Based on 26 Questions and Much Like That of Our Senate
LONDON, May 2 Lord Mersey in his capacity as wreck
commissioner and five assessors who will advise him in his questioning on the
technicalities of nautical affairs, held today the first session of the board
of trade inquiry into the loss of the White Star line steamship Titanic.
In point of interest to the public and the importance of its
results upon the laws governing the mercantile marine the investigation
promises to overshadow all previous tribunals of a similar character. The scene
was the armory of the Scottish rifles, whose broad drill floor with two rows of
galleries affords accommodation for several hundred persons. The spacious hall
was chosen with view to seating an expected crush of auditors, but when the
inquiry opened not more than 100 spectators were present and the majority of
these were women. The acoustics of the building proved to be so poor that the
early proceeding were inaudible to the audience. As a consequence Lord Mersey
recommended that the board of trade provide another room. Lord Mersey was
formerly president of the admiralty division of the high court.
From the series of 26 questions which the attorney-general
announced would be taken up it became evident that the inquiry would cover
practically the same ground as the investigation by the committee of the
American senate but would be conducted more in accordance with the procedure of
a court of law and deal definitely with stated cases. Eight questions, Sir
Daniel Isaacs said, would relate to happenings before the casualty; six to
warnings given the Titanic and the resulting precautions taken; ten to casualty
itself itself and consequent events; one to the equipment and construction of
the vessel; and the last to rules of the merchant ship act.
A 20-foot model of the Titanic carrying 16 miniature
lifeboats and a big chart of of [sic] the north
were prominently displayed before the investigators. In front of the platform
which they occupied were seated one hundred members of the bar representing
various interests involved, and one hundred representatives of the press. Sir
Rufus announced feelingly:
I desire on behalf of the government to express the deepest
sympathy for all those who mourn the loss of relatives and friends among the
passengers, the officers and the crew of the ill-fated vessel. The accident
exceeded in magnitude and in harrowing incidents any disaster in the history of
the mercantile marine. I cannot forbear paying a tribute to those whose
devotion to duty and heroic self-sacrifice maintained in the best traditions of
Sir Robert Finlay, formerly attorney-general and now chief
counsel for the White Star steamship company, seconded these remarks.
The only reference to the American investigation was Sir
Rufus announcement that owing to the detention of many witnesses for the
senatorial inquiry in the
the testimony would not be presented in a logical manner.
The seamen who arrived from
on the steamer
Lapland were called first as witnesses to
the construction and equipment of the Titanic. Several lawyers representing
interested parties requesting permission to participate in the proceedings.
Lord Mersey recognized Thomas Scanlan, member of parliament for the north
division of Sligo, who appeared for the Seamens and Firemens union, and an
attorney for the Merchants service guild: took under consideration the
application for representation of the Seafarers union, the ship constructors
association and the Mercantile officers union. An adjournment was then taken.