Lusitania

Limitation of Liability Hearings

Deposition of ANDREW DAVIES

Boatswain

ss "Lusitania"


 


UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT,
Southern District of New York.

 

I N THE MATTER

of

The Petition of THE CUNARD STEAMSHIP COMPANY, LIMITED,
as owner of the Steamship LUSITANIA, for limitation of its liability.

 

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DEPOSITION of JOHN DAVIES taken before R.V. WYNNE; Esq., the Commissioner at the Law Institution, Chancery Lane, London, W.C.2, on Thursday, 14th June, 1917.

The Commissioner having duly administered the oath to Spencer Philip Harry as Shorthand Writer, administered the usual oath of a witness to JOHN DAVIES.

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Examined by Mr. BUTLER ASPINALL.

 

Q. Were you Boatswain on the "Lusitania" at the time of her loss?

- Yes.

Q. How long have you been in service with the Company?

- 37 years.

Q. Where were you at the time the ship was struck by the torpedo?

- We were getting the baggage up from the after end of the ship.

Q. Does that mean you were in the baggage room?

- No, I was on deck; my mate was down below.

Q. The baggage was coming up from the baggage room to the deck?

- Yes.

Q. When you heard the shock of the torpedo, where did you go to?

- I called up my men from below and we tried to go up to the boats, but we could not get up: the ladders were full of people going up, so we had to wait our chance to get up, and by the time we got up there the ship had a heavy list to starboard, very heavy.

Q. Had you a special number?

- Yes, No. 4.

Q. That of course would be on the port side?

- Yes.

Q. How did you know that that was your boat?

- We have a boat list with every man's name and whichever boat he belongs to.

Q. When you got up to your boat on the port side, was it any use trying to lower her?

- No.

Q. Why was that?

- She had too heavy a list.

Q. What did you do in those circumstances?

- We crossed to the other side to assist Mr. Jones, the First Officer.

Q. Did you help him to deal with the women passengers?

- Yes.

Q. Were the stewards helping too?

- Yes.

Q. As far as you could see, did the crew, stewards and all, do their best in the circumstances?

- Yes, as far as I know all that I saw around me were doing their best to save life.

Q. Did you yourself get into a boat, or did you go down with the ship?

- I went down with the ship.

Q. And you had the good fortune to be saved?

- Yes, and I cannot swim a stroke.

Q. You are a lucky man. Were you picked up by one of your own boats after you got into the water?

- I got on an upturned boat, one of the Chambers boats we call them -- perhaps you call them collapsible boats, but we call them Chambers boats. It was bottom up and I got on top of that, and another boat came along right side up and we got in her. There were three of us on this boat, two firemen and myself. We baled her out and started to pick up people.

Q. You helped others, did you?

- Yes, we picked up 42.

Q. Eventually were you rescued by a fishing trawler?

- Yes, I was the fourth boat that got to her. There were three before me.

 

CROSS-EXAMINED by Mr. SCANLAN.

 

Q. I suppose in your capacity as boatswain you would not have anything to do with boat drills?

- Yes.

Q. Did you make any attempt to lower your own boat after the torpedoing of the "Lusitania"?

- No.

Q. You made no attempt to do it?

- I did not go near the boat; I could not get to her in fact -- No.4.

Q. Do you know whether any of the boats from the port side had been lowered?

- I could not tell you.

Q. Had you in some way charge of the whole of the boats of the ship?

- I had charge of No. 4.

Q. Only of No. 4?

- Yes.

Q. What boat did you go to ultimately on the starboard side?

- The three after boats, what we call the after section.

Q. Until you came, who was looking after those three?

- Mr. Jones was there, for one Officer: I did not see anybody else there on that section.

Q. We know that after being on deck for some time, you went to the starboard side?

- Yes.

Q. When you got to the starboard side you saw a certain number of men?

- Yes.

Q. Trying to lower the boats?

- They were lowering them when I got up there.

Q. Lowering the boats?

- Yes.

Q. Do you happen to know if those men who were engaged in manning those boats were the men listed to them?

- Yes.

Q. How do you know that?

- I know two or three of them who were in the boats.

Q. You just know two or three?

- Yes.

Q. What boats were they in?

- No.19 and No.17; that is the odd numbers. All the odd numbers were on the starboard side.

Q. Is it your duty in an emergency to call all the hands to their proper boats?

- Yes, if I am on deck.

Q. But you were not on deck?

- I am on duty all day.

Q. But you were not on deck to do that sufficiently soon on this occasion?

- No.

Q. And you have given some reason for it?

- Yes. Everybody should go up when they hear the whistle blowing.

Q. Did you see any boats capsize when they were being lowered?

- No, I did not.

Q. Do you know how many boats were got afloat with passengers in them altogether?

- I saw four. That was in the section that I was working at.

Q. We know the ship carried 48 boats altogether?

- Yes.

Q. And all you know of boats getting away with passengers four boats?

- Yes, that is all I saw at the time.

Q. I suggest to you that that is a very small proportion out of the whole of the boats of the "Lusitania”.

- Yes.

Q. And I suggest to you also that it showed that there was incompetence in launching and manning the boats and getting the passengers in.

- We did our best, all that were there.

Q. That is all of you who were there available, all the crew?

- All the crew who were around there, all the men belonging to the ship.

Q. You did your best?

- Yes, by all means.

Q. Was it part of your duty, when this emergency arose, to pipe the crews to their stations?

- It was. I was supposed to do it, yes, but everybody made up for the boats when the thing happened.

Q. And you did not in point of fact do it?

- I did not go forward to get them out of the forecastle; everybody was up in arms, of course, when the first blow was given.

Q. To put it shortly, you did not pipe the crews to their boat stations?

- No, I did not; it was no use piping them at that time: the end of the ship I was in they would not hear half way along the ship.

Q. I suggest to you that the number of A.B's on board was very small compared to the total crew, and insufficient to help in the work of manning and launching lifeboats.

- I do not know -- we had the same as usual.

Q. Could not you have done better with a larger number of trained seamen?

- I suppose we could.

Q. If you had doubled the number of Able Seamen, do you not think you could have got all the boats off in safety?

- No, I do not think we could have, on that occasion.

Q. You could have got all on the starboard side, at all events?

- I should say so.

Q. Were you rescued from the collapsible boat?

- No.

Q. You left the collapsible boat?

- Yes, and went in another one.

Q. You went in an open boat?

- No, it was one of the collapsible boats that was floating around.

Q. I think this is what happened: first of all you got on to an upturned collapsible boat?

- Yes, that is what I told you at first.

Q. And you clung on to it as best you could for a while?

- Yes.

Q. Until you got into a collapsible boat which was properly floating right side up?

- Yes.

Q. Who got in there with you?

- Two firemen.

Q. And yourself?

- Yes.

Q. And you constituted the crew?

- Yes.

Q. Then I think you got a certain number of passengers?

- We picked up 42.

Q. Was that the only collapsible boat, so far as you know, which did duty in the way of rescuing passengers?

- As far as I know.

Q. Now, as boatswain, can you tell me the total number of collapsible boats that the "Lusitania" carried?

- She had 10 each side: I think she had 20.

Q. Twenty collapsible boats?

- Yes, underneath the lifeboats, and then there were 12 other boats beside that. You want to reckon them all up.

Q. Twelve others in the nature of collapsible boats?

- Yes.

Q. What you mean is that altogether, in addition to the ship's open lifeboats, there were 32 boats of the collapsible pattern?

- Yes.

Q. Of those 32 boats of the collapsible pattern, so far as you know only one was successfully used in the work of rescuing passengers?

- That is all I saw -- the one I was in myself.

Q. I suggest to you that that shows -- I am speaking now of the collapsible boats -- that those collapsible boats were not skilfully handled.

- I do not know.

Q. And that proper preparations were not made for liberating them when the ship was torpedoed, or before it.

- I do not know.

Q. How do you think the collapsible boats could have been released so as to be made available after the torpedoing of the ship?

- We could throw them over the side, for that matter. There are no chocks outside of them, but only on the inside.

Q. That is one thing that could have been done?

- Yes.

Q. That was not done?

- The ship went down before the other boats were clear of it.

Q. I suppose you mean to say that one way of making the collapsible boats available for rescue work is to put them over the side -- throw them out?

- Yes, you can do that if you have time.

Q. You could do it if you had time, or if you had a sufficient number of men competent to handle lifeboats available to do the work: is not that so? I mean if you had a greater number of men available to handle the lifeboats in addition to lowering those which were lowered, the collapsible boats could at all events have been thrown over?

- I suppose you could.

Q. Is there any other way of lowering the collapsible boats sad making them available?

- You can put them over by the davits, the falls.

Q. They could have been put over by using the davits?

- Yes.

Q. Do you know these Whelan davits, the new kind of davits?

- No, I have never been shipmates with them.

Q. You have been a long time with the Cunard people?

- Yes.

Q. And a long time also on the "Lusitania”?

- Yes, about three years.

Q. You have never been on board the "Aquitania"?

- No.

Q. You have never seen the modern up-to-date davits which the "Aquitania" carries?

- No, I have not seen them.

Q. That length of time elapsed from the striking of the ship by the torpedo to her sinking?

- I should say about between 15 and 20 minutes, as near as I could tell.

Q. If your davits are in good condition, working properly, how long does it take to lower an open boat?

- How long would it take to lower it?

Q. To get her waterborne?

- It would take a very few minutes.

Q. In order to lower a boat in a few minutes to get her waterborne with her passengers, you require a competent crew and every man to know his station and the particular boat and the job he has to do himself: is not that correct?

- Yes.

Q. I suggest to you now that if you had your crew properly trained and every man at his station and a sufficient number of A.B.'s, trained sailormen, all the open boats on the starboard side could have been launched and all the collapsible boats got into the water.

- I do not know about that.

Q. You are not prepared to contradict that?

- No, I do not know anything about that: I should not like to say.

 

RE-EXAMINED by Mr BUTLER ASPINALL.

 

Q. I have no doubt you are an excellent boatswain, but do you consider yourself an expert in all these matters that this gentleman has been asking you about?

- No.

Q. Have you honestly tried to deal with the questions -- have you done your best?

- I am a poor hand at talking.

Q. How old are you?

- I am 64.

Q. It has been suggested to you that if you had had a great many more A.B's you might have saved more life: you think that is not improbable?

- No, I do not think we could do any better if we had twice as many men.

Q. I thought you had fallen a victim to the blandishments of Mr. Scanlan and agreed with him on that point.

- It was the way the ship was situated.

Q. What had you in your mind when you used that phrase?

- She had a heavy list; we could not do anything with the deck boats on the weather side.

Q. Is it your view that more A.B's would have helped, or not, the way the ship was situated?

- I do not think it would have done us any good if we had had twice the number of men.

Q. I suppose if you were in a dock in Liverpool in still water and had a large number of hands, you could put the boats in the water quicker than if you had a few?

- Yes, especially when the ship is upright.

Q. With regard to the number of boats that you know got away, are you speaking only of what you yourself saw and know: is that so?

- I have only seen four boats.

Q. Are you only telling us what you yourself saw?

- That is all.

Q. Were your hands pretty full at the time?

- Yes.

Q. I am not 65 yet, but is it a bit of a shook when you are struck with a torpedo?

- It is.

Q. Did you do your best to keep your head cool?

- Yes.

Q. Do you think that you or your shipmates could have done better than you did?

- I do not think so,

(The Witness withdrew).

 

Signed by the witness
after the deposition

had been read to him.
John Davies [sig.]
R.V. Wynne [sig.]