United States Senate Inquiry

Day 14

Testimony of Harold S. Bride, recalled

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

Senator SMITH.
I have forgotten just the hour when you took the wireless instrument after you went aboard the Carpathia, Mr. Bride. Did you take it right away?

No, sir; it was Tuesday evening, about 6 o'clock.

Senator SMITH.
You did not take it before that time at all?

No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
You were not well enough?

I was in the hospital, sir.

Senator SMITH.
You were in the hospital on board the ship?

On the Carpathia; yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Did you ever see that message, signed Bruce Ismay and addressed "Islefrank"? (Exhibiting message.)

I can not say whether I have seen it or not.

Senator SMITH.
It is rather an important message. If you had seen it you would probably remember it, would you not?

There were several important messages sent.

Senator SMITH.
You can not recollect that?

No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
When do you expect to go home, Mr. Bride?

I had arranged to go home this morning, but when I got down to the Caronia, I could not find room on board, and on the Minnetonka they had no room for me.

Senator SMITH.
You mean you wanted to go as a passenger?

Yes, sir. I think I shall wait and go back on the Baltic.

Senator SMITH.
Who is the wireless operator aboard the Baltic?

Mr. Balfour is the senior operator, sir. He Is the traveling inspector, also for the Marconi Co.

Senator SMITH.
Then is Cottam going home?

He is going back as the third operator on the Caronia.

Senator SMITH.
Is that a large ship?

Yes, sir; she is one of the best.

Here is a paper, sir, that may be of interest to you. It is a report which I have made to Mr. Cross, the traffic manager of the Marconi Co.

Senator SMITH.
Yes; this is interesting. (Reading:)

New York City, N. Y., April 27, 1912.

W. R. Cross, Esq.,

DEAR SIR: Hearing of the conflicting reports concerning the loss of the Titanic, which are being spread around, I think it is advisable for me to give you, to the best of my ability, a true account of the disaster, so that the Marconi Co. may be in full possession of all the facts.

I regret to say my memory fails me with regard to the time of the occurrence or any of the preceding incidents; but otherwise I am sure of all my statements.

The night before the disaster Mr. Phillips and myself had had a deal of trouble, owing to the leads from the secondary of the transformer having burnt through inside the casing and make contact with certain iron bolts holding the woodwork and frame together, thereby earthing the power to a great extent. After binding these leads with rubber tape, we once more had the apparatus in perfect working order, but not before we had put in nearly six hours' work, Mr. Phillips being of the opinion that, in the first place, it was the condensers which had broken, and these we had had out and examined before locating the damage in the transformer.

Owing to this trouble, I had promised to relieve Mr. Phillips on the following night at midnight instead of the usual time, 2 o'clock, as he seemed very tired.

During Sunday afternoon, toward 5 o'clock, I was called by the Californian (call letters MWL) with an ice report, but I did not immediately answer, as I was writing up the abstracts; and also it used to take us some considerable time to start up the motor and alternator, it not being advisable to leave them working, as the alternator was liable to run hot.

I, however, acknowledged the receipt of the report when "MWL" transmitted it to the Baltic, and took it myself to the officer on watch on the bridge.

Neither Mr. Phillips nor I, to my knowledge, received any further ice reports.

About 9 p.m. I turned in and woke on my own accord just about midnight, relieving Mr. Phillips, who had just finished sending a large batch of telegrams to Cape Race.

Mr. Phillips told me that apparently we had struck something, as previous to my turning out he had felt the ship tremble and stop, and expressed an opinion that we should have to return to Belfast.

I took over the telephone from him, and he was preparing to retire when Capt. Smith entered the cabin and told us to get assistance immediately.

Mr. Phillips resumed the phones, after asking the captain if he should use the regulation distress call "C Q D." The captain said "Yes," and Mr. Phillips started in with "C Q D," having obtained the latitude and longitude of the Titanic.

The Frankfurt was the first to answer. We gave him the ships position, which he acknowledged by "OK, stbdi."

The second answer was from the Carpathia who immediately responded with his position and informed us he was coming to our assistance as fast as possible.

These communications I reported myself to the captain, who was, when I found him, engaging in superintending the filling and lowering of the lifeboats.

The noise of escaping steam directly over our cabin caused a deal of trouble to Mr. Phillips in reading the replies to our distress call, and this I also reported to Capt. Smith, who by some means managed to get it abated.

The Olympic next answered our call, but as far as I know, Mr. Phillips did not go to much trouble with her, as we now realized the awful state of affairs, the ship listing heavily to port and forward.

The captain also came in and told us she was sinking fast and could not last longer than half an hour.

Mr. Phillips then went outside to see how things were progressing, and meanwhile I established communication with the Baltic, telling him we were in urgent need of assistance.

This I reported to Mr. Phillips on his return, but suggested "M B C" was to far away to be of any use.

Mr. Phillips told me the forward well deck was under water, and we got our lifebelts out and tied on each other, after putting on additional clothing.

Again Mr. Phillips called "C Q D" and "S O S" and for nearly five minutes got no reply, and then both the Carpathia and the Frankfurt called.

Just at this moment the captain came into the cabin and said, "You can do nothing more; look out for yourselves." Mr. Phillips resumed the phones and after listening a few seconds jumped up and fairly screamed, "The ----- fool. He says, 'What's up old man?'" I asked "Who?" Mr. Phillips replied the Frankfurt and at that time it seemed perfectly clear to us that the Frankfurt's operator had taken not notice or misunderstood our first call for help.

Mr. Philips reply to this was "You fool, stbdi and keep out."

Undoubtedly both Mr. Phillips and I were under a great strain at this time, but though the committee inquiring into the facts on this side are inclined to censure that reply, I am still of the opinion that Mr. Phillips was justified in sending it.

Leaving Mr. Phillips operating, I went to our sleeping cabin, and got all our money together, returning to find a fireman or coal trimmer gently relieving Mr. Phillips of his lifebelt. There immediately followed a general scrimmage with the three of us.

I regret to say that we left to hurriedly to take the man in question with us, and without a doubt he sank with the ship in the Marconi cabin as we left him.

I had up to this time kept the PV entered up, intending when we left the ship to tear out the lot and each to take a copy, but now we could hear the water washing over the boat deck, and Mr. Phillips said, "Come, let's clear out."

We had nearly the whole time been in possession of full power from the ship's dynamo, though toward the end the lights sank and we were ready to stand by, with emergency apparatus and candles, but there was no necessity to use them.

Leaving the cabin, we climbed on top of the house comprising the officers' quarters and our own, and here I saw the last of Mr. Phillips, for he disappeared walking aft.

I now assisted in pushing off a collapsible lifeboat, which was on the port side of the forward funnel, onto the boat deck. Just as the boat fell I noticed Capt. Smith dive from the bridge into the sea.

Then followed a general scramble down on the boat deck, but no sooner had we got there than the sea washed over. I managed to catch hold of the boat we had previously fixed up and was swept overboard with her.

I then experienced most exciting three or four hours anyone could reasonably wish for, and was in due course, with the rest of the survivors picked up by the Carpathia.

As you have probably heard, I got on the collapsible boat a second time, which was, as I felt it, upturned.

I called Phillips several times, but got no response, but learned later from several sources that he was on this boat and expired even before we were picked off by the Titanic's boat.

I am told fright and exposure was the cause of his death.

As far as I can find out, he was taken on board the Carpathia and buried at sea from her, though for some reason the bodies of those who had died were not identified before burial from the Carpathia, and so I can not vouch for the truth of this.

After a short stay in the hospital of the Carpathia I was asked to assist Mr. Cottam, the operator, who seemed fairly worn out with work.

Hundreds of telegrams from survivors were waiting to go as soon as we could get communication with shore stations.

Regarding the working of the Carpathia.

The list of survivors, Mr. Cottam told me, had been sent to the Minnewaska and the Olympic.

When we established communication with the various coast stations, all of which had heavy traffic for us, in some cases running into hundreds of messages, we told them we would only accept service and urgent messages, as we knew the remainder would be press and messages inquiring after some one on the Titanic.

It is easy to see we might have spent hours receiving messages inquiring after some survivor, while we had messages waiting from that survivor for transmission.

News was not withheld by Mr. Cottam or myself with the idea of making money, but because, as far as I know, the captain of the Carpathia was advising Mr. Cottam to get off the survivors' traffic first.

Quite 75 percent of this we got off.

On arrival in New York Mr. Marconi came on board with a reporter of the New York Times. Also Mr. Sammis was present, and I received $500 for my story, which both Mr. Marconi and Mr. Sammis authorized me to tell.

I have forgotten to mention that the United States Government sent out a ship, as they said, to assist us named the Chester.

Several messages passed between the commander of that vessel and the Carpathia, and resulted in the captain telling us to transmit the names of the third class passengers to the Chester.

Though it has since been reported that the most expert operator in the United States Navy was on board the Chester, I had to repeat these names, nearly in all, several times to him taking up nearly a couple of hours of valuable time, though I sent them in the first place slowly and carefully.

I am now staying with relatives and waiting orders from the Marconi Co. here, who have been most considerate and kind, buying me much needed clothes and looking after me generally.

I am glad to say I can now walk around, the sprain in my left foot being much better, though my right foot remains numbed from the exposure and cold, but causes me no pain or inconvenience whatever.

I greatly appreciate the cable the company so kindly sent me and thank them for the same.

Trusting this report will be satisfactory until my return to England, I beg to remain.

Yours, obediently,


I should like to have the letter back, Senator. That is my personal copy.

Senator SMITH.
Certainly. I shall return it to you.

That is all, Mr. Bride. We are very much obliged to you for coming again today.

(Witness Excused.)