Limitation of Liability Hearings


Friday, 31st October, 1913

IN THE MATTER OF THE “OCEANIC STEAMSHIP COMPANY, LIMITES,” for limitation of its liability as Owners of the S.S. “TITANIC”.

(Barrister at Law)

Examination of Alfred Shiers.

DEPOSITION by ALFRED SHIERS Produced sworn and examined the 31st day of October 1913 under and by virtue of a Commission issued out of the District Court of the United States of the Southern District of New York in a certain cause therein depending and at issue entitled “In the Matter of the Petition of The Oceanic “Steam Navigation Company Limited, as owners of the “Steamship “Titanic” for limitation of its Liability”.

Friday, 31st October, 1912

IN THE MATTER OF THE “OCEANIC STEAMSHIP COMPANY, LIMITED, for limitation of its liability and of an order of as Owners of S.S. “Titanic.
The District Court of the United States of the Southern District of New York dated 24th September 1912 and a Commission issued before out of the said Court on the 14th day of October 1913 to G. G.  PHILLIMORE, Esq., (Barrister at Law)

EXAMINATION OF ALFRED SHIERS, of 5 Peel Street Southampton, aged 29 years.

Q. You were a fireman on the “Titanic”?
- Yes.

Q. Had you been in the employment of the Petitioners before going on this voyage in the “Titanic”?
- In the White Star Company?

Q. Yes.
- Yes.

Q. Per how long had you been in their employment?
- Two trips in the “Oceanic”.

Q. Are you still in their employment?
- No.

Q. You joined the “Titanic” at Southampton, did you not?
- Yes.

Q. Your work was in No, 4 Stokehold
- Yes.

Q. Of No. 3 boiler section?
- Yes.

Q. Can you recall the hours on which you were on duty on Sunday the 14th of April; you were on duty on this Sunday, the day the accident happened to the “Titanic” from 12 to 4 in the morning, I think?
- 4 to 8.

Q. That is 4 to 8 in the evening?
- And 4 to 8 in the morning as well.

Q. And then you were off duty for a while?
- From 8 till 4 in the afternoon.

Q. When did you go on duty in the evening?
- At 4 o’clock.

Q. When did your duty finish that day?
- At 8 o’clock.

Q. I think the “Titanic” had six boiler sections?
- Yes.

Q. In each section there were five boilers?
- Yes, I believe so: I would not be sure about the other sections.

Q. In your section, No. 3, how many were there?
- Five boilers.

Q. You went off duty on the Sunday at 8 o’clock was it?
- Yes.

Q. When you went off duty on the Sunday morning were all the fires lighted.
- No.

Q. Can you tell me how many boiler fires were unlighted on the Sunday morning when you went off?
- Three main boilers and five auxiliary boilers.

Q. Can you recall in which section these were?
- In section 2.

Q. That was the next section to you?
- Yes.

Q. In the course of the voyage from Southampton up till the Sunday morning had those additional boilers been fired at all, lighted?
- Yes, in the night on our watch they were lighted; on the Sunday night.

Mr. Duke:
He did not say they had not been before.

Mr. Scanlan:
Had those been lighted before?
- No.

Q. To your knowledge they were lighted on the Sunday?
- Yes, on the Sunday.

Q. You came on duty again at 4 o’clock in the afternoon?
- Yes.

Q. When did it come to your knowledge that those boilers had been lighted?
- The engineer came through and told us they were connected up at 7 o’clock.

Mr. Duke:
We cannot have conversations; I object to his making a statement of a conversation with a third person.

Mr. Scanlan:
When did it come to your knowledge that those boilers had been lighted?
- They were alight when I went on watch.

Q. You know that?
- Yes. 

Q. Do you know of our own knowledge whether or not those boilers had been lighted at any previous time during the voyage?
- No.

Q. They were not lighted?
- No.

Q. Is it the case that after boilers which have not been in use before are lighted they require to be connected up?
- The main boilers require to be connected up, but all boilers do not.

Q. Were these main boilers?
- The three that were alight that night were main boilers.

Q. And those you say were main boilers were not lighted before.
- Yes.

Q. Where you superintended in your work by a foreman or engineer?
- A leading fireman.

Q. Did you get orders from the engineer?
- No, we never got any orders not to fire so quick; they might have come through from the engine room.

Q. Do you know when the three additional boilers that you have spoken of were connected up?
- At 7 o’clock in the night.

Q. How did it come to your knowledge that they were connected up?
- The engineer said they were.

Q. Which engineer?
- I do not know his name; Larry they called him: That is the only name I know him by, a tall Welshman.

Q. Did he tell you?
- Yes.

Q. I think all the engineers that were on the “Titanic” are now dead?
- Yes.

Q. And this engineer, of course, perished in the wreck of the “Titanic”?
- Yes.

Q. Where were you when you got this information?
- In No. 4 stokehold.

Q. What was said to you?
- “Ease down firing.”

Q. And what was said about connecting up?
- They said: “Connect the three extra boilers up” or “three more boilers.”

Q. Do you know anything of the speed at which the “Titanic” was run on Saturday the 14th of April?
- No.

Q. Do you know whether with additional boilers fired and lighted the speed can be increased?
- It can be.

Q. Is there any other purpose for lighting additional boilers.

Mr. Duke:
I object.  That is a leading question.

Mr. Scanlan:
For what purpose are additional boilers fired and lighted?
- I could not answer that question.  I do not know.

Q. Do you know whether with additional boilers lighted the speed can be increased.
- I believe that is what the purpose is.  I do not know for sure.

Q. I think you remember about this collision with the iceberg?
- Yes.

Q. You had been as you have told us, off duty from 8 o’clock on the Sunday evening?
- Yes.

Q. Do you remember the hour at which the ship collided.
- 20 minutes to 12.

Q. At what [illegible] were you in the ship?
- In my bunk.

Q. I think you were reading?
- Yes, in my bunk.

Q. How did you know there had been a collision?
- I could not very well be off from knowing when I was awake in my bunk.

Q. What did you feel?
- A jar; the shake of the ship.

Q. What did you do then?
- I came out of the forecastle and went up on deck.

Q. Did you immediately leave your bunk and go up on deck?
- Yes.

Q. When you went on deck what part of the ship did you go to?
- On to the forecastle.

Q. The forecastle head?
- Yes.

Q. Did you see anything on the deck?
- On the well decks.

Q. On the fore well deck?
- Yes.

Q. What did you see there?
- Some ice.

Q. Did you see that ice immediately after you left your bunk and went on to the fore well deck?
- As soon as I got on the fore well deck I saw it.

Q. After you observed that ice did you leave the forecastle deck or the fore well deck?
- I looked over the side.

Q. You went to the side?
- Yes.

Q. Which side of the ship did you go to?
- The starboard side.

Q. Can you tell us how long this was after you felt the shock of the collision?
- Less than five minutes.

Q. At that time had the ship any way on her?
- A slight way.

Q. In all this space of time - you put it at five minutes - had the ship been going forward?
- She just seemed to be moving when I looked over the side.

Q. Can you give us any idea what distance she would have traveled during those four or five minutes?
- I cannot say that.

Q. Would she have traveled a few hundred yards?

Mr. Duke:
I object.

Mr. Scanlan:
Then I will not press it. (To the Witness) Did you see when you looked over the starboard side what the ship had collided with?
- Yes.

Q. What was it?
- An iceberg.

Q. Where was the iceberg?
- When I saw it it was on our starboard quarter.

Q. And where were you?
- On the fore well deck.

Q. Is that pretty close to the bows?
- Yes.

Q. Would you describe to us the iceberg as you saw it?
- It seemed like a mist.  I could just see the dim outline of it.  That is all I could see of it.  It was hazy.  I could only just see the outline of it.

Q. Just tell us about this mist or haze.  Had you observed it before you went over to the starboard side from the fore well deck?
- No.  I never took any notice of it.

Q. Was it then that you observed for the first time this mist or haze?
- Yes.

Q. What did you see of the iceberg?
- Just the outline of it; that is all that I could see.

Q. Did this mist or haze prevent you from seeing it?
- I could not see it distinctly.

Q. Was the mist or haze which you observed extensive?
- It seemed to be a haze and you could only just see the outline of the berg.

Q. Did the haze extend far around?
- I never took any notice how far around. I was only just looking at it.

Q. Was the haze behind the ship?
- Yes, it was astern of the ship when I saw it where the berg was.

Q. Could you tell - if you cannot it does not matter - how far the haze extended round?
- I cannot tell you that.  I did not take any notice of it.

Q. Did the haze obscure the iceberg?
- I could only just see the outline of it.

Q. How did the haze appear to you with reference to the water - to the sea.
- In the distance where the berg was I could just see the outline of it.  I did not look any farther around.  The haze was both sides of it.

Q. Both sides of the berg or of the ship?
- It was just a thick haze.  I could only just discern the shape of the berg.

Q. Did the haze extend high or was it low-lying?
- I could not see how high it went.

Q. Was the top of the berg seen more clearly –

Mr. Duke:
I object to that question as leading.

Mr. Scanlan:
Did this haze obstruct your view of one part of the berg more than of any other part?
- No.  I could only just make out the shape of the berg through it.

Q. Through the haze?
- Yes, it was dim.  I could not see whether it was any colour or anything.  There was only just the outline of it which seemed to be in a bit of a haze.

Q. You could not see whether the iceberg had any colour, you say?
- No, I could not see that.

Q. Tell us about the condition of the sea at the time?
- Smooth.

Q. Did you observe that when you were looking over the starboard side from the fore well deck?
- Yes, I could see that.

Q. Had the sea any movement at all?
- Only when we were in the boats; just a slight swell.

Q. As far as you observed from your position on the deck was the sea smooth or rough?
- Calm.

Q. Was there any wind at all?
- No.

Q. At the time you came first after the collision to the fore well deck did you see any watchman, any look-out man, at the [illegible] ahead?
- No.  I did not go on to the forecastle head.

Q. Had you a boat station?
- Yes.

Q. To what boat were you appointed?
- No. 3 was the boat I was supposed to be in/

Q. Did you go off in that boat?
- No.

Q. What boat did you leave the ship in?
- No. 5.

Q. And no. 5 was not your boat?
- No.

Q. Did you know what your boat station was?
- Yes.

Q. Did you go to your own boat?
- Yes.

Q. Why did you not go away on your own boat?
- I stood alongside the davits and I was ordered into No. 5 boat.

Q. Although No. 3 was your boat?
- Yes.

Q. Can you tell us how many passengers were taken away from the ship in this No. 5 boat?
- 40 odd.

Q. What crew had you in No. 5?
- I can only recollect there was me and another fireman and a quartermaster and an officer, Mr. Pitman.

Q. Were those all the crew you had?
- That was all that was pulling oars.

Q. Was that a sufficient crew for this boat?
- No.

Q. Could this boat No. 5 have accommodated any more people than you had in her?
- I do not know what the boat is supposed to carry.

Q. Just say if you know.

Mr. Duke:
He is not a seaman; he is a fireman.

Mr. Scanlan:
Had you room in the boat for any more people?
- I was in the bow of her, and I could not move any further.

Q. You had nothing to do with bringing the passengers into the boat, had you?
- No, I stood alongside.

Q. Was there a light in your boat No. 5.
- I did not look to see.

Q. Was there any light in the boat during the time from your leaving the “Titanic” until you got to the “Carpathia”?
- We had no light; there was none alight.

Q. Had this boat No. 5 a compass.
- I do not know.

Q. Had there been any boat drill or boat muster on the “Titanic” in the course of that voyage?
- No.

Q. Not any at all?
- No.

Q. Previously to this disaster you had you been in the employment of the Union Castle Company?
- Yes.

Q. And the Royal Mail Company.
- Yes.

Q. Did you on the ships of those Companies have boat drills?
- Yes.

Q. And boat musters?
- Yes.

Q. How often did you have them?
- Every week.

Q. When you have those drills what is the practice?  What is it you do exactly?
- Pull away the lifeboats and the best manned boat gets 5s.

Q. Do you swing the lifeboats out?
- Yes.

Q. And bring them back again?
- Yes.

Q. Can you tell me whether or not the whole of the members of the crew take part in the boat drill?
- Yes, in the Castle Company and the Royal Mail Company.

Q. In both of those Companies?
- Yes.

Q. Firemen as well as sailors?
- Yes: firemen, stewards and sailors.

Q. After you got into the lifeboat No. 5 and got waterborne did you row away from the ship?
- Yes.

Q. What distance?
- About 150 or 200 yards.

Q. How long did you remain there?
- All the time until we were pulling back and the officers said we had to lay on our oars.  We stopped there all the time.

Q. Did someone suggest you should go back?
- After the ship sank.

Q. Did you pull back?
- We pulled back a short distance, but there was a commotion with the women on board.


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