The big satchel in boat 14

  • Thread starter William H Draeger
  • Start date

Status
Not open for further replies.
W

William H Draeger

Guest
On page 683 of the Senate Hearings, seaman Frank
Oliver Evans testified that after Boat 14 was tied
up to Carpathia and all the occupants were off
loaded..."I picked up a big satchel that was in the bottom of the boat, and I threw it up to the
master-at-arms of the Carpathia" First of all the
satchel had to be light to be thrown up! Second,
what was in the satchel? Passenger luggage? Could
it have been a Purser's satchel? Why did Evans
throw it to the master-at-arms? Why not a Purser
or Steward? Was the content of the "big satchel"
ever disclosed?
Any info or ideas out there?
Bill
 

Mike Herbold

Member
Dec 13, 1999
1,007
8
313
Very interesting, Bill. It's too bad that Senator Smith was doing the questioning, because Evans was an important witness, and was involved in many significant parts of the disaster, like the watch, the loading of passengers, the search with Lowe for survivors, and the rescue of collapsible A. Smith's interview of him and Evans' answers are often confusing and the whole conversation seems rushed -- like it's 11:45 already; let's hurry up and get this over and break for lunch.

Why wasn't Evans a witness at the British Inquiry?

Back to your satchel question. No idea yet, but you sure sent me looking in a lot of different directions.
 

Mike Herbold

Member
Dec 13, 1999
1,007
8
313
My apologies to Senator Smith. That was 11:45 at night when he finished questioning Evans. Unfortunately when Smith and Senator Flecher talked to him the next day (Friday, April 26, 1912), they didn't ask about the satchel.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,684
1,406
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
Lighthollers said he met the Pursers and Assistant Pursers coming away from the direction of the bridge just before Titanic sank. One of the assistants had a satchel with what Lighhollers presumed was ship's documents. What happened to those?

Did anyone notice this?....

"Senator SMITH.
Then what did you do?

Mr. EVANS.
I made fast the boat. I picked up a big satchel that was in the bottom of the boat, and I threw it up to the master-at-arms of the Carpathia, and then we went on the boat deck of the Carpathia and got orders to hoist our boat."
Who told Evans to make sure that satchel was recovered and delivered safely. It was in 5th.Officer Lowe's Boat. Did it get there by accident?What was in that satchel that was so important that it warranted special treatment? Why was it passed to the Master at Arms?
Heavens! there was huge concern that not enough people had been loaded into the lifeboats. What special treatment did that satchel merit?
Was the Official Log Book, registration papers and other important documents saved and quietly 'lost' to prying eyes? I guess we'll never know unless there is something in the official government archives which can be revealed after a hundred years and all will be come plain on the 15th.April, 2012. Then again, someone probably knows all about this and there is a perfectly rational explanation.

[Moderator's note: This message, originally a separate thread in a different topic, has been moved to this pre-existing thread discussing the same subject. MAB]
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
6,043
107
333
UK
Evans said that he threw the satchel up to the Master at Arms, but he didn't mention whether the man caught it!
:)
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,113
38
398
Also, one wishes that he was asked to define 'satchel,' and that he gave the account more than once ( Did he? MOST Lusitania survivors who opted to go public, or to writer letter accounts, did so more than once. It is a great way to clear up obscure tangents- sometimes what is badly worded in one telling is completely lucid in another) because what was a 'satchel' in one telling might well have been described as 'a large handbag' in two others. If 'satchel' had played an important part in the event (for instance, if it had exploded a few minutes later, substantially adding to the casualty list) there is no doubt that he would have been VERY precise in his wording, and the Senate very precise in their questions. However, it was a small tangent in a big story and, as such, it is likely that Evans tossed out the first word that came to mind for a carrying bag left in the boat by a passenger.

About the Master-at- Arms. If he was supervising the unloading of the boat, he might well have been giving orders. An order of "Toss that bag up here" about a visible, abandoned, bag would probably have resulted in a bag being tossed in his general direction, particularly if he had the familiar arms-outstretched-to-catch posture.

But, seriously, you'd probably want to consult newspapers in Evans' hometown, or even better, if he had relatives in America, in THEIR hometowns. About two weeks after the disaster, you begin finding verbatem letters from survivors, usually under the inspired headline "Local Survivor's Letter," running in some fairly obscure papers. Most of these escaped bouts with the Rewrite Man, and are far more accurate than the press coverage immediately after the event. It would be interesting to see if he tells that story and, if so, if he is more descriptive about the satchel.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,684
1,406
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
The word 'satchel' is defined in The king's English Dictionary of the day as a small leather bag or schoolboy's bag. The modern day definitions of luggage or baggage would not have been recognised in the time of Titanic.

In a ship, it was common to have a leather satchel with a shoulder strap. This was kept in the safe of the Master or the Purser if one was carried. In the event of a ship going aground or sinking, the Manifest, Official Log Book, Crew list,registration papers etc plus cash and any valuables would be locked in the bag and carried off the ship. This stuff would be needed for all sorts of purposes including proof of loss for insurance, list of souls aboard, circumstances of voyage to date of loss etc.
The log book would be of great interest to HM Receiver of Wrecks
During wartime, such bags were weighted and in the event of impending capture of the ship; would be thrown overboard with any secret documents or documents of value to the enemy.

The Master at Arms of Carpathia was there specifically to receive that bag. He had no other legitimate cause to be at that particular place considering what was going on in the ship behind his back. I'm just surprised that Lowe did not ensure it's safe delivery.

Most certainly the loss of the contents I describe would be of great advantage to the White Star Line owners and shareholders. Can't say the same for the Underwriters though!

Jim
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
6,043
107
333
UK
Jim, Lowe left the sinking ship in boat 14 on his own initiative, not on the orders of any of his seniors. If any officer had been given the task of preserving the ship's papers this would surely have been one who was ordered off - like Boxhall or Pitman? And as you say yourself, Lowe could hardly be said to be discharging this important task effectively by having a seaman throw the bag up to a man on deck, at risk of it rejoining the Titanic on the ocean floor.

More likely the bag was brought on board by a passenger - not noticed in the dark and confusion, especially if it was worn rather than carried - and got left behind when Lowe offloaded most of his charges to other boats before going back to look for survivors in the water.

I see nothing in Evans' statement to suggest that he thought the bag was anything special, and nothing odd in the fact that it was recovered at all, any more than the Spedden boy's toy bear which was similarly picked up by a crewman from the bottom of a boat alongside the Carpathia.

"The Master at Arms of Carpathia was there specifically to receive that bag." That's speculation delivered as certainty, Jim. You know better than that! Nice to see this subject resurrected though.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,684
1,406
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
"The Master at Arms of Carpathia was there specifically to receive that bag." That's speculation delivered as certainty, Jim. You know better than that! Nice to see this subject resurrected though."

Yep! but it did get a response!
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
6,043
107
333
UK
As I know you intended, Jim! Keep up the good work. But you know as well as I do what was really in the bag:

205909.jpg
 

Jim Kalafus

Member
Dec 3, 2000
6,113
38
398
One would THINK that, having successfully pulled this ruse off, the surviving officers, not to mention the White Star Line officials (and lawyers) would have said "Dont mention the satchel" to Evans pre-testimony. But, perhaps they DID, and what we saw was a VERY courageous effort to get the truth out, via "opening a door" in court, that Smith was too dense to see.

>any more than the Spedden boy's toy bear which was similarly picked up by a crewman from the bottom of a boat alongside the Carpathia.

And what was being smuggled inside of the bear, Bob? Have you ever seen Wait Until Dark?* As you'll recall, only two people in that play knew what was hidden in the doll, and one is run over by a thug in a 1958 Pontiac to guarantee his silence on that point. Ever wonder from where the author of that play drew inspiration? Now you know. The abandoned bear, like the abandoned satchel, was part of something sinister...

Now, getting serious, one with interest in the Titanic should take the time to track down alternate accounts by Evans, to see if any additional light is shed on the satchel incident. Sometimes just two or three additional words ("a lady's satchel" "a crew member's satchel" "somebody's handbag" "a satchel later returned to Mrs.----") can clear things up. And since the nature of his testimony has caused multiple people to raise the question, perhaps it is time that an effort is made to find what else, if anything, he said.

*If you HAVE seen Wait Until Dark, I hope you saw the mega-star revival, in a major US city with a lot or theaters, in which the mega-star thing worked against the material. No suspense was built at all and, during the climax, philistines in the audience (I plead the fifth) began doing the husband's "directional whistle" (as shown in the earlier scenes) from the rows, hoping to guide the leading lady over the edge of the stage and into a fall into the orchestra pit. (For those who havent seen it, Wait Until... is about a blind woman inadvertantly caught up in major drug smuggling, and marked for death. She is newly blind, and her husband has been teaching her to find her away around the apartment by whistling a very specific trill and expecting her to walk towards him. "Fetch" and "roll over" are the next two tricks on his list, but I digress. The climax finds the killer in the apartment, and the blind woman using darkness to her advantage. Normally, it can be quite suspenseful, if a bit cliche...so if audience members begin doing the husband's whistle, hoping to see the leading lady topple off the stage, something is amiss with the staging.)
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,684
1,406
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
Knew her well! tree-mendous! I fine tree for an old sea-dog to lift a leg to!

Just to continue the wind-up:

If Boxhall met with the young purser carrying the ship's bag (shortly before Titanic sank)after first Pitman then Lowe left the ship then we can rule those two out. The only boat carrying an officer (and possibly a dry bag)after that time would need to have been Boxhall.

Questions needing answers should include:

Why would the Purser, having been to the bridge with the ship's papers,come back from there still clutching the ship's bag presumably still containing the papers? Did he go to the bridge to receive orders?
Did he go there to collect the very important ship's Official Log Book to be included with the rest of the documents in the ship's bag?

Where did Lightholler meet them?

Since Lightholler was in charge of the port side boats, we can guess it was probably on that side of the boat deck. They were coming from the direction of the bridge so were heading aft. They would have passed the emergency boat No.2 since it was immediately beside and just aft of the bridge wing. Boxhall was in that particular boat and had either left Titanic, or was still to do so at around 1-45am.

Pitman had no particular role in the lifeboat launching control so he was the first officer to leave the ship at about 12-45, just before they started firing the rockets. Indeed, he thought he would be recalled after it was safe for him and his charges to return to the ship.
At the time Pitman left the ship, there was still plenty of time for Smith - if it was his intention- to take charge of the ship's papers so he would not pass the satchel to Pitman. It may not have occurred to him that he -Smith -might not survive.
Shortly after Pitman left Titanic in boat No.5, Smith gave the order to start firing distress rockets - then he knew for certain he was loosing control of his ship and the abandoning of her was a certainty - she was going to sink.
At that point he would also know he would have to stay with her to the end and more than likely would have to go down with her. However, being a total professional, he would start making his final plans - there would include saving the ship's papers. At that point, he would send for the ship's officers who were not actively involved with the launching and loading of boats or who were not engaged in trying to save her - the Doctors and Purser's department people. His instructions would include an order for the Purser to bring the ship's bag and documents.
When these people arrived on the bridge, they would find organised chaos. Smith would inform them of the situation and hand them the Official Log Book and any other relevant documents he might have on the bridge - instructing them to place them with the other important documents in the ship's bag and pass it to the of senior of the two junior officers who were at the after port boats, passing the order for the bag to be kept in safety.
Lowe would be the obvious choice since all the officers above his rank, with the exception of Pitman who was already away, were engaged in loading and launching boats.

It will be remembered that while Moody was supposed to go in boat 16 - he never did. I understand he and Lowe had a short conversation before Lowe left in boat 14. Moody we know, continues helping his Watch boss - Murdoch

Need to go and wind the chronometer again!

Jim
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
6,043
107
333
UK
Respect! I well remember Capstan Full Strength. Legend has it that you got a coupon in each pack, and when you'd saved enough you could exchange them for an iron lung. Yes, I do indeed go back a very long way. My Dad smoked Woodbines during the working week, but when he bought 'something for the weekend' from the barber it wasn't a packet of three but a packet of five 'Black Cats' - the poor man's luxury smoke.
 
Jun 4, 2000
1,286
6
313
Now, getting serious, one with interest in the Titanic should take the time to track down alternate accounts by Evans, to see if any additional light is shed on the satchel incident. Sometimes just two or three additional words ("a lady's satchel" "a crew member's satchel" "somebody's handbag" "a satchel later returned to Mrs.----") can clear things up.
Cue Lady Bracknell, stage right.
 

Jim Currie

Member
Apr 16, 2008
6,684
1,406
323
NewtonMearns, Glasgow, Scotland.
They'd have a real problem nowadays finding the owner of a handbag since the guys also carry such things (I'm told). That, and they cover themselves with all that splashy-smelly stuff...as seen on the Xmas adverts. At least BO would not have been a problem in a crowded lifeboat.

MERRY XMAS TO ALL MY READERS...both of you.

Seriously though;

I mean it sincerely to all on this site.
 

Bob Godfrey

Member
Nov 22, 2002
6,043
107
333
UK
I'll second that. Season's greetings to all three of you and to anyone else who hasn't already set out for the pub. Here's the oldest Xmas card ever published (and no, it wasn't sent to me!)

205917.jpg
 
Jul 9, 2000
58,671
888
563
Easley South Carolina
>>(and no, it wasn't sent to me!) <<

But you did the concept art, right???
wink.gif


Seriously, happy holidays everybody. I'll still be covering the news tomorrow but hopefully, there won't be anything like collisions, groundings, fires, sinkings and other fun activities to report.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.