If Lightoller perished with the Titanic

George GJY

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If Lightoller perished with the Titanic instead of barely escaping from the shipwreck without being found by survivors, on a lifeboat or a rescue or recovery ship, what would have happened in the aftermath?

How would we think of his 'women and children only' policy in this case? And, would he had been considered a suicide candidate if his dead body wasn't identified from ships which recovered Titanic victim corpses?

[Thankfully, he survived for another 40 years after Titanic.]
 

Kyle Naber

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The breakup scenario might have held up better in 1912-1985 without him refusing it, his name maybe would have been described as more heroic than it already is, but at the same time, he may have blended in with the other dead officers. It’s interesting to study Lightoller’s influence on the story of the Titanic and the myths and theories his story provided for the topic: it’s something I haven’t really thought about.
 
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Aaron_2016

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Lightoller ordered the crew to go down and open the forward gangway door on the port side. This may have played a significant role in the speed and angle of the sinking.

He was asked if the Titanic had broken in two. He responded - "It is utterly untrue. The ship did not and could not have broken in two.....Absolutely intact.....Intact, sir!"

His infamous orders 'women and children only' may have cost a number of lives.

He believed it was too dangerous to lower the lifeboats full, and his intention was to have the boats lowered down and have them stay close to the gangway doors and the passengers below decks would climb down rope ladders and enter the boats from a safer height. This was his primary reason why the boats were not filled up from the top decks.

He told the Inquiry that he spoke to the ship's lookout Fred Fleet on the Carpathia and he was told that the ship was already turning "distinctly before the report" from the lookout. This means the bridge saw the iceberg before Fleet had even reported it, and casts doubt on Hichens' account as he claimed the alleged order to turn the ship away was given after the report from the lookout.

Lightoller published a book in the 1930's which detailed his life experiences, and he described the official Inquiry as a "whitewash" and how "I felt more like a legal doormat than a mail boat officer" as every effort was made to protect the reputation of the company and the board of trade.

If Lightoller had perished then all of the above would have left open many questions, the primarily one being the "woman and children only" order. Lightoller said he dived off the ship when the bridge went under. If this was witnessed by survivors then this would dispel any theories that he shot himself. The breaking of the ship might also have been believed, but the Inquiry naturally wanted to suppress this fact as Lightoller called it a "whitewash" so even without his "absolutely intact" statement the Inquiry would still disbelieve the survivors who saw her break in two. The other surviving officers said she did not break in two, or did not see her break in two, so the Inquiry would have taken their word that she sank intact.


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Dec 2, 2000
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The one fact we know for sure is that if Lightoller had not survived, we would never had his testimony either for better or for worse. The rest is speculation. Maybe accurate and maybe not, but still speculation.

History does not reveal it's alternatives.
 
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I'm totally agree with Aaron_2016. Lightoller was not the "hero" that last longs in the Titanic history, but the "zero" we all know he was. I never met that guy for I was born 22 years after his death, but I know I wouldn't have liked him at all! He lied about many things in the Inquiry and was stubborn and seem to have been arrogant and "nose in the air". I'm preferring Murdoch much more : he seems to have been more human managing the lowered of the boats; he seems not to have panic like Lightoller did, and keep a cool head during the sinking. Incidentally, it could drive us on another question of the kind George asked : "What if Murdoch had survived"...
 

Kyle Naber

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I agree. I’ve never met him, but I feel that he is over idolized. I think Cameron’s movie did a good job humanizing him a bit.
 

Kyle Naber

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Does anyone knows why they didn't use the real name of Lightoller in the movie "Dunkirk" ?? (I know, my question is [almost] off topic, my excuses to the moderators)
Possibly they did not want legal issues of any kind that might have fabricated. Family members may not have liked the way Lightoller was portrayed. Haven’t seen the movie, though. I’ll have to check it out!
 

Rob Lawes

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I love the way people are so ready to condemn people they have never met and brand them liars in circumstances I'm willing to bet they have never been in.

Lightoller may have had his faults but he worked to the last to save people and he went down with his ship.
 
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Harland Duzen

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Possibly they did not want legal issues of any kind that might have fabricated. Family members may not have liked the way Lightoller was portrayed. Haven’t seen the movie, though. I’ll have to check it out!
You love it, do see it. Just remember to have a defibrillator nearby. it's so tense at points, it becomes practically a horror film...

Back to Topic!

I love the way people are so ready to condemn people they have never met and brand them liars in circumstances I'm willing to bet they have never been in.

Lightoller may have had his faults but he worked to the last to save people and he went down with his ship.
very true, any Titanic historian will remember the multiple documentaries from the 90's / early 2000's that made us unthinkingly believe and accept Ismay was a coward and selfish, Lord knowingly turned a blind eye and the Duff Gordon's deliberately bribed the crew. All of which has been heavily exaggerated to have been crueller than what actually happened.
 

Kyle Naber

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I love the way people are so ready to condemn people they have never met and brand them liars in circumstances I'm willing to bet they have never been in.

Lightoller may have had his faults but he worked to the last to save people and he went down with his ship.
That’s very true. He was undoubtedly a great officer, but films like A Night To Remember, I think, portrayed him as some sort of god who made no mistakes.
 
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Aaron_2016

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.......I'm preferring Murdoch much more : he seems to have been more human managing the lowered of the boats; he seems not to have panic like Lightoller did, and keep a cool head during the sinking. Incidentally, it could drive us on another question of the kind George asked : "What if Murdoch had survived"...

Lightoller - "I was perspiring freely."

Mr. Wheelton
"I would like to say something about the bravery exhibited by the first officer, Mr. Murdoch. He was perfectly cool and very calm."


I think their emotional behaviour to work hard while facing death may have affected their judgement. 5th officer Lowe fired his gun several times and yelled at the passengers including Ismay. He was helping Lightoller on the port side. Perhaps his behaviour caused Lightoller to lose his nerve and he had to control his behaviour and calm the passengers. He said:

"I told them it was merely a precaution and that very likely they would all be taken on board again at daylight. No one believed the ship was actually in any danger. I'm afraid that my own confidence that she wouldn't or couldn't sink rather conveyed itself to others, for there were actually cases were woman absolutely refused to be put in a boat.....I did not think it was a serious accident."

3rd officer Pitman also did not realize she was going down when he shook hands with Murdoch and got into a lifeboat.

"He shook hands with me and said, "Good-by; good luck;" and I said, "Lower away."

Q - Were there people on the deck when you left the ship?
A - Oh, yes, there were a few there.
Q - Why did not you take in 60 then?
A - Simply because the people did not want to go. They thought they were safer on the ship.


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That’s very true. He was undoubtedly a great officer, but films like A Night To Remember, I think, portrayed him as some sort of god who made no mistakes.
One thing people have to understand about "A Night to Remember" and the 50's "Titanic" for that matter was they were more of a vehicle for the actors of the day. Kenneth More, who portrayed Lightoller, was one of the biggest stars, of course he was going to have a meaty role. Sylvia Lightoller even stated she didn't call him Bertie... "There was only one slight departure from the personal story so far as she was concerned and that was her farewell to her husband before the disaster. ''I am supposed to have called him 'Bertie', she said. ''I never did any such thing and certainly he would have been astounded, had I done so!''

Lightoller - "I was perspiring freely."

Mr. Wheelton
"I would like to say something about the bravery exhibited by the first officer, Mr. Murdoch. He was perfectly cool and very calm."
"No woman even sobbed or wrung her hands, and everything appeared perfectly orderly. Lightoller was splendid in his conduct with the crew, and the crew did their duty." Archibald Gracie 1912

Sadly, Murdoch didn't live long enough to mention his perspiration to anyone.
 

Seumas

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One thing people have to understand about "A Night to Remember" and the 50's "Titanic" for that matter was they were more of a vehicle for the actors of the day. Kenneth More, who portrayed Lightoller, was one of the biggest stars, of course he was going to have a meaty role.
That's perfectly true though there was also a bit more to it.

In the documentary on the making of ANTR, MacQuitty and Lord mention how before the screenplay was written they decided it would be for the best to have that one pivotal character who was likely to interact with the everyone and be in the thick of the action. So they chose Lightoller - Walter Lord agreed with this so long as the incidents portrayed were still based on reality.

As a result, Lightoller is part of all these scenes based on documented reality but which happened to the other officers:

The boats are being prepared and Ismay starts to annoy the crew but is brushed off (Pitman)
Ismay interferes in the lowering of one of the first boats to be lowered and is told in no uncertain terms where to go (Lowe)
Brief panic at Boat Fourteen and shots fired in the air (Lowe)
Collapsible D is lowered (Wilde)
With the assistance of Moody, trying in vain to get Collapsible A off the deck (Murdoch)

Don't know why they never gave Murdoch a Scottish accent in ANTR. Could have cast a young Sean Connery in the role :cool:
 
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