British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 3


1966. The Commissioner: You have given a proof, have you not?
- I have given a statement to the Board of Trade representative in Liverpool.

The Attorney-General:
I have not got any proof of this gentleman. There is a declaration, not a proof.

The Commissioner:
Have you read it?

The Attorney-General:
I have not, my Lord. It is not in the proofs that were given to me.

The Commissioner:
Do any of you desire to examine the gentleman, because if not, we will take his statement.

The Attorney-General:
I understand what happened about it was that yesterday evening when the passengers' evidence was being considered, the Solicitor-General read the proof and thought it added nothing to the evidence already given, and that is why we did not call this gentleman.

1967. The Commissioner (To the Witness): Now make your statement?
- I want to say it is no use my reciting what I have already put in my proof.

1967a. The Commissioner: Oh, yes, you had better do so; I have not heard it.
- I was in the dining room on D deck at the time of the explosion, at the time the ship was torpedoed, at 10 minutes past 2, Greenwich time. I noticed in the evidence so far called, my Lord, there has been no question as to what time was referred to, as to whether it was Irish time or Greenwich time or ship's time. This was 10 minutes past 2, Greenwich time, according to the information I got from the smoke room steward, who told me at 12 o'clock that day that the ship's clock had been set to London time or Greenwich time, and I set my watch. I was sitting at the table at 2 just finishing my lunch when the torpedo struck the boat. I and my friend, Mr. Ralph Moody, realised immediately what it was, and he said to me "They have got us"; I said, "Yes, we had better go to the boat deck." We were about 20 feet aft of the door leading to the main stairway, the main companion way; we started for there. There was no panic in the saloon, there were not many people in it. It was then an hour and ten minutes after lunch had been started, and the steward came forward through the saloon crying "Steady, gentlemen, steady." We got to the door and repeated that, and passed everybody, I think, out through that door into the main companion way. When the room was emptied, Mr. Moody and I turned to go up the staircase to deck. A. We found, almost immediately after the torpedoing, that there was a perceptible list on the boat. That list, at the time we started up the stairway, which was probably under two minutes after the torpedo had struck her, was quite a list; it might be referred to as a big list, and as we went up the stairway I came next to a lady who was having some difficulty in making her way up, and I took her by the arm and helped her. I noticed that Mr. Moody did the same with another lady, and we so made our way up to A deck. The last flight leading on to A deck I carried my lady up on my hip hanging on to the balustrades with my left hand. That was necessary because the list was so great. I then told her to go to the low side of the ship; she said "Oh, no"; she seemed to want to go to the high side.

1968. The Commissioner: I do not think we want the conversation with the lady. Tell us what took place?
- I then went to my room on A deck and put my belt on. There had been two belts in my room during the trip. I was the sole occupant of the room, and when I went in there to get my belt, there was only one. I put it on and went out on the port side forward of amidships. Where was a man I noticed, they were lowering the boat and the falls of this boat came across the deck. The first after leaving the pulleys, and he had three turns round the davit pins.

1969. Was this boat on the port side?
- Yes, and the rope came through the davit across the deck, that is the rope lay on the deck and then was carried on to the roof of a deckhouse, the funnel deck, and was there coiled, and this man was crying to the passengers to keep clear of the rope, so I went to the rope and paid the rope out off this deckhouse. I stood inboard, and I cried to the passengers to keep clear of the rope, because if it got out of control it would kill them. We managed to keep them clear of the rope. The rope did get out of control, and it went through the pulleys so fast, that those laps round the davit pin, that the rope smoked. I should think 60 or 70 feet of it paid out in that way, and I was thrown to the deck. I tried to hold on to this rope thinking my weight would stop it, but I was thrown down to the deck. I let go before I connected with the davit pin; I jumped up and looked over the rail expecting to see the boat wrecked, and to my astonishment she was on an even keel in the water with about 60 people in her, and evidently in good condition.

1970. She had been going down with 60 people in her?
- Yes. I should state here that I did not see the boat as she started. She was already below the rail before I got hold of the fall - that is the rope to lower her by. I noticed that the boat afterwards was sunk, her nose was showing above the water, and I think she was fast by the forward fall. I saw about 15 people with lifebelts on, evidently her passengers, swimming in the water. There was a little weigh on the " Lusitania " at that time, but not very much, because I noticed that these people who had been cast out of this boat after the one I had helped to lower were not losing headway much. Soon after that time, stewards came through the crowd, saying, "Everybody out of the boats; the ship is safe." I concluded that that order came from the bridge; I do not know that it did, but I concluded and still presume it did come from the bridge, and people got out of the boats. Whether they all got out or not I cannot say. I was surrounded about this time by a great crowd of steerage passengers, some Russians and other foreigners. I tried to reassure them; I could not talk to them, but I put up my hand and nodded my head and said, "All right, all right," and they seemed to understand that, and one of them kissed my hand, the first time I had ever had my hand kissed. Then the ship righted herself very much.

1971. Do you say she got on an even keel?
- Almost, my Lord. Perhaps I am not justified in saying almost on an even keel, but she had come from an angle of about that to about that (describing). I might state that I was on my feet from the moment she was struck by the torpedo, and I never found any difficulty in standing on her deck excepting at the time I was helping that lady up the stairway. As the ship righted herself, Mr. Moody, who was about 6 feet from me on my right said to me: "How about it, old man?" and I shook my head at him. My idea was that the ship was then gone, that the water had come over her longitudinal bulkheads, and that is why she righted herself. I did not want the steerage passengers round me to imbibe that idea though, but that was my idea then. They brought a woman to me in about a minute -

1972. Does it matter, about their bringing a woman to you?
- No, I do not think it does.

1973. Then do not tell us about it.
- All right, excepting that she had not a lifebelt, my Lord.

1974. Cannot you get to the end of this story?
- Yes, the ship then sank, and I sank with her, and I was in the water I should think about two hours, and I was then picked up by a collapsible boat in a damaged condition; and after an hour in that boat I was put upon a lifeboat in a proper condition in charge of the first officer, who landed me at about 6.30 on a trawler, the "Indian Empire," and I eventually got to Queenstown at 10.30, I think.

1975. That is the end of it?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
Does anyone want to ask this gentleman any question?

No answer.

(The Witness withdrew.)