The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch
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Murdoch: 'Lay off... keep clear of the ship'

  • Boatswain’s mate
    Albert Haines

    31 year old Albert Haines, the boatswain’s mate, describes the loading of the starboard boats during the United States Senate Inquiry.

    HAINES: I worked on the boats, sir; got all the boats swung out...Then I went and stood by my own boat, sir, No. 9....We had the boat crew there, and Mr. Murdoch came along with a crowd of passengers, and we filled the boat with ladies, and lowered the boat, and he told me to lay off and keep clear of the ship. I got the boat clear, sir, and laid out near the ship. I did not think the ship would sink, of course, sir...
    SMITH: Did Mr. Murdoch tell you to do anything with that boatload of people and to then come back to the ship; or did any officer tell you that?
    HAINES: No, sir; he told me to keep them away, and lay off clear. That is what he said.... I know of one incident there, where a lady would not come into the boat...She would not come into the boat when they were filling it. One of the ladies refused to get into the boat. The officers were trying to get her in. Mr. Murdoch, then, was trying to get her in the boat, and she would not get into the boat... I think she was afraid to get into the boat.
    SMITH: Did the men passengers try to get into the boats?
    HAINES: No, sir; I did not see any of them do it, at least.
    SMITH: Were they told to stand back?
    HAINES: Yes.
    SMITH: By Officer Murdoch?
    HAINES: Yes, sir.
    SMITH: What did he say when he told them that?
    HAINES: He just stood there; that is all....He filled the boats with the ladies. He told me to put all these ladies in the boat, and he filled her up, sir. When she was full two or three men jumped in the bow of her. He said, "That is enough," and he lowered her down...
    SMITH: Was there any other officer there?
    HAINES: I never noticed any other; no, sir....only Mr. Murdoch. He was in charge. He filled our boat alone, sir. (25.)

Starboard Evacuation: Lifeboats 9 - 15

1:15am: Guns Issued

Webley .455 “pistol” No. 1 Mark VI
This particular model was in widespread
use in 1912 and possibly the model
used aboard Titanic

By now, with more passengers realising Titanic’s demise and the limited number of lifeboat seats, crowd control becomes an issue. General consensus places the time at around 1:15am when the senior officers make the decision to have revolvers at the ready in case the crowds begin to rush the boats.

“At one point Chief Officer Wilde interrupted Lightoller’s work to ask where the firearms were stored. These had been Lightoller’s responsibility prior to the reshuffle at Southampton, where had had acted as first officer. Lightoller led Wilde, Murdoch and Smith to the locker in Murdoch’s cabin where the guns were kept. As the second officer turned to leave, Wilde shoved a revolver and some ammunition into his hand, saying ‘Here you are. You may need it.’ Lightoller slipped the gun into a pocket and hurried back to the boats.” (Illustrated History, p.120/121. (2.))

Guns handed out to officers in Murdoch's cabin as
portrayed in the film "A Night to Remember" (1958)

“Lightoller was given a revolver and some ammunition by Wilde, but put the gun into his pocket still unloaded. Lightoller later considered that Murdoch had done the same, as neither seemed to have felt that they needed firearms.” (Richard Edkins, Murdoch of the Titanic (1.) )

In his 1935 autobiography, "Titanic and Other Ships," Second Officer Charles Lightoller told of being handed a revolver along with a handful of cartridges by Chief Officer Henry Wilde, which he subsequently pocketed. Later, Lightoller "encouraged" some men to leave a lifeboat by "vigorously flourishing my revolver." Lightoller went on to write, "the revolver was not even loaded!" (Titanic and Other Ships, Lightoller, courtesy of Gunshots on the Titanic by Earl Chapman (27.)). For more information refer to Guns on Titanic.

1:30am: Lifeboat No. 9

Time

Lifeboat

Occupants

Launched by

In charge

1:30am

No.9

40

Murdoch/Moody

Boatswain Albert Haines
Able Bodied Seaman George McGough


By 1:30am, the Titanic had developed a noticeable list to starboard and the tilt to the stern had grown steeper.

Lifeboat No.9, with the assistance of Sixth Officer Moody, is lowered to the deck’s edge and filled almost to capacity, “including two or three men who enter the boat when no other women come forward. Loading is halted when an elderly lady raises a great fuss and refuses to board. She pulls away from the solicitous crew and goes below.” (Triumph and Tragedy p.152 (7.))

Novelist Jacques Futrelle
to his wife: “For God’s sake go!"

The ship’s list causes a French lady to fall and injure herself trying to get in, causing Purser McElroy to station “three men in the boat to assist in bridging the widening gap between boat and ship” (Triumph and Tragedy p.152 (7.)) while novelist Jacques Futrelle encounters indecision on the part of his wife, May, and when his encouragement of “For God’s sake go! It’s your last chance! Go!” fails to make up her mind, an officer, possibly Murdoch, forces her into the boat. (Triumph and Tragedy p.152 (7.)) Jacques Futrelle did not find a lifeboat for himself and died in the sinking The millionnaire Benjamin Guggenheim brought Léontine Aubart, his French mistress, and her maid Emma Sägasser to Boat 9 before retiring to his stateroom with his valet, Victor Giglio and both also perished.

Haines: 'If I didn't lower away
the officer might shoot me.'

According to Daniel Allen Butler's Unsinkable: The Full Story of the RMS Titanic when Second Class passenger Kate Buss demanded to know why their male acquaintances Douglas Norman and Dr. Alfred Pain were not allowed aboard no.9, Boatswain Albert Haines told her: "The officer gave the order to lower away, and if I didn't do so he might shoot me, and simply put someone else in charge, and your friends would still not be allowed to come." The officer who gave the order to lower away was undoubtedly Murdoch. Norman and Pain both perished in the disaster.(46.) For more information on Haines working with Murdoch on the lowering of no.9 please refer to Murdoch: 'Lay off... keep clear of the ship' on the left

Murdoch orders the boat lowered at 1:30am. Triumph and Tragedy says there are 56 aboard (7.), although, according to Titanic & Her Sisters Olympic and Britannic “it is believed that the boat held 45 or 46 survivors.” (3.)

1:35am: Lifeboat No.11

Time

Lifeboat

Occupants

Launched by

In charge

1:35am

No.11

50

Murdoch

Able Bodied Seaman Sidney Humphries


As the seriousness of the situation becomes more apparent, more problems begin to occur and Murdoch, from this point on, loads many more than he had been earlier. “Filled from A deck, boat 11 is overloaded at least five beyond its rated capacity. At least seventy are jammed in, more than in any other boat…Upon reaching the water, it is almost swamped by the fat jet of water from the ship’s pump discharge. The after block of the tackle gets jammed…In the crowded conditions, tempers flare, and some women complain about having to stand, while others register protests about men’s smoking.” (Triumph and Tragedy p.153 (7.)). Charles Donald MacKay reports about No.11 boat: "Steward Wilson and myself were ordered by Mr. Murdoch to collect all the women we could and take them to A deck, which we did." (Board of Trade Enquiry, 16 May, 1912 (24.)).

Miss Edith Edith Russell
and her 'lucky' pig

“Boat 11 contained between 55 and 60 survivors; of these, most were stewards, stewardesses and second class women and children. It was ordered lowered at 1:25am by First Officer Murdoch and assisted into the water by Sixth Officer Moody. Quartermaster Humphreys and Seaman Brice joined the boat via the falls after it was realised that there were no sailors aboard.” (Titanic & Her Sisters Olympic and Britannic (3.))

Steward James Witter, had not intended to board but was knocked into it by a hysterical woman whom he was helping aboard while it was being lowered. Also, First Class passenger and fashion journalist Miss Edith Louise Rosenbaum (Edith Russell) brought along her lucky toy pig that had been given to her following her involvement in a car crash in France. Although too frightened to make the jump into No.11, when the pig was thrown into the lifeboat, Edith was compelled to follow and both the pig and Edith survived. (46.)

1:40am: Lifeboat No.13

Time

Lifeboat

Occupants

Launched by

In charge

1:40am

No.13

55

Murdoch/Moody

Fireman Frederick Barrett


No.13 is lowered to the A deck and after all women and children have boarded, mostly from second and third class, men are allowed to enter, including school teacher Lawrence Beesley, from second class who recalled Murdoch calling down to the crew of No.13 to “when afloat, row around to the gangway and wait for further orders” (Walter Lord The Night Lives On (21.)).

Beesley: Mudoch "clad in a long
coat" was "evidently in great
agitation, but determined
and resolute."

Lawrence Beesley actually wrote a detailed account of his experiences in a book entitled "The Loss of the SS. Titanic, Its Story and Lessons." (1912) and describes Murdoch:

"An officer--I think First Officer Murdock--came striding along the deck, clad in a long coat, from his manner and face evidently in great agitation, but determined and resolute; he looked over the side and shouted to the boats being lowered: "Lower away, and when afloat, row around to the gangway and wait for orders." "Aye, aye, sir," was the reply; and the officer passed by and went across the ship to the port side."

12 year old Ruth Becker

Like No.11, No.13 also encounters a discharge of water from the ship’s side and upon the occupants shouts of ‘cease lowering’ their calls are heeded and they are able to push away from the jet of water. Also like No.11, they have great difficulty detaching the falls, causing them to drift directly under No.15, which had begun its descent 30 seconds earlier. It’s upon the response of Murdoch and his men that the lowering of No.15 is immediately halted, allowing the crew of No.13 to cut the falls and drift out of the way.

12 year old Second Class passenger Ruth Becker was placed in no.13 by Moody after being prevented from entering No. 11 which her mother, Mrs Nellie E. Becker and her two siblings Richard and Marion had boarded. Ruth was one of few passengers who brought blankets from her stateroom and which were later used to keep stokers, who were wearing sleeveless shirts, warm while rowing.

1:41am: No.15

Time

Lifeboat

Occupants

Launched by

In charge

1:41am

No.15

68

Murdoch/Moody

Fireman Frank Dymond


The reason that Murdoch may have initially been unaware of the near disaster that was taking place below him could be due to crowd control problems that led to a hurried lowering of No.15. In A Night to Remember, Walter Lord states that “Murdoch barely stopped a rush at No. 15. He yelled at the crowd. ‘Stand back! Stand back! It’s women first!’” (p.66 (20.)).

Steward Walter Nichols:
Murdoch "had a revolver in
his hand. He gave his
orders quietly"

Saloon steward Walter H. Nichols said that when he arrived on deck he could see some boats already on the black waters ‘floating about in the reflection of the light from the ship’: “The officer in charge of the boats had a revolver in his hand. He gave his orders quietly and we didn’t realise even then that anything serious was the matter. The ship was down in the water, a little forward, but you couldn’t notice it much.” (Daily Echo, 9th April 2012)

Samuel James Rule remembers Murdoch giving him orders: "The time I got there Mr. Murdoch had given orders to see the plug and rudder shipped and the tiller shipped, and everything ready, and then to call the men together into the boat... He said: 'Some of you get into the boat.' About six went in and he said: "That will do; no more; lower away to A deck and receive any women and children there are."... Mr. Murdoch said, "Fill the boat up; take in what you have got there, and lower away.'......we took all the women who were there. We could not find any more... Mr. Murdoch said, "Fill your boat up with what you have got there - men"...there was a bit of a rush at the last, They all seemed anxious to get in." (Board of Trade Enquiry, 10 May, 1912 (24.)).

Artist's impression of the
lowering of lifeboat 15 onto 13.

John Edward Hart also remembers receiving orders: "After I saw my people in, the officer who had charge of the lowering away of that boat -... Yes, Mr. Murdoch. It was rather dark on the deck. He said, 'What are you?' I said, 'One of the crew. I have just brought these people up.' He said, 'Go ahead; get into the boat with them.' ... I saw Mr. Murdoch on two occasions, the only two occasions on which I went to the boat deck." (Board of Trade Enquiry, 16 May, 1912 (24.)).

Consequently, at 1:41am, approximately 30 seconds after boat 13 was lowered, Murdoch, aided by Sixth Officer Moody, ordered the launch of boat No. 15 with about 70 people aboard. Fortunately, its lowering was halted before crushing the occupants of No.13 below.