Did Lightoller lie about Murdoch in a letter to his widow ?


Hello every one,
I was reading the testimony of Lightoller yesterday, questions 14009 to 14052 (British inquiry) and while thinking about a letter he had written to Murdoch's widow, something struck my mind : that latter could have been a lie.
Before telling you the reasons that have me saying that, let me just briefly explain few things about the way of making History a science :

In History, we work in the same way that police's detectives do, we interview witnesses... with the big difference that our witnesses are all dead. So through the years, a methodology has been build by few great historian, and one of them, maybe the most important, Marc Bloch (killed by the German during the Second World War, shot as a French Resistant) had found a way of getting nearer of the truth with the "external criticism" (regarding the medium of the sources, dates, handwriting, etc.) and "internal criticism", regarding the character by himself : who was he; his motivation to act as he did; his psychology; why could have been the reason to lie or not to lie; etc. For instance, that leads us to consider that maybe the book of Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz, written while he was waiting his trial, is also reliable as the one written by Albert Speer, Hitler's Architect and Minister of armament of the Third Reich, who was in jail, trial done, and who has nothing to hide for his life was not at stake as it was the case for Höss.
This is how History becomes a science just like psychology, sociology, biology, etc,

So after putting this in context, the point where I want to get is this one : I think that Lightoller lied in the letter he wrote to Ava Murdoch, the widow of the First Officer of the Titanic :
"(...) Having got my boat down off the top of the house, and there being no time to open it, I left it and ran across to the starboard side, still on top of the quarters. I was then practically looking down on your husband and his men. He was working hard, personally assisting, overhauling the forward boat’s fall. At this moment the ship dived, and we were all in the water (...)".

What makes me think that it was a lie ? Here's my arguments about it (and this is where I would like to have your comments and ideas : I'm not pretending to know everything (thought it could be fun to do so, but unfortunately, I am not as perfect, just a little bit! lol! ;))

  • First of all, he said in his testimony at the British Inquiry that from the top of the officer's quarters, he didn't saw the other side of the ship​
14009. You used an expression just now that as far as you knew it was the last boat to leave the ship. Can you tell us, had you been able to observe during all this time what was happening to the boats on the starboard side?
- No, no sign of the starboard side. You cannot see across.


  • Second, if he had actually seen the end of Murdoch, he would have mention it to the General Attorney while he was talking about Murdoch and the fact that he went to see on the starboard side of the ship to see if they need him for the boat left to lowered near the end.

"14048. And coming over to the starboard side on the roof of the Officers' quarters, could you see any other Officers?
- I saw the first Officer working at the falls of the starboard emergency boat, obviously with the intention of overhauling them and hooking on to the collapsible boat on their side.

14049. The other collapsible boat?
- Yes.

14050. That would be Mr. Murdoch?
- Yes.

14051. Were there others with him helping?
- There were a number round there helping.

14052. Then what happened?
- Well, she seemed to take a bit of a dive, and I just walked into the water

  • Third, we have to ask ourselves what could have been the reasons for the man to lie in this letter. And the answer is quite obvious : to comfort the afflicted widow for the headlines then were talking about the presumed "Murdoch's suicide" (We know now since 2002 from a letter found by the nephew of Wilde that it is most probably him that killed himself onboard of the Titanic, even if that have to be taken with a grain of salt, but as far as I'm concerned, I think that this theory is not far from the truth. But this is not the point here) and Lightoller certainly thought that something has to be done to help Ava Murdoch, and we could not blame him for that, even if by doing that, he messed up with History and get Historian's job more difficult, as if that was not enough messy like that!! :rolleyes:.

Thus I don't know what you all think about that, but for me, Lightoller lied to the widow (for a good reason, thought) and the truth is likely that nobody saw how Murdoch get drowned, unfortunately.
 
Nov 14, 2015
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I agree. Lightoller was a company man. He lied about many things to save the reputation of the "White Star" line and it's employees.
 

jeffjenlucas

Member
Jun 10, 2016
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Lightoller certainly WAS a company man. The movie, A Night To Remember, pretty well made him the star of the picture and a hero. Did he deserve that?
 
I saw A Night To Remember there's few weeks ago (all free on Youtube along with "The Britannic"; the "Titanic" miniseries of 1996 and many more) and since I've found that lie in the British Inquiry, I really don't think he deserves such a glory. And Lord Bigham almost agree with us in the conclusions of the Inquiry when he wrote that the fact of not filling the boats cost many lives and that the fear of the boats' collapse while in the air when they lowered it was totally absurd! For me, Murdoch must becomes the real hero for he filled the boat and save many many people... and many men! And to conclude it, I must add that the other foolish idea of opening the gangway doors -- and by this act shortened the "life" of the ship -- for lowered the boats was merely an idiot one!
 
Mar 18, 2008
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(We know now since 2002 from a letter found by the nephew of Wilde that it is most probably him that killed himself onboard of the Titanic,
It is getting tiresome to read always the same in short "it was not Murdoch but Wilde". Where is the proof for it?
I disagree with a Murdoch suicide. Actually there were only 2 survivors (Rheims and E.Daly) who were until the last aboard and mentioned a officer suicide. Aside that no name was given (it was only the talk of an officer) both not only gave different versions of the event but also contradict each other.

I must add that the other foolish idea of opening the gangway doors -- and by this act shortened the "life" of the ship
The only gangway door which (might) had been opened by the crew was the forward D Deck door on the port side which had no effect to the sinking at all.
 
A

Aaron_2016

Guest
The only gangway door which (might) had been opened by the crew was the forward D Deck door on the port side which had no effect to the sinking at all.
Boxhall said the gangway door on the starboard side aft was open and he was worried the people were going to jump out and swamp his lifeboat. You can hear his interview regarding that tragic moment at 34:10 in this video:




.
 

Ryan Burns

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Sep 23, 2016
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It was only Boxhall no one else in boat No. 2 mentioned that door! And Boxhall told that years later where part of his story changed!
Indeed. This is the same interview where Boxhall said that the "stern" was low in the water and that he saw Moody on the Carpathia....alive.
 
It was only Boxhall no one else in boat No. 2 mentioned that door! And Boxhall told that years later where part of his story changed!
If you go read the procès-verbal of the British Inquiry (question 13896 and followings, you'll see that Lightoller have ordered to open the gangway doors for people could get into the lifeboats more easily. But I recommend you to go read this :http://www.paullee.com/titanic/belowdecks.php (I know, the whole stuff is long to read, but go down and you'll see a section concerning the gangway doors. The author have written that what have said Boxhall could not be true for he only wants to look good for the BBC when he stated that. He also analyse the hypothesis that Lightoller (Lie-Teller! lol! ok it's an easy one!) could have lied about the fact he ordered the opening of the gangway doors, but some testimonies have made him believe that he had not for Murdoch on the starboard side was heard to have said to some boats to go round and come back by the doors, and the question the author is asking is "how Murdoch could have knows about the opening of the doors, for he was the other side from Lightoller" if you could imagine what this can mean. The author also says that the opening of those doors have made the ship flooded much faster because the ocean came through those doors when the ship was sinking, and once it did, it was impossible to close the doors because of the pression. And in the book "Titanic : a Fresh Look At The Evidence By a Chief Inspector of Sea Accidents" written by John Lang, at the pages 222-223, its written that the opening of the door did flooded the Titanic much faster, and you have just to be logical to know it surely does while the ship sank and the water get higher upon the hull!. In History, the real "crime" is to take something (or some testimony, like Boxhall's) for granted, especially in the Titanic's matters ;-) Hope to have help!
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
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People should read the evidence": this is what Boxhall said about the gangway doors:

"15473. (The Commissioner.) What did you intend to go back to the ship for? A: - I intended to go back to try and obey orders that I heard given through the megaphone.
15474. Was that to stand by the gangway door or what? A: - I do not know whether it was to stand by the gangway door; I do not remember any gangway doors being open.
15475. What were the orders? A: - Just simply to come round to the starboard side."

If there had been gangway doors open, they had to have been at the aft end because by the time Boxhall's boat was launched, the forward doors were under water. If the aft doors on C deck were open, Boxhall, who was only 200 feet away from the ship side at the time, would have see them.
The forward well deck C, flooded about 15 minutes before the ship went down. Sin the the ship was at that time, well donw by the head with her props out of the water, the forward gangway doors on D deck could not have been submerged much earlier than 20 minutes before Titanic sank. By that time, their contribution to the speed of sinking would have been very little if anything at all.

1st Officer Murdoch simply ordered boats to standby in the vicinity of the gangway.

I don't think Lightoller lied to save the WSL. If he did anything, he massaged the facts to make himself look more important than he was. He was the senior surviving officer so there was no one senior to him to contradict his evidence. If he had lied to save the Company then he was 'on a hiding to nothing' since he never did get a command while working for the WSL. In fact, caught lying to the HMs Commissioner of Wrecks could have cost him his qualifications and his career and he knew it. I believe that the 'white-washing' he referred to in later life was directed at the findings of the official Inquiries on both sides of the Atlantic.
 
Mar 18, 2008
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If you go read the procès-verbal of the British Inquiry (question 13896 and followings, you'll see that Lightoller have ordered to open the gangway doors for people could get into the lifeboats more easily. But I recommend you to go read this :http://www.paullee.com/titanic/belowdecks.php
Aside that I knew the sources and the link you posted I also wrote about the gangway doors.

The author also says that the opening of those doors have made the ship flooded much faster because the ocean came through those doors when the ship was sinking, and once it did, it was impossible to close the doors because of the pression. And in the book "Titanic : a Fresh Look At The Evidence By a Chief Inspector of Sea Accidents" written by John Lang, at the pages 222-223, its written that the opening of the door did flooded the Titanic much faster, and you have just to be logical to know it surely does while the ship sank and the water get higher upon the hull!.!
The only door which (might) was open by the crew was the D Deck door and by that time the water was already level inside the hull.
 
I'm writing an analysis about Lightoller, and I would like to have as much as opinions and facts as you could if possible, to enhance my writings : my question is why guys did you say that Lightoller was a Company man ? Where did you read that or how did you come to that opinion ? What is justifying that ? Did the close-questioning that Scanlan did (questions 13385 to 13408) where Lightoller became an hostile witness and take the defence of the company and other officers had a matter with that reputation? Thanks to all! And Happy New Year, wish you all best my "Titanic's pals!" :)
 

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