William M Murdoch What Happened


Apr 22, 2012
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Hello everyone,

I have been slacking on my postings here recently, but now I'm getting things back on track.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were speculating over what might have happened to First Officer Murdoch the night the ship sank. Neither of us buy the suicide theory, but we came up with another theory that makes much more sense:

When Collapsible B was being taken down from the roof of the officers' quarters, it toppled over. Could the boat have not fallen on Murdoch, killing or rendering him helpless? If he was seriously injured, he would have been left defensless against the massive wave which covered the boat deck moments later.

I don't know, perhaps this is a crazy theory, but I could easily see it happening.


Cheers,
happy.gif


-B.W.
 

Ben Holme

Member
Feb 11, 2001
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Hi Brandon,

Firstly, Murdoch would have been on the wrong side of the ship for collapsible B. He was last seen attempting to free its counterpart on the starboard side, col A, with Cheif Officer Wilde and others. Several survivors, including Gracie and 2nd officer Lightoller (from his vantage point on the roof of the officer's quarters) claimed they observed Murdoch engaged in this task as the wave overwhelmed them.

Second, there were several surviving witnesses to the removal of B from the roof to the deck, (inc. Lightoller, Hemming, Bride etc) and had Murdoch been crushed, they would certainly have noticed.

IMO, drowned with the rest of them on the starboard side forward, near collapsible A. For some reason, he didn't make it into either boat. (He may not have been wearing a lifejacket and hence may have been dragged down).

Hope this helps...
Ben
 
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philip whittick

Guest
When people hit the water, then obviously some drowned, others would succumb to hypothermia whilst others would be killed or injured by the collapsing funnel or other debris. But I wonder how many people were perhaps killed almost immediately by the shock of immersion in the freezing water. I am thinking especially of the older people and those suffering from heart conditions and other disabilities (that perhaps they may not even have been aware of). I know Mr Murdoch was only 39 but there have been many cases in this country (UK) where young men in only their twenties and thirties have jumped in to rivers (even in summer) and died suddenly as a result of the body's shock reaction to sudden immersion in relatively cold (but certainly not freezing, water). Perhaps it is not surprising that some people (like First Officer Murdoch and Captain Smith, who was aged 62) just disappeared, without trace. I would be interested to know what the connection was between age and survival. For example, did younger males find their way on to the lifeboats rather than older people? How many older people who were immersed in water actually survived? I believe Colonel Gracie (aged 54) was immersed in water but survived only to die of the effects of the trauma later that same year.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Philip, the poosibilty of a heart attack brought on by the shock of immersion in cold water is something that can't be ruled out. Especially for the older folks. However, we should bear in mind that people like Captain Smith and Officer Murdoch were mariners who cut their teeth...and earned their stripes...in some incredibly harsh conditions. They were some pretty tough hombres and had to be. I certainly wouldn't have enjoyed taking either one of them on in a knock down drag out fistfight. I'm confident I'd wake up dead if I tried, even with the venerable Captain Smith.

On Colonel Gracie, it helps to know the man suffered from diabeties. This could scarcely have been helpful.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 

Sam Brannigan

Member
Feb 24, 2007
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With all the ribbing, Michael will regret saying that until his dying day, if he lives that long......


(courtesy "The Quiet Man")
 
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philip whittick

Guest
Hi Michael,

You say that Captain Smith was a tough hombre, whilst on another thread someone makes out a strong and impassioned case that the skipper was a weak man who knowingly put his ship, his passengers, and his crew at risk rather than incur the displeasure of Mr Ismay. I am not complaining! It is precisely this rich diversity of opinion that makes Titanica such a fascinating site. My compliments to Mr Hind, who, I understand, makes all this possible.

I don’t know too much about medical matters but I do know from personal experience that when you are screened for heart problems the cardiac specialists don’t seem at all interested in how tough you are they just want to know (and usually in this order) 1/ do you smoke? 2/ what is your diet and cholesterol level? 3/ do you take exercise? And 4/ do you have a family history of heart problems? I understand that by the time an individual experiences symptoms of heart disease, the coronary arteries have already narrowed to at least 50 per cent of their normal capacity. My point here is that a lot of people are simply not aware that they have heart disease and it is only when they are exposed to some particular stressful activity that they discover the truth. I cant imagine anything more stressful for a 62 year old man than returning from a party thrown in his honour, to discover that he has lost his great ship, most of his passengers and crew, almost certainly his own life, and then…..he is suddenly immersed in the freezing waters off the Grand Banks.

But of course this is pure speculation. I have absolutely no idea whether Mr Murdoch or Captain Smith or anyone else died of a heart attack. I merely put it as a suggestion that some among those who perished must surely have done so. But this was not my real question. When I referred to people dying from shock as a result of sudden immersion in the freezing waters, I wasn’t referring specifically to heart attacks; I was referring to another phenomenon whereby the body simply closes down its systems, as a result of severe shock. It is a spontaneous, automatic physical reaction and has nothing to do with how tough you are. Presumably this could happen to people who have nothing wrong with their hearts at all.

I remember reading in the archives a thread from a medical expert who was making a special study of the effects of freezing on the human body, I‘ll bet he could have thrown some light on this issue. Incidentally my own impression of Captain Smith is that he was probably a rather laid-back English gentleman who would have been horrified at the idea of becoming involved in a common brawl. Had he fought anyone it would almost certainly have been according to the Queensbury rules and being British he would probably only have found real satisfaction in coming second.

Regards

Phil
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Fighting somebody according to the Queensbury Rules? A Mariner? I somehow doubt it. Anyone dumb enough to play it that way in the sort of contests that happen on the waterfront or below decks is the one who is going to be carried out feet first. I don't think he was weak in any sense, physical or otherwise. As the Captain, he did what a Captain is supposed to do in any situation, especailly a crisis; called the shots, told his officers to make it happen, and let them handle the details.The really good leaders work it that way. They look like they're doing very little, but you would be amazed at what they get done that way. The ones who accomplish very little are the micromanagers who try to give their personal attention to everything.

Seen it, been there, done that!

On the question of physical toughness, remember that all of these blokes...every one of them...started in the ruthless and unforgiving environment of sail. Weaklings just don't survive there. I am quite confident that Captain Smith could rapidly shed the gentlemanly veneer if he had to. I am further confident that if I went up against him mano a mano, he would have turned me inside out.

On the question of shock when coming in contact with freezing water, you may well be right, but that may well be a possibility whether you have a heart condition or not. Some people turned out to be surprisingly resiliant that night to that sort of thing while others simply didn't last the route.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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philip whittick

Guest
Michael

I will put my hand up and say that I know nothing of Captain Smith other than the snippets that most people are familiar with. Both crew and passengers evidently liked him and that leads me to conclude that he was considered to be a fair and reasonable man. That bit about the Queensbury Rules and coming second were not meant to be taken too seriously. I will have to learn how to do smilies.

I think we need to be a bit careful about projecting the image of Captain Smith as a “below decks pugilist.” I know of no evidence that he ever hit anyone. But nothing surprises me about this site and I expect someone more knowledgeable will come along and tell me that Captain Smith, as a young man used to enjoy nothing better than to beat up a couple of firemen before breakfast.

But I do think that people develop and mature and I think that EJ Smith as an older man must have been an excellent communicator, sophisticated and personable. He needed to be to mix comfortably with the cream of American and British society. His employers must have thought him to be an excellent representative of the company to put him in charge of its most prestigious liners.

As to whether EJ allowed himself to be unduly influenced by Ismay I don’t suppose we will ever know for sure. I will put my head on the block and say I suspect he probably was. I only say that because of my knowledge of cocksure bosses and vulnerable employees. Ismay could fire Captain Smith if he chose and that is a very powerful weapon to point at a man.

Regards

Phil
 
May 8, 2001
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This is a question that I too had contemplated. I have heard of such cases that Phil speaks of. I have read very little in the effect of what sort of autopsy was performed on the bodies, (Anyone out there, feel free to jump in.)but something must have been done to determine if they drowned, or just froze to death, right? Or is this just something externally that they could tell? If an autopsy was performed, I was curious to weather they found anything else, such as cancer in the victims.
I would have to figure as it was explained to me before, (when I asked about Lusitainia victims) that they were working against time, and if it wasn't obvious, they just let it be, since they had to get done quickly and onto the next one.
Anyone in a weakened state could have been an easy victim that way, but I believe that you are right that there didn't have to be anything "wrong" for a system to shut down. Possibly will power has something to do with it, as well as shock, and heartbreak.
I was reading an account of the Andrea Doria, and in it, a younger woman was on deck with her daughter, and suddenly fell over dead after the accident from a heart attack. Who is to say that it didn't happen below decks, and no one ever told the story? As Mr. Standard pointed out. Col. Gracie had diabetes, and look how it affected him, and he wasn't a sickly, malnourished man from what I have gathered.
Michael.... "Seen it, been there, done that!" BBBAAADDDD BBBOOOYYYY!!!! TISK, TISK, TISK!! 15 minutes time out in the corner. }:~0
Colleen
 
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philip whittick

Guest
Hi Colleen,

I seem to recall that there were a lot of undertakers on the MacKay-Bennett, the ship that was chartered by White Star to recover the bodies but I don’t think there were any people qualified to do autopsies. Even if there were I doubt if they had the equipment or the knowledge to make very much of what they found. During World War 2 both the Japanese and the Germans carried out “freezing” experiments on live prisoners because they simply had no idea of how to resuscitate airmen who had ditched in the cold seas. Knowledge of the effects of freezing temperatures on the human body was said to be practically non-existent at that time. At the end of the war the allies kept all the data.

Best Wishes

Phil
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Hi Phil, if you're going to put your head on the block, allow me to join you.
wink.gif
I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if Smith was unduly...and inappropriately...influanced by Mr. Ismay. As any ships master will gladly tell you, owners and their representatives can be something of an aquired taste. I'm sure Captain's Brown and Wood have a few horror stories to relate on that score.

In regards Smith, I'm not trying to imply he was brutal. Far from it! I've never seen any evidence to support such a view. However, he was a young lad at one time, and in the sort of trade he was in, scrapes that get "personal" are almost inevitable. If something like that never comes up or is explored, it's probably because it doesn't have that direct a bearing on the Titanic.

Colleen, I don't know that much about any autopsies conducted, but I believe some of the passenger/crew specialists hereabouts do. I'll leave this one to them.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
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I. M. McVey

Guest
Dear Mike (and discussion participants),

Calling Owners and Representatives an 'acquired taste' is the finest and most extreme of understatements!!! Once in my career, I was cursed with the presence of same, and I tell you, I don't doubt a whit that Ismay had a thing or two to do with the speed of 'Titanic' on that particular night. This in spite of all the sworn statements declaimed in the Enquiries, that a Master is always master of his ship, Owners on board or no (and if you believe that, I've a nice bridge for sale...). I have sworn to my mates, I would rather go overside and chance a swim home than go through that experience again. Believe you me, these sort of 'guests' that a ship can become afflicted with come on board expecting that their slightest suggestion is law (whether or not they are qualified in matters of navigation, as this 'deference' is what they are used to receiving from their office employees) and woe betide the man who hesitates in carrying that offhand 'suggestion' out!

Saints preserve any mariners on this board from the 'honour' of visits from Owners and/or Representatives! Just my 2p worth... ;-)

Ilya M
 
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Robert W. Collier

Guest
There are many factors to consider given the scope of the Titanic tragedy as to its affects on people. Some of us may have hidden health problems, that any kind of extreme condition could do us in. Barring that, as far as a matter of willpower, your state of mind will do alot as how you would survive a given situation. There have been documented cases involving gunshot victims, some died from a single, small caliber shot, say from a .22, where others have been shot multiple times with larger, more power full rounds and survived. Some people are in the state of mind..."Oh my God, I'm shot, I am going to die." and that's it for them. William Hoffer wrote in his book regarding survivors from the Andrea Doria that some came through their ordeal and went on with their lives, while others, it permanently affected the rest of their lives. I consider the advanced age of many of the Titanic survivors. Did they reach such ages through their state of mind? The same state of mind which may have helped them through the night of April 14/15, 1912, kept them going through their life? Some factor of thier bloodline may be included in this as well, it seems some families it is not uncommon for people to live into their 90's or more. Studies have shown, such as optiomists, tend to out live pessimists and so forth.
In regards to people's bosses. I believe we all have at sometime or other in our lives, gone against our better judgement because of someone over us, and I don't believe Captain Smith would be an exception to that. As posted earlier, even a hint of a suggestion, could carry the weight of a direct command depending on who it was comming from. I too agree, that is one heck of a powerful thing to hold over someones head, is their position or their job and possibly career.
Michael: I have to agree with you as well. Smith went to sea at a young age when sail still ruled the ocean, though steam was fast taking up ground. I am sure he was a strapping young lad who could have held his own if need be. Considering he made captain at such a young age, it may have been a cross between excellent seamanship, and being able to earn respect.
Respectfully,
Robert W. Collier
 
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Joanne Seiferlein

Guest
I sure as heck wouldn't be willing to take on Lightholler, Murdoch, OR Smith in a fistfight, that's for darn sure-- I KNOW who'd be biting the dust in that event and it wouldn't be any of them!
 

Inger Sheil

Member
Dec 3, 2000
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David Blair might have been the shortest of the Titanic's officers, but given that he had served in his earlier days as an AB (i.e. he didn't make a straight transition from apprentice to 2nd Mate, but had served his time before the mast), I wouldn't mess with him. Nor even James Moody - goodness knows what skills he picked up when he was kicking around those South American ports, and I know of one instance when he and his fellow apprentices responded in kind to a physical threat.
 
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Joanne Seiferlein

Guest
Dear Teri,
I'd probably hate myself in the morning, but,
hey, I'll try anything at least once! Anyhow, since I'm short, I might have half a chance
(oof! I can just see the medical bills now!!).
 
Apr 7, 2001
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Joanne,

Well don't look to me, my wallet is constantly being emptied out by my son.

Shall we get back to addressing Brandon Whited's original question of Mr. Murdoch?

Let's play around with this thought: Maybe Murdoch committed suicide by himself in some vacated corner somewhere and that's why no one can be a witness to his purported "suicide." I know if I was going to do something like that, I sure wouldn't do it in front of a bunch of people. Suicide for the most part, IMHO, is a personal thing and is usually done alone by oneself.

Teri
 

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