Did Phillips and Bride exit thru the wireless shack's skylight


Lana Baker

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Nov 8, 2008
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I have a couple questions about the layout/position of Titanic's wireless shack - hopefully someone can clarify or confirm!

I understand that it was aft of the bridge and near the officers' quarters. I have also read that the operators shared the officers' bathroom and dining area. Does anyone know whether it opened directly onto the boat deck? It's often shown in movies as having a door leading directly out to that deck.

Also, some books relate that both wireless operators exited the shack via the skylight and not the door - is this true? I haven't been able to find a firsthand account from Bride where he stated how they got out.

Thanks for any info!
 
Jul 20, 2000
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Hello Lana,

>>I have a couple questions about the layout/position of Titanic's wireless shack ......... I understand that it was aft of the bridge and near the officers' quarters.<< Yes it was. See the deck plans here: http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/titanic/explorer/explorer.html

>>I have also read that the operators shared the officers' bathroom and dining area.<< The bathroom I believe so. Dining no. They shared a small Dining Saloon with the Postal Workers on C-deck, just forward of the Maids & Valets Saloon.

>>Also, some books relate that both wireless operators exited the shack via the skylight and not the door<< I think they went out on to the Boat deck via the athwartship passageway located a little forward of the Marconi rooms.
 

Shea Sweeney

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Dec 6, 2006
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Ms. Baker,

Your question caught my curiosity and I checked the deck plans of the Titanic which are available from the home page of this website in case you didn't know.

The marconi wireless room was on the boat deck but well inside and with no immediate exit to the boat deck. Therefore, with this in mind, the logical escape route would be, looking at the deckplans, the two wireless operators' escape route would have been out of their wireless shack, forward along a corridor on the port side which also featured many of the officers' cabins, and out through a door to the boat deck between the fifth and sixth officers' cabins.

As for the skylight, I must say that I had never heard it before and was skeptical at first. However, I read the electronic transcripts of Harold Bride's testimony at the American Inquiry and part of it was a letter Bride sent to a lawyer for legal matters that was read aloud at the inquiry. I think this letter interestingly supports that they may have climbed out of a skylight:

"...but now we could hear the water washing over the boat deck, and Mr. Phillips said, "Come, let's clear out."

Leaving the cabin, we climbed on top of the house comprising the officers' quarters and our own, and here I saw the last of Mr. Phillips, for he disappeared walking aft.

I now assisted in pushing off a collapsible lifeboat, which was on the port side of the forward funnel, onto the boat deck."

Notice Bride says "climbed on top of the house comprising the officers' quarters". It is a possibility that they exited normally but then climbed onto the roof of the officer's quarters but I think that is major evidence toward the skylight theory.

Also is Bride's testimony at the British Inquiry:

16571. Did you and Philips leave?
- Yes, we left the cabin.

16572. What did you do?
- We climbed up on top of the marconi cabin and the Officers' quarters.

16573. That was right on the boat deck?
- Yes.
16576. After you got on to the roof, what did you do?
- They were trying to fix up a collapsible boat that was up there, and I went to help them.

16577. That was on the top of the Officers' quarters?
- Yes.
 

Lana Baker

Member
Nov 8, 2008
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Thank you both for your replies!

I cannot remember where I read that they exited through the skylight (it could have been several sources), but the evidence Shea Sweeney provided certainly makes it seem very plausible.

Also, thank you for the clarification about how the Marconi room was connected to the boat deck. I will definitely look at the deck plans. Most of the books I have read on the subject seem to contain the same information about the wireless operators and their cabin - and they aren't terribly detailed. Certainly, many films and fictional stories of the Titanic have mistakes in this regard, with passengers entering the room and handing messages directly to the operators, etc.

Apparently, though, the only photo taken of the Titanic's wireless cabin was taken by a passenger - I believe his name was Father Brown. He was only on board for a short time, as I recall. Can anyone provide further information about this and/or any reference to a firsthand account from Brown about his experiences on board? Many thanks.
 

Allan Wolf

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Mar 11, 2007
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Asheville, NC
Shea, Lester, and Lana:

This IS an interesting question, indeed! It never occurred to me that Bride and Phillips left any other way other than the internal corridor that would eventually lead them out to the boat deck. But now you've got me wondering . . . It IS POSSIBLE that they climbed up through the skylight for a few reasons:

ONE) This particular skylight was about 5 x 5 feet square and protruded onto the roof of the marconi operating room, shaped something like a tiny house with a peeked roof. The glass part of the light was basically two sides, hinged at the cornice (or crown piece). These two sides could be opened by a gear device inside. All this to say that it seems that the skylight would have been big enough to allow a man to exit. And the skylight was hinged so it could indeed be opened. (Check out what Vol. One of SHIP THE MAGNIFICENT says about skylights).

TWO) At first it seems odd (indeed extreme) that they would choose to climb through the skylight rather than the easier corridor. BUT if they were inside the wireless operating room up until the final minutes before the sinking, they would have had a sense of urgency to escape. And since Bride states that he "could hear the water washing over the boat deck," they may have felt that the skylight was the most expedient exit. Remember what the airline stewardess says: "Your nearest exit may be just behind (above?) you!

THREE: This is just conjecture on my part at this point, but I wonder if the marconi men may have used the skylight to access the roof in the past? Remember that the six-foot tall aerial "stack" or "mast" that basically attached the ship's aerial wires to the roof of the ship was located right next to the skylight in question. The wireless men may have accessed this important part of their equipment via the skylight, rather than following the less direct internal corridor, outside, and up a ladder to the roof. Is it possible, in fact, that they had a stool or portable ladder inside the operating room that would allow them to easily climb up through the skylight? I don't know. But maybe. If Bride and Phillips DID use the skylight on a regular basis, this may explain why he doesn't mention the skylight by name. Perhaps it was so common place that it didn't occur to him to specify HOW he "climbed up on top of the marconi cabin."

FOUR) A skylight exit certainly fits Bride's movements. He says that "WE climbed up on top of the marconi cabin" meaning both he and Phillips. It seems unlikely that Phillips would climb into the roof from the boatdeck if his intent was to then "walk aft" as Bride says he did. Assuming that Bride exited through the skylight, it would have been natural for him to then take part in the failed attempt to launch the collapsible on top of the officer's quarters.

This is an interesting development that warrants further thought. Thanks for bringing this up.
 

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