Closing Other Watertight Doors

Ajmal Dar

Ajmal Dar

Does anyone knoe if the Titanics crew were given 8rders to close the other watertight does other than the 16 that were closef automatically by thre bridge? By these i mean the doors that had to be manually closed by big wrenches. I believe that there we other watertight doors on F and E deck. Were any of these closef or were they left open to allow pasengers and crew to move through the ship and get out.


Here are all of the accounts I found regarding the closing of the upper watertight doors from the Inquiries.

Mr. Taylor - Heard alarm bell
"I was asleep when the accident occurred; sir. The alarm bell for accidents rang outside of our door.

Mr. Etches - Heard the order called
"I was awakened by something, but I did not know what it was, and I called to my mate and I said "What time is it that they are going to call us next?" It was then between 25 minutes and 20 minutes to 12. He said, "I don't know." I turned over to go to sleep again. At that minute I heard a loud shout, "Close water-tight bulkheads." I recognized it as our boatswain's voice; it was extra loud. I looked out and he was running from fore to aft."
Q - What was he saying?
A - The one shout, "Close water-tight bulkhead doors."
Q - How long was that after the impact?
A - That would be under 10 minutes, sir. Seven minutes, I would say, as near as possible.
Q - Do you know whether that was done or not?
A - Well, a seaman was running with him from forward to aft, and so I took it they were going along to close those doors; but my business did not take me so far as that door.

Mr. Harder - Witnessed a failed effort on E-deck to seal the door below
"I forgot to say that when I went down into my stateroom in order to get the life belts, when we came out of the stateroom with the life belts I noticed about four or five men on this E deck, and one of them had one of those T-handled wrenches, used to turn some kind of a nut or bolt, and two or three of the other men had wrenches with them. Stilson wrenches, or something like that. I did not take any particular notice, but I did notice this one man trying to turn this thing in the floor. There was a brass plate or something there."

Q - Was it marked "W. T."?
A - Yes; it was marked, "W. T.," and I do not know whether it was a "D" after that or something else. A few days before that, however, I noticed that brass plate, and, naturally, seeing the initials, "W. T.," I thought it meant water-tight doors, or compartments.
Q - Was it in the floor?
A - Yes.
Q - On what deck?
A - On E deck. It was on the starboard side of the boat, in the alleyway. I think this brass plate was situated between the stairs and the elevators. The stairs were right in front of the elevators, and right in between there, I think, was this brass plate. We heard one of these men with the wrenches say: "Well, it's no use. This one won't work. Let's try another one." They did not seem to be nervous at all; so I thought at the time there was no danger; that they were just doing that for the sake of precaution.
Q - Did any of those men state, in your hearing, the importance of being able to turn that bolt or not?
A - No, sir; they did not.
Q - Did you gather from what you saw that it was connected directly with the water-tight compartments?
A - Yes, sir, I thought it was. I related the incident to Mr. Bishop after the accident.
Q - How large was this plate?
A - The plate was, I should say, about ten inches or a foot wide. It was about circular. I do not remember anything else about it, except that it had the initials, "W. T. C." or "W. T. D." or something like that. I know it had the initials "W. T." and something else.

Mr. Rule - Heard alarm bell and saw passengers being escorted up E-deck corridor (Scotland road)
Q - Did you think that something was wrong?
A - I thought so when the ship stopped suddenly.
Q - Did you notice anything further with the engines?
A - Not until she went full speed astern.
Q - You did notice that?
A - I noticed that and the electric bells going in the fidley.
Q - Did anyone come to the glory hole and tell you to get up?
A - Not then.
Q - When did they come?
A - I got up and dressed immediately the engines stopped. The engines reversed.
Q - She reversed?
A - Yes.
Q - When did it stop?
A - Almost immediately and the electric bells below started ringing, and I dressed and went right up on deck.
Q - The electric bells started ringing; was that attached to the Stone-Lloyd doors, the automatic doors?
A - Down below in the fidley.
Q - You could hear them ringing?
A - Yes, from my room.
Q - Did anybody come then and give any orders?
A - No.
Q - Did anybody receive any orders that night?
A - Not till later on in the night.
Q - Who gave orders then?
A - I came back to my room and the chief bedroom steward then came down.
Q - How long after she struck did you come back to your room?
A - Possibly it may be 20 minutes.
Q - When you got back to your room whom did you hear giving orders?
A - The chief bedroom steward came down.
Q - What is his name?
A - Penrose.
Q - Did anyone give the stewards’ department any orders what to do?
A - They gave me no orders.
Q - Did you see any orders given by any of these people in position?
A - No.
Q - Did you see any stewards going forward or aft to the third class?
A - As I passed out on E deck, Muller, the interpreter, was getting all his people from forward aft, and they were taking their luggage with them on E deck.
Q - He was getting them from forward to aft?
A - Yes, the afterend of the ship.

Mr. Joughin - Was in his cabin on E-deck and witnessed the crew about to close the door on Scotland road some time after 1.30am.
Q - And the water was coming from forward?
A - The water was coming from forward.
Q - So that if that bulkhead door had been closed it might possibly have kept the water out?
A - The door was not closed, but just about that time I saw two men coming and they said they were going to close it, but I did not see it closed.
Q - Was it closed after they said that?
A - I do not know; I walked upstairs.
Q - You have told us that you saw some men coming along to close the watertight doors on the alleyway?
A - Yes.
Q - Do you know who the men were?
A - No.
Q - Was it the last time that you were in the alleyway that you saw them coming?
A - Yes.
Q - And were they closing these doors?
A - They were setting about it.
Q - With spanners?
A - Yes, one large spanner. The spanner is alongside the door in a click ready for use.
Q -The spanner is kept there so that anybody can use it?
A - Yes.
Q - That was the last time you were down the alleyway?
A - The last time I was on E deck.
Q - And you actually saw them doing that?
A - Yes, they were working on it.
Q - Did the men working at No. 23 door tell you they had got orders about it?
A - No, I did not speak to them.
Q - You do not know whether they were closing or had closed any other watertight doors?
A - No, I do not know.

I believe the doors were not closed for a significant time because the order was given to escort the passengers from forward to aft via the Scotland road corridor and they needed to keep this corridor open for as long a possible. This could explain why the doors were kept open for such a long time. If they failed to close them then the water would spill up the corridor and sink the ship bodily. I have heard a theory that these doors were intentionally kept open in order to allow the ship to sink more evenly so that the boats could be launched, but I have heard reports from newspapers that said the stewards did not take the matter seriously and they did not seal the doors owing to a lack of communication and team work. A similar situation happened with the gangway doors. The lifeboats were supposed to stay close to the gangway doors and the passengers would disembark via rope ladders. There must have been a break down in communication and nothing happened. Even in the first stages of the evacuation there was a blunder about which deck the passengers were supposed to enter the lifeboats e.g.

Mr. Woolner heard Captain Smith give the following order:

US Inquiry - "He said: "I want all the passengers to go down on A deck, because I intend they shall go into the boats from A deck." I remembered noticing as I came up that all those glass windows were raised to the very top; and I went up to the captain and saluted him and said: "Haven't you forgotten, sir, that all those glass windows are closed?" He said: "By God, you are right. Call those people back." Very few people had moved, but the few that had gone down the companionway came up again, and everything went on all right."

Q - Then the order must have been countermanded?
A - Immediately.

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Thanks for looking that up, it's a useful resource. However, I think Rule's testimony concerns the automatic doors, as those were apparently Stone-Lloyd doors (I wish I had Titanic: The Ship Magnificent here so I could check), and he says he hears a bell "down below in the fidley". That suggests Rule heard the bells from the nearby Boiler Room No. 1. Taylor was asleep in the firemen's quarters on F Deck and probably heard the alarm bells from the boiler rooms as well. The automatic WTDs definitely had an alarm bell operated from the bridge, which was supposed to be rung for 10 seconds before activating the WTD switch. There's no evidence about whether Murdoch rang the bell according to procedure but it is important that the bells were heard. Also, I don't think the upper WTDs had bells. They don't seem to have any of the elaborate machinery afforded the boiler rooms.

There's also the doors Steward Wheat closed:

Joseph Wheat - Doors on F Deck between Turkish Baths and Swimming Bath
10922. Then what did you do? Where did you go?
- I went upstairs to E deck again and went down to F deck to close the bulkhead doors on F deck by the turkish baths. There are two bulkhead doors there.

10923. And did you close those?
- Yes.

10924. Did you do that alone, or did somebody help you?
- I closed the inside one myself, and then to close the other we had to go on top and turn that one with a key. Mr. Dodd and Crosby, the turkish bath attendant, helped me.

These happen to be a crucial pair of doors because they're close to the damage. The other really important doors were in Third Class on F Deck forward. The doors to the Third Class Dining Saloon may have also been in areas that flooded before the breakup. All the E Deck doors were well aft and wouldn't have affected the sinking much.

Overall there is very little evidence about the closing of the WTDs. I suspect the failure to close doors, if any, was the result of disorder and lack of training, rather than a deliberate effort to change the way the ship sank. I suspect only Thomas Andrews could have even conceived of such a thing and it would have required Captain Smith's permission to carry out. We know the officers and captain gave orders to close the WTDs but they do not appear to have given specific orders to check that the order was carried out.

Fortunately, the design of the ship was such that most of the forward bulkheads lacked openings and only a few of the doors played a significant role in delaying the sinking.
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Dear Aaron,

Thank you for your fabulouscanswer which confims to me the crew were under instructions to closecthe upper watertight doors and had varying degrees of success. Once again, thanks very much.