Job when leaving Southampton


Feb 28, 2007
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I'm new to this so I hope I state my question clearly. I was wondering, while Titanic was leaving Southampton. I know that Murdoch, Pitman, and Boxhall were on the docking bridge. What I'm having trouble understanding is if Murdoch was on the docking bridge how was he in charge of the mooring lines? Also how was Boxhall passing telegraph orders down to the engine room? Was Lowe telling him what to do over the phone? I hope I stated my question clearly.

Thank you for your help
Justice
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Let me try to explain in simplest terms. Titanic was built before intercom systems and walkie-talkies. The captain was nearly two football field lengths from the poop where the stern docking lines were located. Some manner of communications was needed.

The answer was something called a "docking telegraph." It looked just like an engine order telegraph (built of the same parts), but the sectors were labeled with line handling instructions and/or responses. An order to heave in, or to let go a line could be sent from the navigating bridge to the docking bridge almost instantaneously using the docking telegraph.

Officers were placed on the docking bridge to receive those orders and to insure they were promptly and correctly executed by the seaman actually handling the cables and capstans.

Given the quality of 1912 telephones, the docking telegraph was probably still the best way to pass the necessary information. Today, it's done with walkie-talkies, but the basic system remains the same. The captain gives orders to officers who oversee that they are carried out.

Another telegraph that looked like an engine order instrument was the steering telegraph. In the event that the telemotor system on the navigating bridge broke down, Titanic could be steered from the docking bridge. Steering orders would have been sent via telegraph from the navigating bridge and acknowledgements sent back.

The whole idea was that the navigating bridge would remain the "brains" of the ship even if equipment failed. A breakdown in steering might force the use of the wheel on the docking bridge, but orders to the quartermaster at that wheel would still have come from the navigating bridge.

-- David G. Brown
 

Lori Dunn

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Mar 8, 2006
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But if Murdoch was still on the docking bridge how did he communicate with the seaman on the boat deck?
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>But if Murdoch was still on the docking bridge how did he communicate with the seaman on the boat deck?<<

With good old fashioned vocal cords backed up be powerful lungs. He may have had a megephone (I don't know) but there's no special trick to it. Just yell it out!
 

Lori Dunn

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Please pardon my stupidity. Of course he would have shouted. I feel so embarrassed for asking that question.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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>>Please pardon my stupidity.<<

Hardly stupid. Just an honest lack of knowladge, and none of us is immune to that. We take so many tools such as walkie talkies so for granted that sometimes, it just doesn't occur to us that there was a time when such things just didn't exist. They had to do things the hard way.
 

Shea Sweeney

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Apr 1, 2007
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Before I start let me apologize for adding onto old posts; I have a habit of doing that.

Anyway, Murdoch was on the aft docking bridge. On the bow poop deck was Second Officer Lightoller, Bosun Alfred (Albert?) Nichols, and maybe even Chief Officer Wilde if my memory serves me correctly. In the Lightoller bio by Patrick Stenson it states that orders pertaining to the lines were ordered by Captain Smith via Fifth Officer Lowe on a telephone from the bridge to somewhere on the bow poop deck. But perhaps Stenson was mistaken in the method of communication.
 

Shea Sweeney

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One more thought after my post above. Perhaps someone else would know the answer. How many seamen did it take to dock and cast off the lines on a gigantic ship such as the Titanic? My memory tells me that there were sixty-something members of the Deck Department of Titanic's crew. So maybe it was thirty on the bow and thirty on the stern? I do not know.
 

Inger Sheil

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Stenson's a good read, Shea, but not always totally reliable. For example, in that passage he refers to Lowe having a Welsh accent - this is incorrect, and seems to be based on inference. I've tried to trace a primary source on where he places Lowe, so far without success (suggestions welcome here!).

I've been discussing the stationing of the deck officers on leaving Southampton with Mark Chirnside recently, taking the obvious example of the evidence given at the Olympic/Hawke inquiry. This is where they were on that occasion (with a big nod to Mark's notes - I have no idea where my own inquiry notes are!):

Chief Officer Wilde was on the forecastle head.

First Office Murdoch was stationed on the poop deck, aft. (1073. Q. Was it your station to be on the poop? A. On the after end of the ship.) He does not state it explictly, but it is often assumed he was on the docking bridge aft.

Second Officer Hume was in the crow's nest with two lookout men, on the foremast.

Fourth Officer Alexander was standing at one of the bridge telegraphs in the central bridge enclosure.

Fifth Officer Tulloch was at the standard compass between the second and third funnels

Sixth Officer Holehouse was on the bridge, taking all the notes down for the rough log and using the magnetic clock in the wheelhouse to take the times.

Need to check the position of the third officer. Mark has also tracked down information from the mid-twenties on the Olympic which gives different positions again.
 

James Smith

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Inger -

So, Captain Smith would have been the "officer of the watch" at the time? Or would the harbor pilot have filled that role?

--Jim
 

Inger Sheil

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My understanding is that the vessel was under pilotage, so in effect Bowyer was the master of the vessel. This is why Bowyer was found legally culpable for the Olympic's collision with the Hawke. Although this law was later amended, the section of the Maritime Acts in force in 1911-1912 (Merchant Shipping Act 1894 with Amending Acts Sections 572-633) provided that every ship, other than an exempted ship, while navigating in a compulsory pilotage district and every ship carrying passengers was required to be in charge of a licensed pilot of the district, or of a master or mate possessing a pilotage certificate for the district who is acting as master or mate of the ship.
 

Shea Sweeney

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Thank you Inger for your follow up.

But when you spoke of the incorrectness of Officer Lowe bearing a Welsh accent what did you mean? I have not researched Lowe as much as the other officers so I naturally assumed he had a Welsh accent. Not that I'm testing your statement just something I was not aware of.
 

Inger Sheil

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It's an interesting point, Shea - I had (like many others, including Stenson and James Cameron) assumed that, because he was born in Wales, Lowe had a Welsh accent. He was, however, Anglo-Welsh. Both his parents were English (although his father's family did have some historical Welsh ties, but not as "natives"). His family advised me that although he could speak Welsh, he had a more generic English accent. I imagine he may have sounded like his son did - although born and raised in North Wales, HWGL had a very distinctly enunciated English pronounciation - almost a "BBC English".
 

Shea Sweeney

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See that's why I joined this thing. Just when you think you know a whole bunch about the Titanic something pops up!
 
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I am taking a rare trip to the crew research section, where I feel distinctly out of place, but the issue of the officers' locations is an interesting one for me to spend a (rare) spare half hour.

quote:

Mark has also tracked down information from the mid-twenties on the Olympic which gives different positions again.
I did indeed, Inger.

The positions given in the mid 1920s were for the chief and second officers to be on the forecastle head when the ship was leaving the dock; the assistant commander [which did not exist in 1912], first and third officers were on the 'after bridge' (or the docking bridge on the poop); and then the captain and junior officers were on the bridge with the pilot.

There are similarities with Olympic's officers and their positions during the Hawke collision in 1911. The chief officer was on the forecastle head, which matched the mid 1920s procedure; then the second officer was staioned in the crow's nest (1911), which I suppose was over the forecastle (mid 1920s); we know Murdoch was on the poop deck in 1911 (the aft docking bridge), possibly with a third officer (which would match the mid 1920s); the fourth officer was by the main bridge's telegraphs, the sixth officer taking the log and times in 1911; and the junior officers, commander and pilot were generally on the bridge according to the mid 1920s procedure.

The key difference between the Hawke collision in 1911 and the description I have from the mid 1920s is that we have a fifth officer amidships attending to the standard compass (in 1911 but not mentioned in the mid 1920s), while the positions of the chief and second officers are slightly different but still similar.

Now, regarding Titanic in 1912: if Stenson placed Murdoch on the aft docking bridge then that would seem to fit my 1911 and mid 1920s information; presumably Wilde, as chief officer, would be on the forecastle. The odd detail, again, lies with the fifth officer: you would expect him to be either amidships (as in 1911) or on the bridge (as per the mid 1920s), but Stenson implicitly puts him on the poop deck (where we would have expected the third officer to be according to the mid 1920s information, without 1911 to hand).

What has been published regarding the locations of Titanic's officers when the ship left Southampton? And what sources were relied upon?

Best wishes,

Mark.​
 
Dec 4, 2000
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An observation -- the positions of the officers follow very closely their order of rank, the importance of the task at hand, and deck/conn during an emergency.

The type and placement of telegraphs indicate that Titanic/Olympic were intended to have the functions of deck & conn centered on the bridge at nearly all times. The conn might be separated from the deck, as when making course changes from the standard compass, but at all times the deck would remain on the bridge. Thanks to the various telegraph systems, it was intended that the bridge would retain the deck and conn even should there be some failure in the steering system.

This is why the captain was always on the bridge where normally he had deck and conn. If in pilot waters, the pilot was on the bridge for the same reasons. Both captain and pilot were surrounded by junior officers to operate the various telegraphs needed to convey orders.

In a conventional ship with screws and rudder aft the conn has great control over the stern. But, the bow is without any means of control from the bridge. This means that the bow is more likely to "get out of control" than the stern when maneuvering and docking. Note that in both the early and later manning schemes the most senior officers are on the forecastle where emergencies would be most likely to develop.

In a likely emergency, the overhang of the bow would likely block the captain's vision from the bridge. (E.g. a tugboat problem.) In that case, the conn would pass to the senior officer on the forecastle who would be able to walk to the rail and view the situation. The captain would retain the deck.

Should the steering telemotor system fail, a steering telegraph was available to instruct the docking bridge. In such an emergency, it would be necessary to have a senior officer aft to oversee the conn. And, the next lower officer was there.

In addition, the line handlers on the poop deck needed direct supervision by a senior officer, giving a dual role for that person.

Titanic/Olympic were navigated by their standard compasses. Early, that required placing an officer on the platform amidships whenever the ship was to be conned to a new course heading. And, in 1911 the fifth officer was present. Later, the Olympic was fitted with a standard compass atop the wheelhouse and it was unnecessary to have an officer on the platform. Unless someone has hard evidence to the contrary, I would expect to find the fifth in the monkey bridge atop the wheelhouse at the new standard compass.

Perhaps Stensen mixed up his "bridges?"

Note the sixth is standing by to keep the scrap log in both the early and late manning schemes.

All-in-all, it appears the positions of the officers reflected a desire to have those of higher experience and rank in the positions where they could do the most good should something go wrong. Forehandedness is the hallmark of a good seaman.

-- David G. Brown
 
Jan 5, 2001
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I agree that the placement of the officers appears to have been logical and, given the similarities fifteen years later, the White Star Line seem to have retained the arrangement for some years.

I had hoped someone else would chime in with some specific sources as regards the officers' locations on Titanic's departure, but it is a hot summer weekend after all. I am sure I have some notes on it somewhere, but finding them can be very awkward as I have so many files which are not all fully indexed.

In terms of the location of the fifth officer in the 1920s, I am afraid only one instance springs to mind -- I forgot about it earlier. On one of Olympic's departures, the account of her fifth officer makes it very clear that his station was on the bridge wing: he was quite specific about that detail.

Several points are interesting with regard to the compass arrangement. (No pun intended, but I've left the word there anyway...I'm lazy.) After Olympic had the compass installed over the wheelhouse, during the transatlantic voyage all three compasses were logged so that comparisons could be made: the compass course, deviation and so forth. This was the procedure as late as October 1933, and presumably until the end of Olympic's career. However, when she was in the English Channel (for example) only two compasses were logged: the standard compass and steering compass. Sam Halpern believes that the compass which was not logged in those circumstances was the newer one above the wheelhouse.

I had some interesting discussions with Sam about the topic, and he has some informative observations. Hopefully he will see this thread and chime in.

Best wishes,

Mark.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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According to private information that Geoffrey Marcus had, the stationing of the officers when Titanic left the dock was:

C/O Wilde was on the forecastle head in charge of moorings. He was assisted by 2/O Lightoller who also seeing to the spring lines at the after end of the forecastle head and also passing order from bridge. Also on the forecastle head was the Boatswain Alfred Nichols with a party of men manning the lines there.

1/O Murdoch was stationed on the poop deck in charge of moorings there. He was assisted by 3/O Pitman who was stationed on the docking bridge passing orders from bridge. Also on the poop was Boatswain's Mate Albert Haines who was in charge of a party of men manning the lines there.

4/O Boxhall was stationed on the navigation bridge working the telegraphs under orders from the Captain and the Pilot, and logging the times of movement. 5/O Lowe was stationed in the wheelhouse manning the telephones, while 6/O Moody was stationed at the gangway. The wheelhouse had phones that connected to the forecastle, the docking bridge, the crow's nest, and the engine room.

The overall responsibility for the moorings and gangways fell to C/E Wilde. It was his responsibility to see that everyone was on station, that mooring lines were singled and held taut till the gangways are landed, and that all ports are closed before the ship left the dock. These were all by IMM rules (211). 1/O Murdoch was required to be aft out on the poop (IMM rule 307) and was responsible for mooring and unmooring the ship there and making sure that nothing will foul the propellers. He, as well as the 2/O Lightoller, were under the direction of C/E Wilde while in port.

As noted in my article Titanic's Prime Mover, when entering or leaving port, the chief engineer would be on the starting platform along with two senior and three junior engineers. Chief engineer Bell would have been in the center of the platform, midway between the two reciprocating engines near the two hydraulic reversing engines (called Brown’s engines) watching every movement of the telegraphs and seeing that all orders were being carried out. The two senior engineers, probably William Farquharson and Bertie Wilson, would have worked the controls for the two engines, and a junior engineer, probably Harvey or Shephard, wrote down every order that came down from the bridge and logged the time to the minute off an electric clock that was controlled by a master clock in the chart room up on the bridge. Two other junior engineers, probably Harrison and Hesketh, were there on the starting platform to answer the engine-order telegraphs which were located about 12 feet apart on the forward LP cylinder columns of the engines.

Once the ship got into the channel there could have been some changes of positions. The gangways were landed so there was no longer a need for an officer to remain at closed gangway doors. Now the ship would be following a path taking it out to sea and many course changes along the way would take place. It was a requirement (IMM Rule 104) that all alterations of course be entered in the ship's course book. This would have included alterations in course in channels as well as on the open sea. For the channels, the course book as used on Olympic had two printed entries to fill in, one for the standard compass course, the other for the steering compass course. The entries on a row that had to be filled in would appear under columns marked:

From; To; Course by Std. Comp.; Course by Stg. Comp.; Winds; Remarks.

Typical lines would look like:

Ocean dock ; Netley shoal buoy ; Var. ; Var. ; ENE ; 0.02 pm - left berth

Netley shoal buoy ; Fowley beacon ; S 35 E ; S 33 E ; '' ; (blank)

and so on.

In the remarks column they would write things down like the pilot's name and the time he departed or was picked up, the time the ship anchored or the time anchors were away, etc. Sometimes they would write in the "From" column in each row the time they left that particular location marker.

Once in the channel a J/O positioned on the compass platform would be needed to take the standard compass course. My guess is that either the 6/O or the 5/O would do that. The other would man the phones in the wheelhouse. Putting the 2/O up in nest after the ship left the dock also makes sense to me since channels could get crowded very fast and you would want as much advanced warning of the movements of other ships as possible, especially well before nearing the juncture of two bodies of water.

I'll have more to say about the courses on board book in the Compass Platform thread under: Technical / Construction / » The Bridges & Instrumentation.
 

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