Murdoch and Lifeboat #10

Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

It is now generally accepted that First officer William Murdoch was in charge during the latter stages of loading and the actual lowering of Lifeboat #10, the only port boat that he was involved with. I was wondering about the reasons why Murdoch crossed over to the port side and an indirect implication of that action. I don't believe that it was anything so simple as that he did not have anything to do immediately after Lifeboats #13 and #15 were lowered; in fact considering the drama that happened during their lowering with #15 almost coming down on top of #13 and considering the timelines involved, Murdoch would not had the time to go over the Lifeboat #10 after both #13 and #15 safely rowed away.

In his article about re-examination of the Lifeboat launching sequence, Bill Wormstedt makes a convincing and evidence-based presentation about delayed launching of Lifeboat #10, which was lowered at 01:50am by which time the Titanic's port list was significant. I personally accept Wormstedt's point of view, although I know that there are leading forum members like IG who are not convinced. But even with a launching time of 01:50 am, Murdoch would not have had enough time to ensure that all was well with the just lowered #13 and #15 and then go across to the port side to attend to #10. The only explanation IMO is that Murdoch left the vicinity of Lifeboat #13 after it had been lowered partly loaded to A-deck; I believe Murdoch did just that but only after handing responsibility over to someone whom he knew and trusted. IMO, that someone was Boatswain Alfred Nichols but before anyone here starts to get their blood pressure up at that idea, I request you to wait till you have read the entire post.

First, I believe that the reason that Murdoch went over to the port side and lifeboat #10 was a lack of an officer to supervise completion of loading and lowering of that boat and increasing port list that was swinging the boat away from the side of the ship. After Lowe left on Lifeboat #14 at 01:25, Wilde supervised loading and lowering of #12, but then appears to have gone forwards to sort out Lifeboat #2. Boxhall had been busy with the distress rockets while Lifeboats #16, #14 and then #12 were launched and Wilde very likely supervised completion of loading of #2 before Boxhall arrived to take charge. That would have created a temporary hiatus around Lifeboat #10 that was still hanging from its davits and someone, perhaps Wilde himself before he went forward, informed Murdoch of the situation. If Nichols had just arrived on A-deck near #13 as I believe he had, Murdoch might have felt that he could hand over responsibility to the boatswain while he went and sorted out #10.

Able Seamen Frank Evans and Edward Buley had both helped with loading of Lifeboat #12 and just as it was being lowered, Buley went forward to Lifeboat #10; Evans, who had been on the Olympic with Murdoch, followed suit as soon as #12 was safely lowered. Both men testified that they saw and received orders from Murdoch about loading and lowering #10. Since #12 was lowered at about 01:32 am and the two seamen went to #10 immediately afterwards and met Murdoch, the conclusion is that Murdoch had come over from his position on A-deck on the starboard side a couple of minutes at least earlier; in other words, before Lifeboats #13 and #15 were actually lowered (and with all the drama that went with it).

Now about that 'indirect implication' that I mentioned earlier and the Nichols' angle. In an article in Ulster Echo Leading Fireman Fred Barrett arrived on A-deck just before Lifeboat #13 was lowered and said that he saw Nichols there who then instructed Barrett to get into the boat and "pull an oar". Barrett would have been familiar with Nichols and had no reason whatsoever to make up his statement about seeing the boatswain. During the British Inquiry, Barrett also reported that there were no officers in the immediate vicinity of #13 on A-deck but he could hear (but could not see) one issuing orders above on the boat deck. That would tie-in with my conjecture that Murdoch handed over responsibility of completing the loading of and lowering #13 to Nichols before he crossed over to #10. The officer on A-deck that Barrett could here but not see would be Moody supervising completion of loading of Lifeboat #15. Murdoch would not have left Moody alone to cope with 2 lifeboats unless there was dependable cover, which there was in the shape of Nichols.

Like James Johnstone's statement about Nichols giving him the 'star tip' earlier, Barrett's encounter with the boatswain just before the fireman got into Lifeboat #13 indicates that Nichols and his men did NOT die trying to open a gangway door on Lightoller's orders.