Tag Archives: Charles Lightoller

LIGHTHOLLER WATCH TO BE AUCTIONED OFF

Charles H. Lightoller, second officer of the RMS Titanic.
Circa 1920-1930
Public Domain (from Wikimedia)

Charles Lightoller’s Titanic Watch For Sale At Goldin Auctions (Just Collecting News, 19 Nov 2019)

The watch owned by Charles Lightoller, the Second Officer who miraculously survived the sinking of the Titanic, is up for sale at Goldin Auctions. The Swiss silver pocket watch bears the name “Charles H Lightoller” and his rank “2nd Officer” engraved on the reverse of its rusted case. The watch hands behind the cracked face are frozen in time at 2:20 – believed to be the exact moment Lightoller plunged into the icy waters of the Atlantic as the Titanic sank beneath him. Minimum bid for the watch is $5,000. The auction ends on 7 Dec.

Titanic Musings-Binoculars

Photo: Public Domain
Photo: Public Domain

Question: Would Titanic lookouts having binoculars made a difference?

Short answer
Likely the same outcome.

Long answer
The question of binoculars has always been an issue. Binoculars work best in lighted and semi lighted environments. However on dark moonless nights where there is dead calm on the ocean, they would be least effective. Remember that binoculars limit your view to just what you are looking at rather than a wide area. Lightoller stated the purpose of the lookouts was not to identify but to alert the bridge, which they did by ringing bells. One gong meant look port, two gongs look starboard, and three gongs right ahead. The senior officer on the bridge usually had binoculars (Murdoch did) so they could look at what the lookouts were warning about, if not already aware of the issue.

White Star was unique in that employed men for just lookout positions. Other lines usually assigned men on an ad hoc basis (meaning they were on duty at the time). Lightoller told the US inquiry that he preferred those who had experience in such duties, especially on other ships he had been on. And he points out they became experts at detecting things on the horizon.

For a more through examination of the binocular issue, see Art Braunschweiger’s article
‘We have no look-out glasses in the crow’s nest” on Encyclopedia Titanica.


Friday Titanic Musings

Titanic Wreck Bow Image: Public Domain (NOAA-http://www.gc.noaa.gov/images/gcil/ATT00561.jpg)
Titanic Wreck Bow
Image: Public Domain (NOAA-http://www.gc.noaa.gov/images/gcil/ATT00561.jpg)

*There is a petition going round demanding Titanic be raised. It is a daunting task. The wreck is two miles down requiring special equipment to get down that deep. Then there is the fact the rusting forward section is embedded into the sand making it very difficult to dislodge, if possible at all. Most experts argue it it is not. And if if it did work, what would you do with a rusting piece of ship once you brought it up? Sure you could tow it to a dock somewhere but considering it has been down there since 1912, it is not going to be pretty. It is an idea born out of boredom not realizing Titanic is not just in two pieces, but disintegrating beneath the waves. Bringing it up will not slow that down but likely speed that up. Best to leave it exactly where it is. In peace, two miles down.

*The Titanic Letter of Marine Protest is once again making news. Or should I say that press statements are making it news. This insurance form from 1912 includes a statement by Charles Lightoller (the surviving senior Titanic officer) as to what happened and signed by the other surviving officers. Some are saying that Lightoller is trying to play down the disaster for insurance reasons. Which is not possible considering how Titanic was front page news in 1912. For insurance purposes they needed to know the who, what, where, how, and why. And it is up to them to decide to pay or not. What was known was Titanic struck an iceberg and the resulting damage resulted in its sinking. Trying to claim Lightoller was minimizing what happened is nothing more than puffery to sell this item. The insurance was paid and the rest is history.

*Father Frank (Francis) Browne, SJ (1880-1960) was a well regarded photographer, Jesuit priest, and a war hero. Early in his life he developed a love for photography.That would prove fortuitous when he was aboard Titanic and took photographs before disembarking at Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland. Those photos would be reprinted in newspapers and made him well known. In 1916 he joined the British Army as a chaplain where he was wounded five times and received the Military Cross & Bar, and the Croix de Guerre. He took many pictures of his time during the war, collected them into a book, and gave it to his fellow members of the Irish Guard. Taking a trip to Australia to help him recover from ill health offered him a chance to take even more photographs there and of places on the way back home. In 1929 he was appointed to the Retreats and Mission staff of the Irish Jesuits which afforded ample time to take even more photographs. So well known for his photography that Kodak gave him film for life. He passed away in 1960 and as time passed his connection to Titanic and photography was largely forgotten. That is until Father Edward E. O’Donnell SJ, found a large metal trunk that once belonged to Browne containing negatives. The photographs were assembled into books most of which have been published including his Titanic photos. A new book The Life and Lens of Father Browne (E.E. O’Donnell, Messenger Publications) is coming out that focuses on Father Browne. And possibly the first self photograph ever taken on its front cover.

*Hell’s Kitchen has finally hit that moment when it is clear that not one of its contestants can cook well enough to be considered a recipe of the month for that shows calendar. Recently the remaining cooks were told to create a dish that was both stunning for the eyes and palate. Three former contestants from that show, who each have recipes in that calendar, assisted Chef Ramsay decide who won. Each judge could award a maximum of 5 points for each dish. Not one of them achieved anything above a 3, which is simply okay or average. One gal did the unthinkable and put raw flour in her mashed potatoes. One does not need a degree in food science to know that raw flour needs to be cooked. And putting it in mashed potatoes will not thicken it up but make it inedible. Finally the last person up presented a dish whose ingredients she had never cooked or really tasted before. That sent Gordon Ramsay banging his head into the proverbial wall and leaving the judges incredulous. Jason, who is a real donkey’s behind, has gotten steadily nastier on the show. At this stage we ought to be seeing the best rise to the top. Instead we get nothing but average to substandard cooking from people who cannot seem to manage their time or bother to cook their dishes perfectly. This could be the season where Gordon says no one impresses him enough to be hired. On Kitchen Nightmares he walked away from Crazy Amy when he realized he could change nothing. Perhaps this is one season where there will be no winner.

*It never ceases to amaze me when I see a news blurb saying “new information about Titanic sinking!” and it turns out to be a shill for the Titanic/Olympic switch theory. The theory is bogus and demonstrably false. All one has to do is look at the wreck to see it is not Olympic. There is an industry to feeds on such conspiracy theories from saying the moon landing never happened to 9/11 Truthers saying it was a government conspiracy.

*Ghost sighting at Titanic cemetery! A man claims he captured the image of a ghost. Real or imaginary?

Have a great weekend everyone.

Titanic Musings

Wikimedia Commons (Wiegee)
Wikimedia Commons (Wiegee)

*Last year there was a theory that large numbers of icebergs in 1912 were caused by a rare celestial alignment. The theory, such as it was, received a yawn from the Titanic community. It does not matter whether the icebergs in 1912 were caused by a celestial alignment, a warmer current, or perhaps Marvin the Martian playing with his weapon on Mars. Titanic struck an iceberg because a lot of things went wrong. There was complacency of all kinds from the Board of Trade to Captain Smith deciding to speed up Titanic on a cold, moonless night through an iceberg field. Now researchers at Sheffield University disputes there was an abnormal amount of icebergs in 1912. They claim there was a “raised iceberg hazard” but it was not exceptional. But hold on because they claim that now it is much more dangerous because there is more ship traffic in the Arctic. And this means more iceberg incidents will occur. Well of course if your are moving through areas where icebergs normally float around in, the possibility of hitting one is not remote. Easy to avoid the ones that can be seen but no so the ones just under the surface or getting to close to a berg that has a much larger base underwater than can be seen.
Source: Titanic Theory Put On Ice: Icebergs Were Not At Dangerously High Levels In 1912 – But They Are Today
(9 April 2014,Daily Mail)

Lightoller, right, with third officer Herbert Pitman. Image: Public Domain
Lightoller, right, with third officer Herbert Pitman.
Image: Public Domain

* The upcoming Titanic memorabilia auction by Henry Aldridge includes a four page statement signed by Titanic’s surviving officers called “Letter of Marine Protest.” This document, signed by Titanic’s surviving officers, is part of the insurance claim White Star Line submitted. Henry Aldridge says of the document: “It is fascinating that the officers would seem to minimize their encounter with the rather large and ominous iceberg by describing it as a ‘small low-lying iceberg’. This could possibly have been an attempt to downplay the size of the iceberg due to the question of liability and who was to blame for the sinking.” Anyone who has submitted claims to insurance companies knows they want the who, what, when, and how the incident occurred. So the document says the date, time and location where it occurred that the ship collided with the iceberg. The iceberg is described as “ ‘growler’, or small low-lying iceberg.” To be fair to Charles Lightoller, the senior surviving officer, he did not see the iceberg and descriptions of it varied. I am not sure that saying it was low lying minimizes or changes the fact that colliding with it caused ruptures in the hull that sank Titanic. The lookouts did not see it until it was nearly upon them due to there being no moon and the stillness of the ocean. Other things are boiled down to simple factual statements like: “On examination it was found water was coming into several compartments; all hands were called on deck, the boats were ordered to be cleared, and subsequently filled with women and children.”

Later thanks to survivor accounts and witness statements at American and British inquiries, we learn much more about what happened. The insurance company–Atlantic Mutual–had to determine whether the loss was covered or not. Were the officers and in particular Captain Smith negligent in full or in part for what happened?If they denied the claim arguing Smith was negligent, they would have to prove that in court. Who handled the ice warnings and why were they not plotted out? Those and other questions would have to be answered in court. Did Smith know the danger or did one of his junior officers fail to inform him? Get the picture? It would be difficult to prove in court whether Smith was really at fault or one of his junior officers. You could argue indifference or complacency but it would be a long legal battle that might take years to resolve. They choose to pay likely because it would cost more in the long run to litigate the matter and end up paying more in the end. Did Lightoller cover up for Smith or other officers who did not properly plot out the ice field from the warnings received? Possibly but the statements given in the document are factually accurate and meant to neither overplay or underplay anything. Just the basic facts, to paraphrase Sergeant Friday from Dragnet. Atlantic Mutual paid out £3 million (one news report said Titanic was insured for $5 million). When Titanic was discovered in 1985 and later a salvage award was issued, I believe they or a successor company put a claim in with RMS Titanic, Inc. A settlement was reached and the amount paid to them confidential.
Source(s):
1. Titanic Insurance Claim To Be Sold(10 April 2014,Irish Independent**)
2.TITANIC INSURED FOR $5,000,000(Encylopedia Titanica)

*The Titanic Effect is something I call that happens when people recall other maritime disasters that are less known. Consider what is called “Minnesota’s Titanic.” On 13 Jul 1890, a paddlewheeler called Sea Wing was smashed by a wave and turned over killing 98 people (mostly teenagers and young adults). Ben Threinen and Fred Johnson are preparing a documentary about this tragedy so that people remember what happened. Most are stunned when they learn of it says Johnson. And properly so.
Source:Documentary To Recount ‘Minnesota’s Titanic’(11 April 2014,Post Bulletin)

*Dr. Paul Lee is involved in a new project called Titanic Global Database. He is collecting locations “relevant to the Titanic society as an aid to researchers and tourists. ” He plans to add new locations each week but the project is huge and is just starting. You can visit his website at paullee.com.

*With another anniversary of Titanic’s sinking nearly upon us, I always take out two videos to watch. One is the 1958 movie A Night To Remember (based on the excellent book by Walter Lord). Although it was made long ago, it still does the story right and never fails to entertain. Another is the excellent A&E documentary which goes through everything with interviews from survivors, researchers, and others. And it is narrated by David McCallum (Ducky on NCIS) who played Harold Bride in the 1958 movie.

Amy and Samy Outside Restaurant. Photo: Fox
Amy and Samy Outside Restaurant.
Photo: Fox

*Kitchen Nightmares is back! Once again we find out how bad some restaurants can become and in dire need of Gordon Ramsay’s help. Of course the season could not start without first going over what happened at the now infamous Amy’s Baking Company. It was the rare episode in which Gordon realized there was nothing he could do since Crazy Amy and Samy The Hammer were totally in denial about what was wrong. They were not interested in anything Gordon had to say or suggest. And America saw two people who either were the greatest actors of all time or truly crazed. The Internet went wild and so did they in responding. From what I saw, it looks like they have not changed much and in fact angrier than before. Now they are making wild claims that Gordon Ramsay sexually harassed Crazy Amy. They make this claim in a video and are declining to take it down despite threats from Fox and the production company. You can view the video at Radaronline. However on their recent appearance on Dr. Phil, they did not make this claim.

**Links to Republic of Ireland newspapers are not provided due to pay for links policy.


Friday Titanic Newswrap

Titanic II Update: Proof of concept testing for Titanic II has begun at Hamburg Ship Model Basin (HSVA) in Hamburg, Germany. The 9.3 meter model is being tested in a 300 meter tank in tests that include resistance and open water tests. “The Titanic II model was tested by HSVA at speeds of up to 23 knots and this testing is crucial for assessing the speed and power performance of this prototype vessel design,” said Clive Palmer.
Source: Titanic II Model Tested(20 Sep 2013,Daily Telegraph)

Photo:Wikipedia

SS Nomadic Update: Ticket prices for Titanic’s tender SS Nomadic may have reduced admission prices for winter reports BBC News. Since SS Nomadic is a separate exhibit from Titanic Belfast, there has been some criticism that they are not connected in simple admission price. While no reduced price has been finalized, the long term goal is for joint ticketing with Titanic Belfast.
Source: SS Nomadic Ticket Changes Likely(20 Sep 2013,BBC )

Once again a Titanic connected antique turns up…

Photo:Wikipedia

A movie camera that possibly belonged to Titanic second officer Charles Lightoller was among 300 cameras that Roger Lott bought at a clearance for £300. When he brought the cameras back to his shop, he discovered an old movie camera with the name CH Lightoller on it. A friend told him it might be the Titanic second officer. Lott says he has an offer to buy the camera and the British Titanic Society is interested in looking at it. There is also still film in the camera which will require a specialist to handle and develop.

“People think I am mad but if I can trace any living relative who would like to own the camera again then I would like to donate it to Mr Lightoller’s family. It would be nice to return it to where it started life. But the family members I have been able to trace through genealogy websites said: ‘Thank you very much for the offer, however the Titanic has blighted our lives.’ I am not sure what is going to happen to this very special camera at the moment.”
Source: Antiques Collector Finds Camera Once Owned By Officer On Doomed Titanic (20 Sep 2013,WalesOnline)

My Favorite Titanic Movie

Titanic
(Photo courtesy George Behe)

Many Titanic enthusiasts were first drawn to Titanic by the 1958 movie A Night To Remember. The movie was based on Walter Lord’s historical book of the same name. Another movie, Titanic (1953), starring Clifton Webb and Barbara Stanwyck, was also around as well. The 1953 movie was fiction but placed the characters on the doomed ship. Of the two though, A Night To Remember is a more faithful retelling of the tragic story of what happened in 1912.

Cinema rarely presents history the way it happened. Writers, directors, producers like to embellish or change things that look good on screen. Cornelius Ryan’s The Longest Day recounts the events prior to and on 6 June 1944. The movie version does alter a few things, namely the landing on Omaha Beach. Anyone who has read the accounts, watched documentaries, or seen Saving Private Ryan realizes how bloody awful it was. From the moment the landing craft got near, they came under withering German fire. Many were killed in the landing craft, some drowned in the water due the heavy weight of their gear, many junior officers were dead moments upon arrival leaving it up to the sergeants and corporals to lead their decimated units. So it is no surprise that even a near faithful treatment of Titanic would take some dramatic license.

A Night To Remember opens up with a christening, something Harland & Wolff never did. They did have a ceremony where guests where invited to see the new ship slide into the water. The early scene with Lightoller and his wife on the train likely did not happen either. Lightoller is chastised by an older couple when reading aloud a soap advertisement (an actual one for Vinola) and making fun of it. They assumed he was critical of the ship but are forgiving when he is revealed as an officer aboard the ship and making fun of the advertising. We see different types of people from the very rich to the poor setting out on their journey to Titanic. We get a sense right away of the very stark differences in class that existed in that time. The poorest go with what they had and could carry while the rich came with servants and lots of baggage. Most of the characters used in the movie are based on real people and there are some composites as well.

We also see the stark differences between two other ships and captains-Captain Stanley Lord of Californian and Captain Arthur Rostron of Carpathia. Both of these ships play a critical role in the Titanic story. When Rostron is informed of the emergency message from Titanic, he quickly springs into action. Lord, since the radio operator is off-duty has no idea what is happening to Titanic and does not investigate when rockets are sighted. We also see the various characters react to the sinking and the acts of sacrifice that take place. Titanic captain Edward J. Smith appears decisive unlike what was learned later at the hearings. In fact, he had to be asked what to do by many of the officers instead of barking out orders as the movie depicts. Most likely the fact that many were going to die was something that weighed heavily on his mind.

Keen observers will notice some actors that became well known later. Honor Blackman, who was the first female accomplice on The Avengers and Pussy Galore on Goldfinger is in the movie as Mrs. Lucas. Those who remember Man From Uncle or like the character of Donald “Ducky” Mallard on NCIS will notice David McCallum as assistant wireless officer Harold Bride. Bernard Fox, whose Colonel Crittendon made live miserable for Colonel Hogan on Hogan’s Heroes, plays lookout Frederick Fleet (he was also in Cameron’s Titanic playing Colonel Archibald Gracie). Sean Connery plays a Titanic deck hand. Kenneth More, a well known British actor in the 1950’s, plays the role of Charles Lightoller. There are many others who will look familiar if you watched movies or television from this period.

The movie was done in black and white, but there may be copies out there in color. The Criterion Collection of this movie is the one to purchase or rent. Also this version has been digitally restored and some of the older copies are not that good. There are extras well worth considering if you plan to purchase. First the audio commentary by Titanic authors Don Lynch and Ken Marschall fills in a lot of detail as you watch the movie, often correcting what the movie does not depict correctly or adding lots of interesting details. A 60 minute documentary about the making of the movie and, perhaps even better, an archival interview with Titanic survivor Eva Hart.

I would encourage, if you can, to read the book by Walter Lord. The book is extremely well written and Lord had a knack for telling a good historical story. He wrote a sequel after Titanic was discovered in 1985 called The Night Lives On that deals with what was learned afterwards. He actually wrote a lot of history books. His one on Pearl Harbor attack (Day of Infamy) is still considered on the best in that area. His The Miracle of Dunkirk really nails what it was like to be trapped with Germans advancing on you with the only hope rescue from the sea. It also includes, for those who did not know, how Charles Lightoller (the same one from Titanic) became a hero rescuing soldiers and bringing them home to Britain. His book on the Battle of Midway (Incredible Victory)details how the battle came about. Some of his books may be available digitally.

So as you decide what to watch for the anniversary of Titanic’s sinking, consider the 1958 A Night To Remember. I think you will like it it. It will not have all the lush colors of Cameron’s Titanic, but it tells a story that will be worth the watch.


Titanic News For 18 Nov 2011

1. ‘Titanic’ Exhibition Headed For San Diego Natural History Museum (17 Nov 2011,SignOnSanDiego.com)
The blockbuster touring show, “Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition,” is set to land for a seven-month run at the San Diego Natural History Museum on Feb. 10, 2012. “This is a rare opportunity to view these historic pieces in San Diego,” said Michael W. Hager, the museum’s president and CEO in a statement. “It took a monumental effort to recover the artifacts, including eight trips to the wreckage located 2.5 miles beneath the surface of the Atlantic. This exhibit combines that technical story with the human drama that makes the Titanic tragedy such a well-known event.”

Info: Tickets to the San Diego showing will be $27, with discounts for members, military and others. Call (877) 946-7797 or visit sdnhm.org

2.  The Human Cost Of The Titanic Disaster (16 Nov 2011, Jarrow & Hebburn Gazette)
In Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy, chilling photographs of some of the dead, which White Star circulated in the hope of identifying them, are monstrous reminders of the scale of human loss. The approaching centenary of the Titanic disaster next spring has presented publishers with the opportunity to explore the catastrophe in impressive detail. The heavyweight has to be Titanic: Triumph and Tragedy. This veritable doorstop of a third edition, by two of the world’s most renowned Titanic experts, is illuminating on many levels. One of them is how extensively the Titanic was actually photographed, both inside and out. Moments of true maritime history were recorded, like the picture of Titanic and her sister ship Olympic – later broken up here on the Tyne – bow-to-stern at the yard of Harland and Wolff.

Charles Lightholler 1912

3. Titanic Survivor Featured In New Book (14 Nov 2011, Chorley Guardian)
The extraordinary life and career of a Titanic voyager from Chorley is being celebrated by a writer with a mission. Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller was the most senior surviving officer on the ship, and has fascinated writer Patrick Stenson for years. In a new edition of Patrick’s book, the former writer and broadcaster claims he has uncovered new evidence regarding the tragedy. The 65-year-old from Altrincham said: “I was going over the old evidence and I noticed some things that hadn’t been picked out in the inquiry. “It became quite clear that the ship was on top of the iceberg before the crew realised – it was much, much closer than people thought.”