Mr Hugh Woolner
Mr Hugh Woolner of 29 Welbeck Street, London was the Director of various businesses. He purchased a first class ticket and occupied cabin C-52 (possibly with Mauritz Björnström-Steffansson). He boarded the Titanic at Southampton. According to his later testimony "One lady (Mrs Churchill Candee) was recommended to my care by letters from friends in England. She joined the ship at Cherbourg, but I had not known her before."
As far as recalling any of the day to day operations aboard the new White Star Liner, he recalled very little out of the ordinary.
Regarding Captain Smith, he had someone point Smith out to him. And later: "I saw him at breakfast and, I think, at dinner one evening in the saloon, but I am not quite definitely about dinner, I think so."
At the time of the collision, Woolner was in the First Class Smoking Room with Mauritz Björnström-Steffansson and a "Mr Kennett" (probably Edward Austin Kent.
He remembered it was a full size lifeboat, not a collapsible, the sternmost boat on the port side (16). Captain Smith was standing nearby, giving orders. It was now approximately a half an hour after the collision. "I made one remark to him. He said, 'I want all the passengers to go down to A deck, because I intend they shall go into the boats on A deck. ' Woolner had noticed these windows before; Sailors using spanners to wind them up in a rather slow manner. He went up to the Captain and saluted him and said, 'Haven't you forgotten, sir, that all those glass windows are closed?' He said, "By God, you're right. Call those people back." A few had, indeed, gone down the companionway but returned. There was, at this time, "?a certain amount or reluctance on the part of the women to go in, and then some officer said 'It is a matter of precaution' and then they came forward rather more freely."
Having gotten Mrs Candee in the lifeboat, Woolner then assisted in loading the other lifeboats. Steffansson had stayed with him during this whole time. There was no crowding as he remembered it. Then Woolner turned to Steffansson and suggested they go to the deck below and see if they could find any passengers there. Reaching A deck, the two found three women, "second or third class passengers, I should think" who were a bit lost and Woolner and Steffansson brought them up to the boat deck. He believed all the women present got into the lifeboats, "..with the exception of Mrs Straus. She would not get in. I tried to get her to do so but she refused altogether to leave Mr Straus. The second time we went up to Mr Straus and I said to him: 'I am sure nobody would object to an old gentleman like you getting in. There seems to be room in this boat.' He said: 'I will not go before the other men.'"
The boat was lowered and then Woolner and Steffansson helped with a hitch a collapsible to the davits. The crew then loaded it,
Woolner and Steffansson then went to this boat and assisted in clearing the boat of the men who had climbed in. "We helped the officer pull these men out, by their legs and anything we could get hold of." They pulled out five or six men which, Woolner thought, were third class passengers. "They were very limp. The had not much spring in them at all. Then when the boat seemed to be quite full and was ready to be swung over the side, and was to be lowered away, I said to Steffanson: 'There is nothing more for us to do here. Let us go down onto A deck again'." By this time there was no one on the lower deck, the whole length was perfectly empty. As the lights were now turning to just a red glow, Woolner said to Steffansson, "This is getting rather a tight corner. I do not like being inside these closed windows." They then retreated out the door at the end just as the sea came onto the deck at their feet. They then climbed atop the gunwale and saw the collapsible, the last boat to be lowered on the port side, right in front of them, about nine feet away from the ship (Collapsible D). Steffansson jumped first and tumbled head over heels into the bow of the lifeboat. Woolner then jumped, hitting the gunwale with his chest and had to catch the gunwale with his fingers. He then slipped off backwards, his feet dangling in the sea. He then pulled himself up and caught his right heel on the gunwale. It was then Steffansson grabbed him and helped him into the boat. Once inside, the two men looked into the sea and saw a man (they did not know) swimming. They reached out and pulled him into the boat. By this time they were bumping against the side of the ship, which was sinking fast by the bow. There were now 6 men in the lifeboat and about 30 women and children. Woolner did not know any of them but recounted later, "One lady had a broken elbow bone. She was in a white woolen jacket. She sat beside me eventually." There was no officer in the boat, only a seaman to take charge. "?but when we got out among the other boats, we obeyed the orders of an officer (Lowe) who was in charge of the bunch of boats.
The lifeboat was about 150 yards away from the Titanic when it went down. He did not detect any suction but when the ship sank. "?she seemed to me to stop for about 30 seconds at one place before she took the final plunge because I watched one particular porthole, and the water did not rise there for at least a half a minute, and then suddenly she slid under with her propellers under water." He heard no explosion but a sort of rumbling and then the Titanic slid beneath the waves.
In his lifeboat a lantern was found but there was no oil in it. Also, there was no attempt made by his lifeboat to return to pick up survivors. When they tied up with Lowe, the Officer said he wanted to leave 5 or 6 people in Woolner's boat to allow them (Lowe and crew) to return to pick up survivors. After they had tied up with the other boats, they simply drifted, waiting for daylight to break. During this time, a green light was spotted to the south, which he agreed was probably 4th Officer Boxhall's boat. He did believe he saw a rocket fired in the direction of the Carpathia.
When the sun rose, Woolner saw "a number of icebergs. Some looked white and some looked blue, and some sort of mauve, and others were a dark grey." He also saw a thin line which later, when he got on board the Carpathia, proved to be a large ice floe, which took the Cunard Liner several hours to steam around. Just as the Carpathia arrived, awaiting the lifeboats, 5th Officer Lowe returned under sail and took the others in tow. It was during this time when Lowe spotted another group of people stranded on top of an upturned boat. Lowe took them into his boat, about 13 judged Woolner, including one black haired woman.
Later at the U S Senate Hearings, Woolner was questioned about provisions in the lifeboats. He didn't know of any food arentaboard but, "A sailor offered some biscuits, which I was using for feeding a small child who had waked and was crying. It was one of those little children (Navratil) for whose ps everybody was looking; the larger one of the two. It looked like a French child but it kept shouting for it's doll"
Woolner recalled that there were no boat drills during the voyage. He also stated that, during the evacuation, he saw no want of discipline. Regarding the gunfire, he thought the shots came from Murdoch.
Hugh Woolner died in the first district of Budapest on 13 February 1925 at the age of 58, his wife, Mary Alaia Woolner died in England in 1947.
References and Sources
Philip Hind (Editor)
Robert L.Bracken, USA
Pat Cook, USA
Michael A, Findlay, USA
Phillip Gowan, USA
Brian Meister, USA
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Titanic Passenger and Crew Summary
Name: Mr Hugh Woolner
Cause of Death: Pneumonia
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