British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 3



1489. Were you the carpenter on board the "Lusitania”?
- I was.

1490. At New York did you examine the lifeboats?
- I did.

1491. In what condition did you find them?
- In perfect condition.

1492. Was anything done under your orders, or did you see anything done, as to oiling the drop point bolts?
- Yes.

1493. The drop point bolts fix the lifeboats, do they?
- No; there is a skid that the ordinary lifeboat rests on above the deck lifeboat and there are pins connecting the stanchion to the skid. These skids have a drop point and you have to use your two hands to take out that bolt and the skid is quite clear. Even if these skids were not able to clear, the boat would float all the same.

1494. The boat underneath is a collapsible boat, is it?
- It is a deck boat.

1495. They call it semi-collapsible, I think?
- Yes.

1496. Is the necessity for this oiling to make it more easy to remove the skids?
- Yes.

1497. Was the oiling done before you left New York?
- Yes, it was.

1498. Was all that was necessary for the removing of the skids left in good order?
- Yes.

1499. On Thursday, the 6th May, we know that the lifeboats were swung out. Did you examine on that day the collapsible or semi-collapsible lifeboats?
- Yes.

1500. Were they all right?
- Yes, in perfect condition.

1501. Did you also examine the pins and the gear in the lifeboats?
- Yes.

1502. Were they all right?
- All right.

1503. Perhaps you can tell me whether at any time before the ship was struck the portable skids were removed?
- No.

1504. I mean the skids that keep the semi-collapsible lifeboats in their place?
- No, that is only a minute's work; it is not necessary.

1505. I am asking you, were they removed as a fact?
- No.

1506. If they had been removed could not the semi-collapsible lifeboats have easily fallen themselves automatically into the sea?
- Even if the skids were not removed, they would still fall into the sea.

1507. At all events you say they were not removed?
- No.

1508. Was it your duty to take care of Nos. 22 to 22 e boats?
- Yes.

1509. And to superintend their launching?
- Yes.

1510. On the 6th May, did you have boat drill in connection with your boats?
- That was on the Thursday?

1511. Yes, that was the day before?
- Yes, on the Thursday morning at 5.30.

1512. And you left the boats swung outwards?
- I left them swung out.

1513. With regard to the watertight doors in the hold, will you tell us how they are secured?
- There is an iron hatch; that is watertight.

1513a. How was that made watertight?
- There is a rubber joint secured by bolts right round it.

1514. Is that screwed down?
- That was screwed down in New York.

1515. Did you yourself see it secured?
- I saw it secured along with two of the shore gang at New York.

1516. On the 6th May did you yourself see whether the after store was made watertight?
- Yes.

1517. What was done to that?
- Just the same as No. 1.

1518. Screwed down?
- Screwed on.

1519. Did you examine the steerage pockets?
- Yes.

1520. What are they?
- They are the lower pockets on the lower deck, M, N, and P sections for steerage passengers. There were no passengers there, so I shut up the place.

1521. Was that rendered watertight?
- Yes.

1522. What did you do to that?
- I screwed on the scupper plugs and shut the watertight doors.

1523. That was on the Thursday?
- On the Thursday.

1521. Did you close all the bulkhead doors there?
- Yes.

1523. As regards the other watertight compartments, is there regular drill for the stewards to close them as immediate occasion may require?
- Yes, they are drilled every day in bulkhead work.

1526. On the day when the ship was struck, did you, when you saw that she was struck, go to your boat station?
- Yes. I thought, owing to the heavy list, something serious had happened, and I thought it best to go to my boat station.

1527. That was 22 to 22e boats?
- Yes.

1528. What did you find when you got to 22?
- When I got to 22 boat I saw the boat had gone, and I told two stewards to pick up the falls and get them attached to 22 a, and looking over the side I found the afterfall [sic] was gone altogether, block and all; and it was useless then to attempt anything as far as putting the boat over the side with the falls was concerned.

1529. Where had boat 22 gone to?
- That I could not say. It appeared to me that there was a bit of wreckage hanging to the forward fall.

1530. Did you give any orders as to clearing away the collapsible boats?
- I did.

1531. To whom did you give them?
- To the stewards standing around.

1532. Were those launched?
- No.

1533. Why?
- Just because we could not launch them without the fall. We had to wait till the boats floated off the ship.

1534. What I suggested to you was that if the skids had been removed they would have floated themselves off?
- Yes - well, they did float.

1535. Would they have floated off earlier?
- No, they could not, because that was the last point at which they touched the water the highest point on the ship.

1536. Were any of them tied down?
- Yes, they were tied down with gripes.

1537. Should those have been removed?
- No, because if the ship rolled the boats would be all over the deck.

1538. What I suggest is, right or wrong, that when you came within the danger zone, what I may call the war zone, would it not have been proper to loose those collapsible boats, so that in the event of the ship being struck they could he easily floated?
- I do not think so; because you might do as much damage to the passengers by loosening the boats as otherwise.

1539. At all events they were not loose?
- No, that is the aft boats.

1540. The Commissioner: These collapsible boats, I understand, were on the deck?
- Yes.

1541. They were not hanging up in any way?
- No.

1542. They are strapped, as I understand, in order to prevent their slipping about?
- Well, the aft boats are strapped, from 22 a to 22 e, that is five boats altogether.

1543. But I suppose you cannot have them loose on the deck; they must be held in position?
- That is so.

1544. Because if the ship was rolling at sea they would be all rolling about?
- Yes.

1545. So that you would have to strap them in some way. Now, supposing you had had them unstrapped as Sir Edward Carson suggested, when the ship took the list what would have become of them?
- If they had not been strapped they would just fall to leeward.

1546. They would have all gone down like the port boats did?
- They would help to list the ship. They would all drop to the lee side.

1547. I want to know, would they encumber the deck?
- They would, on the port side.

1548. I should have thought they would have encumbered the deck on the starboard side?
- No, they would fall off the ship on the starboard side.

1549. I know they would; they would come down and fall against the passengers on the starboard side, and cause confusion, I should think?
- No, they would fall off the ship on the starboard side. The ship was listed to starboard.

1550. The Attorney-General: They would fall off the ship into the sea?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
But before they fell off into the sea they would smash the passengers.

The Attorney-General:
They were quite at the very side of the ship, my Lord; they would not smash any passengers. If your Lordship will look at this diagram it will explain the position. (The Attorney-General explained the position on the diagram.)

1551. The Commissioner: (To the witness.) Are the collapsible boats never put amidships?
- Not in the "Lusitania."

1552. Are they in any liners?
- On the "Aquitania" I believe they are.

1553. The Attorney-General: I want to ask you about the gripes that you spoke of, for keeping them in their places. Are not these boats fixed on what are called chocks?
- Yes.

1554. And are not those chocks bolted in the deck?
- No.

1555. How are the chocks fixed?
- There is what I would call a deck plank. There is a notch in the plank, and the deck lifeboat sits in the plank and it is chocked on either side to keep it upright.

1556. Are not the chocks screwed into the deck?
- No.

1557. Without, therefore, the gripes being there at all, would not the boats have kept in their place unless there was a very heavy list which would bring them over into the sea?
- The boats would remain in their place if the ship remained steady.

1558. What I want to get is this. In the event of a sudden attack on the ship of this kind would it not be proper to have removed both the skids and the gripes, so that these boats might be more easily got into the sea?
- Perhaps I have not made it quite plain. From No.1 to No. 20 there are no gripes. From 22a to 22e the boats were fastened with gripes.

1559. But there were skids, were there not?
- Yes, there were skids from No. 1 to No. 20. The weight of the top boat keeps the other boat in its place, and then there is an outer sling goes round the boat at sea.

1560. We know that the boats were slung out on the 6th, so that you could have removed the skids from over these collapsible boats, and they were not removed?
- They were not removed.

1561. I do not know whether you are able to answer this or not, but would it not have been a prudent precaution, knowing that you were within the danger zone, to have removed them? I shall have to call the captain again to ask him a question about it?
- I do not think so.

1562. Were you yourself attempting to loose some of these collapsible boats?
- Yes, I loosened them all on the port side.

1563. Before you were washed into the sea yourself?
- I loosened them all on the port side and then went for my lifebelt, and when I came up I noticed one of the boats, 21 e on the starboard side, still fast, and I loosened that, and I was busy at that when I was washed into the sea, or slipped into the sea.

1564. I put it to you, that it would have been prudent to have loosed that boat before the ship was struck?
- No.

1565. The advantage of these boats is, is it not, that they cannot sink?
- That is one of the advantages, provided they are not injured in any way.

1566. I mean, if they slide automatically into the sea, provided they are not injured, they do not sink?
- No.

1567. And they are available for people to get on to, like a kind of raft?
- Yes, like a raft.

1568. When you were washed into the sea, that was just a moment before the ship disappeared, I think?
- Yes.

1569. Did you yourself see three of these collapsible boats?
- Yes.

1570. In what position were they?
- One on top of the other.

1571. And I believe you, with others, got them separated?
- That is so.

1572. And you went round and picked up a large number of people?
- Yes. The boat I was in was badly damaged.

1573. How many did you pick up altogether?
- I think it would be about 27.

1574. And then you were taken over by the "Indian Empire"?
- No. There was a boat which asked me if I wanted assistance, and I told them No, to go ahead and see if they could pick up anybody who was worse off than us. Then I saw a boat in a sinking condition, and I hailed Mr. Jones, who was in charge of another boat, to take some women and children out of her, and when he came alongside he told us we all had better come into his boat.

1575. Was that the "Indian Empire"?
- No, that was one of the ordinary lifeboats.

Examined by Mr. ROSE-INNES.

1576. I did not catch your official position?
- I am the ship's carpenter. I am a shipwright by trade.

1577. Do I understand you to say that you examined the lifeboats before the ship started on her voyage from New York?
- I did.

1578. Every one of them?
- Every one of them.

1579. Were they lowered into the water?
- No.

1580. How would you detect a leakage unless a boat was sunk into the water?
- I could detect the leakage, or if there was anything the matter, by sounding the boat, by going round it.

1581. Did you go round these boats and sound them all?
- I can see, from walking round the boat, or inside the boat, if there is anything the matter.

1582. Can you?
- Yes, I can.

1583. Did you discover anything the matter with any of those boats?
- Nothing whatever.

1584. Supposing one was launched after the accident and it began to leak, how would you account for the leakage?
- Perhaps the plug might be out.

1585. The plug might be out, the bottom of the boat might be out, but how would you account for the leakage?
- Providing the plug was in, if we had had a fine voyage and warm, there might be a certain shrinkage in the timber, but as soon as the boat got into the water it would take up and the boat would be tight. If we had a rough voyage the boats would be tight when they got into the water.

1586. Had you a strong sun before the 7th May?
- Fairly strong.

1587. Were these boats covered with canvas or tarpaulin?
- They were covered with a canvas cover.

1588. The sun would not reach their bottoms very easily, would it?
- Yes.

1589. How?
- It would depend on which way the s un was shining whether it would reach the side of the boat.

1590. But you do not imply that the sun in the early morning or evening is as strong as at mid-day, do you?
- Oh no, certainly not.

1591. Do you seriously suggest that if one of these boats was found to be leaking, it might have been caused by the rays of the sun during the journey?
- It might have been.

1592. Do you suggest it. You say there was boat drill on the 6th of May. Were you present at that?
- I was.

1593. What was done?
- We swung out the boats.

1594. Do you mean you swung the davits clear?
- Yes, we swung the davits clear and had the boats ready to lower into the water.

1595. Were there any men in them?
- No, it is not necessary to put men into them.

1596. You swung the davits out and swung the boats clear, did you?
- Yes.

1597. Was anything else done?
- No, that was all.

1598. How long did the boat drill last altogether?
- I should say we finished at 6 o'clock.

1599. What time did you start?
- At 5.30 every boat in the ship was manned. There were 22 ordinary lifeboats swung out.

1600. Did you superintend this drill, or did you see it take place?
- I superintended the drill at Number 22 boat.

1601. You were not present, were you, at the 11 o'clock drill spoken of?
- No.

Examined by Mr. CLEM EDWARDS.

1602. Do you have a book of instructions from the company?
- No, I have no book of instructions.

1603. Where are your duties defined as chief carpenter?
- I am a shipwright and my duties take me from the keel to the truck.

1604. I am not asking you what they are, but I am asking where your duties as chief carpenter are defined?
- I am the chief carpenter.

1605. That I understand. Have you no printed or written instructions which show the limits of your duties?
- No.

1606. None at all?

The Commissioner:
Have you ever heard of such a book on these liners?

Mr. Clem Edwards:
Yes, my Lord, we had one in the "Titanic" Inquiry.

The Commissioner:
A book of instructions for the carpenter?

Mr. Clem Edwards:
Instructions setting forth the particular duties of the different officers.

The Commissioner:
There was a general book, I know; but was there any book specially directed to the carpenter?

1607. Mr. Clem Edwards: Not specially directed, but the carpenter's duties were defined in one part of the book as the duties of other officers were defined in other parts of the book. (To the witness.) But you have not had a book of instructions yourself?
- No.

1608. And you have had no written or printed directions defining your duties?
- No.

1609. What are your duties as chief carpenter in relation to the hull of the ship?

The Commissioner:
I see, Mr. Edwards, on this book "Rules to be observed in the Company's service," the carpenter "shall examine the masts and the pumps, and report their condition to the officer of the watch. The carpenter shall deliver his monthly expenditure and requisition to the Marine Superintendent." As far as I know, those are the only directions in the book with reference to the carpenter, but I dare say you will agree that the carpenter has to do a great deal more than is mentioned in that book.

1610. Mr. Clem Edwards: I should have thought it would have been the shortest way if his duties had been set forth in writing, but I think I can get it from the witness. (To the witness.) In relation to the hull of the ship, what are your duties?
- Well, I examine the hull if we are going to take in cargo, outside the engine department.

1611. It would become your duty, would it not, if any damage were done to the hull of the ship, to make an examination?
- That is so.

1612. Is it any part of your duty to see whether the watertight doors are working properly?
- All the hinged doors come under me, excepting the engine department.

1613. Then excluding the engine department, it is your duty to look after the watertight doors that are on hinges. Where were you at the time that the torpedo struck the ship?
- I was just about the entrance to "P" section on the shelter deck; that is the "C" deck.

1614. As soon as you think damage might be done to the hull of the ship, is it your duty, without instruction from the captain or the officer on duty, to go and make an examination, or do you wait for instructions?
- I never wait for instructions.

1615. You were aware that the torpedo had struck the ship, were you?
- Well, I did not know what struck the ship, because I never saw it.

1616. You knew something had struck the ship?
- I knew something had struck the ship.

1617. Did you at once start to see where the damage was, and the extent of it?
- I meant to go forward to sound the ship, but I found that she was listing that quick that I thought I had better go to my boat station. Which I did.

1618. So that in fact you never did take any soundings?
- No. Had I gone to take soundings I would not have been here to tell the tale.

1619. That may be. I only want to get to the fact. You did not attempt to take any soundings?
- No.

1620. What time was there between the striking of the torpedo and the sinking of the ship?
- about 20 minutes?
- I could not say.

1621. Did you attempt to make any examination to see if any of the watertight doors were open?
- I examined the doors on Thursday.

1622. I am not talking of the Thursday. I only want to get the fact. I am talking about whether you made any examination of watertight doors after the torpedo had struck the ship?
- No.

1623. Then may I take it you concluded it was all up, and you skedaddled off to your boat station?
- No, you are mistaken.

The Attorney-General:
I do not think you ought to use the word "skedaddled" in an Inquiry of this nature.

Mr. Clem Edwards:
It was a term which I thought had received a classical interpretation owing to its use by the learned Attorney-General, but I withdraw it and I use instead the words, you made all speed to your boat station?
- I did.

1624. From the time you knew that a torpedo had struck the ship till the time you got to your boat station, how long was it?
- About three minutes, as near as I can judge.

1625. Did you during those three minutes see the captain, or either of the officers?
- No.


1626. Can you tell me how many boats altogether were launched from this ship?
- I could not say.

1627. What was the total complement of boats?
- 48.

1628. How many did you see launched yourself?
- None.

The Attorney-General:
I should like, while we are on this point of the collapsible boats, to recall the captain.

(The Witness withdrew.)