Did Boxhall Witness the Ship Break?


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Aaron_2016

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Boxhall gave an interview in 1962. When he left the ship he said the Captain looked over the side from the bridge and sung out and told him to go around to the starboard side to the gangway doors. He said "When I passed around the boat to try and get to this gangway door on the starboard side her propellers were out of water. I'm not certain if I didn't pass underneath them." When he reached the other side he decided to pull away because it was too dangerous to stay close. When he pulled away and looked back he said "You could see that her stern was getting pretty low in the water."

Does anyone know what stage of the sinking the Titanic was in when the captain called from the bridge and the propellers were already up in the air, and when he noticed the stern was getting low in the water was that after she broke and her stern was settling back?


Boxhall's recorded interview starts at 22:50




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Ryan Burns

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He probably meant bow, not stern. He was pretty old at that point. In that same interview he mentions seeing Moody on the Carpathia.

However, in regards to your title question, I think Boxhall had to have seen it break. Leaving so late in the sinking, Boat 2 couldn't have been all that far away when the ship foundered. Frank Osman says that they were 60-100 yards away when it happened and describes in terrific detail what happened (as someone would who was only 100 yards away from the largest ship in the world). However, Boxhall testified that they were a half mile away and that the distance made it where he couldn't actually see it go down.

I'll repeat what I said in another thread: As a trial lawyer who interviews people for a living, I'm GREATLY troubled by the fact that Lowe, Pitman, and Boxhall all claim that they didn't see it sink or that it went down whole. Pitman and Boxhall claim they were too far away to see it sink despite crewmen in their boats stating that they were only a few hundred yards away and that they saw it break apart quite vividly. Lowe, on the other hand, stated that he was only 150 yards away and that the boat absolutely didn't break its back and that she sank whole.
 
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Aaron_2016

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......Lowe, Pitman, and Boxhall all claim that they didn't see it sink or that it went down whole......

I think they might have prepared statements before the Inquiry and White Star representatives decided what they should not disclose - the ship breaking in two. Boxhall was unwell and unable to attend the Inquiry for several days. I wonder if representatives paid him a visit and asked him exactly what happened before he was put in front of the American Inquiry? Lightoller said "It was very necessary to keep one's hand on the whitewash brush.......Personally I had no desire that blame should be attributed either to the Board of Trade or the White Star Line, though in all consequence it was a difficult task.....I think in the end the Board of Trade and the White Star Line won."

Perhaps an easy way for the crew to avoid important questions was to say "I do not recall" or "I do not remember". Fleet could not answer perhaps the most important question of the Inquiry.

Lookout Fleet

Q - How long before the collision or accident did you report ice ahead?
A - I have no idea.
Q - About how long?
A - I could not say, at the rate she was going.
Q - How fast was she going?
A - I have no idea.
Q - Would you be willing to say that you reported the presence of this iceberg an hour before the collision?
A - No, sir.
Q - Forty-five minutes?
A - No. sir.
Q - A half hour before?
A - No, sir.
Q - Fifteen minutes before?
A - No, sir.
Q - Ten minutes before?
A - No, sir.
Q - How far away was this black mass when you first saw it?
A - I have no idea, sir.

Lookout Lee did not attend the American Inquiry. They asked Fleet why Lee wasn't there. Fleet told them: "I do not know where Lee is. He got detained in New York." I wonder who detained him and if it was a White Star official who decided it was better that he should not attend because if Fleet and Lee were asked to testify on separate days then their accounts might not match, and perhaps they decided to let Fleet attend alone and speak for both of them. Not sure if that is common in legal proceedings.
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Aaron_2016

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Boxhall said he had a hard time getting his boat around to the other side of the ship because of the "suction". I wonder if the portholes were open along the side of the ship like the Britannic and caused great amounts of water to flow in which created the suction and perhaps made her heel more over to port? When Boxhall described her propellers were out of water, do you think he was referring to just one or two of the blades or the entire propellers? I'm guessing that maybe the starboard propeller was partially above the water owing to the list to port and he may have passed underneath one of the blades as he made his way around the stern to the starboard gangway door.

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Alex Clark

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On a cold April night id have thought none of the portholes would be open. There's definately something odd about anyone in a boat claiming not to
seen the sinking. It's always puzzled me how the ship breaking in two escaped widespread knowledge with so many present.
 
A

Aaron_2016

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On a cold April night id have thought none of the portholes would be open. There's definately something odd about anyone in a boat claiming not to
seen the sinking. It's always puzzled me how the ship breaking in two escaped widespread knowledge with so many present.

Not sure what way the survivors were sitting in the lifeboats. I'm guessing some were facing the Titanic and others were sitting and facing the opposite way. Did Boxhall have his back to the Titanic as she sank? Perhaps he was more concerned with the suction and was trying to get the rowers to work harder and pull in sync to get away from the sinking Titanic?


I imagine the smell of fresh paint would have been overpowering in some cabins and they opened their portholes to let some fresh air in. In 2nd class there was a problem with the heating and some cabins were too hot. Charles Joughin worked in the kitchens but he kept the porthole in this cabin closed. He was asked:

Q - Though it was cold, do you know whether your porthole was open or not?
A - It was closed.
Q - On E deck are the portholes in practice opened from time to time?
A - Very, very often we keep them open the whole of the passage.
Q - You say yours was closed, in fact?
A - Yes, on account of the weather, it being a wee bit cold, I suppose.


It is unclear which decks Mrs. Ryerson was referring to in her account:

"The deck we left was only about 20 feet from the sea. I could see all the portholes open and water washing in, and the decks still lighted."

Q - When you went down into the water, from the boat, did you notice anything about the portholes in the side of the ship?
A - Yes, a great many were open.
Q - Did you notice anything in particular about the portholes on the water?
A - Yes, the water was washing in the portholes, and later I think some of the square windows seemed to be open, and you could see in the cabin and see the water washing in and the gold furniture and decorations, and I remember noticing you could look far in, it was brilliantly lighted, which deck I couldn't tell.
Q - Did you notice any of the lines of portholes disappear after you got in the boat?
A - Yes, she was sinking very rapidly then, we saw two lines and then we saw only one; it was very brilliantly lighted and you could see very distinctly.

Mr. Hemming went to an open porthole to see what they had struck. It is unclear if it was already open or if he had opened it to see what was outside. He said: "I went out and put my head through the porthole to see what we hit."

It is unclear which deck Mr. Stengel was referring to in his account: "There is only one thing that I would like to say and that is that evidently, when they struck the iceberg, the ice came on the deck, and there was one of the passengers had a handful of ice when we were up there, and showed it. Another passenger said that the ice came into his porthole. His porthole was open."
Q - Was there comment because of the fact that the port hole was open; was there any special comment on that fact?
A - He just wanted air. He said, "I left my port hole open for air."
Q - And he got this ice?
A - He got some of the ice in there.


Wonder how many portholes were open and if this caused the ship to list to port, and if this also caused the suction which Boxhall felt and created difficulty in rowing up the port side and around the stern to the starboard side as the water rushed into the open portholes. Wonder how many portholes are open on the wreck?


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There are lots of reasons why on a new ship in 1912 passegers would have opened portholes. First, most people slept in unheated or poorly heated (by modern standards) bedrooms. As a result, they were used to cool bedrooms with lots of blankets. A room heated to current day American taste would have been thought oppressive in 1913.

Something else that only ol' codgers will recall is the almost nauseating odor of oil-based paints. Today, a painted room has virtually no odor and is not filled with evaporated solvent smells. Not so in 1912 to be sure. Oil-based paint had a distinctive, somewhat "buzz" inducing quality even weeks or months after application. This was particularly true in confined areas like staterooms. Opening a port hole would have been the only way to introduce fresh air into passenger quarters.

And, a soft breeze goes a long way toward reducing mal de mare. It worked then as now. Fresh air in the face helps most people keep lunch where it belongs.

-- David G. Brown
 
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Ryan Burns

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Not sure what way the survivors were sitting in the lifeboats. I'm guessing some were facing the Titanic and others were sitting and facing the opposite way. Did Boxhall have his back to the Titanic as she sank? Perhaps he was more concerned with the suction and was trying to get the rowers to work harder and pull in sync to get away from the sinking Titanic?

He claims he was too far away to see it, not that he had his back turned. I think most people, officers included, would have been transfixed in those last few moments of the ship's life. That would have been the most astonishing thing they'd ever witness in their lives, so I'm sure most all of them were staring in horror at the ghastly spectacle. No doubt some looked away in horror, like Ismay, but most were surely transfixed.
 

Stephen Carey

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Boxhall gave an interview in 1962. When he left the ship he said the Captain looked over the side from the bridge and sung out and told him to go around to the starboard side to the gangway doors. He said "When I passed around the boat to try and get to this gangway door on the starboard side her propellers were out of water. I'm not certain if I didn't pass underneath them." When he reached the other side he decided to pull away because it was too dangerous to stay close. When he pulled away and looked back he said "You could see that her stern was getting pretty low in the water."

Does anyone know what stage of the sinking the Titanic was in when the captain called from the bridge and the propellers were already up in the air, and when he noticed the stern was getting low in the water was that after she broke and her stern was settling back?


Boxhall's recorded interview starts at 22:50




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Listening to the account from Lightoller, is it being read by someone? I ask because he has a definite American accent, which I am sure he didn't have in real life?
 

Alex Clark

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That's a West Country accent, isn't it? Although he was from Lancashire, perhaps his living in the south of England in later life altered his accent. It does a tad West Country to me.
 

Ryan Burns

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It's definitely Lightoller's original voice. The guy who played him in Cameron's Titanic did a pretty good job with the accent. I don't know my English accents, but perhaps his odd accent could be due to spending a lifetime at sea?

 

Scott Mills

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He probably meant bow, not stern. He was pretty old at that point. In that same interview he mentions seeing Moody on the Carpathia.

However, in regards to your title question, I think Boxhall had to have seen it break. Leaving so late in the sinking, Boat 2 couldn't have been all that far away when the ship foundered. Frank Osman says that they were 60-100 yards away when it happened and describes in terrific detail what happened (as someone would who was only 100 yards away from the largest ship in the world). However, Boxhall testified that they were a half mile away and that the distance made it where he couldn't actually see it go down.

I'll repeat what I said in another thread: As a trial lawyer who interviews people for a living, I'm GREATLY troubled by the fact that Lowe, Pitman, and Boxhall all claim that they didn't see it sink or that it went down whole. Pitman and Boxhall claim they were too far away to see it sink despite crewmen in their boats stating that they were only a few hundred yards away and that they saw it break apart quite vividly. Lowe, on the other hand, stated that he was only 150 yards away and that the boat absolutely didn't break its back and that she sank whole.

Of course! I am glad I am not the only one who finds it strange that we simply take the testimony of any of the crew as being completely factual.
 
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Aaron_2016

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Of course! I am glad I am not the only one who finds it strange that we simply take the testimony of any of the crew as being completely factual.

It seems strange that an experienced officer would describe the events in great detail in a recorded radio interview and yet some how confuse the word bow with stern? Surely he was referring to the stern? Charles Joughin was on the stern at the time Boxhall witnessed her bow or stern low in the water. Joughin was asked:

Q - Did you see the propellers come out of the water at all?
A - She was not far out of the water at any stage that I saw.
Q - So that to say that she stood up like that - (showing.) - would be wrong?
A - It would be absolutely wrong.

Joughin believed the stern broke and keeled heavily to port and he had to climb onto the side of the ship. I wonder if Boxhall had looked back and saw the stern keel over to port which might make her stern appear lower.


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Aaron_2016

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Trying to understand the position the stern was in when Boxhall said "her stern was getting pretty low in the water." I'm guessing it was the moment when the stern keeled over to port.



stern1a.JPG


Joughin was asked:

Q - The starboard was going up and she took a lurch to port?
A - It was not going up, but the other side was going down.

I wonder if Boxhall was observing the port side going down after she broke in two.



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Ryan Burns

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I still contend that he just had an 80 year old brain fart and meant to say "bow". The context of his statement is the giveaway. He's basically describing how as they began pulling away it became obvious to him that the ship really was sinking because the bow was really getting low in the water. Following that statement he describes how they continued pulling away, then sat on their oars, and how "eventually" the ship was gone. That seems to indicate a decent passage of time between when he recognized it was going to sink and when it actually did sink. His statement about the "bow/stern" would have occurred much earlier than the breakup/sinking (which he claims he didn't see anyways).

Not trying to shoot your theory down, but substitute "bow" for "stern" and his statement makes 100% perfect sense in regards to the context and timeline of his story. Again, in that same interview he describes seeing Moody on the Carpathia...alive. Seriously, I think he just misspoke.
 
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Aaron_2016

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I still contend that he just had an 80 year old brain fart and meant to say "bow". The context of his statement is the giveaway. He's basically describing how as they began pulling away it became obvious to him that the ship really was sinking because the bow was really getting low in the water. Following that statement he describes how they continued pulling away, then sat on their oars, and how "eventually" the ship was gone. That seems to indicate a decent passage of time between when he recognized it was going to sink and when it actually did sink. His statement about the "bow/stern" would have occurred much earlier than the breakup/sinking (which he claims he didn't see anyways).

Not trying to shoot your theory down, but substitute "bow" for "stern" and his statement makes 100% perfect sense in regards to the context and timeline of his story. Again, in that same interview he describes seeing Moody on the Carpathia...alive. Seriously, I think he just misspoke.


Thanks. In that same interview he said Murdoch told the Captain the order was full speed astern on the port engine, but during the inquiry he said the order was full speed astern on both engines. What is more strange is that the surviving crew in the engine room did not see any orders for full speed astern ring down and did not witness the engines going full speed astern, yet Quartermaster Rowe said he had to quickly pull up the log-line that was trailing behind the ship because he felt the engines going full speed astern and realized the log-line would be sucked into the propellers and had to quickly reel it up. The Titanic story is quite a conundrum.


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Ryan Burns

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My boy Boxhall really made a mess of some things. If only Moody had survived too. If the engines were thrown to full astern it would have knocked people out of bed. Barrett testified that the red light popped up in the boiler room, which meant "all stop". If Murdoch had thrown it to "full astern" the light would have remained green because there's no difference in the amount of steam needed for "all ahead full" or "full astern". Also, the standard operating procedure taught to officers for a collision was to throw the engines to "all stop" to keep the propellers from being damaged during a collision. Murdoch had the highest test scores of any of the bridge officers so I feel certain he knew what the heck he was doing.
 
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As a trial lawyer who interviews people for a living, I'm GREATLY troubled by the fact that Lowe, Pitman, and Boxhall all claim that they didn't see it sink or that it went down whole. Pitman and Boxhall claim they were too far away to see it sink despite crewmen in their boats stating that they were only a few hundred yards away and that they saw it break apart quite vividly. Lowe, on the other hand, stated that he was only 150 yards away and that the boat absolutely didn't break its back and that she sank whole.

Greatly troubled as you should be. However, you must also realize that eyewitnesses are prepped beforehand so as to appear consistent in their testimony. You can see this in the Olympic/Hawke trial that took place the year before. It was the known practice of lawyers to see to it that witnesses for their side avoided certain pitfalls when being questioned, and if possible, to see to it that they are in accord as to their observations and with orders given and the sequence of events that took place. It is expected that eyewitness accounts would differ somewhat from each other when it comes to specific subjective observations such as distances, bearings and time intervals. Yet, suspiciously, it was noted that there was just too much similarity in the testimony by Olympic's officers when it came to where Hawke was after Olympic steadied onto her course after turning around a particular channel buoy, and how Hawke was then gaining on Olympic. It was later proved that what was claimed by Olympic's officers simply could have happened the way they said.
 

Ryan Burns

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Interesting. Never knew anything about the Olympic/Hawke testimony.

I hate to besmirch the character of those men, but the fact that all 4 officers claim that it didn't break despite the majority of survivors saying that it did (including multiple people on their own boats) is pretty damning evidence that they were colluding together. Seriously, how in the absolute hell could Lowe, with the best seat in the house to observe such a thing, NOT see it breakup?
 

Scott Mills

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Interesting. Never knew anything about the Olympic/Hawke testimony.

I hate to besmirch the character of those men, but the fact that all 4 officers claim that it didn't break despite the majority of survivors saying that it did (including multiple people on their own boats) is pretty damning evidence that they were colluding together. Seriously, how in the absolute hell could Lowe, with the best seat in the house to observe such a thing, NOT see it breakup?

It's fine. They are human beings, and human beings are complicated. Through the lens of history I read no malice in their statements; however, it is very clear to me (and should be to anyone) that what was testified to an the inquiries was not the whole truth, and the whole truth was not told to protect White Star Line and the careers of these men.
 

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