British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Day 5


2260. The Commissioner: Robertson, were you the man who unloosed the gripes of these collapsible boats?
- Yes, my Lord.

2261. Did you do it yourself?
- Yes.

2262. Did you do it at each boat?
- With assistance. I unloosened the gripes. Two of the stewards were cutting the lashings from the canvas covers. I unloosened the gripes myself.

2263. Did you personally see, with respect to each boat, that it was so loosened that it would float?
- I did.

Mr. Clem Edwards:
Will your Lordship look at the answer to this witness to Question 1624, on page 45?

The Commissioner:
Yes. "From the time you knew that a torpedo had struck the ship till the time you got to your boat station, how long was it? - (A.) About three minutes, as near as I can judge. (Q.) Did you during those three minutes see the captain, or either of the officers? - (A.) No." What is the point of it?

Mr. Clem Edwards:
The point is this. If from the time the torpedo struck the ship when he was down below until he gets to his boat station a period of three minutes elapsed and in the meantime this witness says he had removed the gripes from the boats on the boat deck -

The Commissioner:
Does he say "in the meantime"? I do not think he means that at all.

As I explained, I was working at removing the gripes until I got launched off the ship.

The Commissioner:
I think he means, Mr. Edwards, that he did it afterwards. Is not that so?

2264. Mr. Clem Edwards: (To the Witness) How long did it take you to remove the gripes?
- It took, from the time I got up there, that was three minutes, and allowing the ship to sink in 20 minutes, 17 minutes that I was working there.

2265. And you went to your boat station first, did you?
- Yes.

2266. And you left your boat station to see to the gripes, did you?
- That is my boat station.

2267. When you speak of a boat station, you do not mean at a particular boat?
- I do.

2268. Then if I understand you, you removed the gripes from all the boats?
- That is so.

2269. If your boat station is a station at a particular boat, and you make immediately for your boat station what I want to know is this, was it before or after you got to your boat station that you removed the gripes from the other boats?
- I do not quite follow you.

The Commissioner:
The question is plain enough.

2270. Mr. Clem Edwards: I will put the question again. According to your statement your boat station is a station at a particular boat, and you say that immediately the torpedo struck the ship when you were below, you went for your boat station, that is a station at a particular boat. You also say that you removed the gripes from all the boats. Now what I want to ask you is this. Did you remove the gripes from all the boat on your way from below to your boat station, or did you leave your boat station and afterwards remove the gripes of the other boats?
- I made my way to my boat station. I removed the gripes on the port side, that was my station, from 22 to 22 e. I then went down for my lifebelt. I came back on deck again, and as I came up on deck I noticed that 21 d and 21 e were still fastened and I removed the gripes from those two boats and left the starboard side quite free. That made the whole of that deck free, and the boats would float as soon as the ship sank.

2271. Then when did you remove the gripes from the other boats?
- Do you mean on the starboard side?

2272. You have told the Court you removed the gripes from all the boats?
- When I came up to my boat station (my boat station is No. 22 to 22 e ) I removed the gripes and my boats were all free on my side of the ship - the boats I had charge of.

2273. The Commissioner: From 22 to 22 e is six boats, is it not?
- That is so.

2274. Mr. Clem Edwards: Then it was those six boats from which you removed the gripes?
- Yes.

2275. Who removed the gripes from the other boats?
- On the starboard side?

2276. Yes.
- Very likely the steward, or the man in charge there. I could not say.

2277. Anyhow, the gripes you removed were the gripes of six boats near your boat station?
- Yes, and two on the other side, making eight boats altogether.

2278. Let us be quite clear about it. Were the gripes on the other side, besides the eight removed?
- Yes.

2279. Who removed them?
- Perhaps the man in charge.

2280. But did you see they were removed?
- I did, when I was removing 21d and 21e.

(The Witness withdrew.)