Mr Barkworth's Return

Striking Story of Titanic Disaster

Capt. Smith’s Message to the Ladies

The cries of the drowning

(Exclusive to the “Daily Mail”)

Mr. A. H. Barkworth, J.P., of Tranby House, Hessle, has returned to his home after his miraculous escape from death in the foundering of the Titanic.

After some persuasion, Mr. Barkworth, who was on Thursday elected an East Riding County Councillor, consented to relate his experiences to the “Mail.” In his thrilling story he brought to light some new facts in this terrible disaster, and told exactly how his life was spared.

There were several outstanding incidents in the narrative. For instance, when asked about the last acts of the captain, Mr Barkworth replied: The last of Captain Smith I saw was when he was surrounded by a crowd of crying ladies asking him many questions. “Go back to your cabins, ladies, and put on your lifebelts, and come back to the boat deck. I assure you there is no danger.” I thought that sounded rather bad myself, added Mr Barkworth.

Mr Barkworth also stated that soon after the Titanic sank the cries and the screams of the drowning people were terrible to hear.

He explained that when he swam to an overturned boat, and was about to clamber on it, some of the survivors standing on it exclaimed, “Look out, you will swamp us.”

Mr Barkworth also gave his version of the band incident, and what he heard the bandsmen playing.

Hanging Over Ship’s Side

The magnificence of the appointments of the liner and the social side of life on board, as briefly referred to by Mr Barkworth, served to throw into sharp contrast the terrible and sudden end of it all. Mr Barkworth was in the first-class smoking-room when the shock came.

“After all the boats had gone everybody seemed to be waiting for death on the doomed ship. I however, determined to leave the ship, and make a fight for my life in the water. I climbed on to the top rail on the boat deck, and getting over, hung suspended by the side of the ship over the sea with one hand. I should say the distance to the water was about 30 feet now, for the vessel had such a big list that I thought she was going to turn turtle. She had also sunk considerably in the water, for ordinarily the distance to the water would have been nearly seventy feet. I hesitated for a few moments before dropping, for the sea seemed to be full of chairs and other wreckage thrown overboard by the passengers, and I thought I should hurt myself. Fancy,” added Mr Barkworth, in a reflective aside, “thinking of such a thing at such a time. It has occurred to me that it was dangerous to have dropped down the side of the vessel for fear she might have sunk quickly, and that it would have better to jump clear. How far I sank I cannot tell, and I swallowed no end of salt water.

Volley of Explosions

“When I came to the surface I swam as hard as I could to get away from the suction I expected would be caused by the sinking of such a large vessel. I am a good swimmer, and after swimming for a considerable distance in the icy cold water, I managed to get hold of a piece of wreckage, which I got under my arms. This supported me somewhat, and I was now able to turn round and look at the Titanic. I saw the vessel was sinking, and she went down with a volley of loud explosions caused, in my opinion, by the air breaking up the decks, and possibly the rending of the water tight compartments, although some survivors have stated that they were caused by the boilers exploding.

An Upturned Boat

“The lights of the vessel had disappeared one by one as she sank, and I continued to swim in the darkness. Suddenly I saw ahead of me what proved to be an upturned lifeboat of the Titanic with a number of people standing on it. I swam up to this, and got hold of it while there were shouts of, “Look out, you will swamp us.” Naturally I did not pay much attention to these, but managed to draw myself up to the side of it. I was wearing a life jacket, which kept me well up in the water, while the overturned boat with the weight was low down. There were over twenty of us crouching on either side of the keel, and our limbs were becoming paralysed by the coldness of the water. We decided that it would be better to stand up, and so one by one we stood up very gently, so that our frail craft was not over-balanced. Even in this position the water washed over our ankles with the least movement.

Correcting An Impression

Mr Barkworth here stated he was anxious to correct the wrong impression caused in a hurried cable that he was in the water clinging to the overturned boat for six hours. That would have been a physical impossibility with the water at such a temperature. As indicated above, when he swam to this overturned boat he managed to climb onto it. He should think he was in the water and on this boat for over five hours. His watch had, of course, been stopped. Mr Barkworth explained that the boat had been launched wrong side up which was fortunate for him, otherwise it would have been like the other boats, too far off for him to swim to it.

It was easy to picture the desolate spectacle of the 20 to 25 men crouching and standing on the overturned boat. “By the time I had got to it,” he said, “I could hear the cries and screams of the drowning people. It was terrible to hear them. We could do nothing for them, for we were helpless on the drifting overturned boat, which was swept away by the strong current from the struggling people in the water. If it had been taken towards them there is no doubt it would have been swamped.

Died With Exhaustion

“Several did manage to swim to the boat, and climbed onto it. But during the weary night two of these died from exhaustion, and one slipped off into the sea when it “began to get up” in the morning. One body was subsequently taken on to the Carpathia, and it was buried at sea.

“As daylight broke we could see the Carpathia apparently three miles away, although we could not do anything to move in her direction. I then discovered that there was one of the Titanic’s officers also on the overturned lifeboat, and he blew his whistle and we shouted loudly, and when one of the Titanic’s lifeboats got within hailing distance he ordered it to stand by, and we were taken off. Two of the Titanic’s boats came alongside and we were got off in perfect order, commencing at one end of the submerged boat, and finishing at the other. This will account for the reports that have been circulated that several of the boats contained more men than women. In the case I have mentioned at least thirty men were taken from our boat. The Titanic’s lifeboats were already full when we got into them and there would be sixty people in the lifeboat in which I arrived alongside the Carpathia. The women were sent up in slings and the children in coal bags, and the men climbed up the rope ladder. The latter was a difficult feat after the experience we had gone through, and with the rolling of the ship. Once on board we were received with the greatest kindness, and no words of mine can speak too highly of the kindness of the captain, officers, doctors, and crew alike. I am glad to note that some 4,500 dollars collected on the Carpathia have been devoted to recognising their great kindness to the survivors.

The Band Incident

Questioned as to the band on the Titanic playing up to the last minutes after the boats had been lowered away, Mr Barkworth said, “I returned to my cabin to try to get some things, but found the door locked. The band at that time was playing a waltz tune; but when I returned from the cabin their instruments were thrown down. This was some little while before I left the ship; whether the band commenced to play again I cannot say for they were on the opposite side of the ship to that I climbed over. They might have returned to their instruments.

“When I left the vessel there was no panic,” Mr Barkworth stated in reply to a question. “Everybody seemed to be calmly waiting their end.”

Personally, Mr Barkworth has practically recovered from his trying experience, although his fingers, which were frost bitten, are still somewhat stiff. He is being overwhelmed with congratulations and inquiries. A sad side consists of the communications he is receiving from relatives asking for news of those who never returned. Of course he is unable to answer them.

Related Biographies:

Algernon Henry Barkworth

Relates to Place:

Hessle, Yorkshire, England


Transcribed by Gordon Steadwood


Encyclopedia Titanica (2014) Mr Barkworth's Return (Daily Mail, Friday 17th May 1912, ref: #20071, published 27 April 2014, generated 1st July 2020 11:03:12 PM); URL :