Encyclopedia Titanica


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Survivor Says Aged Man Got Hope from Interpretation of Faulty Wireless Message




Warned Some on Board Who Laughed at Danger, Remained in Bunks, and Perished


Charles Wilhelms, foreman of a large glass factory of London, who was one of the survivors of the Titanic, visited the Times office yesterday to express his thanks, because, he said, he felt that THE TIMES'S reports of the names of survivors had saved his father's life. Mr. Wilhelms was traveling here to visit his aged father, Joseph Wilhems, and his sister, Mrs. Frederick Belcher of 2,270 Broadway. His father was very ill, having recently suffered a stroke of paralysis, and when news of the sinking of the Titanic reached the old man it was feared that the shock would prove too much for him. He grew rapidly worse.

When lists of the survivors of the disaster began to come in the old man,

despite his feebly condition, insisted on scanning each newspaper. None of them contained his son's name among the survivors, except THE TIMES, which, having received by wireless the name of "Charles Williams," published that, with the explanation that it was "probably Charles Wilhems," a name in the passenger list of the Titanic. That gave the old man some hope, and helped, the son declared, to keep him alive. Meanwhile, Mr. Wilhems himself had dispatched a wireless message to his father from the Carpathia on Tuesday, but it failed to reach here until Thursday night, two hours before the Carpathia arrived with the survivors.

Like most of the survivors, Mr. Willhems's recollections of the exact happenings of the fateful night of the wreck, including the person with whom he was embarked in a lifeboat and thrown about for the rest of the voyage on the Carpathia, were dim and vague. There was too much horror and confusion in the terrible disaster, he said, to allow any one to be very mindful of who his neighbors were or what boat he had been in.

"A party of four of us had been smoking and playing cards in the second cabin smoking room when the shock came," he said. "There was a man named Fox, a Texas ranchman, one other man, and myself. We felt a slight jar, and hastened to the deck. Even as we did so, we saw the iceberg, huge and white against the dark blue sea, go whizzing past on the starboard side of the ship, just clear of the stern. We returned immediately to the smoking room, and finished our game of cards. By that time we could hear many voices on deck, and again went out to learn what had happened.

"Officers were telling every one that there was no danger, and no reason to worry in the least. Half an hour later, however, the order came to put on lifebelts. I went down to my stateroom and fetched my lifebelt, waking two of my roommates and telling them to put on lifebelts, as the ship had struck a berg. I do not know their names, but I remember they laughed at me in their bunks when I told them to put on the lifebelts. Both of them went down with the ship.

"Hastening up to the boat deck I helped collect the women and children, and assisted them into the lifeboats. All the men were very calm, but some of the women, refusing to be separated from their husbands and sons, had literally to be thrown into the boats. The first boat, as I remember it, had scarcely any passengers in it. I think there were only eight there. I am not sure, but I think I was in the last boat, and there were about fifty-five others with me, of whom all but about eight were women. There were three members of the crew. I don't know the name of the man in command of our boat, but I know he was the Quartermaster in command on the second saloon deck. I have a strong impression that our boat was No. 9. There was a sail in it, but this was not used.

"We rowed about 400 yards from the ship before we saw her settling slowly by the head. Then there was an explosion. The lights went out and the ship seemed to break, her nose plunging down and her stern bucking almost straight up. I put my hands over my earn to shut out the wailing as the lights went out, and those on board began to realize that something dreadful was going to happen. The screams grew fainter and fainter very soon, however. Later in the morning, when we were aboard the Carpathia, saw many of the bodies floating by.

"Our boat remained apart from the rest. We had an electric torch in our boat. Most of the others were in darkness. We could see one batch of five boats tied together, and passengers transferred to these from the boat commanded by Fifth Officer Lowe. Later we saw one of the boats, a collapsible, sinking, just as Lowe returned to rescue the passengers in his boat with others he had picked up at the scene of the wreck."

Mr. Wilhems declared that he had heard several shots fired on the Titanic after he left the ship, and that several of his companions told him they had seen Murdock, [sic] one of the officers, shoot himself. Other survivors, he said, told him that several passengers had been shot by officers in trying to force their way into the lifeboats.

[Note: The inconsistent spelling of "Wilhelms/Wilhems" is in the original.]


Mark Baber, USA


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Encyclopedia Titanica (2010) THINKS TIMES LIST SAVED FATHER'S LIFE (The New York Times, Sunday 21st April 1912, ref: #11708, published 12 October 2010, generated 8th June 2023 10:33:18 AM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/new-entry-11708.html