BRITISH INQUIRY INTO TITANIC TRAGEDY BEGINS

The Evening Post

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 Atlantic 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 the sea.”

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 United States, the testimony would not be presented in a logical manner. The seamen who arrived from New York 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 Seamen’s and Firemen’s union, and an attorney for the Merchant’s service guild: took under consideration the application for representation of the Seafarer’s union, the ship constructor’s association and the Mercantile officer’s union. An adjournment was then taken.

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Julie Dowen

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