Damage Assessment


Arun Vajpey

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I am a bit confused about why Fourth Officer Boxhall reported that he found "no damage whatsoever" (qv) during his initial damage assessment tour below decks soon after the Titanic collided with the iceberg.

His statements to the American Inquiry (excerpts):

Senator SMITH.
Where did you go?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I went right down below, in the lowest steerage, as far as I could possibly get without going into the cargo portion of the ship, and inspected all the decks as I came up, in the vicinity of where I thought she had struck.

Senator SMITH.
What did you find?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I found no damage. I found no indications to show that the ship had damaged herself.

Senator SMITH.
Did you say you went to the steerage?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I went down to the steerage.

Senator SMITH.
But found no evidence of injury there?

Mr. BOXHALL.
No, sir.

Senator SMITH.
One moment. Did you look farther, beyond the steerage?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I looked in all the decks. I worked my way up to the top deck.

Senator SMITH.
Looking at all of them in the forward part?

Mr. BOXHALL.
In the forward part of the ship; that is, abreast of No. 2 and 3 hatches.

Senator SMITH.
Then what did you do?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I came right up to the bridge and reported that I could find no damage.

Senator SMITH.
What did the captain say?

Mr. BOXHALL.
He said, "Go down and find the carpenter and get him to sound the ship."

Senator SMITH.
Did you do so?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I was proceeding down, but I met the carpenter. [J. Maxwell or J. Hutchinson]

Senator SMITH.
What did you say to him?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I said, "The captain wants you to sound the ship." He said, "The ship is making water," and he went on the bridge to the captain, and I thought I would go down forward again and investigate; and then I met a mail clerk, a man named Smith, and he asked where the captain was. I said, "He is on the bridge." He said, "The mail hold is full" or "filling rapidly." I said, "Well, you go and report it to the captain and I will go down and see," and I proceeded right down into the mail room.

Senator SMITH.
What did you find there?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I went down as far as the sorting room deck and found mail clerks down there working.

Senator SMITH.
You could not see what disposition they were making of them?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I looked through an open door and saw these men working at the racks, and directly beneath me was the mail hold, and the water seemed to be then within 2 feet of the deck we were standing on.

Senator SMITH.
What did you do in that situation?

Mr. BOXHALL. (continuing)
And bags of mail floating about. I went right on the bridge again and reported to the captain what I had seen.


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And this is what Boxhall testified at the later British Investigation (excerpts)

5358. What did you do next - did you leave the deck?
- Yes, I went down forward, down into the third class accommodation, right forward on to the lowest deck of all with passenger accommodation, and walked along these looking for damage.

15359. That would be f deck, would it not?
- Yes, F deck. I walked along there for a little distance just about where I thought she had struck.

15360. Did you find any signs of damage?
- No, I did not.

The Commissioner:
What deck is it?

Mr. Raymond Asquith:
F deck, he says.

15361. (The Commissioner.) You say it is F deck?

The Witness:
I am not quite sure, My Lord, but it was the lowest deck I could get to without going into the cargo space.

Mr. Raymond Asquith:
The lowest deck on which there is passenger accommodation, he said.

The Commissioner:
Is not that G?

Mr. Raymond Asquith:
Yes, My Lord, I think it must be G.

The Commissioner:
It is pointed out that he could not get along G deck, because there is no door in the bulkhead, and therefore it cannot have been G deck.

15362. (Mr. Raymond asquith - To the witness.) How did you get down to the lowest of these decks which you went to?
- Through a staircase under the port side of the forecastle head which takes me down into D deck, and then walked along aft along D deck to just underneath the bridge, and down the staircase there on the port side, and then I am down on E deck near e deck doors, the working alleyway; and then you cross over to the starboard side of E deck and go down another accommodation staircase on to F deck. I am not sure whether I went lower. Anyhow, I went as low as I could possibly get.


15364. (Mr. Raymond asquith - To the witness.) Did you then go up again through the other decks as far as C deck?
- I came up the same way as I went down.

15365. Without noticing any damage?
- I did not see any damage whatever.

15367. Did you then go and report to the Captain?
- I went on to the bridge and reported to the Captain and First Officer that I had seen no damage whatever.


15368. Did the Captain then tell you to find the carpenter?
- Yes, I think we stayed on the bridge just for a moment or two, probably a couple of minutes, and then he told me to find the carpenter and tell him to sound the ship forward.

15369. Did you find the carpenter?
- I met the carpenter. I think it would be on the ladder leading from the bridge down to A deck, and he wanted to know where the Captain was. I told him he was on the bridge.

15370. Did the carpenter tell you anything about there being water?
- Yes, he did; he said the ship was making water fast, and he passed it on to the bridge.

15371. What did you do?
- I continued with the intention of finding out where the water was coming in, and I met one of the mail clerks, a man of the name of Smith.

15372. Did he say something?
- He also asked for the Captain, and said the mail hold was filling. I told him where he could find the Captain and I went down to the mail room. I went down the same way as I did when I visited the third class accommodation previously. I went down as far as E deck and went to the starboard alleyway on E deck and the watertight door stopped me getting through.

15373. The watertight door on E deck was closed?
- Yes. Then I crossed over and went into the working alleyway and so into the mail room.

15374. What did you find in the mail room?
- I went down in the mail room and found the water was within a couple of feet of G deck, the deck I was standing on.

15375. The mail room is between the Orlop deck and G deck?
- Yes, that is the mail hold.

15376. Was the water rising or stationary?
- It was rising rapidly up the ladder and I could hear it rushing in.

15377. Did you go back and report that to the Captain on the bridge?
- I stayed there just for a minute or two and had a look. I saw mail-bags floating around on deck. I saw it was no use trying to get them out so I went back again to the bridge. I met the second Steward, Mr. Dodd, on my way to the bridge - as a matter of fact in the saloon companion way - and he asked me about sending men down below for those mails. I said "You had better wait till I go to the bridge and find what we can do." I went to the bridge and reported to the Captain.

15378. We have been told that at some time you called the other Officers; both Mr. Lightoller and Mr. Pitman said you called them?
- I did. That was after I reported to the Captain about the mail room.


So, Boxhall told both the American & British Inquiries that during his initial inspection for damage he went as far below and forward as he could (abreast of Nos 2 & 3 hatches) without actually going into the cargo area. He also stated that he retraced his path on the way back to the bridge to report to Captain Smith. In the British Investigation, he described his inspection route in Question #15362 both forward and back and repeated that he could find no damage. And yet, only a couple of minutes or so later, both Carpenter Hutchinson and Mail Clerk Jago Smith confirmed, by Boxhall's own admission, that the ship was making water fast. Smith is supposed to have told Boxhall that the mail hold was "filling rapidly" and Boxhall himself admitted that when he went back to check, the water was within 2 feet of G deck on which he was standing (#15374) and rising rapidly (#15376).

So, how did Boxhall manage to miss the ingress of water and see no damage during his initial inspection if he really went as far deep and forward as he claimed?
 
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Boxhall only get down to F Deck looking around the passenger area (3rd class). There was no damage and by that time no water there. If he would have gone down a deck further to G Deck he would have found some water there.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Boxhall only get down to F Deck looking around the passenger area (3rd class). There was no damage and by that time no water there. If he would have gone down a deck further to G Deck he would have found some water there.
OK, in that case why did he claim that he had gone "as low as he could possibly get" (according to him) and reported that he found no damage? I would have thought when the Captain orders an officer to check for damage after their ship collided with an iceberg over 400 miles from nearest land, it was important to pull out all stops and be absolutely thorough? A lot of lives could depend on what he found or did not - OK, specifically with the Titanic it might really have made no difference but the fact remains that Boxhall did not really go as far as he could have done.

Also, Boxhall appeared to have no issues getting down to G deck after Jago Smith reported that the mail rooms were flooding. Sounds like his initial inspection was very slipshod to say the least.
 
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TimTurner

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Boxhall was probably looking for major collision damage. He was also probably doing a quick survey, not a "lets find any and all damage." I think what Boxhall was looking for was "are we going to sink in the next 10 minutes".

If Boxhall had insisted on going down and inspecting the entire bow, it could have taken 20 or 30 minutes. If the ship was going under in 10, then everyone would be dead by the time he reported. If he got a report to Captain Smith in under 10 minutes, then they knew they had more time to do a more thorough survey.
 

Arun Vajpey

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There are loopholes in that argument above. The mail rooms started flooding very quickly and this had almost certainly begun when Boxhall arrived on F deck during his first inspection. It would not have taken him long to check just one deck lower on G-deck where the mailmen were still working and one of them would have quickly told Boxhall that water was entering their rooms.

Remember, by the time Boxhall returned to the bridge and reported to the Captain that he could see no damage, the mail clerks had not only discovered the flooding but Jago Smith was already on his way to the bridge to tell the Officers on duty.
 

TimTurner

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Another possibility is that Boxhall was not the only person inspecting for damage. If Captain Smith ordered two or three people to inspect damage in different areas then it wasn't Boxhall's responsibility to go where he wasn't assigned. If Smith had the manpower available, he certainly should have sent multiple people on a ship as big as Titanic.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Another possibility is that Boxhall was not the only person inspecting for damage. If Captain Smith ordered two or three people to inspect damage in different areas then it wasn't Boxhall's responsibility to go where he wasn't assigned. If Smith had the manpower available, he certainly should have sent multiple people on a ship as big as Titanic.
Yes, but isn't that a bit against available evidence? Who else was there on the bridge that the Captain could have ordered to check for damage?
- Murdoch and Moody were duty officers on the bridge and could not have left it. There is no evidence that they did either.
- Hichens was in the wheelhouse and remained there during all this activity on the bridge.
-QM Olliver was there and theoretically he might have been ordered to check, but he survived and AFAIK did not state that he was given such orders.

Actually, one possibility that is not mentioned in initial damage assessment is Chief Officer Wilde. Lamp Trimmer Hemming was woken up by the hissing sound of displaced air around 11:50 pm and went to check the source of the nose with John Foley. Almost immediately after they realised that this was coming from the vicinity of the forepeak, they met Wilde; it could not have been later than 11:55 pm then. Wilde was off duty at the time and if he had felt and heard things to cause him enough concern to get-up, throw on a nightgown and go forwards to where Hemming and Foley were, he must have been alerted early.

I am not familiar enough with the interior anatomy of the Titanic to know if Boxhall's first inspection route (which he described in his testimony) and Wilde's route from his cabin to Hemming's cabin crossed. But even if it did, AFAIK Boxhall never told anyone at any time that he met Wilde during his inspection, much less the Chief Officer designated any specific areas for each of them. Also, Boxhall did not say the Captain Smith designated any areas for him to check and leave the rest to someone else.
 
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Yes, but isn't that a bit against available evidence? Who else was there on the bridge that the Captain could have ordered to check for damage?
- Murdoch and Moody were duty officers on the bridge and could not have left it. There is no evidence that they did either.
- Hichens was in the wheelhouse and remained there during all this activity on the bridge.
-QM Olliver was there and theoretically he might have been ordered to check, but he survived and AFAIK did not state that he was given such orders.

Actually, one possibility that is not mentioned in initial damage assessment is Chief Officer Wilde. Lamp Trimmer Hemming was woken up by the hissing sound of displaced air around 11:50 am and went to check the source of the nose with John Foley. Almost immediately after they realised that this was coming from the vicinity of the forepeak, they met Wilde; it could not have been later than 11:55 am then. Wilde was off duty at the time and if he had felt and heard things to cause him enough concern to get-up, throw on a nightgown and go forwards to where Hemming and Foley were, he must have been alerted early.p

I am not familiar enough with the interior anatomy of the Titanic to know if Boxhall's first inspection route (which he described in his testimony) and Wilde's route from his cabin to Hemming's cabin crossed. But even if it did, AFAIK Boxhall never told anyone at any time that he met Wilde during his inspection, much less the Chief Officer designated any specific areas for each of them. Also, Boxhall did not say the Captain Smith designated any areas for him to check and leave the rest to someone else.
Slight question. Shouldn't those " a.m." times be " p.m" ( 11:50 p.m. and 11:55 p.m. Remember the ship struck the iceberg at 11:40 p.m.)
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Slight question. Shouldn't those " a.m." times be " p.m" ( 11:50 p.m. and 11:55 p.m. Remember the ship struck the iceberg at 11:40 p.m.)
Of course, my apologies and thanks. I must have been having a senior moment - several moments by the look of it. ;)
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Note: This below is essentially a repeat of post #7 where, as Robert Paige pointed out, I made an embarrassing error in the times, mixing up PM with AM. Attribute that to my advancing age, please. Guess there are downsides as well to retirement. ;)

Another possibility is that Boxhall was not the only person inspecting for damage. If Captain Smith ordered two or three people to inspect damage in different areas then it wasn't Boxhall's responsibility to go where he wasn't assigned. If Smith had the manpower available, he certainly should have sent multiple people on a ship as big as Titanic.

Yes, but isn't that a bit against available evidence? Who else was there on the bridge that the Captain could have ordered to check for damage?
- Murdoch and Moody were duty officers on the bridge and could not have left it. There is no evidence that they did either.
- Hichens was in the wheelhouse and remained there during all this activity on the bridge.
-QM Olliver was there and theoretically he might have been ordered to check, but he survived and AFAIK did not state that he was given such orders.

Actually, one possibility that is not mentioned in initial damage assessment is Chief Officer Wilde. Lamp Trimmer Hemming was woken up by the hissing sound of displaced air around 11:50 pm and went to check the source of the nose with John Foley. Almost immediately after they realised that this was coming from the vicinity of the forepeak, they met Wilde; it could not have been later than 11:55 pm then. Wilde was off duty at the time and if he had felt and heard things to cause him enough concern to get-up, throw on a nightgown and go forwards to where Hemming and Foley were, he must have been alerted early.

I am not familiar enough with the interior anatomy of the Titanic to know if Boxhall's first inspection route (which he described in his testimony) and Wilde's route from his cabin to Hemming's cabin crossed. But even if it did, AFAIK Boxhall never told anyone at any time that he met Wilde during his inspection, much less the Chief Officer designated any specific areas for each of them. Also, Boxhall did not say that Captain Smith designated any specific areas for him to check and leave the rest to someone else.
 
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We simply do not know why Boxhall did not go further. All he stated is that he went as far down as he believed that the ship was damaged.
Was he lazy, too tired to go further down, or expecting to meet a crewmember or passenger reporting about damage or water? We simply do not known.

Wilde seems to have been around as he met with Hemming (as already stated). OM Olliver was later send down to tell the carpenter to take the draft of the water.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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We simply do not know why Boxhall did not go further. All he stated is that he went as far down as he believed that the ship was damaged.
Was he lazy, too tired to go further down, or expecting to meet a crewmember or passenger reporting about damage or water? We simply do not known.

Wilde seems to have been around as he met with Hemming (as already stated).

Agreed, but what could Boxhall been "too tired" from? He was a ship's officer with responsibilities whether on duty or not. Despite his denial during the hearings, Boxhall must have had some idea that there was ice about that night. In any case, he was on the bridge soon after the collision and was ordered by the Captain to check for damage. He appears to have gone only as far as F-deck during his first inspection tour; how much additional effort or time would it have taken him to go one deck lower to check? Considering that less than 10 minutes later and by his own admission he stood on the G-deck and saw that the water was less than two feet from reaching that deck from the flooded mail room, IMO he could and should have done a better job in his first inspection.

I am not claiming that a more thorough first inspection by Boxhall would have made any difference in the eventual outcome, but that's besides the point.
 
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Agreed, but what could Boxhall been "too tired" from? He was a ship's officer with responsibilities whether on duty or not.

Only a speculation as he as an junior officer had 4 hours on and 4 hours off. His watch would have been over in about half an hour and he would have got sleep for 3,5 hours before going to watch again.



I am not claiming that a more thorough first inspection by Boxhall would have made any difference in the eventual outcome, but that's besides the point.

I agree!
 

Arun Vajpey

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Only a speculation as he as an junior officer had 4 hours on and 4 hours off. His watch would have been over in about half an hour and he would have got sleep for 3,5 hours before going to watch again.

When I was Boxhall's age in the mid-1980s, I worked in the Anaesthetics department (Anaesthesiology to our American friends) with a 1 in 4 duty rota - meaning one overnight shift every 4 working days. If I was on duty on a Thursday for example, that meant working from 8 am to 6 pm with very little break for lunch etc, then return to duty at 10 pm for overnight shift till 7 am Friday morning. During overnight shifts, we seldom got a chance to get anything more than a cup or two of coffee, it was so busy. Then, after one hour's break, I would have to assist in a normal full day shift from 8 am to 6 pm on Friday. Yet, if a patient suffered due to my negligence as a result of tiredness, I would face the full wrath and consequences of the General Medical Council.

Things have improved a bit for junior doctors these days but back then it was really hell. So, I know what it means to be physically and mentally exhausted.
 
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According to Boxhall, in later years interviews, he was not told to go below to look for damage by anyone. He said he decided to go on his own initiative. Apparently, he only decided to see if anything was happening in the passenger spaces, and had not intended to do a thorough inspection. Apparently Wilde was either awake or soon got up after the collision on his own because he too had gone forward to look for damage well before the other off duty officers were called out.
 

Arun Vajpey

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According to Boxhall, in later years interviews, he was not told to go below to look for damage by anyone. He said he decided to go on his own initiative. Apparently, he only decided to see if anything was happening in the passenger spaces, and had not intended to do a thorough inspection. Apparently Wilde was either awake or soon got up after the collision on his own because he too had gone forward to look for damage well before the other off duty officers were called out.

Thanks Sam. May I ask you frankly if you believe all that? I would have thought that the Captain would have ordered someone with him on the bridge to check for damage. Since Murdoch & Moody were still officially on bridge duty as was Hichens in the wheelhouse, it could only have been Olliver or Boxhall. Most accounts say that the Captain ordered Boxhall to do the checking but unless I have missed it, Boxhall did not clarify that point at either inquiry.

Captain Smith, Murdoch and Moody died in the sinking. Alfred Olliver in 1934 and Robert Hichens in 1940. I would be interested to know when Boxhall gave those "later years interviews"
 
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From his 1962 BBC broadcast:

>>>
When I got to the bridge, and the Captain had evidently arrived about the same moment, and I heard him say to Murdoch, “What, What is the matter? What have you struck?” He said, “we’ve struck an ice berg Sir.” He said, “I’m going Full Speed Astern, Sir, on the Port Engine.” She swung her head around towards Port; she was on the swing and that’s why she was torn underneath. She was penetrated in six compartments.

Well, whilst the Captain was talking to Murdoch, at the Starboard Wing of the Bridge, I slipped down to go forward and have a look to see if I could find any damage, nobody told me to go. You had to go down about four bridge ladders, you see. And I went forward … these Third Class Passenger these Southern European People were streaming up on deck… and I went down I think it was two decks down as low as I could go without removing any hatches or anything. I went down to the Third Class and crossed over to the Starboard Side and I walked along there and looked in the cross passages. I couldn’t hear any noise, I couldn’t see any damage. And I eventually came up on deck again. As I was emerging on the deck some of these men were on their way back again to their beds. And there was one man had a piece of ice and I took it away out of his hands wondering where he got it from. And I spoke to him in English and tried to make him understand that there was nothing the matter. Go down and go to bed and go to sleep again, you see. And I took this piece of ice and walked along the upper deck on the Starboard side to see where the ice came from and there just inside of the ship’s rail there was a powdering of ice, running along as though she’d compressed it. There was no wind you see, and it would fall inboard.

I came up on to the bridge again and reported to the captain, “I’ve been down below, sir, right down as far as I can go without removing hatches or the tarpaulin, right through the Third Class accommodation forward and I don’t see any signs of any damage, not even a glass port broken.” He said, “Did you see the Carpenter anywhere, Mr. Boxhall?” I said, “No, sir, I didn’t.” He said, “I do wish you’d go down and find him, and tell him to sound the ship round forward and let me know right away.”
<<<
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Thanks Sam. If you don't mind me saying so, Old Sea Dog Boxhall appears to have picked up a few hints from the two Titanic films.

From his 1962 BBC broadcast:

Third Class Passenger these Southern European People were streaming up on deck…

Hmmm....1962, the 50th anniversary of the sinking. It has other implications too, if one thinks about it.

If Third Class passengers were really "streaming up on the deck" as he went down, would that not have been an incentive for Boxhall to check a bit more diligently? Or perhaps he thought those "Southern European people" were needlessly panicking? Come to think of it, there were quite a few Northern Europeans as well in Third Class.
 
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Of course, my apologies and thanks. I must have been having a senior moment - several moments by the look of it. ;)
My apologies for any embarrassment I might have caused.
My only excuse is that I am an inveterate "nit picker".
There used to be a "nit picker's" website.
The 1997 "Titanic" held the record for the most "nit picks".

;-)
 

Arun Vajpey

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From his 1962 BBC broadcast:
When I got to the bridge, and the Captain had evidently arrived about the same moment, and I heard him say to Murdoch, “What, What is the matter? What have you struck?” He said, “we’ve struck an ice berg Sir.” He said, “I’m going Full Speed Astern, Sir, on the Port Engine.” She swung her head around towards Port; she was on the swing and that’s why she was torn underneath. She was penetrated in six compartments.

Well, whilst the Captain was talking to Murdoch, at the Starboard Wing of the Bridge, I slipped down to go forward and have a look to see if I could find any damage, nobody told me to go.

As I said before and elsewhere in the other thread, it is this part that Boxhall's statement appears pear-shaped. He has stated repeatedly that he was passing the Captains quarters when he heard the 3-bells; from that moment onward, Murdoch saw the iceberg himself, quickly assessed its position in relation to the Titanic's line of travel. While he was doing that, Fleet phoned the bridge, Moody answered, took the message and passed it to Murdoch. By then Murdoch had already decided on the course of his action and yelled the "Hard-a-starboard!" order which Hichens acknowledged and started to rapidly turn the wheel to starboard. Fleet and Lee meanwhile looking at the approaching iceberg while Murdoch put the engine telegraph to full stop. The lookouts were able to make out the bow start to turn to port and thought that the ship might just miss the iceberg; but when the Titanic had swung somewhere between 1 and 2 points to port they all felt the grinding sideswipe as the collision occurred.

Whichever way one looks at it, the highlighted sequence of events would have taken 30 seconds at the very least, probably a bit more. It was just after the collision that Captain Smith reached the bridge and interacted with Murdoch.

Therefore, I cannot see how it could have taken Boxhall almost a minute to get from being alongside the Captain's quarters to the bridge. I would have thought that if a ship's officer was heading towards the bridge and heard 3 bells from the lookout, the natural reaction would be to rush forward to the bridge to see what was going on. OK, it id possible that the officer might have gone to the starboard wing to see what had caused the 3-bells and if he had spent 20 or 25 seconds there as they tried the evasive maneuver but Boxhall never claimed that he did so. Therefore, his claim that Captain Smith was already on the bridge when he (Boxhall) got there himself is not acceptable.

Of course, if Boxhall was in his cabin having a cup of tea as he said elsewhere and took his time getting to the bridge, that can easily explain how the Captain was already there when Boxhall arrived. I am not certain whether it was acceptable for Boxhall to be in the Officer's Quarters at the time; he was on a 8 pm to midnight shift but told Senator Smith that he had "no particular station" at the time.
 
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