Charles Emil Henry Stengel and Lifeboat # 1

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Inezita Gay

Guest
My greatgrandfather was Charles Emil Henry Stengel. I am looking for descendants of the other occupants of Lifeboat #1. Were the people in Lifeboat #1 cowards? Should they have gone back? This question haunts me.
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
Should they have gone back? Good question. For myself, I can't blame them or anyone else for not doing so. The problem is that in a lifeboat with reletively few seats and over 1500 people struggling in the water, it would have been all too easy for that or any other boat to be swamped with the the consequence of even greater numbers of lives being lost.

It's easy enough for us to make value judgements from the warmth of our studies, and quite another when you're actually out there in the thick of things and knowing that if you guess wrong, you're dead.

The sea is an equal opportunity killer.
 
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Dr. Douglas B. Willingham

Member
Well said, Mr. Standart.

Depictions of the disaster, in writing and in film, tend to moralize on the appalling cowardice and selfishness of the occupants of the lifeboats who either made no effort to return to pick up those struggling in the water or even protested when others suggested it.

Hindsight is 20-20, and these participants in the disaster did not have the luxury of knowing what we know, for example that the Carpathia was on her way and that practically everyone in the boats would be saved.

Like you, I don't think we should judge any of the players that night.

Best regards,
Doug
 
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Randy Bryan Bigham

Member
Inezita,

The people in boat 1 were not cowards, nor was anyone else in the other boats. Lifeboat 1 had no special designation as a rescue craft that night, although it is usually the only one mentioned when the subject is brought up of the boats' being under-filled.

Boat 1 ought to have gone back but all the boats should have done so. That they didn't - except for boat 14 - shows only too clearly the reality of human frailty. Heroism is unnatural; that is why, when it happens, as in the case of Harold Lowe, it is so remarkable. All action by comparison, however noble-intentioned, pales.

As to descendants of other boat 1 survivors, I understand that they are all private people. It would be interesting if a reunion of sorts could be affected - I have wondered about it myself. Maybe someday it can be managed.

Randy
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
Thanks Doug. What it really boils down to is cold unfeeling numbers. 28 seats available as opposed to 1500+ screaming...(for good reason!)...contenders. For all that people like to make judgements, I have to wonder if any of us could have done any better.

Hopefully, we'll never have to find out.
 
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Bob Godfrey

Member
The rescue effort of Lowe in boat 14 was indeed remarkable but not unique. Quartermaster Perkis, in charge of boat 4, refused the demands of his passengers to beat a retreat and remained close enough to the sinking ship to take twice as many people from the water, sooner and at greater risk.
 
Dave Gittins

Dave Gittins

Member
I'm one of the critics of Sir Cosmo and the crew of boat 1. This was an age when noblesse oblige still meant something. Sir Cosmo might have shown the leadership expected of his class. However, I wouldn't take it further than did Lord Mersey in his report. He wrote---

"The very gross charge against Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon that, having got into No. 1 boat he bribed the men in it to row away from the drowning people is unfounded. (Duff Gordon, 12586 et seq.) I have said that the members of the crew in that boat might have made some attempt to save the people in the water, and that such an attempt would probably have been successful; but I do not believe that the men were deterred from making the attempt by any act of Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon’s. At the same time I think that if he had encouraged to the men to return to the position where the “Titanic” had foundered they would probably have made an effort to do so and could have saved some lives."

As in the case of Captain Lord, contemporaries grossly exaggerated the capacity of Sir Cosmo and the others to rescue people. They certainly could have saved "some lives" but they would have been working against time and hypothermia. As to whether they were cowards, I think that, as so often that night, no conscious and reasoned decision was made. They just played it by ear. In dangerous situations, some act heroically without weighing the consequences. Some chicken out, with equal lack of consideration. People are like that.
 
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Randy Bryan Bigham

Member
As I have said before, noblesse oblige, however pervasive in 1912, was not a valid criteria for judging a man's authority or suitability.

It's absurd to me that in as horrific a situation as unfolded on April 14-15, 1912, Cosmo Duff Gordon, owing merely to the fact that he was an aristocrat, should have been expected to possess superior skills at governing and discipline. That's ridiculous. People are people. Strength and weakness transcend class. And catastrophes are not fair gauges of people's character. The effects of fear and shock have to be factored in. The order of noblesse oblige is romantic in such a circumstance but wholly impractical.

Cosmo was a man just like any other that night who found himself in the lucky embrace of a lifeboat. There was no special obligation he had to be a savior, no intrinsic duty to his fellow man, at least none based simply on his rank and breeding.

Cosmo was both a sensitive and strong man all his life, a man who was devoted to a woman he adored and to a family he loved, a man whose care for and dedication to others was deep. That night in 1912 may not have found him a God or superman, but what it did show him to be - a flesh and blood, ordinary man - is more than acceptable, more than adequate.

He wasn't a hero that night. But in many ways, for the remainder of his proud but lonely life, he WAS heroic. Though it was from old age that he officially died, it was the Titanic that really killed him.
 
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Susan Leighton

Guest
There are legitimate reasons for Boat 1 to receive so much criticism regarding the boats' being under-filled and not returning to the ship. The impression is that it took seven crewmembers to transport five very rich passengers, in a boat with a capacity to seat about 40 passengers. Boat 1 reportedly left Titanic at 1:10 which gave the occupants at least an hour and ten minutes before she finally sank. They also had over two hours in the water before being rescued by Carpathia. They had ample time (3hours, 30 minutes)and made a conscious decision NOT to return and the crewmembers were 'compensated' for their efforts. They were cowards.

I realize this is a simplistic approach to what was obviously a very horrifying experience for everyone concerned, but as I have previously stated, an impression was formed based on raw data and does not factor in the actual experience of the event.
-Susan Y. Leighton
 
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Randy Bryan Bigham

Member
You're right that, owing to sensational press coverage, the passengers and crew in boat 1 could not help but endure questions and rumors about their escape.

Some key facts, though:

Re: boat 1's being under-filled - it held the least number of occupants of any other lifeboat but did not leave the least filled. Taking into account the difference between its capacity and complement and those of other lifeboats, boat 1, being a smaller craft, actually had less empty spaces than boats 7, 6 or 8, which were large craft.

Moreover, each of these boats left the ship earlier than or about the same time as boat 1 and therefore their occupants had equally ample opportunity to devise a rescue effort and return to the ship. But they didn't, having also made conscious decisions NOT to return to the wreck site.

Boat 1 left with the fewest passengers through no fault on the part of those passengers and later did not return to save others because the CREW decided not to make the attempt.

As to the misguided but well-intentioned compensation by Cosmo Duff Gordon to the crew of boat 1 - well, this is what really burned his toast. However bad it looked, the simple truth is that he basically offered the money as a peace offering, to pacify ruffled feelings on the part of some of the crew members who had not only spoken roughly to a lady (his wife) but were grumbling about the possessions and pay they had lost in the sinking.

People don't like to bring up that. They'd rather concentrate on Lucy Duff Gordon's jibe about that God-forsaken nightdress. It does make for better reading, I guess, to imagine a spoiled rich b!~~~ sitting back and bemoaning the loss of fripperies than to know the truth.

It's strange, unfortunate and disheartening that negative, unbalanced stories like these will likely go on being told and believed by new generations. It almost seems people would rather know a juicy half-truth than the dull whole truth.
 
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Deborah Russes

Member
I honestly don't know what I would do if I were actually in the position those in any lifeboat were in. I can only hope that I would have voted to go back and try to save more people but I just don't know for sure. I'm not making excuses for any of those in any boats that chose not to go back. I'm sure that those who survived were haunted forever by what could have been if they made a different decision.
 
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Timothy Brandsoy

Guest
I believe that Sir Cosmos attempt to reimburse the crew for their lost kit was an honorable one, later mistaken as bribery.

The crew seemed to look to the Gordons for direction, where it should have been the other way around. But in that era the gentry were elevated in obvious rank and assumed ability. That they were merely human became a chink in their armour, much like the the damaged Titanic herself.

While Astor, Gugenheim and the Strausses proved their mettle the Gordons did not. Heroes often die. The decision not to go back and rescue any survivors is human, but was a base and selfish motivation of perceived survival. That they could of been swamped by helpless and half frozen victims is ludicrious. The CREW should have known that the struggling swimmers were not a threat to their safety in the boat. I think that's where the perception comes in that the crew was paid off not to go back.
 
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Randy Bryan Bigham

Member
Timothy wrote: "The decision not to go back and rescue any survivors is human, but was a base and selfish motivation of perceived survival."

Self-preservation is base and selfish but almost everybody in the lifeboats that night succumbed to it.

Timothy: "That they could of been swamped by helpless and half frozen victims is ludicrous. "

It's not ludicrous. The fear of being swamped by the crowd in the water was general.

Timothy: "The CREW should have known that the struggling swimmers were not a threat to their safety in the boat."

Not true. Symons and others were concerned about the safety of the situation. In other boats, it was the very same. Lowe in 14 didn't head back sooner because of his belief that it would be dangerous. Hichens in 6 opposed going back for the same reason. In boat after boat, as the cries of the drowning reached their ears, people's instinctive fear and self-preservation set in.

Boat 1's failure to go back and it's occupants' fears and "selfish" motives were part of a widespread systematic pattern of human weakness that showed itself that night.

If the actions of the people in boat 1 were an exception to the rule as things played out that night, I could understand their being continually singled out for derision. But the truth is that the Duff Gordons did, said and felt nothing different than was done, said and felt by most others.

Yet due the unfortunate circumstances of their boat's holding so few people and the incident of the money gifts, the Duff Gordons have been held up as a villains and cowards. They have taken the brunt of the criticism of their boat's failure (and the other boats' failure) to assist in rescuing the drowning.

Their inaction was not heroic, but it cannot be said to have been despicable either. If they were not on their "mettle" then neither was almost anybody else who made it into a lifeboat; the bottom line being that, with few exceptions, people's response to the drowning of others was simply to NOT respond. The Duff Gordons cannot be called cowards if the others are excused from the charge.
 
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Timothy Brandsoy

Guest
Timothy: "That they could of been swamped by helpless and half frozen victims is ludicrous. "

Randy: "It's not ludicrous. The fear of being swamped by the crowd in the water was general."

The crew should have been well aware of hypothermia and that few would have lasted in the water. That only one boat went back is despicable IMHO....not just to single out boat #1.

As the cries died down (literally) they could of tried to pick up a few on the fringe if they were so worried about being swamped. Symons and Hichens were WRONG. They may have been justifiably scared and nearly universaly so, but some were in fact saved from the water and their boats were not "swamped". General fear and hysteria doesn't make something true, no matter how pervasive it is. It may be an excuse but it doesn't make it a fact.

The Duff Gordons had another thing against them, besides a half filled boat and a lot of crew members, they had each other. In the public arena of the time (women and childen first) that may have been held against them since so many lost their spouses and loved ones. To the general public they must have looked pretty cozy with their virtually private boat and crew. The Strauses became the 'heroes' and the Duff Gordons became the 'villians' in this very public passion play. I'm not saying it's "right" I'm just trying to view it in it's historical perspective. Nor do I think it would be much different today with modern characters.
 
Michael H. Standart

Michael H. Standart

Member
>>The crew should have been well aware of hypothermia and that few would have lasted in the water. That only one boat went back is despicable IMHO....not just to single out boat #1<<

Tim, I assure you that the crew was intensely aware of this. They were also intensely aware of the fact that they were stranded in the middle of the North Atlantic with no other refuge beyond what they had. I can also assure you that they knew full well that the seats available came nowhere close to what was needed to take everyone aboard.

Rowing into a panicked mob with ill trained and scarce crewmembers would have been...and was...percieved as foolhardy for good reason. Boat operations on the open ocean are extremely dangerous and having to fight off a mob was the last thing they needed to do. Had they charged in right off, that's exactly what they would have been doing.

>>As the cries died down (literally) they could of tried to pick up a few on the fringe if they were so worried about being swamped. Symons and Hichens were WRONG.<<

Sez who? Us? Take note of the fact that we weren't there and our necks were not on the line. They were, as were those in the boats whose lives they were responsible for.

>>but some were in fact saved from the water and their boats were not "swamped".<<

Because the boat that went back did so long after the Titanic sank and by that time, the cold had claimed most of the people in the water. Dead people don't swamp boats, but live ones do if there are enough of them. Early on, there were.

You might want to take note of what Lowe had to say about the question of trying to pick up more people. This is excerpted from his testimony on Day 5 of the Senate Inquiry:

Senator SMITH. That makes 65. So that when he lay on his oars, if he was in lifeboat No. 5 and he heard the groaning of these people and their cries for help, he could, if he had gone toward them, have accommodated 30 more people safely in that lifeboat?

Mr. LOWE. After the ship had gone down?

Senator SMITH. Yes, sir.

Mr. LOWE. No, sir; he could not; pardon me.

Senator SMITH. Why?

Mr. LOWE. Because he would be hazarding all the, rest of their lives. That is the thought that struck me, and I will give you a full explanation of that if you would like to listen to it.

This is from an experinced officer who knew the sea and had a lot of training, education and experience to back up his point of view. Many of the lessons he benefited from were learned the hard way from the observed behaviour of people in real world shipping casualties in the past. Given that understanding, I can scarcly blame any of them for not taking the gamble. I can say with utter confidence that I wouldn't have.
 
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