British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 3


Examined by the SOLICITOR-GENERAL.

1976. You are a member of the Advisory Committee to the Intelligence Department of the Board of Trade?
- I am.

1977. And you have, I think, been a Member of the House of Commons for 23 years?
- I was. I am not now.

1978. You were a first class passenger on board the "Lusitania" travelling with your daughter, Lady Mackworth, and your private secretary, Mr. Rees Evans?
- Yes.

1979. Your berths were on B deck?
- Yes.

1980. I think you read in the "New York Times," after getting on board the "Lusitania," certain warnings of the German Embassy at Washington and a reply by a representative of the Cunard Company in New York of a reassuring nature?
- I did. I have the paper here now.

1981. And I think you received the exact terms of the assurance in reply to the cable?
- I did.

1982. Now I come to the explosion. You were, I think, leaving the luncheon room with your daughter and you had just reached the lift when you heard a noise?
- That is so.

1983. I think you were in no doubt that it was such, that it was either a torpedo or a mine?
- Quite so.

1984. And will you tell me what you did when you heard this noise?
- I went straight upon the boat deck to see what had happened, and looked round. I was under the impression then that the boat would certainly not sink for some time, whatever had happened, and there was a list on the boat at once. I had not my belt, and I saw, although the word was passed round I think officially that there was no immediate danger, so I tried to get, down to my cabin which was on the B deck on the port side - there were a number of people about and I did not succeed in doing that, so I came on to the A deck again and my secretary, who was on one side of me said, "You have not got a belt, would you not like to have one?" and I said, "Certainly, I should," and I went with him to the cabin and put it on, but it seemed rather an unsatisfactory affair; so I thought I would make another try and get down to my cabin and I succeeded in getting a belt.

1985. And then you went up to A deck again?
- Yes.

1986. And by that time there was a very strong list on the boat, and you formed the view, I think, that she was rapidly sinking?
- Yes, there was a very considerable list; it was only 2 or 3 minutes before she sank.

1987. Could you get to the port side?
- No, I went down on the starboard side just opposite the Grand Central Staircase. And there was a boat there which I estimated to be about three parts full, and there were a couple of women and a small boy on the deck. The A deck then was level with the water, and this boat which was attached to the davits in the ropes at the side, one woman and the boy jumped into and the other woman got rather hysterical, and was too hysterical to enter it, and 1 rather forcibly helped her into the boat, there was nobody about, and I got in myself.

1988. I think you looked for your daughter and lost sight of her?
- Yes, she looked for me and I looked for her.

1989. You never saw her after you went down for your belt?
- No.

1990. Then the boat got clear, and how far were you away from the "Lusitania" when she sank?
- I do not think we were more than 10 or 12 feet.

1991. Was there much suction that you could see?
- No, not at all, and that is what I was surprised at.

1992. Then you went towards the coast, and 1 think you saw a little sailing smack which took you up?
- Yes.

1993. And when you were on the smack, did you take up two more loads of people, making about 150 on board?
- I estimated it at that, and we took two more in, too.

1994. Now I want to ask you about the crew of the "Lusitania"; first of all, were you able to form an opinion as to the demeanour and behaviour of the officers?
- Well, I really saw very few officers. I am not prepared to swear that I saw an officer at all, but my impression was that the officers behaved very well, and certainly the stewards and stewardesses behaved exceedingly well and heroically, I should say, and the second and third class passengers behaved exceedingly well. There was no panic at all amongst them, but afterwards it became very panicky, and the third class passengers crowded up on to the boat deck.

1995. Everybody has told us that the stewards and stewardesses behaved extremely well, and you will agree with that?
- Quite.

1996. Now, I want to ask you, is there any other observation (you are a man of considerable experience) that you would like to make to the Court, either in general or in particular?
- No. My first impression was that there was very little discipline or organization at all, but thinking it over again, and bearing in mind that this list occurred very soon after the boat was struck, - I was perhaps out of temper at the time, and am now rather prepared to modify that view, but speaking here I would say that there was no kind of organization, but there was certainly panic five or ten minutes after the boat was struck, and I do not think the order of the captain, "women and children first," was obeyed by a very large number of the crew.

1997. Do you mean that they themselves went into the boats?
- They looked after themselves first - they took care to save themselves first - in fact I met two or three of them afterwards, and they were boasting about it at Queenstown.

1998. Is that what you base your opinion upon, namely on what they said at Queenstown, or what you actually observed for yourself during the intensity of the crisis?
- I know at the time the first boat sank - it is not direct evidence - there were very few women and children in the boat that I got into. The first boat on the port side was let down so badly that the whole of the passengers and crew that were in it fell into the water - there were very few women in that.

1999. I want to get your own personal observation of the boat in which you were and in which you say there were not many women and children. Were any women or children excluded from the boat?
- No.

2000. So that although you have made the criticism that there were not many women and children in that boat, you are not able to tell us that a single woman or child was excluded from the boat?
- No, that is quite a fair comment.

2001. That is all I want from you. Now add anything you wish.
- I was going to say that of course the Court can ascertain for themselves probably the figures of those saved, the different classes, women and children, and the first, second, and third class passengers and crew. With regard to the first boat, I was told by a number of people in the first boat that it was let down more rapidly than the others, that was on the port side, and the whole of those in the boat were plunged into the water, and my daughter, who was close by me, told me that there were very few in that boat and that there were not more than half a dozen children in that boat.

2002. Is that all you wish to say?
- That is all upon that point.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
You and your daughter were luckily saved.

Examined by Mr. WICKHAM.

2003. In what condition was the board that you saw the women turned out of?
- I say I did not see it, my daughter told me that.

2004. You did not see the boat at all?
- No. There were very few boats launched on the port side at all.

Examined by Mr. BUTLER ASPINALL.

2005. You remember after you got into the boat and were being rowed towards the coast?
- Yes.

2006. Did you at the time form the opinion that the coast was about 15 miles away?
- I did; I formed the impression and I thought I asked Captain Bell, the master of the smack, and he indicated, I thought, that we were farther away, but thinking it over afterwards I came to the conclusion that we could hardly have been 15 miles from Kinsale Lighthouse, and I wrote to him again and I have his letter here in which he says as far as he can guess she was 10 miles S.S.W. of the Old Head of Kinsale. It was a very, very clear day and the sun was shining very brightly; there was not a cloud in the sky.

2007. Now I just want to ask you what you told the Solicitor to the Board of Trade; you made a very full statement, did you not?
- As full as I could.

2008. I am not complaining. Did you say this to the Solicitor to the Board of Trade: "We rowed towards the coast which appeared to be about 15 miles away and was plainly visible." Is that right?
- Yes, I thought the Old Head of Kinsale was very visible indeed, shining out right in the sun.

2009. Afterwards did you say this: "We reached Queenstown safely." Everything was done for us on board the tug, and on board the smack too. I asked the captain of the sailing smack how far we were off Kinsale Lighthouse, and suggested we were 15 miles away from Kinsale. He said, "You are further than that, because our fishing limit is 18 or 19 miles and you are outside that?"
- Quite - that is what I referred to just now, and I think he must have misunderstood my question, and that is why I wrote to him again.

2010. His answer seems to be, you know, very much to the point. He said, "You are farther than that, because our fishing limit is 18 or 19 miles, and you are outside that?"
- I have tried to explain that that is my recollection of what he told me at the time but thinking it over afterwards, I do not think we could possibly have been so far from the Old Head of Kinsale as that, so I wrote to him asking him for his opinion, without expressing my opinion myself, and asked him "How far do you think we were from the Old Head of Kinsale?" and he said "Ten miles S.S.W."

2011. The answer he made at the time was, "You are further than that, because our fishing limit is 18 or 19 miles, and you are outside that"?
- Yes, but I think the 18 or 19 miles may not have been from the Old Head of Kinsale, it may have been from some other point, but you can easily ascertain that.

2012. I do not want to argue the matter with you?
- I am reconciling the two statements or endeavouring to.

2013. Did you also tell the Board of Trade's Solicitor this, that "On the 'Lusitania' the officers and first and second class passengers behaved well and coolly"?
- Yes.

2014. And also the stewards and stewardesses?
- Yes.

2015. "There was no panic at first, but before I went down for my lifebelt the steerage passengers came up in a swarm, and after that there was no discipline at all, and no control whatever"?
- Quite.

2016. That is your impression?
- Yes, that is my impression.

2017. The steerage passengers were giving trouble in your view were they?
- They came up in a swarm and were trying to get into the boats.

(The Witness withdrew.)