Officer shot himself


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Mike Taylor

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Nov 21, 2000
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Just wondering which officer if any the group believes killed himself the night the Titanic sank. We all know that Cameron showed it as being Murdoch but that's just a guess. Some people say it was him others say it was Smith and Lord seems to think if anyone did it was Wilde. I'd be more inclined to believe the Murdock theory but I'm just wondering what others think
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Murdoch was a little too busy trying to get that collapsible off of the ship just as she took the final plunge to shoot himself as far as I know. I don't know who it was or even if it wasn't fabricated out of the rumor mill which worked just fine even after the ship sank.

Jury's definately out on this one. Probably forever.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
Mar 3, 1998
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You might want to read all the evidence on Bill Wormstedt's page at:

http://home.att.net/~wormstedt/titanic/shots.html

In addition to what you'll find there, I'd like to submit more of what Lightoller claimed at the BOT Enquiry in reference to Murdoch's end:

<FONT COLOR="0000FF">14047. Then tell us your last minute or two on the ship. What did you do? - I went across to the starboard side of the Officers' quarters, on the top of the Officers' quarters, to see if I could do anything on the starboard side. Well, I could not.

14048. And coming over to the starboard side on the roof of the Officers' quarters, could you see any other Officers? - I saw the First Officer working at the falls of the starboard emergency boat, obviously with the intention of overhauling them and hooking on to the collapsible boat on their side.

14049. The other collapsible boat? - Yes.

14050. That would be Mr. Murdoch? - Yes.

14051. Were there others with him helping? - There were a number round there helping.

14052. Then what happened? - Well, she seemed to take a bit of a dive, and I just walked into the water.

(...)

14767. And Mr. Murdoch? - Mr. Murdoch I saw practically at the actual moment that I went under water.

14768. Can you tell me where he was? - He was then working at the forward fall on the starboard side forward; that is the fall to connect to the collapsible boat.

14769. What was the last you saw of Mr. Moody? - I do not remember seeing Mr. Moody that night at all, though I am given to understand, from what I have gathered since, that Mr. Moody must have been standing quite close to me at the same time. He was on top of the quarters clearing away the collapsible boat on the starboard side, whilst Mr. Murdoch was working at the falls. If that is so, we were all practically in the water together.

Parks
 
Dec 13, 1998
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Hello everybody, please also check who actually say they saw anyone shoot himself, disregarding those who said they were told that this had happened. You will not find many witnesses at all. I believe there was one person only (or perhaps two). But then I should also probably stress that I never thought anyone shot himself or anybody else for that matter, mainly due to the lack of witnesses. My theory is that the shots fired near boat 14 led people to believe someone was shot/shot himself.

Best regards,

Peter
 

Mike Taylor

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I do believe the Murdoch theory I believe. Yes there were reports that it was Wilde or Smith but then there were also reports that Smith was in the water with a child, or cheering on Lightoller et al as they tried to get atop the overturned boat. I do not put a whole lot of stock in what Lightoller said at the enquiry as he has he had been known to shall we say bend the truth at times during his testimony... I think he was trying to preserve the memory of a fellow officer who other then during that fateful few seconds really did not do anything wrong. I think he was trying to spare Burdocks' widow the pain of knowing that her husband had taken his own life and wanted to paint him in a better light at the enquiry. In the end you have to take what everyone says they saw happen, read between the lines and hope that you somehow see the right answers
 
Mar 3, 1998
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I find it interesting that we have Lightoller describing his fellow shipmate's end on the stand and in a signed private statement, which in other circumstances would establish him as the sole competent eyewitness to Murdoch's death, but his recollections are constantly being rejected by people who insist on "reading between the lines." Unlike various passengers, whose recollections are all over the map, Lightoller knew Murdoch personally, so he would have had no trouble confusing him with another. Maybe I'm not as deep or thorough as other historians, but I choose to accept Lightoller's word and not try to second-guess the man or his motives. I find it difficult to call a man a liar when:

a) I wasn't there, and
b) Didn't speak to the man personally.

Another dichotomy: whenever I have raised doubts in the past as to the motives which would have cause Murdoch to end his own life, I have been hit with assertions that suicide was considered a noble act back in 1912. Oftentimes during these debates, Rheims' exclamation, "That’s what I call a man!!!" is thrown in my face to support this contention. However, these same people will also give me the excuse that Lightoller lied to Ada Murdoch (and coerced the surviving officers to join in this deception) to spare her feelings. Go figure.

The assertion that Lightoller lied about Murdoch is based on the assumption that Lightoller felt the need to counterattack the lurid stories in the newspapers. I don't see Lightoller giving newspaper reports the time of day, but as I said, I didn't personally know the man. I also find it interesting that some of the passengers' recollections made mention of the Chief Officer (one specifically mentioned Wilde by name), but Lightoller and his fellow officers appear to have not made a effort to send a similar letter to the guardians of Wilde's surviving children. Nor to Mrs. Smith. But, I guess by accepting stated actions on face value just highlights my general gullibility.

By the way, just in case anyone thinks I'm making a case for Wilde being the one who shot himself, I'm not. I don't believe the evidence supports any contention conclusively, so for the record, I don't know if an officer shot himself and if one did, I don't know who it was. I'm more comfortable taking that stance than I would be speculating on another man's final motives.

Parks
 

Erik Wood

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Aug 24, 2000
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Parks and All,

I have attempted to keep my big mouth out of this thread for some time but I think I would now like to add something.

I am generally against any theory that says that a officer on board Titanic killed himself that night.

Lightoller as stated above by Mr. Stephenson knew Murdoch very well and the two were friends. The fact that Lightoller made no attempt to write to either Captains Smiths wife or Wildes childrens guardians says two things to me.

1. He wrote that letter to Ada because he most likely knew of her or knew her in general. He didn't know Wilde or Smith as well as he did Murdoch and felt that something of that nature was not needed.

2. Murdoch is really the only officer that people consistantly believe killed himself.

If anybody had a reason that night is was both Wilde and Murdoch but I don't believe that either one did. Wilde having lost his wife and children not that long ago and Murdoch having steered his ship into an iceberg on its maiden voyage could have both been very suicidal.

The thing to remeber is that both men were doing there jobs. Both men didn't give a hint to wanting or thinking about killing themselves. One could argue that Murdochs words to Pitman were stating that he knew that he would die.

Part of me wants to do what most historians want to do and that is to preserve the heros and vilinize the villians. While at the same time finding new facts about all. The things is we don't know what happened. A passenger could construe Murdoch shooting himself in the head when what really happened is he shot in the direction of his head but maybe the gun was pointed in a different direction. People in distress really only remeber part of what they see.

The brain creates false memories when it can't remeber the full memory and one somebody suggests something it becomes fact to that particular person.

I write with extreme caution the above. I know that we are all historians with the best intentions. However being a ships officer I want to believe that nobody killed themselves but I know full well that it is possible. I don't think that there is any real evidence that says who did or didn't. I think that it is all circumstancial. Just my two bits.

But I do reserve the right to change my mind if something comes to light that nobody has seen yet

Erik
 
E

Elaine R Barnes

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As we are nearing the 89th year since Titanic foundered and no new evidence has come to light either way, I say, choose one side or the other based on the evidence. This line has been argued countless times and the answer is STILL, no one REALLY knows for certain if and officer shot himself.
Regards,
Elaine
 
Mar 18, 2000
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Elaine has it, I think - no one REALLY knows! And I doubt we ever will.

Peter - I have your message to me waiting in my in-box. I hope to answer your questions regarding my 'Shots in the Dark' page sometime this weekend.
 
Dec 13, 1998
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Bill - thank you! I am looking forward to receiving it. I will, however, leave on Monday and I will be gone for one full month, and I do not know whether I will have e-mail access. Just in case there will be no time to answer you before I leave.
 
Mar 18, 2000
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I just went thru my site "Shots in the Dark" at http://home.att.net/~wormstedt/titanic/shots.html
and checked the accounts of people who *claimed* to see an officer shoot himself. More than just one or two:

Francatelli (depending on how her wording is interpeted)
Jansson
Rheims
Chevre (claimed to see Smith shoot himself)
Collins
Dorking
"QM Moody"
Steward Smith
Sunderland
Waiter Whitely
Mrs. Widener
Seaman Williams

As I mention on the web-page itself, many of these accounts are of dubious reliability, but they are still claims that someone *saw* an officer shoot himself!
 
Dec 13, 1998
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Dear Bill, I don't think I will be able to read your letter, let me just comment on one or two of the people above;

Carl Olof Jansson never mentioned seeing anything like that personally in his letters to his family.

Edward Arthur Dorking and Victor Francis Sunderland may and may not have been on the ship when it sank; they are two of the many people who say the had to jump for it, but again, only about half of those who make such claims actually survived in that manner; is there a possibility they left in a starboard boat long before there were any shootings???

There was no steward Albert Smith. There was no quartermaster Moody (some say this was Hichens, who left much too early to have witnessed shootings of any kind). There was no seaman (Jack) Williams.

Laura Francatelli clearly speaks about seeing 'the whole thing', obviously referring to the Titanic sinking, not a shooting incident as far as I can tell anyway.

Mrs Widener left the Titanic in boat No 4 and I would be very much surprised if she had seen a thing like that and nobody else in that area mentioned the same thing.

Paul Chevre left in boat No 7, the first to leave the ship. I am sorry, but I really can't imagine him seeing anything like that from quite a distance in his lifeboat.

As for scullion Collins and waiter Whiteley I can't say, but Collins never mentioned anything in the hearings anyway. This leaves us with George Rheims, who actually said he witnessed an officer committing suicide. This cannot be disregarded; it is perhaps possible that he misinterpreted what he saw....

I am as eager as anyone else to finding out the truth. Did anyone shoot himself and/or others? I can't deny there were rumours at the time, but after having studied their statements, I am inclined to think not. But again, I wasn't there, so I can't say what is right.

Best regards,

Peter
 
Jul 9, 2000
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Hi Peter, as Bill said, the claims made were of dubious reliablity and you did a wonderful job of showcasing the reasons why. A lot of the 'witnesses' just weren't in a position to know.

I suspect that there is a primary source here somewhere, but my bet is on an offhand remark made in the lifeboats which took on a life of it's own. Rumormills seem to survive anything, and the Titanic's was alive and well long after the ship was gone.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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