Page 102 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 27 - 31
P. 102
Undoubtedly, and probably that will be made law.” Perhaps if your Lordship can see your way to add a recommendation it would make that “probably” into a certainty. I think the only other suggestion which has been made against the officers is that they did not know their own boats. I must admit that they did not, because they have said so in their evidence, but it is absolutely immaterial. The Commissioner: It is a small matter. Mr. Holmes: Yes, my Lord; and I submit that it is absolutely immaterial, because it is impossible for an officer to remain at his own boat. You can conceive a state of circumstances in which the six boats to which the six officers were allotted would be the six boats first ready to be got into the water, and then the rest of the passengers would be left to their own resources. All these matters are matters in which the officers had to exercise a discretion, I submit, and I ask your Lordship to say in your finding that they exercised their discretion wisely. I know that in the case of deceased officers your Lordship will err very much on the side of leniency, but it is much more important, if I may say so, to the surviving officers that their characters, which have hitherto been without any blemish whatever, should not be tarnished with any suggestion that they did anything in the course of this disaster which reflects upon their character as officers of the British mercantile marine. So much for the general conduct of the officers in this disaster. There are one or two other matters relating more to the deceased officers which will undoubtedly have to be dealt with by the White Star Line insofar as they affect the question of suggested negligence, and I do not propose to say a word to your Lordship about that, because it is better to leave it to be dealt with by the proper parties. I next want to direct your Lordship’s attention to Question 4: “Was the ‘Titanic’ sufficiently and efficiently officered and manned? Were the watches of the officers and crew usual and proper?” I am afraid that the watches of the officers were usual, but I am going to suggest to your Lordship that they were not proper. You will remember what the system was: The Chief Officer, the First Officer and Second Officer - those first three officers - were on the three-watch system; that is to say, four hours on watch and eight hours off duty; the other five officers were on the two-watch system - four hours on and four hours off continuously. That does not mean that they got four hours’ sleep. It is four hours from the time that they are first entitled to leave the bridge to the time at which they have to be back ready to take up their duties on watch; and it is not fair either to the officers or to the travelling public that they should be expected to perform the duties they have to perform with such short stretches of sleep. It was admitted in examination, I think by Captain Bartlett, that those officers might be called upon at any time to make abstruse calculations, they may have to take bearings and do other things which require the very clearest mind possible, at the bidding of the officer in charge of the watch. I do, therefore, suggest that your Lordship should answer this question as far as regards the propriety of the watches of the junior officers, in the negative. Captain Bartlett, of course, is the Marine Superintendent of the White Star Line, and perhaps he has reached such a height in his profession that he has forgotten the days when he was a junior officer. The Commissioner: Any way, he survived them. Mr. Holmes: He survived them. But he refused to admit even that they would be better equipped in any way for their duties if they had longer stretches of sleep. I do not make this request to your Lordship, as your Lordship has rather suggested when other similar suggestions have been made throughout the Enquiry, in order that a few more members of the Imperial Merchant Service Guild may obtain berths on ships. If I may say so, the Imperial Merchant Service Guild have no difficulty in obtaining berths for all their members whenever they want them. While on this point, there is a point connected with it under the twenty-sixth question dealing
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