Titanic: Upper Decks

With Thanks To George Behe, Günter Bäbler and Peter Engberg

A companion piece to my Below Decks essay, this research concentrates on the activities aloft, away from the warmth and illusory safety of the interior. Because of the myriad of survivor testimony, I have tried to concentrate on the gross, or bulk behaviour of the people on deck, to try and understand how people gathered and moved as they did. Admittedly, most of this essay is conjecture, albeit based on direct evidence, so apologies for copious use (or overuse) of speculative words like "maybe" or "perhaps"!

The majority of data presented below comes from both the 1912 Inquiries, but the next most valuable source of data comes from George Behe's compilation of passenger and crew accounts, "On Board RMS Titanic", or [OBRT]. If readers do not possess this invaluable resource, they should avail themselves of its worth as soon as possible!

Picture the scene: the largest liner in the world, approximately 2/3rds of the way into its maiden voyage had suffered a calamity. What sort of calamity was known only to a very few crew members. Awakened or alarmed by a strange noise or sensation, passengers meekly peered out of their staterooms, or sought the wisdom of stewards. For some, this was not enough, and a few braved the arctic conditions outside to try and ascertain what had happened.

Inevitably, passengers congregated in small huddled groups to discuss the situation. Most of them, sensibly, gathered in the warmth but a few stepped into the cold. Colonel Archibald Grace was to write in his book, "Out on Deck A, port side, towards the stern, many men and women had already collected ... To reassure the ladies of whom I had assumed special charge, I showed them a bright white light of what I took to be a ship about five miles off and which I felt sure was com ing to our rescue. Colonel Astor heard me telling this to them and he asked me to show it and I pointed the light out to him. In so doing we both had now to lean over the rail of the ship and look close in towards the bow, avoiding a lifeboat even then made ready with its gunwale lowered to the level of the floor of the Boat Deck above us and obstructing our view."

Apart from this gathering, near the aft Grand Staircase entrance, there were only small pockets of conversation. This would change when the order to don lifejackets was given, and the main hub of activity shifted to the upper decks leaving the interior bereft of people.

The forward boat deck, c.12:30 - 1.10am

Lifebelts having been procured, the passengers marched out on to the boat deck; in most cases, sailors and stewards were attending to the boats, readying them for the evacuation. Some confusion reigned up here, and 1st class passenger Norman Chambers [OBRT] was a witness to this: he had come from the port side, where "There did not at any time seem to be any particular group of passengers around the boats on the port side, although there were seamen there unlimbering the gear"; then, having seen more passengers coming out of the deck house, he decided to go forward and then over to starboard via the raised roof to starboard. After a brief pause to put on his lifebelt etc., [he] moved forward." Then, "On trying to pass the deck house entrance from which [quite a number of] passengers were now appearing, we were instructed by a steward stationed there to go aft. Instead of doing this we stayed behind the vestibule of the entrance and waited until the passengers ceased coming. When we went forward to the lifeboats, there appeared to be few passengers left..." Soon after this, Chambers and his wife found their way into boat 5. [Footnote]
Thomas Cardeza corroborates this ["The New York Sun", 27/4/1912], "When I felt the collision. I awakened my mother and the two servants and we hurried on our clothes and started for the boat deck. We joined the crowd that was pressing about one of the boats forward when I heard the officer in charge of that part of the deck shout: "What is everybody crowding about here for? There is a much better chance at the stern." I started with my mother to walk back toward the stern and there we came across such a crowd there wasn't any chance apparently of getting by (sic) mother near the boat. Then we went back to the forward part of the starboard side and found a boat that was being loaded and they were calling for women to get in."
The Cardezas managed to get in boat 3. The passengers being directed aft can only have added to the growing crowd at the stern (which we will soon discuss), while depleting the people at the bow. And as we shall presently see, the lack of passengers was a hindrance. But how much? Let us pause to try and ascertain the situation in the area of boats 7, 5, 3 and 1.
Helen Bishop was in the first boat to leave (7) and she said at the American inquiry, "Then we went up onto the boat deck on the starboard side. We looked around, and there were so very few people up there that my husband and I went to the port side to see if there was anyone there. There were only two people, a young French bride and groom, on that side of the boat, and they followed us immediately to the starboard side. By that time an old man had come upstairs and found Mr. and Mrs. Harder, of New York. He brought us all together and told us to be sure and stay together; that he would be back in a moment. We never saw him again. About five minutes later the boats were lowered, and we were pushed in."
Lookout Archie Jewell was also in No.7. He was the very first to testify in Britain: "Well, we put all the women in that was there, and children. Up to that time there was not many people; we could not get them up; they were rather afraid to go into the boat; they did not think there was anything wrong."
John Snyder [OBRT] also found a place in that very first boat: "As soon as they were ready, they told the people to get into them. Nearly everybody stepped back from in front of us and as a result we were almost the very first people placed in the lifeboat. Only a very few people were on deck at that time and they thought it much safer to stay on the big boat than to try the lifeboat."
The next boat aft was No.5, and Richard Beckwith gave his observations to the "Hartford Courtant" of 19/4/1912 and they were summarised thus: "When he got to the boat deck, they were ordered to take to the boats. 'At that time there were only about 65 people on the boat deck'. Soon after boat 7 was swuing into position. 'The second boat load emptied the boat deck of all the women who were there and some of the men.'"
Edwin Kimball [OBRT], also in No.5: "When we arrived upon the deck only a few people were there. As it was about seventy-five [sic] feet from the boat deck to the water, the officers were having great difficulty in getting the people to go into the lifeboats, assuring them at the same time that it would not be a long while before they probably would be back on the big boat. The first boat that went was not more than two-thirds full, and the officers said we would have to do something to get the people started."
Quartermaster Alfred Olliver in America said thus; "[the deck was] not so overcrowded... some [firemen and stokers were there], I think."
5th Officer Lowe was attending to the boats in the area; "there were only little knots around the deck, little crowds." When asked why he did not put more people into boats 5 and 3, he replied, "There did not seem to be any people there ... Those that were there did not seem to want to go ... [The top deck did not appear crowded] ... There was a little knot of people on the forepart of the gymnasium door." [footnote].
Anna Warren in No.5 gave a very detailed account to the "Portland Oregonian" of 27/4/1912. The relevant sections are; ""At the time we reached this deck there were very few passengers there, apparently, but it was dark and we could not estimate the number..."
3rd Officer Pitman testified in the US that White Star Chairman Bruce Ismay helped at the boats; "Then this man in the dressing gown said we had better get her loaded with women and children. So I said, "I await the commander's orders," to which he replied, "Very well," or something like that. It then dawned on me that it might be Mr. Ismay, judging by the description I had had given me. So I went along to the bridge and saw Capt. Smith, and I told him that I thought it was Mr. Ismay that wished me to get the boat away, with women and children in it. So he said, "Go ahead; carry on." I came along and brought in my boat. I stood on it and said, "Come along, ladies." There was a big crowd. Mr. Ismay helped to get them along; assisted in every way. We got the boat nearly full, and I shouted out for any more ladies."

The only source of data I have for boat 3 is Henry Harper [OBRT], who says that, after four or five stokers jumped into his boat, "there was no one in sight on the decks." Boat 1 will be dealt with presently. But apart from Lowe and Beckwith, the majority concensus of existing data is that the starboard forward boat deck had very few people and there was difficultly filling the boats.

There is also little to go on for the port side too. We have Constance Willard in boat 8 who told an unidentified paper, "[I] pulled my young friend through the eddies in the crowds." The use of the word "eddies" may imply a dense crowd was present. The comments of Anna Warren (viz. "Continuing up to the boat deck we tried to get out on the port side, but we were unable to open the door. Noticing the starboard door standing open we went out that way.") could imply that the port side of the ship was so overcrowded that the crew felt it necessary to lock the door. If this is the case, the port side must have been filled very rapidly. Helen Bishop had been on that side of the ship and saw only two passengers. She says that some five minutes later, after crossing over to the other side of the ship, the boats started to be lowered, beginning with No.7. Warren got into boat 5, launched just a few minutes later. And Lowe said he saw a lot of people on deck a little while before he got to boat 5. Of course, "five minutes" may be wrong. Estimates of timing seems to have been very fluid that night. [Footnote.] [Footnote.]

The comparison between the starboard and port sides could not be more stark, if Washington Dodge [OBRT] is correct: "At no time were there many people on the starboard side that night. Why was that? The most reasonable explanation that I can give is that the captain was in charge of the launching of the boats on port side. Now, in times of danger the captain always draws a crowd. The more notable men on board, who were known by sight to the other passengers, knew Captain Smith personally and remained near him. These men attracted others. In this way the crowd grew on the port side, while at no time was there anything like a crowd on the starboard side. Again, the orders for women and children to go to the port side greatly increased the number there." Dodge also gives another reason for the large ensemble to port: "I learned afterwards that the order was given by the officers, for the women and children to go to the port side of the vessel", although it must be said that the order was all but ignored, as husbands accompanied their wives and children regardless of the side of the ship.

There was now one boat left under davits on the forward starboard boat deck; No.1. Laura Francatelli, one of the 12 lucky enough to find room in a boat for 40, wrote, "After all the lifeboats had gone, everybody seemed to rush to the other side of the boat, & leave ours vacant, but we still stood there, as Sir Cosmo said, we must wait for orders, presently an officer started to swing off a little boat called the 'Emergency' boat, quite an ordinary little rowing boat & started to man it, he saw us & ordered us in, they were then firing the rockets beside us, we had to be nearly thrown up into this boat."
Confirming what Francatelli said, AB George Symons recalled, "Mr. Murdoch then looked around for more, and there was nobody in sight, only just the remaining members of the crew."
5th Officer Lowe seemed to confirm this. He said he took everybody that was there and cleared the deck. [footnote]

Why did people leave the area? A possible reason is that boat 1 was not plainly visible; it was hidden behind a bulwark. Unless you specifically looked for it, it would be possible to miss it in the near darkness of the deck ( although we admittedly have no data to quantify the illumination out on deck, this webpage demonstrates that the Olympic class vessels were quite dark by today's standards.). To those in the area, the only boat left was "C", left lying on the deck and hence (temporarily) unusable.

Shortly after 1.00am, we now have the situation whereby all the boats under davits on the starboard side have gone, but only two on the port side. Evidently, those waiting for boat 4 stayed put, but everyone else was ordered aft - where there was already a crowd forming. Indeed, steward Alfred Crawford testified hearing while he was on the water in No.8, "The Chief Officer told them to go along to No. 10 boat and get in there."[Footnote] [Footnote]

Aft port boat deck

The melee on the aft portside is so well documented that there seems little point in describing it; the erroneous order for men to head from starboard to port (as we will presently see from Beesley's account) no doubt exacerbated the situation. It should be noted that Assistant Steward Andrews, who left in boat 16, testified in the US that "everything was quiet" and there was no confusion or panic in loading the boat. Seaman Ernest Archer, also in the boat says he never saw any effort to crowd into the boat, that there was no confusion, no one repelled from getting in, and that everything was quiet and steady. While this may be the literal truth for No.16, it certainly wasn't true for other boats that were only a few feet away. There are many instances of people being less than candid and not volunteering information in the inquiry testimonies...[Footnote]

Aft starboard boat deck

Unlike the situation to port, which was gradually accreting more and more people, the situation to starboard is more complex.

The best witness to what was going on on the aft starboard boat deck was 2nd class passenger Lawrence Beesley. The section from his book is worth quoting:

"Reaching the top deck, we found many people assembled there, - some fully dressed, with coats and wraps, well-prepared for anything that might happen; others who had thrown wraps hastily round them when they were called or heard the summons to equip themselves with lifebelts - not in much condition to face the cold of that night ... We stood there quietly looking on at the work of the crew as they manned the lifeboats, and no one ventured to interfere with them or offered to help them. It was plain we should be of no use; and the crowd of men and women stood quietly on the deck or paced slowly up and down waiting for orders from the officers ... All this time people were pouring up from the stairs and adding to the crowd ... I was now on the starboard side of the top boat deck; the time about 12.20. We watched the crew at work on the lifeboats, numbers 9, 11, 13, 15, some inside arranging the oars, some coiling ropes on the deck, - the ropes which ran through the pulleys to lower to the sea, - others with cranks fitted to the rocking arms of the davits. As we watched, the cranks were turned, the davits swung outwards until the boats hung clear of the edge of the deck. Just then an officer came along from the first-class deck and shouted above the noise of escaping steam, "All women and children get down to deck below and all men stand back from the boats." He had apparently been off duty when the ship struck, and was lightly dressed, with a white muffler twisted hastily round his neck. The men fell back and the women retired below to get into the boats from the next deck. Two women refused at first to leave their husbands, but partly by persuasion and partly by force they were separated from them and sent down to the next deck ... But if there were any one who had not by now realized that the ship was in danger, all doubt on this point was to be set at rest in a dramatic manner. Suddenly a rush of light from the forward deck, a hissing roar that made us all turn from watching the boats, and a rocket leapt upwards to where the stars blinked and twinkled above us. Up it went, higher and higher, with a sea of faces upturned to watch it, and then an explosion that seemed to split the silent night in two, and a shower of stars sank slowly down and went out one by one. And with a gasping sigh one word escaped the lips of the crowd: "Rockets!" ... The crew were now in the boats, the sailors standing by the pulley ropes let them slip through the cleats in jerks, and down the boats went till level with B deck [sic]; women and children climbed over the rail into the boats and filled them; when full, they were lowered one by one, beginning with number 9, the first on the second-class deck, and working backwards towards 15. All this we could see by peering over the edge of the boat-deck ... About this time, while walking the deck, I saw two ladies come over from the port side and walk towards the rail separating the second-class from the first-class deck. There stood an officer barring the way. "May we pass to the boats?" they said. "No, madam," he replied politely, "your boats are down on your own deck," pointing to where they swung below. The ladies turned and went towards the stairway ... Almost immediately after this incident, a report went round among men on the top deck - the starboard side - that men were to be taken off on the port side; how it originated, I am quite unable to say, but can only suppose that as the port boats, numbers 10 to 16, were not lowered from the top deck quite so soon as the starboard boats (they could still be seen on deck), it might be assumed that women were being taken off on one side and men on the other; but in whatever way the report started, it was acted on at once by almost all the men, who crowded across to the port side and watched the preparation for lowering the boats, leaving the starboard side almost deserted. Two or three men remained, however ... "

A fascinating discourse. Because of a quirk of the Titanic's geography, there was no easy way for the 2nd class to enter the boats on "A" deck. By retracing their steps down the 2nd class staircase, they would find themselves on "B" deck - and the only way to get to the boats was via a circuitous route going through 1st class territory or by ascending crew's ladders (which is exactly what did happen). Whoever the "officer" was [a member of the pursers office, or an actual bridge "officer"?] he certainly was not familiar that "A" deck was completely 1st class territory.

I have been unable to find out if there were any guards at the similar gate on the port side [Footnote]. There would seem to be no guards fairly early on; Berk Pickard was fast in getting access to the top deck and testified having no trouble in accessing first class territory.

Returning to the discussion about the dichotomy between the assemblage of people on the aft portion of the ship, Steerage passenger Charles Dahl [OBRT]'s recollection was as follows: "When I got [up] I saw them getting ready to put out the lifeboats. I went to the port side and waited for half an hour or more, but no one was allowed into the boats. Some of the passengers came from the starboard side and said that all the lifeboats had left that side. There were hundreds of people waiting on the port side, and when I saw that, I thought there was no chance of being saved on that side of the boat. I ran over to the starboard side and to my surprise saw a boat half lowered nearly full of people."[Footnote].

The subject of how the passengers sent below managed to get to boats 11, 13 and 15 is discussed here. The circumstances surrounded the actual loading of these three craft is to be discussed in another essay, currently in preparation.

Phillip Mock (in an undated edition of "The Evening Sentinel") and his sister Emma Schabert had an interesting experience. By that time [that the forward starboard boats had gone] the number of people on the deck where he was had pretty well thinned out. There were very few around. He was told to go aft where a boat was about be lowered. He and his sister went to that boat (No.9) but it was soon filled, although only six or seven men and women were around when he first reach it, yet they appeared from all directions and soon it was full...When the boat aft was lowered, he and his sister started forward again but they were stopped and sent to the deck below, where they got into boat 11.

This is an excellent summary of boat 9. The people appearing from all directions conforms nicely with passenger Roberta Watt [OBRT]: "The port side of the ship was very crowded, so we went around to the starboard side, and there we heard a call, 'All women and children this way.' We went and got into boat No. 9..." Boatswain's Mate Albert Haines said, "We had the boat crew there, and Mr. Murdoch came along with a crowd of passengers, and we filled the boat with ladies..." So, there does seem to have been an effort to find ladies to port and coerce them in. Steward Joseph Wheat concurred; "When I arrived at No. 9 boat Mr. Murdoch was there with quite a number of our men passing women and children over from the port side into No. 9 boat." [Footnote] [Footnote]

What was the situation like after boat 9 had gone? Steward Walter Nichols was present [OBRT]: "My place was with lifeboat No. 15. So I went up on deck A [sic], where the lifeboats are. On my way up I noticed some of the passengers about, but no one seemed to be worried or excited. I passed by the gymnasium on my way. Inside were a number of passengers amusing themselves. One man was riding the bicycle, one of those exercise machines, and another was punching the bag. No. 15, my boat, was the after boat on the starboard side ... Up on deck A, which is the boat deck [sic], there were only the boat crews. At least that is all I could see. I saw them working away at Boat No. 11 and Boat No. 13. When I looked down I saw that several of the boats were already in the water ... We stood in line waiting for orders while boats 11 and 13 were swung out on the davits and lowered. The crews would make them ready and get into them. Then they would lower them to deck B [sic], where the passengers were."[Footnote] His story is confirmed by Trimmer George Cavell, who had also made his way to the boat deck and headed aft, where boat 13 was being lowered and 15 was still on deck. He says that the only men left on deck were the ones lowering the boats. Bathroom Steward James Widgery had said, that when boat 9 left there were quite a lot of men left behind on the boat deck; obviously they had dispersed in the next few minutes.]

Nichols and Cavell's recollections of a virtually deserted aft deck is to be expected; we know that passengers had departed the starboard boat deck and that there were only crew working to hook up "C" to the vacated falls all the way forward. Presumably if there were any large groups of passengers as he headed aft, Nichols would have noticed but one wonders where the passengers left behind at boat 9 had gone, or why people weren't heading over from the crush on the port side? Maybe they had looked and saw only empty chocks and assumed all the boats had gone not knowing they were on the next deck down? They may have felt more secure staying close to a boat that was in sight - namely, No.10? We simply do not know. [Footnote]

Steward Fred Ray noted, "Steward Wilson [Wheat?] and myself were ordered by Mr. Murdoch to collect all the women we could and take to that A deck, which we did." 40 women were collected from all around the boat deck and shepherded down the nearby crew stairs to "A" deck, where boats 11, 13 and 15 were waiting.

These "middle stairs" were used by the crew to easily move between decks, without passing into passenger areas. They went from E deck (where the steward's quarters were mainly located) and went all the way to the boat deck. On the night of the disaster, passengers were passed down these stairs to allow easy access to "A" deck, where boats 11, 13 and 15 had been placed.

Forward port boat deck

Resuming their work at the forward end of the superstructure, Lightoller seems to have been seconded to boat 4, which could now be filled as the promenade windows on A deck had been lowered; Wilde took over for emergency boat No.2.

Boat 2 had some interlopers aboard already; a section of Mahala Douglas's affidavit to the US Senate Inquiry is as follows: "Just before we got into the boat the captain called, 'How many of the crew are in that boat? Get out of there, every man of you'; and I can see a solid row of men, from bow to stern, crawl over on to the deck. We women then got in...There were many people about."

Who were these crew who secreted themselves aboard the boat? Gracie's book has the following from Elisabeth Allen: "As we stood there we saw a line of men file by and get into the boat - some sixteen or eighteen stokers. An officer came along and shouted to them: 'Get out, you damned cowards; I'd like to see everyone of you overboard.' They all got out and the officer said: 'Women and children into this boat.' and we got in and were lowered." [Footnote]

Some of these "stokers" were probably amongst the many who piled on to the forward boat deck as preparatory work for the launching started. [Footnote] [Footnote]

Aside from this, there is another incident, germane to our discussion of personnel movement on the decks.

Saloon Steward James Johnstone was waiting at boat 2 saw "30 or 40" ladies going down to "A" deck, evidently to be put into boat 4, and had also seen four or five women nearby. He testified at the British Inquiry thus, "Mr. Ismay tried to walk round and get a lot of women (who were walking up and down) to come to our boat. He took them across to the starboard side then - our boat was standing - I stood by my boat a good ten minutes or a quarter of an hour...He took them across ... he took them round there to the other side abaft the second funnel, I think." The women, for some reason, would not come into Johnstone's boat [Footnote]; certainly he did not notice one woman on deck when it descended. Ismay's actions in escorting the females away may explain why there were a lot of ladies at "C". Elisabeth Walton Allen recounted ("St Louis Globe-Democrat", 24/4/12) that, "there seemed to be few women in the vicinity."

Boxhall's attempts to summon the Californian by Morse lamp and socket signals having failed, he was now ordered to take charge of boat 2. He said in the US that there weren't many people on the boat deck when he got in, but there were some by the "other" boat (presumably boat 4 which left a few minutes after No.2 and which his boat passed on the way down to the water). He did not see any women on the boat deck.

(As a brief diversion, this author notes W.H.Dobbyn was told by his late employer's widow, Madeleine Astor, that "She got in the boat [4], thinking he would follow for there were a number of vacant spaces, and the deck about them deserted.")

On the face of it, there seems little untoward happening at this boat and one must recall the words of Elizabeth Allen: "With the exception of two very harrowing leave-takings, we saw nothing but perfect order and quiet on board the Titanic." The harrowing events must surely be the incident with the stokers in the boat, and the mention of her aunt finding that her stateroom was flooded.

What Allen could not have seen is what was happening further aft on deck. Thanks to the generosity of Titanic researcher Günter Bäbler, relevant portions of steerage passengers Anton Kink's account were made available to me. Kink escaped in boat 2, and this what he said: "When we arrived at the top deck, we were at the front of the pushing crowd that was being held back by several seamen. One seaman took my child into his arms and went 15 – 20 meters to the front where the last two boats stood ... This was the second to the last boat; it was on the left side where the ship was steadily sinking." Kink was restrained but sneaked through the cordon and got into the boat as it was being lowered.

After boat 4 had gone, Storekeeper Frank Prentice returned to the boat deck; he said in a radio interview in 1966 that the deck was packed with people milling around. He confirmed this in an interview with author Walter Lord, stating that "the boat deck was alive." Perhaps the passengers congregating on the aft boat deck, now realising that their hope of rescue was nil, decided to head forward in the search for more boats. If so, it was a forlorn hope. Only 5 boats remained, two of which would float off the ship.

As for what was happening at the stern end of the port boat deck, greaser Frederick Scott told the inquiry that "some" people were stood on the port side then, and that "There were a lot of firemen there, but they did not think about getting up on the davits to get out on to the falls." He could not say if there were any passengers on deck. Scott clambered down the falls and was picked up by boat 4, along with another crewman Thomas Ranger. Ranger found his way initially to the starboard second class deck on B deck, where he saw 20 men, mostly firemen, but no women or children [Footnote]. Soon after, he went up to the boat deck; the deckhands remained below [Footnote]

The final boat to be launched under davits on the port side was collapsible "D". This could only be affixed to the falls when boat 2 had gone. Gracie claimed to have helped push and then hoist this boat over the bulwark. Then, as he writes, "We had now loaded all the women who were in sight at that quarter of the ship, and I ran along the deck with Clinch Smith on the port side some distance aft shouting, 'Are there any more women?' " Evidently, with no response to this plea, the two men returned to the area of boat "D" where they heard the command for everyone to move to the starboard side, (discussed elsewhere in this essay). Gracie, Clinch and other men dutifully obeyed, and this is where Gracie met Mrs Brown and Miss Evans, two forgotten waifs of the 1st class.

Gracie again: "Meantime, I will describe what was going on at the quarter where I left Lightoller loading the last boat on the port side. The information was obtained personally from him, in answer to my careful questioning during the next few days on board the Carpathia, when I made notes thereof, which were confirmed again the next week in Washington, where we were both summoned before the Senate Investigating Committee. 'Men from the steerage,' he said, 'rushed the boat.' "Rush" is the word he used, meaning they got in without his permission. He drew his pistol and ordered them out, threatening to shoot if they attempted to enter the boat again." Gracie was more explicit in his comments to the US investigators, for he said that Lightoller actually fired his weapon.

This was never mentioned by Lightoller in either of his sets of testimonies.[Footnote]

Hearing that there was space in the boat for more women, Gracie marched Evans and Brown back to the other side of the ship; "...I did not get but half way - that is, directly at the bow - when the crew made what you might call a dead line, and said, "No men are allowed beyond this line." So I let the ladies go beyond, and then about six ladies followed after the two that I had particular charge of."

What actually was happening at the boat?

Anton Kink had described sailors holding back the crowd; this line seems to have vanished temporarily but had reformed soon before Gracie had found Evans and Brown.

Able Seaman William Lucas claimed that there were eight sailors [Footnote] besides himself present at the location [Footnote]. As the boat started its descent, Lucas saw two young girls left behind and he told them "Wait a minute, there's another boat going to be put down from the funnel for you." Evidently the firemen who had tried to overrun boat "2" were still in the area; Lucas says that there were about forty of them there.

Chief Second Class Steward John Hardy was also present, and he makes some illuminating comments about the actual descent of the boat. This is what he had to say:

Were there passengers on board the ship standing there trying to get on board the lifeboat?

There was nobody on board, because we could not get our collapsible boat lowered from one end of it. The forward part of the collapsible boat was lowered, but there was nobody there to lower the afterend, which you will find in Mr. Bright's evidence. Mr. Lightoller stepped from the collapsible boat aboard the ship again and did it himself.

There were no women and children there?

No, sir; not in sight at all. There was nobody to lower the boat.

There were no men passengers there on the deck?

No, sir; not when we were ready to lower the boat.

When you were ready to lower that boat every passenger in your vicinity had gone?

Yes, sir; they had gone.

Hardy had also said that, "We launched this [boat] filled with passengers. We launched the boat parallel with the ship's side, and Mr. Lightoller and myself, two sailors, and two firemen - the two sailors were rigging the poles [sic- davits] and getting them in working order and Mr. Lightoller and myself loaded the boat. When the boat was full, Mr. Lightoller was in the boat with me; and the chief officer came along and asked if the boat was full, and he said yes. He said he would step out himself and make room for somebody else, and he stepped back on board the ship and asked if I could row. I told him I could, and I went away in that boat."

Lightoller himself said that there were no ladies left on deck when "D" began its descent.

13996. Was she ["D"] filled? What happened?
We had very great difficulty in filling her with women. As far as I remember she was eventually filled, but we experienced considerable difficulty. Two or three times we had to wait, and call out for women - in fact, I think on one - perhaps two - occasions, someone standing close to the boat said, "Oh, there are no more women," and with that several men commenced to climb in. Just then, or a moment afterwards, whilst they were still climbing in, someone sang out on the deck, "Here are a couple more." Naturally, I judged they were women.

13997. That meant a couple more women?
Yes, and the men got out of the boat again and put the women in. If I am quite right, I think this happened on two occasions?

13998. You say the men got out of the boat. Do you mean men passengers?
I really could not say.

13999. They gave up their places?

14005. Were there men passengers about?
There were plenty of people about, no doubt men passengers.

14006. Was good order being maintained then?

QM Bright was in charge of the boat:

...when the boat was lowered the foremost fall was lowered down and the other one seemed to hang and I called out to hang on to the foremost fall and to see what was the matter and let go the after one.

Were there any women and children on deck when you left?

There must have been crowds aboard.

Where you were?

No, sir.

None in hearing distance of you?

I did not see them.

Wanting to get on the boat?

I could not say as to that. There were lots that were asked to get into the boat and they said they would rather stay on board the ship; lots of women said that.

Senator SMITH.
Did they say that to you?

Not to me; but I was assisting in getting the boats ready.

But did any ladies refuse to get in that boat - that last boat - any who were asked to get in?

Not to my knowledge.

Were there some there?

I did not see any when that boat went out.

One regrets that Bright wasn't asked if there were passengers or crew nearby rather than being interrogated about women and children. If he had, we would have known something about the movement of people at the time. But nonetheless, something is truly amiss with the evidence, with Lucas's standing out as the most troublesome, and the most contradictory. He is the only one who mentions ladies who were left behind [Footnote].

So much for the crew. What did the passengers say? May Futrelle gleaned some valuable information from Irene Harris [OBRT]: "She, like Mrs. Hoyt, clung to her husband until they forced her into the last regular boat. By that time the steerage passengers had been driven to the boat deck. There were hardly any women among them. I think that there had been a mistake or confusion of orders below that someone had failed to send up the women. At any rate, after all the women were aboard there still remained a few places in the boat. Mrs. Harris pleaded with the officer, saying: "See, I have been injured. I need my husband to take care of me." Mr. Harris made no move forward, but the steerage passengers, when they saw that there was a chance for a man to go with the boat, began crowding and shoving. The officer saw the situation - there was danger of a panic. He pointed his revolver toward them, fired twice in the air, and ordered the seamen to lower away. Something - perhaps it was one of the explosions - caused the sailors to stop lowering and abandon the davits when the boat was half-way down to the water. She dangled there, in danger of going down with the Titanic. They sat there calling, but no one responded at first; then, suddenly, the lowering was resumed."

Jane Hoyt was another occupant of "D" and her account appeared in the "Amsterdam Evening Recorder and Daily Democrat" (23/4/12)]: "Mr Hoyt and myself got in the last life boat which was only partially filled but there was a sudden rush of steerage passengers for the same and it looked as if it might be upset. My husband got out of the boat when it began to fill and I followed him. Chief Officer Wiley [sic], also drowned, pulled his gun and ordered every man in the boat to get out. There was nothing left then but the collapsible boats, two of which I saw ... the last collapsible life boat was getting in readiness to be lowered by the davits when Mr.Hoyt told me I would have to get in. I did so only after much persuasion ... Seaman started to lower us but the boat suddenly gave a heavy list and the men left us hanging suspended in the air and ran to the upper side so as to save themselves. Finally one or two men came back and completed the task of lowering us to the water."

There is reasonable agreement between Futrelle's/Harris's and Hoyt's comments. It is clear the rush of steerage passengers comes from a boat other than the two collapsibles as she differentiates between them and the boat that she and her husband got into [Footnote]. This situation sounds like the events at boat 2, except that the miscreants have been identified elsewhere as firemen. One small point is that it was Lightoller who manned the davit to resume lowering. The sailors leaving to "save themselves" is an unfortunate slur; an alternative explanation is that they could have been ordered to help get boat "A" down from the roof.[Footnote]

Mr Hoyt himself was interviewed by the press: a quoted example is to be found in "The Springfield Union" of 20/4/1912, "There was no panic at the time...All this talk about shooting on the decks of the Titanic is bosh..." [Footnote] [Footnote]

If one were to listen to the officers and crew of the Titanic, one would be forgiven for thinking that absolutely nothing untoward happened on the forward port side, which is very far from the truth [Footnote]

The forward starboard side

The people surrounding boat C had undoubtedly swelled because of Ismay fetching women from near boat 2.[Footnote] And a recently discovered account by Mauritz Håkan Björnström-Steffansson describes the situation in the vicinity; the crowd was growing thicker when this boat was being loaded, and the rails were so crowded that Steffanson and his friend went down below, to A deck. That there was some kind of scuffle at boat C is undeniable. At the US Inquiry and in a private letter [OBRMST],Hugh Woolner talked of how he and his companion Mauritz Håkan Björnström-Steffansson even helped to eject some of men who were fighting to gain admittance to the boat, and which forced 1st Officer Murdoch to fire his gun into the air to try and restore order. The scrum was even obvious to John B Thayer junior, who wrote, "...we went to the starboard side of the boat deck. There was an awful crowd around the last boat of the forward part of the starboard side, pushing and shoving wildly....we thought it would never reach the water right side up, but it did." Gracie notes that, "There was somewhat of a crowd congregated along the rail." But what does Gracie say about this after his return from escorting Mrs Brown and Miss Evans to the sailors barring access to boat D? If there was a crowd, he does not mention it. He only says that his time spent away from the starboard side was only "a short absence." The only people he explicitly mentions are; quite a number of seamen (some of whom left); two crewmen dressed in white who looked at the rest of the crew as they toiled at the davits; some "other passengers" and Clinch Smith. It does not seem as if there were many people in the vicinity at all. Where did the big crowd at boat "C" go? Perhaps, having seen boat "C" depart, one possibility is that the crowd had migrated to port to see if there was any possibility of salvation there? George Behe suggests that Murdoch's gunfire might have intimidated those nearby - it would have been abundantly clear that they would not be permitted to enter "C".

Gracie's story indicates that very few people were at the area of boat "A". What do others say on this matter?

Steward Edward Brown testified at the British Inquiry that "There were four or five women that [he] could see there waiting to get into this boat if we got it under the davits." These women had come along after boat "C" had gone. Brown also said that it had taken 10 or 12 minutes to get "A" down and while he could not be certain, he estimated that, "there were seven or eight on the top deck and two or three down below receiving [the boat]." Eugene Daly ("The Daily Sketch", 4/5/1912) said that he and six or seven men tried to extricate boat "A" from a rope but they could not. Richard Williams' memoirs says he made his way to the bridge before the end, and apart from himself and his father, only Captain Smith and someone else (who he thought was a quartermaster) were there. [Footnote]

This is hardly anything upon which to base firm conclusions. It would seem to indicate that the crowds at boat "C" had drifted away and that very few were left behind. It is also worth pointing out that Gracie did not mention noticing the women that Brown saw nearby, a peculiar lapse.

We return to Gracie:

"It was about this time, fifteen minutes after the launching of the last lifeboat on the port side, that I heard a noise that spread consternation among us all. This was no less than the water striking the bridge and gurgling up the hatchway forward. It seemed momentarily as if it would reach the Boat Deck. It appeared as if it would take the crew a long time to turn the Engelhardt boat right side up [sic] and lift it over the rail, and there were so many ready to board her that she would have been swamped. Probably taking these points into consideration. Clinch Smith made the proposition that we should leave and go toward the stern, still on the starboard side, so he started and I followed immediately after him. We had taken but a few steps in the direction indicated when there arose before us from the decks below, a mass of humanity several lines deep, covering the Boat Deck, facing us, and completely blocking our passage toward the stern. There were women in the crowd, as well as men, and they seemed to be steerage passengers who had just come up from the decks below. Instantly, when they saw us and the water on the deck chasing us from behind, they turned in the opposite direction towards the stern. This brought them at that point plumb against the iron fence and railing which divide the first and second cabin passengers." [Footnote]

Unquestioningly accepted by Titanic historians for over a century, this passage deserves critical analysis. To some, it proves that steerage were kept below decks and only managed to find their way topside at the very last minute. Is this correct though?

Gracie said later that, "I was interested in observing that this "expansion joint" was less than twelve feet forward from that point on the Boat Deck whence I jumped." I have marked this location in blue, even though it is clear that he was even closer to the joint; for the sake of discussion, I have taken his "12 feet" value. The other thing to notice are the location of the windows on the Grand Staircase foyer, marked with a red "W". It would be very difficult for Gracie to see anyone coming up from below especially if the lighting was very dim in those final moments (a "devilish red" is how Hugh Woolner talked of them). It is also debateable as to how many people he could see spilling out onto the deck. The double doors of the entrance vestibule (and its small size) would inhibit a large crowd from emerging all at once.

So, if the people he saw were not coming up, where did they come from? A radical suggestion is that they were already there, on the port side. Consider: you are on the port side. You have just seen a lifeboat fall upside down on to the deck, rendering it impotent. You can also see water flooding the area behind it. Those with an instinct to preserve their own lives might want to look elsewhere - and this means on the other side of the ship. They could have run across the foyer to get quite access to the starboard side (if Warren's "closed door" had been reopened), rather than the circuitous route around the back of the gymnasium. But there is another explanation as to why passengers would migrate from one side to the other.

There was an obvious concern about the list, which was heavily over to port. To counteract it, orders were issued for passengers to move to the starboard side (which could have added to the crowd around boat "C" at the time). Lightoller testified in America, "When the ship was taking a heavy list - not a heavy list - but she was taking a list over to port, the order was called, I think, by the chief officer. "Everyone on the starboard side to straighten her up," which I repeated." The 2nd Officer was pressed for a time but could only opine that it was half an hour or three quarters of an hour before he left the ship, which would seem to be an overestimate.

The consistently inconsistent Lightoller altered his story in London, putting the order much earlier:

13867. Was there a list to starboard?
Not that I am aware of, and I think I should have noticed it in lowering the boat. I may say that my notice was called to this list - I perhaps might not have noticed it; it was not very great - by Mr. Wilde calling out "All passengers over to the starboard side." That was an endeavour to give her a righting movement, and it was then I noticed that the ship had a list. It would have been far more noticeable on the starboard side than on the port.

13868. (The Solicitor-General.) Did you hear that order given when you were dealing with boat No. 6?

13943. No perceptible list?
Very little. I think the ship righted. When the order was given to the passengers to go to the starboard side I am under the impression that a great many went over and the ship got a righting movement and maintained it, and then the passengers came back again in great numbers.

Boat 6 was loaded well over an hour before the ship sank. This testmony would therefore be too soon, and there is no confirmation that it was ever issued at that point in the evacuation; indeed, the ship may have had a slight list to starboard, or even no list at all; the port incline occurred later. I am not aware of any passengers migrate to starboard at this point in response to this order. Gracie supports Lightoller's US testimony; he wrote, "All passengers to the Starboard side' was Lightoller's loud command, heard by all of us." This was a very little while after boat "D" had been hoisted over the gunwale and loading had commenced.

The second time this order was issued was heard by Lamp Trimmer Sam Hemming: he assisted to "clear away" boat "B" on the roof, and then clambered down. As he did so, he saw the Captain and heard him say, "Everyone over to the starboard side, to keep the ship up as long as possible." Boat "C" had just been lowered and now he helped with boat "A", but was hindered by the falls being fouled. Very soon afterwards, he saw water climbing upon the bridge and left the area, heading back to port and aft, before finally descending down a vacant fall into the water, where he swam out to boat 4. [Footnote]

Interestingly, as Hemming climbed down from the roof, he noted one or two hundred people, but did not see any women. A pity he was not asked how many people were on the deck when he retraced his route to the other side of the ship for his own escape!

It might be of use to remind ourselves of Lightoller's comments during his second period of examination at the US Senate Inquiry on April 24th: "On the port side on deck, I can say, as far as my own observations went, from my own endeavor and that of others to obtain women, there were none. I can give you the name of a man who will give testimony, who was working with me, one of our best men, a man I picked out especially to man the falls for lowering away. He went from the port side to the starboard side of the deck, as I did, and after that, when she went under water forward, instead of taking to the water he walked aft the whole length of the boat deck previous to sliding down the aft fall on the port side, and in the whole length of the deck and in crossing the bridge he saw two women. They were standing amidships on the-bridge perfectly still. They did not seem to he endeavoring to get to one side or the other to see if there were any boats or not. The whole length of the boat deck, so far as he went, he did not see any women."

The unnamed man was later identified as Hemming. Of course, in the few minutes between descending from the roof and him making his way aft, two women could have come forward, but it is more thank likely that Lightoller was mistaken and that that were no women on the portside. We know from Brown's evidence that there were women in the vicinity of "A".

Third class survivor Victor Sunderland gave an interview with the "Cleveland Plain Dealer" on 26/4/1912 and this supports some of what Hemming had to say. Sunderland's account partially reads, "The ship had begun to list to port by that time and the boats on the starboard side were nearly all gone. The passengers rushed to the port side, but were crowded back by the crew to keep the boat even. The captain ordered all boats to row away from the ship. The ship began to sink by the head and by then the boat deck was clear of all but Lightoller, two firemen and myself. The ship had dropped down in the water until the boat deck was awash and the officer, fireman and myself tried to lower away a boat that stood in the blocks on the starboard side. The water was then gushing up through the gangway through which the firemen enter and leave the fire room. Just as we had the boat ready to lower the ship trembled and dropped suddenly. The firemen jumped over the starboard side."
'Here she goes," shouted Lightoller and jumped over the port side. I followed.
A lifeboat, bottomside up and evidently one of those which had overturned under its load, floated up to the rail and we grabbed for it. We climbed upon it and it drifted over the submerged part of the Titanic. We passed under the forward funnel and just as we were clear it fell. At that minute the Titanic broke in two just aft of amidships and the stern stood straight in the air.
'Make for the stern. It looks like she will float,' Lightoller shouted, but just as he spoke the stern plunged down." [Footnote]

The crowd seen in the last few minutes by Gracie may have been there for a little while and could easily be the ones obeying the Captain's order and who were seen by Hemming. The distance from the Grand Staircase entrance on the port side to the corresponding vestibule to starboard via the Gymnasium and over the raised roof of the Reading and Writing Room is about 200 feet. At normal walking pace, this would take nearly 50 seconds. Of course, a rushing crowd would take less time, even if they had to fight to clamber over railings etc. The timing sounds about right; Hemming could be at boat "B", hear the order (which the crowd obeyed), and then Gracie could have seen the throng spilling over on to his side of the ship. There is absolutely no need to invoke the emotive mental image of hundreds of steerage trapped below decks until the last minute.

Or there could have been yet another order that we know nothing about. Given how few people survived those last few minutes, this latter point remains a possibility. 1st class galley cook John Collins told his inquisitors in America, "Then the word came around from the starboard side there was a collapsible boat getting launched on the starboard side and that all women and children were to make for it. So me and another steward and the two children and the woman came around on that side, the starboard side, and when we got around there we saw then that it was forward. We saw the collapsible boat taken off of the saloon deck, and then the sailors and the firemen that were forward seen the ship's bow in the water and seen that she was intending to sink her bow, and they shouted out for all they were worth we were to go aft, and word came there was a boat getting launched, so we were told to go aft, and we were just turning around and making for the stern end when the wave washed us off the deck..." [Footnote] [Footnote]

Superficially, this sounds as if the crowds seen by Gracie were exacerbated by word being spread around the ship that another boat was available on the other side of the ship; this could explain why there are very few survivors from the port side; maybe there weren't any - and maybe because there was hardly anyone on that side anyway.

Shifting our analysis from starboard to port, we search for stories of/from people located in that area when boat "B" landed upturned on the deck. Sunderland depicts a near empty scene (admittedly his view of the whole deck must have been impeded by the poor lighting conditions). The only other witness to events in that locale was Junior Wireless operator Harold Bride. The relevant section of his report to the Marconi company is as follows; "Leaving the cabin, we climbed on top of the house comprising the officers' quarters and our own, and here I saw the last of Mr. Phillips, for he disappeared walking aft. I now assisted in pushing off a collapsible lifeboat, which was on the port side of the forward funnel, onto the boat deck. Just as the boat fell I noticed Capt. Smith dive from the bridge into the sea. Then followed a general scramble down on the boat deck, but no sooner had we got there than the sea washed over. I managed to catch hold of the boat we had previously fixed up and was swept overboard with her."

His interview with the New York Times says, "I noticed as I came back from one trip that they were putting off the women and children in lifeboats, and that the list forward was increasing. Phillips told me the wireless was growing weaker. The captain came and told us our engine rooms were taking water, and that the dynamos might not last much longer. We sent that word to the Carpathia. I went out on deck and looked around. The water was pretty close up to the boat deck. There was a great scramble aft, and how poor Phillips worked through it I don't know. He was a brave man. I learned to love him that night, and I suddenly felt for him a great reverence to see him standing there sticking to his work while everybody else was raging about. I will never live to forget the work Phillips did for the last awful fifteen minutes. Phillips clung on, sending and sending. He clung on for about ten minutes, or maybe fifteen minutes, after the captain released him. The water was then coming into our cabin ... Phillips ran aft, and that was the last I ever saw of him alive. I went to the place where I had seen the collapsible boat on the boat deck, and to my surprise I saw the boat, and the men still trying to push it off. I guess there wasn't a sailor in the crowd. They couldn't do it. I went up to them, and was just lending a hand when a large wave came awash of the deck. The big wave carried the boat off. I had hold of an oar-lock and I went off with it. The next I knew I was in the boat."

Unhelpfully, when asked at the British Inquiry in London he admitted that there were people on deck but he could not tell how many. His answers to Senator Smith were slightly more enlightening; there were indeed other people on deck, and they were running around all over the place. He elaborated further, "Several people looking for life belts and looking for refreshments ... The officers' quarters were situated together with the Marconi cabin, the officers' rooms, and other places, and the people were running around through these cabins. We had a woman in our cabin who had fainted." When the Captain released the Marconi men from their duties, Bride said that there were several people still around.

Lightoller's accounts are of no help in this regard. Even if one believes his tale of nearly being sucked down into the innards of the ship, he admits he went to the starboard side of the Titanic, again on the roof to see what was transpiring there with the boats below. He therefore could not witness what was happening there

Let us examine Bride's words carefully. The people on deck were those inside the officers quarters, not outside. The only people he sees on deck were those trying to push "B" into the water from the boat deck. As for the great scramble aft, this either occurred after the boat had fallen, or just after Bride and his senior has just left the officer's quarters. It is impossible to know which. Even so, this "scramble" could easily be in response to the Captain's orders for everyone to go to the starboard side, as per Hemming. And given the low lighting, he wouldn't know if the people had gone aft, or just run around the forward deckhouses, where the Grand Staircase foyer and gymnasium were located.

It must also be said that Bride's various stories do vary considerably, which prompted a sarcastic reubuke at the British Inquiry. To give an example of his lack of clarity, Bride is not clear about the last sighting of Phillips. Charitably, this might be attributed to a poor memory incurred by stress.

So, the question must be asked; was anyone on the port side at the time? The only account I could find was from Carpathia passenger Colin Cooper who gleaned the following from Irene Harris, "When her collapsible boat had gone about 100 yards from the Titanic, not more, the Titanic sank. She saw a crowd of men, and knew her husband was one of them, rush toward the stern in an effort to save themselves when the bow began to sink. The band was playing. There were waves, but no suction." ("Providence Evening Bulleting", 19/4/12). But the usual caveats apply; the deck was dark ... it couldn't have been literally right at the end for the band was still playing and so on. But to be fair, her boat was extremely close to the Titanic; a fellow occupant of that boat (Hugh Woolner) stated, "I could not really see a thing when the lights went out. It was all brilliantly lighted at the stem end, and suddenly the lights went out, and your eyes were so unaccustomed to the darkness, you could see nothing, and you could only hear sounds." Also compare Harris's statements with those of Sunderland, who talked of a deck bereft of people. Who do we believe? And why? [Footnote]

The rush aft

Once the attempt to hook boat "A" to the davits had been thwarted by the rising water, the nearby crowd surged aft to find refuge on higher ground. The best witness for this is John B "Jack" Thayer jr. who was on the starboard boat deck. We have access to a few accounts (two of them from later years), and these are summarised below:

In 1912, Thayer's correspondence tells us that he and his friend Milton Long stood by the davits of a boat that had left soon after boat "C" had reached the water. Soon, they moved to the rail "just a little aft of the Captain's bridge." He noticed that the list to port had been growing greater all the time, and that people had begun jumping from the stern. Milton Long dissuaded Thayer from jumping off or sliding down the falls three fimes. There was still a hope that the ship might stay afloat. At this time, the Titanic straightened up on an even keel and started to go down fairly fast at an angle of about 30 degrees. Thayer and Long left the davits and stood at the rail about even with the second funnel. It was at this point that the duo decided to execute their own escape plan. Thayer jumped and Long slid down the side of the ship. Only Thayer survived. [Footnote]

The fact that Thayer did not mention a crowd which was supposed to surging aft as the rate of foundering increased (that is, the boat deck dipped under, causing a wave to course along it) may be significant. He must have been right there, in the vicinity.

The next account is from 1932 and it is slightly different. If one neglects minor points such as the mention of the steam discharge (which would have finished well before the end), we have the following sequence of events: "Long and I stood on the starboard side trying to avoid the crowds ... The water by this time was up to the crow's nest and the ship was down at the head substantially ... Long and I stood by the rail away from the crowd, about midship, and talked over many things, the ship all this while sinking faster and faster, seeming to move forward in the water as it went down by the head." Then, they made their escape.

This was recalled 20 years after the disaster, and now Thayer mentions a crowd at the time of his proposed departure from the stricken liner. Previously, he had only referred to a crowd at the departure of "C", which made him think that the boat would never reach the water upright. Perhaps he forgot to mention this in 1912? At any rate, this is a minor quibble, for we know there was indeed a crowd nearby and Thayer and Long must have been somewhere at the aft end of it; at any rate, such a congregation would be visible. But the essentials are there; although the details of the ship going back on an even keel is now missing. A shame his contemporary writings did not go into detail; he could have offered opinions on the number involved, their movements and how far aft they got before the water enveloped them.

The next piece of documentation is Thayer's famous 1940 discourse. New details are added, some of which raise the eyebrows. He sees a large crowd pushing to gain admittance to boat "C", but puts this on A deck, which is wrong. He and Long then went up to the boat deck where he sees crowds of people, who were keeping as far as possible from the ship's rail. They were close to the second funnel. The next section is worth quoting; "It was now about 2.15 A.M. We could see the water creeping up the deck, as the ship was going down by the head at a pretty fast rate. The water was right up to the bridge...as the water gained headway along the deck, the crowd gradually moved with it, always pushing towards the floating stern and keeping in from the ship's rail as far as they could."

After entering the water, Thayer looked at the ship and saw "the water was over the base of the first funnel. The mass of people on board were surging back, always back towards the floating stern."

So, in this latest version, the crowd was already there from about the time Long and Thayer arrived, at about 2.00 A.M; were it not for this mention, one could reasonably assume that Thayer and Long left before the crowd near "A" had formed. We have seen from the above descriptions of Gracie, Brown et al. that there was a dearth of people in that area attending to, or very close to boat "A"; probably 20 or so at most. More significantly, Thayer gives an incorrect depiction that the water was gently coarsing along the deck, forcing the crowd to "gradually" move to outpace it. This completely contradicts what others say about the surging tide on the boat deck, which enveloped hundreds and cast many into the sea.

Thayer continues; "Now, without warning, she seemed to start forward, moving forward and into the water at an angle of about fifteen degrees...Long and I had been standing by the starboard rail, about abreast of the second funnel. Our main thought was to keep away from the crowd and the suction. At the rail we were entirely free of the crowd." When the two decided to enter the water, they were only 12 or 15 feet above the water.

Thayer's confusion about where he saw the crowd, the fact he gets boat "C"'s launching point wrong, and his description of water on the deck completely severely diminished the worth of this account, in the opinion of this author. He was of course, writing 28 years later, when his memory was not so fresh.

Somewhere nearby, again on the starboard side and on the rail was Algernon Barkworth. He gave accounts to the "Evening Banner" (26/4/12) and to the "Hull Daily Mail" when he returned to England (17/5/12). Merging his two accounts, we have the following narrative: "when the first dip happened we all went aft...I remember somebody shouted 'Go Gently!' as if a sudden shift of weight would have disturbed the ship's position." He had read somewhere that a ship which is about to sink gives a premonitory dip, so he made his escape by dropping into the sea, from a height of some 30 feet.

We do not know if "we all went aft" refers to the crowd on deck, or just himself and his two companions, Charles Jones and Arthur Gee. It is probably safe to infer that he meant the latter, for he doesn't refer to any congregation on deck. The reference to the "first dip" is interesting. There are a few accounts of the boat deck rising from the swell briefly before submerging again. This is undoubtedly what Barkworth experienced. Finally, he notes, "When I left the vessel there was no panic ... Everybody seemed to be calmly waiting their end." Obviously this is contrary to the scramble aft noted by Gracie et al. On the other hand, Collins mentions that the crowd barely had a chance to turn and head aft before the water swamped them, something that might be concluded from reading of Gracie's and his own brush with death. Barkworth could have been too far aft to see the assembled throng on deck. There is more than a hint here that the crowd barely made any headway and were almost immediately scooped up by the tide.

Third class passenger Carl Olof Jansson was somewhere in the vicinity. His account appeared in The New York Times. The relevant portion is as follows:

"...the water reached the dynamos in the engine room and we were suddenly plunged into darkness, save for the cold, clear light of the heavens, for it was a starlit night. I could not accustom myself to the change for several minutes. I think I was in a sort of daze and had no clear recollection of what happened afterward, or how long a time had elapsed. Suddenly I heard shrieks and cries amidship, and the sharp report of several shots. People began to run at me toward the stern of the ship, and as I started to run I realized that the boat was beginning to go down very rapidly, and there was quite a decline noticeable in the deck, showing that her nose was being buried. A wave struck me and I went overboard."

This corroborates nicely what was seen by others, the only exception being the lights going off. Collins said that the lights were on when he saw the collapsible boat, but by the time he hoisted himself aboard, the Titanic was in darkness. Obviously by then, he had already been struck by the wave. Steward Brown's testimony agreed with this; he was in the water near the first funnel and the lights were still burning. This is not to denigrate Jansson's account in any way; this is a minor point, and understandably he may have been confused by some elements induced by the stress of the situation.

Chief Baker Charles Joughin had briefly retired to the deck pantry on A deck (just forward of the middle staircase) to get a drink of water. While there, he "heard a kind of a crash as if something had buckled, as if part of the ship had buckled, and then I heard a rush overhead." The rush was of people on the boat deck; when he managed to get aloft, he found himself in the tail end of the rush. He followed them as they clambered into the well deck when the ship gave a lurch to port, throwing hundreds into a heap. Joughin found himself standing on the outside of the ship.

However, there are severe and significant doubts as to the truthfulness of Joughin's claims.

Olaus Abelseth, a third class passenger related to the US Senate Inquiry that, "So we could see the water coming up, the bow of the ship was going down ... the deck raised up and got so steep that the people could not stand on their feet on the deck. So they fell down and slid on the deck into the water right on the ship." Unfortunately we do not know where Abelseth was located. All we can say is that he was on the starboard side "pretty far back" and he was in the vicinity of the vacated davits. In a letter [OBRT], he gives his opinion that "About half of the ship was submerged when we jumped overboard". He does not mention a crowd near him, just "people."

It might be pertinent to mention that Lightoller could not see anyone on the decks when he was in the water, and he was in very close proximity to the doomed hulk.

The poop

It is a valid point to ask whether anyone could have made it to the poop deck. The increasing slant of the deck, the wave washing people off, the various barriers and gates between the promenades on the boat deck, the lack of time, and the hubbub of the crowd would hinder attempts to get that far aft. And then there is the obvious fact that the ship splitting apart would prevent anyone from reaching the stern of the ship. Estimates of time on during the disaster vary considerably; a subjective reading of the various accounts hints that there was very little time between the bridge dipping under and the break-up.

In 1940, Thayer wrote, "We could see groups of almost fifteen hundred people still aboard, clinging in cluster or bunches, like swarming bees; only to fall in masses, pairs or singly, as the great after part of the ship, two hundred and fifty feet of it, rose into the sky." Bear in mind that this was 28 years after the event; and also bear in mind that his booklet contains many post-1912 inclusions, embellishments and exaggerations; he also doesn't mention where he sees these 'clinging' people falling from - boat deck or poop? All he says in 1912, is that "The stern then seemed to rise in the air and stopped at about an angle of 60 degrees. It seemed to hold there for a time and then with a hissing sound it shot right down out of sight with people jumping from the stern." A 1912 account that does mention people on deck emerges from steward Henry Etches, in boat 5' "I saw, when the ship rose - her stern rose - a thick mass of people on the after-end. I could not discern the faces, of course." We must question the quality of his eyesight, for not only did he not mention the Titanic break apart, he was at least 100 yards away. Some others in his boat put it even further away, anything from 300-400 yards to a mile away. Did Etches see anything on the ship? This is not to call him a liar, but we should also mention the testimony of seaman Buley, some 200-250 yards away, and whose vantage point was on the opposite side of the Titanic. He could see no one on the deck as it was dark.

Perhaps the best witnesses were those who were there at the time. Only two survived.

Frank Prentice was an assistant storekeeper. After helping at boat 4, he went aft on to the poop. From "The Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette" of 30th April 1912 we have, "After all the boats had left [Prentice and his companions] walked up and down the deck smoking cigarettes and then went to the poop when the deck began sloping. There were about 50 men up there and as the slope got steeper they slipped off one by one." He also noted that people slipped into the well in his BBC radio interview (see above). On another BBC show (this time videotaped), he says that "it was quiet up there [ie on the poop]". In "The Sun" of 23/4/1912, "...Prentice then started for the stern to see what the chances were there. The bow was far down in the water and he had a hard time of it making the stern. When he got there he had to cling on to prevent himself from sliding back. He climbed over the rail and jumped." [Footnote]. His interview with author Walter Lord was recorded thus, "so I went to the poop deck and whilst I was up there, it was very quiet there - there were only about four of us up there [in his group], Ricks (a pal of mine), and myself and another man called Keary." This is confirmed in "The Liverpool Daily Post and Mercury" of May 1st; "I was on the poop with several others. After the last boat had left all the men were calm..."

For comparison purposes, the famous photograph of the poop taken at Queenstown, reproduced below, only shows approximately 30-40 people mainly clustered around the outer rail.

The only other survivor was trimmer Thomas Dillon. At the British Inquiry, he says that he kept on the well deck after being ordered aloft. This was about 1.15am. He saw a number of passengers standing around, but no women (this is after he had chased two up top after there was a call to take up vacant spaces in a boat). Dillon then went up to the poop but all he says is that there were "many" steerage passengers up there.

His interview with "The Daily Mail" (May 13th, 1912) was more candid. In this version, he had left the well deck where he and his friends "got [their] share" of whisky from a steward in the 1st class smoking room. While in first class territory, Dillon saw Chief Engineer Bell with a plank of wood under his arm; it was also at this point that Dillon considered a spot of pilfering from first class staterooms, but his pal was not so keen. One understands now why he was not so forthcoming about going in 1st class space in his official testimony!

Retiring back to the poop deck, Dillon was now with Dennis Cochrane [sic - Corcoran], John Bannon and others from the engine room. At this point the ship plunged and seemed to right herself: "There were about fifteen of us when she took the first plunge. After the second there were only five of us left." At this point, the Titanic foundered.

Readers will no doubt have noticed that Dillon says that there were only 15 people on the poop, Prentice saying 50. Maybe they were only talking about those in the immediate vicinity. Even with the lights out, one can still make out murky shapes at close range (regarding the illumination in this area, steerage survivor Marshall Drew observed that, "As I stood waiting I looked back at steerage and all was blacked out.")
But the most important point is this: neither witness, on the ship till the last, talked of a crowded poop deck, teeming with hundreds of people let alone over a thousand. These two witnesses weren't hundreds of feet away; they were there. It seems almost heretical to knock a prop away from under one of the Titanic's most emotive scenes, but it seems that there was hardly anyone on the poop when the ship foundered.

Some concluding remarks

Obviously we are hampered by the high mortality rate, the faulty memories, embellishments (either by reporters or by the witness), low lighting or the plain fact that people were more interested in saving themselves than taking in the vista. Not all inconsistences can be put down to malice or mischief and, with that in mind, I think the witnesses provide a semi-coherent and reasonably consistent view of what was taking place on the Titanic herself. Of course, the conclusions presented here are malleable as this author admits that not every witness account might be available. I would also recommend that those accounts written a long time after the event be regarded as "historical curiosities." For instance, the writings of Thayer and Lightoller contain so much that is dubious that they should not be regarded as primary sources, despite the pedigree of the authors.

The following timeline is one plausible construct based on the above extracts:

Admittedly, the only troublesome area of this proposal to the author is the "back and forth" movement of the crowd at the end but logically, it makes sense. First of all, they were obeying orders to try and straighten the ship up. And secondly, they were desperate. The male passengers' progress was barred by sailors. These passengers knew there was nothing to see aft as they had just come from there. The logical conclusion is to see what was happening to starboard. But when they arrive, they see "C" launched and again, they would need to look elsewhere. How would they know there were two boats on the roof? But after emerging back to port, the situation was no better; instead, they see their hopes dashed when the boat lands upside down. They could probably see water forward too instilling fear that "the end is nigh." But when they hear the order, given by the Captain himself no less, "Everyone over to the starboard side, to keep the ship up as long as possible" what would they do? There were no boats, or at least, no usable boats, and this order might have prolonged their lives by aiding the ship's stability.

A common quote, quite apt in Titanic circles is "The terrible 'ifs' accumulate." It is different here. "The terrible 'maybes', 'coulds' and 'perhaps' accumulate." All we can do is make logical deductions based on the little that we do have.

If you have any further data that might help refine this essay, please email me

To go up to my Titanic pages, click here


1. Chambers seems to think he was in the aftermost boat of the forward group, that is No.7, but his reference to 3rd Officer Pitman proves that he was actually in No.5

2. Lowe was late in being awakened. He heard voices and looked out, and saw a lot of people around, with passengers wearing lifebelts. Then he crossed over to the starboard side, his cabin being to port. He arrived in time to help at boat No.5.

3. Another possibility, mentioned here is that the bending forces invoked by the sagging hull may have bent the door frame out of shape, sealing the deal. If this was the case, then it was an incredibly rare phenomena but to be fair, not many people ventured back to their staterooms whereby this theory could be tested.

3a. The story of how No.4 was temporarily abandoned because the "A" deck windows were still raised is a familiar one. But less well known is the action of the crew at this boat, as detailed by Gracie: "When the order to load the boats was received I had promptly moved forward with the ladies in my charge toward the boats then being lowered from the Boat Deck above to Deck A on the port side of the ship, where we then were. A tall, slim young Englishman, Sixth Officer J. P. Moody, whose name I learned later, with other members of the ship's crew, barred the progress of us men passengers any nearer to the boats. All that was left me was then to consign these ladies in my charge to the protection of the ship's officer."

4. Lowe's evidence is dubious. He claimed that he asked for the boat to be stopped at deck "A" so that the occupants could look for anyone there, but in truth, the boat got caught up on an obstruction and it took time to clear it. And Symons says he never saw Lowe at all that night. AB Albert Horswill was also in boat 1. He also knew Lowe and did not see him. This is not the only time that the 5th Officer's comments must be treated with scepticism.

5. Unfortunately, there is no 100% agreed lifeboat allocation, so in most cases, we do not know how people escaped. All we have are best guesses. But according to the Encyclopedia Titanica website, there are no 1st class passengers listed for boat 12, 4 in No.14 and none in No.16, all of which left very closely together. If the first class were ordered aft and obeyed, and if these occupation numbers are any hint, not many ventured into the boats at that time. A possibility is that they found themselves unable to reach the boats, having arrived fairly late and being hidden by the existing throng? Kornelia Andrews [OBRT] pointed out that, "When we reached the deck they were commencing to fill a lifeboat, and there was such a great crowd before us that we waited until the fourth boat."

6. It has often been mentioned that there was discrimination against the steerage, or 3rd class, but little has been said of the attempts by the crew to keep boiler room staff below decks. Before any boats had been lowered, 1st class passenger Major Peuchen noted that 100 stokers came up from below with their bags and crowded in front of the boats. This was on the port side. A "powerful" officer drove these men off the deck, ahead of him, and they did not put up any resistance. In his book, Gracie observed that Helen Candee was another witness to this occurrence. Carpathia passenger Colin Cooper related the same story, albeit second hand; "Two hundred stokers with black faces and almost without clothes, came up from below and saw a lifeboat. Two men jumped in and started to lower it. The captain cried, 'Go back in your place, every one of you.' And every one of those men turned back and went below without a word. They said they thought all the women had been put off." This latter comment implies that this incident happened at a later boat, possibly No.2, where the errant stokers reappeared.
Charlotte Collyer [OBRT] was much further aft but noted a similar event: "Suddenly there was a commotion near one of the gangways, and we saw a stoker climbing up from below. He stopped a few feet away from us. All of the fingers of one hand had been cut off. Blood was running from the stumps, and blood was spattered over his face and over his clothes. The red marks showed very clearly against the coal dust with which he was covered ... I saw First Officer Murdoch place guards by the gangways to prevent others like the wounded stoker from coming on deck." Ship's cook John Collins was in the area of boat 16 and he noted both firemen and sailors with their bags in the area, so evidently some had escaped the cordon or come up via another route.
What became of the stokers who had been prevented from ascending, or exiled from the boat deck? Stoker Harry Senior ("New York Times" 19/4/1912) says that Captain Smith ordered the firemen to be kept below, on the well deck saying that he would shoot anyone who came up. The remainder of this account contains much that is questionable, and much is not repeated in much more detailed comments by Senior (for instance, "The Scotsman" of 29/4/1912). It seems safe to ignore this debatable claim about the Captain. John William Thompson
later recalled that, "after he and some other firemen had gone on deck after the collision, Leading Fireman William Small ordered them back below, apparently to go back to the boiler rooms." Wally Hurst, another fireman, wrote to Walter Lord in 1955 and his letter remarks that after the call to muster, they were told by a quartermaster while on the forward well deck "not to come on the boat deck until later on." Another possibility is that some of the firemen simply sneaked around to the starboard side of the ship; Alfred Shiers, a fireman, noted that there were three of four of his fellows around when boats 3 and 5 were being prepared - he himself got into No.5; At boat 3, Gracie notes there were "5 or 6" or "10 or 12" firemen onboard - and Phillip Mock [OBRT] says stokers pushed their way into one of these boats; and at the infamous boat No.1 we have five. Note that I have combined trimmers, greasers and firemen into one category for the sake of this discussion. Later on, stokers would congregate on the area of the 2nd class promenade, as seen by Thomas Ranger.

7. As a slight diversion from the main narrative, it might be worthwhile exploring other confirmed sightings of people on deck, but not on the top deck. AB John Poingdestre briefly went below to his quarters via the well deck; on his way back to the boats, he saw a number of male steerage passengers with their luggage on the port side, perhaps as many as 50-100 people. He also saw some stewards conversing with them.

8. This is not only confined to crew, who could have been withholding information that was damaging or embarrassing to the White Star Line. 1st class passenger Hugh Woolner claimed that he helped assist with the loading of all but one boat on the port side, but he says the only time he saw a crowd was at boat "C", where he saw an officer fire a gun.

9. Even if the gate was unguarded, people congregated in the area of the 3rd and 4th funnel may not have felt inclined to leave - after all, there were four perfectly good boats right there. If steerage passengers did manage to find their way forward, they did not make themselves obvious - and one would think their clothing would give them away - the only case of a steerage passenger at the forward end of the boat deck was Philip Zenni, who managed to somehow find his way into boat 6. An interview with Zenni in "The Dayton Herald" of 13/6/1912 gives us no clue as to how he found his way into 1st class territory. George Behe suggests that this steerage passenger was actually Neshan Krekorian, who had an injured arm, reported by others in the boat, but there is no data as to how he managed to get aloft.
There is a possibility that a steerage man who managed to get into one of the first boats was Berk Pickard; he told the US inquiry that he managed to get to the top deck fairly soon after the impact and found his way into 1st class territory. He said, "I found there only a few men and about two ladies. They had been putting them into lifeboats and as no women were there; we men sprang in the boat. We had only one woman and another young girl. There were two women. They just stood in front of me ... I was one of the first to go." Naturally, there is much that does not tally with other evidence, but it seems unlikely that he could find his way into a port boat, where the order was "Women and children only." If we take Pickard's evidence, he may have got into one of boats 7, 5 or 3, or perhaps even 9. Even so, the use of the word "sprang" is interest. Did he and his fellow men jump in, or did they simply take advantage of the situation to step into the boat?

10. Although this superficially corroborates Beesley (even though Daly says that the exodus to port was because all the other boats had gone), there are problems, which will be explored in another essay soon.

11. At boat 9, we have 4 female 1st class passengers and 2 men according to ET (again, these may not be accurate but should only be seen as representative). This may be proof that at least some 1st class ladies had migrated from forward to aft as per Wilde's order upon the departure of No.8 (see previously). On the other hand, these ladies could be amongst the ones directed aft by stewards, (see the accounts of Chambers and Cardeza above).

11a. May Futrelle's stories told immediately after the disaster run contary to what we know about the disaster [OBRT], so much so, that they are useless. In a strange turn of events, her memory mostly seemed to improve, if her account to "The Daily Boston Globe" (17/4/32) is any indication. After boat 6 had gone, Mrs Futrelle went down the companionway but found every passage guarded by an officer with a pistol in his hand. Eventually she persevered and found a group of 200 of men on "A" deck. She found her husband and other 1st class luminaries. They looked down on the lower decks and saw the steerage "quite unexcited down there." As May started up the companionway, 6th Officer Moody saw her and pulled her up the stairs. He pulled her towards boat 9, which was being lowered at that time. Moody was obviously on his way up from guarding the proposed, but abortive forward port boat launching stations on "A" deck.

12. There are discrepancies between Nichols' and Beesley's account. Most of these are superficial, but help to thwart our understanding in building up a timeline of events. Nichols tells of a nearly empty boat deck, with boats 11 and 13 lowered to the next deck. By inference, boat 9 had gone. But Beeley's schedule of events is as follows: he sees the quartet of boats being attended to, but we know that the covers of boat 9 had not even been unlaced until boat 7 was on the point of departure, and this is before the first rocket went aloft. Although there is some confusion about the loading of the boats, it is almost certain that boat 9 was loaded from the boat deck, all the others being from "A" deck. Finally, Beesley sees the boat deck emptied of people after the boats had started to descend. But Nichols implies a near empty deck by the time he got to No.11. Possibly none of this matters; but it shows that accounts cannot be taken at face value. Perhaps Beesley was simply mistaken in his recollections? Beesley's book was written some time after the disaster (he refers to a date of June 1st at the time he wrote some passages), whereas Nichols gave his story the night he arrived in New York. Beesley also wrote an account on the Carpathia [OBRT] and it generally agrees with his book (apart from mistaking port for starboard!) so it is very hard to know what to make of all this. Why would the ladies sent back from the gate want to pass forward if the boats there will still visible? Perhaps memory problems instilled by stress is to blame?

13. Saloon Steward William Ward confirms that boat 9 had departed the ship by the time attention had shifted to boat 11: "No. 11 was lowered down to deck A, and they were putting women and children into that boat from deck A. We were already down in the water." Nichols had also said that it took 20 minutes to load his boat and get away; this would seem to be the minimum time between boat 9 (assuming it had just left the boat deck when he arrived) and No.15

14. Why did this large number of stokers appear just now? A frivolous reason might be due to the area of the ship at which they were "exiled". If the fireman had been asked to remain on the forward well deck, it may have started to flood, prompting an exodus! Quartermaster Bright, in command of boat D, said that as he left, "the forecastle was going under water." Since the forecastle was higher up than the well, it must also have been flooded too. Boat D left the ship some 15 or 20 minutes before 2, so perhaps the well deck was still dry at this point?

15. One possibility is that the big list to port might have dissuaded people from trying to jump the gap between the boat and the bulwark.

16. Steward Johnstone had gone below decks for his coat. When he returned, there was no-one in boat 2 but he did notice eight or ten firemen in the vicinity. They did not seem to know if they had been allocated spaces on the boat or not. Evidently, what he saw were some of those firemen expelled from their failed commandeering of the boat.

17. It is this area of the ship that Paul Mauge, secretary to the Restaurant chef, saw stewards block his fellow staff from going up. Mauge's colleagues, dressed in their cooking attire had to remain on the 3rd class well deck. Mauge and the chef, dressed like normal passengers, were allowed to pass even though Mauge had identified himself and his boss as restaurant workers.

18. The evidence is not 100% satisfactory. First of all, Scott says he went to the starboard side, due to the list, this was "the highest side." He says he saw no boat, even looking over the ship's side, and then went to the port side, where he saw "no boats [that were] then lowered to the ship's side." But then he contradicts himself by saying he sees two boats at the after end of the port boat deck, one of which must have been Officer Lowe's No.14. Funnily, he says that he did not see any confusion on deck, so we can only presume that Scott missed the events that led to the firing of Lowe's gun. Confusingly, he then says of these last two boats, "I saw them rush to the ship's side from there. I went over to the starboard side again, and then we come back again." One wonders in vain who "them" refers to. By the time he had come back, after some 20 minutes the boats had gone. The most difficult aspect of his testimony is his notion that there was nothing to see on the starboard side. By the time boats 14 and 16 were being lowered, the boats at the aft end of the starboard boat deck had not yet departed. Boat 9 was still level with the deck, but numbers 11, 13 and 15 had been placed level with the deck "A". Could Scott have seen boat 9 in the gloom? It is possible. But how do we account for him not noticing the other boats? Note that he says that he looked over the side. Does he mean looking down or looking out? If he looked out he would not have seen anything below him, especially if he was not at the edge of the deck. We do not know if there were any seamen manning the davits at "A" deck at this point; if they were present, he does not mention them. Or perhaps no one was manning the falls yet; the boats were not yet ready to descend to the sea and, by our current understanding of the chronology of the sinking, loading had not even started yet.
And there is also the possibility that there were insufficient sailors available to starboard, everyone being tasked on the port side (eg seaman Paddy McGough lowered boat 14 and then proceeded to boat 9.)
The myriad of contradictions and unanswered questions is a good example as to why testimony should not be taken at face value.
The lack of women and children on the 2nd class deck is interesting. It means that they had either yet to gather on the deck there (as noted elsewhere, they were forced to congregate because they had been ordered below and then the door to the aft boat deck was locked) or that they already ascended the seaman's ladder to get to "A" deck where boats 11, 13 and 15 were waiting. The lack of male passengers is of note. Did they all clamber up the ladder, climb up the crane boom arms to reach higher ground as Olaus Abelseth had testified, or had they sought refuge elsewhere, perhaps in the well deck? It is also clear that although Scott and Ranger left at the same time, they did not necessarily reach the upper decks together. They evidently saw different things.

19. Lightoller's comments about his weapon in his autobiography are interesting: "Arriving alongside the emergency boat, someone spoke out of the darkness, and said, “There are men in that boat.” I jumped in, and regret to say that there actually were—but they weren’t British, nor of the English speaking race. I won’t even attribute any nationality to them, beyond saying that they come under the broad category known to sailors as 'Dagoes.' They hopped out mighty quickly, and I encouraged them verbally, also by vigorously flourishing my revolver. They certainly thought they were between the devil and the deep sea in more senses than one, and I had the satisfaction of seeing them tumbling head over heels on to the deck, preferring the uncertain safety of the deck, to the cold lead, which I suppose they fully imagined would follow their disobedience—so much for imagination—the revolver was not even loaded!" Now he is saying that his gun was not loaded and furthermore his claims about the people in boat "2" must be viewed with extreme scepticism. Mainly because he wasn't even at that boat; he was at boat 4, on the next deck down! This was written 22 years after the disaster. There are other questionable statements in his book, too.
Researcher George Behe ponders whether Lightoller told Gracie he used his revolver (to intimidate people), but that Gracie interpreted this as meaning that the 2nd officer fired his gun.

20. In his unclear comments, he claimed, "[Three were] getting the collapsible boat off the deck. Eight sailors were there when I was alongside the funnel - by the boat by the funnel."

21. In more examples of confusion, he says he was ordered out of the boat by Lightoller "to get one off from the funnel" and then went over to the starboard side but seeing no boats there, he returned to port where he saw "the boat was riding off the deck" then, water being up to the bridge. The ladies in the boat were saying there was no sailor so he jumped in. He makes it sound like the boat was lying on the deck and it was only now that they pulled her to the davits. If he had gone to starboard when he says he did, he would have seen boat "C". Hugh Woolner's comments make it clear that only a very short space of time separated boats "C" and "D" from departing; he says that "D" was being loaded and ready to be swung over the side when he was distracted by flashes from a pistol on the other side of the ship. This was "C", which was very close to lowering. So, why didn't Lucas see it?

22. On the other hand, he could be right. One of Mrs Brown's stories is as follows: "An officer shouted to us that there was another lifeboat being launched on the other side of the vessel, and we [Brown and Evans] hurried to the place. There you may imagine our feelings when the officer in command said that there was room for only one more woman. The men stayed back and did not crowd. Miss Evans was by my side at the time. She pushed me towards the boat saying :- 'Please take this lady. She had children.' I appealed in vain for the boatsman to allow Miss Evans to board the boat also, but immediately the ropes were loosened and we were lowered over the side of the steamship into the sea. Just as we started I heard a seaman shout that there was one more lifeboat yet to be launched and that she would be taken care of in that boat. I saw her start for the spot with others and that is the last I saw of her."

Note there is no mention of Gracie. A very curious omission! Similarly for this account, which was found by the Titanic International Society in an unspecified newspaper:

"My niece, Miss Evans; Mrs Robert C Cornell, Mrs Edward S. Appleton and I [Caroline Brown] were together when we heard the cry of the women and children to the boats first...when we reached the upper deck Miss Evans and I were separated from Mrs.Cornell and Mrs.Appleton. We ran from boat to boat, seeking a place, and finally came to one boat which was about to be lowered. Just as the crew was about to swing the boat out upon the davits some woman cried out that there was room for just one more in the lifeboat. 'You get in, Mrs Brown,' said Miss Evans to me, as she placed her hand upon my shoulder. 'You have children at home, and they need you.' Before I could protest, Miss Evans had shoved me into the boat, and we were lowered into the water."

Yet another version from Mrs Brown is that after being lifted over the rail ahead of her Miss Evans, she then permitted the others in the boat to attempt to drag her across by her arms, and when this proved unsuccessful she called out, 'Never mind; I will get a place in the other boat,' and ran towards it. This boat was capsized.
Caustically, one must note that if correct, Evans ran towards a boat ["B"] that had not even been put down on the deck yet; but, it is true that that this boat did indeed ultimately turn upside down.
There is some debate as to whether Brown left in boat "D" or an earlier one. Researcher Don Lynch opined on Facebook that he thought that she was at boat 4, but couldn't climb into the boat so she remained on deck. This is due to there being a vague, uncorroborated mention of "a window" in one of Mrs Brown's stories. But the problem is that Gracie claims to have escorted Brown and Evans to safety after he had finished at boat 4, and after he had helped hoist "D" over the railing. He says he deposited his two ladies with the crewmen who had formed a line to prevent a rush on boat "D". Furthermore, another anecdote says that Brown saw another boat preparing to be launched, which wasn't true of boat "B". But Brown may have been confused, or she may have noticed two collapsibles, like Jane Hoyt did, and simply put two and two together. But on the other hand, in "The New York Times" (22/4/12), it was said, "Room had been found for several persons picked up out of the water after the boat had been launched ... There were only two boats left on their side of the deck when Mrs. Brown and Miss Evans were called ... Mrs. Brown was seized by one of the seamen and thrown into the boat. As it was lowered she heard the officer telling Miss Evans to ‘come along’ and that there was one more boat ... The lifeboat in which Mrs. Brown found a seat was leaking badly at the plug, she said, and women had to take off their stockings to plug up the hole. Finally, Mrs. Brown and some others were transferred to another boat. Just after the transfer had been made, Mrs. Brown said, a whistle was heard. It had been sounded by Second Officer Lightoller. It resulted in at least a score of lives being saved, and among those rescued from a raft were Harold Bride, the wireless operator, and John B. Thayer, Jr." But there was certainly room for more than one person in boat 4. Numbers are contradictory, but there would seem to be space for some 30 extra people. Boat "D" was hardly full either, so this proves nothing. And perceptions of
how full a boat appeared did not always match the theoretical capacity.
We know that there was water in boat 4, which has been assumed to have originated from the wet clothing worn by the rescuees; perhaps the above account is correct and there was problems with the plug (boat "D" didn't have a plug, as Lightoller found having wasted time looking for one). And boat 4 did indeed pick up the stranded occupants of "B"; elsewhere Brown says that her boat was the last one picked up - and indeed, boats 4 and 12 which arrived at the Carpathia at the same time, were the last ones. If all this is true, then Gracie frogmarching Evans and Brown on the boat deck is incorrect in some fashion. It also means that Evans was not one of the ladies seen by Lucas.
But if Gracie is right and Brown inadvertently omitted him from her account, we have the following possible scenario:
Gracie leaves boat 4 and retires to the boat deck where he helps to hoist "D" over the bulwark;
When ordered to go to the starboard side, he meets Brown and Evans and escorts them to the sailors to port;
For some reason, Brown and Evans don't make it to boat "D" but somehow end up below on "A" deck, where boat 4 had somehow been delayed.
This seems unlikely as Lightoller was in charge of No.4, and yet Gracie says that after loading 4 with people, he and Clinch Smith followed the 2nd Officer and some crew aloft. Would Lightoller just leave a boat and not superintend its lowering? Beesley noted a similar thing with boat 13, where the officer left the starboard side and headed to port. All we do know is that the order to lower away No.4 was given by an officer (probably Wilde) on the boat deck. And Evans could have run to the other boat, which would be "D", the last one, and visible just above and in front of No.4. If this is true, then Lucas could have seen Evans in the vicinity.
The point of all this detail is: just when you think everything fits together nicely, it all falls apart. The evidence is presented here for completeness.

23. As is commonplace in Titanic Lore, when one digs, one finds other versions. The "Paterson Morning Call" of 23/4/1912 says, "The orders were to get the women into the boats. Mr. Hoyt assisted his wife into one of the lifeboats and it was about to be lowered into the water when Mrs. Hoyt saw that her husband was still on the deck. Immediately she scrambled out of the boat and took her place beside him. Presently, however, she felt herself unceremoniously picked up and bundled into another lifeboat which was instantly lowered into the water and pulled away from the doomed steamer by the oarsmen aboard." However, the Amsterdam Evening Recorder version is a transcript of Hoyt's interview. The Paterson paper reports events in the third person; for this reason, this author thinks the Evening Recorder to be more accurate.

24. Work started on hoisting boat "A" down a little while before commencement on boat "B", as per Gracie's book.

25. Hoyt claims to have gone below decks to his stateroom and then proceeded back up to the boat deck where he shared a drink in Smith's quarters, so Hoyt may not have witnessed all the events on deck.

26. One of the most controversial aspects of the Titanic disaster is the notion that an officer shot men on the deck before turning the gun on himself. I have explored the two most compelling and likely first hand accounts here. Of these, the story as claimed by steerage passenger Eugene Daly may be relevant; " ... The steerage people and second cabin people went to the first cabin part of the ship. They were getting women into the boats there. There was a terrible crowd standing about. The officer in charge pointed a revolver and waved his hand and said that if any man tried to get in he would shoot him on the spot. Two men tried to break through and he shot them both. I saw him shoot them. I saw them lying there after they were shot. One seemed to be dead. The other was trying to pull himself up at the side of the deck, but he could not. I tried to get to the boat also, but was afraid I would be shot and stayed back. Afterwards there was another shot and I saw the officer himself lying on the deck. They told me he shot himself, but I did not see him. Then I rushed across the deck, and there was a sort of canvas craft there. I tried with six or seven men to get it out, but we could not. It was stuck under a wire stay which ran up the mast. The water was then washing right across the deck. The ship lurched and the water washed the canvas craft off the deck into the ocean. I was up to my knees in water at the time. Everyone was rushing around, but there were no boats. Then I dived overboard."
The boat that was stuck to the deck was boat "A". If Daly ran across the deck to this boat as he claimed, then the shooting happened at boat "D". If the event happened at all - and it still generates controversy - then perhaps this might be one reason why "D" was temporarily left hanging in the air. And if the shooting did occur, then this points to Chief Officer Wilde, and he strangely disappears from the Titanic story at this point. There are no further mentions of him after this, unless one counts Rowe mentioning him at boat "C", but this seems unlikely as Wilde was on the other side of the boat deck at this point, helping with boat "D". It seems likely that Rowe was mistaken about the officer's identity, as indeed, many others were.

27. A similar thing can be said about the events on the other side of the ship, with the loading of boat "C". That there was a commotion cannot be denied, but it is the passengers who speak of it, and not the crew. Did they fear reprisals from the White Star Line?

27a. In the "East Kent Gazette" of May 18th, 1912, Emily Goldmsith, who unquestionably got into boat "C", says that the order came for women to ascend to the top deck and the men were to remain on the second deck. She then says that they "ascended to the topmost deck". She says the last she saw of her husband was when they were separated, "he to go to the second deck and I and [my son] Frankie to go to the upper deck." Is this another example of imprecise language, or were the men and women separated on completely separate decks? The use of the word "ascend" implies the latter meaning.

28. It would appear that not everyone remained in the area. In "The Western Mail" (29/4/12), it was reported, "One fireman said he was on the bridge with Captain Smith at the crucial moment...with water well above his knees, Captain Smith addressing those who stood by him to the last, said :- 'Well, boys, there is nothing more we can do. You must look after yourselves." Half a dozen made their way aft...' However, it is possible to identify this fireman as James McGann, albeit without the mention in other papers (eg "The Chicago Tribune", 20/4/12) that he took a child and tried to reach the overturned boat with his charge, without success. Brown said in London that Smith said "Well, boys, do your best for the women and children, and look out for yourselves," which is very similar to what McGann said. However, Brown says that water had not yet slopped onto the deck which happened second later. This is only a minor point; memories might have become temporarily befuddled in the ensuing panic.

28a. The railing that Gracie speaks of could be the one that separated the first class from the engineer's promenade, slightly aft of the 3rd funnel. One may ask how Gracie could see that far distant in the dark, and through the number of people which much have blocked his view. Of interest is the account of 2nd Class survivor George Harris. In "The Daily Advocate" of April 19th, 1912, he says; "The rail which separated the first cabin passengers from the second was crowded by first cabin folk, ten deep, all trying in vain to climb over out of the path of the water, which was gradually creeping up from the bow and flooding their territory. Suddenly, the rail broke, and with a scream, the first I had heard, the whole mob fell back into the water. From this point on the ship settled rapidly, and suddenly broke amidships, carrying down all on board, which was few at the time." But, this was apparently witnessed from a distance of a quarter of a mile!

29. Given that boat "D" was launched a few minutes after "C", it makes sense that there would also be a gap between boats "A" and "B" being manhandled from the roof. Gracie confirms this; "I was now working with the crew at the davits on the starboard side forward, adjusting them, ready for lowering the Engelhardt boat from the roof of the officers' house to the Boat Deck below. Some one of the crew on the roof, where it was, sang out, "Has any passenger a knife?" I took mine out of my pocket and tossed it to him, saying, "Here is a small penknife, if that will do any good." ... Meantime, 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. About this time 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 Engelhardt boat up there on the roof. Again I heard an inquiry for another knife. I thought I recognized the voice of the second officer working up there with the crew."

30. There are obvious problems with this account. Neglecting the obvious ones (mistaking port for starboard and describing the last boat as being on blocks), he contradicts Lightoller's miraculous escape from the Titanic (perhaps this is another uncorroborated story that should also be the subject of critical analysis?) and in another point of his interview, Sunderland says, "In one boat, partly filled with women, a man sat--I think he was a Russian. An officer told him to get out, but he wouldn't. The officer fired his revolver one or twice and still the man sat there. The officer then shot him and he dropped back in his seat. He was lifted up and dropped overboard." Based on what we know of the Titanic story, this element sounds dubious. But would this negate his whole story as being unreliable based on one anecodte?

31. This story is not clear, partially because of the imprecise language Collins uses. He says he saw the boat being taken off the saloon deck, which, by inference was the boat deck. But boat "A" was taken off the roof of the officers' quarters and never launched. This seems to point to him seeing boat "C". But why not mention boat "A" too, in the same spot minutes later? Or did he mean that the water was taking the boat off the deck? In further questioning, he says, "the boat was taken off the saloon deck, and the wave came up and washed the boat right off, and she was upside down, sir, and the water washed over her. She was turned over, and we were standing on her." On the balance of the evidence, it is likely that he is describing "A". A minor point is that he has mistaken the overturned boat "B" for the upright but swamped "A"; Eugene Daly, also near "A" made the same mistake. Incidentally, Collins says that there were hundreds on the deck who were cast into the ocean.

32. Although this author has noted that we must be wary of Lightoller's autobiography, his account of events on this side of the ship is worthy of note: "We had just time to tip the boat over, and let her drop into the water that was now above the boat deck, in the hope that some few might be able to scramble on to her as she floated off. Hemming and I then, as every single boat was now away from the port side, went over to the starboard side, to see if there was anything further to be done there. But all the boats on this side had also been got away, through there were still crowds of people on the deck. Just then the ship took a slight but definite plunge - probably a bulkhead went - and the sea came rolling up in a wave, over the steel-fronted bridge, along the deck below us, washing the people back in a dreadful, huddled mass. Those that didn’t disappear under the water right away, instinctively started to clamber up that part of the deck still out of water, and work their way towards the stern, which was rising steadily out of the water as the bow went down."

33. There are (admittedly unconvincing) sightings of at least one person on the port side who did make it to the poop, and he is bandleader Wallace Hartley. Fireman Charles Rice in boat 10 told "The Western Daily Mercury" (29/4/12) that he "heard the solitary violinist on the poop playing 'Nearer, my God to Thee.' after all the other musicians had been swept away and then was then pointing sixty degrees into the water." In "The Western Times" (30/4/12), A reporter wrote, "When [Thomas] Dillon came on deck the bow of the Titanic was pointing downwards as though it had been broken off from the main part of the bulk, twelve or fourteen feet in from the cutwater. He stood on the poop which was at a slope of about 6o degrees. The bow seemed to bob up and then break clean off like a piece of carrot. As the Titanic disappeared Dillon noticed a solitary violinist, the last of the band on the deck, playing the hymn 'Nearer my God, to Thee.'" The afore mentioned George Harris, from an estimated distance of a quarter of a mile, said, "Near the stern was one group. A band, of about eight or ten pieces were huddled together playing 'Nearer, My God To Thee." There are severe problems with some portions of his story, admittedly. Of course, there are problems with these accounts but can they be so readily dismissed?

34. Some comments on the "even keel" matter can be found here

35. Prentice had a hard time getting to the stern, and the bridge hadn't dipped under, so we can only imagine how difficult it must have been for those who had to struggle with a more precipitous incline.