Harold Bride & charles Pellegrino

Jan Wood

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I am currently reading "Her name, Titanic : the untold story of the sinking and finding of the unsinkable ship" by Charles Pellegrino.

I have read many times over Bride's claim that he assaulted a crewman trying to remove Phillip's life jacket as he was working but it is the first time I have seen it claimed that Bride "beat him to death".

Is there any record of Bride actually claiming that he killed the man? Or is there any evidence to support the claim that the man died, or who he might have been?

As an aside, I am finding the book quite heavy going in the sense that Pellegrino's opinion appears to be somewhat blinkered through his admiration for Bob Ballard and what I perceive to be quite a negative attitude to Brits (1912 and present day intelligensia)
 
Dec 2, 2000
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My understanding is that he said as much in a newspaper story, but never in sworn testimony. It's one of those curious legends that may have some substance to it, or it may not. Since the only possible witness to this...Phillips...didn't survive, it's one of those things where we have Bride's word for it without corroberation in a newspaper story that may have had very little to do with what Bride himself actually told to the reporter.

I'd treat the story with caution.
 

Inger Sheil

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Hallo Jan -

In the first appearance of this story - Bride's NYT interview - Bride is the person who beat the stoker. In other versions, Philips is the one doing the hitting, while Bride held him:

quote:

16774. Have you made a statement at any time that you found Mr. Phillips being attacked or his lifebelt being removed? - Someone was taking the lifebelt off Phillips when I left the cabin.

16775. Do I understand you to state that you thought it was a stoker who was taking this lifebelt off Mr. Phillips? - I presumed from the appearance of the man that he was someone in that line of business.

16776. This would have been a few minutes before you left the room? - Yes.

16777. Was he dressed in stoker's gear? - Yes.

16778. Do I understand that you hit him, or what? - Well, we stopped him from taking the lifebelt off.

16779. "We," you say? - Yes.

16780. I understood the report was that Mr. Phillips was engaged at this time with his work? - Yes.

16781. Sending messages; and that you forced this man away? - Well, I forced the man away and it attracted Mr. Phillips's attention, and he came and assisted me.

16782. Is your recollection of this matter very clear? - It is fairly clear.

16783. Would you know the man again if you saw him? - I am not likely to see him.

16784. You are supposed to have hit him? - Well, I held him and Mr. Phillips hit him.

16785. Mr. Phillips hit him? - Yes.

16786. That is the difference between what you say and what I read. You are absolutely positive on this question? - I am positive on it, yes.
The earliest, NYT version seems to be the one that Pellegrino is working from. That Bride beat the man to death is the most extreme and sensational interpretation, and therefore it's characteristic of Pellegrino to use it. In the above testimony, Bride seems to be suggesting that the man died that night, but whether at the hands of the wireless operators or through the foundering of the ship is not clear.

I'm not a huge fan of this book at all - the interpolation of fictional incidents and conversations in a work of supposed non-fiction is enough to turn me off it!​
 

Dave Gittins

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There is a third version of the fight in Bride's letter to the Marconi company. (It's in the Senate inquiry papers). In this version, the fight is merely "a general scrimmage" between Bride, Phillips and the stoker. Bride expresses regret that the stoker could not be taken from the Marconi room. "He sank in the ship in the Marconi room."

For some reason, the story was not mentioned at the Senate inquiry, perhaps because Senator Smith avoided reading newspapers, as he himself claimed.

By the time the story reached the $1 books and some of the papers, the stoker had become a black man with a knife. Bride promptly shot him!

I fear that, if some sort of fracas in fact took place, Bride much embellished it, possibly with the aid of reporter Jim Speers. Having told the tale, he was stuck with it, though it amounted to an admission to murder. It is hard to imagine how anybody could try to remove a lifebelt unnoticed and even harder to imagine a brawny stoker being knocked rotten by the puny Bride.

As to Pellegrino, there are better things to read, such as the phone book, jam jar labels and the washing instructions on shirts.
 

Paul Lee

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Also, wasn't there something in "Ghosts of the Titanic" were Andrews was described as pulling doors off hinges to use a makeshift liferafts? Evidence, Charles, evidence!

Cheers

Paul
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http://www.paullee.com
 

Jan Wood

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I totally agree on the negaitve opinions on Pellegrino's book.

Paul, yes he does claim that Andrews was ripping doors off and throwing them overboard and gives the active impression stated as fact that Andrews was above deck until the end, which clearly contradicts all other widely held viewpoints that he was below decks at the end.

Inger

Thank you for that posting from the enquiry, my own feeling is that maybe a minor scuffle took place in the Marconi room but that it has been much embellished by Bride, along with the press to pass down into Titanic "Legend". As Michael states, it's all very much hearsay and myth/legend.

I am glad I am not alone in thinking that Pellegrano's is biased, full of speculation dressed as fact. Dave your post made me laugh because I was thinking along the very same lines lol.

As for his views on Ballard, it is clear that he is experiencing the worst case of hero worship and rose tinted glass syndrome that I have ever had cause to read.

Amazing (she says very much tongue in cheek) that he can recall and report verbatim all those conversations he had with Ballard word for word, over a very long period of time, and re-produce them in his book!

I agree with you Inger that the fiction blended in with the supposed "fact" is a little too much to stomach. His fiction conversations between officers, crew and staff are a little too much indeed, espcecially those between non-survivors where there was no-one to even over hear them!

He quotes them with such authority that one might be forgiven for thinking that Pelligrano was an omni-present time traveller on the night!
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>He quotes them with such authority that one might be forgiven for thinking that Pelligrano was an omni-present time traveller on the night!<<

I'm not surprised by this in the least. Charles Pellegrino is a very engaging story teller in my opinion and his books do have a certain value insofar as he was a participant in some of the expeditions to the ship that he wrote about. The problem, unfortunately, is sourcing. If he would actually take the time to check the provenance of a given story and be as relentless in seperating fact from fiction as a number of other researchers are, he would probably be one of the top historians in the field.
 

Inger Sheil

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I have to agree with Dave - physically, the idea of Bride overpowering a desperate stoker seems rather farfetched...as even Bride (or possibly Speers) recognised:
quote:

He was a big man, too. As you can see, I am very small. I don't know what it was I got hold of. I remembered in a flash the way Philips had clung on - how I had to fix that lifebelt in place because he was too busy to do it.

I knew that man from below decks had his own lifebelt and should have known where to get it.

I suddenly felt a passion not to let that man die a decent sailors' death. I wished he might have strtched a rope or walked a plank. I did my duty. I hope I finished him. I don't know. We left him on he cabin floor of the wirless room, and he was not moving.
The idea that Bride was stuck with this early version - not wishing to totally disavow the rather lucrative story, but evidently not keen on being the one who struck a potentially fatal blow - would make sense. I get the impression that something may have happened, but with even the only witness we have gives shifting accounts.​
 
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Someone here mentioned that Bride, or possibly Speers, had 'readjusted' the story to make it seem that Philips had struck the man. Supposedly, Bride or Speers may have done this so Bride wouldn't have appeared like a murderer if it was acknowledged that he had been the one to strike. Considering the circumstances (the sinking, the desperation, the suggestion that the man was trying to steel Philip's life belt), killing the man may not have been considered murder. Think of it this way: the stoker shouldn't have been there in the first place, and he apparently didn't care about Philip's welfare. The two operators were just fighting for what was theirs (or Philip's). The ship was sinking and the water was creeping up close by. The two Marconi operators were desperate to get going and just reacted in a flash. Even so, perhaps it was a situation where killing the man was the only alternative to get out of there, lest they all die (and perhaps Bride and Philips knew this). After all, it was a life-and-death emergency where every moment counted--an 'every-man-for-himself' scenario, by which the stoker himself was obviously motivated. Keeping all this in mind, why would Bride and Speers have to worry about Bride appearing as a murderer? If anything, killing a man in this particular set of circumstances would have made Bride appear, if not heroic, at least justified.

Okay, I left myself open here to get lambasted. Who's first?...
 

Paul Lee

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This reminds me of something that I have often been sceptical of. Apparently, the last, faint signal from the Titanic was sent at 2.17am (Titanic time). How can Bride and Philips accost the stoker and get on deck in time - especially bearing in mind Bride's detailed description of the boat deck scene at the time? The time must be off here.

Best wishes

Paul
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Another point of which I just thought that goes along with the above consideration(s) is that even in striking the man, murder was accidental, which could easily be explained to the public. Under these particular circumstances, it would be easily acceptable. Just because you strike a man (on a sinking ship with water creeping up with only seconds to lose and a large, desperate man trying to fight you for a life jacket that isn't his), doesn't automatically mean you have murder on your mind. Such accidents, perhaps, could be expected.
 
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Paul,

Are you sure it was 2:17 am? Maybe it was 2:07, which would make better sense. However, there is the issue of the time differential.
 

Paul Lee

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The time difference is what interests me! This is from Lord Mersey's report:


"12-27 a.m. (NY Time approx) 2-17 a.m. (Titanic time approx)

"Virginian" hears "Titanic" call C.Q., but unable to read him. "Titanic’s" signals end very abruptly as power suddenly switched off. His spark rather blurred or ragged. Called M.G.Y. ("Titanic") and suggested he should try emergency set, but heard no response."

Best wishes

Paul
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http://www.paullee.com
 
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Thanks for the link, Paul. I'll take a look. I just figured that with the time differentiation, there would be some leeway for misinterpretation or mis-estimation of Titanic time, especially as the Titanic was sinking. It was dark. Who could tell the time, even in a lifeboat? I'm sure it was hard to see pocket watches. Pitman and Boxhall, it's been said, actually looked at their watches as the stern was dipping under. Is it not possible that they forgot about the time differentiation and were going by a different time? Actually, having been from England, their time would actually have been ahead, so we can figure that it was around 4 or 5 there when the Titanic sank, so their watches, if they weren't set back, would be ahead, not behind. I am still wondering how the actual time of the sinking (when the stern went under) was estimated, aside from the surviving officers' watches. Hmmmmmm
 

Jan Wood

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Good point about the timing! Would Bride have had the time to be so observant? and pulverise a man into the bargain?

Mark
Re the "death" if it occurred being accidental, had it occurred on land, under English law, it could fall under constructive murder or even manslaughter with a possible defence of self-defence dependant upon whether it could be shown that an intent to kill was present..

However, I would imagine, at sea in International waters it would be anyone's guess whether it would fall under such a law.

I would find it hard to condemn someone as guilty who accidentally killed someone defending themselves and their life jacket.

I think the radio operator's response was quite natural to attack but I personally doubt whether there would be the time or the inclination to finish someone off under the circumstances unless it was done under sheer panic. I would imagine that the least of your concerns would be to finish someone off, you would be more interested in saving yourself from the impending disaster.

It is that point that makes me doubt that anything else more than a momentary scuffle took place.

Does that make sense?
 

Inger Sheil

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I don't think Bride was necessarily afraid of prosecution, Mark - after all, there was no body, and the only witness was Bride himself. From both a practical legal point of view, as well as from a political/public relations POV, I don't think anyone on either side of the Atlantic would want to push into those very gray areas.

Bride might not have feared criminal charges, but that doesn't mean he'd want to face close questioning over a possible death he had caused -there were already enough controversial elements to his testimony. That's whether or not the incident took place in anything like the manner he described (whichever version you go with).

A momentary scuffle sounds more likely to me too, Jan - a kernal of truth somewhere in there, that became embellished first by the journalist and Bride himself, then by writers who added guns and a racial element, and then finally by Pellegrino who adapted Bride's account.
 
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Jan: yes it does, and that was my main point about the "murder" issue, that, for that reason, it can't be construed as an intended killing, so why should anyone worry about Bride appearing as a possible murderer? The circumstances justify his desperation and self-defense.

As for English law, the self-defense stipulation is part of American law, too, but I am wondering how English law and American law differ in that respect. I would so much appreciate any elaborations that you'd like to make on that point.
 
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>>I don't think Bride was necessarily afraid of prosecution, Mark - after all, there was no body, and the only witness was Bride himself.<<

Inger, I agree. I was merely responding to the person, whoever it was, that mentioned on this board before that he may have been afraid of being labeled a murderer. I can see his wanting to steer clear of the issue. Killing someone, either accidentally or intentionally, is more than enough to cause a person to feel guilty. As a matter of fact, I am wondering now if that is one possible reason that he disappeared for good and changed his life. His reasons had remained a mystery. It's possible that this killing was at the root of his disappearance. What do you think, Inger?
 

Inger Sheil

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It might be defensible for Bride to have fought for Philips' jacket (although even by his own versions the 'self defence' angle is nebulous - it could be legitimately asked if it was really necessary to kill the man), but that would not necessarily absolve him from criticism. Given the adversarial tenor of the some of the questions at the American inquiry, and some of the sharp questioning on some of the more problematical elements of his testimony in Britain, if I were Bride I wouldn't want to give any more fodder to those asking the questions! This is particularly true if the original version of the story owed more than a little to journalistic invention.

An interesting idea on the guilt angle, Mark. I'm not sure if he 'disappeared' any more than his colleagues did, though - I think he simply faded back into the comparative obscurity that many survivors did once the story died down. The 'disappearance' angle has been played up by writers like Gardiner, when in fact he didn't really vanish abruptly at all - he continued in wireless for a period, then changed his career. Survivors faded from the public gaze for many reasons - the sheer trauma of the event, the stress of the subsequent inquiries, the desire not to seek publicity etc. He could have done a Jack Binns, I suppose, but he might not have had the journalistic flair or inclination. While he didn't seek publicity, there are indications he wasn't exactly reluctant to discuss the disaster with those who knew him well - Jemma Hyder has found indications that he did talk about the sinking to people even outside his family circle.