Encyclopedia Titanica


Camden Post-Telegram

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Ship's Head Barber Tells Camden Elks of His Thrilling Experience.
Bruce Ismay was defended last night by Gus Weikman at the home of Camden Lodge of Elks in Mr. Weikman's recital of his thrilling escape when the Titanic sank. Mr. Weikman was head barber on the boat. He lives at Palmyra and was the guest of the lodge on the invitation of members of the order who also reside at Palmyra. He is still suffering from injuries sustained and exposure while in the water, and walks with a cane. Upwards of 150 members of the lodge heard his recital, which was indeed a thrilling narrative.

What impressed Mr. Weikman's listeners most was his repeated declaration that practically everybody on the boat had no idea that it was possible to sink her. A dozen or so times in the course of his story he emphasized this belief. He placed the blame for the disaster in the wireless companies, declaring that had proper consideration been shown to the Titanic operation by ships using instruments of another company there would not have been such a sacrifice of life.

Mr. Weikman stated that when the boat hit the berg he was in his room reading. The officers of the boat knew of the proximity of ice, but he declared that such information sent by other vessels was nothing new at this season of the year; that for the entire thirty years he has followed the sea there was ice in May and June. He was emphatic in declaring that the Titanic would not have sunk had she not tried to avoid the ice berg. By this he meant that had she hit the great mass head-on she would have only suffered a loss of 150 or 200 feet of her bow and would have stayed on the water. As it was the great liner veered 700 feet or so in an effort to get round the berg and in so doing hit one of the jagged edges, ripping scores of small holes in her plates.

Mr. Weikman states that it was 11:40 o'clock when the Titanic struck and that immediately water began pouring into the mail and baggage rooms and also into boiler rooms 3, 4, 5 and 6. The fires in these were drawn at once, else there would have been a terrific explosion and no one would have been saved.

Gus stated that as soon as the liner hit the berg he hurried up to the deck. On the way up he met Mr. Andrews, the builder of the boat, and in answer to his question as to what the situation was the builder replied "My God, it's serious." Mr. Weikman also met Captain Smith on the stairway and spoke to him concerning the extent of the damage. The Captain made no reply.

Hearing the Captain order some of the officers to get all the steerage passengers on one of the upper decks Weikman aided in this work and then hastened to the deck, where he was immediately presses into service getting the boats in shape for launching. In loading the boats they aimed to put one man to every four women, and in this work Mr. Ismay lent valuable aid. Mr. Weikman says that the managing director of the company was attired then only in his pajamas and was barefooted. He gave orders quickly and coolly and did not go below to fully dress until after several of the lifeboats had been filled and lowered into the ocean.

"There was no finer man on the boat than Ismay," said Mr. Weikman. "He is a brick, a white man, and did not get a square deal in the papers. He was in one of the last boats to be lowered because I was right there helping to get them overboard."

Evidencing the general belief of the crew that the Titanic would not go down Gus says that after he had helped launch several of the boats he came to the conclusion that it was not necessary to spoil his new uniform so he returned to his room and put on an old suit and supplied himself with a pair of gloves. These latter were afterward invaluable aide in the saving of his life.

"The crisis came while I was aiding in getting loose the last collapsible boat," said the narrator. "All at once the bow of the Titanic dipped down into the ocean about 500 feet and the stern reared itself in the air about 350 feet. No person under deck at this time had a possible chance to escape, and all on deck were hurled into a jumble in the center of the boat. I was covered with ropes, timbers and chains and while endeavoring to extricate myself could hear the sheiks, yells and moans of the dying. Finally I got loose except for a rope fastened about my foot. This gave me considerable trouble, but I finally got free and began to swim away from the ship.

"I had not gone more than fifteen feet when there was an explosion on the boat and I was hurled about 100 feet away from her with a lot of the ship's appliances falling about me. In the wreckage were a dozen or so deck chairs tied together. This fell near me and saved my life. Climbing on them I turned and looked at the Titanic. The great ship seemed to be standing on her bow. Her stern was high in the air and she was gradually going down. I was afraid that when she did disappear the suction would drag me down, but my fears in this respect did not come true. She went down with scarcely a ripple.

"With the danger of suction gone I scanned the ocean for lifeboats. Six hundred feet or so away I saw a raft, which appeared to be crowded, but I determined to get on if possible or be near so I could be rescued if help came. My raft was not large enough for my whole body and it was necessary for me to let my feet and legs drag in the water. I still had my gloves on and with my hands thus protected I was enabled to paddle my way to the raft.

"Here's the time the Titanic went down, or at least when I was thrown into the water," continued Mr. Weikman, drawing a handsome gold watch from his pocket. The watch was stopped at ten minutes of two. "She ceased running when I struck the water and has not ticked since," he said holding the time-piece up to the view of his listeners.

Detailing his struggles to keep from tumbling from his tiny raft, Mr. Weikman told of reaching the big raft and said to his surprise it did not contain near as many persons as he thought were on. He later learned that every time the raft tilted some one fell into the sea and was lost. He spoke of wondering why several men holding fast to the ropes on the side of the raft did not clamber aboard. They, too, were dead, having been killed by exposure.

The raft was ten inches under water and all suffered intensely, and when one of the life boats found them after having put her first load on the Carpathia seventeen of the twenty-eight aboard were dead. Mr. Weikman himself was nearly "all in." He was only partly conscious when carried on the rescue ship and when revived several hours later found himself in the steerage dining rooms surrounded by a lot of foreigners. None could speak English and it was not until the steerage steward happened along that he learned where he was and where the ship was found.

Asked if he had seen Mr. Astor Mr. Weikman said that the multi-millionaire was apparently waiting for a special boat to take him off. He spoke of George Widener and John B. Thayer as real men and said each of them declined an opportunity to get into one of the last boats to be launched.

Mr. Weikman was very bitter in his criticism of the wireless company, and besides scoring them for what he termed their jealousness and commercialism said that a message he filed on Monday to his wife, telling her that he was safe, was not sent until Wednesday.

Following his general talk Mr. Weikman was kept busy until midnight answering questions and explaining details of the disaster.


Mark Baber, USA


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Encyclopedia Titanica (2003) ISMAY PRAISED BY TITANIC SURVIVOR (Camden Post-Telegram, Wednesday 15th May 1912, ref: #422, published 28 August 2003, generated 27th November 2022 04:25:41 PM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/ismay-praised-titanic-survivor.html