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Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon:  17 May, 1912 Testimony

Friday, 17th May, 1912.

Wreck Commissioners’ Court.





Wreck Commissioner of the United Kingdom



Examined by The Attorney-General.

BY The Attorney-General:

Q. Were you a passenger on board the Titanic on this voyage?

A. Yes.

Q. On the night of the disaster were you asleep at the time of the collision?

A. Yes.

Q. What woke you?

A. My wife woke me.

Q. Was that about a quarter to 12?

A. I think so.

Q. Just after the impact with the iceberg?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you get up?

A. Not at first.

Q. Did you hear that there had been a collision with an iceberg?

A. No. As soon as I got up I went out on the deck, and there saw two or three men, who said we were supposed to have run into an iceberg, but it was all right. I went the other side, and could see nothing.

Q. Was there any escaping steam at the time?

A. Well, the next time I went up it was dreadful—the noise.

Q. How long after was it you went up again?

A. I went up to the boat deck afterwards, and the noise there was perfectly indescribable.

Q. Do you mean from blowing off the steam?

A. Yes, from blowing off the steam.

Q. Did you notice whether the vessel had any list at all?

A. I did not, but the men I spoke to told me that there was.

Q. A list to starboard?

A. A list to starboard.

Q. Another passenger, do you mean?

A. Yes, another passenger; it was Colonel Astor.

Q. Who went down with the vessel?

A. Yes.

Q. Was she at that time down by the head?

A. He said so, I did not notice it; I am not accustomed so much.

Q. Did you then go back and tell your wife to dress?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you remain there while she dressed, or did you go up again?

A. I went up again later.

Q. Did you see whether anything was being done with the boats?

A. Yes, I saw men stripping the lifeboat.

Q. Did you go down to your cabin again?

A. I went down again then and I told her, and I began to dress myself.

Q. When you came up before you were not fully dressed?

A. No, not at all dressed.

Q. Had you heard at that time what the Captain’s orders were?

A. No.

Q. Did the steward come to the cabin and tell you anything?

A. The steward came and said, “The Captain’s orders are that the ladies are to put on lifebelts.”

Q. And where were they to go?

A. To go up to the boat deck.

Q. Was Miss Francatelli accompanying your wife and you on this voyage?

A. Yes.

Q. Was she your wife’s secretary?

A. Yes.

Q. Did they come up on the boat deck to you?

A. Miss Francatelli joined us in the cabin just at that time. We went up to the boat deck together.

Q. To which side of the boat deck did you go?

A. To starboard.

Q. Did you see lifeboats being lowered?

A. Yes, when we got up one was being either filled or lowered—the furthest aft of those three (pointing on the model.)—We came out of the gymnasium door.

Q. That is boat No. 7?

A. Yes, I suppose so.

Q. You mean the third one from the emergency boat in front?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you see whether there were men or women in that boat?

A. They were only putting women in.

Q. You saw it being lowered?

A. I think it was just being filled as we got there, and it was lowered almost immediately.

Q. With women and, I suppose, some crew?

A. Very few.

Q. Did you see any other lifeboat lowered?

A. I saw two other lifeboats lowered.

Q. Which were they?

A. The next two forward.

Q. Five and three?

A. Yes.

Q. Were they filled with women and children?

A. The first one was No. 3 was partially filled with women, and then filled up with men when they could find no other women.

Q. That is boat No. 3?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you see how many women and children were in the boat?

A. No, I did not.

Q. What were your wife and Miss Francatelli doing during this time?

A. They were standing with me, they had refused to go.

Q. They had refused to go into the boat?

A. My wife had refused to leave me and go in the boats, and consequently we stood against the deck house while the boats were going.

Q. That means your wife and Miss Francatelli were asked to go into one of the lifeboats?

A. They were asked two or three times to go.

Q. But, as it meant going without you, you mean your wife would not go?

A. Exactly.

Q. Were there many people about on this deck at this time?

A. Yes, quite a lot.

Q. Did anybody attempt to force your wife to one of the lifeboats?

A. Yes, I think in No. 3 some men got hold of her and tried to pull her away.

Q. And she would not go?

A. No.

Q. Was the part of the deck where you were standing at this time when you saw the third lifeboat go down, clear or full of passengers?

A. Do you mean fore or aft?

Q. I mean by the time you saw the third boat lowered away?

A. When the third boat had been lowered I think everybody had disappeared.

Q. Were they firing rockets at that time?

A. Yes, they had just begun while they were lowering No. 3 lifeboat.

Q. Was there any conversation between you and your wife as to what you should do?

A. No, owing to the noise I think; but she said to me: “Ought not we to do something?”

Q. What did you say?

A. I said: “No, we have got to wait for orders.”

Q. Then did you hear any orders given with reference to No. 1 boat.

Q. Yes, an officer—I do not know who he was—ordered—

Q. An officer?

A. Yes, I think it was the same officer who had been doing the other boats. We had followed them along. He said: “Man the emergency boat,” and he said so to a number of, I think, firemen or some of the crew, some eight or ten of them who were standing there. I then spoke to him and I said “May we get into the boat?” and he said “Yes, I wish you would” or “Very glad if you would” or some expression like that. There were no passengers at all near us then. He put the ladies in and helped me in myself and we were joined by two Americans who came running along the deck. I think he then told two other or three other of the firemen that they might just as well get in, and then he put one man—I did not know his name until lately—in charge of the boat, Symons.

Q. Then did you hear an order given by the officer to the men in charge of the boat?

A. I heard him put the man in charge of the boat.

Q. Did you hear the order that he gave him?

A. Well; I do not quite think it was that order, no.

Q. What is the order that you heard him give?

A. My impression was that we were to follow the other boats and to row as fast as we could for the first 200 yards. That was the idea I have always had.

Q. I understand you to say you did not hear this order that that boat was to stand off a little way and come back when called?

A. It is quite likely I should not have heard it. I had other things to attend to; I mean, I was looking after my wife and one thing and another. It was quite natural.

Q. Where were you sitting in the boat?

A. I was sitting in No. 2 from the bows.

Q. No. 2 thwart?

A. Yes.

Q. And where was your wife sitting?

A. No. 3 on the starboard side.

Q. And Miss Francatelli?

A. In the stern.

Q. When the boat was lowered, did you think that the Titanic was in danger?

A. I thought it was in a very grave condition, yes.

Q. I do not know whether you can tell us, had she any list at this time?

A. I did not think it was a very great list, but we got down easily. The boat did not touch the side of the ship at all.

Q. You say you did not think there was any great list; but which side was the list?

A. In any case it would have been to our side if it was at all.

Q. To the starboard side?

A. Yes.

Q. But you are not sure there was any?

A. I was not very much noticing.

Q. The men got into the boat, and you noticed, I suppose, that there was room for more passengers in that boat?

A. There would have been more room if the oars and masts had been thrown away.

Q. I do not quite understand what you mean by that. You suggest there was not room for more people?

A. Of course there was room for more people, but we should have had to put away the oars and mast and sail, I think, and some boat hooks, and a lot of things that were lying alongside of us. There was only room for two on each side.

Q. Are you accustomed to boats?

A. Sufficiently.

Q. No one has suggested hitherto that there was not room?

A. I do not suggest it. I suggest it wanted rearrangement, otherwise we should have sat in the stern together.

Q. Can you give us any explanation why it was that this boat was lowered away with so few people in it when there were so many people left on the ship, which was in danger?

A. There were no people visible, I am quite sure of that, when I got into the boat.

BY The Commissioner:

Q. But there were many people close at hand?

A. I do not know; there was no one visible certainly.

BY The Attorney-General:

Q. There were many of the crew, were not there, on the ship close at hand at the time?

A. No, I think they filled up the boat with what crew there was there.

Q. Do you mean that after you and the crew had gone into the boat, there was nobody left but the officer?

A. The officer then told two more men, I think, to get in. I think he said, “You fellows,” or “You boys may as well go,” and those two got in, and whatever crew he kept with him lowered us.

Q. You had noticed that other boats had been filled with as many as they could possibly carry?

A. I presume so; I had not noticed very much; but there were no more to go. I am trying to say there were no more on that particular part, on that side of the deck anyway, there were no more in view.

Q. I want to understand what your view was about this, if I can. Did you think there was nobody left on the ship at this time?

A. Oh, no, but I certainly thought all the women had got off. I had seen all the women in my part, and I knew in other parts of the ship they were lowering boats. They are divided into four distinct portions for lowering there.

Q. You mean you knew they were lowering on the port side also?

A. Well, I did not know anything; I never moved except between the door of the gymnasium and the bridge.

Q. When you got into the boat and the men started rowing away from the vessel, as we know they did, how far do you think that your boat had got before the Titanic went down?

A. Well, I have always said 1,000 yards when telling anybody, but it is true I have only one eye and I am, therefore, presumed not to be a judge of distance, but I think it still.

Q. At any rate you are not able to form any accurate estimate of the distance, I understand?

A. Well, no, it got diminished in size very greatly as we moved away, and we had been rowing a long time.

Q. Did you notice this when they were rowing away? Did they continue rowing without stopping for what you consider a thousand yards’ distance?

A. No, I think they rowed for 200 yards or so, and stopped; and then they rowed on again, I daresay, another 100 or 200 yards, and stopped again, and so on.

Q. According to the account we have had, it was certainly somewhere about that time, whatever the distance was, that the Titanic went down?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you hear the cries?

A. Yes, I heard the explosion first, and I heard, I will not say the cries, but a wail—one confused sound.

Q. We do not want unnecessarily to prolong the discussion of it, but they were the cries of people who were drowning?

A. Yes.

Q. There is no doubt about that?

A. Yes, I think so without doubt.

Q. Did it occur to you that with the room in your boat, if you could get to these people you could save some?

A. It is difficult to say what occurred to me. Again, I was minding my wife, and we were rather in an abnormal condition, you know. There were many things to think about, but of course it quite well occurred to one that people in the water could be saved by a boat, yes.

Q. And that there was room in your boat; that they could have got into your boat and been saved?

A. Yes, it is possible.

Q. And did you hear a suggestion made that you should go back, that your boat should go back to the place whence the cries came?

A. No, I did not.

Q. Do you mean that you never heard that at all?

A. I heard no suggestion of going back.

Q. Was any notice taken of those cries in your boat?

A. I think the men began to row away again immediately.

Q. Did they get any orders to do that?

A. That I could not say.

Q. That would seem rather strange, would it not?

A. No.

BY The Commissioner:

Q. To row away from the cries?

A. To row—I do not know which way they were rowing, but I think they began to row; in my opinion it was to stop the sound.

BY The Attorney-General:

Q. I think you said—correct it if you did not mean it—they were rowing away from the Titanic and then they rested, and then they rowed away some further distance?

A. They went on rowing, yes.

Q. And then I understand the Titanic went down, and I understand you to say they continued to row away. Do you mean by that they merely went on pulling?

A. They went on rowing.

Q. You do not know where?

A. I had been watching the Titanic, of course, to the last moment, and after that, of course, one did not know where it had been.

Q. You do not mean to suggest they rowed back to the cries?

A. Oh no, I do not suggest that for a moment.

Q. They continued rowing away from the place where the Titanic had gone down, did not they?

A. I do not know. As soon as the Titanic had gone down of course one lost all idea of where she had been.

Q. At any rate, we shall be satisfied with this, that you knew they were not rowing towards the cries?

A. I did not think about it I must confess, I do not know which way they were rowing.

Q. Did not you think about whether or not your boat would be able to save any of the people who were in the water?

A. I do not know; it might have been possible, but it would have been very difficult to get back, the distance we were, and in the darkness, to find anything.

Q. What I want to understand is this, you said just now you did not think about it—did you mean that you did not think about whether or not your boat could save some of the people that were in the water?

A. I was not thinking about it. At that time I was attending to my wife, as I think I said just now. We had had rather a serious evening, you know.

Q. Did you hear one of the ladies say anything about the danger of being swamped if you went back?

A. No, I did not.

Q. Nothing of that kind?

A. No, I did not.

Q. Did you hear any discussion at all about being swamped?

A. No, I did not hear the subject raised; the subject was not raised, I think.

Q. Are we to understand that as far as you were concerned no notice was taken in your boat of these cries that came from the drowning people?

A. No.

Q. No conversation about it?

A. No, I think there was no conversation.

Q. No suggestion by you or by anybody else?

A. No.

Q. No question raised as to whether you ought to return or not?

A. No.

Q. And, if I follow you correctly, no thought entered into your mind that you ought to go back and try to save some of these people?

A. I do not think it would have been possible, for one thing.

Q. Would you mind answering. I want to follow your view?

A. What was the question?

Q. I understood from what you said, and correct it if it is wrong, that no thought entered into your mind at that time that you ought to go back and try to save some of these people?

A. No, I suppose not.

BY The Commissioner:

Q. The last witness told us that in his opinion it would have been quite safe to have gone back. What do you say to that?

A. I do not know, my Lord, whether it would have been safe. I do not know. I think it would have been hardly possible.

BY The Attorney-General:

Q. Why not possible?

A. I do not know which way we should have gone.

BY The Commissioner:

Q. When I say “gone back,” I mean go towards where the cries came from.

A. I do not know about that; I could not speculate.

BY The Attorney-General:

Q. These cries continued for some time, did they not?

A. I said the men began to row very soon after the cries were first heard.

Q. But the cries continued for some time?

A. Yes, I believe they did.

Q. As the men proceeded to row away did the cries sound fainter?

A. Oh, you could not hear the sound at all when the men were rowing.

Q. Does that mean that in your boat they were not rowing when you heard the cries?

A. The moment the Titanic sank, of course everything stopped. There was a dead silence.

Q. And then you of course did hear the cries?

A. Yes, then we did.

Q. You mean you continued to hear the cries until the men started rowing again?

A. Yes, which was very soon, immediately, almost.

Q. We have heard from two witnesses that a suggestion was made that your boat should go back to try to save some of the people?

A. Yes.

Q. You have been in Court when at least one of them said it. I am not sure whether you heard Hendrickson?

A. Yes.

Q. What do you say about that?

A. I can only say I did not hear any suggestion, that is all I can say.

Q. And you know it has been further said that one of the ladies, identified by the last witness as your wife, was afraid to go back because she thought you would be swamped?

A. I heard that.

Q. And that, you see, was heard by a witness who was sitting on the same thwart as you were?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you hear your wife say that?

A. No.

Q. Or any lady?

A. No.

Q. Or any person?

A. No.

Q. Do you mean that it might have happened but that you do not remember anything about it, or do you mean that it did not take place?

A. In my opinion it did not take place.

Q. Do you mean it is not true what the men are saying?

A. It comes to that, of course.

Q. That they are wrong in their view?

A. I think so.

Q. Did you hear either of the other men say that if they did go back it would be dangerous because you would be swamped?

A. No, I did not.

Q. Nothing of the kind?

A. I do not think there was any conversation of the sort, or talk about it.

Q. We have heard what they have said, but so far as you are concerned, as I understand your statement, nothing was done at all?

A. No.

Q. You know now, do you not, that you might have saved a good many if you had gone back?

A. I do not know that.

Q. You know that your boat would have carried a good many more?

A. Yes, I know that is so, but it is not a lifeboat, you must remember; there are no air-tanks.

Q. I must ask you about the money. Had you made any promise of a present to the men in the boat?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. Will you tell us about that?

A. I will. If I may, I will tell you what happened.

Q. Yes?

A. There was a man sitting next to me, and of course in the dark I could see nothing of him. I never did see him, and I do not know yet who he is. I suppose it would be some time when they rested on their oars, 20 minutes or half an hour after the Titanic had sunk, a man said to me, “I suppose you have lost everything” and I said “Of course.” He says “But you can get some more,” and I said “Yes.” “Well,” he said, “we have lost all our kit and the company won’t give us any more, and what is more our pay stops from tonight. All they will do is to send us back to London.” So I said to them: “You fellows need not worry about that; I will give you a fiver each to start a new kit.” That is the whole of that £5 note story.

Q. That was in the boat?

A. In the boat. I said it to one of them and I do not know yet which.

Q. And when you got on the Carpathia?

A. When I got on the Carpathia there was a little hitch in getting one of the men up the ladder, and I saw Hendrickson. It was Hendrickson that I saw distinctly, when he brought my coat, which I had thrown in the bottom of the boat. He brought it up after me, and I asked him to get the men’s names, and that list, in my belief, is his writing. It is merely a list of the names, and I think it is in Hendrickson’s writing.

Q. Did you know either of the other two male passengers?

A. No, I did not know them, not till the next day.

Q. They were Americans?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you say anything to the Captain of the Carpathia of your intention to give that money to the men?

A. Yes; I went to see him one afternoon and told him I had promised the crew of my boat a £5 note each, and he said, “It is quite unnecessary.” I laughed and said, “I promised it; so I have got to give it them.”

(The Witness withdrew.)

(Adjourned to Monday next at 10.30 o’clock.)

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