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What Happened that Night?


At 11:39pm, 14th April 1912, Frederick Fleet, AB, a lookout drafted to Royal Mail Steamer Titanic, White Star Lines flag ship spotted a mile off in the darkness of the North Atlantic, a black shape on the horizon. Immediately he realized it was a huge iceberg, and rung the crowsnest bell three times and rang the Bridge phone.

First Officer William McMaster Murdoch, Sixth Officer James Pell Moody and Fourth Officer Joseph Groves Boxhall were the Officers on watch and Murdoch was at his post on the Starboard Wing Bridge when the crowsnest phone started to ring. Sixth Officer Moody was making a cup of tea and hurried out and of the chart room into the wheel house and flicked up the speaking piece and asked;

“What do you see?”

“Ice Right ahead!” came the reply from Fleet.

“Thankyou. Ice right ahead sir!” called out Moody to Murdoch.

Murdoch immediately ordered the Quartermaster, Robert Hichens to take the ship;

“Hard A Starboard!”

He intended to port around the berg but it was too late to do that. He ordered the engines to be reversed and ran over to the Engine Room Telegraphs and signaled

“Hard a Stern”.

Chief Engineer Joseph Bell was in the Engine room making boiling soup on a turbine before he retired to his cabin when the order for the engines to be reversed came through.

"Quickly disengage the forward engines."

came his order to Senior Second Engineer W.E. Farquharson. The Titanic’s engines worked in two ways. The wing Propellers were controlled by two turbine engines and they had to be disengaged completely before they could be reversed. As this was being done, First Officer Murdoch had returned to the Starboard Wing Bridge and and was watching the iceberg approach. He gave the order for the Water Tight Doors to be closed and the panic started down in the cargo holds, engine room and boiler rooms 5 and 6 as the doors began to close. In a matter of thirty seconds the RMS Titanic was doomed. The Iceberg grazed by the hull and caused flooding inside the ship.

Captain Edward John Smith, RD, TM, RNR, was in his cabin after returning from a dinner in his honour held by Mr and Mrs George Widener. He rushed onto the Bridge and asked Murdoch what had happened.

“Iceberg sir. I reversed the Engines and I intended to port around it but it was to late, we hit it. I Closed the water tight doors.”

Captain Smith ran over to the Starboard Wing Bridge and looked over at the side of the ship. He called over Sixth Officer Moody and asked him to arouse the Officers and get Fourth Officer Boxhall to fetch the ship’s carpenter. Smith and Chief Officer Henry Tingle Wilde went to Thomas Andrews’ cabin, the chief builder of the Titanic to inspect the damage. Smith, Wilde, Andrews, Ship's Carpenter John Maxwell, and Boxhall toured the ship for damage. At 12:00am on the 15th April 1912, Mr. Andrews gave his report to the ships Officer’s and the chairman of the White Star Line, Joseph Bruce Ismay. He told the men that there was damage along at least 250 to 300 feet of the Titanic’s starboard side and that she would sink in about 1 to 1 and a half hours. He explained that she could stay afloat with any 4 of her water tight compartments filled, but not 6. The water would fill up one compartment and then spill over into the next and so on. It was pure mathematics and he knew the ship was doomed.

Captain Smith ordered the ship to be evacuated immediately. He ordered First Officer Murdoch to arouse the crew and passengers, Chief Officer Wilde and Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller to uncover and make ready the Lifeboats, Third Officer Herbert John Pitman, Fourth Officer Boxhall, Fifth Officer Harold Godfrey Lowe, and Sixth Officer Moody to help with the organization of the passengers. Thomas Andrews and Captain Smith reminded Mr. Ismay who would not accept that the ship was going to sink, of the Lifeboat situation; that being there were only enough places for around 900 people and that the Titanic was carrying 2,227 people.

At 12:05am Captain Smith walked into the Wirless shack and handed First Wireless Operator John ‘Jack’ Phillips a message and told him that the Titanic had struck an iceberg and was sinking fast. He told him to send the regulation distress call CQD and Second Wireless Operator Harold Snyder Bride joked that he should send the new distress call SOS because

“It might be your last chance mate”.

At 12:35am Harold Cottom, Wireless Operator of the RMS Carpathia, a 13000 tonne Cunard Liner received a CQD from the Titanic calling for assistance because the ship was sinking and only had an hour. Cottom took the message to the First Officer, William Dean and they went to Captain Arthur Rostron, RD, TM, RNR. He immediately turn his ship around and headed in the direction of the Titanic. In 2 hours he had turned his ship from a liner into a floating hospital and ready for a mass evacuation.

On the Titanic, by 12:40am, the water had risen 14 feet and the ship was taking on a considerable list towards the bow. The mail room on G Deck was flooded and the Postal Clerks had drowned trying to save the Royal Mail. Boiler Rooms 5 and 6 were flooding but the engineers had temporarily stopped the flooding by bringing in pumps from the storerooms. Throughout the ship Stewards and attendants had begun arousing the passengers from their berths and were leading them onto the Boat Deck.

Chief Officer Wilde was hesitant to start loading the boats and Second Officer Lightoller went over his head to Captain Smith and asked to be allowed to fill the boats. The order was given and the boats began to be filled. Second Officer Lightoller would not allow any men accept crew into the lifeboats and when Boat 4 in which Mrs. Margaret ‘Molly’ Brown was placed had only one man, Quartermaster Robert Hichens, Lightoller asked if any men knew how to row. Major Arthur Peuchen, Vice Commodore of the Royal Canadian yacht Club and Canadian Army Reservist, stepped forward and said he knew. The boat was already 30 feet down the side of the ship and Lightoller told him;

“if you are a sailor enough to get down those fall ropes you can go sir”.

Peuchen did and after asked Lightoller to sign an affidavit saying that he was ordered to go. Murdoch on the starboard side however would allow anyone to go. In Emergency boat 1, Lord and Lady Duff Gordon, were amongst 5 passengers and 7 crew that occupied a boat big enough to hold 35 people. This was the same all over the ship. Boats were being loaded to half capacity because the officers were not sure whether the boats could handle 70 people down 65 feet to the water line. Thomas Andrews saw Stewardess Violet Jessop and

“Put on your LifeBelt Miss Jessop”

“I thought if I looked stronger in front of the passengers sir..”

“No Miss Jessop, they must see you wearing it. If you are wearing it, they will as well.”

“Yes sir.”

With that he walked off to another part of the ship.

Captain Smith was using a mega phone to give orders and at approximately 1:00am ordered Fourth Officer Boxhall and Quartermaster George Rowe to fire distress rockets once every five or ten minutes. The ship was sinking rapidly and by 1:20am the Forecastle was completely underwater, and Second Officer Lightoller used the forward Well Deck stairs to judge the rate of water that was quickly engulfing the ship. The Engineers down in the bowls of the ship were working fast and frantically to keep the ship afloat as long as possible. Chief Engineer Bell was keeping in contact with the bridge and Captain Smith told him

“We need power Chief, for the wireless and lights....”

“We’ll do what we can sir, but the pumps won’t hold the water off for much longer.”

Captain Smith walked onto the port wing bridge where Fourth Officer Boxhall was firing rockets and he was told

“There is a ship off the port bow sir, but she is not responding.”

“Fire some more rockets Mr. Boxhall and see what happens.”

There was a ship about 10 miles away but when the Titanic tried to signal it, the ship would not respond. Quartermaster George Rowe used the Morse Lamp to try but there was no response. Captain Smith ordered him to take charge of Lifeboat 6 and it was lowered. Second Class passenger Mr Lawrence Beezley, MA Oxon, BA, was running along A deck and he stopped at a boat being loaded and a sailor asked him

“Hey mate, is there any woman there?”

“No only a lot of men”

“Get in then mate, you don’t wanna die do you?”

He did and he was saved. By 2:00am the Titanic was now listing at a 45 degree angle. The triple screws were beginning to rise out of the water. Jack Phillips and Harold Bride were still frantically keeping in contact with the Carpathia and it was still at least 2 hours away. The bridge was nearing the water level and Captain Smith was standing on the port wing bridge and ordered Fourth Officer Boxhall to take a boat. Chief Officer Wilde had issued the officers with firearms and earlier on Fifth Officer Lowe fired his pistol down the side of the ship at a group of men who tried to jump into a boat. There was speculation that there were people killed by First Officer Murdoch but when the water reached the Boat Deck he was helping untangle Collapsible lifeboat A, when a large wave washed the boat off the deck and it pushed Murdoch into the water. That was the last seen of the First Officer.

The bridge was now going under water and Smith gave the order that all master’s of vessels dread

“Abandon Ship! Every man for himself”

At that, people panicked and scrambled up the boat deck towards the stern of the ship fearful for their lives, and Smith walked onto the bridge and opened the door to the wheel house. His hands were trembling with fear. He knew that from the time the Titanic hit the iceberg that his ship was doomed and so was he.

(This is purely speculative remember but it is what I believe happened.)

He closed the door to the wheel house and stood there looking at the rising water engulfing his ship. He unbuttoned his Navy Blue uniform and took out of his pocket the portrait photograph of his wife and daughter.

“Forgive me?” were the last words he uttered as the water rose higher and higher around him and pushed against the glass of the windows in the wheel house. With that the glass shattered and the water engulfed the whole bridge sweeping Captain Smith against the back wall of the Wheel House and knocking him unconscious. The water swept in and that was the last known of the one of the greatest sea Captains the world had known, Edward John Smith, RD, TM, RNR.

Second Officer Lightoller was on top of the wheel house unknotting Collapsible Lifeboat C on the starboard side of the ship when the wave that destroyed the bridge swept the boat, him and the crew members helping him off into the water. He was sucked under by water being sucked into the ship through the ventilation turret behind the brifdge abnd down into the boiler rooms, and held against the flimsy grating for about 10 seconds and as he was letting go of life, the suction gave way and he was released. He came to the surface and was pulled down again against another grating. He never knew how he got away but he did. he came to the surface again realized he couldn’t swim properly because of the coat he was wearing and his life jacket. He was freezing and the water seemed like a thousand sharp knives sticking into him. He realized he was going to die. So he swam for the overturned Collapsible lifeboat that he was helping get down off the roof of Bridge.

About thirty people were clambering onto it and he organized them to sway against the motion of the sea so that the lifeboat would not sink under them.

At 2:10am, Jack Phillips and Harold Bride were still trying to find anyone in the area that could help. Bride realized they were speaking to thin air and urged Phillips to save himself. A Stoker ran into the Wireless shack and picked up Phillips’ lifebelt. Bride picked up an iron bar and repeatedly hit the stoker until he fell on the floor unconscious. The two ran onto the boat deck, and realized there were no boats left. The two decided to still save themselves and shook hands and went their opposite ways. The band which had been playing all night stopped and said goodbye to each other and walked off. Band Leader, Wallace Hartley, picked up his violin and started to play “Nearer My God To Thee” and the rest of the band joined him.

At 2:18am the RMS Titanic’s huge body lunged out of the water at a 45 degree angle and started its final deaths throws. The First Smokestack ripped from its casing and the cable holding it lashed out across the decks killing people it hit. The funnel fell and crushed about 100 people, among them, Lieutenant Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, the richest man on board. The other three funnels also came away from their moorings and fell off. The ship rose further out of the water and suddenly there was a violent crashing sound as the Titanic broke in two parts spilling the contents of the ship into the water. The ship rose higher, the bow broke away and the stern section from the fourth funnel back crashed back on the surface of the water.

People had clambered onto the Poop Deck of the ship and were frantically trying to get to the back railing. Chief Baker, Charles Joughin had drunk a full bottle of whiskey through out the sinking and was on the stern. He jumped off the back into the water and narrowly missed the port wing propeller. He swam away from the ship and bobbed in the water drunk.

After about a minute the flooding took over once more and the stern started to sink again. At 2:20am the stern of the Titanic plunged at an 85 degree angle under the dark cold waves of the North Atlantic. Over 1500 people were left in the water. The scene was horrific. Fifth Officer Lowe organized another boat to take his passengers so he could go back for more survivors.

Lowe and 8 sailors rowed back about 10 minutes later and edged slowly through the mass of frozen bodies in the water. After half an hour of yelling into the darkness, he returned to the small flotilla of lifeboats with 5 other survivors.

At 4:00am, on the 15th April 1912, Captain Arthur Rostron RD, TM, RNR, brought the RMS Carpathia along side a lifeboat, but as he stopped, an iceberg loomed in front of him and he had to pick the boat up on the starboard side of his ship. Over the next four hours the Titanic’s lifeboats and survivors were picked out of the North Atlantic.

Out of a rough total of 2,227 passengers and crew on board RMS Titanic, only 705 people survived. Even though there have been many more wrecks of ships through time, the Titanic will always live in history as the most fascinating of all sinkings; A ship that sank on a cold night in April.



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