Harold Bride And The Press


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Jemma Hyder

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This subject got somewhat woven in with a thread about the media elsewhere, but it seems to be far more focused on Ernest Gill and I thought I would start this to see if anyone wanted to carry on discussing this angle......

As far as Harold Bride's testimony of events goes, there are certain points that need to be considered

1) How much of the accounts was Bride sensationalising (Is that a word lol) his story?
2)If so what motivation would he have?
3)If it wasn't him who was hamming it up then who was doing it on his behalf?
4) In any case what sources of his information can we rely on at all to give us an accurate picture?

As far as Bride striving to make his story more interesting, I think it was Inger who pointed out that unlike Gill, he was being pursued for his story. As soon as the Carpathia docked he had not even stopped work before the inventor of wireless himself appeared in the operating room armed with a reporter. Some of the account does sound a little exaggerated but he didn't need to make his story any more interesting than it already was. I know if I was giving my version of events in front of Marconi I'd be a little subdued and not inclined to sit telling huge whoppers in front of th guy.

The story starts getting out of hand as other papers pick it up and try to embelish it. they have to come up with something better if they can't get the man himself right? Hence the American report in a smaller paper claiming that the stoker was gunned down after he tried to steal Phillips' life jacket.

I am by no means claiming that Bride never once exaggerated the truth. I am personally more inclined to believe that the tale of both him and Phillip's tieing on their lifejackets after examination outside more believeable than Bride having to do it for him. And I am always changing my own personal opinion about the stoker incidentbecuase there are so many contrasting stories about it.

I don't see that Bride had much motivation to get wildly creative when giving the report on the carpathia. he had already been told he was getting a hefty amount for it, but then was he aware that Jack Binn's only got half of his promised amount, or something in the region of it, and for this reason did he exaggerate? (Oh god I am confusing myself now!)If anybody had an excuse to ham it up it was those media figures who didn't get the original story (Just my opinion)

As for his varying testimonies, I personally wouldnt give note to much that wasn't in the NYT, or either Inq. I would be sceptical about it. And even with the above three there are significant gaps, but as we only have Bride to go on for much of it I think we have to make the best of what is available to us even if it doesn't give us all the answers.
 

George Behe

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Dec 11, 1999
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Hi, Jemma!

>2)If so what motivation would he have?

Perhaps Bride felt that his actual experiences were less interesting than they 'should' have been, since (for the most part) Bride had just acted as Phillips' errand boy during the sinking and did not play a major part in the transmission or reception of wireless messages.

Just a thought.

All my best,

George
 
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Jemma Hyder

Guest
George

there's a couple of things that back that theory up. If in reality, Harold's only role in the disaster was to run about after Jack (Which it was) then the story about him having to tie on his colleagues life jacket (Which I am not convinced of) makes him sound slightly more heroic, the same for the stoker tale. Poor little slim build mini Harold decking an evil and unidentified person who was trying to remove his brave and devoted colleagues jacket! What a guy! Especially when it was all in the line of protecting Jack who was too busy apparently to notice that he was being undressed.

Thanks

Jemma
 

Pat Cook

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Apr 27, 2000
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There may be one aspect to this story which, I confess I haven't really looked into, may have some bearing on Bride, as with so many others I'm guessing.

Basically, it boils down to this - by the time you get in court, you REALLY only say such things as you are sure of, such events as you firmly believe to be true. I know I've been perplexed at Bride's account of how he lost track of Phillips (in the newspaper article, Phillips was definitely on the overturned collapsible; during the U S hearings Bride said he HEARD Phillips was on the collapsible; during the British Hearings Bride stated the last time he was Phillips was on deck of the sinking ship...) is only one such event.

We are left to our own judgment here with Bride, along with Hichens and his account of what really happened between the sighting of the iceberg and the collision - these are the only men who can tell us what happened - the other witnesses perished in the event. JMHO here, but when I stop to consider what Bride has just gone through (surviving in the water, legs and feet damaged, then on the Carpathia, little sleep and back in harness to help out Cottam) it seems like he already has plenty to make himself sound heroic - these aforementioned events would ALL sound brave, I believe, to most people.

Also, again, I firmly believe his newspaper story was 'doctored' a bit by the journalists.

Again, this is just my humble opinion here - that it for what it's worth.

Best wishes for the New Year!
Cook
 
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Jemma Hyder

Guest
Pat,

Agreed Harold's story is toned down for the hearings and agreed his story had to have been meddled with to some extent but IMHO I really think he wouldn't have gone to town with the fictional aspect of his story right in front of Gueglielmo Marconi himself. I get terrified of my team manager never mind the guy who founded the multi billion dollar empire I work for!

I read a part of the senate hearing today where Senator Smith point blank implied that there was a growing tradition among wireless operators to withold information for their own financial gain. The more I read it the more I think he was set to prove certain thing he already had in his head. He badgers Cottam to try and get him to provide info he simply dosen't remeber and I think it was one of the officers who says his face something along the lines of "f I don't rememebr I can't tell you" after being pushed to provide certain info.

Would this repress Harold's testimony at all do you think? at one point Smith is quite rude to him, at a point in time where British attitudes to Americans were vastly different to what they are today. After all you're still talking about the days of the Mighty British Empire, Be British, An Englishman knows his duty etc.(Believe Harold's father said something along those lines at one point in the aftermath) Lol just trying to get some social bearing on the age.......

Cheers

Jemma
 

Pat Cook

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Apr 27, 2000
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Hi, Jemma. I agree totally with this - ANY testimonies in a court, whether a trial or hearing or whatever, can be daunting. And Senator Smith could be downright imposing, not to mention tremendiously tedious and tenacious. In this respect, perhaps, Bride may have felt freer to go into more detail prior to the hearings.

I just meant to say that, while we may never know for sure, I didn't believe he made up the material about his twarting the stealing of the lifebelt off Phillips back by the stoker. My logic, for what it is, is simply he was something of a hero already and wouldn't need to make up such a story.

I always wondered, too, about that woman that he and Phillips had to tend, who also wandered into the Wireless Room.

Best regards,
Cook
 
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Jemma Hyder

Guest
Someone's just started a thread on that. I must confess I did a lot of Harold research a couple of years ago but he has been somewhat neglected. I know they had a visit from Butt at one point prior to the fourteenth but I will have to dig up some paper to find the work I had done re the woman.

I think personally that something happended regarding a stoker but that is probably the most exaggerated part of Harold's story. As I mentioned before I even had smething claiming that Harold shot the guy!

Thanks

Jemma
 
J

Jemma Hyder

Guest
Pat,

On the subject of Smith I am working on the Senate hearings as we speak and his attitude and lack of respect towards Marconi whilst he was giving his testimony is frankly appalling. He appears to have been balling him down at one particular point trying to imply that he masterminded a witholding of events for the Operator's financial gain and made a habit of doing so. Appears that at that point he was being very rude.

Cheers

Jemma
 

Pat Cook

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Apr 27, 2000
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I, too, also remember reading somewhere that Bride shot the stoker but I can't find it right now.

Also, there are people FAR more well versed on Alden Smith than I but I confess I'm not much of a fan of his. If you ever read (or have read) Wyn Wade's "Titanic - End of a Dream" you'll get a very pro attitude toward Smith.

Best regards,
Cook
 
J

Jemma Hyder

Guest
Pat,

Although I haven't seen both sides of the story I must confess I think he is most definitely rude and somewhat ignorant in places. from the tone of what they are saying at one point I think he and G Marconi must have been shouting at each other. Marconi had a VERY short temper at times and had little (patience when people tried him so I imagine he lost it very quickly.

I believe the bit about the shooting appeared in a tiny column in one of the American papers but I can't pinpoint which one at the moment either.

Smith seems to have had it it in for HTC from the very beginning, although when he tried to make out his conspiracy theory Marconi supported his Operator. I think I remember both Harold's getting short with Smith at some point, as well as Lightoller, and I think one of the Junior Officers.

I really don't know much about smith at all do you recall any background on him?

Thanks

Jemma
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Jemma - Wade's book is probably the best published biographical source on Smith, albeit an almost entirely uncritical one.

Several witnesses became somewhat exasperated with Smith (Lowe was indeed one of them - he later made some rather acerbic remarks about the Senator to his family). Wade suggests that Smith had more of a rapport with the 'common' sailors, but in all the interviews I've seen with the crew on arrival back in the UK, I can only recall seeing negative comments - Hichens, for example had some disparaging things to say about Smith.

The truth, as with so much else, probably lies between two extremes - I'd say he was neither the absolute fool or buffoon the press sometimes pilloried him as, nor was he the completely altruistic home-town hero Wade writes about.

I recommend Wade if you haven't read it - he has some comments about Smith's attitude toward Marconi and why he liked to tilt at 'home-made halos' (which comes across as Smith being more smugly self-righteous and even downright jealous than Wade intended).

~ Inger
 
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Jemma Hyder

Guest
Inger,

Is it in print in the UK at all at the moment? it is one I haven't laid my hands on yet. Any luck with the census yet lol. Been waiting four years to find my great grandfather as we have no offical record of his birth and it would help a good deal. Have got a sweet little great aunt whos waiting on the info so its frustrating lol!

From reading the enquiry Smith is not one of my favourites but i'd like to read Wade's point of view

Thanks

Jemma
 

Dave Gittins

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Apr 11, 2001
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Admittedly Wade tends to overcompensate for the neglect of Senator Smith, who in many ways was a man ahead of his time. All the same, his book is generally very sound and fair.

Where I take issue with Wyn is that I see the inquiry as very much Smith's ego trip which at times flouted the terms of the Senate resolution that established it. Wyn himself mentions that Smith tried to use the hearings to extract evidence that would help plaintiffs in a civil case. When reading the hearings, I suggest keeping the Senate resolution before you and keep asking whether Smith is keeping within its terms.
 
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Patricia Bowman Rogers Winship

Guest
Apropos of Harold Bride and the newspapers-- a friend and I went digging in the New York papers last year, to find which one had accused Bride and Cottam of transmitting a request for some American baseball scores. Bride took care to deny this in no uncertain terms at the US Inquiry, and I don't doubt him at all. Most likely, some reporter wrote it out of frustration that the Carpathia was not giving out any news of the disaster. So far, however, we haven't been able to locate it. Do you know anything about this, Jemma?

Pat W
 

Inger Sheil

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Sorry Jemma - didn't see your earlier query. I'll have a look in Foyles and some of the other large bookshops down Charing Cross Rd tomorrow to see if I can locate a copy for you - always looking for an excuse to browse the maritime sections over lunch! I bought mine a few years back on-line while still living in Australia, back in the dim-dark pre-movie days when it was difficult to buy good Titanic titles off the shelves.

Pat - I'd forgotten about that little canard until you mentioned it!

~ Ing
 
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Jemma Hyder

Guest
Patricia,

That one is still evading me too. I'm at the point now where I think it was a smaller paper. I think you're right though I'd bet money it appeared somewhere around the 15th or 16th. But having said that I'll go and get proved wrong now lol.

Inger thanks! Did you get the email about feb?

Thanks

Jemma
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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BONK!*

Think I replied to the other party involved, Jemma, but now that you mention it I suspect that I didn't respond to you...need to do a review of correspondence to see who is currently owed a note. Anyway, looks like Feb's a go-er.

*Sound of Inger's head hitting her desk, overwhelmed once again by her own ineptitude
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Admittedly Wade tends to overcompensate for the neglect of Senator Smith, who in many ways was a man ahead of his time. All the same, his book is generally very sound and fair.

Agreed emphatically with Dave on this. Wade's book is very well researched and executed, and contains quite a bit of behind-the-scenes information on the U.S. Senate Inquiry that would otherwise be unavailable.

Uncritical it may be, but it's also fair to say that Smith's life and career -- as divulged through Wade's research -- leave little to be criticized. He was indeed in many ways a man ahead of his time. I'll admit I did cringe *occasionally* at the exuberance with which Wade sometimes heaped his praise upon the principal subject of his work. Nevertheless, it's more a question of degree there than of underlying merit.

I don't doubt that many of the British subjects forced to remain and testify were less than thrilled with their "captors". But this is perhaps a natural predisposition when all most of them probably wanted to do was go home to their loved ones after such an ordeal. As for the witnesses liking Smith, well, it wasn't his duty to be liked. His task was to get at the truth, whether the witnesses facilitated those efforts or not. (Lord Mersey wasn't exactly "Mister Congeniality"! But then, the same rationale applies to him.)

On the other hand, much of Smith's alleged "buffoonery" was merely the product of spiteful back-biting from a generally hostile British Press. As Brian Ticehurst aptly stated in the A&E Titanic video, there was a generalized (but quite unrealistic) attitude that the Americans were being incredibly "cheeky" in detaining British subjects, against their wills, for questioning about an accident involving a British ship. Of course, as Brian clarified, this ignored the facts that the "British ship" was at that time owned by an American company and that a great many of the passengers, living and deceased, were in fact Americans.

Anyway, I see Wade as presenting a necessary balance to those historical slurs. But since the original criticisms of Smith were largely attributable to little more than muckraking, I believe the truth probably lies *far* closer to Wade's version than to the other "extreme".

In any event, this one's an indispensible reference for anyone seeking an understanding of the background and mechanics of the U.S. Senate Hearings. (And wouldn't it be nice if there were an equivalent for the British Inquiry?)

Regards,
John
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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John - I agree with much of what you say above. Elsewhere on this board in the past I've discussed why I believe Wade is on the top shelf of Titanic writers, up there with Marcus, Reade, Molony and a few others (I've even defended his work from some of his detractors
wink.gif
). However, I do believe his hagiographical tendencies where Smith is concerned are a weakness in the work. To read Wade, one would think that the Senator was always operating on a grand plan. Reading the testimony in its entirety, I get the impression instead that Smith was often 'fishing' - sometimes this bore fruit, sometimes it didn't.

I don't doubt that many of the British subjects forced to remain and testify were less than thrilled with their "captors". But this is perhaps a natural predisposition when all most of them probably wanted to do was go home to their loved ones after such an ordeal.

I agree, but that wasn't my point in questioning Wade's characterisation of the crew's feelings towards Smith. Wade constructs Smith as a man of the people who, whilst he might have ruffled the feathers of the Titanic's officers, was held in warm regard by the crew. He counters Lightoller's comment that he (Lightoller) had to use his influence to quell disquite among the crew that had arisen to the point that some were considering ceasing cooperation with the inquiry by claiming that one of Smith's 'minutemen' reported that the crew actually thought very highly of Smith. Where exactly Wade derives this information is unclear, as the work isn't footnoted - presumably it originated with the Smith family, but whether it's oral tradition or whether a written source that is still extant is unclear. As I indicated above, I've yet to find this warm appreciation of Smith indicated in any crew accounts (quite the contrary, in fact - there were negative comments reported at the time).

I agree that Smith was pilloried in the British press at the time, but this wasn't a trait exclusive to British newspapers - reading through the American newspapers, one finds such criticism on both sides of the pond. Some American newspapers printed columns of what they dubbed 'Smithisms' - (head or bow? Above or below freezing? etc), and some American newspaper commentary was quite scathing. I believe I took copies of some material along these lines, and if I get a chance I'll dig them out and transcribe some for you. On the other hand, some British newspapers had praise for Smith and the senatorial inquiry. This isn't a clear-cut schisim along national lines, and it would be unfair to suggest that Smith's poor image in Titanic historiography is solely due to the British resenting American 'cheek' - if Smith is underappreciated, his fellow countrymen have a role to play in that as well!

I would also query some of Wade's interpretations of personal interaction at the inquiry. I've gone back to the same contempary newspapers he used to construct much of the atmosphere of the inquiry (as well as reading the transcripts), and I believe he has downplayed the more adversarial aspects of Smith's method of questioning. I've seen the charge made against Lowe that he was a difficult, uncooperative witness, and yet reading eyewitness accounts it becomes apparent that there was a degree of abrasiveness on the side of both the Senator and the seaman. I hasten to add that Wade did *not* suggest Lowe was hostile (indeed, he acknowledges that tensions between the two men were often a result of genuine misunderstanding), but he must have been aware of accounts along the lines of those by the witness who said that *both* men 'quibbled and became sarcastic'. Wade, however, glosses over this mutual adversarial response. The exchange with Lowe over the question of drinking on the night is almost played for laughs, and yet Wade - through his extensive research - must have been aware of Lowe's widely reported shock and anger at the suggestion (he later considered taking it further and demanding to know where the charge had originated, leading to Smith later issuing a 'clarification' to pacify Lowe). While Smith's job was not to earn the affection of the witnesses, I wonder if his adversarial approach with some of them was the most productive means of ensuring their cooperation.

As was observed the last time Wade came up for discussion on the board, the US Senate inquiry was good value for money - it produced a tremendous amount of raw material, recorded as soon as possible after the event (before too much conscious and unconsioucs distortion could creep in). For that, all researchers are in Smith's debt. I rate Wade in the top 10 - and possibly the top five - books on the subject. It's fresh, it's original, and it gave us access to some intriguing sources. I wish that, as with Reade's work, Wade had footnoted his work, as following up on some of his observations and sources is difficult if not impossible, short of contacting him directly (out of curiousity, has anyone done so?). I do, however, think it is important to keep in mind that this is the story of the inquiry as very much told by Smith and his camp (I gather that much of the material is derived from Smith's papers and his descendents).

It's a fine book - one of the best in the field, both in terms of research and for sheer quality of writing. I wouldn't mind seeing a further work on the subject of the American inquiries, however - one that took more of an overview of the proceedings, rather than focusing solely on Smith's perspective. I don't think it's the final word...take, for example, his treatment of Lord and the Californian. While Reade drew on Wade's work, he didn't come to quite the same conclusions as Wade did about how Smith dealt with this matter. I'm not suggesting that Reade is more correct in his interpretation than Wade is, simply that there are more angles to investigate beyond the all-wise, altruistic figure Wade constructs.

Agree with you entirely that it would be good to see a critical history of the English inquiry (although hopefully not one with a heroic Lord Mersey at its centre!). I agree with you that both inquiries had their strengths and their flaws, and that they bookend each other very well...although they still leave us with unfortunate, tantalising gaps.

~ Inger
 
Sep 20, 2000
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Agree with you entirely that it would be good to see a critical history of the English inquiry (although hopefully not one with a heroic Lord Mersey at its centre!)

Hi, Inger: I get this deliciously wicked mental image from that (with apologies to Wade (pp. 281-2)):

On Sunday, July 7, Bigham arrived back in London. Late in the afternoon, while trying to cross to his offices, he found his way blocked by a circus parade. As usual, John Charles was in a hurry. He cut into the parade, hoping to get all the way through it, but instead found himself locked in and marching to the beat of the band. Squeezing in between the elephants and equestrians, he asked someone on horseback, "Is there some way I could possibly get past? What IS this anyway? Harumph!"

The equestrian replied, "Why, this is Barnum and Bailey's World-Defying Circus, governor. I say, aren't you John Charles Bigham?"

His lordship flashed a smile and nodded, still looking for a point of egress.

"My lord," piped the equestrian, "you sure did us all a favor with that Titanic investigation." To the flanks alongside and behind him, the horseman shouted, "Hold up so Lord Mersey can get through!"


(Think it'll sell?) ;^)


Anyway, my apologies for presenting that false dichotomy. The Press was indeed occasionally scurrilous on both sides of the Atlantic, and my comments were not balanced with regard to this.

As I indicated above, I've yet to find this warm appreciation of Smith indicated in any crew accounts (quite the contrary, in fact - there were negative comments reported at the time).

Fair enough, and I don't doubt it. (A "predisposition" was all I could realistically purport.) Actually, I've been unable to to re-locate that business in Wade about the witness pay raises and the subsequent "appreciation" of the crew. (Have you spotted this since?)

... accounts along the lines of those by the witness who said that *both* men 'quibbled and became sarcastic'.

Now that's an area I've only touched upon in the past, yet I've already witnessed a few times the importance of the more reputable newspaper accounts in corroborating the actual verbiage of some portions of the testimony (e.g, Captain Moore's interrogation on the wisdom of making "12-1/2 knots" -- an error in the U.S. transcripts, that should be "21-1/2 knots") as well as relaying the undercurrents not readily perceived from the transcripts alone.

So I'll defer to your experience on that. And I, too, wish Wade had footnoted his observations. (It's one of the things that makes Reade's work truly great.)

Cheers,
John
 

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