Statement issued by J. Bruce Ismay to The Times Sunday 21st April 1912.
|When I appeared before the Senate Committee Friday morning I
suppose[d] the purpose of the enquiry was to ascertain the
cause of the sinking of the Titanic with a view to determining whether additional
legislation was required to prevent the recurrence of so horrible a disaster. I welcomed
such inquiry and appeared voluntarily, without subpoena, and answered all questions put to
me by the members of the committee to the best of my ability, with complete frankness and
without reserve. I did not suppose the question of my personal conduct was the subject of
the enquiry although I was ready to tell everything I did on the night of the collision.
As I have been subpoenaed to attend before the committee in Washington to-morrow, I should prefer to make no public statement out of respect for the committee, but I do not think that courtesy requires me to be silent in the face of the untrue statements made in some of the newspapers.
When I went on board the Titanic at Southampton on April 10th, it was my intention to return on her. I had no intention of remaining in the United States at that time. I came merely to observe the new vessel, as I had done in the case of other vessels of our Line.
During the voyage I was a passenger and excercised [sic] no greater rights or privileges than any other passenger. I was not consulted by the commander about the ship, her course, speed, navigation or her conduct at sea. All these matters were under the exclusive control of the captain. I saw Captain Smith only occasionally, as other passengers did; I was never on the bridge until after the accident; I did not sit at his table in the saloon; I had not visited the engine room or gone through the ship, and did not go or attempt to go, to any other part of the ship to which any other first-class passenger did not have access.
It is absolutely and unqualifiedly false that I ever said that I wished the Titanic should make a speed record or should increase her daily runs. I deny absolutely having said to any person that we would increase our speed in order to get out of the ice floe or any words to that effect.
As I have already testified, at no time did the Titanic, during the voyage attain her full speed. It was not expected that she would reach New York before Wednesday morning. If she had been pressed she could probably have arrived Tuesday evening.
The statement that the White Star Line would receive an additional sum by way of bounty or otherwise, for attaining a certain speed, is absolutely untrue. The White Star Line receives from the British Government a fixed compensation of $70,000 per annum for carrying mails, without regard to the speed of any of its vessels, and no additional sum is paid on account of any increase in speed.
I was never consulted by the captain or any other person nor did I ever make any suggestions whatever to any human being about the course of the ship. The Titanic, as I am informed, was on the southernmost westbound [track] of transatlantic steam ships. The tracks, or lanes, were designated many years ago by agreement of all the important steamship lines, and all captains of the White Star Line are required to navigate their vessels as closely as possible on these tracks, subject to the following standing instructions;
"Commanders must distinctly understand that the issue of these regulations does not in any way relieve them from responsibility for the safe and efficient navigation of their respective vessels, and they are also enjoined to remember that they must run no risk which might by any possibility result in accident to their ships. It is to be hoped that they will ever bear in mind that the safety of the lives and property entrusted to their care is the ruling principle that should govern them in the navigation of their vessels, and that no supposed gain in expedition or saving of time on the voyage is to be purchased at the risk of accident. The Company desires to maintain for its vessels a reputation for safety and only looks for such speed on the various voyages as is consistent with safe and prudent navigation. Commanders are reminded that the steamers are to a great extent uninsured, and their own livelihood as well as the Company's success depends upon immunity from accident; no precaution which ensures safe navigation is to be considered excessive".
The only information I ever received on the ship that other vessels had sighted ice was a wireless message received from the Baltic which I have already testified to. This was handed to me by Captain Smith without any remark as he was passing me on the passenger deck in the afternoon of Sunday, April 14th. I read the telegram casually and put it in my pocket. At about ten minutes past seven, while I was sitting in the smoke room, Captain Smith came in and asked me to give him the message received from the Baltic in order to post it for the information of the officers. I handed it to him and nothing further was said by either of us. I did not speak to any of the other officers on the subject.
If the information I received had aroused any apprehension in my mind- which it did not -I should not have ventured to make any suggestion to a commander of Captain Smith's experience. The responsibility for the navigation of the ship rested solely with him.
It has been stated that Captain Smith and I were having a dinner party in one of the saloons from 7.30 to 10.30 Sunday night and that at the time of the collision Captain Smith was sitting with me in the saloon.
Both of these statements are absolutely false. I did not dine with the captain nor did I see him during the evening of April 14th. The doctor dined with me in the restaurant at 7.30, and I went direct to my stateroom and went to bed at about 10.30. I was asleep when the collision occurred. I felt a jar, went out into the passage way without dressing, met a steward, asked him what was the matter and he said he did not know. I returned to my room. I felt the ship slow down, put on an overcoat over my pyjamas and went up to the bridge. I asked Captain Smith what was the matter and he said we had struck ice. I asked him whether he thought it serious and he said he did. On returning from my room, I met the chief engineer and asked him whether he thought the damage serious and he said he thought it was.
I then returned to my room and put on a suit of clothes. I had been in my overcoat and pyjamas up to this time. I then went back to the boat deck and heard Captain Smith give the order to clear the boats. I helped in this work for nearly two hours as far as I can judge. I worked at the starboard boats helping women and children into the boats and lowering them over the side. I did nothing with regards to the boats on the portside. By that time every wooden lifeboat on the starboard side had been lowered away and I found that they were engaged in getting out the forward collapsible boat on the starboard side. I assisted in this work and all the women who were on this deck were helped into the boat. They were I think third class passengers. As the boat was going over the side, Mr. Carter, a passenger, and myself got into it. At that time there was not a woman on the boat deck nor any passengers of any class, so far as we could see or hear [.] the boat had between 35 and 40 in it, I should think, most of them women. The rest were perhaps four or five men, and it was afterwards discovered that there were four Chinamen concealed under the thwarts in the bottom of the boat. The distance that the boat had to be lowered into the water was, I imagine, about 20 feet. Mr. Carter and I did not get into the boat until after they had begun to lower it away. When the boat reached the water I helped to row it, pushing the oar from me. This is the explanation of the fact that my back was to the sinking steamer. The boat would have accommodated certainly six or more passengers in addition if there had been any on the boat deck to go. These facts can be substantiated by Mr. E.E.[sic] Carter of Philadelphia, who got in at the time that I did and was rowing the boat with me. I hope I need not say that neither Mr. Carter or myself would for any moment have thought of getting into the boat if there had been any women to go in it, nor should I have done so if I had thought that by remaining on the ship I could have been of the slightest further assistance.
It is impossible for me to answer every false statement, rumour, or invention that has appeared in the newspapers. I am prepared to answer any questions that may be asked by the committee of the Senate or any other responsible person. I shall therefore make no further statement of this kind except to explain the messages which I sent from the Carpathia. These messages have been completely misunderstood. An inference has been drawn from them that I was anxious to avoid the Senate committee's inquiry which it was intended to hold in New York. As a matter of fact when dispatching these messages I had not the slightest idea that any inquiry was contemplated and I had no information regarding it until the arrival of the Carpathia at the Cunard dock in New York on Thursday night when I was informed by Senators Smith and Newlands of the appointment of the special committee to hold the inquiry. The only purpose I had in sending these messages was to express my desire to have the crews returned to their homes in England for their own benefit at the earliest moment, and I also was naturally anxious to return to my family, but left the matter of my return entirely to our representatives in New York.
I deeply regret that I am compelled to make my personal statement when my whole thought is on the horror of the disaster. In building the Titanic it was the hope of my associates and myself that we had built a vessel which could not be destroyed by the perils of the sea or dangers of navigation. The event has proved the futility of that hope. The present legal requirements have proved inadequate. They must be changed, but whether they are changed or not this awful experience has taught the steamship owners of the world that too much reliance has been placed on watertight compartments and on wireless telegraphy, and they must equip every vessel with lifeboats and rafts sufficient to provide for every soul on board, and sufficient men to handle them.
Source: "The Ismay Line" - Wilton J. Oldham, 1961.
Punctuation, spelling, italicisation kept as printed in this source. My amendments, comments are indicated by [ ].
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