Charles Emil Henry Stengel and Lifeboat # 1

Jul 12, 2003
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Without covering the subject of whether or not the boats should have gone back to pick up the people in water, I have a question. By the time any of the lifeboats could/would have gone back, wouldn't the people in the water have lost much of their strength and ability to move well...thus reducing the chance of swamping?
 

Inger Sheil

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They could, and had, lost much of their strength and dexterity, Deborah - that would have begun as soon as they hit the water. Although as one crewman pointed out, a group of them clinging onto the lines on one side of a boat could still capsize it. Like us, the seamen of those days were well versed in the idea that 'a drowning man clings to anything'. How much of a practical danger the people in the water actually posed to those in the boats, and at what point they ceased to be any form of possible danger, are always going to be debatable points (even now, from the safety and warmth of our armchairs, consensus would be difficult to attain). Hypothermia is still not well understood - it was even less so in 1912.

I believe Lowe was conscious of time running out, for example, and initially he wanted to return with all the boats - going so far as to say they could take 80 people. However, when the women protested, he acceded to their demands and began transferring them out of #14. The process added yet more time on to the time he had already waited, and it's no wonder he was getting very short with some of the passengers - the cries must have been getting fewer and fainter all the time. Much of his career, however, had been spent in the warmer waters of the African coast where one could survive up to days in the water providing the bull sharks weren't patrolling...
 
May 12, 2005
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Just to clarify: I was using Lowe as an example, not a benchmark. There were many heroes that night. In the specific situation of rescuing swimmers, however, I have always thought he stood out.

But if Perkis also lead a concerted effort to pull back to save others, then he is to be applauded. I admit my impression has always been that boat 4's rescues happened because it was nearer the wreck site. I don't mean to take anything away from Perkis but until reading this thread I was not aware that he was thought to have been so personally instrumental in saving lives.
 

Inger Sheil

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Oh, I know you weren't Randy - I took your above citation of Lowe as an example, which is evidently how you intended it. There are other examples as well of individuals who acted outside the bounds of what constituted 'normal' behaviour that night... in either a positive or negative way. My 'benchmark' commetn was more a general observation, as I've often seen him held up as a sort of measure against which to judge the actions of others in not going back.

I'd love to see some specific evidence on how proactive Perkis was in #4's actions. I, too, would be loathe to take anything away from Perkis, but it does seem to me that there has been a lack of critical examination of his role in favour of general praise. That's not to criticise any of the posters in this thread - after all, I've put up uncritical posts in praise of Perkis as well in various internet forums! It was more rereading the evidence relating to #4 and discussing it with other researchers that have lead me to ask 'why specifically Perkis?' when there seem to be so little direct material on what exactly he did.
 

Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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It occurred to me, after reading Marion Thayer's account for the first time in several months, that those seaman whose boats, under their command, were responsible for rescuing those from the water (of which, as we know, there were few), had at least one vocal detractor, and that they are invariably female and from 1st class! In the same manner in which Daisy Minahan was fiercely critical of Lowe of boat #14, here is what Mrs. Thayer said about boat #4's commander, QM Perkis:

There were two seamen at the oars of our boat, and one steering. There was also a man in the bow of our boat who said he was a Quartermaster. He was absolutely inefficient, and could give us no directions of aid whatever, and besides this was most disagreeable. I do not think he was a Quartermaster.

I always find the disparity of opinion on these crewmembers fascinating. In the case of Perkis, the question is begged; are there any suriving accounts that directly counter Mrs. Thayer's criticims, or which otherwise praise Perkis specifically? I'd be interested to know, for example, if any boat #4 occupants later thanked Perkis in person for his efforts (excluding Mrs. Thayer, of course!)

All my best,

Ben
 

Ben Holme

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Am clearly having trouble sheddding my odd habit of posting without reading in any detail, the previous posts.

Sorry Ing, to repeat your question almost word for word :)
 
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Timothy Brandsoy

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Michael said: "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."

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

Read it again if need be. Was I not clear enough? You put words in my mouth I didn't say. I DIDN'T say anything about charging into the middle of the mob. AFTER A WHILE.....and ON THE FRINGE I said. In my scenario I was allowing for some people to die before going back and only those who were on the fringe .....assuming they were hardy enough to swim that far.

I understand that their weren't enough places in the boats for all the survivors. To even try and pick up all the survivors would have been impossible. The sea was still, it wasn't as dangerous as usual. To pick up a few survivors, in a prudent, safe manner, would have been the right thing to do.

IF I had made it to a boat, would I have gone back???????? I can only say "I hope so" but in times of calamity like that I'm not so sure. But surely I would have been in favor of picking up SOMEONE, if nothing else just to ease my conscience.

That so few went back is a study of group dynamics and mob mentality (those safe in the boats, not in the water). That so many of the lifeboat survivors were 1st class may have played a role in NOT saving the largely 2nd/3rd class remaining in the water. Did they view them as lesser people? Some of the comments about the 'hoards of Italians coming up from below deck' (or something to that effect) always struck me as racist and possibly as an excuse not to save them.

Tim
 

Inger Sheil

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No worries Ben! Very interesting point you raise there.

I've been keeping an eye out for material specific to #4. There is some that turns up on their rescue work - e.g., Prentice - but very little on Perkis himself. I hadn't thought of the Thayer/Minahan comparison.
 
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Timothy Brandsoy

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Ben:"...had at least one vocal detractor, and that they are invariably female and from 1st class! In the same manner in which Daisy Minahan was fiercely critical of Lowe of boat #14...."

Good point Ben. We seem to be thinking along the same class lines. Other than Margaret Brown few 1st class women seemed to be in favor of returning. And Mrs. Brown was not typical of her era.

Maybe....maybe.....the 1st class surviving women, pampered in life and fearful in everyday life of the lower class were a negating voice to the nonrescue of those in the water? That there was a huge division between the classes in 1912 should not be ignored. Robber Barons and Wealthy Industrialist viewed the common people, if not with outright contempt, as mere pawns to more riches.

That these immigrant's nationalities were the mobs and rioters of their era may have played into their very demise.
Here is a link to a riot the month before Titanics sinking:
http://womhist.binghamton.edu/law/doc19.htm
 

Inger Sheil

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quote:

That so many of the lifeboat survivors were 1st class may have played a role in NOT saving the largely 2nd/3rd class remaining in the water.
I don't think that's supported by the evidence at all, Timothy. According to figures cited by Lester Mitcham in an article on this site, there were some 143 first class women saved, 105 second class, and 121 third class. In other words, the combined figures of 2-3 class women far outnumbed the first class women - had the women of these other two classes felt differently to the first class women, they 'had the numbers', as we used to say in politics!

I don't think that the idea that first class women didn't want to save people from the sea holds much water either, considering that many of them had left husbands, brothers and sons behind them on the decks as the ship went down.

Can you cite any evidence that suggests that, as a whole, the 2-3 class women responded any differently from the 1st class women in their willingness to return for those in the water? When sources say that the women protested at the idea of going back, they don't offer a breakdown by class.​
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Bob!

>I'm glad to know I'm not the only member of the >Perkis fan club!

You're not alone, old chap. According to John Foley, he and Perkis (some newspapers altered Perkis's name to "Sam Parks") deliberately chose to pull swimmers into boat #4 despite most of the passengers urging them not to do so. Mrs. Astor was one of the few people in #4 who supported the actions of Foley and Perkis, and she later thanked them for saving the lives that they did.

Hi, Randy!

> There were many heroes that night.

Absolutely! Walter Perkis and John Foley were two such men.

All my best,

George
 

Inger Sheil

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I'd certainly be interested in seeing these accounts, George! It would be very interesting to compare Mrs Astor's exact recollections against those of Mrs Thayer, with which they seem to sharply contrast. Just goes to show what different perspectives there can be on the one man. I had a quick shoofty around for Foley material, and primarily came up with stuff from The Irish Aboard Titanic and Lord. Interesting that Macarthy has been neglected in this, as he is the other man a pro-active role in #4 has been claimed for. The evidence does range across an awful lot of ground (did they pull back, did the swimmers go to them, was it a bit of both, was there leadership, was there confusion...). I'd like to see #4 have the same sort of critical appraisal that boats like #1 and 14 have had - it might help us to arrive at a more balanced idea of what happened that night!
 
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Timothy Brandsoy

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No I don't have any evidence. It's merely a hypothesis....a lot of "maybes"

But as said:
"In the following pages you can see not only the questions and answers that were given, but you can speculate on the questions that were ‘not asked’ and obviously not answered. Why were these questions not asked? Why were passengers from the lower decks not called upon to give evidence?, etc., etc. Brian J. Ticehurst,
Newsletter Editor of the British Titanic Society "

Few 3rd class women were asked anything.

As Mrs. Brown supposedly said "It's your husbands and men out there!" Yet few returned. They were seen collectively as a dangerous mob. Finding their specific husbands would have been an immense foolish and impossible task.


"When sources say that the women protested at the idea of going back, they don't offer a breakdown by class." I couldn't find any questions or answers to why they didn't go back. I did find Daisy's comments about Lowe, but she didn't seem to object to him going back, more against his behavior and tone than anything.

So no I can't prove my tentative theory. Lester Mitcham pointed out that more 3rd class men were saved than 1st class (although the % was less) it doesn't do much for my theory I'll admit.
https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/5811/33520.html

Still bias and prejudice in this scenario are hard to qualify or prove.
 
May 12, 2005
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Bob, George, Inger and Ben have brought up Perkis, and though there are differing perspectives here, it's obvious this is an area requiring more attention. It would appear that George has some accounts at his disposal that are not generally known (a really big shock!) so all I can say to that is 'hurry up with that book!'
happy.gif


George also brings up Foley, another of the apparently unsung. I look forward to learning more about these men's efforts.

Inger makes a point that Boat 4 has not had the critical attention shown it that others have had. This is a surprising fact considering the prominence of the women who escaped in that boat. A study of #4 would be of great help, which goes to show that there is still scholarship needed in some important areas.

I also would like to say that I also don't think there is any indication that class had anything to do with women's objections to saving swimmers. In my opinion, it was fear, not indifference, apathy or discrimination that prompted objections.

Two things I want to say on this subject.

Firstly, Molly Brown was by NO means the only woman in Boat 6 who was in favor of returning to aid the drowning. There is so much romantic legend and myth about her that the general impression is that she was the only woman with a mind of her own in that boat. Helen Churchill Candee was no shrinking violet and neither was Leila Meyer, the Newell sisters or Eloise Smith. And let's not forget that two well-known British feminists were in this boat, as well - Elsie Bowerman and Edith Chibnall. Indeed, almost any one of the women in #6 could have been a "poster child" for the suffrage movement of the day. So Molly had very good "back up." (Poor Hichens - he really chose the wrong boat to take charge of!)

Secondly, another woman who stands out as a heroine is Ruth Dodge who found herself boiling mad that most other women in Boat 5 didn't want to go back to help people in the water. I have always thought it was a magnificent show of spirit and conviction that when Boat 7 tied up with #5 she just grabbed little Washington, hiked her skirt up and switched boats to get away from her opponents!
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Ben!

I almost overlooked something you wrote. :)

>here is what Mrs. Thayer said about boat #4's >commander, QM Perkis:

>There were two seamen at the oars of our boat, >and one steering. There was also a man in the bow >of our boat who said he was a Quartermaster. He >was absolutely inefficient, and could give us no
>directions of aid whatever, and besides this was >most disagreeable. I do not think he was a Quartermaster.

For what it's worth, Mrs. Thayer might have been justified in suspecting that the inefficient crewman in the bow was not a QM. According to John Foley's letter, Quartermaster Perkis was not sitting idly in the bow of #4 but was instead sitting right behind Foley and -- like Foley -- was pulling an oar. (This seems to fit in with Mrs. Thayer's observation that there were "two seamen at the oars.")

Hi, Randy!

>... 'hurry up with that book!'

I'm doing my very best, old chap. :) However, the difficulty of obtaining the necessary permissions means that I'll probably be able to publish only about one-third of theTitanic letters, postcards, diary entries and personal memoirs whose texts I've gathered together over the years. (It's very frustrating -- but what a spectacular Viking funeral I'm going to have with all that extra kindling at Pat's disposal.) :)

All my best,

George
 
May 12, 2005
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I thought I would try to bring in a bit about Henry Stengel, who is ostensibly the subject of this thread.

No offense to the lady who says she is a relation of his but the information I have on Stengel, though slim, indicates that he tried to profit from his association with the Duff Gordons, not only by constantly referring to them in a schmoozing way in his interviews and other public statements just after the disaster but later attempting to sell a line of belts and other accessories to the New York branch of Lucile, Ltd., Lucy Duff Gordon's company. It is a matter of public record that Cosmo Duff Gordon and Stengel did not get along well at all that night in the boat, which made his blandishments all the more galling.
 
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Dawn Connor

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I just have an observation to make, in that I am wondering if the reason for Mrs. Thayer's comment regarding the actions of the "supposed" quartermaster might be skewed due to the fact that the crewmen, at that point, knowing the seriousness of the situation at hand, might not have had "time" to cater to the needs of the women who were used to crewmembers treating them with "kid gloves". I feel in this situation that most of the crewmen would have been short tempered and in a state of turmoil themselves, causing the lack of genial behavior. Also, on another note, I always have considered that there may have been more 3rd class male survivors because of the fact that most of them would have been a little hardier, due to their less than pampered lifestyles, allowing them to physically handle the sinking better than the upper two classes. This is just on opinion on my part and I wondered if anyone else considers this a possibility.
 

Inger Sheil

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Hallo Dawn -

Quite possibly you're right - and not just in the case of the Quartermaster, but also in the case of other crewmen that night, in various boats. Maxton-Graham had some interesting observations as to what a volatile mix it could be, throwing passengers and crew together under stressful circumstances. I'm sure that the recipient of Mrs Thayer's remarks, had he had a chance to comment, would have done so!

I still believe that the 'QM' referred to was most probably Perkis. After all, would Perkis - if he was the figure in command of the boat - have permitted another seaman to have made that claim? He was the only QM in the boat, and therefore - in my opinion at least - the most likely candidate. There aren't too many others...there's Hemming, picked up out of the water before the boat sank, Perkis, McCarthy and Foley. Hemming mentions four men in the boat - says one was a fireman. Then there were the others they picked out of the water. So who - if not Perkis - was 'claiming' to be a QM, and if it was one of the others, why wasn't he 'called' on it? From Thayer's account, it was this QM to whom they were looking for direction, but his orders weren't of much use.

As I said suggested earlier, #4's efforts seem to have been a joint effort. George mentions Foley, others suggested McCarthy as well. Re-reading Perkis's account, he doesn't claim to have been issuing the orders - he suggests 'we' pulled people out of the water (as I said, one couldn't accuse him of being self-aggrandising).

In addition to positive accounts, of course, one should take into account those that point towards a lack of direction. I've been accused in the past of not paying due attention to a 'negative' account regarding Harold Lowe - a charge I reject, as I've utilised this account in my own work - but I wouldn't want to see more critical comments about the leadership situation in #4 glossed over because they don't fit the heroic mould Perkis has been cast in - Ryerson's observations on the 'confusion of orders' and 'no one seemed to know what to do'. Mrs Thayer's account about the man they were evidently looking to for leadership who 'was absolutely inefficient, and could give us no directions of aid whatever, and besides this was most disagreeable' shouldn't be ignored either. Then there are accounts that suggest that people swam to the boat because it was there. That doesn't mean, of course, that the pendulum of interpretation re #4 should swing the other way and we should rewrite history to have Perkis a disagreeable bungler and a lack of direction the prevailing theme - absolutely not! These may reflect a brief confusion, or the personal prejudices of the speaker (Perkis might have been able to give another opinion on who was 'disagreeable'!). And while some accounts speak of swimmers having to make their way to #4, I've found a few vivid accounts from Prentice about how they sought him out and found him on wreckage (so it really does seem to have been, as one witnesses testified, a bit of a case of both people swimming to the boat and them pulling others out).

What I think should be acknowledged is that the evidence concerning #4 and her crew, Perkis included, is not unambiguous. But then, as I finished my first post - their rescue work deserves to be acknowledged. Whether it was because they were the closest boat, the collaborative leadership effort on the part of her crew, or some combination of the two, they managed to rescue lives.
 

Inger Sheil

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You raise a good point, Randy, about Margaret Brown and our perceptions of her tending to overshadow the role of other women in her lifeboat.

Timothy, Third class women were not asked to testify but they, like their second class female counterparts, were able to speak to the media and to others. And I haven't seen any evidence in the accounts of those that did testify or speak to the media suggesting that the response to the people in the water could be broken down along class lines. As you recognise, there's no evidence supporting that concept.

My observation on first class women having, like the other classes, male relatives in the water was directed at how you were constructing their possible motive for not going back - i.e. that it was because they were of the 'lower orders'. And yet among those dying of hypothermia was their own flesh and blood. They might have feared them all collectively, but I don't think it's based along class lines.

I think the reluctance to return was universal, and crossed boundaries not only of class, but also of gender. Second class passenger Walcroft, for example, freely admitted that she was one of those who pleaded not to go back. There were exceptions, of course. Most of those we know about tend to be of more prominent classes, or of crewmen (Jones, for example, wanting to return), but no doubt there were also some 2nd and 3rd class men and women who aren't as prominant who also wished to return. There's a dearth of evidence on that point.
 
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David Haisman

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Hi Everyone,

Some interesting points here on the crewing up of lifeboat #4
Would someone like to elaborate on how many oars, steering oars and rowlocks were in position in lifeboat#4 and the number of qualified seamen?

Secondly, if only two men are rowing and one is sitting behind the other, this could only happen in a canoe or a craft with only enough beam for one ''butt''.
The outcome would be to go around in never ending circles unless the tiller was hard over to answer that course of action.
Totally unecessary and totally unseamanlike!

All the best,
David