Did Boxhall Really Have Pleurisy?



It is alleged that 4th officer Boxhall became seriously ill with a high fever and contracted pleurisy as a result of his time in the lifeboat. However I read that pleurisy causes a sharp pain in the chest which makes it almost impossible for the patient to utter a few words of speech and it takes several weeks to cure, but the odd thing is Boxhall went to Washington and testified on the 3rd day of the US Inquiry. He answered around 900 questions and spoke roughly 8,000 words during a 3 hour long session which took up so much time that he was the only survivor who testified that day. One would imagine that it would be medically impossible for him in his condition to do that?


The press reported that the room he testified in was packed with about 1,000 people and it was so over crowded that the atmosphere inside was 'suffocating' and there were constant interruptions because of the noise. Boxhall was asked to return the next day to testify again but he did not show up. Instead, a doctor's note was handed in which read:

'This is to certify that Mr. J. B. Boxhall, third officer of the Titanic, is under my professional care and treatment and that, in my opinion, he is physically unable to appear before the Senate investigating committee to-day.'
Dr. Charles C. Marbury, M.D.


Dr. Marbury moved in high circles and had a number of politicians in his patient records. The doctor was approached by a reporter from the Washington Times.

April 23rd 1912


The Doctor said Boxhall first came to him on Sunday (the day before he testified) and that he "had been in pain since landing in New York." and that "Yesterday he had a considerable fever." But "yesterday" was the same day he testified for 3 hours in that crowded room. Something here sounds fishy. He was in pain when he arrived in New York and went to Washington to testify, and the day before he testified he went to see the doctor (possibly to obtain a sick letter), but the letter was received the day after he testified and when the doctor was questioned he said that Boxhall had a considerable fever on that same day he testified and that he could not attend the next day for further testimony.

When Boxhall didn't show up 3rd officer Pitman was asked to testify and they moved the proceedings to a smaller room which kept the noisy public away. The Washington Times then followed by stating that Boxhall had been taken "suddenly ill yesterday".


It feels like an effort was made to stop him from testifying and it failed. There was an attempt to ferry him back to England before the Inquiry began with the other officers, and a number of key witnesses managed to avoid the American Inquiry e.g.

Frederick Fleet was asked where Reginald Lee was. Fleet replied - "I do not know where Lee is. He got detained in New York." If strings were pulled to keep Lee out, then possibly an effort was made to keep Boxhall out, but it failed, and plan B was to submit a letter from a chosen doctor who would attempt to keep Boxhall out.

On Thursday the Inquiry were becoming impatient with Boxhall's absence and they wanted to know if he was genuinely ill.

Senator Smith - I would like to know if Mr. Boxhall, the fourth officer of the Titanic is present?
Mr. Cornelius - He is not here, sir. He is in bed.

Senator Smith - I want to know, officially, that he is. Can you give any announcement as to Mr. Boxhall, Mr. Burlingham?
Mr. Burlingham - Mr. Lightoller says that he is still sick in bed, Mr. Chairman.

Senator Smith - And unable to be present this morning?
Mr. Burlingham - He can not be here today. We hope he will be able to come to-morrow or the next day, at the latest.

Senator Smith - Officer Lightoller, you know of the illness of Mr. Boxhall?
Mr. Lightoller - Yes, sir.

Senator Smith - Your fellow officer?
Mr. Lightoller - Yes, sir.

Senator Smith - You have seen him this morning?
Mr. Lightoller - Yes, sir.

Senator Smith - And you say he is unable to respond to the call of the committee this morning?
Mr. Lightoller - As far as I know from the doctor; yes, sir.

Senator Smith - That is all.

Lightoller was crafty. He did not want to say what he personally thought of Boxhall's illness. He just said "as far as I know from the doctor". He would not give his own opinion despite being with Boxhall that morning. In fact Boxhall and Lightoller were staying in the same hotel during Boxhall's considerable fever / pleurisy, and Lightoller wrote a comforting letter to the widow of Murdoch and had the other surviving officers including Boxhall sign the letter. One would think that Lightoller would not wish to disturb Boxhall as he was resting in his bed under doctor's orders with a severe fever and pleurisy. Yet Lightoller came in and asked him to sign a letter and would not tell the Inquiry what his condition was i.e. "As far as I know from the doctor".

Just feels very fishy. What are your thoughts on Boxhall's illness and was it possible to talk for almost 3 hours with a high fever and pleurisy? As he was resting (or being briefed on what to say) he would return 7 days later and resume his testimony.
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