W M Murdoch what do you think happened


James Hill

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Feb 20, 2002
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i have to say that William was a hero.he never shot anyone or himself and was probably sucked down with the ship as she began to plunge.i heard as collapsible A floted of deck he shouted "make room for Wilde"!i dont like the way film directors put in him shooting himself.my class at school belive it but my 2 friends dont because of what i told them.what do you think happened?
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Where did you hear the story about Murdoch asking men to 'make room for Wilde'? I hadn't heard that one and am very curious.

Personally, having reviewed a lot of the sources from 1912 and later, I believe that there is a distinct possibility that there was shooting on the boatdeck shortly before the sinking. I have seen 1912 newspaper interviews with crewman arriving back in the UK which support the story later related by Lightoller to McGiffin's family suggesting a crewman was shot in the jaw by an officer. However, based on the evidence thus far produced, I don't think it's possible to assign an identity to the shooter or even state with complete confidence that such an incident actually happened.

I might add that, if an officer did need to take such action as shooting crew who attempted to rush the last boats, I wouldn't blame him for making such a difficult decision. Those guns were issued for a reason, and if necessary they were to be used.

Re the question of whether or not an officer then turned a gun on himself, have you read the material collated on Bill Wormstedt's site? There is enough material that it can't be entirely dismissed, but at the same time no definitive account has emerged that would allow the assignation of an identity to the individual in question. In addition, many of the accounts are highly problematical (people reportedly claiming to have seen things they were in no position to have seen etc).

Did you know that Susanne Stormer is about to issue a new biography of William Murdoch? Information about the book, including ordering details, are available from her site:

http://www.stormbrea kersverlag.com/

You would have enjoyed her lecture at the recent BTS convention in which she outlined why she believed Murdoch did not commit suicide. I think she gives more extensive treatment to the subject in this new work.

~ Inger
 
Nov 8, 2003
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I also have read several newspapers from thr week after the disaster, and also several letters from second and third class passengers, and all the evidence DOES lead me to conclude there were shootings on the boat deck, although if any soul was in the way of those bullets or not, I have no idea. But these newspaper stories in my veiw, were not as acurate as we now make out. They were made to what the officers and fist class passengers said. At the inquiry, if your asking about the breaking of the ship, and an officer or a 1st class passenger says it was in one peice, that will be the general concensis, rather than a second or third class saying it broke into two peices. This is a further example of the saying that an acount of a battle is told by the winner.
For that reason, it may of been a peasant who killed Richard III at bosworth feild, and not Henry Tudor (that was just an example, I know it was half a century and a few hundered miles from the Titanic disaster.
all the best,
Jack
happy.gif
 

James Hill

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Feb 20, 2002
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i must add that even though there is evedince i still do not belive any officer shot anyone but i would agree that some warning shots were fired.i would like to point out Murdoch was in my words a kind man who didnt care about his own life but about others and gave his own life to save others.next Wilde probably just some bad luck having his wife and a couple of children dead lets stop blaming him for it i know no murder took place.Moody and Mcelroy.Moody i can say was not involved in a shooting incident for sure as for Mcelroy i cant really say anything.so i am saying all the crew (apart from Hithens) were heros including the officers.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Sorry James, I'm having a little trouble understanding what you're saying above - did you hear a rumour that Wilde might have had some hand in the death of his wife and twin sons? I'd never come across that, and it's pretty easy to refute - the death certificates reveal that his wife died a rather slow, painful and lingering death essentially of complications relating to childbirth, and the babies died of a congenital weakness - I wonder if they were premature. A colleague has recently come across some new material on Wilde emotional state in the aftermath of his wife's death, and will be publishing this soon.

I don't believe all the crew were heroes, and I think it diminishes the truly heroic efforts of some of these men and women to make a sweeping generalisation about the conduct of the crew.

John Maxtone-Graham had some very relevant observations to make on the human weaknesses of both crew and passengers:

I think the woman who later expanded on this, comparing the crew's fumbling incompetence with the bravery of the men who remained on board, articulated a point of view common to those newly made widows: although most of the men in the lifeboats were there under orders, their mere presence, in preference to an absent husband, was a source of bitter resentment. It was a sentiment that would be shared later by observers on both shores. In defense of the crew, they were just as vulnerable to the shock of the night's events as the passengers who expected them to be supermen. They were not supermen - they were ill-trained, confused, frightened and cold. The boats were poorly equipped and in some cases, oars were still lashed together with the builder's heavy twine.

One of the more outrageous games we have sometimes played on long crossings is to make a list of the talky, irritating or hysterical shipmates we shoudl hate to find in our lifeboats. Fortunately, we have never had to put these fantasies to the test, but the Titanic's people did. The resulting blend of bravery, resignation and recrimination seems fairly predictable.


I think it cheapens the term 'hero' to apply it so broadly as to suggest an entire complement of ship's crew were heroes. There were many who would no doubt have gladly got into a boat, but did not have the opportunity to do so (and according to accounts, in at least some cases crew were deterred at gunpoint from entering boats). Their behaviour was neither heroic nor necessarily villainous - it was simply human. There were no doubt many instances of extraordinary heroism...and no doubt of cowardice too.

How can we hope to understand how the men and woman of the Titanic reacted to a crisis if we start from the point of view of a sweeping, reductive generalisation?
 
J

jonathan joyce

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I have to agree with Inger on that one. TH eterm "hero" is cheapend by applying it to such a braod number of people. I do believe that several of the offivers did act heroically and did do more than their duty commanded of them. Although on the flip side of that token we all know the casses where people assaciated with the titanic crew/managemnet acted rather disgracefully. Whether or nor Murdoch shot himself..... I do believe that there were shots fired. Any rational person put in an irrational situation is more likely to act on primal instinct. THe main worry of the officers was to get the passangers off the ship. Oc course the severity of the situation didnt become all together clear to the officers until into the sinking. I believe that shots were fired, however, if people stood in the line of those bullets i am can not be for certian. I am also on the fence about Murdoch killing himself. Of course it could have been Wildes but yet and still that soesnt seem to support some of the information i have read. I am noe sure exactly what happened to Murdoch,i cant help but think he wouldnt have killed himself becasue of his duty as a commanding officer of the ship. There was a theory that had him being crushed by collapisble B but he would have been on the wrong side of the ship for that. He could hae died in the water, he could have met a tragic accident but there are no concrete accounts of his demise. I do no think he shot himslef though. I believe that this is a secret the titanc will take with her to the grave.
 
Jun 18, 2007
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I'm just going to ask about that William Murdoch biography.

Is it out yet, and should I risk sending cash across the Atlantic for it?

I wonder if any banks over here do international money orders in Euros. I have no idea how to go about doing that, though.
 

Mike Herbold

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Feb 13, 2001
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Inger:
Are you in touch with Susanne Stormer? I'm wondering if she has, or could establish, a Paypal account. Don't know if Paypal is set up in Germany, but I use it all the time for auctions and purchases in Great Britain. It's fast and easy, and there are no fees to the buyer, though there might be a charge to the seller.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Hallo Mike and Kritina - I'm in touch from Susanne from time to time, but you may find what you're looking for on her site. Ordering information can be obtained from here:

http://www.stormbreakersverlag.com/a_career_at_sea.htm

There is also an email address for queries on ordering:

orders@stormbreakersverlag.com

But it's probably best to read the site's information on ordering first, as it may answer your questions.

I've always found her very prompt, courteous and helpful in answering queries - perhaps if you mention the idea of a Paypal account it might be taken up, but at the moment the above site says no credit cards.

If in doubt, Kritina, talk to your bank - you should be able to get a draft in a foreign currency, or an American Express office can do a money order. These do include a charge. Email the above and see what form of payment she accepts.
 

Tracy Smith

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Apr 20, 2012
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International money orders are rather expensive in the US; PayPal would definitely be the way to go if this can be made possible.

I know that Mike Tennaro stocks copies of Senan's excellent book about the Californian, which has made it easier for American buyers to get; perhaps he might end up doing the same with Susanne's book. *hint*
 

James Hill

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Feb 20, 2002
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does anyone see Murdoch as a hero i do here are my reasons.....
let anyone get in the boats no matter what class age or gender they were.
didnt seem very sad at what was happining.
and staying loyal to the ship and captain.
whoever doesnt see him as a hero think about it.
 

Erik Wood

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Apr 10, 2001
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I think that we should be leary of lumping one person into a "hero" category without considering the actions of others.

In 1912 there was a higher sense of duty and honor. Murdoch (from what I have read) seems to have been a honorable man. He did his duty. Had he survived the accident I somehow doubt that he would have considered himself a hero.
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Hallo Espen -

The White Star Journal (WSJ) was historically a publication by the White Star Line. Today, it's the title of the Irish Titanic Historical Society's (ITHS) journal.

All these acronyms can be confusing, eh? Book titles get bandied around like ANTR, TNLO, TSTSS, TIAT, etc etc...some have entered the jargon of the Titanic community, others can often only be interpreted in the jargon of the site.
 

Allan Clarke

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Sep 17, 2006
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Hello All,

Personally, I felt that Cameron's film, depicting Murdoch shooting passengers and himself, was terrible. There is not enough evidence to determine if an officer committed suicide. Frankly, given all the efforts being made to launch those last collapsibles, I doubt anyone had the time or the inclination to shoot himself. Lightoller's account of the likely end for Murdoch was substantiated by Colonel Gracie's story. Gracie noted that just before the Titanic sank, he was near the starboard quarter where Murdoch and the crew were trying to get the Engelhardt boat away. He said that: "The report of a pistol shot during this interval ringing in my ear within a few feet of me would certainly have attracted my attention, and later, when I moved astern, the distance between us was not so great as to prevent my hearing it."

Of course, movies are not known for historical accuracy. Despite what was shown in "The Untouchables," Frank Nitty was not thrown off a roof by Elliot Ness.

Unfortunately, mass media has an overwhelming reach and it is too bad so many people now have the idea that Murdoch committed murder.

All the Best,
Allan
 

Allan Clarke

Member
Sep 17, 2006
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Hello All,

As I said in my last post, I highly doubt that Mr. Murdoch committed suicide. However, I think we should not be taken away by hero worship, if I may put it that way. I have little doubt that Murdoch worked hard to save as many people as he could and was a very brave man. He was also an excellent master mariner and officer, or he wouldn't have been on the Titanic.

Nonetheless, we have to keep in mind that he was in charge of the bridge and that in the time frame from 11:30pm to 11:40pm, he did not keep the watch he should have kept. He knew the ship was entering an area where ice would soon be encountered, but clearly he let the lookouts be the "eyes of the ship." That was a mistake that ultimately cost him and 1501 other people their lives. He could have used the quartermaster, the junior officers and himself on a rotational basis to keep the watch. Mr. Lightoller said that he kept a continuous watch himself from 9:30pm to 10:00pm and was confident that he would have seen the ice in sufficent time to avoid the collision. I have no doubt that he was right. Mr. Murdoch made a mistake that resulted in a catastrophe. I think that he knew that all too well, and I wouldn't be in the least surprised if he had no intention of saving himself. I would also suspect that is true for Captain Smith. He was not on the bridge when the accident happened, but he was the Master of the Titanic and whatever befell her would fall on his head.

All the Best,
Allan
 
Mar 3, 1998
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Allan,

This, being the Crew Research area (passengers, crew...they're all people), is unfamiliar territory to me, so I beg everyone's patience while I pay a brief visit.

I share your belief that Murdoch didn't commit suicide. I can't say for certain that he didn't, so I'll always allow for the possibility, however slight in my estimation. It's just that I don't agree with many of theories given regarding motives he might had had to end his own life; plus, I see no reason not to give credence to Lightoller's description of Murdoch's final moments.

At the same time, I make every effort to avoid engaging in hero worship. On the one hand, his own record and the rememberances of those who worked with him point to his being, as you said, "an excellent master mariner and officer." On the other, he was at the conn when the ship struck the ice. I keep both in mind when evaluating him.

That said, I take issue with the way you stated your last paragraph above. At first, you stated that Murdoch failed to keep the watch as he should have. By way of example for your assertion, you mention the lack of proper lookout. Later on, you state that Lightoller kept a continuous watch, with the insinuation that Murdoch did not do the same. My comment to this would be that you are talking two different subjects here, which makes it difficult for me to respond.

On the issue of lookouts, I think that extra lookouts should have been posted during Lightoller's watch and maintained through Murdoch's and Wilde's watch rotations. The failure to do so implicates the command environment aboard Titanic, rather than any individual deck officer's competence. Naturally, Lightoller or Murdoch could have called for more lookouts and the reason why they did not will evidently remain a mystery. If I put myself in their shoes, look at the situation with the recorded attitudes held prior to the disaster, I would then speculate that the clear weather Titanic was experiencing gave the crew no cause to call up the extra lookout. But why would they conserve such assets? Extra lookout duty impacts the crew duty rotation...maybe they wanted to keep fresh bodies available for the lookout later on. A tired lookout man is not an effective one, and there were many miles to go before Titanic was clear of the Grand Banks. I'm not saying this is the reason, it's just one possible scenario that comes to my mind when I ask the question. There could be any number of other reasons, just as valid.

Back to keeping a continuous watch. I don't see where Murdoch failed to keep a continuous watch. As far as we know from the facts, he was right where he was supposed to be...on the windward wing, looking ahead on Titanic's track. Given the available evidence, the argument can be (and has been) made that Murdoch was actually first to see the ice and had already ordered a turn before Fleet reported to the Bridge. Whether he did or not is the subject for debate, but I don't think anyone will contest the assertion that Murdoch was giving orders almost simultaneously with the warnings from the crow's nest. I see no evidence that he was figuratively asleep on the job.

I would assert that from Murdoch's perspective, the ship was going to clear the ice. In that situation, his greatest miscalculation would have been the extent the ice extended underwater. In this, illusion of the type that you have described elsewhere may have played a part. Would Lightoller have made a similar miscalculation? We'll never know. Lightoller said he would have seen the ice in time to avoid it. Maybe Murdoch thought the same. But would Lightoller have been more effective than Murdoch in avoiding the ice he couldn't see? Again, we'll never know, as far as I am aware.

Taken together, I see no evidence that points to Murdoch personally not keeping a continuous watch. I would like to know why extra lookouts were not posted, especially since Titanic was described by surviving crew as nearing the region of ice as early as Lightoller's watch. That subject, though, is grist for another mill.

Parks
 

Inger Sheil

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Dec 3, 2000
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Erm...who's been taken away by hero worship here, Allan?

I contest most strongly that Murdoch 'let the lookouts be the eyes of the ship' with the implication in your interpretation of this being that he was not keeping his own lookout, as Lightoller said he himself did. There is evidence that Murdoch was keeping his own lookout, and indeed it has been suggested that he may well have seen the ice at the same time or even fractionally before the lookouts (evidence on this point is unclear, and from what material we have various conclusions can be drawn). I challenge the idea of taking Lightoller's own assessment of his ability to see/avoid the ice in time to avoid it. Lightoller was not present on the bridge when the collision occured, was neither in a position to personally witness the conditions at that moment himself or to compare his own actions to those of Murdoch, given how controversial those actions remain to this day. Lightoller had a vested interest to present his own abilities and actions to the inquiries in the best possible light.
 

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