Men Who Died Like Heroes

Highland News

The Ocean Tragedy

Heartrending Scenes

Men Who Died Like Heroes

The stupendous tragedy which occurred in the North Atlantic on the evening of Sunday last has stunned civilisation with its awfulness. The modern mind developed by certain habits of thought recoils in incredulous horror from the acceptance of the ghastly truth. The Titanic, the latest product of a world’s accumulated knowledge, fitted with appliances that seemed to mock the forces of Nature, luxurious to extravagance, gets into opposition with the changeless forces of Nature, is rendered helpless, and goes under carrying the major portion of her human inhabitants. No tragedy so picturesque in its horror has ever before darkened the face of this fair earth. In the smallest villages as in the large cities of the world, the announcement of the disaster gives rise to feelings incapable of analysis or description. In Inverness, as elsewhere, the loss of the mighty ship, in whose maiden trip so much interest was being taken, has been practically the only topic of conversation among hushed groups who gathered in the streets during the week.

Story Of The Disaster

The truth about the Titanic is now known. The Carpathia arrived at New York on Thursday night with about 775 survivors, who relate thrilling narratives of this terrible tragedy of the ocean. The number of lives lost is placed at 1600. The great leviathan sank alone. No other ship was present to witness her death or help her in the hour of her extremity. When the Carpathia reached the scene of the awful disaster the pride of the White Star Line had sunk beneath the waves; the boats alone, with their human freight, remained to tell the tale of the great disaster.

In the still hours of the night, about 11:35 p.m., the vessel that was accounted to be a triumph over the elements met a giant icefield, slowly drifting from the Arctic regions, which delivered the fatal blow.

The gigantic mass of ice hopelessly  crippled the Titanic. So terrible was the impact that 200 of the Titanic’s sailors, sleeping in the bow, were drowned immediately the collision occurred. One survivor, explaining the awful scenes that occurred after the Titanic struck the iceberg, said the liner was ripped from her starboard to the engine room by great masses of ice. She was struck amidships. The side of the vessel was ripped open as if by a giant can-opener. She quickly listed to starboard. Water poured into the liner at a terrific rate, defying the pumps; compartments were quickly flooded; and four hours after the shock, the great liner, believed to be unsinkable, was at the bottom of the mighty Atlantic, carrying with her about two-thirds of the passengers and crew.

A Terrible Scene

Following the terrible crash, the passengers, many of them only scantily attired, surged up to the decks. The officers assured them that the ship was unsinkable, and they returned to their cabins. The wireless operator at once got into communication with every ship within range, and several ocean greyhounds were steaming at full speed to answer the frantic signals for help. For two precious hours the captain waited before giving orders to have the lifeboats launched. By this time it was apparent that the ship was doomed.

A state of panic now reigned aboard the vessel. Pitiful scenes were witnessed as wives, mothers, sisters, sweethearts parted from the ones they loved best. Wives clung to their husbands, mothers to their children, girls to their sweethearts, and pleaded to be allowed to remain with them and die. Many had to be torn from a last embrace and carried to their allotted places in the boats, shouting a last fond farewell. The officers attempted to carry out the time-honoured rule in marine disasters – “Women and children first” – but men naturally heroic were unstrung by the horror of the moment. A few Chinamen and stokers hid in the lifeboats.

Lifeboats Swamped.

Four of the lifeboats were swamped in the process of launching. What must have been the feelings of the women in the boats as they rowed clear of the expiring giant, leaving those dearer to them than riches, without whom it seemed life would not be worth living, to an unknown fate. As the boats were cast away from the giant liner the band assembled on deck and struck up the strains of that beautiful hymn, “Nearer, my God, to Thee.” A never-to-be- forgotten scene.

The Titanic was slowly settling in the sea, and the liners, rushing with all speed to her aid, were still far off, when it was seen that death was to be the lot of hundreds of those on board.

Captain Goes Down With Ship

Captain Smith – all honour to him – made absolutely no attempt to leave the ship, and insisted on going down with the vessel. The report that he committed suicide is discredited. As one of the passengers said, “He stuck to the bridge like a hero.” He was washed off the bridge by a wave, but managed to swim back to the bridge. Several persons attempted to persuade the captain to enter a boat, but he refused to do so.

“Nearer, My God, To Thee.”

The survivors all say that as the boats were hurrying away from the wreck the Marine Band did its best to cheer up the waning hopes of the passengers. One or two airs were struck up. It was a spectacle which no one will ever forget. Suddenly the band stopped, the leader moved his baton and in slow, solemn tones the air , “Nearer, my God, to Thee,” was wafted across the water to our ears. The band played the hymn continuously until their instruments were choked off by the swirling water that closed about their heads as they went to a hero’s grave. Many of the women uttered one shriek, threw up their arms, and fell fainting to the deck. Others sat tight-lipped, and never a sound to betray the great emotion that passed within.


Statements by survivors show that Colonel Astor was one of the Titanic’s heroes. Efforts were made to persuade him to take a place in a lifeboat, but he emphatically refused to do so until every woman and child on board had been provided for, not excepting those women who were members of the ship’s company. One passenger said that the Colonel’s last act was that of lifting a tiny child into the last boat to seat it beside its mother.

The firemen of the Titanic sang sea songs whilst assisting in lowering the boats loaded with women and children, and this did a great deal to allay the alarm.

Survivors say they saw Mr W. T. Stead jump overboard before the final plunge. All speak of him acting heroically – helping to get ready the boats and looking after the women and children.

Inverness And Northern Men Aboard.

The crew of the Titanic included Mr. J. Fraser (30) of Inverness, who was employed as a greaser; Mr. D. Matheson (30), A.B.; Mr. J.M. Smith, Elgin (35) – junior fourth engineer: and Mr H. Begrie, Dunrobin, Sutherlandshire, bedroom steward.

Inverness Mails Probably Lost.

We were able to ascertain officially last night that in the ordinary course all letters for Canada and the United States posted at Inverness General Post Office between Saturday, the 6th inst., and 10 a.m. on Wednesday, the 10th inst., would have been consigned to the Titanic at Queenstown on Thursday. In all probability, therefore, these letters have been lost with the luckless vessel. It would be advisable in any case that urgent communications posted within the period indicated be, if possible, repeated.

Related Biographies:

J. Fraser
David Matherson
James Muil Smith


Gordon Steadwood


Encyclopedia Titanica (2014) Men Who Died Like Heroes (Highland News, Saturday 20th April 1912, ref: #20073, published 30 April 2014, generated 1st June 2020 05:20:23 AM); URL :