A New Theory in Topeka

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In addition to my above post I'd like to point out a couple of curious places in the testimony.

1: Barrett testifies to returning to BR 6 with Shepard by climbing the escape, but fails to mention how Shepard gets into BR 5. Shepard is the engineer assigned to BR 6. So either he was already in BR 5 after the collision, or else he dashed back in to BR 5 from BR 6 along with Barrett and Hesketh. But who knows?

2: Beauchamp testifies that after the WT doors closed, the orders were given to draw fires. Then the order to stop drawing fires is given.
But he never mentions who gave these orders. If Shepard and Barrett and Hesketh are in BR 5, then who gave the orders?

3: Beauchamp uses the phrase: "That will do." when referring to the order given to stop drawing fires in BR 6 by our anonymous leader. He also states that the officer who later ordered him to get onto a lifeboat as saying: "That will do." when referring to loading people onto the boat. Coincidence, or blurred memory?

Now for another theory.
What if the WT doors were open for a moment, like maybe a minute or two, after Barrett and Hesketh, and Shepard fled into BR 5; and it was their orders, given inside BR 5, that were passed along to BR 6 and obeyed by Beauchamp?

And maybe Barrett followed the engineers into BR 5 not to flee BR 6 but to see what damage was done to BR 5. After seeing that BR 5 was where the damaged stopped, Barrett realized he was cut off from returning to BR 6 by the now closed WT door and knowing that it had only been a minute or two since he entered BR 5, he presumed the WT doors must have closed immediately behind him.

Hmmmmmm. Makes you think.


I don't think I'll be able to help with setting up on Friday night unless its after 10:30 pm. I arrive in Kansas City at 9:30, and I doubt I'll be in Topeka until around after 10:00. But if you need any assistance on Saturday I'd be more than happy to help out. Just let me know.

If the party is still going late on Friday night, I'd love to hook up with the group. If not, I'll just see you at Denny's Sat. morning.

Mike answered my earlier questions already. Thanks Michael. So I should be good to go now. (Famous last words right?)

Well, Yuri, one could always go for the one-liners that history chose to forget. Example;

John Paul Jones "I have not yet begun to fight!"

Crewman; "Well, don't you think it's about time you did?!?! This bloomin' ship's about had it!

Seriously, I do expect to be there early to help set things up. I'm looking forward to a great and educational weekend!

Erik Wood

Me too. Yuri, do you have a new email address??? If so please drop me a note with the new one.

Glad that the XO was able to help out. Way to go Mike that is one beer on me.

I wish I had time to make a proper response to your two posts, but I'll have to just hit the high points:

Shepherd was a pretty senior guy. He was (as near as I have been able to figure out) in charge of all of the boiler rooms. They did not have enough engineers to put one in each boiler room; that was Barett's job. He probably just happened to be in BR#5 when the collision occurred. More than likely he went forward with Hesketh on some sort of inspection.

Why did Barrett go to BR#5? Easy, to try to save himself. He describes a huge flow of water; I would have run too. I doubt Beauchamp and his mates were made of any sterner stuff or that Hesketh and Barrett were cowards.

I don't see Hesketh standing around for 10 minutes before he orders the men to their stations. To have done so would have been gross negligence. He had seen the water rush in with his own eyes, he had abandoned his boilers and his men. I can't imagine what would have been more important to him, or Barrett, or Shepherd, than finding out what the condition of BR#6 was. It's not surprising that he did not go back himself, he needed to get to the main engine room where he could use the phones and report to the Chief engineer and Captain.

Look at what Barrett says he did: 1) dive into BR#5 as the doors are closing, 2) look into the bunker and close the door(s), 3) report water in bunker to Shepherd, 4) return to BR#6 with Shepherd. He can do all that in under two minutes. In times of stress, time seems to take a lot longer that it really does, that's probably why Barrett estimated that it took ten minutes. I know that if I had been in charge of ten men and had abandoned them under such circumstances, you would have had to tackle me to keep me from getting back there to find out what happened to them. I Barrett really hung out for any period of time after the collision, he was not only incompetent and a coward, but very atypical of sailors as a whole (and the black gang was renown for being the toughest sort of sailor).

There is just no way to quickly draw the fires. The bed of coals in each furnace is about 3 feet wide, 7 feet long and 6 inches deep. It's so hot that you could not be closer than a foot or two to the coals for more than a few seconds; try holding your hand 6 inches over a barbecue for a ten seconds and you will get the idea. The fire door is about half the width of the furnace, so you would be trying to work the coal out through a pretty restricted opening. Somebody has to hose down and get rid of the coal as the fireman pulls it out, otherwise his pants will literally catch on fire. I've talked this over at length with a man who hand-fired Scotch boilers with coal on the Great Lakes; he says no way to Beauchamp's story.

Who gave the order to draw the fires? A very good question indeed! I am quite convinced that Beauchamp was, shall we say, less than truthful here.

Opening the watertight door so that Barrett or whoever could stick his head in and give orders was not an option. The doors had to be released from the bridge. When Mr. Bell ordered some of the doors opened, it took a fair amount of doing to get it done. Either Scott or Dillon talks about this.


Erik Wood


Good to see you still hanging around. I am a little confused by your last post. So when you have the chance perhaps you could elborate a little. What part of Beauchamps story did your friend tell you didn't jive??? I have figured out that it has something to do with drawing the fires.

In early posts this was my main concern. The fact that Beachamp speaks of somethings that Barrett if vague on. It seems to me (just my opinion) that Barrett is telling somewhat of a different story then Beachamp. Which is to be expected. Two men see the same thing differently.
Hi Cal,

Good to hear from you!
Thanks for the response to my post, its very interesting. And you may be right, one or both men may be lying for some reason. But unless I am confronted with clear evidence that contradicts they're stories, I have to give them both the benefit of the doubt. Besides, why would Beauchamp tell a story like that? That he and the rest of the BR6 gang stood by their stations and drew the fires? I mean how does it benefit him to make that up? If he testified that when the WT doors shut the men all dropped their shovels and ran to the escape stairs including him, then how is that bad? I guess I just don't see any motive for him to lie.

That goes for Barrett as well. He admitted openly that when the crash came and he saw the water coming in he dashed into BR5 along with the engineer,(one of them anyway). He didn't seem to paint himself as a hero in his testimony. He didn't claim to try to save poor Mr. Shephard, he said plainly and matter of factly that he went up the escape when the water came into that compartment suddenly. If he was already lying, why pass the opportunity to dress it up a little? Its not like anyone would be around to contradict him regarding what happened in BR 5 right?

What intrigues me about Barrett's testimony is not what he says, but what he seems to leave out.
Like why did he stop in BR 5 if he was in fact 'fleeing' from the damaged compartments?
And why did he stay in BR 5 helping the engineers if all the other stokers had already left?
And why didn't he encounter the men from BR 6 when he tried to re-enter that compartment from E deck? I should reason that they would be lingering around in the passageway above the escape ladder hatchway. Even if they all managed to climb up the ladder, closing the hatchway behind them, and leave the corridore before Barrett makes it up to that spot, then why didn't Barrett notice all the coal, water and mess on the floor and doors which would no doubt be left behind if over 10 filthy stokers had just stampeeded through that small area? Its like Barrett's testimony is missing some important details. So much goes unsaid its almost painful!

But that is to be expected I suppose since he was only answering the questions being put to him. And any dunce knows that the 1st rule of court testimony is not to say too much, that is not to ramble on and on. What is that saying, give a fool enough rope and he'll hang himself.??

In this case then it could be that they are both explaining the same thing, the collision, from two different points of view and fudging up with their time estimates. Their testimonies look worlds apart at first glance but if viewed from the proper angle, the stars may come into alignment and things start to make sense.

But who knows? Maybe I'm over doing it with this. Maybe they're both just full of bull. Its certainly not out of the question. Sigh, I don't know. I just don't know.

Thanks so much for the great comments, I enjoy reading your intelligent opinions. They make me really think, which is good!


Erik Wood

Well Yuri,

Perhaps the little shindig in Topeka will help clear it up for you. Some not all of your questions shall be answered. Or maybe I shouldn't say answered but....you will be given my opinion and why.

The Barrett and Beauchamp testmonies only hit me in a odd light while I was in the process of writing my paper. It is lurking in my editors desk somewhere.
I'll try to dash off a quick response before I have to run...

Re my fireman friend, he said there was just no way for one man to draw the fires from three furnaces in fifteen minutes. That's what Beauchamp says happened. BTW, Beauchamp thinks it took the watertight doors 5 minutes to close--so much for his time estimates.

Beauchamp also says that the water was just on the stokehold plates by the time he finished, yet Barrett and Hendrickson have the boiler room completely flooded soon after the collision. Barrett describes a huge rush of water, so great the he and Hesketh literally ran for their lives. Did this rush of water somehow stop long enough for Beauchamp and his brave mates to pull the fires, the resume in time to flood the boiler room prior to Barrett's and Hendrickson's arrival? I don't think so.

People usually lie for a reason. I can think of no reason for Barrett to tell a lie that puts him in a bad light, specifically, that he abandoned his post if he had not. He could have easily bent the truth about why he fled, he could have said the he went aft with the engineer to help check the damage, etc., but he did not. At least three places he admits to things that could have been seen as cowardly: abandoning BR#6 when it floods, abandoning BR#5 when the water rushes in, going to the boats because he is tired and cold. He just strikes me as very, very honest.

Now, Barrett testified that he AND ONE OF THE SAINTED ENGINEERS (you know, the ones that died at their posts to try and buy the ship a few more minutes of life) had fled from danger. This had to be very embarrassing to White Star in particular and the British shipping industry in general. Enter Beauchamp. I think he is one of the men who helped draw the fires in BR#5. Bend his testimony a bit so it sounds as if he did it in BR#6 and White Star can save some face: see, even though the Chiefs took off, the Indians stayed around and took care of business... Beauchamp has a motive to lie, Barrett does not.

re Yuri's concerns about Barrett:

Barrett stopped in BR#5 because, a) he had escaped the immediate danger, b) the watertight doors were closed by then, the only way out is up. I don't think he ran because he was scared silly. I think he did what any of us would do under the circumstances. The question is, why didn't Beauchamp see the water rushing in and run as well. My bet is that he was the first one up the ladder.

Barrett does not see the stokers on E deck because: a) they had a head start (they didn't stop to look in bunkers or talk to engineers), and b) they kept on going. I know if I thought the ship was sinking, I wouldn't stop until I was on deck. By the way, the ladder didn't stop on E-deck, it continued on up a couple of decks. Oh, there were stokers milling about in E-deck. That's where Barrett goes to get the men to fetch lanterns and later to draw the fires in BR#5.

Barrett stayed in BR#5 after the other stokers were sent up because he was asked (or ordered) to do so by the engineers. This tells me he was a reliable hand: the engineers wouldn't keep a coward or a fool to help out. And don't confuse the orderly evacuation of the stokers from BR#5 with what happened in BR#6. In #5, extra hands were brought down and the fires were drawn. When they were done, they were sent up and Barrett was kept behind to help.

Over the years I've read through lots of court transcripts in auto accident cases. I've been through Barrett's testimony a number of time and has a ring of truth to it; Beauchamp's does not. (Note that the BOT went with Barrett's version of events in BR#6; perhaps Beauchamp was not a very credible witness in person either.) Barrett has no reason to lie and say he ran when he didn't or that BR#6 was flooded when it wasn't, quite the opposite, he could have put himself in a better light by a fib here or there. But there is NO WAY Barrett and Beauchamp are describing the same boiler room #6, one of the is either badly mistaken or lying. Beauchamp has a reason to lie: to protect White Star's butt. Therefore, Beauchamp is the liar.


Erik Wood

Liar liar pants on fire hang your fanny from a telephone wire. Now that I am done singing. I think I am going to digest what Cal has written. To be honest I like my romantic view of nobody lying and a few people confused. However, I am open to new ideas.

I have to disagree. I just don't see the strings on Beauchamp leading to the White Star Line puppet-masters, like I do for some other witnesses. I'm not saying Beauchamp is a saint with a halo, but I doubt seriously he was coerced in his testimony. I hate to say it but Beauchamp was a nobody as far as the WSL was concerned. My opinion is that running from the water in BR6, or staying and drawing fires with the men, either way Beauchamp's testimony does little if anything to help or hurt the image, or affect the liability of the WSL.

And where is his motive to lie? Beauchamp has no interest in protecting the WSL. His only interest is himself and whatever money he can earn or hustle up. He would probably work for Cunard, or Leyland, or White Star or any other paying company that had an opening for a stoker. So I don't see him lying to the British Wreck Commission to protect the company out of loyalty. And I haven't seen any suggestion that he was paid off by anyone. So in my mind there goes any motive for him to lie.

That's my take on the integrity of Beauchamp. Though I don't think he was trying to be deceptive,he may have likely been confused about the when and where of events that night. He wouldn't be the only person who had that problem.
(But then again, he could be spot on. Which is why I find his testimony about staying so long in BR 6 after the impact so interesting.)

I think this is a 6-beer topic and I'm only on my first. So I'm sort of at a disadvantage here.



Erik Wood

Yuri said:"I think this is a 6-beer topic and I'm only on my first. So I'm sort of at a disadvantage here."

Well Yuri, I am on my......well I lost count and I am still baffled. I would tend to agree with what you wrote above. But Cal does make some valid points.
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