Unlike 99% of people, I'm not a fan of Captain Rostron. If indeed a film were to be made about the man, I fear it would depict him as the caring, selfless hero of the day who, like the 7th Cavalry, appeared on the horizon at the last moment. The evidence does not support that. In fact, I'm at this moment writing an article about the Carpathia affair which I'm sure will raise not a few hackles.
Jim, I will look forward to your article, though I think you were right people might disagree with your opinion. The same problem is with Captain Smith on Titanic, whom some might consider ( based on CameronÂ´s movie) one of the heroes of the sinking by going down with her. Yet I think he is one of the people to be blamed for the disaster. But it is certain you never will probably find out the whole truth about that.
I too look forward to seeing your article, Jim. Perhaps i'm seeing it as a bit too black and white but it seems to me that Rostron hears the distress call, immediately steams as quickly as he can to the site and rescues the survivors. Am I missing something in all of that which makes him a bad person? If it's another one of those "oh but what if he'd hit an iceberg too" theories which passes as academic reasoning then I might be inclined to headbutt my computer....
As for who would make a good Captain Rostron, that's a tough question.....the story very rarely centres on the Carpathia so i'd imagine that it would probably be a less famous actor. Auditions required! ;-)
I want to express myself more clearly - I disagree with your statement on Captain Rostron, Jim, but it is true most of the people there would disagree with you as well. But, this place is not aimed for quarrels, but for a debate... Adam, I think it is hard to say, too. Doubt Hollywood would ever do that, it would be in my opinion an indy film rather.
Because Jim is a professional mariner...I believe I have an inkling of what he is writing. And, I suspect that I will agree with much of it. The popular impression of Rostron as "the perfect hero" ignores the risks he took that night with other people's lives and the twisting of the truth in the dawn's early light. Looking forward to Jim's presentation.
"If it's another one of those "oh but what if he'd hit an iceberg too" theories which passes as academic reasoning then I might be inclined to headbutt my computer...."
You can relax. Your computer will last you a little longer. I can assure you I have not and will not mention recklessness. On the other hand, I'm sure that any professional will clearly see the points I try to make. To comment on the actions of Rostron properly, you need to adopt the mind-set of a master in 1912. I was trained by such people. I know modern people cannot be expected to get the 'feel' for the thing. With this in mind. I will try to give it wider appreciation and understanding by trying to write it in a way that excludes dry technicalities. Not easy for me! I have thought of writing it in the same way as "The Scapegoat" i.e., as a novelette based on fact but seen through the eyes of a fictitious Quarter Master. Who knows?
The only way a film would focus solely on Carpathia would probably be if it was a short film for a festival or something, or an indy film as you suggest. Having said that, i've seen documentaries about Carpathia before, I just can't remember if there was anyone playing the role of Rostron in a re-enactment type scenario and if so, who they were.... :-/
David / Jim:
I guess it's going to be difficult to make any further comment until Jim's article actually comes out. I'll certainly try to approach it with an open mind, although i'm not a fan of trying to make heroes look like villains. There's enough bad news in the world without attacking popular beliefs that are over a century old based on Jim's own personal experiences - which, I might add, unless you're about 140 years old (and if so, congratulations) would not be the same as the situation in 1912. I cannot imagine that it would be anything other than a "what if" scenario. Also, were there any contemporaries of Rostron who criticized his actions in 1912? If so, whom and what did they have to say? This is not a rhetorical question, i'm genuinely curious....
I'm going to refrain from commenting on the Rostron business until Jim has a chance to make his project public. Don't want to encumber him in any way. 'Tis only fair.
Regarding a movie...I believe there is a great potential plot where the front story is one thing and the back story quite another...and the conflict comes from how the characters handle the situation. But, opinions are like....
"unless you're about 140 years old (and if so, congratulations) would not be the same as the situation in 1912. I cannot imagine that it would be anything other than a "what if" scenario. Also, were there any contemporaries of Rostron who criticized his actions in 1912? If so, whom and what did they have to say? This is not a rhetorical question, i'm genuinely curious...."
Close, but not quite! Sometimes I feel that age. Don't make the mistake of thinking that the attitudes of ship's captains changed very much before about 1970. Any ex navigator over the age of 75 will know exactly what I mean.
In my case: I went to sea just after 1950. I attended pre-sea training at Greenock, Scotland, the man who taught us Navigation was a Captain who had retired before the end of WW2. Like my uncle, he started his career in sailing ships, and would have been the same age as Boxhall. My uncle was even older, he retired from the Navy at the end of WW1. Both these men were trained in the same way as was Rostron and his contemporaries. You might find it strange, but part from the advent of radar and the new-fangled Decca navigation system, the text books were virtually unchanged up until the early 1960s. I still have mine.
Heavens! We cadets had to sail one of these ruddy heavy wooden lifeboats for about 5 miles down river.. It was exactly the same as the one sailed by Titanic's 5th officer. Then horror of horrors; we had to stow the sail and row the monster back up to where we started.. against the river current. Not one of us was over 16 years old. The point of the story is to illustrate to you that we were taught to think in exactly the same way as did Rostron. Not only that, sailors being great story tellers; our lecturers made lessons all that more interesting by using personal experiences to make a point. Up until the late 1950's. there were many men still at sea who were at sea at the time of Titanic [/I. I sailed with them. I also served on several passengers ships built in the 1930s and almost exactly the same way as was Titanic. Believe me, I simply have to shut my eyes and I can see the man on his bridge.
As for criticising Rostrons' actions: Only experienced seafarers were qualified to do that. At the time of Titanic, most of them were at sea. Those ashore would have no access to the details of the Hearings. only what the popular press 'designed' for general consumption. You may recall that those on the "Almerian" knew nothing of the disaster until she made port in Europe a long time after the event. However, at the time, 2 very experienced mariners did state that they thought something was wrong. You can bet your sea-boots that they, and those they discussed the matter with, would have had a different view of Captain Rostron. My view of the man is that he did what he did. No more. He was well rewarded for it. Despite that he was not and is not above criticism.
In reading Rostron's testimony, I had an uneasy feeling that at some points he was tooting his own horn. He did react swiftly and decisively, but maybe not more than many other ship captains had they been in his place. Some of the things he did were heralded as pure genius - such as cutting off unnecessary auxiliary steam consumption to provide more steam for propulsion, which I think would occur to almost anybody with experience in steam propulsion.
I'm certain that Rostron was driven by his obligation to do as much as possible to save lives. But, being human, he would be forgiven if he also entertained the thought that being the first and only rescue ship to reach Titanic would jumpstart his career (which I believe it did).
More... I said above that Rostron might be forgiven for thinking about how Carpathia's rescue mission of Titanic might jumpstart his career. Think about it. Titanic was the "ship magnificent," a huge ship on her maiden voyage. Carpathia was a slow, single-funnel, immigrant ship, almost all third class, serving poor passengers from Mediterranean ports.
If the situation had been reversed and it were Carpathia that had struck ice and was foundering, Capt. Smith would have, as any commander, put on all boilers to save lives. Then, the whole incident would now be forgotten. Smith's career or the careers of those of his officers, would, of course, not have been enhanced, nor would they have given any thought to that at the time. It is only conjecture what Rostron's ultimate career would have been without Titanic.
As David says, it is only fair to wait until Jim's article actually comes out before debating it too much further.
Jim, you are of course entitled to your opinion and i'm sure you've got some fantastic stories to share from a life on the seas, which I look forward to hearing more about. I will add simply that hindsight is a wonderful thing. You, me, and everyone else has 102 years worth of reflections to work from. Rostron had to make a snap decision at that moment and ultimately he made the right one, regardless of the "what if" scenarios. Call me old school or just plain wrong but I still think Rostron's actions were necessary and skilfully mastered, whereas Lord's actions (or lack of) were as close to neglect as you could come.
What is lost in all of this and is quite sad in itself is the ultimate fate of the Carpathia!
Yes Adam, I agree, people are entitled to their own opinions. However, people are not entitled to their own facts as one famous politician once said. Let's just wait and see what Jim has to say in his article.