George Thomas Rowe, 32, was born in Gosport Hampshire. He had served in the Royal Navy before joining the merchant marine. His most recent position had been on the Oceanic.
Rowe signed-on to the Titanic in Belfast as a lookout on 25 March 1912. When he signed-on again in Southampton on 6 April 1912, he gave his address as 63 Henry St, Gosport, Hants. On this occasion he was engaged as a quartermaster. As such he received monthly wages of £5.
On the evening of 14 April Rowe was stationed on the aft docking bridge, a raised structure on the stern of the ship. He passed the time by talking to passengers and paced up and down to keep warm.
Around 11.40 p.m. Rowe saw an iceberg glide past the docking bridge where he stood, he likened it to a 'windjammer' (a large sailing ship) with sails the colour of wet canvas. He thought little more about it as it did not appear to have made contact with the ship. However, he did notice that the engines had stopped.
About 45 minutes later Rowe telephoned the bridge, Fourth Officer Boxhall replied. Rowe told him he had just seen a lifeboat (No.7) in the water. Boxhall was surprised as he had heard no order to lower boats. He instructed Rowe to bring some rockets to the bridge. Boxhall had seen the lights of a vessel in the distance and Captain Smith had given permission for rockets to be sent up as a signal of distress. Boxhall and Rowe sent up the first rocket at about 12.45 a.m., and then fired them at five or six minute intervals according to Captain Smith's instructions. Between firing rockets Rowe and Boxhall attempted to signal the vessel using a morse lamp.
Rowe later stated that he was convinced that it was a sailing vessel that he observed, two points off the port bow at a distance of about five miles. Gradually the light diminished and finally disappeared. As the Titanic was stationary the mystery vessel was clearly moving away.
According to his reckoning Rowe continued to fire rockets until 1.25 a.m. by which time Boxhall had left to take command of lifeboat 14.
A few minutes later Captain Smith instructed Rowe to take charge of Collapsible C. With no response to his repeated calls for women and children, Chief Officer Wilde gave the order to lower away. It was the last boat to be lowered from the starboard side at around 1.40 a.m. And as it began its descent two male first class passengers quietly stepped in.
Rowe told Senator Burton of the US Senate enquiry that there were thirty-nine people in the boat. Two male first class passengers, five crew (including himself), three firemen, a steward, and, near daybreak, they found four Chinese or Philipino stowaways who had come up between the seats. All the rest were women and children. One of the first class passengers was William Ernest Carter, the other was J. Bruce Ismay.
Senator Burton: Now, tell us the circumstances under which Mr Ismay and that other gentleman got into the boat.
Mr Rowe When Chief Officer Wilde asked if there were any more women and children, there was no reply, so Mr Ismay came into the boat.
Senator Burton: Mr Wilde asked if there were any more women and children? Can you say that there were none?
Mr Rowe I could not see. but there were none forthcoming.
Senator Burton: You could see around there on the deck, could you not?
Mr Rowe I could see the fireman and steward that completed the boat's crew, but as regards any families I could not see any.
Senator Burton: Were there any men passengers besides Mr Ismay and the other man?
Mr Rowe I did not see any sir.
Senator Burton: Was it light enough so that you could see anyone near by? Mr Rowe: Yes, sir.
Senator Burton: Did you hear anyone ask Mr Ismay and Mr Carter to get in the boat?
Mr Rowe: No, sir.
Senator Burton: if Chief Officcr Wilde had spoken to them would you have known it?
Mr Rowe: I think so, because they got in the after part of the boat where I was.
(U.S. Senate Inquiry., p. 519)
Rowe told the British enquiry that the boat was very difficult to lower on account of a six degree list to port which the Titanic had developed.:
|'The rub strake kept on catching on the rivets down the ship's side, and it was as much as we could do to keep off. It took a good five minutes, on account of this rubbing, to get down.'|
When they reached the water they steered for the light but they could make no progress and altered their course to a boat that was carrying a green light. When day broke, the Carpathia was in sight.
When the enquiries were over Mr Rowe continued his Merchant Service he signed on to the Oceanic on 10 July 1912. He served on the hospital ship Plassy with the Great Fleet during the first world war. He then worked for Thorneycroft ship repairs in Southampton until he was over 80. During that time he was in charge of the fitting of Denny Brown Stabilisers to the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, amongst other things.
He recieved the British Empire Medal (BEM) in 1960 for his services to Thornycrofts.
He died in 1974 at the age of 91.
Inger Sheil, UK
Kerri Sundberg, USA
Agreement and Account of Crew (PRO London, BT100/259)
John P. Eaton & Charles A. Haas (1994) Titanic: Triumph & Tragedy, 2nd ed. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1 85260 493 X
John Eaton & Charles Haas (1992) Titanic: Destination Disaster, Patrick Stevens Ltd. ISBN 1 85260 534 0
Colonel Archibald Gracie (1913) The Truth about the Titanic. New York, Mitchell Kennerley
Don Lynch & Ken Marschall (1992) Titanic: An Illustrated History. London, Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0 340 56271 4
Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen, Agreements and Crew Lists Oceanic January August 1912
United States Senate (62nd Congress), Subcommittee Hearings of the Committee on Commerce, Titanic Disaster, Washington 1912
Wreck Commissioners' Court, Proceedings before the Right Hon. Lord Mersey on a Formal Investigation Ordered by the Board of Trade into the Loss of the S.S. Titanic
Articles and Stories
Exeter Flying Post (1912)
Link and cite this biography
(2016) George Thomas Rowe Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #1370, accessed 26th August 2016 10:55:22 AM)
URL : //www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/george-thomas-rowe.html
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