Why did so few survive?

N Alison

N Alison

Member
What I have long wondered is why did so many children die in the sinking? The Titanica lists over 120 people 14 years of age or younger on board ship, of which only about half of survived. I understand that in some cases families probably chose to stay together but there were many families where all of the boys were young enough to allowed into lifeboats. Though I think claims of third-class passengers being locked down below are overblown, how much effort did the stewards make on getting these large families to come on deck?
 
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
What I have long wondered is why did so many children die in the sinking?
With the exception of Loraine Allison, all 55 children who died were from Third Class. All 25 of kids from Second Class survived as did those from First Class except poor Loraine.

The very sad deaths of all those Third Class children can only be explained because they were stuck with their parent(s). Although I have never believed that all access routes from the lower decks to the lifeboats were blocked, almost all large families on board - like the Sages and Goodwins - perished. That might have been because the parent(s) might have found it difficult to leave the children to go up and find out what was happeneing in the early stages. Groups like the Sages and Goodwins would have needed both parents to keep track of all the kids in the mounting confusion while mothers travelling with children to join the father already in America also could not leave them behind to check. In the later stages, it would have been difficult for families with children to make their way through the crowds up the stairs traversing several decks. For one reason or another majority of the Third Class children did not make it to the boat deck till after Collapsible D was lowered - some probably never made it at all. But after 02:05 there were no lifeboat that was being properly attached to the davits and children on the boat deck would have found it difficult to make it into either Collapsible A or B. We can work out the conditions by deaths of Alma Palsson's 4 children (and herself) and of Eugene & Rossmore Abbott during the frantic attempts to release Collapsibe A. People like August Wennerstrom and John Collins tried to help some kids but were unabe to do so after the wave hit them.

In some cases, such as the Asplunds, the father and the teenage son would not have been allowed into a lifeboat by Lightoller and other smaller children might have clung on to the father in fright.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Sam Brannigan, Samuel Halpern, Magnar Vikoeren and 2 others
N Alison

N Alison

Member
This is true. I know that the families with 4+ children, Panula, Sage, Goodwin, Palsson, Andersson, etc...fared worst of all. I still feel that while the claims of simply locked gates has taken on mythical status, the stewards could have perhaps done more. I wonder what made the difference for some, you had groups like the Baqlini's and some of the Asplund's who made it, and others like the Palssons who didn't?
 
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
I still feel that while the claims of simply locked gates has taken on mythical status, the stewards could have perhaps done more
I feel that it might be a bit unfair to blame the Third Class stewards. They had proportionatey more people to look after, language issues in many cases and their own uncertainty about what actually was happening above and what they were supposed to do compounded their problems. Keeping track of and rounding up their charges woud have been extremely difficult under those conditions, not the least because the women would have been reluctant to leave their men and go to the uper decks with the children.

As I have said before, IMO, the so called "locked gates" were simply those which were already locked before the accident to prevent 'steerage' passengers gaining access to the other classes, a normal practice in those days. I do not believe that any gates or door were specifically locked after the collision; in fact some previosuly locked barriers might have been opened.

I wonder what made the difference for some, you had groups like the Baqlini'
One word - initiative. Some families, groups or even individuals were more perceptive and enterprising than others and took positive action relatively early. In case of the Baqlinis, the family came from a remote town in Syria, itself a 'Third World' country at the time, and those factors would have made them somewhat more street smart than the average Western family. Also, after her husband left for the States in 1908 Latifah Baqlini would have coped largely by herself for over 3 years raising the kids in a Syrian village, sharpening her self and brood preservation skills. There was no man in their party, just 23 year old Latifah with 3 children and a teenaged neighbour girl in tow; they had to take a complicated route to Cherbourg via Beirut and Marseille, only to be held-up becaue one of the kids was unwell (which was what put them on the Titanic). All that hardship would have meant that Latifah Baqlini had honed her survival skills very sharply and so once she realized something was wrong, she managed to lead the entire group up the stairs onto the upper decks and into a lifeboat despite an almost certain language barrier. The fact that there was no man in their party must have helped because they would not be leaving anyone behind.

It is not known clearly on which particular lifeboat the Baqlini group was saved but Collapsible C, on which most Lebanese-Syrians were saved, is a likely candidate.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Sally Rios
N Alison

N Alison

Member
I noticed that the Lebanese had a decent number of survivors in their number. The Baqlini's, the Nakids, Mrs. Tannus and baby, the Toumas, the Yusufs, there was even a brother and sister pair of about 11 and 14 who survived. The lack of men in these parties helped but difficult living conditions does sharpen the sense of self. You don't become as complacent on the ship being indestructible and the crew knowing all.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Arun Vajpey
Magnar Vikoeren

Magnar Vikoeren

Member
There was a captain, and he must have been aware of the many children in Third Class, but he did nothing to get them and the parents to the boat deck!
 
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
There was a captain, and he must have been aware of the many children in Third Class, but he did nothing to get them and the parents to the boat deck!
No, that's not right to accuse the Captain for the deaths of the children or anyone else after the collision had occurred.

A ship's Captain might be nominally in charge of everything on board but we must also remember that he/she is just an ordinary human being like the rest of us with limited capabilities of what they can do within a given timeframe and circumstance. Captain Smith was told by Andrews shortly after midnight that the Titanic was not only definitely sinking, but might well do so within the next hour and a half (in fact, she lasted a bit longer). From that moment on, the 62-year old Captain would have a lot of responsibilities and tasks to handle - specific orders to the crew, mustering passengers, arranging distress calls to be sent (both wireless messages and rockets), keeping check on the lifeboat loading process etc etc. With over 2200 people on board, it would have been practically impossible for him to ensure that everyone on board was doing what was best to maximise their survival chances. He could not have descended several decks to check how things were going in the Third Class areas; that was the job for the crew who were specifically responsible for those passengers and in turn received orders from above.

While Captain Smith's decisions (and in some cases, lack of them) might be questioned with regard to the sequence of events before the disaster, I do not believe that he could have done any more after the collision had occurred.

I have always believed that when faced up with an unexpected eventuality, one cannot stay put and expect officaldom to take complete control and do all the right things - unless specifically instructed to do so. All human beings have their limitations and apart from being better trained and organised, those in charge are no different. So, we have to be aware when the moment for helping oneself and one's loved ones arrives and act accordingly.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Seumas
B

Brad Walton

Member
I have never believed that all access routes from the lower decks to the lifeboats were blocked,
Arjun, which access routes from third class to the lifeboats were open, at least _after_ 12:30 a.m? Very early on in the emergency, Benoit Pickard found an access route via a door leading to the second-class stair case, but that door is supposed to have been closed and locked not long afterward. The other official 3rd class access routes (from the well deck, from Scotland Road via the first class stair case, and via the stairs from the well deck to B deck) were all locked, closed, blocked. Or am I misinformed?
 
Last edited:
B

Brad Walton

Member
Though I think claims of third-class passengers being locked down below are overblown, how much effort did the stewards make on getting these large families to come on deck?

I have always had the impression that the third class stewards in general had either 1) exercised less initiative than they could have in evacuating the women-and-children from the third-class public spaces, or 2) had not received from their superiors directions adequate to the emergency.
 
Seumas

Seumas

Member
I have always had the impression that the third class stewards in general had either 1) exercised less initiative than they could have in evacuating the women-and-children from the third-class public spaces, or 2) had not received from their superiors directions adequate to the emergency.
No one had ever evacuated such a large ship with so many on it before 1912.

To repeat what I posted in another thread back in September, there are many handicaps to the evacuation of third class that people today frustratingly do not consider, such as:
  • Less than fifty personnel were available to Chief Kieran. And some of them had been ordered to the boat deck rather than to third class.
  • He had only one interpreter steward, Muller, available, how many languages other than German and English he was fluent in is unknown.
  • During the early stages of the sinking there was great confusion, even amongst the crew, as to just what on earth was going on.
  • Some third class stewards were just young, inexperienced lads from Liverpool or Southampton. This was an experience some would have found themselves way out of their depth in. Older stewards seem to have had a good grip on things.
  • Some surviving crew (even Lightoller) found the ships layout to be confusing and easy to get lost in. This is especially true of those men who had not previously served on the Olympic.
  • Passengers also ended up getting lost (see Mrs Coutts, who said she owed her life to one of the third class stewards) and this consumed precious time during the evacuation.
  • There is still an element of personal responsibility that the passengers must accept. We know there were not nearly enough stewards to attend to everyone, and they were severely overworked. So it is only commons sense that some passengers had to show initiative and find their own way to the boat deck. The overworked crew could not do everything for them.
  • Some families got separated and took time to meet up and some did not want to go topside until it was too late. We also know that many people wanted to take their luggage with them and cluttered up passageways with it.
  • Whilst the aft well deck does appear to have been guarded during the early part of the sinking by crewmen who themselves must have had no idea what was happening. It does not appear to have been guarded during the entire evacuation.
  • Given that both the third class passengers and their stewards suffered heavy casualties, for all we know there may have been more large groups guided to the boat deck but none survived. It is worth remembering that getting to the boat deck is one thing, getting into a boat is quite another.
It was a nightmare situation the third class stewards were confronted with. They did the best they could but time and circumstances were heavily against them. I highly doubt whether any of us could have done any better.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mb13, Sam Brannigan, Samuel Halpern and 2 others
Samuel Halpern

Samuel Halpern

Member
The plain simple fact is that the crew of Titanic was simply not prepared to handle the situation that was unfolding. It was all made upon the spot. The call for women and children only was interpreted by some as women and children ONLY. Yet, looking at the numbers, Titanic had lifeboats that could have saved every woman, child and travelling husband that were on board that night. Every one of them.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Mb13, Arun Vajpey and Jason D. Tiller
Samuel Halpern

Samuel Halpern

Member
Here's numbers:
The total number of women on board, including those in the crew, were 442. Of those, 419 were women passengers. Total number of children on board 103. Assuming one husband per woman passenger was also on board, we then have 442+103 + 419 = 964 total women, children and traveling husbands. Lifeboat capacity of the 18 boats lunched from davits was 1078. That leaves 114 spaces for manning the 18 boats, or 6 crew members to man each boat that was launched. Of course that assumes that they would be willing to fill the boats. The reality was that only only 712 souls were saved, or just under 2/3 total capacity of the boats launched from davits.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Arun Vajpey and Jason D. Tiller
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
Thanks for that Sam.

But in practical terms, even if the crew were 100% organized and trained and there was a manifest clearly highlighting the "travelling husbands", how would hve the single men in all classes accepted such discrimination? IMO, that sort of thing would have been very difficult to enforce and would have been unfair.

Consider a situation where Astor, Thayer, Widener, Ryerson, Straus etc were allowed but Guggenheim, Peuchen, Gracie, Moore etc barred? What would Bruce Ismay have done? Where would someone like Harry Widener fit in if his father was 'eligible' but as a single man he was not? And what about Michel Navratil St, travelling with only his children but not a wife?

If we have doubts about 'travelling husbands vs single men' among First Class passengers, we can only imagine the sort of reaction that could have elicited among the 'working class' people in Third Class. While they might have accepted a "women and children first" rule, I doubt very much if they would have settled for "men with families over single men" - many of who were not even single in the right sense, with wives and families on one or the other side of the Atlantic.
 
Last edited:
Arun Vajpey

Arun Vajpey

Member
Very early on in the emergency, Benoit Pickard found an access route via a door leading to the second-class stair case, but that door is supposed to have been closed and locked not long afterward
Who said so conclusively? Pickard found a door from Third Class leading to the Second Class areas open and went through it, eventually making it to the boat deck on the starboard side, where he was rescued on Lifeboat #9. So, he could not have known that the door through which he had come was later locked. Other survivors would not have known which door Pickard used and so they would not have been in a position to claim that it was later closed and locked.

The other official 3rd class access routes (from the well deck, from Scotland Road via the first class stair case, and via the stairs from the well deck to B deck) were all locked, closed, blocked
Paradoxically, the first Third Class passenger to get into a lifeboat was not only a man, but he (Fahim al-Zainni) sneaked into Lifeboat #6, a port side "Lightoller's boat"! Thereafter, there were a few Third Class passengers getting into port Lifeboats #16, #14 and #12, the first two of those being launched a few minutes before #9 on the starboard side and #12 soon afterwards. The point I am trying to make here is that several Third Class passengers including men had found a way up to the boat deck by 01:00 am and so there must have been ways for those who looked for it. Most were women and children, but in some cases there must have men who came with them but were not allowed in on the port side. Still, Zaini (#6), Bernard McCoy (unconfirmed but almost certainly #16), Fang Lang (#14) and Gurshon 'the cat' Cohen (#12) all found places inside lifeboats before or about the same time as Pickard in #9 on the starboard side. Under those circumstances, it is fair to assume that there must have been a lot more Third Class passengers scattered about on the upper decks and not sure where to go.....but they had got there.

I reiterate that IMO the doors that many Third Class passengers found locked when they tried to get to the upper decks were those that had been locked during normal voyage before the disaster - a common practice to segregate steerage passengers in those days - and were simply not unlocked afterwards. Under normal sailing conditions, most Third Class passengers would have known about that segregation and accepted it as the norm. Since the question of Third Class passengers getting to the upper decks out at sea during a normal voyage could not have arisen anyway, many of them might have wrongly thought that those doors and gates were their only access routes to get above and panicked when they found them still locked after the collision. As for the Third Class stewards, they would have been overwhelmed by the numbers, language barrier and above all uncertainty that they had to deal with. 2 hours and 40 minutes can seem quite long at first but when you consider the size of the Titanic, the number of people in Third Class (even when not filled to capacity) and the rabbit warren of corridors that they needed to negotiate to get above, it was not long enough.

Like Seumas says, there was a large element of personal responsibility involved in chances of survival and because of the deeper position of most Third Class areas and the complicated route to get to the upper decks, that personal responsibility would have been correspondingly greater among the steerage passengers. Not fair I know, but that was how it was; the Captain and crew were not supermen who could perform miracles to save one and all so people had to try and help themselves. Some, like Zainni, Lang, Cohen and especially Latifah Baqlini with her brood did just that and survived; others, like the group Wennerstrom saw doing nothing but sitting in a circle and praying, did not and were lost.

When we consider the fact that there were not enough lifeboats for all souls on board, we have to also think of another factor. IF everything had happened exactly as the various events did BUT there had been enough lifeboats for everyone on board, would there have been time to use them and save the lot? The answer has to be NO in my opinion. The last lifeboat to be properly launched was Collapsible D at 02:05 am and even that had to he hurriedly lowered only half full. The 2 last lifeboats, Collapsible A & B actually floated free in the flooding, the former damaged and waterlogged, the latter upside down and usable only as a raft. Under those circumstances, even if the Titanic was carrying 20 more lifeboats, they would have been of no use.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Mb13 and Seumas
Sam Brannigan

Sam Brannigan

Member
There was a captain, and he must have been aware of the many children in Third Class, but he did nothing to get them and the parents to the boat deck!
I subscribe to the school of thought that believes Captain Smith walked a very fine line - he maximised lifeboat capacity as quickly and quietly as possible, and got the boats in the water to hopefully ferry/pick up survivors before the inevitable panic set in. Remember the "hour to an hour and a half" timeline - a very short time to act with the chance of things getting out of control increasing every minute.

If you think about it, preparing and successfully lowering by 80 feet manually 18 lifeboats with almost 700 people in them in about an hour and a half is actually pretty amazing. How much more difficult would it have been with twice that amount of people pushing to get limited spaces from the boat deck? What about considerations like the list these extra people would effect on the ship?

No ... quietly, quickly, sadly but necessarily ruthlessly. The strategy was correct, the execution was lacking due to issues such as Lightoller's obstinacy with men getting in the boats.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Michael H. Standart, Mb13 and Arun Vajpey
Top