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TITANIC Through Lightoller's Eyes



I have not wanted to write about the Titanic and the events of that awful night. It is something upon which I do not wish to dwell, but having been asked a number of times, I shall undertake to commit this to paper.

In early 1912, I was serving in the Oceanic, a lovely ship which had come into service just before the turn of the century. I must admit that, of all the White Star ships in which I served during my twenty years with the Line, it was she who captured my heart—and kept it. Even now, nearly twenty-five years on, I remember what a beautiful Lady she was, with her exquisitely-decorated suites—some even had silk cretonne wall coverings!

I’d never suffered from a lack of self-confidence, but it was still a matter of some surprise when I received word that I was to be transferred to the brand-new, ultra-luxurious Titanic, due to sail from Southampton on her maiden voyage on April 10th of that year.

Sailing from Southampton to Belfast, we were to join her at the Harland and Wolff Shipyards in late March. So my wife, children, and I duly took the train to Liverpool and then, after farewells and promises to see one another in a week or so, I sailed on the overnight boat to Belfast.

Nothing could have ever prepared me for the sight of her: nearly nine-hundred feet long, like most White Star ships, her hull was painted black, her superstructure and upper part of the hull was done in a glistening white, the two separated by a thin yellow-gold band. Above her decks and deckhouses rose four buff funnels, each topped with a black band at the top to disguise the smoke stains which would accumulate even from the start. But these were the tallest, largest funnels I had ever beheld in all my years sailing for White Star. Fully sixty-five feet in height, they rose from her body, raked back a bit to increase the image of sleekness and speed. She was one smart, up-to-the minute liner and I was proud to have been appointed to her.

Another nice result of this posting had been that I had discovered that my best mate, William Murdoch, would be sailing on her as her Chief Officer. I had met him on Medic, the first White Star ship on which I’d sailed in the winter of 1900. I must say that much of the “polish” I’d acquired by 1912 was due to him. He’d taught me how to dress, how to behave appropriately on a crack liner, how to speak—I daresay I even owed my wife’s falling for me in the first place to his lessons.

The captain on this prestigious, most important maiden voyage would be Captain Edward J. Smith, under whom I had sailed on Majestic earlier in my career, a man who was a true master of the sea and a man any officer would have given his ears to serve under, myself included.

Upon boarding the ship which was now tied up at Alexandra Wharf, we were all treated to a tour of the new liner—all of us, that is, except Captain Smith, who was still captaining Olympic at this point, were given a tour.




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"What I remember about that night- what I will remember as long as I live- is the people crying out to each other as the stern began to plunge down. I heard people crying, 'I love you.'"

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Jun/19/2008, 3:19 am Link to this post Send Email to Lights   Send PM to Lights AIM Yahoo Blog
 
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Re: TITANIC Through Lightoller's Eyes


If Oceanic was a Lady, then I am not sure what word to use to describe Titanic. She was [sign in to see URL] the words of a song popular at the time, she was “a great, big, beautiful doll”. I marvelled at the size and decor of her great public rooms and those of the suites which we were allowed to see, much of the outfitting work not yet done.

Far and away, the most magnificent of the public rooms was the First Class Men’s Smoking Room. Harland and Wolff had pulled out all the stops when decorating this room! The dark mahogany panelling was complimented by inlays of genuine mother-of-pearl, the inlays beautiful and very intricate. The lights were on, so the soft sheen of the panelling made the inlays look as if they shimmered. Around the funnel casings, stained-glass windows had been installed. They depicted famous White Star Line ships, along with sailing ships and nymphs in Grecian gowns. The windows had been backlit so that, even at night, it would look as if sunlight was streaming in. I must say that I was mightily impressed.

As I looked at the splendour around me, I formed the idea of breaking it in, that is to say, I would have the first smoke. I knew that Captain Smith would likely wish to have that honour, but the urge to break in the Smoke Room was too powerful to resist. Well, he would never know because I had no plans to tell anyone I’d been first.

That night when everything was calm and quiet, I sneaked down to the Smoke Room and walked quietly to one of the banquettes flanking the fireplace, sat down took out my pipe, filled it and lit it. Ah, now this was truly living! I sat there enjoying my smoke, sitting there like a pasha enjoying his final hookah of the evening, the moonlight making the windows shine a bit. I sat thinking about how far I had come since first going to sea, how the little lad from Chorley had gone from the Primrose Hill to a ship such as the one in whose Smoking Room I was now enjoying my pipe.

The painting over the fireplace was, I must say, quite magnificent, a painting by Norman Wilkinson called “Plymouth Harbour”, meant to be the mate to one on her elder sister entitled “Approach to the New World”. I looked at it a while, finished my second pipe and returned to the Officers’ House, where I was, I admit, supposed to be.



edited by Lights, Jun/19/2008, 3:25 am


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"What I remember about that night- what I will remember as long as I live- is the people crying out to each other as the stern began to plunge down. I heard people crying, 'I love you.'"

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Jun/19/2008, 3:21 am Link to this post Send Email to Lights   Send PM to Lights AIM Yahoo Blog
 
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Re: TITANIC Through Lightoller's Eyes


Harland and Wolff had gone all out, putting a great deal of thought into the officers’ cabins, each room rather small but cosy. I loved the bunk which was just a bit wider than on other ships. It was solid mahogany as was the comfortable chair and a rather nice desk. I was very impressed—being First Officer on Titanic was definitely a step up.

From March 25th until April 1st was spent in familiarising ourselves with the ship. Certainly the majority of my time was occupied in attempting to find my way around. In my years at sea, I had served in many different ships, but this ship seemed much harder to find my way around than the others. On a couple of occasions I ended up hopelessly lost in the bowels of the ship and had to endure the embarrassment of being found and brought back to the bridge by either Thomas Andrews of Harland and Wolff or one of the guarantee group. Both Andrews and the guarantee group would be aboard Titanic on her maiden voyage to fix anything that wouldn’t require a trip back to Belfast. Believe me, I was grateful for their presence in the yard!

On the evening of March 30th, Captain Smith came aboard to be there for her sea trials, scheduled for the next day. Unfortunately, it was too windy and cloudy on the first, so, it was postponed until the next day.

April 2 dawned clear and sunny, so off to Belfast Lough we went to see what Titanic was made of, so to speak.
We did turning tests, stopping tests at various speeds, all of it to give Titanic’s captain and officers a good idea of how she would perform when underway.

About nine or ten hours later, we arrived back at Alexandra Quay for some final supplies and coal to be loaded and off for Southampton we were headed. Normally, we would have stopped in Liverpool to give the people there an idea of what the newest lady home ported there looked like. This had been done with Olympic, people being allowed aboard for a fee which was later donated to charity, but the delayed sea trials would not permit this to be done in the case of her younger sister.

I was not on watch at the time, but I was told that at one point during the trip to Southampton, Captain Bartlett had managed to get Titanic up to twenty-three knots or maybe even a bit more. I must say I was very impressed with this Lady. Twenty-three knots!

Coming into Southampton, some fool in a small sailboat came too close to Titanic and a very irritated Captain Smith told me to blow the whistle at them, which I did. What idiocy! Imagine bringing a small boat such as that so close to a ship the size of Titanic! I personally thought that the bloke responsible ought to be soundly thrashed for such stupidity and I said precisely that to my wife the following day at breakfast.

It was well into the wee hours of the morning when Titanic was finally warped into her berth, No. 44 at the White Star Dock. We were permitted to go home as we would not have to stand actual watches until the night before sailing. I must say, I was quite glad to get home to my wife and children in Netly Abbey.
  
There was opportunity to bring Sylvia and the boys aboard for a bit of a tour. After introducing all of them to Captain Smith, I pressed Murdoch into service, keeping an eye on the boys so that I could conduct Sylvia on a proper tour of my latest posting.


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"What I remember about that night- what I will remember as long as I live- is the people crying out to each other as the stern began to plunge down. I heard people crying, 'I love you.'"

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Jun/19/2008, 4:43 am Link to this post Send Email to Lights   Send PM to Lights AIM Yahoo Blog
 
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Re: TITANIC Through Lightoller's Eyes


Thank you for posting that, Lights. It’s very interesting to hear his story ‘through his own eyes’. I always enjoy reading these.

---
Margaret "Molly" Brown biography
White Star Line History Website
Titanic Pages
Jun/19/2008, 7:36 pm Link to this post Send Email to Thomas Dyer   Send PM to Thomas Dyer
 
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Re: TITANIC Through Lightoller's Eyes


And thank you for letting me post. I will be posting sections as they are finished. emoticon

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"What I remember about that night- what I will remember as long as I live- is the people crying out to each other as the stern began to plunge down. I heard people crying, 'I love you.'"

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Jun/20/2008, 1:26 am Link to this post Send Email to Lights   Send PM to Lights AIM Yahoo Blog
 
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Re: TITANIC Through Lightoller's Eyes


here here, too many boards today have managed to turn into what can only be described as specialty forums. well done Tom for keeping this one friendly and easy to use.

And Lights keep up the good work many people enjoy reading it

G

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Re: TITANIC Through Lightoller's Eyes


quote:

Lights wrote:

And thank you for letting me post. I will be posting sections as they are finished. emoticon



Excellent work, Lights!!! emoticon emoticon I will be looking forward to still more of your continuations to this story with great anticipation. Keep up it coming!!!

MA



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Jesus is coming back real soon! - Go tell someone!!!
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