- Jul 8, 1999
Sorry to resurrect an old post but it seemed like an ideal one to discuss clarification of officers and crew during the loading and launching of Lifeboats #13 and #15, the statements about which are rather confusing. Of particular interest to me was whether Chief Purser Hugh McElroy was involved with those two boats.According to Beesley, an officer, who he thought was Murdoch, ordered 13 and 15 to be lowered, but immediately left that portion of the deck. According to Lookout Lee, an unknown person was supervising the loading down on A Deck, probably the 5th or 6th officer. Since we know Lowe had been busy over to the port side, it could have been Moody doing this.
As far I have understood, Moody lowered port Lifeboat #16 at about 01:20 am and a few minutes later crossed over to the starboard side aft, arriving there around 01:25 am. Did he first go to where Murdoch (and McElroy?) was loading Lifeboat #11 or proceed directly to #13 and #15? As far as I understand, at that stage both those lifeboats were still on the boat deck and Moody supervised their loading.
Murdoch completed loading of and lowered Lifeboat #11 at around 01:32 am from the boat deck and went aft to where Moody was loading #13 and #15. I think it was at that stage that the partially loaded Lifeboat #13 lowered to the A-deck for further loading and Murdoch presumably went to A-deck to supervise loading from there. This would have been around 01:35 am, perhaps a minute or two after. But as Beesley said (see Bill Wormstedt's quote above), he left soon afterwards, presumably to cross to the port side where Lifeboat #10 had just started loading.
According to Lookout Lee, an "unknown person" took over continued loading of Lifeboat #13 from the A-deck; who could it have been? Murdoch would have left someone responsible if he was going to the other side and the logical answer seems to be that it was McElroy, but I have not seen any statement placing the Chief Purser being there (willing to be corrected on this). But Leading Fireman Barrett, who arrived on A-deck just as Lifeboat #13 was about to be lowered, said that there was no 'officer' present there but he could hear one issuing orders above on the boat deck. That could only have been Moody supervising continued loading of Lifeboat #15 on the boat deck. But Barrett also said (in his interview with Ulster Echo) that he saw Boatswain Nichols helping with Lifeboat #13 and the latter ordered Barrett to get into #13 and "pull an oar".
But could McElroy also have been there? He was not an "officer" in the true sense of the word but would Barrett have been able to recognize that from the uniform? AFAIK, Barrett was not on the Olympic before he worked on the Titanic (although he did work on the sister ship after Titanic sank) and so might not have known McElroy's rank. But Fireman George Beuchamp said that an officer was present when Lifeboat #13 was on A-deck which meant that he was referring to either Murdoch before the First officer crossed over or thought McElroy (assuming that he was there) was an officer.
In his article Whatever Happened to "Big Neck" Nichols? Brad Payne feels that Saloon Steward Alexander Littlejohn, who was rescued on Lifeboat #13, should have recognized Nichols on A-deck since Littlejohn had worked with the boatswain on the Olympic. The only reason that Littlejohn did not see Nichols could have been (again according to Payne) was because Nichols was one of the scouts gone out to gather more passengers for the lifeboats. I initially had thought that this was unlikely because Nichols would not have left his post if Murdoch had put him in charge of Lifeboat #13 before crossing over but if McElroy was also present, it would be quite all right.
Bathroom Steward Samuel Rule, rescued on Lifeboat #15, testified that when that boat was lowered to the A-deck, there was an officer present there. It could not have been Moody as he still was on the boat deck and Rule, who was on the Olympic, would have known Nichols and would not have mistaken the boatswain for an officer. But he could have considered Chief Purser McElroy as an "officer" despite the latter also having served on the sister ship.
In conclusion, could Chief Purser McElroy, who spent almost all his time on the starboard side during the sinking, have assisted with Lifeboats #13 and #15 from the A-deck? Is there any testimony to suggest it?