Monday, August 26, 2013

Shootings on the Titanic: The Truth About Collapsible A

The final chapter to the story of the shootings on the Titanic was supposed to take about four days to write and post.

It's now been more than four months. A simple narrative that would involve stops at three lifeboats turned unexpectedly into an odyssey where conclusions depended on which of Titanic's officers committed suicide, and where, and when, and how confusion over what witnesses saw has led Titanic research down the wrong path for decades.

For the longest time researchers dismissed accounts of shootings on the Titanic as a myth, invented by reporters who wanted to spice up their interviews with survivors. Then, some researchers conceded there might have been one, and only one, shooting incident which happened just minutes before the great ship took its final plunge beneath the waters.

Their opinion was swayed by the discovery of a private letter from First Class passenger George Rheims to his wife in France in which he recounted seeing an officer on the Titanic shoot a man who was trying to climb into a lifeboat, and then, shoot himself.  The letter was dated April 19, 1912, the day after the rescue ship, the Carpathia, reached New York City with the survivors of the Titanic.

The Rheims letter corroborated the known account of Irish steerage passenger Eugene Daly as told to a witness on the Carpathia, and subsequently in a letter to his sister in Ireland, of an officer who shot two men "because they tried to get in the boat", after which Daly heard another shot and saw the officer lying on the deck. He had, Daly was told,  shot himself.

The consensus was that this event, if it happened, happened at Collapsible A, the last starboard lifeboat left on the ship before it sank, the lifeboat being swept off the deck without having been launched from the davits.

I had no reason to disbelieve that conclusion---until I looked at the evidence.

No passengers were shot at Collapsible A.  An officer did shoot at passengers earlier at Collapsible C, which left the Titanic from the same set of davits that A was to use. Follow the evidence, as did I, to its inevitable conclusion...before doubling back to incorporate the result into the story of the final shootings on the Titanic.

The events at Collapsible A were witnessed by many people who managed to survive the disaster.  It's possible to intertwine their accounts to build a strong web of observations that leaves no doubt to what happened in Titanic's final moments.

Greaser Walter Hurst starts the story (in a letter, lack of punctuation and all, that he wrote in 1955 to Walter Lord, the author of A Night to Remember):

"After no 9 (the reading of his letter leaves no doubt he means Collapsible C when he says No. 9) had left the Chief Officer shouted any crew here..."

Steerage passenger Olaus Abelseth, U.S. Inquiry
"So we walked over to the starboard side of the ship, and just as we were standing there, one of the officers came up and he said just as he walked by, "Are there any sailors here"?"

First Class passenger Archibald Gracie, in his 1913 book The Truth About the Titanic

"...I recall that an officer on the roof of the house called down to the crew at this quarter, "Are there any seamen down there among you?" "Aye, aye, sir," was the response., and quite a number left the Boat Deck to assist in what I supposed to have been the cutting loose of the other Englehardt boat up there on the roof."

Walter Hurst, letter to Walter Lord

"...and about 7-8 stepped forward and he said hurry men, up there and cut that boat adrift it was a collapsible on top of Smoke room we got it down to the deck..."

Steward Walter Brown, British Inquiry
10633. How many men did it take to get that collapsible boat off the house?
- I could not tell you the number; there were seven or eight on the top deck and two or three down below receiving it.

Wireless Operator Harold Bride, New York Times, April 19, 1912
I saw a collapsible boat near a funnel and went over to it. Twelve men were trying to boost it down to the boat deck. They were having an awful time. It was the last boat left. I looked at it longingly a few minutes. Then I gave them a hand, and over she went. They all started to scramble in on the boat deck, and I walked back to Phillips. I said the last raft had gone.

Archibald Gracie,  The Truth About the Titanic
"Meanwhile, four or five long oars were placed aslant against the walls of the officers' house to break the fall of the boat, which was pushed from the roof and slipped with a crash down on the Boat Deck, smashing several of the oars."

First Class Steward Edward Brown, British Inquiry

10529. Did you get it down?
- Yes; we got two planks on the bow-end of the boat, and we slid it down on to the boat deck.
10530. Having got it down, the next thing, I suppose, would be to get it to the davits?
- We tried that, and we got it about halfway and then the ship got a list to port, and we had great difficulty. We could not get it right up to the davits, so we had to slacken the falls. The ship took a list to port, and we could not get it up the incline right up to the davits.
10532. You did make it fast?
- Yes, we did make it fast by slackening the falls, but we could not haul it away any further.

William Mellors, private letter

At this time it was almost impossible to walk on the deck without you caught hold of something owing to the ship heeling right over.

Edward Brown, British Inquiry
10534. Were there any women there whilst you were dealing with this boat that had come from the top of the Officers' quarters?
- There were four or five women that I could see there waiting to get into this boat if we got it under the davits.
10585.  Whilst you were working down the last collapsible boat from the top of the Officer's quarters to the deck, did you notice Captain Smith?
- Yes, the Captain came past us while we were trying to get this boat away with a megaphone in his hand, and he spoke to us.
10586. What did he say?
- He said, "Well, boys, do your best for the women and children, and look out for yourselves." He walked on the bridge.

Harold Bride, New York Times
Then came the Captain's voice: "Men, you have done your full duty. You can do no more. Abandon your cabin. Now it's every man for himself. You can look out for yourselves. I release you. That's the way of it at this kind of a time. Every man for himself." I looked out. The boat deck was awash. Phillips clung on sending and sending.

Walter Hurst, British Inquiry
"... we got it down to the deck but could not overhaul boats falls as they were hanging down shipside in waters. The ships bows were now under water there was a group of officers in corner of the bridge and I never saw one move from there..."

Second Officer Charles Lightoller, U.S. Senate Inquiry
...shortly before the vessel sank I met a purser, Mr. McElroy, Mr. Barker, Dr. O'Loughlin and
Dr. Simpson, and the four assistants. They were just coming from the direction of the bridge. They were evidently just keeping out of everybody's way. They were keeping away from the crowd so, as not to interfere with the loading of the boats.

Samuel Hemming, Senate Inquiry

I rendered up the foremast fall, got the block on board, and held on to the block while a man equalized the parts of the fall. He said, "There is a futterfoot in the fall, which fouls the fall and the block." I says, "I have got it;" and took it out. I passed the block up to the officers' house, and Mr. Moody, the sixth officer, said: "We don't want the block. We will leave the boat on deck."

Edward Brown, British Inquiry

10535. Whilst you were trying to get this boat up the hill, as it were, to the davits, did anything happen to the ship?
- Yes, she put the bridge under then.
10536. She put the bridge right under water?
- Yes, she put the bridge right under water.
10540. What happened to you when she put the bridge under water?
- I found the water come right up to my legs here, and I jumped into the collapsible boat then. I cut the after fall, and I called out to the man on the forward end of the boat to cut her loose; she would float if we got the falls loose.

William Mellors, private letter

We were trying to fix up a collapsible boat when she gave the first signs of going under.
There seemed to be a tremble run through the whole of the ship and the next thing we heard were loud reports inside which I think were the water-tight doors giving way and before you could say Jack Robinson there seemed to be mountains of water rushing through the doors, and I was swept away from where I was right against the collapsible boat,

Thomas Whiteley, lecture‎

... the Titanic was listing. By that time her head broke and the water came rushing on to her boat deck where I was.
When I felt the water on my feet I rushed to get into a boat. The officer cut its davits one end but could not cut the other.
The rope got around my leg and pulled me on to the deck again, and a big wave came on deck and washed me into the sea about ten yards.

Edward Brown, British Inquiry
10652.- There was a lot scrambled into it then; when the sea came on to the deck they all scrambled into the boat.
10540 -I cut the after fall, and I called out to the man on the forward end of the boat to cut her loose; she would float if we got the falls loose.
10541. Did this other man do that?
- I could not say.
10542. Did she float?
- I cut the ropes and then I was washed right out of her.
10543. You cut both falls?
- No, only the after fall.
10544. What happened to the forward fall?
- I could not say. I was washed out of the boat then.
10653. -. The boat was practically full, when the sea came into it, and washed them all out.
Thomas Whiteley,  New York Tribune, April 19, 1912
I got my leg caught in one of the ropes. The second officer was hacking at the rope with a knife.
I was being dragged around the deck by that rope, when I looked up and saw the boat filled with people turning end up on the davits.
The boat overturned like that.” He waved his hand to show just how it happened.

William Mellors, Private letter

I was swept away from where I was right against the collapsible boat, and I simply clung on for all I was worth, whilst all this was going on she was going under water and it seemed as if thousands of men were dragging me under with her, when suddenly her (the forward) nose on which I was seemed to suddenly rise from underneath the water and I and a few more that were close by cut the ropes that held the boat to the falls (davits).

So there it was.  The story of Collapsible A.  But something was obviously missing.  Where in the timeline would the shooting take place?

There was no clear moment when you could point and say, there, that's it.

I resisted the inevitable conclusion until I couldn't resist it any more.

There was no shooting at Collapsible A!

There's an old adage that's used repeatedly in Titanic research: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.  But there's one exception to the rule: except when it is.  And this was that exception.

First, no one working at Collapsible A reported seeing or hearing shots fired at that boat.

More specifically, is the evidence of Titanic greaser Walter Hurst.  He wrote two letters to Walter Lord.  He spoke of seeing the Chief Officer fire two shots at Collapsible C to warn men to stand back. But he never mentioned any shooting at Collapsible A. Why go to the trouble of highlighting shots fired at one lifeboat and fail to mention shots fired at the very next boat?  Because there were none at the second boat.

And yet there are credible accounts of an officer shooting at passengers, then shooting himself just before the Titanic sank.

Well, if you're looking for a place where shots were fired, look for witnesses who saw someone shooting a gun or hearing shots fired. Witnesses like Hugh Woolner.

Woolner even testified at the U.S. Senate Hearing into the sinking of the Titanic that he saw with his own eyes First Officer William Murdoch fire two shots in the air at Collapsible C.  Collapsible C left the ship  minutes before men pushed Collapsible A off the roof of the officers' quarters to the deck and tried to launch it from the same falls that lowered C.

In one of his letters to Walter Lord, Hurst wrote about Collapsible C:  "there was a bit of trouble there, the Chief officer was thretening [sic] someone and fired 2 Revolver shots shouting now will you get back I was not near enough to see if anyone was shot."

In the book 'Voices from the Titanic: The Epic Story of the Tragedy from the People Who Were There' by Geoff Tibbals, there's a newspaper account attributed only to "another seaman" (identified as one who jumped into the ocean with a baby in his arms) who relates (P. 369, Paperback edition) that "he saw the Chief Officer shoot at two Italians who were pushing women aside on the steamer in a frantic endeavour to reach the lifeboats. As the first shot fired above their heads did not serve as a warning, the officer shot one of them."

Three witnesses who saw shooting at Collapsible C and none who saw shooting at Collapsible A. Add to that the fact that the prime witnesses cited for a shooting at A, George Rheims and Eugene Daly, provided no details that can be used to isolate the lifeboat to which they were referring.

But they did provide some clues.

George Rheims, in a letter to his wife, dated April 19, 1912:

As the last lifeboat was leaving I saw an officer kill a man with one gun shot. The man was trying to climb aboard that last lifeboat. 

A year and a half later he gave a deposition to the Limitation of Liability Hearings in New York in which he said:

Q. Did you hear any particular noise?
- Yes I heard two pistol shots.
Q. About how long before the ship sank?
- About 40 minutes before she sank.

Rheims saw an officer shoot a man "as the last lifeboat was leaving."  Collapsible A was never "leaving". It was never in the davits. it was never launched properly. It floated off. And 40 minutes before the ship sank, it was still ensconsed on the roof of the officers' quarters.

Eugene Daly was even more vague in a letter he wrote to his sister who was still in Ireland and which was published in the London Daily Telegraph, May 4, 1912:

At the first cabin when a boat was being lowered an officer pointed a revolver and said if any man tried to get in, he would shoot him on the spot. I saw the officer shoot two men dead because they tried to get in the boat. 

Not even the linchpin between the two accounts, the subsequent suicide of the officer who shot the men, helps identify where the shooting happened.  Just the opposite, in fact.

Rheims gave this account:

"Since there was nothing left to do, the officer told us, “Gentlemen, each man for himself, goodbye.” He gave us a military salute and shot himself. This was a man!!"

I was intrigued by the reference to a military salute. I asked the obvious question. Which officer who was lost was in the military?

It wasn't First Officer William Murdoch. or Sixth Officer James Moody.

But Chief Officer Henry Tingle Wilde was a Lieutenant in the prestigious Royal Naval Reserve.

There's no doubt that Murdoch shot himself. Crewmen were talking about his committing suicide even as they clung to an overturned liferaft, hours before being rescued.

You can see where this is going. Two officers. Two suicides?

Mrs. Eleanor Widener, in Lifeboat No. 4, is quoted in the New York Times, April 20, 1912,  giving her account of an officer's suicide:

 “As the boat pulled away from the Titanic I saw one of the officers shoot himself in the head, and a few minutes later saw Capt. Smith jump from the bridge into the sea.” 

Since the Captain jumped into the ocean literally moments before the Titanic sank, its clear this is not the suicide seen by Rheims 40 minutes earlier.

The unravelled story, then, appears to be that there was a shooting at Collapsible C not Collapsible A, that it was deadlier than warning shots fired in the air, that one or possibly two men were shot by an officer, and that that officer shot and killed himself.

George Rheims and Eugene Daly both saw the shooting. Rheims saw the officer, likely Chief Officer Wilde, shoot himself. Daly was only told that the officer who he saw firing his gun killed himself. The body he saw could have been either Wilde's or Murdoch's; it's impossible to tell from his accounts when the single suicide shot that he heard happened.

Deconstructing the account of a shooting a Collapsible A has taken a long time. But it lets me complete the story of the shootings on the Titanic.  That's next.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Shootings on the Titanic Part IV. The Deadly Rushes

   Confession, Confusion, and Reconstruction                                                     

The Location: At the back of the ship.  On the left side, what sailors call port. 

The Myth:  Harold Lowe, the ship's Fifth Officer, fired his gun three times to scare off steerage men who theatened to jump into his boat and upset it.  Nobody was hit, but it was these shots that survivors heard and which have been mistaken for officers' shooting and killing passengers who allegedly rushed lifeboats ahead of women and children.

The Truth:  Public officials in the United States and Great Britain wanted the public to believe the myth. They guided Lowe through  carefully choreographed appearances at two public inquiries to promote the story they wanted the public to accept.  They deliberately did not delve deeper into what eyewitnesses saw because they didn't want the truth to be known.

The Facts:  There were at least five separate shooting incidents at the aft port boats, in which at least seven men were killed.   One of the shooters was Harold Lowe.

Reconstructing the events at Lifeboats No. 12, 14 and 16 has been a greater challenge than uncovering shootings anywhere else on the ship.  The reason is that these three boats were all loaded at the same time making it difficult to build a timeline and to separate events between the boats. 

For some reason, there was a shortage of crewmen to assist along the port side of the sinking Titanic.  While First Officer William Murdoch filled boats on the starboard side of the ship with dozens of sailors, stewards and stokers who were there,  Chief Officer Wilde struggled to find enough  to man the port boats.  Perhaps that's why he chose to load the boats concurrently, to maximize his diminished manpower which would be depleted even more each time a boat left the ship.

                  Reconstructing the scene

It appears there was no disorder at Lifeboat No. 16. 

Bathroom Steward Frank Morris testified to that at the British Inquiry:

5307. You had great trouble in putting them (women) in?

- Yes, we had to push them in.

5308. Did any men try to get in?

- Not in 16; they did in 14.

5309. Fourteen was the next boat you went to?

- Yes.

5310. And in that boat some men tried to get?

- Yes, some third class passengers who were foreigners.

5311. Did they succeed in getting in?

- No.

5312. Was there an Officer in charge of No. 14?

- Well, there was in the last part, when the boat was pretty well full, Officer Lowe came along.

5313. Did you get into boat No. 14?

- After I was called.

5395. Coming up from the saloon that night was there any evidence of confusion on the boat deck?

- None at all.

5396. Or in any part of the ship?

- There was a little confusion round boat 14 with those foreigners, the men. That is all the confusion I saw.

Even that was only part of the story.  Seaman John Poigndestre also gave evidence at the British Inquiry...  

2965. How did the passengers behave - well?

- Well, they did not where I was.

2966. (The Commissioner.) What were they doing?

- They were trying to rush No. 12 and No. 14 boats.

2967. Men, you mean?

- Yes.

2968. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Did you have to keep them back?

- Yes, to the best of my ability.

2969. Who did that?

- Myself and Mr. Lightoller and the other two sailors who were standing by to lower. They could not lower the boat as it should have been lowered because of the passengers. Men were on the boat falls; they could not get them clear.

2970. Could you tell the Court who those were who were trying to rush the boat?

- Passengers.

2971. What sort of passengers?

- Second and third.

3296. You stated somebody attempted to rush the boats?

- Yes.

3297. Were they English people?

- Foreigners.

3309. (Mr. Laing.) When Mr. Lightoller said that was the boat being rushed or were they trying to rush the boat?

- They were trying to rush the boat.

3310. Afterwards he told you to lower away?

- Well, he did not tell me, he told the other two men.

3311. (The Commissioner.) They were men passengers to rush the boat?

- Yes.

So, no problems at No. 16, but steerage men rushed Lifeboats No. 12 and 14, according to members of the crew who loaded and manned these lifeboats.

The rushes took place just before No. 14 went off, but also earlier, when loading had barely begun.

Able Seaman Joseph Scarrott attested to that at the British Inquiry:

381. Who was taking charge of that boat when you got there - was there anybody?

- When I got there I put myself in charge as the only sailorman there. I was afterwards relieved by the Fifth Officer, Mr. Lowe.

383. Yes, we will come to that. Now having got to boat 14, which was your boat, what was done about that?

- Directly I got to my boat I jumped in, saw the plug in, and saw my dropping ladder was ready to be worked at a moment's notice; and then Mr. Wilde, the Chief Officer, came along and said, "All right; take the women and children," and we started taking the women and children. There would be 20 women got into the boat, I should say, when some men tried to rush the boats, foreigners they were, because they could not understand the order which I gave them, and I had to use a bit of persuasion. The only thing I could use was the boat's tiller.

385. (Mr. Butler Aspinall.) Did the Fifth Officer assist you in this persuasion?

- He was not there then.

386. Did you get these men out of your boat, or prevent them getting in?

- Yes, I prevented five getting in. One man jumped in twice and I had to throw him out the third time.

(This last statement is confusing.  I take it to mean the man jumped in twice and he got out on his own when he was ordered out each time, but that the third time he had to be physically thrown out.)

Slowly, a picture emerges.  And its a picture that public officials preferred to tell in fragmented form to hide the import of what it shows.

Almost from the start of loading the aft port boats, the ship's men were besieged by male passengers.  They rushed No. 14 as a group early and had to be beaten off by Scarrott.  But individuals kept jumping into Boats 12 and 14 the entire time and had to be ordered out or thrown out---or, as you'll see---  worse.

The first shooting in this area happened around Boat No. 12.  At least, that's where the eyewitness was.

Mrs. Alexander Louch was waiting to get into No. 12. Her account (with her name misspelled) appeared in the New York Times, April 19, 1912.


Forced to Sign Paper, Sailors Shot a Man Dead, Says Mrs. Lurch.

According to the story told by Mrs. Alexander Lurch, one of the survivors to reach this city on the Carpathia last night, a scene of disorder and cruelty took place on the Titanic and was continued on the Carpathia where, she said, she and others were forced to sng[sic] a paper stating that there had been no disorder of any kind, and all had been conducted on board the liner with precision.

Mrs. Lurch told her story to some friends who were taking her to the Junior League at Seventy-eighth Street and the East River, and was corroborated by another woman who accompanied her. She stated that the Titanic ran on to the iceberg at 11:45 o'clock, and was sure of this because her husband had looked at his watch and told her the time. Mr. Lurch then went up on deck to see what was the matter and was told to go back to his stateroom, as nothing had happened.

He returned, but told Mrs. Lurch to dress and after she had done so she came up on deck and saw men passing babies into the lifeboats, which had already been lowered and having great difficulty in lowering others. She said that she saw one woman clinging to her husbands neck and crying to the sailors to save him. Instead of doing this the sailor drew a revolver and pressing it to the man's head shot him to death. Several sailors then picked up the body, tossed in into the ocean and threw the woman into a lifeboat.

A shocking story, indeed. But who was shot? And who was the dead man's wife? 

A clue may have appeared 18 days later.  The New York Times carried this story:

"Aged Waif of the Titanic"

"Finding Shelter and is Lost After Telling of Lost Sons and Money"

"A Red Cross nurse found an old woman waiting about the White Star Line offices yesterday, and, learning that she was a survivor of the Titanic and penniless, took her to the Leo Hause, a Catholic home at 6 State Street. The old woman said that she came from Baden ,Germany, and was on her way to California, where she had a sister."

"She said that her two sons were with her on the Titanic, one of them having some $12,000, all the savings of the family, in a belt around his waist. When the steamhsip struck the iceberg the old woman said that she was put into a lifeboat and that her younger son tried to follow her. She said he was shot, insisting on it, though stories of shooting aboard the Titanic have been discredited."

"Of her famiy she alone reached this city, and since then has been wandering around trying to get to California. The telling of her story so excited the old woman that she declined supper, but went intead into the chapel to pray.There she became hysterical and a girl took her outdoors when she said she needed some fresh air."

"Presently the old woman sent the girl back as it was raining, saying that she felt much better and that she would return presently. That was the last seen of her and at 10 o'clock last night some one at the home telephoned to Police Headquarters asking that an alarm be sent out for her."

A hoaxer? She wouldn't be the first or the only one.  But was she?  The Titanic relief fund booklet contains a reference to: No. 373 (German) woman, 63.  Two sons, 27 and 21. Hysterical, indicating mental disease.

That's pretty close to the New York Times story, with a few more details. 

 It wasn't until decades later that reliable lists of passengers on the Titanic were produced.  And there was no listing for a German woman with two sons of those ages.  However...the dead end suddenly didn't look so dead after all.

Travelling Third Class on the Titanic was a Norwegian woman, Lena Solvang, age 63.  Her home was in the village of Skaare.  She held ticket No. 65305.

Tickets 65303 and 65304 were held by fellow residents of Skaare, Konrad Hagland, 20, and his brother-in-law Ingvald Hagland, 28.  As it happened, the Haglands shared a cabin with Bernt Johannessen, who survived the Titanic and whose story included escorting Lena Solvang to a port boat where he left her to get into a lifeboat as he went over to starboard from where he eventually managed to escape himself.

Was Lena Solvang the 63 year-old-woman at the Leo Haus immigrants home, lamenting the loss of two boys, not her sons but the sons of friends from her home town? Was the person shot by a sailor the younger one of the Haglands? 

Perhaps most intriguingly, have we found a lost survivor?  Mrs. Solvang was listed as lost, with her body never found.  Did she manage to survive the Titanic, only to die alone, perhaps by her own hand, in New York City?  

The answers may lie in the registers of Leo House, if they still exist. Originally located in the Battery Park area of New York, Leo House moved to its present location at  332 West 23d Street in 1926 and still operates as "a Catholic, non-profit guest house, dedicated to offering low cost, temporary accommodations to clergy and religious, persons visiting the sick, students, and travelers from the United States and abroad."

                   The Deadly Rush

The loading of Lifeboats No. 12, 14 and 16  took about fifteen to twenty minutes. The rush on No. 14,  which was thwarted by the firm use of the boat's tiller by seaman Scarrott, happened early on when less than half of the boat's final complement had boarded.   That means the following incidents happened in a ten-to-fifteen minute window.

Let the eyewitnesses speak for themselves:

Mrs. Charlotte Collyer (Second Cabin. Off on No. 14) There was a stampede on the ship. The scenes of panic were awful. The officers drew revolvers and waved the crowd back. At last they had to fire. I covered my eyes as I sat in the lifeboat. Even then I saw them fall. I know they were shot to death.  Chicago American, April 22, 1912,  as told to M.E. Smith, manager  of Waterman Pen Company, Chicago.


Mrs. Collyer.     Officers stood by with pistols to keep away the men from the steerage, who on at least one occasion attempted a rush. When occasion warranted the officers did not scruple to fire. Chicago Record-Herald, April 21, 1912

Daisy Minahan ---First Class, No. 14. After making three attempts to get into boats, we succeeded in getting into lifeboat No. 14. The crowd surging around the boats was getting unruly. Officers were yelling and cursing at men to stand back and let the women get into the boats.  Affidavit submitted to the United States Senate Inquiry 1912

Emily Rugg ---Second Cabin, No. 12.  Two men who were trying to crowd out women were shot by officers...right before my eyes.   New York Tribune, April 19, 1912

Laura Cribb-- No. 12. Steerage. -Why I saw one officer who stood on the second deck with his revolver in his hand and threatened to shoot any man who attempted to enter a boat before every woman was cared for.  And he shot three. It would have been a horrible sight at any other time, but in that hour of chaos and excitement I don't think there was a single person who didn't inwardly at least glory in his deed.     New York Evening Journal, April 19.

Lillian Bentham--No. 12. Second Cabin.  The women and children were crowded together and were put over the side into lifeboats. Some of the men bid them good-bye and tried to cheer them up. Other men were crowded together, with some kneeling down in prayer. And some men tried to leap from the sinking Titanic into the lifeboats. When that happened a crew member would fire his pistol at the fleeing man. "I think that as many as a dozen were shot, maybe more," Bentham said. April 25, 1912 interview with The Holley Standard. 

Mrs. Peter Renouf---No. 12. Second Cabin.  My husband wanted to remain by my side, but the officers would not let him. They said ‘Women and children first"....“Suddenly there was a rush on the part of several men to get into the lifeboats, which were already crowded with women and children. They pushed women aside and became frenzied. It seemed for a while as if they would leap into the boats. Then the officers raised their guns and shot these men down. I don’t suppose there was anything else to do. It was horrible.  Newark Evening News, April 19

Emily Badman--No. 12 Steerage.-"I shall never forget the sad scenes on board," Mrs. O'Grady said in recounting her experience to a Hudson Dispatch reporter several years ago. "Wives were torn from their husbands and children from their parents." MEN SHOT  "I saw officers shoot some men who tried to get in lifeboats," she said, "and others fall into the water when they attempted to get into the already crowded boats." Jersey Journal, July 17, 1945

Mrs. Mark  Fortune---No. 10. First Class.   When the ship struck, however, she said, several men of the steerage tried to rush the officers in charge of the lifeboats. At first the officers were able to keep them off by fist blows, she declared, but as the passengers grew more terrified, the officers made use of their revolvers, first to fire in the air and then directly at the men.  Toronto Globe,  April 20

Nishan Krekorian--No. 10. Steerage -“At first we had no idea that anything bad happened and then little by little we began to see ship was sinking. Then everybody got excited, running, shrieking, shouting. I saw little boats and big boats being lowered and I began to feel bad. I saw two men try to get into a boat. (An) officer shot them. Brantford Ontario Expositor – April 26, 1912

Nine survivors who saw officers shoot down passengers rushing aft port boats, yet not a single question was asked of any of them at either the American or British Inquiries.

But, certainly something happened.  It attracted the attention of Fifth Officer Harold Lowe.

Lowe's movements immediately prior to arriving at Boat No. 14 are unknown.  He drops off the radar for about 15 minutes as you can see here:

His assigned lifeboat in the case of trouble on the ship was No. 11. He never went there. Instead, he somehow wound up on the port side of the ship where he noticed something happening at the aft boats. 

He testified in England:

15828. Where did you go then?

- I then went to No. 14.

15830. Why did you go to her in particular?

- Because they seemed to be busy there.

That's all he was asked and all he said about how he wound up at No. 14.

He said next to nothing about his use of a gun.

15855. There is just another thing I want to ask you. Did you use a revolver at all?

- I did.

15856. How was that?

- It was because while I was on the boat deck just as they had started to lower, two men jumped into my boat. I chased one out and to avoid another occurrence of that sort I fired my revolver as I was going down each deck, because the boat would not stand a sudden jerk. She was loaded already I suppose with about 64 people on her, and she would not stand any more.

15857. You were afraid of the effect of any person jumping in the boat through the air?

- Certainly, I was.

15858. In your judgment had she enough in her to lower safely?

- She had too many in her as far as that goes. I was taking risks.

                      Lowe's Confession

He had been more forthcoming in New York when being questioned by the U.S.Senate Inquiry, even though they waited almost to the last to ask him about using a weapon:

Senator SMITH.

One more question and I will let you go. Did you hear any pistol shots?



Senator SMITH.

And by whom were they fired Sunday night?


I heard them, and I fired them.

Senator SMITH.



As I was going down the decks, and that was as I was being lowered down.

Senator SMITH.

In lifeboat -


Lifeboat No. 14.

Senator SMITH.

What did you do?


As I was going down the decks I knew, or I expected every moment, that my boat would double up under my feet. I was quite scared of it, although of course it would not do for me to mention the fact to anybody else. I had overcrowded her, but I knew that I had to take a certain amount of risk. So I thought, "Well, I shall have to see that nobody else gets into the boat or else it will be a case" -

Senator SMITH.

That was as it was being lowered?


Yes; I thought if one additional body was to fall into that boat, that slight jerk of the additional weight might part the hooks or carry away something, no one would know what. There were a hundred and one things to carry away. Then, I thought, well, I will keep an eye open. So, as we were coming down the decks, coming down past the open decks, I saw a lot of Italians, Latin people, all along the ship's rails - understand, it was open - and they were all glaring, more or less like wild beasts, ready to spring. That is why I yelled out to look out, and let go, bang, right along the ship's side.

Senator SMITH.

And as you went down you fired these shot's?


As I went down I fired these shots and without intention of hurting anybody and also with the knowledge that I did not hurt anybody.

Senator SMITH.

You are positive of that?


I am absolutely positive.

Senator SMITH.

How do you know?


How do I know? Because I looked where I fired.

Senator SMITH.

It was a dark night, was it not, to see?


Oh, but I could see where I was shooting. A man does not want to shoot over here and look over here (indicating), or to shoot here and look here (indicating), but to look where he shoots. I shot between the boat and the ship's side, so these people would hear and see the discharge.

Senator SMITH.

You shot this revolver through that 3-foot space?


Yes; I think I fired three times. There were three decks.

Senator SMITH.

You are positive you did not hit anybody?


I am absolutely positive I hit nobody. If you shoot at a man directly you can only see a round blur of the discharge, but if you shoot across him like that (indicating) you will see the length of it. I shot so for them to know that I was fully armed. That is the reason.

Senator SMITH.

What did you do with your revolver after that?


I have got it.

Senator SMITH.

Did you put it in your pocket?


I have not got it in my pocket now -

Senator SMITH.

You put it in your pocket after you fired those three shots?


Yes; I put in my pocket and put the safety catch on, because it is a Browning automatic. There were, I suppose, four more remaining.


It is an automatic. I think it carries eight.

The picture being painted by the authorities was the polar opposite of the scene described by civilians, and even some crewmen.   Desperate passengers rushed No. 14 early on, and were beaten off.  Minutes later, there was another rush, this time possibly on No. 12 (where, you'll notice,  the majority of eyewitnesses were). That rush ended only after officers shot down two or three men at least.  And even then they didn't stop.  Individual passengers kept jumping into boats, risking being shot, and scaring the daylights out of the officers like Lowe.

Lowe, himself, gave a skeletal explanation of what happened when he got there.  A more complete story is provided by women who were in the same lifeboat.

Charlotte Collyer, Semi-Monthly Magazine, May, 1912:

"The boat was practically full, and no more women were anywhere near it when Fifth Officer Lowe jumped in and ordered it lowered. The sailors on deck had started to obey him, when a very sad thing happened.A young lad, hardly more than a school boy, a pink-cheeked lad, almost small enough to be counted as a child, was standing clsoe to the rial. He had made no attempt to force his way into the boat, though his eyes had been fixed piteously on the Officer. Now, when he realised that h was really to be left behind, his courage failed him. With a cry, he climbed upon the rail and leapt down into the boat. He fell among us women, and crawled under a seat. I and antoehr woman covered him up with out skirts. We wanted to give the poor lad a chance; but the officer dragged him to his feet and ordered him back upon the ship.

He begged for his life...but the officer drew his revolver and thrust it into his face. "I give you just ten seconds to get back on the that ship before I blow your brains out!" he shouted. The lad only begged the harder, and I thought I should see him shot where he stood. But the officer suddenly changed his tone. He lowered his revolver, and looked the boy squarely in the eyes. "For God's sake, be a man!" he said gently. "We've got women and children to save. We must stop at the decks lower down and take on women and children."

"The little lad turned round and climbed back over the rail, without a word..."

"All the women about me were sobbing; and I saw my little Marjorie take the officer's hand. "Oh, Mr. Man, don't shoot, please don't shoot the poor man!" she was saying and he spared the time to shake his head and smile."

"He screamed another order for the boat to be lowered; but just as we were getting away, a steerage passenger, an Italian, I think, came running the whole length of the deck and hurled himself into the boat. He fell upon a young child, and injured her internally. The officer seized him by the collar, and by sheer brute strength pushed him back on to the Titanic. As we shot down toward the sea, I caught a glimpse of this coward. He was in the hands of about a dozen men of the second cabin. They were driving their fists into this face, and he was bleeding from the nose and mouth."

Note that at this point we have evidence of two jumpers---a boy shamed by Lowe into climbing out of the boat and a man who Lowe physically threw out.  It was after the second man was removed that Lowe drew his gun, according to witnesses.

Sara Compton (No. 14, First Class) wrote up her account of the her Titanic experience for Archibald Gracie which he cited in his book The Truth About The "Titanic".   She wrote:

 “Just before the boat was lowered, a man jumped in. He was immediately hauled out. Mr. Lowe then pulled his revolver and said, ‘If anyone else tries that this is what he will get.’ He then fired his revolver in the air.“

The account of Mrs. Esther Hart (No. 14 Second Cabin.) was printed in the Ilford Graphic, May 10, 1912: ( Eva is her daughter and Ben, her husband.)

"Eva was thrown in first, and I followed her. Just then, a man who had previously tried to get in, succeeded in doing so, but was ordered out, and the officer fired his revolver into the air to let everyone see it was loaded, and shouted out, “Stand back! I say, stand back! The next man who puts his foot in this boat, I will shoot him down like a dog.” Ben, who had been doing what he could to help the women and children, said quietly, “I’m not going in, but for God’s sake look after my wife and child.” And little Eva called out to the officer with the revolver “Don’t shoot my daddy,-You shan’t shoot my daddy.” What an experience for a little child to go through! At the age of seven to have passed through the valley of the shadow of death. 

Crewman Frederick Scott, one of Titanic's engine greasers, was just approaching No. 14 and No. 12, the only two lifeboats left at the stern of the ship.  Note the similarity of what he heard to what Mrs. Hart heard Lowe say.

5657. Tell us what you saw?

- I saw two boats then, and one of the boats was where the Officer pulled a revolver out and shot it between the ship and the boat and said, "If any man jumps into the boat I will shoot him like a dog."

The civilians say Lowe fired in the air, while Scott corroborates Lowe's story that he fired down and between the ship and the lifeboat.  But Scott fails to mention what others then saw...a third jumper...who was shot and killed.

Margie Collyer (No. 14. Second Cabin).

"There was one officer in our boat who had a pistol. Some men jumped into our boat on top of the women and crushed them and the officer said that if they didn't stop he would shoot. Another man jumped and he shot him. Leatherhead Advertiser, Epsom District Times and County Post, 18 May 1912.

The young Miss Collyer is clear that the jumper who was shot is not the same as the man who "fell upon a young child, and injured her" of whom her mother spoke.

Mrs. Ida Ball (No. 14, Second Cabin) saw the same incident, as reported in the New York Tribune,  April 21, 1912


Jumped Into Boat and Officer Killed Him, She Says.

Baltimore, April 30.--Mrs. Ada Ball, one of the survivors of the Titanic disaster, who came to Baltimore to-day, in an interview relating her experiences said she saw one man shot down. She got a place In the last boat to leave the ship, she said.

"I saw one man Jump Into our boat and was almost seated when he was ordered out. He sneaked back again, and was discovered and put out. Then, as the boat was being lowered over the side, he Jumped back into the boat and was shot by one of the officers."

And Mess steward, C.W. Fitzpatrick, was quoted in the Liverpool Journal of Commerce, April 30, 1912, about the same jumper, only with more details about who shot him: 

"As one of the lifeboats was being filled with women and children a foreigner tried to jump on the boat. The officer told him to go on deck. He refused, and the officer fired and the man fell dead on deck. The lifeboat was lowered, and the officer kept on firing his revolver till he was level with the water. 

Fitzpatrick's description of an officer firing his revolver "till he was level with the water" fits only one officer on the ship---Fifth Officer Harold Lowe.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

Shootings on the Titanic, Part III. The Bloody Quarter

'Where are all the women?', Titanic's First Officer William Murdoch must have been asking himself?

He had only been able to find two women to put into Lifeboat No. 1, and the starboard deck forward was empty now of both men and women.

Murdoch knew he was running out of time to get people off the sinking ship. He had four lifeboats waiting to be loaded at the stern of the Titanic but first he had to find women and children to fill them.

Somewhere, he located a half-dozen French-speaking First Cabin women---Leontine Aubert, her maid Emma Sagesser, Mrs. Elizabeth Lines, her daughter Mary Lines, Mrs. Marie Spenser, and her maid Eliza Lurette.

With them in tow, he marched to the rear of the ship, headed for Lifeboat No. 9.  Purser Hugh McElroy accompanied them to help load.

Bosun's mate Albert Haines was standing by his assigned lifeboat, No. 9, when he spotted Murdoch coming.

"We had the boat crew there, and Mr. Murdoch came along with a crowd of passengers," Haines told the U.S.Senate Inquiry.

Saloon steward William Ward was among the crewmen at the boat:

"I think the purser ... said, "Are you all ready?" Haynes answered "Yes" - it was either the purser or Mr. Murdoch - and with that he said: "Pass in the women and children that are here into that boat." There were several men standing around, and they fell back, and there was quite a quantity of women and children helped into the boat."

Ward had trouble telling which officer was speaking at any moment.

"They were both tall men, and I would not be sure which one it was. It was dark, you know." he told the Senators.

As the loading of No. 9 began, Murdoch was already thinking ahead.  He gave orders to some of the crewmen to ready the next boat (No. 11) for loading.

Assistant Second Class Steward Joseph Wheat, British Inquiry:

- Yes; he told me to take the rest of the boat's crew down on to the next deck as they had to send the people off A deck.
13195. Did you do that?
- Yes. I took about 70 men down altogether, I think.

Bathroom Steward Charles Mackay:

10757. Did you go down to A deck yourself?
- No, the first order I heard given was, Mr. Wheat, the second assistant-steward, had an order from Mr. Murdoch to take charge of that boat.

10758. That was on the boat deck?
- Yes. Steward, Wilson (saloon steward Edward Wheelton) and myself were ordered by Mr. Murdoch to collect all the women we could and take to that A deck, which we did.

10759. Did you collect women on the boat deck?
- Yes, and we took them down the companion to A deck.

10760. About how many do you think you collected?
- A matter of about 40 on A deck, we collected.

With those orders, Murdoch cleared the boat deck of more than one hundred people.

Murdoch had changed the rules for the aft boats that he would be loading.  Whereas he had let men get into lifeboats very freely earlier on, he was still disturbed by the disorder that had broken out at Lifeboat No. 3 (as described here:

The rule would now be women and children first--- and only then, men, to fill the boat. But there was no time to explain the rules to the men who accompanied the women and children going into No. 9, and none of them entered the boat before it was lowered.

In fact, they had no reason to believe they had any chance to get on.

"On the Carpathia was Mme. Hobart, who was complaining bitterly of the conduct of one of the officers. Her husband had been with her and at her request was about to enter the same boat with her. An officer pointed a gun at him and ordered him to stand aside, and enter a boat after the women had been saved. He obeyed, and his wife never saw him again."  (New York Times, April 19, 1912, Some Stories of Panic.)  Hobart?  Try Mme. Aubert, mistresss of American gazillionaire Benjamin Guggenheim, whose wealth and prestige was no match for a loaded revolver.

While the loading of the First Cabin women was underway, Murdoch was calling loudly for more women to come forward.  Among those who responded was Mrs. Elizabeth Watt and her 12-year-old daughter Bertha.

The young girl saw something unusual. She mentioned it to Walter Lord years later when he was researching his book A Night To Remember.  Her letter to him still exists:

Lost Voices from the Titanic, Nick Barratt, 2010

"Shortly a call was made "Women and children this way" so we all went over to the starboard side, one boat was on the way down, and she was hanging on its davits overboard and full of men, looked as if they were steerage passengers and we had that they had more or less charged this boat so they left them hang(ing) there until after our boat left. The master at arms was standing with a gun at that point." she wrote.

The clues she provides identify the boat "full of men" as No. 15.


It's necessary to pause here for a moment, because the situation at this section of the Titanic would degenerate into bedlam over the next ten to twelve minutes.  This was the bloody quarter. Nearly half of the men known to have been shot on the Titanic were shot here (12). And the majority of them (11), were shot in the next ten minutes or less.  It's an entire book in itself.

The events took less time than it takes to read about them. Reconstructing what happened involves making sense out of more than a baker's dozen eyewitness accounts, trying to correlate the details and, where necessary, making a judgement call on what happened in what order.

Until more first-hand accounts become generally available, this is as accurate a recreation of the shootings on the Titanic as can be done.

                                                 His Jaw Had Been Shot Away

Seeing Second Cabin women filling the seats of No. 9, Murdoch gave the order to load the next lifeboat, No.11.

Joseph T. Wheat, assistant Second Steward:

13235. Was your boat lowered empty from the boat deck to the a deck?
- Yes, there was nobody in it.
13236. And it was filled from A deck?
- Yes.

Two boats now loading, there was the need to ensure that the remaining pair were ready for passengers.

A knot of Irish steerage passengers---sisters Agnes and Alice Mccoy, their brother Bernard, and their cousin Thomas Mccormack--- was on the boat deck after having donned lifejackets as ordered by stewards, when they saw " a boat half-filled with members of the crew and about to be lowered away. An officer came up pointing his revolver at the men and told them to get out or he would shoot. The men climbed out slowly. " (The Cork Examiner, April 27, 1912.)

Crew? Not likely.  Bertha Watt's boat "hanging on its davits overboard and full of men", most likely.

"Then the officer turned to the two young women and their brother and told them to get back downstairs as there was no immediate danger."

Meanwhile, back at No. 9...

Bath Steward James Widgery picks up the story:

"...and we passed the ladies in.  We thought we had them all in, and the purser called out, "Are there any more women?"

"Just then some one said, "Yes." This woman came along, rather an oldish lady, and she was frightened, and she gave me her hand. I took one hand, and gave it to the boatswain's mate, and he caught hold of the other hand, and she pulled her hand away, and went back to the door and would not get in. One of them went after her, but she had gone down the stairs."

"The chief officer was there and called out for any more women, and there seemed to be none, and he told the men to get in, four or five of them."

"We were filled right up then. Then they started to lower away."

But there were more women---immigrant, steerage women who had been corraled behind a rope 100 feet away, off the second class stairway, the only route to the boat deck and to the lifeboats.

In that crowd  behind the rope was Abraham Hyman, who described the scene to the New York Times (April 19, 1912, Survivor Tells How He Was Standing on Deck Admiring the Scenery When Panic Began):

"When they got on deck they found a rope drawn closer to their quarters than usual and this made some of them think that there was danger. One or two of the women began to cry, and a panic began to spread. An officer came forward (and) stood close to the rope and waived (sic) the people back...The officer who was standing at the rope had a pistol in his hand and he ordered everybody to keep back. First one woman screamed and then another, and then one man (I think he was an Italian) dashed toward the boat and the officer fired at him and struck him in the chin, and so he came back to where the rest of us were standing. Then the office said to us to put the women forward and we began picking them out and shoving them beneath the rope."

In this way the loading of Lifeboat No. 13 started.  And a legend was born.

The story of the "jaw shot" caught the imagination of the public---and other survivors.

In the book Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters (1912, edited by Logan Marshall), which is a compilation of newspaper stories of the day turned into a narrative, the incident is recounted with a more dramatic flair:

"'Stand back,' shouted the officers who were manning the boat. 'The women come first.' Shouting curses in various foreign languages, the immigrant men continued their pushing and tugging to climb into the boats. Shots rang out. One big fellow fell over the railing into the water. Another dropped to the deck, moaning. His jaw had been shot away. This was the story told by the bystanders afterwards on the pier. One husky Italian told the writer on the pier that the way in which the men were shot down was horrible. His sympathy was with the men who were shot. 'They were only trying to save their lives,' he said." (Sinking of the Titanic, p.52)

A hundred years later, in the book Voices From The Titanic (edited by Geoff Tibbals, 2012, Skyhorse Publishing), which is also a compilation of contemporary 1912 newspaper stories about the Titanic, this reference appears (Page 377):

"One of the steward last evening described there were many instances among the steerage passengers of attempting to rush the boats...he said that he would have been afraid to have jumped into a lifeboat even if he had felt inclined to do so, as he saw 7 men shot for attempting to do so. One had his chin blown off."

Canadian Arthur Peuchen, who had been allowed to climb into Lifeboat No. 6 to help row, repeated the jaw story to a reporter in Toronto. Here's that excerpt:

The Toronto World
Saturday, 20 April 1912
One Man Shot.
"It was stated that the first officer shot himself. As the last boat left, I am told that the people began to jump in on to the women. One of the officers is said to have drawn his revolver and shot a man thru the 'aw [sic]."

Even Second Officer Lightoller couldn't help gossiping about the "jaw shot".  The author of the book Titanic: Sinking the Myths, Diana Bristow, got a letter from the son of a good friend of Lightoller's, Captain James McGiffin. He wrote that his father heard the story of the sinking from Lightoller himself.

"After Titanic sank, Lightoller saw McGiffin and naturally told him all about the disaster, including the fact that Murdoch had been forced to shoot a crewman who led a rush on one of the lifeboats, pushing aside women and children. The bullet struck the man's jaw." (Titanic: Sinking the Myths, Diana Bristow)

By then, the story had morphed to identify the shot man as a "crewman", instead of a steerage passenger. The fact of the shooting was never in question.

Back to the story.

It had taken seconds for Murdoch to restore some order.  Having seen the loading of Lifeboat No. 13 started, he could check how the first two boats under his supervision were doing.

The lowering of No. 9 was uneventful and the lifeboat had almost reached the sea.  Murdoch could look over the rail and nine feet down at No. 11 which was now nearly filled up.

Assistant Second Steward Wheat:

13200. Having had your men up, as you say, two deep round the boats, what was done about the women and children?
- First I told the men off to make sure that the plug in No. 11 was in tight, and then I told five or six men, I cannot tell which, to get into the boat to hand the women and children in. Then the order was passed to pass the women and children along. After the women and children were all passed in we filled her up with as many as the boat would possibly hold, and Mr. Murdoch, looking over the top, said, "You have got enough there."
13208. ... When your boat was lowered, you say Mr. Murdoch gave the order. Was she full?
- Yes, quite full she could not hold another soul.

13240. He gave them from the boat deck?
- Yes.

13241. Over the side?
- Yes, we could hear him shouting over the side; he looked over the side when the boat was full and told us to lower her away.

Murdoch could not imagine the incendiary effect of his order. But that was still to come.

Did Murdoch see what happened next? We'll never know. But we have the eyewitness accounts of passengers in No. 11.
                                       His Body Tumbled Into The Boat

Mrs. Emma Schabert wrote about it to her sister-in-law from the rescue ship Carpathia. Her letter is dated April 18, 1912.  She wrote about escaping the Titanic with her brother, who she called by his nickname Boy:

(Excerpt from Schabert letter found at

"Meanwhile the boat was sinking lower. Then someone said there was a boat on the lower deck and we went down to find it nearly crowded. There were just a few women left on deck so I risked it and went in, and after the other other women were put in then there was room for one man, and Boy was allowed to enter. The officers had pistols to shoot any man who entered without permission. Can you realize my joy when we were both in the lifeboat? Then we were lowered in the lifeboat jerk after jerk, and so unevenly, that we expected to be thrown into the water."

Addie Wells, was with Mrs. Schabert in No.11 along with her two children:

Akron Beaon Journal
Saturday 20th April 1912

Stood Up All Night Long in Lifeboat, Nestling Her Babies in Her Skirts to Keep Them Warm and Dry and Alive 

(Special Dispatch to the Beacon Journal) 

New York, April 20--Mrs. Addie Wells and her two chidlren (sic), Joan, aged four, and Ralph, aged two, survivors of the Titanic horror, were found last night at the Star Hotel, 57 Clarkson street, together with A. H. Wells, husband, and A. Trevaskis, brother of Mrs. Wells, the latter from Akron, O. 

It is a thrilling story that Mrs. Wells tells of her night ride to safety. Like so many others she did not realize her peril and had she not been literally forced into a life boat might have shared the fate of 1,600 others. .... "I thought even then it was some sort of a drill or something, except that just as we went down I saw a revolver in an officer's hand. "

Marion Smith, another passenger in No. 11 told her story to a close friend:

Girl Titanic Victim Brands Ismay Coward

Miss Marian Smith Describes Scene of Horror When Liner Sank

Milwaukee Journal April 25, 1912

Miss Smith and her mother were rescued by the Carpathia. As soon as the vessel docked, Mrs. Smith was taken to a hospital suffering from the shock of the tragedy. Miss Smith came to Wauwatosa to visit Mrs. A. Desauer, 470 Wauwatosa Ave. 

Sailor Shot Dead

"I didn't ask her much about the wreck," said Mrs. Desauer,"because she was so wrought up over it that I wanted to keep her mind from it as much as possible." But she told me she and her mother  were pushed into one of the first boats that left the Titanic. A sailor, who tried to enter, was shot dead by one of the officers, she said. His body tumbled into the boat as it was being launched. The boat was crowded with women and children. They were afraid that if they attempted to throw the body overboard they would upset the boat, so for eight hours they had to stand on the corpse."

Edith Russell inadvertently provided corroboration to Miss Smith's story:

"In searching for extra clothing for one of the stewards we suddenly came upon a passenger in the bottom of the boat which we had not noticed before although he had been lying practically at my feet. By now there was enough light to recognize him as a stoker. The poor fellow was dead. I supposed he may have jumped head first into the boat, knocked himself unconscious and had frozen to death without being noticed."   Titanic Commutator, Spring, 1979.

Further corroboration of sorts comes from a brief comment by Wallace Bradford, of San Francisco, who was a passenger on the Carpathia as quoted in 'Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters' edited by Logan Marshall:

"Four bodies have been brought aboard. One is that of a fireman, who is said to have been shot by one of the officers because he refused to obey orders."

Who was shot and who shot him, we'll never know. It's locked in the vault of time.

But we know what happened next.  Pandemonium!

When Murdoch ordered No. 11 lowered, there had been a slight delay.  Mrs. Jane Quick had put her two little children into the boat, but the crewmen were telling her she couldn't go with them and would have to take another boat. She protested loudly and forcefully until they relented and let her join her children.

According to a biography by George Behe published in Vol. 17, No 2, of The Titanic Commutator (1993) "a crew member announced with finality, "That's enough. No more can get in". Upon hearing this several people in the vicinity attempted to force their way but were held back by other men standing nearby."

First Murdoch, and now a sailor in the lifeboat. Both announcing "no more." Abraham Hyman, who was helping load No. 13 on the deck above, saw the effect.

"Then there was a shout that no more could go into that boat... And that was enough to drive them wild and a fight began among them to get to where the boat was being made ready. Some of the men tried to get their wives into the boat and mothers tried to get their children into them, and only the men who had nobody with them fought for themselves, so far as I could make out in the confusion. The forward deck was jammed with the people, all of them pushing and clawing and fighting...and then a line of men gathered along the side and only opened when a woman or a child came through. When a man tried to get through he would be pushed back."

In No. 11, Addie Wells saw the turmoil breaking out:

"As we got away, we saw a lot of wild eyed men come rushing up from steerage, but they were met by a man with a gun who pushed them back into a crowd of men and said, "Stand back there now, the first word out of you and I'll ----' I didn't catch the rest. Some of the men from the first and second class cabins were standing beside the officer."

Albert Caldwell, a second cabin passenger, had a closer view of the same scene from the deck of the Titanic:  (The Times Dispatch (Richmond, Va.) April 20, 1912 and other newspapers)

"A second cabin passenger, who was taken to the Chelsea Hotel, said that he saw a man, who was pointed out to him as .Major Butt, standing alongside one of the lifeboats.

"He was in his shirt sleeves. In his right hand ho held a revolver, and as the crowd made toward the boat I heard him shout: 'Stand back, you men. Women and children first. I'll shoot the first man that tries to enter a boat.'
"This held them back. As I was shoved to one side I heard a pistol shot, but whether it was from his revolver I don't know. "

Steerage passengers, who had been kept below while the first and second cabin women were loaded into lifeboats, broke through the barriers and flooded the boat deck. At some point, Murdoch had given an order to load No. 15. We know that No. 15 and No. 13 were loaded concurrently from the accounts given by Irish steerage women who, once they reached the boat deck, could enter either boat.

                                                              Shoots Four Men Dead

The loading process was the same at every lifeboat. Some crew members would be sent into the boat to help the women and children who would be passed in by other crew members still on deck. It appears that whoever went into No. 15 first, got a surprise. An Associated Press story that was widely syndicated told of what one of the Irish girls saw:

[by The Associated Press]

New York, April 19—...A thrilling story was told by Ellen Shine, a 20 year old girl from County Cork, Ireland, who came here to visit a brother.
“Those who were able to get out of bed,” said Miss Shine, “rushed to the upper decks, where they were met by the members of the crew, who endeavored to keep them in the steerage quarters. The women, however, rushed by these men, knocking them down, and finally reached the upper decks. When informed that the boat was sinking most of them fell to their knees and began to pray.

Shoots Four Men Dead

“I saw one of the lifeboats and made for it. In it were four men from the steerage. They were ordered out by an officer and refused to leave. Then one of the officers jumped into the boat, and drawing a revolver, shot the four men dead. Their bodies were picked from the bottom of the boat and thrown into the sea.”

No. 15, you will recall, was the boat "full of men" seen by Bertha Watt, the boat the McCoy sisters saw emptied at gunpoint. And obviously the boat where at least four of those men hid until they were discovered.

Who were the stowaways? In 2011, an amazing book was published about the Titanic's Arab passengers---'The Dream and Then the Nightmare' by Leila Salloum Elias. The author did what hadn't been done in almost 100 years; she scoured Arab-language newspapers from 1912 and interviewed family members of survivors, and those that didn't survive, to tell, for the first time, the stories of a segment of Titanic's passengers that had been all but forgotten. And she tells the story openly, and without guile, the good with the bad, including the names of men who were shot on the Titanic as they tried to get into lifeboats to save their lives.

In the book, she tells the story of Latifah al-Haj Qurban al-Ba-qlini, who has come down through history with the Anglicized name Latifah Baclini. Mrs. Baclini told the newspaper Al-Huda that she saw three Syrian men shot and killed by officers while hiding in a boat. That's the key. There's only one shooting account that involves men 'in' a boat---Ellen Shine's.

Another witness, and names. Elias names at least two of the men killed at boat No. 15---Tannus Butros Ka'wi, 21, and Sarkis Lahhud Ishaq, 35. Tannus, the story goes, had been caught in the middle of the tension between Turks and Lebanese. He shot and killed two Turk-supporters who were stealing sheep, but was forced to go into hiding, and eventually flee to America to start a new life. Sarkis was coming to the U.S. to stay with his mother at the request of his father who had taken ill and would stay in his home village.
He was travelling with the Nakid family. (Said Nakid, his wife Mary Nakid and their 13-month-old daughter Mariyam escaped in No. 15.)

And who was the shooter? If not Murdoch himself, then the prime suspect would be the master-at-arms who was seen by Bertha Watt standing by the boat when she left.

                                         "I'll shoot the first man who jumps into a boat."

Identifying who fired shots becomes near impossible at this stage as it seems many crewmen had guns and were willing to use them.

 Margaret Mannion told her grandson how the Irish passengers stormed the top deck. Her story, as he remembered it, was carried in the Connacht Tribune, December, 2002.

 "Down below, Margaret recalled, the third class passengers began to get very panicky, especially as water started to rise about their feet. At last, one brave Irishman jumped up and said, “Tis do or die” and the rest of the men agreed. They stormed down the corridors followed by the ladies in their light clothes."

 "They were stopped by a large barrier at the foot of a stairway, put there to stop steerage passengers mingling on upper decks, but a few strong fellows managed to smash it down. They moved on. At one stage a sailor tried to stop them, but they took care of him and soon reached the top where there were two more sailors standing with guns. They tried to threaten the passengers by firing shots in the air but this did not frighten the men, Margaret recalled. They just threw the sailors out of their way and rushed to the lifeboats followed by the women and children. The second class passengers were just about to board the boats. The sailors had no other choice but to let the third class women and children into the boats."

 Irish passenger Bertha Mulvihill: (Providence Journal, April 20, 1912)

"Some of the Italian men from way down in the steerage were screaming and fighting to get into the lifeboats. Captain Smith stood at the head of the passageway. He had a gun in his hand."

"Boys," he said. "You've got to do your duty here. It's the women and children first, and I'll shoot the first man who jumps into a boat."

Eugene Daly (interviewed by Dr. Frank Blackmarr aboard the Carpathia)

"Finally some of the women and children were let up, but, as you know, we had quite a number of hot-headed Italians and other peoples who got crazy and made for the stairs. These men tried to rush the stairway, pushing and crowding and pulling women down, some of them with weapons in their hands."
Alice and Agnes McCoy, their brother, and their cousin  had reached the lifeboats.  The girls were about to get into No. 15.

"The girls put off in the last boat that left the ship, but not before three shots rang out from the officer's in command, and as many Italians dropped in their rush to precede them." (Three Shot By Officers As The Last Boat Put Off, Toronto Telegram, April 19, 1912)

Steerage passenger Elizabeth Dowdell was right in the middle of the melee. She was escorting a five-year-old girl, Virginia Ethel Emmanuel,  to her grandparents home in New York, NY.  Her account was in the Hudson Dispatch, April 20, 1912.

"When we tried to get to the deck the stairways were so crowded that we could not get to the deck above. Men and women were climbing over each other here, and it was impossible for them to move. They appeared to me to be steerage passengers, and their cries and curses were terrible to hear."

"Finally some of the men passengers realized that it would be impossible to get up by the stairways, and they hoisted the women and children to seamen on the gallery above. They clasped their hands together, to enable the women to step upon them and reach out to those who would grasp them."

""When we arrived on deck nearly al lof [sic] the boats were off. They were just filling No. 13... My charge and I were carried bodily into Boat No. 13."

"Several men tried to rush in on us before we were lowered. I saw an officer shoot three of them. The others stopped immediately."
                                      They Shot Him and Pushed His Body Into the Ocean.

Berta Nilsson was right there. She survived the Titanic, stayed in America, got married, raised a family and kept her secret of what happened that night for more than sixty years right up to the day she died.

Twenty-four years after her death, Nilsson's daughter  went to Sweden to reconnect with her distant relatives. What she  learned about her mother and her dark secret left her stunned.

Berta had written letters home after the disaster. In them she told her story, the story she kept from her children and grandchildren. Her daughter,  Dorothy Christensen Cherry, of Salt Lake City, Utah, shared what she discovered with the local newspaper:

"Nilsson was asleep in her third-class cabin on the night of April 14 when she was shaken awake by her fiancé, who told her to get dressed and don her life preserver. Although the ship's officers barricaded the third-class passengers from reaching the lifeboats, Edvard somehow broke through and ushered Berta to the rail."

"She boarded (the lifeboat) - with Edvard at her side. But the ship's officers, who gave preference to women and children, ordered him out of the boat. When Edvard refused to leave his fiancé's side, they shot him and pushed his body into the ocean."

Berta's fiance was  Edvard Larsson-Ronsberg from Ransbyster, who had gone to Sweden to bring her back with him to Missoula, Montana.

The shooting was evidently witnessed by a steward, C.W. Fitzpatrick:

Journal of Commerce
Mr.Fitzpatrick, one of the stewards, stated in an interview that on Sunday, April 14, as he was serving the lunch of the engineers' mess, the chief steward, who had been an old
seafaring man, said that he knew ice was in the vicinity by the smell of the air.
"We retired to our cabin, which was situated on deck above the  engine room, and were settling down to sleep when we were aroused by a sudden lurch of the vessel. After a few minutes the
engines were stopped. I inquired the reason for the sudden stoppage of the engines. After being informed that the ship had struck an iceberg and that she was not seriously injured, I settled myself to sleep again. I was awakened by a fireman. I went on deck and the ship was listing to port.

Fitzpatrick told how he saw a "foreigner" shot dead at one of the lifeboats, and again on the opposite side of the ship.

 "A passenger tried to claim a seat in one of the boats. The officer told him to leave at once and as he hesitated a revolver shot was fired and he dropped dead in the water."

There was another witness to the shooting of Berta Nilsson's fiance.

Said Nakid told his story to the Waterbury Republican (April 25, 1912, recounted in The Dream and Then the Nightmare, Elias, 2011):

He said he placed his wife and daughter into the lifeboat but sailors pushed him away and ordered him to stay back.

"At this point that Sa'id saw another boat about to be lowered. The lifeboat was almost filled with only women when Sa'id saw a man attempt to board," wrote Elias.

"The sailors held him back but he managed to break thru them and jumped into the boat. When he stood up, a sailor pulled a revolver and shot him. The man's body tumbled over the side of the boat and that was the last I saw of him."

And still the carnage wasn't over.

                  L'homme qui d'une main tient un revolver, tire sure lui et l'abat

Paul Mauge, the only survivor from the Titanic's restaurant staff, was the secretary to Mr. Rousseau, the head chef.  His account was published in Le Devoir, April 22, 1912, under the headline "La narration de Paul Mauge, un rescape".  (The translation is mine.)

Mr. Mauge told how he met up with Chef Rousseau and they went up to the "third class bridge" (The C Deck promenade, I believe he means).

"At this site the terror was undescribable. We tried in vain to calm those surrounding us, then we went looking for a way to the second class bridge. (On the Boat Deck)

"A steward stopped us. However, he let us pass after recognizing us."

Mauge spotted a lifeboat, "half-empty", and in the davits suspended 15 feet below the boat deck.

"I convinced my companion to jump into the lifeboat, but the distance scared him. To encourage him I jumped in and called him to do it too. Voices told me to shut up while one of the men already in the lifeboat tried to throw me in the water. I clung to the gunwale, I was saved. At the very moment as I recovered my balance, a mother on the bridge of the Titanic threw me her baby. Two men threw her in, in turn."

"Suddenly, bangs could be heard. A passenger suddenly driven mad was shooting a gun in all directions. Our lifeboat was afloat, to starboard a man fell into the sea trying to snatch the gunwhale, a sailor armed with a knife tried to make him let go, the man who had a gun his one hand, fired at him and killed him.  He hauled himself into the lifeboat and took his place.

Mauge's description of another lifeboat that almost swamped his leaves no doubt he was saved in Lifeboat No. 13.

The poor dead sailor can't be identified. But who fired the shot that killed him?

It was a male passenger who was saved in No. 13. But the meager options (Dodge, Oxenham, Beesley, Caldwell, Hyman, Johanessen, de Messemacher, Sap) offer no good, viable suspects.  Not, that is, until you get to the last three---the professional gamblers---Harry Homer aka E. Haven, 40; George Brereton aka George Brayton, 37; and Charles Romaine aka Mr C. Rolmane aka C.H. Romacue, 45.

A professional cardsharp with a gun? For protection, of course. No surprise, there.

Ruthless? Risk-taker?  Not out of the question.

But which of the three?  Romaine, at 45, seems a bit old for such daring-do. But the youngest,
Brereton/Brayton was the most brash.  Unafraid of the press, even as male survivors were being ostracized, he gave numerous interviews.  Like Woody Allen's Zelig, he's everywhere.

Brayton saw the iceberg before it hit the Titanic. He saw J.J. Astor say farewell to his wife. He saw producer Henry Harris part from his wife. He saw Captain Smith get swept off the Titanic by a wave. He saw a steward shoot a foreigner who tried to get into a lifeboat before a group of women.

Perhaps, most importantly, Brereton told one reporter he leapt into the ocean and swam to a lifeboat.

And, there's support for that story.  An interview with Molly Brown was published in the Denver Post, April 19, 1912, in which she said she had been on deck taking a walk with  Harry Haven and George Brayton when the Titanic hit the iceberg.   She was knocked off her feet.

“In the twinkle of an eye Mr. Haven was gone and Mr. Brayton and I lay stunned on deck. For the next few minutes I don’t know what I did. I have a recollection of running to my room in the awful darkness, grasping what jewels I had and hurrying out on the deck."

Mr. Brayton, she said, had also abandoned her. The next she knew of him, he had jumped overboard with a life preserver.  He floated in the ocean for four hours, she said, no doubt repeating the story he told her on the Carpathia.

There's no concrete evidence he shot the sailor in No. 13 and took his place, but George Brereton would sure be a "person of interest" in any murder investigation into the sailor's death.

****Part Three of Six****