United States Senate Inquiry

Day 14

Testimony of Gilbert W. Balfour

(Before Senator William Alden Smith at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.)

(The witness was sworn by Senator Smith.)

Senator SMITH.
Will you state your name, residence, and occupation?

Gilbert William Balfour; Stony Croft, Liverpool; I am an inspector of the Marconi Co. I have been in the employ of that company three years last October, that is, practically three years and a half, now.

Senator SMITH.
In that position, are you going about from station to station of the Marconi Co.?

I am what we call a traveling supervisor; I do shore duty, and I am sent to fit out ships at any place when that service is required. Traveling inspectors at times take charge of inspections. We are attached to particular ships. For instance, I am now attached to the Baltic. It is a part of our duty to fit up stations and to control traffic on the ocean.

Senator SMITH.
Where were you on the 14th and 15th of April, 1912; that is, Sunday and Monday?

We were just 243 miles southeast of the position of the Titanic when we first got her C. Q. D. call, about 11 o'clock, New York time, Sunday evening. We got the C. Q. D. call, giving his position, just saying "Struck an iceberg," giving his present position, and saying that he required immediate assistance. We did not acknowledge it direct then, but simply warned the bridge in the usual course; the ship turned around, and we took the first opportunity, which was a couple of minutes later, or it may have been five minutes later, to advise the Titanic that we were coming.

The next we heard from her was about 10 minutes later. I have here an extract from my book giving everything chronologically, just as the operator on the Californian did. These times are taken from our ship's clock, and we subsequently found that my clock is fast. As near as we can come to the fixed time it was less than 11 o'clock. We received this message at 11 o'clock, New York time. We work always on New York time. We received a message saying the Titanic had struck an iceberg and required immediate assistance, giving us her position, 4l 46' north, 50 14' west. That message was sent immediately to the bridge, with instruction to call the officer of the watch immediately. Capt. Ranson, so far as I know; was immediately called out, and about 11.08 or 11.09 the officer came down from the bridge, in the usual course, to verify the position, and to see if I had get any additional information.

At 11.10 we heard a C. Q. message coming from the Titanic - that is, a message sent to all stations - saying "Capt. Smith says 'Get all your boats ready. Sinking.'"

I brought all the papers, in case you might want them. That is really the log that I have here.

This is an exact copy of the log that I have made for the board of trade.

Senator SMITH.
I think we had better have a copy of that.

The times given here are time by the clock but you can accept these times as approximate times, if you wish to.

I think I had better start to read this again. I am reading from the log:

11.10 p.m. - Jamming bad, but hear Titanic, very faint, calling Olympic. Latter strong; freaky. Hear Caronia calling. He tells me Titanic requires immediate assistance.

Senator SMITH.
Do you know where the Caronia was at that time?

Yes; she was perhaps 600 miles farther east than we were. (Continuing reading):

He tells me Titanic requires immediate assistance. Gives position as 41 degrees 46 minutes north; 50 degrees 14 minutes west. I advise bridge and call Titanic, but am unable to gain his attention. He appears to be tuned to the Olympic, and cuts me out.

Then comes this. At 11.20 was that message to the bridge, "Captain Smith says 'Get all your boat out. We are sinking.'"

11.35. - Titanic sends C. Q. message, "We are getting the women off in small boats." I advised Titanic we are coming to his rescue - coming to his "assistance," is what I said. Caronia repeated my message to him, which was acknowledged by Phillips of the Titanic.

The next message we received from him was about 11.45, a C. Q. message, saying "Engine room getting flooded." That message was sent twice, and at the end of the second message, in the middle of the word "flooded," his motor ran down. That was probably when the water rose to the dynamo in the engine room. After that we simply stood by, listening to all messages.

12.10 a. m. - that is, Monday, April 15 - I had signals with the Amerika and with the Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm, and told them to stand by. They called up after taking the long distance, and of course we had to tell them to stand by, to give us a chance of getting at the Titanic.

At 1.05 the Virginian was calling the Titanic and the Olympic.

At 2.10 the Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm called C.Q. I told him to stand by on phones for C.Q.D. call, and not touch the key.

At 3.05 the station at Eastport, Me., call letters W. Q., was asking the Frankfurt in re C.Q.D. calls. This station had been jamming all the night. Jamming is a term we use to indicate interferences; trying to get in; trying to get the way through.

They were talking about things not really having to do with the rescue.

Senator SMITH.
How far was Eastport, Me., from you?

I could not exactly say. It is on the Bay of Fundy. It is very far and it is a very freaky station. You can hear it half way across the ocean.

At 3.05, as I say, the station at Eastport, Me., asked the Frankfurt in re C.Q.D. calls.

At 5.05 we had the first signals with the Carpathia, but we were unable to work him, owing to persistent jamming by the Californian, who was talking all the while. That was 5.05, New York time. We would be then, somewhere, about 130 miles away from the field of the Titanic disaster.

Senator SMITH.
Do you know how far away the Californian was?

Yes; I read about it in the papers.

Senator SMITH.
She was within 15 miles.

I wish we had been there. We would have had those people.

At 5.30 the Californian was persisting in talking to the steamship Birma. It was impossible for us to work.

At 5.45 a. m. the Antillian called C.Q. She was told to stand by. C.Q. is the general call for all stations. C.Q.D. was the old call for danger. C.Q. is the general call, and every station which hears that call must reply to it.

At 6.55 we signaled the Carpathia, but could no nothing for jamming by the Californian and the Birma.

At 7.10 a.m., in communication with Carpathia. Exchange traffic in re passengers and got instructions to proceed to Liverpool. We turn around at 7. 15 a.m. We have come west 134 miles.

That was in the direction of the Titanic. We had come back 134 miles.

I saw some reports, Senator, about the messages from the Carpathia. Perhaps you would like to have those.

Senator SMITH.
I would, and the hour when each was sent, and to whom it was addressed.

About 6.30 a. m. we got an unofficial massage from the Carpathia to the Baltic:

The Titanic has gone down with all hands, as far as we know, with the exception of 20 boatloads, which we have picked up. Number not accurately fixed yet. We can not see any more boats about at all.

That was just sent from the operator of the Carpathia to the captain of the Baltic. That went to Captain Ranson.

In reply, the captain sent that message:

Can I be of any assistance to you as regards taking some of the passengers from you? Will be in the position about 4.30. Let me know if you alter your position.


At 7.10 we received a message from the Carpathia, from the captain of the Carpathia to the captain of the Baltic.

Am proceeding for Halifax or New York, full speed You had better proceed to Liverpool. Have about 800 passengers aboard.

That was the last communication we had with the Carpathia, but the Californian and the Birma were talking, throughout the morning up to, practically, 1 o'clock. At that time we were out of touch with the Carpathia and the other ships around there.

Senator SMITH.
When that message was received from the Carpathia at 6.30, how far were you from the Carpathia?

About 124 miles.

Senator SMITH.
What did you do with the information that you got in that message?

That was sent to the commander, Capt. Ranson.

Senator SMITH.
What was done with it?

It was kept in his room.

Senator SMITH.
Was it sent to any shore station?


Senator SMITH.
Or to any other ship?

No, sir; we never communicated with any shore station or any ship until we got into Crook Haven, advising about his return.

Senator SMITH.
Did you get at any time, over your instrument, that message (handing witness telegram dated April 17, 1912 reading. "Deeply regret advise you Titanic sank this morning after collision iceberg, resulting serious loss life. Further particulars later. Bruce Ismay.")?

Mr. BALFOUR. (after examining telegram)
No; I did not hear that at all.

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