1911 Attempted Murder Aboard Olympic



On November 18th 1911 while the Olympic was being repaired in Belfast a gunfight began inside the ship, resulting in one man's arrest and another seriously injured. The incident and trial that followed were covered in local papers.


Extracts from Belfast Newsletter

Exciting Incident on the Olympic
Boilermaker Charged With Attempted Murder

A shooting affray of a serious character occurred on Saturday afternoon last on board the White Star liner Olympic, whereby a man named Joseph Sharpe was dangerously wounded. The Olympic at the time was lying in the new deep water wharf, at the end of the Queen's Road, and a large number of men had been busily engaged repairing the damage done to the vessel in collision with HMS Hawke.

It appears that Sharpe, who is a boilermaker, had been acting as foreman, and it is alleged that an altercation had taken place between him and another boilermaker named Edward John Wilson, whose services had been dispensed with. Wilson is a married man, aged about 40 years.

He returned to the ship on Saturday afternoon and proceeded to the engine room asking to see Sharpe. The latter however refused to speak to him privately, whereupon it is stated, Wilson drew a revolver. Sharpe at once caught hold of Wilson, and in the struggle which ensued the two men fell, As they did so the revolver went off but without doing any damage. The struggle continued, and eventually Sharpe got on top of his opponent who still held onto the revolver. While underneath, it is alleged Wilson fired two shots, both of which hit Sharpe, one bullet lodging in his thigh and the other in his ankle. By this time a number of workmen came to the rescue and Wilson was secured and dispossessed of the weapon. Sharpe was in a state of collapse, and had lost a great deal of blood. The ambulance having been telephoned for, the injured man was conveyed to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he was skilfully attended, and the bullets were extracted.

Meantime the police appeared on the scene, and Wilson was arrested by Harbour Constable Shannon, who, with Inspector Collins brought him to the Central police office, charging him with intent to murder. Superintendent Johnston was also communicated with and had statements taken from those who had witnessed the occurrence. The weapon taken from him had five chambers, four of which were empty and one loaded.

Sir A. Newton-Brady said the question of bail could not be entertained owing to the seriousness of the charge and the present condition of the victim.

Harbour Constable Shannon said he was on duty in the vicinity of the Olympic at a quarter past five on Saturday afternoon, when his attention was attracted by the ambulance driving past. He proceeded to the Olympic, where a large crowd had congregated. The prisoner came down the gangway, and was given into custody by Mr. Dickinson, who was employed as manager by Messrs, Harland & Wolff, Ltd. Witness charged him with intent to murder, and when cautioned accused said, "I am very sorry for what I have done. Is the injured man dead?" Accused had a revolver in his possession which he handed to witness and said, "Constable, blow my brains out." Witness was aware that accused had been employed for a considerable time as a boilermaker on the Queen's Island.

James Stewart, labourer said he was on the Queen's road on the evening of the 18th when he met Wilson, who told him he had been paid off. Wilson then asked if Sharpe was working, and Stewart replied in the affirmative, subsequently he produced a revolver and said he was going to blow Sharpe's brains out, and Stewart told him not to be talking nonsense. Stewart went to warn Sharpe, but when he got aboard the Olympic Wilson was there struggling with the injured man.

Thomas McKitterick stated he heard Wilson say to Sharpe, "Look here, Sharpe, I want to see you in the stokehold." To which Sharpe replied, "Say what you have got to say here." Wilson then said, "If you don't come you will be sorry for it." He then produced the revolver, and Sharpe rushed at him. They fell, and as they did so a shot was fired. Two more shots were fired while they were on the ground.

Further witnesses were questioned. They were Joseph Turner, William Henry Plackett, Edward Sharp, and William Walmsley.

William Walmsley, a boilermaker, who was working on the Olympic on the 18th said shortly after four o'clock he was in the main engine room in company with Sharpe. Wilson had gone away at the usual stopping time, while Walmsley and Sharpe were working overtime. Wilson was as a rule a quiet inoffensive man and on the evening in question he appeared considerably excited. Wilson came down and went over and invited Sharpe to come into the stokehold, as he wanted to speak to him, Sharpe requested him to say what he had to say where he was, and Wilson replied, "If you don't come into the stokehold you'll be sorry for it." He then drew out a revolver. Sharpe caught him by the wrist, pushing him back, and they wrestled for a time. Both fell on the floor, with Sharpe on top of Wilson, who still held onto the revolver in his right hand. They rolled over and Wilson fired. Walmsley ran and caught hold of his right arm, but he managed to fire a second shot, and the noise brought a number of workers who were on board to the scene, and Wilson was disarmed.

When the accused was charged, he said, "I'm very sorry for what occurred. I'm sure I wasn't in my right senses."

Bail was fixed, one personal security in £100 and two of £50 each.

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Mar 5, 2017
I thought the article was about an attempted murder with a 1911 pistol. LOL This is like something right out of the game Titanic: Adventure of Our Time.

Harland Duzen

Jan 14, 2017
Does anyone remember the FICTIONAL battle in the TV-film ''Britannic (2000)? maybe this was where they got the idea since both occur in the engine room area?

Skip to 5:33.
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Tim Gerard

Feb 26, 2019
I just have to wonder if this, in part, helped give James Cameron the idea for that scene where Cal shoots at Jack and Rose in the Grand Staircase after Rose jumps out of the lifeboat. My guess is it didn't but now I wonder.
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Nov 14, 2005
I just have to wonder if this, in part, helped give James Cameron the idea for that scene where Cal shoots at Jack and Rose in the Grand Staircase after Rose jumps out of the lifeboat. My guess is it didn't but now I wonder.
Probably not but one could wonder. Seems like you can't have a blockbuster movie without at least one shootout or car chase. The latter of course couldn't happen. I've notice on one the of the satellite channels they now have series called "Cruise ship Killers" I past on it so don't know how far back they go.

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