The majority of the data presented below comes from both the 1912 Inquiries, but the next most valuable source of data comes from George Behe's compilation of passenger and crew accounts, "On Board RMS Titanic", or [OBRT]. If readers do not possess this invaluable resource, they should avail themselves of its worth as soon as possible!
There is something amiss with the survival of 3rd class men, and not just the pitiful survival figures. Because we cannot definitively say how they escaped.
There is hardly any mention of male steerage population in the official inquiries; apart from a few mentions of stowaways, people masquerading as women or those who jumped into boats (hardly virtuous behaviour), there is very little. Even when one 'reads between the lines' and subsitutes the derogatory term "Italians" for "steerage" when describing those who indulged in despicable activities, there is a dearth of evidence.
Alas, most of the steerage accounts are of poor quality; they are contradictory and lacking in detail. There are still massive debates taking place on Facebook and internet forums as to who escaped in which boats - and the evidence is left wanting in most instances. Despite claims of definitive lifeboat assignments, many claims by researchers are unconvincing, leading a tumult of argument and even acrimony. A lot of debate relies on selecting snippets of data that support a hypothesis, and ignoring or belittling that which doesn't - a problem that plagues a lot of research efforts, and not just Titanic related. The poor quality of the escape stories should not be blamed on the steerage survivors; with their class status as their main handicap in the race to the boats, they were obviously more intent on saving themselves rather than taking notes of their surroundings. Compare this to 1st and 2nd class accounts which are mostly superior; their escape was mostly leisurely and free from drama.
A possible suggestion for their means of escape is that they jumped from the sinking Titanic and were picked up later by passing boats. This is true for some people, but not all. An excellent article discusses some of the claims and a lot of them are suspicious; in fact, many are downright fraudulent. This is a matter of simple counting; we know roughly how many were retrieved from the ocean and we know a lot of their names - and the claims for those "plucked from the sea" vastly outweight these numbers.
Why would people lie about their escape? For some it must surely be ego; it would accentuate their already "heroic" stature as a survivor if they were rescued from a cold fate in the ocean too. But there is another reason. Many women and children perished that night. Any male survivor would face scrutiny as having taken a space in a boat that could have been used to save a lady or an infant instead.
We have a few stories to back this notion up. Major Arthur Peuchen was the only man allowed into a boat by 2nd Officer Lightoller. Peuchen volunteered himself as a yachtsman and was allowed to lower himself down a fall into boat 6 when it became clear that there were insufficient crewmen to help handle the craft. Back on land, Peuchen declared, "Married women were envious when they saw that I, a strong man had been saved, while their husbands, sons and brothers had gone down." Supposedly, Mrs Clara Hayes apologized to the yachtsman for harbouring unspoken enmity towards him. Peuchen even asked Lightoller to provide a note vouching that Peuchen was allowed into a boat under the orders of the 2nd Officer.
Helen Candee told how men would have to account for and justify their survival once rescued; she tells of a bogus German Baron who was asked, "Well Baron, how did you happen to get in the boat with the women?" to which he produced a gun and replied that he would like to see anyone stop him (he actually meekly entered the first boat lowered and some say he fired off shots into the air when the ship sank). Similarly, Margaret Brown told how each man tried to explain how they came to be saved, "with an expression of apology as though it were a blight on their manhood," relating how she met two men who were so extremely embarrassed at simply surviving when so many women had been made widows that they kept out of sight. They had worn expressions on their faces as if they had been asking themselves, "what women's place in the lifeboat did they fill?" The men told Brown that their lives being saved was something of a stigma and related, "in an apologetic manner ... how they inadvertently ... caught the last boat being lowered half empty." In actual fact, these two men escaped in the first two boats to depart, albeit these boats were indeed half full so no spaces within were 'sacrificed'. Ruth Becker told her friend Don Lynch that she remembered widows approaching men on the Carpathia asking, "How it is that you were saved?" It is obvious that some men felt shame for having survived even if they had escaped in a completely innocent manner. [footnote]
This stigma was not only attached to passengers. Stewardess Annie Martin ("Daily Mirror", 30/4/12) said upon arrival home in England, "We were very severely abused by women passengers on the Carpathia because we had been saved, and were told that we ought to have given our places in the boat up to passengers. Women asked us rudely what business we had to be there."
A lot of the "false swimmer" stories appeared in the press (and it is obvious there were a surfeit of false claims in the newpapers, relating to many aspects of the disaster) but even some private accounts cannot be trusted and have elements of aggrandizement; for instance, stewardess Alice Prichard wrote in a letter to a friend, "I was in boat 14 and that filled directly it touched water. The plug was not in properly, so the officer told us to swim to the next boat. They took us on..." - this was written to a family friend. And it is complete fabrication. Why would she have felt the need to lie in a private account?
A similar conclusion can be reached regarding the boats that were said to have rescued unfortunates from the icy water; fortunately we know which boats actually attempted such feats and, again, we know of some of the survivor's names. But time and again we see people in boats claiming that they saved the lives of people in the water - and we know that these claims are false. Immediately after the Carpathia's arrival in New York, and as the inquir(ies) began to unravel the true facts, it was apparent that very few boats returned to the wrecksite - and embarrassing and painful questions were asked "why not?" There were legitimate claims that boats would have been swamped and overturned, and more lives lost - but one cannot help but help that more people claimed to have saved swimmers to assauge their guilt that they had not done so.
Some of the "false swimmer" stories take heroic escapes to the extreme and with no corroboration, must be dismissed as fantasy; this applies especially for those few tales were swimmers claim that they were beaten off when they tried to gain admittance to the boats.
We should commence by looking at the raw figures for steerage men. According to Encyclopedia-Titanica, 75 males survived. Of these, 15 were under 13, 5 were in the 14-19 age bracket, and 55 were aged 20 or above. Of the 14-19 category, 1 was aged 14, 1 was 18, and 3 were 19. Arguably, the ones aged 18 and 19 could be classed, or appeared to be adults. That gives us 59 males. How did they escape?
Unfortunately, this will require discussion of huge swathes of testimony and interviews, but this is a vital necessity; any theory can be proven by printing a few choice sentences, out of context. How can we assess the veracity of the accounts from just a few stray selections? A fair portion of the whole story could be unreliable and only by knowing the complete details can an informed opinion be made. This is impossible by utilising just some "cherry picked" portions.
An examination of the 1912 testimony reveals the following details of third class men, or people thought to be of steerage ranks:
We thus have eight men whom we are certain were steerage. We therefore have 51 unaccounted for. It may be possible to reduce this further by analysing interviews and private documents:
We can therefore reduce the number of steerage men accounted for, but it is difficult to specify exactly how many. For instance, was Esther Hart's man also the "Italian in a shawl" identifed by Lowe? Were the two men who toppled into boat 11 and seen by Annie Martin also the two men observed by Philipp Mock? And if so, were they steerage, crew, or men of another class (this will be discussed presently)? Was Gus Cohen in No.12 also Clench's "Frenchman"?
There are also other survivors for whom lifeboat assignements are still being haggled over, more than a century on:
Mary Fortune is sometimes placed in boat 10. An account attributed to her appeared in "The Washington Times" (22/4/12): "The lifeboat, said Mrs. Fortune, was greatly overcrowded. Four of the survivors were in the boat and the rest were supposed to be women, with the exception of one stoker and a Chinaman. There was a figure forward dressed in a brown mackintosh with a shawl like that of a steerage passenger over its head. The face was completely hidden. Miss Alice Fortune sat directly beside the supposed woman. Soon after the boat had left the ship the four sailors were transferred to another boat and at this time it was discovered that the figure was that of a man. When somebody asked who he was he refused to say."
The escape of the Fortunes was also described in the "St. Louis Globe Democrat" newpaper of April 21st: "The mother and daughters were placed in lifeboat No. 10. It was terribly overcrowded, Mrs. Fortune told her brother-in-law, and with the exception of a Chinaman, a stoker and four men who were to man the boat, all in it were supposed to be women. It became necessary to transfer these four men to another boat, which was without a crew. This left only the Chinaman to row. About this time the discovery was made that a veiled person in woman’s clothes was a man. He made no explanation as to why he was so dressed and none was asked of him, but that he donned the clothes to escape with the women when men were being held back to die there was no question. Nor did anyone ask his name or learn it later. The only request made of him was that he take an oar. This he did reluctantly. The Chinaman and stoker knew almost nothing about rowing and the man in woman’s clothing knew less." [footnote]
Kornelia Andrews [OBRT]: "They called out for men who could row to jump in. One man was a Chinese and the other an Armenian. They didn't know how to row and both became seasick. So Gretchen [Longley] took an oar on one side with one sailor and two or three women on the other." Anna Hogeboom ("Daily Home News" 20/4/12) confirms this account: "Before our boat was lowered they called to some men and said, 'Can you row?' and they answered 'Yes.' But upon putting out, we found we had a Chinese and Armenian, neither of whom knew how to row. So there we were in mid-ocean with one able-bodied seaman. So my niece took one oar and assisted the seaman, and some of the other women rowed on the other side."
These accord with a Chinaman/Japanese in boat 10.
Stewardess Mary Sloane gave her story to "The Daily Mirror" (30/4/1912) : "Asked if there were any men hidden in her boat, she replied:- 'I'm not going to say a word about it, but there was one under the seat. He was a Chinaman - I can't call him a man. Yes, he was crushed, for the seats were very low down.'" [footnote]
In "The Washington Post" of 23/4/12, the following appeared: "There were only two men in the boat in which Mrs. Mellinger and her daughter were taken from the steamship. One was an Armenian and the other was a Chinaman. While the women and children were being put into the boat the Chinaman came to the rail with a small bundle which he was carrying tenderly in his arms. He crowded his way toward the boat, and as he did so, he kept repeating, 'Save Melican baby; save Melican baby.' Believing the man had an infant in his arms he was permitted to enter the boat, where he immediately concealed himself under a seat. After the boat had pushed its way from the steamship it was discovered that the bundle was only a quantity of clothing." [footnote]
Bertha Lehmann [OBRT] said, "When the boat had been partly filled I saw two men jump from the deck into the life boat and hide behind their wives' skirts. One of them was found, but the other one got away." [footnote]
Imanita Shelley provided an affidavit to the US Senate Inquiry. The salient passage is as follows: "...just as they reached the water a crazed Italian jumped from the deck into the lifeboat, landing on Mrs. Parrish, severely bruising her right side and leg. This gave them one extra man." [footnote] .
Anna Sjöblom told "The Olympia Daily Recorder", April 30, 1912, "The boat that I got into finally was the next to last boat launched. There must have been fifty people in it. It was so crowded that we sat on each other’s laps, three deep. While the boat was being lowered, a man jumped into it from the deck above. He came down feet first on my head and nearly broke my neck. He sprawled over the people in the lifeboat and nearly fell overboard. I was in intense pain for hours after he had jumped on me."
From the above, it is clear that most, if not all of the accounts refer to already known interlopers (mostly boats 10 and 12)
Another man who admitted that he jumped into a boat was Paul Mauge, Secretary to the Chef of the Restaurant a la carte. We shall deal with his claims later. On this note, it is possible that this author may be maligning the third class as not all jumpers or stowaways may have been of the steerage class; some could have been crewmen, either in uniform or in civilian clothing - in this latter case, they could be mistaken for passengers.
There are problems with the above collation of stories, admittedly. The most serious one is that we have multiple witnesses who place Chinese or Japanese in boats "C", 10 and 13. Then we have one rescued from the water. This gives us 7. But we have nine in the accounts above, or two more than was rescued. Bertha Mulvihill's account stands out as one that has no corroboration; maybe she was not in boat 15 as she and her descendants insist, but another? Or perhaps only three and not four Oriental gentlemen were in "C"? And how reliable is Fred Harris in No.14?
It is not known how many of these men were steerage, but there are very few data anyway. For the sake of discussion, let us assume that we can account for about six, even if their identities are not ascertained. We can bring the tally of steerage down to perhaps 45, although it is possible that we have double counted somewhere.
This does not seem like much, but let us analyse these figures further. Unless what we know about the sinking is significantly awry, there were no 3rd class men in boats 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 or 9. We have already accounted for the men in boats "C", "D", 2 and 6. We roughly know the numbers for "A" and "B" (see this excellent article) and thanks to the "Plucked from the Sea" article. If our figures are approximately correct, this now gives us about 45 men to apportion between 7 boats. This is on average 6 per boat. Is it feasible that so many men made their escape unnoticed by the others in these small craft? Or are the men listed above the only ones who managed to find a covert place in a boat? If this is so, then the number of men per boat becomes higher for the remaining craft. Or were the remaining men confined to a much smaller number of boats (say 1, 2 or even 3?)? This author feels fairly confident that the number of interlopers in boats 12, 14 and 16 were minimal, given that three officers who adhered to the "women and children only" ethos were nearby - one of whom was brazenly brandishing his weapon at the unruly throng. It seems unlikely that a large number of men would try to gain entry to these boats - and if anything, the accounts would seem to confirm this.
There is very little to work with. We have about 45 men, and how they escaped is open to debate. These debates sometimes degenerate into protracted arguments on Facebook and other internet forums; a good example is Daniel Buckley. He gave evidence at the US Senate Inquiry but we stil don't know in which boat he departed. He testified:
"I went into the boat. Then two officers came along and said all of the men could come out. And they brought a lot of steerage passengers with them; and they were mixed, every way, ladies and gentlemen. And they said all the men could get out and let the ladies in. But six men were left in the boat. I think they were firemen and sailors. I was crying. There was a woman in the boat, and she had thrown her shawl over me, and she told me to stay in there. I believe she was Mrs. Astor. Then they did not see me, and the boat was lowered down into the water, and we rowed away out from the steamer. The men that were in the boat at first fought, and would not get out, but the officers drew their revolvers, and fired shots over our heads, and then the men got out. When the boat was ready, we were lowered down into the water and rowed away out from the steamer. We were only about 15 minutes out when she sank."
He is sometimes placed in boat 13, based on Mary Glynn's description. But this ignores Buckley's mention of gunfire at his boat (there is at least one person who backs him up on this point, as we shall soon see). He may have been in boat 14 and perhaps may have been the person manhandled by Lowe. Or, he could have been in boat "C" - a criticism of this explanation is that he didn't mention the four Chinese huddled in the bottom. This is true - but then again, not everyone in this boat mentioned them (this is a comment that can be applied to many boats - a certain facet of the evacuation is mentioned by a few but not by everyone). His lack of description in this matter can be taken both ways.
The Geography of the Titanic's Decks
- from a "flipped" view of the Olympic's decks.
Fortunately, while most descriptions of the evacuation are vague or generic and could apply to any boat, in the case of numbers 13 and 15, we have a unique event that enables us to differentiate between these boats and any others. For boat 15 nearly came down on top of 13, and one would have thought that this near brush with doom would have seared itself in survivor's memories. But this is a lost hope, for very few thought it worth noting later on. So, as with other boats, there is little to place most of the claimed occupants definitively in these boats. Boat 15 is also of relevance to this essay, in that at least two witnesses describe their being an abundance of steerage men in this craft. We shall assess these claims presently.
With this claim in mind, it might be instructive to discuss what was happening at the aft end of the starboard boat deck; the movement of people on deck is covered in another essay of this author.
With boat 9, the sequence of events is relatively clear; Boatswain's Mate Albert Haines told the US Inquiry that he stood by No.9, "We had the boat crew there, and Mr. Murdoch came along with a crowd of passengers, and we filled the boat with ladies, and lowered the boat, and he told me to lay off and keep clear of the ship. That was my own boat, there being two sailors with me. One was named McGough, and there was one by the name of Peters." There were over 50 in No.9 but Haines could not exactly say how many men, but there were between three and six stewards, two to four firemen, and two or three men passengers. "I guess there were about 45 to 48 [people]. When there were no more women forthcoming, the boat was full. They were singing out for the women, and the men [passengers] then jumped in the bows of her and filled the bow up. The boat was chockablock," he said, and revising the total in his boat upwards to about 63. He also observed that the men passengers were ordered to stand back by Murdoch.
QM Walter Wynn concurred with most of this; 6th Officer Moody had ordered him to No.9 and he took charge. When the boat started its descent Haines got in and Wynn passed command to him. There were 42 women in the boat and about 14 men; "There were about four stewards sitting in the bow and there were three seamen, and afterwards I heard one other man was a seaman that I did not know, and that made four ... [the rest] were men passengers."
Saloon Steward William Ward helped to take the cover off the boat: "Then we lowered her down to level with the boat deck, and a sailor came along with a bag and threw it in the boat. This man said he had been sent down to take charge of the boat by the captain. The boatswain's mate, Haynes [sic], was there, and he ordered this man out of the boat, and the man got out again. He stayed there for three or four minutes, and I think the purser - I am not sure on that point - said "Are you all ready?" Haynes answered "Yes" - it was either the purser or Mr. Murdoch - and with that he said: "Pass in the women and children that are here into that boat." There were several men standing around, and they fell back, and there was quite a quantity of women and children helped into the boat; I could not say how many...The purser told two more men to get in and assist these women down into the boat...Then the purser told me to get into the boat and take an oar. I did so, and we still waited there and asked if there were any more women. There were none coming along. There were no women to be seen on deck at that time. Then they took about three or four men into the boat, and the officers that were standing there thought there was quite sufficient in it to lower away with safety, and we lowered down to the water."
Ward said his boat was full, but had about seven or eight men but no children. When they were down on the water, women and children were being put into No.11 from "A" deck.
Steward Fred Ray got to the boat deck in time to see No.9 being swung out with an officer (who he was sure was not Murdoch) in attendance; there were about two sailors winding the boat out and about a dozen other men, comprising crew and one or two passengers; there were no women to be seen at the time. Ray went down briefly to fetch his coat and returned in time to see the boat being loaded with women and children. He assisted with this process and saw the boat lowered.
Bathroom Steward James Widgery said in the US, "The purser sent me along to No. 9. They had taken the canvas off of No. 9 and lowered it, and just then some biscuits came up from the storekeeper. I helped him put one of the boxes into the bottom of the boat, and the purser took hold of my arm and said, "Get in the boat." He said, "Get in the boat and help the boatswain's mate pass the ladies in." So I got in the boat, and stepped on the side, and we passed the ladies in. We thought we had them all in, and the purser called out, 'Are there any more women?'"
The only woman to avail themselves of this appeal was an oldish lady who was so frightened that she would not enter the boat, instead heading downstairs. Again, the plea for more women was made by the chief officer, but there were none, so he told four or five men to get in. The boat then started its descent. There were no more women on deck, but there were quite a lot of men.
Assistant 2nd Steward Joseph Wheat: "When I arrived at No. 9 boat Mr. Murdoch was there with quite a number of our men passing women and children over from the port side into No. 9 boat... [Murdoch] told me to take the rest of the boat's crew down on to the next deck as they had to send the people off A deck." Steward Edward Wheelton witnessed this, "I walked along when No. 9 went, and Mr. Murdoch, the first officer, turned around. He sent the assistant second steward [Wheat] down to A deck, and he said to me "You go, too." He got hold of me by the left arm and he said, 'You go, too.'" Nearby was Bath Steward Charles Mackay. He was watching proceedings, but soon afterwards, "The first order I heard given was, Mr. Wheat, the second assistant-steward, had an order from Mr. Murdoch to take charge of that boat. Steward Wilson and myself were ordered by Mr. Murdoch to collect all the women we could and take to that A deck, which we did." [footnote]
This evidence, despite understandable confusion over numbers in the dark, confirms that the situation on the boat deck was relatively calm, and that the boat left reasonably full, with little in the way of fuss or panic. There is also some little confusion as to the identity of the officer in charge. This may be indicative of people basing their identification of officers not on their appearance (that is, did they know what they looked like anyway?), but on the braids and ranks on their uniform. And there is also the possibility of other crewmen who were wearing blue uniforms (eg pursers) being mistaken for deck officers. It would seem unlikely, however, that crew would misidentify others from the various departments on board, but there is a possibility that passengers may have been so mistaken.
Boat 9 was lowered from the boat deck, where she took on her charges. She did not stop at "A" deck. [footnote]
By the time Steward Walter Nichols arrived on the boat deck, "there were only the boat crews. At least that is all I could see. I saw them working away at Boat No. 11 and Boat No. 13...We stood in line waiting for orders while boats 11 and 13 were swung out on the davits and lowered" [OBRT] Obviously the large crowd of men seen by Widgery had dispersed. Nichols' story is confirmed by Trimmer George Cavell, who had also made his way to the boat deck and headed aft, where boat 13 was being lowered and 15 was still on deck. He says that the only men left on deck were the ones lowering the boats.
Returning to steward Wheat's recollections: having taken 70 stewards down to A deck, he lined them up two deep around the boats, fearing a rush, keeping a space clear of about 6 feet from the bulwarks. This seemed to work; order was maintained and people were kept back. Wheat had one foot on the rail and the other on the bulwarks, passing women and children into the boat; about five or six men got into the boat to take the passengers on board. Then the order was given to pass the women and children along through the line, and when Murdoch, who had remained on the boat deck and was looking down, judged the boat to be sufficiently full, he said "You have got enough there" and shouted down to lower away. In daylight, Wheat counted the boat's compliment as comprising 51 women, 9 children, seven stewards, two sailors, one fireman, three male passengers and himself. He could not account for the male passengers in the boat.
This gives us 74 people; it is not known if this includes the German stowaways mentioned by Gold and Martin above.
1st class passenger Edith Rosenbaum also talked of the line of stewards guiding them; in Cassell's Publication in 1913, she wrote, "I walked over to Mr. Ismay, who pushed me swiftly down a narrow iron staircase which led between the boat deck and the "A" deck When I got to the "A" deck there was a narrow, cleared passage-way made by the sailors [sic], I jumped into the lifeboat, holding my mascot pig in my arms, and this gentleman, whose name I have already mentioned was Mr. Philip E. Mock, leapt in immediately afterwards, and the order was given to lower away." In "The Daily Express" of May 1st, 1912 she also says, "the boat was not filled and there were no other women in sight." [footnote]
Philipp Mock [OBRT] also commented on the situtation: "I at no time saw any panic and not much confusion. I can positively assert this as I was near every boat lowered on the starboard side up to the time No. 11 was lowered." We shall soon discuss if this status quo was maintained. Mock went into more detail in an interview with "The Evening Sentinel"; there were few people on the forward starboard boat deck and the boats had all gone. He was told to go aft where a boat was about be lowered. He and his sister went to that boat but it was soon filled, although only six or seven men and women were around when he first reach it, yet they appeared from all directions and soon it was full When the next boat aft was lowered. He and his sister started forward again but they were stopped and sent to the deck below. There a boat was being loaded. There seemed to be very few people here at the time but in about two minutes there were quite a large number. The officer said there was room for one more and asked if there were any more women, but none were there, only six or seven men left standing around. Mock was pulled into the boat. He also notes that a first class passenger was found hiding under a seat and two men jumped from the deck above. Mock's sister, Emma Schabert confirms this [OBRT]: "Then someone said there was a boat on the lower deck and we went down to find it nearly crowded. There were just a few women left on deck so I risked it and went in, and after the other other women were put in then there was room for one man, and Boy [Mock] was allowed to enter."
Steward Mackay testified that the boat was lowered empty to A deck. He had helped to collect about 40 women on the boat deck and had ushered them down to "A" deck, where a few more were found; no more were collected from other parts of the ship. In his estimation, the boat had 74 to 78 people, including nine children: five stewards, one fireman, Wheat at the helm, and two sailors, one forward and one aft. There were also two second class ladies, one second class male, a first class lady and the remainder were all 3rd class women.
Brice offers a few more snippets of information; "The boat [No.11] was filled from A deck [he had helped to lower it]; there was an officer [who] said, 'Is there a sailor in the boat?' Which officer it was I could not say, amongst the crowd. There was only one officer that I knew, and that was Mr. Lightoller. There was no answer. I jumped out and went down the fall into the bow of the boat. There was nobody in the stern of the boat. I went aft and shipped the rudder, and in that time the boat had been filled with women and children."
Of interest is his mention of a crowd on the boat deck. Boat 11 was only attended to after No.9 had begun its descent; this statement has some conflict with the comments of Nichols etc. This is only a minor point but it shows the fallibility of human memory on the part of someone.
Brice said that there were two seamen, a fireman and six stewards in the boat, to make a total of about 60; about 45 women and maybe 4 or 5 children but no male passenger that he could see. Again, he confirms that there was no rush or panic, with everything being done quietly. AB Humphreys took charge of the boat himself [footnote]
Wheelton's story merely corroborates most of these statements; "We got into the boat. Mr. Murdoch shouted 'Women and children first.' He was on the top deck then, standing by the taffrail. We loaded the boat with women and children, and took in a few of the crew. I think there were about - well, there were eight or nine men in the boat, all together. That was including our crew. I think there were one or two passengers, but I really could not say. I shouted to Mr. Murdoch, 'The boat is full, sir.' He said, 'All right.' He said, 'Have you got your sailors in?' I said, 'No, sir.' He told two sailors to jump [from the top deck] into the boat. We lowered away." There was not one woman and child left on deck at this point but there were a very few of "his" men left on A deck. He thought there was a total of about 58 in the boat with about 8 being crew and one male passenger - he noted that a QM [AB Humphreys?] was in charge. Presumably "jump" means "lowered themselves down the falls" - could these be the men noticed by Mock?
Another Steward, Jacob Gibbons gave his recollections to "The Daily Sketch" of 1/5/12: "I helped some of the passengers into boat No 11, including two little children. Before doing this, I had scanned the deck for others, but could see nobody about."
Nellie Becker [OBRT] wrote, "Up there [on "A" deck], there was perfect order. An Officer came and said to me: "Get into this life boat." They were putting women and children in as fast as possible. They threw Marion and Sonny in, and were lowering the boat, when I said: "Oh, please let me go with my children," and while the boat was being lowered, an Officer picked me up and threw me into the boat, but I could not find the children. At last I saw them. One sailor had Sonny and was kissing him and trying to comfort him. I took him and he went to sleep. I stood up and he leaned against one side of me and Marion the other. They put Ruth in another boat, but I did not feel anxious, for I saw her being put in another boat."
A very similar account is here Incidentally, she talks of "the officer in our boat"; she seems to be using "officer" as a euphemism for "crewmember." Ruth Becker's story exactly tallies with her mothers, confirming that they were in boats 11 and 13. Incidentally, the Beckers, like other 2nd (and 3rd) class arrived on "A" deck via seamen's ladders aft.
Gibbons et al. cannot be right if they saw no-one on the deck before the boat was being lowered, as the Beckers arrived after this act had been started. Evidently, there were some latecomers, but this raises other problems, namely the number of people in the area at the time.In the A&E documentary "Titanic: End of a Dream" Ruth said, "I evidently was the last one put in that boat because they started lowering right away." This is the only place she mentions this fact. If boat 13 was launched almost immediately after No.11, and No.15 soon after 13 [footnote] then the same view of "A" deck should have been the same to all three boats; that is, no-one should have been in sight. This is something to be remembered as we pursue our inquiry.
What was the situation like at No.13? This is where the first inklings of controversy emerge. Let us examine what the crew had to say first:
Fred Ray: "[Then I went along to No. 11 boat, and saw that loaded with women and children and then that was lowered away.] I went to No. 13 boat. I saw that about half filled with women and children. They said, "A few of you men get in here." There were about nine to a dozen men there, passengers and crew. I saw Mr. Washington Dodge there, asking where his wife and child were. He said they had gone away in one of the boats. He was standing well back from the boat, and I said, "You had better get in here, then." I got behind him and pushed him and I followed. After I got in there was a rather big woman came along, and we helped her in the boat. She was crying all the time and saying, "Don't put me in the boat; I don't want to go in the boat; I have never been in an open boat in my life. Don't let me stay in." I said, "You have got to go, and you may as well keep quiet." After that there was a small child rolled in a blanket thrown into the boat to me, and I caught it. The woman that brought it along got into the boat afterwards ... As far as I can remember there were about four or five firemen, one baker, and three stewards [in No.13]. The remainder were second and first class passengers and third class passengers."
When asked what the crowd situation was like on the deck, he seemed confused at first; "[There was] none whatever... I do not mean to say no crowd. There were people waiting to get into the boat, and when the boat was filled and ready to be lowered away we left about four men on the deck, and they went along to No. 15, and got in there quite easily."
Here is one person who was indeed saying that people were left behind after No.13 departed. But there is corroboration with others about the lack of women and children nearby, as he stated that someone called out as the boat was lowered, asking if there were any more, and the answer was "No." As for who was in charge, he remarked, "If he [an officer] had charge when No. 13 was lowered - he must have been on the boat deck. I did not see any officer on the A deck when it was lowered." Which, again, ties in with Murdoch shouting orders from the boat deck, as he did with No.11. But other evidence indicates that there was an officer on "A" deck - so, where was he?
We also have Washington Dodge's recollections [OBRT]: "Boats Nos. 13 and 15 were swung from the davits at about the same moment. I heard the officer in charge of No. 13 say, "We'll lower this boat to deck 'A'." Observing a group of possibly fifty or sixty about boat 15, a small proportion of which number were women, I descended by means of a stairway close at hand to the deck below, deck "A". Here, as the boat was lowered even with the deck, the women, about eight in number, were assisted by several of us over the rail of the steamer into the boat. The officer in charge then held the boat, and called repeatedly for more women. None appearing, and there being none visible on the deck, which was then brightly illuminated, the men were told to tumble in. Along with those present I entered the boat."
A very minor point is that Dodge's recollection of how he got into the boat doesn't exactly tally with Ray's. Dodge says he tumbled in, Ray says he pushed him in.
Again, we have mention of a crowd on the boat deck. This is difficult to reconcile with other evidence, such as Nichols's. Lawrence Beesley was in the vicinity and he says that the deck near him was "almost deserted." This was in response to a rumour that men were to be taken off on the port side, and there then followed an exodus to that side of the ship. Before this, Beesley had noted that the men were attending to the boats, and lowering them (incorrectly including No.9) to "A" deck. As I have noted in other essays, the order of events as recorded by Beesley may be awry (his clock timings certainly are!)
Returning to crew testimonies, we shall consider Fireman Fred Barrett next. He told his inquisitors in London that after leaving boiler room 5, he ended up on "A" deck and walked aft to see boat 13 "pretty well filled" with about 5/6ths of the occupants women (the majority of the people in the boat being third class). He noted that only numbers 13 and 15 were left. He saw some stewards and some men from third class; steerage women were coming up from aft to his location, in ones and twos and as they arrived they were put in. He did not see an officer at the boat.
After he got in, three more people got in, and the order was given from the boat deck, "Let no more in that boat; the falls will break." However, his boat was not lowered until all the women were taken off the deck. He estimated that there were 70 in his boat, the crew consisting mostly of stewards. There was also another fireman (Beauchamp) and a fireman. There were also one or two children.
Barrett said that there was good order; indeed, in an (semi-anonymous) interview with "The Manchester Guardian" (29/4/12), he said, "I knew then that the ship must sink for the forecastle head was under water, but men were leaning up against the saloon walls smoking cigarettes and no one seemed alarmed." His information on this point in London is similar;" The men stood all in one line when I was getting up there. I saw them standing in one line, as if at attention waiting for an order to get into the boat, against the back of the house." [footnote]. However, in another interview ("The Times" 29/4/12), he said, "Another fireman described how some of the women refused to be parted from their husbands. There were five whom he saw actually break away from the officers who were trying to get them into the boats. They clung to their husbands' necks and absolutely refused to leave them. He added, "We heard from the boats the awful cries from the Titanic as she sank, and to drown them I asked one of the women to sing. She started "Eternal Father, Strong to Save," and we all took it up." Other papers describe him as a leading fireman, and the mention of the hymn points directly to Barrett. This is interesting for a number of reasons: first of all, there would seem to have been some form of struggle to separate the women from the men. Secondly, he mention "officers" - does he indicate Moody, and perhaps the stewards in the area?
We now turn to Lookout Reginald Lee. He had helped to uncover the boats but obviously found himself on "A" deck: he did not get into boat 11, which was his allocated boat, but instead turned to No.13; at this time, scarcely anyone was in there. Ultimately, there were three ABs, including himself in the boat; he remembered that Hopkins was one of them. This latter person told Lee that he had counted the number in the boat as being 64. When the boat was lowered, Lee could see no women left on deck - not as far as he could see, anyway; a few men were left behind and they went either to the the other side of the ship, or into No.15.
And here we introduce a new character into the story.
"I cannot tell you what his name is - a tall Officer, about 6 feet in height, fresh complexion - I forget his name; I could not remember his name - he was there attending to passing the passengers into the boats ... He is about the Sixth Officer, or the Fifth Officer ... [He was] tall and spare. I think he was drowned."
All the other officers are accounted for, apart from Sixth Officer Moody. One wonders why he wasn't more noticeable during the loading of the other boats in the area. He was certainly seen assisting at boat 16 at about this time.
Our final crewman who gave testimony is Fireman George Beauchamp. His evidence can be summarised as follows: "I went aft on to the boat deck, and across to the starboard side, and stood on the deck of the ship by the boat and one foot on the boat and one foot on the lifeboat ... and helped the ladies and children in that were there, and the order was given by the Officer then, 'Lower away the boat, that will do. Who can pull oars?' I said, 'I can.' He said, 'Get into that boat. Lower away. That will do.'" There were a lot of people standing about the boat and two or three ladies would not get in. He did not personally put any men passengers in, but he admits that some did embark; there were mostly women and children in the boat and he overheard someone else estimate 60-70 people therein. The situation on deck was "quite orderly" and "calm." From getting the passengers in to finally getting No.13 to the sea took about 20 minutes or less, an estimate matched by Nichols for No.15 [OBRT], although Dymond said that it had taken an hour. Given the known timescale of events, Dymond must be in error.
This is quite confusing. We know that No.13 was filled from "A" deck, not the boat deck (this is a mistake one occasionally sees in letters and transcripts). And where was the officer? Beauchamp was later asked, "Was [the officer] superintending people getting into more than your boat?" and he replied, "I never got up there in time to see that, only this boat." His use of the word "up" implies that he was on the deck above, which indicates Murdoch. This makes sense, as Moody would not have the authority to order the boat to be lowered with a senior officer superintending.
And with that, we leave the official transcripts behind, turning our attention to letters, books and newspapers. We shall commence with the more "benign" ones.
Charles Burgess was a baker, and his story originally appeared in "The Swanage and Wareham Guardian" (date unknown). The relevant portion is as follows: "On returning [to boat 13] we were ordered to get in the boat and lower to A deck and take in women and children. We took in about 40 women and six children, and as there were no more about ten male passengers were told to get in. We were then lowered down, and we totalled about 70."
Steward Alexander Littlejohn's brief story appeared in "The Western Daily Mercury" of 30/4/12: "The women and children were at first dealt with, and then several male passengers were taken on board. It was after this, when there was no one present but members of the crew, that one of the officers directed them to take their seats and to row away."
He also gave more details to "The Weekly Telegraph (for Waltham Abbey, Chestnut & Districts)" on Friday 10 May 1912; he had helped to swing out No.11 and was then ordered to A deck to help get women and children into the boat. It was lowered away in charge of the assistant second steward. He went to fill up boat 13 and got about 35 women and children in it. More women were called for but none were forthcoming. They had a few 1st class male passengers in the boat. An officer ordered Littlejohn and another crewman in to get in and help row the boat.
All good, so far, with the exception of Littlejohn's underestimate of the number in the boat (unless he was talking about the number he personally managed to put in?).
The Caldwells were also in the boat; Sylvia's letter to Walter Lord in 1955 has the following: "We were ordered up, they put us all in boat 13 which they ordered stopped (it had been filled on the boat deck) we got into the boat - the ship was near to making her plunge - the lookout from the crow's nest got into our boat, several stokers, & the baker." Albert Caldwell's recollections are not very revealing.
Next, we have 2nd class passenger Lawrence Beesley. He claimed to have jumped into a decending No.13 from the boat deck. As he later said in his book, " An officer - I think First Officer Murdock - came striding along the deck, clad in a long coat, from his manner and face evidently in great agitation, but determined and resolute; he looked over the side and shouted to the boats being lowered: "Lower away, and when afloat, row around to the gangway and wait for orders." [footnote]
"Aye, aye, sir," was the reply; and the officer passed by and went across the ship to the port side. Almost immediately after this, I heard a cry from below of, "Any more ladies?" and looking over the edge of the deck, saw boat 13 swinging level with the rail of B deck, with the crew, some stokers, a few men passengers and the rest ladies, - the latter being about half the total number; the boat was almost full and just about to be lowered. The call for ladies was repeated twice again, but apparently there were none to be found. Just then one of the crew looked up and saw me looking over. "Any ladies on your deck?" he said, "No," I replied. "Then you had better jump." I sat on the edge of the deck with my feet over, threw the dressing-gown (which I had carried on my arm all of the time) into the boat, dropped, and fell in the boat near the stern. As I picked myself up, I heard a shout: "Wait a moment, here are two more ladies," and they were pushed hurriedly over the side and tumbled into the boat, one into the middle and one next to me in the stern. They told me afterwards that they had been assembled on a lower deck with other ladies, and had come up to B [sic] deck not by the usual stairway inside, but by one of the vertically upright iron ladders that connect each deck with the one below it, meant for the use of sailors passing about the ship. As they tumbled in, the crew shouted, "Lower away"; but before the order was obeyed, a man with his wife and a baby came quickly to the side: the baby was handed to the lady in the stern, the mother got in near the middle and the father at the last moment dropped in as the boat began its journey down to the sea many feet below."
It has been suggested on some internet forums that Beesley probably got into the boat along with everyone else, on "A" deck; certainly the fact that he jumped some ten feet down without disrupting or injuring those in a heavily loaded boat is somewhat suspicious.
There is something else that must be considered. Beesley wrote a version of his escape which appeared in the newspapers soon after he arrived in New York [OBRT]. The relevant section is below; "Looking over the side of the ship, I saw the boat, No. 13, swinging level with B deck [sic], half full of ladies. Again the call was repeated: "Any more ladies?" I saw none come on, and then one of the crew looked up and said: "Any ladies on your deck, sir?" "No," I replied. "Then you had better jump." I dropped in and fell in the bottom as they cried: "Lower away." As the boat began to descend, two ladies were pushed hurriedly through the crowd on B [sic] deck, and heaved over into the boat, and a baby of 10 months passed down after them."
The emphasis is mine. Whereas previously we had a deck that was mostly bereft of people, now, in his earliest writings, Beesley talks of a crowd.
Hilda Slayter was another second class passenger. A paraphrased version of her diary is here. This is the relevant section, after she had ascended the ladder to "A" deck: "Turning away she saw Reverend Carter and his wife, 'talking quietly,' and not wanting to intrude on their privacy she hurried aft down the deserted D. [sic?] Deck to where a young petty officer was standing. Just then, she writes, 'there was a rattle of a boat being lowered, and the officer cried, 'There goes MY boat, I have got orders to keep the mob back. He had a revolver, but there was no panic and the lights still burning. The riggings were black with men looking like monkeys silhoueted (sic) against the side climbing up and up.' Hilda found herself surrounded by a throng of men, who made way for her to make her way to lifeboat Number 13 and passed her quickly forward, from hand to hand. She was, she says, then thrown into the boat which was already on its way down with 63 other people aboard. She found herself in the stern, 'standing, & the boat dipped & heaved – never level. Hilda found herself holding ten month old Alden Caldwell and sitting next to Lawrence Beesley. A man next to me (almost certainly Percy Oxenham) said, 'You’re lucky to be on.' They called three times, 'Are there any more women?' As there were none, he let me get in.' "
If one overlooks her confusion over the deck nomenclature, a few things are apparent. The mention of an officer with a revolver is interesting; we know that Murdoch had one but it is generally assumed that the Junior Officers, like Moody were never issued with one unless they had one of their own, like 5th Officer Lowe. I have been unable to determine which boats Murdoch and Moody were assigned on the crew roster. Of far greater interest is her mention of a mob and of being thrown into the boat. Could the "throng of men" who made way for her the stewards who had been lined up on "A" deck (see earlier)? Incidentally, the accounts of Percy Oxenham, which can be found on Encyclopedia-Titanica are not very illuminating in this matter.
The salient point of this is that Slayter was writing in her own private journal. She would have had no reason to fabricate events. If she did manufacture her tale, she would have been deceiving only herself.
Elizabeth Dowdell, a steerage passenger, found her way into No.13: "One by one the boats were filled with sobbing women and children, lowered and drifted away. Boat No. 13 was then lowered. By this time the people acted like maniacs. I myself was ready to fight for life. A gentleman of refinement and culture with whom I became slightly acquainted, seemed to show much attention to little Virginia, and at several occasions during our voyage had treated her very kindly. 'With Virginia [the daughter of opera singer Estelle Emanuel, who had remained to work in London] in my arms, I was fairly pushed headlong, and was just about going to take the step which meant life or death when I noticed this same gentleman gasping and in a desperate condition. As soon as he saw Virginia he braced up and said, "See here, little girl; step on my face and be saved.' It was a noble act on his part, for he was dying as he said those few last words.' ("Hudson Dispatch" 20/4/12) [footnote]
Mary Hewlett, another 2nd class passenger, wrote in a letter [OBRT], "I went with the crowds and when I reached the top there were eight or ten stewards there who said I must get into a boat that was on the davits - but I begged not to go however they insisted. I was put into boat number 13 with about 50 people, mostly men of the unemployed class, stokers, stewards and cooks not one real seaman amongst them."
A similar story was published in "The Evanston Daily News" (25/4/12): "Just as I was climbing the ladder a throng of steerage passengers fought their way up and started clambering for the stairs [sic - ladder?]. When I reached the deck the men forced me into the lifeboat waiting to be lowered. It was boat No. 13 and next to the last lifeboat to leave the doomed vessel. When I got into the lifeboat it was very nearly filled and there were more men than women. Fifty were saved and there were not more than ten women in that number. The majority of the passengers in the boat I was in were steerage people. There were men with their wives in this boat while many first class men were separated from their wives. I cannot understand this." In The "Omaha Daily Bee" (30/4/1912), she simply says, "When she reached the deck sailors hurled her into lifeboat No.13"
There is much that needs to be commented on here. Again, there is talk of a crowd of people. She makes mention of being hurled or being forced in - perhaps similar to Ruth Becker being picked up and put in the boat? (Incidentally, there does not seem to have been any mention of Ruth talking about the situation on deck when she left). But the crucial part is that we have a witness who claims that there were more men than women in this boat - and that the steerage were in the majority. There does not seem to be a way to reconcile this with statements by other occupants. If one believes this, then why would everyone else say differently? Was she so averse to steerage men having survived at all that she manufactured a fake statement? (And needless to say, one should not overlook the possibility of "manipulation" of accounts by unscrupulous reporters or editors!)
One dissenting voice is Mary Glynn, a steerage passenger, one of the few who can unequivocably be placed in No.13 . She gave a few interviews and in none of them did she mention any upet or scrum at the boat. The longest interview she gave was to "The Washington Herald", and it only contains a few deviations from 'truth', although some do cause the eyebrows to be raised.
Although Encylopedia-Titanic puts him in boat 15, 2nd class passenger George Harris says that he was in No.13. Unfortunately, in his Stamford, CT "Daily Advocate" interview of 19th April he gives no information other than a call was made for woman and children; when this plea was in vain, he jumped into the boat. There is nothing else there that can help us.
It may be worthwhile here bringing up a point made in the report of the British Inquiry about the diverging estimates: "There was a tendency in the evidence to exaggerate the numbers in each boat, to exaggerate the proportion of women to men, and to diminish the number of crew. I do not attribute this to any wish on the part of the witnesses to mislead the Court, but to a natural desire to make the best case for themselves and their ship. The seamen who gave evidence were too frequently encouraged when under examination in the witness-box to understate the number of crew in the boats."
The reader is also reminded of the situation at boat "C". If one were to read the crew account only, this boat was loaded and left in a state of calmness and serenity. Fortunately, we have statements from passengers, and they talk of gun-fire and fighting, with male interlopers being hurled from the boat. In the case of boat 13 were the crew afraid of a scandal if it was determined that more men than women were in the boat?
The most incendiary statement for boat 13 comes from seaman Robert Hopkins. His story appeared in "The New York Sun" on 23/4/12. His account is mostly accurate, until we get to the section about the boats; "Hopkins said that while there was no disorder on the boat deck when the lifeboat in which he was stationed was dropped down level with the saloon deck to take on more passengers there was a rush which threatened to overload her. What he described as a terrible crowd of Poles, Hungarians and Italians rushed the boat, but they were driven back. Hopkins said that from this deck twenty-five of the stewards got in. He said that he saw an officer who he believed to be Murdoch shoot one man who tried to crowd into the boat."
Hopkins never testified in the US or in England and indeed, is said to have quit the White Star Line. The stories in newspapers and letters are replete with tales of people being shot by officers and it has been the ploy of Titanic researchers to dismiss all of them (with the possible exception of the events surrounding the alleged officer's suicide towards the end of the Titanic' life). Hopkins story is unverified and uncorroborated. It is difficult to know what to make of it; there is nothing in the remainder of his account that is grossly inaccurate. [footnote]
Another account of Hopkins can be be found, in the 22nd April edition of the New York "Evening World", but with the mention of any shootings omitted.
Finally, we shall consider boat 15. One thing to bear in mind is how rapidly the situation could have changed between the depatures of Nos.13 and 15, which would be about 30 seconds if Barrett's evidence is correct. But, timing estimates seem to have been fluid that night, and understandably so. Logically, if there was orderly conduct as boat 13 departed, one would have expected the same at No.15?
William Taylor, a fireman, told his story in the US and it sounds very similar to the tales of boats 11 and 13. When he got to the boat deck, 15 was the only one still on the blocks and he was ordered into it by the officer along with about six others. There was a big crowd around the boats, but order was good.
It was loaded at "A" deck under the control of the stewards who were directing the people. No. 15 was "pretty full" in his estimation, and the officer on the boat deck ordered it to be lowered; Taylor said the officer was looking over the side to see who had got in. There were mostly women and children (steerage, he thought, or maybe "cabin" passengers too) in No.15, and some men who were allowed in afterwards. Taylor never saw any other women and children left on "A" deck and he was sure if would have seen them, had there been. There were about six firemen and at least three stewards; there were eight men - oarsmen, a coxswain and one male passenger who rowed. He did not know if there were any passengers on "B" or "C" deck as he was preoccupied in preventing the boat from rubbing down the side. To be blunt, Taylor's evidence is very perfunctory and not very enlightening - he did not seem to like volunteering information. Like others, his recollections and estimates of numbers changed from time to time, making it hard to extract concrete data.
Fortunately, we have other's recollections to peruse.
The afore mentioned Walter Nichols escaped in No.15. He observed that the officer in charge on the boat deck had a revolver in his hand: "We stood in line waiting for orders while boats 11 and 13 were swung out on the davits and lowered. The crews would make them ready and get into them. Then they would lower them to deck B, where the passengers were ... I guess we waited for some minutes while they were getting the two other boats away. They were mighty careful not to let one boat go before the other had got clear. It‘s a drop of some ninety or a hundred feet [sic] from the boat deck to the water, and they had to look sharp to keep one boat from fouling the other. Altogether it took us about twenty minutes to fill our lifeboat and get away. There was no confusion and no rush. On deck B [sic], where we loaded the passengers, First Officer Murdoch was in charge. He saw to the giving of the orders to the men that handled the boats. The order was to take women only, and the officers kept saying, "We can only take women. No man is allowed to get in." But no one seemed particularly anxious to get in. The officer kept on talking to the women, sort of urging them. "Come, now," he'd say. "Get in or we'll have to leave you behind. The boat's going to leave and we can‘t wait for you." Several women stepped back as they saw the boat and refused to leave their men folks when they saw that they would have to go alone. All the time we were there the officer kept talking quiet like, urging women to get in. He didn‘t say anything about danger. I guess he didn‘t want to have any rush and he just talked, quiet like, and kept sort of joking them along, telling them to hurry or they‘d be left, and things like that. But they all seemed to think that the ship was a better place to be than in a lifeboat. Many of the boats weren't full. We only had about fifty people in ours. Some of the men passengers had to urge the women to go, and some of the women whose men folks didn‘t happen to be close to them refused to go."
Ironically, given what nearly happened next, Nichols said, "Our boat was one of the last to get away. We held on until we were sure No. 13 was clear." Understandable; those in boat 15 would not know of the near calamity below them unless they looked. For those in No.13, the impending disaster was all too obvious as the keel of 15 got ever closer!
It should be noted that Nichols and others were on "A" deck at the time that three boats were being prepared. His - and other's comments - could easily apply to more than one boat, and not just 15.
Of interest is that Nichols only refers to one officer handling the loading. He puts Murdoch on "A" deck, which does not seem to be correct. But superficially, the above account does little to raise suspicions that things were amiss; again, it sounds perfectly calm, albeit there is a slight hint of encouragement for people to hurry up and clamber in.
Steward Percy Keen was another one nearby. His story was reprinted in "Titanic Voices" and he said that bedroom stewards had organised themselves into a police force, ranged opposite each boat while others went below and brought up the women and children. They maintained perfect discipline and let out with their fists at one or two men who tried to get into the boats. Admittedly, he didn't say this happened at No.15 though. His other recollections were in The "Southern Daily Echo" of 30/4/12; "As the lifeboats began to clear away from the ship and only a few were left there were signs of disorder. The bedroom stewards, who behaved with great gallantry, and kept their heads admirably, were formed into an extemporised police force and kept the way clear for the women and children. Several of the women, even when pleaded with, refused to leave the ship and a few men, I believe, they were foreigners, rushed forward to take their places. The stewards kept them back, and when they became violent hit out at them with their fists. I saw no shooting but forceable action certainly was necessary."
We now have the first hints from a crewman that there was indeed some disorder in the vicinity.Fireman Frank Dymond was in charge of the boat. He talked to "The Daily Mirror" of May 17th 1912: "Our boat had been damaged by striking the ship's gunwale when we were first lowered. The men on the second deck had to step across, about two feet from the rail to the side of the boat. There was a rush. Men clambered across anyhow. I saw we were full up, and I called out loudly, 'Lower away!' Three men fell into the sea, and one foreigner I had to hit as he jumped, and he too fell ... It had taken us an hour to get the boat away ... There had been a lot of trouble keeping men out of the boat before she left the boat-deck. A foreigner came up with a child in his arms and we tried to get the child from him to put in the boat, but he would not give it up. At last we took him in too. We did not know till afterwards that it was his own child. I had a tussle with a man who had two lifebelts on the ship’s deck. I had to stretch him out and take one away from him to give to a little Irishman who had none at-all. There-were sixty-eight people in the boat, including six other men from the stokehold and me."
This is self explanatory, but there are a few points worthy of further discussion. There is a growing body of evidence that the ship's list to port started when boat 11 was ready to depart, and it gradually got worse. But a list to port would not allow a two feet gap from the "A" deck bulwark to the boat; if anything, it would have pushed the boat flush against the side of the ship. However, "A" deck overhung the decks below by two feet, which would lead to a gap - but is there any evidence that passengers were taken on board from other than "A" deck? The answer is "yes", as we shall see evidence from evidence provided by a name named Cavell.
If Beesley was right and Murdoch had strode off to the port side of the ship just before No.13 left, there would have been no one to superintend the boat. [footnote] Therefore Dymond, as the man in charge, would have been within his rights to give the "lower away" command. This supposes that there was no other officer on "A" deck to take charge.
"The Western Times" adds a little more to this story: "When he came on deck again he saw the boats being told off. In fact, they had all except one left the side of the vessel. He was told off to man this boat, but just as he was getting into her something happened, and he was swept on one side. There was no eagerness to get into the boat, however the difficulty really was to get sufficient persons to go away in her. He was again warned off to man the boat, and this time he took his place. Eventually there were 68 souls on board this boat. There were no sailors. So far as he could see there was a deal of confusion, and scores who had first chance to get into the boats preferred to remain on the ship. Dymond says he was ordered to stand by for a time, and when there was no response to the repeated call. "Any more women to go?" he was told to fill up the boat and get away."
Sadly, one is left to wonder in vain that the "something" that happened was, leading him to be swept to one side.
The same interview was run by "The Western Daily Mercury" of 29th April, but with a few additions. The number of people in the boat was now only 63 (perhaps the number got fudged in transcription?):
"He took charge of the boat, in which there were 22 women and five children (one a Dago - Italian - woman and child), and one or two stewards. He was ordered to stand by a time, and an officer shouted: "Are there any more women to go?" "There was no answer to this. The women appeared to refuse to leave their husbands and relatives. Mr.Dymon sat anxiously in the boat awaiting orders, and when no women came forward to take their places the officer shouted: "Very well, fill up with passengers and crew." Altogether he had 68 souls in his boat, and except for the women and children, they were nearly all stewards."
We assume that there were only one or two stewards when he got in, and many more when the boat finally descended. The mention of the people in the boat being nearly all stewards is interesting. It seems doubtful that he could have mistaken stewards in their white-clad tunics for steerage passengers in "civillian" clothing.
Patrick McGough had already departed in boat 9 but evidently had a view of the decks if his comment in "The Oxfordshire Weekly News" (1/5/12) is to be believed; "I last saw Mr.Murdock when he was lowering No.15 boat and keeping back some Italians." . If he was correct, how accurate was he in identifying the "officer"? Recall the mention above that there were possibly two attending to these boats, on two adjacent decks. McGough also claimed, "I saw Captain Smith at some distance swimming towards another boat. When they reached out to help him he shouted to them, 'Look after yourselves, men. Don't mind me. God bless you.' Then he threw up his hands and disappeared." His eyesight must have been especially keen to have seen Smith - William Ward places boat 9 at about a quarter of a mile away from the wrecksite - admittedly, estimates of distance are variable amongst survivors, but one thing is certain. McGough could not possible have heard Smith's utterances from anything more than a few yards away. This puts some doubt on McGough's comments.
Let us briefly turn to passenger's statements. From steerage, Bertha Mulvihill has definitely been placed in boat 15 (or so we are told). A summary of her escape was published in a journal; "As their boat was being lowered, a man ran out from those assembled on the deck and jumped in. He landed directly on Bertha’s back, knocking the wind out of her and breaking several of her ribs."
Her story also featured in "The New York Tribune" soon after she arrived on the Carpathia: "Before she left the steamer she saw an officer standing over the steerage passengers, drawn revolver in hand, threatening those who tried to crowd their way in. Even after the boat was launched other passengers jumped from the deck into it, or tried to. Miss Mulvehill's [sic] back is bruised from the fall she received when she jumped into the boat and from the fet [feet?] of others who had followed her, for they trampled on each other in making places for themselves..."
A version of her escape was published in "The Providence Journal" of 20/4/12. In it, she describes a panic in third class and meeting "Robert Hickens", a seaman from Southampton in a passageway. This is obviously a reference to QM Robert Hichens - but this leads to the problem that, from the moment he went on duty at 8pm till leaving in boat 6 at about 1.00am, Hichens never left the bridge area. There is also a reference to a gun-totting Captain Smith, who threatened to shoot any man who tried to jump into a boat. This has led some researchers to wholesale belittle this version of her story as a fantasy. Still, it is included here for completeness: "My sailor friend ['Hickens'] told me to follow him and he would try to get me into a lifeboat. We climbed up bolts and cleats until we got to the next deck. Nearly every woman had left the ship then, I guess, and only two boats remained ... one of these pushed off. I stood directly over the other. 'Jump,' said the sailor. I jumped and landed in the boat. Then a big Italian jumped and landed on me, knocking the wind out of me."
Another steerage passenger, Eugene Daly, helped Bertha Mulvihill and another lady, Maggie Daly, to escape. Daly wrote in a letter, "We knelt down and prayed in the gangway. Then the sailor said there was danger. We went to the deck but there were no boats going off. Then we went to the second cabin deck. A boat was being lowered there. It was being filled with women. Maggie and Bertha got in, and I got in. The officer called me to go back, but I got in. Life was sweet to me and I wanted to save myself. They told me to get out, but I didn't stir. Then they got hold of me and pulled me out. Then the boat was lowered and went off. There was another boat there, but I went up to the first cabin."
Of course, there are some minor problems. Boat 15 went from 1st class space not the "second cabin deck", but in likelihood, Daly was probably not to know the details of deck geography; he might have assumed that the second deck down was 2nd class, with the area above devoted to the gentry. Daly's mention of "another boat" being there could be a reference to No.13, which may not have left yet. If he is right, then the scrum at No.15 should have been visible from No.13 - so why are we told in testimony that everything was calm and orderly? Unfortunately, the later portions of Daly's letter makes reference to a shooting on the forward boat deck and the responsible officer's suicide (even though he did not witness this latter incident) - and both these are unpalatable to many Titanic researchers. So again, there is wholesale dismissal of Daly's story in some quarters.
We now turn our attention to Paul Mauge, the secretary to the Restaurant chef; he was also the only male to survive in that department.
Even before he had managed to get aloft to the boats, Mauge had run into problems. He and the rest of the restaurant staff had congregated on the aft well deck, but the stewards were being selective in who they allowed to pass. Mauge and the chef himself, dressed as civillians were allowed on to the second class area but the 60 cooks and waiters, the majority of whom were Italians, were barred. [footnote]
After half an hour in second class, Mauge proceeded to the boat deck [sic?], where women and children were being put into boats. He saw "the last one" of the boats at the starboard boat deck [footnote]
Some of the women wanted to stay with their husbands and would not let go of their spouses. As he said, "the second or third lifeboat was [stopped] between two decks and I jumped directly from the top deck to this lifeboat. About six or ten persons were jumping in it." The distance would be about 10 feet.
When the boat passed, or arrived at another deck, a man on the Titanic tried to grab him to pull him out.
Although Mauge has been blamed as the man who jumped and landed on Mrs.Parrish and injuring her, this seems unlikely as we have previously explored, the main reason being that he agreed that he was on the starboard side rather than where Mrs.Parrish was. But there are problems in his story too, and one feels that the language barrier was a hindrance. Of the last four boats at the starboard quarter, the last three were loaded from "A" deck, not the boat deck. Perhaps he mistook (as some others did) "A" deck for the "boat deck", but if so his mention of "the top deck" is mysterious. If he did jump from "A", then the boat he jumped into was even lower - 10 feet or so by his estimate. From all accounts, the boat deck was empty. He could not have seen women being reluctant to leave their husbands on that deck. His testimony mostly ties in very nicely with a newspaper interview (transcribed here - except that in this version, he talks of a fatal shooting, and now the man who tried to eject him was in the boat, not on the ship.)
There is also the matter of the men who jumped. He says 6 or 10 (phonetically, the French words for these numbers are very similar). In our discussion on jumpers in the preamble, no boat had this many people jump into it. It is fruitless to find similar incidents at boats 9, 11 and 13; and this only leaves 15. This is not proof though. But the man who jumped into No.15 and injured Bertha Mulvihill, and the successful attempt to pull Eugene Daly from the boat back onto the ship, hint at 15.
And if there were that many jumpers, one wonders what happened to them. Were they pulled back on board the doomed liner, or did they ultimately escape and evade those who might try drag them back? Recall Dymond: "Three men fell into the sea, and one foreigner I had to hit as he jumped, and he too fell."
The penultimate witness we shall be considering is Trimmer George Cavell. After being released from his duties, he went aft on the boat deck. Boat 13 was being lowered while No.15 was still in situ. Despite some confusion about the situation, it appeared that the only people left on the boat deck were the seamen lowering the boat, and an officer. He found himself along with four other firemen in No.15.
Cavell's version of where the majority of passengers got into boat 15. The yellow areas are second class areas; the windows on "B" deck provided more opportunity for entry than the smaller ones on "C" deck. The trim is taken from Sam Halpern's computations. Note that only the latter half of the boat could be accessed from the windows; this is where Dymond was located (Rule was in the bows).
But his story then shifts from the known facts; "We lowered it just aft the boat deck to the first class. We called out there for women. We got a few [about five, he later said] there till we got no more, and then we lowered down to the third class, and we took more till we could get no more." He never saw any men taken from "A" deck.
There were crowds on this lower deck, he claimed, and they took in about 60, making a total about 70. They took in everybody who came in at the lower deck and left nobody behind. They were all steerage women and children, but he later altered his statement to indicate that there were a few men there, but they had stood back and were not taken on board. To his knowledge, they did not take any second class aboard.
He did notice that there were a number of Irish in his boat, but the collated stories of people from this country do not allow us to identify definitively just who were in No.15.
There is very little to corroborate Cavell's assertions the majority of passengers got in at (presumably) "B" deck rather than "A". We only have Dymond's comment, related above that, "The men on the second deck had to step across, about two feet from the rail to the side of the boat," which could point to "B" deck. Then we have Mauge, who jumped to a boat that was 10 feet below where the passengers embarked- this could mean "B" rather than "A".
Cavell indicates that Dymond got in from the boat deck along with him and three other firemen. If so, then it makes the comment, "[Dymond] was told off to man this boat, but just as he was getting into her something happened, and he was swept on one side" even more confusing. The boat deck was empty. What happened to "sweep" him to one side?
Then we come to Bathroom Steward Samuel Rule, and the confusion becomes almost tangible.
Rule got to No.15 to find it uncovered, and Murdoch had given orders to ready the boat and then called the men together into it. As Rule said of Murdoch, "Some of you get into the boat." About six went in and he said: " That will do; no more; lower away to A deck and receive any women and children there are." There were no passengers on the boat deck at the time; in fact, he said "I did not encounter anyone until I came downstairs; the deck was perfectly clear."
Rather than being ordered into the boat, Rule went down the stairs to "A" deck and found 'someone' in charge. Rule did not know who it was, but he ordered that all the women and children that could be found were to be put in to the boat. But, there were only four or five women and about three children (whom he thought were steerage). Three or four 'scouts' were sent around the deck shouting out for more women and children but after 3-5 minutes [footnote] the crewmen returned as none could be found. There was no one to be seen on the starboard side, in fact. Having been told of the fact that no more women could be found, Murdoch then ordered, "Fill the boat up; take in what you have got there, and lower away." Ultimately, the boat left with 68. Where did the extra people come from?
Evidentally, some people did turn up, for Rule said that when the order to lower away was given, there were some men left behind and there was indeed a rush, making Murdoch shout out "Stand back! Women first!" [footnote]
The tally in the boat is troublesome, as Rule claimed that of the complement of 68, there were about 61 men aboard, the passengers being second and third class. Rule was certain that no more could have been taken in below "A" deck, and he denied that 22 women and children were put in on that deck.
By all accounts, No.13 went to "A" deck first, followed very soon after by No.15. How can there have been enough people to fill up 13 but mere moments later, only a few people left behind on the deck? Did Rule not notice No.13, only mere feet from his position? The rhetorical answer is "yes" - he was in the bows of the boat, close to the neighbouring boat.
He certainly seems confused about the order of lowering the boats but there is nothing else that grossly contradicts our accepted knowledge, other than him claiming that Jack Stewart was in charge of No.15; he did not know of Dymond. [footnote]. And Murdoch had returned from the port side to order the boat's departure.
This unassailable contradiction between Rule's and Cavell's evidence was apparent to the court of the British Inquiry. So much so that Rule was recalled.
Initially, he added very little to his story; there were more than 7 crew in the boat, one of whom was a seaman. He agreed there were six when No.15 went down to "A" deck. He said that the only crew he could recognise were those from his department.
But then a peculiar thing occurred. After checking to make sure that he was available, Cavell was asked to step forward. Rule recognised him.
And Rule's story changed. He could no longer swear that he had taken in 60 men from "A" deck; in fact, he could no longer give an estimate. The few women and children initially taken on were "when [he] was there" - he had, he claimed just counted the women and children he helped into the boat - the others he did not see. Rule admitted that Cavell was right and that he had made a mistake. The majority in the boat were all women and he could not see them as they were in the centre of the boat, behind him. He did not see all the men, perhaps half a dozen, get in but it was after the scouts returned. But he did say that when he arrived on the deck, there were the few women and children and some men there.
Mr.Cotter, appearing for the National Union of Stewards, came to the rescue by asking Rule about his health. The steward admitted that it had affected his sleep and his memory had suffered a lot. And with this, Rule's time giving evidence was over. One cannot help but think the court heaved a collective sigh of relief. Rule's troublesome assertion that all the boats had not left with a majority of women and children could be explained away, or belittled.
If only another witnesses had been called. His name was George Pelham and he was a trimmer. He had, like everyone else, given a deposition upon arriving back in England but whereas most of the statements have long since been lost, Pelham's has survived. The important section is thus: "When the boat was quite full I heard the Chief Officer [sic?] shout: 'Lower away.' On reaching the water we cut away the ropes to get clear. The boat was the last one on the starboard side to leave the ship, but everything was done orderly. The time was between 1.30 and 2 am. The firemen and trimmers, who numbered seven or eight, took charge of the boat as there was no officer or seaman. There were a few stewards, at least 25 women and children, and nearly 40 male passengers in the boat."
And despite the British Inquiry making remarks about Dymond and Stewart being called to clarify matters, neither of them were called. Fortunately, Dymond did speak to the press and he too puts a majority of men in the boat - in his case, he thought they were stewards.
This concludes our discussion on the boats, and obviously, it is fair to say that the conflicting stories prevent us making sense of the events surrounding boat 15, and to a possibly smaller extent, No.13. [footnote]
There is little data to go on about what happened on "A" deck (and others) after this. But he do have Emily Goldsmith's story, which appeared in "The East Kent Gazette" of 18/5/12: "There seemed to be no pressing danger until the order came from some of the ship's officers that all the women were to ascend to the upper deck and the men were to remain on the second deck and put on the life belts. All the passengers except the Italians seemed to be very calm, but their wailing and prayers were something terrible to hear. In the semi-darkne we ascended to the topmost deck and got into the lifeboat...the last I saw of my husband was when we separated, he to go to the second deck and I and Frankie [her son] to go to the upper deck. All the men who retained their presence of mind stayed on the second deck, but the Italians rushed above and tried by force to get into the lifeboats. If there had been lifeboats on the second deck all the men there could have been saved." She and her son escaped in collapible "C".
The interesting point about this report is her use of the word "remain". They were obviously still on the "second deck" when they were ordered aloft - does this mean the "second deck down", i.e. deck "A"? But to confound matters, then she talks about the men, including her husband who were instructed to go to the second deck - if so, from where? Then we have, "If there had been lifeboats on the second deck all the men there could have been saved." If she had been on "A" deck, then she was obviously too late in arriving to see that they had been lowered there. One looks for further meaning in the text, but none is available.
With this morass of conflicting evidence, especially at No.15 what can we say? Compiling a coherent account from this mess would probably only help to reinforce one's own opinions (for instance, some researchers claim that there were more steerage men in No.15 than any other group, but we only have suspicions on this point and no firm data).
However, it is easy to reconstruct events on the boat deck. A possible scenario is as follows: Boat 9 departs leaving a huge crowd on deck. A little while later, this crowd disperses thanks to two events: the rumour that men were to be evacuated on the port side (which also serves to deplete the throng of some women who depart with their husbands), and that women were to embark on "A" deck. At this point, Nichols arrives but he somehow misses, or forgets seeing No.15 on the boat deck. The last three boats on this portion of the deck are lowered to the next deck down [footnote]. Boats 11, 13 and 15 leave within a very short space of time together, and Nichols and others put the loading at about 15-20 minutes. This is therefore the approximate gap between boats 9 and 11/13/15 departing. Murdoch stays on the boat deck supervising the loading from above. He leaves to go to the port side just as boat 13 is about to depart for the sea. However, he, or Moody is still in the area on the boat deck according to Charles Dahl (if his story is true, that is).
Talking of Moody, one wonders why he is not more prominently mentioned by survivors if he was on "A" deck. There is very little that possibly references him.
As stated above, about 45 steerage men remain unaccounted for. If in No.15, we have 61 men (Rule), 40 (Pelham), or 38 (Dymond), then we have some hint as to how these errant passengers escaped. These estimates are close to the "45" I have suggested.
While it is undisputed that the figures show that more 3rd class men escaped in the boats than can be accounted, there is very little hard evidence to clarify the means of departure; and it is possible that some of them went unnoticed by the fellow occupants in the boats; there may be some stowaways whose stories remain untold to this day. And without further evidence, there is not much more than be said on the matter. But boat 15 is the only one where we have (admittedly few) stories of an appreciable number of men ensconced within. One would have thought that if there were other instances in other boats, we would have heard more reports from indignant passengers and crew - but the silence on this point is noticeable. And this makes drawing definitive conclusions impossible. Perhaps one day, accounts will surface which will break the deadlock of evidence, but after more than 100 years on, and the re-emergence of "new" Titanic material dwindling with each year, it seems very unlikely.
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1. The "I was saved in the last boat" plea may also be an example of people's need to exaggerate to accentuate their heroism etc.
2. Two identities for this individual have been proferred. The first is Phillip Zenni (or Zanni). The only interview this author knows of with this interview was the "Niles Daily News" of 25/4/12: "Zanni made an effort to leap into one of the boats, but an officer of the boat stood with a drawn revolver in hand and all the men were compelled to stand back at the command, ‘Women and children first.’ Zanni made a second unsuccessful attempt to leap into the boat and was ordered back by the officer, but a moment later the officer turned and he made a leap, landing in the middle of the boat. He took refuge under one of the seats and the boat was pulled away. There was twenty women and three men in the boat. Zanni was placed at the oars." The number of people in the boat roughly corresponds with boat 6, but the firearms weren't apparently distributed until after boat 6 had gone. Of course, this little mention of weaponry might be a enhancement on the part of a journalist. The other identity suggested is Neshan Krekorian. In "The Hamilton Spectator" of 25/4/12, it is written, "When we had reached the water I was numbed through from lying in the cold water in the bottom of the boat, and I knew I would soon have to crawl out and expose myself. I did so, and one of the men at the end of the boat called to me and told me to take an oar. I was injured in the crush in the steerage and hurt my arm, and found that I was unable to use it. He swore at me and told me to sit down and keep quiet... When we got on the Carpathia I was given whiskey and my arm was dressed by the surgeon. He said it was badly fractured." This, together with the detail of his injured arm, would seemingly indicate boat 6, except for the detail of the boat having a leak. Then, in the "Brantford Advertiser" of 26/4/12, it is said "when asked if it was true that he was wearing women's clothing. 'It is not. What time had we to be thinking of women's clothes at such a time as that? I did not know how to think.' After seeing two men shot by an officer, "As boat, little boat go down I jump right into it. I then hide under the cover at front. I remember twice they look to see all who were in the boat, and none see me. Then they come again, third time, and fine [sic] me. I was too listless to care now, and just sit and look around." There were about 50 in the boat. All passengers and one sailor. The discrepancies mount up. Now there are people shot, and the number of people don't match reality. Now, we return to The Hamilton Spectator again of 25th April (presumably a different edition to the one above): "[he] rushed up the steerage companionway and reached the deck. Things were not so confused up here and there appeared to be little fear among the passengers. They were merely huddled in talking groups and seemed to be be unaware that the ship was sinking beneath them. We five men went to the top deck where the boats were, and already officers were in charge of every boat and women and children were being put into then and dropped over the side with all possible haste. We tried to get into two or three boats, but at each effort we were balked and finally one of the officers told us that if we didn't desist he would shoot the whole bunch of us.
We then went to the fantail top deck, and here there were two large boats, but up to this time they had not been
touched more than than the top tarpauling being removed. We pulled back the cover a little more and crawled
inside. At each end of this boat was a metal watertight compartment, but underneath it was a space about a foot deep.
Three of us crawled under this at one end and the remaining three did the same at the other. In this attitude we waited,
and we didn't have to wait long until we heard the officers coming. They took the cover off the boat and hung it out
over the davits, all in readiness to lower, when one of the officers noticed the legs of one of us protruding
from under the compartment. He fished him out by the feet and threw him violently down upon the deck. His companions
were used in the same way. Then he came to our end of the boat and grabbed the feet of two of my companions. They too
were taken out of the boat and chided for their cowardice in trying to usurp the place of women and children.
Fortunately, they didn't see me and I remained where I was, and I felt the boat being lowered into the water..." This in no way matches boat 6. So, what do we believe? A possibility is that the steerage man in this boat was someone else entirely, and used a fictitious injury to escape the toil of rowing.
A minor mysery is that this character, whoever he might have been, was the only steerage passenger to enter a boat, or indeed, be seen on deck near the first six boats to depart, from about 12.40-1.10am.
3. Only two Armenians were saved from the Titanic. The first is Neshan Krekorian; in pictures, he has a 'large' appearance, and could conceivably be of about 18 stone. His accounts are given above and do not tally of someone who jumped into the boat from the deck. The other surviving Armenian was David Vartanian. The only account of his to surface reads as follows (relayed via an interpreter): "...At the last minute we, myself and a few others, see a little boat was not touched. It was on the third deck. We all get it down. We throw it into the water, and then jump out to it. We were all foreigners, and yet we none of us speak other's language. I start to swim. I go down twice. I come up third time. I see boat near me and I make one big swim again, catch the side of boat and they pull me in. We had gone perhaps 20 yards when we see the big steamer go down altogether. Terrible noise! And then all we can hear is shrieks and groans. Then the boiling waters they take us back into sea. I get up top at last and start to swim. I sink again, and then come up again, see boat and make try for it. I catch it, and I am in. Others in, too. We remain till it get light and then we see another steamer coming toward us. We start to holler, and wave our rags. The steamer stop, and take us up. This was the SS Carpathia." ("The Brantford Expositor", c.late April 1912) Vartanian could be the person described by Olaus Abelseth perched on boat "A": "Also there was a young boy, with a name that sounded like Volunteer. He was at St. Vincent's Hospital afterwards." Vartanian may indeed have been slightly delayed in hospital, as he was unable to resume his journey to Ontario until April 24th.
4. It has to be said that these gentlemen did not avail themselves of much valour! Emily Goldsmith's story appeared in "The Detroit News" of April 24th, and it was reprinted in "The East Kent Gazette" of May 18th: "...It was the next to last to leave, and as near as I can remember there were about 30 women, five members of the crew and four Chinese in the boat besides my boy ... The members of the crew tried in vain to get the four Chinese out of the boat, but they refused to budge and they had to let them stay." Another (unattributed) newspaper clipping says the following, "Four Chinamen refused to get out, but crept down among the women and remained there. The officers did not dare fire at them for fear of hitting the women and the boat was lowered with them in it." Two survivors also commented on this, but obviously their knowledge is (at least) second hand, or scurrilous, depending on one's point of view: steerage survivor Nellie O'Dwyer in "The Limerick Chronicle" of 7/5/12 was quoted as saying, "The way they [the Chinese] were saved was by fixing their hair down their backs, and putting their blankets about them. They were taken for women when the boats were leaving the ship." Steward Percy Keen noted in "The Southern Daily Echo" (30/4/12), "At Southampton we had taken on board ten [sic] Chinamen, part of the crew of a ship some of whom came up and dressed as women, with shawls over their heads, and managed to smuggle themselves into the boats before we discovered the fraud."
5. She is obviously in error about the number of crew aboard her boat. Conversely, we must remember Nellie O'Dwyer's account in "The Limerick Chronicle" of May 7th. Although she does not give her boat number, she does mention that a lady slipped and fell between the boat and the ship when she tried to leave the deck - this puts O'Dwyer as being in boat 10, except that the lady did not slip into the sea and was drowned, but was pulled into the next deck down and managed to ascend to the boat deck where she finally managed to gain admittance to the craft. O'Dwyer talks of being transshipped in 5th Officer Lowe's small convoy: "When they took some of the people from our boat we had an Italian and an Italian stoker [sic?] to row us...The Italian knew no English...There was no other man to row." If Webber got her details confused, then the two men might have been the remainder left about Lowe's "re-arrangement." Admittely, other incorrect details confound this issue completely.
Incidentally, compare Webber's contemporary account, with one given 19 years later: ("Hartford Courant", April 20, 1931) "There was little panic on my deck as I crawled into lifeboat #13. In the next boat the ship’s officers were trying excitedly to raise or lower the boat, but it was jammed. Cut! the captain bellowed. The ropes were severed simultaneously and the boat fell six floors to the water below, righted itself and was rowed away. 'All this happened while we were hanging between heaven and earth, looking five decks up and six down, watching the people at the rails. Then our boat was lowered. When it reached the water a Japanese passenger hurled himself six floors into the bottom of the boat. Apparently unhurt he crawled under a seat. They walked all over him, but he was afraid to come out – ‘Women and children first'" – you know."
The errors are obvious, and in addition, her boat number has changed, and the extra man was now Japanese.
6. One wonders how the men managed to get into the boat undetected, since there were crowds of stewards in the area to escort women and children into the boat. At the British Inquiry, AB Scarrott said, "You understand we started on the port side and got those boats uncovered and cleared and turned them out, falls all ready for lowering, and then worked with the starboard boats. At the time we were working at the starboard boat - I think I was at boat 13 - the chief Officer came along and asked me whether it was my right boat. I said, 'No, we are all assisting here.' He said, "All right, go to your own boat," and then I went to No. 14 boat." AB Archer testified, "We went to [the boats], uncovered them, and got the falls ready for lowering. Then I went over to the starboard side and assisted in lowering about three boats. I could not mention the number of the boats I lowered. I never taken any notice. Then an officer came along - I could not mention his name - and he sang out that they wanted some seamen on the other side, on the port side, to assist over there. I went over then and assisted in getting Nos. 12, 14, and 16 out. I assisted in getting the falls and everything ready, and the passengers into No. 14 boat. Then I went to No. 16."
AB Fred Clench offers more clues; "We proceeded up on the boat deck, and when we got up there he told us to go to the starboard side and uncover the boats. I went down to No. 11 boat, unlacing the cover, and just as I started to unlace, along come an officer...[he] drafted me on the other side, the port side. I went to No. 16 on the port side." Clench was alloted to No.4 boat, but was not asked if he was working at the correct one.
Was Wilde diverting people away from work on the starboard boats to work on the ones to port? It seems possible, although there were crew who said that they worked on "all" the boats of the starboard side. But on the other hand steward Ray says that he got to the boat deck just as No.9 was being swung out, and shortly afterwards he went to the rail and saw boat 7, the first one, lowered. Boatswain's mate Albert Haines also said, "we were turning out the after boats while they were filling the forward ones." Steward William Ward offers more evidence on this point: "I went to my boat - I was stationed at No. 7 - and she was already lowered to the same level as the deck...They called for the ladies to get in. Some got in, and there were a few men got into it...I went to No. 9 boat and assisted to take the canvas cover off of her. Then we lowered her down to level with the boat deck."
Boat 9 had obviously been neglected, and it is possible that the others had been too. If crew were being diverted away from starboard, leaving boats unattended this would leave time for anyone to climb under the covers and secrete themselves aboard under the thwarts. Many boats would not have this trouble; there was always a sufficient crowd nearby to prevent any subterfuge from being undetected - this would apply to most of the boats on the forward boat deck, as an example.
7. Gus Cohen was still repeating his fantasy of being picked up from the water well into the 1970s, and within a few years of his death!
8. It must be said that Glynn must be error about the number of such people in boat 13, otherwise we have too many people of far eastern origin surviving! There are other areas in her interview which give cause for doubt, but these are not as subtle as this 'mistake'.
9. She wrote a letter [OBRT] to her parents in New York, in which she said, "We tried to reach the boats. Then I saw two fellows (whom we met at meals, the only men we made real friends of) coming towards us, who assisted us over the railings into the lifeboat. As we were being lowered a man about 16 stone jumped into the boat almost on top of me. I heard a pistol fired - I believe it was done to frighten the men from rushing the boat. This man‘s excuse was that he came because of his baby. When we rowed off the child must have died had I not attended to it." Stanley is customarily placed in boat "C" and researchers are reasonably certain of the identities of the male passengers in this boat. So, who was this man? He is obviously not one of her mealtime comrades. The mention of a baby was not false subterfuge to excuse his unorthodox means of escape, as Stanley makes mention of it. Steward Albert Pearcey talked of finding two babies on deck but all he says is that "I picked them up in my arms and took them to the boat." I have been unable to find a photograph of Pearcey which would show if he was of the weight claimed by Stanley.
10. one is reminded of the lack of crew in O'Dwyer's and Webber's accounts, given above.
11. There is no mention of such a corpse being found in the boats, so presumably the Chinaman survived his ordeal. Placing Sloane in a boat is more troublesome. In a letter home, she wrote, "Well, I got away from all the others and intended to go back to my room for some of my jewelry, but I had no time at the last. I went on deck the second time, one of the little bell boys recognised me, and pointed me to a crowded boat said, Miss Sloan, thats your boat No.12. I said, child, how do you know, I will wait for another, so it pushed off without me...there was then a big crush from behind me. At last they realized their danger, so I was pushed into the boat. I believe it was one of the last ones to leave. We had scarcely got clear when she began sinking rapidly. The rest is too awful to write about. We were in the boats all night. I took a turn to row. The women said I encouraged them, I was pleased. We picked up 30 men. Standing on an upturned boat, among them was one of our officers, Mr.lighttoller".
The occupants of Boat "B", including Lightoller, were picked up by boats 4 and 12 and yet we know that she missed No.12. Logically, does this mean that she was in boat 4? Possibly, but there are problems with this hyopthesis. She says that "there was a big crush from behind me". This does not sound much like boat 4, but more likely boat 10 or one of the remaining forward boats (2 or "D"). Boat 10 would accord with her mention of a Chinaman/Japanese. The lack of further details is frustrating. While Sloane understandably found the disaster unnerving, the blanket phrase "The rest is too awful to write about" leaves us no clues and obscures much, alas. The only other pointer is the mention in "The Belfast Newsletter" of May 25th, where she says there were "60 or 70 third class women and children, mainly foreigners" in her boat, which would heavily indicate boat 10.
Another strong possibility is that the mention of "Chinese" is simply wrong; fireman Fred Harris, in the "Gosport and County Journal" of 2/5/12 said, "Subsequently two Chinaman were found to have concealed themselves [in the boat], and they were lucky not to have been thrown 'into the ditch.'" Harris said he was in boat 14, and we know there were no Chinese there.
12. The mention that he hid under a seat should be compared with Stewardess Sloane's similar comments. If this is the same character as seen by the Fortunes et al., evidently he felt sufficiently confident to extricate himself from his hiding place under the thwart and to sit with his fellow occupants at some later point.
13. this was written in 1937. There is a mention that one side of her boat was much lower than the other during the descent, forcing the occupants to to scramble to the higher side of the boat to keep it from tipping over. When they were in the water a man eventually found a knife in his pocket, allowing the ropes to be cut. There is nothing else to differentiate this boat from any others. A more contemporary account (The Iowa "Evening Times-Republican" of 5/3/12) gives some more clues: "[Her] boat would hold about fifty people, and the rest were all men, Mr.Ismay being one of them. They rowed a few feet away from the ship when they came across another boat which had been overturned with forty men clinging to its sides." It is possible that she was in boat 12, or less likely 4, due to her mention of the overturned boat but the rest of the account is so wildly at variance with our present day knowledge that we must be doubtful of its worth.
14. She also wrote that "...after the sinking of the ship the boat they were in picked up several struggling in the water and were fortunate enough to rescue 30 sailors who had gone down with the ship, but who had been miraculously blown out of the water after one of the explosions and been thrown near a derelict collapsible boat to which they had managed to cling. That after taking all those men on board the boat was so full that many feared they would sink..." As with Sloane's account, this would seemingly indicate either boat 4 or 12 (boat 4 did indeed pick up some people from the water). But there are (inevitable!) problems. Shelley wrote, "...two men of the ship's crew manned this boat at the time of launching, one of whom said he was a stoker and the other a ship's baker." Baker Charles Joughin was seconded to boat 10, although he chose to remain on board; however, he may have assisted with other boats in the area. There was indeed a large gap between the deck and boat 10, as indeed there was when boat 14 departed, with Lowe agreeing that "There was a space of 3 feet between the side of the boat and the ship's side". Boats 12 and 16 also departed at about the same time as No.14, and there is nothing to indicate a change in the gap. Oddly enough, those boats on the starboard side launched at the same time as boat 14 did not experience such a huge list. Mrs.Shelley described herself as ill, so it is possible that she was too infirm to move from the 2nd class staircase on the boat deck, thus putting her at the aft end of the deck. Conversely, her mention of Mrs.Straus is confusing. During the evacuation of the ship, Mr and Mrs Straus remained on the forward port side of the boat deck - in 1st class territory - as far as we know. Also, Shelley does not mention tying up with other boats, but this could mean nothing as not everyone mentioned this. Then, Shelley recalled, "That on trying to lower the boat the tackle refused to work and it took considerable time, about 5 minutes, it is believed, to reach the water. That on reaching the water the casting off apparatus would not work and the ropes had to be cut." This is reminiscent of Bertha Lehmann's comments - see here. On the balance of evidence, it seems that Shelley and her mother, Mrs.Parrish were in boat 12, which agrees with Lillian Bentham's comments about Gus Cohen. There is one further point to make. In "The Liverpool Post and Mercury" of May 1, 1912, stewardess Gold and Martin talk about this incident. "An Italian, who was making a first voyage as a restaurant attendant, jumped off the liner into another boat, breaking the ankle of Mrs. Parrish, one of the second class passengers. He told someone somebody afterwards ... that he could not tell why he did it, but acted on the impulse of the moment." It has been suggested that the miscreant was Paul Mauge, secretary to the chef and it was indeed his first voyage. But Mauge is clear in his testimony that he jumped from the starboard side of the ship and it is obvious that Shelley and Parrish were on the port side. No other male restaurant staff survived. If someone did indeed talk to this man, it would have been clear, had it been Mauge, that he was French and Italian. The word "Italian" seems to have been used to describe people who had performed undesirable behaviour - and which forced 5th Officer Lowe to offer a grovelling apology to the Italian Ambassador in the US.
15. He later said that the man who helped him was "Wilton" - Wheelton? Further questioning reveals that he thought "William Wilton" was in the boat, but Mackay must be in error as Wilton did not survive the disaster.
16. Steward Ray said at the US Inquiry that boats 9, 11 and 13 were lowered and loaded to "A" deck; we can include No.15 as also stopping here as he said that four men who didn't get into his boat (13) went aft to 15 on the same deck. AB Brice also said that No.9 went out from "A" deck: " I lowered the boat from the boat deck to A deck - No. 9. When it was loaded, I lowered it down to the water." If Brice was occupied with paying out rope he may not have looked over the side to see what was happening. Ray's incorrect information is probably a simple slip of the mind.
17. This should perhap be taken with a grain of salt; Rosenbaum used to like to tell people that she was the last woman off in the last boat. She must have been myopic not to notice boat 13 right next door to her.
18. Brice admitted that they only difference between him and Humpreys was that the latter was "on the saloon deck."
19. Fireman Fred Barrett testified, " It [No.15] was getting lowered about 30 seconds after us [No.13]. It was coming on top of us."
20. This lack of concern is echoed by Stewardess Gold in "The Daily Mirror" of 30/4/12, "When we left the ship men were sitting about on A deck, smoking cigarettes and tapping time with their feet to the music of the band." While it is true that in other interviews, she says this was on the forward part of "A" deck, "The Daily Mirror" corrects many mistakes found in other papers.
21. Beesley is the only one who mentions this order being given at the time, and crewman denied that they had heard it, or similar orders. A discussion of these orders can be found here
22. It is intructive to ask where Dowdell saw this "maniacal" behaviour. The 'step on my face' indicates that that there was an attempt to hoist Virginia up to higher decks and this could indicate the seaman's ladder on "B" deck, putting the baying crowd on that deck. This would indeed seem to be the case, as can be seen in "The Jersey Journal" of 20/4/12: "When we tried to get to the deck the stairways [sic-ladders?] were so crowded that we could not use them. Men and women were climbing over each other here, and it was impossible for them to move up. They appeared to me to be steerage passengers, and their cries and curses were terrible to hear. Finally some of the men passengers realized that it would be impossible to get up by the stairways, and they hoisted the women and children to seamen on the gallery above. They clasped their hands to gether [sic], to enable the women to step upon them and reach out to those who would grasp them." It was at this point that her samaritan came to her and Virginia's rescue by allowing the youngster to be hoisted up by standing on his face. But then the narrative seems to fall apart from the accepted norms of the Titanic story: "When we arrived on deck nearly all of the boats were off. They were just filling No. 13, and the men and officers were trying to get the canvass off two others. They failed in this, and at last gave up in despair. My charge and I were carried bodily into boat No. 13. Several men tried to rush in on us before we were lowered. I saw an officer shoot three of them. The others stopped immediately." It is also fair to say that there are other portions of her story that are quite plainly fantasy or invention. It is therefore debateable as to how much credence should be placed in the remainder!
23. one would have thought that the use of a firearm would be audible to people in the vicinity and they would comment on it. This is not necessarily the case. Some people in the boats report hearing gunfire from the ailing liner, but for those on board, this is not always what occurred. Two good examples are Beesley and Gracie. They were no more than a few tens of feet from the use of weaponry but they later failed to remark on these instances.
24. There seem to have been an officer of some decription in the area as No.15 went down. Charles Dahl [OBRT] remarked, "There were hundreds of people waiting on the port side, and when I saw that, I thought there was no chance of being saved on that side of the boat. I ran over to the starboard side and to my surprise saw a boat half lowered nearly full of people. I asked the chief officer if I could not go into the boat. He said, "No, the boat is too far down, you cannot get to it." I said, "I will manage that if you give me the permission." He said, "All right, then. Go on." I went down on the tackle, hand under hand, until I got to the lifeboat." That lifeboat turned out to be No.15. With regard to the identity of the Officer, there are quite a few instances of people mistaking the Chief Officer for the First Officer. Was Dahl making the same mistake? During the evacuation process, Wilde seems to have confined to his activities to the other side of the ship. If this was the same officer that Beesley saw striding to the port side, then he must have returned very shortly afterwards.
25. This does not seem to have been prejudice aimed at the restaurant staff in particular; Mauge told the stewards that he was the secretary to the chef and he and his employer were allowed to pass.
26. Perhaps due to language difficulties, some of Mauge's testimony is hard to understand. He was asked, "Do you mean you saw the second or third of the last four boats on the starboard side let down into the water?" and he simply said "Yes" but elsewhere he said that he saw "just the last one."
27. - When he was recalled to give further evidence, this became "six or eight minutes."
28. The evidence is confusing here, with Rule claiming at one point that the rush came towards the end, but also saying at one point that this happened when No.15 arrived at "A" deck and before the few women and children were taken on board.
29. it was Stewart who provided the tally of 68 in the boat.
30. it is worthwhile mentioning steerage steward John Hart here. He claims that in his second trip bringing up 3rd class from below, he came along the starboard boat deck and came to No.15, the last boat as far as he could see. He had about 25 women and children with him. He claimed he put his entourage in the boat on the boat deck - and there were already people (1st and 2nd class he thought) aboard. Counsel in London must have been incredulous - they had already heard that only about half a dozen were in this boat when it went to "A" deck, and they were all crewmen. They asked him about this part of the story a number of times and each time Hart was clear - his people got in on the boat deck; there were a number of men there but there was absolute quietness - however, there were some women there who would not leave their husbands. Hart's story continued; Murdoch has said to him, "What are you?" and Hart replied, "One of the crew. I have just brought these people up." The first Officer then said, "Go ahead; get into the boat with them." After going down to "A" deck, they took in about five women, three children and a man with a baby in his arms, all steerage he thought. There were repeated calls for more women and children but after leaving "A" deck, there were about 70 aboard, he thought, with about three or four male passengers - the rest being women and 13 or 14 of the rabble were crew members. Some men were left behind as the boat dropped below "A" deck but no women and children. The story about passengers being in the boat on the top deck, along with other reasons, has led to some researchers being highly sceptical, if not dismissive of Hart's uncorroborated act of heroism. For what it is worth, this author describes himself as being in this category.
31. Fireman Harry Olliver would seemingly dispute this. In "The Western Daily Mercury" of 29/4/12, he was reported as saying, "On reaching the boat-deck, he found that most of the boats had already been launched expect number nine. One of the officers ordered him into the boat..." The balance of evidence is that he was wrong, however. Is it possible that he meant boat "C", which was the "9th" boat to leave? Another author suggests the same misidentification of "C" at "9" in the writings of Walter Hurst, some four decades after the disaster.
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