British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 5


Examined by the SOLICITOR-GENERAL.

2018. You, I think, were Lecturer in Romance Languages at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario?
- That is right.

2019. And I think you were returning to this country for a holiday on the "Lusitania"?
- That is right.

2020. And you were desirous of making a statement to the Court at the last hearing?
- Yes.

2021. What do you want to say about this matter?
- I want to draw special attention to those statements I have made and which have been made by other wit nesses, and, in addition, I want to make another statement which is not in the statement I gave to the Board of Trade but which is necessary in view of the statements made by Mr. Booth. It has been said that the want of coal for obtaining the speed of the "Lusitania" was for economy's sake; yet no one has mentioned that the fares for second - class passengers at this time of the year were of a minimum of 70 dollars, yet although the Company seem to have been harder hit they were reduced to 50 dollars, that is to say, by almost one - third.

2022. The Commissioner: Is that all about that?
- So far, yes. My opinion is that it would have been better to attack the pockets of the passengers than their lives.

2023. Your statement is not before the Court. You had better say anything else you want to say, whether it is included in your statement or not?
- Quite right. I mean to say everything as long as my Lord allows me to do so. The second point which has been made clear is this. The second explosion might have been due primarily to the explosion of a torpedo, but not to a torpedo alone. The nature of the explosion was similar to the rattling of a machine gun for a short period.

2024. Do you suggest that a Maxim gun was discharged on the ship?
- No, my Lord; I suggest that the explosion of the torpedo caused the subsequent explosion of some ammunition, and I have special experience of explosives.

2025. What is your experience of explosives?
- I have served as an officer in France.

2026. In what regiment?
- In the 8th Regiment of Infantry.

2027. How long were you in it?
- Five years.

2028. What war were you in?
- I have not been in any war, but I have been in peace experiments which are necessary for the purposes of war.

2029. When were you in this regiment?
- I was incapacitated for service in 1903 on a pension of 850 francs a year.

2030. Am I to understand that you are a French subject?
- Yes, my Lord.

2031. Were you born in Switzerland?
- No.

2032. Were you ever in Switzerland?
- Once - travelling in Switzerland, yes. I have been travelling practically all over Europe during my holidays.

2033. The Solicitor-General: Where did the sound of the explosion which you attribute to ammunition seem to come from - from what part of the ship?
- From underneath; the whole floor was shaken. The whole of the silver plate fell down, which it did not do on the first explosion, and the ship at once took a very decided list, and that was the reason why I returned to my cabin.

2034. You have not answered my question: - From what part of the ship - forward, aft, or amidships, did the sound come?
- We were in the dining-room, and the only idea we could form was that the whole floor was shaken.

2035. Do you mean underneath the dining-room?
- The whole floor of the dining - room was shaken by the explosion. I could not form any idea as to the part where the explosion took place.

2036. That was the second class dining-room, was it?
- That was the second class dining-room aft.

The Solicitor-General:
I think your Lordship might usefully look at the plan. Those are the second class dining-rooms (pointing on the plan.).

2037. The Commissioner: (To the Witness.) Have you anything else to tell us?
- I want to speak about the treatment meted out to us on landing by the Company's officials, which was disgraceful. I will give details. I have given details in my statement to the Board of Trade.

The Solicitor-General:
Please tell the Court anything you want to say.

The Commissioner:
It has nothing to do with the Inquiry, but still make your statement?
- In this way. I understand this Inquiry to be concerned with the loss of life. I have lost a child and my wife is an invalid as the result of this treatment, so I think it is relevant to the Inquiry.

2038. Then tell us about that?
- We landed at Queenstown about half-past 8 or a quarter to 9. We had left the dining - room without any clothes - without any overcoats - nothing but a blouse for my wife, no hats for the children, and only slippers. We had been in a boat which was leaking for four hours, we were practically wet, cold, and hungry, yet we had to wait for two hours in the Company's offices for having the privilege at about 10 o'clock of telling our names, where we came from, whether we had passports or not, and finally being directed to a hotel. The next morning at 7 o'clock I went to the Company's offices to ask for information as to the first train to leave Queenstown. With much difficulty I gained admittance.

2039. At what time was it?
- Seven o'clock in the morning. I was told that the offices did not open until 9 o'clock under any circumstances; so we had to wait until 9 o'clock.

2040. But could not they tell you at the hotel about trains?
- Not very well.

2041. Did you ask them?
- I asked for a time - table, but I could not make out the times very well from the local time - table.

2042. Did you ask anybody to tell you when the train went
- Where?

2043. At the hotel: Did you ask anyone, when you could not understand the time - table, to tell you?
- No, for this reason, that we had left the dining - room practically penniless and it was necessary for the Company to supply our tickets as well as telling us the time, and I thought they would hire a special train for us. That was the reason I did not trouble further about it at the hotel. At 9 o'clock we were told that there was a special train at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and all that we had to do was to be present at the station at that time. Thereupon I asked the representative of the Company to provide us with some pieces of clothing which were very much needed. My children had only slippers, which were very wet, my wife had only a blouse, and we were all in a pretty predicament with regard to clothes. I asked if I could be given a few shillings for the journey. With the three children, one of them being only two years old, I expected I should want some money. I was told I could not get any money, that they would not even lend me £1.

2044. Who was it told you that?
- The manager at the office.

2045. What was his name?
- I do not know his name, but I can identify him right enough.

2046. Is he here?
- I do not see him, but I should easily recognize him. I could remember the man as long as I live. No, he is not here, my Lord, I do not see him. In connection with clothes, we were told to go to a certain shop, where they would give us what we asked for, I went to the shop and they would not give me anything; they said they had to have a written order from the Company. Back I went to the Company's office but the manager was not to be seen then; but still I jumped over the counter and managed to see him. He would not commit himself in writing, he simply said I could get a certain amount of goods. I got a few things of, which I have given a list in my statement; but when it came to getting a coat for my wife (perhaps I was wrong in leaving that till last) I was told I had exhausted the amount of credit given to me, and no amount of exertion in the shop could get me any more; so that my wife had to travel with only a wet silk blouse all night, which was very cold.

2047. That was the night of the 8 th May?
- Yes, the following night.

2048. It was the night of the 8th and the morning of the 9 th?
- Yes. At half - past 2 we went to the station to be in good time for the 3 o'clock special train, but there were 300 other people like us and there was only one wicket for the tickets, so we had to take a queue and at 3 o'clock, when the train started, there were about 100 people in front of us. It was very hot; there was a glass roof to the station and one woman fainted. My wife had to carry the baby all the time and I had to take charge of the other two. About half-past 4 or 5 o'clock we managed to get to the wicket. We were asked again our name, our nationality, where we came from, where we were going to, and finally I got five tickets, but of course it was too late for the 3 o'clock special, so we had to wait for the next train which was half-past 8 or 9 o'clock in the evening. We could not get any more accommodation in the hotel. They told us we ought to have gone by the train, so we had to wait in the station. At half - past eight, hungry and tired, we managed to get some seats in a third class compartment which was soon full, and by that time my wife was so exhausted that the sight of her caused the Irish guard to take pity on us and move us to a first class compartment free of charge. We had a little more room, but still there were other passengers and my wife in order to sleep had to lie down on the floor of the carriage. We reached Dublin about 4 in the morning after a cold and tiring night. There was no one to meet us; no orders given for conveyances to carry us from one station to the other, and we had to tramp the whole wav with the three children, and it is a long way to go at 4 o'clock in the morning and hungry. We managed to tramp the whole way and while I put my wife and the children in the waiting room of the other station I went out to try and get some money by hook or crook. I happily met a French gentleman outside the station and on telling him how matters stood he gave me the necessary money for eating. We went to the Grosvenor Hotel just outside the station. It was about 5 in the morning then. We had a single room with two beds from 5 to about 8 in the morning; one egg each, five cups of tea, bread and butter for the sum of 14s. 6d.; and they knew we were survivors of the "Lusitania."

2049. Is this a charge against the Cunard Company or against the hotel keeper?
- I made a charge casually against the hotel, but the main charge is against the Company for not seeing to us after the wreck. After that we took a train for the boat and we were treated at last to a cup of coffee and a sandwich while being shunted at Holyhead. That is all we had for one day and a half after the wreck. We reached Birmingham at 7 o'clock the following evening, two days and two nights without any help from the Cunard Company in the condition in which we were.

2050. Were you two days and two nights getting from Holyhead to Birmingham?
- Including waiting in Queenstown.

2051. You mean two days and two nights coming from Queenstown?
- Yes, from Queenstown to Birmingham, and we were still penniless in Birmingham and for all the Company knew we might have been starved to death long before they troubled about us even in Birmingham, but thanks to the kindness of the Lord Mayor of Birmingham our first needs were attended to until we could communicate with our friends. I wish to speak in the name of all the other passengers, but specially in the name of five passengers at least. I wish to express my disgust at the Company taking us by false pretences in New York. They still advertised the record speed of the boat was 4 days, 19 hours, and I came from Canada to New York for the special purpose of taking a. fast boat in preference to an American boat. They also gave us a captain and cook who were not competent and material which was not fit to eat. I do not know anything about nautical ability, I daresay the captain had all the knowledge required, but as far as war strategy is concerned he has proved himself a hopeless failure, and I can give your Lordship material to back my opinion. We had only five rowlocks in the boat. We had plenty of oars but no rowlocks. We had a mast but no sail. We had a boat which was leaking, and we had to take a pail and my wife's shoes to empty the water from the boat. There is another point to which I want to call your Lordship's attention. We escaped in lifeboat No. 21. I took that boat because it was the only one within my sight where there were members of the crew to lower it. The next boat to us upset the passengers into the water. That was on the starboard side. We were 63 in our boat, and after rowing for about 5 or 10 minutes we sighted another lifeboat some distance away. We thought it was a fisherman's boat, because it was pretty far from us, but we could not catch it, so we came to the conclusion that it was another lifeboat going away from the "Lusitania," and later on when we were rescued by a fishing smack our suppositions were certain, because we caught up the boat and found in it about 18 or 20 members of the crew, mostly stewards or firemen, and no women. We were so indignant that I, with others, shouted "Where are the women in your boat?" They had taken every opportunity to sail away as quickly as they could without troubling to gather more people, and there were plenty to gather. The number in that boat was 19.

Mr. Cotter:
My Lord, with your permission I should like to ask this witness some questions, because I happened to be in Queenstown at the time he is talking about and some of his statements I do not want to go unchallenged.

The Commissioner:
By all means.

Examined by Mr. Cotter.

2052. Where were you when the ship was struck by the torpedo?
- In the second-class dining-room. I can show you the very seat if you have a map of it.

2053. It is in the after part of the ship, is it not?
- That is right.

2054. And it would be over the turbines of the ship?
- I do not know that. I could not tell you. I do not know where the turbines were.

2055. The ship was driven by turbines
- I know that.

2056. You state that you thought that some ammunition caused a second explosion?
- In my opinion, yes.

2057. Have you ever been in the vicinity of a steam pipe when it has burst?
- Yes. I know what a steam pipe explosion is and a boiler explosion is.

2058. The effect of a steam pipe exploding at high pressure would give a rattling sound, would it not?
- Yes, but not anything of the magnitude of that one.

2059. Where did you go to after the ship was struck?
- I took hold of one child under each arm, my wife took the baby, and we wade with all speed for the lifeboat because I knew what was coming, and that is why I am here now.

2060. How did you know what was coming?
- By the nature of the explosion. I was surprised we lasted for 18 minutes.

2061. Did you go up the main companionway from the second cabin; had the ship listed at the time?
- Very badly after the second explosion.

2062. She had a list which would make it difficult to get up the staircase?
- Yes.

2063. Did you hear any orders given?
- Yes. An order had been given both in the dining-room and on deck which I forgot to mention. I heard a shout “Come for the mails” - the letters. The stewards were called to take care of the mails.

2064. “Come for the mails” - the letters?
- Yes, in the dining-room and on the deck, and that was confirmed in our lifeboat by one of the firemen.

2065. Somebody called out “Come for the mails”?
- Some stewards called out in the dining-room - yes - “Attend to the mails.” That is what I heard with my own ears and my wife can corroborate it.

2066. Are you quite sure they did not say “Attend to the females”?
- Not quite.

2067. The Commissioner: But are you sure?
- Quite sure.

2068. Mr. Cotter: I put it to you as a rational being, would anybody ask for someone to come and carry letters when the ship had been struck by a torpedo?
- I thought it funny at the time.

2069. Do you think it funny now?
- Yes.

2070. Do you not think it is ridiculous?
- On the part of the one who said it, yes.

2071. The Commissioner: I notice you do not speak English with a very strong English accent, and what I am thinking of is this: was it possible for you to misunderstand what was said?
- No, my Lord. I understand English very well. I have been for 12 years in an English speaking country.

2072. Mr. Cotter: I put it that it is quite possible you made a. mistake on this occasion?
- The mistake would not be likely, and my wife heard the same.

2073. Is your wife here?
- No, but she can be brought if you like although she is an invalid.

2074. Is your wife French?
- No, she is English; born of English parents.

2075. When you got up to the boat deck did you see any of the crew there?
- Only three. Two were standing at the middle boat, one at each rope, and that is the reason why I chose that boat.

2076. On which side?
- On the starboard side.

2077. No. 21 would be at the after end of the ship, would it not - above the second-cabin smoke room?
- Approximately, yes. You asked me how many members of the crew I saw; I said three - two at the boat and the third rushed past my wife with a life- belt on, and on being asked by my wife to assist her, he gave her a push and gave her a black arm.

2078. Were there any women and children in the boat you got into?
- It was full. I can tell you exactly how many there were. There were 63, including some we picked up from the water. There were 54 there when we got in.

2079. Were there any women and children on the deck?
- At the very beginning, yes, but the upset of one of the lifeboats seemed to frighten them away.

2080. Did you leave any women and children on the deck when your boat left?
- No.

2081. Had you any difficulty in getting into your boat with your wife and children?
- The boat was rather far from the ship and I had fear that the baby who was thrown might not be caught, but it was caught, thank God.

2082. That was caused by the ship having such a list?
- Yes, and by the lifeboat not being fastened to the ship.

2083. When you got to the water you said there was a boat ahead of you somewhere?
- Yes, and we wanted to get into that boat.

2084. You wanted to get into that boat?
- Yes. Do you want the reason? I had put my wife and the baby into the middle lifeboat and I thought the the [sic] three children would be too much for her because she was not well. I wanted to go with the other two children in the other boat and I was going to it when it upset and all the occupants were thrown into the water.

2085. Where were they upset - on the davits?
- On the davits. The rope was rotten.

2086. How do you know the rope was rotten?
- Because it broke.

2087. But there are other reasons why a rope should break?
- Well, ours did not break.

2088. Have you heard the evidence here that one boat was lowered with 80 people in it?
- I have read the whole of the evidence, yes. The fact that one rope is good does not affect the quality of the other.

2089. I think you are a gentleman with a grievance?
- Certainly, a strong grievance against the Company.

2090. You stated that when you got to Queenstown you were not treated very courteously by the Company. I hold no brief for the Cunard Company in this matter, but I happened to be on the spot. Is not Queenstown a very small place?
- I did not see much of it. I could not form an exactly accurate estimate of it. I only saw the Rob Roy Hotel, the Company's Office and the station.

2091. For 600 or 700 people to be rushed into such a place, would it not make things awkward?
- There would be an objection to that.

2092. I ask you the question: If 600 or 700 people were rushed into a small place like Queenstown?
- We were not 600 or 700 people. We were in the first boat, and there were hardly 100 people, and there would be no difficulty in getting accommodation.

The Commissioner:
I suppose there were other people came up afterwards?

2093. Mr. Cotter: Were there not 600 or 700 people saved?
- Not that.

2094. But you were not the only people saved?
- There was only 100 at that time.

2095. Would it surprise you to know that the officials of the Cunard Company were working all night for two nights without leaving the office?
- Not for the comfort of the passengers.

2096. Would it surprise you to know that they were at the office for two nights?
- Not a bit, if you say so.

2097. Because you said the office was not open till 9 o'clock?
- It was not open to passengers.

2098. I suggest to you it was open to anybody any moment day and night?
- I say it is not correct.

2099. And you also complained about going to the train?
- Yes.

2100. I suggest to you that you could have gone into the train an hour before if you had liked?
- No, we were told we had to have a ticket for getting into the train.

The Commissioner:
I do not think the story of about the train has anything to do with it.

Mr. Cotter:
But I want to clear the air, my Lord because this gentleman has made a general statement about the crew, the company, and everybody else and he seems to have a grievance. I do not know what effect it may have on the Inquiry, but I do not want it to get into the press that what he says are facts, I am asking the question because I was in Queenstown at the time and had something to do with the trains which brought the survivors away.


Examined by Mr. Donald Macmaster.

2101. You came from Canada, I understand?
- Yes.

2102. Were there many Canadian passengers on this boat?
- I believe so.

2103. I understand there were 353 Canadian passengers?
- I have no exact information, but I know there were many Canadians.

2104. I understand you are speaking for yourself as to these grievances; you are not speaking for the mass of passengers?
- I am speaking for five passengers only.

2105. I call your attention to that, because I represent here the Canadian Government, who have all interest in the Canadian passengers, and my instructions are that the passengers were fairly well looked after after the accident occurred. I want to call your attention to that?
- Well, that was not my experience.

2106. You were in an infantry regiment in France?
- Yes.

2107. You had nothing to do with explosives?
- Yes, I had in camps, and so on.

2108. But you have no knowledge of anything of an explosive character being on board this boat?
- Nothing, except from hearing.

2109. Are you aware that it was established before my Lord here that there was evidence of a second torpedo?
- It was the second torpedo which caused the terrific explosion I have spoken of.

2110. Will you tell me what part of France you came from?
- The eastern part of France.

2111. On the border - Alsace?
- No, near Switzerland.

2112. Was it in Alsace or Lorrain?
- No; that is not French, unfortunately.

2113. No, not at that time. It was on the borders of Switzerland?
- Not far - one hour's railway journey.

2114. The Commissioner: What is the nearest town to where you come from?
- Vezun.

2115. What was the nearest town in Alsace?
- Belvoir.

2116. Mr. Macmaster: That is where the great fortress is, is it not?

2117:   Did you send anything to the press with regard to your misfortunes?
- No, I should not do that while the matter was the subject of inquiry.

2118. I mean, up to this time you have done nothing of the kind?
- Not yet.

2119. The Commissioner: You intend to, I rather gather?
- It depends on the result of the Inquiry, my Lord.


Examined by Mr. BUTLER ASPINALL.

2120. Were you here on the last day when this Inquiry was being held?
- Yes.

2121. And if my recollection serves me rightly his Lordship said "Does anybody now want to come into the box and give a statement," and thereupon a gentleman did come and give a statement. Now you were here?
- No, I was not all day. You mean the last day?

2122. Yes, I thought you said you were?
- I was here the last day of the Inquiry, but that was on a Friday, and his Lordship did not ask the question.

2123. The Commissioner: That was on the Friday, the last day we sat in Camera?
- I was right. I am always right when I make a statement.

2124. Mr. Butler Aspinall: Were you here on the Thursday?
- No, I can tell you why if you wish me to.

2125. No. I really do not want to know. Is it since we last sat that you have told the Board of Trade you were desirous of being called?
- No. I did before-hand send a wire saying that I was anxious to appear long before the end of the previous Inquiry, and I got a letter in reply stating that my evidence had been considered along with that of other passengers, and they considered it would be necessary to call me; and relying on that I kept quiet in Birmingham, because I could not afford fares to London. I thought I would wait until I was called by a wire or a letter. Neither wire nor letter came, The only thing I heard was through the newspapers that the Inquiry had been concluded; so I was not going to let the matter rest at that.

2126. The Commissioner: You were in London, I understand, on the last day of the sitting?
- On the Friday.

2127. That was the last day of the sitting?
- I tried to send a communication to your Lordship on that day, but I was too late.

2128. Mr. Butler Aspinall: As you have said, you kept quiet at first. You said you were in Birmingham, and you kept quiet?
- Yes.

2129. Am I right in saying that you are making a claim upon the Company?
- I am making a claim either against the Company or against Germany, whoever it is who will have to pay what I have lost.

2130. The Commissioner: But which is it. I should like to know?
- Whoever is found guilty by your Lordship.

2131. Have you sent in a claim to the Company?
- Yes, but the Company deny liability.

2132. Have you sent in a claim to Germany?
- No, but I have sent one to the French Foreign Office.

2133. That is another matter. You have sent a claim to the Company?
- Yes.

2134. Mr. Butler Aspinall: Did you tell Mr. Booth this: that unless he made some immediate allowance on account, you would have "the unpleasant duty to claim publicly, and, in doing so, to produce evidence which will certainly not be to the credit either of your Company or of the Admiralty"?
- Yes, and I have done so now.

2135. Did you intend to keep your mouth closed if Mr. Booth had made you an immediate allowance?
- Oh, no.

2136. It reads like that, does it not?
- Oh, no.

The Commissioner:
Now, be careful. You say you are always accurate, and I suppose you are always truthful. Listen to that again.

2137. Mr. Butler Aspinall: This is a letter from you to Mr. Booth in an envelope marked "Private and urgent." "The French Foreign Office will formulate a definite claim before long, but I must ask you to make some immediate allowance on account or else I shall have the unpleasant duty to claim publicly, and, in doing so, to produce evidence which will certainly not be to the credit either of your Company or of the Admiralty." You wrote that, did you not?
- Quite so.

2138. What did you mean by it?
- It was meant for this reason: That if I was not called by the Board of Trade, then, if my claim was not paid, I should come forward of my own accord and push it through.

2139. The Commissioner: No. What that letter says is this: Pay me some money or I will do this and that. That is the point you know.
- It is misunderstood, my Lord.

2189a. But read it again and let us see if we do misunderstand it.

Mr. Butler Aspinall:
"The French Foreign Office will formulate a definite claim before long, but I must ask you to make some immediate allowance on account, or else I shall have the unpleasant duty to claim publicly, and, in doing so, to produce evidence which will certainly not be to the credit either of your Company or of the Admiralty."

2140. The Commissioner: Now, you told me just now, that you were a good English scholar. What does that "or else" mean?
- It meant that I should have to have an action against the Company.

2141. Does it not mean this, that if you do not get money you will say something against the Company?
- No, my Lord, it means I would take an action against the company, apart from this Inquiry.

2142. Am I to understand that if you had got the money you would have done this all the same?
- I should have spoken in the Inquiry.

2143. Just as you have spoken to-day?
- Exactly.

2144. I am very sorry to say, but I do say it, that I do not believe you?
- I am sorry, my Lord, for you. It is the first time I have been told such a thing in my life.

2145. I am very sorry it is told you, but I do not believe you. If you tell me that that language does not mean that you wanted money in order to keep your mouth closed, I say I do not believe you?
- That is your misfortune; but it did not mean that. I meant that I should take action against the company immediately, and should produce more evidence. I have some more evidence.

2146. Mr. Butler Aspinall: May I call this to your notice, that not only do you say you will "produce evidence which will certainly not be to your credit," but you also say "or of the Admiralty"?
- Yes.

2147. Did you think when you wrote this letter that you could give useful evidence to my Lord at this Inquiry?
- In connection with that?

2148. In connection with the disaster?
- I knew I could give the evidence I have given.

2149. Useful evidence which would throw a light on the disaster?
- I think it is useful evidence.

2150. But, nevertheless, am I not right in saying that if Mr. Booth had made you some immediate allowance on account, you would have kept your mouth shut?
- I should not have started -

2151. The Commissioner: Answer the question.
- I should not have kept my mouth shut in this Inquiry. I hope that is plain.

2151a. Mr. Butler Aspinall: Your language is plain, is it not. Do you think you have failed?
- No.

2152. Nor do I.
- If you give a dog a black name you drown him. You have tried to do so with all the other witnesses. It is shameful the way you have treated witnesses here.

2153. Do you suggest that I have not treated you properly? Do not be cross with me.
- I say it is shameful the way the witnesses have been treated here.

2154. Are you certain that you have got the number of the boat right in which you say you were saved?
- What I can say, and what I have said in my statement is, that of the two boats, the one in which we were saved and the boat of cowards, the numbers were 19 and 21; but I cannot say more. I may have made a mistake which is which, but 19 and 21 were the numbers of our boat and the boat of the cowards.

(The Witness withdrew.)