Kitchen crew during the sinking


João Carlos Pereira Martins

The statistics show that a few number of cooks, scullions and cook assistants attempted to got on lifeboats but I've always wondered what that people were doing during the fateful hours. I know that some of them would be sleeping or resting in their bunks, but a large number might be on the kitchen, making the preparations for the morning breakfast. I believe that most of them stayed in their posts even when they noticed the danger and went the order to put on life belts. I doubt they would stay in the kitchen until the water flooded the dining room, and I heard some time ago that the restaurant staff remained in the pantries until the very end and went directly to the poop deck to escape from the water (no, I don't have any resource to support my commentary). Could have they helped lowering the lifeboats, but if was that the case, why so few of them survived? I've been thinking and a lot of the crew members who helped filling the boats were authorized to board them just before they were lauched!Is there any logical explanation?

Best regards for all, João
Joao, regarding your last question: It would appear that when there were no more women around the aft starboard lifeboats, anybody could jump in, passengers or crew. I believe that nearly 90 crewmen escaped in boats 9-15.

Best regards,

Thanks Peter, but a few number of those crewmen belonged the kitchen staff. I meant what they were doing during the sinking!

Best, João
Joao, I think you'll find that the answers to your questions are and will remain largely unknown. Only a third of the people who traveled on the Titanic even made it to the other side of the ocean alive, and most of them had either little interest in what others were doing or were not in a position to known.

The tragic reality is that for all the stories that are known, an even greater number of possible sources simply went down with the ship, and their stories will remain forever unknown.
Joao, there were no kitchen staff 'at their posts' during the sinking. Almost all of them would have been in their quarters, mostly asleep, at the time of the collision. Like the passengers, they were at first reassured that there was no cause for alarm and many went back to sleep, but within half an hour they received 'general orders' to put on lifebelts and go to the boat deck. Once there most would have been unoccupied, probably standing in groups awaiting further instructions. Some were given tasks connected with the evacuation, like baker Joughin and his men who were ordered to provision the lifeboats with bread. Others helped out in whatever way they could, according to orders or to their own judgement, and some were lucky enough to eventually find a place in a boat. But there was never any reason for them to be in the kitchen area. While he was there collecting bread, Joughin saw nobody in the kitchens except a few 3rd Class passengers looking for a way to reach the upper decks. The Restaurant and its kitchen area also would have been deserted. Its staff were ordered to remain below for longer, but that would have been in or near their quarters off the working alleyway on E deck.
Thanks, Bob. You really make an effort to answer my pointless questions. I was just curious.

Regards, JC
And I hear that a handful of chefs were probably trying to break down the door of the pantry they were trapped in. I read in "Unsinkable" that a group of Italian chefs were locked in a pantry by other crew members because of racial tension. This is probably only a small group of kitchen crew, but it is nevertheless a great example of how times were in 1912. I'm sure that if a modern-day cruise ship were to sink, that most likely wouldn't happen (and just think of the diversity of the crew on today's ships), but correct me if I may be wrong.

-Adam Lang
Adam - is there a reference in "Unsinkable" for the story you mention about the chefs? I wonder what Butler's original source was?
I've never seen any evidence that the restaurant personnel were ever 'locked in', and I doubt anyway that there was any lockable compartment available in the vicinity of their quarters. We have the testimony of Paul Mauge that some 60 of the waiters and kitchen staff were prevented (at least for some time) from "going up to the Second Class deck". It's quite clear from the testimony that they were prevented by the presence of stewards rather than of locks, but it's open to interpretation exactly where they were at this point.

"We had been by the third class deck just at the back, and we have been trying to go on the second class passenger deck". I believe it most likely that they were at this point on the open well deck. Mauge made the point that they could not escape from this location not because they were below decks but "because on the third class passenger deck there was no lifeboat at all, and it was not possible for them to go on the second class passenger deck". Furthermore he stated that the stewards guarding the way to the boats were "two or three on each side", which suggests the locations of the two open 'ladders' leading to the upper decks. Mauge believed that the restaurant staff never did get to the lifeboat decks: "So the other cooks were obliged to stay on the deck there; they could not go up. That is where they die". I take that to mean on the open well deck, not locked below.
"Adam - is there a reference in "Unsinkable" for the story you mention about the chefs? I wonder what Butler's original source was?"

I'll try to dig out the book and find out where he got that information from. Bob might be right about Butler's misinterpretation, though. From what I read, it seems like Butler has a way of romanticizing the events of that night quite a bit. Still, it makes for a great read.

-Adam Lang
>is there a reference in "Unsinkable" for the story you mention about the chefs?

Bill, I couldn't find this story about the a la carte staff in "Unsinkable," although it might be in there somewhere. I did find it both in Walter Lord's, "A Night to Remember" in chapter 4, and on page 61 of "1912 Facts About Titanic," revised edition, by Lee Meredith. I also did a quick check on TIP and found the testimony of Paul Mauge on day 19 of the British Inquiry concerning the staff being held back from the lifeboats. You can read his testimony here, beginning at question #20125:

Also, Steward James Johnson testified on Day 5 ( about seeing the a la carte staff before the sinking beginning at question #3620.

Apparently, Mr. Paul Mauge (Chef's Assistant) and Mr. Luigi Gatti (Gatti was in charge of the a la carte restaurant) were dressed in their civilian clothes at the time of the sinking, and therefore judged to be passengers by the crew. As for the rest of the staff, it's possible they were held back from the boats because they were of French and Italian origin. I'm not sure exactly where it's stated in the testimony that the staff was locked in their cabins (as stated in Meredith's book). An especially tragic story if true.

Denise, the man who accompanied Paul Mauge to the boat deck was the chef, Pierre Rousseau, not Mr Gatti. The restaurant staff were doomed not because of their nationality but basically because they were neither passengers nor crew members who could be expected (theoretically) to perform some useful role in a lifeboat. The restaurant was run independently as a concession, and its staff hired and paid by Mr Gatti. The postal workers and musicians were in a similar limbo, and all shared the same fate.
Bob: I believe the wireless operators could also be included as in the non-passenger, non-crew situation. What was the situation with the lift boys? And do know anything about the hours they worked?
Samuel, I think the wireless operators and the lift stewards also count as crew, because they rendered services on board and they helped to maintain the working of the ship.

Best, JC