John Edward Hart


Dec 18, 1997
Walter Lord recounts that Steward Hart escorted his first group of third class women and children to boat 8, just as that boat was leaving. What happened to them after that? The lifeboat lists show only five women and children in boat 10, one in boat 12, and four in boat 14. Did they all go back inside to keep warm, and maybe emerge later (or not)? Did they wander to the starboard side? Did they remain in a group and leave together in boat 16 (which held many Irish women from third class)? Any theories?

Glenn Miller

My theory: I think many things conspired that kept people out of the boats. First, the Titanic was in the North Atlantic Shipping Lane. This was essentially a freeway for ships. The passengers on the Titanic had seen many ships pass throughout the day and days leading up to Sunday night. Some could even see the Mystery ship (arguably the Californian) and word must have passed to reinforce the notion that the life boats were merely a means to getting to one of these nearby ships. Poor decisions were made regarding the cold, confluence of class, the cacophony, the assumption of "unsinkable" and the lack of coordinated leadership from the ships crew. Steward Hart's intention below deck could have easliy been significantly changed when he arrived at the boat deck as he continued to gather information key to every decision he was able to make.

David Gleicher (Davidg)

I'm very interested in the treatment of the third class passengers, a major issue being their access to the lifeboats, and have found almost no verification of Steward Hart's testimony. Does anybody know of any? As you say, there were no third class passengers in Boat 8, and indeed significant numbers of third class passengers loaded into lifeboats didn't occur until around 1:30 - 1:35, some 20 to 45 minutes after these thirty or so women were putatively taken to the boat deck. I would note that while Lord, and more recently Butler set a great deal of store in Hart's testimony, other writers like Geoffrey Marcus and Paul Quinn ignore it entirely. Quinn focuses instead on the testimony of Abelseth on the issue of third class passengers to the lifeboats in general.
Dec 13, 1998
Dear David, steward Hart's testimony is very interesting indeed. He stated he took a group of women and children to boat 8, yet nobody in the vicinity seems to recall this particular incident. Then he said he took about 25 women and children to boat 15 and they all left in it; I have a feeling the number he brought on deck was significantly lower than 25, probably eight or ten if even that; there were very few women in boat 15, and some of them didn't come on deck in groups. I have read that Mrs Johnson and her two children said something to this effect; a steward led them up on deck, but that is it. I am sure there would be more cases, however.
Another incident alleged to have occurred at boat 15 is that men tried to 'rush' the boat. I don't really know where this comes from? Murdoch apparently said they could fill the boat up with men standing nearby (according to steward Rule)since there were no more women/children nearby. I believe the men just entered the boat without further ado, but it would be interesting to know where the idea comes from that men tried to rush boat 15.


David Gleicher (Davidg)


Thanks for your response (particularly since we seem to agree). I'd appreciate any specific reference you might have on Mrs. Johnson.

There is one other possible exception to the silence on Steward Hart. According to Wetterholm, Mrs. Pekka Pietra Hakkerainen (maiden name, Matilda Dolk) joined a group of steerage passengers being collected by a steward, guiding them to the boat deck.

Mrs. Hakkarainen did end up in lifeboat 15 along with Hart, and this brief account does seem in line with Hart's testimony. On the other hand, if it is Hart, then it speaks to the probability of third class women waiting on the boat deck for as long as 45 minutes to get on lifeboats, since Mrs. Hakkarainen in this same account is brought to the lifeboat by an officer who came up to her on the boat deck and told her there was space for one more woman in a nearby boat. This would mean that she would have have been in the first group brought to the boat deck by Hart, not the second.

In any case, since she does not name Hart, and as you say there is a paucity of collaborative evidence in general for Hart's testimony, this does not lend all that much support for it.


Mike Herbold

Dec 13, 1999
Thank you for this well documented and still very readable article.

Not being one who has the inclination to arduously study the allocation of passengers to lifeboats, I can only begin to imagine the patience, organization, and perserverance that it takes to sift through reams of documents and conflicting testimony to try to uncover the truth. What I especially like about your article is how easy it is to follow your logic -- you do not let the minute details bog down the story. You never lose your reader. And, with all the tables and endnotes, you start the reader down the road to further research, should they be so inclined. If they are not interested in further research, you have at least left them with one indelible impression of John Edward Hart's role in guiding third class passengers to safety. (One minor note -- I would have been interested in any 3rd class passenger testimony or lack of same.) Extremely well done, sir.
Dec 12, 1999
My thanks, too, for the interesting article. I really enjoy reading research that pokes holes in these hallowed stories about Titanic's heroes. David's conclusion is a good one, too, and reflects the way that I've felt about some of the people involved in the disaster for a long time:

Like most us, Hart was neither a hero nor a villain, or perhaps one might say he was a little of both . . . Hart probably did help direct third class passengers after the accident, although probably not too many women and children, and, by his own testimony, he did not direct them to the Boat Decks, but rather to the stern.(17) When the chance came to save himself he took it. And when the opportunity came to testify, he fashioned a tale which was uncritically repeated by Walter Lord. The rest, one might say is history.

Unfortunately, as Mrs. White testified, the people on board weren't particularly brave. Many of them didn't think the ship would even sink. Then, when it became apparent that it would, a panic started to break out. Unfortunately, by that time most of the boats were gone. Some of the male survivors found it necessary to embellish their stories.

The other interesting thing, perhaps, is that this research lends additional credence to the view there was a class system followed in the filling the lifeboats - - inasmuch as one of the stories raised in opposition to this thesis was the conduct of Steward Hart.

Michael Friedman


After taking some time to meditate on this topic, some observations come to mind.

I remember asking a question related to this topic over a year ago, specifically, "what happened to the people Mr. Hart escorted to Boat 8?" Now Mr. Gleicher has addressed these and other concerns about Mr. Hart's role in the disaster. I can't say I was happy to read his conclusions (I doubt he was happy to learn them), but the evidence may be inescapable. There just doesn't seem to be corroborating evidence for Mr. Hart leading two groups from third class to the boat deck.

Actually, as Walter Lord noted in ANTR, even the most conservative estimates of those saved in the lifeboats counted far more women and children, and far fewer men, than were actually saved. It seems most everyone was prone to exaggeration about that night.

Could Mr. Hart perhaps have suffered from the same syndrome? Could a small group of five or ten passengers have been improved upon, until it became two groups of 30 and 28? Everyone else seems to have "missed" the large numbers of men (both crew and passengers) in the aft starboard boats; might Mr. Hart have similarly downplayed the number of men in his groups (or group)?

There still remains Elin Hakkurainian's account, as quoted by Judith Geller in "Women and Children First". Mrs. Hakkurainian stated that she was encouraged by a steward to join a small group of women he was leading to the boat deck. Could this steward possibly have been Mr. Hart?

Also, Mrs. George Joseph Whabee remembered well- dressed men (perhaps first class passengers, but perhaps also stewards in uniform?) leading her and others to the boat deck.

It seems that SOMEONE from the steward department did lead women and children from third class to the boats. If not Steward Hart, then whom? The name of Steward Denton Cox has been mentioned in the past; in fact, Mr. Hart mentioned him, but is there any corroborating evidence?

It's sad that more people weren't actively heroic on that night. Perhaps further research can locate someone (Steward Hart or otherwise) who truly was.
Apr 27, 2000
Mike, Jan and Michael,

My apologies for not responding sooner to the messages about my article, but it's been a busy week for me. Thank you for the kind comments about the piece. Jan has seen through to my larger interest: the question of the third class passenger's access to the lifeboats that night. I think the answer is a complicated one and am writing a book on the subject.

Mike, certainly one of the sticking points with Hart's testimony is that there are no known third class passengers, or for that matter other stewards, who corroborate it. This is in contrast, by the way, to Father thomas Byles, who did apparently help a number of women in the extreme rear of the ship up to the boat deck (and refused a place in a lifeboat hmself to boot). There are several women who specifically attested to Byles' heroism, but none (out of a supposed 55!) who specifically attested to Hart's. In itself this is not determinative, of course, but in conjunction with the other evidence it does strengthen the case.

Michael, I would not say that stewards did not help certain third class women get to the boat deck. This would be true particularly I think from between 12:00 and 12:30AM--after there were instructions for stewards to get passengers out of their quarters, into lifebelts and up to the boat deck--until around 1:00AM or so, when the boat deck was seemingly closed off to third class passengers in the stern. But this generally involves directing individuals; there is no claim (other than Hart's) I know of, of a steward actually bringing someone from the lower decks all the way to the lifeboat into which they were loaded, let alone of bringing two groups, each of about 30 women and children.

There are, as you write, statements attributed (third-hand) to Elin Hakkarainen, a third class passenger, that seem to lend support to Hart's account. Hakkarainen is said to have told of an unnamed steward who directed her along with a 'small group' of women to the boat deck. She is known to have been in Lifeboat 15, and to that extend could be referring to Hart's second group. However, there is no mention by her of Hart by name, nor is any other woman identified as being in the group. Moreover, some of the assertions attributed to Hakkarainen seem to contradict Hart's account. Judith Geller writes of her sitting on the boat deck looking for her husband, but Hart testified that the passengers were immediately loaded into the lifeboat by him. Other statements attributed to Hakkarainen seem quite fanciful, as one would expect from a third-hand account. All in all, it requres a leap of faith to believe that such a vague allusion is sufficient to confirm Hart's testimony. At best, one might say, as you suggest, that perhaps on his way to the boat deck himself, Hart helped a handful of women to get there as well, and that he then blew this up into saving almost one half of all the third class women and children who survived the accident.


Senan Molony

Jun 28, 1998
Hart’s testimony is difficult. And David has commendably pointed some of those difficulties out.
It seems scarcely credible that he saw a large supply of third class women and children into boat 8. In fact, this didn’t happen.
However, it seems Hart didn’t know which first class stairs he used to get up to the boat deck. And this may be important.
He says he took passengers up to the after well deck (D) and then up a ladder to C deck, through second class, and then to a first class companion (but there were two..), all the way to the boat deck.
To get to the Grand Staircase forward, he would have to walk his people almost the length of Scotland Road (not “Scotland Yard”, Dave, unless the British police are looking for Hart for perjury…!!!)
The difficulty with this suggestion of going forward — and Hart agreed repeatedly with the suggestion that he did so — is that he would have walked his people past the after first-class entrance… which also went all the way to the boat deck.
Why would he — and they - walk past the nearest available route to salvation? It was in an open area… obvious….
At Br 9949 Hart seems to agree that the stairs he used was indeed the 1st class stairs AFT because it was close to the barber shop, which counsel could see on the plans.
However he later states that he did not know where the barbershop was…
Nonetheless, counsel were for a time obviously convinced Hart had used the *aft* stairs.
While lifeboat 8 is indeed specified for Hart’s first group, Hart does not specifically say that they got into this boat — and we know they didn’t.
He says he got them there as this boat was being lowered (ie, arguably not taking any more passengers) and (Br 9957) “I left them there.”
He left them at that location. He did not seem them actually into the boat. He then goes below, and leaves them to their own devices. Whether they were actually at this location or not (and could they have instead been at 10?), Hart’s evidence is just about capable of being true - whatever happened to them thereafter. He doesn’t say, and we don’t know.
To my mind, Hart indeed came up the *aft* first class stairs the second time at least… he refers to the open space visible from this rear stairs towards where the port side boats had been. Moving to starboard, he can see 15.

There is no mention of going all the way *forward* the second time in order to ascend and then going all the way *aft* to 15. There is no mention of that. He goes up the stairs and next 15 would appear to be right there on the starboard side. This suggests to me that, at the second time at least, he used the aftermost first class stairs.
Again, one could argue that Hart made no distinction between the mode of access for his two journeys, so it may be possible that his first journey also took him up the after stairs. However one is then confronted with Hart’s repeated references to boat 8… And he repeatdly agreed with counsel's suggestions. However, a lot of witnesses allowed themselves to be led in this way. Hart mentions 8, but it's likely he's mistaken rather than lying. At least I would prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt. It would take a lot, to my mind, to spin bot one but two complete fairy stories to an official Inquiry.
At the end of the day, Hart did not portray himself as a hero and was not portrayed as such by either the British Inquiry or by the press. Harbinson (for the 3rd class) said it appeared to him that Hart’s evidence was not “absolutely accurate” (which would hardly make him unique, either as practiced exaggerator or honest injun) and that it may have been “touched up” in some respects. Here, however, Harbinson was talking about steerage restraint… and it is noticeable that Hart said at 10317 that when he went down the second time, steward were preventing men getting up when the order was for women and children.
Yes, there are massive problems with Hart’s evidence. But whether this is sinister or not is in the eye of the beholder.
Just my two cents.
Mar 20, 2000

I have read & much enjoyed this article. I admit never to having thought much as to whether or not Steward Hart's story was feasible. But with his account's being re-examined so well here by Gleicher, it certainly seems flawed at best.

I tend to think he was not absolutely lying though surely Harbinson was right that his story was colored a bit. This would not take him too far afield insofar as Titanic survivor stories go as I really do believe many people exaggerated their experiences.

I think he probably did bring up a group or groups of women & children but in his haste - as he must have been in haste - did not take time to see them into boats as he claimed or even to notice which boats were nearby.

I think the truth is midways here. He tried to help as much as possible and succeeded admirably enough though perhaps not to the extent to which he later testified.

All round this is a very good piece of research. My congratulations to David Gleicher for tackling the subject.


Bob Cruise

David Gleicher's recent article picks apart Steward Hart's testimony and comes up with numerous discrepancies.

I can only add that other stewards - and passengers - have also made statements that contained equally curious discrepancies.

Furthermore, regarding David's excellent research on the lifeboats, I would like to point out something which I found in the course of my own Titanic examination: that the starboard aft boats carried the highest numbers of the escaping crew - a good number of which were stewards (boat 11 carried 14 male stewards and 7 stewardesses).

Additionally, more than one steward testified that both Officer Murdoch and Purser McElroy actually took these guys by the arm and ordered them into the boats.

Leads me to a very intriguing theory on a subject which has never been addressed.

Can anybody guess where I'm going with this?

It's the subject of a play I've just finished...
Aug 31, 2015
Hart route

I understood that Hart get women and children to boat deck this way: He used Third class Entrance to C Deck to AFT Well Deck, then he used one of stairs leading on B deck. But what then? I have two candidate ways. Through Second Class Staircase or také through Café Parisian to Aft Grand Staircase and continued some another way through first class corridors.
Nov 13, 2014
Third Class steward John Hart is well-known for saving many third class passengers by bringing them up top in groups. He brought his first group to lifeboat 8.
9952. How many people of your lot did you take up the first time you went up this course to the boat deck?
- Somewhere about 30.

9953. All women and children of the third class?
- Yes, on that occasion, on the first occasion.

9954. And having got them to the boat deck, do you remember whereabouts on the boat deck you took them to?
- Yes. I took them to boat No. 8, which was at that time being lowered.

9955. That is the fourth boat on the port side?
- Yes.

9956. Practically opposite the second funnel, or a little more forward than the second funnel?
- Yes.

9957. Did you leave them there?
- I left them there and went back again.
But, ET lists only First Class passengers and a few crew members as the only occupants of lifeboat 8, so where are the third class passengers? Were they in the boat and not listed as such? Or did they leave in another boat?
Mar 18, 2008
You can find the answer in his testimony.

10250. With regard to the ones who went up and went back again when they found, I think you said, it was rather cold on the boat deck, did they belong to the first or second lot that you took up? - How do you mean? Please say that again.
10251. You said a number went to the boat deck and returned to their berths? - They belonged to the first lot, because the second lot I saw placed in boat No. 15.
10252. The whole of them? - Yes.
10253. How many of the first lot returned to their berths? - I cannot tell you that.
10254. You cannot give any estimate? - No. I know I saw them to the boat deck.

Some researchers doubt that the story Hart told was true and he might have made it up to present himself as a kind of hero.

Gaston Sam

Aug 16, 2016
Some researchers doubt that the story Hart told was true and he might have made it up to present himself as a kind of hero.
I got to believe that too, but then you have lifeboat 16, which presumably was the first boat to be lowered on the port side aft. If I'm not wrong most of its occupants were third class women, and the first group that Hart led to deck ended up near lifeboat 8 which was about to be lowered. I think they might have been taken aft by Wilde after finishing with number 8, as some ABs stated he was bringing passsengers to the aft port boats. Then, as far as I know, we lack testimonies from most of the passengers that boarded lifeboat 16, so it's hard to say. I've not really done extensive research on this, but it could be plausible that Hart's first group departed in lifeboat 16, assuming his testimony was not a lie.
Aug 31, 2015
As Paul Lee stated on his site:

Titanic Greaser Frederick Scott was according to his testimony in corridors at same time, in which Hart claimed he leads the passengers in his charge, and saw no one.

This means: Either one of men said a wrong time or lied.