Based on 26 Questions and Much Like That of Our Senate
LONDON, May 2 Lord Mersey in his capacity as wreckcommissioner and five assessors who will advise him in his questioning on thetechnicalities of nautical affairs, held today the first session of the boardof trade inquiry into the loss of the White Star line steamship Titanic.
In point of interest to the public and the importance of itsresults upon the laws governing the mercantile marine the investigationpromises to overshadow all previous tribunals of a similar character. The scenewas the armory of the Scottish rifles, whose broad drill floor with two rows ofgalleries affords accommodation for several hundred persons. The spacious hallwas chosen with view to seating an expected crush of auditors, but when theinquiry opened not more than 100 spectators were present and the majority ofthese were women. The acoustics of the building proved to be so poor that theearly proceeding were inaudible to the audience. As a consequence Lord Merseyrecommended that the board of trade provide another room. Lord Mersey wasformerly president of the admiralty division of the high court.
From the series of 26 questions which the attorney-generalannounced would be taken up it became evident that the inquiry would coverpractically the same ground as the investigation by the committee of theAmerican senate but would be conducted more in accordance with the procedure ofa court of law and deal definitely with stated cases. Eight questions, SirDaniel Isaacs said, would relate to happenings before the casualty; six towarnings given the Titanic and the resulting precautions taken; ten to casualtyitself itself and consequent events; one to the equipment and construction ofthe vessel; and the last to rules of the merchant ship act.
A 20-foot model of the Titanic carrying 16 miniaturelifeboats and a big chart of of [sic] the northAtlanticwere prominently displayed before the investigators. In front of the platformwhich they occupied were seated one hundred members of the bar representingvarious interests involved, and one hundred representatives of the press. SirRufus announced feelingly:
I desire on behalf of the government to express the deepestsympathy for all those who mourn the loss of relatives and friends among thepassengers, the officers and the crew of the ill-fated vessel. The accidentexceeded in magnitude and in harrowing incidents any disaster in the history ofthe mercantile marine. I cannot forbear paying a tribute to those whosedevotion to duty and heroic self-sacrifice maintained in the best traditions ofthe sea.
Sir Robert Finlay, formerly attorney-general and now chiefcounsel for the White Star steamship company, seconded these remarks.
The only reference to the American investigation was SirRufus announcement that owing to the detention of many witnesses for thesenatorial inquiry in theUnited States,the testimony would not be presented in a logical manner.The seamen who arrived fromNew Yorkon the steamerLapland were called first as witnesses tothe construction and equipment of the Titanic. Several lawyers representinginterested parties requesting permission to participate in the proceedings.Lord Mersey recognized Thomas Scanlan, member of parliament for the northdivision of Sligo, who appeared for the Seamens and Firemens union, and anattorney for the Merchants service guild: took under consideration theapplication for representation of the Seafarers union, the ship constructorsassociation and the Mercantile officers union. An adjournment was then taken.