British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 5

[COUNSEL PRESENT.]


The Solicitor-General:
Your Lordship, as I understand, has indicated that on certain points further information is desired?

The Commissioner:
Yes.

The Solicitor-General:
I think either the Board of Trade or those who represent the Cunard Company are in a position to give your Lordship information upon most, if not all, of the points involved. If it is convenient to your Lordship, I propose, first of all - as I gather it is desired that Mr. Marichal shall be allowed to make a statement - to ask your Lordship's permission for him to do it at once.

The Commissioner:
Very well.

WITNESS.

Joseph Marichal - Passenger - ss " Lusitania "
Testimony

Albert Laslett - Recalled
Testimony

Mr. Branson:
There are two other references to portholes which I may give your Lordship. One is on page 32, Question 1196, where Mr. Freeman, who was a second class passenger, went down as low as E deck. He says: "When I went to E deck it was in darkness, owing to the electric light put out, apart from a little light, which came in from the portholes on the port side of the vessel. The starboard side was entirely in darkness. I did not realise at the time that the vessel was under water, but these portholes normally are just above the water-line. (Q.) Were they shut or open? - (A..) They must have b een shut because there was no water to be seen running in anywhere."

The Commissioner:
That means that on the starboard side when he went in the ports were below the water, but the water was not coming in.

Mr. Cotter:
That refers to deck E. I was talking about deck D. Deck E is practically on the water-line.

The Commissioner:
Deck D is above deck E.

Mr. Cotter:
Yes, and that is the one I am speaking about.

The Commissioner:
On deck E the ports were all shut and no water was coming in.

Mr. Branson:
Then there is one other reference, my Lord, at page 38, Questions 1337 to 1339.

The Commissioner:
"Do you remember on the 7th May any orders being given as to closing the bulkhead door? - (A.) Yes. On the morning of 7th May the staff captain met me on the main companion way, C deck, and said they wished the bulkhead doors to be closed, and also the ports, and he said he would go down and see it done himself. (Q.) Was that Captain Anderson?
- (A.) Yes, Staff Captain Anderson."

Mr. Branson:
Then "As far as you know were they closed at the time of the ship being struck?
- (A.) I believe they were."

The Commissioner:
Then at Question 1351 there is a question by Mr. Edwards. "Did I understand you to say that the watertight doors were closed before the torpedo struck the ship?
- (A.) I said Captain Anderson gave orders and went down himself, and I understand he expressed himself afterwards as being perfectly satisfied that everything was tight on the E deck.."

Mr. Clem Edwards:
That was in the morning, my Lord.

The Commissioner:
Yes, in the morning, before the torpedoing.

Mr. Branson:
Then there is a piece of evidence by a passenger on page 29, Question 1062, to which I ought to call your Lordship's attention.

The Commissioner:
"After you went back will you tell me all that you saw then. First of all did you notice anything about the port holes? - (A.) Yes. Our cabin being on the same deck as the dining room, on passing out on the second occasion, I saw water streaming into the dining room. I thought to myself it was through the port-holes, as it was a sort of jet of water coming down, not in any large quantity, but as if it was pouring through a hole." I should scarcely describe water coming through a port-hole as a jet. I have read this and I think this lady was wrong in supposing that that water came from the port-holes.

Mr. Branson:
I respectfully agree, but I call attention to it.

The Commissioner:
Then there is another bit of evidence of a man who said he clutched at a port-hole.

Mr. Branson:
Yes, that is on page 51, Question 1844. The passenger says he saw an open port-hole about 2 feet above him and clutched it, but could not hold on.

Mr. Cotter:
The Board of Trade have statements of witnesses to this effect, but they were never called, and I was expecting they would be called.

The Commissioner:
I cannot control the Board of Trade, you know, as to what evidence they call. It is their duty to see that the Court is properly furnished with the evidence and I must rely on their Counsel to do it.

Mr. Cotter:
I am raising the point now, my Lord, that the witnesses have told the Board of Trade what I say.

The Commissioner:
I cannot help it, is there anything else?

Mr. Branson:
We have the carpenter here. Your Lordship wanted to ask him about whether the skids were removed or not.

The Commissioner:
I wanted to ask him as to whether these collapsible boats were in such a condition before the ship went down, that when the ship went down they would float in the water?

Mr. Branson:
Then we will re-call him, my Lord.

WITNESS.

Mr. Robertson -
Testimony

The Commissioner:
Is Mr. Laslett here?

Mr. Dunlop:
Yes, my Lord.

The Commissioner:
Just let him come back for a moment; but before I ask him a question, where is Mr. Robertson?

WITNESS.

Mr. Robertson -
Testimony

The Commissioner:
Now, I want to ask Mr. Laslett another question.

WITNESS.

Mr. Laslett -
Testimony

The Commissioner:
Is there any further evidence?

Mr. Branson:
There are two matters which I thought Captain Turner could speak to. One was the question as to whether there were any troops on board; and the other, the position of the cargo?

The Commissioner:
I asked Sir Edward Carson whether the evidence covered that point, and he assured me it did, and I took his word for it. Is there the least pretence for saying that there were any troops on board?

Mr. Branson:
None, that I know of; but Captain Turner is here, and one question will settle it.

The Commissioner:
Very well; but we cannot have all these re-opened, you know.

WITNESS.

William Thomas Turner - Captain - ss " Lusitania " - Recalled.
Testimony

The Commissioner:
And I am told they never turn on a circle. Now are there any more questions?

Mr. Branson:
I have Commander Scott here, from the Navy, my Lord.

The Commissioner:
You may put him in if you like, but I am satisfied on that point.

Mr. Branson:
If your Lordship is satisfied, there is no need to put him in.

The Commissioner:
The Court does not desire to hear him.

Mr. Dunlop:
The distance your Lordship asked about, between where the torpedo struck the ship and the cargo space has been measured, and it is 150 feet.

The Commissioner:
That is 50 yards. Is there anyone else in the room who desires to give evidence? (No answer.) Apparently not.

(Adjourned.)