Jack Phillips' final moments


Arun Vajpey

Member
Hi Arun,

You need to read carefully the Paul Lee website link I posted from half way down then all will become perfectly clear (and also quite staggering)

http://www.paullee.com/titanic/icewarnings.php

Will probably take you a good half hour but it is well worth it to understand what actually went on (I'm quite a quick reader so half an hour is my own estimate).

Julian
Hi Julian

Thanks again for that link. This evening I read it slowly and carefully, highlighting the more interesting on a Word copy that I have saved. One very interesting point, albeit out of scope of this thread, is Lee's conjecture about Lightoller's supposed brief meeting with Captain Smith at 8:55 pm. I want to read and tabulate various statements carefully but what seemed obvious was that several passengers in that dinner party seem to recall Smith, who arrived around 7:15 pm at the Widener's party, still being there around 10 pm while Lightoller and Boxhall, (the latter by proxy?) allude to his presence near the bridge over an hour earlier. While it is possible for Smith to have left the party temporarily at 8:55 pm, gone to the bridge, met Lightoller and returned to the party, someone would have noticed and commented about it. I doubt if any of those passengers realized the significance of those times and so it is more likely that they were telling the truth based on their memories. However, the same thing cannot be said of Lightoller and it does ask serious questions about his credibility.
 
It's all a bit odd.

After all, they were just lads at the time. All of them; Cottam, Phillips, Bride, Durrant and Evans. Phillips was the senior of them all. Durrant stands out as the most particular with the rules and recording everything. Cottam stopped recording anything in his PV as soon as the first distress CQD was received and the Carpathia PV had to be reconstructed by Marconi UK Deputy Manager Turnball for the British Inquiry. There is a nearly 6 hour gap in The Virginian's PV covering all the early morning messages with The Californian and Evans. And at the same time Cottam replied to no messages and was probably completely exhausted and was fast asleep because The Californian had to communicate with the Carpathia by semaphore signals around 8am/8.30am on the morning of the 15th April.

Having recently acquired a copy of 'Titanic Calling' (Hughes), and 'Titanic, Signals of Disaster' (Booth) certain aspects of all this have become much clearer.

Cheers,

Julian
 
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Smith, who arrived around 7:15 pm at the Widener's party, still being there around 10 pm while Lightoller and Boxhall, (the latter by proxy?) allude to his presence near the bridge over an hour earlier.

Hi Arun,

I have often thought about this Sunday evening dinner.

And how long Captain Smith stayed at dinner and whether Lightoller told the truth about his Captain coming back to the bridge at 9pm and having a half hour chat with him then going to his quarters.

It seems to me from Lightoller's testimony his conversation with his Captain would take no more than 5 minutes!

The Wideners were important first class passengers and filthy wealthy. Ok, Captain Smith had to eat that evening, but due to the ice warnings perhaps he ought to have had instead a plate of sandwiches and cold meat brought to him on the bridge, and declined the Wideners' invitation?

Was there too much wine flowing in Captain Smith's direction on the Wideners' dinner table in the first class lounge that night? (pure speculation on my part).

But Lightoller's description of his half hour chat with Captain Smith from 9pm to 9.30pm does seem quite excessive given the content of that chat according to Lightoller.

The Wideners would have been very generous hosts that Sunday evening. Money was no object and having a good evening and a party would have been their aim. The last 'party' they all attended as a family.

Cheers,

Julian
 

Rob Lawes

Member
Aaron

Don't forget Wireless Operator Adams on the Mesaba testified that he heard Phillips send "Received Thanks" and then continue to send traffic. Adams waited, listening to Titanic and expecting a reply which never came.

Given that Mesaba's signal arrived in Titanic less then 10 minutes before Lightoller was due to hand over to Murdoch then IF Meseba's message did reach the bridge it was more likely to have been handed to Murdoch not Lightoller.

Finally, its interesting how you don't consider admitted and proven ignoring of ice warnings from the Wireless operators as being in anyway negligent and yet you have constructed a story which is next to impossible to prove about Fleet banging warnings out on the crows nest Bell for ten minutes like an epileptic campanologist which you do think is negligent.

Hi Julian,

When two ships are in visual sight of each other it is far more expedient to exchange messages via visual means. This is a practice that continues today even though Captains can just jump on the VHS and talk bridge to bridge, in the RN, they still enjoy sending salutations to each other via visual Morse.

If you think back to 1912, Lord would have had to transcribe a message to be taken down to evens who would then send it to Cottam who would take it to the bridge and up and down and so on. Sending messages Bridge to Bridge by semaphore would have been as quick and easily read by all involved.

Arun

Smith may have excused himself from the dinner guests frequently throughout the voyage such that it was normal practice and nothing worth remarking on. Also, his dinner guests may just have assumed he'd gone to the "Little boys room" to clear the pipes. Again, nothing worth remarking on.

Rob
 
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Arun Vajpey

Member
Was there too much wine flowing in Captain Smith's direction on the Wideners' dinner table in the first class lounge that night? (pure speculation on my part).

But Lightoller's description of his half hour chat with Captain Smith from 9pm to 9.30pm does seem quite excessive given the content of that chat according to Lightoller.

The Wideners would have been very generous hosts that Sunday evening. Money was no object and having a good evening and a party would have been their aim. The last 'party' they all attended as a family.

Cheers,

Julian
To be fair, I do not believe that Captain Smith indulged in any alcohol in that party. If he had, at least one of the surviving women from that table would have commented about it afterwards and AFAIK, no one did. Therefore, the "meal and 2 cigars" story is very likely true.

But as you say, there are certain question marks about Lightoller's 'recollections' from that evening. Did anyone else actually see Smith and Lightoller talking on the bridge around 9 pm that night? No one, as far as know; Boxhall did see the Captain on the bridge but (at least to start with) the Fourth Officer does not seem to have specified the time that happened, nor who the Captain was with at the time. Smith and Lightoller may well have met later just as the latter completed his handover to Murdoch. That would have been over an hour later and ties in with memories of some of the Widerner party survivors.

Admittedly speculation on my part but could the sequence of events be as follows?

- Captain Smith arrives at the Widener's party around 7:15 pm. He socializes, has a meal and smokes 2 cigars but does not touch a drop of wine.
- Lightoller is on watch on the bridge and at some stage is briefly relieved by Murdoch so that the Second Officer can have a quick meal.
- Lightoller returns to the bridge and continues his time as Senior Duty Officer; Murdoch returns to is cabin.
- Murdoch returns to the bridge at 10 pm to relieve Lightoller as Senior Officer on Watch.
- At about the same time, Captain Smith excuses himself from the Widener's party and goes to the bridge to check things before going to his cabin. There he meets both Murdoch & Lightoller, completing the handover. Smith talks to them both and presumably Lightoller then went to his cabin to rest. At some point during that conversation, Boxhall saw the Captain on the bridge.

Up to now, I had assumed that Boxhall's 'witness' statement corroborated Lightoller's story about Captain Smith on the bridge around 9 pm and having that "flat calm sea" talk with the Second Officer. But reading Paul Lee's article suggests that Boxhall was not very specific about the time that he saw Captain Smith on the bridge and in any case there have been some questions asked about Boxhall's timekeeping about several other events that night. Moreover, did Boxhall specify that when he saw Captain Smith on the bridge that night, the latter was talking to Lightoller? I am unable to find a first hand account of this but even if he did depose to that effect in later statements, how much of that can be reliable from a timeframe point of view? Murdoch did not survive and neither did Captain Smith and so there would be no one to pick holes in Lightoller's story.
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
Arun

Smith may have excused himself from the dinner guests frequently throughout the voyage such that it was normal practice and nothing worth remarking on. Also, his dinner guests may just have assumed he'd gone to the "Little boys room" to clear the pipes. Again, nothing worth remarking on.

Rob
That would be likely if it was a 5 or 10 minute break but not 25 or 30 minutes. A longer absence would have been certainly remembered and commented upon by the surviving women from that table. It is even possible that the Captain's brief visit to the bridge was actually earlier than Lightoller stated - say around 8:30 pm - when he met and checked-in with the Second Officer and was seen by Boxhall at the same time. Then if Smith returned to the party, stayed for a further hour and a half and decided to turn-in, it would be natural for him to stop by the bridge (again), just as Lightoller happened to be handing over to Murdoch. It would have been around 10:05 pm by then and since neither Murdoch nor Smith survived, it would not have been too difficult for Lightoller to combine the two visits into a single one at around 8:55 pm in his later statements.
 
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Hi Arun,

I have often thought about this Sunday evening dinner.

And how long Captain Smith stayed at dinner and whether Lightoller told the truth about his Captain coming back to the bridge at 9pm and having a half hour chat with him then going to his quarters.

It seems to me from Lightoller's testimony his conversation with his Captain would take no more than 5 minutes!

The Wideners were important first class passengers and filthy wealthy. Ok, Captain Smith had to eat that evening, but due to the ice warnings perhaps he ought to have had instead a plate of sandwiches and cold meat brought to him on the bridge, and declined the Wideners' invitation?

Was there too much wine flowing in Captain Smith's direction on the Wideners' dinner table in the first class lounge that night? (pure speculation on my part).

But Lightoller's description of his half hour chat with Captain Smith from 9pm to 9.30pm does seem quite excessive given the content of that chat according to Lightoller.

The Wideners would have been very generous hosts that Sunday evening. Money was no object and having a good evening and a party would have been their aim. The last 'party' they all attended as a family.

Cheers,

Julian
Captain Smith may have had "too much wine"? A while ago, you hinted that Captain Lord may have been drunk. Very strange.
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
Captain Smith may have had "too much wine"?
That is one thing that I personally would not believe. Captain Smith may not come across as one of the more effective leaders that night but I believe that he was dead sober throughout. Steward Thomas Whiteley and Eleanor Widener both commented that the Captain did not partake any alcoholic drink during the party; also Maybelle Thorne, who was dining at a nearby table with her paramour George Rosenshine, reported on similar lines.

But Paul Lee's conjecture that the crucial Baltic ice warning might have remained in the Captain's pocket is quite likely. Arthur Peuchen met the Captain as the latter walked towards the First Class smoking room at about 7:10 pm. That ties in with Ismay's claim that he returned the Baltic message to the Captain around that time. But if Daisy Minehan saw Smith already present at the Widener's party table just after 7:15 pm, it is likely that he went straight there from the Smoking Room and did not stop by the bridge to post the Baltic message in the chart room. It might have been his intention to do so later but as far as is known that message never appeared on the notice board.
 
A

Aaron_2016

Guest
Aaron

Don't forget Wireless Operator Adams on the Mesaba testified that he heard Phillips send "Received Thanks" and then continue to send traffic. Adams waited, listening to Titanic and expecting a reply which never came.

I would speculate that when the Mesaba received the reply - "Received Thanks" that this was the receipt sent by Phillips that Adams was waiting which confirmed the message was received.

Given that Mesaba's signal arrived in Titanic less then 10 minutes before Lightoller was due to hand over to Murdoch then IF Meseba's message did reach the bridge it was more likely to have been handed to Murdoch not Lightoller.

I recall Lightoller later said in his interview that he was on duty when that message was received and he claimed Phillips had allegedly put it under a paperweight and forgot about it. Lightoller might have remained on the bridge with Murdoch for some time before retiring so that the message would have come to his attention. There is speculation by some members regarding the ship's clocks e.g. that the collision occurred at midnight instead of 11.40pm. Perhaps that would mean the time difference between the Titanic and the Mesaba would be different which could mean Lightoller was still on duty when the message was received.

He also testified that the horizon was clear, yet lookouts Symons, Fleet, and Lee said it wasn't, and Lightoller said he wasn't certain what the engines were doing. They asked him if they had reduced speed during his watch and he did not know. They should have asked him if they increased speed (as a number of survivors believed they had), but I don't recall that question being imposed at the Inquiry - perhaps for obvious reasons i.e. no reason to incriminate themselves when they did not have to.

Finally, its interesting how you don't consider admitted and proven ignoring of ice warnings from the Wireless operators as being in anyway negligent and yet you have constructed a story which is next to impossible to prove about Fleet banging warnings out on the crows nest Bell for ten minutes like an epileptic campanologist which you do think is negligent..

I believe the report of an ice warning was treated as important, just not urgent enough to warrant an immediate halt on their current task at hand. e.g. They would finish what they were writing up and then proceed to communicate with the ship and receive the message. Nobody would expect an iceberg to not be seen from the bridge and rely entirely on the wireless to see what is close by. They were bound to take for granted that the bridge officers would see and react to any ice that was close to them without the need to rush onto the bridge with an ice warning.

I really did not have to construct a story that "is next to impossible". I merely laid out what the survivors said and explained it all with a plausible scenario. e.g. A number of survivors heard the lookouts warn the bridge at various times before the collision, and a number had overheard the lookouts say they warned the bridge several times and were seemingly ignored (by the lookouts point of view).

Hichens was heard calling out to another lifeboat as he tried to ascertain who was supposed to be on the bridge. A haze was also seen by 3 lookouts and a number of other survivors, yet Lightoller and Boxhall said the horizon was clear. Boxhall led the Inquiry to believe he had no idea they would encounter icebergs that night, and Lightoller told the Inquiry he had no idea what the engines were doing (slowing down or speeding up) despite the numerous survivors who believed they could feel the ship increasing speed that night. Bartlett and Lightoller summed up that the phone did not have to be responded to if the officer can already see what is ahead and a number of survivors said they witnessed icebergs passing the ship before the collision.

So to sum all of that up I believe Murdoch saw the icebergs passing the ship at a safe distance, the refraction of the horizon made the ice field appear like an elevated string of haze and the officers were in the process of changing course when the fatal iceberg drew out of the darkness and took them by surprise. There was no negligence, it only appeared like negligence when spoken with each survivor's point of view, but put it all together and it makes plausible sense that no action appeared to be taken when the lookouts warned the bridge repeatedly because the officers were already aware of it and in the process of changing course. I believe fellow member David Brown has also speculated something along these lines as the haze appeared to end 2 points to port and Hichens remembered the ship had turned 2 points to port from her previous course.

With so many unknown variables there is plenty of room to realistically speculate within the boundaries of the available accounts a number of plausible scenarios that led up to the disaster. This I believe is why every member here has a different theory as to what happened.



.
 
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Rob Lawes

Member
I would speculate that when the Mesaba received the reply - "Received Thanks" that this was the receipt sent by Phillips that Adams was waiting which confirmed the message was received.

Yes, Phillips confirmed receipt of the message. There is no dispute about that. Adams was expecting a reply Captain to Captain in response to his message. He heard Phillips immediately resume sending traffic and therefore, unless he had incredibly long arms and managed to deliver the message with one hand while continuing to send with the other then he did not immediately take the message to the bridge or to Smith.

There is speculation by some members regarding the ship's clocks e.g. that the collision occurred at midnight instead of 11.40pm. Perhaps that would mean the time difference between the Titanic and the Mesaba would be different which could mean Lightoller was still on duty when the message was received.

If the time change occurred then it took place long after Lightoller went off watch and is irrelevant to this discussion. The time difference between Mesaba and Titanic was taken from the information given in Paul Lee's Website. The time of acknowledgement from Phillips is quoted as 7 minutes before Lightoller went off watch.
I believe the report of an ice warning was treated as important, just not urgent enough to warrant an immediate halt on their current task at hand.

As an experienced radio operator and telecommunications engineer I can say without fear of contradiction that if my Captain thought for one second I was deciding what messages aimed at him were important or not the rollicking I'd receive would be epic. The instructions for Marconi operators were written to be followed. Developing bad practices as a custom is not an excuse. In Bride's case he wasn't even prioritising the Ice Warning over other traffic. He openly stated he ignored a message containing safety and navigational information to complete some administrative chores.

Regards

Rob.
 
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I would speculate that when the Mesaba received the reply - "Received Thanks" that this was the receipt sent by Phillips that Adams was waiting which confirmed the message was received.

I recall Lightoller later said in his interview that he was on duty when that message was received and he claimed Phillips had allegedly put it under a paperweight and forgot about it. Lightoller might have remained on the bridge with Murdoch for some time before retiring so that the message would have come to his attention. There is speculation by some members regarding the ship's clocks e.g. that the collision occurred at midnight instead of 11.40pm. Perhaps that would mean the time difference between the Titanic and the Mesaba would be different which could mean Lightoller was still on duty when the message was received.

I believe the report of an ice warning was treated as important, just not urgent enough to warrant an immediate halt on their current task at hand. e.g. They would finish what they were writing up and then proceed to communicate with the ship and receive the message. Nobody would expect an iceberg to not be seen from the bridge and rely entirely on the wireless to see what is close by. They were bound to take for granted that the bridge officers would see and react to any ice that was close to them without the need to rush onto the bridge with an ice warning.

With so many unknown variables there is plenty of room to realistically speculate within the boundaries of the available accounts a number of plausible scenarios that led up to the disaster. This I believe is why every member here has a different theory as to what happened.



.

Hi Aaron,

You are forgetting the testimony of the Mesaba wireless operator Stanley Adams at the British Inquiry

TIP | British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry | Day 21 | Testimony of Stanley H. Adams (Wireless Operator, SS Mesaba)

Adams made it quite clear that the "Rd. Tks." ["Received Thanks"] he wrote on the original Marconi Service Form was the Titanic operator's immediate acknowledgement. Adams goes onto say he was expecting a further reply from the Titanic's Captain in response to the detailed (and as it turned out highly relevant) ice warning message sent. He waited for such a MSG, but none was sent from Titanic to Mesaba.

Significantly, Adams also states he could hear the Titanic operator sending messages to Cape Race after the "Rd. Tks." as he did before sending the ice warning message. So clearly Phillips did not take the message to the bridge.

The Mesaba ice warning message to Titanic was 7.50pm NYT

Cheers,

Julian

[Edit - posted before I saw Rob's last post - we are obviously thinking along the same lines]
 
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A

Aaron_2016

Guest
I have seen his testimony, but it sounds like Adams was just waiting for a courtesy call back. Curious to know what response was Adams expecting? He sent the message to Phillips and Phillips acknowledged it with "received thanks". As far as Phillips was concerned the message was received and he would continue with Cape Race, and either took a short pause between messages to deliver it to the bridge or when he finished with Cape Race 10 minutes before the collision.

Adams said:

"I was waiting for a probable reply from the Captain......I thought that the Captain of the Titanic would have some news to communicate to us."
Q - Then you kept on waiting, thinking that there might be a message from the Captain of the Titanic?
A - Yes, to the Captain of the Mesaba.

He was waiting for a "probable reply" that might come from the Captain of the Titanic as a courtesy from one captain to another. It doesn't sound like there would be any certainty that Adams should have received a reply from Captain Smith. The message was sent and acknowledged, and we can only presume it might have been delivered to the bridge. Lightoller said if the captain was not available (off the bridge, or in the bath, or retired for the night) then the message would be delivered to the officer on the bridge and they would act under their own discretion regarding the message. e.g. If Lightoller or Murdoch did receive the message they might have personally given Phillips no instructions, or possibly they felt the courtesy reply 'thank you' was not required as it was not mandatory, or possibly Phillips was too busy continuing with Cape Race to send the courtesy reply as he was up to his elbows in work, or possibly he did try to send the reply some time later when Adams was doing another duty and he did not hear it?.
 
I can't feel are we trying shift the blame on that last message from Mesaba 9.52pm to Titanic which of may not reach the bridge?
How about the other early messages of ice ahead from Caronia, Noordam, Baltic, Amerika and Californian. How many messages does a captain need beforehand to take notices and put forward a action plan? Especially as his ship speed is double of the others, were extra precaution is required.
The true fault must lie with the captain not taking serious precaution beforehand and not the wireless operator!
 
There were multiple failings IMHO.

Had Bride and Phillips delivered to the bridge all ice messages I would submit the bridge would have taken a different course and reduced speed.

(This was not even commented on at the British Inquiry because, guess what, The Attorney General's brother was in charge of Marconi UK!)

There is clear and overwhelming evidence that Phillips and Bride ignored ice warning messages and did not take them to the bridge.

Their heroic endeavours staying at their posts till the last sending out 'CQD' or 'SOS' etc does not IMHO make up for their completely negligent behaviour before the iceberg was struck.

Cheers,

Julian
 

Rob Lawes

Member
The true fault must lie with the captain not taking serious precaution beforehand and not the wireless operator!

Agreed

Ultimately the Captain is responsible for everything that goes on on board his ship and the final blame rests with him.

That being said, if an investigation was being conducted today the performance of the wireless operators would be listed as causal factors which contributed to the disaster. There is no escaping from that fact.
 
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