Who was the most negligent Captain on the night of the Titanic disaster?

Julian Atkins

Julian Atkins

Member
I myself would regard the inadequate partial loading of emergency lifeboat 1 as exemplifying everything that was wrong that night. A few toffs and lots of crew hardly filling the boat.

Whilst at the time steerage passengers kept below. Not encouraged to get above with a few exceptions to fill up the lifeboats.
 
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
It was even possible that when lowering the boats empty, it could have resulted in a rope break.
Sorry Jim, but I cannot help feeling that you are evading the question here. I am not asking about unexpected things like a rope breaking etc. Yes, I admit those can happen, but AFAIK there was no rope break that night during lowering of any lifeboat from the sinking Titanic.

My question was based entirely on your own quote below, which I accepted.
A cutter, floating at 2/3 depth would have displaced a total of around 250 cubic feet of seawater, so could quite easily have saved 40 people inside, and many more hanging onto the grab-lines becketed around the outside
So, you say that an emergency cutter like Lifeboats #1 or #2 could quite easily have held 40 people on board and perhaps a few more hanging on. OK.

But since you won't answer a direct question, I am left with no choice but to go about it in a roundabout way. Here goes then:

Based on your knowledge of lifeboat capacities etc as you have mentioned above yourself, please consider a hypothetical situation where YOU suddenly found yourself on board the Titanic at about midnight (ALL other previous events having been exactly the same) and surrounded by Captain Smith and all 7 Officers asking you, Captain Currie, how many people they could safely put into each of those 3 types of lifeboats before launching, what would you have ordered? Let us assume that your orders would be followed explicitly and without question by all concerned.
Whilst at the time steerage passengers kept below. Not encouraged to get above with a few exceptions to fill up the lifeboats.
I am still not totally convinced about the manner in which the Third Class passengers were "kept" below. I find it hard to believe that they were actually barricaded in their own spaces until it was too late, as depicted in many movies and TV shows. IMO, there might have been stewards who were discouraging them from making a rush for it but to me it seems unthinkable that a group of 'normal' human beings would treat other human beings including women and children in that manner, no matter what they thought the officialdom said.
 
Steven Christian

Steven Christian

Member
Sorry Jim, but I cannot help feeling that you are evading the question here. I am not asking about unexpected things like a rope breaking etc. Yes, I admit those can happen, but AFAIK there was no rope break that night during lowering of any lifeboat from the sinking Titanic.

My question was based entirely on your own quote below, which I accepted.

So, you say that an emergency cutter like Lifeboats #1 or #2 could quite easily have held 40 people on board and perhaps a few more hanging on. OK.

But since you won't answer a direct question, I am left with no choice but to go about it in a roundabout way. Here goes then:

Based on your knowledge of lifeboat capacities etc as you have mentioned above yourself, please consider a hypothetical situation where YOU suddenly found yourself on board the Titanic at about midnight (ALL other previous events having been exactly the same) and surrounded by Captain Smith and all 7 Officers asking you, Captain Currie, how many people they could safely put into each of those 3 types of lifeboats before launching, what would you have ordered? Let us assume that your orders would be followed explicitly and without question by all concerned.

I am still not totally convinced about the manner in which the Third Class passengers were "kept" below. I find it hard to believe that they were actually barricaded in their own spaces until it was too late, as depicted in many movies and TV shows. IMO, there might have been stewards who were discouraging them from making a rush for it but to me it seems unthinkable that a group of 'normal' human beings would treat other human beings including women and children in that manner, no matter what they thought the officialdom said.
I have wondered before just how strong those locked gates actually were. Was it like in the movies that depict them or could they have just been easily grabbed and ripped off by a few strong guys? Sometimes stuff like those gates are to just keep the honest people honest as the saying goes. Cheers.
 
Seumas

Seumas

Member
I have wondered before just how strong those locked gates actually were. Was it like in the movies that depict them or could they have just been easily grabbed and ripped off by a few strong guys? Sometimes stuff like those gates are to just keep the honest people honest as the saying goes. Cheers.
They are called "Bostwick gates" but contrary to how several film and TV adaption have depicted third class aboard the Titanic, there were only two such gates aboard the Titanic.

One set in the bow to prevent passenger access to the cargo holds and this would have been underwater fairly early on. The other set of gates was in the stern to prevent passenger access to the food and drink stores.
 
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
I have wondered before just how strong those locked gates actually were
I am not convinced that there were any locked gates or other inaccessible barriers specifically blocking steerage passengers from getting to the higher decks. As Seumas says, any locked gates might have been there for other reasons.

I always thought that those scenes of masses of people screaming and pushing against locked barricades were included for dramatic effect in films and TV shows and bore little relation to reality. Moreover, there were plenty of strong young Irishmen and Scandinavians down in Third Class; not an easy task for a handful of scared stewards to hold them back if the former were really determined.

I think a combination of uncertainty, searching for friends and relatives, convoluted route from the steerage sections in the bow to the boat deck and language barrier resulted in many of the Third Class passengers getting caught out.
 
Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
Sorry Jim, but I cannot help feeling that you are evading the question here. I am not asking about unexpected things like a rope breaking etc. Yes, I admit those can happen, but AFAIK there was no rope break that night during lowering of any lifeboat from the sinking Titanic.

My question was based entirely on your own quote below, which I accepted.

So, you say that an emergency cutter like Lifeboats #1 or #2 could quite easily have held 40 people on board and perhaps a few more hanging on. OK.

But since you won't answer a direct question, I am left with no choice but to go about it in a roundabout way. Here goes then:

Based on your knowledge of lifeboat capacities etc as you have mentioned above yourself, please consider a hypothetical situation where YOU suddenly found yourself on board the Titanic at about midnight (ALL other previous events having been exactly the same) and surrounded by Captain Smith and all 7 Officers asking you, Captain Currie, how many people they could safely put into each of those 3 types of lifeboats before launching, what would you have ordered? Let us assume that your orders would be followed explicitly and without question by all concerned.

I am still not totally convinced about the manner in which the Third Class passengers were "kept" below. I find it hard to believe that they were actually barricaded in their own spaces until it was too late, as depicted in many movies and TV shows. IMO, there might have been stewards who were discouraging them from making a rush for it but to me it seems unthinkable that a group of 'normal' human beings would treat other human beings including women and children in that manner, no matter what they thought the officialdom said.
I assume your hypothetical question is designed to make a point, Arun.

The question itself is pointless in so much as; why would any captain - who knew that his officers were trained to the same level as himself - lecture them on how to load a boat?
By the same token - would you, head doctor in a medical team of fully qualified, experienced MDs at a disaster; gather your team and tell them to make sure they applied tourniquets properly?

However, I will answer your question which seems to be: What would I have done in the same circumstances. My answer to you, is:
Exactly the same as did Captain Smith, and I have already shown you why.
I would have done so on the basis of you do not keep a dog and bark yourself. However, I would keep a weather eye on procedures for a much of the time as my other duties allowed. If I had seen a boat being what I considered to be overloaded, I would have curtailed the number of persons entering that boat. and more to the point, my assessment of the load would have been based on the principal of "the weakest link".

In fact, Captain Smith personally supervised the loading of boats for part of the time. If you look at the launch timetable, you will note that he was present on the port side of the boat deck for about 45 minutes - from an hour after impact until Boxhall went away in Cutter No.2.
 
Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
The timeline I refer to is the timeline as constructed by the writers of "On A Sea Of Glass" as well as Samuel Halpern, Mark Chirnside and another handful of researchers, most of these are here on this forum. I am aware from previous statements from you that you don't agree with a lot of the things on this timeline and made your own, with a lot of points the general consent doesn't agree with from what I've seen on this forum.

I am aware of that, I even mentioned it in my previous statement.

I agree with that, and according to the earlier mentioned timeline captain Smith gave the order to do so. I never stated otherwise.

Thomas Andrews Jr was preoccupied with a number of matters on-board if one looks at his notes during the maiden voyage of the Olympic, these notes do not just mention passenger accommodation but several improvements for rooms such as the navigating bridge and a lot more matters which also relates to the crew. If you want to see them I would gladly supply these notes to you. It was Thomas Andrews Jr primary duty to oversee the performance of the Titanic on her maiden voyage, as he did with any large White Star Liner since the RMS Oceanic her maiden voyage in September 1899.

This included not just improvements for the accommodations as mentioned before. He regularly talked to high ranked crewmembers of the deck crew, engine crew, victualling crew and the staff of the á la carte restaurant, he even was good friends with high ranked crewmembers such as Dr. William O'Loughlin who he met on-board the Oceanic back in 1899 and ate at his table in the dining saloon nearly all every voyage he shared with him. Thomas Andrews Jr also had a blue surveyor he wore regularly when he went out to inspect certain areas below deck.

You are of-course referring to Ismay having dined with Thomas Andrews Jr on the 12th of April 1912 and told him that he noted that the reading and writing room wasn't that much used and proposed to remove the alcove and replace it with more staterooms.

In the timeline I referred to before these two events are almost 15 minutes apart from one another (with the conversation in question happening near 12:20 and the lowering of lifeboat number 7 being at around 12:40).


I cannot say what to think unless more demands are made (such as if the exact same happened and such).


I am sorry if I am a bit curt, I am feeling very unwell due some of my personal affairs.


Yours sincerely,


Thomas
There is absolutely no need for you to applogise, Thomas. I am sorry to hear of your health problems and hope you get better soon. Perhaps the way I answer grates a little?
Unlike others, I do not rely on the assessment of situations as published in books, seen on TV Documentaries, films or social media. I simply match the sworn, documented, official evidence to timing of events - not times of events - and combine it with acquired knowledge.
 
Julian Atkins

Julian Atkins

Member
My point was that if emergency lifeboat 1 was clearly only partially filled with a few toffs and crew, then send someone down to steerage to fill it up. Same could be said for some other lifeboats.

It wasn't a case of 'women and children' first, but first class and then second class women and children first, plus a hefty dollop of crew.
 
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
My point was that if emergency lifeboat 1 was clearly only partially filled with a few toffs and crew, then send someone down to steerage to fill it up. Same could be said for some other lifeboats.

It wasn't a case of 'women and children' first, but first class and then second class women and children first, plus a hefty dollop of crew.
With respect Julian, could that observation be telling only part of the story?

When Murdoch and the others started loading lifeboat #7, from various accounts we gather that there were not all that many passengers in the vicinity and even then, most of them were very hesitant to board. At 12:35 am, when they were still persuading people to get on board, the Titanic, though down by the head, probably appeared a lot steadier and safer to most passengers than the thought of being lowered and then sitting in a comparatively small and flimsy looking (yes, I know that it was anything but flimsy in reality) lifeboat on the open ocean so far away from land. But from the perspective of Murdoch, Lowe etc, although they might not have known the timescale involved at that stage, they knew that the ship was in more danger than apparent and so would have been keen to make a start on the lifeboats. In my view, that was at least one of the reasons that Murdoch allowed Lifeboats #7 and #5 to be lowered partially filled; he might have figured that if the vacillating passengers actually saw a couple of boats launched, they might believe that the ship was in danger and be more prepared to get into the following lifeboats themselves.

As for there being more First Class passengers in the earlier boats, that was due to the fact that most of them had cabins on the upper decks and so made-up the majority of passengers scattered about on the boat deck early on. I doubt if Murdoch or anyone else stopped to ask each passenger which class they were from before allowing them to board a lifeboat. At that stage, most Second Class passengers, berthed in the dry stern section, were likely only beginning to realize the danger while the Third Class ones would have been searching for each other and trying to figure out the way up from deeper parts of the ship.

As for the crew being allowed, I believe it was a combination of hands-on-oars and to make up numbers. If there were any firemen, stokers, trimmers etc among those allowed into the earlier starboard boats, they would have come up from the bowels of the ship where the steady flooding and so the actual situation would have been very apparent. If there were no other passengers - women, children or men - immediately available and willing to board lifeboats like #5 or #1, I saw nothing wrong in Murdoch allowing crew standing by to board. In fact, I thought it was quite sensible because lowering at least a partially filled boat would have appeared more convincing to those watching and hesitating than seeing the Officers faffing around a near-empty one on the boat deck. Human nature tends to be convinced more by "something happening" rather than watching no progress at all.
 
Jim Currie

Jim Currie

Senior Member
With respect Julian, could that observation be telling only part of the story?

When Murdoch and the others started loading lifeboat #7, from various accounts we gather that there were not all that many passengers in the vicinity and even then, most of them were very hesitant to board. At 12:35 am, when they were still persuading people to get on board, the Titanic, though down by the head, probably appeared a lot steadier and safer to most passengers than the thought of being lowered and then sitting in a comparatively small and flimsy looking (yes, I know that it was anything but flimsy in reality) lifeboat on the open ocean so far away from land. But from the perspective of Murdoch, Lowe etc, although they might not have known the timescale involved at that stage, they knew that the ship was in more danger than apparent and so would have been keen to make a start on the lifeboats. In my view, that was at least one of the reasons that Murdoch allowed Lifeboats #7 and #5 to be lowered partially filled; he might have figured that if the vacillating passengers actually saw a couple of boats launched, they might believe that the ship was in danger and be more prepared to get into the following lifeboats themselves.

As for there being more First Class passengers in the earlier boats, that was due to the fact that most of them had cabins on the upper decks and so made-up the majority of passengers scattered about on the boat deck early on. I doubt if Murdoch or anyone else stopped to ask each passenger which class they were from before allowing them to board a lifeboat. At that stage, most Second Class passengers, berthed in the dry stern section, were likely only beginning to realize the danger while the Third Class ones would have been searching for each other and trying to figure out the way up from deeper parts of the ship.

As for the crew being allowed, I believe it was a combination of hands-on-oars and to make up numbers. If there were any firemen, stokers, trimmers etc among those allowed into the earlier starboard boats, they would have come up from the bowels of the ship where the steady flooding and so the actual situation would have been very apparent. If there were no other passengers - women, children or men - immediately available and willing to board lifeboats like #5 or #1, I saw nothing wrong in Murdoch allowing crew standing by to board. In fact, I thought it was quite sensible because lowering at least a partially filled boat would have appeared more convincing to those watching and hesitating than seeing the Officers faffing around a near-empty one on the boat deck. Human nature tends to be convinced more by "something happening" rather than watching no progress at all.
I would add - has anyone looked at the areas of the boat deck and A Deck?
1. How many people of all classes could congregate there. at a time?
2. How many mustered on Deck A thinking they should be there instead of the boat deck?
3. How quickly can young, fit adults muster compared to the old and those in charge of children?
5. How many could read, write or even understand English?

Apart from 'Scotland Road', passage-ways and door-ways, were like water pipes - they could only allow so many through at a time.
 
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
Apart from 'Scotland Road', passage-ways and door-ways, were like water pipes - they could only allow so many through at a time.
That would have been an important reason for many Third Class passengers, particularly those who could not understand English, to have remained longer than necessary deep below in their spaces, perhaps waiting for crew members to direct them where to go. Apart from the few who explored the ship as much as they were allowed, many Third Class passengers might have found those narrow passageways and corridors off-putting, not really knowing where they led to. They would not have wanted to get more lost than they already perceived they were and probably felt that to remain where they were supposed to be would be best for the stewards to find them and tell them where to go. Kate Gilnagh took a wrong turn somewhere, became separated from her companions and quickly found herself lost is in some Second Class space. She said that a stranger then helped her to get to the boat deck.
 
Julian Atkins

Julian Atkins

Member
Every life was worth saving regardless of class or wealth.

I have little time for the argument that they couldn't fill the lifeboats to capacity when so many steerage passengers died. The statistics speak for themselves.

It seems to me that no proper attempt was made to fill the lifeboats properly. It is a poor excuse to say that first class passengers had already filled the boats first, or were reluctant to go into the lifeboats.

Emergency lifeboat 1 exemplifies this failure, in my opinion. I'm not bothered about the cheques written out to the crew. What really bothers me is the vacant space in this lifeboat and so many others when the statistics show that so very many in steerage did not survive and never got to fill those vacant positions in so many lifeboats.

That would strongly suggest a bias to saving those in first class.

I personally regard this aspect of who was negligent as the most offensive and reprehensible. It has parallels with the Holocaust gas chambers; who survives and who doesn't. To not adequately address the steerage passengers (except for all but a few who were lucky), but give priority to first class to take that opportunity, in the lifeboats, I find very difficult to come to terms with.

'Women and children first' is ok if it applies to all classes. It demonstrably didn't.

And for that, Captain Smith must take the blame for. It isn't "negligence", but something more pernicious and equally on another level equally damning.
 
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Sam Brannigan

Sam Brannigan

Member
I have read that the lifeboats were considered a luxury, or part of the ticket, as much as swimming pools and gymnasiums, that they "belonged" to First Class. This may have been accepted by the officers and crew and, crucially, many Third Class passengers.

Even today, who wants to be the person to saunter in to the VIP area of a club, or walk into (not even use) the First Class bar on an A380 on an economy ticket?

The deck officers' responsibility was to load the boats, not muster the passengers. At some point Smith must have liaised with Purser McIlroy regarding movement of all passengers to the boat deck. It seems that everyone on board was woken up, but only First and Second Class passengers were directed to the boats - blend this with confusion about which deck to go to (many reported to be on A deck), the urgency to get the boats launched, the desire to avoid panic, plans to top-up boats from gangway doors etc. and the difficulty communicating quickly in extreme circumstances aboard a vessel the size of the Titanic (imagine a world with no walkie-talkies!), and fear of overloading boats all contributed to the story of the evacuation.

I think that saving over 700 people in such a situation in a couple of hours was an amazing achievement.
 
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
Every life was worth saving regardless of class or wealth.
I agree and I don't think anyone in these forums are disputing that sentiment.

I have little time for the argument that they couldn't fill the lifeboats to capacity when so many steerage passengers died. The statistics speak for themselves.
With respect Julian, the statistics in this case are not telling the whole truth. But if you must use statistics to blame for the large loss of life in this tragedy, blame the fact that there were not enough lifeboats in place for every soul on-board. Yes, given the timeframe of the sinking even that might not have made a big difference but at least the consideration would have been there.

As you know, Jim and I don't often see eye-to-eye but I completely agree with him that the tortuous route through those relatively narrow access spaces (rather than any barricades) would have been a major factor in most Third Class passengers remaining below too long. The number of stewards and other staff available to direct them would have been comparatively small and this would have been complicated by the fact that steerage passengers in the bow were searching for friends/relatives in the stern (and vice versa), people criss-crossing corridors speaking in multiple languages, screaming/crying children etc. The scenario would have been noisy, disorganized and chaotic. I once again direct you to the diagram on pp118-119 of Titanic: An Illustrated History which depicts the challenging route the Third Class passengers would have had to take to get to the boat deck, particularly from the bow section. In short, with the best will in the world many steerage passengers simply couldn't/didn't arrive on the boat deck on time.

Please understand that I am NOT defending White Star or anyone/anything else. IMO, some sort of neutral marker - like a bold red line running along the edges - could have been provided to direct all passengers towards to boat deck in an emergency. But that's besides the point of this thread.

It seems to me that no proper attempt was made to fill the lifeboats properly. It is a poor excuse to say that first class passengers had already filled the boats first, or were reluctant to go into the lifeboats
May I ask what in your opinion would have been a "proper attempt"? Drag a reluctant woman or her child kicking and screaming into a lifeboat? From available survivor accounts, it seems that Murdoch et al filled the early lifeboats with all the women and children available in the vicinity and willing to board; and when that was done, Murdoch allowed male passengers available, including single ones like the French trio - Lucien Smith's bridge partners - in Lifeboat #7 for example. I don't believe that Murdoch stopped to confirm that they were First Class passengers before allowing them to get in; IMO if those three had been the Belgian farmer trio from steerage - Jean Scheerlinckx, Jules Sap and Theodor de Mulder - they would have been allowed into Lifeboat #7 just the same (incidentally, the Belgians also survived, probably on Lifeboat #11).

It was not Murdoch's or anyone else's fault that in the earlier stages of the sinking most passengers were unwilling to leave a large and seemingly secure ship to get into a small, open lifeboat and be lowered onto the sea on a freezing night while at least 400 miles from the nearest land.

Emergency lifeboat 1 exemplifies this failure, in my opinion
From what I read, surprisingly few people were gathered around Lifeboat #1 when Murdoch, Lowe, Symons etc completed launching Lifeboat #3 and moved forward. It might have had something to do with the fact that being an emergency cutter, it was already in position and swung out; since passengers would not have seen the crew doing the same sort of work on #1 and the other previous 3 boats, they might have mistakenly believed that it was not going to be used right then.

In all likelihood, the Duff-Gordons and the maid, who had been at sea before, were waiting in the vicinity and when they saw that very few people were going near Lifeboat #1, took their chance. The same thing applies to the likes of Abraham Salomon and Charles Stengel. The fact that they were all First Class passengers is relevant only because such people were more likely to have been on transatlantic ships before and were familiar with the 'procedures' whereas most Third Class passengers were first-timers. I believe Murdoch had to make-up numbers by allowing more than necessary crew members into Lifeboat #1 so that it was at least partially-loaded than near-empty. In fact, the fact that those additional crew members were allowed to get into Lifeboat #1 and thereby get saved supports your own sentiment above - that every life, irrespective of class or wealth, was worth saving.

That would strongly suggest a bias to saving those in first class
I am sorry Julian, I do NOT believe that. Murdoch especially was not the kind of a man to show any bias towards wealthy or influential people; he just did the best he could under difficult circumstances and between 50 and 100 men who survived owed their lives to him.
 
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