British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 3

Testimony of Frederick Barrett, cont.

1955. (The Commissioner.) The alleyway that goes right fore and aft of the ship?
- Yes.

1956. (The Solicitor-General.) Did Mr. Shepherd come back with you to No. 5?
- Yes.

1957. And when you got back to No. 5, you and Mr. Shepherd, who else did you find there?
- Mr. Harvey and Mr. Wilson.

1958. What is their rating?
- I could not tell you; they are engineers, second assistant engineers.

1959. Anyhow, they are engineers?
- Yes.

1960. Mr. Harvey, one of the engineers, and Mr. Wilson?
- Yes.

1961. And what were they doing?
- Attending to the pumps.

1962. Are there pumps in each section?
- As far as I understand, there are.

1963. At any rate there were pumps in No. 5?
- Yes.

1964. And when you got back to No. 5, how much water was there in No. 5?
- None.

1965. Let us understand it. You said that the bunker in No. 5 had got some water coming into it?
- Yes; but the hole was not so big in that section as it was in No. 6 section. By the time the water had got there she had stopped.

1966. So that the water was not coming into No. 5 fast enough to flood it?
- No.

1967. Were the pumps working in No. 5?
- I could not tell you.

1968. Did you get down to the plate level in No. 5?
- Yes.

1969. And the water was not above that?
- No.

1970. Now tell us what happened after that. We have come back to No. 5, and you say they were attending to the pumps there. What was the next thing that happened?
- They rang through from the engine room to send all the stokers up and me to remain there.

1971. They rang through from the engine room. The engine room is further aft, of course?
- Yes, right aft.

1972. It is under the after funnel?
- They have a telephone in every section.

1973. The engine room is between the third and fourth funnels? They telephoned from the engine room to No. 5 section did they?
- Yes.

1974. And what did you say the message was?
- Send all the stokers up.

1975. Up where? On deck?
- Yes, up on deck.

1976. I think you told me you were told to remain?
- Yes.

1977. Who gave you that order?
- Mr. Harvey.

1978. That was one of the engineers that was in No. 5?
- Yes.

1979. Do you know what he wanted you to remain for?
- In case he wanted anything, I could go and fetch it, because you have to travel up ladders. You cannot go through the watertight doors.

1980. That is what I wanted to know. Was the watertight door in the bulkhead behind you, the one at the afterend of No. 5 shut?
- Yes.

1981. Does that shut automatically too?
- I believe it shuts the same as the remainder.

1982. Then you were given an order by Mr. Harvey to remain there, and I suppose you did. What did the other hands there do?
- I sent them up.

1983. They all went up?
- Yes.

1984. Then you and Mr. Harvey were left alone in No. 5?
- And Mr. Wilson and Mr. Shepherd.

1985. The three engineers and you. Was it still clear of water?
- Yes.

1986. So the bulkhead in front of No. 5 was holding the water back?
- Yes.

1987. Now what happened after that?
- The lights went out.

1988. The lights went out in No. 5?
- Yes.

1989. And when the lights went out what did you do?
- Mr. Harvey sent me up for some lamps.

1990. Did you go?
- I went to the top of the escape and sent two firemen. They fetched 12 to 15 back.

1991. I should like to understand about the escape. This is the escape ladder, of course?
- Yes.

1992. Is it an iron ladder, and you climb up hand over hand?
- No, it is an iron ladder on a slant. It slants over the boiler.

1993. Where does it come out?
- Into the main alleyway.

1994. And then that runs fore and aft, and you can go forward by it?
- Yes.

1995. You sent two firemen for lamps?
- Yes.

1996. Is the lamp room in the forecastle?
- You have to go down into the engine room for them.

1997. They had to go aft?
- Yes, aft to the engine room.

1998. Did they get lamps?
- Yes.

1999. And bring them back to you?
- Yes.

2000. Did you take them down to Number 5?
- Yes.

2001. (The Commissioner.) The electric lights were still burning in the alleyway?
- They went out for ten minutes. They must have been changing over to the other engine. As soon as I got the lamps they came on again.

2002. That is in the alleyway?
- In the stokehold.

2003. (The Solicitor-General. ) I am not sure you have answered my Lord's question. You went up as far as the alleyway, and the alleyway is lighted by electric light?
- Yes.

2004. Was the light burning or was it out there too?
- It was burning there.

2005. It was only in No. 5 it had gone out as far as you know?
- Yes.

2006. Then the lamps are got and you take them down to No. 5, and how soon did the electric light come back?
- It just came back as we got the lamps.

2007. When you got back to number 5 was it still clear of water, or not?
- Still clear of water.

2008. What was the condition of the boilers at this time?
- I looked at the water. There was no water in the boilers.

2009. You looked at the water gauge?
- Yes.

2010. And there was no water in the boilers?
- No.

2011. Then it had been let out, had it?
- With the ship blowing off it had blown it out.

2012. Then after you had looked at the boilers and found they had no water in them what was the next order you got from Mr. Harvey?
- To fetch some men down to keep the fires pulled.

2013. Would that be in all the sections?
- No; only in No. 5 section.

2014. How many men were wanted for that?
- I got between 15 and 20 down. There were 30 furnaces to pull.

2015. How many furnaces are there in each section?
- There are 30 in some sections, and there are 24 in some.

2016. But in No. 5 there are 30?
- Yes.

2017. And you got some 15 men to help about it?
- Yes.

2018. And did they draw the fires?
- Yes.

2019. How long do you think it would take them to draw the fires?
- It would take them 20 minutes.

2020. And after they had drawn the fires what happened to them?
- I sent them up again.

2021. They went up again?
- Yes.

2022. Did you stay below?
- Yes.

2023. With Mr. Harvey?
- Yes.

2024. Then what was the next order?
- He asked me to lift the manhole plate off.

2025. Where was the manhole plate?
- On the starboard side of No. 5 section.

2026. When the plate was in position what was it - closed?
- It is something you lift up to get at the valves. I do not know what valves it is. It is just like a hole in this table. You lift it off to get to the valves to turn on the pumps or something.

2027. Is it in the floor?
- Yes.

2028. And did you do that for him?
- Yes.

2029. That would leave a hole in the floor?
- Yes.

2030. And what happened then?
- Mr. Shepherd was walking across in a hurry to do something and then fell down the hole and broke his leg.

2031. He did not notice the manhole plate had been lifted?
- No.

2032. He broke his leg?
- Yes.

2033. What did you do with him?
- We lifted him up and carried him into the pump room, me and Mr. Harvey.

2034. Is that the pump room in No. 5?
- Yes.

2035. At this time, in this No. 5, was it easy to see?
- No, all the water which had been thrown on the furnaces when they were pulled out was making the stokehold thick with steam.

2036. And then you attended to Mr. Shepherd as best you could. Did you stay there after that?
- Just about a quarter of an hour after that.

2037. And during that quarter of an hour did No. 5 keep free from water?
- Yes.

2038. Then tell us what happened at the end of a quarter of an hour?
- A rush of water came through the pass - the forward end.

2039. You say the forward end of the pass. What is the pass?
- It is a space between the boilers where we walk through.

2040. There are boilers on either side of it?
- Yes.

2041. From which direction did this water come?
- From the forward end.

2042. And this pass that you walk through, is that at the same level as the plates?
- Yes.

2043. The same level as where you were standing?
- Yes.

2044. Supposing that the bulkhead which is the fore-end of No. 5 had given way, would water come through it and through this pass?
- Yes.

2045. Do you know yourself where it was the water came from, whether it had got through the bulkhead or not?
- I did not stop to look.

The Solicitor-General:
There is a plan here my friend Mr. Rowlatt has found, which is really a very great help in following this. May I bring it up to your Lordship. It is a plan which is numbered No. 3. At the bottom of this plan one gets the tank top level, and here No. E is the transfer section of the watertight bulkhead. W.T.D. is the watertight door to which the Witness said he had got. Immediately behind it is the bank of boilers, and here is the pass between two of the boilers.

The Commissioner:
Let the Witness come round here.

(The Witness explained the plan to the Commissioner.)

The Commissioner:
Sir John, can you tell me what the height of the bulkhead is at this part?

The Solicitor-General:
It can be scaled, my Lord, of course. I have no doubt one of Mr. Laing's advisers can say.

The Commissioner:
It could not come over the top of the bulkhead, I suppose?

2046. (The Solicitor-General.) I was going to ask him. He could tell from his feet, of course, whether the ship had shown any tendency to tip, because that gives one some guide. (To the Witness.) Can you tell us, up to this time, was the ship lying on an even keel?
- No, she was sloping down by the head.

2047. You felt that she was down by the head?
- Yes.

2048. Had you noticed that already?
- Yes.

2049. And had it been getting worse?
- Yes.

2050. Had you ever remarked on it to Mr. Shepherd, or any of them?
- No, we never passed any remarks, the engineers never had time to pass any remarks; they were working all the time.

2051. Can you tell me where you were when you first noticed it? Did you notice it in No. 5? You were in No. 5 after the first all the time. Had you noticed it before the lamps went out?
- No.

2052. Had you noticed it before the electric light returned?
- No.

2053. Then you said there was a quarter of an hour, about, before this rush of water?
- After the fires were drawn.

2054. Had you noticed it while the fires were being drawn?
- Yes.

2055. That is when you noticed it?
- Yes.

2056. And you say it got worse. Now can you give me any idea whether the water came from over the top of the bulkhead or through it?
- I do not see how it could come over the top.

2057. You do not think it did come over the top?
- No.

2058. Now, when it came through this pass between the boilers, did it come with a rush?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
I suppose he means by that as if something had given way.

2059. (The Solicitor-General.) Do you hear my Lord's question? He is asking whether, when you said that, you got the impression that something had given way?
- That was my idea.

2060. (The Commissioner.) Something that had been holding the water back gave way?
- That is my idea, my Lord.

2061. (The Solicitor-General.) So it came with a rush? How fast did it fall?
- I never stopped to look. I went up the ladder. Mr. Harvey told me to go up.

2062. (The Commissioner.) Could it have been a bunker bulkhead that gave way, do you think?
- I have no idea on that, but that is the bunker that was holding the water back.

2063. It was the bunker that was holding the water back?
- Yes.

The Solicitor-General:
It is entirely my fault, but I have not followed the meaning of that.

2064. (The Commissioner.) It was suggested to me that it was a bunker bulkhead that gave way, and that the water rushed from the bunker. (To the Witness.) Do you think that is possible?
- It would be possible, because there are watertight compartments inside the bunker. There is a watertight compartment going through the centre of the bunker.

2065. Was the bunker door shut?
- I dropped the bunker door.

2066. (The Solicitor-General.) I think there are the elements of a little confusion over this. The bulkhead runs across the ship from the starboard side to the port side, does it not?
- Yes.

2067. Is there a coal bunker on either side of the bulkhead on the starboard side?
- There is a watertight compartment running right through the centre of the bunker.

2068. There is the watertight bulkhead?
- Yes.

2069. (The Commissioner.) But the bunker is partly on one side of the watertight bulkhead and partly on the other?
- Yes.

2070. And the watertight bulkhead goes through the middle of the bunker?
- Yes.

2071. And then across the ship?
- Yes.

2072. (The Solicitor-General.) If you imagine this box is the bunker and that is the starboard skin of the ship, the watertight bulkhead runs through it like that does it not, down the middle?
- Yes.

2073. And you were on the after-side of this No. 5?
- I was in No. 6 when we shipped it; I was on the after-side of the bulkhead later.

2074. You cannot tell what part of the watertight bulkhead it was which gave way?
- No.

2075. But it was your impression that something gave way and the water came in with a rush?
- Yes.

The Solicitor-General:
I see by this plan that the bulkhead, if you trace the line of it across the ship, runs down in a line between the two compartments of the coal bunkers, then it takes a right angle turn up to the watertight door, then it zigzags back again and then it goes through the corresponding bunker on the other side.

The Commissioner:
I do not quite understand that.

(The Solicitor-General explains the plan to his Lordship.)

(The Witness withdrew.)