British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 3

TESTIMONY OF ELIZABETH LASSETER

Examined by Mr. THOMAS PRIEST.

1933. You were a first class passenger on board the "Lusitania”?
- I was.

1934. With your son, Lieutenant Lasseter?
- Yes, with my son.

1935. You heard the first order given by the Captain as he stated, "Women and children in the boots first"?
- I did.

1936. Did you get into the boat in consequence of that first order?
- My son and another gentleman helped me into the boat.

1937. Who was the other gentleman?
- Mr. Harold Bolton.

1938. Were there any other ladies with you in the boat?
- I cannot remember if there were very many other ladies - there were some.

1939. Was the boat filled in consequence of that order?
- It was not very full; it was fairly full. I do not know how many people. I should say there were about 30 of us.

1940. Did you hear any order given after you were in the boat?
- Quite distinctly I heard the order. We were in the first boat on the port side next to the captain's bridge; I do not know what the number of the boat was.

1941. What order did you hear given?
- I heard him first give the order (he was on the bridge at the time): "All women and children into boats," and it was because of that order that we got into the boat, and directly I got into the boat I heard the order: All women and children out of boats."

1942. What happened then?
- My son got me out of the boat.

1943. And all the others as well?
- All the others got out of the boat.

1944. What happened to you then?
- I then asked my son what he thought was the best thing to do, and I also spoke to Captain Stackhouse who was standing by us, and he did not answer. My son saw she was sinking very quickly and I think we were the last to leave the ship, and he and Mr. Bolton and I clasping hands, jumped into the water.

1945. Are you quite sure it was the Captain who gave the order to get out of the boats?
- I am quite sure it was the Captain standing on the bridge who gave that order. I was the first next to the bridge when I heard it. We three were standing there together, and when we jumped, we were the only three left there.

1946. Do you know Captain Anderson by sight?
- I do not know him by sight.

1947. Did you hear any further order given by anybody?
- No. I heard no third order, and I asked my son after we had got into the boat, and when we had got out of the boat, "what shall we do?" because we were then not given any order.

1948. Is it your opinion that had you been lowered into the boat into which you got first, by the Captain's order, that lifeboat and those on board of it would have been saved?
- That I cannot say, but I should think so; I do not know if there were any other boats that were lowered on that side.

1949. Do you know, as a matter of fact, that any of the people who were in the boat which you got into in consequence of the first order were drowned?
- That I cannot say, because directly we got out of the boat -

The Commissioner:
You seem to be asking questions about which you know nothing.

Mr. Priest:
I beg your Lordship's pardon, I did not ask her any such questions.

The Commissioner:
You are asking them now, the lady does not know. You must not call witnesses here to tell me what they do not know, if so I shall he here for ever. I want them to tell me what they do know.

Examined by Mr. ROSE-INNES.

1950. Did you happen to see the boat that was launched on the port side which sank almost directly it got into the water?
- I happened to see something happen to a boat, but everything was in such confusion I cannot speak to anything I saw beyond that which I did see.

Examined by Mr. BUTLER ASPINALL.

1951. I have got here what is called a proof amongst lawyers, a statement made by Mr. Frederick Lasseter. Is he your son?
- Yes.

1952. The Commissioner: What happened to him?
- He was with me all the time, and we jumped together with Mr. Harold Bolton.

1953. Mr. Butler Aspinall: Is he here?
- He is in York with his regiment, but he is willing to come.

1954. We have a statement from him here?
- Yes, and he is willing to come if necessary.

1955. You were with him during those trying times?
- I was not with him when we were struck. but I joined him about seven minutes afterwards where we had arranged to meet in case we were torpedoed, and we met there.

1956. Was the order which came from the bridge this: "Lower no boats"?
- The first order I heard was "All women and children into boats," and the second order I heard which was about five minutes afterwards and after I had got into the boat was "All women and children out of the boats," get out of the boats, and I heard that three or four times.

1957. Did you hear the order "Lower no boats"?
- I did not hear that order.

1958. Was your son standing by you at the time?
- We were all three standing on the deck more or less together.

1959. The Commissioner: Have you read your son's proof?
- No, I have not. I was very ill after the wreck and I have not seen or spoken to my son at all about it. I have been too ill to do so.

1960. Mr. Butler Aspinall: There is no suggestion that you are not doing your very best to give us your recollection of what happened, but may I read to you what your son had told us?
- I should like you to read it.

1961. I will not read the early part because it is immaterial, but he goes on thus: "The order was given from the bridge to lower the boats to the level of the boat deck. This was done with some difficulty with the boat opposite us as it had jammed owing to the list. The boat's crew, however, managed their work though no officer was present to take charge. I gave my lifebelt to a woman, and returned to the cabin for another. I came back, passing through the captain's cabin, where I saw the staff captain, who told me to tell everyone to lower no boats."

The Commissioner:
That is Captain Anderson.

1962. Mr. Butler Aspinall: Yes. "The order to lower no boat was also given from the bridge;" (To the Witness.) Apparently you did not hear that?
- I did not.

1963. You missed that if it was given?
- Yes.

1964. Then it goes on thus: "Finding the ship sinking by the bow I jumped in with my mother, and after three hours we were picked up by the ship's boat of the "Katrina," a Greek cargo steamer; we owed our lives to clinging to a square box about 4 feet 6 inches as there was no room in the half sinking lifeboats near us. A great many people, especially ladies, on being reassured from the bridge went into the lounge on the boat deck just before the ship sank. I have nothing but the highest praise for the crew, especially the stewards. My mother, who was in the dining saloon at the time of the accident, would have been unable to get upstairs had it not been for the help she and other passengers received from the dining room stewards and cabin room stewardess. I heard but one explosion. The ship was still making perceptible headway when she sank about 1½ knots and sank slowly." Then after that your son deals with the "Katrina"?
- It was a stewardess that helped me on with my life3belt.

1965. In substance do you agree with the statement I have read to you?
- I do agree with it.

(The Witness withdrew.)