Limitation of Liability Hearings

Testimony of JAMES R. READDIE

Treasurer - Donald Steamship Line.
Passenger - ss Lusitania.



JAMES R. READDIE, being duly sworn and examined as a witness for the claimants, testifies:


Q You live in New York?

- Yes.

Q. You have been engaged in the steamship business for how many years?

- Sixteen.

Q. Are you now the treasurer of the Donald Steamship Company?

- I am.

Q. Did you on May 1, 1915, go on the Lusitania on a voyage toward Liverpool?

- I did.

Q. How did you happen to sail by the Lusitania?

- Well, I figured that she was the fastest ship at the time.

Objected to.

Objection sustained.

On motion the answer is stricken out.

Q. Did you go on business?

- Well, it was a mixed voyage, both business and pleasure.

Q. Were you going to see your family?

- I was going to be married, as a matter of fact, and had some business to attend to also.

Q. Did you know what time the expected arrival of the Lusitania was in Liverpool?

Objected to.

Objection sustained.

Q. Did you have any knowledge before you went on the ship, that the steamer was sailing with part of her boilers disconnected in one boiler room?

- I did not.

On motion the rest of the answer is stricken out.

Q. Did the American Line vessel sail the same day as you did, from New York?

- She did, yes.

Q. On the voyage over did you notice anything particular about the speed of the vessel?

- Yes, I noticed that it was not up to the usual standard of the Lusitania.


Q Had you been on her before?

- I had the first time came to this country I came on her.


Q. On the 7th of May, the day of the torpedoing, will you tell us whether the weather cleared up before noon?

- It cleared up before the lunch hour.

Q. What time was the lunch hour?

- The first, I believe, was around 12 o'clock, and the second around one.

Q. What was the time that you went to lunch?

- The second.

Q When the weather cleared up was the sun out?
- The sun was out.

Q. How was the horizon with reference to its being clear, etc.?

- Well, in the far distance it was a trifle hazy, but you could see very clearly for a number of miles.

Q. How clearly could you see the Irish coast before you went to lunch?

- I should say pretty distinctly.

Q. Could you see the different outlines and points on the coast?
- Yes.

Q. Did you form any judgment how far you were away from the coast at that time?
- No, sir, I did not.

Q. Your room was in the second cabin?
- In the second cabin.

Q. On what deck were you?
- D deck.

Q. Was that also the deck of the second cabin dining room?
- Yes.

Q. Do you remember what aide of the ship your stateroom was on?
- On the port side.

Q. That was the side towards the Irish coast?

Q. You say you went to luncheon about what time that day?

- About a quarter after one.

Q. You remained there until the torpedoing?

- A Yes, until the torpedoing.

Q. What was the first explosion that you felt of the torpedoing?

- I thought we had either struck something or something had struck us, in a collision.

Q. Which way was the shock from you?

- Forward.

Q. Did you hear anything before feeling a shock?

- Yes, the explosion.

Q. Just an explosion?

- Just an explosion, as I have several times described it, like one of the subway explosions. My first thought was a collision. My first thought was a collision.

Q. Was there any glass or crockery thrown down in the dining room?

- There was quite a lot in the kitchen; I could hear, it crashing in the kitchen.

Q. Was that right away or shortly after the shock?

- Almost immediately.

Q. Was there more than one shock or only one shock?

- Well, I only felt one.

Q. So far as you can recollect will you tell us what the condition of the portholes was in the second class dining room at that time?

- So far as I can recollect, there were several of them open.

Q. Do you remember which side they were open on?

- Well, I think, if I remember rightly, there were two or three open on the starboard side, and as far as I remember the portholes on one side of my table were also open; my table was on the port side, and the porthole opposite my table was open.

Q. Do you remember how many portholes you could see from whore you sat in the dining room?

- Oh, I could see, I suppose, approximately about a dozen or so; I couldn't say definitely.

Q. After the explosion where did you go from the dining room?

- I went to get my cap.

Q. That was in your stateroom?

- That was in my stateroom, which was close alongside of the dining room.

Q. What was the condition of the porthole in your stateroom?

- I don't remember, excepting that I knew that it was open the night before, and the early part of that morning; but whether it had been closed or not during the course of the morning, I couldn't say.

Q. Did you close it yourself?

- I closed it myself.

Q. Did you receive any instruction, from anyone in the vessel to close your portholes while in the danger zone?

- No.

Q. As you went to your stateroom from the dining room, and as you also went up the deck did you notice any of the portholes on D deck in the second cabin alleyways?
- I did not.

Q. Where did you go from your room?

- Well, I passed the companionway that is right opposite the dining room door, and I was making my way up on deck that way, although I believe there is another companionway aft.

Q. What did you notice about the list of the ship at that time?

- She listed immediately; it was very severe at the time.

Q. Did you find that she continued to list, or did she hold up for any length of time?

- She seemed to continue to list all the time.

Q. You went up to the boat deck, did you?

- Yes, and made my way up on the boat deck.

Q. Across to the first cabin side?

- Yes.

Q. Was there any great number of people moving along the boat deck at that time?

- Well, not where I was.

Q. Where did you notice most of the people when you got on to the boat deck?

- Up on the port side, almost amidships.

Q. How did you procure a life belt? Did you see any life belts that you put on somebody?

- Yes, there was a life belt just over the bridge between the second cabin and the first cabin, and there was a life belt there; it was just outside. I believe there was a sort of a cafe or something of the kind aft on the boat deck, and it was lying just outside of that on the grating.

Q. Did you see any other life belt than that?

- No.


Q Do you mean it was lying loose?

- Yes, just over the bridge between the second and first cabin. In fact, it was the first thing I noticed when I got there, and it struck me as funny that that life belt should be lying there.

Q. What did you do then?

- I picked it up, but I noticed a woman coming past crying, and I wrapped it around her and assisted her to the first lifeboat on the starboard side.

Q. Do you remember the number of that boat?

- No, I don't remember the number of that boat.

Q. I suppose you could point it out on this rigging plan?

- Yes, it would be the boat here (indicating boat No. 19.)


Q. You were on the starboard side then?

- Yes.


Q. What did you see as to the lowering of that lifeboat?

- From No. 19, one of the ends, one of the tackles either stuck or else the sailor held on to it, and the other end was allowed to run through, and the result was that the boat tipped and throw all the passengers practically, as far as I could see, into the water.

Q. Did you know about that end of the lifeboat, at what angle it went down?

- If I remember rightly, it was the forward end.

Q. At what angle?

- It just tipped straight down.

Q You mean it was perpendicular?

- Yes.

Q. Did the lifeboat then go down into the water after all the people were tipped out?

- I couldn't say, because I noticed a young lady then trying to make her way forward, and
I went after her.

Q. Where did you and she go then?

- I caught hold of her and got her into one of the other boats.

Q. On which side was that?

- On the starboard side.

Q. Do you remember whether it was the next forward of No. 19 or the second forward?

- I couldn't say definitely as to that.

Q. Did you notice the vessel going down any by the bow at that time?

- She was going down by the head.

Q. Was this list then increasing?

- Yes; when I got here, at the end of the verandah cafe, off the bridge, it was very difficult to walk on deck. You could only move around with difficulty. As matter of fact, at that time this young lady had to hang on to the rail alongside of the deckhouse in order to keep her feet.

Q. Did you and she enter into this boat?

- No, I put her in first.

Q. That boat was lowered. Did you see that boat lowered?

- I got into that boat eventually.

Q. And that boat was safely lowered?

- It was safely lowered and she was well lowered.


Q. Do you remember which boat that was?

- I wouldn't swear, but it was either 15 or 17.


Q. How long before the ship sank was that boat lowered?

- I should say about 3 to 5 minutes.


Q. Who did the lowering?

- There was a sailor at the after tackle, and I don't remember what the man was at the forward tackle.


Q. Was he one of the crew or a passenger?

- The sailor that was at the after tackle was a member of the crew, and I afterwards heard that he had done very good work all around.

Q. Who was at the other end?

- I don't remember that.

Q. When the Lusitania went down did you notice whether her stern rose at all?

- Yes, the stern rose and she slid just as if she was at a launching, as matter of fact.

Q. At what sort of an angle did she go down?

- Well, her stern came up and we could see just the lower part of the stem frame.

Q. Should you say she went down at an angle of 45 degrees, taking the angle of inclination as she went down in the water?

- No, she just lifted by the stern, just a trifle above the water, and she slid down as if she was on the ways.

Q. The lower part of the stern frame came up out of the water so that the extreme stern part of the vessel was out of the water; is that right?

- Yes.

Q. Was the rest of the steamer below the water at that time?

- No, she was just at an angle (indicating about approximately 20 degrees.)

Q. Then she seemed to slide down as though in a cradle?

- Yes.

Q. Before you entered this boat do you remember any officer coming along and giving any instructions or saying anything to you and the other passengers there?

- Well, there was an officer who came around the deck at that time, and he said there was absolutely no danger, that they were going to beach the chip.

Q. Did you see any boat drills on the Lusitania during the voyage?

- No.

Q. Were you on deck much or little?

- Most of the time.

Q. Were any instructions given to you or to any of the other passengers; so far as you know, as to what you were to do in case of torpedoing?

- No.

Q. What boat you were to go in, or anything like that?

- No, sir.

Q. And no special instructions as to the use of life belts, except what may have been in the cabins?

- Yes, just what was in the cabins.

Q. That was all, was it?

- That was all.


Q. Are you quite sure that the boat you have spoken of  as having been lowered one end faster than the other was the extreme after boat on the first class passenger deck opposite the verandah cafe?

- Yes, the extreme after boat, No. 19, on the starboard side.

Q. You are quite certain of that, are you?

- Absolutely.


Q. Do you mean it was the extreme boat that you saw there at that time when you arrived on that deck, so that you are sure it was originally the extreme after boat?

- This was the boat, here, No. 19.

Q. It couldn't be that 19 had already been lowered, and that that might have been 17?

- Well, that may have been the ease; but I can't say about that.