Limitation of Liability Hearings

Testimony of

John I. Lews

Senior Third Officer - ss Lusitania



Met pursuant to adjournment at 2:05 P. M., as before -

JOHN I. LEWIS, resumes the stand.



Q. I believe you didn't answer the last question before recess. What was the custom on Cunard ships while you were in service with regard to the taking of bearings on making land on the other side?

- We took all possible bearings, all we possibly could.

Q. State what kind of bearings were customarily taken.

- Cross bearings, 4-point bearings and sextant angle bearings.

Q. Was it usual to check one by the other?

- Yes, always.

Q. The sextant bearing you could not take unless you were relatively near some high up object?

- No, say 5 miles off.

Q. Was it clear enough in your judgment when the ship sunk to have taken cross bearings off Galley Head and Kinsale?

- In my opinion, no.

Q. You saw Kinsale after you were in the water?

- Yes.

Q. Did it stand out clearly?

- Yes, it was quite clear at the end, towards evening.

Q. Do your sailing directions along that coast give you the tides and currents?

- Yes, the route of the currents is marked down on the chart.

Q. They are right on the chart?

- Yes.

Q. Taking into account the information that you have on the charts, how close would a 4-point bearing in your opinion approximate to your true position off the land?

- Taking everything into consideration, I think about half a mile at most.

Q. You heard one of the witnesses speak of taking a cross bearing by laying a rule across the compass or looking across the compass. Can you give an accurate bearing in that way?

- No, that is what we call a rule of thumb (?)

Q. Would you cone within half a mile of your true position?

- I never tried to do it.

Q. That was the usual way of taking them?

- We have a pylorus and also an azimuth mirror.

Q. Does that enable you to ascertain your position much more exactly?

- Right to the degree.

Q. Lots of these survivors, I believe, were taken into Queenstown, were they not?

- They were, yes, sir.

Q. Did you remain there some days?

- I left on Saturday afternoon.

Q. You arrived there when?

- I arrived there Friday night at midnight.

Q. You stayed there Saturday until the afternoon?

- Yes, until the afternoon.

Q. Did you see the passengers and members of the crew?

- I did.

Q. While you were there?

- Yes, I saw them.

Q. Was there a good deal of talk around about the accident among the passengers and members of the crew?

- Certainly, yes.

Q. Did you ever hear, either on board or in Queenstown or at any time afterwards, any report of a passenger's fingers having been cut off?

Objected to as incompetent.

The Court:
It is incompetent, but at the same time I do think for the reputation of the vessel it is only fair to let him answer. I do not think whether that passenger's fingers were cut or not has any relation to the issue here. Some day or another if somebody, an enemy of this country or Great Britain were to search this record and find this it seemed to me at the moment a very and extraordinary statement, and without any attempt to contradict it it might have a bad result. He may answer.

- No only, in court here.

Q. Was that the first you ever heard of it, here in court?

- The first, yes.

Q. You attended throughout the  inquiry before Lord Mersey?

- Yes.

Q. And you were examined at the hearings on the Commission in London?

- Yes.

Q. There was no reference made in any of those proceedings to such a case?

- Not at all, to my knowledge.

Q. What was the color of the ship on this voyage?

- A black hull, black funnels and white top sides.

Q. What was the color of the boat?

- White.

Mr. Kirlin:
I do not know whether it is material, but there are two points on which I would like to interrogate the witness if it is Material, and I will state them in advance. In the first place, I would like to ask the witness whether, in reference to this Admiralty confidential memorandum suggesting steering in mid-channel, he considers any channel a place where they would steer, and in the second place whether in nautical language he would consider that the distance they were off Kinsale was giving Kinsale Head a wide berth, or the land along there a wide berth; my impression is that perhaps those are matters for your Honor to interpret, but the witness is here, and if it is pertinent I would like to ask those questions of him.

The Court:
On the question of the channel, I don't know what Mr. Betts' position would be.  I might take something on that. The question of wide berth I do not think I want anything on.

Q. Is there any channel in the region where the steamer was torpedoed?

Objected to as incompetent and on the ground that the Court ruled that out on the claimants' testimony.

The Court:
I would rather rule it out than have any question about it, because I can be guided by the charts.

Q. Did you hear any orders not to lower boats or not to lower the collapsible boats?

- Personally, no.

Q. I think you testified early in your testimony what the collapsible boats were like, did you not?

Mr. Betts:
Yes, that is all described.

The Court:
While this matter of Mr. Learey's testimony in regard to the acts of the sailors is fresh in my mind, I may say that while I do not question at all the sincerity of Mr. Learey, and appreciate that he is apparently a reputable, capable and intelligent business man, his testimony on this point made no impression on me. I was satisfied that Mr. Learey, either got some notion in his mind, owing to the exciting situation in which he found himself and the nervous tension under which he was, and it may possibly be that one of the crew of the vessel  performing  some legitimate service might in some manner have accidentally struck a part of a passenger's hand, and in the excitement Mr. Learey might have supposed that such an act was wilful, and much more serious than it actually was. The vessel was officered and manned by British subjects, as I understand, and I should either have to see the act myself or have it told to me by a person in whose calmness as well as integrity I have entire confidence to believe that any British officer or seaman would be guilty of any such act as Mr. Learey thought he saw.



Q. Do you know what steamer Capt. Turner was in after this accident, when it was torpedoed? He says in his testimony that he subsequently was torpedoed in another ship.

- Over there they are so reticent about these matters that the did not ask him what ship that was.

Mr. Betts:
Objected to because it happened after the accident, and your Honor has ruled out everything that counsel asked that happened after the accident.

The Court:
We will take it off the record.

- The Ivernia.

Q. Do you know where it was?

- In the Mediterranean.

Q. What part of the Mediterranean was it in?

- I think it was between Malta and Alexandria.

Q. Do you know the Ivernia?

- I have seen her; I have never been on board of her.

Q. Do you know what her speed was?

- About 16 knots.



Q. You don't know anything about what speed she was going at that time?

- I know nothing at all about it.

Q. You know nothing about it, except what you have heard?

- I never sailed in her.

Q. You never sailed in her and you were not there?

- No.

Q. All this is hearsay?

- Yes.



Q. You have told us about these chains which supported the lifeboats while they were hung from the davits before they were swung out over the side. Can you tell us about the length of those chains?

- There were not any chains there.

Q. I mean when the boats were in on their cradles. You have said there were chains which they were hung on or took the weight, and with which the crew could turn a buckle to raise the boats up?

- There were only two links of chain on the end of a turnbuckle.

Q. Do you mean to say that there was no chain when the boats were inboard, no chain from the boats to the davits?

- No, there were turnbuckles fastened to the heads of the davits and then a couple of links in the end of it and the hook came up with the links.

Q. Then there were metal rods with a turnbuckle that connected the two rods?

- Connected two screws with a box in between with a hole in the middle of the box where you can put a marline spike in and turn it around so that one man can lift the boat up.

Q. Do you know what was the length of that apparatus?

- Maybe about 2.6 feet or 3 feet at the longest.

Q. Was the iron rod fastened to the boat by this slip link that you have mentioned?

- By the slip link.

Q. Was that the same slip link that was used to fasten the falls to the boat or was it a different one?

- It was a different one.

Q. But the same style, was it, as the one that was used to fasten the falls?

- Oh, no.

Q. A different kind?

- A different kind from that on the falls.

Q. That was the difference between the two?

- Well, one was a slip link and the other one was a ring fastened to the block, the lower block of the fall hooked in the boat.

Q. That ring was fastened to a hook in the lower part of the boat?

- Yes.

Q. Then your recollection is that when the falls were fastened on there was not any slip link at all connecting the falls to the boat?

- No.

Q. What was the patent of this ring or hook that fastened the fall to the boat? What particular device different from the ordinary hook and ring?

- Well, I didn't -- there were three different sorts, and so many different sizes and so many different ships that I can't swear to what sort they had on the Lusitania; but I know I have been shipmates with the different kinds and they are easy enough; a child could work them.

Q. When you described to me this ring and hook there was nothing patented about that; you meant to describe the ordinary hook and ring?

- Yes.

Q. Independent of the Stenhouse slip?

- Yes.

Q. Did you notice in two of the boats that were in the water on the starboard side when the vessel was well heeled over, anybody trying to release these falls, or release anything in the bow and stern of each boat?

- Not in my section; I didn't notice it.

Q. Would it be your opinion that if the seamen were not able to release this form of attachment from the davit to the boat, that they were not familiar with the method of unfastening the boats?

- Well, I don't see what they wanted to be familiar with; they simply take it off.

Q. Do you know why those two boats that you saw in the last part of your observation of the boats on the starboard side, had not been released from the ship?

- My last two boats were No. 1 and 3, and No. 1 boat was released from the davits; I know that for a fact; but about No. 3, the boat was floating and the falls may be in the boat, but I could not see whether they were released or not.

Q. Do you know that two boats on the starboard side that were in the water were never released, but were carried down with the ship?

- I don't know that; I couldn't see that. I was gone before they left the ship's side.

Q. Did you hear it at all after the disaster?

- I heard that the boats had gone down, yes, and I heard how.



Q. You say you heard how?

- Yes.



Q. Did you hear that the davits pushed the boats down?

- I heard of the end of the davit which is curved like this (illustrating) was caught on the gunwale of the boat, and dragged the boat down with it. That was what I heard, but I didn't see it.



Q. Do you mean that people told you that?

- Some of the people that were in the boats, yes.



Q. You don't know why it was that they were not released before that time, do you?

- They might have been released; the curved part of the davit caught the gunwale.

Q. I mean you don't know why the tackle was not released before the davits got so low that they caught the boats?

- They might have been released; No. 1 was released.

Q. You don't think that they would stay alongside of the ship if they were released, do you?

- Why should they not, if nobody took them out?

Q. There were people in the boats?

- Well, if they pushed them out then they got away all right, and there was nothing to stop No. 1 from going.

Q. Do you know whether there were different methods of releasing the falls from the boats in the Lusitania or whether they were all of the same kind, the apparatus?

- The A class boats were all of the same kind, but the collapsible boats were different.

Q. How were the collapsible boats?

- The collapsible hung on a are simply hung on a hook with a chain on it, three parts coming to the one point in the hook, an ordinary hook.

Q. Then when you release the collapsible boats you simply withdraw the hook from the ring that connects the two chains?

- No, you draw the ring that was on the lower block from the hook.

Q. You say that the collapsible boats were in a position to float off. Do you know whether there were any fastenings under the grips which some of the witnesses have mentioned as fastening the collapsible boats to the deck?

- Not to the deck, no.

Q. Where did the grips fasten them?

- To the plank that was supporting the cradle on the A class boats resting on the deck.

Q. Do you know whether any of those fastenings were unfastened?

- They must have been, because I saw one boat in particular shifted out of its position; it was thrown inboard on the starboard side, thrown inboard, not outboard, inboard.

Q. Did you see any collapsible boat that had shifted its position, except that one boat?

- There was No. 5 boat that shifted its position. The others were lying just alongside of the ship's side, the rail.

Q. Did you yourself have anything to do with unfastening the grips of the collapsible boats?

- No.

Q. When had you last seen the canvas covers taken off the collapsible boats?

- When we examined them last.

Q. When was that?

- Well, I saw one or two of they taken off of on the Thursday, the day previous to the accident.

Q. When have you seen any other covers taken off?

- In New York.

Q. How many did you see there?

- Well, all my section.



Q. Replaced afterwards?

- Replaced, yes; but whether they were replaced on the first day I don't know.



Q. You have spoken about the canvas covers being fastened by ropes in three places, around from the end of the canvas cover on one side and underneath the boat and up to the canvas cover on the other side?

- Yes.

Q. About how long were those ropes from where they went through the canvas cover on one side to where they went through on the other side?

- Well, as near as I can judge I should think it was about three or four feet between the part where it was fastened on one side to where it is fastened on the other side, as near as I could judge, of course.

Q. About what was the beam of the boat?

- About 5.6 feet, somewhere about that. Of course, I haven't measured it.

Q. So that in order to release or take off these canvas covers you would have to pull this slip knot that you say was down on the side of the boat, on the heel of the boat, to release each lashing, and there were three lashings?

- Yes.

Q. Had these orders with reference to the closing of the ports been given to you for the whole voyage over from New York?

- They had been given to us to see that -- at the beginning of the voyage -- to see that the ports were closed, especially at nights, with a stress on “the night," darkened ship.

Q. The emphasis that was laid on the closing of the ports was to close them at night to prevent light being seen by the hostile vessels; wasn't that the real importance of it?

- Yes, that was the real importance of it.

Q. Had anything been said to you about the importance of the ports being closed in case of a disaster, to keep the water out?

- Well, if I can answer this way: Whenever we are in fog on those ships, the first thing that we have got to see to is to close the watertight bulkhead doors, put the pressure on from the bridge and see that all the lower deck ports are closed in case of collision or anything like that; that is our general rule, our general order.

Q. That do you consider the lower deck ports on the Lusitania?

- D, E and F.

Q. Had any particular orders been given you for this voyage, different from any other voyage, except so far as keeping the portholes darkened at night?

- Not till the Thursday, coming home; of course, we had a general order to keep the ports closed all throughout the voyage, but on --  in fact, Wednesday night we were given special instructions to see that the ports, the lower deck ports, were all closed. That is, each officer of the watch had to go down and see to this after he finished his watch.

Q. Was there any special caution about darkening the ports at that time?

- Yes, and to close all doors on deck.

Q. Did you assume to close any portholes before the Thursday during the daytime, if the weather was clear?

- If we happened to see any ports open down like in some of the steerage rooms, somebody got into trouble for it.

Q. But did you see that any other ports were closed during the day time except in the steerage quarters?

- Yes, around the mail rooms, on E deck in the second cabin.

Q. Any other place?

- And in the saloon, D, first-class and second-class, on the same deck.

Q. Did you appreciate that it was necessary to keep the portholes closed on D deck in the saloon compartment?

- I appreciated that I was given the order to see that they were closed.

Q. Would it surprise you very much if you learned that some of them were open at the time of the disaster?

- It would.

Q. Would you think that it was improper to have any portholes open on D deck at the time of the disaster?

- Yes, it would have been right opposite the orders that they got.

Q. Would you think it also improper to have any portholes open on E deck at the time of the disaster?

- Why, yes.

Q. Why would you think it was improper to have them open on E deck?

- It was very, very seldom that you can have a port open on E deck at any time at sea.

Q. Is that because it is so close to the water?

- Yes, because it is pretty well down, and there is always a sea on in the Atlantic, and when the ship is going of course there is a wave of its own to come through.

Q. How close were the portholes over E deck to the water?

- I have never measured, but I should reckon about 12 feet.

Q. Do you mean to say that when you were on this inspection of the ship every day, in the daytime, except you say you were not on the inspection the day of the disaster, will you tell us about how long it took you to make that whole inspection of the ship?

- It took us, the whole of us, from about half past ten till somewhere after noon, somewhere after twelve.

Q. Did you make the inspection of the whole of the ship yourself, or did you inspect part of the ship and somebody else inspect the other part?

- I was detailed off to inspect some special quarters, but I went through the whole quarters to go to these different places.

Q. You say you went into every room on every deck of the vessel on that inspection?

- I said I used to go some places -- there were places that we couldn't very well go, the passengers' rooms that were occupied. We couldn't go there.

Q. Did you go into any of the first-class staterooms on that inspection?

- Those that were not occupied, there was a steward in attendance and we used to go in and inspect them to see that they were properly kept and properly cleaned.

Q. Did you go yourself at any of these times through these places?

- Oh, yes.

Q. How many first-class rooms did you go into on the inspection the morning before the disaster?

- Well, I don't remember that, how many.

Q. Did you consider opening the portholes on E or D deck source of danger in case of torpedoing?

- So far as that goes, one or two wouldn't make much difference; but if the whole lot were open I suppose it would.

Q. I notice you said on your direct examination in answer to a question:

"Q. Of course, you were not in any passengers' state rooms to notice the ports? - No."

- They were occupied.

Q. Do you mean some rooms that had not been sold for the voyage?

Mr. Kirlin:
No, rooms that the passengers were in.

Q. Do you mean rooms that the passengers were in, or room that had not been sold for the voyage?

- The rooms that the passengers were in, because we could not get in if the passenger was occupying a room.

Q. I notice that you did not qualify your answer when you were examined on Friday. Do you wish to qualify that answer now?

- What was the question?

Mr. Kirlin:
What was in my mind was the entrance in the rooms in which there were passengers.

Q. The question was:

"Q. Of course, you were not in any passengers' staterooms to notice the ports," and your answer was "No."

- The rooms that the passengers were in, no; we couldn't possibly go in; but we had to go in some of them, when they were empty we could go in.



Q. Those that were not occupied?

- We couldn't go into rooms that the passengers were asleep in, but if the passenger went out and the steward said the room was vacant, we would walk in.



Q. Then you say you relied on the steward to tell you whether or not a passenger was asleep in a room, and if the steward said he was asleep you did not go in, and if he did not say so you went in?

- Well, we couldn't go in. Suppose it had been a lady's room, we couldn't go in there. We had to rely on what the steward said.

Q. You relied on the steward to keep you informed on that subject?

- We relied on the steward to keep us informed; in fact, the door would be open and he would be standing at attention there for us to go in.

Q. In fact, weren't your instructions given to the steward as to what to do with portholes?

- Orders were given to all heads of departments.

Q. (Repeated) In fact, weren't your instructions given to the steward as to what to do with portholes? Yes or no.

- The heads of the departments, yes.

Q. Not to individual stewards, but only to the chief steward?

- To the chief Steward, yes.



Q. In other words, the order was given to the chief steward, and you relied upon him to give the orders to the room stewards, and the stewards under him?

- Yes.



Q. The actual opening or closing of the ports would be done by the room steward, would it not?

- It would be done by the bed room steward.

Q. Your actual knowledge of the portholes is confined to what it was the day before the accident, is it not?

- Yes.



Q. That is Thursday, is it not?

- Yes, that is Thursday.

Mr. Kirlin:
Thursday night, he said he made his inspection.

Q. What is the ventilation or what was the ventilation in the dining saloon if all the ports were closed?

- Well, we had thermo tanks working the heat or the cold, or whichever is wanted.

Q. I understand; but this day that the Lusitania was struck and went down, the weather was good?

- Yes, it was a nice May day.

Q. How was it in regard to being warm; do you remember that?

- I remember that when I went on watch in the morning that I had my overcoat on and was glad of it too; that was from 4 to 6 in the morning.



Q. Was it foggy at that time?

- Yes, it was foggy.



Q. How was it around noon, do you know?

- Quite a nice day at noon.

Q. I am speaking of the weather now, from the standpoint of heat and cold.

- Yes, I understood it that way.


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