Fifth Officer Harold Godfrey Lowe's Conduct

Sep 22, 2003
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Hello. I've Decided to do some Research on lowe's Conduct as Titanic's Fifth Officer.

Why Have I Decided to Reseach This? In My Opinion Lowe's Conduct is a Controversial Subject, and it seems in some cases as if he has been portrayed inaccurately.

Goals: 1. Brief Background Info. 2. Actions and Conduct during voyage. 3. Actions and Conduct During Lowering of lifeboats. 4. Actions and Conduct while in Lifeboat in Water. 5. Brief Account of life after Sinking of Titanic. 6. Conclusions

If Anyone Would like to Discuss Either of the two subjects (Also Researching Emergency Boat 1 and it's Occupants) Concerning my research, Recomend Sources, or Contribute to my Research (For Which of course you will Appear on my acknowledgements List) Please Feel Free to Contact me at:

Jdoneill@verizon.net

or

Jezzi_x_Fezz@yahoo.com

or IM me on Yahoo Messanger: Same as Yahoo Email

For More Info and a List of Sources Refer to Profile.

Also for anyone reading this. What Are Your Opinions on the Subject of Lowe's Conduct?
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>What Are Your Opinions on the Subject of Lowe's Conduct?<<

Well, in general terms, I think he did the best he could in very trying circumstances. Through the lens of 20/20 hindsight, it's not difficult to see that he could have done better, but the same could be said of a lot of others. Whatever else could be said, he did go back to look for any potential survivors when others stood pat.

Make of that what you will.
 
May 12, 2005
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There isn’t any conduct on Lowe’s part during the disaster that warrants serious criticism. His personality was a forceful one. His speech reflected that, but so did his fearlessness and determination to help save people in the water when almost no others were willing to risk it.

Ditto re: criticism of Boat 1’s people. If their actions (or rather inaction) had been vastly different than that exhibited in other lifeboats, it would make sense to censure them, but since no boat other than No. 14 made a concerted effort to save lives after the sinking, it is short-sighted to single their behavior out.
 
Sep 22, 2003
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I suppose you both have good points. all of which I shall take into mind.

As for Boat 1 and It's People, I'll agree w/ you there Randy, however It's main Attraction for me is the Duff Gordons.
 

Ernie Luck

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Nov 24, 2004
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I did read somewhere, can't remember the source, that Lowe was a very experienced seaman, especially at handling small boats. He was the only one I believe, who raised a sail on the lifeboats - think he used sail to reach the Carpathia.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Hallo Jesse -

I'm a little uncertain about how much detail to go into here - I have done many years worth of research on the points you outline, and have a near completed, fairly lengthy manuscript for a biography. I'm somewhat unwilling to divulge too much on Lowe's post-Titanic career, for example, as I do not wish to impinge on my own publication. However, I'd be happy to cast an eye over your completed piece if you like and provide suggestions. I'll just make some general comments here.

You're correct, Ernie - Harold Lowe grew up around small craft and the sometimes challenging conditions of the Mawddach and Porthmadog Bay. Two of his brothers worked as boatmen at various times in their lives, and one lost his life in that occupation. One of the earliest anecdotes about Lowe I've been able to trace to its source concerns a boat related incident.

Most negative constructions and interpretations regarding Lowe's conduct and actions can be traced to Daisy Minahan's affidavit, Charlotte Collyer's article, and his statement regarding 'Italians' (which he later withdrew). There were also remarks he made to Margaret Brown about making 'nabobs' take their chances with the 'good men' (which I believe tie into his other reported comments about making sure there was no 'dirty play' at the lifeboats). Minahan, of course, copped some of Lowe's more emphatic language - and Lowe's seamanly invective could be very strong indeed (and remained so his entire life). Collyer's account and its problematic elements has been discussed in detail elsewhere on the board. What I find unusual about his remark re Italians is not that he made it (it was fairly typical of comments from crew and passengers regarding non-Anglo-Saxons/Celts), but rather that he withdrew it. It is an exchange often taken out of the context of its age, and many commentators are unaware, for example, of the high regard Lowe had for the Chinese.

Against these accounts (and Collyer seems to have rather admired Lowe - certainly her daughter did), there is a huge volume of contemporary positive accounts about Lowe and his actions. What has surprised me is the strength of the admiration from those who encountered him during the evacuation and afterwards - as soon as the Carpathia docked, stories began appearing from those whom he had helped rescue. Even the newspapers noted how emphatic the admiration was - a steward arriving back with the crew in Plymouth was keen to tell the waiting journalists about Lowe's actions and his admiration for him. A leading stoker spoke enthusiastically about the fifth officer in what was called a 'burst of genuine feeling' by the journalist. Another crewman from the victualling department testified that 'Our officer did the finest action he could have done.'

Among the passengers, Selena Rogers told one paper that Lowe could not be praised enough, and to another said that she and 'fifty-four other women' owed their lives to him. Clear Cameron said something similar to a newspaper - 'We people who were saved in the last four boats owe our lives to him' and even opined that he was the only officer who did any work.

When Minahan's comments were published, there were those more than willing to defend him. Gracie had no doubt that he was 'intemperate in his language only' and 'in all other respects a first-class officer.' Sarah Compton remembered him as personifying the best traditions of the British Seaman. Rhoda Abbott (who felt that 'had it not been for Officer Lowe, I would have been drowned') stated emphatically that 'It would have been impossible for an officer to show more courtesy and many of the criticisms that have been made against this man are very unjust.' Another woman who had known him since childhood came forward to voice her indignation at the charges of him drinking and his blasphemy. It was, she pointed out, well known among his acquintances that he was an abstainer and always had been, and that whatever the truth of his blasphemy it was 'trivial' compared to the 'positive knowledge of his courage and services' as had been demonstrated at the inquiry. This woman had reason to feel strongly about Lowe - according to her, he had saved her brother's life when they were both children. At least one newspaper editorial was scathing about Minahan's criticisms, and this view was shared strongly by one of Senator Smith's offsiders who came to know and admire Lowe greatly during the inquiry. His involvement with those giving evidence convinced him that Lowe was the great hero of the disaster.

There were many dozens of people under Lowe's charge during and after the sinking, and multiple eyewitness accounts - it is inevitable that there should be a range of sometimes conflicting viewpoints on how events unfolded. Further, as Randy suggests, Lowe was a strong personality. He was also, as someone who knew him described him to me, a very rough diamond. It was inevitable that some of his words in particular would leave him vulnerable to negative interpretations, and this has continued to the present day. Even in 1912, the literary lions of the day (George Bernard Shaw and Arthur Conan Doyle) engaged in debate over his exchange with Ismay and its implications.

As the responses above indicate, his actions were not flawless. Had he the benefit of a fraction of the post-event knowledge that we do, he might have gone about some things differently - up to and including his use of 'language', which, according to Margaret Brown, was the one thing in his conversation with her he said he regretted. He was to also state that he wished he had been able to save more lives, and it was the opinion of his son that HGL wished he had returned sooner.

It's interesting to note that a contemporary observer, closely connected with the inquiry, marvelled how completely unaffected Lowe was by all the praise meted out to him. This ties in with other evidence - when Rene Harris tried to press him to take a reward (on two different occasions), he refused to accept and stated that he had only done his duty. When Selena Rogers wrote to thank him, he mentioned in his response that he thought that she and some of the others who wrote to him had been rather too glowing in their praise (while recognising that these responses came from the heart). One periodical reported on the possibility that he was sent out on the Australian run after the disaster to get him away from all the lionising.

The above is by no means an exhaustive overview of all those who had something to say about Harold Lowe after the disaster. I've left out or skirted around some of the more interesting accounts, as I'm hoping to eventually publish my work on this area in its entirety. As I said before, what is perhaps surprising is just how deep and emphatic the admiration for Lowe ran. Take, for example, the case of Rene Harris. She gave a detailed interview after the disaster in which she described his actions during the sinking, and how he had encouraged those under his charge during their time in the boats. She was among those who sent him gifts after he returned to the UK - in her case, the presentation items were an expensive set of nautical equipment, with each item inscribed to 'the Real Hero of the Titanic'. In 1932 she was to write of him again, and how she would like him to know that through all the years he had stood out in her memory as one of the finest men she had ever been privileged to meet.
 
Sep 22, 2003
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Inger

Thanks For Taking Interest in my Lowe Project. I'm not sure when it will be completed as I have to still have to look through a good amount of Testimony and Literature on the subject.

As For Lowe's Abilities as an Officer I do not plan questioning them. I will however review his actions, and make comments on them all which I will try my best to keep non critical.

As for why Lowe? In my opinion some Films and Literature have depicted him Innaccurately.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>What I find unusual about his remark re Italians is not that he made it (it was fairly typical of comments from crew and passengers regarding non-Anglo-Saxons/Celts), but rather that he withdrew it.<<

Inger, didn't the Italian ambassador have something to do with that? I seem to recall that it came to his attention (Not surprising considering how high-profile the Titanic mess was.) and he was a bit cross about it.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Hallo Michael -

Yes, Ambassador Cusani did approach Lowe about his comments, and Lowe happily obliged with an amendment that was 'endorsed' by the Ambassador.

Unfortunately we're not privy to the behind the scenes manouvering, and whether any pressure was brought to bear on Lowe by the WSL - if there was, Lowe doesn't seem to have grumbled about it later. Without knowing the full circumstances of what induced Lowe to withdraw the remark - whether cheerfully of his own volition at the suggestion of the Ambassador, or under duress from his employer or another source - it is difficult to comment. I suspect that it was worked out between Lowe and the Embassy, as the wording is unmistakably Lowe's own - had it been the result of some sort of pressure (e.g. the Embassy bringing pressure to bear on the WSL, which in turn pressured Lowe), I would expect them to have drafted it for him.

I've seen this sort of thing happen not infrequently both in the diplomatic service and in politics, and if it was imposed on him I think that an official would have very carefully worded the amendment and supplied it to him, and it would have sounded very different.
 
Y

Yan V Ivania

Guest
wasn't Lowe a hypocrite, he kicked out a guy from the boat ( there was at least ten more seats left) and then took a volunteer "when crew was short" C. Williams. What do you think about it anyway?
 
Jan 30, 2005
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Charlotte Collyer described two people being ordered/pulled out of Boat 14, a young boy and an "Italian." Like Inger said, Mrs. Collyer's account has problems (she claimed to have remained in #14 after all the passengers had been transferred to other boats), but I think there might've been other accounts about somebody getting kicked out of #14. Marjorie Collyer remembered it, although the newspaper has her claiming that the guy actually got shot. I think I also read somewhere that Lowe himself remembered a little girl becoming upset when he ordered someone out of the boat. Not positive about that one.
As for the "C. Williams" thing, it's in Lowe's American Inquiry testimony. He says that he allowed a passenger of that name into the boat to help row. I think Yan is suggesting that, since Lowe let C. Williams in, he shouldn't have excluded the other man. Or, if he was intent keeping out all male passengers, he shouldn't have accepted C. Williams. That's how I read the question, anyway.

-Kate
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Befor we rush to snap judgements, we need to be mindful of the situation they faced:

a) A sinking ship,
b) the Captain's orders on how to go about setting priorities in the evacuation of the ship, and
c) how to properly crew the boats when they had more boats then they had trained hands to man the rudders and oars.

We can only guess at some of the conversations that took place and how any orders were relayed to the officers who were not directly a part of that convversation. One side of the ship interpreted the orders as "Women and Children First" while the on thr other side, the apparant understanding was "Women and Children Only." Which side got it right we can only guess at but if the latter was Lowe's understanding, then it hardly seems reasonable to fault him for making it happen that way. Especially when, in a mariners view, orders from the captain carry the same weight as orders from the Gods Themselves.

On the matter of recruiting passengers as crew for the boats, remember that Titanic's entire Deck Department...the department where all the trained seamen would be found...amounted to 66 people, and that included the officers a window cleaner and even the surgeon. In short, they ran out of qualified seamen long befor they ran out of boats and some had to be retained on the ship to work the davits. (Using untrained hands to handle lifeboat davits is a good way to add to the growing pile of corpses.) People had to be found from somewhere to man the boats and scratch crews were put together using firemen, passengers, and on one boat, the rudder was taken by the Countess of Rothes.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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quote:

wasn't Lowe a hypocrite, he kicked out a guy from the boat ( there was at least ten more seats left) and then took a volunteer "when crew was short" C. Williams. What do you think about it anyway?
I tend to take a different view of it, Yan. Whether you agree with his decision to exclude men from the boat or not, I don't think we can accurately characterise it as 'hypocritical'. It was consistent with his policy of not allowing men into the aft port boats, giving preference to women, and taking on those men he thought necessary to assist (crew or passengers).

There was more than one individual who attempted to jump into the lifeboat - this much is consistent in accounts by Minahan and Collyer, for example. Collyer, however, is unique in speaking about the youth of one individual (assuming that it was her and not a bit of 'improving' on the part of the editorial team). Minahan, for example, says that:
quote:

As we reached the level of each deck men jumped into the boat until the officer threatened to shoot the next man who jumped.
Marjorie was also quoted as referring to the individual as a man - and suggests that those jumping into the boats posed a hazard:
quote:

Some men jumped into our boat on top of the women and crushed them and the officer said that if they didn't stop he would shoot.
David Haisman recalled his mother Edith remembering Lowe's words to one who jumped in as:
quote:

You could have capsized the boat! I've got a good mind to shoot you!
Lowe was managing a difficult situation, and attempting to maintain discipline in launching the boats. With people jumping in - and in some instances landing on passengers - this was not an easy situation. Even before leaving the decks, Scarrott had encountered difficulties with people trying to push into the boat.

As I've said before, had Lowe a greater portion of the overarching knowledge that we now have about what was happening, how it was happening, what the time frame to work in was, etc etc, he might well have made some different decisions. As it was, he could only operate with what knowledge he had, to the best of his ability. How well he managed that is testified to by the overwhelmingly positive majority of the accounts of those in the lifeboats under his care.​
 
Dec 5, 2008
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Hello,

I'm aware of how old this forum is, however, I would like to make a large thank you to Ms. Sheil for providing this information on Harold Lowe, and changing my views of him completely.

I admit in the past I was fairly skeptical of the man, and thought him incredibly racist and overly glorified (although I will admit the latter was mostly due to fangirl following on Ioan Gruffudd who portrayed him in J.C.'s version of Titanic by teenage girls who knew nothing of the real man) but I realize now that impression was due to false, biased information. Most of what I knew of him has come from I now realize misinformed sources, or others such as you yourself have sighted as wrong.

I now see Harold G. Lowe for the hero he truly was, and I cannot thank you enough for this enlightenment. I am new on this board, and have been lurking for quite some time and continue to be astounded by the sheer amount of knowledge you have pertaining to the Titanic and its crew, and the kind and selfless way you extend that information to the members (and lurkers like me!) freely on this board. We all owe you a great service!

So again, I mean this truly from the bottom of my heart, thank you.
happy.gif
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Hallo Kat - I'm a little overwhelmed by your kind comments! Thank you - I'm glad I was able to be of assistance in helping you to form a rounded view of HGL. It's my hope that once the book is published I'll be able to upload a range of the primary sources to ET relating to his conduct during and after the sinking, so people will be able to form their own views on his actions.
 
May 27, 2007
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Any date set as of yet for the Publication? Hmmm? I Hope the Lowe Biography is published soon.

As for Lowe's language that night I'd be cussing too if I found myself in the situation he found himself in. Folks jumping into the boat and squashing passengers! Lucky nobody got killed. I bet some folks got injured though.