British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 1

TESTIMONY OF WILLIAM THOMAS TURNER, Cont.

Examined by Mr. COTTER.

124. Is it a fact that you had boat drill in Liverpool before the ship left Liverpool?
- Yes.

125. Is it the custom of the Cunard Company to give each member of the crew a boat badge with the number of his boat?
- Yes.

126. Was that done on the last voyage?
- It was.

127. Was the crew of the "Lusitania" proficient in handling boats, in your estimation?
- No, they were not.

128. Were the stewards proficient in handling boats?
- Just about the same as they all are now, as ships' crews go now.

129. Then your contention is that they are incompetent to handle boats?
- They are competent enough - they want practice. They do not get practice enough, and they do not get the experience.

130. You say you had boat drill with one boat every day?
- Yes.

131. Was that with the object of giving the crew some experience?
- That is right.

132. How many boats did you carry on the "Lusitania"?
- 48.

133. How were they fixed on the decks?
- They were swung in davits and landed on the deck on skids.

134. What kind of davits did you have?
- Iron davits.

135. But what class-You know there are several classes of davits?
- We had the Whelin [sic] davits and the ordinary davits.

136. Where were the Whelin [sic] davits situated on board?
- Both sides, starboard and port, about amidships.

137. Had you any Whelin [sic] davits aft-on the after deck?
- I forget now whether there were or not.

138. How many Whelin [sic] davits had you on the port side?
- I do not know whether there were any or not of that pattern.

139. You know the class of davit I mean?
- Yes, I know the class of davit you mean.

140. When you gave the order to lower the boats to the rail, were the crew then attending to the various boats?
- Yes, they were.

141. Did you notice if they had any difficulty?
- Lots of difficulty, owing to the list.

142. The difficulty was owing to the list?
- Yes.

143. The boats swung in-board?
- No; they leaned against the ship's side; some swung in-board.

144. The result was that there would be difficulty in loading them with people and getting them to the water's edge?
- Quite right.

145. Did you see any accident to any of the boats?
- Yes, they dropped one down the after-end.

146. Did you see any boat actually lowered, with passengers in it, into the water on the port side?
- Yes.

147. Coming to the starboard boats, were they swung out?
- They were.

148. When she took the list, did they swing further out?
- Naturally.

149. They were not lashed to the side?
- No.

150. Did you notice whether the passengers had any difficulty in getting into them?
- No, I did not notice that.

151. They would have difficulty, would they not?
- No doubt they would have a slight difficulty.

152. When did you issue any orders with regard to bulkhead doors?
- I issued those earlier in the morning.

153. I mean after the ship was struck?
- All the bulkhead doors were closed.

154. Did you order them to be closed?
- Yes.

155. Do you know whether they were closed as a matter of fact?
- It was reported to me that they were.

156. By whom were they closed?
- By those connected with each department, the stewards' department.

157. Did you notice whether any of the stewards were giving lifebelts out to the passengers?
- I believe so.

158. What class of lifebelts did you carry?
- The body lifebelts and the cork lifebelts.

159. Where were they situated as regards the first, second, and third class?
- In racks.

160. Did you have any buoy lifebelts for the third class?
- Yes.

161. As well as the first class?
- Yes.

162. Would the passengers know where to get them?
- Yes, and there were notices in the rooms where to get them, and now to put them on.

163. Were the crew assisting to put the lifebelts on the passengers?
- I understand they were.

164. And your orders were carried out as far as it was possible to carry them out?
- Yes.

165. Owing to the list of the ship was it very difficult to carry them out?
- In some instances.

166. How long after she was struck did she heel over so that it was impossible to stand on the deck?
- Almost momentarily; within 10 seconds I should think.

167. In 10 seconds it was impossible to stand upright on the deck?
- Yes.

168. Then it must have been very difficult for any member of the crew to do their duty at all?
- It was.

Examined by Mr. CLEM EDWARDS.

169. At the time you were struck were you steering a perfectly straight course?
- As straight as you can steer.

170. To get the maximum speed how many of your boilers ought to be fired and linked up?
- Eighteen knots we were going.

171. Yes, but to get your maximum speed out of the "Lusitania," which you said was 24½ to 25 knots?
- Yes.

172. To get that maximum speed how many of the boilers had to be fired?
- Twenty-five.

173. At the time you were struck how many of the boilers were in fact fired?
- Nineteen.

174. Was it a matter within your discretion, or was it in consequence of orders from your owners that you bad only nineteen of your boilers fired?
- Orders of the owners.

175. So that at that time if you had thought it the right thing to keep full speed ahead you could not have attained anywhere the maximum speed of 24 to 25 knots?
- No; 21.

176. 21 knots was the maximum you could have got?
- With 19 boilers, yes.

Examined by Mr. DONALD MACMASTER.

177. On the morning of the 7th May were you aware that you were in a danger zone?
- I was.

178. And that you might possibly be subject to a torpedo attack?
- Yes.

179. Did you give any special instructions or take any special precautions with a view to observing whether submarines where in the neighbourhood on the morning of the 7th May?
- I did. I gave orders to the engineers in case I rang full speed ahead to give her extra speed.

180. Did you give orders to look out for submarines?
- The look-outs were already doubled.

181. Can you tell me about how far the vessel travelled from the time she was struck until she ultimately went down?
- Probably two to three miles.

182. Did she keep her head?
- She had headway when she was going down.

Examined by Mr. BUTLER ASPINALL.

183. You told us you hold an extra Master's Certificate?
- Yes.

184. How long have you held that certificate?
- Since 1897.

186. How long have you been in the service of the Cunard Line?
- Since April, 1883.

186. How long have you served as a Commander with them?
- Since 1903 I think; I am not sure.

187. Have you been in command of the "Aquitania”?
- I have.

188. Is that their largest vessel?
- It is.

189. In addition to commanding the "Lusitania" and the "Aquitania," have you been in command of several other large vessels of theirs?
- I have.

190. On the "Lusitania," in addition to yourself, did you have a second captain, as it were?
- Yes.

191. What was his name?
- Anderson.

192. He has unfortunately been lost, has he not?
- I am sorry to say, yes.

193. He was as it were a reserve captain, was he?
- Yes.

194. I have very little to ask you; but in consequence of information that had been received with regard to submarines, were you taking extra precautions?
- I was.

195. On the morning of Thursday, 6th May, the day before the catastrophe, were your boats swung out ready for lowering?
- Yes, at 5.30 in the morning.

196. And was everything in readiness?
- Everything was in readiness.

197. In addition to that had you given special instructions to Captain Anderson to see that all bulkhead doors were kept closed?
- I did.

198. As far as you know did he give effect to your orders?
- He reported to me that he had done so.

199. You have told us in general language that you doubled the look-out?
- Yes.

200. Where was the look-out being kept?
- Two in the crow's nest and two in the forecastle head-in the eyes of the ship.

201. In addition to that were there several officers on the bridge?
- There were two officers on the bridge and a quartermaster on either side with instructions to look out for submarines.

202. I have been asked to ask you this question: What was the draught of the "Lusitania"?
- About 33 feet 10 inches approximately.

203. You told the gentleman who sits behind me that in your view the crew of the "Lusitania" were not proficient in handling boats.

The Commissioner:
Not efficient.

204. Mr. Butler Aspinall: I want you to explain that a little. Is it your view that the modern ships, with their greasers and their stewards and their firemen, sometimes do not carry the old-fashioned sailor that you knew of in the days of your youth?
- That is the idea.

205. That is what you have in your mind?
- That is it.

206. You are an old-fashioned sailor man?
- That is right.

207. And you preferred the man of your youth?
- Yes, and I prefer him yet.

208. With regard to dealing with the boats on this occasion as you said the boats were ready to be used?
- All ready.

209. But the three big difficulties that the sailors had to deal with were the fact that the ship had got the list?
- That is right.

210. And that the ship had got headway on her which could not easily be stopped?
- That is right.

211. And that the time was short?
-Yes.

Mr. Rose-Innes:
May I ask whether the log was saved.

The Attorney-General:
No, it was not. I asked for it long ago.

212. The Commissioner: (To the witness.) I suppose everything went down with the ship?
- Yes, my Lord.

The Attorney-General:
I do not know whether it would be convenient now to finish this witness.

The Commissioner:
You must follow your own course. You know better than I do.

The Attorney-General:
I should like to finish him now, because it seems to me, having regard to the questions put, that this is the main point, and I do not want to be calling witnesses as to matters which are not material.

213. Mr. Butler Aspinall: I have been asked at this stage if I might ask the witness these two questions on behalf of a gentleman sitting at the back. (To the witness.) Is it within your knowledge that the passengers were helping as far as they could?
- It is-interfering you should say.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
I did not ask you that.

The Commissioner:
(To the witness.) That was not what you were asked to answer.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
I do not mind the answer, but they no doubt were desirous of helping although it may be they were hampering?

The Witness:
Yes.

214. I have also been asked to ask you this: Do you know of your own knowledge what part, if any, Mr. Vanderbilt was taking in the helping?
- I never saw the gentleman.

(The witness withdrew.)