How Would A Steward Deal With An Unruly Passenger ?


Seumas

Member
Mar 25, 2019
720
401
108
Glasgow, Scotland
This is just a daft ideal wondering but I wondered if anyone would be kind enough to answer this for me.

Say for example that in the first or second class smoking rooms or the third class "common room"

i) A man has far too much to drink and is making a fool of himself and greatly annoying the other passengers.

or

ii) Mr X accuses Mr Y of cheating at cards. Mr X smashes his glass onto the floor, grabs by Mr Y by the throat and turns the air blue with his language.

Situations like this surely must have happened from time to time on the liners during their heyday.

Did White Star ever have any established protocol advising their stewards just what to do in such a sticky situation ?

Would the company have "had their back" if a steward decided to (for the safety of themselves and others) physically restrain someone for example ?

Apologies if it's a silly question. Moderators, please delete it if you consider it so.

Thank You
 
Nov 14, 2005
2,241
1,133
308
I'm sure the steward would have called the Master at Arms. Usually other passengers would probably step in but if it looked like it was going out of control they would be called. Master at Arms are basically the ships cops. Not a fun job. I had to do it for 6 months on an aircraft carrier. It sucked.
Master and Commander
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users

Seumas

Member
Mar 25, 2019
720
401
108
Glasgow, Scotland
I'm sure the steward would have called the Master at Arms. Usually other passengers would probably step in but if it looked like it was going out of control they would be called. Master at Arms are basically the ships cops. Not a fun job. I had to do it for 6 months on an aircraft carrier. It sucked.
Master and Commander

Thank you very much for your kind reply.

And how interesting to know that you've actually done that very job yourself ! On a aircraft carrier with hundreds of testosterone filled young men in a confined space, tempers must really have get stretched from time to time.

That article on Mr Bailey was very interesting too. By the looks of him he could assert authority and look after himself alright !

Obviously I'm aware there is not a shred of evidence that any serious tomfoolery occurred on Titanic's maiden voyage, I'm just rather curious about what standard procedure would have been.

Would I be right in imagining that in such a situation a long chain of human voices would fetch the Master-at-Arms up like so:

"Oi Harry, ! A blokes swinging his fists around in the Second Class Smoking Room, pass the word, we need the Master-at-Arms now !",
"Hey, Jim, it's Spion Kop all over again in the Second Class Smoking Room, get the Master-at-Arms now !"
"Righto, here Bob ! Master-at-Arms, Second Class Smoking Room, urgent !"


Would the Master-at-Arms have carried items such as handcuffs and perhaps even a baton ?

In ships like Olympic and Titanic that did not have a brig, a passenger who broke the rules would probably just be confined to their cabin for the rest of the voyage I imagine ? I'd be interested to know if a shipping line would have the right to take legal action against a passenger (e.g. causing damage to company property or assaulting someone) once they reached port.

Would it also be probable that the Chief Steward or one of the deck officers might have to become involved ?

Thanks again for reading all these silly questions, it really is appreciated !
 
Nov 14, 2005
2,241
1,133
308
Your Welcome. I'll try to answer a few of your questions as briefly as I can. There weren not hundreds on my ship...there were over 5000. I'm not sure of the procedures on Titanic but I'm sure there close. At sea we had batons and handcuffs. I never had to use them. We were only ever issued sidearms when accompaning the ships payroll. On Titanic they had Webley's (always liked those) I beleive and sure they had accsess if needed. There were a few brush up's but not very many. Most of the time everybody was too busy...12-15 hours shifts 7 days a week when at sea. Most of what I did was patrol the ship on security and safety rounds. Look for safety problems, make sure nobody was smoking when the smoking lamp was out, tell guys to they needed to hit the barber shop ect. And brig duty which was basically watch the prisoners and take them to the galley to get their bread and water. ( not sure if the navy still does that). I'm sure that any of the crew of Titanic would get involved if needed. Usually what I did unless it was something really serious I would just take the offenders to their Chief and ask him if wanted to handle it or should I put them on report. 99% of the time the Chief would say I'll take care of their ass and he usually did. From what I understand today the PO1's and CPO's have been pretty much neutered from when I was in. Like I said before...it was not for me. I didn't like it. When I made E-5 I was the junior one and got tagged for the duty. I was perfectly happy working on my jets and ordnance. But you serve at the pleasure of the Navy not the other way around. So I did my job the best I could. But as to Titanic and any other ship its basically the same, handled what needs to be taken care of.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Seumas

Member
Mar 25, 2019
720
401
108
Glasgow, Scotland
Thanks Mr Christian, your a gent !

Your description of your old duties really put some "flesh on the bones" of the master-at-arms role. Now I can imagine how Mr Bailey and Mr King would have went about their duties on the Titanic and what they were looking out for.

Five thousand men on an aircraft carrier ? Bloody hell !

Just out of interest, (I'm presuming you are a proud ex USN man) when you minded the ship's pay, would it have been a M1911 or a Browning you carried ?

Did you ever have to deal with awkward cases such as a crewman wilfully going ashore without permission to i) to see a dying friend or family member, ii) making a last ditch bid to save their marriage iii) see his kids who were in trouble or taken seriously ill ? Things like that must have been horrible to deal with.
 
Nov 14, 2005
2,241
1,133
308
Yes it was a standard sidearm Colt 1911 45 cal. I'm not sure what all they had in the ships armory as that was taken care of by the Gunners Mates. But I don't think that had any Brownings. I know they had M14's, M16's, 12 gauge shotguns and 1911's. They also had 38 cal revelovers that were standard issue for the pilots. They carried them under the thoery that they could be operated one handed in case they got injured going down and only had one good hand. As for the other thing you asked no I never had to deal with anybody jumping ship. The most I ever did was while in port at Alameda I had to take prisoners over to Treasure Island for their court martials or to see their lawyer.
P.S. an interesting side note: When we were doing air strikes on Iran you could tell the pilots who had Vietnam combat experiance. They were the one's stuffing 12 gauge shotguns in their cockpits and carrying an extra 45.
Ok...back to Titanic.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users

Yuriko Cheng

Member
Nov 7, 2020
13
1
3
I'd be interested to know if a shipping line would have the right to take legal action against a passenger (e.g. causing damage to company property or assaulting someone) once they reached port.
On the night of the sinking passenger Noris Williams broke down a cabin door on E Deck to free a man trapped inside and a steward said that everyone involved would be charged for damaging White Star property once the ship reached New York. So I think the answer to your question would be yes, the line could take action against a passenger, though I doubt they would be brave enough to go against the big names in first class like the Astors and the Guggenheims.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,582
1,357
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
On the night of the sinking passenger Noris Williams broke down a cabin door on E Deck to free a man trapped inside and a steward said that everyone involved would be charged for damaging White Star property once the ship reached New York. So I think the answer to your question would be yes, the line could take action against a passenger, though I doubt they would be brave enough to go against the big names in first class like the Astors and the Guggenheims.
I served on passenger ship's for a number of years and never witnessed any of the goings-on described herein. Only in movies have I seen such behaveiour.
If a passenger got too drunk, his companions usually got him quietly away. On board ship, the captain is in supreme command. Anyone causing disruption to the smooth running would be locked up and a guard put on the door.
I do remember one incident when the Captain's Tiger - his personal steward went doolally and stabbed him many times with an ice pick. We did not have a Sergeant at Arms.. just some very efficient ABs who we had arrest and restrain him in "irons" and lock him in one of the surgery rooms of the hospital. The captain recovered.
In another incident we had a man go crazy. He too was locked up. but someone gave him a cup of tea. he drank the tea then smashed the cup and used the broken crockery to cut his own throat... Ah! Happy days.
Having told you the gory bits, I believe that most passengers back in the old days and certainly in my early days had a modicum of good manners and behaviour patterns which precluded any of the scenes depicted in movies or imagined.
 

Yuriko Cheng

Member
Nov 7, 2020
13
1
3
his personal steward went doolally and stabbed him many times with an ice pick
OUCH. what happened to the poor guy in the end? Was he arrested? Wait...Where did he get an ice pick from on a passenger ship? I'm not doubting your account, I'm just really curious to know more details
On the night of the sinking passenger Noris Williams broke down a cabin door on E Deck to free a man trapped inside and a steward said that everyone involved would be charged for damaging White Star property
The incident I am referring to happened quite early on in the sinking, after Captain Smith gave orders for everyone to assemble on Boat Deck but before most people realised the gravity of the situation. To me it seemed quite reasonable that the steward scolded the passengers the way he did. I wonder, if the disaster had happened in the 21st century rather than the 20th, would any of us be brave enough to take matters into our own hands and smash down a door to free a man?
 
Nov 14, 2005
2,241
1,133
308
I served on passenger ship's for a number of years and never witnessed any of the goings-on described herein. Only in movies have I seen such behaveiour.
If a passenger got too drunk, his companions usually got him quietly away. On board ship, the captain is in supreme command. Anyone causing disruption to the smooth running would be locked up and a guard put on the door.
I do remember one incident when the Captain's Tiger - his personal steward went doolally and stabbed him many times with an ice pick. We did not have a Sergeant at Arms.. just some very efficient ABs who we had arrest and restrain him in "irons" and lock him in one of the surgery rooms of the hospital. The captain recovered.
In another incident we had a man go crazy. He too was locked up. but someone gave him a cup of tea. he drank the tea then smashed the cup and used the broken crockery to cut his own throat... Ah! Happy days.
Having told you the gory bits, I believe that most passengers back in the old days and certainly in my early days had a modicum of good manners and behaviour patterns which precluded any of the scenes depicted in movies or imagined.
I believe that. Different world back then. Today it seems like once a month you read about something happening on a cruise ship ie...people getting pushed overboard, adult activities getting out of hand in the steam rooms...ect ect. I'm sure your captain probably did an in-depth interview of personal stewards after that. Good thing he wasn't a boatswain's. All the ones I knew always had a knife on them. The only violent incident I remember on my ship was a couple of BT's went at it and one got smacked upside the head with a valve wrench. I had to sit thru the guys court martial. He was a problem child and ended up with a six six and a kick (booted out of the navy).
P.S...from what I've read lately the navy is way different today from when I was in. Don't know how they do things today. On my ship we had what were called friday night smokers (boxing matches on the hangar deck). Some of those matches were guys settling their beefs under the "suggestion" of their chiefs. Probably too primitive in today's world.
 
Last edited:

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,582
1,357
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
Hi!
What about the padded room?
When I was a boy, Cam, I was threatened with a pdded cell when behavin stupidly. The old Scots would say of someone acting stupidy -"That yin shid be in a padded cell, wi' the Deil' himsel' (meaning with the Devil)
OUCH. what happened to the poor guy in the end? Was he arrested? Wait...Where did he get an ice pick from on a passenger ship? I'm not doubting your account, I'm just really curious to know more details

The incident I am referring to happened quite early on in the sinking, after Captain Smith gave orders for everyone to assemble on Boat Deck but before most people realised the gravity of the situation. To me it seemed quite reasonable that the steward scolded the passengers the way he did. I wonder, if the disaster had happened in the 21st century rather than the 20th, would any of us be brave enough to take matters into our own hands and smash down a door to free a man?
The steward was subdued by the ship's surgeon and taken ashore atthe next port of call. The ice pick was part of the captain's table wear and came with an ice bucket. It looked a bit like a small marlin spike made of silver with a bone handle.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Seumas

Member
Mar 25, 2019
720
401
108
Glasgow, Scotland
I served on passenger ship's for a number of years and never witnessed any of the goings-on described herein. Only in movies have I seen such behaveiour.
If a passenger got too drunk, his companions usually got him quietly away. On board ship, the captain is in supreme command. Anyone causing disruption to the smooth running would be locked up and a guard put on the door.
I do remember one incident when the Captain's Tiger - his personal steward went doolally and stabbed him many times with an ice pick. We did not have a Sergeant at Arms.. just some very efficient ABs who we had arrest and restrain him in "irons" and lock him in one of the surgery rooms of the hospital. The captain recovered.
In another incident we had a man go crazy. He too was locked up. but someone gave him a cup of tea. he drank the tea then smashed the cup and used the broken crockery to cut his own throat... Ah! Happy days.
Having told you the gory bits, I believe that most passengers back in the old days and certainly in my early days had a modicum of good manners and behaviour patterns which precluded any of the scenes depicted in movies or imagined.
Was heat the cause of the "tiger" and the other lad losing their heads Jim ?

My Grandad recalled an incident from when he was an engineer with the old BI during the fifties. One day they were in the Gulf of Aden and a young Pakistani fireman just lost it in the intense heat.

His mates had to pin him down whilst the surgeon was called below to administer a sedative. The next day the fireman escaped from his restraints in the ship's hospital and jumped overboard to his death.

Things didn't end there. Someone threw one of the ship's lifebuoys after him. The lifebuoy was old and rotten and sank beneath the waves along along with the poor fireman. Grandad recalled standing at the rail watching things unfold and an embarrassed deck officer say to a group of British passengers gathered nearby basically "err, you didn't just see that !".

He also recalled an incident in the engineers mess room between two junior engineers listening to the results of the 1955 UK General Election over the radio.

One engineer was a tory (who was delighted with the result) and the other a socialist (who was disappointed with the result) and they had a furious row which ended up with one getting a broken nose and the other a split lip. The 5'3 tall Chief Engineer had to break it up !

No official action was taken, they were just told to shake hands and talk of politics was thereafter forbidden in the mess room.
 
Last edited:

JJAstorII

Member
Mar 14, 2017
155
57
73
Los Angeles, CA
I served on passenger ship's for a number of years and never witnessed any of the goings-on described herein. Only in movies have I seen such behaveiour.
If a passenger got too drunk, his companions usually got him quietly away. On board ship, the captain is in supreme command. Anyone causing disruption to the smooth running would be locked up and a guard put on the door.
I do remember one incident when the Captain's Tiger - his personal steward went doolally and stabbed him many times with an ice pick. We did not have a Sergeant at Arms.. just some very efficient ABs who we had arrest and restrain him in "irons" and lock him in one of the surgery rooms of the hospital. The captain recovered.
In another incident we had a man go crazy. He too was locked up. but someone gave him a cup of tea. he drank the tea then smashed the cup and used the broken crockery to cut his own throat... Ah! Happy days.
Having told you the gory bits, I believe that most passengers back in the old days and certainly in my early days had a modicum of good manners and behaviour patterns which precluded any of the scenes depicted in movies or imagined.
Hi Jim!

Thanks for your insight! I'd have to agree that simply based off Edwardian Social Codes this situation would be EXTREMELY rare. And IF it happened I doubt it would ever be in 1st or 2nd class. Back then people held you to the standard and if you stepped out of line you'd be scorched by society and that was a far worse punishment to keep people in line. Otherwise, I'd say, as you did, that if it happened, mostly their own comrades would scoot them off.

Re: Seumas' question: I don't believe any stewards or MOAs would have batons on the ship. They did however have a gun that the 1st Officer and Captain could get ahold of. My hypothetical guess would be that the steward would be submissive to the situation but would report it immediately to the Chief Steward who would go up the chain from there till someone in authority felt it necessary to deal with the situation. This would probably happen in private by a visit to their cabin etc. If it was some murderous rage, well I'd guess like Jim said, they would lock them up. Titanic did have cells and I believe in fact it is rumored the card sharks were in there on the night of the sinking.
 

Seumas

Member
Mar 25, 2019
720
401
108
Glasgow, Scotland
Titanic did have cells and I believe in fact it is rumored the card sharks were in there on the night of the sinking.
I've just spent ten minutes going through the lower deck plans and couldn't find any detention cells marked. The Master-at-Arms (x2) cabin is clearly marked on E Deck alright but no cells. What deck did you see them marked on ?

What source do you have for the story of gamblers being locked up ?

It sounds like one of those made up stories the popular press of 1912 printed in the aftermath of the sinking. I've never read any book by a respected historian of the disaster describing such an occurrence.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,582
1,357
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
Was heat the cause of the "tiger" and the other lad losing their heads Jim ?

My Grandad recalled an incident from when he was an engineer with the old BI during the fifties. One day they were in the Gulf of Aden and a young Pakistani fireman just lost it in the intense heat.

His mates had to pin him down whilst the surgeon was called below to administer a sedative. The next day the fireman escaped from his restraints in the ship's hospital and jumped overboard to his death.

Things didn't end there. Someone threw one of the ship's lifebuoys after him. The lifebuoy was old and rotten and sank beneath the waves along along with the poor fireman. Grandad recalled standing at the rail watching things unfold and an embarrassed deck officer say to a group of British passengers gathered nearby basically "err, you didn't just see that !".

He also recalled an incident in the engineers mess room between two junior engineers listening to the results of the 1955 UK General Election over the radio.

One engineer was a tory (who was delighted with the result) and the other a socialist (who was disappointed with the result) and they had a furious row which ended up with one getting a broken nose and the other a split lip. The 5'3 tall Chief Engineer had to break it up !

No official action was taken, they were just told to shake hands and talk of politics was thereafter forbidden in the mess room.
There is no telling what caused it Seumus. I don't think the heat though. He was a Goanese and used to it.

Fights on board any ship at sea were rare. I never saw any. However. as a lad, I had my fair share when in port. ;) ;) ;)
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

JJAstorII

Member
Mar 14, 2017
155
57
73
Los Angeles, CA
I've just spent ten minutes going through the lower deck plans and couldn't find any detention cells marked. The Master-at-Arms (x2) cabin is clearly marked on E Deck alright but no cells. What deck did you see them marked on ?

What source do you have for the story of gamblers being locked up ?

It sounds like one of those made up stories the popular press of 1912 printed in the aftermath of the sinking. I've never read any book by a respected historian of the disaster describing such an occurrence.
Heya,

I mispoke, these wouldn't have been detention cells or jails specified as such on blueprints. First and foremost this is based off something I HEARD so I'm not claiming it is truth. However I know the Infectious Ward on the ships were often used for this since they locked. I believe Titanic had 2 cells for this on D Deck. It served a double purpose due to the rarity of both situations. At least I know this to be a fact on the Queen Mary as I visited that area on a tour once.
Anyway, back to Titanic... this is where I would assume they would do any "locking up". However, the card sharks, though they are in fact proven to be on the ship that night, never were "caught" to my knowledge. They did died. Them being arrested is probably one of the many engorged "stories" that have been fabricated from that night as you mentioned, but just something I had heard and thought to share.

I also saw on the History Channel a story where there was a Chess Tournament that went down in the Lounge where a woman scammed two guys into their money by conning them. I mean this was on the History Channel yet I had never EVER heard this story. In fact, I wanted to come here to see if anyone else had. Anyway, my point being some of the stories are very interesting even if they aren't validated by source. Just take them with a grain of salt... Though, I will say I will never claim anything as FACT that I don't know to be.
 

Seumas

Member
Mar 25, 2019
720
401
108
Glasgow, Scotland
There is no telling what caused it Seumus. I don't think the heat though. He was a Goanese and used to it.

Fights on board any ship at sea were rare. I never saw any. However. as a lad, I had my fair share when in port. ;) ;) ;)
Well it is "every man for himself" on Paisley town centre on Friday and Saturday nights !

The auld British-India Steam Nav. whom my Grandad sailed with in the fifties had quite a lot of real, old fashioned eccentric characters on their books.

Here's a few he's told me about:
  • A Captain who was an ardent believer in spiritualism and kept a supply of pamphlets on the subject in his cabin which he handed out to bewildered passengers at his dining table.
  • A deck officer who used to pace the bridge loudly reciting the plays of Shakespeare. The story was that he wanted to be an actor as a kid but his family forced him to go to sea. Passengers used to gather close to the bridge to listen to him.
  • A surgeon who firmly believed in the existence of vampires and how to "protect yourself" against them.
  • A purser who spoke with a cut glass accent and who claimed to be related to English nobility but who during one boozy shore leave revealed he was in fact a cockney born and bred.
  • A Chief Engineer who practised yoga daily. This is decades before it caught on in the Western world.
  • Another Chief Engineer who was deadly serious about cricket and who used to insist upon regular updates on England's test matches sent down to the engine room by those listening to it on the mess room radio.
 

Similar threads

Similar threads