Alfred Nichols

The story of how Barrett escaped BR 5 and got into boat 13 in the nick of time is somewhat fishy. Why would he come up the A deck after leaving the stokehold? He would not have any idea that boats were being loaded from that deck. I would thinks he would have gone straight to the boat deck, that's were all the boats were. He knew things were very bad down below, having witnessed the flooding first hand. Also his timing is way off. He said he left the stokehold sometime around 1:10, came out onto E deck from the escape ladder onto the corridor which had only a little water, then goes aft and then up to A deck and saw #13 nearly full up. From what he described about the water on E deck, it had to be quite early to be described as only a little where he came out from. What did he really do with all the time he had before arriving at #13? Beauchamp's story is worse. He escaped BR 6 after drawing fires and the next thing you know is that he is on the boat deck by #13 helping to loaded it up.
 
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but in fairness to Nichols
If a superior officer countermands an order given by someone under him, it is not the responsibility of the recipient of the order to notify the first officer that his order was countermanded. What he is responsible for is carrying out the superior's order. Anyway, it's not clear that Lightoller even expected him to report back, or did I miss something?
 
The story of how Barrett escaped BR 5 and got into boat 13 in the nick of time is somewhat fishy. Why would he come up the A deck after leaving the stokehold? He would not have any idea that boats were being loaded from that deck. I would thinks he would have gone straight to the boat deck, that's were all the boats were. What did he really do with all the time he had before arriving at #13?
Yes, that part is hard to explain and if I recall correctly, I asked exactly the same thing in another thread a couple of years or so ago (I checked and discovered that we discussed it in Sept-Oct 2021 in the "Barrett's 'Wall of Water'" thread, posts #34 to #49). There appears to be an inexplicable timeframe of around 30 minutes or so about the whereabouts and activities of a few of the "Black Gang" survivors, including Fred Barrett. Maybe it was like you speculated back then - Barrett might have arrived on the boat deck, waited a bit to see if there was any chance for him, seen Lifeboat #11 lowered to A-deck to complete the loading, realized they might do the same with #13 and #15 and took his chance by going to the less crowded A-deck and managing himself a place in Lifeboat #13. Perhaps other crew members did similar things and survived but if so, I can't say that I really blame any of them (unless one or more of them pushed others aside to get in themselves). If Barrett and a few others managed to survive in that opportunistic manner, we really cannot expect them to have admitted it later; after all, a lot of men - passengers and crew - made up stories about their survival that night.

Let us assume that Barrett did something like that - took an opportunity and got on board Lifeboat #13. IMO, that very fact would mean that he would have tried to be as vague as possible about his survival when he testified or gave an interview later in order to cover-up for his opportunism; many crew members did. To me, Barrett's story about seeing Nichols at Lifeboat #13 or hearing an officer giving orders on the boat deck is too committed and very risky if it was indeed made-up.......and completely unnecessary. Barrett could not have known that one of the designated crew of Lifeboat #13 or #15 would not refute his claim afterwards about Nichols being anywhere in the vicinity. As I said before, Barrett could simply have said that one of the deceased officers - Murdoch or Moody - ordered him to go to Lifeboat #13 and nobody would have been able to disprove it.

Please remember that I am not defending Barrett's possible actions in the slightest here but trying to use his statement to gauge the whereabouts and ultimate fate of Boatswain Nichols.

If a superior officer countermands an order given by someone under him, it is not the responsibility of the recipient of the order to notify the first officer that his order was countermanded. What he is responsible for is carrying out the superior's order. Anyway, it's not clear that Lightoller even expected him to report back, or did I miss something?
Great question and there is the possibility that Lightoller left the decision to the boatswain and did not necessarily expect him to report back soon - or report back only if Nichols decided to go ahead with the task. As we can see from the excerpts below, Lightoller was rather vague in his testimony about his Gangway Door order to Nichols.

13903a. What deck do those gangway doors open from?
- E deck.

13904. Were your orders general, or did they refer to one set of gangway doors in particular?
- General.

13905. Did the boatswain go off after receiving the orders?
- As far as I know, he went down


13909. Of course, you know now the water was rising up to E deck?
- Yes, of course it was.

13910. Did the boatswain execute those orders?
- That I could not say. He merely said "Aye, aye, sir," and went off
.

13911. Did not you see him again?
- Never.

13912. And did not you ever have any report as to whether he had executed the order?
- No.


13913. I had better just put it. As far as you know, were any of those gangway doors open at any time?
- That I could not say. I do not think it likely, because it is most probable the
boats lying off the ship would have noticed the gangway doors, had they succeeded in opening them.

I have often wondered about this part of Lightoller's testimony. I suppose when an officer gives an instruction to a boatswain under such circumstances, it would effectively become an order that one would expect the latter to carry out......or at least try his best to. And yet, Lightoller's own admission that he was aware that at the time he gave the order the sea level would be very close to the E-deck door and rising, his mention that the order was a "general" one without specifying any particular gangway door and his responses to 13910 and 13913 tell a slightly different story. Can it be that Lightoller suggested rather than ordered the experienced Boatswain to check the feasibility of using the gangway door opening for further passenger loading and decide for himself if it was safe and practical? Lightoller's response to 13913 suggests that Nichols did have the freedom not to open any gangway door if he thought that it was unsafe - which was what probably happened. Also, that statement, more than any other, was what IMO made early Titanic reserachers assume that Nichols and his men perished below-decks during their attempt to carry out the gangway door order.
 
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Wilde may have seen Nichols and his men going below, and asked where they were headed. He could easily haver countermanded Lightoller's orders, and told him to take the men and go about getting all the boats out, especially those starboard side aft, and worry about gangway doors later
If a superior officer countermands an order given by someone under him, it is not the responsibility of the recipient of the order to notify the first officer that his order was countermanded. What he is responsible for is carrying out the superior's order
I want to make sure that I have understood this scenario properly, Sam.

Let us assume that Wilde did exactly that - countermanded Lightoller's order for Nichols to take a small group of men to try and open a gangway door etc. As you have pointed out, from Nichols' point of view a more senior officer - Wilde - overruled the earlier order; from that point onwards, it was not Nichols' responsibility to alert Lightoller that his orders had been countermanded but to follow Wilde's new orders to help with the starboard aft lifeboats. That would place him on the starboard side of the Titanic where the aft boats #9, #11, #13 and #15 were located; I'm fine with that, although it would put Nichols there some 20 minutes earlier than I had thought so far. But if he really had been there early, it would tally with:
Nichols spent a good amount of time getting the boats outs, was seen and reported on the starboard side involved in loading and launching the forward starboard boats, and was apparently seen aft on the starboard side at #9 when Haines came back to take charge of the boat.
I checked Haines' testimony (US) but could not find where he said he had seen Nichols near Lifeboat #9; perhaps there is another source? But if Nichols had remained on the starboard side aft throughout and worked with Murdoch, Moody and perhaps McElroy, it might explain the 2-deck loading of #11 #13 and #15 with some overlap of the last two; they had enough supervisory crew with the 4 of them. It would also explain Murdoch being able to cross over later to port side to attend to Lifeboat #10 and Lightoller never seeing the boatswain again. Paradoxically, it would also tally with Barrett's statement about Nichols being in charge of Lifeboat #13 on A-deck when the fireman arrived (ignoring what Barrett himself had been up to for the past 20 to 25 minutes).

In his testimony as above in my post #33, Lightoller testified at the British Inquiry that he "did not know" for certain that Nichols had gone to carry out the gangway door order but assumed that he had. So, after countermanding the Second Officers' orders would Wilde not have considered it 'proper' (even if not a requirement) to tell Lightoller that he, Wilde, had overruled the former's gangway door order? Wilde and Lightoller were in the same vicinity quite a bit after 01:20 am - during the loading and lowering of Lifeboats #14 and #12 and later with Collapsible D. If the Chief Officer had not alerted Lightoller of the change of orders, it would (and probably did) pave the way for later researchers to believe that Nichols and his men had all died during their gangway door errand.
 
I checked Haines' testimony (US) but could not find where he said he had seen Nichols near Lifeboat #9;
Inferred in his testimony:
Senator SMITH. Did you help load the other boats?
Mr. HAINES. No, sir; we were turning out the after boats while they were filling the forward ones. As soon as we finished turning
the boats out I went to my own station. I got to my own boat just in time, as they filled my boat. The boatswain [Nichols] missed his boat, No. 7. No. 7 was gone before he got there. My own boat was No. 9.
Senator SMITH. You did not see any of the other boats loaded?
Mr. HAINES. No, sir; I did not see any of them loaded. I came back just in time to take charge of my own boat.

Haines didn't see the men load or lower the forward boats, but while they were doing that, and we know Nichols was busy doing that, Haines and his men were turning out the aft boats. So how would Haines know that Nichols missed his own boat, which was #7, unless he saw Nichols a little before or after he arrived back at #9? The big flaw in the W-F-B lifeboat timeline IMO is the 25 minute gap between the launching of #7 and the launching of #9. They were forced to create that huge time gap because of the unsupported testimony by Scarrott of McGough lowering #14. It also is at variance with Ward's and Wheat's testimony about their actions before and after they got to #9. The uncovering of #9 took place about the time that #7 was about to be lowered (see Ward), and Wheat came up on deck during the time that #9 was being loaded and received the order to start loading #11 from A deck.
To me, Barrett's story about seeing Nichols at Lifeboat #13 or hearing an officer giving orders on the boat deck is too committed and very risky if it was indeed made-up
During the inquiries Barrett said nothing about seeing the boatswain by #13. In fact he had a great opportunity to do so when he was being questioned. For example:

Q. Was there any objection to your getting in the boat? - A. No, sir.

He could have said he was ordered to go into the boat at that time, but he didn't.

Q. Where was it loaded? - A. At A deck. It was lowered to A deck. They were very full up when we got in.
Q. Was there an officer there at the time? - A. No, sir.

Again, he could have said he was ordered to go into the boat at that time, but he didn't.

Q. You got in and took charge of the boat and remained in charge until your got chilled? - A. Yes.
Q. Then who took it over - A. I could not say who it was.
 
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Is it not the case that probably Lightoller created the myth of the E deck door being attempted to be opened as a 'smoke screen' for the lifeboats not being fully loaded?
 
I fully agree that Alfred Nichols was present and active on the starboard side during preparing, loading and lowering of the aft lifeboats. This might have even started when Lifeboat #9 was uncovered early, but as Symons twice confirmed that he saw and worked with Nichols (during the loading and launching of Lifeboats #3 and #1), IMO it is more likely that the earliest Nichols could have arrived near Lifeboat #9 was just after 01:00 am. But that clashes with his supposed encounter with Lightoller, which was presumably during the loading of Lifeboat #6; so unless Lightoller was making up the entire thing about the gangway doors (IMO he would have no reason whatsoever to do so, as I have said below), it would have been more like 01:10am by the time Nichols came to Lifeboat #9. If Wilde had countermanded Lightoller's gangway door order and instructed Nichols to help with the aft starboard boats instead (like you suggested), it would tie-in nicely with that timeline for Boatswain Nichols.

During the inquiries Barrett said nothing about seeing the boatswain by #13
True, but that alone cannot be used to 'confirm' that Nichols was not there. That line of questioning quoted by you above was by Senator Smith on 25th May 1912 on board the Olympic, after Barrett had already testified at the British Inquiry and after that Ulster Echo article was already published.

The fact remains that Barrett got into Lifeboat #13 and it was most likely from the A-deck. Someone must have been in charge there at the time; Barrett testified at the British Inquiry that there was no officer there and later told Senator Smith the same thing in the above session quoted by you. It must have been true because Barrett would have known that there was too much risk of another survivor from Lifeboat #13 ( or even #15) refuting his claim if an officer had been in charge after all. Furthermore, by the time Senator Smith interviewed him, Barrett would have known for certain that there were no veiled accusations aimed at his own survival and so hiding something would not have been in his own interests. The person in charge when he got into the lifeboat would not have been important to him in any way and so he would have had no reason to make-up Nichols' presence.

Barrett testified at the British Inquiry that when he arrived at Lifeboat #13 on A-deck, he could hear an officer issuing orders above on the boat deck. IMO, such a statement is way too committing for even a moderately intelligent man to make-up and completely unnecessary. So, why would Barrett have volunteered such information that was irrelevant to his own survival and something that ran the risk of being refuted if untrue? Moreover, it tallies with Moody getting ready to lower Lifeboat #15 to the A-deck and Murdoch having crossed over to the port side. And as I said, since Barrett's whereabouts in the 5 minutes or so before he reached Lifeboat #13 were of no particular interest to anyone, he could very easily have told everyone that he arrived on the boat deck first and was ordered by the officer there (Moody) to go and join Lifeboat #13 on A-deck; no one would have been able to disprove that and Barrett would have known it.

Related indirectly to all this, I believe that Murdoch did supervise at least the latter half of the loading of Lifeboat #10, not an easy task against the port list and the ensuing gap (stories about the near faller etc). Therefore, if Lifeboat #10 was lowered at 01:50am (which I believe that it was), Murdoch must have arrived there about 10 minutes earlier.

So, it brings us back to who really was in charge of Lifeboat #13 on A-deck when Barrett arrived and got in. I don't believe it was either Murdoch or Moody for the reasons mentioned above. It might have been McElroy, but if so Barrett could just easily have told the Inquiry that the Chief Purser was in charge and ordered him in. It would not have made a difference to Barrett - either personally or officially - between Nichols and McElroy; therefore, the fact that he told Ulster Echo that it was Nichols specifically at least merits consideration if not blind acceptance.

Also, if as even you feel Sam, Nichols was working with the crew on the starboard side aft lifeboats soon after 01:00am, the 'natural progression' would take him to Lifeboat #13 at some later stage. Since #11, #13 and #15 were loaded from both the boat and A-decks and with some overlapping, they would have required sufficient supervisory senior crew; IMO, they had them in the shape of Murdoch, Moody, McElroy and Nichols. After Lifeboat #11 was lowered to the sea and Lifeboat #13 to the A-deck, things had progressed sufficiently for Murdoch to leave the other 3 in charge and go across to the port side to sort out Lifeboat #10.

The big flaw in the W-F-B lifeboat timeline IMO is the 25 minute gap between the launching of #7 and the launching of #9. They were forced to create that huge time gap because of the unsupported testimony by Scarrott of McGough lowering #14.
Did you mean launching of Lifeboat #1? In the WFB Timeline, Lifeboats #7, #5, #3 and #1 were launched at around 12:40am, 12:48am, 12:55am and 01:05am. According to Symons very clear testimony (where he both identified and named the boatswain), Nichols was present for the launching of #3 and #1, the latter at 01:05am; from that point on, IMO here was a gap of 20 to 22 minutes before Lifeboat #9 was launched, but a few things happened in between. The senior officers met briefly for the firearms meeting; although this may have lasted only 3 minutes like Lightoller said, IMO it started only after he arrived. That would have been after he launched Lifeboat #6 at 01:10am (still going by the WFB sequence, which I know you now don't accept but it is out of scope here to delve too deeply into that) and so they would have come back out only by around 01:15am. Then there was the disturbance with Lifeboat #2 with some crew members having got in opportunistically and although Murdoch was not directly involved with that, there have been comments about him being briefly seen on the port side around that time. Murdoch very likely went to where Lifeboat #9 was partially loaded but by the time loading was completed and it was lowered, it is more than likely that it was between 01:25 and 01:28am.....just like the WTB timeline suggests ;) .

Therefore Sam, as things stand I will have to disagree with your opinion that Bill Wormstedt, Tad Fitch and George Behe were "forced to create" any gap in their lifeboat launching timeline. But I am willing to wait for the jury to return with their verdict.

Is it not the case that probably Lightoller created the myth of the E deck door being attempted to be opened as a 'smoke screen' for the lifeboats not being fully loaded?
That's theoretically possible, except why would Lightoller have done so? Until the Second Officer himself testified about his encounter with Boatswain Nichols and the "order" about the gangway doors, no one had even associated the latter's death with Lightoller. Nor did anyone know about that order; certainly no one in Lifeboats #8 or #6 saw any open gangway door. So, unless there was a modicum of truth in it, why would Lightoller have shot himself in both feet by admitting that he gave Nichols an order that even he was not sure was safe or practical (see 13909 & 13913)? It was only Lightoller's testimony that led a lot of people to accept for decades that Boatswain Nichols took about 6 men below-decks to carry out a highly questionable order and all of them died trying to follow it.

If Lightoller wanted to cover-up the fact that the first few lifeboats were only partly loaded, there were simpler excuses. On the port side, he was third in the pecking order after Captain Smith and Chief Officer Wilde, and the latter was around during the launching of Lifeboats #8, #6, #12 and Collapsible D. Lightoller could easily have said that the Captain or Wilde ordered him to lower Lifeboat #6 when he did and no one could have found out any different. AFAIK, the only lifeboat that Lightoller was completely in charge on his own with no one senior to him nearby was Lifeboat #4 and that was reasonably fully loaded anyway.
 
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Related indirectly to all this, I believe that Murdoch did supervise at least the latter half of the loading of Lifeboat #10, not an easy task against the port list and the ensuing gap (stories about the near faller etc). Therefore, if Lifeboat #10 was lowered at 01:50am (which I believe that it was), Murdoch must have arrived there about 10 minutes earlier.
Murdoch had to arrive there more than 10 minutes before it was launched. It was Murdoch who told Evans to first swing that boat out and get it lowered to the rail, and that was just minutes after Evans finished lowering #12.
 
It was only Lightoller's testimony that led a lot of people to accept for decades that Boatswain Nichols took about 6 men below-decks to carry out a highly questionable order and all of them died trying to follow it.
That's right. And Lightoller was not very sure as to when that actually happened.
14681. How soon after you gave those instructions did you notice there was a list to port? - I think I have explained that in my evidence, that it was at No. 6 boat, I think, where I first noticed the list.
14682. At which boat were you when you gave instructions to the Boatswain to open the gangway doors? - I think I have also explained that - at No. 6.
14683. Now you have explained that it took you some 20 minutes to half an hour to get No. 6 boat uncovered and lowered; at what stage of that process did you give instructions to the Boatswain? - I could not say.
14684. At what stage did you notice the list to port? - I could not say.
14685. Can you say whether you noticed a list to port before or after you had given instructions to the boatswain? - That I could not say with certainty either.

As a witness he was very unsure about these details.
 
Lightoller was the surviving senior officer. Therefore he had to 'carry the can' as it were for all that went on. (Apart from perhaps fellow survivor Ismay, and until the 'sub plot' of The Californian emerged and played out).

Hence, my suggestion that Lightoller raised the matter of the E deck door being opened when he knew and was anticipating being heavily criticised for not even partially loading lifeboats.

Apart from the apparent evidence of a gangway door being open on the wreck pics - which no finite explanation has been provided on here - my own view is that Lightoller is stretching the truth on all this - same as what he said about Phillips in the first edition of his autobiography.

Lightoller and Boxhall had an eye on their future employment.
 
I think it is pretty clear throughout the USA Inquiry and the British Inquiry and the Ryan Case that there was an awful lot of 'covering one's own back' amongst certain witnesses. Other descriptions are available.

I would have expected particularly the British Inquiry to have explored these things, but they did not.

One would like to think Lightoller's ridiculous suggestion of opening a door on E deck to have been challenged. Sadly, it wasn't.
 
Apart from the apparent evidence of a gangway door being open on the wreck pics - which no finite explanation has been provided on here - my own view is that Lightoller is stretching the truth on all this
The opening of the forward port side D-deck gangway door (not E-deck) has been a mystery for quite a number of years by now. However there is physical evidence to suggest it was opened by hand at some point during the sinking.

The D-deck gangway door, 2 on each side, had these wonderful brass sliding gates in front of them (previously before the boarding entrances were entered in 2001 researchers thought that there were doors instead in front of the gangway doors). These gates had to be unlocked and slide open to offer access to the opening mechanism of the gangway doors. Presently at the wreck 3 of these sliding gates remain in the closed position, blocking the gangway door from opening, except for the forward port gangway door.

While the timing remains disputed, based on that lifeboat number 6 would have lowered right past this gangway door, it appears that based on the open sliding gate it appears at some point this very gangway door was opened by human hands.

Lightoller wasn’t the only officer who told about the gangway door and boatswain Nichols. At the British Board of Trade inquiry fifth officer Lowe recalled having overheard it at an unknown point during the sinking:
15906. Is it not the function of lifeboats on a steamer, as far as possible, to take away the full complement of passengers?
- Yes; but I was working on the idea that the gangway doors were going to be opened and take people from there.

15907. And that was why you lowered the boats from the boat deck when they were not altogether full?
- Certainly; we were not going to load the boat with its floating capacity from the davits.

15908. What grounds or evidence had you for the opinion you formed that there were going to be additional people put in the lifeboats from the gangways?
- I really forget now. I must have overheard it.

15909. Do you remember whom you overheard saying it?
- I do not.

15910. Did you hear any instructions given for these gangways to be opened?
- Had I any instructions?

15911. Did you hear any instructions given?
- No; but as I say, I overheard a conversation somewhere referring to the gangway doors being opened, and that the boatswain and a crowd of men had been sent down there.
 
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Lightoller was the surviving senior officer. Therefore he had to 'carry the can' as it were for all that went on. (Apart from perhaps fellow survivor Ismay, and until the 'sub plot' of The Californian emerged and played out). Hence, my suggestion that Lightoller raised the matter of the E deck door being opened when he knew and was anticipating being heavily criticised for not even partially loading lifeboats.
I am not sure that even the most stringent Inquiry could hold a single man responsible for "all that went on" that night. If they had done that, it would have turned from an Official Investigation into a witch-hunt and would have created more questions than answers.

For example, how could they hold Lightoller responsible for the partial loading of Lifeboats #7 and #5 on the starboard side? Even on the port side, he was working with Wilde - the Chief Officer - for the most part and the Captain was also around. As I said, it would have been simple for Lightoller to claim that one or both of them ordered him to lower a particular lifeboat when he did and we would never have been able to find out differently. Lightoller was smart enough to know that and would not have created the ridiculous story of the Gangway Door order - which he admitted that he gave himself - unless there was some truth in it.

One would like to think Lightoller's ridiculous suggestion of opening a door on E deck to have been challenged. Sadly, it wasn't
Well, they did ask him about it including trying to link it to Nichols' whereabouts and actions. Questions 14681 to 14685 as quoted by Sam above in Post #39 showed that. I suppose they could have challenged him more about the wisdom of such an order and yes, it is odd that they did not. The point though is that Lightoller's answers to questions like 13913 indicated that he was already doubting the wisdom of his own order and so would not have alluded to it unless it was the truth.

The opening of the forward port side D-deck gangway door (not E-deck) has been a mystery for quite a number of years by now. However there is physical evidence to suggest it was opened by hand at some point during the sinking. While the timing remains disputed, based on that lifeboat number 6 would have lowered right past this gangway door, it appears that based on the open sliding gate it appears at some point this very gangway door was opened by human hands.
Can one be sure of that 'evidence' considering how far the bow section fell before reaching the sea floor? True, being already flooded, the bow did not shatter to the extent that the stern section did but even so one would have though such a long drop followed by an impact on the sea floor would have been enough to blow open a gangway door if the angle was right?

I have sometimes wondered if Nichols, upon noting that the E-deck door was already dangerously close to the sea, decided to try the D-deck one instead but gave that up as well? In his answer to 13904, Lightoller said that he had not specified which particular door when he gave the order to the Boatswain; that could mean that he left the decision to Nichols and that might have included the proviso not to open any gangway door at all if the latter felt that it was dangerous and/or impractical to use that route to load passengers....or even crew. And as already noted, no one on board Lifeboats #8 or especially #6 noticed an open gangway door; remember, Lifeboat #6 contained characters like Molly Brown, QM Hichens, Major Peuchen etc.

Lightoller wasn’t the only officer who told about the gangway door and boatswain Nichols. At the British Board of Trade inquiry fifth officer Lowe recalled having overheard it at an unknown point during the sinking:
Thanks for that. I had somehow missed that statement from Lowe or perhaps forgotten it.
15911. Did you hear any instructions given?
- No; but as I say, I overheard a conversation somewhere referring to the gangway doors being opened, and that the boatswain and a crowd of men had been sent down there.
However, I would take that with a pinch of salt. Having said that, there is a theoretical way by which Lowe could have overheard the relevant conversation between Lightoller and Nichols, but it is stretching coincidence a bit. Lowe and Nichols were both present when Lifeboat #1 was about to be lowered, but it is possible that Nichols left for the port side a couple of minutes before Lowe. If Lowe then crossed over to the port side while still near the bow before going aft (to where Moody was) he might have passed Lightoller and Nichols just as the gangway door order was being issued and overheard the conversation.

But that's stretching probabilities too much IMO.
 
I think that sometimes you have to stand back a bit from the minutiae of the testimony, and add a bit of common sense.

I can list (but won't) numerous examples where I consider a common sense approach should be adopted. You don't dismiss what was said at the time but assess it; in many cases with the additional evidence gleaned many years later from other sources not considered or known of at the time.
 
I think that sometimes you have to stand back a bit from the minutiae of the testimony, and add a bit of common sense.
Agreed, but I thought that was what I did when I suggested that they could not hold Lightoller responsible for all that happened on the night of the disaster simply because he was the surviving senior officer.

Also this thread itself is about applying common sense and therefore questioning the long-held belief about the fate of Boatswain Alfred Nichols and his chosen men. I have always found it difficult to accept that experienced sailors like Nichols and the men he chose would have opened a gangway door in such a manner as allow all of them to be overcome by flooding. That feeling is even more strengthened by learning (thanks Thomas!) that there was a sliding grill gate in front of every gangway door that was kept locked at sea and had first to be unlocked before they could operate the mechanism to open the gangway door itself.

But before we can apply common sense to this or any situation, we have to look at available evidence and in case of the Titanic, most (if not all) of such evidence comes from analysis of survivor statements and weighing the balance of probabilities.
 
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