Cowards Of The Titanic: 15 Stories Of The Worst People On Board

When we think about the Titanic, there are two kinds of stories that come to mind. The first is of incredible heroism and self-sacrifice in the face of certain death. There were so many passengers, even those of wealthy families in first class, who gave up their lives willingly. They preferred to take their chances in the ice-cold waters than to take the place of someone else. Perhaps the most touching story was that of Ida and Isidor Straus, an elderly married couple who chose to stand together on the deck, refusing either to leave one another’s sides or to allow younger people to perish because they had survived.

But the other side of the coin is the stories of cowardice. There were those on board who thought only of their own survival, and did not wish to think about saving others. These were people who took places on lifeboats when they should not have done, who refused to go back and save others that were drowning after the ship went down, and who would have pushed their own mothers overboard if it meant a chance at life. Many of them were branded cowards after they returned, much to their eternal shame – after all, how could they argue?

Though our definitions of heroism and cowardice may have changed since that time, these stories will show you who on board the ship was most deserving of the title of coward. See if you agree with the prevailing opinions of the time.

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15 Henry William Frauenthal Broke A Woman's Ribs When He Jumped Onto A Lifeboat

Dr. Henry William Frauenthal certainly did not think that he was doing the right thing when he jumped off the side of the Titanic and into a lifeboat that was being lowered. In fact, he knew full well that he was not welcome, and that is why he had to wait so long until he jumped. His actions had direct consequences, as there was no room for his descent: he shattered the ribs of a female passenger in the boat when he landed. Ironically, it was all for nothing. In 1927, shy of two decades after the crash, he jumped once again: this time from the seventh floor of a hospital building, to his death. The suicide was all the more wasteful for the fact that he had been one of so few survivors to make it out, and the fact that he had made his escape in such a nefarious way.

14 William Carter Abandoned His Wife And Child To Save Himself

William Carter was at first thought to be a man who survived by chance. He put his wife (pictured above) and children into a lifeboat numbered 4, then stood back, and was ushered himself into collapsible C. However, a few issues soon arose with his story. Firstly, collapsible C left before lifeboat 4; there was a delay in launching, but it remains that he could not have seen them safely put into the water before leaving himself. Secondly, his wife changed her tune when they divorced. She said that he came to their room and told her to get herself and the children dressed after the ship hit the iceberg. The next time she saw him, he was on board the Carpathia. He basically abandoned his wife and children to die when he saw an opportunity to save himself. There’s no wonder she wanted to get away from him – and no wonder that the divorce was granted.

13 Daniel Buckley Pretended To Be A Woman

Daniel Buckley was a 21-year-old Irish passenger in third class who made it out on one of the lifeboats only by pretending to be a woman. A lot of other passengers who survived were accused of doing the same, but Daniel was the only one confirmed. As he got into a boat with a group of other men, officers came along and forced them out. They even fired gunshots over the heads of the men to scare them out of the boat. At that moment, a woman sitting near Daniel threw a shawl over his head and told him to stay put. He did, was not seen, and managed to escape. Later, he somewhat redeemed himself: when Fifth Officer Harold Lowe went back to look for survivors with his boat, Daniel volunteered to go along with him and help pull them out of the water, still wearing the shawl.

12 Cosmo Duff-Gordon Paid Rowers To Not Go Back For More Survivors

The first few lifeboats which left the ship were not by any means full. One of them was meant to hold 40, but in fact took only 12 people. This was largely because the first arrivals at the upper deck were not sure that they wanted to leave the ship – the danger had not been made apparent by that point. Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and his wife were in the party on that lifeboat. Allegedly, he paid each of the crewmen £5 if they would row away from the ship, not back to it to pick up survivors. His wife refuted this and said that he paid them as an act of charity because they had lost everything with the ship. Either way, it’s insane to think that a lifeboat with 28 spaces on it did not go back to look for survivors, even after the ship had fully gone down and it was apparent that there was no more danger.

11 Charles Lightoller Refused Boys As Young As 13 From Boarding Lifeboats

When leaving the lower decks to come to the lifeboats, men on board the Titanic only had one chance of survival: to go to the right-hand side of the grand staircase. First Officer William Murdoch was there, letting women and children get on board the lifeboats first and men after they had gone. On the left-hand side, Second Officer Charles Lightoller – who survived the sinking – had a rather stricter policy. Only one man survived under his watch until the rest of them gathered on an overturned lifeboat after the sinking. There are reports of him telling boys as young as 13 not to board the ship, leading Billy Carter’s mother to place her hat onto her young son’s head and claim him as a girl. This was more a facetious act than one attempted to mislead as far as reports tell it, and Billy was indeed saved on the lifeboat. Lightoller refused to allow boys of 15 or over to be saved.

10 Captain Lord Of Nearby Ship Could've Saved 400 People But Ignored Distress Calls

Captain Stanley Lord was not on board the Titanic, but he may have had a clear hand in the tragedy. He was the captain of the Californian, which was near to the ill-fated vessel when it began sending out distress signals. Instead of launching a rescue, Lord left it up to the Carpathian – which was 60 miles away and arrived after 2 hours – to do the work. If he had send his ship to aid the dying passengers, he would have arrived 10 minutes before the Titanic went down. Estimates suggest that he could have taken as much as another 400 passengers on board – a huge portion of the eventual dead, considering that only 728 were saved out of the 2,225 on board. While some defend his actions as a mistake, the ship’s log went missing, a mysterious and suspicious coincidence given that it would have contained details about the distress signals they saw and heard.

9 People Tried To Pull Mauge Off A Lifeboat After He Ignored Orders And Jumped On

There are plenty of stories of crew members not behaving as they should. One of them was Paul Mauge. He was a kitchen clerk in the Ritz restaurant in first class. Crew members had of course been ordered to wait until passengers were put onto the lifeboats, but Mauge did not fancy a plunge into the waters. He leapt into one of the lifeboats while it was being lowered. As it passed a lower deck, another crew member actually tried to pull him back off the boat. He was unsuccessful, however, and Mauge survived – with his shame known to all. A rendition on a similar theme is made in the film Titanic, with jumpers being grabbed at while they passed the grasping arms from the lower decks. A large number of the servers, stewards, and other members of staff went down with the boat, and many of their bodies were also retrieved by other boats that came back to the wreckage after everyone was dead.

8 The Fireman

According to the statement that wireless operator Harold Bride gave to the US Senate Inquiry, he went to the operating room after fetching his and fellow operator Jack Phillips’ belongings from their cabin. There he found a fireman, stoker, or coal trimmer – he was never sure of the man’s identity – trying to take off Phillips’ lifejacket. He was doing so carefully so as not to alert Phillips, who was still engrossed in his work of sending out SOS messages. Presumably, once it was untied, he would have snatched it and run away to try to get to safety. Bride then attacked the man, alerting Phillips, and the two of him either beat him unconscious or simply left him unable to get up. This was when they left the room to get to the lifeboats, and so they presumed that the man must have died in the Marconi cabin where they left him.

7 Dickinson Bishop Claims He "Fell" Onto A Lifeboat

American businessman Dickinson Bishop was on a honeymoon with his new wife when the disaster struck. Both of them managed to survive the sinking, though Bishop would go on to face scepticism about how he got off the ship. He was on a lifeboat, which he claims he accidentally fell into. At another point, he gave a contradictory statement, saying that someone had helped him in. Bishop is just one example of several male survivors who claimed to have fallen into a lifeboat. As convenient as it may have been, we can perhaps understand that Bishop was too ashamed to admit that he had taken a place in a lifeboat that might have been reserved for a woman or child. Either way, many people did not believe his account. There were rumours that he had disguised himself as a woman to get onto the boat, though this was later discounted – only one man really used this technique.

6 Arthur Peuchen Claimed To Be A Yachtsman To Get On A Lifeboat

A Canadian businessman named Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Godfrey Peuchen was another man who survived in somewhat dubious circumstances. He was near one of the lifeboats, waiting desperately for a place, when a member of the crew shouted that they would need help in steering the boat. Peuchen piped up and claimed to be a yachtsman, though this was later found not to be the case at all. In fact, he was a poor rower, and even gave up rowing at one point because he was tired. Luckily, he happened to be in the same boat as the ‘Unsinkable’ Molly Brown, who goaded him into rowing again. It’s funny that Brown, one of the greatest heroines of the sinking, would be in the same lifeboat as one of the greatest cowards. Later, commentators remarked that Peuchen would have claimed he was a fireman if there was a fire – anything to save his own hide.

5 Masabumi Hosono Jumped Into The Last Lifeboat At The Last Minute

Masabumi Hosono was the only Japanese man to survive the sinking of the ship, not that it did him any good. When he returned home to Japan he was publicly branded a coward and lost his job. Some even say that school textbooks went on to describe Hosono as an example of how to be dishonourable. The irony is that he actually hesitated out of fear of dishonouring Japan, and did not escape the sinking ship immediately. He saw the last lifeboats being lowered, and a man jumping into one which still had room. Thinking that this meant it was fine for him too, he jumped after him. There are certainly two sides to this story. On the one hand, Hosono could have helped a female passenger or a child jump into the boat. On the other hand, he was surrounded by people speaking a language that was not his own natively, he was in a situation of panic, and he saw his last lifeline disappearing.

4 Only One Third Class Steward Went Back To Help Passengers Find Their Way From Lower Decks

There were fewer third class stewards than there were for the other classes, and this presented a problem. Only the crew knew the long and winding path to the boat decks off by heart. A myth lingers that the doors to the third class cabins were locked, but it was actually more the case that it was very difficult to find the way out. Some locked passages may have only led to more danger anyway. Of all the third class stewards, only one came back to help people find the way out. That was John Hart, and he led 66 passengers to the lifeboats, thus saving their lives. If there had been more stewards willing to go back and help those who were milling around below decks, more might have survived. As it was, the first and second class passengers all seem to have been led out by their own room stewards.

3 Captain Smith Ignored Warnings

As the Captain of the Titanic, Edward Smith did what has been seen as the right thing by going down with his ship. Some eye-witnesses even claim to have seen him heroically saving a child at the moment that the ship went down. However, all of this forgets the fact that Smith allowed the accident to happen in the first place. He was given several warnings about the ice, but chose to ignore them and go back to bed, simply posting a lookout. He also gave many of the orders that would cost people their lives, such as sending only women and children first. There is some evidence that he was not as good a captain as his passengers would have hoped – he had struggled to gain his qualifications, made several glaring errors, and had been in command of the sister ship Olympic when she also crashed in 1911.

2 White Star Line Cheaped Out On Repairs

If you believe one theory, the White Star Line company and those who had a hand in one of the biggest conspiracies of all time are the real cowards. Captain Edward Smith was previously involved in a crash while steering the Olympic, the near-identical sister ship of the Titanic. The theory goes that White Star Lines could not afford to repair the damage, and so swapped the ships over with a partial repair done to keep the now-Titanic afloat for a while. Smith was given the command as a punishment for his part in the original accident, knowing full well that the ship was to go down. The owners perhaps did not foresee such a catastrophic loss of life, but it was the easiest solution to get their insurance money back and start again. If this were true, then the cowardice and greed of the White Star Lines board would have to be beyond measure.

1 J. Bruce Ismay, Highest-Ranking Official To Survive

The man who should have gone down with the ship was named as the biggest coward in England until his death at age 74 in 1937. He was the highest-ranking official from White Star Line to survive: as the chairman and managing director, it would have been difficult to find anyone higher. He often went on the maiden voyages of their ships, and the Titanic was no exception. Less than 20 minutes before the ship sunk, Ismay got onto collapsible C and saved himself. He was unable to watch the ship go down, and by all accounts was unable to bear the shame and distress: Jack Thayer, another surviving passenger, described him as “completely wrecked” on board the Carpathia. Ismay and William Carter, who jumped into the boat together, claimed there were no women left on the deck to take their places. Still, Ismay was ostracized by London society and named a coward for the rest of his life.

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