Master at Arms T. W. King

Addison Hart

Former Member
Has anyone any real information on Master-At-Arms Thomas W. King, killed in the sinking? Chris Dohany and I have added him to our list of officers who could very well have commited suicide the night the ship went down. He not only worked on the starboard side of the ship, but according to a relative I met two years ago he was below decks with a pistol in the third class section for an hour before coming up to assist with the lifeboats. Of course being Master-At-Arms, he had access to the pistols.

King was born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, the son of Daniel and Harriet King. He was a widower, his wife having died the previous year, leaving him with two young daughters. He also had two sons, one reportedly in the Royal Navy at the time of the sinking and another residing in London. Since the death of his wife, his daughters had resided at his mother's house in Great Yarmouth. When not at sea Thomas lived there as well.

His background is similar to another suicide candidate, Henry Wilde, being that he was also a widower with children at home. In addition, King had his mother whom his pay helped to support. Like Wilde, one would imagine he had reasons to survive and return home, rather than end his life without a struggle. However, in the heat of the moment it's difficult to say what anyone would do.
Dear Addison,
Hello, how are you? I do not believe that I have had the pleasure of "meeting" you before. I am very glad to make your acquaintance.

You wrote:
"He (King) not only worked on the starboard side of the ship..."

It is interesting that Chris and you have brought up King as a suicide candidate. I must say that while I too agree that it is at least somewhat possible that King was the officer who reportedly shot himself, I am very skepticle for several reasons. First of all, no eyewitness ever reported seeing King with a gun on the boat deck, and there is nothing other than speculation to suggest that he had one on his person that night. He was most certainly not with Smith, Wilde, Murdoch and Lightoller when they received their four webleys. If he had a revolver on his person, it would have had to have been his own, or from his office, if he even had a gun there.

You mention that King was active in loading the starboard boats. I was wondering, what is your source for this? I have never seen any account suggesting that he was very active at all in loading the starboard, or any boats, but I am sure that there could be evidence that I may not have seen. There certainly is no first hand eyewitness testimony placing him, or even Chief Officer Wilde for that matter, at Collapsible A when the alleged shooting/suicide took place. That is the second reason why I am skepticle that he was the officer described by Rheims, Daly, R.N. Williams, Dorking, etc. So far, only First Officer Murdoch and Sixth Officer Moody have been confirmed as having been present during the attempted launch of Collapsible A. Also, no eyewitnesses or press articles ever claimed that he shot himself, rightly or wrongly, unless there is a rogue article claiming this, like the outrageous one that claimed that Astor, Butt and Strauss entered a pact to kill themselves rather than drown. Master-At-Arms Bailey was certainly seen around the boat deck, but he survived, and there is no evidence that he had a gun on his person either.

You wrote:
"but according to a relative I met two years ago he was below decks with a pistol in the third class section for an hour before coming up to assist with the lifeboats."

If I may ask, what was this relatives source for this? It is doubtful that many third class passengers would have known who the deck officers were, nevertheless the master-at-arms and pursers. I would be skepticle of any such report unless it was confirmed to be the report of a first hand witness, preferably a crewmember. This just sounds a little too strange to be given much credence. Who would have known he was below deck for an hour with a gun, and survived to tell the tale? Also, if King was below deck until around 1:00, how active could he have been in loading boats on the starboard side? This sounds a little too similar to the modern-day reports claiming that Lightoller privately admitted to shooting passengers, Lightoller wrote a private letter telling who shot himself, etc...

I don't mean to pick apart your theory, but I just wanted to point out that while I have considered King a "suspect", I have been unable to find any evidence to consider him a serious candidate at all. It is a very interesting possibility, and if any evidence surfaces that shows my opinion was wrong, I will change my opinion accordingly.

Well, it is very nice to meet you. I hope that things are well with you.
Best regards,
Tad Fitch

Readers may want to visit Bill Wormstedt's exstensive page on this topic. The address can be found in the links section of this website.
Dear everybody; does everybody think that anyone committed suicide at all? I know that this probably is the case, but I must say I never really believed that (always the sceptic....)I know that Rheims and E Daly wrote something to that effect, but did they in fact see a body????

Best regards,

Dear Peter,

My own personal opinion is that no one commited suicide.

One of the officers shot down between the ship and lifeboats twice as warning to keep order. I believe that this happened. I also believe that no one was shot, wounded, or killed during this episode.

I believe that with that in the minds of passengers and the clear night, that sound would have been amplified. Therefore when the wires holding the stack snapped, I believe that it made a gun shot type of sound to those who had heard or witnessed the first gun being discharged, may have assumed that this sound also came from a gun. This I believe lead to the telling of several shots being fired.

Also, if the wires had hit anyone at close range, they would knock that person and possibly kill them or knock them into the sea. A sudden clap noise like a gun shot and a person falling from the ship at the exact same time could appear to be a gun shot related incident and yet not be.

I believe that the officers believed that the "other ship" would be able to rescue them in time.

The other issue that has been brought up on other threads here is that suicide was so horrible a fate due to insurance, religion and the laws, that it was often not documented. I was not there and I have never been in an officer's position like this, so it is hard for me to say that it would never happen. But I simply can not believe that men who were operating in a sacrificial way with the passengers for 2 hours and keeping their heads and who believed that the nearby ship would come to get them or that they at least could jump into the water and swim to a nearby lifeboat...that any of these men would suddenly lose hope and kill themselves.

Also, many bodies had gone through a lot that night, so unless someone actually saw the incident and saw the body with the wounds, I would question the my opinion. The wires as mentioned would cause injuries, falling into floating objects in the water, being sucked into the portholes or other openings as the ship sank...all of these could cause gashes and open wounds. All which to the untrained eye may have seemed like they could have been gun shot wounds.

Okay, that is my silly opinion on the topic.
Have a great day Peter.
Dear everyone,
Hello, how are you? Good I hope.

Peter wrote:
"Dear everybody; does everybody think that anyone committed suicide at all?"

It is not a matter of simply believing it or not. In fact, I wish that it didn't happen. But the fact remains that several witnesses independently recalled seeing an officer shoot at passengers, then kill himself during the last seconds on board the ship. The weight of evidence has convinced me of the reality of the situation.

Peter wrote:
"I know that Rheims and E Daly wrote something to that effect, but did they in fact see a body????"

The list of witnesses goes beyond George Rheims and Eugene Daly, both of whom mentioned the incident several times, Rheims in a private letter to his wife, and in a press interview the next day, and in the case of Daly, told of it dozens of times, publicly and privately, and even testified about it under oath in the limitation hearings. They *both* saw the incident and the bodies. Daly is particularly clear about this, and Rheims clearly described seeing it as well in more than one place. R.N. Williams, for an example of other witnesses, heard a gunshot a few feet behind when the boat deck began submerging (the funnel was not falling yet, that happened later, when he saw it crush his father, so that cannot be an explaination), several witnesses heard gunshots *before* the funnel fell, etc. Look at Bill Wormstedt's page for all the accounts:

Addison wrote:
"Therefore when the wires holding the stack snapped, I believe that it made a gun shot type of sound to those who had heard or witnessed the first gun being discharged, may have assumed that this sound also came from a gun."

This is another theory that people have talked about over and over, but it hardly explains Daly's accounts of *seeing* an officer shoot two passengers, *seeing* their bodies on the deck, and then hearing another gunshot and *seeing* the officer's body itself lying on the deck. Nor does this explain George Rheims accounts of *seeing* an officer shooting a man, then bidding a quiet goodbye to those around him and *seeing* him send a bullet into his head. Nor does it explain the other witnesses who were on the ship at the time (Dorking, R.N. Williams, etc.) and in the case of Dorking, saw the same thing, or as in the case of Williams, privately told of gunfire right behind him at the same time as the incident mentioned by the others. An interesting an original theory, but it just doesn't explain away any of the accounts from people who claimed to have seen the event.

That's just my own personal opinion though.
Best regards,
Tad Fitch
Dear everyone,
My above post incorrectly attributes the funnel stay quote to Addison. My apologies Addison, it was actually Maureen who wrote this. I certainly don't mean to be putting words in your mouth, haha. :) That's what I get for trying to digest posts from four people at once! I hope that you'll all have a great day.
Best regards,
Tad Fitch
My own opinion on the suicide allagation is a big fat "maybe." The problem is that with the waters so muddied after nearly 89 years, it's utterly impossible to know the who, much less whether or not the witnesses were all reliable in this regard.

Addison, in regards to the MAA having access to the pistols, I wouldn't take that assumption as fact quite yet. Most all ships carry firearms for security, and the officers who have access to same are extremely limited in number...say the captain and the cheif officer. Erik Wood can explain more on current policies, but I doubt they're that radically different from those policies in force back in 1912. Issueing a gun then as now was the sort of thing done only for really extreme situations.

Michael H. Standart
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Hi Addison,

Can you please tell us who your relative was and where they obtained their info on King from.

I have not been able to find a single reference to King and where he might have been or what he might have done that night.

Ben Thomas Sebastian Holme

Hi Everyone,

Does anyone know which of the two masters-at-arms (King and Bailey) is the film (1997) trying to portray?
Hi Ben, I would probably have to check out the credits somewhere, but I don't think the MAA was specifically mentioned in the film. Not by name anyway.

Michael H. Standart
I've just found Encyclopedia Titanica - very interested in this thread as I am great-grandson (my mother's mother was his daughter Rose). I have very scratchy info from the family but do have a photograph and copy of his birth certificate.
I'll chase up my mother for as much info as possible and update the encylopedia.

If family characteristics are anything to go by then the suicide would not be too much in keeping. My grandmother was a doughty old soul who was a fighter to the end and my mother has a similar nature
Just checking what little info the family have here. One possibly interesting point (but could be commonplace for the survivors?) is that according to Brian Ticehurst the Kew National Records Office register of his death has 'drowned' crossed out and 'exposure' written in its place.

Does this imply discovery and identification of the body? Anyone got any knowledge of place of burial or was it 'at sea'?

If anyone is interested I'll post a little background info re his children when I speak with my mother this weekend

Jason Bidwell

To the best of my knowledge King's body was never identified. I don't have any inside information about the Kew NR Office, but doctors who investigated the recovered bodies in 1912 determined that most had died from exposure, not drowning. My hunch is that whoever amended the register acted on that information: the statistical likelyhood that King did die from exposure, not drowning.

By all means post any information about his children if you can find any. I'm sure many of us would be curious to know.
Using the search engine to scan the inquries testimonies for "master-at-arms", I found not one itoa of data on Mr. King. Are there ANY accounts at all from eye witnesses about what he did that night? It seems wildly unlikely he was standing off to one side not doing a thing, especially with an evacuation in progress and being one of the deck department personnel.
He's even more of a mystery than Chief Officer Wilde, by gar.