The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch
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Max Dittmar-Pittmann
"Third Officer"

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“He thought the First officer, Mr Murdoch, shot himself.”

If you have never heard of "Third Officer Max Dittmar-Pittmann" or seen his name on any crew or passenger lists then that is not surprising. He is certainly not related to Third Officer Herbert Pitman. Quite simply, he is a "fake". But it is interesting and worthy of inclusion as an example that the shooting and suicide stories were common enough to be used by those fabricating stories.

The now archived website entitled "The Fictional Officers of the Titanic" by Monika Simon references a Third Officer Max Dittmar-Pittmann in an article entitled "Memoirs of an Imposter". Apparantly, in 1926, Max Dittmar-Pittmann, a retired captain, published his memoirs in a book entitled Ein Menschenalter auf dem Meere. Erlebnisse und Abenteuer eines alten Seemanns ("A Lifetime on the Sea. Experiences and Adventures of an Old Seaman"). The book is 124 pages long with a preface that reassures readers that they 'can rest in the certainty that even the most unusual of the recounted adventures really occurred and in the way described'.

Simon describes the book in the following:

"His life, as Max Dittmar-Pittmann describes it, was indeed full of fantastic and incredible adventures: storms, shipwrecks, and exotic places all feature strongly in his tale. That at least part (if not all) of his life's story is pure fabrication becomes clear in the last chapter of the book in which Dittmar-Pittmann describes his time as the Third Officer of the Titanic. The style of the book is, however, at least from a modern perspective, strangely bland. The fact that he mentions hardly any dates or names, both people and ships are usually referred to by their initial, was a not an unknown practice at the time. However, this makes it almost impossible to check any of the information he gives...After the publication of his memoirs, Dittmar-Pittmann gave lectures about his life and particularly about his time on the Titanic."

The description of his life is as dramatic as anyone could invent: circumnavigating the globe twenty times, shipwrecked twice prior to the sinking of the Titanic, working as a guard at a gold mine in Venezuela and as a detective in New York and London. However it is the 11 page last chapter of the book, ""Der Untergang der Titanic (The Sinking of the Titanic)" which is no doubt the most interesting:

"According to his "memoirs", Max Dittmar-Pittmann became the third officer of the Titanic after bumping into an old acquaintance, Captain "W". Smith in London who invites him to join because the third officer assigned to the ship was sick... Dittmar-Pittmann is off duty when the ship hits the iceberg and, due to the Titanic high speed had been travelling with, he only catches a glimpse of it far astern. While he had not been on the bridge, he states that First Officer Murdock (sic) was there as deputy to the Captain who attended a festivity. Murdock sent the Second Officer, who was officer on watch to the chart room 'contrary to regulations' to check something and prevented him from doing his duties. This, Dittmar-Pittmann claims, was what the Second Officer and the quartermaster had reported in the inquiry about the disaster. Murdock, realising the severity of the collision, then shoots himself.

Dittmar-Pittmann then is in charge of loading the six starboard lifeboats, four of which immediately sink after being lowered because they were overloaded and, unknown to the officers on deck, were immediately swamped by people who had already jumped into the sea. When Bruce Ismay demands a place in one of the boats, Dittmar-Pittmann puts his gun to Ismay's chest and threatens to shoot him. Ismay survives on the round raft. Several of the passengers shoot themselves in desperation....It is almost superfluous to say that Dittmar-Pittmann is on the last boat that left the Titanic".

The number of errors and level of inaccuracy does not require a retelling here. Of course there is no evidence that Dittmar-Pittmann was aboard Titanic, let alone the Third officer. As Simon concludes:

"The reason why Max Dittmar-Pittmann concluded his memoirs with a chapter about the Titanic-disaster is simple, people were interested in it....After his previous adventures, his time on the Titanic is a spectacular conclusion to his book that could hardly be topped. It was more than likely the similarity of his own name to that of the real Third Officer of the Titanic that made Max Dittmar-Pittmann put himself into his shoes. Additionally, Herbert Pitman was not as high-profile as for example Lightoller or Lowe. Dittmar-Pittmann was only able to pull this deception off because he lived in Germany. If he had tried to do the same in the UK (and presumably in the USA), the actual surviving officers of the Titanic and probably the White Star Line would have come down on him like a ton of bricks. ...Eventually, Max Dittmar-Pittmann was found out to be an impostor, unfortunately I have not discovered when or how his exposure occured, and what consequences, if any, it had."

It is interesting to note that the 1943 German Titanic film, also placed a German aboard in the role of Third Officer, although with a different name: Third Officer Hans Erik Petersen (please refer to this article for more information.