Racism and bigotry in 1912

>>I couldn't imagine what was said in 1912<<

And the devil in this detail is that in that time, such attitudes would have been largely accepted as being part of the "Natural Order."
 
For a good example of the era, one should look at Lightoller's TOAS. It was written (I believe) in the thirties, and still some of the phrases and ideals contained in it had me reeling.

Again, one must keep in mind the era, but the politically correct part of my mind is still standing on her little soap box whenever I re-read it! lol.
 
Getting back to the original question, upper class Indians were welcome in England long before 1912. As Empress of India, Queen Victoria had Indians on her staff.

In the class-ridden world of cricket, Indians played as Gentlemen and some were admired for their stylish play. Read about the most famous of them here---

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K._S._Ranjitsinhji

Of course Ranji was a prince. The Lascars on a P & O ship didn't have it so good.
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
Such attitudes would have been largely accepted as being part of the "Natural Order."
Sorry to resurrect an old thread but I was reading something yesterday that reminded me of this thread. I wondered how far that "Natural Order" would have been extended and applied? For example, if there were Black or Asian people on board the Titanic, would they have had to sit at separate tables, not share rooms with white people (in multi-berth Third Class) and ultimately not considered worthy of being rescued as the ship sank (other conditions & situations being the same)?

As an Asian and a Titanic enthusiast, I often wonder what it would have been like to have been a paasenger on the ship myself.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Hello there Arun.

As one who very clearly remembers the days following independence and having spent many happy times in your great country, I know exactly where you are coming from. However, there is no simple answer to your question.

If you look at the Victorian and post Victorian history of India, you will find that class was very important among your own countrymen as well as the colonials. The latter were very often people who would never have succeeded at home but because of the deference and respect shown to them by the locals, had huge egos and were snobs and bigots of the worst kind.
Then, as today, as far as interaction between east and west was concerned, it's was wealth and family position that counted... more so than colour or creed. Sadly, in India, you also had the cast problem where another kind of racial intolerance was rife.

I suspect that if, as a passenger on Titanic, you had been a Raja or wealthy landowner, you would have been fetted by the rest of the passengers as someone very special. However, I also suspect that if there had been very many black or Asian ordinary people wishing to travel to America, then the shipowners would most certainly not have found a need for segregation of some kind. In reality, it was not until after 1918 that the attitude to people with skins other that white changed for the worst. Up until then, I do not for an instant believe that the kind of people who travelled as 3rd Class passenger immigrants would have treated you in any other way than with kindness. I can only speak for my own people who, although white, were also treated in a less than fair way.

In fact, the biggest problem concerning racism. came on the return journey from the US to Europe. There is on record, instances where well educated, wealthy black passengers were not allowed to eat in the main dining room of a Cunarder for fear of offending American passengers en route to Europe. Instead, they were served in their own Staterooms. Ref: Negroes in Britain: A Study of Racial Relations in English ...
https://books.google.pt/books?isbn=1136244069


In the 50s. I spent time on passenger ships running between the UK, Middle East, Pakistan and India. We had very many prominent people from these countries as passengers. However, apart from successful immigrants to the UK going back home for a holiday, 99% of Indian passengers were very wealthy or very senior military people. Our catering staff were usually from Goa and the crew from all parts of India.

I loved every minute of those days.

Jim C.
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
Thank you Jim. While I confess that your reply is very reflective and informative, it does not really answer my question - at least the way I want it answered.

First of all, although I am an "Indian", I was actually born in the UK in 1955, taken to Bangalore, India when I was 8 months old and grew-up there, spending the next 29 years as an Indian. But since 1985 I have lived and worked in the UK and so I am now more British than Indian, but confess to clinging on to my roots.

Secondly, I do not consider India a "great" country by any means even though it is 'home' in one sense of looking at it. Whatever problems existed at the time of Independence & Partition, have grown and magnified themselves and adding the present ultra-commercial outlook of the general population, is not a nice country to live in. I know, I go there every other year to meet my wife's family. I fully acknowledge that caste and class system are not only prevalent in India but perhaps practiced more rigidly than anywhere else on earth in this day and age. It is something I am not proud of.

But that is not what I asked in the first place. I was more interested in what my position would have been had I been a passenger on the Titanic's maiden voyage, towards the end of the so-called "Gilded Age" and all the prevalent customs and social graces taken into account. And since the Titanic, despite the presence of hundreds or non-British Europeans as well as many non-Europeans, had a very Anglo-American "atmosphere", I want to look at my position as a passenger from that perspective.

Since I can only view me as myself as I am now with my upper middle-class upbringing and education, I can only visualise myself as travelling in Second Class on board the Titanic. How would I have been treated as far as accommodation, meals, socialising etc were concerned? Also, bearing in mind that the adult male passengers from Second Class had the worst survival ratio of all groups on board the Titanic and pitting that against my own very strong instinct for survival, I sometimes wonder where I would have ended-up.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Hello Arun.

I get the picture. Must say though, I still think India is a great country full of nice, ordinary people, the majority of whom wish-not harm to others. Depends on how you use the adjective 'great'. Great, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Unfortunately, India like any other nation on this wonderful world of ours, including where you now call home, has it's share of Party-first politicians, religious nut cases and self- centered prigs of the worst kind. Never would I now call Britain 'Great' but it is still a great country and is so because of those ordinary people who live there.

Anyway, I diverse.

I still think that back on Titanic, on the outward journey, you would have received the same treatment as any other 2nd Class, fare-paying passenger. For absolute sure, you would have had to deal with self-opinionated snobs. These people have existed since time began.
As for loading lifeboats: the inordinate proportion of 2nd class passengers had nothing to do with race, colour or creed. I suspect that many of the bedroom stewards had much to do with who arrived at the boat deck first. You will remember that they received specific orders from their immediate superiors as to rounding up their 'charges', It follows that since 1st class passengers had, by right of position and wealth, much more individual attention paid to them, they continued to receive that disproportionate attention during lifeboat embarkation. You will also remember that initially, these 'upper-crust' folk thought they would be returning to the ship.

You refer to your survival instinct. Fortunately or otherwise, you are a man of your times and probably no different from others in your social sphere.
I have watched attitudes to self-preservation change over the years from when I was first confronted with it as a young person during WW2 and during the following 70 years; 50 odd of these in the marine business. The change in (to be kind) self-awareness attitudes during that space of time has been anything but subtle, particularly in the last 15 years. You only have to consider the behaviour of many individuals displayed during the Costa Concordia incident and last year's horror in South Korean waters to understand what I mean.
However, back in 1912, although you would have the same craving for survival;, I suspect that your upper-middle class notions of duty and honour would have tempered your desire for self-preservation. As late as the 1950s, the same 'noble' attitude prevailed.

Cheers!

Jim C.
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
I still think that back on Titanic, on the outward journey, you would have received the same treatment as any other 2nd Class, fare-paying passenger. For absolute sure, you would have had to deal with self-opinionated snobs.
You refer to your survival instinct. However, back in 1912, although you would have the same craving for survival;, I suspect that your upper-middle class notions of duty and honour would have tempered your desire for self-preservation. As late as the 1950s, the same 'noble' attitude prevailed.

Cheers!

Jim C.
Thanks again Jim. I have in fact imagined myself as a 2nd Class Passenger on the Titanic several times and wondered what I - the man I know as myself - would have done under the circumstances. First off, my nature being what it is, I would have explored the ship as much as I would have been allowed to do during the first days of the voyage and combined that with my peculiarly good ergonomic sense, would have had a reasonably good idea of how to get from A to B on the ship by the time it started to sink. I am not a hero or 'noble' by any means but would not have tried to rush any boat either. One thing I feel for certain is that I would have worked out fairly early that Murdoch on the Starboard side was allowing men when there was room in the boats and no women or children in the immediate vicinity and perhaps found a place in one of the later boats.

The person I identify most with after the collision is Lawrence Beesley. Others like Jack Thayer, Olaus Abelseth, August Wennerstrom and perhaps William Norris also had that instinct for survival in my opinion.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Hello Arun.

One man you missed from your list was Colonel Gracie.

However, in my opinion, there was one particular man who went to a great deal of trouble to conceal a strong self-preservation instinct and that was Major Arthur Peuchen. I think his story requires closer scrutiny.

I am of the opinion that the man was an opportunist who made sure that he was in close proximity to the lifeboats very early-on during their preparation. If an opportunity arose, he would make damn sure he would save himself.
According to his evidence, he suggested that he assist in preparing boats for lowering. This despite the fact that other men passengers were kept away from the boats. In his evidence he stated that because Lifeboat 6 was short handed, he asked:

"Can I be of any assistance? I am a yachtsman, and can handle a boat with an average man."

To this, according to Peuchen, Lightoller replied:

"Why, yes. I will order you to the boat in preference to a sailor."

Now I suggest that is downright nonsense. No experienced officer such as Lightoller, commanding such a crew of experienced ABs as were aboard Titanic would have ordered a male passenger to a boat in preference to a sailor.

Pechen's next bit of fantasy is equal nonsense:

"the captain said, "You had better go down below and break a window and get in through a window, into the boat. That was his suggestion; and I said I did not think it was feasible, and I said I could get in the boat if I could get hold of a rope. However, we got hold of a loose rope in some way that was hanging from the davit, near the block anyway, and by getting hold of it I swung myself off the ship, and lowered myself into the boat."

This man had a technical discussion with Smith? Really?

In fact, Lightoller had previously ordered stewards to go below and open them. So why would captain Smith send Peuchen (of all people) below to smash the windows?

When asked about Peuchen, Lightoller said:

"Then Maj. Peuchen who stood right alongside, said that he would go, or offered to I asked him if he was a seaman, or whether he was sailor go out to the fall from where he was. It was seaman's work to get out to the fall and then get down to the boat, so I told him if he was sailor enough to get out to the fall and get into the boat to go ahead and so he did, and he went in the boat.

How convenient! Here we have a 52 years of age First Class passenger who just happens to be nearby and who instantly volunteers to go in a lifeboat as part of it's crew. He volunteered to make his way out to the spreader between the davits then used a Life-line to slide down to the boat. His seamanship was so good that he didn't recognise the fact that the rope he used was there for that very purpose.

However Peuchen's story did not match with that of QM Hichens, the man in charge of boat 6. This was the version of Hichens:

"1129. Do you know how you came to have the one man passenger [Peuchen]and a boy in the boat?
- I do not know how the man passenger got in the boat at all, Sir - nor the boy."


The other sailor in the boat.. Lookout Lee, confirmed how Peuchen got in the boat.

"One man we found out afterwards was underneath the thwarts. The major got into the boat as we were in line with the square ports; he came down the life -line."

Again, a contradiction to Peuchen's story. His version was:

"After that the boat was lowered down some distance, I should imagine probably parallel with C deck, when the quartermaster [Hichens] called up to the officer and said, "I can not manage this boat with only one seaman."

C deck had standard portholes. Only A deck had rectangular windows. However a climb down a rope to C deck is much more dramatic than the relatively short slide from the edge of the boat deck to the bottom of the windows on the deck below.

portdeck.jpg

As Sir Walter Scott wrote "oh what a wondrous web we weave... etc."

Jim C

portdeck.jpg
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
However, in my opinion, there was one particular man who went to a great deal of trouble to conceal a strong self-preservation instinct and that was Major Arthur Peuchen. I think his story requires closer scrutiny.

I am of the opinion that the man was an opportunist who made sure that he was in close proximity to the lifeboats very early-on during their preparation. If an opportunity arose, he would make damn sure he would save himself.
Jim C

I agree on both counts. I did think of both but IMO in Gracie's case it was more luck than instinct that saved him. Given his age and state of health (he was a bad diabetic) he almost left it too late.

As for Major Peuchen, your thoughts are exactly the same as mine. Very often I have thought that his staements and actions in securing a place in one of the lifeboats was opportunistic, perhaps a little too obviously so. The fact that other people think the same way is evident by the fact that his survival is featured in almost every Titanic book and movie but of course the authors will not directly voice their opinion.

By contast, survivals of Jack Thayer, Beesley, Abelseth etc do not come across as opportunistic. I am less certain about Wennerstrom, but perhaps his colouful past might make people prejudiced against his motives.

Since you mentioned Peuchen, I feel obliged to tell you that certain crew members in my opinion - Lightoller and Lowe - never had any intention of letting themselves die. Reading about them on that night, I always get the feeling that both of them had a subconscious "escape clause" but not any particular plan. They come across as born survivors but wether you consider that opportunistic or otherwise, depends on your reasoning.

I know some epople with a lot of nautical experience comment that Lightoller's story about drowning and then being 'released' by a bust of hot air was nothing but....hot air. I do not have that kind of knowledge to comment, but what do you think?

Funnily enough, I do not think the same way about Pitman or Boxhall; maybe Boxhall was at the right time in the right place, but who can blame him?
 

Jim Currie

Member
]"I know some people with a lot of nautical experience comment that Lightoller's story about drowning and then being 'released' by a bust of hot air was nothing but....hot air. I do not have that kind of knowledge to comment, but what do you think?"[/COLOR]

These pages are full of enthusiastic amateures and top heavy with sceptics. I cannot for any reason understand why Lightoller's version of his escape should not be accepted.

There was a gigantic, forward facing cowal ventilator in front of funnel number one on top of the Wheelhouse. It supplied air via a large capacity trunkway leading down to an electric fan room on deck. It had a wire grill preventing unwanted air borne objects from entering the shaft. When the water level reached that (suddenly) it would have poured in a torrent downward, carrying all things floating with it. However, water would have been entering the air shaft from below and being forced upward under pressure. Obviously it would overcome the weight of water from above and forced it back out of the ventilator; at the same time, spewing forth any floating objects including people which had been trapped against the wire grill. No big deal!

Young Lowe was, in my estimation, one of the finest seaman on board Titanic that morning.
He stated that he recognised that boats had been sent away without an officer. He would already know that Pitman had gone in No.5 so he consulted with Moody. According to Lowe, they mutually agreed that Lowe would go in 14 and Moody in another boat. There was nothing obtuse about that. However, there seems to have been two senior officers at the aft port side of the boat deck at that time- Wilde and Lightoller. I find it strange that Lowe needed to consult with Moody rather than one of them.

I think that quite a few owed their lives to the quick thinking of Lowe. As did those he saved by returning to the wreck.

There was a point when Lowe's questioner, Sir Robert Findlay made a veiled reference to racial prejdudice:

"5992. What was he [one of two men Lowe chased out of boat 14] like; was he fair or dark?


Lowe was very clear that the colour of the man's skin or complexion had no bearing on how the situation was dealt with. His answer was:

- I do not know. If I had I should [still] have chased him out.

Jim C.
 
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