Lusitania

Limitation of Liability Hearings

Testimony of

John I. Lews
Senior Third Officer - ss Lusitania.


 


JOHN I. LEWIS, being duly sworn and examined as a witness for the petitioners, testifies:

BY MR. KIRLIN:

Q. Where do you reside?

- In Liverpool.

Q. What kind of a certificate do you hold?

- A master's.

Q. How long have you held it?

- Since 1913.

Q. How long have you been an officer of steamers?

- In about 1912 I first went in steam.

Q. You have been going to sea how many years?

- 16 years.

Q. You have served on both sail and steam?

- I have.

Q. How long have you been in the Cunard Line?

- Since September, 1914.

Q. Were you an officer of the Lusitania when she was torpedoed?

- I was.

Q. What was your rank?

- I was acting as the senior third, but signed on as intermediate third.

Q. Your testimony has been taken under a commission to London, has it?

- It has.

Q. I do not propose to go over the ground of your testimony already taken, but I want to ask you about some supplementary matters and will have, to a certain extent to overlap some of the questions; but I will try to keep to new matter as far as possible. How long were you connected with the Lusitania?

- Since October, 1914.

Q. Had you been on her continuously from then until the time she was lost?

- I had.

Q. Do you remember what the practice was with regard to boat drills on the steamer in port; if so, state it?

- The morning we left Liverpool we had a Board of Trade mustering drill just before we sailed, under the supervision of the Board of Trade surveyors; just to muster all hands and all the ship's members and swing the boats out on both sides, and swing them inboard again.

Q. Were any boats put in the water?

- Not at that particular muster, no.

Q. Were they lowered?

- Whichever boat the Board of Trade surveyor wanted to be lowered, we had to obey his orders.

 

BY THE COURT:

Q. Were any boats lowered?

- Not at that particular voyage in my section; I couldn't see the other side.

 

BY MR. KIRLIN:

Q. What was the practice in New York?

- Oh, the same in New York, only we used to lower the boats in New York into the dock, and take certain sections of the boat out into the river for a row, a certain section was taken, a section every voyage.

Q. That is, boats on one side one voyage and boats on the other side the next voyage?

- That is it.

Q. Which side were you in charge of?

- That particular voyage I was at the starboard side, forward section.

Q. Including what boats?

- From 1 to 11.

Q. Do you remember whether that side was next to the dock in New York?

- The starboard side was alongside of the quay, yes.

Q. So that in New York were any of these boats put in the water?

- Not on that trip.

Q. Do you remember what was done in the way of drill with the port boats in New York?

- No, I can't remember; I know they were mustered around there, and that is all I could say.

Q. Whether they went away or not, you don't know?

- I couldn't say; I didn't see them.

Q. Can you say whether there was or was not a drill in New York, a muster?

- Oh, certainly.

Q. All the men to all the boats?

- All the men to all the boats, yes.

Q. Can you say whether all the boats were swung out or not, in New York?

- All the boats were swung out on both sides, just out.

Q. Were the men supplied with anything to identify the boat to which they were assigned?

- Yes, metal badges with the number of the boat on it; each man was given this the day he signed on in Liverpool.

Q. Was there a muster list posted on the ship?

- Yes, there was a muster list posted to all the boats.

Q. And a diagram showing the boats with their numbers?

- Yes, and their stations on the boat.

Q. And what men were connected with each boat?

- Yes.

Q. Were the officers supplied with anything to indicate to them what men were assigned to each boat?

- Yes, each officer had a book with the name of the men in his section of the boat, corresponding to the sheets.

Q. Did you have such a list of the men assigned to boats 1 to 11?

- I did.

Q. What became of it?

- It was lost.

 

BY MR. BETTS:

Q. With the ship?

- With the ship.

 

BY MR. KIRLIN:

Q. That drill took place in London, as I understand you?

- In Liverpool.

Q. Under the instructions of the surveyor of the Board of Trade?

- Yes.

Q. Was there anything official about it in New York?

- Not to my knowledge.

Q. That is, did any official take part in any inspection here?

- I didn't see any.

Q. That was just conducted by those in charge of the boats on board?

- Yes, as is always done.

Q. What can you tell us about the swinging out of the boat prior to or about the time of your arrival at the edge of the war zone?

- On the day previous --

Q. Previous to what?

- Previous to the day that she was torpedoed; that would be the 6th of May at 5:30 in the morning, we mustered the cooks, the stewards, the watch of sailors on deck, and any other day men that we could raise and swung the boats out. We took the port boats out first.

Q. What had you to do with that?

- I was the man in charge of the operation.

Q. Well, tell his Honor what was done?

- We fixed these men -- that would be about 6 or 8 men to a boat, along on the port side, and then I walked to just opposite the Marconi house, where I could command both ends of the ship at the time, and ordered them, when I gave the word that all boats were to go out at the same time, because if they didn't do that there would be a mix-up of guys and one thing and another; they had to put them all out altogether or they would have a deuce of a lot of trouble putting them out.

Q. Were they all put out at once?

- They were; that was on the port side, and then they shifted over to the starboard side and did the same thing. Then we dismissed the day men and the cooks and stewards and saw that the sailors were making the guys fast, clearing up the boat falls and piling them in running coils on the hurricane deck, and gave instructions also for them to see to the gear of the boats.

Q. What do you mean by the gear of the boats?

- See that all the oars were in the boat and the mast and sails and the comforts, matches, sea anchor, oil, storm oil and lamp oil, and provisions and water and row locks and rudder, and everything, and see that the boat was provisioned.

Q. Was the boat supplied with the articles you have spoken of?

- They were, and each article in its place.

Q. That was all done on the morning of May 6th?

- Well, it was started on the morning of May 6th, but I don't suppose everything was finished much before noon or maybe after.

Q. Well, the boats were got out on that morning?

- They were out before 6 o'clock on that morning.

Q. And the routine of examining the boats and proceeding to lower the boats?

- Yes, that was all done.

Q. Did that fall under your supervision also?

- Not entirely under mine, but partly under my supervision, yes.

Q. Who took it up where you left off?

- Well, I gave instructions to the boatswain that it should be carried on, and I was held responsible for my own section, and each officer took his own section.

Q. You went off watch at what time?

- At 8 o'clock.

Q. When you left were the men still working?

- They were working on the boats, yes.

Q. Had there been any boat drills during the voyage, prior to May 6th?

- Yes, an emergency boat drill.

Q. What did that consist of?

- Well, we have two special boats in the ship that are always at sea swung out.

Q. Which two are they?

- Well, sometimes we change them around; but on that particular voyage I think they were 13 and 14; I am not absolutely certain; we used to have special wire guys spread out between the two davits with a life line attached to these reaching down to the water's edge. Every morning, or usually every morning the whistle would go and these men went back to muster at the emergency boat, whichever side of the ship was the lee side. There was a picked crew from the watch. In case of accident, anybody falling over the side or any other accident, these were the men who were told off to go into the boat. They had to muster in front of the boat and see that the numbers of the men were right and two men would be standing by the fall for lowering.

Q. At each end?

- At each end; then after these fellows would stand at attention in front of the boats and I would say, "Man the boats," and these men would get into the boats and put their life belts on and sit in the number of their place in the boat. After I saw that everything was all correct I would dismiss them from the boats.

Q. This was done under your supervision?

- This was done under my supervision, daily.

Q. Were all the boats fitted with this running life line, or only the emergency boats?

- No, only the emergency boats but each boat had two life lines.

Q. What were they attached to?

- They were attached to the davit end.

Q. So that beside the block and falls that were used in lowering the boats, there was attached to the davit a life line at each end of the boat?

- Yes, at each end of the boat.

Q. On the opposite davits?

- On the opposite davits.

Q. Which went down with the boat?

- Which went down with the boat.

Q. And extended to the water?

- Extended to the water. That was simply for the men who were standing up to hang on to when they were lowering down.

Q. For the men to hold on to while they were working and detaching the boats, and holding the boat in position there?

- Yes.

Q. One of the witnesses testified to the presence of a chain, a short chain holding from the head of the davit to the boats. Were there any such connections as that between the
davits and the boats after they were swung out?

- No, not after they were swung out; there were connections certainly, while they were inboard for hoisting them up.

Q. Well, that was a different kind of a chain; that was a chain over the side of the boat, was it not?

- No, we had a chain fastened to the davit head so that we could lift the boat with one man, if necessary, on board the ship.

Q. That is while the boat was lying in the cradles?

- Yes.

Q. That is a short chain with a turnbuckle?

- Yes.

Q. So that a man could get in the boat with this turnbuckle?

- Yes, take a marline spike and turn it up himself.

Q. When the boats were swung out what was done with these chains?

- They were unhooked.

Q. Did any of those remain hooked after the boats were swung out and hung on the lowering tackles?

- No.

Q. Were the boats lowered at all when they were swung out?

- They were lowered partially, a little; so that they would be just on a level with the collapsible boats.

Q. When the boats hang in the davits with these short chains on them how high up are they above the deck?

- Well, they would be -- the boat should be about 8 feet from the deck.

Q. Could anybody get into them at all?

- Well, I suppose I could if I jumped.

Q. But passengers could not?

- No.

Q. They would have to be lowered down?

- Yes.

Q. There were stowed underneath those boats the collapsible boats?

- Yes, the collapsible boats.

Q. And when the boats were swung out on the morning of May 6th, you say they were lowered down to be on a level with the collapsible boats?

- Yes.

Q. How high would that bring them down above the deck?

- The collapsible boats would be about 3 feet -- about 5 feet; you have to go over the collapsible boat to get into the lifeboat. The lifeboat was not lowered to the level of the deck, but to the collapsible boat; just a matter of 2 feet.

Q. Could the lifeboat be lowered after that was swung out, to be level with the collapsible boats, without disengaging these chains to which they were hung in the rocker?

- Impossible.

Q. After these lifeboats were swung out there remained on the deck the collapsible boat which originally had been stowed under?

- Yes.

Q. Won't you describe the collapsible boats?

- A collapsible boat is something similar to a life raft, rather flat bottomed; it only raises about 18 inches from the deck.

Q. About the length of an ordinary lifeboat?

- About the length of an ordinary lifeboat, yes.

Q. And a little wider in the beam?

- Yes, just like an ordinary -- two bows on it and wider in the beam and flat bottoms. The wooden part of the boat is only about 18 inches deep.

Q. Is it a watertight boat?

- That one is.

Q. Decked over?

- Decked over, watertight tanks, inside. Above that there is canvas sides that you raise up, like opening a concertina, fixed up with iron bars to raise the seats up.

Q. That can be used with rowlocks; when it is down or when you have the sides up, you can move the rowlocks up into the top?

- Yes. That is one type, and we have another type exactly similar as regards the bottom, but the sides raise up instead of lifting up; they are laying down flat and raised up.

Q. To illustrate a hinge?

- Yes, with canvas around the bow and the stern, and the seats raise up the same way.

Q. Do you remember what proportion of each kind of those boats you had?

- I couldn't exactly remember what kind; we had three kinds on board that ship, but they are all the same principle as regards the bottom.

Q. The difference is in regard to the collapsible part?

- Yes.

Q. What is the third class?

- That is just about similar, too, just the same as the lifting up part. They were the Chambers, McLean, and the other name I can't remember.

Q. Engelhardt?

- Yes, Engelhardt.

Q. Were those collapsible boats secured to the deck in any way? When they were stowed in under the lifeboats?

- The lifeboats secured them down.

Q. We have it on the diagrams that there were chains from the gunwales of the lifeboat extending right down to the deck.

- Yes.

Q. That held the lifeboats and the collapsible boats under them, all in place?

- The chock of the lifeboat goes on top of the collapsible boat.

Q. That is, the lifeboats rest in a chock at each end?

- Yes.

Q. When the lifeboats were swung out were the collapsible boats in position to float off?

- They would float off.

Q. They were not fastened independently to the deck?

- No.

Q. Now, if there had been time to lower all the boats, what would have been the procedure of lowering the collapsible boats?

- Lift up the sides, --

Q. No, wait a moment. You have said that the lifeboats were hanging on the morning of the 6th in their tackles?

- Yes.

Q. If you had had time enough what would have been the operation of getting away the second class boats?

- We would have to unhook the first ones first, and haul up the tackles.

Q. You would lower away the lifeboat?

- Yes.

Q. Detach the tackle?

- Detach the tackle, swing it inboard, hook on the hook of the collapsible boat and swing it out and lower it away again.

Q. On the same davits and the same tackle?

- The same davits and the same tackle, yes.

Q. What furnishings were there for the collapsible boats?

- Oars, two boat hooks.

Q. Where were they stowed?

- In the boat.

Q. On the deck?

- On the deck, in the collapsible boats.

Q. One of the passengers testified that he found a collapsible boat in the water and that when he turned it over he found it covered by a canvas which was fastened on in some manner, a string or something of that sort, that required cutting. Was there any such arrangement as that on the collapsible boats?

- They have canvas covers, but there were three lashings underneath the boat.

Q. Would the canvas cover extend all over the deck?

- Cover the boats.

Q. And over the collapsible part?

- Over the collapsible part, yes.

Q. What is the office of that covering? Is it to protect the boat?

- To protect the boat. To protect the canvas part of the boat from the sun from the deck, from the watertight deck.

Q. There is some ironwork that needs protection too, is there not?

- Yes.

Q. That is the office of this cover?

- Yes, to protect the whole boat.

Q. Do you know whether the canvas covers on the collapsible boats were loosened or not?

- I didn't notice whether they were loosened or not.

Q. How many fastenings are there?

- Three, underneath.

Q. How do they run?

- This canvas cover has got two points coming down like in a triangle and on the end of this there is a little becket made fast underneath the keel and made fast on the side, one to the other; three distinct lashings.

Q. They lashed this fast to one of the points on the one side and carry it under the boat and make it fast to the point on the other side?

- Yes.

Q. And there are three of those in the length of the boat?

- Yes.

The Court:
We had the Engelhardt in the Titanic.

Mr. Betts:
We had the Engelhardt beside the Chambers and one other. You would not know them apart.

Q. Are these lashings tied so that they can be momentarily detached?

- Just one pull.

Q. Tied with a slip knot?

- With a slip knot, yes.

Q. Where is that slip knot; at what point in the lashings?

- It is on the inside, the inboard side, just underneath the gunwale.

Q. Just underneath the gunwale of the collapsible boat?

- Yes.

Q. Where the point comes down?

- Yes.

Q. Do you know what orders had been given with regard to the closing of ports on this voyage?

- Yes.

Q. Were they given to you?

- They were given to all the officers, myself included.

Q. What were those orders?

- That all the ports were to be closed, and not only that, all the windows at night were to be closed and darkened and all the doors leading on to the decks were to be closed at night.

Q. Was there a daily inspection after these orders had been issued?

- There is a daily inspection on all the ships that I have been in in this line, at half past ten in the morning.

Q. Was there such an inspection on the Lusitania during this voyage?

- There was every morning at half past ten.

Q. Was it a part of your duty to attend on one of those inspections?

- I used to attend on them every day.

Q. You attended one end of the ship?

- No, I attended the whole of the ship, there were six of us going on this inspection; the staff captain in full charge, the senior surgeon, the assistant surgeon, the purser, the chief steward and myself. It was to begin at half past ten outside the purser's office on B deck. Then we would start to go all around the passengers' rooms; we would inspect a room here and there, all the bath rooms, boilers and alleyways and see that everything was clean and in order, and go right around each deck right down through the saloons and the galleys down to the steerage; the same thing in the crew's quarters and the firemen's quarters.

Q. That inspection took you every morning through all the compartments that had ports in them?

- Through all the compartments that had ports in them, yes.

Q. Did all these gentlemen know of the orders that you have spoken of about the ports being closed?

- Yes, they knew.

Q. I believe you were not on the inspection on the morning of the accident?

- No.

Q. What were you doing?

- I was engaged down in the baggage room.

Q. Up till that morning you had been through there every day?

- Every day, yes.

Q. Did all these other gentlemen know of the orders that you have spoken of about ports?

- They did.

Q. What was the condition of the ports when you went around the last time?

- Closed.

Q. Were any ports open, so far as you know?

- No, not as far as I am aware of, no.

Q. On the day of the accident?

- As far as I am aware of it, no.

Q. Of course, you were not in any passenger's staterooms to notice the ports?

- No.

Q. But the ports in the alleyways and in the places that you were in were in what condition?

- They were closed, all those ports; one or two of these might be open on C deck. They open on to the shelter deck; there were men detailed off every morning to clean the brass work on those ports, because they open on to the third class passengers' promenade deck, and there are two men specially detailed off to clean the brass, and probably they were cleaning them at the time, and there might have been one or two open, but if any water came in there it would go down on the wooden deck and would run out through the scuppers.

 

ADJOURNED till Monday, April 29, 1918, at 11 A. M.

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