John Thomas Poingdestre


Gaston Sam

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Aug 16, 2016
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There are a couple things about AB Poingdestre during the night of the sinking that deserve a better, closer review. It mainly revolves around his going back to the forecastle, and it’s been a bit overlooked. Why is it?

3rd Officer Herbert Pitman (US Inquiry):
They would not allow the sailors to get anything, as they thought we should get it again in the morning.

How is it that Poingdestre made his way back to the forecastle? Is it possible that he sneaked out from duty for a moment? According to ET “he was shown to have spent at least two occasions in the cells for rule breaking”, based on his RN records. But he also has been charged for sodomizing a deck boy in 1909 (ET), and for robbery (Hampshire Telegraph, 1914), so maybe it wouldn’t be surprising that he left the boat deck by his own.

So he went down to get his boots –and perhaps anything else that he could find at the empty cabins–. And having reached there, he found E deck flooded.

Here we have another issue: what time did he leave the boat deck? When asked at the BI, he gave two estimates of time from the moment of the collision to the time he went back to the forecastle: first a 45 minutes (12:25) space and then another of half an hour (12:10).

Considering that the lifeboat clearing began at 12:00 at the latest, I don’t think 12:10 is a correct time; Poingdestre claimed having cleared about 10 boats, which is rather unlikely. He started at the port side before crossing over the starboard side like many others; he likely worked at lifeboat Nº4 first, and probably went to 6 and/or 8 before moving starboard, but it is unknown whether he went forward or aft on that side.

If it was forward, he would have worked at lifeboat 5 before going below, and that would make his estimate of 12:25 more correct, although I think in that case he would have got to his quarters a little later, maybe 12:35 or so. But if he went to the after side, and he uncovered all the boats in there, his estimate of 10 boats wouldn’t be that incorrect –as he would have cleared at most 7 boats in total–, but his going back to the forecastle would have been much later.

Another issue comes up: what time was E deck flooded to the point of spilling through and breaking the wooden bulkhead and reach Poingdestre’s waist and higher?

The only reference I know is from steward Frederick Ray, who saw the forward half of the working alleyway flooded, after seeing lifeboat Nº7 leave the ship, and returning to his cabin to put his overcoat. His sighting of the water could have taken place at about 12:50, and judging by the sinking rate and ship forward list, probably the seamen’s quarter would be flooded higher than when Poingdestre left.

Returning to the boat deck, let’s suppose Poingdestre went back there at about 12:40. That would mean that no portside lifeboats had been launched yet, indeed he said at the BI that he heard the captain pass the remark, "Start putting the women and children in the boats," and then I went to my boat, No. 12.

It would take a bit until they started filling lifeboat 12, and maybe it was being uncovered by the time he reached back the deck –from what I understand of the lifeboat clearing on the after side, they would swing out a boat while the next one was being uncovered–, and the problem here is that he said he found Nº12 already swung out when he got there, and he also mentioned Lightoller being there, looking after it.

Is it possible he didn’t go straight to lifeboat 12 and actually helped at the forward lifeboats?


3198. I understand you assisted in lowering a number of boats before you went to your own?
- Yes.

He wasn’t asked in detail about that, and it is in fact a bit confusing: by “lowering a number of boats”, did they mean clearing and lowering level with the fishplate, or lowering to the water? Is it possible he helped at lifeboat Nº6 and then was ordered by Lightoller to go to Nº12 and load it? I don’t know if seamen would have such a freedom to move freely on that occasion.

Then I think it’s also possible he lowered or at least help to lower Nº14, and was there mistaken for McGough by AB Scarrott.

2934. How long were you away with No. 14?
- A matter of about ten minutes.

2941. And was that boat left, as you call it?
- No, the boat was lowered.

Maybe he just helped load it and keep rushers back. He then went back to Nº12, finding AB William Lucas there, which means lifeboat 16 had already been launched –and was in fact launched a little previous to 14–.