General Facts


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Holly Hewlett

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Hi everyone! I do not know much about the Firemen aboard the Titanic, so I would be grateful if you could answer any or all of my questions:
- Approximately how many firemen where there aboard the Titanic?
- What was their work schedule like? Surely they did not work 24/7!
- What did they do in their free time (if they had any) besides sleep?
- How many firemen managed to survive the entire disaster?
- Besides other firemen, would they have mixed with any other people aboard the Titanic? And was it frowned upon if they did?

Thank you to anyone who can answer these questions.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Hallo, Holly. If you include the trimmers, there were about 250 men signed on to work in the stokeholds. These were organised into three shifts or 'watches'. If you were in the 8-12 watch, for instance, you would have worked from 8am to noon, then again from 8pm to midnight. When not on watch or sleeping, there wasn't much to do except eating, drinking tea, smoking and conversation. No leisure facilities laid on for the crew! They certainly wouldn't have been expected (nor had the opportunity) to mingle with the passengers, and they had their own sleeping quarters, mess, washrooms, etc so they didn't have much contact with other crew members either.

A little over 1 in 4 of the firemen and trimmers survived. Notably, only 12 survived from the 81 men of the 8-12 watch, who were working in the stokeholds at the time of the collision and many of whom continued to work for as long as required.
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Apr 27, 2003
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Hi Bob - Just one thing your forgot 'Playing Cards' which was the main off watch (after sleeping and eating) pastime for these hard working men. I can attest that the packs of cards they had were the dirtiest filthiest collections of cards that was to be seen.
Cheers Brian
 
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Holly Hewlett

Guest
Thanks Bob and Brian for answering those questions.
Of those that managed to escape from the boiler rooms, or wherever they were during the collision, what then happened to them? I know that there were some lifeboats that allowed men aboard when there were no women and children available, but would they have let the firemen aboard as well? Generally, what happened to the firemen in those last few hours?
Also, where were the firemen's sleeping quarters, mess, washrooms etc situated?
And what where the other shifts? 8 - 12 was mentioned, and although I could probably guess when the other shifts were, I would prefer to be told the accurate times, if anyone has them!
Thanks in advance to anyone who can answer these questions.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Ah yes, Brian, how could I forgot the fireman's 52 little friends. Always more popular than the bible readings! :)

Holly, the firemens' and trimmers' quarters, mess, etc were up forward in the bow and spread over several decks. Their mess was on C deck, and the various sleeping quarters (for firemen, leading firemen and trimmers), along with washrooms and toilets, were on D to G decks. There were two spiral stairways which led right down to the lowest deck (the tank top), and from there the 'firemen's passage' (a steel tunnel) led back to the stokeholds where they worked. The three 'watches' (shifts) were 8-12, 12-4 and 4-8.

Most of the firemen were in their quarters at the time of the collision, so were quickly involved with the flooding of the bow. Being thus more aware than most that the ship was seriously damaged, they made their way to the boat deck, many carrying their kit. Some were ordered into boats to row. Of those who boarded on their own initiative, most were ordered out again but some got away especially in the last (overcrowded) boats to leave the starboard side, where there was less close supervision of the loading. Others ended up in the water but managed to swim to a lifeboat, but most had no such luck.

Several of the men who were working in the stokeholds at the time of the collision got away in boat 13. You can read the detailed testimony of one of them, leading fireman Fred Barrett, here:

http://www.titanicinquiry.org/BOTInq/BOTInq03Barrett01.html
 
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Holly Hewlett

Guest
OK, thanks!
Do you know of any good websites that would have links to paintings (etc) of what their "areas" would have looked like?
Also, does anyone know approximately how many firemen deaths there were? For example 2/3 didn't survive etc.
And those that did survive, how would they have been treated aboard the Carpathia? What would have happened to them once they were aboard?
Thanks in advance!
 
I read that every watch had approximately (these numbers were taken from the Olympic so there's a margin of error, albeit not too big):
- 5 leading firemen
- 55 firemen
- 24 trimmers
- 8 greasers
Is this true?
Can someone explain to me how every "watch squad" worked? I mean, they would be distributed evenly in every Boiler Room, and then what? I suppose of course the Leading Fireman coordinated the Firemen, but what about the trimmers and the greasers?
 

Bronya

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Jul 1, 2017
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Hi,
My Great Great Uncle was Christopher Light, who was a Fireman who went down with the ship. I have a real interest in the social aspect of the era - how people lived, where they drank, etc etc so.....

My question is, did the Fireman etc, always work with in the same gangs? Did they have the same senior staff above them, did they work with the same trimmers throughout the voyage etc, or were they mixed up for each shift, working with different people?

Just wondering how close they would have got on a personal level to those they worked with?

Thanks in advance
 

Gaston Sam

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Aug 16, 2016
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Hi Bronya, my respects for your great great uncle. For the arrangement of the crew I recommend you reading "Guide to the Crew of the Titanic" by Günter Bäbler. Chapter 6 deals with the Engine Crew fairly well.
It seems there were 3 different watches and I don't think the shifts would vary that much. In some cases they could do different tasks like Thomas Dillon, who was a trimmer but also worked in the Engine Room on one special occasion.
Each watch had 5 engineers, 5 leading firemen and a varying number of firemen, trimmers and greasers.

I don't know about their relationship in the ship, but they surely wouldn't have much to share apart from their time off-duty. I know that some of the stokers came from the same place and would be in the same shift. My source to that is a letter written by fireman Charles Judd.
 
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Mar 18, 2008
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Dillon did different tasks as he belonged to the group which would work in Boiler Room No. 1. As that boiler room was not in use (the boilers were not lit) he was used elsewhere.
 
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