Limitation of Liability Hearings

Deposition of

John Frederick Valentine Jones

Chief Steward - ss Lusitania.


Southern District of New York.




as owners of the Steamship LUSITANIA, for limitation of
its liability.




DEPOSITION OF JOHN FREDERICK VALENTINE JONES taken before R. V. WYNNE Esq. the Commissioner at the Law Institution Chancery Lane, London, W.C.2. on Friday, 15th June, 1917.

The Commissioner having duly administered the oath to CHARLES ALLAN HERSEE as Shorthand Writer administered the usual oath of a witness to JOHN FREDERICK VALENTINE JONES.



Examined by Mr. BUTLER ASPINALL.




Q. Were you the Chief Steward of the “LUSITANIA" at the time of her loss?

- Yes.

Q. Had you been on her for some time before she was lost?

- Two voyages.

Q. What number of staff have you under you?

- About 303 I think was the number; I am not quite positive.

Q. Did that include the stewardesses as well as stewards?

- Stewardesses, stewards, cooks and so forth.

Q. Speaking of the male staff  under you have they or, at any rate have most of them, experience of boats?

- Certainly.

Q. Do the stewards go in the boats?

- The stewards are assigned to boats and they have boat drill 2 or 3 times on the voyage and they have competitions amongst themselves. As a matter of fact among "Lusitania" crew I believe on the third previous voyage the stewards department won the championship of the ship against the sailors and firemen.

Q. You had regattas?

- Yes.

Q. In which the stewards take part and in the case of "Lusitania" took a prominent part?

- 3 voyages previous to that they won the championship.

Q. Were there life belts in the various cabins?

- Yes, the maximum quantity in each cabin.

Q. Are there notices in the cabins with regard to these life belts?

- In every cabin, first, second and third class.

Q. What is the effect of the notice?

- It is drawing the passengers attention to the fact that the life belts are there denoting where they are -- of course they are easily seen -- and instructions for the passengers how to put them on and wear them. During the voyage the stewards and stewardesses had instructions to tell the passengers if necessary how to adjust these life belts on their bodies.

Q. And did stewardesses and stewards under you carry out those instructions?

- Certainly: it was general orders the whole time -- on the voyage before that as well.

Q. In addition to these life belts which are in all the cabins are there what are called reserve life belts on the deck?

- Yes, there are reserve life belts on the main companion way for adults and children. I did not see them myself personally on the upper deck but I saw them come aboard at Liverpool landing stage. When the ship left dock and got at the landing stage a large quantity of life belts came on board and the general Manager happened to be coming on board at the same time and said where are they going to put those life belts. I thought they were going to be put on the after deck but I believe they were put on the upper deck. Afterwards I saw those life belts and quite a number of persons must have picked them up.

Q. Are you in a position to tell me whether the port holes were closed on the occasion in question?

- I believe they were. Staff Captain Anderson, who was unfortunately lost in the ship, about 11 or half past 11 on the morning of the disaster -- of course we were closing ports regularly and closing bulkhead doors by a general order -- said that that had been done. On the previous day we had strict instructions to have the bulkhead doors and ports closed on F and E decks. Captain Anderson came up from below on the morning of the disaster and stated to me that he was perfectly satisfied that all ports and bulkhead doors were closed on these 2 decks. He had, just come up from below.

Q. Would it be part of his duty to see that that was done?

- That was his particular duty.

Q. At the time the vessel was struck where were you?

- I was just crossing the main companion way on B deck just in front of the purser's office and I was just about to step on the promenade deck and my second steward said, "Mr. Jones, a torpedo!"  I said, “Where?” He said, “Coming right ahead”. I stepped on deck and saw the torpedo coming on to the ship or the wake of it and almost simultaneously struck the ship. I looked up involuntarily to see if I could see any signe of a submarine or periscope but I could see nothing.

Q. Was it a heavy noise?

- Yes, a very heavy noise: I should liken it to the fall of masonry or something of that kind; a very loud report.

Q. Did you notice whether the ship took a list or not?

- Almost Immediately.

Q. What did you do?

- I went in board in the passengers room on B deck forward and then aft. I went up the staircase into the smoke room and round to the cabins telling everybody, stewards and passengers, to get their life belts on and come on deck. I came out on deck from the smoke room entrance on to A deck, the boat deck, and stopped at No .17 boat.

Q. Did your staff in your view do all that could be asked of t hem?

- As far as I could see they all worked very well indeed.

Q. Both the stewards and stewardesses?

- Both the stewards and stewardesses.

Q. Had you got a boat; were you allocated to a particular boat?

- Yes.

Q. What was the number of your boat?

- No. 1.

Q. That would be on the starboard side?

- Yes, on the starboard side.

Q. Did you go to it?

- No, I remained at 17. I came along the starboard side and I remained at 17, assisting at 17.

Q. Why was that: you thought you could render better assistance there perhaps?

- It was needed just there.

Q. Did you, speaking for yourself do your best to see to the safety of the passengers?

- I believe so: I hope so as far as the conditions would allow.


Cross-examined by Mr. SCANLAN:


Q. You were chief steward?

- Yes.

Q. Had you on this occasion the same stewards that had been on the previous voyages?

- No, that never happens.

Q. I think on this occasion you had more changes than your usually had on account of matters that I need not go into?

- No, about normal.

Q. How many changes had you, as compared with the last voyage?

- I could not tell you from memory.

Q. Can you give me any idea?

- No, I am sorry I cannot give you any idea.

Q. When you are taking on a new steward, may I take it that you do not subject him to an examination in boat drill: that is not a qualification of a steward?

- Yes, it is one of the qualifications of a steward. When we take a steward on, he has to produce a Board of Trade certificate to the effect that he has sailed so many voyages in various ships, and if he had refused to do his boat drill in those various ships he would not be employed any more.

Q. Do you personally employ the crew of stewards?

- No, it is done by the Superintendent Caterer on shore.

Q. Then you yourself had nothing to do with the selection of the men who formed the personnel of the crew of stewards?

- Yes, we have.

Q. You?

- Yes, if I may explain. When we arrive in port and get an estimate of the passengers that we are taking out on the next voyage, we send in a requisition for so many men, women, and so forth, as the case may be, and the Superintendent Steward sends those persons on board with proper credentials and we engage them unless we have some objection which we state to the Superintendent Caterer.

Q. Let us get it quite simply: does the gentleman on shore engage the stewards, or do you?

- Jointly.

Q. What is the process of engagement?

- I have explained to you, Sir. We requisition for so many employees and the Superintendent Steward sends those employees on board the ship with the necessary books and credentials, and we employ them if everything is satisfactory. It may be if 40 persons are sent on board there might be something about one person's character which might have been overlooked by the authorities on shore which we might know of.

Q. I will get this simply from you: I suppose I may take it that when a steward comes to you, you do not put him through an examination in boat drill – you yourself?

- No, it is impossible.

Q. And you cannot tell me how many new stewards you carried on the occasion of this voyage?

- No, not from memory.

Q. Had you yourself conducted any stewards boat drills on this voyage?

- Not personally: I had attended boat drills.

Q. Was that while the ship was at sea?

- At Liverpool and New York.

Q. Just at Liverpool and New York?

- Yes, personally.


(The Witness withdrew.)


Signed by the Witness after
the deposition had been                John Frederick Valentine Jones (Sig.)
read to him and the alterations
had been made and initialed.

R . V.  Wynne  (Sig.)