"Some Curious Things": Chief Baker Charles Joughin

Previously assigned to Olympic, Charles Joughin (pronounced "Jock-In") was the Chief Baker on Titanic. As such, he managed a crew of 13 men.

It's reported he had been at sea since the age of 11, with a number of men in his family already serving in the Navy. In 1901, he was listed as a "baker at sea" in census data.

When he boarded Titanic, he was 33 years old.

Charles Joughin, circa 1912.


Titanic's food was truly luxurious, even for Third Class. Second Class was considered better than First Class on other vessels. And we're all aware of how opulent First Class was. Desserts on various class menus include apple tart, cornbread, currant buns, plum pudding, and soda & sultana scones.

Fresh bread and butter, as well as Swedish bread, were included on the Third Class menu.

And the final dinner in First Class had Waldorf pudding, peaches in chartreuse jelly, chocolate and vanilla eclairs, and French ice cream.

As Chief Baker, these all would have fallen under Charles's purview.

Charles occupied what he called “The Confectioners Room,” as had been the case during his time on both the Olympic and Teutonic. He provided no explanation for his occupancy of these quarters other than “it is the better room.”

He was already off-duty and settled in his bunk when Titanic struck the iceberg, and he felt the impact. He said that he immediately understood the significance of the strike and went up on deck, but saw nothing amiss.

In time, he began hearing "general orders" filtered down from higher ups, and he prepared accordingly. He mustered his team in their shop, located on D Deck, and sent all 13 bakers up to boat deck with four loaves of bread each, as well as biscuits by some accounts, in order to stock provisions for the lifeboats.

He then backtracked to his cabin for, as he would later testify, "a drop of liqueur."

British Wreck Inquiry during Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon's testimony, taken May 25, 1912 and published by "The Graphic"


According to his testimony in the British Board of Trade inquiry, Charles recalled his name on a list in the galley, as the overseer of Lifeboat 10, in the case of an emergency.

But when he reported to his post by about 12:30 a.m., he was made to feel obsolete.

Chief Officer Henry Wilde had taken charge and was screaming at stewards to stay back. Charles interceded, because the men weren't actually pushing forward or causing chaos. Charles then assisted in loading women and children into the boat, but when all were aboard, he saw it was only half-full.

Joughin said a number of women actually ran away, prefering to stay on the ship--this may seem ridiculous in hindsight, but was actually a common phenomenon on Titanic. Without knowing how severe the damage was and how lethal the sinking would be, the liner felt much safer and more solid than a tiny little lifeboat, in the cold and dark, being slapped about the waves indefinitely.

Charles and some stewards ran down to A Deck, where they found some women and children confused, or immobilized by fear, and crouched on the deck.

Joughin and Co. more or less forced them up on top and "threw them in" the lifeboat.

The list to port had resulted in a yard-wide berth between the boat deck and the Lifeboat, and one woman actually slipped. By some miracle of God she was caught by steward William Burke, and hung upside down until she was pulled inside by people on A Deck.

William Burke (center), the steward who caught a woman from falling from the deck as witnessed by Joughin. From the harris & Ewing Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.


When the boat was properly filled, Chief Officer Wilde ordered steward Burke and two other seamen in instead of Joughin, despite the lifeboat being his assignment.

He did not step in to save himself, insisting it would have set a bad example. They pushed off without him, and Charles went back to his cabin below deck.

To imbibe.

Now, it was against company policy to drink or have alcohol on board a White Star liner, so it’s been speculated that Charles's testimony at the inquiry about how much alcohol he'd thrown back may have been intentionally inaccurate.

Officially, he testified that it was a "tumbler half-full.”

With that in mind, depictions of Charles have probably exaggerated how drunk he really was.

Unfortunately, thanks in part to his own testimony, Charles Joughin’s legacy is one of comedic relief.

Charles stated that he was off-deck for nearly an hour. At some point while down below, he said he ran into the "old doctor" that is assumed to have been Dr. William O'Loughlin, who was Titanic’s chief surgeon.

Joughin testified that he saw Dr. O’Loughlin while he was having his “drop” in his cabin, which he stated was already awash in ankle-deep water.

According to Charles, they had a brief exchange, but there appears to be no primary documentation of the conversation.

Now we just want to finish your experience. You say you went below after No. 10 had gone. Did you stay below or did you go up again?
- I went down to my room and had a drop of liqueur that I had down there, and then while I was there I saw the old doctor and spoke to him and then I came upstairs again.

Charles is believed to have been the last person to see Dr. O’Loughlin alive.

Dr. William O'Loughin in American Medicine's tribute in its May 1912 issue.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (Published prior to 1923.)

While the assumption may be that Charles may have been inclined to understate his alcohol consumption to protect his livelihood or reputation, that is unproven.

Furthermore, even if Charles did fib a little, that does not necessarily mean he was drunk.

No eyewitness accounts speak to how much Charles Joughin actually drank.

We do know at one point that an unnamed drunk man stumbled past First-Class passenger Jack Thayer. And it is a myth often perpetuated that the inebriated man who young Thayer saw, was Charles Joughin.

It is generally agreed upon, however, that this is very likely false—that is, a speculation not supported by primary sources.

It is most probable that Jack Thayer saw someone else entirely. This is because, per his account, someone informed him that the drunk man was a Virginia senator. No passenger was serving in the Senate at the time, but one survivor later became one. Unfortunately, Jack Thayer didn't specify when he was told this fact.

Moreover, we don't know what Charles chose to drink.

In the unlikely event that Jack Thayer did encounter Charles Joughin, then Jack said he was drinking gin. Some others believe it was whiskey.

But in his testimony during the British inquiry, Charles kept it vague.

When you found your boat had gone you said you went down below. What did you do when you went down below?
- I went to my room for a drink.

Drink of what?
- Spirits.

The Commissioner:
Does it very much matter what it was?

Mr. Cotter:
Yes, my Lord, this is very important, because I am going to prove, or rather my suggestion is, that he then saved his life. I think his getting a drink had a lot to do with saving his life.

The Commissioner:
He told you he had one glass of liqueur.

(Mr. Cotter.) Yes. (To the Witness.) What kind of a glass was it?
- It was a tumbler half-full.

A tumbler half-full of liqueur?
- Yes

That escalated quickly.

When Joughin reappeared on B Deck after having his liqueur, he took to throwing anything he could find overboard, particularly deck chairs. Charles testified that, knowing he was screwed without a lifeboat, he did this to give himself a fighting chance at survival once he entered the water.

At all events, all the boats had gone?
- Yes.
Yes, what next?

- I went down on to "B" deck. The deck chairs were lying right along, and I started throwing deck chairs through the large ports.

What did you do with the deck chairs?
- I threw them through the large ports.

Threw them overboard?
- Yes.

 They would float, I suppose?
- Yes.

I think one sees why. Just to make it clear, why did you do that?
- It was an idea of my own.

Tell us why; was it to give something to cling to?
- I was looking out for something for myself, Sir.

Quite so. Did you throw a whole lot of them overboard?
- I should say about 50.

Were other people helping you to do it?
- I did not see them.

You were alone, as far as you could see?
- There was other people on the deck, but I did not see anybody else throwing chairs over.

He then went up to an A Deck pantry to “get a drink of water”, and while there, Charles heard and felt a buckling of the ship as she split.

By early reports, Charles Joughin appeared to have jumped from A Deck.

But according to his own testimony at the inquiry, Charles alone climbed onto the outside of the stern railing, and was The Last Man to Leave Titanic.

He said that he saw no one else on the railing, and he rode Titanic's stern down until it submerged. According to Charles, he more or less stepped off the stern, barely even wetting his head as he entered the water.

Then what happened?
- Well, I was just wondering what next to do. I had tightened my belt and I had transferred some things out of this pocket into my stern pocket. I was just wondering what next to do when she went.

And did you find yourself in the water?
- Yes.

Did you feel that you were dragged under or did you keep on the top of the water?
- I do not believe my head went under the water at all. It may have been wetted, but no more.

Are you a good swimmer?
- Yes.


He also maintained that the stern never reached a vertical height.

Charles went on to testify that he swam for a few hours "just paddling and treading water" before finding his friend, cook Isaac Maynard, struggling on Collapsible B.

How long do you think you were in the water before you got anything to hold on to?
- I did not attempt to get anything to hold on to until I reached a collapsible, but that was daylight.

Daylight, was it?
- I do not know what time it was.

Then you were in the water for a long, long time?
- I should say over two, hours, Sir.

Were you trying to make progress in the water, to swim, or just keeping where you were?
- I was just paddling and treading water.

And then daylight broke?
- Yes.

Did you see any icebergs about you?
- No, Sir, I could not see anything.

Did it keep calm till daylight, or did the wind rise at all?
- It was just like a pond.

Then you spoke of a collapsible boat. Tell us shortly about it?

- Just as it was breaking daylight I saw what I thought was some wreckage, and I started to swim towards it slowly. When I got near enough, I found it was a collapsible not properly upturned but on its side, with an Officer and I should say about twenty or twenty-five men standing on the top of it.

Given the timeline we know, it would seem that Charles’s memory may have suffered from a misperception of time—understandable, given the immediate trauma of the sinking.

All things considered—including the science of human biology in regard to hypothermia—it’s may be realistic to assume that he swam for up to a half-hour before coming to Collapsible B.

Regardless of how long Charles swam, Mr. Maynard clung to Joughin by the hand until Officer Lowe arrived, at which point Joughin swam over and was pulled aboard.

Charles said he was colder in that lifeboat than he ever felt in the water.

The retrieval of Collapsible B by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett.


Charles's cool and calm decision to break into the liquor stores was lauded as the act that saved his life, although scientists have stated that excessive alcohol consumption can actually accelerate hypothermia.

Sometimes life is stranger than science allows.

The truth is that, regardless of intoxication, Charles was savvy enough to stay out of the water for as long as possible.

Charles was found to be pretty much entirely unharmed.

"I was alright barring my feet; they were swelled," he said. It's reported that due to this small inconvenience, Charles climbed the ladder to Carpathia on his knees.

Joughin later wrote to Walter Lord, author of A Night to Remember, to commend Lord's more accurate presentation of the sinking. He described his departure from the ship and his survival in the water, and openly questioned his less dramatic, more pointless actions.

Some curious things are done at a time like this... Why did I lock the heavy iron door of the Bakery, stuff the heavy keys in my pocket, alongside two cakes of hard tobacco.

Here's to Charles.

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