Did Murdoch shoot himself?


Aly Jones

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Dec 15, 2019
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I believe it was Captain Smith that shot himself. No other officer had full responsibility of the ship and passengers. Why would any of the officer kill themselfs knowing Smith would be the one that would be blamed for the disaster. What I mean is no other officer could speed up or slow down the ship without Smith's permission.
The ship, crew and passengers safety is all in the hands of the captain.

And I'm pretty sure Captain Smith did not want to survive that night to face what was coming to him. The rest of the officers had an excuse.
 

J Sheehan

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Aug 23, 2019
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There has to be an alternative explanation as to how Murdoch died, and there's four possible methods I can think of:

1: Murdoch ended up in the water and died of hypothermia, just like most of Titanic's victims did.

2: He was killed when the forward funnel fell on top of him.

3: Murdoch made it to the overturned Collapsible B, but died of exposure during the night.

4: His leg got caught in the lifeboats falls and he got dragged underwater and drowned.

Of these four scenarios, I think the fourth one is the most likely way Murdoch died but do let me know what you all think.
 

Aly Jones

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Dec 15, 2019
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There has to be an alternative explanation as to how Murdoch died, and there's four possible methods I can think of:

1: Murdoch ended up in the water and died of hypothermia, just like most of Titanic's victims did.

2: He was killed when the forward funnel fell on top of him.

3: Murdoch made it to the overturned Collapsible B, but died of exposure during the night.

4: His leg got caught in the lifeboats falls and he got dragged underwater and drowned.

Of these four scenarios, I think the fourth one is the most likely way Murdoch died but do let me know what you all think.
His body was never recovered. I wished his body was recovered so then we would know he didn't die by drowning or if the funnel fall on him.
I really hope he died quick and unpainful death. I really like officer Murdoch.
I'm hoping he didnt die as number 2, or 4. What a horrible death. I really wished he survived.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Isn't this the same Thomas Whiteley who claimed that he had swum in those freezing waters for several hours before reaching Collapsible B and even then had to wait for someone already on board to die before being pulled aboard in the dead person's place? He later reported that he had swallowed so much water that his stomach had to be removed and replaced.

Sounds like a highly reliable witness. o_O
 
Nov 14, 2005
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What do you think of Thomas Whitley's accounts?

He saw wilde shoot a man and three others say Murdoch shot himself.
I believe he probably heard those stories. Whether or not what he heard was true is a different matter. If you read the newspapers right after the sinking they had everybody shooting everyone or all the officers who didn't make it commiting suicide including Capt Smith. Some were tales told by crew members and passengers but a lot were just made up. Yellow journalism...the more things change the more they stay the same...as the saying goes. I hadn't read that article before so thanks. I will poke around to see if I can find the rest. Cheers.
 

Aly Jones

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OK no worries gents.

How did the story come about that an officer shot himself? Why would survivors start up a rumour like that for?
 

Arun Vajpey

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It is not entirely a rumour as such. It does seem like a few shots were fired 'in anger' right towards the end, probably in the vicinity of Collapsible A. But by whom and more importantly at whom is subject to speculation and debate and we may never have the correct answer. The issue is complicated by the fact that Lowe, Lightoller, Murdoch and probably McElroy had fired shots into the air earlier to discourage passengers from rushing the lifeboats. Some of the 'witness' statements about the 'shootings' came from survivors who had left the Titanic on earlier lifeboats and who were too far away from the sinking ship to be able to see what was going on the decks but could still hear the sounds.

Wormstedt & Fitch's extensive research article is the best source for this. One can read the whole thing and make up one's own mind, but of course, even then it will be speculation.

The best resource for this subject by far is Wormstedt & Fitch's research article "Shots in the Dark"

Shots in the Dark

Click on the names in the left hand column to get details of their statements and impressions.
 

chrismireya

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Apr 7, 2019
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OK no worries gents.

How did the story come about that an officer shot himself? Why would survivors start up a rumour like that for?
Hi Aly!

I think that there is a lot to say about recollections during the "fog of war." The one thing that we learn from history is that we seldom learn from history. This is because, as Churchill quoted, "History is written by the victors." In this case, it is written by the survivors. The problem, of course, is that survivors' stories (in tragedies) often contradict one another.

If we look at recent tragedies, certain myths are repeated so often that they almost seem factual -- especially if they are reported and repeated often enough. Look at many of the myths from the tragedies of 9/11. I've heard so many stories that I assumed were true (because I heard them often enough from multiple people who were there) and later learned that they simply weren't true.

Consider the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The story of "hands up, don't shoot" was repeated often by many purported eyewitnesses and media pundits. The photo of Michael Brown showed what looked like a child. It fit a narrative of an unarmed black youth being shot by a prejudiced police officer.

The investigation showed that this simply wasn't the case. Michael Brown was actually 18-years-old, 6'4" in height and weighed nearly 300 lbs. While many (if not most) of the "eyewitnesses" interviewed by police claimed that Brown stopped and was attempting to surrender to the officer before being shot, there were a handful of eyewitnesses who were NOT interviewed by media outlets.

A couple of eyewitnesses were actually on the phone with 9-1-1 dispatchers at the time of the shooting. They described a scene and scenario that was confirmed by ballistics and the investigation. It also coincided completely with the testimony of the officer involved. There was a confrontation, a subsequent struggle and, sadly, a shooting at close range.

Why would so many people claim that Brown was surrendering but brutally murdered by a police officer?

I suspect that it is a scenario in which a narrative is amalgamated from various accounts. The stories are told so often that they kind of become something of an accepted version. It doesn't matter that those accounts often conflict with one another or some of the testimony might not be as credible.

I think that the same thing happened with Titanic. There is a lot of conflicting testimony. Some people saw the ship break apart. Others were adamant that it did not break apart. Some people saw the ship listing sharply to port. Others saw it on an even keel.

I think that much of this goes back to the fact that these survivors were picked up by one ship -- Carpathia. After the rescue, they likely shared their stories with one another about what they saw. While the images of the tragedy was likely fresh in their minds, some of their "memories" might have been influenced by what others claimed to have seen.

This is further compounded by the reporters waiting at the dock that sought out survivors upon arrival of the Carpathia. Some people did have testimonies that changed somewhat over time.

Personally, I think that the most credible witnesses are those who have testimony that is validated by known facts, science or evidence. In the case of Titanic, we know that many were adamant that the ship broke apart. That went "against the wind" of the official inquiries. Yet, it was true -- and only confirmed in 1985 (after many of those individuals were already dead).

We can discount other things. Those who thought that they saw the bow of the ship rise out of the water? That is physically impossible.

I don't know what to think about the "shooting." I do think that there were shots fired that night. However, they might not have been fired AT someone. They might have been a warning (against people swamping into a lifeboat). Or, of course, they might have been an attempt by an officer to get a fellow officer's attention (or even an attempt to get the attention of a lifeboat to return). Of course, these are just guesses.

My point is that memories can be skewed by the "fog of war." We've all seen those lectures about how many eyewitness testimonies can be incorrect -- even moments after an event. During a sinking of a massive ocean liner, you have a lot of things on your mind. The most important is your own personal safety and/or the safety of your loved ones. The rest of it sometimes is something of a "blur."

Why would a rumor about Murdoch start and become spread by survivors?

Some people like to feel more important than they really were. Many statements of eyewitnesses were from people who left the ship early. Some of their stories were seen from a vantage point of a lifeboat (at sea level) when they were far from one particular side of the ship too.

The one thing that they have in common was that they were all congregated onto a much smaller boat (Carpathia) as it went took them to a dock. I suspect that many memories were forged or, at least, influenced during that time.
 
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Tim Gerard

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The other day I was reading about the near miss with the SS New York in Southampton and one witness described the New York's line parting "it snapped like the crack of a gun".

It got me thinking, regarding witnesses late in the sinking saying officers fired shots, in all the chaos as the ship's final plunge started, could someone have heard the stays holding up the forward-most funnel snapping as the funnel was starting to fall and mistook that for gunfire?
 
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Definant possibility. I've heard various metal equiptment come apart over the years and sometimes it does sound like a rifle being fired. Cables under the right conditions snapping will create a sonic boom when the end goes flying.
 

Aly Jones

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You know how many romours have been started over the centuries about titanic ie, switch theory, coal fire, etc.. That was all started by our generation of people. Well maybe it's the samething with them and people havnt changed at all. People love starting rumours because people love gossip.?
 

Arun Vajpey

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The other day I was reading about the near miss with the SS New York in Southampton and one witness described the New York's line parting "it snapped like the crack of a gun".

It got me thinking, regarding witnesses late in the sinking saying officers fired shots, in all the chaos as the ship's final plunge started, could someone have heard the stays holding up the forward-most funnel snapping as the funnel was starting to fall and mistook that for gunfire?
I suppose someone in a lifeboat some distance away fro the sinking Titanic could have mistaken sounds of snapping stays for gunfire, but a few survivors still on the ship at the time (or very near) also reported gunshots and are unlikely to have made a similar mistake. Of course, their statements were not similar or even consistent, but with so many people hearing gunshots (not necessarily who was shooting at whom etc), there must be some truth in it.

Eugene Daly, George Rheims, Richard Williams and August Weikman all mentioned it. By the same token, Archibald Gracie, Edward Brown etc who were also in the vicinity did not mention any shooting.

Like has been said, there is the possibility that many survivors "compared notes" about the alleged shooting on board the Carpathia and a story composes of collective memories took shape over time.

I don't think we'll ever know the actual truth. But from pure speculation (and nothing more), I personally do not believe that First Officer Murdoch either shot anyone or himself.
 

Tim Gerard

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I agree with you Arun, I personally don't think Murdoch or any of the officers shot and killed himself, but I don't really have too much other than my gut to go by. I do think it's very possible for Murdoch (or Wilde) to have showed a gun and threatened the crowd to prevent a rush on Collapsible A (similar to Lightoller in the 1997 movie threatening to "shoot you all like dogs"), or maybe have fired a warning shot into the air.

It's one of those mysteries that we'll never know 100% for sure. I do agree with you of survivors comparing notes on the Carpathia, and between that and decades later movie directors (such as James Cameron) deciding they like the idea of the guilt-ridden officer on watch when the ship hit the iceberg shooting himself, we have the story of Murdoch's suicide.

Of course it's possible I could be way, way wrong on all of this. I have a theory very slowly forming in my mind (there's not much else to do during a pandemic lockdown) but it's far from being fully developed.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Part of the problem might be human nature. In a stressful, anxiety-ridden situation where no one was certain if they would live or die - at least those still on board the Titanic or one of the later lifeboats - to hear a gunshot would mean an immediate subconscious thought that the gun was fired at someone. Also Murdoch as the Officer on duty at the time of the collision or Wilde because of his personal bereavement (wife) or Smith as the Captain would jump into survivor's minds as 'natural' candidates to take their own lives. Add the darkness, rapidly moving people on the deck etc would create all sorts of impressions in people's minds.
 

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