How come Harold Cottam declined to play himself in this film?

Seumas

Member
Mar 25, 2019
282
115
43
Glasgow, Scotland
Are you positive he was asked to play himself rather than just being offered the chance of being an extra ?

It would probably have been too hard to make him appear young enough again on screen.

Here is Cottam in a 1957 BBC interview.

Pause at 09:33 and there he is recreating the messages he sent to Phillips on a replica apparatus.

 

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
931
438
73
South Wales UK
I have done a bit of research as a result of the above.

Harold Cottam went to the 'premier' of ANTR at Newark in 1958.

He was then living in Lowdham in Nottinghamshire which village I know well. He only lived there for a some 6 years but there is a blue plaque where he lived.

He had a Scott Flying Squirrel motor bike, which was brought to the blue plaque unveiling. At the time this was owned by Robert Crawley.


I have discussed this with my Uncle this evening who is a motor bike expert and it would appear the Scott Flying Squirrel bike was quite an expensive bike pre WW2, though not in the same league as a Vincent, of which my Uncle has a few.

He would presumably have had the Scott Flying Squirrel at the time of the above BBC interview. Rather a dashing figure and a bit of a gloss on Cottam in later life?

I would suggest that motor bike would be worth quite a bit these days!

Cheers,

Julian
 

Seumas

Member
Mar 25, 2019
282
115
43
Glasgow, Scotland
I never saw that one coming Julian !

By co-incidence both Harold Cottam and Harold Bride both left the Marconi service after WW1 and became travelling salesmen. I wonder if Cottam used that bike on his sales trips around England ?

It's quite something to see Cottam re-create his time at the wireless. He's got quite a rich Notts accent that they don't replicate in ANTR or SOS Titanic where he's portrayed.

Amusingly, Cottam appears to seem to catch himself for a second when recalling what Rostron's words were after being woken up suddenly and told that the Titanic is sinking, maybe Rostron's actual words were "not fit for broadcast".
 
  • Like
Reactions: Harland Duzen

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
931
438
73
South Wales UK
Hi Seumas,

I have spent quite a bit of time in the Nottinghamshire area, and the BBC 1957 interview did not strike me that Harold Cottam had a Nottinghamshire accent, and I ought to have noticed this. I know his area of Notts pretty well.

The BBC interview is annoying because the interviewer is pressing him on. However, even at that age (he was 66 then) he gave a very accurate account, in fact more detailed than his 1912 testimony, and his 1912 newspaper article which he was paid $750 for.

I do find it interesting that Cottam had a Scott Flying Squirrel motor bike. Also note that he hardly ever/never spoke about matters Titanic/Carpathia to his family.

There is a pattern here.

It is like WW1 survivors.

Something never discussed. Buttoned down. Cottam must have had quite a WW1 service.

I suppose when you leave the Marconi Company, as Bride and Cottam did, they did not have skills applicable in the general labour market as such. Evans worked for Marconi for very many years afterwards, but both Bride and Cottam chose to leave Marconi early on.

Cheers,

Julian
 
  • Like
Reactions: Seumas

Seumas

Member
Mar 25, 2019
282
115
43
Glasgow, Scotland
An idea maybe for an ET research article Julian ? Harold Cottam's subsequent life ? You could really do it.

His accent probably just comes across as rich to me because it's an English county accent I'm not that used to hearing. ;)

It's a shame Harold Bride had passed away by the time that interview was conducted, it would have been quite something to see him and Cottam reunited and talking about what happened.

Bride spent his final years as custodian (along with his wife) of Blochairn House, an allegedly haunted old merchants house here in Glasgow. I really do urge all Titanic enthusiasts to visit it :cool:

Yes, the interviewer does seem to want just a quick line from Cottam rather than a full explanation of what occurred which is unfortunate. It's a shame that they couldn't have sat Cottam, Hurst, Russell, Witter, Cohen and Rowe each down individually for an interview rather than rushing them for an account.

George Rowe is a bit of a mumbler and hard to hear although he may have just been nervous about being on TV. Whilst they only seem to want to know what happened to the rather perky Walter Hurst once he was in the water.

Listen carefully and you can hear the studio director biting deep into his clipboard when Witter says "the bloody mail rooms full" ! :D
 

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
931
438
73
South Wales UK
Hi Seumas,

The BBC 1957 programme was perhaps a lost opportunity, and no doubt we could all think of questions that should have been pointedly asked of Cottam and Rowe.

I have seen the Rowe correspondence online, and really don't know what to make of it.

Alec Bagot, 2nd Marconi Operator on Olympic at the time, is the only operator to have written at length of that night/morning both contemporaneously and later on, and kept his own far more detailed log than Olympic's PV same as Ernest Moore did.

Everyone else kept pretty 'shtum'.

Cheers,

Julian
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
4,877
577
183
Funchal. Madeira
Perhaps Cottam might have had to explain why it was that he did not keep a record (process-verbal) throughout the time he was in contact with the sinking Titanic? I have always thought that the be possibly one of the strangest bits (or lack thereof?) of evidence to swallow in the whole sad saga.
"17060. I see that procès-verbal of yours contains the entries in order of time up to the time when you heard of the disaster and then, I think, your procès-verbal breaks off?
- Yes.
17061. I suppose, owing to the emergency you could not keep a regular record?
- No.
 

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
931
438
73
South Wales UK
Hi Jim,

I don't think it is that unusual - after all Durrant on the Mount Temple kept pretty much radio silence, and Cottam did the same, except Durrant kept his records up to date. When one looks at The Virginian PV, which had 2 radio operators, there is a significant gap in the PV for which no explanation has ever been provided.

The simple explanation is that Cottam fell asleep perhaps for awhile?

Cheers,

Julian
 

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
931
438
73
South Wales UK
Hi Dan,

It is very difficult. John Durrant on the Mount Temple kept a meticulous PV, and then in comparison with Cottam also maintained radio silence in sending messages that night. Cottam gave up on his PV immediately after the distress signal was received, but Durrant maintained his PV.

Durrant's PV isn't perfect.

Cottam's own testimony is that he was aware of messages he did not record in his PV, but nevertheless heard, such as the last message he heard from Titanic (Phillips) of water up to the boilers.

I don't think Cottam 'decided' to go to sleep; his testimony is quite to the contrary, but I can certainly imagine Cottam inadvertently falling asleep at some point. Though this does not explain why he did not keep his PV up to date. Neither does it explain why The Virginian - with 2 wireless operators - has a nearly 6 hour gap in it's PV! Neither does it explain why Durrant could stay awake and keep his detailed PV throughout the night and the following morning as a single Marconi operator, when so many others employed by Marconi on the relevant ships that night failed to keep proper records when all of those implicated knew something very serious was taking place and one ought to expect them to keep detailed records.

Cheers,
Julian
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Dan Kappes

CM1971

Member
Aug 26, 2018
32
19
18
New York
I read that Harold Cottam was offered a role to play as himself in this film, but he declined the offer and the part went instead to Alec McCowen.

Why did Harold Cottam decline? Were the memories of the sinking still painful to him?
More than likely due a combination of trauma & age. Where was is it stated anywhere that said he declined or was offered to play himself? (Just curious).
 
Mar 22, 2003
5,311
711
273
Chicago, IL, USA
"17060. I see that procès-verbal of yours contains the entries in order of time up to the time when you heard of the disaster and then, I think, your procès-verbal breaks off?
- Yes.
17061. I suppose, owing to the emergency you could not keep a regular record?
- No.

Now the proper question for 17061 should have been:

17061. Why?
 

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
931
438
73
South Wales UK
Well, 2 points arise!

Of the film ANTR, Cottam was into his 60s age wise, and clearly could not have portrayed himself as a young 21 year old as he was at the time in 1912.

Of Sam's above post, I happened to review/re-read today (well, now yesterday) all of Cottam's USA Inquiry evidence. My particular object was to find what speed Captain Rostron told him the Carpathia was 'going' in the final message Cottam sent to Titanic and then, as he said repeated, as no acknowledgement was received from Titanic.

It is very difficult, and if we are going to develop this into a thread about Cottam in detail I could probably state quite a bit, as i have done on another thread about Evans being an 'idiot' on The Californian.

I think Cottam was very very clever - if not too clever in his answers at the USA Inquiry.

You can go and read this for yourselves.

And when you analyse the messages sent by Cottam and Bride from the Carpathia (there are ample records of this via Booth's book) he knew what he could get away with at the time.

Evans, on The Californian, was by contrast, and via a message sent to Olympic noted by Ernest Moore, very worried he was going to be reported to Marconi HQ by Marconi Inspector Turnball on the Baltic, and by inference lose his job.

Cheers,
Julian
 
  • Like
Reactions: CM1971

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
931
438
73
South Wales UK
I should perhaps add that the above message to my above post is as follows, and that It was Balfour on the Baltic not Turnball. Turnball was the Deputy Manager of Marconi in the UK who gave evidence at the British Inquiry


"4.52 p. m. Signals with Californian, who says:

We were the second boat on the scene of disaster. All we could see there were some boxes and coats and a few empty boats and what looked like oil on the water. When we were near the Carpathia he would not answer me, though I kept calling on him, as I wanted the position. He kept talking to the Baltic. The latter says he is going to report me for jamming. We were the nearer boat to the Carpathia. A boat called the Birma was still looking.
Informed the Californian that would take note of fact that in cases of distress nearer ships should have precedence."

(Day 18 USA Inquiry, 25th May 1912)

This is from Ernest Moore's own record compiled at the time which is far more detailed than the Olympic's own PV. The Olympic original PV is available online and elsewhere. Moore and Bagot, the Olympic Marconi wireless operators reconstructed their own PV by reference to the actual chits they had of the Marconi Service Message Forms of messages received and sent. Bagot's copy is identical to Moore's.

Cottam could have done this as well, as his own PV was lacking any entries from before he got the CQD from Titanic, and we know that the Carpathia Marconi Service Message Forms filled 4 volumes of books which survived but have now been dissipated, and were not part of the Marconi Archive at Oxford, though they have quite a lot. Rostron would not allow the Carpathia Marconi records to be released till May 1912, according to Michael Hughes, Curator of the Oxford Marconi Archive.

This is curious! It is quite clear that most if not all the Marconi message chits from the Carpathia survived, and Cottam himself ought to have been able to re-construct his own PV, except for the fact that he was kept in the USA, and the Carpathia sailed without him! I have never found out who then became the Marconi wireless operator on the Carpathia to replace Cottam!

What we do know is that at the USA Inquiry Cottam gave his evidence over 10 days without having any of the mass of chits with him or his incomplete PV as they were all left on the Carpathia. So like Bride, he gave his evidence from memory rather than having recourse to the actual original documents piled up on his desk left on the Carpathia!

Cheers,

Julian
 

Dan Kappes

Member
Sep 26, 2018
378
73
38
26
Apple Valley, Minnesota, United States
I should perhaps add that the above message to my above post is as follows, and that It was Balfour on the Baltic not Turnball. Turnball was the Deputy Manager of Marconi in the UK who gave evidence at the British Inquiry


"4.52 p. m. Signals with Californian, who says:


Informed the Californian that would take note of fact that in cases of distress nearer ships should have precedence."

(Day 18 USA Inquiry, 25th May 1912)

This is from Ernest Moore's own record compiled at the time which is far more detailed than the Olympic's own PV. The Olympic original PV is available online and elsewhere. Moore and Bagot, the Olympic Marconi wireless operators reconstructed their own PV by reference to the actual chits they had of the Marconi Service Message Forms of messages received and sent. Bagot's copy is identical to Moore's.

Cottam could have done this as well, as his own PV was lacking any entries from before he got the CQD from Titanic, and we know that the Carpathia Marconi Service Message Forms filled 4 volumes of books which survived but have now been dissipated, and were not part of the Marconi Archive at Oxford, though they have quite a lot. Rostron would not allow the Carpathia Marconi records to be released till May 1912, according to Michael Hughes, Curator of the Oxford Marconi Archive.

This is curious! It is quite clear that most if not all the Marconi message chits from the Carpathia survived, and Cottam himself ought to have been able to re-construct his own PV, except for the fact that he was kept in the USA, and the Carpathia sailed without him! I have never found out who then became the Marconi wireless operator on the Carpathia to replace Cottam!

What we do know is that at the USA Inquiry Cottam gave his evidence over 10 days without having any of the mass of chits with him or his incomplete PV as they were all left on the Carpathia. So like Bride, he gave his evidence from memory rather than having recourse to the actual original documents piled up on his desk left on the Carpathia!

Cheers,

Julian
Was the Carpathia docked in New York at the time of the inquires?

Couldn't Cottam have gathered his papers from her before he went to the inquires? Or did it seem like too much of a hassle to him?
 

Julian Atkins

Member
Sep 23, 2017
931
438
73
South Wales UK
Hi Dan,

Others will know the details better than me, but Eric Clements' book on Rostron states Rostron testified before the USA Inquiry on Friday 19th April 1912, and the Carpathia sailed the same day for The Mediterranean. Cottam gave evidence the same day but was required to remain in the USA by the USA Inquiry, and so missed the Carpathia sailing for the Med.

All of Cottam's evidence to the USA Inquiry was without the benefit of any of the Marconi Service Forms left on his desk, and the handwritten note of Titanic's CQD message.

With hindsight, this was probably fortunate for Cottam and Bride, as they both got a 'grilling' at the USA Inquiry, and had either Cottam or Bride or Marconi collected up all the message forms from Cottam's desk, none would have been able to give evasive or clever answers to the questions asked of Senator Smith.

Booth in his book notes that Cottam probably did not take down/record anyway some of the more incriminating messages in any event.

Cheers,
Julian