News Titanic: What Happened To Ismay After The Ship Sank (& Was He Blamed?)

Seumas

Seumas

Member
I thought the late Michael Davie's essay on Ismay, his character and escape in his underrated wee book "Titanic: The Death and Life of a Legend" was a much needed antidote to the hurricane of character assassination that Ismay has endured since 1912.

Personally, I find the whole "Ismay was a snivelling coward" trope to be rather childish. He was human. I'd probably have taken the same chance that Ismay did to get into a boat had I been in the same situation and would have felt no shame.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Michael H. Standart and Jason D. Tiller
Milos Grkovic

Milos Grkovic

Solo 3D modeller and Artist
Member
One thing I could think of is how William Randolph Hearst's press treated him unfairly with 'This is J. Brute Ismay' and 'We respectfully suggest that the emblem of the White Star be changed to that of a yellow liver'. I've got that from the Titanic Historical Society article by Paul Louden Brown.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Jason D. Tiller
M.A.S.

M.A.S.

3rd class
Member
Although Ismay made errors in judgment before the shipwreck (not ensuring there were enough lifeboats, not recommending the ship slow down, etc.) I think it may have been courageous -- rather than cowardly -- to get in a lifeboat when he had the chance. In living, he had to face the music: to be present at the hearing and try to rectify the White Star Line's position. From now on -- enough lifeboats for everyone on board! Plus, he donated a bunch to the Titanic widows' pension. And, he resigned after a short time. I think all of this showed a sense of repentance. If he had gone down with the ship, people probably would have put down his memory as being a coward that way, too. He just can't win. I feel sorry for him that he was infected with the same over-confidence as the captain and many aboard. But to err is human, to forgive -- divine. Right? He may not have become a hero on the Titanic, but I think he became humbled on the Titanic. At least that's how I look at it. I want to see the best in him. Maybe it's his smile; he has a kind smile. :)
 
Jason D. Tiller

Jason D. Tiller

Staff member
Moderator
Member
And, he resigned after a short time.
Bruce Ismay's resignation from IMM and the White Star Line had nothing to do with the sinking. He had already set the wheels in motion, the previous February. See HERE
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mark Baber, Milos Grkovic and Seumas
Seumas

Seumas

Member
Although Ismay made errors in judgment before the shipwreck (not ensuring there were enough lifeboats, not recommending the ship slow down, etc.)
It wasn't any of Ismay's business to instruct the captain as to the speed of the ship or navigation. He was not a professional mariner nor a professional marine engineer.

Whilst it looks like Edward Smith kept Ismay informed to some extent of the ship's performance, there is no concrete evidence (ignore what is depicted in the films) of Ismay having a hand in deciding what the ship's speed or course should be. Ismay was ultimately still a passenger and had no right to interfere.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Milos Grkovic, Thomas Krom and Jason D. Tiller
Jason D. Tiller

Jason D. Tiller

Staff member
Moderator
Member
Ismay was ultimately still a passenger and had no right to interfere.
Yes. Ismay even acknowledges that in his testimony, at the U.S. Inquiry. He was not a Super Captain, as some have claimed.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Milos Grkovic, Seumas and Thomas Krom
M.A.S.

M.A.S.

3rd class
Member
Bruce Ismay's resignation from IMM and the White Star Line had nothing to do with the sinking. He had already set the wheels in motion, the previous February. See HERE

That's an interesting article, although I'm not sure what references they used to read "The Times (London), 1 January 1913" as I'm not able to gain access to that online without a subscription I think. I can't find where they're getting the info from in the links at the bottom of that article's page, but I was led to another fascinating link: TIP | Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry | Index of Witnesses. (Now that would be an interesting movie -- like a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington idea, but about the Titanic investigation). That's fine if he already wanted to resign, plus that would relieve him of the stress of being in the limelight. He was suffering enough. Woah I just got dejavu, don't know why.

I also read these -- Ismay's role in the ship's navigation
 
Last edited:
M.A.S.

M.A.S.

3rd class
Member
Yes. Ismay even acknowledges that in his testimony, at the U.S. Inquiry. He was not a Super Captain, as some have claimed.
It wasn't any of Ismay's business to instruct the captain as to the speed of the ship or navigation. He was not a professional mariner nor a professional marine engineer.

Whilst it looks like Edward Smith kept Ismay informed to some extent of the ship's performance, there is no concrete evidence (ignore what is depicted in the films) of Ismay having a hand in deciding what the ship's speed or course should be. Ismay was ultimately still a passenger and had no right to interfere.

I suppose Bruce might not have been a professional authority on the speed; he just was originally proud of the speed, prior to the collision time period, as were many others. And they couldn't interrogate the captain afterward, of course, so we can only take Ismay's word for it when he gave his report. When one wishes a catastrophe had never happened, one looks for ways it could have been avoided. -- Why didn't the chairman of the White Star Line use his trusted high position to intervene to discourage the speed in the dark through the ice field?-- one might say. The captain trusted his judgement and would have listened! (Maybe?)-- another might say. Or, why did Jack Phillips tell the Californian to SHUT UP instead of passing along the latest ice warnings? (We know they were busy with the passengers' messages, and were not aware of the priority perhaps, or maybe too immature in age or with ships? We still ask Why). Or, Why didn't they listen to the Californian and rest for the night? Why didn't the Californian respond to the firework flares? (Many theories there, but still, Why!) Or why didn't they let the lookout dude borrow someone's binoculars? Or why did Bruce Ismay overrule the original design for extra/ enough lifeboats?

The culpability gets spread out so that I wouldn't blame any one person. It's not like any of them WANTED the shipwreck to occur (although there did seem to be a nonchalance about avoiding danger, since they felt it couldn't sink-- it almost seems like they were testing that theory). They each suffered with the trauma of wishing they had done something differently, I bet. Poor Robert Hichens (the guy at the wheel -- what's it called in a ship?) felt too despairing to even paddle towards the Carpathia. Poor Fred Fleet, the crows nest dude, suffered a long time too. And the captain! :( Poor guy must have felt terrible with all those lost passengers on his conscience. (Because you're right -- the captain was in charge of the speed and giving orders.) That could lead some to despair; I'm going to pray that in his his last moments, he trusted in God's merciful Love for him, and made Peace.

Sigh. We can all think of excuses for the "why's" but we ask anyway. Even, WHY, God, why?! When it wasn't God's fault at all. It was just a multitude of irresponsible decisions made by people, unaware of the power of Nature. If any one factor had been different, perhaps the disaster/ deaths could have been avoided. But, we can't change the past. People can choose whether or not to draw "nearer to God" in their suffering or not. That is a choice that is always available to everyone. Today I thought of Bruce Ismay's suffering, and prayed for him (even though he already died), hoping that God would hear the prayers in His Eternal Moment and help to comfort Ismay back then, after he was enduring the trauma of what he went through, and regret for however he wished he could have taken more responsibility for the ship's safety, if possible. He inherited the job from his dad, so maybe it wasn't even his calling. I can't be mad at the guy. I wish I could go give him a hug. I'm glad he lived. And I'm thankful that he changed his position on the lifeboats requirement -- after one saved his life -- so that in the years ahead, lifeboats could save everyones' lives. Thank you, Mr. Ismay, for being humble about that. So sorry for all your suffering; God never stopped loving you through it all.
 
Last edited:
Thomas Krom

Thomas Krom

Member
Good day to you.
Or, why did Jack Phillips tell the Californian to SHUT UP instead of passing along the latest ice warnings? (We know they were busy with the passengers' messages, and were not aware of the priority perhaps, or maybe too immature in age or with ships?
Or why didn't they let the lookout dude borrow someone's binoculars?
All of the above are misconceptions.

Let us first look at the matter of the message of the Californian.

First of all, the Californian never send a position to the Titanic, it only would have been of any use to the Titanic if a position was given where the ship had stopped. Californian’s wireless operator Cyril Evans only send out the following message:
"MGY MGY MGY MWL Say, old man, we are stopped and surrounded by ice."
So the importance of this wireless message is often exaggerated. And secondly, the
"Shut up, shut up, I am busy, I am working Cape Race. You’re jamming my signal"
response wasn’t meant to be rude. Marconi wireless operators used to talk rather gruff against one another. They used terms like “GTH” which means “Go To Hell” or “Shut up” against one another casually.


And lastly the matters of the binoculars. This has been perhaps one of the most exaggerated matters relating to the Titanic there is. Binoculars are only used AFTER an object is sighted with the naked eye and not to scan the horizon all the time during your watch. Having a binocular on both your eyes would limit your view.
Or why did Bruce Ismay overrule the original design for extra/ enough lifeboats?
This is another false narrative that has been pushed, and pushed again to scapegoat poor Mr. Ismay. In 1894 it was decided upon by the British Board of Trade that a ship of 10 000 tons in gross tonnage would need a minimum of 16 lifeboats (preferably all class A lifeboats, however implementing two class D Emergency lifeboats were permitted too). Harland and Wolff's chief designer and general manager Alexander M Carlisle proposed a compliment of 48 lifeboats in total with the new Welin Quadrant davits designed by the Welin Davit & Engineering Company Ltd. Instead of dismissing the idea, according to Mr. Carlisle, Mr. Ismay agreed on it. Mr. Carlisle said:
He quite agreed that it would be a good thing to make preparations for supplying the larger number of boats.
However, it was considered by the regulations of the Board of Trade that 48 lifeboats would be far to much for the time. Mr. Ismay however thought ahead and approved the installation of the new Welin Quadrant davits so that when these regulations finally changed it would mean the boat deck only had to undertake some minor rearrangements compared to an entire redesign. It is also false that Mr. Carlisle retired from Harland and Wolff due to an argument he had with his brother-in-law, Lord William Pirrie, who was the ruling chairman of Harland and Wolff since the retiring of Gustav Wolff in 1906.

And as a final note I have is that maintaining speed when the elements were clear was the norm of the period in 1912. 11 captain's under oath stated as such (with compliments of Dan Parkes):
1. Captain John Pritchard, who formerly commanded Cunard's record setting Mauretania, which was capable of 26 knots, said "should only slacken speed if the weather conditions were unfavourable." (The Cambria Daily Leader, 24 June 1913). At the British Titanic inquiry, on day 27, he testified under oath that even with "information that there was a probability of your meeting ice on your course" he would maintain speed: "As long as the weather is clear I always go full speed." Pritchard also explained that this was in his experience a "universal practice" - based on his time commanding Cunard ships between Liverpool and New York for 18 years. He also noted that if following the southern track - as did Captain Smith - he had "never got into an ice-field. We do not go North, you know; we go on the southern tracks this time of year." As for lookouts, he would not double them when in "clear weather."

2. Captain Hugh Young, of the Anchor Line, with 37 years experience crossing the Atlantic on the New York trade, testified under oath that if ice were reported, he "should keep my course and maintain my speed" in clear weather. He also confirmed this was a "universal practice" (British Inquiry, Day 27)

3. Captain William Stewart, Canadian Pacific, worked for 35 years on the trade between Liverpool and Canada. He was posed with the question if you "were given information that you might meet ice and that your course would take you through the place where you might meet ice, and meet it at night, would you reduce your speed?" His answer was: "No, not as long as it was clear." He was asked further, "if you had information that you might meet field ice, would you still maintain your speed?" and responded similarly: "Until I saw it, and then I should do what I thought proper." "(British Inquiry, Day 27)

4. The evidence of Pritchard, Young and Stewart was also confirmed by Captain John A. Fairfull, of the Allan Line, working the Atlantic for 21 years. He was asked "Is your practice in accordance with theirs?" And he answered "All except that when we get to the ice track in an Allan steamer, besides having a look-out in the crow's-nest, we put a man on the stem head at night." (British Inquiry, Day 27)

5. Captain Andrew Braes, who commanded steamers of the Allan Line for 17 years also confirmed not changing speed or course in good visibility - "Just the same. I never slowed down so long as the weather was clear...I kept my course...I never knew any other practice."(British Inquiry, Day 27)

6. Captain Frederick Passow, who had been a captain on the North Atlantic for 28 years, in the American Line, and who had crossed about 700 times, testified that he "had a very large experience of ice" and yet did not slacken his speed for ice as long as the weather was quite clear: "Not as long as it was quite clear - no, not until we saw it...when it is absolutely clear we do not slow down for ice." (British Inquiry, Day 21)

7. Captain Bertram F. Hayes, of the White Star Line, testified that when a position of reported ice he would continue "at the same rate of speed...No alteration...it is the practice all over the world so far as I know - every ship that crosses the Atlantic... Ice does not make any difference to speed in clear weather. You can always see ice then." (British Inquiry, Day 21)

8. Benjamin Steele, marine superintendent at Southampton for the White Star Line, and master mariner with an Extra Master's certificate of 19 years having been at sea "about 26 or 27 years" confirmed the practice of "not slackening speed on account of ice as long as the weather is clear" by responding "It is. I have never known any other practice."(British Inquiry, Day 21)

9. Captain Richard Jones, master of the SS Canada of the Dominion Line, and in the Canadian service for 27 years testified that his ship was stopped by ice on the 11th of April 1912. However he also confirmed that after receiving messages about the ice he continueed at full speed ahead, considering it a usual practice. He said: "I should think it would be just as safe to go full speed with 22 knots... we always make what speed we can..we always try to get through the ice track as quickly as possible in clear weather."(British Inquiry, Day 24)

10. Captain Edwin Cannons, master with the Atlantic Transport Company with 25 years’ experience in the North Atlantic noted that he had "never seen field ice on the southern track." If an iceberg is sighted he testifed that "I keep my speed...Both day and night...I have never had any difficulty to clear when I have met ice ahead." If ice is reported he said: "I should maintain my speed and keep an exceptionally sharp look-out... to maintain speed until the ice is seen." However, if was clear he would not double the look-out. (British Inquiry, Day 24)

11. Captain John Ranson of White Star Line’s Baltic, on the Liverpool-New York run also confirmed the standard practice: "We go full speed whether there is ice reported or not...We keep up our speed... It has always been my practice." He also stated that it is the practice of all liners on that course, "for the last 21 years to my knowledge." and that he would not double the look-outs at night - "not in clear weather."(British Inquiry, Day 26)

Kind regards,

Thomas
 
  • Like
Reactions: Jason D. Tiller and Seumas
M.A.S.

M.A.S.

3rd class
Member
Personally I think it'd be way cool if ships could have their own lighthouses built right there on board, so that the crow's nest dude was also the lighthouse dude, scanning the ocean all around, with light and --ideally-- strong binoculars, just in case. :) If only the Titanic had been going much slower, there perhaps would have been time to move out of the way (or slow to a halt?), or... my heart goes out to Fred here with this other possibility (TIP | United States Senate Inquiry | Day 4 | Testimony of Frederick Fleet, cont.):

"...Senator SMITH.
Suppose you had had glasses such as you had on the Oceanic, or such as you had between Belfast and Southampton, could you have seen this black object a greater distance?

Mr. FLEET.
We could have seen it a bit sooner.

Senator SMITH.
How much sooner?

Mr. FLEET.
Well, enough to get out of the way.

Senator SMITH.
Did you and your mates discuss with one another the fact that you had no glasses?

Mr. FLEET.
We discussed it all together, between us.

Senator SMITH.
Did you express surprise or regret that you had none?

Mr. FLEET.
I do not know what you mean.

Senator SMITH.
Were you disappointed that you had no glasses?

Mr. FLEET.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Do you know whether the officer on the bridge had glasses?

Mr. FLEET.
Yes, sir..."
 
Thomas Krom

Thomas Krom

Member
"...Senator SMITH.
Suppose you had had glasses such as you had on the Oceanic, or such as you had between Belfast and Southampton, could you have seen this black object a greater distance?

Mr. FLEET.
We could have seen it a bit sooner.

Senator SMITH.
How much sooner?

Mr. FLEET.
Well, enough to get out of the way.

Senator SMITH.
Did you and your mates discuss with one another the fact that you had no glasses?

Mr. FLEET.
We discussed it all together, between us.

Senator SMITH.
Did you express surprise or regret that you had none?

Mr. FLEET.
I do not know what you mean.

Senator SMITH.
Were you disappointed that you had no glasses?

Mr. FLEET.
Yes, sir.

Senator SMITH.
Do you know whether the officer on the bridge had glasses?

Mr. FLEET.
Yes, sir..."
(Once again with compliments of Dan Parkes) That is what the media repeated in the case. However the more important part of his testimony that is not mentioned is the following:

Senator BURTON. Suppose you had those glasses; would you have them to your eyes most of the time, using them?
Mr. FLEET. No; no.
Senator BURTON. What part of the time?
Mr. FLEET. If we fancied we saw anything on the horizon, then we would have the glasses to make sure.

At the British Inquiry Fleet was also pushed on this matter and eventually stated:

Sir ROBERT FINLAY. Do you agree with this. This is what Symons says: “You use your own eyes as regards the picking up anything, but you want the glasses then to make certain of that object.” Do you agree with that?
Fleet - Yes.

The other lookouts also agreed:

Do you mean you believe in your own eyesight better than you do in the glasses?
Yes.
– George Hogg (B17518)

As a rule, do I understand you prefer to trust your naked eye to begin with?
Well, yes, you trust your naked eye.
– George Symons (B11994)

This was not just Fleet and Hogg's opinion, but confirmed in other testimony during the inquiries:

Do you think it is desirable to have them?
No, I do not.
Captain Richard Jones, Master, S.S. Canada (B23712)

We have never had them.
Captain Frederick Passow, Master, S.S. St. Paul (B21877)

I would never think of giving a man in the lookout a pair of glasses.
Captain Stanley Lord, Master, S.S. Californian (U. S. Day 8)

I have never believed in them.
Captain Benjamin Steele, Marine Superintendent at Southampton for the White Star Line (B21975)

“Did not believe in any look-out man having any glasses at all.”
Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton
 
  • Like
Reactions: Jason D. Tiller
M.A.S.

M.A.S.

3rd class
Member
Well earlier he thought the binoculars would have helped them get out of the way soon enough. I'm wondering how long poor Fred might have been squinting out at the unknown object --trying to focus without binoculars-- before he realized what it was and rung the three bells. Just goes to show they should have been going slower to start with. (Plus, of course, my marvelous lighthouse idea.)

"Mr. FLEET.
The only thing we saw was the iceberg. We had no light on that watch." :(
(TIP | United States Senate Inquiry | Day 5 | Testimony of Frederick Fleet, recalled)

I'm so glad they've formed the International Ice Patrol since then. Perhaps now there's the danger of being over-confident with that system too. Things are improving a whole lot. Still, not a bad idea to heed warnings and avoid risky travel methods that could lead to a series of unfortunate events.

In retrospect --no matter what all the fancy mariners' quotes say-- doesn't it just seem pretty dumb to go full steam ahead when they've been warned of ice and there's no moon to make the iceburgs more visible? It's times like these when they should have consulted a lady's advice -- maybe Margaret Brown. Those guys were too bent on adventure, the love of speed, luxury and what society thought of the ship. A mom or lady would have perhaps had common sense advice to consult with over being rightfully worried for everyones' safety. I wonder if the Captain was one of those little boys who kept running and playing ball in the house until something broke, regardless of his mother's repeated warnings. That poor captain; all those lives.
 
Last edited:
Seumas

Seumas

Member
Sorry M.A.S but your "lighthouse" idea would not have worked.

The sheer size of such a light, the power required for it and the fact that the prolonged glare from such a power beam would hurt the eyes of the lookouts and navigating officers would have made it more hindrance than help.

Ask yourself why other ships never adopted it ? It just wasn't practical.

During the Second World War the RAF Coastal Command used wing mounted arc lamps to attack U-boats at night but these were very powerful, sensitive and highly expensive pieces of kit that would not have existed in 1912.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Michael H. Standart and Jason D. Tiller
M.A.S.

M.A.S.

3rd class
Member
It doesn't have to be in the same location, like a big lighthouse. They should be stationed where the light doesn't hurt their eyes, but helps them see the ocean better. (Although lighthouses are way cool). Without a moon or any light, without slowing down, without binoculars, without enough lifeboats... they were just without common sense. Like driving at night without headlights, without an airbag, without slowing down, after being warned of big rocks in the road. Travelers with any common sense would have stopped for the night, and continued that road trip in the daylight.
 
Top