go and help at the falls because I was not an authority and there was no one there asking me to go and help. I should have liked to help, but in shoving out the boat we were all called on to help.

1831. I am not complaining of what you did. Apparently what was happening with the boats on the port side was that you and certain other passengers were doing, your best to get those boats out?
- I think so.

1832. And you found you could not succeed?
- It was not our efforts that were not successful. I have a friend here, who has not been called, who was successful in helping to lower a boat and held the falls himself.

1833. On the port side?
- On the port side, and the boat got down.

1834. At any rate whatever that other gentleman did, whilst you and others who were assisting, you were trying without success. Captain Anderson gave the order to stop lowering those boats. He saw what was happening I suppose when he gave the order?
- My idea was that he felt the ship was not going to sink. He said so.

1835. That is your idea?
- He said so.

(The Witness withdrew.)