Rheims Lightoller and the Officer's Suicide Enigma


Nov 30, 2000
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I noted with dismay a clip from Cameron's film was used in the banner for my new E-T research article which does not mention so much as a word about the film although it deals with the suicide theory which was used in the film.
Just a disclaimer saying that it was A. not my idea to put it there as I am not a fan of this flick and B. I am trying to work with the webmaster to change it to something I'd be more comfy with (and, to be sure, help keep this site out of the mits of the 20th Century Fox people who are fighting tooth and nail to keep copywrighted material off the 'net).

Enjoy the article everyone, by the way!
 

Eric Longo

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Aug 13, 2004
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Hi Richard,

I noticed that immediately and was wondering right away about the copyright issues. I looked briefly for a thread with no luck. For a site that normally pays close attention to, and insists upon, copyright consideration I was truly shocked.

Best wishes,
Eric Longo
 
Nov 30, 2000
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It's all being fixed so no worries there.
First time I ever endorsed something without my knowledge (joke! :)).
Anyhoo, hop on to the article entitled "Rheims, Lightoller, and the Officer's Suicide Enigma" everyone.
It's my first E-T byline. :)
See you in the section of the boards devoted to those articles.
 

Tad G. Fitch

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Dec 31, 2005
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Hi Richard, how are you? I just wanted to say congrats on the article. I thought it was very interesting. As you say, there are many layers to the "onion" of this particular mystery, and while new evidence has surprisingly continued to pop up from time-to-time, it is hard to say whether or not we will ever know the answer for certain.

Regarding Rheims, you raise some good points, but some things in his LOL deposition and his other accounts are not really clear-cut as you are aware.

I have heard both sides of the argument regarding whether the gunshots he describes hearing in his deposition are the same incident he described in the letter to his wife and other accounts or not. One thing worth considering here is that Rheims was asked if he heard any particular noises at one specific stage of the sinking during the loading of the lifeboats, to which he replied that he heard gunshots, with no real clarification or follow-up questioning from the questioners.

The main point here is that he may have been describing the same thing as in the letter to his wife, or it could be referring to another incident. There is no way of knowing for certain. The scope of the LOL hearings was regarding the liability of the White Star Line for survivor financial losses, so the question of investigating whether an officer shot anyone was really beyond the scope and purpose of the hearings. It was one of many things during the inquiries and liability hearings that I wish they had asked for the historical record.

Rheims deposition does not mention many of the details in the letter to his wife or other accounts, but then again, they didn't specifically ask him about many of those things. For example, his letter to his wife gives great detail about Joseph Loring and his last conversation with him, but he doesn't discuss this in the deposition.

Conversely, his letter to his wife and his press accounts don't have all of the details contained in the deposition. The timing of the incident he describes is hard to pin down, because he doesn't describe it in the deposition (unless the gunshots are indeed the same incident), mentions it as being while the last boat was leaving in the letter, and gives no indication of when it occurred in his press accounts, other than that it was late in the process. Which details are accurate and which aren't are hard to distinguish.

For what it's worth, I get the impression that the order of some of the sequences of events in his letter to his wife are possibly mixed or compressed, based on other accounts from him, and from his other press accounts.

What would be really interesting is if transcripts of Eugene Daly's 1915 limitation of liability testimony in the US District Court ever surfaced. Press summaries indicate that he testified under oath about the shooting incident, and his testimony might reveal more of the truth about it if it is ever found. These materials are not housed in the National Archives on Varick Street in NYC like the 1913 portion of the LOL case, and despite many researchers, myself included, searching for them, nobody has yet found them, or if they have, they haven't announced it.

Good work, and again congratulations.

All my best,
Tad
 
Nov 30, 2000
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Thanks a bunch, Tad, for your insightful feedback.
Those missing testimonies from the LOL hearings would be a gold mine of information if they ever are found.
Thanks again.
 
Nov 30, 2000
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One final tidbit I did not mention in my article, btw, is that the number of shots Rheims said the officer fired dovetail with the number he said he heard fired. So at least he is consistent on that point.
 

Shea Sweeney

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Apr 1, 2007
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Mr. Krebes,

I liked the article and especially the part about Second Officer Lightoller's testimonies of how he saw William Murdoch just before that awful plunge which took out all but one of the senior officers and the sixth officer. In my opinion which I've held for years, that is how Murdoch died.

Anyway, you did mention something that interested me. You said something to the effect that Lightoller later in life that someone aboard the Titanic did take their own life.

If you have some link to this story or want to explain it yourself I would be all ears.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Very interesting article, Richard - it's always intriguing to revisit these sources.

Shea, Susanne Stormer has referred a couple of times to having spoken to a member of the Lightoller family who claimed that the Second Officer knew someone that night who shot themselves. To my knowledge, she has never revealed the name of this individual, and I haven't seen a verbatim transcript of her interview, so I don't know if it is alledged that Lightoller claimed he *saw* someone committ suicide, or if he merely claimed to know somone who did without claiming to have seen it himself.

I followed up on this when interviewing a member of the Lightoller family myself, but I don't know if we spoke to the same individual. I found a vague oral tradition suggesting that it was actually a passenger involved, and no clear recollection on whether Lightoller claimed to have witnessed it or if he was repeating hearsay.

All of which goes to show the difficulties of oral tradition, even within the one family. I interviewed one relative of HGLs who was very accurate about matters she had direct knowledge of, but demonstrably inaccurate when discussing hearsay information (for example, she was under the impression that HGL had shot Bruce Ismay, as that was how she remembered the story as told within the family).
 

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