Reclassification of Certain Crew

Alex Kiehl

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Aug 1, 2006
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Now we know that some crew served in capacities different from those in which they signed-on (e.g. John Collins signed-on as a scullion, but served as a cook; Tommy Knowles signed-on as a mess steward, but served as an engineering storekeeper; and James Johnston was originally going to be a saloon steward, but actually sailed as a night watchman.) Some even served in a different department altogether. (i.e. John Moore was initially going to be a fireman, but instead sailed as a seaman.) Should these and other crewmen who changed occupations/departments be reclassified on the ET crew lists? Are there any other crew changes which took place that I failed to mention? Thanks.
 

Seumas

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Mar 25, 2019
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John Collins worked amongst the cooks (as a scullion) scrubbing dirty dishes till his hands ached. That doesn't make him a cook in any sense though.

James Johnstone signed on as a saloon steward, wore their uniform and still worked in the first class saloon.

On the day of or on the day before sailing Johnstone and a couple of others were most likely told their duty this voyage was to stand watch at night and make sure there was nobody trying to steal or vandalise anything. Other shipping companies did have specially assigned night watchman but it doesn't appear that White Star bothered with such an official position in 1912 anyway.

Remember, serial spinner of tall tales Frank Prentice claimed he was a pursers clerk fifty years afterwards on radio and television and did so for the remainder of his life. The fact remains he was a humble storekeeper, there is not one iota of proof he was anything else.

During the centenary of the disaster I lost count of how many grandchildren and great grandchildren of crew survivors appeared on UK television or radio and claimed that their grandfather or great grandfather "was the bo'sun on the Titanic and was in charge of the last lifeboat to leave". If we believed them then the Titanic would be listed as having over fifteen bo'suns and they were all in joint command of Collapsible D !

What their job is listed as being on the Particulars of the Agreement is what they were and should remain as it is. Also if their discharge books survive, it will most likely have the exact same listing as the PoA.

So for me, they stay the way they are. No change.
 
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Alex Kiehl

Member
Aug 1, 2006
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Thank you, Seumas. But since some biographies do mention changes in some crew occupations, should we maybe ask an ET administrator to compile a list of those changes to have as an additional reference source here on the site?
 

Seumas

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Mar 25, 2019
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We should not go messing about with the crew list.

The sadly deceased pair of Phil Gowan and Brian Ticehurst done an eye watering amount of research on the crew over many years and yet don't seem to have found any convincing evidence of changes in rank or duty. Their work is good enough for me.

I've read the occasional ET biography of a crewman claiming that an AB "was actually a bo'sun" or that a stewardess was "actually a matron" with no official source provided. That's simply not good enough. In fact I would delete these highly dubious claims.

These are usually based upon family stories. Some grandchildren or great-grandchildren accepted exaggerated accounts of their ancestor which were handed down without question. Or else have got confused between a rank that their ancestor actually had in 1912 and the higher rank they retired with (for example X was an AB in 1912 aboard the Titanic but was a bo'sun by 1929 aboard the Baltic).

It should be said though that most of the surviving crew gave honest answers about what rank they held aboard which matches their entry on the PoA.

Things should stay exactly as they are.
 

Seumas

Member
Mar 25, 2019
277
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Glasgow, Scotland
Nae problem mate, it was still an interesting question to ask. ;)

A few years ago I too had similar thoughts that perhaps the ranks listed for a few of the crew could be altered but changed my mind when I considered the counter arguments.