Wireless Operator's Working Arrangements

Dec 2, 2000
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>>but is the newspaper not reliable?<<

Don't know how it could be. The fact that the tale changed even from Inquiry to the next should be something of a red flag. Even if they simply repeated Bride's story, as he told it to them verbatim, it's still not consistant with what he testified to under oath.

>>But honestly, I mean would they change his story that much?<<

Yes. Still goes on today I might add. We had a bit of a tiff over some remarks Dr. Ballard gave to a newshawk over the telephone which the reporter, as it turns out, did not accurately report.

>>It's notable that during the sinking many seamen needing to cut ropes found it necessary to borrow knives from passengers.<<

My opinion on this one...and I could be way wrong...is that few if any of the rank and file crewmen had personal weapons on board. Those who did probably left them in their kit on the presumption that they had little reason to believe that they would be facing a firefight on the boat deck.

I will confess to being at something of a loss to understand why they had so few knives available since knives and marlinspikes are practically obligatory tools for deck seamen.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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>>Even if they simply repeated Bride's story, as he told it to them verbatim, it's still not consistant with what he testified to under oath.<<

Tell a newspaper person something, and when you see it written down in quotes, it looks like someone else must have been talking to them. That has been my experience recently, especially when they were taking notes and not using some recording device to capture the actual words you said. Doesn't take much for your story to sound quite a bit different from what you really said.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Dave pointed out in the post which Bob mentions:
quote:

Concerning knives and the lack thereof, the deck crew signed articles in which they were forbidden to carry knives (and other weapons) without the express permission of the master.
So, personal weapons among the crew was a no-no. That's really no practical barrier to having some (The outlaws have the guns regardless of the law!) but they would have to be very discreet about keeping any such out of sight and out of mind IF they had any.​
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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Such articles were common enough, but not necessarily taken very seriously by seamen or employers alike. In the US as early as 1866, for instance, maritime law included the provision: A seaman in the merchant marine may not wear a sheath knife on board a vessel without the consent of the master. The master of a vessel of the United States shall inform each seaman of this prohibition before engagement. A master failing to advise a seaman is liable to the United States Government for a civil penalty of $50.

Note that there was no specific prohibition of the uncontrolled use of folding pocket knives. Also if a ship's master thought the law to be impractical he could comply simply by giving permission to each seaman to carry a sheath knife at all times, but at the other extreme some officers made a practice of breaking off the points of blades brought on board by any newly recruited crew. Here's a memory of one such incident:

"Let me have your knife," requested the mate, who stood on top of the main hatch, with a hammer in his hand, which he was all the while turning and twisting. Upon receiving the sheath-knife, which is as much a part of sailor's uniform as his overalls and is always carried in a sheath or scabbard, hanging from a strap about the waist and back of the hips, where it is handy for cutting rope, for a sailor is not dressed without his knife, the mate put the point of the knife across the iron band on top of the combings of the hatch and struck a sharp blow with the hammer, breaking off the point.

"You probably didn't have the mate, in your last ship, break the point off your knife" said Mr Burris. "But I always keep a ship sweet and clean by seeing that every knife aboard the ship has no point. This is for your own protection. If you get into a fight with a shipmate you know you can't stick him with your knife or he, you. Knowing this you both will fight like men and use your fists, the weapons God has given you to fight with."
 

Bob Godfrey

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QM Wynn's testimony suggests that a sailor was no longer "not dressed without his knife". He had to return to his quarters to get it - probably from his kitbag. Many didn't have that opportunity.
 
Mar 22, 2003
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Besides QM Wynn, there were others amongst the crew:

1. Leading fireman Fredrick Barrett also had a knife which he used to cut the falls of lifeboat 13 to free it just as boat 15 was coming down on top of them.
2. First class steward Edward Brown got his knife out to cut collapsible C loose while boat No. 1 was being loaded.
3. Second class bath steward James Widgery had a knife which he used to cut loose the oars in boat No. 9.

There were other uses of knives to cut things loose during the launching of the lifeboats, but the knife owner was not identified. Sometimes it was a passenger who had something to use like a razor in one instance.