Encyclopedia Titanica

Radio Interview with Albert Horswill

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Sunday, May 10, 1934



Ladies and gentlemen, once again we are pleased to
present a speaker on tonight's "Headlines of Other Days"
program who has been identified with the news story of
the Sinking of the Titanic which we have just retold.
This man was a quartermaster on the Titanic and was in
charge of one of the lifeboats which was sent out from
the sinking liner. He is one of a small number of the
crew to escape with his life. His is Albert Edward
Horswell, a resident of Gary, Indiana, formerly of
Edinburgh, Scotland. Mr. Horswell started his career as a
sailor at the age of eleven years and pursued the seafaring
life until fourteen years ago when he came ashore for the
last time and accepted a position at Gary, Indiana.
Mr. Horswell:


From the time I was a kid in Edinburgh I was crazy to
be a sailor. I wanted to see the world, just like any
other boy, I guess.
So in 1890, when I was 11, I ran away from home and
shipped out of Liverpool on a windjammer bound for the Orient.
I saw the sun come up over Hong Kong, China, on my 12th
Later I joined the royal British navy -- "His Majesty's"
navy it was. I was on the Royal Sovereign when it blew up
off the Isle of Malta and killed 24 men. Later I was a heavy



gunner expert on the Cornwall. I tested long rifles with
extra heavy charges and eventually burst both ear-drums.
They invalided me out of the service in 1902.
From then on until 1913 I worked on various ships of
the White Star line, serving alternately as able seaman,
lookout and quartermaster. In 1904 I signed articles on the
liner Oceanic, which during the World war was torpedoed by a
German U-boat off the Shetland Islands.
I was on the Oceanic when I first heard about the
Titanic. It was being built in the shipyards at Belfast,
Ireland, I heard, at a cost of $7,500,000.
The Titanic was some ship! The kind of craft that'd
fill any seafarin' man's heart with pride. She was a three-
screw vessel of some 52,000 tons, 825 feet long, with a beam
of 92½ feet, seven principal steel decks and engines
turning 50,000 horsepower to drive her at a top speed of 21 knots.
The keel of the big craft was laid March 31, 1909, and
she was inspected and passed by the British board of trade
March 31, 1912. She was christened at Belfast and brought
to Southampton for launching. I got permission to quit the
Oceanic and sign on the Titanic. I boarded her on the
morning of Thursday, April 10, 1912, just a couple of hours
before sailing time.
I'll never forget the scene when we pulled away at
Southampton! The Titanic was the biggest ship on the sea
and thousands came from all around to see her off. Our beam
was so broad we nearly pulled the pier down as we steamed
out into the harbor, stern first.



Under command of Capt. E. J. Smith, an experienced
and careful officer, the voyage was begun shortly before
noon. We proceeded to Cherbourg, France, where passengers
and mail were taken aboard. Then we continued to Queens-
town, Ireland, leaving there about 1:30 p.m. Friday.
We made steady progress until Sunday night at 11:40,
ship's time. We had a good crowd of passengers, about as
quiet a bunch as I'd ever seen. I'd heard there were 11
millionaires aboard; anyway, that's what the purser said,
and I figured he ought to know. I'd heard, too, that
Maj. Archibald Butt, aide-de-camp to William Howard Taft,
then president of the United States, also was a passenger.
We were carrying a crew of 960 and 1,263 passengers,
all told. We had 14 wooden lifeboats, each carrying 65
persons, two wooden cutters, carrying 40 each, four
collapsible life rafts holding 47 each,and 3,560 life
belts in cabins and berths.
But we weren't thinking about these things. We
Figured we were on an unsinkable ship. At any rate,
that's all the world had been hearing for the last three
months. "The great Titanic -- Strongest of the Gods --
Strongest of all Ships -- invincible."
I was asleep in my bunk in the foredeck quarters
when she struck. The newspapers later said there had been
an "almost imperceptible shock." I'm here to tell you that
the impact threw us all out of our bunks.
I jumped into a pair of pants and ran up the
companionway pulling on a sweater. I didn't stop to
pick up any belongings. On deck there was a strange quiet.
I realized the engines had stopped. I heard the




We immediately opened six compartments and in these
the water rose steadily, driving the stokers into their
tunnel and back into the boiler room. Captain Smith mounted
the bridge.
The seriousness of the situation was soon realized,
but only by the officers and crew. The passengers were
the calmest lot I ever saw. They scoffed when we tried to
tell them things looked bad. Some of them actually
returned to their cabins. In the third class compartments
below there was an unearthly quiet.
At 12:15 a.m. orders were given to uncover the life-
boats and 15 minutes later orders were given to swing out
the davits. In the meantime the position of the ship had
been worked out and given to the wireless operator with
orders to broadcast the international signal of distress.
I heard an officer say we were about 1,100 miles out of
New York, just off the tip of Newfoundland. It was
awfully cold.
At 12:30 came orders: "All passengers on deck
with life belts on." A dozen of us were given clubs and sent
into the steerage to get the third class passengers out.
First we tried to talk to them, but they wouldn't come
out. Then, reluctantly, we used the clubs. But even then
some of them turned around and ran back refusing to come
upon deck. They died, poor fools, like so many flies!
On deck women and children were separated from men,
but chance distribution enabled some of the men to be
saved, simply by their being in proximity to boats whose
capacity had been reached. We had to use clubs on
deck, too. The passengers simply refused to get into the



lifeboats. Some we threw in bodily, but they clambered
out again. So thoroughly had they been "sold" on the idea
that the Titanic was non-sinkable!
We started to lower the boats. Some of them were
only partly filled. The ship was settling rapidly, the
bow nosing down first.
At the very beginning of the voyage the crew had
been "told off," that is, every man had been assigned to a
station in case of emergency. I had been assigned
command of lifeboat No. 16. That assignment saved my life!
From 12:45 to 2:05, 16 lifeboats and four collapsible
rafts were launched safely. The main promenade deck was
awash when my boat, the last, left the davits.
As we were being lowered I heard Captain Smith shout
to me: "Pull away as fast as you can!" I never heard his
voice again. He went down with his ship, brave man that he
We had pulled away about 100 feet when the Titanic
went down. She seemed to go down by stem, fore-end first,
gradually taking in water. When she was about half
submerged, she broke in halves and the after part came down
into the water with an impact that could be heard a great
distance. It hovered there a moment and then sank like a
plummet. It was the last of the "greyhound of the seas."
I remember that the lights in the cabins burned until
the dynamo room was submerged. You could see them burning
under the water. Just before the ship cracked in two I
could hear the band playing "Nearer No God to Thee". And
the yelling I heard I never want to hear again.



Captain Smith and all the engineering staff
perished at their posts, but a few officers who clung to
flotsam were subsequently picked up.
There were 43 in my boat, among them Sir Cosmo and
Lady Duff-Gordon. When I saw the Titanic settling, I
became fearful lest we be pulled under by the suction of
her sinking and handed Sir Cosmo an oar. "If you want to
be saved," I yelled at him,"you'll have to row!" Sir
Cosmo said never a work but seized an oar and dug in. I'll
wager it was the first bit of toil he'd done in his life!
Lady Duff-Gordon, half naked, lay on the bottom of
the boat. All the passengers were seasick. There was
moaning and groaning and a chattering of teeth. I tore off
my sweater and gave it to one old woman who cried all the
time. That left me with only my breeches.
When the Titanic struck I'd seen a light about five
miles off just after I came on deck. We'd sent up 20 big
rockets, but the ship, which later turned out to be
the British steamship California, a freighter, never heeded the
So we drifted about for hours. We knew that the
Carpathia, a cunarder was on her way to the scene. She'd
picked up our S. O. S. 56 miles away,and was doing 18
knots speeding to our rescue.
My passengers went mad with joy when the Carpathia
finally arrived. By 10 o'clock Monday morning all the
Titanic's lifeboats had been accounted for.
The Carpathia returned to the scene of the disaster
but although we cruised around the iceberg for two hours
we found no bodies, and saw not even a floating spar. But



there was a cleft as big as a house on one side of the berg
that told the story. Black paint from the Titanic's bow
still clinging to the edges. We steamed away, finally,
and headed for New York.
On board the Carpathia, which had been bound for
Genoa with freight and passengers, our sailors had to sleep
in cattle pens. The food we got was terrible. But our
passengers got splendid treatment.
The day after our rescue Sir Cosmo gave me a check on
the bank of England drawn in the sum of five pounds -- $25.
"Here,my man, is a little present for saving my life --
mine and Lady Duff-Gordon's", he said. I accepted it
gratefully. I'dlost everything I owned and five pounds
looked like King Edward's annuity to me them. But I was
to get a keener jolt later on.
In New York the Salvation Army took us in and gave
us clothing. I read the papers. They exagerrated every-
thing about the disaster. Some of the stories were almost
Twenty-two member of the Titanic's crew, I among them,
were sommoned to Washington to testify before the senate's
board of inquiry. We were there two days and got no pay.
Then the White Star line, only because it was legally obliged
to do so, took the lot of us back to Liverpool on the liner
In London I had to testify for 21 days at the formal
hearing. They had the skipper and first mate of the
California there, and I confronted them with my story of
having seen their lights just after the Titanic struck,
and of having fired 20 rockets to attract their attention.



The captain of the California confessed he'd seen
the rocket flares, but said he thought we had been "shooting
off fireworks for entertainment and display." That
statement cost him his master's papers. The mate, too, was
dismissed from service.
After the hearing the surviving members of the
Titanic's crew were paid off. First we were offered 2 pounds,
3 shillings and fourpence, but the unions squawked and the
line finally settled with us for 3 pounds, 3 shillings
and fourpence -- $15.83 in American money. That's all we got
for our work and our so-called "heroism."
In the summer of 1912 I made a couple of trips on the
White Star liner Olympic, but the memory of the Titanic
and our treatment at the hands of the shipping interests
soured me of the sea, and I came to Gary in 1913 and went to
work in the powder plant at Aetna. I've been here ever
Funny thing about those millionaires on the Titanic --
not a single one of them got away.
A week after the disaster, the White Star line
chartered the steamer Mackey Bennett and returned to the
scene in search of bodies. They picked up 600 deads, and
among them was the body of the millionaire, Astor,
That's my story of the great Titanic disaster, an
experience I never hope to have equalled in my remaining
days. Thank you.


Thank you Mr. Horswell. That was Mr. Albert E.
Horswell, ladies and gentlemen, telling you of the great
Titanic disaster of April 1912 and of his escape from death.
This is.....................saying goodnight from WGN, etc.

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