Encyclopedia Titanica


The Toronto World

    Hide Ads

Loss of Titanic, He Says, Was Due to Criminal Carelessness in Running at Full Speed Thru the Ice With a New Crew--Capt. Smith Was Having His Dinner When Crash Came--Major Peuchen Left in Third Boat, Which Had Only 22 People and Could Have Carried Sixty.

New York, April 19. -- With awful vividness, indicating to some extent at least the terrible scenes that were enacted on the ill-fated Titanic before she plunged over headforemost and disappeared beneath the waves, Major Arthur Peuchen of the Queen's Own Rifles of Toronto told his story of his miraculous escape. This is the fortieth time Major Peuchen has crossed the Atlantic. The story of his rescue from the Titanic reads like a novel.

"Had all the imps of hades risen from the bowels of the mighty ocean and attacked the world's greatest ship, no greater horror could have attended an appalling catastrophe than the miserable fate of the steamer Titanic," he said.

"And, without trying to depict its horrors, I will say it was due to criminal carelessness. [sic]

Criminal Carelessness.

"I do not wish to be misunderstood." said Major Peuchen. "The loss of the Titanic was due to criminal carelessness in running at full speed thru the ice with a new crew, despite the fact that he had received repeated warnings by wireless of the vast ice field and bergs that lay in his path, Capt. Smith notwithstanding these numerous warnings, and the fact that the Titanic was then amidst the ice, Capt. Smith, the one man above all that should have been at his post, was quietly and leisurely partaking of a hearty dinner with a party of friends. They were in the big restaurant and were apparently having an enjoyable and social dinner. [sic]

"The hour was late, and on a Sunday night. Had Capt. Smith been on the bridge, I am confident that the horrible accident would have been averted.' [sic] Here Major Peuchen gave facial expression of his disgust, and insisted that if the captain had been on the bridge, the Titanic would not have hit the berg.

"Why, even if the look-out had been on the job in the crow's nest, he should have seen the berg," said the major.

"It was a monster and the night was beautifully clear, and the stars were shining brightly. [sic]

"The captain was at dinner with Bruce Ismay and a number of millionaires for more than three hours that night. [sic]

"Instead of being on the bridge, where he belonged, knowing that we were going into the fields. Not a single extra was posted, and the speed was never reduced a particle. We were running very fast when we struck. [sic]

"We had had bad luck from the start,' [sic] declared Peuchen, "narrowly escaping a smash in Southampton harbour."

Direct responsibility for the disaster according to the narrative is due to the methods pursued on the liner. Major Peuchen declares there was not a searchlight on board, and that there was gross carelessness on the part of captain and crew. He states emphatically that the lifeboats were insufficient in number and that, when manned, they were not properly filled. As a contrast, however, Major Peuchen pays the highest tribute to all on board. Bravery and self-sacrifice were manifested on every side. Panic and cowardice were things unknown in the character of that liner's human cargo. Even to the last moment the terrors of a watery grave inspired no fear, and as the big liner took her final headlong plunge the band on board played "Nearer My God to Thee."

Major Peuchen told his story complete, even from the very day the vessel sailed.

Ten Friends Drowned.

"I booked my passage with Mr. Markland Molson, and Mr. and Mrs. Allison and their two year old daughter," said he. "I had Sunday night dinner with him and Mr. and Mrs. Allison. They're all drowned. Ten of my personal intimate friends went down, including Hugo Ross, Mr. Beatty, Mr. McCarthy [sic] of Vancouver, Chas. M. Hays, Thornton Davidson and the Fortunes.[sic]

"I was delighted with the ship and it's magnificence, but disappointed to find Captain Smith in command. I didn't like his record with the Olympic and said so.[sic]

"Then we had that accident an hour after leaving Southampton. That bothered me.[sic]

Quiet Starlit Night.

"But Sunday was a perfect day and the night quiet and starlit. There was an exceptional bill of fare on for the evening dinner. We were all in evening dress and the music went on as usual.[sic]

"I dined with Mrs. Markland Molson [sic], Mr. and Mrs. Allison, and their little girl. Everything was exceptionally bright. Then I went to the smoking room and met Mr. Beatty , a partner of Mr. Hugo Ross of Winnipeg, formerly of Toronto. I also met Mr. McCarthy [sic] of the Union Bank of Vancouver, and a financial man from Toronto. Talk was unusually bright. This was at about 11 o'clock. Then I said 'Good-night, I am going to turn in.' I had just reached my berth when I heard a dull thud. It was not like a collision, and I didn't think it serious. That's extraordinary. [sic] I thought, and went up to see. I ran upstairs, and on the way met a friend, who laughingly said that we had struck an iceberg, and we went upon deck.[sic]

Didn't Think It Serious.

"At first I didn't think it was serious. Half an hour later, I met Mr. Hays and Mr. Davidson, and took them forward to show them ice on her decks showered there by the berg when she struck us. She had hit us about fifty feet aft of the bow on the starboard side. All the portholes on that side were rammed with ice.[sic]

"There we found that we had struck aft on the bow, about seventy-five feet from the point, and had scraped along the starboard side. It must either have shifted the keel or ripped open the side, for we began to take in water along the whole length of the boat. The bulkheads were, therefore, no use. I went on deck and saw the ice falling on us. The berg was about seventy feet high. Our boat itself was seven decks high, and the berg was even with the upper deck. As the berg passed the port-holes it alarmed the women in the berths. The passengers came on deck one by one, some in pyjamas, some in evening gowns. They were not yet much alarmed. I went inside and spoke with my friend Molson. Mr. Hugo Ross was sick in bed. Then I got in touch with Mr. Charles Hays and Mr. Thornton Davidson, a son-in-law of Mr. Hays. Then, three of us, Mr. Hays, Mr. Molson and Mr. Davidson, went up to see the ice.

Saved a Tiepin.

"When I showed Mr. Hays the ice he said it was nothing, but just then I noticed she was also listing and exclaimed: 'This is serious.' A few minutes later I heard people say they had been ordered to put on life preservers. I went below and changed my dress suit for this."

An expressive glance indicated chocolate coloured trousers, a collarless negliee shirt, a nondescript sweater and water-stained tan boots.

I put on heavy underwear and two pairs of socks," he continued, "and turned back for this pet pearl tiepin and three oranges. I decided 'twas no time to bother with valuables such as gift jewels and $200,000 worth of bonds and $17,000 worth of stock. The latter were registered anyway.[sic]

"But I made sure of my overcoat and tied a life preserver over it.[sic]

All Had Life Belts.

"It was rather sad to turn and leave the cherry room I had occupied, cosy, large and comfortable as it was. When I got outside, all the people lined up with life preservers in the companion-way made matters look very serious.[sic]

"When I reached the deck they were swinging the lifeboats. I helped lower those on the port side and get out the heavy masts and sails stowed in them. In order to make more room for passengers, and assisted the ladies in.[sic]

"On the top deck, as I mounted, all the boats were swung out ready for action. Just at the moment a mob of stokers swarmed up to the decks. The first officer, a big burly fellow, drove them back. Then I found out they were short-handed and I assisted. I helped cut off all the cords on the first lifeboat and to take out the sail. Then I assisted in putting the ladies in the boats and the officers stood nearby. We filled the first boat and lowered it. The women kissed their husbands good-bye; the husbands assisted their wives and then stood back like any other men.[sic]

No Men Allowed.

"No men on the port side were allowed in the boats. It was criminal the way some were sent off unloaded. The third, the one I was in, left with only 22. It could have carried 60.[sic]

"It had been lowered 55 or 60 feet when the quartermaster, who was in command of it, called out: 'We have only one man here. That's not enough to handle the boat. I want three or four seamen.' There were none there. I said to the second officer I'd been a yachtsman all my life and could help if he wanted he [sic] to.[sic]

"Get in!" said he.[sic]

It looked like a long jump. The second officer suggested my climbing out a lower deck porthole. That was impossible. The boat was hanging too far from the side. I shouted to the seamen aboard to throw me the loose end of the line of one of the blocks. I caught it as it swung towards me and jumped. One hundred and ninety pounds is a good weight to come suddenly on the end of a slack rope, but my grip held."

Ordered into Boat.

Major Peuchen has a letter on a scrap of paper, given voluntarily, and signed by the Titanic's second officer, which reads as follows:

"Major Arthur Peuchen was ordered into the boat by me, owing to the fact that I required a seamen, which he proved himself to be, as well as a brave man.[sic]

"D. C. H. Lyntollie [sic]

"Second officer late SS. Titanic."

"We found an Italian with a broken arm stowed away in our boat.[sic]

"One of the others pried out four Japanese from beneath the thwarts and almost all of the 16 had three or four stowaways, but the boats hadn't all water. Some had no food, and ours at least was launched with the plug out. When the call for help came from the Titanic and the boats were signaled by whistle to return for more people, our quartermaster refused. So did the other boats; all but one. She distributed her load among us and returned.[sic]

All Hope Gone.

"We rowed away like good fellows. At last I saw there was no hope. The decks were disappearing tier by tier into the sea as the lights on each deck went out. The Titanic was doomed.[sic]

[sic] Just before I left the deck, Hays was the last man I saw. He came up and said: Peuchen, good-by. This boat is good for eight hours yet. By that time we shall have help and the boats will be able to unload and come back for more passengers. I have it from one of the best seamen on this ship that she can't sink. Then as we left we let off the first rockets. Elsewhere everything was quiet. The steerage was nowhere in evidence.[sic]

Liner Was Doomed.

"I knew that the boat was doomed. When I got down on the level I saw her serious position. She was sinking bow first. Then we began to row without compass, without light, but with a little food and water. Our sailor in charge had also got at some brandy and was incapable. So we had no provisions. No. 13 was said no food or water on board. After we had rowed three-quarters of a hour towards a certain light, which this fool of ours thought was a vessel, he wanted to know if we thought it was a buoy. Then he called it a fishing smack, but it proved to be the Northern Lights. He was the most stupid man I ever saw. He kept calling out this and that and making incoherent remarks.[sic]

"I said, 'Why don't you help us to row?' but he became indignant , and replied: 'I am in control of this boat,' with a great show of anger.[sic]

"Then we heard an awful sound and a loud report boomed over the icy sea like an explosion. tI [sic] was said that the tremendous weight of the Titanic going down by the nose caused an air pressure in the centre amidships, and she broke in two, and foundered.[sic]

An Awful Scene.

"Never have Iheard [sic] such awful cries and shrieks. People came tumbling down like so many oranges. Chain ropes, furniture and human beings were hurled in a terible [sic] jumble into the sea, as if rolling down a steep hill. From the time of the accident the ship's orchestra played bright lively airs. I remember particularly, 'Alexander's Rag Time Band' floating out to us in the lifeboats, but just before the Titanic sank the strains were 'Nearer My God to Thee.'

"Only four persons were saved at the last. In the morning the steamer went back over the scene of the disaster, but we did not see one person, nor a single corpse. There were in all sixteen lifeboats, two emergency boats, and two canvas decked rafts, making twenty. Two were filled with water and sank, and about thirteen came to our big boat, the Carpathia.[sic]

"All alone we were on the barren sea. We yelled at intervals. Then all at once we saw the headlight of this steamer. The boat sank about two hours from the time she first struck the berg. My mind is that she struck at 12:30 and went down at 2:30.[sic]

A Glad Sight.

"I rowed from four o'clock until eight, when we reached a steamer. That ship was the gladdest sight I ever saw. We were about the last to get alongside. The steamer was sixty five miles away when she got the message. She immediately turned around and put on double stokers and made for us.[sic]

Everybody Kind.

"Then, as the sun came up we could see that she was a big steamer, with ladders down, ready for us to mount. I climbed up on deck, and dropped there exhausted. They took off my life preserver, and a put [sic] blanket around me. I took a big black coffee and a brandy. They were kindness itself. Nothing could exceed the attentions paid us by crew and passengers.[sic]

A Ghastly Sight.

"Then came the sad part of it all. I had ten personal friends, Canadians, on the Titanic. I began the search for them and I saw Mrs. Hays and the Allison's nurse and baby. I went to look for Hugo Ross, Mr. Hays, Mr. Davidson and Mr. Molson. But I was the only Canadian man on that boat. I kept going around the deck, but couldn't find them. One of the most ghastly things of all was to see one of the collapsible boats come in with a number of corpses. The boat overweighted with passengers,, [sic] sank below the water level, and one by one as the victims exhausted sank into the water they were drowned and their corpses floated away. It was a ghastly sight. The boats arrived with the dead and living. Some of the boats we took aboard and some we let go with the bodies still in them.[sic]

"We then started to steam away and another vessel had come up an hour or so before we left. She was the Californian, and she cruised around to seek the survivors, in hope that some were still alive.[sic]

"There were a number of Frenchmen and Americans saved. But only four Englishmen, a number of Japanese and Europeans were stowed away in the lifeboats. They, too, were saved.[sic]

Wore Evening Dress.

"In my stateroom were three men who had jumped overboard, two Englishmen and an American. They said good-bye to those on deck, and then jumped. They swam to a raft and got aboard very quietly. The passengers on the raft were firemen and stokers, and the Englishmen feared they would not be permitted to board her. 'We were early to arrive,' they said. For after that they threw everyone off who reached the raft. It was a case of every man for himself. We saved 200 of the crew, which was far too high a percentage. On the Carpathia there was a saddened crowd. Every woman had lost a husband, or a father, or a brother. A great majority were widows. They were clad in evening dress, in night clothes, and in any garments they had hastily found. They presented a pitiable sight." Major Peuchen now ventured a criticism of the Titanic's management. He considered that the accident was inexcusable.

"If ordinary caution or good seamanship had been used," he stated, "the accident would not have occurred. The Titanic was a good boat, luxuriously fitted up, and I have never seen anything to compare with her.[sic]

Didn't Like Captain.

"When I got on at Southampton I was pleased with her. But when I heard that our captain was Captain Smith, my heart rose in my mouth. 'Surely, we are not going to have that man, ' I said. An hour after sailing we got into a needless tangle with several other boats. We had a scratch crew on the Titanic, who knew nothing about the business. The weather changed suddenly 30 degrees, on Sunday, from 6 to 11:30 o'clock. The officers stated that they had received wireless messages telling of icebergs. Ismay, also, is said to have shown to Miss Ryerson [sic] a message regarding the icebergs. We will slow down then,' said she. 'No, I guess not,' Ismay is reported to have said.[sic]

Had Dinner Party.

"At seven o'clock on the night of the accident the captain went to a dinner party yin [sic] full dress and stayed until nine or ten-thirty, and I am at a loss to understand why acaptain [sic] with 2000 souls in his care, and in a ship approaching icebergs, should dine in a restaurant in that way.[sic]

"It was a calm night, and we could have seen icebergs on all hands if we had a searchlight. We did not have a searchlight, but if we had it would have averted the accident. We still ran at a rate of about twenty-five miles an hour, an excessively high rate of speed. We did not even slow up and they did not put on any additional watches. I asked the officers afterwards as to the reason for the omission, but they would not answer.[sic]

"The man who rowed next to me in the lifeboat was the man on the crow's nest when the vessel struck. He said he had rung three bells on first seeing the iceberg, but had received no answer from the bridge.[sic]

There was also no means taken to show passengers how to enter the lifeboats. The crew was inexperienced.[sic]

Ismay's Escape.

Major Peuchen described Mr. Ismay's escape as follows:

"Ismay was on deck helping people into the boats. As the last boat came they ordered all the men away from it, but evidently the officer in charge, knowing Mr. Ismay was a prominent officer of the company, let him into it. They had also ordered other people out of the same boat. I claim that the boats were highly insufficient in numbers , ando [sic] that they were not properly filled or manned. We hav [sic] all signed a recommendation to the American Government, stating that an investigation should be held, [sic] IF WE HAD HAD THE CAPTAIN OF OUR BOAT, THE CARPATHIA, THE ACCIDENT WOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED.[sic]

One Man Shot.

"It was stated that the first officer shot himself. As the last boat left, I am told that the people began to jump in on to the women. One of the officers is said to have drawn his revolver and shot a man thru the 'aw [sic?]."

Major Peuchen stated that one of the men in taking the temperature did not have a long enough line to reach the water. He took some warmer water from a ship tap and carried this up to the bridge to make the temperature test.

"I think Mr. Ismay must have been ashamed of himself, as he did not show himself on deck for three days after the rescue," commented Major Peuchen. Major Peuchen wired his family: "Saved: Arthur." But the message never reached his wife and family.

A Tragic Death.

"When I last saw Mr. Markland Molson he wore his big coat, and was cheerful," commented Major Peuchen. "I shal [sic] never forget the expression on the face of Mrs. Allison. Two men led her up to the other side of the boat where Mr. Allison was. He had to be wakened twice, as he would not believe that there was any danger. She put the nurse and baby into a boat. The story of her death is cruelly tragic. She was on a raft which was partially submerged with its load. She held on to a man's leg, but gradually her hold loosened, and she fell into the water covering the raft and was drowned. Her body floated back across the waves to join those of her husband and her child.[sic]

"We took u pa [sic] subscription of about $3000 on the Carpathia, which will go to the gallant sailors on that vessel, and to the needy survivors. We shall also give a loving cup to the captain and officers.[sic]

Cries of Fear.

Major Peuchen stated that the screams of Mrs. J. J. Astor alarmed the whole boat when she heard that she must put on a life preserver. The passengers were sleeping at the time, but the awful cries of fear roused the sleepers to the reality of their danger.

No one can tell how Mr. Fortune of Winnipeg came to his death. There were two or three deaths on the Carpathia as she sped homeward. There were also a number of crippled people with broken limbs, but no cases of pneumonia.

Major Peuchen stated that the reason that they did not reply to wireless messages was because they wished to send out the names of survivors. He could give no adequate explanation of the alleged censure of the wireless.

Written Instructions.

A private wire to The World from New York was as follows:

"A friend told us that he had an interview with Major Peuchen of Toronto, who is a survivor of the Titanic. He states that many of the lifeboats did not contain their full complement, and the one in which he embarked had only thirty-four, altho [sic] a capacity for seventy-two. He would not go on the boat, altho [sic] urged, until he had secured from the ship's officer in charge a written order instructing hi mto [sic] do so. He was not willing to be under the suspicion of having forced his way on board and the cowardice which would have been implied by it. He says that from what he saw and learned from others, he is satisfied that the whole number of first-class passengers could have been saved, but there was such unlimited confidence in the ship's ability to keep afloat that many were positively reluctant, and even refused to go on the lifeboats. He was talking with Mr. Charles M. Hays (Davidson's father-in-law), and he said to him that he had the assurance from the ship's officers that in any event she could be depended upon to stay afloat eight hours, and by that time the approaching ships would have come to their relief."

Related Biographies

Arthur Godfrey Peuchen


 Upload Media   Contact Us

Find Related Items


Encyclopedia Titanica (2005) MAJOR PEUCHEN BLAMES CAPTAIN WHO WENT DOWN WITH HIS SHIP (The Toronto World, Saturday 20th April 1912, ref: #4916, published 28 November 2005, generated 28th September 2022 07:27:09 PM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/peuchen-blame-captain.html