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“I Am Here for Life”: Fifth Officer Harold Lowe

"I Am Here for Life": Fifth Officer Harold Lowe

Harold Godfrey Lowe was born in Wales in 1882, the fourth of eight children. At all of 14 years old, he ran away from home to escape an apprenticeship that his father had destined him for.

I ran away from home when I was about 14, and I went in a schooner. I was in seven schooners altogether, and my father wanted to apprentice me but I said I would not be apprenticed; that I was not going to work for anybody for nothing, without any money.

Well, alright then.

Young Harold Lowe endeavored to get his certificates, then worked for about five years off the West African coast before signing on with the White Star Line.

Even though Lowe had been working at sea for some time and had been on two White Star vessels, these voyages were on Australian routes. As such, Titanic was to be his first transatlantic journey.

He signed on as Fifth Officer, and reported to White Star’s Liverpool offices on March 26, 1912. He then went on to Titanic’s sea trials in Belfast.

Being Fifth, Lowe was considered a junior officer, along with Third Officer Herbert Pitman, Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall, and Sixth Officer James Moody. Unlike his fellow officers, who had all worked together in some capacity before, Lowe was not acquainted with anyone at all.

Lowe was off-duty and in bed on April 14, 1912, when Titanic collided with the iceberg. He stated that he was woken up and informed of it by Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall about 30 minutes after the fact, although Lowe did not remember this particular moment.

It must have been while I was asleep. You must remember that we do not have any too much sleep and therefore when we sleep we die.

Lowe grabbed his revolver and presented on deck to assist First Officer William Murdoch in launching lifeboats on the starboard side. He insisted that it was calm, for the most part; only “little knots” of people here and there.

When reading Lowe’s testimony, it’s clear that Lowe was a very forthright—even terse—man. And he had precisely no patience for nonsense as he worked to the lower the boats.

Within the event of the sinking itself, nowhere is this more apparent than in a conflict he had with J. Bruce Ismay, the Chairman of White Star.

White Star Chairman J. Bruce Ismay, circa 1912.


It was a very tense point of contention in the Senate Inquiry that would follow the disaster.

Senator SMITH. What did you say to him?

Mr. LOWE. This was on the starboard side. I don't know his name, but I know him by sight. He is a steward. He spoke to me on board the Carpathia. He asked me if I knew what I had said to Mr. Ismay. I said, "I don't know Mr. Ismay. "Well," he said, "you used very, very strong language with him." I said, "Did I?" I said, "I can not help it if I did." He said, "Yes, you did," and he repeated the words. If you wish me to repeat them I will do so; if you do not, I will not.

Senator SMITH. I will first ask you this: What was the occasion for your using this harsh language to Mr. Ismay

Mr. LOWE. The occasion for using the language I did was because Mr. Ismay was overanxious and he was getting a trifle excited. He said, "Lower away! Lower away! Lower away! Lower away!" I said - well, let it be -

Mr. ISMAY. Give us what you said.

Mr. LOWE. The chairman is examining me.


Lowe went on, at Ismay’s belligerent insistence, to write down and then read out loud the very terrible no-good language he had used.

I told him, "If you will get to hell out of that I shall be able to do something."

…He did not make any reply. I said, "Do you want me to lower away quickly?" I said, "You will have me drown the whole lot of them."

Lowe afterward tried to mitigate, expressing that Ismay was just anxious and trying to help.

While working on Lifeboat 14, Lowe entered into a conversation with Sixth Officer James Moody, and Lowe stated that an officer should accompany the group. Moody deferred to Lowe as the junior-most of the two officers, and insisted that Lowe man the boat, which was about to be lowered away. Moody said he’d take to the next one.

Officer Moody did not survive.

By the time Lifeboat 14 was being lowered, alarm had risen within the crowds. As the vessel descended toward the water, passengers rushed to the edge of the deck, and Lowe fired his pistol three times into the air to ward off some steerage men from jumping down into the boat.

He insisted that his bullets never struck a soul.

Upon reaching the water, Lowe ordered the boat to row approximately 150 yards out from Titanic. He then set to work in corralling four other lifeboats around and lashing them together, to condense the passengers therein and return to the wreck.

Lowe was the only officer to return for survivors.

I herded them together and roped them - made them all tie up - and of course I had to wait until the yells and shrieks had subsided - for the people to thin out - and then I deemed it safe for me to go amongst the wreckage. So I transferred all my passengers - somewhere about 53 passengers - from my boat, and I equally distributed them between my other four boats. Then I asked for volunteers to go with me to the wreck…

Unfortunately, it was done too late. In an effort to avoid the lifeboat being swarmed, they had waited over an hour.

As Lowe maneuvered through the wreckage and corpses, he found only four men alive.

Daylight was breaking by this time, and Lowe perceived the Carpathia steaming ahead in the far distance. He determined then that his lifeboat was fastest, and he rigged the sail. His was the only lifeboat to do so.

Lifeboat 14 (right) approaching the rescue ship Carpathia, with sail up and Fifth Officer Lowe standing. From the George Grantham Bain Collection, courtesy of the library of Congress.


By and by, he came across Collapsible D and took it in tow.

He then discovered Collapsible A in a far worse condition. It had been washed off deck without the canvas sides pulled up, and the few survivors still alive were standing knee-deep in water, including 21-year-old Richard Norris Williams, the young American tennis player destined for fame.

It was also from Collapsible A that Lowe saved to the only woman to be rescued from the water that night: Mrs. Rhoda Abbott, who had lost both her young sons in the sinking.

Lowe also found three corpses within Collapsible A.

As to the three people that I left on her - of course, I may have been a bit hard hearted, I can not say - but I thought to myself, "I am not here to worry about bodies; I am here for life, to save life, and not to bother about bodies," and I left them…

They were dead; yes, sir. The people on the raft told me they had been dead some time. I said, "Are you sure they are dead?" They said, "Absolutely sure." I made certain they were dead, and questioned them one and all before I left this collapsible.

Harold Lowe’s testimony in the subsequent Senate Inquiry was vital—and not a little uncomfortable.

The surviving White Star officers—Lowe, Second Officer Charles Lightoller, Third Officer Herbert Pitman, and Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall—were of course British citizens, who had been sailing on a British vessel. The men resented being interrogated by the American government, and by men who knew absolutely nothing about seafaring life, to boot.

Titanic's surviving officers, from left to right: Fifith Officer Lowe, Second Officer Charles Lightoller, Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall; seated: Third Officer Herbert Pitman.


As if that weren’t aggravating enough, the officers were attempting throughout all of this to defend themselves, their dead peers, and their employer. They were livid that these senators, who were ignorant of all maritime terms and protocol, could so easily call their judgments as sailors into question, especially without having suffered the sinking themselves.

And they endured all this in the immediate wake of their own traumas, both physical and mental. Because the Senate Inquiry began a mere four days after Titanic sank, on April 19, 1912.

The reactions of the four surviving officers reflected Britain’s aghast reaction to the American Inquiry in its entirety.

The British press portrayed Senator William Alden Smith of Michigan, who had spearheaded the entire shindig, as a thoroughly ignorant ass. His questioning was misguided and redundant, and often offensive to the witnesses he interviewed.

And to the delight of his countrymen, Harold Lowe let Smith know it, over and again.

"Frequent tilts between Lowe and Smith," a newspaper reported, "enlivened the proceedings."

Illustrations of Senate Inquiry witnesses, inclding Fifth Officer Lowe (lower right). Illustrated by Lous F. Grant for "The Graphic," circa May 1912.


Lowe began his testimony on April 24, 1912.

It got off on the wrong foot, really, when Senator Smith demanded the Lowe sit differently in his chair. Lowe, already vexed at having to testify to begin with, bristled.

The interview hastily degraded as Smith asked inane questions that merited responses from Lowe like, "I could no more tell you now than fly."

Early on in the testimony, Lowe's tone elicited the following from Senator Smith, who clearly found Lowe’s snarky, defensive responses unnecessary. “Let me say this to you, Mr. Lowe: Nobody is on trial here, and this is not a court; this is an inquiry.”

This helped nothing. The two men bickered frequently.

But their most memorable exchange is easily this.

Senator SMITH. Do you know what an iceberg is composed of?

Mr. LOWE. Ice, I suppose, sir.

The room broke with laughter.

And it did again, when Senator Smith asked about the nature of temperature. Lowe is reported to have over-enunciated his already curt reply.

Senator SMITH. What was the temperature between Southampton and the place of the accident?

Mr. LOWE. The temperature, sir?

Senator SMITH. Exactly. Do you know whether it was cold, or whether it was warm? Was it warm when you left Southampton?

Mr. LOWE. Yes; it was nice weather. I should say it would be about 48.

Senator SMITH. Above zero?

Mr. LOWE. Forty-eight degrees.

Senator Smith also interrogated Lowe about his alcohol consumption, even when Lowe professed himself a teetotaler. All because someone whispered to Senator Smith that Lowe might have been drunk that night.

Lowe's father had been an alcoholic, so he took grave offense to this suggestion. Per contemporary reports, he became flushed and was "extremely angry and spoke the words with some heat."

Senator SMITH. Are you a temperate man?

Mr. LOWE. I am, sir. I never touched it in my life. I am an abstainer.

Senator SMITH. I am very glad to have you say that.

Mr. LOWE. I say it, sir, without fear of contradiction.

Senator SMITH. I am not contradicting you, and I congratulate you upon it; but so many stories have been circulated one has just been passed up to me now, from a reputable man, who says it was reported that you were drinking that night.

The whole thing was such a tense affair that Senator Smith reprimanded Lowe on multiple occasions, chiding him for responding with information that he deemed irrelevant—when in truth, Smith's questions were ignorant, confusing, and often, plainly absurd.

A satirical cartoon of Senator William Alden Smith titled "The Importance of Being Earnest" by David Wilson. Illustrated for "The Graphic" in April 1912.


In contrast, audiences found Lowe irreverent and delightful, and he had many favorable reviews.

He even had fangirls. No, really.

But once Lowe had departed, another survivor's testimony put him in a more negative light; she called his language in the lifeboat "blasphemous" and stated that he must have been drunk to be so profane.

People immediately came forward to defend him against the condemnation, including Rhoda Abbott, who said point-blank that if it hadn't been for Lowe, she would have been dead. "It would have been impossible," she said, "for an officer to show more courtesy and many of the criticisms that have been made against this man are very unjust."

Another survivor, Irene Harris, proclaimed him "the real hero of Titanic."

Harold Lowe's reputation went untarnished. The Senate's Sergeant at Arms, Sheriff Joe Bayliss, spoke thusly of him.

I have never prided myself upon being a prophet, but of this I am positive: When the Titanic disaster has become a matter of history, Harold G. Lowe will occupy the hero's place.

© As cited in "Titanic Valour: The Life of Fith Officer Harold Lowe" by Inger Sheil, 2012.

Harold Lowe returned to the mariner life, serving in the Royal Navy Reserve during the First World War and returning to private ships thereafter.

He also volunteered his home as a sector post during the Second World War and served as an Air Raid Warden.

As an ARW, Lowe ensured blackout protocol was observed, soundeded sirens, and generally safeguarded, evacuated, rescued, and sheltered citizens. A job, I think, that Titanic uniquely suited him to perform.

He died in 1944 of hypertension at the age of 61.

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“Titanic Behaved Splendidly”: Titanic’s Sea Trials

"Titanic Behaved Splendidly": Titanic's Sea Trials

Titanic’s sea trials—when the ship’s many safety features were tested in real time—were scheduled to begin on Sunday, April 1, 1912, but poor weather conditions and a detrimental northwesterly wind caused the trials to be postponed to Monday morning.

Aboard were just over 40 crewmembers. They were compensated an extra five shillings for the delay.

Captain Edward J. Smith.


The roster of officers reporting to Captain Smith for sea trials were as follows.

Chief Officer William McMaster Murdoch

First Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller

Second Officer David Blair

Third Officer Herbert John Pitman

Fourth Officer Joseph Groves Boxhall

Fifth Officer Harold Godfrey Lowe

Sixth Officer James Pell Moody

The four junior officers received telegrams from the White Star marine superintendent to report to the Liverpool offices at 9am on March 26th, to pick up their trains tickets for their trip to Belfast.

They arrived around noon the next day on March 27th and reported on board to Chief Officer Murdoch. Notably, in his deposition later, Fifth Officer Harold Lowe attested to a March 29th arrival.

Fifth Officer Lowe and Sixth Officer Moody were instructed to inspect the totality of starboard-side lifeboats, including the collapsibles. Together, they conducted an inventory of life-saving materials such as oars, sail riggings, and tarp; he also recalled that he noted one empty "bread tank" in each of the lifeboats but none in the collapsible boats, nor emergency lanterns in any of the boats at all.

Captain Edward J. Smith boarded on April 1st, and with him came an officer arrangement that upended the ship's commanding hierarchy. At the last minute, he announced his intention to bring on Henry Tingle Wilde as Chief Officer.

So William Murdoch and Charles Lightoller were both demoted to First and Second Officers, respectively.David Blair was dismissed from command altogether, which safeguarded the remaining junior officers from a reshuffle themselves.

Titanic Chief Officer Henry Tingle Wilde in Royal Naval dress.


When Former-Second Officer Blair disembarked in Southampton, he disembarked with his keys... including the key to the locker for the Crow’s Nest. This secure cabinet is where implements were housed for the lookouts.

Including binoculars.

George Hogg, a surviving lookout on Titanic, testified to the Senate regarding David Blair's actions as he was set to depart at Southampton, having been dismissed from his duties.

Mr. Blair was in the crow's-nest and gave me his glasses, and told me to lock them up in his cabin and to return him the keys... I locked [the binoculars] up... There were none when we left Southampton.

It is sometimes implied that Blair did this nefariously as some Shakespearean act of revenge due to his dismissal, but in reality, it was industry practice to lock up the binoculars when a ship was docked.

Other accounts state that David Blair took the binoculars with him because they were his own personal pair.

Regardless, Now-Second Officer Lightoller could not provide the lookouts with binoculars. He didn’t think too much of it, as there were other glasses on board somewhere and the lookouts could spot without them, being at such a height as the lookouts were, so he promised to pick up a new pair in New York City.

And that was that.

Charles H. Lightoller, who was demoted to Second Officer on Titanic.


Titanic was the second sibling in a set of triplets; her elder sister, Olympic, underwent her sea trials beginning on May 29, 1911, and ran for two days. They were not without difficulties.

According to Tom McCluskie, a historian for Harland & Wolff, “The extensive sea trials found that there was a number of problems. Chief architect Thomas Andrews himself wrote in his design notebook that Olympic’s hull was observed to “pant.”

As McCluskie describes it, “[Panting] means the hull—instead of being rigidly straight—is going in and out. Now it’s not a vast movement, it’s not going out three, four feet and coming in; it’s a matter only of inches. But really, it shouldn’t do that on a calm sea.”

This discovery led architect Thomas Andrews to implement changes to his nearly identical work-in-progress, Titanic. Per McCluskie, Andrews “made reference to it on the shell drawing which he modified for Titanic to include extra stiffening.”

Sister ships Olympic (close to dock) and Titanic. Taken by Robert John Welch for Harland & Wolff.


Despite these changes and the flaws in Olympic that incited them, Titanic only undertook a single day of sea trials.

J. Bruce Ismay, White Star’s chairman, could not attend, nor could Lord William Pirrie owing to a bout of pneumonia. So he sent his nephew, Thomas Andrews—conveniently the ship’s lead designer—in his stead.

Around 6 a.m., Harland & Wolff’s own tug boat, called Hercules because he was mighty strong, arrived and cast the first line aboard Titanic as it slept in its berth. The four tugs assisting Hercules, which were owned by the Alexandra Towing Co.—and named Huskisson, Horby, Herald, and Herculaneum—moved into their positions, and at Hercules’s whistle, the H-Team pulled Titanic to the center of the River Lagan.

Titanic on her way to sea trials accompanied by her fleet of tugs. Courtesy of U.S. N.A.R.A.


The behemoth liner eased her way down the river toward Belfast Lough, escorted by the five tugs. Around noontime, and about two miles off Carrickfergus, the herd of vessels slowed to a stop, and the tugs all dropped their ropes and pulled away.

Boilers were lit one by one, and smoke began to bloom from Titanic’s three functional funnels (the fourth was false, for aesthetical purpose).

Captain Smith ordered the blue-and-white burgee, which is more commonly recognized as a triangular mariner’s flag. This type of burgee, known as Signal Flag A, announced that its ship was undergoing sea trials.

As the water churned at her stern and her dapper burgee clapped above her, Captain Smith ordered a three-blast sounding of Titanic’s horn and her trial-run officially began. As Titanic took its first metaphorical steps, the officials and officers on-board took lunch in the First Class Dining Room to compare notes.

Rear view of Titanic being pulled toward Belfast Lough. Taken by Robert John Welch for Harland & Wolff.


Titanic was revved up to nearly 20 knots, then drifted to a stop. Isolated turn maneuvers, such as rudder-only and propeller-only, were performed. The ship’s wheel was ordered “hard over” while Titanic was traversing a straight path, creating a circular path with a diameter of approximately 3,850 yards.

More stopping tests followed, including running right toward a buoy at full speed.

She then traveled about 40 miles toward the Irish Sea, turned about to head back to Belfast Lough, and performed some twisty-turns to port and starboard along the way, and got back home in the evening time.

One more test was then advised by Francis Carruthers, the ship surveyor sent by the British Board of Trade: Anchor up, and anchor down.

Carruthers found Titanic’s performance satisfactory and issued the mandatory certificate to Thomas Andrew and his deputy, Edward Wilding. The ship was officially good for one year to the day.

With the sea trials done and dusted, the crew on board resumed their daily operations. Fifth Officer Harold Lowe set aside some time to write back to his wife, Nellie. He helped himself to a spare menu card from the day, April 2nd, and scrawled on its back along the bottom edge: "first meal ever served on board" and posted it to Nellie.

R.M.S. "Titanic."

April 2, 1912.

Hors D'Ouvre Varies


Consomme Mirrette

Cream of Chicken



Roast Chicken

Spring Lamb, Mint Sauce

Braised Ham & Spinach

Green Peas                                Cauliflower

Bovin & Boiled Potatoes

Golden Plover on Toast


Pudding Sans Souci

Peaches Imperial


Dessert                          Coffee

Later, sworn under oath before the American inquiry of Titanic's sinking, Harold Lowe testified that Titanic did not even reach her full potential for speed during the sea trials. He stated that he believed that she could "easily do 24 or 25 knots,” instead of the 20 knots achieved that day.

Furthermore, in his deposition sworn before the British Consulate General in May of 1912, Harold Lowe attested that "on the trials the Titanic behaved splendidly and manoeuvred very well."

Titanic being pulled toward Belfast Lough. Taken by Robert John Welch for Harland & Wolff.


Titanic departed Belfast for Southampton at approximately 8:00pm that evening. She encountered fog in the wee hours of April 3rd, though it dissipated by noon.

And shortly after midnight, on April 4th, another tugboat gang of classical gods and guys—this time Hercules, Neptune, Ajax, Hector, and Vulcan of the Red Funnel line—drew Titanic into Berth 44 at Southampton, where she was "docked by moonlight," per Sixth Officer James Moody.

Titanic would spend the Easter weekend there, waiting for her maiden voyage to begin. James Moody wrote to his older sister Margaret that, at 8:00am on the morning of April 4th, Titanic's crew “hoisted a huge rainbow of flags right over the ship, 220 flags [altogether and] 9 feet apart” to salute the Southampton

There was less than a week to go.

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“For God’s Sake, Be Brave, and Go!”: Harvey & Charlotte Collyer

"For God's Sake, Be Brave, and Go!": Harvey & Charlotte Collyer

Harvey and Charlotte Collyer were an English couple boarded Titanic as Second Class with their young daughter Marjorie.

Harvey and Charlotte had met in Surrey while she was employed as a cook for Reverend Sidney Sedgwick, and Harvey was the church sexton. They married in 1905. In time, Harvey also became the church bellringer and a grocer in town, where the entire family was loved.

The Collyers had dreamt big. Charlotte suffered from tuberculosis, and so they elected to move to Idaho, where some other family had already settled and had consistently sent the Collyers letters in which they lauded the pleasant climate. Seeking to better Charlotte's health, they purchased a fruit farm. Before departing, Harvey withdrew the family's life savings from his bank and kept it on his person. What little possessions the family had were ALL in Titanic's cargo hold.

Before they departed, the church community organized a surprise farewell for Harvey. Charlotte wrote, "They led him to a seat under the old tree in the churchyard and then some went up into the belfry and, in his honour, they rang all the chimes that they knew." She said it was a kind gesture, but it made her uneasy.

Harvey wrote a letter to his parents that was sent off while Titanic was stopped in Queenstown on April 11, 1912.

My dear Mum and Dad
It don't seem possible we are out on the briny writing to you. Well dears so far we are having a delightful trip the weather is beautiful and the ship magnificent. We can't describe the tables it's like a floating town. I can tell you we do swank we shall miss it on the trains as we go third on them. You would not imagine you were on a ship. There is hardly any motion she is so large we have not felt sick yet we expect to get to Queenstown today so thought I would drop this with the mails...

Lots of love don't worry about us. Ever your loving children
Harvey, Lot & Madge

Charlotte, nauseous the night of April 14 from too rich a dinner, was in bed. She wrote of the collision, "The sensation, to me, was as if the ship had been seized by a giant hand and shaken once, twice; then stopped dead in its course."

Harvey went up on deck and Charlotte had begun to drift off to sleep by the time he returned. He said they'd hit an iceberg--"a big one"--but an officer had assured him there was no danger. But as a clamour began to resound above them, Charlotte asked Harvey if anyone had seemed frightened. Soon thereafter, Charlotte threw on a coat, tied her hair back with a ribbon, and wrapped her daughter in a White Star blanket over her pajamas, and the three went out on deck. Marjorie was crying, as she had left behind her "dollie" from two Christmases past, and no one would go back to rescue it.

Officers kept yelling that there was no danger. But then Charlotte saw a horrific sight.

Suddenly there was a commotion near one of the gangways, and we saw a stoker come climbing up from below. He stopped a few feet away from us. All the fingers of one hand had been cut off. Blood was running from the stumps, and blood was spattered over his face and over his clothes. The red marks showed very clearly against the coal dust with which he was covered.

Excerpt from 'How I was Saved from the Titanic" as printed in the May 1912 issue of "Semi-Monthly Magazine."

When she asked him if there was danger, he frantically presented his mangled hand. The unnamed stoker then laid his head down on a coil of rope and fainted.

The Collyers were on Second Officer Charles Lightoller's side of the ship, but Charlotte wrote with admiration mostly about First Officer William Murdoch, as well as Fifth Officer Harold Lowe. Like survivor Charles Joughin, Charlotte Collyer attested to a number of women being afraid to go in the lifeboats, or otherwise leave their husbands behind.

Charlotte held her husband tightly, and not taking seats in the first two boats before them.

When the third boat was half-full, she wrote that "a sailor caught Marjorie, my daughter, in his arms, tore her away from me and threw her into the boat." Then, "A man seized me by the arm. Then, another threw both his arms about my waist and dragged me away by main strength. I heard my husband say: 'Go, Lotty! For God’s sake, be brave, and go! I’ll get a seat in another boat.'"

The men who held me rushed me across the deck, and hurled me bodily into the lifeboat. I landed on one shoulder and bruised it badly. Other women were crowding behind me; but I stumbled to my feet and saw over their heads my husband’s back, as he walked steadily down the deck and disappeared among the men. His face was turned away, so that I never saw it again.

Excerpt from 'How I was Saved from the Titanic" as printed in the May 1912 issue of "Semi-Monthly Magazine."

As far as Charlotte claimed, Marjorie never got the chance to say goodbye to her father because she was flung into the boat so fast.

But according to Marjorie herself, she did. "My father raised me in his arms and kissed me, and then he kissed my mother. She followed me into the boat... The women in one of the other boats said they wanted somebody to row for them and father got in that boat."

There's fair reason for either of them to have rearranged the truth: trauma, wishful thinking, false memories.

Charlotte's account of the night is considered one of the more graphic survivor stories. It includes a young lad who pleaded, sobbing, for a spot on the lifeboat, and then for his life with an officer's pistol aimed at his forehead, as well as another man who ran across the deck and flung himself into the boat, supposedly injuring a girl by landing on her. He was forcibly removed.

Charlotte and Marjorie watched the sinking in horror from Lifeboat 14.

I shall never forget the terrible beauty of the Titanic at that moment. She was tilted forward, head down, with her first funnel partly under water. To me, she looked like an enormous glow-worm; for she was alight from the rising water line, clear to her stern — electric lights blazing in every cabin, lights on all the decks and lights at her mast heads.

Excerpt from 'How I was Saved from the Titanic" as printed in the May 1912 issue of "Semi-Monthly Magazine."

Charlotte was also of the minority of passengers who witnessed the break.

She heard the "deafening roar" of an explosion within the ship, then "millions of sparks shot up to the sky, like rockets in a park on the night of a summer holiday. This red spurt was fan-shaped as it went up; but the sparks descended in every direction, in the shape of a fountain of fire." According to Charlotte Collyer, the stern stood straight on end before lowering into the water. And like young survivor Jack Thayer, she described the passengers on board as akin to swarms of bees.

I saw hundreds of human bodies clinging to the wreck or leaping into the water. The Titanic was like a swarming bee-hive, but the bees were men, and they had broken their silence now.

There was water in the bottom of the lifeboat.

At one point, Charlotte half-fainted, and her long hair got caught in the oar and was ripped from her scalp. Someone gave her a blanket.

Little Marjorie continued to cry for her lost doll, desolate with the thought that it was going to the bottom of the sea with no one to take care of it. Her beloved dollie was gone, along with her father, her family's entire savings, and everything else the Collyers owned in the world.

Lifeboat 14 (with mast up) approaching the rescue ship Carpathia. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Once on board Carpathia, Charlotte searched in desperation for her husband, but learned that he was not among the saved.

The scene on board Carpathia that morning, as the lifeboats crept in, was harrowing by all accounts. "We could only rush frantically from group to group, searching the haggard faces, crying out names and endless questions."

Harvey Collyer's body, if ever recovered, went unidentified.

Charlotte grieved in a letter to her mother written on April 21, 1912, from Brooklyn, New York.

Oh mother there are some good hearts in New York, some want me to go back to England but I can't, I could never at least not yet go over the ground where my all is sleeping.

Sometimes I feel we lived too much for each other that is why I've lost him. But mother we shall meet him in heaven. When that band played 'Nearer My God to Thee' I know he thought of you and me for we both loved that hymn and I feel that if I go to Payette I'm doing what he would wish me to, so I hope to do this at the end of next week where I shall have friends and work and I will work for his darling as long as she needs me. 

Oh she is a comfort but she don't realize yet that her daddy is in heaven. There are some dear children here who have loaded her with lovely toys but it's when I'm alone with her she will miss him. 

Oh mother I haven't a thing in the world that was his only his rings. Everything we had went down. Will you, dear mother, send me on a last photo of us, get it copied I will pay you later on. 


Mother and daughter did soldier on and get to Idaho, but not without significant monetary help raised in the wake of their total loss, as well as the $300 Charlotte was paid for her exclusive story.

Charlotte ended her exclusively (ghost)written story as follows.

I must take my little Marjorie to the place where her father would have taken us both. That is all I care about — to do what he would have had me do.


But they did not stay in the United States. The pair were photographed on a porch swing in Payette, Idaho, while making use a White Star Line blanket.

Charlotte and Marjorie shortly after the sinking. From the George Grantham Bain Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.


They returned to England, and Charlotte Collyer remarried in 1914. Sadly, she died as a result of her tuberculosis in late 1916. Then Marjorie's stepfather died in March 1919.

Marjorie, now three times an orphan by the age of fifteen, was sent to live with her uncle Walter on his farm, where she lived until she was married on Christmas Day of 1927.



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Ghost Boats & Lost Souls

Ghost Boats & Lost Souls

Recovery of bodies from Titanic took weeks.

The Canadian vessel Mackay-Bennett was tasked with collecting them, and they were overwhelmed with the job--there were more bodies than the ship could hold.

On board with crew and supplies were a priest and an embalmer.

First-class passengers were embalmed and stored in coffins; second-class, the same except for canvas instead of coffins. Third-class corpses and many crewmembers were buried at sea. Of these 116, only 56 were identified.

Recovery of a Titanic victim by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett.


Out of over 1,500 dead, a total of 328 bodies were found by the Mackay-Bennett, and 306 of those were recovered. Still, this was far more than they had prepared for.

In addition, the bodies were saltwater-bleached, bruised, crushed, with broken limbs and all cut up. The sinking is often portrayed as sanitary, depicting vistims that died frozen but otherwise unharmed.

In truth, it was gruesome.

Captain and crew of the Mackay-Bennett, taken between 1910 and 1915. From the George Grantham Bain Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Multiple crewmembers of the Mackay-Bennett suffered PTSD for the rest of their lives, including one man named Clifford Crease, who, at the end of his long life, even elected to be interred mere feet from the grave of a Titanic victim whose recovery had irrevocably scarred him. He honored the memory of this unidentified passenger all of his life.

Frederick Hamilton, a cable engineer on Mackay-Bennett, wrote about the reaping in his diary.

The tolling of the bell summoned all hands to the forecastle where thirty bodies are ready to be committed to the deep, each carefully weighed and carefully sewn up in canvas. It is a weird scene, this gathering. The crescent moon is shedding a faint light on us, as the ship lays wallowing in the great rollers. The funeral service is conducted by the Reverent Canon Hind, for nearly an hour the words For as must as it hath pleased - - ' we therefore commit his body to the deep' are repeated and at each interval comes, splash! as the weighted body plunges into the sea, there to sink to a depth of about two miles. Splash, splash, splash.

© Caption.

Even then, there were others to find, and many more that never would be.

Collapsible A had been launched only moments before submersion--so close to, in fact, that it was washed away without the officers being able to pop up its canvas sides.

Thus, even though people found it and boarded it, it had taken on water--so much, in fact, that those people were standing on it were knee-deep in water, and dying.

They did this for hours until they were rescued by Fifth Officer Harold Lowe, who was the only officer to attempt rescue of more people from the water.

Out of the thirty or so survivors who made it to Collapsible A, Officer Lowe found no more than a dozen survivors.

And many frozen corpses.

Fifth Officer Harold Lowe, the only Titanic officer to return for survivors.


Lowe left three bodies in Collapsible A, which he commented on in his characteristically straightforward tone during the United States Senate Inquiry.

As to the three people that I left on her - of course, I may have been a bit hard hearted, I can not say - but I thought to myself, "I am not here to worry about bodies; I am here for life, to save life, and not to bother about bodies," and I left them.

...The people on the raft told me they had been dead some time. I said, "Are you sure they are dead?" They said, "Absolutely sure." I made certain they were dead, and questioned them one and all before I left this collapsible.

On May 13, 1912, the crew of the Oceanic were approximately 200 miles from the wreck site when the spotted a strangely shaped plank in the flat distance. Using binoculars, they realized it wasn't a plank. It was a lifeboat.

And it wasn't vacant.

Sire Shane Leslie, on board Oceanic, recalled, "Orders from the bridge dispatched a lifeboat with an officer and a medical officer. What followed was ghastly."

Collapsible A, boarded by crewmembers of Oceanic on May 13, 1912.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (photo taken prior to 1923)

Six Oceanic crewmen rowed out to meet the partially collapsed Collapsible A.

Slumped within, faces blackened from rot and a month under Atlantic sunlight, were three "unrecognizable" corpses: two firemen, and one wearing a dinner jacket.

According to the firsthand account by Sir Shane Leslie, the arms of one corpse snapped off in the crewmember's hands.

Two sailors could be seen, their hair bleached by exposure to sun and salt, and a third figure, wearing evening dress, flat on the benches. All three were dead and the bodies had been tossing on the Atlantic swell under the open sky ever since it had seen the greatest of ocean liners sink.

The names of the sailors, reported to be firemen, are to date unknown, but the well-dressed corpse was identified: First-class passenger Thomson Beattie, 37, from Canada.

Thomson Beattie, whose body was recovered from Collapsible A on May 13, 1912, one month after Titanic sank.


The Oceanic crew wrapped the three corpses in canvas, said a prayer, and buried them at sea.

Upon hauling the lifeboat on board, the Oceanic discovered something else: a gold wedding ring. Inscribed in its band was "Edvard to Gerda."

It would later come to light that the wedding band belonged to Swedish third-class passenger Elin Gerda Lindell. She and her husband Edvard had boarded Titanic bound for a new life in Hartford, Connecticut.

After sliding down the steepening deck into the ocean, the couple had both made it to Collapsible A.

But Gerda had been too cold, and the others too weak, to pull her aboard. She eventually fell silent and still, and Edvard was forced to let her drift away.

Before he let go, he removed her wedding band.

Gerda Lindell’s wedding band, as displayed in Titanic: The Exhibition in New York City, 2022.

© soliloquism, 2022. Courtesy of #TitanicExhibitionNYC.

According to survivor August Wennerstrom, "Edvard's hair turned all gray in lesser time than 30 minutes".

Edvard died shortly thereafter, bereft at the loss of his wife, and still cradling her wedding ring. It is thought that his body was pushed overboard to lighten the load of the partially submerged Collapsible A, but the wedding ring was dropped in the process.

Neither Edvard nor Gerda Lindell were ever recovered.

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