What happened to Boatswain Nichols

Paul Lee

Aug 11, 2003
This is a bit convoluted, but please bear with me:

I have been doing a bit of work on the flooding rates up to, and including E deck. I see from stewardess Robinson's BoT testimony that, about half an hour after the collision, the water was close to the top of the stairs (point B on the diagram below), having flooded the mail room etc. below. However, Wheat said that, when he went to his quarters below, the water was trickling down into F deck from the E deck 1st class corridor
(point A) on starboard side (Scotland Road was free from water at that time).
Wheat went back up on deck in time to see boat 9 being filled, which places his observation of the water slightly before 1.20am.
So, from 12.10 to 1.20, the flooding had slowed sufficiently only for the water to have progressed only some 110 feet along the corridor.

So, what happened? I believe the answer lies in the iron door at the head of the corridor (point C). When Boxhall inspected the mailroom, he noted that this door was closed, and I suspect it remained closed. This door was not watertight, and would rush open when the pressure of water behind it got too much for it. This would reduce the water flowing into, and along the 1st class corridor.

So, if this were to happen, the water would flood the forward crew and 3rd class area quite freely. I note that Poigndestre (at point E) observed the bulkhead on the starboard side collapse and flood his quarters. He went on deck after this in time to help lower boat 12, so the flooding must have happened before 1.25am. Poigndestre said he went to his quarters 3/4s of an hour after the collision, but I feel that it must have been somewhat later than that (and he didn't remain in the room long!) I am tempted to think that the catastrophic flooding was due to the 1st class door opening.

This may also explain what happened to Boatswain Nichols. He was last seen on deck helping to lower boat 3, at about 1.05 and was then ordered below to open a hatch to allow easy loading of the lifeboats. To my mind, this would have meant either one of the E deck gangways, as they were closer to the waterline than the 1st class entrances on D deck. If Nichols had seen water in the vicinity of the doors, he would no doubt have abandoned his job and return to the boat deck to report to Lightoller. And yet he didn't. I suspect that Nichols tried to open either the port or starboard doors on E deck (starboard one is labelled D). If the 1st class door gave way, he and his men would have been swamped, drowning them. This may explain why they never returned.


Any ideas on this?


John Knight

Jun 4, 2004
You have clearly looked into this in some depth and make your points well. I don't know anywhere near enough, but it seems like you have a valid possibility there.
I can't help thinking of the horror they would have experienced if what you suggest is true.

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