A Titanic Mystery: Exploring the Escape of Robert W. Daniel


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This article seeks to establish what is known about Robert Daniels movements aboard Titanic on the night it struck an iceberg and what may have happened to him as the great ship went down...... Titanica! Thu, 15 Apr 2021
 
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Arun Vajpey

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ET and a few other sources officially place him on Lifeboat #7 but that is almost certainly not true. Daniel was a young and supposedly handsome and charming young man who had more than a little success with the ladies. In the above article, even his niece Helen Rodman thought that he was likely to have wined and dined a few young ladies on board the Titanic. That might have been a figure of speech bu there has been speculation that Daniel was 'entertaining' a young lady when the ship collided with the iceberg. Even he admitted himself that he was 'dictating to a stenographer' at the time. Such a hedonistic young man would have been recognized and remembered by the First Class passengers on Lifeboat #7; that was not the case AFAIK.

Also, while Daniel was vague about his cabin allocation and lifeboat number, he claimed to have been still on the ship towards the very end and seeing Captain Smith 'near the bridge' and witnessing the so-called "Officer shooting incident". He could not have done any of that had be been on #7 or even #5 or #3 as some sources claim.
 

Arun Vajpey

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The other point is, there were several First-Class survivors on Lifeboat #7, including several young women like Dorothy Gibson, Olive Earnshaw, Margaret Hays, Helen Bishop etc. Given Daniel's known penchant for socializing with young women, at least one of them would have remembered him in their Lifeboat. AFAIK, no one did.
 

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ET does not 'officially' place him in 7, it is suggested as a possibility with a low degree of confidence, and notes accompany the placement to explain the placement.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Understood. But there are other possibilities, some of which need to be investigated. Among the least mentioned but IMO most interesting claim is reportedly in an unpublished letter written by Titanic survivor Orian Davidson stating that Robert Daniel was rescued in the same boat as herself and her mother, Lifeboat #3 and helped with the rowing. This is mentioned in the book On A Sea Of Glass, quoting the source as Peter Engberg-Klarstrom. The reason I find this interesting is because Orian Davidson was Charles Hays' daughter and as it says in the article above, one of the business connections that Daniel established on board the Titanic was with Hays. That creates a strong probability that Daniel met Charles hays family members that consisted of his wife, daughter and son-in-law. In other words, Orian Davidson was most likely familiar with Robert Daniel and is unlikely to have mistaken someone else for him.

I have also read that Trimmer Thomas Dillon claimed that when he jumped off the stern of the ship towards the end, Robert Daniel was with him. Since Dillon swam to and was pulled on board Lifeboat #4, some people have conjectured that Daniel too was similarly rescued on the same boat. But would a Trimmer who worked below decks be able to recognize a First Class passenger?
 

Seumas

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Understood. But there are other possibilities, some of which need to be investigated. Among the least mentioned but IMO most interesting claim is reportedly in an unpublished letter written by Titanic survivor Orian Davidson stating that Robert Daniel was rescued in the same boat as herself and her mother, Lifeboat #3 and helped with the rowing. This is mentioned in the book On A Sea Of Glass, quoting the source as Peter Engberg-Klarstrom. The reason I find this interesting is because Orian Davidson was Charles Hays' daughter and as it says in the article above, one of the business connections that Daniel established on board the Titanic was with Hays. That creates a strong probability that Daniel met Charles hays family members that consisted of his wife, daughter and son-in-law. In other words, Orian Davidson was most likely familiar with Robert Daniel and is unlikely to have mistaken someone else for him.

I have also read that Trimmer Thomas Dillon claimed that when he jumped off the stern of the ship towards the end, Robert Daniel was with him. Since Dillon swam to and was pulled on board Lifeboat #4, some people have conjectured that Daniel too was similarly rescued on the same boat. But would a Trimmer who worked below decks be able to recognize a First Class passenger?
It might just have been a case of him asking in Boat No. 4 or aboard the Carpathia what the man's name was ?
 

Arun Vajpey

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It might just have been a case of him asking in Boat No. 4 or aboard the Carpathia what the man's name was ?
Possibly but the way class divisions were in those days, I doubt if Dillon would have asked or even if he did, remembered Daniel's name later. Moreover, if you assume Dillon's story to be true, look at the practicalities. Dillon remained on board near the poop deck and jumped into the sea very late from the stern area, swam for a bit, managed to reach Lifeboat #4 and was hauled on board. Under those circumstances, he would would not have noticed if a 3-headed dinosaur was alongside him till he was settled in the lifeboat. In other words, for Dillon to be able to find out the identity of a stranger with him, it would have to be in Lifeboat #4, like you said yourself.

Lifeboat #4 was mainly populated by First Class women, most of whom would have been familiar with Robert Daniel. If indeed he had managed to get into the boat, at least a few would have recognized him and knowing him to be a fellow First Class passenger, would have badgered him with questions about whether he saw anything of their husbands - Astor, Thayer, Widener, Carter, Ryerson etc (Mrs Carter would not have known that her husband had survived at that point). Yet, AFAIK, no one else on board Lifeboat #4 recalled seeing Daniel.

Even if you accept Daniel's claim that he remained on board the Titanic till the end and saw Captain Smith near the bridge as it flooded, that would have been at the bow section, nowhere near where Dillon was.

I am NOT claiming that it happened that way but among the various mutually exclusive stories about the manner in which Robert Daniel was saved, the one that I feel is most likely is on Lifeboat #3. As I said before, Orian Davidson would have almost certainly have been introduced to him earlier in the voyage because her father Charles Hays discussed business with Daniel on board. Therefore, she would have recognized him and her comment on that letter could be true. Her latter is quoted as "private and unpublished" but for Peter Engberg-Klarstrom to have provided that information to writers of On A Sea of Glass, someone must have seen it. If there is on-line access to the relevant excerpt, I would be very interested.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Update: I have heard from Mr Peter Engberg-Klarstrom and Mr Tad Fitch (see Mrs Thornton Davidson thread) about the Orian Davidson letter. They believe that the letter might have been a fake but feel that it would be difficult to trace its origins.

That of course, makes Robert Daniel's survival even bigger a mystery. Obviously, he was on a lifeboat to have survived, but I agree with Randy Bigham et al article that it is highly unlikely that he was saved on early Lifeboats #7 or #5; there were quite a few First Class passengers on board those boats and none of them recalled seeing Daniel. IMO, Lifeboat #4 is also unlikely because it had many First Class ladies on board most of whom would have recognized him. Moreover, I find it very hard to believe Trimmer Dillon's claim that Daniel was alongside him as they jumped into the sea off the rising stern. Lifeboat #6 was merely a wrong assumption made by a reporter from the New York Herald who saw Daniel helping Eloise Smith down the Carpathia's gangplank; AFAIK, neither of them said that Daniel was on #6, the boat in which Eloise Smith was saved.

The article makes a case (probably partly based on Daniel's cousin Helen Rodman's conjectures) for the possibility that Robert Daniel made it to Collapsible A after he jumped into the sea. While that is possible, AFAIK Daniel did not mention any of the events that occurred on board that lifeboat, the most imperilled of them all. It was waterlogged, the canvas sides not properly pulled up, Wennestrom and the others were unable to help the Lindells, Rhoda Abbott and Peter Daly were hauled in from the sea, Thomson Beattie and two or three others (depending on how Edvard Lindell was lost) died on board during the night and so on. The circumstances on board that lifeboat would have forced the eventual survivors to help each other before they were rescued by the Carpathia and as far as I know, none of them, including First Class passengers George Rheims, Richard Williams and Peter Daly mentioned Daniel as being in their boat.

I think it is an interesting mystery that deserves further discussion.
 

Cam Houseman

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What about being in the lifeboats like 13, where there were more second class passengers, and crewmen/men. I mean, someone like Ruth Becker or Fred Barrett won't recognize Mr. Daniels. And, it was more fully loaded, so it'd be harder to see him
 

Arun Vajpey

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What about being in the lifeboats like 13, where there were more second class passengers, and crewmen/men. I mean, someone like Ruth Becker or Fred Barrett won't recognize Mr. Daniels
Quite possible, I guess. In fact he could have been on any of the later lifeboats, especially on the starboard side, where men were allowed if there was room after all available women and children had taken their places. In fact, Lifeboats #11, #13 and #15 are all possible candidates for Daniel to have escaped because there were more people on them than the earlier boats.

But what beats me is why Daniel continued to be vague about the lifeboat he was saved on. The fact that he was alive and got on board the Carpathia would mean that Daniel was in the same position as people like Dickinson Bishop (#7), Alfred Omont (#7) and many others, all male First Class passengers under 30 years of age. There was no reason for Daniel to worry about being singled out or suffer from excessive survivor's guilt.

By the way, it is Robert Williams Daniel (not Daniels) :)
 
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Cam Houseman

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Quite possible, I guess. In fact he could have been on any of the later lifeboats, especially on the starboard side, where men were allowed if there was room after all available women and children had taken their places. In fact, Lifeboats #11, #13 and #15 are all possible candidates for Daniel to have escaped because there were more people on them than the earlier boats.

But what beats me is why Daniel continued to be vague about the lifeboat he was saved on. The fact that he was alive and got on board the Carpathia would mean that Daniel was in the same position as people like Dickinson Bishop (#7), Alfred Omont (#7) and many others, all male First Class passengers under 30 years of age. There was no reason for Daniel to worry about being singled out or suffer from excessive survivor's guilt.

By the way, it is Robert Williams Daniel (not Daniels) :)
Alrighty! thanks
(I'll remember its "Daniel" not Daniels :)

Yeah that was my thinking, he definitely did not get away on Lightoller's boats. Maybe he was vague because he felt bad about something? Maybe he jumped from the boat deck, who knows.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Maybe he was vague because he felt bad about something? Maybe he jumped from the boat deck, who knows.
I don't know about Daniel feeling 'bad' about anything that happened that night. I know we cannot make assumptions, but reading about him before and after the disaster, he struck me as a man who loved life and lived it to the full. He was not the type of man to suffer from undue 'survivor's guilt' and in any case there were several other young and relatively young First Class men who survived the disaster.

But I have a theory about why he was vague about his whereabouts and escape route. But that's just my theory (and no more) and not appropriate to discuss here any further.

As to Daniel jumping into a lifeboat off a deck like Woolner, Steffansson or Krekorian, that would have been remembered by the others, especially the crew manning the lifeboat.
 
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