Reversing Engines, Unfair Criticism of Officer Murdoch


May 11, 2020
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My interest in the Titanic goes back to when I was a child. I saw either Titanic(1953) or A Night to Remember and took an interest in the ship. I would ask my father questions about it and whenever I did that he would direct me to the library to go find out about it. This was in the early 80s. Next year I turn 50 and the ship still has a hold on me. I read what I could and watched any documentary that was on through the years and my interest never waned. When Titanic(1997) came out there was obviously renewed interest in the ship and many more books and documentaries. When I found this site I found new information, some of which contradicted popular beliefs. The one that bothers me the most is Murdoch's order to reverse the engines upon sighting the iceberg. Now I do not mean to strike a conversation about whether the engines were reversed, there are many threads on this site which give a lot of good information on how the engines work. Before I found this site I had no choice but to believe that the engines were put into reverse which hampered the rudder's ability to steer the ship. The ship turned more slowly and crashed into the iceberg. Every book I read and documentary I saw said this was the case. One book, I believe it was The Maiden Voyage, dissects this maneuver and states how wrong it is and that the port screw should have been reversed only. The 1994 documentary, Titanic: Death of a Dream, Ken Marschall says that if Murdoch did not reverse the engines the ship would have turned faster and probably missed the ice. Obviously every Titanic movie shows these orders given as well. The 1996 TV movie Titanic has George C Scott telling Murdoch how he messed up by turning away and also reversing engines. Even recent documentaries still show the reverse order being given.

Now on this site I have seen information to the contrary. I have read about different watches for being at sea and near shore where changes to engine settings would be given more rapidly. I read a paper on the process of reversing the engines which stated it would take some time to actually put the engines into full reverse. There are statements from people in the engine room that say they never saw a full reverse order. These I do not want to debate. There are a number of threads on this site with a ton of information. These are not secrets only held on this site.

My question is why does this still persist about the reverse order? There have been other theories out there that have been debunked. The bad steel and the coal fire being a couple. Does it make the story better, that with all the went on with speed and ice warnings that they had a last chance to avoid the iceberg and still made a mistake?

I feel Murdoch gets a knock on this. It is basically saying he did the exact wrong thing at the exact wrong time and that he should have known better. To me this means he panicked. He does not seem like the type of person to do that. I've read that he was one of the more qualified people on the ship. He was supposed to be Chief Officer which means he was still in the upper echelon of officers at White Star. If Titanic had not sunk and Brittanic launched on time he probably would have been up for Captain's spot on one of the Olympic Class. There is no record of him panicking while launching boats. As a matter of fact he got more people off because he tried to fill his boats with men when there were no women around. He was last seen trying to free a collapsible as the ship went down. However, it is not lost on me that he was in charge of the ship when it had a catastrophic accident which caused it to founder and 1500 people lost their lives. I believe he was a victim of circumstances and did everything he thought he could to avoid danger.

My sense is for the casual person who watches a show or reads a book this is the viewpoint they come away with. Especially after Cameron put him through the wringer. After he crashed the ship he bribed him and had him commit suicide.

I have not seen this aspect discussed, if it has been please direct me to the appropriate thread.
 
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I agree with you David. Until quite recently most books and films showed the reverse order and I also included it in my website on Murdoch. But now I think there is general consensus among peer-researcher historians (notably in the book On a Sea of Glass) that the reverse order was only Boxhall's interpretation of what happened (as he was not in the bridge until shortly thereafter) and that there is no actual evidence for it.

Murdoch was indeed a capable officer, but as Officer of the Watch and the one who had to make a call and did not survive to be able to defend his decisions, unfortunately, he will always be the target of criticism. The officers who survived despite making many critical mistakes often take on heroic status (i.e. Lightoller and Lowe). It does seem unfair but is the nature of history.

We now have Sam Halpern's "Brace for Impact" article which proposes that Murdoch should have hit the iceberg head-on, another unfair criticism of Murdoch was who clearly trying to avoid any impact at all.
 
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Jim Currie

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Hello David, I agre with you 100%. To paraphrase the speech of Winston Churchhill..." Nevah, in the field of marine history has so much garbage been written by so many about something they know sod-all about."

Apart from the timing in minutes and seconds, for information regarding the sequence of events regarding engine movements, I recommend the evidence given by Coal Trimmer, Thomas Dillon. He was an ex AB who was working in the engine room before during and after the event. His evidence describes the sequence of engine movements as follows:
1. Telegraph
2. Shock.
3 Engines stop.
4 Engines turn astern.
5. Engines srop.
6 Engines run ahead.
7 Engines stop fo the final time.

He admits that he did not see the tell-tale on the ER telegraphs and was simply observing the engines turning one way, stopping turning the other way then stopping. This tells an experienced mariner that Murdoch thought of several things almost at the same time and "visualised" the unfolding scenario.
His immediate thought would be to avoid contact... hence his helm order. He also knew that for it to be effective, he needed full power and in prticular his turbine to give his steering sytem a chance of doing its job efficiently. On the other hand, he knew that by turning away, and because the ice was so close, there was a good chance of his stern contacting the ice and consequently his starboard propeller being stripped of its blade.
He could have stopped his starboard prop, but he also knew that by doing so, his turn would be dampened by the thrust of the port prop. These things would be racing through his mind.
I suggest that Murdoch did not touch the telegraphs until he was certain they were going to hit, then he stopped his engines and ordered Full astern. He did this for 2 reasons: A: that the engines would stop or be turning slowly by the time the stern got close to the berg and B: that Captain Smith would require the ship to be dead in the water before carrying out a damage assessement.
What he most certainly knew was that there was no time for any fancy manoeuvres as has been suggested on severl occassions.
If Boxhall heard Murdoch tell Captain Smith that the engines were ordered full astern, it did not mean that at that very moment they were physcically doing so. Because according to Dillon, they did not stop for 90 seconds after the first order which is understandable. But 30 seconds later after they stopped they started turning astern which shows us how quickly the ER crew got the reversing gear connected.
Others claim that the engines were only running at slow astern...this is because Dillon said they were. However, Dillon did not see the actual order and if the ship had already lost a lot of way when ghe engines were set astern,it would not require much "full power" to bring the ship to a halt so Smith would ring down STOP befoe she reached maximum astern rpm.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Murdoch was indeed a capable officer, but as Officer of the Watch and the one who had to make a call and did not survive to be able to defend his decisions, unfortunately, he will always be the target of criticism. The officers who survived despite making many critical mistakes often take on heroic status (i.e. Lightoller and Lowe). It does seem unfair but is the nature of history.

We now have Sam Halpern's "Brace for Impact" article which proposes that Murdoch should have hit the iceberg head-on, another unfair criticism of Murdoch was who clearly trying to avoid any impact at all.
I agree with you 100% there about the way "popular opinion" considers Murdoch against the "heroic survivors" Lightoller and Lowe. Unfortunately, other than those who are willing to have an open mind and take the trouble to look into whatever information is available including later updates, most people like what sounds more sensational - like an officer shooting a couple of passengers and then himself....and of course, poor Murdoch becoming the popular choice for the deed.

I have not yet read that "Brace for Impact" article but I have never believed that Murdoch could or should have tried to get the Titanic hit the berg head-on. First of all, no matter how well trained and disciplined an individual is, there is a very strong human tendency to try and avoid any blow coming at him/her. That is a built-in reflex action that takes over and no amount of training can overcome that if there is no time to assess the result of the impact or blow - I know this as a doctor. To give a simple example, imagine that you are playing with your 2 year old daughter and out of the corner of your eye you suddenly see her swinging her arm towards your face; the natural reaction would be to to jerk your head out of the way. That reaction comes from a completely different part of the brain that controls reflexes and has no time to think " a blow from a 2-year old child is more likely to hurt her arm and not my face" etc.

Applying that principle to Murdoch when he saw the iceberg closing on the Titanic his natural and instinctive reflex action would be to try and get his ship out of the way. He probably had time to decide which side he was going to try his dodging maneuver but not contemplate the effects of a head-on collision. Furthermore, Murdoch could not see the most important part of the iceberg - the underwater part and so did not know for certain that his maneuver would not succeed.

There is another thing. Let us assume that Murdoch had decided to allow the Titanic to hit the iceberg head on. There would have been considerable damage to the bow but the ship might have survived - let us assume that it did. Not sure what sort of human morbidity would have been involved, but certainly lots of injuries and possibly a few fatalities like Hemming etc billeted close to the bow? Murdoch certainly would have survived, but then in the ensuing inquiries, media and public opinion he would be vilified as the man who caused the collision of a new ship and blamed for the human cost (albeit trivial) "when he could almost certainly have avoided collision by porting around it" or similar. Jim's Churchill quote would have become well and truly applicable.

Apart from the timing in minutes and seconds, for information regarding the sequence of events regarding engine movements, I recommend the evidence given by Coal Trimmer, Thomas Dillon. He was an ex AB who was working in the engine room before during and after the event. His evidence describes the sequence of engine movements as follows:
1. Telegraph
2. Shock.
3 Engines stop.
4 Engines turn astern.
5. Engines srop.
6 Engines run ahead.
7 Engines stop fo the final time.

He admits that he did not see the tell-tale on the ER telegraphs and was simply observing the engines turning one way, stopping turning the other way then stopping. This tells an experienced mariner that Murdoch thought of several things almost at the same time and "visualised" the unfolding scenario.
His immediate thought would be to avoid contact... hence his helm order. He also knew that for it to be effective, he needed full power and in prticular his turbine to give his steering sytem a chance of doing its job efficiently. On the other hand, he knew that by turning away, and because the ice was so close, there was a good chance of his stern contacting the ice and consequently his starboard propeller being stripped of its blade.
He could have stopped his starboard prop, but he also knew that by doing so, his turn would be dampened by the thrust of the port prop. These things would be racing through his mind.
I suggest that Murdoch did not touch the telegraphs until he was certain they were going to hit, then he stopped his engines and ordered Full astern. He did this for 2 reasons: A: that the engines would stop or be turning slowly by the time the stern got close to the berg and B: that Captain Smith would require the ship to be dead in the water before carrying out a damage assessement.
What he most certainly knew was that there was no time for any fancy manoeuvres as has been suggested on several occasions.
I never believed that Murdoch telegraphed the "Full astern" order. It has been mentioned elsewhere but I believe it was Don Lynch's book "Titanic: An illustrated History" who popularized that opinion among the masses in the chapter "A Deadly Encounter" where he made the ridiculous statements about how Murdoch "mode collision more likely" by doing what he did and implying that this could have been avoided.
 
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Even recent documentaries still show the reverse order being given.
I think "Inside Titanic" is the only one showing the stop order during collision.

Actually the "full speed astern" order had been questioned by several researchers several years ago as the version Boxhall mentioned does not fit with what other survivors said.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Actually the "full speed astern" order had been questioned by several researchers several years ago as the version Boxhall mentioned does not fit with what other survivors said.
As I said above, Don Lynch's book - the first editions anyway - wax lyrical about the 'full astern' order and how it ensured collision etc.
 
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the reverse order was only Boxhall's interpretation of what happened (as he was not in the bridge until shortly thereafter) and that there is no actual evidence for it.
Let's be honest here. It was not an interpretation of what happened, it was what Boxhall claimed had happened based on what he heard Murdoch tell Capt.Smith when Smith came out onto the bridge. Boxhall said that Murdoch told the Captain (quote): "I put her hard astarboard and run the engines full astern, but it was too close; she hit it." Not only that, but Boxhall went on to say that Murdoch also told Smith: "I intended to port around it, but she hit before I could do any more." That is what Boxhall swore he heard from Murdoch.

But that is not all. Boxhall was asked at the British inquiry by Mr. Raymond Asquith: "Did you go on to the bridge immediately after the impact?" Boxhall's answer was, "I was almost on the bridge when she struck." Then Boxhall was asked, "Did you notice what the telegraphs indicated with regard to the engines?" Boxhall gave a direct answer, "Full speed astern, both." which was followed by, "Was that immediately after the impact?" to which Boxhall replied, "Yes."

Boxhall was the only eyewitness to claim that Murdoch ordered full astern on the engines. He even said that "The engines were going full speed astern for quite a little time." There is zero evidence to back up any of what Boxhall claimed regarding Murdoch admitting to Smith that he reversed the engines or that they saw the telegraphs showing full astern. But it certainly cannot be dismissed as merely an interpretation.

We now have Sam Halpern's "Brace for Impact" article which proposes that Murdoch should have hit the iceberg head-on, another unfair criticism of Murdoch was who clearly trying to avoid any impact at all.
Dan, if you had bothered to actually read the article I wrote you will find that nowhere in it did I make any such proposal as you claim, nor did I criticise Murdoch for the action that he actually took. In fact, just the opposite. Quoting directly from my article:

Could such a head-on accident have happened to Titanic? We know Titanic struck an iceberg after it was sighted in enough time for her helm to be put hard over in a failed attempt to avoid striking the iceberg. The allision that actually resulted caused about 12 square feet of aggregate openings along her starboard side. Unfortunately, too many of her compartments were compromised, and she sank in about 2 hours and 40 minutes, and was relatively stable until the very end. But could Titanic have struck an iceberg head-on by accident? In other words, could the sighting of the iceberg have taken place so late that there would be no time to react? We can almost certainly rule out any consideration of a deliberate head-on strike because all ship handlers are taught to avoid collisions, not to deliberately allow them to happen.

The article then went on to considered a situation where such a head-on collision could have taken place, but not because it would be deliberate.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Boxhall was the only eyewitness to claim that Murdoch ordered full astern on the engines. He even said that "The engines were going full speed astern for quite a little time." There is zero evidence to back up any of what Boxhall claimed regarding Murdoch admitting to Smith that he reversed the engines or that they saw the telegraphs showing full astern. But it certainly cannot be dismissed as merely an interpretation.
I agree that Boxhall's claims cannot be dismissed outright but as you point out, there is zero evidence to confirm the full-astern order and as many of you experts have said, it is very unlikely that Murdoch would have put the engine telegraph to full astern. And yet, Boxhall claimed that he did exactly that.

Perhaps I am stirring-up the proverbial hornet's nest here but is there the possibility that while Boxhall's claim was wrong, it was not a mistake on his part? In other words, could Boxhall have had a (personal?) reason to have made that claim, knowing (based on subsequent events during the sinking) that it would be very difficult to refute?
 

Jim Currie

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You are all missing one essential point
A ccording to Trimmer Dillon, an astern order was obeyed 2 minutes after impactimpact...This means that 2 engine orders were given and obeyed in a space of 2 minutes...120 second. Allowing 60 seconds for the engineers to stop wh at they were doing and go to the controls, this means 2 engine movements in 60 seconds including a 30 second changeover activation of the astern gear. from a separate source... Greasr Ranger, we know the turbine stopped very shortly after impact...."about 2 minutes", so that corroborates the evidence of Dillon.
The bottom line her is: If Murdoch ordered an astern movement at that time...which he did; why on earth would he order anything less than Full Astern?

I don't expect a "like" for this - even if it is fact, rather than speculation. Hower, constructive criticism would be helpful in setting the record straight.
 
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Jim Currie

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I agree that Boxhall's claims cannot be dismissed outright but as you point out, there is zero evidence to confirm the full-astern order and as many of you experts have said, it is very unlikely that Murdoch would have put the engine telegraph to full astern. And yet, Boxhall claimed that he did exactly that.

Perhaps I am stirring-up the proverbial hornet's nest here but is there the possibility that while Boxhall's claim was wrong, it was not a mistake on his part? In other words, could Boxhall have had a (personal?) reason to have made that claim, knowing (based on subsequent events during the sinking) that it would be very difficult to refute?
Here is an "expert", Arun, who believes that Murdoch did put the engines astern and who cannot understand, given the time and circumstances, why that astrn order would beanything other than "FULL". However, I am willing to be persuaded otherwise.
 

Arun Vajpey

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You are all missing one essential point
According to Trimmer Dillon, an astern order was obeyed 2 minutes after impact...This means that 2 engine orders were given and obeyed in a space of 2 minutes...120 second.
The bottom line her is: If Murdoch ordered an astern movement at that time...which he did; why on earth would he order anything less than Full Astern?
Here is an "expert", Arun, who believes that Murdoch did put the engines astern and who cannot understand, given the time and circumstances, why that astrn order would beanything other than "FULL". However, I am willing to be persuaded otherwise.
Jim, I was not disputing or talking about a "Full astern" order given after the impact, which is an entirely different ball game. What I am questioning is Don Lynch's (and several others before and since) claiming that Murdoch put the engine telegraph to Full Astern as the Titanic approached the berg as part of his maneuver to avoid collision - ie before the impact. Lynch even implied that Murdoch effectively made an avoidable collision inevitable. Of course, James B****y Cameron immortalised that in his 1997 film. Now just about every 'layman' who can tell the difference between the Titanic and a tugboat belives that to be true. I have experienced this when talking about the Titanic in pubs and such.

I was wondering if Boxhall's slightly ambiguous statements have led to this confusion.

Boxhall was asked at the British inquiry by Mr. Raymond Asquith: "Did you go on to the bridge immediately after the impact?" Boxhall's answer was, "I was almost on the bridge when she struck." Then Boxhall was asked, "Did you notice what the telegraphs indicated with regard to the engines?" Boxhall gave a direct answer, "Full speed astern, both." which was followed by, "Was that immediately after the impact?" to which Boxhall replied, "Yes."
As you can see, Boxhall claimed that be was "almost at the bridge" when the collision occurred and then noticed that the engine telegraphs were both set to Full Astern. That suggests that Murdoch had already set the telegraphs to full astern before the collision (but does not prove that Boxhall meant it to sound that way), which I cannot accept and which is where the ambiguity and wrong interpretations by Lynch, Cameron etc arose.

But your reasoning, based on Dillon's testimony, that Murdoch set the telegraph to Full Astern some 90 seconds after impact and this was followed during the next 30 seconds or so makes sense and I accept that. But you have to agree that it is completely different from what several books and the film depicted.
 
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Let's be honest here. It was not an interpretation of what happened
I politely disagree Sam. At the US Inquiry Boxhall reported he "heard the first officer give the order "Hard astarboard," and the engine telegraph rang." No mention of a full astern order And then at the British Inquiry he reported "I heard the First Officer give the order, “Hard-a-starboard,” and I heard the engine room telegraph bells ringing. " Once again no "full astern" order. Then once on the bridge he sees the telegraphs set to astern. We know from Dillon that indeed the engines were briefly ordered astern post-collision. So this is what he likely saw. He then joins the dots, interprets the evidence and makes the claim that indeed Murdoch ordered full speed astern as a collision-avoidance manoeuvre, even putting the words in Murdoch's mouth. Since he was not on the bridge at the time the order was given, it has to be assumed/interpreted. Sadly, Boxhall was unreliable on so many aspects of that night and continued to be throughout his life.

Dan, if you had bothered to actually read the article I wrote you will find that nowhere in it did I make any such proposal as you claim, nor did I criticise Murdoch for the action that he actually took.
You have assumed I have not read your article, actually, I have and stand by my point: your article makes the case that a head-on collision would have resulted in a better outcome. It is an excellent article, Sam and well researched (although I do wonder whether watertight doors would have closed post-collision, not to mention a myriad of other "butterfly effect" factors that mathematics and physics cannot account for). But constantly on Facebook and other forums people keep posting that "Murdoch should have hit the iceberg head-on" and this simply provides the ammunition to support that stance.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Then once on the bridge he sees the telegraphs set to astern. We know from Dillon that indeed the engines were briefly ordered astern post-collision. So this is what he likely saw. He then joins the dots, interprets the evidence and makes the claim that indeed Murdoch ordered full speed astern as a collision-avoidance manoeuvre, even putting the words in Murdoch's mouth. Since he was not on the bridge at the time the order was given, it has to be assumed/interpreted. Sadly, Boxhall was unreliable on so many aspects of that night and continued to be throughout his life.
My question is, was it Boxhall who "joined the dots and dashes" and make the interpretation that Murdoch used the Full Astern as a collision avoidance maneuver or did others like Don Lynch make that assumption based on the Fourth Officer's rather ambiguous statements? His assertion that he was just entering the bridge as the collision occurred and then saw the telegraphs set to Full Astern can be interpreted both ways.
 
Arun - It was clearly Boxhall's perception that Titanic had indeed been ordered astern as he subsequently puts the words in Murdoch's mouth during the conversation with Captain Smith, saying that he ran "the engines full astern" (US Inquiry) "reversed the engines" (British Inquiry) and "Full Speed Astern, Sir, on the Port Engine" (BBC interview October 1962). Quartermaster Robert Hichens only heard the order "hard-a-starboard" when he testified at both inquiries. Quartermaster Alfred Olliver (only questioned at the US Inquiry) only heard "hard a port" as he arrived on the bridge. So the words were only an assumption based on what Boxhall thought had happened. Until recently authors/researchers (including myself) have subsequently kept to Boxhall's erroneous interpretation of events.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Arun - It was clearly Boxhall's perception that Titanic had indeed been ordered astern as he subsequently puts the words in Murdoch's mouth during the conversation with Captain Smith, saying that he ran "the engines full astern" (US Inquiry) "reversed the engines" (British Inquiry) and "Full Speed Astern, Sir, on the Port Engine" (BBC interview October 1962). So the words were only an assumption based on what Boxhall thought had happened. Until recently authors/researchers (including myself) have subsequently kept to Boxhall's erroneous interpretation of events.
OK, that takes me back to something that I hinted earlier. If Boxhall continued to suggest (if not directly state) that Murdoch had put the telegraph at Full Astern as part of a collision avoidance maneuver and held that stance at the two inquiries, it strikes me as something a bit more than mere "perception". Boxhall was an experienced naval officer and would have known how to interpret and as necessary state such things; but if he effectively "put words into Murdoch's mouth" (to quote you) and was being carefully ambiguous about his testimony, did Boxhall have reason for it?
 
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Jim Currie

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to understand what was going on, you have to know how such engine orders were gkiven on a steamship way back then and even up into the 1950s. I have pointed this out before but water and a ducks back come to mind.
When ringing down an emergency Full Astern from Full Ahead. You did not simply go from one to the other on the telegraphs. You first rang Full Ahead - Full Astern several times before finishing with STOP. This was to make sure the telegraph bells were heard and acted quickly upon. Immediately after that, You went through the same procedure finishing with the levers at FULL ASTERN. An emergency procedure.
There is only one witness from the engine room who actually noted a STOP on the telegraph thereafter he was trapped behind the WT doors in the turbine room. We know the WT doors descended while the ship was still in contact with the bergad the STOP order was given before that. Thre was no witnessess in the engine room t a Fu,ll Astern order...they judged simply by observing the shafts rotating.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Jim, I understand that the procedure of giving engine orders via telegraph was not as simple as some believe and accept your explanation. Also what you said earlier about the Hard-a-port order being given between 90 seconds and 2 minutes after the impact. All that is already accepted and not what I asked above.

2 minutes would have been quite a long time considering the scenario just before, during and after the collision.

What I am asking - or rather wondering about - is the rather ambiguous statements by Boxhall which can be easily misunderstood.

These are excerpts from Boxhall's testimony in the American Inquiry

Senator SMITH.
Where were you when the collision took place?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I was just approaching the bridge.

Senator SMITH.
How far did you go?

Mr. BOXHALL.
At the time of the impact I was just coming along the deck and almost abreast of the captain's quarters, and I heard the report of three bells.


Since Captain Smith's quarters were very close to the bridge, the above translates as if Boxhall claimed that he was almost at the bridge when he heard the 3 bells.

Senator SMITH.

Three bells?

Mr. BOXHALL.
That signifies something has been seen ahead. Almost at the same time I heard the first officer give the order "Hard astarboard," and the engine telegraph rang.


So now, Boxhall is saying that almost immediately after he heard the 3 bells, he heard Murdoch shout "Hard-a-Starboard" and then the sound of the Engine Telegraph's ring. So far so good, right?

Senator SMITH.

Did you proceed to the bridge?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Whom did you find there?

Mr. BOXHALL.
I found the sixth officer and the first officer and captain. [Moody, Murdoch and Captain Smith]

Senator SMITH.
The sixth officer, the first officer and the captain?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
All on the bridge together?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes, sir.


To my mind, this is where Boxhall's testimony begins to go pear-shaped. If, as it seems above, he had almost reached the bridge when he heard the 3 bells followed by Murdoch's starboard helm order and ring of the telegraph, how could he then proceed to the bridge and see Captain Smith there?

That makes no sense. What about the time that it took for Hichens to carry out Murdoch's order, the ship closing on the berg and the collision itself? Wasn't it after the collision that Smith came to the bridge? This is confirmed by Boxhall himself as below


Senator SMITH.
What, if anything, was said by the captain?

Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes, sir. The captain said, "What have we struck?" Mr. Murdoch, the first officer, said, "We have struck an iceberg."

Senator SMITH.
Then what was said?


Mr. BOXHALL.
He followed on to say - Mr. Murdoch followed on to say, "I put her hard a starboard and run the engines full astern, but it was too close; she hit it."


So above Boxhall is definitely making it sound as though Murdoch put the engine telegraph to full astern as part of his 'porting around' maneuver to try avoid collision. That I do not believe and as Dan says, Boxhall appears to be putting words into Murdoch's mouth. Rather convenient since Murdoch did not survive to defend himself and neither did Smith or Moody to contradict Boxhall.


Senator FLETCHER.
That was before she struck?

Mr. BOXHALL.
No; after.


Again, this is ambiguous. "After" does not explain "how long after" and given the events can be interpreted in different ways.


This was just in the American Inquiry with the British Investigation still to come. Was Boxhall being deliberately ambiguous and if so, why?
 
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I politely disagree Sam. At the US Inquiry Boxhall reported he "heard the first officer give the order "Hard astarboard," and the engine telegraph rang." No mention of a full astern order. And then at the British Inquiry he reported "I heard the First Officer give the order, “Hard-a-starboard,” and I heard the engine room telegraph bells ringing. " Once again no "full astern" order.
Of course no mention of an astern order because at the time Boxhall heard all that was after coming out of the officer's quarters while on his way to the bridge. Engine orders are not verbal and therefore they are NOT heard. They are transmitted down to the engine by working the engine-order telegraph handles, which as Jim pointed out, ring alerting bells to gain the attention of those around that the telegraph levers are being worked. Boxhall would not know what the engine orders were until he got onto the bridge and could see the position of the telegraph handles, which he said he did. He also claimed that Murdoch told Smith that he (Murdoch) had put the engines to full astern as part of the avoidance maneuver. And, as you pointed out, 50 years later, Boxhall changed his story to say that only the port engine was put astern.

There were two other eyewitness to the conversation between Murdoch and Smith immediately following the collision event, Hichens and Olliver, and both only talked about Murdoch telling Smith that an iceberg was struck and that the watertight doors were already closed. Nothing about what engine orders or helm orders given, or what Murdoch's intentions were.

As far as trimmer Dillon's timings, like all eyewitness reports, his time intervals were only subjective. And one of them is outright ridiculous; i.e., his time for when the WTDs were dropped, which he said was three minutes after the shock. We know Murdoch was at the switch when the ship struck, and it takes about 20 to 30 seconds for these doors to drop from the time the switch is closed to release the clutch.

your article makes the case that a head-on collision would have resulted in a better outcome.
The article was written to simply address the question: "Was Edward Wilding correct in his assessment that Titanic would have remained afloat if she would have taken the blow head-on into the iceberg instead of a glancing blow along her starboard side? Is there a way to actually quantify the resulting damage to the vessel after such a strike?" I cannot control what people say as to what Murdoch should have been done after the fact. But I was very careful to point out that nobody in their right mind would deliberately allow a collision like that to happen. Most people do not know how close Murdoch actually came to pulling off what they would have described as a miracle if he was successful. But that's the topic of another conversation. I was reacting to your wording accusing me of being critical of Murdoch, which I wasn't.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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The article was written to simply address the question: "Was Edward Wilding correct in his assessment that Titanic would have remained afloat if she would have taken the blow head-on into the iceberg instead of a glancing blow along her starboard side? Is there a way to actually quantify the resulting damage to the vessel after such a strike?" I cannot control what people say as to what Murdoch should have been done after the fact. But I was very careful to point out that nobody in their right mind would deliberately allow a collision like that to happen. Most people do not know how close Murdoch actually came to pulling off what they would have described as a miracle if he was successful. But that's the topic of another conversation. I was reacting to your wording accusing me of being critical of Murdoch, which I wasn't.
Precisely. As I pointed out before, reflex actions (even 'partial' ones) are controlled by a part of the brain that won't logically assess the situation, calculate the odds and then act. In emergency situations such built-in reflexes can and will override even best training and experience BUT the latter can contribute, albeit without detailed conscious thought, to the actual action being taken. That partly explains Murdoch's decision to try and dodge the berg rather than hit it head on.
 

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