Thomas Arthur Whiteley

Arun Vajpey

Reading about Whiteley, he comes across as a rather self-indulgent man with an inflated view of his own importance.

His claims about having swum for "several hours" with an injured leg in the frigid waters before sighting a Collapsible lifeboat, clearly an impossible feat under the conditions, contrasts sharply with other statements about how he kept Senior Radio man Jack Phillips "warm" while the latter told him about the ice warnings that he had passed to the bridge before dying. There is a lot of doubt about whether Phillips even reached a lifeboat, let alone being alive for several hours waiting for the swimming Whiteley to catch up and make him warm.

He later told people that he had swallowed so much water during his ordeal that his stomach had to be removed and replaced while he was in hospital for the leg injury. While there he freely told reporters that in his opinion the Titanic's officers had ignored all warnings and been negligent. There were other claims too. No wonder he was called as a witness by either the American or British investigation into the disaster; they must have felt he was not reliable.

He later tried to sue the White Star line claiming that the Titanic had a faulty steering and was "unseaworthy". I later life he was involved with films but never more than a minor extra, though he claimed himself to be a 'director'. At some stage later in life, he reportedly gave the tallest of tall stories when he claimed to have survived the Lusitania sinking!

Those delusions of grandeur make me wonder if he suffered from early neuropsychiatric problems associated with advanced syphilis.