Women and children first


Adam Went

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Thanks for the lively discussion so far everyone. Personally I've never really bought into the "if there were more lifeboats, more people would have been saved" argument because you still have to have the time, crew members and capability to lower those extra lifeboats - given that attempts were still being made to free collapsibles in the final minutes, I'm not convinced that even if the evacuation of the ship had been better organised, that a significantly greater number of boats would have been lowered. So the issue, then, is that the boats which were lowered, especially early on, should have been better filled. I understand the argument that crew members wouldn't have wanted to risk boats overflowing or buckling or tipping over or suffering any similar sort of fate, but at the same time, there's a difference between that and lowering boats that could comfortable have fitted 20 or 30 more passengers each - even if this meant letting male passengers on board.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Jules934

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Women and Children Only

Don't forget Titanic's list changed at 1:00 A.M. After that, the STARBOARD side became the higher and safer side.
I never heard before that the passengers had to counteract the starboard list. According to ANTR, Wilde ordered at 1:40 A.M. for everyone to move to STARBOARD to 'straighten her up', which means counteract the port list.

There were indeed two different lifeboat-loading "environments" that night. But in the early stages, all lifeboats were lowered underfilled, port and starboard (just think about lifeboat 1).

Jules, do you really think the women and children ONLY tag was most unfairly awarded? Then what about the two last lifeboats at port side, boats 4 & D. JJ Astor was denied access to boat 4, and the 13-year old Jack Ryerson was almost held back too. And at boat D, the crewmen formed a ring to hold back the men. Only women and children were let through.

Yes, I do. What I recall about the Starboard loading is it being said that men were allowed in the boats after the available women and children were loaded and there was room for them. Also some quote(s) from Mr. Gracie when he and another passenger were looking for women for the boats but and could find no more. Over on the port side, there are no statements like this. Yes, Lightoller offered to put a bride into a boat as well as Mrs. Strauss, neither would go, but there is no signal about those statements that tells me that they were short of passengers -- just that these 2 woman were not moving toward taking seats.

I see the port side as being more crowded with passengers and there being no point where the women had all been seated had all been seated before Lightoller felt that lowering was safe.
 

Jules934

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Christophe Puttemans




Jules, do you really think the women and children ONLY tag was most unfairly awarded? Then what about the two last lifeboats at port side, boats 4 & D. JJ Astor was denied access to boat 4, and the 13-year old Jack Ryerson was almost held back too. And at boat D, the crewmen formed a ring to hold back the men. Only women and children were let through.



‘’’
I don’t know who coined the “women and children only” phrase, but I think it came after the discovery.

In 1912, “Woman and children first” meant just that. No man* got into any boat until after all the women were seated. When they were all seated, the men were allowed into the remaining boats, and not before**. It wasn’t a matter of today’s elevator boarding of“ you go first my dear, I’m right behind you.”

JJ Astor was not allowed to join his wife because there were more women around than seats in Boat 4. Had there been enuf boats for all, he would have gotten a seat in one of them.

The men linked arms to hold back other men from rushing into D.



*except the boat’s crew
**if there were space in the last woman’s boat, of course those seats would be filled
 

Jules934

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Was the "women and children first" stance enforced too rigidly on Titanic?

How else could it have been enforced with risking total anarchy and panic? Today's assigned seats is the only answer, and it needs supervision to see it is not abused.
 

Jules934

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Was the "women and children first" stance enforced too rigidly on Titanic?

How else could it have been enforced with risking total anarchy and panic? Today's assigned seats is the only answer, and it needs supervision to see it is not abused.

OOOPs sorry --- should have been...

How else could it have been enforced WITHOUT risking total anarchy and panic? Today's assigned seats is the only answer, and it needs supervision to see it is not abused.
 

Adam Went

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Hi Jules,

Part of the issue is that there seemed to be no rigidly enforced rule regarding women and children. On the one hand, you had men being allowed to enter the boats in some places but not in others. Just like there was some confusion over whether teenagers counted as children or not. That is the problem with trying to enforce a rule of thumb that is open to interpretation.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Jules934

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Hi Adam

I agree entirely.

It's testimony to how well Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Lightoller did their jobs getting all the conventional (wooden) boats off safely and that the collapsables were able to save as many as they did.

Jules
 

Bob Godfrey

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'Teenager' was of course not a term known in 1912. In law, children were persons aged up to 11, and adults those aged 16 and over. Those aged 12-15 were classed rather vaguely as 'young people', and one might argue by modern sensibilities that the rule should have been 'women, children and young people first' (ie women and everybody under 16). But wherever the line was drawn, for the crewmen loading the boats it wasn't a matter of how old the boys were, but rather how old they looked, as nobody would have been holding up an ID. And it should be remembered that many of those men trying to decide whether a particular boy seemed old enough to look after himself had themselves been facing all the dangers and risks of a life at sea since the age of 12 or 13, when they were at the bottom end of the age range for 'young people'. So yes, any age ruling would have to be open to interpretation and often, to modern eyes, the interpretations can seem rather harsh. Different times, different standards.
 

Adam Went

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Jules:

Yes indeed, but also it shows that having more lifeboats on board the Titanic might not necessarily have saved a significantly greater number of people.

Bob:

This is what I mean when I say that the rule was open to interpretation, including by those crew members who were loading the lifeboats. How were the categories defined? I'm assuming it didn't go by voting age or age of sexual consent, so was there some other way? As you say, they would hardly have been carrying identification. It seems quite trivial that there could have been an argument over a child aged 12 being allowed in a lifeboat, and another aged 16 not being allowed (for instance).

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Jim Currie

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"it wasn't a matter of how old the boys were, but rather how old they looked,"

Too true Bob. As Maurice Chevalier use to sing "Ah yes! I remember eet well"

Back in the early 50's when 2nd Officer on a ship visiting New York, I was refused a drink because I did not look over 21 years of age. Still happens to me yet! And before you get there... No! I don't mean one more for the road.

As another song reminds me: "Sweet dreams are made of this". :rolleyes:

Jim C.
 

Bob Godfrey

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I too look back fondly, Jim, on the times when I needed proof of age to get a drink. Now I still need it, but only to ride free on the buses!

Adam - then as now there were different ages at which the law in England and Wales allowed you to do or to consume various things, but the two most important changes were at the ages of 16 and 21. Prior to 16, the law offered various levels of protection for vulnerable 'children and young people' from exploitation by society and its temptations. From 16-21 that protection was no longer available, and the law instead sought to protect society from the immaturity and lack of experience of these young adults or 'minors'. They could not for instance vote, or enter into business transactions without parental guarantees, or even marry without parental consent. Scotland had its own legal system, and did not require parental consent even for a marriage between a boy of 14 and a girl as young as 12. Thus the popularity of Gretna Green, the first village over the border, as a destination for eloping couples! In the UK as in most countries back then 21 was the 'age of majority', at which point you were not just technically adult but had ALL the rights (and responsibilities) associated with adulthood. Nowadays the age of majority in most countries has of course been lowered to 18, and there is a body of opinion that it should be lowered further to just 16, as it was in the recent Scottish Independence referendum. But to my mind in a country ruled by teenagers we'd all be in need of the lifeboats! :)
 
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There were two parts to the problem if the intent was to save all the women and children. First was to get all women and children, regardless of class, up to the boat deck; then, secondly, loading them into the boats first. There was enough boat capacity to have saved not only ALL the women and children on board, but also their husbands as well for families travelling together. There was no need to separate husbands from wifes and their children. In all, there were 522 women and children passengers and 23 women in victualling department on board the ship that night. That was less than 50% of the BOT rated total capacity of the boats on board. The problem was that there were no established procedures to make this happen. It was all made up as they went along.
 

Jules934

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There would have been a really "simple" solution to ensure that more lifeboats = more lives saved. Instead of 2 teams filling/lowering boats, they could have had 4, with the 3rd and 4th Officers in charge of the additional teams.

It is as if providing additional food and linens, there was no genuine forethought going into the issue of having so many additional souls to provide for.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Over the years there has been much discussion about the impact on survival rates if male 'young persons' among the passengers (ie those aged 12 -15) had been allowed as a matter of policy into the lifeboats. But aside from the impracticality of assessing age, there were actually few boys in this age group in the passenger lists - 14 lifeboat places would have provided for all of them. There was only one in 1st Class - Jack Ryerson, who after some argument was allowed in and was saved. Two in 2nd Class, who both died and would very probably have survived had they been a few years younger. Eleven in 3rd Class, of whom only one survived. In 3rd Class, of course, a great many of even the female children died so age and gender would have had less significance to the overall picture, but even so a figure of less than 10% survival for the boys in this age group compared with 60% for the girls is significant.
 

Adam Went

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Hi Bob and all,

I wonder if the laws regarding those changes you mention related back to W.T. Stead and the Eliza Armstrong case in the 1880's? There would be a touch of sad irony in that. Of course there is also the common line about how it surely isn't fair that young people - men specifically - are deemed old enough to go and fight and die in wars, but were not old enough to be able to have a drink or be fully participating members of society.

In any case, thanks to you and everyone for their insights thus far on this thread. At the risk of sounding like a cracked record, I'm going through a very busy phase at the moment so can't contribute as much as I'd like, but i'll try to have a new topic up for September shortly if nobody else wants to come up with one.

Cheers,
Adam.
 

Jules934

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Is there a listing somewhere of who was in which boat and how many souls were in each boat? If so, it would answer this but until then -- Yes Astor was denied access, but it sounds to me like there were women waiting for a place in the boat. Doesn't sound like all the women around were seated and he was kept out.

As for boat D -- It was one of the last boats to go and things seem to have been getting close to a panic situation. From the 1st, one of the major efforts was to avoid panic and boat rushing. Even that late in the loading, a rush could have cost the lives of all in the boat. Again. there were still women and perhaps children available.
 
J

Jack Dawson

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I don't think it was too rigidly enforced at all. It was absolutely necessary to load only women and children.

Keep in mind that only 14 years prior to this the SS La Bourgogne went down with only one woman rescued. One. Nearly half the crew survived, of course.
 

Doug Criner

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On a modern cruise ship, there will be a mandatory boat drill shortly after leaving port. During the drill, ask your boat officer, somewhat in jest, if it's "women and children first?" He/she will likely respond, "No, sir, we have plenty of boats for everyone." (That could include the life rafts that are automatically released if the ship founders.) But, in the case of Titanic, there were not enough boats for everyone and there were no rafts automatically launched.

Nowadays, individual seats on lifeboats are not "pre-assigned." Passengers are only pre-assigned to specific boats.
 
J

Jack Dawson

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This is an aside, and I know not everyone will agree. I think women and children (and elderly) first should be the case in any emergency situation. Let me elaborate. An emergency, by it's very nature is unexpected. It's the worst case scenario everyone hopes never actually happens. All it takes is a bad list to make filling or launching boats dicey. Having enough boats for everyone is excellent so long as they can ALL be launched successfully. Titanic was fortunate in sinking slowly, which allowed for launching of boats. Considering accidents in the past 60 years (the 'modern' era), it seems many boats simply cannot be launched in time, or due to a list. It's just that idea that we have everything under control that helped contribute to accidents in the first place. There is no guarantee the worst case scenario won't happen again. A false sense of security and preparedness didn't help anyone on Titanic that night.

Back on topic: I think the crew of the Titanic did as much as they could under the circumstances life dealt them. They simply had more people than boats. As Jim said, a lot of the seaman were former RN and very experienced. I don't think it is fair (or accurate) to infer the deck crew was poorly trained. As for Captain Smith, his job wasn't to micromanage his subordinates.

Just my two 1912 cents.
 

Jim Currie

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Spot-on Jack! (But then, being an old codger, I would say so anyway wouldn't I?).

The whole thing goes back to basics.. to the animal kingdom if you like.

With very few exceptions, (Can't think of one at the moment) the rule in the animal kingdom is Survival of the fittest. Unfortunately that rule seems to me to be creeping into human society. I could go on but I'm sure many of you out there know exactly what I mean.
However, in his last post, Doug illustrates my point extremely well when he observed "He/she [modern-day cruise ship crew member]will likely respond, "No, sir, we have plenty of boats for everyone." (That could include the life rafts that are automatically released if the ship founders.) "

The person who gave that comforting bit of information was probably fit and healthy and aged somewhere between 18 and 40. That same person would have been trained in what we used to term "Water Sports". i.e. how to get into a life raft from the water on a dark, stormy night. Any of you out there who have taken part in offshore survival training will know exactly what I'm getting at.
Personally, I have had to learn to escape from a submerged, up-turned helicopter and to board an inflated life raft in heavy seas with rain and simulated thunder and lightning. The last time I did it, I was then, 60 years of age. I did not do it because I was a geriatric idiot but to prove that I could do it. I was compelled to do so because modern society dictated that if I did not, I would not be able to continue to work offshore at sea.
The term women and children first indicates a society that cares for those less able than themselves. In my day, as now, seamen were fit young individuals who recognised the limitations of those less able. That's exactly what was on the mind of the person who gave that order way back in April, 1912

Jim C..
 

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