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Whom would I choose?

Discussion in 'British Inquiry' started by N. D. Risener, Apr 8, 2018.

  1. N. D. Risener

    N. D. Risener Member

    I just joined. I'm not sure how active I will be, but there are some items that intrigue me. Lately I've been wondering this question. If I could have been present at the British Wreck Commissioner's inquiry in 1912, and I could choose to question any three of the witnesses, and have those questions and answers entered into the official record, who would I choose? I would certainly pick Cyril Evans, the wireless operator on the Californian, as one, but I'm undecided on the other two.

    Would anyone like to offer suggestions?
  2. Kyle Naber

    Kyle Naber Member

    I’ve always wanted a testimony from Margaret Brown for some reason, but she was never asked to testify officially.
  3. Arun Vajpey

    Arun Vajpey Member

    It would all depend upon the questioner's position and what he/she was trying to find out. I am assuming that if I was the questioner at the British Inquiry at this hypothetical scenario, I would have the benefit of hindsight (unbeknown to anyone else, of course) and was trying to determine the truth about various aspects of the tragedy.

    I feel that the British Inquiry was a good time for such questions because the earlier American one was too soon after the event and the "shock effect" would still be very much in place. The British Inquiry, being a little later would have allowed the shock to settle a little, was still close enough to the sinking so as to minimise too many embellishments for whatever reason.

    With that framework, I would question the following 3 people.

    1. Second Officer Charles Lightoller: With hindsight we could ask more probing questions about events and his own activities during the sinking, his attitude about loading lifeboats, activities of his officer colleagues and his own eventual survival. I know that relevant questions were asked during the inquiry but with hindsight they could be more probing and sometimes leading to see if there were any holes in his statements.
    2. Third Class Passenger August Wennerstrom: As a 'steerage' passenger he would be in a position to describe what happened down there after the collision, whether access to upper decks was barred and especially events around Collapsible A in the last 10 minutes of the sinking. Wennerstrom might have indulged in some embellishments in his later stories but I felt that more truth would have come out during the British Inquiry.
    3. Second Class Passenger Lawrence Beesley: He came across as a level headed man with a good survival instinct. He might have thrown light on the extremely poor survival rate of male passengers in Second Class, actual events on the starboard side (aft) of the boat deck between 01:30 and 01:45 and through more leading questions about the final few minutes of the Titanic as seen from Lifeboat #13.
  4. Mila

    Mila Member

    I wonder why Evans? He slept and knew nothing.
  5. N. D. Risener

    N. D. Risener Member

    I agree with that framework, which is exactly what I had in mind in pondering the question. My special interest is in matters related to wireless and there are several wireless issues I would want the official record to elaborate on and clarify for the benefit of those who have studied the Titanic in the decades that followed. So I would choose witnesses who could help in those areas.

    Cyril Evans seems to me to be the most ideal candidate to address the particular matters of my interest. Harold Bride, not so much. I can think of only one question that I'd be especially interested in hearing him answer.
  6. Same here, having had a ham radio license for quite some and also experience in "wireless" in both military and civilian work. Of course, Phillips, too, if he had lived. Cottam and all the others, too.
    What would be the "one question" ?
  7. Mila

    Mila Member

    I am interested in wireless too. In particular I am intersected if there really was "skip" in the communications with Cape Race before the collision, and if there was what time it was. Because such "skip" could be an indication of super refraction.
  8. N. D. Risener

    N. D. Risener Member

    The question is: Would you and the other men on Collapsible Boat B have survived if Charles Lightoller had not been with you?

    It's a matter of curiosity. This is my understanding based on what I've read. In the 1930's Lightoller firmly believed that the Masaba message was crucial. Whether he always believed that or evolved to that belief over time is something I don't know. But by the 1930's he was openly claiming that the message never reached the Titanic's bridge. And if it had the officers on watch would have been alerted to the danger ahead and would have taken appropriate measures. He claimed that in that case the collision would have been avoided.

    During this time he published his autobiography. Apparently he made that claim in the book. Harold Bride, living in Scotland, heard about it and considered it a sharp criticism of Jack Phillips. Perhaps it was. Bride wrote a letter to a newspaper defending Phillips and as matters followed from that, the Marconi company got involved and threatened a lawsuit. Consequently Lightoller's book was withdrawn.

    That's my understanding. It's been pointed out in what I've read that Bride was leaping to the defense of his friend and co-worker. What was not mentioned and what aroused my curiosity was the question of if in doing this he was attacking the credibility of a man who had saved his life. The purpose of my question would be to learn if Bride, in the immediate aftermath of the sinking, felt he owed his life to Lightoller.
  9. Kyle Naber

    Kyle Naber Member

    I think Lightoller wanted to protect the company by picking crew what were not a part of the White Star Line to blame, the wireless operators being an easy target.
  10. Thank you Mila-
    It is possible that Evans could not hear Cape Race sending to Titanic and Evans thought the frequency was clear and that was the reason he sent his "I say OM...." when he did. "Skip" might have caused this. Of course, there other factors such as the recieving system and antenna on Californian was not as extensive as Titanic's and that was the reasons Evans did not hear Cape Race. I don't think Evans would have transmitted if he had heard anything.
  11. In ANTR, Phillips is seen just "spiking" the ice message along with routine messages. Of course we don't know if this was true or not. Or if this is just a bit of fiction by those connected
  12. Julian Atkins

    Julian Atkins Member

    Hi Mr Risener,

    (Would be nice to have a first name, as Mr Risener is very formal)

    Welcome to the forum!

    I think you will find all the answers about Lightoller's autobiography on Paul Lee's website. He provides various editions of the book and the newspaper stuff you refer to.

    Paul Lee also provides on his website an extensive analysis of the ice warnings, and what evidence there is of the failure by Phillips to properly deal with some of the most vital messages, and other failures by others in respect of the ice warnings.

    I don't think that questioning Evans 'again' would yield a great. I know what additional questions I would have asked Evans.

    So far as the Californian Incident is concerned there are a considerable number of additional questions I think the witnesses who gave evidence should have been asked, and indeed if the amended Inquiry question relating to the Californian had been included in the Inquiry's original remit, all the Californian evidence would have been quite different and the questions that were asked.

    The most obvious question to ask the surviving Titanic Officers was how many masthead lights did Titanic have!

    Gibson should have been asked how high went the white rockets seen bursting into white stars.

    Evans should have been asked whether Captain Lord said to him 'That is not Titanic'. His PV should have been properly read into the proceedings.

    Stone should have been asked about the scrap log entries he made or didn't make and what ships were seen the morning of 15th April and when.

    Chief Engineer Mahan of the Californian should have been called together with his engine room log.

    The Californian's ship's carpenter McGregor should have been called as he started it all, before Ernest Gill the donkeyman. It was McGregor who precipitated the Board of Trade interest into the Californian.

    Officer Notley of the Mount Temple ought to have been called, as should perhaps Officer Bissett of the Carpathia in the light of what happened later. Captain Moore of the Mount Temple ought not to have got such an easy time as he did at the British Inquiry.

    The lookout and QM during the Middle Watch on the Californian should have been called.

    You get the idea! I could go on and on.

    The British Inquiry should have been delayed by a few months till the USA Inquiry had published it's report.

    A Marconi expert, Chris Burton, contributed a lot to our knowledge of wireless on the 'Stanley Lord guilty as charged' thread last Autumn and earlier, which might be highly relevant to your particular interest.


    Last edited: Apr 9, 2018
    Aaron_2016 likes this.
  13. Julian Atkins

    Julian Atkins Member

    Hi Robert (and Mr Risener)

    We do know a lot more about all this, as I have referenced this previously


    You need to scroll down halfway then read on and enjoy!

    This is the page on Paul's website I referred to in my previous post, and also provides examples of Lightoller's first editions of his biography, and the suggestion of Libel proceedings.

    (Incidentally Paul has updated his site today)


    Last edited: Apr 9, 2018
    Aaron_2016 likes this.
  14. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    I would ask 4th officer Boxhall a series of simple questions about his timing. e.g.

    Q - I understand you heard the bell ring and felt the collision when you were walking passed the captain's quarters? Exactly how long was that interval?

    Q - A matter of seconds you say? I do not understand that. Mr. Fleet told us that he rang the bell and then picked up the telephone. Mr. Hichens told us that Moody had answered the phone and informed the officer that there was an iceberg head. He also told us that the vessel swung 2 points away from the iceberg before the collision, yet you say Mr. Boxhall that all of those events occurred within that short interval between your cabin and the captain's quarters? You in fact told us that you did not know what had occurred until some time after the collision. I quote your testimony from America as follows:

    Q - Did you know what had occurred?
    A - No, not at all. I heard the sixth officer say what it was.
    Q - What did he say that it was?
    A - He said we had struck an iceberg.

    Am I to understand Mr. Boxhall that you never heard the telephone being answered and that Moody did not inform the first officer that there was an iceberg ahead prior to the collision?

    Mr. Boxhall, you also claim that the engine telegraphs had both read 'full astern'? We have confirmation from the engine and boiler room survivors that an order to 'stop engines' was received at the moment of the collision. When exactly did you see the order 'full speed astern' on both telegraphs?

    Mr. Olliver informed us that first officer Murdoch gave the order 'hard a-port' and this was undoubtedly given before the captain arrived. Now I understand you told us that you entered the bridge about the same time as the captain, yet you never heard Murdoch give the order 'hard a-port'? Could you explain why you never heard that order prior to Captain Smith's arrival on the bridge?

    There is one more thing Mr. Boxhall. The two quartermasters who were present (Hichens and Olliver) made no mention of seeing you in the immediate vicinity? Could you clarify your exact position when the Captain was speaking to Murdoch?

    Thank you Mr. Boxhall for answering our questions. You have been most helpful with our enquiries.

    Last edited: Apr 9, 2018
  15. N. D. Risener

    N. D. Risener Member

    I've always preferred to sign my name in as simple a form as possible. It's just that all my life I've been plagued by the fact that I have one of those names that people find it difficult to spell correctly.
  16. Julian Atkins

    Julian Atkins Member

    Hi Aaron,

    You should have added by Boxhall 'When will I get my expenses paid for coming to London?'!

    I don't think Boxhall was the type of person who would 'stand a round' of drinks in a pub. There is ample evidence of his parsimony!


  17. QM Olliver

    Leading Stoker Barrett

    4th Officer Boxhall

    -- David G. Brown
    Rancor likes this.
  18. N. D. Risener

    N. D. Risener Member

    I tend to believe the same thing. Evans testified in London that he could hear Titanic transmitting to Cape Race, but he could not hear the transmissions from Cape Race to Titanic. My understanding is that during the evening of April 14 Jack Phillips had a large number of passenger messages to send to Cape Race and Evans was aware of that activity. But by 11:00 Phillips had completed those transmissions. Now Cape Race was busy with transmissions to Titanic. These included items that would be of interest to the passengers, particularly first class passengers, in the morning. Such things as the latest newspaper headlines and the most recent stock market prices. So Phillips was occupied with listening and copying down this information.

    But Evans could only hear "dead air" and he assumed that Phillips was finished talking with Cape Race. Evans testified in America that in transmitting to Titanic that they were stopped and surrounded by ice he did not give their position as he was just telling this as a matter of courtesy. So I assume if Evans had known that Phillips was busy listening to Cape Race he would have regarded that as more important than his courtesy message and would not have interrupted.
  19. Mila

    Mila Member

    Hi Robert.
    The skip I was talking about was concerning Titanic, not Californian.
    I have read that for some time before the collision they could not have communicated with Cape Race due to the atmospheric conditions.
  20. Aaron_2016

    Aaron_2016 Member

    According to Harold Bride his mate Phillips had finished working Cape Race 10 minutes before the collision. I have often wondered if Phillips had jotted down the message from the Californian and had taken it to the bridge during that interval.

    Harold Bride was asked:

    Q - Would Mr. Phillips have made a memorandum of such a message if he had received it?
    A - He would have if the Californian had persisted in sending it.
    Q - Did you ever see any record of that kind?
    A - No, sir.
    Q - The records of the Titanic are all lost?
    A - I had a glance at the log for that evening as I was writing it up at the time of the disaster.
    Q - At the time of the disaster?
    A - But I can not recollect any communication with the Californian having been noted down.
    Q - The Californian's log shows that they sent that message to the Titanic at 11.15pm ship's time, or 10 o'clock New York time. (was that 11.32pm Titanic's time?)
    A - I may have overlooked it.
    Q - If you had heard such a message as that you would have regarded it as important, would you not?
    A - I should have taken it myself; yes, sir. (could Phillips have taken it straight to the bridge without Bride knowing?)
    Q - Were you working with Cape Race, or was Phillips, to your knowledge, just before the collision with the iceberg?
    A - As far as I recollect Phillips had finished working with Cape Race about 10 minutes before the collision with the iceberg. He made no mention of the fact when I turned out.

    Is it possible that Phillips wrote down the message and during the 10 minutes prior to the collision he went to the bridge and notified the captain, and asked him "Shall I get her position, sir? She must be close, sir, because her signal came in good and strong." The captain may have looked at the chart and estimated her position from her previous report without the need to require her position again. Perhaps the captain approached Murdoch and told him the Californian was surrounded by ice and asked him to keep a lookout for her. Perhaps Murdoch spied the lights of the Californian which distracted his attention away from the iceberg? After all, the Californian had observed the ship they saw that night from around 11pm onwards, so Murdoch on the Titanic (higher up) may have observed the Californian for quite some time before the collision.