Lusitania

Limitation of Liability Hearings

Ogden H. Hammond
passenger - ss Lusitania.


 


TESTIMONY FOR THE CLAIMANTS.


 

OGDEN H. HAMMOND, being duly sworn and examined as a witness for the claimants, testifies:

 

 

BY MR. BETTS:

Q. You live where?

- My residence is Bernardsville, New Jersey, in the summer.

Q. You are engaged in the insurance business in New York?

- I am.

Q. Have you been a member of the New Jersey Legislature?

- I have.

Q. Are you now a member of one of the New Jersey State Committees?

- I am.

Q. What is that?

- The State Board of Charities and Correction.

Q. Are you an officer of that Committee?

- I am the Chairman.

Q. You have under your jurisdiction the panel and charitable institutions of the State?

- I do.

Q. Did you sail on the Lusitania on May 1, 1915, with your wife?

- I did.

Q. Where did you occupy rooms in the vessel?

- On deck D.

Q. On which side?

- On the port side, forward.

Q. Had you made your reservations some time before the vessel sailed?

- I had.

Q. Did you have any interview with the general agent or manager of the line before you sailed?

- I did.

Q. Who was he?

- I don't remember his name; I had a letter of introduction to him and talked to him.

Q. Would the name of Mr. Charles P. Sumner suggest anything to you?

- No.

BY THE COURT:

Q. Where did you see this man?

- At the office of the Cunard Line.

Q. At the general offices?

- On State Street.

Q. In some private office in those offices?

- I think in his office.

Mr. Kirlin:
The witness is not able to identify the gentleman and I must object to Mr. Bette characterizing him.

Q. Well, I will ask you -- you don't recollect to whom your letter was addressed?

- I think to the General Manager of the Line in New York, and I think the man who gave me the letter was Willard Brown.

Q. Was he the son of the former agent of the Line, Mr. Vernon H. Brown?

- I believe so.

Q. What did you do in pursuance of that letter?

- I asked him whether he thought it was safe to go over on the Lusitania at that time.

Mr. Kirlin:
Objected to; the conversation with the agent on any subject connected with the passage is immaterial and irrelevant.

Mr. Betts:
I think the testimony of the agent is material, as to whether he made any representation as to the operation of the vessel.

The Court:
I will sustain the objection a not binding, but as it is in admiralty the answer may go on the record.

 

BY THE COURT:

Q. Have you any recollection of the appearance of this man?

- He was rather large with grayish black hair and I think a grayish black mustache; that is my faint impression of him.

Q. Did you present this letter when you went in there?

- I did.

Q. You asked for him, whoever he was?

- I did.

The Court:
On the merits I do not think it is admissible, but being admiralty, it might as well go on the record.

 

MR. BETTS:

Q. Will you tell us the result of your interview with him?

- I asked him if he thought it was perfectly safe to go over on the Lusitania, and I remember his statement was, "Perfectly safe; safer than the trolley cars in New York City."

Q. Was anything said by him to you about any reduced speed or reduced boiler power of the vessel on that voyage?

- No.

Q. Did you know anything about the vessel being operated at reduced speed or reduced boiler power is; before you boarded the ship?

- No.

Q. Did you notice anything about the speed of the ship on Friday morning?

- Yes.

Q. What did you notice?

- I noticed that the boat was going very slowly.

Q. How was the weather at that time?

- It was foggy up to about 11 o'clock.

Q. What happened at 11 o'clock?

- The fog gradually cleared until you could see the Irish coast quite plainly.

Q. How far away did that coast appear to you to be that  time?

- About 8 miles or possibly 10; 8 miles, I should think.  

Q. Had you crossed on the big Cunarders, the Lusitania or the Mauretania, before this?

- I had crossed on the Mauretania.

Q. How frequently?

- Well, at least once; I had been abroad four times; I know I went on the Mauretania once.

Q. Had you been on the other Cunarders before?

- I don't remember; the Baltic and the Adriatic I was on, but I don't remember the Cunarders.

Q. You had been to Liverpool before and the Ireland?

- Yes.

Q. Did you notice anything with reference to the distance of the ship as she passed along the south coast of Ireland, as compared with the distance that you had passed along the south coast of Ireland before on the Mauretania or on other ships going to Liverpool?

- It seems to me we were rather nearer the coast.

Q. After lunch do you recollect whether the speed of the ship changed any?

- It continued very slow; even it seemed slower than before; that was the impression that was gained by me.

 

BY MR. KIRLIN:

Q.  Before what?

- The day previous or earlier in the morning.

Mr. Kirlin:
I don't think the answer is admissible.

 

BY THE COURT:

Q. That morning you got up about what time, the day of the disaster?

- About 9 o'clock.

Q. When did you get on deck, approximately?

- About 10.

Q. How did the speed seem to you then?

- Slow.

Q. Later did it seem slower than it did at 10, or about the same?

- It seemed slower.

Q. When I use the word "later," about what time does that mean to you?

- Between 11 and 12.

Q. Was it in your opinion appreciably slower between 11 and 12 than at 10?

- No, it may possibly have been mental; that was the feeling I had, being in the danger zone and having the feeling that the boat was going too slowly; it seemed to me that it was even slower than when I had gotten up.

 

BY MR. BETTS:

Q. Was there any comment on the speed during that day, on the vessel?

Objected to.

Objection sustained.

Q. Did you see at any time any life belts on the deck of the vessel, any time during the voyage?

- Which deck?

Q. On the A deck, on the boat deck?

- No.

Q. Did you ever see any life belts on the companionway of A deck?

- No, not life belts.

Q. Was there any lifeboat drill for the passengers during this voyage?

- Not that I know of.

Q. Were any instructions given to the passengers as to to do in case of torpedoing?

- Not except that which I think was in each berth on a printed slip, as I remember.
Q.  Was that in reference to the life belts?

- How to put them on,

Q. That was all the instructions you know about?

- That is all the instruction that I know about.

Q. Did you have any boat station given to you during the voyage, what boat you were to report to or go in?

- No.

Q. What did you notice with reference to any lifeboat drill by the crew or the passengers on the voyage?

- I don't remember any.

Q. You don't remember any drill by the crew on board?

- I don't.

Q. Referring to the life belts, after the vessel was torpedoed did you see any of the crew distributing life belts?

- No.

Q. Where were you when the vessel was torpedoed?

- I was in the lounge on A deck.

Q. Do you remember about what time it was?

- About a quarter after two.

Q. How was the weather at that time?

- Beautiful.

Q. Was the sun out?

- Yes.

Q. How long had the sun been out then, shining, about?

- About two hours; since 12 o'clock, I should say.

Q. What did you feel or hear of the torpedo?

- The blow felt like a blow from a great hammer striking the ship; it seemed to be well forward on the starboard side.

Q. Did you hear any noise?

- It was like the blow of a great hammer; it was a muffled noise.

Q. Did you hear any other explosion or feel any other shock after that?

- I felt a second one as I got to the entrance to the lounge; I started forward and a second shock came, I should say, about three-quarters of a minute later.

Q. When you went to the entrance of the lounge which side of the ship did you go?

- To the port side.

Q. Did you notice whether you felt the second one in any different position than the first one?

- The second one seemed almost in the center.

 

BY THE COURT:

Q. Was it the same kind of a sound?

- It was more violent; it seemed closer and a little more violent.

 

BY MR. BETTS:

Q. What did you do then?

- My wife and I went out on deck and there was a good deal of confusion. We looked for life preservers, naturally; I couldn't find any. I wanted to go down to my stateroom and get my own, but she did not want me to leave her, so I stayed with her, and we walked back to the end of the A deck, and as we got to the end of the deck and found no life preservers we noticed them beginning to lower the end boat on the port side. We were told to get in --

 

BY THE COURT:

Q. Who told you that?

- A petty officer, I should say, standing in a lifeboat, said: "Get in," and everybody at first held back. Finally I should say ten women got in. My wife refused to go without me, and we waited and waited, and finally I agreed to get in, and I think I was the last man in, right up near the bow of the boat. The boat was about half filled, about 35 people in it. They started to lower the boat, and the man at the bow let the tackle slip, and I remember I grabbed it and that pulled all the skin off my right hand. The bow dropped, the stern tackle held, and everybody fell out of that boat from the top deck, which I think is
about 60 feet above the water.

 

BY MR. BETTS:

Q. What happened after you all went in the water?

- I finally came up and someone grabbed me around the neck, as I remember, by my necktie, and I finally got rid of this man and I got an oar; when I got my breath back and recovered myself I floated on this oar back out into the channel, and from there lying out in the channel I watched the Lusitania go down, probably three-quarters of a mile away from me at that time. The Lusitania went down bow first, falling over on the starboard side, and I could see the decks almost, it seemed to me, at right angles, and just as she disappeared I heard this explosion, it seemed to me. It might have been the air or it might have been boilers; I don't know what it was. It was a very loud explosion.

Q. Was your wife found after the boat was dropped down and you were all thrown in the water?

- No, her body was never recovered.

Q. She never was found?

- No.
Q, Will you tell us whether any passenger or anybody else was interfering in any way with the member of the crew in this lifeboat who let this rope slip?

- No.

Q. That is, nobody was interfering with him?

- No

Q. Did you make any inquiries as to whether you could get life belts on a deck lower down when you went up on this deck A and couldn't get any? Did you inquire of any people who came up as to whether you could get them?

- I think not.

Q. Do you know whether you could have gotten down to your stateroom at that time?

- I know I could not have.

Q. Why is that?

- A young man named Adams rushed down to his father's stateroom, which was right near mine, and he was in the dining room at the time and he said he had gone to his father's stateroom and before he got away there was a rush of water in the corridor in D deck, and he ran up the stairway and the water followed him, and he got out on deck, and there was water shooting up all around him; and if I had gone down I would never have gotten back.

Q. How long were you in the water before the ship sank, about?

- I can't say, but I should think about -- the ship sank probably and atilt disappeared in about 20 or 25 minutes.

 

BY THE COURT:

Q. That is, from the time of the first impact?

- Yes; possibly less.

 

BY MR. BETTS:

Q. How long did you swim about in the water?

- I swam for two hours and a half.

Q. Was the sea calm or rough?

- It was calm, with a little choppy sea, very slight waves.

Q. Then you were taken in by some vessel to Queenstown?

- I was picked up by a lifeboat, and from the lifeboat we were transferred to a little trawler; this little trawler took two lifeboats full of passengers, probably 150 passengers, and we were on this little trawler possibly half an hour when the little passenger steamer called the Flying Fox came out from Queenstown and took us all on board, and we got into Queenstown about half past ten at night.

Q. Did you suffer any injuries as a result of this disaster?

- Well, in addition to my hand I had a broken rib that I found afterwards. When I got to Dublin I found it, and my neck was very badly hurt, probably from the fall.

Q. Did you have to remain in the hospital there?

- I had to remain in the hospital for about three weeks in Dublin.

Q. Independent of the sailor permitting the fall to run away at one end of the boat on which you were being lowered was there any difficulty in lowering that boat to the water a that time on the port side?

- I don't thinks so.

BY THE COURT:

Q. Did you see how many of the ship's men were at the boats?

- A man at the bow and a man at the stern and a petty officer in charge of the boat.

Q. He gave them some commands?

- I think he gave the command to lower away; I am under that impression.

 

BY MR. BETTS:

Q. But he did not give any command to let go of the fall and let it slip, did he?

- No.

 

CROSS EXAMINED BY MR. KIRLIN:

Q. Where was the point from which the fall was being slacked away?

- Well, the rope was paid out from this arm that came up, and it was fastened around a stanchion in the deck.

Q. The man was not in the boat?

- The man was on deck.

Q. There was nobody in the boat that was slacking away?

- No.

Q. It was being slacked away over a davit?

- Yes.

Q. On a stanchion or on the deck?

- On a stanchion on the deck.

Q. Then the davit was on the stanchion?

- Possibly; I am not familiar with those terms.

Q. I was just wondering whether you saw what happened or whether you are only stating the net result?

- I was standing by the sailor at the bow all the time, and watching the operation of the passengers getting in; I was standing there when he started to lower the boat.

Q. You were in the boat, weren't you?

- I was the last one in the boat.

Q. You got in the boat before they began to lower it?

- Yes.

Q. And after that you were in the boat, and the man that was lowering was on the deck?

- Yes.

Q. Lowering from a davit?

- Yes; as I understand, the davit is the arm that holds the boat, and the stanchion would be the cleat on the boat deck.

Q. Well, no, I am just asking whether you noticed where the cleat was around which the line was being paid out; was it attached to the davit or was it on the deck?

- It was on the deck.

Q. It was attached to the deck. Had the ship a list at this time?

- Not very great; some list.

Q. It has been stated by passengers that the list was very heavy immediately after the first explosion.

- It would be amidships; at the stern it was less.

Q. Well, was this boat at the stern of the ship?

- At the very end; the last boat.

Q. The last boat at the stern. I gathered that it was the boat at the forward end. A. The stern.

Q. Can you tell us what number it was?

The Court:
It would be the last boat on the port side.

Q. Corresponding to 21; opposite 21, on the chart Triplicate No. 2 L P 3?

- Yes -- no, it would be on the A deck. There was probably a passageway on the second class deck.

Q. The boat on the port side corresponding to 19 on the starboard side?

- Yes.

Q. Did the boat depend at all from the position in which was hanging in the sling, or hanging on the falls, rather, before the fall got away? That is, had the boat been lowered any appreciable distance?

- I should say about 6 feet.

Q. That is, down to the next deck?

- Not quite that far. It seems to me, when I stood up and, grabbed the boat when it started to slip, I could almost touch the deck above me.

Q. Well, you could not reach the end of the fall from where you stood; the rope?

- I was standing right by the rope in the bow of the boat when it was being lowered. The rope was going right up and down, and when it started to slip I grabbed it.                     

Q. You mean you grabbed one of the running parts between the blocks?

- Yes.

Q. At all events, you got down so far that you could just about reach with your arms extended upward, the deck above, on which the man was standing who was lowering away?

- Just about here (indicating.)

Q. So that you were unable to see just what happened up there, what was the occasion of his losing control of the rope?

- I think I could see exactly what happened.

Q. You said you were below the level of the deck.

- I could see right on the edge where that happened. The deck was right where this crosspiece was. I remember when I saw that started, he ought to have had it twice around the cleat, and he only had it once.

Q. You grabbed the end that was going around the cleat?

- I grabbed the end that was running at the end of the boat.

Q. You couldn't reach the part that the man had in his hand?

- No.

Q. Won't you' look at the plan L P 1, and see if you can indicate to us on that the boat of which you are speaking?

Witness examines the plan and indicates boat No. 20, A class on the port side, being the aftermost boat on the first passenger deck.

Q. Won't you account for your movements with reference to the plan from the time you felt  the shook of the first explosion until you got in the boat?

- I was sitting on the port side of the lounge on deck A when the torpedo struck. I started up with my wife and went to the entrance on the port side. When I got to the entrance a second explosion occurred. We then went out on the deck on the port side.

We were at the time with Lady Allen of Montreal with her two daughters and Mr. Orr Lewis. I took Mrs. Hammond and Gwendolyn Allen, and Mr. Lewis took Lady Allen and Anna Allen. We had no life preservers and could not get any. In a minute or two Lady Allen's maid came with two life preservers for her, and Mr. Lewis' valet came with one for him, which he gave to one of the Allen girls.

Mrs. Hammond and I then started back on the deck looking for life preservers. We could not find any.

 

BY THE COURT:

Q. You went in which direction?

- Aft. We kept on until we got to the end of the deck.

At that time they were just beginning to lower the last boat on the port side of the deck, No. 29. The passengers were told to get in, but hesitated; finally, I should say --

Mr. Kirlin:
That is just repetition.

 

BY MR. KIRLIN:

Q. From that time on the events took place which you have previously narrated?

- Yes.

Q. How long, in your judgment, was the time that you got in the boat subsequent to the explosion?

- About 5 or 6 minutes, possibly 10.

Q. On which side did you say your staterooms were on the deck?

- On the port side, forward.

Q. Did you give the numbers?

- I did not.

Q. Could you?

- My impression is D-20, or in that neighborhood; very near there.

The Court:
Your records will show that.

Mr. Kirlin:
I presume they will.

Q. You bought your ticket in New York?

- Yes.
Mr. Kirlin refers to record and states that it was D-20.

 

BY MR. BETTS:

Q. I want to ask you whether you saw anything that indicated the second explosion, or whether you just judged of its location by the sound?

- I saw nothing; I judged by the sound.

Q. You thought it was about in the middle of the ship?

- Yes.

Q. The first one, you thought, was well forward?

- Well forward.

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