2nd Officer Stone's Interrogation.

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
4,542
512
183
Funchal. Madeira
The evidence given by SS Californian's 2nd Officer Herbert Stone on Day 7 of the UK Inquiry is a source of controversy.
I for one think that the lad was set-up by a shoal of legal "sharks" hell-bent on allocating blame by any means possible. However, I am sure there are opposing opinions. Anyway, here's the start of what I think. Additions, contradictions or agreements are gratefully accepted.

Questions 7803 to 7829 were used to establish the qualifications of the witness and led him up to seeing a white light.

The witness is prompted to state that he saw a white flash. The following questions ludicrously suggest to him that since he had a 1st mate (FG) Certificate combined with 8 years sea-service, his qualifications and experience should have told him what the white flash meant.
When the witness declined to fall for that, the questioner then outrageously, and in a roundabout way, suggested that the flash should have awakened the thought of distress in the mind of the witness.
At Q 7842, 2nd Officer Stone stated that the interval between sightings was "3 or 4 minutes". By this time, Stone's thought process must have been in total confusion. (he saw signals... the questioner is inferring he should have immediately recognised what he was seeing , that they were fired by Titanic -Titanic was in distress - distress signals are fired at short intervals) Otherwise, how could Stone have reported 5 signals between 00-45 am and 1-10 am? At the very most he would have seen his 5th signal at 1-02am.
In the next series of questions, Stone is asked to speculate concerning the meaning of the signals he saw. He does so and is told in no uncertain terms that he could not possibly have thought what he said he thought and is again led by inference regarding qualification and experience. He is finally told that he should be frank with his evidence concerning what he though. When he replies that he is being frank, he is told in so many words that he is not and is incapable of thinking for himself. Despite this, Stone sticks to his story and is rewarded by: 7856. (The Commissioner.) You know, you do not make a good impression upon me at present."
For that read: " You are not giving me the answers I want which are answers which fit with my pre-judgement of the situation."

That pre-judgement must have been formed - not from evidence, but from third-party sources originating in the press in the UK or in the press across the Atlantic in America. The interrogation of Stone took place on May 14th and the US Senate Committee report was not issued until May 28, 2 weeks after that. He was never formally interviewed in America
 

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
800
384
73
South Wales UK
Hi Jim,

I am rather busy with work the next few days then away on holiday, so I will have to respond to your most interesting suggestions towards the end of next week unless I get a chance before.

Cheers,
Julian
 
Mar 22, 2003
4,982
570
243
Chicago, IL, USA
By the way, keep in mind that before Stone was questioned, the commission heard testimony from Lord first and then from Gibson. You many want to check those out before reading what Stone had to say.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
4,542
512
183
Funchal. Madeira
Also note that the Officers of the Californian were asked to leave the room after Q,6885 during the questioning of Captain Lord.
Up to that point, Lord had been closely questioned concerning the evidence of his 3rd officer Groves who strangely enough, didn't give evidence until the following day. In fact, Lord did not mention Groves, it was his questioner who first brought Groves's name into the questioning. Lord was also questioned about specifics of the evidence of 2nd Officer Stone before Stone actually gave that evidence. In fact, Lord. like all the Californian witnesses, was led by his questioners. I quote: "Leading questions should not be used on the direct examination of a witness unless necessary to develop the person's testimony." I suggest that the questioners of the Californian crew members did not require to develop anyone's testimony since the questioners had already decided on the single version they would accept.
 
Last edited:

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
4,542
512
183
Funchal. Madeira
This is called leading the reader. I suggest you let people decide for themselves.
Your usual well thought-out retort, Sam. Why not put your animosity aside for a moment and respond positively instead of in such a negative way? You are a "people". let's have your forensic analysis regarding the way the Californian Witness, Harold Stone was dealt with relative to how other witnesses were treated. I assume you have one? After all, you are a leader when it comes to discrediting the man. Until now, you have simply inferred that the man was lying and or mistaken without qualifying your opinion. Now's your chance to do so.
 

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
800
384
73
South Wales UK
Hi Jim,

The reason why all The Californian witnesses were ordered out of the Inquiry Room was because he suggested Stewart was the officer in charge of the Middle Watch. (Same as he did to the Boston Newspapers some plus 2 weeks beforehand). This may have been an errant or innocent slip by Captain Lord at the British Inquiry, and not as suspicious as Reade makes out, but it was enough of a slip to cause the other witnesses to be ordered out.

As Captain Lord made no such error in the USA Inquiry, I think Reade rather overplays this error at the British Inquiry.

Note that at the USA Inquiry, Evans sat through Captain Lord's testimony before giving his own testimony. (Captain Lord also had a convivial chat with Franklin of IMM in an ante room before giving his testimony - source - the Captain Lord taped recorded interviews of 1961).

There are 2 issues that I don't know the answer to. Firstly, as is standard practice, Captain Lord would have remained in the Inquiry Room in London to hear the remaining Californian witnesses, and if he did this (as was his right) he would no doubt be looking intently at them! (Gill gave his evidence some weeks later so is not included in this group).

Captain Lord's taped recorded interviews of 1961 indicate that Captain Lord's recollection in 1961 was he did not stay over for the second day of The Californian witnesses and went straight home back on the train to The Wirral/Liverpool. Harrison believed he did stay over in London for the second day.

Secondly, one might imagine everyone getting the same train from Liverpool very early that Tuesday morning on 14th May 1912, but there is not the slightest bit of evidence that they all did, and absolutely no evidence that a compartment was shared on the train. The details of this were probably thought irrelevant at the time, but these days would be considered highly significant.

Captain Lord's own account in 1961 in the taped recorded interviews is that he makes no mention of travelling with any other witnesses, whether for the USA Inquiry (Evans and Gill, same day, Friday 26th April 1912), or for that matter on the train journey to London on 14th May. In fact, he makes no mention whatsoever of hearing The Californian witnesses's evidence whatsoever. Just that he bought a copy of the HMSO daily report of the transcripts, and repeated the comment Robertson Dunlop made about Groves' evidence on 15th May being due in part to Groves' "vanity".

I know something of railway timetables of that era in the UK, and it would seem to me that the Leyland Line Solicitors would have had no option but to provide/buy tickets on the same date for all The Californian witnesses (except Gill), and as is the same now, and these would have been expensive tickets to get to London by a certain time in 'peak time', and not 'off peak' tickets for later in the day. It was probably the same Liverpool - Euston London express that came a cropper in 1952 at Harrow and Wealdstone.

I haven't had time to check the expenses claims for the British Inquiry for The Californian witnesses this evening.

Cheers,

Julian
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
4,542
512
183
Funchal. Madeira
Hi Jim,

The reason why all The Californian witnesses were ordered out of the Inquiry Room was because he suggested Stewart was the officer in charge of the Middle Watch. (Same as he did to the Boston Newspapers some plus 2 weeks beforehand). This may have been an errant or innocent slip by Captain Lord at the British Inquiry, and not as suspicious as Reade makes out, but it was enough of a slip to cause the other witnesses to be ordered out.

As Captain Lord made no such error in the USA Inquiry, I think Reade rather overplays this error at the British Inquiry.

Note that at the USA Inquiry, Evans sat through Captain Lord's testimony before giving his own testimony. (Captain Lord also had a convivial chat with Franklin of IMM in an ante room before giving his testimony - source - the Captain Lord taped recorded interviews of 1961).

There are 2 issues that I don't know the answer to. Firstly, as is standard practice, Captain Lord would have remained in the Inquiry Room in London to hear the remaining Californian witnesses, and if he did this (as was his right) he would no doubt be looking intently at them! (Gill gave his evidence some weeks later so is not included in this group).

Captain Lord's taped recorded interviews of 1961 indicate that Captain Lord's recollection in 1961 was he did not stay over for the second day of The Californian witnesses and went straight home back on the train to The Wirral/Liverpool. Harrison believed he did stay over in London for the second day.

Secondly, one might imagine everyone getting the same train from Liverpool very early that Tuesday morning on 14th May 1912, but there is not the slightest bit of evidence that they all did, and absolutely no evidence that a compartment was shared on the train. The details of this were probably thought irrelevant at the time, but these days would be considered highly significant.

Captain Lord's own account in 1961 in the taped recorded interviews is that he makes no mention of travelling with any other witnesses, whether for the USA Inquiry (Evans and Gill, same day, Friday 26th April 1912), or for that matter on the train journey to London on 14th May. In fact, he makes no mention whatsoever of hearing The Californian witnesses's evidence whatsoever. Just that he bought a copy of the HMSO daily report of the transcripts, and repeated the comment Robertson Dunlop made about Groves' evidence on 15th May being due in part to Groves' "vanity".

I know something of railway timetables of that era in the UK, and it would seem to me that the Leyland Line Solicitors would have had no option but to provide/buy tickets on the same date for all The Californian witnesses (except Gill), and as is the same now, and these would have been expensive tickets to get to London by a certain time in 'peak time', and not 'off peak' tickets for later in the day. It was probably the same Liverpool - Euston London express that came a cropper in 1952 at Harrow and Wealdstone.

I haven't had time to check the expenses claims for the British Inquiry for The Californian witnesses this evening.

Cheers,

Julian
Hello Julian. I thought you were on holiday. "No rest for the wicked?";)

I agree with your observation regarding the Boston newspaper report. No self-respecting Deck Officer of any rank on a 3- Mate-ship would ever have made a genuine or innocent mistake of stating that the First Mate (Stewart in this case) was in charge of the Middle Watch...Midnight to 4 am.
I suggest there was confusion due to the order of asking the questions and the order in which Lord answered them. Lord, of all people, would know very well that such an idea was absurd and would be seen through in a "New York minute". In any case, what possible benefit could Lord have gained from such a "deliberate mistake"?

I am interested in your ideas behind your remarks concerning the Franklin pre-hearing meeting and the reasons why Evans would be in the room while Lord gave evidence.

Many folks fail to understand that the Captain of a British Merchant Ship only has control over his crew as long as they are signed on the Articles of his ship. The normal types of a Ship's Articles were: Single Voyage or 2-year duration with a UK or Continent sign-off clause. Consequently, when a British Ship arrived in a UK port, any member of the crew, had the legal right to sign-off articles. When he did so, he immediately became a civilian. This did not apply to an Indentured Apprentice who did not sign the Articles or to an Officer bound by the terms of a Company Contract. In the case of the latter, he had to break his contract and risk the consequences that such a breach might incur. In addition; by 1912, unlike the Royal Navy, the Officers and ratings of the MN were represented by strong Unions. The foregoing should be considered when any form of witness intimidation is contemplated.

A Seaman's time ashore was precious... no less so than that of a Captain. I can well imagine Lord's anxiety to get back to his wife for the few days they would have together before he shipped out once again.
As for train tickets? In my day, a Captain was given a 1st Class Travel voucher and the "peasants" had to travel "cattle-class". I doubt if Lord would have shared a compartment with his juniors. However!

There is one significant item of the evidence Given by 3rd Officer Groves which is completely glossed over by most folks (except me in my novel "The Scape Goat") and that is the fact that Groves signed-on as 2nd officer, not 3rd Officer at the beginning of that fateful voyage. However, Stone, who had a superior qualification, replaced Groves and the latter was demoted to 3rd Officer with the resulting loss of pay (and face). This must be considered when analysing the evidence given by Groves.
There is an old saying beginning "Hell hath no fury..." It describes the attitude of a woman but what effect does being "scorned" have on a young man with his pride to think about and who, being trapped aboard the confines of a ship at sea...cannot avoid the gossip of his companions? Just a thought.
 

Mike Spooner

Member
Jan 31, 2018
513
101
53
Yes I have heard that Lord had to pay for his return railway ticket from Liverpool to London and then the cost across London to the court room followed by overnight commendation. He must of thought at the time there would be no problem with the inquiry. That summing up with Lord Mersey must been an utter bombshell for the poor man. Followed by no re-hearing was allowed. Must of felt like a smack in the face and having no faith in the British justice system!
 
Mar 22, 2003
4,982
570
243
Chicago, IL, USA
However, Stone, who had a superior qualification, replaced Groves and the latter was demoted to 3rd Officer with the resulting loss of pay (and face).
Similar to the demotions of Murdoch and Lightoller when Wilde was taken aboard Titanic as C/O. Murdoch was put down from C/O to 1/O and Lightoller from 1/O to 2/O.

This is what Murdoch wrote about that to his sister before Southampton departure.

S.S.:'Titanic'

At : Southampton.

April 8th 1912.

My Dear Peg,

We had Agnes's letter this morning & I was glad to hear that all was as usual in Dalbeattie & to know that you had arrived safely. What a journey you must have had, you surely would have to take lots of refreshments on the way. The weather is keeping very fine down here but today it is very windy. I am still Chief Offr [Officer] until sailing day & then it looks as though I will have to step back, [to First Officer] so I am hoping that it will not be for long. The head Marine Supt. [Superintendent] from L'pool [Liverpool] seemed to be very favourably impressed & satisfied that everything went on A.1 [OK] & as much as promised that when Wilde goes I am to go up again.
...
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
4,542
512
183
Funchal. Madeira
Similar to the demotions of Murdoch and Lightoller when Wilde was taken aboard Titanic as C/O. Murdoch was put down from C/O to 1/O and Lightoller from 1/O to 2/O.

This is what Murdoch wrote about that to his sister before Southampton departure.

S.S.:'Titanic'

At : Southampton.

April 8th 1912.

My Dear Peg,

We had Agnes's letter this morning & I was glad to hear that all was as usual in Dalbeattie & to know that you had arrived safely. What a journey you must have had, you surely would have to take lots of refreshments on the way. The weather is keeping very fine down here but today it is very windy. I am still Chief Offr [Officer] until sailing day & then it looks as though I will have to step back, [to First Officer] so I am hoping that it will not be for long. The head Marine Supt. [Superintendent] from L'pool [Liverpool] seemed to be very favourably impressed & satisfied that everything went on A.1 [OK] & as much as promised that when Wilde goes I am to go up again.
...
Not quite...the Titanic men all had equal qualifications.. they were Extra Masters. They were reduced for a particular reason which was down to superior experience rather than qualifications. At the beginning of the maiden voyage, new Articles of Agreement would have been drawn up at Southampton. The Discharge Books of everyone would reflect rank or rating for that voyage so the record was clean.

Stone and Groves were the same age (24) . Groves signed the Articles as 2nd Mate then Stone joined. Stone got the job because he was better qualified. Since Groves was already signed-on as 2nd Officer when Stone joined. the ship's Articles would be amended and Groves's Discharge Book would be amended without recorded reason. It would be interesting to know how soon before sailing day, Stone joined the Californian.

Here's what Lightoller had to say about it:

"Unfortunately whilst in Southampton, we had a reshuffle amongst the Senior Officers. Owing to the Olympic being laid up, the ruling lights of the White Star Line thought it would be a good plan to send the Chief Officer ot the Olympic, just for the one voyage, as Chief Officer of the Titanic, to help, with his experience of her sister ship. This doubtful policy threw both Murdoch and me out of our stride; and, apart from the disappointment of having to step back in our rank, caused quite a little confusion Murdoch from Chief, took over my duties as First I stepped back on Blair's toes, as Second, and picked up the many threads of his job, whilst he - luckily for him as it turned out - was left behind. The other officers remained the same. However, a couple of days in Southampton saw each of us settled in our new positions and familiar with our duties.' Lightoller (1935)."

ENCYCLOPEDIA-TITANICA.ORG
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mike Spooner
Mar 22, 2003
4,982
570
243
Chicago, IL, USA
The reason why all The Californian witnesses were ordered out of the Inquiry Room was because he [Lord] suggested Stewart was the officer in charge of the Middle Watch.
Julian, That is not at all how I see it. Lord never said, or even suggested, that Stewart was in charge of the middle watch when he was being questioned by the Attorney General. Lord was telling him that at 4:30 Stewart called upon him to tell him that day was breaking and the steamer that had fired "the rocket" was to the southward. He was then asked if he knew that she had fired "a number of rockets," to which Lord said he did not, and that he knew only about one rocket. He was then asked if he heard from other officers that she fired "a number of rockets," to which he said "since" and that was the next day. Then there was a little confusion when he was asked who it was that first told him that it was a number of rockets that were fired the next day.

6884. Who told you? - The second officer first.
6885. What did he say? - He said she had fired several rockets in his watch - no, the chief officer told me, about 5 o’clock, that she had fired several rockets.

In 6884 Lord said it was Stone who was the first to tell him, and in 6885 Lord said that he [Stone] said she had fired several rockets in his [Stone's] watch [which would be the middle watch]. Then immediately Lord corrected himself by saying that it was the chief officer [Stewart] at about 5am who was the first to tell him that "several rockets" were fired by this vessel. It was then that the room was cleared for obvious reasons.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Jim Currie

Mike Spooner

Member
Jan 31, 2018
513
101
53
Not quite...the Titanic men all had equal qualifications.. they were Extra Masters. They were reduced for a particular reason which was down to superior experience rather than qualifications. At the beginning of the maiden voyage, new Articles of Agreement would have been drawn up at Southampton. The Discharge Books of everyone would reflect rank or rating for that voyage so the record was clean.

Stone and Groves were the same age (24) . Groves signed the Articles as 2nd Mate then Stone joined. Stone got the job because he was better qualified. Since Groves was already signed-on as 2nd Officer when Stone joined. the ship's Articles would be amended and Groves's Discharge Book would be amended without recorded reason. It would be interesting to know how soon before sailing day, Stone joined the Californian.

Here's what Lightoller had to say about it:

"Unfortunately whilst in Southampton, we had a reshuffle amongst the Senior Officers. Owing to the Olympic being laid up, the ruling lights of the White Star Line thought it would be a good plan to send the Chief Officer ot the Olympic, just for the one voyage, as Chief Officer of the Titanic, to help, with his experience of her sister ship. This doubtful policy threw both Murdoch and me out of our stride; and, apart from the disappointment of having to step back in our rank, caused quite a little confusion Murdoch from Chief, took over my duties as First I stepped back on Blair's toes, as Second, and picked up the many threads of his job, whilst he - luckily for him as it turned out - was left behind. The other officers remained the same. However, a couple of days in Southampton saw each of us settled in our new positions and familiar with our duties.' Lightoller (1935)."

ENCYCLOPEDIA-TITANICA.ORG
Hi Jim,
The two officers down graded on Titanic Murdock and Lightoller. Did that make any different in their pay? I see there was a pay structure for the officers.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
4,542
512
183
Funchal. Madeira
hello MIke,
I don't know what the pay structure was in WSL. However, in Anchor Line, there was a pay structure according to rank. i.e. you received the pay according to what you signed on as. If you were promoted or demoted during a voyage, your pay was amended accordingly.
To give you an example: When I was an 18-year-old Apprentice, I was temporarily promoted to the rank of 3r Officer. My pay jumped from £103 per annum to £ 360 per annum overnight. (I felt like a millionaire)o_O
A few years later, when I was 2nd Officer, I was promoted to C/O during a coastal trip. However, I did not receive full C/O pay and my pay and rank were reduced back when we went deep-sea again.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
4,542
512
183
Funchal. Madeira
PS The surname of Titanic's 1st Officer was spelled Murdoch as in "Loch", not "dock" (as in: where Titanic never made it to) I know this because my full family name is James Murdoch Buchanan Currie. My mother's folks were of the Clan Murdoch which originated at Doune, in Perthshire, Scotland. Just thought I'd share that with you.;)
 

Mike Spooner

Member
Jan 31, 2018
513
101
53
Whoops sorry for the spelling mistake specially to Scottish blood!
The pay structure as in the Guide to the Crew Titanic book by Gunter Babler.
Captain £104 3s 4d
Chief Officer £25
First officer £17 10s
Second Officer £14
 
  • Like
Reactions: Samuel Halpern
May 3, 2005
2,132
166
133
PS The surname of Titanic's 1st Officer was spelled Murdoch as in "Loch", not "dock" (as in: where Titanic never made it to) I know this because my full family name is James Murdoch Buchanan Currie. My mother's folks were of the Clan Murdoch which originated at Doune, in Perthshire, Scotland. Just thought I'd share that with you.;)
Lots of surnames are spelled in many variations , so maybe that's the reason for any confusion.
Paige is spelled as Paige or Page, for instance.
Or Smith and Smythe.
Just thought I would share that, too.
A lot of names include the name of the mother . President Wilson's full name was Thomas Woodrow Wilson .
My mother's folk were of the Taylor clan.
A lot of people think that I was named for the American movie actor. LOL.
 
Last edited: