If Nichols received that order from Lightoller, IMO it was likely before Lightoller started loading it. It probably was sometime before the first boat #7 was lowered.
It is possible that Lightoller - who was one of the Officers who considered loading a lifeboat to its rated capacity was unsafe - considered
the gangway door task before any lifeboats were launched on either side. But looking at the sequence of events and Lightoller's related testimony do you think the definitive order
could have been given before Lifeboat #7 was lowered? I don't think so.
Let us look at what the Second Officer said later:
- He testified very clearly that it was after Lifeboat #4 was lowered to the A-deck and he was supervising loading of Lifeboat #6 that he gave Nichols that gangway door order. Why would he have made that up?
- On both sides of the Atlantic Lightoller testified that after receiving the order, Nichols acknowledged it ("Aye, aye sir") and went off, presumably to carry out the order; Lightoller testified that he never saw Nichols again. All that could NOT have happened before Lifeboat #7 was launched.
- Lookout George Symons testified that he saw and worked with Nichols during the loading and launching of Lifeboats #3 and #1. Incidentally, Lowe was also present on the starboard forward side in that timeframe and would have seen Nichols.
- As Thomas' picture showed, the D-deck gangway door on the port side remains open on the wreck and its condition and that of the grill gate within indicates that the door was opened by human hands and not the result of either the break-up or impact of the bow section with the ocean floor. In other words, Nichols and his men did carry out Lightoller's order - or at least a version of it.
So, if Nichols had already carried out the gangway door order before they even launched Lifeboat #7, many other survivors should have seen and remembered the Boatswain after he returned to the boat deck. He was seen and positively identified while working with loading of both Lifeboats #3 and #1 by surviving lookout George Symons. It is highly unlikely that under those circumstances other than Johnstone (who might have just seen
Nichols but I accept did not
receive the star tip from him) and Barrett, no one else mentioned seeing him later. Moreover, Lifeboat #7 was definitely the first boat lowered and so if the port side D-deck Gangway Door was already open by then, someone in Lifeboat #6 would definitely have noticed and commented about it; as Thomas showed, #6 would have descended right past that doorway but no one - Hichens, Fleet, Molly Brown, Major Peuchen, Helen Candee etc - mentioned an open gangway door.
By the way, it seems 5/O Lowe was also told about Nichols and some of the deck crew being sent below to open gangway doors. I found that statement from Lowe rather interesting, as it seems that he was told about Nichols going down to open gangway doors. Question is, where and from whom did he hear about it? We know that it is likely he was close to Nichols when he was around boats #3 and #1 because others put them both there.
Yes, I recall reading about Lowe mentioning it in his testimony but seem to be unable to find the reference right now. IMO, there are a few possibilities through which the 5/O could have known about it. For starters, both Nichols and he were present during the launch of Lifeboat #1 and appear to have left the starboard side within a very short time of each other. I believe that Nichols himself went to the port side where Lightoller was supervising loading of Lifeboat #6, received the Gangway Door order within a couple of minutes and left (never to be seen by the 2/O again). Since we know that after #1 was lowered Lowe also crossed to the port side, he might have gone past when Lightoller was giving Nichols the gangway door order; or, Lightoller might have told Lowe about it some 15 minutes later as the two men worked with Lifeboats #12 and #14 respectively. Finally, since both Lightoller and Lowe survived, the former might have mentioned it to the latter (among other things) on board the Carpathia
. With so many passengers and crew dead in the disaster, neither Officer could have realized the significance of Nichols' fate at the time and so from their perspective his death would have just been one of many unfortunate things that happened that night.
I am trying to keep an open mind on this and dealing with the obvious common sense of not opening a gangway door on deck E or D or any other deck whilst Titanic was sinking. I still cannot get over the bit of common sense I hope I have over all this that it would have been ridiculous and extremely dangerous to Titanic to open an E deck or D deck gangway door, and that Nichols must have realised this.
There is no question that Lightoller's gangway door order lacked common sense. That
coming from an experienced officer who later testified that he considered loading lifeboats to their BoT rated capacity was "dangerous" even though they had been so tested before. Lightoller should have considered not only the risks of opening a heavy, outward opening gangway door in a ship sinking by the bow but also the danger and impracticality of loading people though it under those circumstances. The vague manner in which he testified about it makes me think that although he did not admit it, Lightoller really had meant the portside E-deck door when he gave the order, which was both a deck lower and further forward than the D-deck door that is now open on the wreck. IMO Nichols in his wisdom decided not to open the former door and went up a deck instead; but as it turned out, even that was not a safe or practical option.
Arun, when I say lowered without qualification, I mean launched; i.e., lowered with people in it. And when I refer to launch time, I'm talking about the time the order was given tower away with people in it. The launch time and the time the boat reaches the water are of course two very different things.
Understood and thanks. But from the perspective of survivors and victims of the disaster - and of course for our own interest - the time a particular lifeboat reached the sea and rowed away is of greater significance than the other logistics involved. To that end, IMO it is more than likely that Lifeboat #8 was behind Lifeboat #6 in terms of crew orders, preparation and early part of loading but events transpired in such a way that #8 "overtook" #6 at some stage and reached the water almost 10 minutes before Peuchen's boat. I know that you don't agree and for the present at least, we'll have to disagree on that point. Perhaps further research by all concerned could change the outlook of one of us.
How did this open D deck door get raised from the wreck? It would have been on a hinge, and on one side the closing levers are entirely missing?
I was not aware that the port side D-deck gangway door had been dismantled from the wreck and brought to the surface. I must have missed that somewhere; from Thomas' photo I assumed that it was still in place and a very important piece of evidence at that.
To summarize from Boatswain Nichols' perspective, I do no
t believe that he received the definitive order
about the Gangway Door before Lifeboat #7 was lowered, although it is possible that Lightoller had mentioned the possibility to him at the time. The fact that Nichols was seen by Symons during the loading of Lifeboats #3 and #1 (and lowering of the former) places the boatswain on the starboard forward side at least within the 12:50am to 01:05am timeframe, along with the surviving 5/O Lowe. Since Lightoller clearly testified that he gave Nichols that order during the loading of Lifeboat #6 (which was definitely lowered after Lifeboat #7 irrespective of the actual time) and the boatswain left to carry out the order never to be seen by the 2/O again, IMO it happened around 01:05am and after all 4 forward starboard lifeboats had been launched. This is further supported by the fact that Lightoller not only said that there was a slight port list just as he was about to lower Lifeboat #6, he denied that there was any starboard list in response to a leading question about it from the examiner.