British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 13

Testimony of Joseph G. Boxhall

Examined by Mr. RAYMOND ASQUITH.

15305. Were you the fourth Officer of the "Titanic" at the time of this accident?
- I was.

15306. What certificate do you hold?
- Extra Master.

15307. You have held that, I think, for about 4 or 5 years?
- September, 1907.

15308. Have you been employed for five years by the White Star Company?
- Five years next November.

15309. And has most of your experience been in the Atlantic?
- Most of it, yes.

15310. On Sunday the 14th April, were you on watch from 4 to 6 in the evening?
- I was.

15311. Who else was on the bridge at that time?
- Mr. Wilde, the Chief Officer, and Mr. Moody, the sixth Officer.

15312. Can you say what the course of the ship was when you came on watch at 4 o'clock?
- No; I have forgotten the course.

15313. The course would be marked, I suppose, on a course board?
- Oh, yes, the course was there.

15314. You cannot say what it was?
- No, I cannot remember.

15315. Between 4 and 6, while you were on watch do you remember the course being altered?
- The course was altered at 5.50.

15316. Do you remember what it was altered to?
- I do not remember the compass course, but I remember the true course was S. 86 W.

15317. I think you worked that out yourself?
- Yes, I had stellar observations afterwards.

15318. At the time when you came on watch at 4 o'clock had you heard anything about ice being in the neighbourhood?
- Yes, I had seen reports of ice and put them on the chart.

15319. Reports which had been received earlier on the same day, do you mean?
- No, I cannot say from my own recollection that they were received on Sunday, but subsequently I have heard that some of them, or one of them that I put on the chart, was received on the Sunday, and that I put it on between 4 and 6. All the ice marked on the Captain's chart I put down myself.

15320. Do you remember what these messages indicated with regard to ice?
- Yes, it indicated the region of the ice.

15321. Do you remember what region it indicated; did it convey to your mind that you at 4 o'clock were somewhere in the neighbourhood of ice or not?
- It conveyed to my mind that the ship would shortly be in the region of the ice.

15322. Did you make up your mind about what time that would happen?
- No, I did not.

15323. Was the position of the ice marked upon the chart when you came up at 4 o'clock, I mean the position in which it might be expected?
- Some of the positions were on the chart that I had put on previously.

15324. (The Commissioner.) But I do not know when it was that you marked the chart?
- I do not remember myself, My Lord.

15325. But it was on the Sunday?
- Well, subsequently I have heard it was on the Sunday, between 4 and 6, that I put some of the positions on.

The Solicitor-General:
I fancy Mr. Boxhall has not been very well. I know your Lordship will allow him to sit down.

15326. (The Commissioner.) Certainly, sit down, if you wish?
- I am quite right, My Lord, thank you.

15327. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) You cannot recollect when it was you marked the position of the ice on the chart?
- No. Some of the positions were from the "La Touraine." Well, that must have been a couple of days previously, I think.

15328. (The Commissioner.) And had they reference to ice?
- Yes, ice and derelicts.

15329. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) I understand your recollection is that during the period between 4 and 6 you did not make any additional mark on the chart?
- To my recollection, I did not, but others say that I did.

15330. Do you remember whether, when you went off watch at 6 you noticed any marks on the chart with regard to ice which you had not noticed before?
- No, I cannot say I noticed any.

15331. Then you went off watch at 6 o'clock, and came on again, I think, at 8 o'clock the same evening?
- Yes.

15332. When you came up at 8 o'clock, was Mr. Lightoller on the bridge in charge?
- Mr. Lightoller was there.

15333. Did you look at the chart then. Do you remember whether there was anything new about the ice marked on the chart at 8 o'clock?
- I did not look at the chart when I came on at 8 o'clock.

15334. Your watch was from 8 to 12, was it not?
- Yes.

15335. Do you remember during that period whether any messages were received with regard to ice, upon the bridge?
- No, I do not recollect any.

15336. You have no recollection of a message from the "Californian" or the "Antillian" being brought to the bridge?
- No.

15337. Were you on the bridge, looking out, most of that time, or were you somewhere else making calculations?
- I was inside the chart room working up stellar observations from 8 o'clock.

15338. We have heard it was a fine, clear cold night. Is that your recollection?
- Yes, it was perfectly clear.

15339. Did you see anything in the nature of haze?
- No, none whatever.

15340. Neither at 8 o'clock nor at any time during the night?
- Whenever I was on the deck or at the compass I never saw any haze whatever.

15341. And did you think, when you came up at 8 that the ship was nearing the neighbourhood of ice?
- It did not enter my mind.

15342. Was the first intimation that there was ice about the striking of the three bells, so far as you were concerned?
- No, when we struck the berg; that was the first.

15343. Do you mean you felt the shock before you heard the bells?
- No, I heard the bells first.

15344. Where were you at that time?
- Just coming out of the Officers quarters.

15345. How soon after you heard the bells did you feel the shock?
- Only a moment or two after that.

15346. Did you hear an order given by the first Officer?
- I heard the first Officer give the order, "Hard-a-starboard," and I heard the engine room telegraph bells ringing.

15347. Was that before you felt the shock, or afterwards?
- Just a moment before.

15348. (The Commissioner.) Let us be clear about that. The order, "Hard-a-starboard," came between the sound of the bells and the collision?
- The impact, yes.

15349. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) Did you go on to the bridge immediately after the impact?
- I was almost on the bridge when she struck.

15350. Did you notice what the telegraphs indicated with regard to the engines?
- "Full speed astern," both.

15351. Was that immediately after the impact?
- Yes.

15352. Did you see anything done with regard to the watertight doors?
- I saw Mr. Murdoch closing them then, pulling the lever.

15353. And did the Captain then come out on to the bridge?
- The Captain was alongside of me when I turned round.

15354. Did you hear him say something to the first Officer?
- Yes, he asked him what we had struck.

15355. What conversation took place between them?
- The first Officer said, "An iceberg, Sir. I hard-a-starboarded and reversed the engines, and I was going to hard-a-port round it but she was too close. I could not do any more. I have closed the watertight doors." The Commander asked him if he had rung the warning bell, and he said "Yes."

15356. Did the Captain and the first Officer go to the starboard side of the bridge to see if they could see the iceberg?
- Yes.

15357. Did you see it yourself?
- I was not too sure of seeing it. I had just come out of the light, and my eyes were not accustomed to the darkness.

15358. What did you do next - did you leave the deck?
- Yes, I went down forward, down into the third class accommodation, right forward on to the lowest deck of all with passenger accommodation, and walked along these looking for damage.

15359. That would be f deck, would it not?
- Yes, F deck. I walked along there for a little distance just about where I thought she had struck.

15360. Did you find any signs of damage?
- No, I did not.

The Commissioner:
What deck is it?

Mr. Raymond Asquith:
F deck, he says.

15361. (The Commissioner.) You say it is F deck?

The Witness:
I am not quite sure, My Lord, but it was the lowest deck I could get to without going into the cargo space.

Mr. Raymond Asquith:
The lowest deck on which there is passenger accommodation, he said.

The Commissioner:
Is not that G?

Mr. Raymond Asquith:
Yes, My Lord, I think it must be G.

The Commissioner:
It is pointed out that he could not get along G deck, because there is no door in the bulkhead, and therefore it cannot have been G deck.

15362. (Mr. Raymond asquith - To the witness.) How did you get down to the lowest of these decks which you went to?
- Through a staircase under the port side of the forecastle head which takes me down into D deck, and then walked along aft along D deck to just underneath the bridge, and down the staircase there on the port side, and then I am down on E deck near e deck doors, the working alleyway; and then you cross over to the starboard side of E deck and go down another accommodation staircase on to F deck. I am not sure whether I went lower. Anyhow, I went as low as I could possibly get.

15363. (The Commissioner - To the witness.) Just come round here?
- Yes, My Lord. (The witness explained plan to the Commissioner.)

The Commissioner:
He appears to have got to F deck. His first statement was right.

15364. (Mr. Raymond asquith - To the witness.) Did you then go up again through the other decks as far as C deck?
- I came up the same way as I went down.

15365. Without noticing any damage?
- I did not see any damage whatever.

15366. When you got to C deck did you see some ice there on the deck?
- Yes, I took a piece of ice out of a man's hand, a small piece about as large as a small basin, I suppose; very small, anyhow; about that size (Describing.) He was going down again to the passenger accommodation, and I took it from him and walked across the deck to see where he got it. I found just a little ice in the well deck covering a space of about three or four feet from the bulwarks right along the well deck, small stuff.

15367. Did you then go and report to the Captain?
- I went on to the bridge and reported to the Captain and First Officer that I had seen no damage whatever.

15368. Did the Captain then tell you to find the carpenter?
- Yes, I think we stayed on the bridge just for a moment or two, probably a couple of minutes, and then he told me to find the carpenter and tell him to sound the ship forward.

15369. Did you find the carpenter?
- I met the carpenter. I think it would be on the ladder leading from the bridge down to A deck, and he wanted to know where the Captain was. I told him he was on the bridge.

15370. Did the carpenter tell you anything about there being water?
- Yes, he did; he said the ship was making water fast, and he passed it on to the bridge.

15371. What did you do?
- I continued with the intention of finding out where the water was coming in, and I met one of the mail clerks, a man of the name of Smith.

15372. Did he say something?
- He also asked for the Captain, and said the mail hold was filling. I told him where he could find the Captain and I went down to the mail room. I went down the same way as I did when I visited the third class accommodation previously. I went down as far as E deck and went to the starboard alleyway on E deck and the watertight door stopped me getting through.

15373. The watertight door on E deck was closed?
- Yes. Then I crossed over and went into the working alleyway and so into the mail room.

15374. What did you find in the mail room?
- I went down in the mail room and found the water was within a couple of feet of G deck, the deck I was standing on.

15375. The mail room is between the Orlop deck and G deck?
- Yes, that is the mail hold.

15376. Was the water rising or stationary?
- It was rising rapidly up the ladder and I could hear it rushing in.

15377. Did you go back and report that to the Captain on the bridge?
- I stayed there just for a minute or two and had a look. I saw mail-bags floating around on deck. I saw it was no use trying to get them out so I went back again to the bridge. I met the second Steward, Mr. Dodd, on my way to the bridge - as a matter of fact in the saloon companion way - and he asked me about sending men down below for those mails. I said "You had better wait till I go to the bridge and find what we can do." I went to the bridge and reported to the Captain.

15378. We have been told that at some time you called the other Officers; both Mr. Lightoller and Mr. Pitman said you called them?
- I did. That was after I reported to the Captain about the mail room.

15379. Could you form any opinion as to how long that was after the impact?
- No, but as near as I could judge; I have tried to place the time for it, and the nearest I can get to it is approximately 20 minutes to half-an-hour.

15380. I think those are the times which are given by Mr. Pitman and Mr. Lightoller. After calling those Officers did you go on to the bridge again?
- Yes, I think I went towards the bridge, I am not sure whether it was then that I heard the order given to clear the boats or unlace the covers. I might have been on the bridge for a few minutes and then heard this order given.

15381. Had you a boat station of your own; did you know what it was?
- I did not know what it was.

15382. We have been told it is customary for the third and Fourth Officers to be assigned to the emergency boats?
- Yes, it is for emergency purposes.

15383. The third Officer was assigned to No. 1. Were you assigned to No. 2?
- For emergency purposes I was assigned to No. 1 as a matter of fact, the starboard boat.

15384. When the order was given to clear the boats what did you do; did you go to any particular boat?
- No, I went right along the line of boats and I saw the men starting, the watch on deck, our watch.

15385. Which side of the ship?
- The port side, I went along the port side, and afterwards I was down the starboard side as well but for how long I cannot remember. I was unlacing covers on the port side myself and I saw a lot of men come along - the watch I presume. They started to screw some out on the afterpart of the port side; I was just going along there and seeing all the men were well established with their work, well under way with it, and I heard someone report a light, a light ahead. I went on the bridge and had a look to see what the light was.

15386. Someone reported a light ahead?
- Yes; I do not know who reported it. There were quite a lot of men on the bridge at the time.

15387. Did you see the light?
- Yes, I saw a light.

15388. What sort of light was it?
- It was two masthead lights of a steamer. But before I saw this light I went to the chart room and worked out the ship's position.

15389. Is that the position we have been given already - 41 deg. 46 min. N., 50 deg. 14 min. W?
- That is right, but after seeing the men continuing with their work I saw all the Officers were out, and I went into the chart room to work out its position.

15390. Was it after that you saw this light?
- It was after that, yes, because I must have been to the marconi office with the position after I saw the light.

15391. You took it to the marconi office in order that it might be sent by the wireless operator?
- I submitted the position to the Captain first, and he told me to take it to the marconi room.

15392. And then you saw this light which you say looked like a masthead light?
- Yes, it was two masthead lights of a steamer.

15393. Could you see it distinctly with the naked eye?
- No, I could see the light with the naked eye, but I could not define what it was, but by the aid of a pair of glasses I found it was the two masthead lights of a vessel, probably about half a point on the port bow, and in the position she would be showing her red if it were visible, but she was too far off then.

15394. Could you see how far off she was?
- No, I could not see, but I had sent in the meantime for some rockets, and told the Captain I had sent for some rockets, and told him I would send them off, and told him when I saw this light. He said, "Yes, carry on with it." I was sending rockets off and watching this steamer. Between the time of sending the rockets off and watching the steamer approach us I was making myself generally useful round the port side of the deck.

15395. How many rockets did you send up about?
- I could not say, between half a dozen and a dozen, I should say, as near as I could tell.

15396. What sort of rockets were they?
- The socket distress signal.

15397. Can you describe what the effect of those rockets is in the sky; what do they do?
- You see a luminous tail behind them and then they explode in the air and burst into stars.

15398. Did you send them up at intervals one at a time?
- One at a time, yes.

15399. At about what kind of intervals?
- Well, probably five minutes; I did not take any times.

15400. Did you watch the lights of this steamer while you were sending the rockets up?
- Yes.

15401. Did they seem to be stationary?
- I was paying most of my attention to this steamer then, and she was approaching us; and then I saw her sidelights. I saw her green light and the red. She was end-on to us. Later I saw her red light. This is all with the aid of a pair of glasses up to now. Afterwards I saw the ship's red light with my naked eye, and the two masthead lights. The only description of the ship that I could give is that she was, or I judged her to be, a four-masted steamer.

15402. Why did you judge that?
- By the position of her masthead lights; they were close together.

15403. Did the ship make any sort of answer, as far as you could see, to your rockets?
- I did not see it. Some people say she did, and others say she did not. There were a lot of men on the bridge. I had a Quartermaster with me, and the Captain was standing by, at different times, watching this steamer.

15404. Do you mean you heard someone say she was answering your signals?
- Yes, I did, and then she got close enough, and I Morsed to her - used our Morse lamp.

15405. You began Morsing to her?
- Yes.

15406. When people said to you that your signals were being answered, did they say how they were being answered?
- I think I heard somebody say that she showed a light.

15407. Do you mean that she would be using a Morse lamp?
- Quite probably.

15408. Then you thought she was near enough to Morse her from the "Titanic"?
- Yes, I do think so; I think so yet.

15409. (The Commissioner.) What distance did you suppose her to be away?
- I judged her to be between 5 and 6 miles when I Morsed to her, and then she turned round - she was turning very, very slowly - until at last I only saw her stern light, and that was just before I went away in the boat.

15410. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) Did she make any sort of answer to your Morse signals?
- I did not see any answer whatever.

15411. Did anyone else, so far as you know, see an answer?
- Some people say they saw lights, but I did not.

15412. Did they think they saw them Morsing in answer to your Morse signals; did anyone say that?
- They did not say she morsed, but they said she showed a light. Then I got the Quartermaster who was with me to call her up with our lamps, so that I could use the glasses to see if I could see signs of any answer; but I could not see any.

15413. You could not see any with the glasses?
- No; and Captain Smith also looked, and he could not see any answer.

15414. He also looked at her through the glasses?
- Yes.

15415. After a time you saw what you took to be the stern light of a ship?
- It was the stern light of the ship.

15416. Did you infer from that that the ship was turned round, and was going in the opposite direction?
- Yes.

15417. When you first saw her, I understand you to say she was approaching you?
- She was approaching us, yes.

15418. For about how long did you signal before it seemed to you that she turned round?
- I cannot say; I cannot judge any of the times at all.

15419. Do you know at all whether the "Titanic" was swinging at this time?
- No, I do not see how it was possible for the "Titanic" to be swinging after the engines were stopped. I forget when it was I noticed the engines were stopped, but I did notice it; and there was absolutely nothing to cause the "Titanic" to swing.

15420. After sending up those signals for some time did you turn your attention to the boats?
- I was sending the rockets up right to the very last minute when I was sent away in the boat.

15421. When you say right up to the last minute, can you give me any idea of what you mean by that?
- Yes, right up to the time I was sent away in the boat.

15422. How long before the vessel sank were you sent away in the boat?
- I cannot give the time, but I have approximated it nearly half-an-hour, as near as I could tell.

15423. What boat was it you were sent away in?
- In the emergency boat No. 2.

The Commissioner:
It would be about a quarter to 2.

15424. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) Yes, My Lord. (To the witness.) Who was superintending the filling of that boat?
- Mr. Wilde, or, I presume, Mr. Wilde was superintending the filling. The order was given to lower away when I was told to go in it and the boat was full; they had started the tackles when I got in.

15425. (The Commissioner.) What number was it?
- Port No. 2.

15426. Did you notice what other boats there were on the port side at the time?
- There was only one boat hanging there in the davits, No. 4.

15427. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) That was the boat next to yours?
- Yes.

15428. Can you say how many people were in that boat No. 2?
- I endeavoured to count them, but I did not succeed very well. I judge between 25 and 30 were in her.

15429. Were they mostly women, or were they mixed men and women?
- The majority were women. I know there were 3 crew, 1 male passenger, and myself.

15430. And you think the rest were women?
- They were. There were several children in the boat.

We have had evidence about this boat from Johnson, the steward, at page 91, and his evidence exactly corresponds with this. It is from Question 3468 to about Question 3478. He says he thinks there were 23 or 25 people in the boat, and he afterwards says, "There was one male passenger and I think four members of the crew."

The Commissioner:
This was an emergency boat.

15431. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) Yes, My Lord. (To the witness.) Did you notice when the people were being put in that boat No. 2 whether there were many passengers on deck at the time, round about?
- I did not notice the passengers being put into the boat. I was not taking any notice of the boat at all, until I was sent to her.

15432. Did you notice whether there were passengers on the deck at the time the boat was lowered?
- Yes, there were passengers round the deck, but I noticed as I was being lowered that they were filling No. 4 boat.

15433. Were there any women about?
- I did not see any women.

15434. I do not know whether you can say with regard to the starboard boats at all whether there were any starboard boats on the "Titanic" at this time, or whether they had all gone?
- No, I cannot say. I know the starboard emergency boat had gone some time, and that they were working on the collapsible boats when I went, because I fired the distress signals from the socket in the rail just close to the bows of the emergency boat on the starboard side. Every time I fired a signal I had to clear everybody away from the vicinity of this socket, and then I remember the last one or two distress signals I sent off the boat had gone, and they were then working on the collapsible boat which was on the deck.

15435. Had you any lamp in your boat No. 2?
- Yes.

15436. Had you put that in yourself or did you find it there?
- There is always a lamp in the emergency boats.

15437. Lamps are always kept there?
- They are lighted every night at 6 o'clock.

15438. Do you mean they are not kept in the other boats usually?
- They were not kept in the other boats, no.

15439. Did you see any put in the other boats?
- Yes.

15440. Was that by your orders?
- Well, it was through my speaking to the Chief Officer about it. I mentioned to him that there were no lamps. That was earlier on, when they started to clear the boats. I mentioned to him the fact that there were no lamps in any of the boats, or compasses, and he told me to get hold of the lamp trimmer.

15441. (The Commissioner.) When did you notice this?
- Oh, shortly after the orders were given to clear the boats.

15442. You said "in any of the boats." Did you examine all the boats?
- Did I examine the boats after the accident?

15443. Yes?
- No, I did not.

15444. Then you cannot speak from your knowledge?
- I examined the boats on purpose. The lamps were in the lamp-room then.

15445. The lamps are in the lamp-room; the compasses are apparently kept in some locker; that is right, is it?
- Yes.

15446. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) Did you have the lamps taken up?
- Yes. The Chief Officer told me to find the lamp trimmer. I did find him after a little trouble. I really forget where I found him. He was on the boat deck working amongst the men. I told him to take a couple of men down with him and fetch the lamps, and he was afterwards seen to bring the lamps along the deck and put them in the boats.

15447. Do you know how many lamps were put into how many boats?
- No, I do not know.

15448. In your boat did you also put in some green lights?
- Yes, there were some green lights lying in the wheelhouse. I told the Quartermaster or someone who was around there to put them in the boat.

15449. Was any order given to you when you were lowered with regard to what you should do when you got into the water?
- No, I do not remember any.

15450. What did you do when you got into the water?
- I pulled a little way from the ship, probably 100 feet away from the ship, and remained there for a while.

15451. How long did you remain there; did you remain there until the ship sank?
- Oh, no, I did not. I did not remain there very long. I got the crew squared up and the oars out properly and the boat squared when I heard somebody singing out from the ship, I do not know who it was, with a megaphone, for some of the boats to come back again, and to the best of my recollection they said "Come round the starboard side," so I pulled round the starboard side to the stern and had a little difficulty in getting round there.

15452. Why was that, because you had not enough people to row?
- I had not enough people; my boat was rather deep. I had only one man who seemed to understand boat orders. I was pulling the stroke oar and trying to steer the boat at the same time myself.

15453. There was only one seaman in your boat?
- That is all.

15454. Do you know whether there was a man named Osman?
- Yes, Osman or Osram, or something like that. [Frank Osman.]

15455. Who else rowed besides you and the seaman? You were rowing and steering at the same time?
- Everybody was rowing with the exception of a male passenger. He did not seem to do much.

15456. You have told us there were two stewards or a steward and a sculleryman. They were both rowing?
- Oh, yes, they were rowing.

15457. With some difficulty you rowed round to the starboard side of the ship?
- Yes, round the stern.

15458. What did you do when you got round to the starboard side?
- Well, I stayed round on the starboard side, probably about 200 feet away from the ship. I found there was a little suction and I decided that it was very unwise to have gone back to the ship so I pulled away.

15459. A little suction?
- Yes, there was a little suction.

15460. Why was there suction at this time?
- The ship settling down badly, I suppose.

15461. Was it settling down rapidly. Could you see it settling down at this time?
- Yes, I could see her settling down; I was watching the lines of lights.

15462. (The Commissioner.) She was settling down by the head?
- She was settling down by the head, My Lord.

15463. Where were you at this time?
- Just a little, probably 200 feet, on the starboard beam of the ship, or probably a little abaft the starboard beam of the ship.

15464. Would there be any suction there?
- Well, I felt it; I saw it by the work we had pulling it round the ship's stern; seeing she was only a small boat, I judged there was quite a lot of suction.

15465. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) Did you remain in that position, about 200 feet away from the ship, until she sank?
- No, I did not; I turned the boat away and pulled in a North-Easterly direction.

15466. You mean, you pulled further away from the ship?
- Yes.

15467. How far were you from the ship when she did sink?
- Approximately, half-a-mile.

15468. That means that you could not see what happened?
- No, I could not.

15469. After she sank, did you hear cries?
- Yes, I heard cries. I did not know when the lights went out that the ship had sunk. I saw the lights go out, but I did not know whether she had sunk or not, and then I heard the cries. I was showing green lights in the boat then, to try and get the other boats together, trying to keep us all together.

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