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Authors: Archibald Gracie

Titanic: A Survivor's Story (28 page)

BOOK: Titanic: A Survivor's Story
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Examined by Sir Robert Finley for White Star Line:

Mr. Finley:
Have you crossed very often to and from America?
Mr. Ismay:
Very often.
Mr. Finley:
Have you ever, on any occasion, attempted to interfere with the navigation of the vessel on any of these occasions?
Mr. Ismay:
Mr. Finley:
When you left the deck just before getting into the collapsible boat, did you hear the officer calling out for more women?
Mr. Ismay:
I do not think I did; but I heard them calling for women very often.
Mr. Edwards:
When the last boat left the
you must have known that a number of passengers and crew were still on board?
Mr. Ismay:
I did.
Mr. Edwards:
And yet you did not see any on the deck?
Mr. Ismay:
No, I did not see any, and I could only assume that the other passengers had gone to the other end of the ship.

From an address (Br. Inq.) by Mr. A. Clement Edwards, M.P., Counsel for Dock Workers’ Union:

What was Mr. Ismay’s duty?
Coming to Mr. Ismay’s conduct, Mr. Edwards said it was clear that the gentleman had taken upon himself to assist in getting women and children into the boat. He had also admitted that when he left the
he knew she was doomed, that there were hundreds of people in the ship, that he didn’t know whether or not there were any women or children left, and that he did not even go to the other side of the Boat Deck to see whether there were any women and children waiting to go. Counsel submitted that a gentleman occupying the position of managing director of the company owning the
, and who had taken upon himself the duty of assisting at the boats, had certain special and further duties beyond an ordinary passenger’s duties, and that he had no more right to save his life at the expense of any single person on board that ship than the captain would have had. He (Mr. Edwards) said emphatically that Mr. Ismay did not discharge his duty at that particular moment by taking a careless glance around the starboard side of the Boat Deck. He was one of the few persons who at the time had been placed in a position of positive knowledge that the vessel was doomed, and it was his clear duty, under the circumstances, to see that someone made a search for passengers in other places than in the immediate vicinity of the Boat Deck.
Lord Mersey:
Moral duty do you mean?
Mr. Edwards:
I agree; but I say that a managing director going on board a liner, commercially responsible for it and taking upon himself certain functions, had a special moral obligation and duty more than is possessed by one passenger to another passenger.
Lord Mersey:
But how is a moral duty relative to his inquiry? It might be argued that there was a moral duty for every man on board that every women should take precedence, and I might have to inquire whether every passenger carried out his moral duty.
Mr. Edwards agreed that so far as the greater questions involved in this case were concerned this matter was one of trivial importance.

From address of Sir Robert Finlay, K.C., M. P., Counsel for White Star Company (Br. Inq.):

It has been said by Mr. Edwards that Mr. Ismay had no right to save his life at the expense of any other life. He did not save his life at the expense of any other life. If Mr. Edwards had taken the trouble to look at the evidence he would have seen how unfounded this charge is. There is not the slightest ground for suggesting that any other life would have been saved if Mr. Ismay had not got into the boat. He did not get into the boat until it was being lowered away.
Mr. Edwards has said that it was Mr. Ismay’s plain duty to go about the ship looking for passengers, but the fact is that the boat was being lowered. Was it the duty of Mr. Ismay to have remained, though by doing so no other life could have been saved? If he had been impelled to commit suicide of that kind, then it would have been stated that he went to the bottom because he dared not face this inquiry. There is no observation of an unfavorable nature to be made from any point of view upon Mr. Ismay’s conduct. There was no duty devolving upon him of going to the bottom with his ship as the captain did. He did all he could to help the women and children. It was only when the boat was being lowered that he got into it. He violated no point of honor, and if he had thrown his life away in the manner now suggested it would be said he did it because he was conscious he could not face this inquiry and so he had lost his life.


Floated off the ship.

: T. Beattie,
P.D. Daly,
G. Rheims, R.N. Williams, Jr., first-class; O. Abelseth,
W.J. Mellers, second-class; and Mrs. Rosa Abbott,† Edward Lindley, † third-class.

: Steward: E. Brown, Firemen: J. Thompson, one unidentified body,* Seaman: one unidentified body.*

An extraordinary story pertains to this boat. At the outset of my research it was called a ‘boat of mystery,’ occasioned by the statements of the
’s officers. In his conversations with me, as well as in his testimony, Officer Lightoller stated that he was unable to loosen this boat from the ship in time and that he and his men were compelled to abandon their efforts to get it away. The statement in consequence was that this boat ‘A’ was not utilized but went down with the ship. My recent research has disabused his mind of this supposition. There were only four Engelhardt boats in all as we have already learned, and we have fully accounted for ‘the upset boat B,’ and ‘D,’ the last to leave the ship in the tackles, and boat ‘C,’ containing Mr. Ismay, which reached the
’s side and was unloaded there. After all the mystery we have reached the conclusion that boat ‘A’ did not go down with the ship, but was the one whose occupants were rescued by Officer Lowe in the early morning, and then abandoned with three dead bodies in it. This also was the boat picked up nearly one month later by the
nearly 200 miles from the scene of the wreck.

I have made an exhaustive research up to date for the purpose of discovering how Boat A left the ship. Information in regard thereto is obtained from the testimony before the British Court of Inquiry of Steward Edward Brown, from first-class passenger R.N. Williams, Jr., and from an account of William J. Mellers, a second cabin passenger as related by him to Dr Washington Dodge. Steward Brown, it will be observed, testified that he was washed out of the boat and yet ‘did not know whether he went down in the water.’ As he could not swim, an analysis of his testimony forces me to believe that he held on to the boat and did not have to swim and that boat ‘A’ was the same one that he was in when he left the ship. I am forced to the same conclusion in young Williams’ case after an analysis of his statement that he took off his big fur overcoat in the water and cast it adrift while he swam twenty yards to the boat, and in some unaccountable way the fur coat swam after him and also got into the boat. At any rate it was found in the boat when it was recovered later as shown in the evidence.

I also have a letter from Mr. George Rheims, of Paris, indicating his presence on this same boat with Messrs Williams and Mellers and Mrs. Abbott and others.


Edward Brown, steward (Br. Inq.):

Witness helped with boats 5, 3, 1 and C, and then helped with another collapsible; tried to get it up to the davits when the ship gave a list to port. The falls were slackened but the boat could not be hauled away any further. There were four or five women waiting to get into the boat. The boat referred to was the collapsible boat ‘A’ which they got off the officers’ house. They got it down by the planks, but witness does not know where the planks came from. He thinks they were with the bars which came from the other boats; yet he had no difficulty in getting the boat off the house. The ship was then up to the bridge under water, well down by the head. He jumped into the boat then called out to cut the falls. He cut them at the aft end, but cannot say what happened to the forward fall. He was washed out of the boat
but does not know whether he went down in the water
He had his lifebelt on and came to the top. People were all around him. They tore his clothes away struggling in the water. He could not swim, but got into the collapsible boat ‘A.’ Only men were in it, but they picked up a woman and some men afterwards, consisting of passengers, stewards and crew. There were sixteen men. Fifth Officer Lowe in boat No. 14 picked them up.

O. Abelseth (Am. Inq.):

Witness describes the period just before the ship sank when an effort was made to get out the collapsible boats on the roof of the officers’ house. The officer wanted help and called out: ‘Are there any sailors here?’ It was only about five feet to the water when witness jumped off. It was not much of a jump. Before that he could see the people were jumping over. He went under and swallowed some water. A rope was tangled around him. He came on top again and tried to swim. There were lots of men floating around. One of them got him on the neck and pressed him under the water and tried to get on top, but he got loose from him. Then another man hung on to him for a while and let go. Then he swam for about fifteen or twenty minutes. Saw something dark ahead of him; swam towards it and it was one of the Engelhardt boats (‘A’). He had a life-preserver on when he jumped from the ship. There was no suction at all. ‘I will try and see,’ he thought, ‘if I can float on the lifebelt without help from swimming,’ and he floated easily on the lifebelt. When he got on boat ‘A’ no one assisted him, but they said when he got on: ‘Don’t capsize the boat,’ so he hung on for a little while before he got on.
Some were trying to get on their feet who were sitting or lying down; others fell into the water again. Some were frozen and there were two dead thrown overboard. On the boat he raised up and continuously moved his arms and swung them around to keep warm. There was one lady aboard this raft and she (Mrs. Abbott) was saved. There were also two Swedes and a first-class passenger. He said he had a wife and child. There was a fireman also named Thompson who had burned one of his hands; also a young boy whose name sounded like ‘Volunteer.’ He and Thompson were afterwards at St. Vincent’s Hospital. In the morning he saw a boat with a sail up, and in unison they screamed together for help. Boat A was not capsized and the canvas was not raised up, and they could not get it up.
They stood all night in about twelve or fourteen inches of water
– their feet in water all the time. Boat No. 14 sailed down and took them aboard and transferred them to the
, he helping to row. There must have been ten or twelve saved from boat A; one man was from New Jersey, with whom he came in company from London. At daybreak he seemed unconscious. He took him by the shoulder and shook him. ‘Who are you?’ he said, ‘let me be; who are you?’ About half an hour or so later he died.

In a recent letter from Dr Washington Dodge he refers to a young man whom he met on the
, very much exhausted, whom he took to his stateroom and gave him medicine and medical attention. This young man was a gentleman’s valet and a second cabin passenger. This answers to the description of William J. Mellers, to whom I have written, but as yet have received no response. Dr Dodge says he believes this young man’s story implicitly: He, Mellers, ‘was standing by this boat when one of the crew was endeavoring to cut the fastenings that bound it to the vessel just as the onrush of waters came up which tore it loose. It was by clinging to this boat that he was saved.’

R.N. Williams, Jr., in his letter writes me as follows:

I was not under water very long, and as soon as I came to the top I threw off the big fur coat I had on. I had put my lifebelt on under the coat. I also threw off my shoes. About twenty yards away I saw something floating. I swam to it and found it to be a collapsible boat. I hung on to it and after a while got aboard and
stood up in the middle of it. The water was up to my waist
About thirty of us clung to it. When Officer Lowe’s boat picked us up eleven of us were alive; all the rest were dead from cold. My fur coat was found attached to this Engelhardt boat ‘A’ by the
, and
also a cane marked ‘C. Williams
.’ This gave rise to the story that my father’s body was in this boat, but this, as you see, is not so. How the cane got there I do not know.

Through the courtesy of Mr. Harold Wingate of the White Star Line in letters to me I have the following information pertaining to boat ‘A’:

One of the bodies found in this boat was that of Mr. Thompson Beattie. We got his watch and labels from his clothes showing his name and that of the dealer, which we sent to the executor. Two others were a fireman and a sailor, both unidentified. The overcoat belonging to Mr. Williams I sent to a furrier to be re-conditioned, but nothing could be done with it except to dry it out, so I sent it to him as it was.
There was no cane in the boat
. The message from the
and the words ‘R.N. Williams,
care of Duane Williams
,’ were twisted by the receiver of the message to ‘Richard N. Williams,
cane of Duane Williams
which got into the press, and thus perpetuated the error.
BOOK: Titanic: A Survivor's Story
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