Where were any of the engineers last seen?

L. Colombo

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Nov 22, 2012
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I’m an enthusiast in naval history, and I’m also interested in the history of the Titanic. One of the things that puzzled me was the fate of the ship’s engineers. It was said that they had went down with the ship, but from some testimonies (mostly Frederick William Scott and Thomas Patrick Dillon) it emerges that many, if not all, actually came on deck since there was no more reason to stay below. However, what actually interested me more was the fate of the single engineers, and especially of chief engineer Bell: where were any of them last seen? For most of them there wouldn’t ever be an answer, but I tried to look for the last ‘sightings’ for at least some:


1) Chief Engineer Joseph Bell: trimmer Thomas Patrick Dillon, one of the few survivors from the engine room, was probably the last to see him before the ship sank. In an interview with a newspaper, Dillon said “I saw Mr Bell, the chief engineer, with a plank under his arm walking along the promenade deck. The ship was going down all this time. That was the last I saw of him. He must have ‘dumped’ himself.” (The complete interview is here: Cookies must be enabled | Herald Sun). I also read, in Senan Molony’s article about the fate of the engineers, that Bell, after the ship sank, had been implored by some mates to climb onto a raft, replying: "No, my extra weight would sink it." I’ve found no trace of this, where did it come from? And, if it is true, which was the ‘raft’ Bell had been pleaded to board? As far as we know, some makeshift rafts (pieces of wood and deck chairs tied together, etc.) were made, but nobody on board them survived to report such a story (let alone Harold Phillimore). Did they mean, with ‘raft’, one of the two swamped collapsibles? Maybe collapsible B, which had on board several stokers? Jack Thayer said that “Questions and answers were called around – who was on board, and who was lost, or what they had been seen doing? One call that came around was, “Is the chief aboard? ” Whether they meant Mr. Wilde, the chief officer, or the chief engineer, or Capt. Smith, I do not know. I do know that one of the circular life rings from the bridge was there when we got off in the morning. It may be that Capt. Smith was on board with us for a while. Nobody knew where the “Chief ” was”. From the accounts of some survivors it seems possible that captain Smith almost reached collapsible B before to die (I, too, am quite convinced); but what if also Bell came near this boat? If they were referring to Smith, would they have used the word “chief” (better suited for the chief engineer, in my opinion, or for the chief officer) or instead “captain”?.

2) and 3) Senior Second Engineer William Edward Farquharson and Junior Sixth Engineer William McReynolds: greaser Frederick William Scott testified that Farquharson went to the room where he was working along with some engineers, told them all to go on deck and followed them.

5723. Did you get any summons to go on deck, or did you go on your own account? – No, we were ordered up out of the engine room.
5724. Who by? – The Senior Engineer, I think it was.
5725. Who was in charge of your section, the turbine room ?–One of the juniors I think it was, about the sixth. [William McReynolds]
5726. What is his name; do you know? – No.
5727. Do you know the name of the engineer who ordered you out? – I think it was Mr Farquharson.
5728. The gentleman you did see on deck afterwards? – Yes.

5710. Which of the engineers did you see (on deck)? Can you tell me their names? – Mr Farquharson. I do not know the names of the others.

Scott says that, all in all, eight engineers came on deck along with him. One of them was Farquharson, another, very likely, McReynolds, and the others remain unnamed.

4) Chief Electrician Peter Sloan: greaser Alfred White mentions him as being, along with William Henry Marsh Parr and Archie Frost, members of the guarantee group, in the engine room shortly before the final plunge. White’s story is a very odd one, and can be questioned, especially since he says that “(Parr and) all the rest of the engineers were below (when the ship sank)”. This is in contrast whit Dillon and Scott’s statements, who say that, if not all, at least many of the engineers came on deck before the ship sank. Moreover, it appears that both Bell (number one in the engine room’s chain of command) and Farquharson (number two) came on deck, and I don’t think they would have left behind some of their men to die in the engine room. Maybe Sloan, Parr and Frost decided on their own to remain (or to come back to the engine room) without even informing Bell? But White states that ALL the engineers went down in the engine rooms, and we know that this is not true. However, here’s White’s story: “At one O’clock [1hr, 20 minutes after the impact; however, a discrepancy in Alfred White’s timing suggests that this might actually have occurred a half-hour later, at 1:30 AM], Mr. Parr and Mr. Sloan came below. I was on watch at that time and he said to me, “We are going to start one more engine." [According to this plan, remaining steam pressure stored in the aft boilers could be used to run the turbine for electrical generation; the light room and the Marconi Shack’s Sound Room also had acid batteries for supplemental emergency power.] I generally did that [job; the starting of the generators]. They went to the main switch board to change over. (...) When at twenty-to-two the ship seemed as if she had started [up] again and flung us off our feet — Mr. Sloan and Mr. Parr said to me, “Go up and see how things are going and come and tell us." Telling you the truth, Sir, I had a job to get up the engine room ladder. I had to go up the dummy funnel. There was a doorway there. The sight I saw — I can hardly realize it. The second funnel was under the water and all the boats had left the ship. I could not get back as the boat was sinking fast. We did not know — they were all at boat stations (he means the emergency stations, the engines). I am sure that was where Mr. Parr was and so should I have been if they had not sent me up.”

5) Third Assistant Electrician Boykett Herbert Jupe: no mention at all, as far as I know. But he was the only engineer whose body was found and positively identified (no. 73 by the MacKay Bennett, buried at sea).

6), 7) and 8) Junior Assistants Second Engineer Jonathan Shepherd and Herbert Gifford Harvey and Senior Assistant Second Engineer Bertie Wilson. Their story is well known from leading fireman Frederick Barrett’s testimony: they were all working in the pump room of engine room no. 5 (or only Barrett, Harvey and Shepherd? Wilson is often not mentioned at all), when a turrent of water, coming from boiler room no. 6, suddenly flooded the room. Harvey ordered Barrett up the escape ladder, while he and Wilson stayed behind to try to save Shepherd, who was lying on the bottom of the room with a broken leg and could not escape. It seems that Shepherd, Harvey and Wilson all drowned in no. 5 — probably the first victims of the disaster. But I’ve also read, I don’t remember where, 1) that in fact Barrett was uncertain if Shepherd and Harvey (and Wilson) were actually drowned in no. 5, and that there was time to move Shepherd to another room; and 2) that Shepherd and Wilson drowned, while Harvey managed to leave the room. What’s the truth, as far as we know?

Does anyone know more?
 
Mar 18, 2008
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One of the things that puzzled me was the fate of the ship’s engineers. It was said that they had went down with the ship, but from some testimonies (mostly Frederick William Scott and Thomas Patrick Dillon) it emerges that many, if not all, actually came on deck since there was no more reason to stay below.
It is clear that not all stay down below until the end. From the different testimony's we know that about 1:40 a.m. nearly all were relieved from duty. It is quite possible that some under the command of Bell stay below in BR 2 which was used for the electricity.



I also read, in Senan Molony’s article about the fate of the engineers, that Bell, after the ship sank, had been implored by some mates to climb onto a raft, replying: "No, my extra weight would sink it." I’ve found no trace of this, where did it come from?
That story came also from a newspaper report. The problem is who told that. This story is for example mentioned in an interview with leading stoker Threlfall. The only problem is that Threlfall left with boat No. 14 but according to that Newspaper interview, he claimed to have stayed on the ship until the last and climbed upon a raft.



6), 7) and 8) Junior Assistants Second Engineer Jonathan Shepherd and Herbert Gifford Harvey and Senior Assistant Second Engineer Bertie Wilson. Their story is well known from leading fireman Frederick Barrett’s testimony: they were all working in the pump room of engine room no. 5 (or only Barrett, Harvey and Shepherd? Wilson is often not mentioned at all), when a turrent of water, coming from boiler room no. 6, suddenly flooded the room. Harvey ordered Barrett up the escape ladder, while he and Wilson stayed behind to try to save Shepherd, who was lying on the bottom of the room with a broken leg and could not escape. It seems that Shepherd, Harvey and Wilson all drowned in no. 5 — probably the first victims of the disaster. But I’ve also read, I don’t remember where, 1) that in fact Barrett was uncertain if Shepherd and Harvey (and Wilson) were actually drowned in no. 5, and that there was time to move Shepherd to another room; and 2) that Shepherd and Wilson drowned, while Harvey managed to leave the room. What’s the truth, as far as we know?
In his testimony Barrett didn't mentioned if Shepherd and Harvey drowned in BR 5 (he didn't looked back). Interestingly there is no mention if Wilson went also into the pump room to help Shepherd. On the other side, there are also newspaper reports that the WTD to BR 4 was open and an engineer with a broken leg was taken aft. The problem here is that I have seen two different versions of it, the one stating that he was taken aft and another one that it was planned to be done.
 

L. Colombo

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Nov 22, 2012
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I've looked for Threlfall's story. An upturned raft with several firemen on it; Bell who swams over to this raft and refuses to come aboard, telling them "Goodbye, God bless you". It reminds me much of collapsible B story (overturned and with a lot of firemen on board); also "Goodbye, God bless you" were among the alleged words of the unknown man mentioned by several collapsible B survivors. Is this a totally made-up story, like many which came on the newspapers after the disaster, or maybe Threlfall heard it from a fellow fireman who had been on collapsible B?
 

L. Colombo

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I also noticed, in a 1932 account by Thayer, that he states that "There were about three or four men on that boat whom I afterwards found out were a wireless operator, Second Officer Lightoller and I believe either [the] Chief Engineer or Captain Smith"
 
Mar 18, 2008
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I've looked for Threlfall's story. An upturned raft with several firemen on it; Bell who swams over to this raft and refuses to come aboard, telling them "Goodbye, God bless you". It reminds me much of collapsible B story (overturned and with a lot of firemen on board); also "Goodbye, God bless you" were among the alleged words of the unknown man mentioned by several collapsible B survivors. Is this a totally made-up story, like many which came on the newspapers after the disaster, or maybe Threlfall heard it from a fellow fireman who had been on collapsible B?

Yes, it would have been boat B. The problem with the Threlfall interview is that it is written/told by his point of view. So would he do that if he was told about it from another firemen? You did not find that. Instead you have that he was in the water and that he climbed on the raft and that he saw Bell in the water etc.
I think it is one of those story's made up after the sinking like Captain Smith saving a baby. As we know, no baby was ever taken on board B. But survivors said that Smith made it to boat B like other stating that he shot himself. Same was also said about Bell.


I also noticed, in a 1932 account by Thayer, that he states that "There were about three or four men on that boat whom I afterwards found out were a wireless operator, Second Officer Lightoller and I believe either [the] Chief Engineer or Captain Smith"
I would be a little careful with Thayer's later reports. In 1912 he did not mentioned any of them. It seems that he had add here what he remembers was told in 1912 newspapers. Lightoller did not mentioned Bell or Smith and he was on boat B before Thayer. (If you compare his 1912, 1932 and 1940 versions you can see were the story change.)
 

L. Colombo

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You are probably right. Do you think that also Dillon's account of Bell on the promenade deck with a plank under his arm was a made-up story, or that Dillon actually saw him?

As for Shepherd having or having not been drowned in BR 5, I wonder: are there any BR 4 survivors who mention opening (or not opening) of the watertight door between BR 4 and 5 to take aft a wounded engineer?
 
Mar 18, 2008
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It is difficult to say, personally I would say it is a made-up story. Going by his sworn testimony he did not mentioned Bell on deck. It would be also interesting to know when (what time) he wanted to have observed that and were (which deck). We know that he left the engine room about 1.20 a.m. and then went up to the well deck and from there to the poop deck were he waited about 50 minutes until the ship sank.

Regarding Shepherd, going by the testimony from Barrett I would say he and Harvey drowned in BR 5. There is an newspaper report by Barrett in which he mentioned that preparations were made to bring him (Shepherd) up on deck. But this was not carried out. Dillon, Cavell and Dymond were working in BR 4 but none of them ever mentioned that the door was open. Especially Dillon mentioned that it was closed. It was Threlfall who mentioned that they were going to open the WTD to bring a person with a broken leg into the engine room. The problem is that no one mentioned seeing that such a person was taken aft. I am also not sure were he was working. He mentioned that he was in No. 4 but not if it was BR 4 or stokehold No. 4 which would be in BR 3. I think he means stokehold 4 in BR 3 because he did not mention that they get the order to go out because the water rose to high which was the case in BR 4. In one of the papers he mentioned seeing water but said that it was in BR 5. (I have 3 or 4 different newspaper reports by Threlfall, in only one of them he mentioned to have been on the ship until the end and got on the raft. The others are about similar that he was relieved with the others and made it into lifeboat No. 14.)

I think there was another firemen who mentioned that an injured men was taken into the engine room but can not remember who it was or if my memory is wrong here.

Addition: I was having a quick look into my notes. Threlfall stated that the engineer was taken aft and that the door was open and closed again. It must be the same report with the story that he saw Bell in the water while on the raft.