Encyclopedia Titanica

Widow of Titanic Officer visits Chorley

Chorley Guardian

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Seeks Family Crest

Motto - ''Let your light shine''

By a coincidence, a visitor to Chorley this week was Mrs. SylviaLightoller, widow of the late Cdr. C. H. Lightoller, who is played byKenneth More in the film A Night To Remember the serial of which beginsin The Chorley Guardian this week.

The film concerns the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912, on which Cdr. Lightoller, then Lt. Cdr. was second officer.

Cdr. Lightoller was a member of a Chorley family, his grandfather having built the first mill in Chorley in Standish Street.

He was brought up at Yarrow House and went to the Old Chorley GrammarSchool. His mother before her marriage, was a Miss Widdows of SandridgeAvenue. She was accompanied by Mr. T. G. Widdows, also a cousin of thecommander, of Cleveland, Ohio, who retired two years ago from anelectrical business. He has boyhood recollections of Chorley, which hehas only visited twice since he first went abroad at the age of 13, 60years ago.

Mrs. Lightoller told The Guardian that she was consulted during themaking of the film and that although she had met a number of survivorsin London, she was practically the only person living who knew theinside story of the disaster.

''The film is really the truth and has not been embroidered, she told The Guardian.

A cable to remember

There was only one slight departure from the personal story so far asshe was concerned and that was her farewell to her husband before thedisaster. ''I am supposed to have called him 'Bertie', she said. ''Inever did any such thing and certainly he would have been astounded,had I done so!''

Mrs. Lightoller said that the way in which the news of the disastercame through was something she would never forget. Her husband wasreally first officer, but to accommodate a senior officer on the firsttrip, the officers all stepped down one rank.

''The casualties and survivors were announced with ranks only - withoutnames'', she said. ''I received 50 telegrams congratulating me becausethe second officer had survived and 50 telegrams of condolence becausethe first officer had been lost. The disaster occurred on a Sunday andit was not until the Friday that my husband's cable from New Yorkreached me saying that 'he was safe' ''.

The story of the disaster is described by Cdr. Lightoller in his bookThe Titanic and Other Ships. This book has been so well read in ChorleyLibrary that it was impossible to repair it further. Mrs. Lightollersaid she was trying to obtain another copy to present to Mr. Widdows.

Shock for Kenneth More

She recalled that Cdr. Lightoller was the only officer who went downwith the ship. ''The story of his miraculous escape is describedfaithfully in the film''. she said.

Because of the assistance was giving in the production of the film,Mrs. Lightoller visited Pinewood Studios during the 'shooting' With atwinkle in her eye she told The Guardian that she approved the choiceof Kenneth More to portray Cdr. Lightoller, ''He was a smaller man likemy husband''. she said.

One day Kenneth More came to her on the set, kissed her and said ''Areyou my wife or my mother?'' She told him ''I am your wife'' andpointing to two of her grown-up children, who towered above KennethMore, ''These are your children''. She also added ''You have ninegrandchildren.''

The three sons and two daughters of Cdr. and Mrs. Lightoller maintainedthe tradition of the family. Brian, the youngest son was killed on thefirst day of the war in command of a flight over Whillhemshaven. Theeldest son Roger was killed in the last month of the war when servingas a lieutenant in the Navy. He had obtained the D.S.C. and wasmentioned in despatches.

The other boy, Richard Trevor, a lieut.-col. in the Army, served withMontgomery throughout the war. The two daughters also served, Mavis inthe F.A.N.Y.S. and Clare in Political Intelligence.

The sea always called Cdr. and Mrs. Lightoller, even though thecommander had spent a lifetime on big ships. Some time after hisretirement, they bought the yacht Sundowner in which Mrs. Lightollerlives during the summer, and makes trips to the Continent ''We alwaystook busmen's holidays.'' she said.

At Dunkirk

During the war Cdr. Lightoller accompanied by Roger sailed to Dunkirkand came back with 130 men. ''We had always thought Sundowner wascrowed with only 19 on board!'' exclaimed Mrs. Lightoller.

The Sundowner became a war vessel (No. 7) for the remainder of the warand when Roger went into the Navy, was commanded by Cdr. Lightoller,who was mentioned in despatches.

Mrs. Lightoller was on her way to view the Lightoller plaque in thesouth isle of Chorley Parish Church when interviewed by the Guardian.

Related Biographies

Charles Herbert Lightoller


Brian J. Ticehurst, UK


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Encyclopedia Titanica (2005) Widow of Titanic Officer visits Chorley (Chorley Guardian, Friday 18th July 1958, ref: #4391, published 30 January 2005, generated 18th May 2022 11:33:11 PM); URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/widow-titanic-officer-visits-chorley.html