Page 160 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 27 - 31
P. 160
Mr. Edwards: That is true, my Lord, but Sir Alfred Chalmers was the responsible technical adviser at the time that the "Titanic" was being designed. And I ought to say that it was gratifying, it was encouraging, it was relieving that his successor is a man of a totally different view, and I hope that as the result of this Enquiry something may be done. Now, my Lord, again I desire to thank you for the perfectly amazing patience that you have manifested in a difficult Enquiry. It has not been an easy task for any of us; it has been a sad task; it has been in many parts an unpleasant task, because of the seeking to find those, if any, on whom blame should be attached. It has been the most appalling calamity of its kind in the world's history; but if as the result of this Enquiry, guided by your Lordship's great skill, by your Lordship's profound patience, and by the skilled advice of your advisers - if as the result of this great calamity something is done to make travelling by sea safer; something is done by better equipment, by increased use of system of wireless telegraphy, to diminish the toll of the loss of life at sea, then those fifteen hundred people who have gone to the bottom of the Atlantic will not have died in vain. The Commissioner: Thank you, Mr. Edwards. Sir Robert Finlay: My Lord, it is now my duty to address the Court on behalf of the White Star Line, and in speaking on behalf of the White Star Line I may say, as I have already intimated, that those who represent Captain Smith have put themselves in my hands; and I desire to say, in the first instance, a very few words with regard to Captain Smith. I stated that it was the desire of myself, as representing those to whom he was dearest, that no technical difficulty should stand in the way of a complete examination into the circumstances connected with this great disaster. We desire that these circumstances should be thoroughly probed, and I shall ask the Court when that examination is complete to say that no blame of any sort or kind attaches to Captain Smith, or to those who were associated with him in the navigation of this vessel. No immunity is asked for on behalf of Captain Smith because he is dead. He died on the deck, as many an English captain has died, and as many an English captain will die. But his conduct must be investigated, and I trust that the result of that investigation will be that his character as a skilful commander comes out absolutely untarnished. At the same time I must say this, that I think we might have been spared some of the attacks that have been made upon Captain Smith by Mr. Harbinson and by Mr. Edwards. Your Lordship will recollect the nature of the observations which formed the staple of some considerable portion of both their speeches, to the effect that Captain Smith had been influenced by one who was but a passenger on board the vessel; had deferred to his opinion and had wished to throw the responsibility for the Captain's course of action upon him. May I remind your Lordship of the way in which the position of a Captain with regard to any person on board, be he director or be he owner, was defined in terms not unlike those used by your Lordship. I refer to Captain Rostron's evidence. The passage will be found at page 745 of the transcript, at the top of the page. I say to Captain Rostron: "You gave evidence in America? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) May I put one passage to you? You were asked this by Senator Smith. I am reading to you from the evidence in America. 'Captain, is it customary to take orders from a director or a general officer of the company aboard? - (A.) No, Sir. (Q.) From whom do you take orders? - (A.) From no one. (Q.) Aboard ship? - (A.) At sea, immediately I leave port until I arrive at port, the Captain is in absolute control, and takes orders from no one. I have never known it in our company or any other big company when a director or managing owner would issue orders on that ship. It matters not who comes on board that ship, they are either passengers or crew. (Q.) There is no official status and no authority whatever with them? That is correct? - (A.) That is correct. (Q.) Did you know Captain Smith? - (A.) Yes. (Q.) He was a very experienced officer, I think? - (A.) Yes, very. (Q.) Of very high standing? - (A.) Very high indeed." My Lord, it is suggested by Mr. Harbinson and by Mr. Edwards with regard to this officer of great eminence, who died on the deck, that he was guilty of a departure from all the traditions of the Service; that
   155   156   157   158   159   160   161   162   163   164   165