British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 12

Testimony of Charles H. Lightoller, cont.

14414. What I want to suggest to you is that it was recklessness, utter recklessness, in view of the conditions which you have described as abnormal, and in view of the knowledge you had from various sources that ice was in your immediate vicinity, to proceed at 21 1/2 knots?
- Then all I can say is that recklessness applies to practically every commander and every ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

14415. I am not disputing that with you, but can you describe it yourself as other than recklessness?
- Yes.

14416. Is it careful navigation in your view?
- It is ordinary navigation, which embodies careful navigation.

14417. Is this your position, then: that even with the experience of the "Titanic" disaster, if you were coming within the near vicinity of a place which was reported to you to be abounding in ice, you would proceed with a ship like the "Titanic" at 21 1/2 knots?
- I do not say I should.

14418. At nighttime, and at a time when the conditions were what you have described as very abnormal, surely you would not go on at 21 ½ knots?
- The conditions were not apparent to us in the first place; the conditions of an absolutely flat sea were not apparent to us till afterwards. Naturally I should take precautions against such an occurrence.

14419. And what precautions would you take if you would not slow up or slow down?
- I did not say I would not slow up.

14420. Cannot you say whether you would or not?
- No, I am afraid I could not say right here what I should do. I should take every precaution whatever appealed to me.

14421. I suggest to you if you acted carefully and prudently you would slow up, and that if you did not slow up you would be acting recklessly. You know you have described the conditions of abnormality as having been apparent at the time while you were on your watch. You have told my Lord that at great length; and in your conversations with the Captain did not you discuss that? You have said that you did not recognise that the sea was flat. I want to recall this to your mind. It is at page 306, My Lord, at question 13615, you give this evidence. "At 5 minutes to 9, when the Commander came on the bridge (I will give it to you as near as I remember.) he remarked that it was cold, and, as far as I remember, I said, 'Yes, it is very cold, Sir. In fact,' I said, 'it is only one degree above freezing. I have sent word down to the Carpenter and rung up the engine room and told them that it is freezing, or will be during the night.' We then commenced to speak about the weather. He said, 'There is not much wind.' I said, 'No, it is a flat calm, as a matter of fact.' He repeated it; he said, 'A flat calm.' I said, 'Yes, quite flat, there is no wind.' I said something about it was rather a pity the breeze had not kept up whilst we were going through the ice region. Of course, My reason was obvious; he knew I meant the water ripples breaking on the base of the berg"?
- Yes.

14422. Was not all that amply sufficient to let you and the Captain know that you were in circumstances of extreme danger?
- No.

14423. I do not think anything would convince you that it was dangerous that night?
- I have been very much convinces that it was dangerous.

14424. I mean that the conditions you have described were dangerous?
- They proved to be.

14425. What I want to suggest is that the conditions having been so dangerous, those in charge of the vessel were negligent in proceeding at that rate of speed?
- No.

14426. I will pass from that point. Amongst the precautions which it would be proper to adopt, would it not be desirable to station more look-outs, More look-out men in the bows or the stem head?
- Anything which would be conducive to avoiding danger.

14427. Would that be conducive to avoiding danger?
- It might be.

14428. I am speaking to you as a man of great practical experience?
- I could not exactly say whether look-outs in the stem head would be. We do not place very much reliance on them; we hope they will keep a very good look-out, but those men in the first place are not regular look-out men, and you have not the same control over them as you have over the look-out men. They have nothing to sacrifice in the way of a good berth, which the look-out man's is.

14429. I think the difference between a regular look-out man and an irregular look-out man - that is, an ordinary A.B.
- is 5s a month?
- Five shillings a month in pay and a difference in watches and a difference in work on board the ship.

14430. But there is no passing of an examination to go from one grade to the other?
- Yes.

14431. (The Solicitor-General.) Is there?
- Yes. I should explain to you, it is customary when a ship is in running for all look-out men to have an eye test as well as the Quartermaster's. That does not apply necessarily to A.B.'s.

14432. (Mr. Scanlan.) I was going to ask you about the eye test. Is there an eye test of each look-out man in the White Star Line?
- Well, as far as possible we maintain the condition of having look-out men who have passed the eye test.

14433. I want to understand. We have had evidence on this point already. We have had the evidence of a man who told us that his sight was not tested, and this was his first voyage in a White Star vessel, the "Titanic"?
- Yes.

14434. How do you explain that?
- By her being a new ship, and the difficulty of obtaining a perfectly satisfactory crew at such short notice. You see, you have to have men with you some little time; on the other hand, I can tell you of look-out men who have been on the look-out of the White Star for some considerable time, and who have had eye tests.

14435. But surely if you wanted to get an eye test as to the men you engaged for the titanic," you could easily have got a doctor to test their eyesight at Southampton?
- Well, it is not exactly a doctor who tests it. It is a Board of Trade examination - the customary examination. It applies to the Officers as well.

14436. I should like to know that; do you say it is the practice of the Board of Trade to test the eyesight of the look-out men before the ship is cleared?
- No, you do not quite understand me. If I am First Officer of a ship, a First Officer has the signing on of the crew. Very well, then, as far as possible and practicable, I see that these look-out men, at stated periods, have an eye test.

14437. Do they sign on in any special way?
- They sign on as look-out men.

14438. Do not they sign on as A.B.'s?
- No, I think they sign on as quartermasters and look-out men and a.B.'s.

14439. I understand - you will correct me if I am wrong - that look-out men sign on as A.B.'s?
- I think I am right in saying they sign on as look-out men. They used to sign on as A.B.'s.

14440. Did the six look-out men on the "Titanic" sign on in any special way?
- I believe they signed on as look-out men.

14441. But you do not know of your own knowledge?
- No, I could not say for certain.

14442. Was the sight of a single one of those men tested before starting on that voyage?
- As I said there were some of those men I knew to have had eye -tests, that is to say they were look-out men - Fleet and Symons who had been with me in the "Oceanic."

14443. I will take fleet. By whom was Fleet tested for his eyesight?
- I could not tell you; it is the customary test by the Board of Trade. They go up there and obtain their certificate.

The Solicitor-General:
I have the articles here, Mr. Scanlan, and these six men are entered as engaged in the capacity of look-outs.

14444. (Mr. Scanlan.) Quite, I thank you. (To the witness.) You do not know when Fleet was tested?
- I could not tell you the date now.

14445. The other man with him, Lee, you do not know whether he was tested at all?
- No.

14446. You do not know who tested the sight of Fleet?
- No, I do not know what man tested him, what official.

14447. You do not know whether it was a doctor?
- No, it is not a doctor. I do not think you quite understand. Just let me explain. I see the man and I say, "What is the date of your eye certificate?" and he tells me. If it is time for him to have another certificate I tell him. "Now the first opportunity you have go up and get your eye certificate." That means to say, that man goes up to the Board of Trade offices in Southampton, pays 1s., and applies for his eye test.

14448. To the Board of Trade?
- To the Board of Trade, and he then goes into a room and he goes through a form of examination. If that is satisfactory he has his certificate to that effect.

14449. Did anyone examine the certificates of those men to see if they had been recently tested or not?
- I could not say.

14450. Will you admit, in view of the importance of the duties which look-out men have to perform, that there should be a proper eye test?
- Oh, yes. I think it is quite a reasonable precaution, and is maintained in the White Star, and I may say only the White Star.

14451. Had you in the White Star any system of drilling and training seamen for manning lifeboats?
- Oh, yes.

14452. Did you train them on the "Titanic"?
- No, except in Belfast. We put some boats in the water there. I think that was done by the builders though.

14453. So far as the Officers were concerned there was no testing of the men in lifeboat practice?
- Oh, yes, in Southampton as well we put boats in the water and the men were put in.

14454. How many?
- Probably 8 and a quartermaster in each boat.

14455. How many boats?
- Two boats.

14456. Do not you think it would be a proper thing to have all the boats lowered before the commencement of a voyage and to give the men who would ultimately be the crews of those boats some practice in the manning and navigation of them?
- I am afraid that is hardly practicable. You can send a seaman to any boat; if he is a sailor he is perfectly at home in a boat or wherever he is sent. But you see with regard to firemen it seems hardly practicable to have all the firemen up on deck at that particular time, and the stewards.

14457. If the capacity of a fireman for handling a lifeboat is of any account it is necessary to give him some training, is it not?
- Oh, yes.

14458. Can you suggest any other way for giving this training than giving it at the port before the commencement of a voyage, or at its conclusion?
- Yes, either before the commencement or after the conclusion of a voyage.

14459. So you agree that would be a desirable thing to do apart from the question of convenience?
- Anything that would tend to the safety of a ship would be desirable.

14460. You agree with that, I take it?
- Well, I do not altogether agree with you as a matter of fact, because, as events proved, it was not necessary to have the firemen there.

14461. In order to ensure the efficiency of the crews for the manning of lifeboats, do you agree it would be desirable to give them practice in the manning of the boats?
- If a man is to be made proficient in the working of a lifeboat naturally he must have practice.

14462. I suggest the suitable time is in port either before the commencement or at the termination of the trip?
- That can be done in any boat; not necessarily in the ship's boats. You could have a system of training of firemen. They might be trained on shore to be accustomed to boats. The lowering of a boat, of course, is a different matter.

14463. And similarly for stewards?
- Yes.

14464. Do you think it would be desirable to give certificates for proficiency?
- I am afraid that is hardly for me to answer. It is rather a big question.

14465. I quite realise that. Now, as to the provisioning of lifeboats we have heard a good deal of that, and I want to ask you is it the usual practice to put into lifeboats at the commencement of the voyage the equipment prescribed by the Board of Trade?
- The Board of Trade takes particular care that you have got the equipment.

14466. Are those articles of equipment put into the boat before the commencement of the voyage?
- I may say they are there all the time.

14467. They are in the boat all the time?
- Yes, that is it, they are kept in the boats.

14468. In the lifeboats?
- Yes.

14469. That is, a compass is kept in the lifeboats?
- No, I do not think the equipment calls for a compass being actually in the boats.

14470. A lantern; is that part of the equipment?
- That is part of the equipment.

14471. Is that put in the boats?
- I do not think it is necessary for that to be kept in the boats.

14472. Tell me, what is your experience. Is it usual for these things to be put into each boat before the commencement of a voyage. I am not talking about what happened on the "Titanic"?
- No, it is not.

14473. It is not the usual thing?
- No. I am speaking of the lamp and the compass.

14474. Even taking the present Board of Trade regulations - whether they are sufficient or not, I am not going to make any suggestions to you - I take it that you must have an efficient compass and a lantern trimmed in four of the boats on a ship like the "Titanic"?
- I think it is four.

14475. With regard to those four is it not the case that the compass and the lamp as well as the other accessories are put in and kept in the boats from the beginning of the voyage?
- Not the compasses; I do not think it applies to the compasses. The compass is rather a delicate thing, and also the lamp. It will not keep indefinitely, it is better to keep it in a dry place so that when you do want it there is no trouble about lighting it.

14476. Do you of your own knowledge know where the compasses for the lifeboats on the "Titanic" were kept during this voyage?
- Of my own knowledge I know there was a locker fitted up for them; I think it was on the afterend of the boat deck; somewhere handy any way, a shelf put in where all the compasses would be right handy to the boats.

14477. Do you know whether there was any compass in any boat?
- No, I do not believe there was a compass in any boat.

14478. Do you know whether there was a compass put into the boats after the collision and before the boats were lowered?
- No, I do not think there was.

14479. How do you explain that so few of the boats, as they were lowered, had lanterns?
- I do not think I have conveyed the idea that so few had lamp. It will not keep indefinitely, it is better to -

14480. Had any of the boats that you assisted in lowering? I take it you assisted in lowering four - 4, 6, 8 and the collapsible - had any of those lanterns?
- Well, I did not look for lanterns, and I cannot say; you can get that evidence as to the lamps, I may tell you, from Hemming, the lamp trimmer, who took the lamps and lighted them and went round and distributed them to the boats.

14481. In the meantime, I am trying to get it from you?
- I am afraid I cannot give you the information.

14482. At all events, none of them had a compass?
- Not to my knowledge.

14483. With regard to the glasses, you stated that a report was made at Southampton that glasses for the crow's-nest were wanting. Can you tell my Lord to whom that report was made?
- To me.

14484. What record was kept of it?
- None.

The Commissioner:
What are you speaking of now, Mr. Scanlan?

14485. (Mr. Scanlan.) Of the report from the crow's-nest that there were no glasses in the crow's-nest. (To the witness.) You said the report was made to you - by whom?
- Will you just let me explain the circumstances, and you will have it clearly then? I was in my room, and I heard a voice in the quarters speaking. I recognised it as Symons, the look-out man, so I stepped out of my door, saw him, and said, "What is it, Symons?" He said, "We have no look-out glasses in the crow's-nest." I said, "All right." I went into the Chief's room, and I repeated it to him. I said, "There are no look-out glasses for the crow's-nest." His actual reply I do not remember, but it was to the effect that he knew of it and had the matter in hand. He said that there were no glasses then for the look-out man, so I told Symons "There are no glasses for you." With that he left.

14486. Do you think you had a sufficient number of competent seamen, including Officers, for the launching of the lifeboats?
- Yes, as it proved we had.

14487. Now, can you explain this? I take it that you were over two hours assisting in the clearing and launching of four lifeboats with a number of men to assist you. The boats you assisted in clearing and lowering were four, six, eight, and the collapsible?

The Solicitor-General:
It is not four lifeboats; it is three lifeboats and a collapsible.

14488. (Mr. Scanlan.) Yes, three lifeboats and a collapsible.

The Witness:
Yes.

14489. How many men were assisting you in lowering those?
- I can hardly give you the number.

14490. Eight or ten?
- I do not remember.

The Commissioner:
I do not see how these points are of great materiality. Nothing went wrong; no misfortune can be attributed, for instance, to the fact that there was not a compass on board; no misfortune can be attributed to the fact that there may not have been a lamp on board some of them. I daresay the things ought to have been there, but the fact that they were not there does not appear to have made any difference. I daresay there are many things that ought to have been in this ship that were not there, but I would rather you would confine yourself to the absence of things that were material.

Mr. Scanlan:
What has occurred to me if I may respectfully mention it to your Lordship at this stage is this, that the remit in this Inquiry to the Commissioner takes cognisance of the Rules of the Board of Trade and the provision of lifeboats, and the efficiency and sufficiency of the crew, and the evidence I am trying to elicit from this Witness is all directed to those points.

The Commissioner:
We have a great deal of evidence that there were no compasses in some of the boats; that there were no lamps. In some I think it is said there were no biscuits, and other things of that kind. I know all that, and it may be at the right time one will have to consider whether these are matters which ought to be more closely attended to than they are; but, in point of fact, in connection with this calamity they made no difference. All the people in the lifeboats got to the "Carpathia."

Mr. Scanlan:
Yes. So far as the greater number of those points are concerned, it may be that no difference resulted between compliance and noncompliance; but there is this one thing I would like to indicate to your Lordship. Surely there was one boat which was not launched at all; that is one of the collapsible boats?

The Commissioner:
Yes, there was. I do not know whether these Rules that I see here apply to the collapsible boats.

Mr. Scanlan:
They do, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Do these Rules as to water apply to the collapsible boats. I do not know where you would put a cask of water in a collapsible boat. Where would you put it?

Mr. Scanlan:
I have a drawing of the Engelhardt collapsible boat.

The Commissioner:
And does it show a cask of water?

Mr. Scanlan:
Yes, My Lord. If your Lordship will look at Rule 5, page 15.

The Commissioner:
I have it, yes.

Mr. Scanlan:
Sub-section (d.) of the General Rules says: "Equipments for collapsible or other boats and for life rafts."

The Commissioner:
"A vessel to be kept filled with fresh water shall be provided for each boat." Does that mean it is to be wrapped up in the collapsible boat somewhere, or does it mean there is to be a vessel, as it is called, handy. I thought you had a picture of a collapsible; if so, I should like to see where the vessel was?

Mr. Scanlan:
I do not think it shows specially the place, My Lord; it shows those boats.

The Commissioner:
I do not think at present you need spend very much time on this.

Mr. Scanlan:
I agree, My Lord.

14491. (The Commissioner.) There are two or three matters about the boats I should like to ask a question on. (To the witness.) I want to know whether you knew that those boats were not intended to be lowered full of people. Did you know that?
- We have no instructions to that effect, My Lord, but I knew that it was not practicable to lower them full of people.

14492. Had you any reason to suppose that they were weaker than they should have been?
- No. I have not had much experience with these Engelhardt collapsible boats.

14493. I am not talking about collapsible boats merely, but the lifeboats?
- I should not think they were capable of being lowered full of people. They may be. I have never seen them full of people, but if they are only supposed to carry 65 people afloat, it hardly seems feasible that they would carry 65 people when suspended at each end. It does not seem seamanlike to fill a boat chock full of people when it is only suspended at each end. It is to guard principally against accidents in lowering. That must be taken into consideration a very great deal - the fact that you have to lower a boat from a great height and get her safely into the water. It is of more importance to get the boat into the water than it is to actually fill her at the boat deck, because it is no use filling her if you are going to lose those people before you get her down; it is far better to save a few and safely.

14494. (Mr. Scanlan.) Do you think you could have filled the boat still more in the water?
- Undoubtedly.

14495. If your organisation had been complete?
- I do not-see the organisation would have prevented the ship sinking.

14496. I know it would not?
- It was that that prevented us putting the people in.

14497. A better organisation might have allowed you to instruct the men who were in the boats to come alongside so that you could fill up with passengers from the gangway if you could have done it.

The Commissioner:
What occurs to me about that Mr. Scanlan is this, that the order was, and I suppose quite a proper order, that women and children were to go first. Now it appears to me that you might have great difficulty indeed in putting the women and children down a rope ladder hanging from these gangway doors. That might be a very difficult thing to do.

Mr. Scanlan:
In the hope that some improvement might result from this Inquiry, I have been instructed to bring those suggestions up.

The Commissioner:
You are quite right; in fact, I am much indebted to you for what you are doing.

14498. (Mr. Scanlan.) Thank you, My Lord. (To the witness.) I suggest to you that it was a long time, the two hours and ten minutes, I think that is the time you were engaged in lowing Nos. 4, 6 and 8, and the collapsible boat - it was a long time, I suggest to take for the lowering of that number of boats?
- No, I do not think half-an-hour can be considered a very great length of time. Of course, you will understand that the times I have given you are very approximate. And if you take half-an-hour to uncover a boat and get the falls out and of absolute necessity get them coiled down clear, then get your strong backs out, then get your boat hove out, pass the mast and sails as I did out of some of the boats in order to get more people in, and then lowering these boats carefully down to the water, when you were conducting that operation practically on board the ship you would find that would occupy a good part of half-an-hour - put it at twenty minutes, say - to do it carefully.

14499. I suggest to you that if you had had better equipment you might have got them down simultaneously - better equipment and more men?
- As far as I understand, we had the best equipment of any vessel afloat. I do not know of any better equipment.

14500. Some question arises as to the number of your lifeboats. It took all of your Officers and efficient seamen the whole time from the time that you recognised the vessel was in imminent danger until she sank to lower the number of boats you had, and even then you were left with one boat still on deck, which you had not been able to bring in use?
- Yes.

14501. If you had had a sufficient number of lifeboats to have taken away every soul on board, I suggest you would need a much greater number of efficient and competent seamen and Officers?
- Well, if you are including among the seamen firemen - you must always remember you have the firemen to call on - you have a great number of crew to call on to put the boats out.

14502. What I suggest to you is that with all the crew you had, and all the men you had, all the seamen, and all the Officers, it took you all this time to lower your 19 boats?
- Yes.

14503. If you had instead of 20, 40, or 50 to lower, I suggest you would have needed a larger number of Officers and efficient seamen?
- We should have had to have had more men working at the boats.

The Commissioner:
I should think that is obvious?
- Very obvious.

14504. If you have more boats to work you require more men to work them; but I should like you to tell us this if you can: How is the proper number of a crew for a vessel ascertained; is it according to the tonnage of the vessel, or how?
- The seamen are you speaking of?

14505. The crew generally; the whole crew.
- I am afraid I cannot give you the necessary information.

The Commissioner:
Can anyone answer me that. Do you know, Mr. Laing, if there is any Rules by which it is ascertained how many of a crew a particular ship ought to take?

Mr. Laing:
My Lord, there is a manning scale issued by the Board of Trade, I understand. I have the Rules here. It is published in a little book which has on the back of it, "Memorandum on Part II. of the shipping Act" - "Manning Ships." The scale says this: - "As regards steamships, the following scale has been prepared on the basis of the minimum cubic contents of boats and rafts which are required to be carried by such vessel under the provisions of the Rules relating to life-saving appliances," and then it gives the scale. "In the case of vessels," etc. (Reading to the words.) "3,900 cubic feet of boat capacity." Then it goes on and deals with engineers and firemen. It seems a little complicated. Perhaps I had better hand the book up, that your Lordship may look at it.

Mr. Scanlan:
May I direct your Lordship's attention to the agreement?

The Commissioner:
Your suggestion is that a great many more seamen and firemen ought to have been employed?

Mr. Scanlan:
No, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Is it not?

Mr. Scanlan:
Well, I do not know that I would say that for the number of lifeboats they had.

The Commissioner:
No, no; but in order to save the people on board this ship, there ought to have been a great many more lifeboats, which is possibly true, and there ought to have been a great many more men belonging to the seamen and Firemen's Union on board. That is what you are driving at?

Mr. Scanlan:
I hope I will not be thought unfaithful to my clients if I say I shall be satisfied with more members of the British Seafarers Union.

Mr. Clement Edwards:
That would not quite satisfy me, My Lord. That there should have been a sufficient to protect other interests would not quite satisfy me.

Mr. Scanlan:
I have made an abstract from those somewhat voluminous articles in which the ratings and engagements of the different members of the crew are set out, and I find that the deck department, which includes the able seamen, consists of 66, and this includes the master and Officers, surgeons, Carpenters, and all kinds of seamen, as well as mess stewards. The number of the deck department is 66; the number of the stewards' department, stewards and pursers, is 501, and the engine room department is 327. I think they carried quite a sufficient number of stewards, My Lord.

The Commissioner:
Well, somebody may think they do not.

Mr. Scanlan:
The men who would be useful, at all events, for launching and lowering boats, I take it, would be found primarily in the deck department, and would include, of course, the Officers and the qualified seamen.

The Commissioner:
As far as I can ascertain there are no Rules laid down by the Board of Trade by which you can determine how many of a crew a ship of a particular size is to carry.

Mr. Scanlan:
I think from those articles the ship could have been cleared.

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