Titanic Lifeboats

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I have recently seen a new film about the sinking of the Titanic on the TV and have been reading about Titanic lifeboats on. http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org

It seems there is no real record of what happened to those lifeboats.

I might have a memory that might shed some light?

Sometime ago I wrote some historic notes for a booklet about sea scouting in Hampshire that was published during the 1980’s on the 75th Anniversary of Scouting. There was a Jamboree gathering in the New Forest.

Some of the research and memories recorded at that time included some possible information about Titanic lifeboats.

It would be interesting if any of the data can be substantiated. It may all just be fanciful invention and urban myth.

The Fareham Sea Scouts are based on the river in Locks yard below Fareham bridge in Hampshire, UK..

During the spring of 1955 or 56,  I attended as a youth, a sea scout training camp managed by a Commander Cobham (AayJay / Scoter) based at the Sea Scout training base on the river. Two Sea Rangers (girls) (we called them  Nancy and Peggy, the Amazons, but I cannot remember why?) also attended, but slept ashore, I think with Mrs Cobham.

The purpose of the course was to be assessed and to obtain Sea Scout (Ranger?) Charge Certificates to enable us to take command of sea scout boats. At that time I was a member of the Barton Sea Scout Group.

The long weekend  whitsun camp was visited by a Captain Browning, the Sea Scout Commissioner, Lord Mountbatten of Romsey, and a Commander Horace Taylor GC, a scout HQ Commissioner.

During the weekend we were taught and assessed on water safety, how to row and command a pulling boat, and how to sail. We also played around in some wood and canvas kayaks, all whilst wrapped up in bulky Kapok floatation vests.

We slept, were fed, and entertained indoors, but with external Elsans that were a bit disgusting.

The highlight of the camp was a water based night game which involved flag raiding. We all got wet, cold, muddy but all got back safe for hot cocoa and ships biscuits and a hose down in the boat yard at midnight.

The evening jaw sessions remain a vivid life long memory.

Captain Browning introduced a question for all scouts to consider when taking away a boat, “What shall I tell the Coroner”. He told us that accidents will inevitably happen, but the consequences can be mitigated by proper planning and preparation. He told us about the wreck of the Wrangler, a scout expedition boat lost in the channel with all hands some years earlier whilst sailing across the Goodwin sands. Something about the floatation bags of the boat coming loose and causing a cascade of consequential problems. Something he called a problem, allowed to become an Epic.

Commander Taylor, spoke about an event during the war when he was blown up by a bomb, resulting from his failure to take suitable precautions for when things start to go wrong. The bomb started ticking and he had not prepared a fast enough escape route.

Scoter Cobham, yarned about an incident on HMS Devonshire, when he was a midshipman, when the mishandling of a gun misfire resulted in a whole gun turret exploding. 

Lord Lewey, told us of his time on HMS Kelly, a ship with notorious bad luck, which led to her eventual loss, but by firm leadership in time of crisis, half of the crew survived.

All yarns supported the Be Prepared theme of the camp. Great stuff for impressionable minds.

One of my minor memories of that week was of two trophy shields that were hung on the walls of the scout hut. They were of a red swallow tailed pennant, flying from a mast, one with a green star and one with a red star  each edged in white. These were apparently watch challenge shields awarded to the best crew in each watch at the annual sea scout regatta.

The yarn spun by Scoter one evening was that the plaques came from a Titanic lifeboat which was an inspirational demonstration supporting the Birkenhead spirit, that of in times of peril saving women and children first.

All hotly contested by our semi resident Amazons who thought they were as good as us boys!.

There was also a photo on the hut wall that showed a wooden rowing ‘cutter’ with 4 oars (each side), manned maybe by sea scouts  in black jerseys and Black flat-tops and probably pre WWII, taken with a shoreside castle tower in the background and with a hilltop fort in the distance.

Possibly taken on the Fareham river near Porchester . This was supposed to be a Titanic lifeboat, from which the boat plaques came, a boat that had been given by the Royal Navy CIC at Portsmouth to the Fareham Sea Scouts.

It was said to have been a surplus disposal that had been STR’d after having been left abandoned in the Portsmouth Boat pound near HMS Victory sometime after the Titanic lifeboats had been bought back to Southampton before WWI.

The story was that the boat was too small to be used on 30ft lifeboat davits, so was used as a training boat by HMS Vernon and HMS Foudroyant.

From my memory of the picture, the cutter was probably 25 / 27ft long, being about 5 times longer than the helmsman standing on the stern bench of the boat. Although pulling two oars to a bench, the boat had a pointed whaler type stern. The boat had an ensign staff with maybe a scout badge on maybe a blue ensign. A bit difficult to tell from an old B&W photo so this is based on my remembered impressions.

For your archive, these memories suggest that the Titanic lifeboats recovered from New York may have been shipped backed to Southampton, possibly for re-use and some of them taken into RN possession.

My query is how long such a boat would survive in usable condition. Is it possible for such a boat could survive until at least the 1930’s? Would the white star plates have survived on the boats? They might have come from somewhere else?

Maybe some of your members can comment?

My interest was piqued by a photo of the Titanic lifeboats abandoned in New York. A couple of these boats are noticeably shorter than others. Maybe this was the boat that turned up at Fareham sea  scouts.

It would be interesting if anyone can add to these memories with some facts?

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Relates to Place:

Fareham, Hampshire, England

Comment and discuss

  1. Olivia Moran said:

    I know of one lady who was given an ensign (the plaque) from one of the lifeboats. Her name was Margaret Devaney. She was responsible for saving this particular lifeboat and the ship steward gave it to her knowing what she had done for the ship and the souls onboard.

  2. Stefanos Alevras said:

    I camped in 1973 under Scoter Cobham. Am a Sea Scout leader from Greece. Concerning wooden cutters, the ones we now use are mostly fiberglass. But wooden boats made in 1948 are still regularly used in 2017 by our sea scouts. So definitely a wooden boat can survive use by Sea Scouts even for 70 years ! It is true some planks or part of the keel had to be replaced and not all the old boats survived.

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2011) Titanic Lifeboats ( ref: #13417, published 1 August 2011, generated 4th August 2021 02:41:43 AM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-lifeboats-fareham.html