The Titanic Historical Society

TITANIC Past and Present

Part Four

by Edward S. Kamuda
Additional text and editing by Karen Kamuda, Paul Louden-Brown

On the bridge shortly after midnight Smith issued the order for the lifeboats to be uncovered and swung out. At approximately 12:10 am he entered the wireless room for the second time since the collision. The first time he informed Phillips and Bride that Titanic had struck an iceberg, this time he told the two men to prepare to send out a distress signal. Phillips asked "What call should I send?" The regulation international call for help was "CQD." "Just that" replied Smith. One of the ships to answer Titanic's call of distress was the Cunard liner Carpathia on her way to the Mediterranean. Her commander, Captain Arthur Rostron, turned his ship around at once and steamed as fast as he could toward Titanic's last reported position. Carpathia, compared to Titanic, was a small ship capable of a modest 17.5 knot top speed; it would take her over 4 hours to reach the sinking ship.

Problems on the boat deck mounted as the officers and crew, unfamiliar with the working of the boats, tried to persuade reluctant passengers to leave the apparent safety of Titanic. Painting showing passengers waiting to board lifeboatsWhatever the first and second class passengers thought about their security or comfort, the officers knew the ship would founder and, unfortunately they failed in their duty to load each boat to its stated capacity. This failure contributed to 500 unnecessary deaths.

For most of the third class passengers they never had the opportunity of deciding to get into a lifeboat or not, because by the time they were allowed on deck most of the boats had gone. When third class passenger Gus Cohen reached the boat deck, he could not get in a boat; later he jumped in the water, was picked up and his life was spared.

When it was time to say goodbye and separate the men from the women and children, Frank Goldsmith, Sr. leaned over and squeezed his son¹s shoulder, "So long, Franky," his father said, "see you later."

Some explanation, regarding the number of passengers in each boat was offered at the British Inquiry. The surviving officers believing, a fully loaded boat would "buckle" under the strain of lowering, however this was proven incorrect when some of the boats were tested. Another explanation was that Captain Smith intended to load the partially filled boats with passengers from one of the gangway doors in the side of the ship. This never happened. The first boat, with a capacity for 65 was lowered with 27 passengers and crew. Between 12:45 to 2:05 am the officers and boat crew managed to launch eighteen of Titanic's twenty lifeboats. Although the officers and crew followed the unwritten rule of the sea of "women and children first" in reality, as Titanic sank, a male passenger on the starboard side of the boat deck was five times more likely to be allowed entry to a boat than on the port side.

This may be explained by certain officers interpreting the "women and children first" order as "women and children only."

For Mrs. Quick and her daughters, they reached the top of the ladder from below. There was no confusion on A Deck. Men were standing watching the proceedings, many were helping women and children into the lifeboats. Holding Phyllis tightly in one arm, Mrs. Quick led the badly frightened Winnifred toward boat Number 11 in the last stages of loading passengers. The crewman in charge watched Mrs. Quick approaching and said chilling words: "Only room for the children." "No," replied Mrs. Quick. "Either we go together or we stay together."

Painting of SinkingFaced with a mother who was clearly determined to protect her children he relented. Phyllis and Winnifred were literally tossed in, Winnifred lost her slippers in the process. After seeing her children safely into the boat, Mrs. Quick climbed in. Apparently the last person allowed to enter, a crew member announced with finality, "That's enough. No more can get in."

As the ship sank lower, any thought of protocol was forgotten in the panic to launch the two remaining boats, collapsibles A and B.

Walter Belford said one of his most vivid recollections was the sight of Captain Smith standing resolutely on the bridge as the ship went down. He quoted Smith as he addressed a group of remaining crewmen after the last boats were gone, "Well boys, I've done the best I can for you. Now it's in your own hands. Do the best you can to save yourselves."

By 2:10 am Titanic's stern had risen out of the water to an upright angle. Lights still blazing, there was pandemonium below decks where inanimate objects came to life; crockery, furniture and whatever else not fastened crashed towards the bow. In the engine spaces the massive boilers tore loose from their foundations and crashed through the bulkheads. For the hundreds of terrified passengers clinging to the stern the noise must have been unimaginable. Finally, under the incredible forces the hull was being subjected to, gave way and split in two just forward of the fourth funnel. The bow section quickly sank; the stern settled back for a few moments before it rose again vertically for the final time. The stern remained motionless against the starlit sky for a few moments before it began descending two miles to the ocean floor. As the Atlantic closed over the words on her stern - TITANIC LIVERPOOL - hundreds of passengers struggled in the icy waters.

"We went over to the side straight away, I jumped overboard from the well deck about thirty feet above the water² said Belford who was wearing his white baker's uniform and a lifejacket with a quart of whiskey stuck in his belt.

A crewman in lifeboat Number 3 declared "She's gone lads row like hell or we'll get the devil of a swell." In Number 4 a crewman, closer to the sinking, cried out "Pull for your lives or you’ll be sucked under."

Somewhere in the darkness, close to where Titanic went down, hundreds of people struggled including the Mallets and Joseph Laroche from France, Henry Forbes Julian of Torquay, England and Milton Long of Springfield, Massachusetts, fighting for their lives amongst the mass of floating debris. Death came quickly for some, pulled under or crushed as the ship sank, others drowned, but most succumbed to the elements; the water was so cold.

The lucky ones, huddled in lifeboats listened to the awful sound of family and friends crying out in vain. Little Frank Goldsmith, had his head tucked tightly against his mother's breast. He described the sounds of those dying years later in his autobiography, "Echoes In the Night." Living near Tiger stadium in Detroit, whenever a home run was hit the crowd's moaning sound brought back those awful memories. He lost his friend, Alfred Rush who had turned 16 that day and wore long pants for the first time. Alfred elected to stay behind "with the men." Mr Goldsmith was with another Strood friend, Thomas Theobold, who handed his wedding ring to Mrs. Goldsmith as she stepped in the lifeboat, to give to his wife in case he didn't see her again.

In lifeboat Number 1, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and his wife Lady Lucile, were some of the lucky to escape. Duff Gordon gave each crewman in the boat £5 towards the replacement of their lost kit; this kind gesture was later misinterpreted as a bribe to prevent the men from returning to save others still struggling in the icy water.

In collapsible C, J. Bruce Ismay sat with his back to Titanic in the lifeboat's stern pushing the oar away from him. He could not bear to watch her sink.

The Countess of Rothes handled Number 8's tiller so impressing the seaman in charge that he later presented her with the boat's metal number.

Benjamin Guggenheim had dressed in his best and prepared to die "like a gentleman" while his mistress escaped in lifeboat Number 9.

George Widener and his son died together. His wife survived and devoted the rest of her life to charitable works; her father-in-law kept his financial interests with the IMMC despite the death of his son and grandson.

In Number 6 the majority wanted to return to pick up survivors. Quartermaster Hitchens, Titanic's helmsman, overruled everyone graphically describing how the people in the water would capsize their boat.

It is difficult to imagine how cold it was for those floating in the water. Walter Belford was rescued from the bone-chilling water. "I kept taking a sip of whiskey from time to time to keep warm. There were a couple of shots left when I was rescued."

Of the eighteen boats successfully launched only two returned to the scene. Boat Number 4 was the first to return with four crewmen and 36 women on board including Madeleine Astor. Her husband's body was later recovered and brought to New York on the same train as 29 year-old Milton Long, whose body was retrieved by the cable ship MacKay-Bennett, one of the vessels chartered in Halifax by the White Star Line. Long was the only son of Judge and Mrs Charles Long and is interred in Springfield (Massachusetts) Cemetery.

The women pulled five crewmen from the water; one steward remained conscious, two others died. When Number 4 rejoined a small flotilla of boats tied together Fifth Officer Lowe decided to transfer survivors from Number 14 until it was sufficiently empty to make a rescue attempt. The crewmen could hardly row, the sea was littered with the dead, who were held upright by their cork lifejackets. One of the crewmen turned over several bodies, most of them had died from exposure (hypothermia).

An hour after Titanic sank, Lowe found four alive, two passengers and two crewmen, but one died later that night.

The Titanic Commutator Issues shown here contain articles and real life accounts that relate to this article. Each is available as either a reprint or in-print issue from our Museum Shop.

Titanic Commutator 110

Titanic Commutator - Issue # 110 gives the story of the Ryerson family on board TITANIC and the stories of other survivors.
 To buy this issue

Titanic Commutator 98

Titanic Commutator - Issue # 98 tells of the 1987 THS Convention in Wilmington Delaware and more information on the Chairman.
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Titanic Commutator 96
Titanic Commutator - Issue # 096 Ismay's biography can be found in this issue. It is titled "Titanic and the Chairman" and details how he found himself a scapegoat for the Titanic disaster.
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Titanic Commutator 102
Titanic Commutator - Issue # 102 features The Story of the New York Times, (a reprint) and headlines of the Titanic disaster and their aftermath.
 To buy this issue