Alfred Theissinger


Nov 13, 2014
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Alfred Theissinger is not listed in a particular lifeboat. His biography says he boarded Lifeboat 11. But he told his story to the Washington Herald just after arriving in New York. In that article, he says he was denied access to Lifeboat 15, which he watched being lowered. This makes little sense if he boarded lifeboat 11, because #11 was launched at 1:35 A.M., over 5 minutes before #15.

Also, his story in the newspaper suggests he had been aboard Collapsible A or B, not #11.
I swam as hard as I could go and finally near to me I saw a raft on which a few men were clinging. A willing hand was extended me and we picked up seventeen others. A woman was among these and I must give her praise. I wish I could remember her name. During those two dreary hours she laughed and sang, cheering us.

“The water was up to our knees.

(...)

“Before daylight a lifeboat came near to us on the raft. We were rescued and taken aboard. Selbert was dead.

Anyone who can clear things up?
 

Arun Vajpey

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Jul 8, 1999
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Theissinger's bio again came up on "On this day" today and I wondered the same thing. He seems to have been unusually active after the collision - rushing to the mail room to see in flooding; knocking on doors of several passengers to wake them, Guggenheim and the Stausses among them; helping to drag Lifeboat #15 into position inly to be refused a place in it; clinging to a rail as the Titanic split into two and so on. After all those "heroics", the bio says that he entered Lifeboat #11 with a number of other stewards! How's that possible?

Apart from the fact that #11 was launched before #15, it was already almost full at the time and moved away from the ship. So Theissinger could hardly have swum to it in the freezing water. Given his claims that he was on the ship till the very end, he must have been on either Collapsible A or B as has been said above.

Does anyone know more about Theissinger's survival? I read that he was quite extensively interviewed later.
 
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Aaron_2016

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His survivor account was very likely noted by reporters and some words would have been changed before it reached the newspapers. Survivors in the aft section of the boat deck thought lifeboats 13 and 15 were the last lifeboats to leave the ship. Passengers were unaware that there were just a few more lifeboats at the forward end (several hundred feet away, down hill and towards the sound of approaching water) and it was very dark, so dark that people said they could not identify who was standing next to them until the rockets burst and illuminated the deck, so I doubt all of the passengers at the aft section of the boat deck could see there were more boats further forward, so when people got into lifeboats 13 and 15 they genuinely believed they were the last boats to leave the ship, and this is what they told the reporters and even the official Inquiry. I think Theissinger very likely told the reporter that he got into one of the last lifeboats to leave the ship without naming the number, and the reporter filled in the blanks himself and assumed he was talking about 13 and 15.
 

Arun Vajpey

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OK, but which lifeboat did he survive in? Can't be #11 like his bio says because he could not then claim to have been on the last boat from the starboard aft section with #13 and #15 in plain sight behind it and being loaded even as #11 was launched. In any case, Theissinger's name does not appear on the survivor list of #11 here at ET despite the contradictory bio.

Furthermore, if he was still clinging to a rail as the Titanic sank (as he is supposed to have claimed), he could only have swum to Collapsibles A or B but his name is not on those lists either. As I said before, #11 was at some distance from the ship by 02:20 am and AFAIK did not return to pick-up survivors from the site where the ship sank. IMO, it is highly unlikely that Theissinger could have swum to #11 after the ship went down but that is the only explanation that can for all the claims, even the media embellished ones.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Theissinger left the ship with boat No. 11. He was never in the water.
OK, I'll accept that, but why is he not on the survivor's list for #11 on the ET site?

Also, that would mean that his claims - indeed if he made them - of being involved with #15 as it was launched and then hanging onto a rail as the Titanic's lights went out must have been fibs. I cannot imagine the press making up that much about one survivor.

One thing I am certain of is that the claim that the band was playing Nearer My God Unto Thee as the ship sank is pure fabrication on someone's part. IMO, they must have stopped playing quite sometime before, probably around 01:30 am. Also, the actual last tune they played seems to vary from Ragtime (Bride), NMGUT (Theissinger?) and Songe de Autumne (some others)
 
Mar 18, 2008
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Steward MacKay mentioned him in his testimony. There was also another one who mentioned him in a newspaper but can not remember out of my head who it was.
Theissinger newspaper account is full of made up stuff, Theissinger seemed to had been everywhere including Dining Room, B & C Deck Cabins etc. Actually he was only for the aft E Deck cabins responsible.

Testimony of MacKay

10782. Or of any other members of the crew that were in the boat? - Let me see. Yes, William Wilton was one.
10783. He was a steward? - Yes. McMicken.
10784. What was he? - A steward. Thessinger, Mr. Wheat and myself. That is all I can answer for. I cannot answer for the others because they were new men on the ship.
10785. Was the last name you mentioned a steward, too? - Mr. Wheat was the assistant.
10786. I thought you mentioned another name? - Thessinger. He was a bedroom steward on E deck. The other men were strangers to me; I cannot think of their names.
10787. (The Commissioner.) McMicken, Thessinger, and who else? - Wilton, McMicken, Thessinger, Mr. Wheat, and myself. They were the only men I can remember. The fireman's name I do not know; the two sailors' names I do not know, and the other stewards I do not know, because they were strangers to the ship. They never came from the "Olympic" to the "Titanic" with us.
 
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Aaron_2016

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One thing I am certain of is that the claim that the band was playing [I said:
Nearer My God Unto Thee [/I]as the ship sank is pure fabrication on someone's part. IMO, they must have stopped playing quite sometime before, probably around 01:30 am. Also, the actual last tune they played seems to vary from Ragtime (Bride), NMGUT (Theissinger?) and Songe de Autumne (some others)


There are quite a number of survivors who heard the band play 'Nearer My God To Thee' and people were heard singing the hymn in groups. Survivors heard the band playing right up to the moment the first explosion was heard. I think Lightoller and Bride also heard the band playing just as the water was rushing onto the boat deck. The question really is which version of the hymn they played because there are at least 3 versions. Survivors Eva Hart mentions which version they played in this video:

Skip to 6:10

 

Paul Burrell

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Dec 23, 2017
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Alfred Theissinger is not listed in a particular lifeboat. His biography says he boarded Lifeboat 11. But he told his story to the Washington Herald just after arriving in New York. In that article, he says he was denied access to Lifeboat 15, which he watched being lowered. This makes little sense if he boarded lifeboat 11, because #11 was launched at 1:35 A.M., over 5 minutes before #15.

Also, his story in the newspaper suggests he had been aboard Collapsible A or B, not #11.


Anyone who can clear things up?

I have just read this thread with interest. Theissinger was undoubtedly in lifeboat 11. The newspaper article amalgamates two accounts (perhaps more). The latter account (by which time Theissinger had already left in boat 11) is that of storekeeper Frank Prentice who jumped in the water with fellow storekeeper Cyril Ricks. Prentice made it to boat 4. Sidney Siebert also reached boat 4 but died. Siebert must therefore be the person referenced in the article as ‘Selbert was dead’.
 

Mikewriter

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Mar 14, 2018
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New here so forgive me. I'm trying to learn more about the lifeboats.I hear so many conflicting things. Lifeboat #14 was the only LB to return, right? But LB #4 never left sinking site and picked up 7+ men. LB #4 rescued "7" men - Scott, McCarthy (?), Cunningham, Hemming, Ranger, Lyons, Smith, Foley, Prentice, and Dillon depending on the inquiry testimonies from what I read (yes me can count). Also, can someone say how far a lifeboat might be rowed without the sail. Trying to figure out if a LB could make it to the Californian and back again within a given time or distance - 3 miles to 19 miles.
 

Paul Burrell

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Dec 23, 2017
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New here so forgive me. I'm trying to learn more about the lifeboats.I hear so many conflicting things. Lifeboat #14 was the only LB to return, right? But LB #4 never left sinking site and picked up 7+ men. LB #4 rescued "7" men - Scott, McCarthy (?), Cunningham, Hemming, Ranger, Lyons, Smith, Foley, Prentice, and Dillon depending on the inquiry testimonies from what I read (yes me can count). Also, can someone say how far a lifeboat might be rowed without the sail. Trying to figure out if a LB could make it to the Californian and back again within a given time or distance - 3 miles to 19 miles.

The encyclopaedia Titanica main site includes detailed information on each lifeboat and their occupants.

In answer to the first question, lifeboat 14 was indeed the only one to return to the scene and picked up three men, one of whom died shortly thereafter.

On the second question, lifeboat 4 never left the scene. Arguably, it was waiting to take off passengers from the gangway doors that were ordered open (a mystery in itself). Of the names you mention McCarthy and Foley were in the boat when it was launched. The rest were rescued from the water (except Smith should read Seibert); Lyons and Seibert died in the boat. Ranger slid down the falls into the boat without going into the water.

I am unsure on your last question although with a survival time in the water of mere minutes, reaching the Californian and coming back would not have saved any more lives.
 

Paul Burrell

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Dec 23, 2017
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F smith is correct http://www.titanicinquiry.org/downloads/USInq.zip. Questions ANC073-83, ANC093-95, ANC101.


My bad - missed Seibert.


Hard to really understand testimony of people. Scott said 7 men pulled from water after him. Ranger said 7 men pulled from water after him. Dillion said 7 men pulled from water after him..

Cunningham’s testimony does indeed mention ‘F Smith’. However, Cunningham must be mistaken as there was no F Smith in boat 4 and no crew survivor with that name. I suspect his ‘F Smith’ is actually Frederick Scott who made his way down the falls with Ranger but who fell in the water before being picked up.

The testimony and interviews are fascinating although sometimes inaccurate and, particularly in the case of interviews/newspaper articles, fanciful. Often crew survivors overegged their escape to avoid stigma or survivors guilt when so many others perished. Many overestimated the number of women in the lifeboats when there were in fact plenty of men and crew aboard (boat 15 and Samuel Rule’s testimony springs to mind).

Personally, I think that Scott, Ranger, Dillon and the others were picked up within a very short space of time, perhaps in different parts of the boat.
 

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