Mr. Bennet, the third officer of the Waratah on her maiden voyage said thatthere was nothing out of the ordinary in thebehaviour of the vessel. She held a listof four or five degrees. He left becausehe was promoted to another vessel.
Mr. Laing (representing the Board ofTrade) Did you ever tell anyone that youleft because of some forthcoming alterations which would take two months?
A lady in the body of the Court exclaimed 'Yes, yes you told me and my husband.'
The voice which contradicted Mr. Bennett, when the latter was giving evidence yesterday belonged to Mrs. Gibbs, mother of a passenger (actually apprentice/crew) on the Waratah. Her husband afterwards said that he understood Mr. Bennett to say 'that the Waratah was going to be laid up for two months for alterations.' Mr. Bennett repeated that Mr. Gibbs was mistaken.
There is so much that can be said about the short time Mr. Bennett spent up on the stand. Mr. Bennett was clearly biased in favour of the Lunds, even though the Blue Anchor Line had been sold to P&O by this stage. I think it is more than clear that all parties linked with the Waratah were concerned about the maiden voyage. Mr. Bennett did not present himself as a credible witness by denying Mrs. Gibbs' claim. I believe that the Waratah's tenderness troubles during the maiden voyage gave all parties sleepless nights. A solution had to be sought and it is highly plausible that one of these solutions included a radical alteration of the flagship. But this would have been very costly and downgraded Waratah's cache as flagship. As it was, the solution rested with modified coal stowage and ensuring extensive dead weight, lowest down. Part of this solution required the filling of at least ballast tanks 1 and 8, further reducing the buoyancy factor, but creating a very GM stable steamer. Mr. Bennett's testimony revealed that honesty was not preserved at the Inquiry. If Mr. Bennet was allowed to get away with this outrage, surely there were other instances, perverting the course of justice.
the boat deck - such elevated, rarefied luxury - not a feature to lop off without careful consideration.