The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch
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Charlotte Collyer
Second Class passenger

“He (Murdoch) was a masterful man, astoundingly brave and cool… They say he shot himself. I do not know. ”

In Triumph and Tragedy, she is listed as “Collyer, Mrs. Harvey (Charlotte Tate),” her residence as “Bishopstoke, Hampshire” and her destination “Fayette Valley ID”. Boarding the ship at Southampton, she traveled second class along with her husband Harvey and their daughter Marjory, aged 8. Her husband was 35 and she was 31. Charlotte and her daughter were rescued in lifeboat No.14, but Mr. Collyer died in the sinking. (Triumph and Tragedy, p.339 (7.))

Upon arrival in New York there were several mentions of her in newspapers, two of which included references to guns:

"There was a stampede on the ship. The scenes of panic were awful. The officers drew revolvers and waved the crowd back. At last they had to fire. I covered my eyes as I sat in the lifeboat. Even then I saw them fall. I know they were shot to death." (Chicago American, April 22, 1912, as told to M.E. Smith, manager of Waterman Pen Company, Chicago.)

"Officers stood by with pistols to keep away the men from the steerage, who on at least one occasion attempted a rush. When occasion warranted the officers did not scruple to fire."(Chicago Record-Herald, April 21, 1912)

Collyer hence seemed certain that passengers were shot by "officers". However a month later she also named one of those officers. According to Encyclopedia Titanica, “Mrs. Collyer and little Marjorie were absolutely destitute when they reached New York” and that “their experience in the boat was recalled by Charlotte Collyer in The Semi-Monthly Magazine, May, 1912 (for which she was paid $300)” (8.). In the article, entitled “How I Was Saved From the Titanic” Mrs. Collyer wrote:

“I saw First Office Murdoch place guards by the gangways, to prevent others like the wounded stoker from coming on deck. How many unhappy men were shut off in that way from their one chance of safety I do not know; but Mr. Murdoch was probably right. He was a masterful man, astoundingly brave and cool. I had met him the day before, when he was inspecting the second-cabin quarters, and thought him a bull-dog of a man who would not be afraid of anything. This proved to be true; he kept order to the last, and died at his post. They say he shot himself. I do not know.”

Since she departed Titanic in lifeboat No.14 from the port side, there is no reason to believe she ever personally witnessed Murdoch’s suicide, confirmed by her later saying previous to the above quotation that “First Officer Murdoch had moved to the other end of the deck. I was never close to him again.” She also said, “they say he shot himself”. Who are “they”? Is she referring to any particular individual(s) or to general rumour at the time?

She provides a glowing character reference (although in doing so suggests that Murdoch prevented some from coming up to the boat deck), but interestingly, still says, “I do not know” in questioning the suicide allegations. It would have been easier for her to say that it was incorrect, based on rumour or myth, yet her sources must have been reliable enough for her mind not to be made up on the matter. There is no reason to doubt her account.

Mrs Charlotte Collyer in 1915, dressed in the clothes in which she
was rescued from Titanic. Her daughter Marjorie is wearing the skirt
made for her on the Carpathia from the blanket in which she as wrapped.
(Click image to enlarge)

Interestingly, this is not the only time she spoke of guns being used on Titanic. She also described at great length Fifth officer Lowe's use of his personal weapon during the launching of lifeboat no.14, the account also mentioned in the above magazine article:

"The boat was practically full, and no more women were anywhere near it when Fifth Officer Lowe jumped in and ordered it lowered. The sailors on deck had started to obey him, when a very sad thing happened.A young lad, hardly more than a school boy, a pink-cheeked lad, almost small enough to be counted as a child, was standing clsoe to the rial. He had made no attempt to force his way into the boat, though his eyes had been fixed piteously on the Officer. Now, when he realised that h was really to be left behind, his courage failed him. With a cry, he climbed upon the rail and leapt down into the boat. He fell among us women, and crawled under a seat. I and another woman covered him up with out skirts. We wanted to give the poor lad a chance; but the officer dragged him to his feet and ordered him back upon the ship.

He begged for his life...but the officer drew his revolver and thrust it into his face. "I give you just ten seconds to get back on the that ship before I blow your brains out!" he shouted.

The lad only begged the harder, and I thought I should see him shot where he stood. But the officer suddenly changed his tone. He lowered his revolver, and looked the boy squarely in the eyes. "For God's sake, be a man!" he said gently. "We've got women and children to save. We must stop at the decks lower down and take on women and children."

"The little lad turned round and climbed back over the rail, without a word..."

"All the women about me were sobbing; and I saw my little Marjorie take the officer's hand. "Oh, Mr. Man, don't shoot, please don't shoot the poor man!" she was saying and he spared the time to shake his head and smile."

"He screamed another order for the boat to be lowered; but just as we were getting away, a steerage passenger, an Italian, I think, came running the whole length of the deck and hurled himself into the boat. He fell upon a young child, and injured her internally. The officer seized him by the collar, and by sheer brute strength pushed him back on to the Titanic." As we shot down toward the sea, I caught a glimpse of this coward. He was in the hands of about a dozen men of the second cabin. They were driving their fists into this face, and he was bleeding from the nose and mouth." (Semi-Monthly Magazine, May, 1912)

Charlotte's daughter, aged 8, also gave an account that in some way verifies her mother's version:

"There was one officer in our boat who had a pistol. Some men jumped into our boat on top of the women and crushed them and the officer said that if they didn't stop he would shoot. Another man jumped and he shot him." (Leatherhead Advertiser, Epsom District Times and County Post, 18 May 1912.)

In summary, since her account of Murdoch shooting himself is reported as third hand information, along with a disclaimer, there is no reason to doubt her account.