To…….. Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs
Your telegram Nos. 651 and 661. sinking of S.S. CARIBOU. We advise that the reply should be on the following lines begins passengers did not have lifeboat drill in the sense that they were mustered near the lifeboats wearing lifebelts and given instructions as to their conduct in an emergency but the Captain issued orders before the voyage began that all passengers should proceed to the boat deck and acquaint themselves with the position of the lifeboats. These orders were carried out except in the case of some steerage passengers who refused to accompany the steerage steward to the boat deck. A proper supply of lifebelts was placed in the staterooms and in addition other lifebelts were placed in an open space off the smoking room for use in an emergency. Passengers were instructed as to the position of the lifebelts and lifebelts were found on the bodies of those who were picked up after drowning. As the crossing took place at night it was found to be impracticable to have full boat drill for passengers either before the ship left port as this would have involved delay in starting or while at sea owing to the ship having to be blacked out ends. The evidence available to show that the Captain’s order above quoted were carried out is that of the Purser and the steering steward who were survivors. We should not like to affirm that nothing more could have been done in the way of boat drill or instruction before the vessel left port but having regard to all the circumstances and difficulties attending a night crossing we are satisfied that there was no neglect of duty on the part of anyone in this respect. We are sending by mail a copy of an earlier report made by Dalton with notes of his interviews with two survivors and a copy of a report made by the Commodore Commanding Newfoundland Forces. The published report was one prepared by Dalton on instructions of the Commission of Government for publication. The important points for consideration in connection with this disaster relate to (1) the adequacy of the escort (2) the operations of the escort vessel (3) day or night crossing and (4) precautions taken on the Caribou itself. We can make no comment on (1) and (2). As regards (3) night crossing was advised by the Naval Authorities and we are not disposed to question that advice was changed and in consequence day crossing substituted for night crossing. As regards (4) those responsible for the operation of the railway vessels have naturally increased their precautions since the loss of the CARIBOU. In particular since daylight crossings has been adopted they have instructed boat drills on all voyages and now insist that all passengers wear their lifebelts throughout the voyage. We are satisfied that the Management of the Railway Steamships is fully alive to its responsibility in this matter.
Source: "Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador."
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