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Walter Hurst, Fireman

First letter, undated

Mr Lord Sir I have been reading in our local paper 'The [Southampton] Echo' that you may be interested in the sinking of the Titanic, well as a member of the crew of that ship I was on the boat deck until few minutes before she sank when i dived overboard afterwards climbing on to a raft which I had helped to cut adrift from the roof of the smoking room later I was joined by about 25-30 others including the 2nd Officer Lightoller and Marconi officer. Phillips i think his name was I saw the Carpathia come on the scene about 4 A.M. we were taken off at day break by one of our own boats which the Officer called by whistle boarding Carpathia at 9 am. I saw the first boat leave the ship and remarked to a friend, (if they are sending the boats away they just as well put some people in them) there was about 5 of the crew and about 4 special passengers I think I know as much as anyone alive now about that night and would give you any help that I could if you are interested Yours Sincerely Walter Hurst

second letter, undated

Mr.Lord, I was serving on Titanic as Engine oiler or as what we British call Greasers it was at 11.20 P.M. on the 14th when I was awakened by a grinding crash along the starboard side no one was very much alarmed but knew we had struck something my Father in Law was in the same room he ran up on deck and back at once with a large lump of ice threw it in my bunk and told me to get up as we had struck a berg at that moment a messanger from the bridge told us to put on our warmest clothes and muster in the Mess Room and as a precaution put on Lifebelts later we went to the Fore Well Deck we were met by a Quarter Master who told us not to come on Boat Deck until later on I could plainly see a ships Riding Light away on the port side and our ship was sending up Rockets but got no reply we could see that they were lowering boats and I saw the first one away No 1 Starboard boat going into the water there were P.O. in the stern at the Tiller, 4 crew on the oars and about 4 passengers so we all began to go up to the boat deck, my Stations was No 13 Boat but it was gone, there were crowds around some other boats but no one seemed to have got scared yet as they have great Confidence in the ship and stood watching the band playing in the smoke room some in Blue uniforms and others in their White waiting jackets not knowing much about music I could not identify the tunes but it seemed something fine [?] a Lady and two Gents were by me and I heard them say (she cant possibly sink she has so many air-tight compartments) and I advised one man to get her into a boat if possible as I could see the ship was sinking and said if she can stay afloat till morning we may be all right as the Marconi would get help and that certainly cheered him up some. all the boats were gone by now except no 9 and there was a bit of trouble there, the Chief officer was thretening [sic] someone and fired 2 Revolver shots shouting now will you get back I was not near enough to see if anyone was shot.

After no 9 had left the Chief Officer shouted any crew here and about 7-8 stepped forward and he said hurry men, up there and cut that boat adrift it was a collapsible on top of Smoke room we got it down to the deck but could not overhaul boats falls as they were hanging down shipside in waters. The ships bows were now under water there was a group of officers in corner of the bridge and I never saw one move from there a man just in front of me jumped overboard and I, without a thought, did the same. The Ships Lights were still on from the Emergency Dynamo. there came a terrible crashing of machinery falling forward and one Propellor fell off the After funnel fell in the sea near me and I was half blinded by soot and water then came the raft we had cut adrift it fell within a dozen feet of me and some men were clinging to it there were terrible screams all round and I plainly heard screaming (Save one Life) I've never forgotten that

I saw the 2nd Officer get onto the raft and he at once took charge cut away an oar that was lashed on and told me to use it to try and get the raft clear before it got overcrowded but I could do nothing about it there was one man quite near us he had the voice of authority kept cheering us with (Good Boy Good Lads) I reached the oar out to help him but he was too far gone as it touched him he turned about like a cork and was silent there was a Gent talking to the Officer I am sure he was a big shot - and he was complaining that his head was so cold a man nearby offered them a drink from a flask but they declined and told him to give me a drink I took the bottle thought it was brandy and took a good pull it was essence of peppermint nearly choked me but I am sure it did me good. The wireless man was on that raft the Officer asked what ships he had contacted he said Calodonian and carpathia would be on the spot at 4 A.M. which was when she [was] sighted we began to shout but the Officer said she is four miles away save your breath. On board Carpathia Duff Gordon sent for his boats crew and I saw five Pound note he gave to each one I took the Liberty to tell one he would be sorry he had it.

I can state Definitely Captain Smith did not reach the raft but I always had the idea he was the man that spoke to us in the water but I could not be sure.

Home in Southampton, they gave us an exam to see what we knew about it all and I have in front of me now a summoned to appear at the Court of Wreck Commissioners at Westminsters London 3rd of May 1912

the White Star Line stopped crews pay the day ship sank but gave us a small bonus nothing for our loss of sea kit and I am looking at my Pay off Paper 2-16-0 had it not been for the generosity of the Seaman's Mission in New York I would have come home half naked as my clothes were put to dry in Carpathia's Engine Room and got lost.

PS I went to London on The Enquiry but was not called. I am sure it was because I spoke of the Boats leaving half empty. I don't know whether you can make anything of this but its best I can do so wishing you good luck with it.

I remain Yours Sincerely

Walter Hurst


Notes:


1. Spelling and punctuation have been preserved, where possible.
2. Hurst's time of collision is wrong.
3. Hurst's mention of boat 9 leaving so late is not corroborated by other evidence, and neither is his recollection of the propellor (added to the letter with the use of a caret). It was also the forward funnel that fell near him, not the aftermost one.
4. Some more of Hursts' recollections can be found here


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