Thanks all for your compliments and your criticisms, they are all much appreciated. All corrections have been noted down, I will not make the same mistakes next year (I'll probably be making new ones!). I will come back and post the references later.
Day 15, April 15th, 1912—The Last Day of Titanic
Monday, April 15th, 1912 was the final day of the Titanic’s career and the last day of over one thousand-five hundred people. The horror experienced by the ship’s passengers and crew in the opening hours of the 15th can never be fully understood. Within twenty minutes of scraping the black iceberg in the darkness at 11:40, the ship was already sinking fast, and the deck was already beginning to grow steeper. Captain Edward J. Smith had already given the order to uncover the lifeboats. There was nothing else one could do under the circumstances. By now, not only had the Postal Office become submerged, but the Squash Court was also underwater.
After giving the order to uncover the boats, Captain Smith made his way to the Wireless Cabin and ordered the Operators, Phillips and Bride, to send a message of distress, asking for assistance. Phillips began sending off the distress code CQD, but under Bride’s suggestion he also used the new distress code SOS, and Titanic became one of the very first ships in history to use this code. This done, Captain Smith gave orders for passengers to be awakened. Stewards were sent around to knock on cabin doors, or go into the smoking rooms, and ask the passengers to come up on deck, as there had been an emergency. At first no one suspected there was much amiss, a propeller had been dropped, or something to that effect, but gradually there came the realisation that Titanic was sinking.
Some of these awakened passengers did not first make for the Boat Deck at all, instead heading for C-Deck to the Purser’s Office. There they demanded their valuables from the pursers, Hugh McElroy and Reginald Barker, as well as the Clerk, Ernest King.
By 12:25, the orders had been given to swing out and fill up the boats and then to lower them. As officers began to persuade passengers to get into the boats, the bellhops and other stewards began rushing about, putting foodstuffs and blankets into the boats. While making his way up to assist in lowering the boats, the author Colonel Archibald Gracie bumped into the Squash Instructor, Fred Wright. In a jovial sort of way, Gracie commented to Wright that he had better cancel the appointment he’d set with him for the afternoon. Wright already knew that the Squash Court was already underwater, but did not say so to Gracie. Wright would not survive to see the afternoon.
At 12:45, Boat 7 became the first of Titanic’s lifeboats to be lowered that morning. In the darkness it had been filled with such passengers as Mr. and Mrs. Dickinson Bishop, Mrs. Boulton Earnshaw, the Gibson women, Mr. William B. Greenfield, Mrs. Leo Greenfield, Mr. Pierre Marechal, Mr. Paul Cherve (the sculptor who had just finished a bust of Charles Hays, who would go down with the ship), Mrs. Thomas Potter, Mr. and Mrs. John Snyder, Mr. James McGough, Mr. William T. Sloper, Miss Margaret Hays, Mr. Robert Williams Daniel, Mr. Fred Kimber Seward, and Mr. Gilbert Tucker. Boat 7 was put under the charge of Lookout George Hogg, and was manned by Lookout Archie Jewel and Able Seaman Weller. Although the boat could hold a good 65, only 28 passengers were aboard. At the same time Boat 7 was lowered down the tremendous side of the ship, Quartermaster George Rowe and 4th Officer Boxhall began to launch several white signal rockets from the ship’s bridge, after Captain Smith had suggested it. Boxhall then proceeded to attempt to contact a light in the distance, which he took to be a ship. He used a Morse Lamp for this, but after some time of this, he gave up, with no success.
Not far away, on the Leland Liner California, officers on watch saw these rockets, and indeed what they took to be a ship. As Operator Evans was asleep, they were not receiving Titanic’s distress calls, and so the ship, commanded by Captain Stanley Lord, did nothing. It was stopped for the night. Had it have gone on to the sinking vessel, the passengers and crew of Titanic would have been saved.
On Titanic, people were beginning to become much more concerned than earlier. The deck was noticeably getting steeper. However, no one saw this as being life-threatening. At most, there would have to be a trip to Belfast to fix up the ship, and the passengers would simply have to take another vessel to America. Colonel Astor and his wife Madeleine were seated in the gymnasium on one of the electric camels. Mrs. Astor was hesitant of putting on one of these lifebelts that she had been given, and was indeed hesitant of entering a boat as well. Finding an extra lifebelt, he cut it open with his penknife to show her what was inside, and to demonstrate how safe it was. He should know about this sort of thing after all, he had been an inventor, he may have reminded his wife.
At 1:25, Quartermaster Rowe left the bridge, finished with the rockets. Only eight had been fired, each at seven-minute intervals, and they had done little good. No ships would be coming simply because they saw rockets, it seemed. Several ships were coming however, because of the efforts of the wireless operators. The closest that was reached was the Carpathia, but it was still hours away. Below the Boat Deck, on the A-Deck Promenade Deck, Lightoller began lowering Boat 4. It held the richest women aboard the ship, such as Mrs. Widener, Mrs. Carter (and her children), Mrs. Thayer, and Mrs. Astor. As he watched his wife’s boat row off away from the ship, Colonel Astor stepped back into the crowd.
By 12:45, Boiler 5 was almost empty of her crewmen, but the valiant remaining crewmen still worked to keep back the green seawater. While running from one area of the room to another, Junior Assistant 2nd Engineer Jonathan Shepard slipped and fell down an empty manhole, breaking his leg. Junior 2nd Engineer Herbert G. Harvey and Firemen Frederick Barrett ran to help him, dragging him up from the darkness of the manhole, putting his dirtied and injured body in the Pump Room, where he sat against a wall, watching the others work. Suddenly, a nearby bulkhead seemed to explode, and the sea rushed in on the crewmen. Shepard could not move out of the way of the emerging sea and was engulfed in the surf. Harvey ordered Barrett to get up on deck. Barrett reached the deck safety and was saved, but he would always remember that as he made his way up the ladder, Barrett took one look back, seeing Harvey making his way into the Pump Room to help his friend Shepard. The farther he went towards the room, the deeper the water became. Soon it rushed over his head, and Herbert Harvey disappeared under the green water.
At 12:55 a.m., Boat 6 was lowered from the Boat Deck. Mr. Tyrrell Cavendish was seen here, putting his young wife into the boat. He then stepped back into the crowd. Aboard also are Mrs. Helen Candee and Mrs. Molly (Margaret) Brown of Denver. The ‘unsinkable’ Molly Brown was seen to walk away from the boats when two men, among them Edward P. Calderhead, picked her up and tossed her into the boat. The Boat was commanded by Quartermaster Hitchens, who had been at the helm when Titanic struck the iceberg. However, once in the water, QM Hitchens discovered, to his horror, that he had only a single crewman (Lookout Fleet) in the boat to help him, and he called up to Officer Lightoller that he needed another crewman. There were few about, and so Lightoller asked for a passenger to volunteer who had experience as a seaman. A Yachtsman, Major Arthur Godfrey Peuchen volunteered himself. He had to climb down the falls to assist, and as he jumped into the boat he became a hero.
On the other side of the deck, where Murdoch directed the loading and lowering of the Boats, Boat 5 was swung out and lowered by Murdoch, Pitman, Lowe, and Mr. Ismay. It contained Mr. Calderhead, Mr. Karl Behr (the Squash Champion), Mrs. H.W. Frauenthal, Mrs. Washington Dodge, and the Frollichers. Officer Pitman commanded it, himself. As the boat was lowered away, Murdoch shook Pitman’s hand, saying, “Goodbye, good luck.” Watching the boat lower away, Dr. Frauenthal became very much afraid, and took a jump into the boat, landing on poor Mrs. Stengle. Two of her ribs were broken, and she herself was knocked unconscious. At 1 o’clock a.m., the painted name of Titanic disappeared under the sea. After lowering Boat 5 into the water, Murdoch and another officer (either Lowe or Moody) made their way to Boat 3 to load it up. He instructed Seaman Moore to get into the boat and to pass in the ladies. When there were no more women in sight, Murdoch allowed several men to get in. Among them was Mr. Frederick O. Spedden, who came aboard to join his wife and young son. Another hero was made this night when Mr. Howard B. Case assisted in helping the women into the boat. He then stepped back and made no attempt to get into the boats. The boat would contain 32 passengers and 11 crew. Walking to Murdoch, Sir Cosmo Edmund Duff Gordon saw another rocket, soaring 800 feet into the air, and then bursting. He pointed to Boat 1, sitting empty, asking, “Can my wife and I go in?” The answer was problem an “all right”, but Duff Gordon always insisted Murdoch said, “I wish you would.” Lord and Lady Duff Gordon went aboard with Lady Lucille’s secretary, Miss Laura Francatelli. Also coming aboard was Mr. C.H. Stengle (who’s roll into the boat gave Murdoch a good reason to laugh), and Mr. Abraham Salomon. Lookout George Symons (at the boat’s helm) and Fireman Sam Collins commanded the boat. Only eleven people were aboard Boat 1 when lowered, and most of them were crew.
At about this time, Boiler Room 3 was flooding, and most of the stokers had been relieved of their posts and they were now scrambling to get away from the fast moving currents. Chief Engineer Bell was sending them out of these flooding rooms as quickly as possible. Only a handful of men still worked in Room 3, directed by several surviving engineers. Soon that room too was filled with the water of the North Atlantic, and all the crew of Room 3 were taken under the water as well. At least one engineer had made it to the Boat Deck. Senior Second Engineer William Edward Farquarson was now helping load and lower boats. He and all the engineers of Titanic would die that morning. Bands of men would stick together that night. All the members of the nine strong Guarantee Group of Harland & Wolff would go down with the ship. At this time, Lightoller sent Bo’sun ‘Big Neck’ Nicholls and a group of his seamen down below into the ship to open some blocked passages and to prepare a way to load boats from passengers on lower decks. Nicholls and his men would not return from their mission. They all vanished without a trace, no report came from them. It was assumed that they had found themselves trapped on a lower deck and had been lost when the water rose.
At this time, on the port side, Boat 8 was being loaded. As this was happening, Mrs. Ida Straus was asked to step in. She refused to do so without her husband. When Mr. Straus was allowed to get in because of his old age, he refused to go before the other men. The couple would stay together in life and death. Mrs. Straus handed her jewels to her maid Miss Ellen Bird, who then stepped into the boat. The couple then sat down together on deck chairs, and would not be seen again. Passing them was the Countess of Rhodes and her cousin Gladys Cherry. They were put in the boat, and the Countess would become quite a hero for her work at the tiller. Boat 8 was put under the command of Able Seaman Tom Jones. Passing as the boat was lowered was Captain Smith himself, who would remain, like Chief Officer Wilde, very aloof and brisk that evening, appearing every so often, and then seeming to disappear into some unknown area of the deck. He appeared to be in shock and oblivious to everything about him.
Boat 9, on the starboard side, was filled to capacity, holding 58, including several men who had come when women were scarce. The ship had now developed quite a list to the starboard. During the loading of Boat 9, Purser McElroy sent three men in to help the women get past a large gap between the deck and the boat after a French woman nearly fell through it. Mrs. Jacques Futrelle was the last to go aboard, after refusing several times to leave her husband. When the ship hit the water, the crew found to their horror that none of them had a knife to cut the falls, and a woman from the 3rd Class finally handed them her pocketknife.
Boat 11 was sent down to the A-Deck Promenade windows, where 70 passengers boarded, including Mrs. Emma Schabert and her brother, Philip Mock. But it was all very dangerous, the boat having been loaded over five times her wait. The ship’s pump discharge was a fat jet of icy water, and when the boat reached the water she was nearly swamped. The boat only barely escaped.
At 1:25 a.m., Boat 13, holding 64 (including Mr. Lawrence Beesley and Dr. Washington Dodge), was lowered. The boat also came dangerously close to the discharge but those aboard the boat cried out to the seamen at the davits above, and the boat ceased lowering. The occupants managed to push the boat away from the discharge. But now Boat 15 was descending directly above it, endangering everyone in both boats. Once again there were shouts, and the lowering of the 15th Boat was temporarily ceased, giving Boat 13’s crew to cut the falls and float away. Boat 15 hit the water as soon as Boat 13 was safety away. At 1:30, Lightoller lowered Boat 12. It was under command of Seamen Frederick Clench and John Poigndestre. At about this time, Officer Lowe, standing next to Boat 14, fired three shots along the side of Titanic as a rush at the boat from several passengers began. A man leapt towards the Boat, but missed altogether and fell into the sea. Lowe stepped into Boat 14 and ordered it lowered away. On deck, Ben Guggenheim, his valet, Victor Giglio, and Chauffeur Rene Pernot were dressed in their finest clothing. Guggenheim remarked that he would die like a gentleman. It was now clear to most of the passengers that the ship was doomed. At 1:36, Boat 16 was lowered. It held 50, including the famed Stewardess Violet Jessop. At 1:40, Officer Wilde lowered Collapsible C. At the last moment, William E. Carter and another man came aboard. The other man was the Chairman of the White Star Line. It was Joseph Bruce Ismay.
The last boat to be lowered was Collapsible D, containing 54, which included the famous Navratil twins. In the Smoking Room, Thomas Andrews, Titanic’s designer, stood alone, his lifebelt lying discarded on a nearby table. A steward running past would be the last to see him. Thomas Andrews was last seen staring blankly at a painting entitled “Approach to the New World.”
According to some people, with the seawater now closing in, an officer shot himself on the Boat Deck. Some have suspected that this man was Chief Officer Wilde. However, there is no conclusive evidence that this indeed happened at all, and so it should never be brought to a conclusion as to whom it was, if indeed there was any officer who shot himself. Collapsibles A and B were still on top of the Officer’s Quarters as a huge wave swept over the ship’s side. There were many crewmen who were attempting to free these boats when the wave struck, knocking the boats and the seamen (probably including Murdoch and Moody) into the sea. Collapsible A landed upright and swimmers got into her, but Boat B landed upside down. However, a few men managed to survive by standing atop it. These men included 2nd Officer Lightoller, Junior Wireless Operator Bride, and Colonel Gracie. It is believed that Operator Phillips also made it to the boat, but was dead before dawn.
At about this time, Captain Edward John Smith of the Titanic was last seen, reportedly on the bridge. He may have been there even when the bridge went under. At the same time the bridge went under, the forward funnel collapsed, falling forward, smashing part of the bridge and crushing several swimmers in the water nearby, including Charles Williams. It was rumored for a long time that one of the swimmers crushed was Colonel Astor. At 2:20, the stern of the White Star liner faced the stars. The band was playing a hymn, and Father David Byles was taking last moment confessions on the Boat Deck. Everyone was soon struggling to remain upright. The ship was beginning to make its final slide into the glass-like sea. It was then that the ship broke in half, the bow going under first, the stern rearing up once more, and then sinking into the sea. In one instant, the cries of the passengers and crew aboard the ship were suddenly silenced forever.
Titanic had died. With her died Edward Smith, Henry Wilde, William Murdoch, James Moody, Thomas Andrews, John Astor, Jack Phillips, Alfred Nicholls, Hugh McElroy, Reginald Barker, William O’Loughlin, James Simpson, Andrew Latimer, Benjamin Guggenheim, John Thayer, George Widener, Harry Widener, Isidor Straus, Ida Straus, Archibald Butt, Francis Millet, William Stead, Joseph Bell, and a host of others.
Two hours later, a Cunarder, the Carpathia, appeared in the distance. It then began picking up the survivors and the boats at about 4 o’clock a.m., the last boat at 8 o’clock.
705 people had survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic.
1,523 had not.