Were Lightoller's actions logical?

Arun Vajpey

Member
Charles Herbert Lightoller was a complex man and to this day remains hard to figure out. He was deeply flawed but as he proved in both world wars, brave as a lion.
Most people are more complex than they often realize themselves. Individuals can surprise themselves and others around them by either unexpectedly rising to the occasion or collapsing in a heap. Most of us though, come somewhere in-between.

I believe this thread is about Lightoller's actions during the 2 hours and 40 minutes that the Titanic took to sink and not an overall character study. And his actions (or otherwise, depending on how one looks at it) that night invariably get compared with those of Murdoch.

Putting this in another way, if Murdoch and the others on the starboard side had followed exactly the same principle as Lightoller - ie "Women and children, only.......period," then the actions of both men would have seen by some of us with raised eyebrows and perhaps mild criticism but Lightoller would not then have stood out. Most of us would have considered what took place as convention of the day and sort of accepted it. But because Murdoch did NOT follow that approach and allowed men, including crew, to board if there was room on the starboard side, it does make Lightoller's actions seem less logical by comparison. Adding to that fact is that by his actions Murdoch did not deprive any woman or child a place in any lifeboat.
He made mistakes, but he was certainly no villain.
I don't think anyone here is claiming that he was a villain.
 
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Seumas

Member
Arun, if you look through a number of old threads from down the years, you'll find a few morons who have accused Lightoller (and even Lowe !) of being an idiot or even an outright murderer.

I don't disagree that Lightoller royally cocked things up superintending his portside boats. That he most certainly did, and it did display a lack of logic.

It is a pity Lightoller did not live a few more years so that we may have had either his detailed defence or humble apology for how he handled things on the boat deck that night.

However, at the same time, his exemplary leadership aboard Collapsible B did display logic.

Lightoller asserted his authority on a group of confused, freezing and shocked men and took charge when they needed a leader. He kept the men calm and focussed them upon the tasks of trimming the boat, keeping each other awake and trying to attract the attention of other boats. The man should be given the credit for that.
 
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Arun Vajpey

Member
Arun, if you look through a number of old threads from down the years, you'll find a few morons who have accused Lightoller (and even Lowe !) of being an idiot or even an outright murderer.
Can't do anything about such people. I think I know the one you mean - in fact it might have been you who told us about a dreadful blog belonging to a certain.....shall we say "strongly opinionated" member. His idea of a research tool is a book about Syrians on the Titanic which makes several utterly ridiculous claims, including Lowe having shot a male survivor through the head as he sat next to his girlfriend or something.

Such posts sometimes provide comic relief, even if in bad taste.
 
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Thank you for this Jim - so good to read some logical, intelligent and informed common sense here, instead of emotional wailings from people who have probably know very little about the pas
Thank you Jude for your answer and sweet words ; however, my view is that there is here some people who are judging others without either knowing their backgrounds nor answering it before giving such an view which they think it to be so worthless while being in fact quite useless. For appreciation of those, I would allow myself to let them know that I have a MA in History and consider myself as Historian. A scientific methodology which I have long since learned, taught me which books are serious enough to be read -- unfortunately Jude's never crossed my way.
Next, pardon me if I didn't put my "scientific Historian Suit" for writing here about Lightoller, however I didn't know we were on the Forum of "History Today" and that some people here were part of the publishing Board ! I thought that we were rather on a friendly forum were we can put our "human suit" to write some personal views, sometimes ; a place where we are not judged. Sorry for this misunderstanding of this Forum. My mistake.
That being said, let's get back to Lightoller.

As almost everybody had seen here, it was my view as human being. But here is something that will please the so call "Publishing Board" ( everybody had understood I am ironic, right ?? :p) I have read a Research in one of the Psychology Reviews (maybe "Psychology Today", as far as I can remember) and that said that when someone is in a situation which put his / her life is in danger, this is the medial temporal lobe that is in command (part of the Limbic system) and it takes a good deal of blood amount to function, letting other parts with less blood -- which include the front part of the brain. The front part is what make us human, with our cleverness and common sense (compared with animals which has that part of the brain less prominent and far more less developed, as you can notice seeing a cat, a bird, a dog or whatever can cross your path. As example, a spider has 27 brain cells and a human being has 27... billions -- the majority are in the front part). So the hypothesis of the Author was that that being so, when human being experimented fear for his life for a long period (and we are all agree that 2 hours and 40 minutes is a very long period of time) that one becomes dummy, and the author do gave the example of one being lost at sea and drinking water while perfectly knowing that it is a dangerous behavior. Therefore, we can infer that this is what happened to Lightoller, who lost his commons sense, opening doors when the ship was sinking. For that we cannot really blame him for his queer behavior. However, on the other side, we can make of us the Devil's Advocate and suggest that Murdoch was in the same situation as he was, but nevertheless did better than his colleague. I heard a TITANIC's expert who dived to the wreck saying that Murdoch tried to the very end to save passengers, and lost his life doing it, along with Moody, for we still can see today a davit being retract again, ready for the A boat -- and that's where Lightoller would have seen them being swept away by a big wave when the ship tipped over. Lightoller, on the contrary, didn't even tried to get to Moody and Murdoch and helped them out to carry their project (and I know that some of you will say "Murdoch shot himself !" but I am very dubious about that hypothesis : for me it is more logical that Wilde shot himself, especially after reading the interview of his great nephew -- but that's another matter that we can't debate here) and simply choose to leave and starting swimming toward the Crow's Nest, preferring finding a way to save his own life.
Lightoller appeared to me to be a very selfish guy and so vain, basis on the answer he gave to Pitman ("yes evidently") when the third officer asked him what have happened. My view is that this answer was so patronizing, like "I am the Second Officer ; you're only the Third ; you're dum ; I am much more clever !" He seemed to be the kind of lad you shouldn't contradict if you don't want trouble. The attitude of someone tells a lot about that one, even thought he's been dead a long time. And his heir seems to be the same today.
That was my view on that matter. But unlike some person, I don't mind to be wrong. When it is suitable, I can objectively take another view when it is appropriate. This is what we call to be scientific : nothing is cast in stone, and that's how the Humanity moves forward. :)
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
I heard a TITANIC's expert who dived to the wreck saying that Murdoch tried to the very end to save passengers, and lost his life doing it, along with Moody.
Personally, I have always believed that and my own research (which was not even about Murdoch when it started), points very much that way.

And thanks for mentioning Moody. While more and more people acknowledge that Murdoch did his selfless duty till the very end, we often tend to forget that James Moody did likewise.
I know that some of you will say "Murdoch shot himself !" but I am very dubious about that hypothesis : for me it is more logical that Wilde shot himself, especially after reading the interview of his great nephew -- but that's another matter
I agree with you carefully. Again, my own research into survivor John Collins very strongly indicates that Murdoch (and very likely also Moody) was among those overcome by the 'wave' that was generated by the Titanic giving a sudden downward lurch sometime between 02:15 and 02:16 am. There is also indirect comment about the shooting incident, which, while not mentioning any names or other form of ID, suggests that it might have been Wilde. Walter Lord, who in his 1986 book The Night Lives On had conjectured that it might have been Murdoch, had changed his mind by the time he was involved with a TV interview in 1989; I have seen it and Lord was quite clear that he believed that it was Wilde but did not elaborate.
Lightoller appeared to me to be a very selfish guy and so vain
I am not a fan of Lightoller by any stretch of imagination, but could your comment be a tad harsh? In my view Lightoller was someone with a tremendous sense of self-preservation and what is known about his movements after the collision and his later testimonies on both sides of the Atlantic made me feel that unlike Murdoch, the thought if going down with the ship was never in Lightoller's mental agenda. I am not claiming that he had any specific plan in mind but was subconsciously always aware of any chance that might come his way in the later stages of the sinking. To that end he did his duty as he saw it, and then took his chance to save himself when it came. Of course it might not have worked out, but it did.

While I certainly think that Lightoller's actions with loading his lifeboats with women and children only even when there was room with no one to fill the spaces were illogical, I do not blame him for saving himself. God, providence or whatever else you believe in, made us rather differently in that regard. Most of us (including me, I readily confess) have that subconscious sense of self-preservation but there are a few, like Murdoch and Moody, who are capable of overcoming that and rising to the occasion if it means putting others first. In other words Lightoller, rather than being "selfish and vain" was an ordinary man perhaps given to a bit of corporate subservience at the time. But his actions that night will invariably get compared with those of Murdoch and the Second Officer comes off as very much.....well, second.
 
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