Page 121 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 27 - 31
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there are two or three questions to which I want to call your Lordship’s attention. I asked Mr. Ismay at Question 18832, on page 452, “and you suggest that you put it in your pocket simply in a fit of absentmindedness? - (A.) Yes, entirely. (Q.) And had it occurred to you when you were talking to Mrs. Ryerson that you had absentmindedly put this message into your pocket? - (A.) It had not. (Q.) It had not occurred to you? - (A.) No. (Q.) And you still retained it in your pocket until it was asked for by Captain Smith late in the evening? - (A.) Ten minutes past seven, I think it was, he asked me for it. (Q.) That is to say, it had been in your possession for something like five hours. - (A.) Yes, I should think so. (Q.) And you seriously say it was put into your pocket in a fit of absentmindedness and retained for five hours? - (A.) Yes.” Now, my Lord, when your Lordship remembers on the evidence how rare a thing it is for ice to be seen down on this main track and even then only in the form of icebergs, a colossal ship like the “Titanic” going out on her first voyage to be suddenly warned that right in her track there are not only icebergs, but field ice, great masses of field ice, to suggest that the Marconigram of the “Baltic” was so unimportant that Mr. Ismay could really and truthfully put that Marconigram in his pocket and retain it in his pocket for a period of five hours in mere absentmindedness, is to suggest that your Lordship must be exceedingly credulous. I suggest that it was nothing of the sort, but that Mr. Ismay was anxious that there should be a record - I am not suggesting by that anything improper - but that he was hoping for a record first passage for this great ship. One knows what the stress of competition is and how valuable from the point of view of commercial success, as we know from what is said in the papers an advertisement of that kind is; and I again suggest not that he could do it lawfully or legally, but that at all events in order that the onus - the responsibility - should be with Mr. Ismay and not with the Captain, was the purpose for which the Captain handed that message to him. If the matter had no importance for all those hours, it could have had no very special importance that evening; but yet we know that at 7 o’clock, on Mr. Ismay’s own showing, it was the Captain, and the Captain himself, who asked for the return of that Marconigram, and it was not volunteered by Mr. Ismay to the Captain. That brings me to the question upon which that distinction, if there be a distinction drawn, has to be drawn between what may be called negligence which is culpable and that degree of negligence which amounts to an error of judgment. It is a painful thing to have to do, but one must not forget the character of the catastrophe, even when one considers the memories of individuals, and I submit - The Commissioner: That observation was made by Mr. Scanlan, and for my own part I protest against dividing the question in this case with reference to the terrible nature of the calamity. The magnitude of the disaster has really in truth no bearing upon the question of negligence, and I am sure you will agree with me in that. Mr. Edwards: Quite, my Lord; I mean it has been rather put that there should be a very special and tender regard, and quite rightly, for the memory of a dead man, who possibly might have been in fault; but, on the other side, there are considerations which I am suggesting. Those considerations, if I may say so, wipe each other out, and, therefore, what your Lordship has to consider is quite rigidly and quite formally the question of whether there was in the light of all the circumstances negligent navigation, and to come to your decision entirely regardless of personal feeling on one side or the other. Now, what I was going to say with regard to this is this: The “Baltic” Marconigram does not merely say that there are icebergs, but it says that there are great masses of field ice. The Marconigram makes it perfectly clear that that ice is going to be met with in a few hours in the direct course of the “Titanic.” It is further worked out that they are going to reach it, one officer says something after eleven, but by correction by another officer, something after nine o’clock. The Commissioner: You are not quite right, I think, there. You are referring now, I think, to the statement that is supposed to have been made by Mr. Moody.
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