Encyclopedia Titanica

Alnwick Schoolboy's Experience

Now Steward on the Carpathia

Alnwick Mercury

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Alnwick Schoolboy's Experience

Now steward on the Carpathia

His account of the Titanic rescues.

[PHOTO] Mr. R. Purvis is marked by a X over head

Mr. Robbie Purvis, son of Mr. R. Purvis of the Battery Hostel, Alnmouth, is a steward on the Carpathia, the steamship which went to the rescue of the Titanic and picked up its survivors. The account of his experiences which we print below, as sent to his parents, will of special interest to those who were his schoolmates at the Duke's School

We have reached Gibraltar at last after the most eventful voyage I have ever experienced. I suppose you have seen in the papers about the Carpathia getting the Marconi message which was sent from the Titanic before she went down. The captain got the message 12-45. All the crew were in bed, so he sent down the chief steward to call all the stewards and stewardesses. At first the men would not get up. They thought was just some boat drill they were wanted for, but they got up quick enough when they heard exactly what had happened—that the Titanic was sinking, and that the Carpathia had turned round and was going as hard she could to assist her.

We got all together in the dining saloon and the chief steward told us exactly what to do. Some were sent carry blankets, others to lay up tables, and make coffee and some to man the boats in case they should need lowered.
I have an oar in Number 12 boat. We had the ship ready to receive twenty eight hundred passengers by half-past two. We got the first boat at four in the morning full of women and children. They were all nearly dead with cold. There was only two men the boat—one a sailor who had gone mad. We hauled them all up the ship side with ropes tied round them and the children in canvas bags. We picked the last boat up. at 8 o'clock and took altogether seven hundred and eighty persons safely on board. took eight dead bodies out of the boat and buried them at sea. We did not take any dead bodies into New York.

We came quite close to the iceberg which the Titanic struck. It was about a mile long and a hundred feet high. There was plenty of bergs scattered about, but none so big this one. We had to come right through amongst them in the dark looking for lifeboats. We sailed exactly over the spot where the Titanic went down, just a dark patch on the water with deck chairs and cushions and dead bodies (some babies) all floating about amongst the wreckage. It was a heart-rending sight.

When got to New York we had about two hundred boats down to meet us, two American battleships amongst them. Men were down taking moving pictures of the ship docking, and of the Titanic's passengers leaving her. Several of the passengers we brought hack wanted to give. us a dinner, hut the captain would not let us leave the ship as we were sailing soon as could get coal in.

I am sending you an account of the wreck written by myself. I must now draw to a close as I have no time for more now.— I remain, etc., ROBBIE


The Carpathia reached the scene of the disaster at 4 a.m. Everything was still. Lifeboats were scattered about the horizon, crowded with half-frozen, lamenting women and children, whose dear ones had been so ruthlessly snatched from them. A giant iceberg loomed glistening in the morning sun like a tombstone. A huge dark patch on the icy water with many bodies mingled with wreckage, marked the spot where the ill-fated Titanic went down. Bodies floated about among the wreckage. Some were those of women and children, others of weather beaten sailors, whose horny fingers had grasped a floating spar till God had relieved them of their sufferings. The Carpathia sailed around the scene of the disaster, the dark, icy water lapping against her iron sides, as if mocking her for being too late. R. P.

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2021) Alnwick Schoolboy's Experience (Alnwick Mercury, Saturday 11th May 1912, ref: #214, published 20 January 2021, generated 11th June 2024 04:02:45 PM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/alnwick-schoolboys-experience-214.html