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The Owner, the Captain, and the Officers

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TITANIC'S' OFFICERS

 

Back row left to right:
Chief Purser Hugh McElroy, 2nd Officer Charles Lightoller

3rd Officer Herbert Pitman, 4th Officer Joseph Boxhall

5th Officer Harold Lowe

 

 

Front row left to right:
6th Officer James Moody, Chief Officer Henry Wilde

Captain Edward Smith, 1st Officer William Murdoch

 

 

The White Star Line went through several different ownerships in its 89 years of existence. For a complete history of the White Star Line, see The Beginning Years on this website. The following information pertains only to the White Star Line's ownership during Titanic's construction and demise.

The Owner (not on board)

John Pierpont (JP) Morgan. American financier and founding owner of the International Mercantile Marine Company. (IMMC) This company was the controlling trust and retaining ownership of the White Star Line, Red Star Line, Dominion Line, American Transport Line, and the Leyland Line. Although Titanic was actually an American owned vessel, Morgan kept the ships of his trust under British registry with British crews. This was in order to escape being accused of violating the American Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890. (The act that took down J.D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company)  Most of the vessels flew both American and British flags with the White Star Line burgee. Morgan also owned US Steel, General Electric and numerous banks and other financial institutions. JP Morgan and company continues to thrive today (JP Morgan Chase) Morgan had intended on accompanying Titanic on her maiden voyage but took ill while in Italy. He died of pneumonia 1913 at the age of 75.

 

 

The President (survived)

Joseph Bruce Ismay, (Bruce Ismay) Managing Director of IMMC and President of the White Star Line. Ismay's father had owned White Star and passed it on to Bruce Ismay. Ismay was against IMMC's takeover of White Star but was out-voted by the WSL board of directors. Morgan asked Ismay to stay on as  Managing Director of IMMC and President of the White Star Line; which he reluctantly agreed to do. Ismay survived the Titanic disaster and was ridiculed for the rest of his life by the press and public for not going down with the ship, although he was exonerated by the formal British and American Inquiries of any wrongdoing. He resigned from IMMC after the Titanic disaster and the White Star Line would not allow him to retain his position. He was apparently thought of highly enough to be asked in 1933 by White Star Line management to come back and save the company from a merger with Cunard, but it was too late to be saved. Ismay died at home in Ireland in 1937 at the age of 74.

 

 

The Designer and Builder (did not survive)

Thomas Andrews Jr. was managing director and head of the drafting department for the shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff in Belfast, Ireland. Andrews was the shipbuilder in charge of the plans for Titanic. He was the nephew of William James Pirrie, one of Harland and Wolff's owners. Harland and Wolff always sent a "team" on a White Star Liner's maiden voyage to make sure everything worked properly. With Titanic, Andrews wanted to personally accompany the vessel on her maiden voyage and traveled as a first class passenger. He was summoned by Titanic's captain shortly after striking the iceberg. After sounding the ship and making a few calculations, Andrews informed the captain that Titanic would in fact sink and within 2-hours; he was correct. Andrews assisted getting passengers into lifeboats and was last seen by a steward staring at a painting (entrance to Plymouth Harbor) in the first class smoking room. Thomas Andrews did not survive; he was 39 years old and his body was never recovered.

 

 

The Captain (did not survive)

Captain Edward John (EJ) Smith, Captain of the RMS Titanic and Commodore of the White Star Line Fleet. It has been speculated by some historians (including Night to Remember author Walter Lord) that ships had gotten too big for Captain Smith, in comparison to what he had mastered earlier in his career. Prior to Titanic, he had been involved in several collisions and near misses with the larger liners. He almost swung the Majestic completely about to avoid hitting an iceberg in 1902. Smith made two trooping voyages during the Boer War and was medaled as an honorary member of the Royal Naval Reserve. He was known as a gentle but firm shipmaster and thought of affectionately by his crew and passengers alike. Captain Smith had planed to retire with 38 years at sea after Titanic's scheduled return to England from New York. He was last seen going into Titanic's wheelhouse. Sixty-two year old EJ Smith went down with his ship, and his body was never recovered.

 

The Chief Officer (did not survive)

Henry Tingle Wilde, Executive Officer RMS Titanic. He was transferred to Titanic from the RMS Olympic at Capt. Smith's request due to his familiarity with  Olympic Class Liners. Wilde wrote a letter to his sister dated 4/11/12 (from Titanic) in it he stated, "....I still don't like this ship, I just have a queer feeling about it." Wilde's last minute transfer to Titanic caused a shift in the positions assigned to Titanic's other officers. Everyone moved down a notch, and the original 2nd officer position assigned to David Blair was eliminated altogether. Wilde is one the officers suspected by some to have shot himself in the final moments of the sinking. 3rd class passenger Eugene Daly wrote that he had seen a Titanic officer, shoot two men dead for trying to get into a boat. He said he subsequently heard another shot and saw an officer's body lying on the deck and was told that that officer Wilde had shot himself. In The Night Lives On, Walter Lord noted that fewer survivors recalled seeing Wilde than Captain Smith or First Officer Murdoch, and that it is possible that Wilde shot himself, but felt first officer Murdoch was a more likely candidate in the last minutes of the sinking. Wilde was 39 years old at the time of his death and his body was never recovered.

 

The First Officer (did not survive)

William McMaster Murdoch was the officer in charge at the bridge at 11.40 pm on April 14 when the iceberg was spotted directly in the Titanic's path. Quartermaster Robert Hichens, who was at the helm, and Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall, who may or may not have been on the bridge during the collision, both stated that Murdoch gave the order "Hard-a-starboard", a tiller command which would turn the ship to port (left) by moving the tiller to starboard (right). Murdoch is the other, more likely officer suspected of shooting himself. He was last seen by 2 other crewmen attempting to free Collapsible A from the falls on the boat deck. Two survivors in two separate letters written to their respective families stated that it was in fact 1st Officer Murdoch. 2nd officer Charles Lightoller wrote a letter to Murdoch's wife stating " He was working hard, personally assisting, overhauling the forward boat's falls. At this moment the ship dived, and we were all in the water. Other reports as to his ending are absolutely false. Mr. Murdoch died like a man, doing his duty." However, it seems that from testimony Lightoller jumped into the sea while Murdoch was still alive on the other side of the ship and had not witnessed his fate. It is also possible that Lightoller may have wanted to conceal the suicide from Murdoch's widow. Later in life, Lightoller admitted that he "knew someone who committed suicide that night," but he wouldn't say who. Murdoch was 39 years old at the time of his death and his body was never recovered.

 

The Second Officer (survived)

In Titanic's final moments, Charles "Lights" Lightoller saw a wave coming across the boat deck. Deciding he could do no more, he dived into the water from the roof of the officer's quarters. As water flooded down one of the forward ventilators, He was immediately sucked under and got pinned against the grating by the pressure of the incoming water. A blast of hot air from the depths of the ship erupted out of the ventilator and blew him back to the surface. Then he was pulled down again against another grating. He said he didn't know how he got away but somehow he resurfaced again. He was having trouble staying afloat due to the weight of the large revolver he had in his coat pocket and quickly got rid of it. He spotted Collapsible B floating upside down with several swimmers hanging on to the gunwale ropes  and swam over to it. Around this time, Titanic '​s first funnel broke free and came crashing down to the water, washing the collapsible further away from the sinking ship. Climbing on board the upside down boat, Lightoller took charge and had the men in the water climb on top of it. They had to keep shifting their weight to keep it from tipping over. This continued until they were picked up by another life boat. When Carpathia arrived the next morning, Lightoller was the last survivor picked up. At the British Inquiry he was asked when he left Titanic, his reply was "I didn't leave Titanic sir, Titanic left me. Lightoller died in 1952 at the age of 78.

 

The Third Officer (survived)

As Titanic's boats were being lowered, 3rd officer Herbert John "Bert" Pitman was ordered by 1st officer Murdoch to take charge of lifeboat No. 5. Murdoch had ordered Pitman to take the lightly loaded lifeboat to the gangway doors to take on more passengers, but Pitman later testified that the doors were not opened as the boat waited about 100 yards away. As the stern slipped under water, he looked at his watch and announced, "It's 2.20," to his fellow lifeboat passengers. Hearing the screams of those in the water, Pitman immediately decided to row back and rescue whomever he could. However, the women in his lifeboat protested out of fear of being mobbed and capsized; the same women that moments earlier sharply objected to officers on the boat deck about their husbands and sons not being allowed to board the boats. So, Pitman moved on from the site. Pitman continued to serve with the White Star Line following the Titanic disaster. He served on the Oceanic and and Olympic, later moving from deck officer to purser because of failing eyesight. After 60 years serving at sea, Bert Pitman died in 1961 at the age of 84.

 

The Fourth Officer (survived)

Joseph Groves Boxhall was put in charge of Lifeboat 2 which was lowered at 1.45am. After Titanic had gone down Boxhall wanted to rescue swimmers in the water, but as happened with Officer Pitman in boat 5, the women strongly protested out of fear of being capsized. Boxhall was one of Titanic's first surviving officers to be picked up by Carpathia and was ordered to the bridge by Capt. Rostron for a report upon his arrival. He reported that Titanic and gone down around 2:20 AM. After the disaster, Boxhall served in WWI on cruisers and a torpedo boat as a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve. After the war he went back to work on other White Star Line ships and a couple of other IMM owned liners. He achieved the rank of 1st officer and chief officer but never received his own command. Boxhall didn't speak much publically about the Titanic disaster but did agree to serve as technical advisor for the 1956 movie, A Night to Remember, based on the book by Walter Lord. Joseph Boxhall died in 1967 at the age of 83. By his request, he was cremated and his ashes were scattered over Titanic's wreck site. 

 

The Fifth Officer (survived)

Fifth Officer Harold Godfrey Lowe is considered by many to be one of the true hero's the night of Titanic's sinking. Lowe took charge of life boat 14 at approximately 1:30 AM, less than an hour from Titanic going completely under. As boat 14 was being lowered, Lowe noticed several men on Titanic's boat deck preparing to jump down into his boat. He took his revolver out and fire 3 warning shots in the air yelling at them not to try it. When his boat was lowered to the sea, Lowe gathered several other boats in the water feeling it was best for them to all stay together. Despite protests again from the women in the boats, Lowe was determined to return and pick up swimmers in the water. Due to his little flotilla of life boats not being full, her transferred passengers to various boats to free up one boat for rescue. Reluctantly waiting for the screams for help to die down to avoid being swamped, he carefully retuned to the site and managed to rescue 4 from the water. Later he came up on collapsible "A" boat which was slowly sinking and transferred those passengers to his other boats. After the disaster, Lowe served in WWI as a lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve and later retuned to the White Star Line serving as an officer until his retirement in 1931. During World War II, he volunteered his home as a sector post and served as an air raid marshal. Harold Lowe died in 1944 at the age of 61.

 

The Sixth Officer (did not survived)

When Titanic was sinking, Sixth Officer James Paul Moody assisted in the loading of Lifeboats No. 12, 14, and 16 on the port side of the ship. He then moved to the starboard side and gave First Officer Murdoch a hand until the water had come up on the boat deck. Moody was last seen by the ship's lamp trimmer, Samuel Hemming and Second Officer Charles Lightoller on top of the officers' quarters struggling with freeing Collapsible A, an emergency lifeboat that was mounted upside down, just moments before Titanic slipped below the surface. Lightoller recalled; "Mr. Moody must have been standing quite close to me at the same time. He was on top of the officers quarters clearing away the collapsible boat on the starboard side, whilst Mr. Murdoch was working at the falls. If that is so, we were all practically in the water together." After diving into the sea as Titanic went under, Lightoller never recalled seeing Moody again. James Moody died in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912 during the sinking at the age of 24. His body was never recovered, and he was the only junior officer on Titanic to die in the sinking.

 

The Chief Purser (did not survived)

Chief Purser Hugh Walter McElroy was as popular among the frequent passengers as Captain Smith was. He was known to be jolly and have a good sense of humor. He ate with the first class passengers as was known to convince single diners to join him at his table. He had 13 years prior experience on other White Star Line ships before joining Titanic. During Titanic's final hours, McElroy assisted where he could with the loading of the boats. During the loading of collapsible "C," two dining room stewards jumped down into the boat from the deck above and McElroy pulled out his revolver and fired a couple of shots in the air. The stewards were quickly thrown out by McElroy and First Officer Murdoch. McElroy assisted where needed at other boats and was last seen on the boat deck in front of the gymnasium talking to one of Titanic's postal clerks. Hugh McElroy died in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912 during the sinking at the age of 32. Several days later, his body was recovered by the hired ship, MacKay Bennett and was buried at sea due to advanced decomposition.

 


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Post disaster photo of Titanic's surviving officers.
(seated) Third Officer Herbert Pittman, (standing left to right) Fifth Officer Harold Lowe, Second Officer Charles Lightoller, Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall.
 

Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of surviving 4th Officer Joseph Boxhall taken in the late 1960's shortly before his death. He served as a technical adviser for the 1958 film,  A Night to Remember based on the book by Walter Lord.

(Photo courtesy of Walter Lord)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Surviving 3rd Officer Herbert Pittman and 2nd Officer Charles Lightoller in New York City during the US Senate Sub-Committee Investigative Hearings 1912.

(Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

 

 

 

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