Walter Belford


George Jacub

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Good article. With that and what George posted above there is somewhat of a mystery there. I wonder if he assumed the identity. His bio here says he was was a fake but that's about all. Does anyone know if he had relatives that backed up his story? He's not the only person who claimed to be on Titanic as most of you all know. Same today with grifters that claimed to be in the towers on 9-11. There's been many that's been busted.
The book "Guide to the Crew of Titanic" By Günter Bäbler lists William Barnett Bedford as "assistant rotisseur". His age is given as 31. Another website lists his birthday as May 19, 1880. The Belford interviewed by the newspaper was 92 in 1962, making him 42 years old in 1912. But he wouldn't have been the first crewman to be listed under a fictitious name and certainly not the only one on the Titanic to have shaved years off his true age. The answer may lie in correspondence between Walter Lord and the man he believed to be the Titanic crewman.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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The answer may lie in correspondence between Walter Lord and the man he believed to be the Titanic crewman.
That may not necessarily provide the answer with the Belford enigma.

I have great respect for Walter Lord's research effort in the 1950s and felt that he did a very good job of spotting fake claims. For example, when a Mrs Vera Hanson (nee Edwards) claimed to be Titanic survivor Virginia Martin-Emanuel 'supported' by a seedy lawyer named Wilkins, Lord ignored the claim and did not agree to grant Wilkins an interview. Of course, that was relatively easy because the Hanson claim was laughably full of holes and would not have convinced a good moron.

But Walter Lord was a human being like the rest of us and not completely infallible. We have to consider points like Walter Belford's name did not appear on any official crew list in Southampton or White Star, there was no such designation like "Chief Night Baker" on the Titanic and the only Chief Baker on board was the well known and colourful Charles Joughin.

In Lord's book ANTR, there are 3 references to "Chief Night Baker" Walter Belford. On p34 he was supposedly sorting fresh rolls in the company of a "Steward Johnson" when the collision occurred. There was no Steward Johnson on board the Titanic but there was a James Johnstone, who survived. Belford is mentioned again on p63 where he and other stewards were hurriedly getting dressed to go up on the deck; those "others" included Charles Burgess, James Witter and Fred Dent Ray, all of whom survived.

What I would like to know is if any one or more among Johnstone, Burgess, Witter or Ray ever mentioned the name Walter Belford at any time after the disaster. If he was indeed a "Chief Night Baker", I would have thought they would have remembered him, especially if he survived. Also, I would have thought that a Chief Baker would perhaps share quarters with one other person of similar rank rather than a whole bunch of other victualling crew.

Then on p109 of ANTR, Lord has Belford "cannon-balling" himself into the sea after Captain Smith gave the "Every Man For Himself" order at about 02:10 am. If Belford had done that and survived, he would have to be pulled on board by one of the later lifeboats like the overturned Collapsible B, waterlogged Collapsible A or perhaps Collapsible D. Did anyone in any of those boats recall pulling him on board?


The book "Guide to the Crew of Titanic" By Günter Bäbler lists William Barnett Bedford as "assistant rotisseur". His age is given as 31
Quite true and William Barnett Bedford was a completely real crew member from Itchen, Hamphire. Nothing at all to do with the claimant Walter Belford. And most importantly, William Bedford did NOT survive the disaster.


Another thing. I just checked my copy of Don Lynch's Titanic: An Illustrated History, first published in 1992. There is no mention of Walter Belford at all. Don Lynch is a THS historian and at the time quite professionally close to Ed Kamuda, if I recall right. If Belford was that important to the origin of THS, I would have thought he would have rated at least a passing mention.....unless they had realized by then that he was an embarrassing fake.

In summary, one feels very strongly that Walter Belford was an opportunistic fake Titanic survivor who managed to fool Walter Lord. But in doing so, if he really acted as a catalyst in resurgence of interest in the Titanic, I would not mind buying him a beer.
 
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This has turned out to be an interesting thread. Thanks to all. I went and looked at the THS web page. They seem to believe his story as it is still up in one of their main articles. There's just enough doubt (very minor at this point) that I won't say he is lying. But the 3 biggest red flags for me is that his story defiantly seems to be lifted from Charles Joughin, none of the other survivors remember him and his time in the water. All those points pointed by other members here. You can read the article for yourself if you want. His mention starts about half way down the article. Cheers.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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But the 3 biggest red flags for me is that his story defiantly seems to be lifted from Charles Joughin, none of the other survivors remember him and his time in the water.
Precisely. If he was a 'Chief Night Baker', at least one of the surviving victualling crew should have mentioned him, since he sis supposed to be a fellow survivor. Charles Joughin would have at least met and talked his nocturnal opposite number on board the Carpathia. Yet, AFAIK, no one, from the victualling department or otherwise, said anything about him.

Also, as I have pointed out before, it would be almost impossible to survive for an hour in the water under those freezing conditions, let alone 5 hours. I know that Joughin himself made similar claims, but then he was a colourful character not averse to embellishment if he wanted publicity. But unlike Belford, Joughin was at least definitely on board the Titanic.
 

Arun Vajpey

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You can read the article for yourself if you want. His mention starts about half way down the article. Cheers.
That article appears to have been written rather carelessly. For example, look at this excerpt:

Approaching the iceberg danger zone, Titanic remained on course, her powerful quadruple-expansion engines and single low pressure turbine drove the liner smoothly through the water at a moderate 22.5 knots. The temperature was falling fast and by 8.55 PM it was only one degree above freezing. Second Officer Charles Lightoller sent word to the ship’s carpenter John Hutchinson to see that the fresh water supply did not freeze. Soon afterwards Captain Smith entered the bridge and together with Lightoller discussed the conditions.

They noted the lack of wind and the unruffled sea. Up in the crow’s nest lookouts Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee had been told to keep a “sharp eye peeled” for small ice and growlers.

Captain Smith is supposed to have come to the bridge at 20:55 hours. Boxhall, on emerging from the chart room at about 21:00 hours, saw Smith talking to Lightoller. Lightoller himslef claimed that the Captain remained on the bridge for 20 to 25 minutes (although I personally think that it was less than that) and then went to his cabin.

During all that time, it was Symons and Jewell who were on Lookout duty in the Crow's Nest, not Fleet and Lee like the article says. Fleet and Lee came on duty at 22:00 hours.


Walter Belford was Titanic’s night chief baker. “We were working on the fifth deck amidships baking for the next day. There was a shudder all through the ship about 11:40 PM The provisions came tumbling down and the oven doors came open.

Walter Belford said one of his most vivid recollections was the sight of Captain Smith standing resolutely on the bridge as the ship went down. He quoted Smith as he addressed a group of remaining crewmen after the last boats were gone, “Well boys, I’ve done the best I can for you. Now it’s in your own hands. Do the best you can to save yourselves.”

I believe that those two quotes above are the only ones for Belford in the article. As you can see, both are fairly innocuous and completely unverifiable. But if Belford jumped into the sea that late, he must have been hauled aboard one of the later lifeboats but no one appears to have recalled him - a "Chief Night Baker" mind you.
 
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That article appears to have been written rather carelessly. For example, look at this excerpt:



Captain Smith is supposed to have come to the bridge at 20:55 hours. Boxhall, on emerging from the chart room at about 21:00 hours, saw Smith talking to Lightoller. Lightoller himslef claimed that the Captain remained on the bridge for 20 to 25 minutes (although I personally think that it was less than that) and then went to his cabin.

During all that time, it was Symons and Jewell who were on Lookout duty in the Crow's Nest, not Fleet and Lee like the article says. Fleet and Lee came on duty at 22:00 hours.





I believe that those two quotes above are the only ones for Belford in the article. As you can see, both are fairly innocuous and completely unverifiable. But if Belford jumped into the sea that late, he must have been hauled aboard one of the later lifeboats but no one appears to have recalled him - a "Chief Night Baker" mind you.
Yes. Your assessment of that article is spot on in my opinion. I provided it because they didn't seem to challenge his story much. Unfortunately that site seems to being going the way of many other sites. Not much action there. Last post in their forum is like from 4 years ago. Many of the contributors that were pretty great when it comes to Titanic have moved on to become one with the universe.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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I have about 90% of all my Titanic books in India where I am at present. I checked all of them and found "Chief Night Baker" Walter Belford mentioned in just 3.

1. A Night To Remember by Walter Lord
2. Last Dinner on the Titanic by Rick Archbold & Diana McCauley (with a Foreword by Walter Lord)
3. Unsinkable by Daniel Allen Butler

The scenario of Belford arranging fresh rolls for the morning which then tumbled to the floor due to the ship's impact with the iceberg appears in all of them.

The scenario of Captain Smith standing on the bridge and giving that farewell message is in two of them.

All unwitnessed, uncorrborated and unverifiable of course. Not a single mention where another crew member claimed to have seen Belford.

Of the books that I don't have access to (they are back in the UK) where Belford might be mentioned are

The Maiden Voyage by Geoffrey Marcus
Titanic: End of a Dream by Wyn Craig Wade
Her Name, Titanic by Charles Pellegrino
Titanic - Minute by Minute by Jonathan Mayo.

I'll be grateful if people here who have one or more of the above books could check if Belford is mentioned in any of them. Or any other Titanic work. Thanks.
 

George Jacub

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I have about 90% of all my Titanic books in India where I am at present. I checked all of them and found "Chief Night Baker" Walter Belford mentioned in just 3.

1. A Night To Remember by Walter Lord
2. Last Dinner on the Titanic by Rick Archbold & Diana McCauley (with a Foreword by Walter Lord)
3. Unsinkable by Daniel Allen Butler

The scenario of Belford arranging fresh rolls for the morning which then tumbled to the floor due to the ship's impact with the iceberg appears in all of them.

The scenario of Captain Smith standing on the bridge and giving that farewell message is in two of them.

All unwitnessed, uncorrborated and unverifiable of course. Not a single mention where another crew member claimed to have seen Belford.

Of the books that I don't have access to (they are back in the UK) where Belford might be mentioned are

The Maiden Voyage by Geoffrey Marcus
Titanic: End of a Dream by Wyn Craig Wade
Her Name, Titanic by Charles Pellegrino
Titanic - Minute by Minute by Jonathan Mayo.

I'll be grateful if people here who have one or more of the above books could check if Belford is mentioned in any of them. Or any other Titanic work. Thanks.
There's no mention of Bedford/Belford in the Marcus, Wade or Pelligrino books.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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There's no mention of Bedford/Belford in the Marcus, Wade or Pelligrino books.
Thanks. I'll check on the Mayo book when I return to the UK in July.

To recap, although he is mentioned in very few Titanic works, William Barnett Bedford was a very real crew member in the victualling department, designated as an Assistant Roast Cook. He was from Itchen, Hampshire and died in the sinking.

Walter Belford on the other hand, was an out & out imposter who was NOT on the Titanic in any capacity. He probably did not even know how to bake bread rolls. But he managed to con Walter Lord int believing his story and from there the myth passed to Ed Kamuda and others. But it is possible that he unintentionally helped in the formation of the THS.
 
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I've been looking through newspapers from 1912 and haven't found his name in any articles so far. Just as a side note and it might mean nothing but would a crewman even a cook describe as being on the fifth deck as he did? I don't know but seems like one would say " I was in the bakery on D deck". Just a minor point I know but it stands out as odd to me.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Just as a side note and it might mean nothing but would a crewman even a cook describe as being on the fifth deck as he did?

I don't know. That is something that an experienced mariner like Jim Currie would be able to answer.

Personally, I would have thought it is possible. Are letters rather than numbers for designating decks an international standard? If not, a sailor who worked on ships where they used numerals might continue to do so on ships like Titanic. Or it might be a personal whim - just a preference to numbers than letters.
 
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I don't know. That is something that an experienced mariner like Jim Currie would be able to answer.

Personally, I would have thought it is possible. Are letters rather than numbers for designating decks an international standard? If not, a sailor who worked on ships where they used numerals might continue to do so on ships like Titanic. Or it might be a personal whim - just a preference to numbers than letters.
Yes. Mr. Currie, Mr Standart, Mr. Gittins or anyone else with a lot more time on ships would know that question. My thinking might be skewed from my limited experience. Yes we used frame numbers and deck numbers but it was always flight deck, hanger deck , armored deck..ect when I was aboard my ship. Oh and maybe the most important one...the mess deck...LOL.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Here is something else I just discovered.

In his book A Night To Remember, Walter Lord makes no mention at all of the REAL Assistant Cook William Bedford. But that may not mean anything because Lord based his work mainly on survivor accounts and Bedford died in the sinking. In the book, there is a full list of ALL passengers irrespective of whether they survived or not but NOT of the crew.

But, as we all know, Lord mentions the "survivor" Walter Belford.

On the other hand, Gunter Babler in his excellent and comprehensive Guide to the Crew of Titanic mentions William Bedford in his proper place and not the faker Walter Beford.
 
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A booklet titled ' "Titanic" Disaster, Report of the Committee On Commerce United States Senate' published by the Washington Government Printing Office, 1912 (reprinted by 7C's Press) contains, under Exhibits, Exhibit A.---Alphabetical List of Crew on Steamship "Titanic." On that list under Victualing Department is the name W. Belford, 163 Manor Road, Itchen, Hants, assistant cook.
A Google search shows 163 Manor Road North in Itchen, Southampton, Hampshire. Hants---Hamp, you can see how an abbreviation could be misread. So a contemporary government document does place Mr. Belford on the Titanic as a crew member. He is not listed as Saved.
So do you think that was a typo? I haven't seen that document but I take your word on it. So far looking around that would be the only official document that has his name on it. I couldn't find anything else. I would guess it was a typo error but that's just a guess based on other typo errors in many Titanic docu's/papers/books we've all seen.
 
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Here is something else I just discovered.

In his book A Night To Remember, Walter Lord makes no mention at all of the REAL Assistant Cook William Bedford. But that may not mean anything because Lord based his work mainly on survivor accounts and Bedford died in the sinking. In the book, there is a full list of ALL passengers irrespective of whether they survived or not but NOT of the crew.

But, as we all know, Lord mentions the "survivor" Walter Belford.

On the other hand, Gunter Babler in his excellent and comprehensive Guide to the Crew of Titanic mentions William Bedford in his proper place and not the faker Walter Beford.
Sort of off topic question...There's been like 25/30 printings of his book. Do you know off hand if he ever revised it over the years? Or did he just use The Night Lives On to make changes? Been so long since I read it. Saw the audiobook on YT the other night but I have a hard time with audio books.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Sort of off topic question...There's been like 25/30 printings of his book. Do you know off hand if he ever revised it over the years?
I confess that I don't know if there have been any major revisions of ANTR. As you say, Lord revised his thoughts a lot in TNLO which was written after the discovery of the wreck.

A booklet titled ' "Titanic" Disaster, Report of the Committee On Commerce United States Senate' published by the Washington Government Printing Office, 1912 (reprinted by 7C's Press) contains, under Exhibits, Exhibit A.---Alphabetical List of Crew on Steamship "Titanic." On that list under Victualing Department is the name W. Belford, 163 Manor Road, Itchen, Hants, assistant cook.
So do you think that was a typo?
If the list said W. Belford, then it was definitely a small typo. The man who lived at 163, Manor Road, Itchen, Hants was definitely Assitant Cook William Bedford, who was a real crew member and died in the sinking.

It occurs to me that if that 1912 booklet quoted by George Jacub really said 'W. Belford', then that error might easily have been what gave Walter Belford the idea to form the scheme to "become a survivor" himself. But then the real Bedford had not survived and so Belford simply 'borrowed' Joughin's experiences, twisted it a bit to make it look different, added a few 'original' comments that could not be verified (like those rolling rolls) and presented himself to Walter Lord in 1955. He got away with it for decades, it would seem.
 
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I confess that I don't know if there have been any major revisions of ANTR. As you say, Lord revised his thoughts a lot in TNLO which was written after the discovery of the wreck.



If the list said W. Belford, then it was definitely a small typo. The man who lived at 163, Manor Road, Itchen, Hants was definitely Assitant Cook William Bedford, who was a real crew member and died in the sinking.

It occurs to me that if that 1912 booklet quoted by George Jacub really said 'W. Belford', then that error might easily have been what gave Walter Belford the idea to form the scheme to "become a survivor" himself. But then the real Bedford had not survived and so Belford simply 'borrowed' Joughin's experiences, twisted it a bit to make it look different, added a few 'original' comments that could not be verified (like those rolling rolls) and presented himself to Walter Lord in 1955. He got away with it for decades, it would seem.
Yes. Thanks for clarifying that. I would say a typo in the document. I got so busy looking up Belford and should have paid closer attention to Bedford's bio's which has that address. That pretty much closes the mystery for me. Earlier in this thread like 15 years ago Dave Gittins asked if Walter Lord ever woke up to the fact that Belford was scamming. But there was no answer that I saw. Do you know if he did come around to that? Just curious. Cheers.
 

Arun Vajpey

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Earlier in this thread like 15 years ago Dave Gittins asked if Walter Lord ever woke up to the fact that Belford was scamming. But there was no answer that I saw. Do you know if he did come around to that?
There have been suggestions that Lord got wise to Belford but I personally have not seen any write-up to that effect. I wonder if there is any mention in his 1986 book The Night Lives On? Unfortunately, that book is one of about 8 of my Titanic titles that are back in the UK.
 

George Jacub

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There have been suggestions that Lord got wise to Belford but I personally have not seen any write-up to that effect. I wonder if there is any mention in his 1986 book The Night Lives On? Unfortunately, that book is one of about 8 of my Titanic titles that are back in the UK.
There's no mention of Walter Belford in The Night Lives On. And why should there be? He was (allegedly) an obscure cook who played no important role in the story of the sinking of the Titanic.
I was prompted to respond to this thread by the argument put forward that Walter Belford had to be a fraud because his name is not on the crew list. I quickly discovered that a man with a remarkably similar name was, indeed, a member of the crew of the Titanic.
I was left wondering why would an old man latch onto the name of an unknown baker to claim he was on the ship? Why not claim he was a passenger in steerage?
It's interesting to note that 'Walter Belford' was most likely contacted first by Walter Lord, not vice versa. He could have said ' sorry, you've got the wrong guy.' But he didn't.
It seems that Walter Lord and William MacQuitty, the producer of the movie version of A Night To Remember, wrote to survivors of the Titanic before the movie came out to get their stories. Paul Lee has letters from two people he identifies as imposters, one responding to Mr. Lord (in 1955) and the other to Mr. MacQuitty (in December, 1956). Edward Kamuda said he, too, wrote to survivors of the Titanic--- in 1958. His family owned a movie theatre and the distributors of A Night To Remember sent a list of known survivors AND THEIR ADDRESSES to theatre owners, he said. That's undoubtedly how he made first contact with Walter Belford. Who, again, never said "sorry, you've got the wrong guy."
Belford's photo appeared in the New York Times in April, 1962 when he attended a 50th anniversary memorial service at the Seamen's
Church Institute in NYC. Did any newspaper do an interview with him at the time? And Mr. Kamuda said he spotted an obituary for Mr. Belford in the New York Times in 1963. Can someone locate that obituary and see what information can be gleamed from it?
 
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Arun Vajpey

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I was left wondering why would an old man latch onto the name of an unknown baker to claim he was on the ship? Why not claim he was a passenger in steerage?
There are a few reasons for it. As you can see in most copies of Lord's book A Night To Remember, he spent quite some time preparing a full list of ALL passengers on board the Titanic, designating survivors' names in italics. AFAIK, Lord did not prepare a similar list of crew members, at least not at the time he wrote the book. Therefore, Walter Belford must have figured out that he would have a better chance of passing himself off as a hitherto unmentioned crew member than a passenger.

Also, Belford could have considered the fact that almost all passengers had numbered tickets the records of which could be traced. While there was also a crew list, it was not uncommon those days to be a last minute reshuffle/replacements due to delays, no-shows etc - for example Moody took on last minute replacements for the Slade brothers and perhaps a couple of others. So, an imposter might have a better chance of getting away with it as a fictitious crew member than a passenger.

As to why Belford chose to be a cook, I strongly feel that the idea formed in his mind when he happened to see this:

A booklet titled ' "Titanic" Disaster, Report of the Committee On Commerce United States Senate' published by the Washington Government Printing Office, 1912 (reprinted by 7C's Press) contains, under Exhibits, Exhibit A.---Alphabetical List of Crew on Steamship "Titanic." On that list under Victualing Department is the name W. Belford, 163 Manor Road, Itchen, Hants, assistant cook.
He must have noted the error in spelling of Bedford's name in that report and realized that was his best chance. If Belford had planned his deception carefully, he would have seen that report and also others and realized that the real William Belford was not widely mentioned and took his chance even though Bedford himself was a victim rather than a survivor (Remember that Belford is supposed to have had a large collection of Titanic memorabilia). Also, other people around Walter Belford would have known his name and so he had to choose a name that was very close to his own. For example, if he had chosen to take the place of a real steerage passenger named John Smith and Lord had accepted it, Walter Belford's friends would have challenged him as soon as the announcement came. So, he had to choose a name similar to his own and in that respect "W Belford" was ideal.

He then simply borrowed Joughin's quoted experiences, changed them a bit to make it look different and presented himself to Walter Lord.

It's interesting to note that 'Walter Belford' was most likely contacted first by Walter Lord, not vice versa. He could have said ' sorry, you've got the wrong guy.' But he didn't.
I don't buy that. Both Bedford and Belford are fairly common surnames and Walter Lord would not contact a random mam named W. Belford during his Titanic research unless that man was already letting it be known that he was a survivor of the disaster. I believe that Walter Belford saw that report with "W. Belford" (sic) and started to plan his deception. Under normal circumstances he probably would have been exposed earlier because the real Bedford died in the sinking. But as it happened, Assistant Cook William Bedford of Itchen, Hampshire turned out to be one of the more obscure victims of the disaster and this played into Walter Belford's hands nicely even though he had not planned that latter part himself.
 
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