Mr Edward John Buley was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England on 20 June 1885.
He was the son of John Buley (1857-1922)1 and Mary Ann Pope (1864-1914). His father hailed from Tonbridge, Kent and his mother from Portsmouth and they had married in Portsea in 1882.
According to census records Edward was one of fourteen children, with five of that number not surviving infancy. His only identifiable siblings were: John Edward Josiah (1883-1883) Rosetta May (b. 1884), Percy Arthur (b. 1888), Sidney Caleb (b. 1890), Nellie Beatrice (b. 1892), George Richard (b. 1894), twins Maurice Frederick and Thomas Henry (b. 1899), Lily (1901-1901), Walter Stanley (b. 1904) and Doris Winifred (b. 1905).
On the 1891 census the Buley family is listed as living at the Coastguard Station in Bexhill, Sussex where Edward’s father was described as a boatman for H. M. Customs. By the time of the 1901 census Edward's family were living in Sholing, Southampton, Hampshire but he is not listed with them, having commenced a career in the Royal Navy just weeks before.
Having worked as a messenger after leaving school, Edward Buley joined the navy as a boy seaman on 25 February 1901, first serving on the ship St Vincent and aboard which he was listed on the 1901 census whilst docked at Portsmouth. He would go on to serve on a host of other ships, including: Agincourt, Exmouth, Excellent, Crescent, Orion I and Dreadnaught, and during this time rose to the rank of able seaman and gunner. His conduct was universally excellent whilst physically he was described as standing at 5' 4½" and with light brown hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion.
On the 1911 census Edward, along with his parents and siblings are listed as living at 12 Britannia Road, Northam, Southampton and he is described as an unmarried able-bodied seaman in the Royal Navy. His final recorded service for the Navy lasted from 28 February 1912 to 2 March 1912 aboard Victory I after which he went ashore and joined the Portsmouth naval reserves. Hoping to " better help his mother," the Daily Mirror (18 April 1912) states that six weeks before joining Titanic he had bought his discharge from the Navy and joined the White Star Line as an able seaman. In this capacity he earned £5 a month and gave his local address as at 10 Cliff Road, Pear Tree Green, Itchen.
Buley was sitting in the seamen’s mess and reading when the collision occurred; he felt a 'slight jar' as if something was rubbing along the hull. He put on a coat and headed out on deck where he heard reports of an iceberg from some firemen. He was also able to hear water rushing in down below, the sounds emanating from the hatchways located on the forecastle, the covers of which were inflating under the pressure of escaping air and which, he was told, later blew off altogether.
An order from first officer Murdoch soon came to prepare the boats and Buley positioned himself on the starboard side, assisting to swing out all the boats on that side which he estimated took around 20 minutes. He then assisted doing the same with the port boats.
After assisting at boat 12, Buley moved forward and began working at boat 10. Whilst there First Officer William Murdoch (although Buley identified him as Chief Officer Murdoch) ordered him to take command of the boat and find a seaman to accompany him. He beckoned over Frank Oliver Evans—who had just completed lowering boat 12—to join him and Evans hopped into the boat. Whilst filling boat 10 Buley encountered numerous women reluctant to leave and described physically pushing and, in some cases throwing, women into the craft. He also described how one woman slipped upon entering, falling between the ship and the boat. The unfortunate woman was caught by the ankle by steward William Burke before being hauled back aboard onto the lower deck.
With no more women in sight and with a boatload of what Buley estimated to be between 60 and 70 persons, lifeboat 10 was the last boat in that section of the ship to leave, only approximately 25 minutes before the ship sank, Buley noting how the port bow light was by then submerged.
Upon launch Buley went on to say that the men went straight to rowing to get the boat as far off as possible, fearing that if they stood by too close that the already crowded boat would be overwhelmed by swimmers. They headed towards a light off the port bow that Buley had seen throughout the evacuation and which he and the other crew were certain was another ship sitting stationary about three miles away, noting how two masthead lights were clearly visible.
Estimating that his lifeboat was approximately 200 yards away from the ship when she sank, Buley testified that he was near enough to plainly see she ship break apart in her final throes.
She went down as far as the after-funnel, and then there was a little roar, as though the engines had rushed forward, and she snapped in two, and the bow part went down and the afterpart came up and staid up five minutes before it went down.
Pressed as to how he knew the ship had broken up, Buley responded:
Because we could see the afterpart afloat, and there was no forepart to it. I think she must have parted where the bunkers were. She parted at the last, because the afterpart of her settled out of the water horizontally after the other part went down. First of all you could see her propellers and everything. Her rudder was clear out of the water. You could hear the rush of the machinery, and she parted in two, and the afterpart settled down again, and we thought the afterpart would float altogether.
Buley went on to say that the stern section floated independently for a few minutes before “tipping” over and then going down bow first.
After Titanic had foundered he described the cries for help from those left behind as “just terrible” but his spirits were buoyed as for a time he could still see the lights of a ship in the distance. He later stated that after a while those lights just seemed to disappear.
After about 90 minutes boat 14, under the command of Fifth Officer Harold Lowe came alongside, distributing that boat's occupants to other boats and instructing the seaman in those to come with him in boat 14, intending to return to the scene of the wreck.
Buley, having transferred into lifeboat 14, described rowing through the wreckage and hundreds of bodies, many of which they turned over to see if there was still life. He guessed that many were not drowned but frozen, many sitting upright with their heads laid back or faces hanging in the water, all buoyed up by their lifebelts. Boat 14 managed to save the lives of four people from the water and also saved the occupants of the waterlogged collapsible A who, having to stand for such a prolonged period in the freezing water, were unable to walk properly, their legs and feet either cramped or frozen.
As daylight approached Buley reported that he observed what he thought to be a fully-masted ship; only as it became brighter did it became apparent that the shape was a large iceberg.
Buley later testified at both the American and British Inquiries into the sinking and received expenses of £7, 13s for his appearance at the latter.
Upon his return to Britain Edward returned to the sea and remained with his family in Southampton. He never married and his last recorded address was 10 Oak Bank Road in Itchen.
Following the outbreak of war in 1914 Buley returned to Naval service on 21 August that year, rejoining Victory I before transferring to Hecla that October aboard which he served until June 1916. On 1 July 1916 he joined the destroyer HMS Partridge and was aboard that ship protecting a convoy in the North Sea when, on 12 December 1917, she was torpedoed and sunk by German destroyers.
BULEY, A.B. Edward John, 213566 9RFR/PO/B/5041). R.N. H.M.S. “Partridge.” Killed in action protecting convoy in North Sea 12th Dec., 1917. Age 32. Son of the late John Buley1, of Southampton. 24.
1914-1921 Memorial Register
Edward Buley lost his life (service number 213566). Aged just 32 at the time of his death, his body was not recovered and he is remembered on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.