Page 44 - British Inquiry into Loss of RMS Titanic Day 32 - 36
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they behaved when they knew there was danger, if a cry of that kind had been started, there almost certainly would have been a rush for the boats, and the very object of those who wanted such information to be communicated to the passengers would have been defeated. I think the officers acted wisely and well in not adopting any such alarmist policy. The Commissioner: In the case of a fire at a theatre, if a man came on the stage and shouted “The theatre is on fire, get out,” I should think that would be about the best way to kill every person in the place. Sir Robert Finlay: The danger at a fire, and the danger at a shipwreck is very much, if an alarm is started, the rush. More people are killed by the crowding to get out at a fire than by the fire in very many cases; and on board ship, if there is a rush for the boats, the object of those who wish to save life is defeated. Then, my Lord, with regard to not getting more people into the boats, not filling every boat to its full capacity, I submit with regard to the earlier boats that is abundantly accounted for by the fact that the intention was that they should stand by and fill up, coming to the gangway, and in the exercise of their discretion, the best of their judgment, the officers had those boats lowered - it was the earlier boats which had the smaller complement - intending and expecting that they would be able to come back and fill up from the vessel. With regard to the later boats they were filled up and they carried their full complement, I think, in almost every case. The Attorney-General: Not every case. Sir Robert Finlay: I will not say every case, but I think speaking roughly it is true. I think the deficiency in the filling up of the boats related broadly speaking to the earlier boats. Now why was it, my Lord, that there was a difficulty in getting the people to come? The women would not; they would not leave their husbands. Many of them could not realise that the vessel was going to sink. That was the second reason. When you are on board a vessel like the “Titanic” you feel that it is like the globe on which we stand. The globe, I suppose, will go to pieces some day, but one does not very much realise it, and when you are on board a vessel like the “Titanic” you have a sense of safety; and these people, to borrow an expression of one of the witnesses, said among themselves: “We do not like to trust ourselves in these little cockleshells; we prefer to stick by the ship.” The Commissioner: Rather than drop down 90 feet. Sir Robert Finlay: Yes, it is an appalling prospect, and it quite accounts for the reluctance to go. I do not think that in the criticism suggested - I am not now speaking of the Attorney-General at all; I will deal with what he said about the propriety in future of having training beforehand - but in the criticism suggested by Mr. Scanlan, I do not think sufficient allowance is made for the extraordinary difficulty of the situation. Indiscipline among officers and crew there was none; the passengers themselves behaved splendidly, and one has to look about for another reason altogether for there not being more going off in the first boats. It is simply the reason that I have stated, that the people were most reluctant, particularly the women, to go; and that it was contemplated that these first boats should return to the ship - should stand off, should come to the gangway and should fill up. The Attorney-General: Before my friend passes from the boats I think there is some criticism to be directed - I propose to address some observations to your Lordship upon it - as to the time taken in uncovering and launching these boats. I only wanted my friend to understand that I was going to say something about it so that he might deal with it, if he thought proper. Sir Robert Finlay: I will not forget that. I am obliged to my friend. I think that the result, speaking generally, of the evidence is that the earlier boats must have had rather under 38 persons in each on an average; the later boats were filled up. The loading was superintended on the starboard side by Mr. Murdoch, the First Officer, and Mr. Lowe the Fifth Officer, at Nos. 7,
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