The sinking of the Titanic was a tragic accident that shook the world to the core. Thousands of people lost their lives and those lucky enough to survive carried with them the terrible memory of that fatal night forever.
Women and children were the first ones to be prompted to get into lifeboats. Most men, true to the unwritten code of chivalry, stood aside smoking their last cigarette and bidding their families goodbye. But it wasn’t just men who were courageous. Some wives refused to get into lifeboats without their husbands. And so many couples died side-by-side.
The band did not once waver either – they died in their life jackets, playing as the ship was sinking. A priest who was travelling on the ship was said to have been urged twice to get on the lifeboat. Instead, he chose to stay on, taking the last confession of those who knew they wouldn’t make it.
And of course, the Captain of the ship, Edward Smith, refused to abandon his ship also. Some claim that after the ship went down he was seen in the cold water, clutching a child, a hero until his last breath. Others say that even while he was floating in the freezing water, he was still urging the lifeboats on, intent on going down with his ship. And of course, he did go down with his ship, and he died alone and cold, just like many others.
Amidst all of this courage, there was something else: cowardice. Not all passengers were courageous. In fact, most of them were selfish. True to human nature, they were looking out for one person only: themselves.
15. Bruce Ismay Was The Highest-Ranking White Star Official To Survive
Bruce Ismay was an English businessman and president of White Star, the company that built the Titanic. Ismay was often aboard his ships on their maiden voyage, and the Titanic was no exception. He was the highest-ranking White Star official to survive the sinking of Titanic and subsequently gained the reputation of a coward.
Ismay boarded one of the last lifeboats available that fateful night and refused to even glance back at the sinking ship. When the ship Carpathia rescued those in lifeboats, Ismay asked for a private cabin and spent most of his time under the influence of opium.
American press was merciless towards Ismay, condemning him for leaving the sinking ship when women and children were still on board. He was called the “Coward of the Titanic” and “J. Brute Ismay”. The public got even more upset when rumors spread that during the voyage Ismay urged the captain to increase the ship’s speed so as to reach their destination quicker and gain free press. It was also discovered that it was Ismay’s idea to limit the number of lifeboats on the ship. The Titanic could have carried 48 lifeboats and yet under the advice of Ismay, it carried only 20, thus condemning most of Titanic’s passengers to death.
14. Daniel Buckley Pretended To Be A Woman
Most men who survived the Titanic were dubbed as cowards and rumor spread that they boarded the lifeboats dressed as women. However, only one man was actually caught donned in women’s clothes. His name was Daniel Buckley. Buckley said that once he was on the deck he noticed a group of men jumping into a lifeboat. He decided to follow in their example and also jumped in, leaving the ship behind. However, two officers suddenly appeared with a group of steerage passengers. They urged the men to leave the lifeboat and instead let the women get on. But according to Buckley, six men stayed on, refusing to leave the lifeboat. Terrified, Buckley started to cry and a woman, taking pity on him, placed her shawl over his head. The officers eventually noticed the six men and prompted them to leave once again. The men refused and the officers fired shots over their heads. The men scrambled out of the lifeboat, but Buckley went unseen.
13. People In Lifeboats Lashed Out At Those In The Water With Oars
Those Titanic passengers who were lucky enough to get on a lifeboat did not want to take any chances. As the once-magnificent ship was sinking right before their eyes they could hear thousands of people crying out in fear. The cries terrified those on the boats but also made them extremely grateful for their luck. They knew weren’t going to die – they were safe on board the lifeboats.
The twenty lifeboats could have accommodated 1,178 people or about a third of those travelling on the Titanic. But most of the lifeboats were launched with far fewer people. In fact, 472 lifeboat spaces went unused. Some crewmen contemplated returning to collect more people but most passengers were completely against this idea. They feared that the lifeboats would be overwhelmed by desperate victims and some even lashed out at those in the freezing water with oars.
12. Carter Left His Wife And Children To Perish
Mr. and Mrs. Carter had travelled to Europe with their two children in 1911. A year later they were returning to New York on board the Titanic. During the night of the accident, the Carters got separated but were luckily re-united the following day on the deck of the Carpathia. Right after the accident Mrs. Carter claimed that she had kissed her husband goodbye and jumped inside a lifeboat. Since allegedly there were no crewmen in the lifeboat, Mrs. Carter had to do the rowing herself. Mr. Carter on the other hand escaped in the same lifeboat as Bruce Ismay.
However, after Mr. Carter and Mrs. Carter divorced, Mrs. Carter changed her story completely. According to her, when the Titanic struck the iceberg, Mr. Carter came to her and told her to dress herself and the children. She didn’t see him again until the next morning on the deck of the Carpathia. He apparently told her he had a great breakfast and didn’t think she would make it.
11. Hichens Refused To Turn The Boat Around
Robert Hichens was a British sailor who was part of the deck crew on the Titanic. He was in command of one of the lifeboats and was accused of despicable behavior. It is said that when those aboard the lifeboat asked Hichens to turn around so as to save others, he refused to do so, calling those that were floating in the freezing water mere “stiffs”. Luckily, the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown was aboard the same lifeboat and forced Hichens to turn back or else risk being thrown overboard. When questioned later, Hichens denied ever calling Titanic victims “stiffs”. He argued that the only reason he did not want to go back to rescue others was because he worried about the suction caused by the sinking ship and by the possibility of getting lost in the darkness.
10. Masabumi Hosono Boarded A Lifeboat Following The Example Of Another Man
Masabumi Hosono was a Japanese civil servant. He worked for the Japanese Ministry of Transport and as part of his job was sent to Imperial Russia to find out more about the Russian railway system. On his journey back to Japan he boarded the Titanic as a second class passenger.
His survival seems like a miracle. When the ship began to sink, Hosono was blocked by crewmen from going onto the ship’s deck since they had assumed that he was a third class passenger. Still, despite all the odds Hosono made it to the deck and watched with horror the very last few lifeboats leaving the sinking ship. He did not want to disgrace himself as a Japanese by getting onto a lifeboat ahead of women and children. But as a crewman from one of the boats shouted “room for two more!” and he saw a man jump in, he did the same.
In America, Hosono was seen as a disgraceful figure and many assumed that he had disguised himself as a woman to get onto a lifeboat. In Japan, he was condemned as a coward and lost his job. It is even said that school books used Hosono as an example of how to be dishonorable.
9. Some Survivors Later Killed Themselves
Some of those that were lucky enough to survive the sinking of the Titanic later went on to commit suicide. While the tragedy of the Titanic was certainly the reason behind some suicides, others decided to end their life for different reasons. Dr. Washington Dodge, for example, shot himself in the head in 1919 because he was being investigated for corruption. Dr. Henry William Frauenthal (pictured above), who broke the ribs of a woman passenger when he was jumping into a lifeboat, jumped from the seventh floor of the hospital building in 1927, thus killing himself. Juha Niskanen was a third-class passenger who survived the sinking of the Titanic. Sometime after the tragedy of the Titanic, Niskanen moved to California in search for gold. He failed to find any however and in 1927 he set his cabin on fire and killed himself. It is tragic to think that these men who were lucky enough to survive the sinking of the Titanic later went on to commit suicide.
8. Only One Lifeboat Returned To Try And Save Others
Most of Titanic’s lifeboats left the ship half-empty. At the beginning, this was due to the fact that people were reluctant to leave the ship as they did not yet understand the danger that they were in. The first lifeboat to be launched, for example, had only 28 people on board even though it had the capacity for 65 people. Other lifeboats were similarly half-empty even though hundreds of people would later perish in the freezing water.
But when people finally understood the danger they were in, there were no more lifeboats around. In fact, only one lifeboat turned around and went back to save others. Near the wreckage, the lifeboat was greeted with countless of dead bodies. Nonetheless, a few more people, both from first and third class, were saved. It is no surprise that other lifeboats refused to return to the wreckage – people were scared that those floating in the water would cause chaos and more deaths.
7. Sir Cosmo Paid The Lifeboat Crew To Row To Safety
Tragically, Titanic’s lifeboats could not carry all the passengers that were travelling on board the Titanic. But even more tragically, while most lifeboats had the capacity to carry 65 people, the majority of them left the sinking ship only half-full.
In fact, one lifeboat, which had the capacity to carry 40 people, carried only 12 people. Out of the 12 people aboard the lifeboat, seven were said to be crewmen. Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and his wife Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon were amidst the 12 passengers on the lifeboat and a nasty rumor has it that Sir Cosmo paid the lifeboat crew £5 each to not return to the sinking ship but instead to row to safety. The lifeboat that Sir Cosmo was on was dubbed as the “money boat”.
6. Some Passengers Brought Their Dogs In Lifeboats
On its journey, the Titanic was carrying not only humans but also animals, including dogs, cats, chickens, birds and rats. While almost all of the animals perished, three dogs (out of about a dozen that were aboard the ship) survived. Naturally, we may question: how did three dogs survive if there was not enough room in the lifeboats to save all the people? Well, the three dogs that survived were very small. Two dogs were Pomeranians and the third was a Pekinese.
One Pomeranian was named Lady and belonged to Miss Margaret Hayes. The two shared a cabin and when the ship began to sink, Miss Hayes wrapped the dog in a blanket and brought it with her to the lifeboat. The other Pomeranian was owned by the Rothschilds, an incredibly wealthy family, while the Pekinese belonged to the Harper family. We can assume that they also wrapped their dogs in blankets or coats, thus rendering them practically invisible.
5. Edward Ryan Used A Little Girl And A Towel To Board A Lifeboat
Edward Ryan was another man who saved himself by pretending to be a woman. While Daniel Buckley was aided by a fellow woman passenger, Edward Ryan came up with the disguise all by himself. And he was not ashamed to tell his parents about it either. He later wrote in a letter home that during the tragic accident he knew that if he could only somehow board the lifeboat he would be all right. Thankfully, he had a towel around his neck and so he placed it on his head in an attempt to fake a woman’s shawl. He then walked past the officers who had previously said that they would shoot any man who tried to board the boat. The officers didn’t notice him. Fooled by the towel, they thought that he was a woman. In desperation, Ryan grabbed a girl standing nearby and jumped thirty feet into the boat.
4. Some Crew Members Thought Only Of Saving Themselves
It wasn’t just the passengers who were selfish in their quest for saving themselves. Some members of the Titanic crew were also only looking out for themselves. For example, Paul Mauge, the kitchen clerk in the Ritz restaurant leapt into a boat as it was being lowered into the water. Another crew member tried to pull Mauge out of the lifeboat as it was passing him on the lower deck but he was unsuccessful. Furthermore, when two wireless operators left their posts only ten minutes before the Titanic sunk, they came upon a disturbing scene: the ship’s stoker was trying to steal the lifejacket of Harold Bride, Titanic’s junior wireless officer. The two men knocked the stoker unconscious and continued making their way towards the deck.
3. Dickinson Bishop Claimed He Fell Into A Lifeboat
Dickinson Bishop was an American businessman who was on board the Titanic with his wife. Having just married, the Bishops were celebrating their honeymoon. Both of them survived the sinking of the Titanic. Naturally, just like other men before him, Bishop was questioned thoroughly as to how he had managed to get onto a lifeboat when they were mostly reserved for women and children.
A couple of theories explaining how Bishop ended up in a lifeboat exist. Some say that Bishop was pushed into the lifeboat. Others say that he jumped into a lifeboat himself, but not wanting to come off as cowardly, he later said that he had accidentally slipped and conveniently landed in a lifeboat. During the inquiry that occurred after the sinking of the Titanic, Bishop contradicted himself in his story. He first said that he was helped into the boat and later corrected himself by saying that he fell into the boat.
2. Men Of High Civic Standing Were First To Scramble For Boats
The crewmen of the Titanic were loud and clear when they said that “women and children” had priority to lifeboats. And while most men complied, including Isador Straus and John Jacob Astor, others were not so quick to accept their duty. In fact, The New York Times later printed an article claiming that Captain Roberts, Superintendent of Docks for the White Star Line, said that the panic on board the Titanic was caused by ‘big men’. The men who would have been normally expected to avert panic and fear were supposedly acting worst of all. According to Captain Roberts, “it was our Congressmen, our Senators, and our ‘big men’ who led in the crush for lifeboats”.
1. Peuchen Claimed He Was A Yachtsman
Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Godfrey Peuchen was a Canadian businessman who survived the sinking of the Titanic. The story goes that Peuchen was standing near one of the lifeboats when one of the crewmen shouted for help. Peuchen stepped forward claiming that he was a yachtsman and was invited to board the lifeboat. His behavior in the lifeboat came under much scrutiny. He was in the same lifeboat as the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown and it is said that at one point he complained of tiredness and even refused to row the lifeboat. Thankfully, Molly Brown goaded him to take up the oars again. American newspapers considered Peuchen a selfish coward. Toronto Mail said that Peuchen “put himself in the position of a man who had to defend himself before the necessity for defence was apparent.” Others claimed that Peuchen had said he was a yachtsman purely to get off the sinking ship and that if there had been a fire, he would have claimed he was a fireman.
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