What Was Boxhall Doing


Jake Peterson

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Mar 11, 2012
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Hi Jim;

It's cool. I didn't mean to fowl anyone's good name. I was just thinking there. I mean, you have a bunch of officers who more then likely knew that their careers could take a very different direction starting Apr 15th forward. They most likely thought that perhaps if they could save the company embarrassment by painting themselves, if not each other in a good light, that maybe the WSL might be somewhat lenient, although it wouldn't completely devoid them of discipline for losing their ship.

That sort of where I was coming from when I said they might have outright lied on all their testimony. Yes, real life does play out different then a movie. I understand that, but I felt when reading the thread that the discussion about Boxhall, Olliver, and the other officers having conflicting viewpoints might have been a way to confuse the authorities so that the company was protected. That obviously didn't work.

On the bridge that night, It sounds like Smith was in his cabin, or the navigation room. Murdoch was on duty at the front, Moody and Hichens in the wheelhouse, and Boxhall and Olliver, as suggested by David Brown, at the Compass. Mr. Brown also stated that tending to the compass was usually the work of two officers, one a junior. Unfortunately the only junior officer on the bridge was Moody in the wheelhouse. Perhaps Olliver was filling in for another junior officer. I know Lowe was the 5th. Is there a possibility that Lowe and Olliver switched shifts?

Yes, I admit that even though I consider myself well-read about the Titanic, I know I haven't read everything out there, and that I still consider many of you on here the real experts :)
 
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>>On the bridge that night, It sounds like Smith was in his cabin, or the navigation room. Murdoch was on duty at the front, Moody and Hichens in the wheelhouse, and Boxhall and Olliver, as suggested by David Brown, at the Compass. Mr. Brown also stated that tending to the compass was usually the work of two officers, one a junior. Unfortunately the only junior officer on the bridge was Moody in the wheelhouse. Perhaps Olliver was filling in for another junior officer. I know Lowe was the 5th. Is there a possibility that Lowe and Olliver switched shifts?<<

Jake,

As Jim said, "As for Boxhall on the platform. He wasn't on it and never said he was...The movements of Boxhall and Olliver prior to impact have previously been subject to highly colourful imaginative suggestions...and based not on fact but mainly on conjecture." Being at the compass for the purpose of steadying the ship on its course does not require more than one person on the platform, and that would be the responsibility of one of the junior officers to perform. He would not need a QM to be there with him. I have direct evidence of that from Olympic. Olliver, was at the platform at the time of the accident for the simple and unrelated reason that the oil lights on the compass needed to be adjusted periodically, and it happened to be the standby QM's job to perform that duty.

As far as 5/O Lowe, he was off duty and asleep in his cabin at the time of the accident.
 

Jake Peterson

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Hi Sam;

Thanks for clearing that up! I read the thread right before I went to bed, because it grabbed my attention, and found it fascinating. I continued reading the next day. I might have missed some details! Will go back and reread again.

Jake
 

Jake Peterson

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OK, I went back and re read the thread. I think I found where I got my ideas from. Getting my thoughts gathered here, I see David is speculating in this thread that perhaps Boxhall wasn't "just outside the officer's quarters" when the ship struck the iceberg. Throughout the thread, he has suggested perhaps he was with Murdoch near the front, watching for icebergs, as well, but was sent on his rounds for an hour, after Moody came back. I don't know what all an officer would do on his rounds, but it is known by Boxhall's testimony that he was the navigator for the ship. Others have suggested many things, from lavatory stops to tea. David was under the impression that Boxhall was away from the bridge based on the fact that he had a job, as I quote him down here:

David G. Brown said:
There is a great parallelism to the activities of Boxhall and Olliver at exactly the moment of the accident. In fact, there is too much. No fiction writer would give two people exactly the same alibi for not being on the bridge because it would not seem plausible. Yet, both men claim to have been doing exactly the same thing at the same time. Hmmm. Oh yes, maybe they were working together on something. Possible?

What was Olliver doing--working on the ship's standard compass.

What do mariners use compasses for--navigation.

Boxhall was noted for what skill--navigation.

Is a pattern developing here? Yes.
____

I suggested above in a previous post that Boxhall and Olliver might have been both at the compass based on this thread post. Could it be possible that Olliver and Boxhall were checking the compass, because it wasn't working right? I have read that Titanic carried 4 compasses. Olliver doesn't mention a malfunction in the compass, but I got the idea because David had said:

David G. Brown said:
And, if I am right, that non-problem would not have been something to which navigator Boxhall would have wanted his name attached.
So, I read this and though "Would an officer of a ship want to admit to a foreign authority that something wasn't working quite right...something that was supposed to help navigate the ship around obstacles?" Of course the reason it's a "non-problem", is because there are 3 more of them.

Thoughts?
 
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Mariner's compasses had evolved into highly dependable instruments by 1912. The Kelvin units in Titanic were brand new and recently adjusted by company experts. Of the various compasses, the standard atop the compass platform would have been given extra attention to be sure it was in full working order. So, it's doubtful that the standard instrument would have been experiencing problems. And, even if it were, the time to make repairs would not have been in the dark of night at freezing temperatures.

However, it is not necessary to look for improbabilities to explain the locations of both quartermaster Olliver and Fourth Officer Boxhall. The 11:40 o'clock instant of the accident was obviously crew time retarded 24 minutes (half of the total 47 minute setback that night) from April 14th ship's time. That puts impact at 12:04 o'clock in unaltered time, which coincides with routine compass checks done every half hour around the clock. Paragraph 253 of the IMM/White Star rule book describes this requirement:

“253. Steering and Compasses. – ...He (officer of the watch) must steady the ship on her course by standard every half-hour, and must compare the compasses every Watch...”

Titanic's compasses were housed in binnacles illuminated by oil lamps. This was still the standard method of compass lighting. The small flames did not disturb the instruments while electric lights could create compass errors as the result of magnetic fields around the wiring. It would have been quite normal for a quartermaster to go ahead of the officer to trim those oil lamps prior to any compass comparisons at night. So, the routine duties of the duty navigator (the fourth officer in this case) would have placed both Olliver and Boxhall either on the platform or on their way to the platform just prior to the iceberg accident...which is where they were.

– David G. Brown
 

Jake Peterson

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Hi David. Thanks for responding! Well, it was just a theory. I can understand the surviving officers being tight lipped about anything that happened before the iceberg hit, so as to save theirs and the company's reputation. I'll go ahead and read Olliver's and Boxhall's testimony to see if I can come to anymore conclusions, and see if I can help bounce some ideas. Having not read anything personal about Boxhall, such as his autobiography, I can't really give a clear opinion based on Boxhall's movements for that night.
 

Jim Currie

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Hello all!

"The Kelvin units in Titanic were brand new and recently adjusted by company experts"

That would be done by a compass adjuster from a compass adjusting Company. Incidentally, every single officer on Titanic was trained in the 'art' of compass adjusting. In all the years I used one of these things, I never found one that was not in 'working' order. Simply because the only moving part was the compass card. Not much to 'not work'. In addition, using that same compass, bearings of heavenly bodies (Not Vesta Victoria) were taken at very frequent intervals. These would provide an accurate error of the compass. It seldom if ever changed while the ship was on the same course. If I remember correctly, it decreased by about 0.5 degrees during Boxhall's Watch.

"However, it is not necessary to look for improbabilities to explain the locations of both quartermaster Olliver and Fourth Officer Boxhall. The 11:40 o'clock instant of the accident was obviously crew time retarded 24 minutes (half of the total 47 minute setback that night) from April 14th ship's time"

I partly agree. Allow me to explain:

The Official Log Book entries were and still are in 4 hour measures. It follows that every thing done during the previous 4 hours on the bridge Watch .. in this case between 8pm and Midnight April 14.. would have been recorded in terms of April 14 time. Therefore, the compass comparison .. because that's what Boxhall or Moody would do at the end of the first 4 hours... would be done just before Midnight April 14. At that time, one of the standby Quartermaster's jobs would be to go round all the compass binacles and check the oil lamps. That's what QM Olliver was doing at time of impact. He would not specifically go to the standard compass, he just happened to be there at that time.
As for Boxhall, he would, as you say David, have done his compass comparison check just before Midnight April 14 for recording in the log book. This would be done at or near 5 minutes to Midnight April 14 time. Once all these mandatory chores and a few others like them were carried out, Boxhall would write them up in the Scrap Log so that it would be ready for the change of Watches. However, it was not necessary to write them up right away. Boxhall knew that he had an extra 24 minutes to serve,so he would not hurry back to the bridge. He would have plenty of time to complete his Watch report and write-up the Log. So, instead of going directly to the bridge from the compass platform, he stopped off on the way, as he told us. He went to the officer's mess and made himself a cup of tea and took it to his cabin.(His cabin door was opposite the messroom door). He could sit there and drink it and have a smoke. He would keep the side door or port open so as to be able to hear any summons from the bridge. Normal practice then and for many, many years after that.
By the way David, Moody would have to have had an hell of a long arm to be able to be at the standard compass and the wheelhouse phone just before impact!


“253. Steering and Compasses. — ...He (officer of the watch) must steady the ship on her course by standard every half-hour, and must compare the compasses every Watch...”￾


That Rule was probably made before Olympic or Titanic were 'born'. It possibly but more than probably, applied to ships which had the standard compass situated on top of the bridge housing. The same as did Californian. It was a joke as far as Titanic and Olympic were concerned.

The projector binnacle put an end to thjat nonsense. It used a periscope in front of the helmsman which reflected the image of the standard compass down to the wheelhouse and directly in front of the helmsman's eyes. Thus, the helmsman and the OOW could visually compare the steering compass with the standard compass at any time during night or day.

Jim C.
 
Dec 4, 2000
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Jim is correct (sic) about the compasses in Titanic being in working order. They were just as simple a device as he described. And, we have no evidence that anything unusual happened to the standard or steering compasses during the voyage (those being the two of importance).

To me, the significance of quartermaster Olliver being on the standard compass platform while Fourth Officer Boxhall is just exiting the officers quarters as the lookouts rang their bell is critical in understanding what happened that night. Those events should have taken place just before 12 o'clock in unaltered ship's time – which puts them 25 to 30 minutes prior to the crew's scheduled midnight change of watch, or at about 11:30 to 11:35 on the crew clock set back by 24 minutes.

As I understand it, Sixth Officer Moody would have kept the scrap log and done the transcribing at the end of his watch. And, he is the one who would have recorded the steering compass heading when Boxhall signaled Titanic was on course “per standard compass.” The Fourth Officer could not have known from his post on the platform what the steering compass read, so he would not have been able to ascertain the difference between the two instruments. Moody, on the other hand, would have known from Boxhall's bell signals just when Titanic was on course PSC. It would have been simple for him to note the reading of the steering compass and record it either on a scrap of paper or the official compass book.

As Jim pointed out, the practice of trooping to the standard compass every half hour came from necessity. In 1912 it appears White Star's normal practice was to put standard compasses as near amidships as possible. This required a junior officer to march back from the bridge every 30 minutes to do the compass comparisons. Many ships of the period had standard instruments mounted on a sort of “monkey bridge” atop their wheelhouses. This more convenient arrangement still make it necessary for someone to climb up there every half hour. That was less onerous than the long walk. I have seen speaking tubes and/or communications hatches in ships of the era so the man at the compass could communicate with those in the wheelhouse. Even those systems were about to disappear, as Jim noted, with the introduction of the projector binnacle.

Unfortunately, I must disagree with Jim about what Boxhall would have done...or actually did do...after he completed the compass comparison. The IMM/White Star rules were quite specific as the following excerpt shows:

“Sea Watches – ...The junior Officers where five or more Officers are borne, will keep watch and watch with the seamen, the Third Officer having charge of the port watch, and the Fourth Officer the starboard watch... They are also to go the rounds every hour during watch on deck, reporting having carried this out to the Senior Officer on watch.”

Following the rule book, Boxhall would have “gone rounds” at 9, 10, and 11 o'clock in unaltered April 14th ship's time. Because of the extra 24 minutes still remaining in his watch, the Fourth Officer would have made another round at about 12 o'clock in unaltered time. This would have required him to go straight from the compass platform to where the men of his watch would have been found on a Sunday night, the crew's mess. And, we see in Boxhall's own words that he was in way of the companionway down to B deck when Murdoch rang down an engine order. We can also understand why a man inside the stair tower would not have been able to see the initial impact, as Boxhall claimed. But, that same man coming out on B deck would have been looking forward and may well have seen the berg at the “bluff” of the bow just as the Fourth Officer described.

These things are plainly visible in Boxhall's testimony. What he never claimed under oath was having a cup o' tea or visiting the WC. Both of those stories came from him much later in life. Neither can be true if the Fourth Officer had been doing his normal duties at the moment of impact.

– David G. Brown
 
Mar 18, 2008
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And, we see in Boxhall's own words that he was in way of the companionway down to B deck when Murdoch rang down an engine order.

Really? Then you sure can show us were exactly Boxhall say in his own words that he was on his way down to B Deck!

For those unfamiliar with the testimony, that is what Boxhall say with his own words;

Senator Smith: Where were you when the collision took place?
Mr. Boxhall: I was just approaching the bridge.
Senator Smith: On the port or the starboard side?
Mr. Boxhall: Starboard side.
Senator Smith: Did you continue to go toward the bridge after the impact?
Mr. Boxhall: Yes, Sir.
Senator Smith: How far did you go?
Mr. Boxhall: At the time of the impact I was just coming along the deck and almost abreast of the captain's quarters, and I heard the report of three bells.
Senator Smith: Three bells?
Mr. Boxhall: That signifies something has been seen ahead. Almost at the same time I heard the first officer give the order "Hard astarboard," and the engine telegraph rang.
Senator Smith: Did you proceed to the bridge?
Mr. Boxhall: Yes, Sir.
Senator Smith: Whom did you find there?
Mr. Smith: I found the sixth officer and the first officer and captain.


15343. Do you mean you felt the shock before you heard the bells? - No, I heard the bells first.
15344. Where were you at that time? - Just coming out of the Officers quarters.
15345. How soon after you heard the bells did you feel the shock? - Only a moment or two after that.
15346. Did you hear an order given by the first Officer? - I heard the first Officer give the order, "Hard-a-starboard," and I heard the engine room telegraph bells ringing.
15347. Was that before you felt the shock, or afterwards? - Just a moment before.
15348. (The Commissioner.) Let us be clear about that. The order, "Hard-a-starboard," came between the sound of the bells and the collision? - The impact, yes.
15349. (Mr. Raymond Asquith.) Did you go on to the bridge immediately after the impact? - I was almost on the bridge when she struck.
 

Jim Currie

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"Following the rule book, Boxhall would have “gone rounds”￾ at 9, 10, and 11 o'clock in unaltered April 14th ship's time."

Seems you're having trouble with the evidence David. Perhaps you just forgot. let me remind you.

"Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes; it was my duty. When I was on watch I was always on the bridge - on the bridge or inside of the chart room."
Senator SMITH.
Did you spend all of that time that night at your post, on duty?
Mr. BOXHALL.
Yes, sir.
Senator SMITH.
Were you on the bridge all that time?
Mr. BOXHALL.
No, sir.
Senator SMITH.
What proportion of that time?
Mr. BOXHALL.
Most of the time I was on the bridge. I was in the chart room working out positions, most of the evening - working navigation..


Pitman's duties were exactly the same as those of Boxhall.

"Mr. PITMAN.
My duties comprised working out celestial observations, finding the deviation of the compass, general supervision around the decks, and looking after the quartermasters; also relieving the bridge if necessary.
I told them what to do; the quartermasters only, sir.


It's clear enough to me. Even if Pitman or Boxhall were supervising overall, they had nothing to supervise that night. On the basis of letting the dog do the barking, Boxhall and Pitman would leave the direct supervision and control of the deck crew to the Bosun and his assistant.

Jim C.
 

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