Articles

"WHEN THAT GREAT SHIP WENT DOWN"

RAY GARDNER May 1 1950
Articles

"WHEN THAT GREAT SHIP WENT DOWN"

RAY GARDNER May 1 1950

"WHEN THAT GREAT SHIP WENT DOWN"

Articles

Nobody believed the Titanic could sink. Not her builders. Not her owners. Not Mr. and Mrs. Albert Dick, of Calgary, honeymooning on the ship’s maiden voyage. Not — until too late — the 1,490 souls who perished with her

RAY GARDNER

THEY BUILT the ship Titanic, and when they had her through

They thought they had a ship that the water would not go through

But the Lord's almighty hand willed that that ship should never land.

It was sad when that great ship went down.

AT EXACTLY 11.40 on the cold, clear night, of Sunday, April 14, 1912, the world’s largest - and most luxurious ship, the White Star liner Titanic, making her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, plowed at full speed into a great mountain of ice about 800 miles east of Halifax. In 10 seconds the iceberg’s ragged edge, like a giant can opener, ripped a 300-foot gash in the Titanic’s steel plates.

At 2.20 Monday morning, almost three hours

A MACLEAN'S FLASHBACK

after the collision, the Titanic stood on end, poised briefly, and then, with a slow slanting dive, disappeared beneath the Atlantic.

Albert Dick, a Calgary insurance man, and his wife Vera were among 711 persons aboard the Titanic who were saved. All the rest—1,490 men, women and children, perished. It was the greatest peacetime sea disaster the world has ever known.

Yet the world at first refused to believe it had happened. Hours after the Titanic had taken her death plunge newspaper readers the world over were assured that not a life had been lost in the sinking of the world’s “safest” ship. Albert Dick pan only shake his head when he turns the pages of his scrapbook to a clipping from his home-town paper, the Calgary News-Telegram of Monday, April 15, and reads again the headline:

MARINE DISASTER PREVENTED BY

MEANS OF WIRELESS; VESSELS SPEED TO AID DISTRESSED LEVIATHAN;

PASSENGERS REMOVED IN SAFETY

White Star officials had so much confidence in the Titanic that they turned hysterical relatives away from their offices with the assurance that everything was all right. P. A. S. Franklin, vicepresident of the International Merchant Marine, said in New York on behalf of her owners: “We are absolutely satisfied that even if she were in collision with an iceberg she is in no danger. With her numerous watertight compartments she is absolutely unsinkable.”

At that moment the absolutely unsinkable Titanic was at the bottom of the ocean.

Even aboard the Titanic the passengers’ faith remained unshaken until her stem began to rise out of the water, more than an hour after she had struck. When the order, “Women and children to the boats,” was given 50 minutes after the collision, all but a handful refused to leave the ship.

“I remember looking over the side of the ship when the first boats were being lowered,” says Vera Dick. “It was such a long way down to the water and the water looked so black and cold. It seemed much safer to stay on the Titanic.”

Because she was deemed unsinkable, the Titanic carried enough lifeboats for only 1,178 persons, a third of her total capacity. Even so, 400 lives were lost needlessly by the haphazard loading of the boats. There had been no boat drill and members of the crew were late in reaching their stations. Boats were sent away unevenly loaded, some only part full, others overcrowded.

But perhaps the most tragic fact of all was that within 19 miles of the sinking Titanic was a ship, the Californian, which saw her distress rockets and failed to come to her rescue. The British Board of Trade enquiry conducted by Wreck Commissioner Lord Mersey castigated the Californian and said she could easily have pushed through the ice jams to the Titanic without serious risk. “Had she done so,” said Lord Mersey, “she might have saved many, if not all, of the lives that were lost. She made no attempt.”

The world was stunned when the full extent of the disaster became known. Down with the Titanic had gone some of the most illustrious and wealthy personalities of the time.

Installed in her palatial Empire and Georgian suites were Isidor Straus, the famous American philanthropist., and Mrs. Straus; Col. John Jacob Astor and his young bride; John B. Thayer, vicepresident of the Pennsylvania Railroad; Charles M. Hays, president of Canada’s Grand Trunk Railway; Major Archibald Butt, military aide to President Taft, and his friend, Frank D. Millet, the painter; W. T. Stead, the English journalist; Jacques Futrelle, the French novelist, and his wife; Benjamin Guggenheim, the American millionaire; H. B. Harris, the theatrical manager, and Mrs. Harris; Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon; and J. Bruce Ismay, chairman and managing director of the White Star line. All of these, except Ismay, the Duff-Gordons, Mrs. Harris, Mrs. Futrelle and Mrs. Astor were lost.

At almost every man who escaped has been leveled the accusation that he had disguised himself as a woman and climbed into a lifeboat. Both Ismay and Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon came under such attack, and London newsboys at the time shouted, “Read all about the Titanic cowards.” But the official British enquiry cleared both men and Albert Dick says, “There were no cowards aboard the Titanic.”

“A Gigantic Lifeboat”

THE DICKS were a young honeymoon couple when the Titanic sank; he was 30 and his wife 17. Today they are grey-haired grandparents, living a quiet and comfortable fife in a Tudor-style mansion Dick built in 1913 as a present for his bride. “It was more than a wedding present,” he

The years have not blurred for them the horror of that night; yet, strangely, the experience brought serenity to their lives. As a young man Dick had cleaned up in the prairie land boom. “I thought of nothing but money,” he says. “The Titanic cured me of that. Since then I have been happier than I ever was before.”

There is a feeling about having come so close to death that neither Dick nor his wife can quite express. It falls heaviest upon them each year about the time of the Titanic anniversary when friends and even men Dick does not know stop him on the streets of Calgary to shake his hand and congratulate him on being alive.

Dick booked first-class passage on the Titanic for himself and his wife as the grand climax to a honeymoon that had taken them on a cruise through the Mediterranean to Egypt and the Holy Land and back to Naples and then across Europe to England. In Naples Dick had been badly clipped by professional gamblers but they were still having nothing but the best, and the best was undoubtedly the Titanic.

The Titanic, 46,000 tons of steel, had been three years abuilding in Harland and Wolff’s Belfast yards and had cost £2 millions. She was called a gigantic lifeboat, a description she seemed to merit because of her double bottoms and 16 watertight compartments. Her triple screws were capable of thrusting her through the water at a speedy 23 knots.

She was a lavish ship; as Joseph Conrad later wrote, she had every

Continued on page 49

"When That Great Ship Went Down"

Continued from page 19

“banal hotel luxury”—a veranda café, a French restaurant, swimming pool, Turkish baths, palm court and squash racket court, but not nearly enough lifeboats.

An ominous event marked the Titanic’s departure from Southampton the afternoon of Wednesday, April 10 for New York where she was due the following Wednesday morning.

“As we passed the steamer New York,” Dick recalls, “the suction created by the Titanic drew her away from her berth. The New York’s mooring lines snapped and whipped down among the crowd that had gathered on the pier to watch the Titanic sail. The New York veered just in time to avert a collision.”

Dick and his wife struck up a shipboard friendship with Thomas Andrews, the man who had been in charge of construction of the giant liner. “He showed us all over the ship,” says Dick, “explaining the fine points of her design and her various safety devices. I remember him showing us the watertight doors and saying, ‘See, you’re safe on this ship.’ I believed him. He, poor devil, went down with his ship.”

Sunday, April 14, was as uneventful as the previous days of the voyage. The temperature dropped sharply but the day was clear. Church services were held throughout the ship and, in

the evening, the second-class passenger gathered for hymns and sang:

“Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee For those in peril on the sea.” Warnings of icebergs on the steamer track were crackling all day and evening on the Titanic’s wireless. In all, there were six warnings. The first came at 9 a.m. from the Caronia. The sixth and last came at 11.30 p.m., 10 minutes before the collision, when, for a third time, the Leyland liner Californian, which was to play such a tragic part in the disaster, began talking to the Titanic and was told to shut up. “Say, old man, we’re stuck here, surrounded by ice,” the Californian radioed. Curtly, the Titanic replied, “Shut up, shut up; keep out. I am talking to Cape Race. You are jamming my signals.”

“Iceberg! Dead Ahead!”

After a gay dinner in the Jacobean dining room, Vera and Albert Dick took a turn on deck. It was a bitter night but the sea was calm and the sky clear. They retired about 11 p.m. and were reading in bed.

High in the crow’s nest, Frederick Fleet and his partner were keeping a sharp lookout for ice. Far below begrimed and sweating stokers fed coal into the Titanic’s voracious boilers. At unslackened speed, making 23 knots, the great ship plowed on to her doom.

Suddenly, at 11.40, lookout Frederick Fleet saw the iceberg come towering out of the night. Instantly he struck three bells, the warning signal for something dead ahead. He phoned the bridge, “Iceberg! Det d ahead!”

Frantically, First Officer Murdoch, in charge of the watch, gave orders to the helmsman and the engine room. But it was too late. The Titanic shuddered, there was a brief scraping and a slight list to port. Slowly she stopped.

Captain Smith rushed to the bridge. “What has she struck?” he demanded of Murdoch.

“An iceberg, sir,” the officer replied. “I hard-a-starboarded and reversed the engines and I was going to hard-aport around it, but she was too close. I could not do any more. I have closed the watertight doors.”

In the Dick’s cabin the collision sounded like a thunderclap. “What’s taat! My God, we’ve struck a rock,” Mrs. Dick exclaimed. Dick was less excited and wasn’t even anxious to go on deck to find out what had happened. “V\ hat’s the use of getting up?” he asked his wife. But, finally, they did get up and in a corridor they joined a group of passengers. “We’ve hit an iceberg,” they were told.

They headed for the grand staircase where they saw Captain Smith and Andrews, the ship’s builder, dash up the stairs. Dick grabbed his wife by the hand and they rushed out on deck.

“There \yas no panic,” Dick recalls. “Andrews had a megaphone and he began to address the passengers. I remember his words. ‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ he said, ‘there is no need of panic. Go back to your staterooms and put on your lifebelts and warm clothing. Fe as quick as you can.’ ”

Dick and his wife obeyed. “When we got back up on the boat deck they were lowering the first boat,” says Dick. “There was no excitement. People were still more curious than excited.”

The passengers still had implicit faith in the unsinkable ship. Their confidence wasn’t shared by the officers. When Ismay hurried to the bridge in his dressing gown and asked Captain Smith, “Do you think she is seriously damaged?” the captain had replied, “I’m afraid she is.”

By 12.20 the seamen’s and firemen’s quarters were flooded. Captain Smith had ordered First Wireless Officer Jack Philips to send the distress signal, CQD. It was picked up by Cape Race and two steamships, LaProvence and Mt. Temple. Fourth Officer Boxhall feverishly worked out the ship’s position and handed it to Philips, who at 12.25 sent out a new appeal for help.

“Have struck an iceberg, badly damaged; rush aid,” Philips radioed. The Cunard liner Carpathia replied and Philips messaged, “It’s a CQD, old man. Position 41-46 N.; 50-14 W.”

Ragtime and Tragedy

Captain Arthur Rostron, master of the Carpathia, was incredulous when he was roused by his radio officer and told of the Titanic’s plight. “Are you absolutely certain?” he asked. “Yes, sir,” the officer replied. Rostron gave the order, “North 52 West,” and the Carpathia, under forced draught and with extra black gangs in the fireroom, increased her normal 14 knots to over 17. She had a 58-mile gap to close. In the Titanic’s Marconi cabin, Philips heard from the Carpathia, “Coming hard.” He kept sending the CQD distress call and the newly adopted SOS.

But the nearest ship, the Californian, did not hear. I er lone wireless operator had gone off duty 15 minutes before Philips sent the first CQD!

On the boat deck the passengers were still reluctant to leave. Men began to coax their women to go. “Get in, Mrs. Dick, we’ll be back for breakfast,” an officer urged.

“I was scared to death to let her

go in that boat,” Dick recalls now. “It seemed she’d be much safer on the Titanic. She decided not to go and we wandered along from one boat to another.”

By this time the ship’s band had struck up “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” Rockets were fired into tie air. Officers had to shout to be heard above the hissing roar as the Titanic’s boilers let off steam. On the bridge an officer tried to signal the Californian with a Morse lamp. As some of the Titanic’s boats began to row toward her lights, the Californian steamed off. The boats were still being lowered half empty. One left with only 28 people, though it could carry 65.

“We were standing by the edge of a lift boat when an officer began to push my wife into it,” says Dick. “I kissed her good-by but she still clung to my hand. The officer was calling for more women. Then he shouted, ‘My God, are there no more women!’ He put his hand on my shoulder and pushed me into the boat.”

By 1.20 a.m. the Titanic’s screws began to lift out of the water and, at last, the passengers’ faith in the unsinkable ship was shattered. Several times there was a rush for the boats, bat officers fired warning shots from t ie¡r revolvers and the panic subsided.

The Vast Moan of Death

Impeccably dressed in evening clot nes, Benjamin Guggenheim remarried to a friend, “We are dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like genflemen.” Col. Astor put his bride into a boat, stepped back and said, “Good-by, dear, I’ll join you later.” A morgue ship later found him floating upright in his lifebelt. He had $2,500 in his pockets.

Mrs. Straus was about to clamber into a boat but changed her mind. “We have been together many years. Where you go, I go,” she told her husband. An officer spoke to H. B. Harris as he and Mrs. Harris approached a boat, arm in arm, “Ladies first, please.” “Of course, certainly, ladies first,” Harris smiled, and, bowing, he stepped back. A woman tried to take her Grea^ Dane dog into a boat; refused, she stayed behind with the dog. The athletic instructor and three other men whiled away their last minutes in the gymnasium. A couple of them rode bicycles while anot 1er SAmng at a punching bag.

The last boat to leave the Titanic was lowered over the side at 2.J5. There were then 18 boats in the water with about 600 persons aboard. There were still about 1,600 on the stricken ship. The bandmaster knew the end was near and switched from ragtime to the hymn, “Nearer My God to Thee.”

Philips had sent his last message. “Come quick, our engine room flooded up to the boilers.” Captain Smitn hau appeared on deck and spoken to a group of officers and men, “Men, yo a have done your duty. You can do no more. Now it is every man for himself. I trust help will soon appear. If it doesn’t, may God help all of us.” He returned to the bridge where his valet awaited him As a wave broke over tue bridge, he stepped forward into the sea. r.e was never seen again.

The ship had only minutes to live. Its stern pointed toward the heavens and was quickly rising to the perpendicular. Passengers got down on the slanting decks to pray and a few sang as the band played its last hymn, “Autumn.” Men and women began to leap into the sea.

Lashed to the top of the officers’ quarters were two collapsible raftlike boats, each capable of holding 47

Continued on page 52

HOW BIO WAS THE TITANIC?

The Titanic was, in her time, the world’s largest ship. Here is how she compares with the Queen Elizabeth, today’s leviathan:

Length Breadth Gross tonnage Passenger Accom.

Lifeboat cap.

TITANIC

882 feet

92 feet

46,328

2,566*

945**

1,178

ELIZABETH 1,031 feet 118 feet 83,673 2,314 1,200 3,770

*The Titanic carried 1,316 passengers on her maiden voyage. **She carried 885 crew. Total number of persons on board: 2,201. Of these 1,490 perished; 711 were saved.

Continued from page 50 persons. Second Officer Harold Lightholler and two other men struggled to get them free. They got one over the side but when it hit the water it capsized. Lightholier managed to free the second one, just as the water ! reached him and washed him away.

At 2.17 the lights failed. The ship had climbed to a 50-degree angle and there was a great roaring noise as her engines broke loose from their blocks and went crashing through steel bulkheads. The forward funnel snapped off and crashed into the sea, smashing the life out of freezing swimmers.

At last the unsinkable ship rose to the perpendicular and then slowly slid to the depths. Then came the most terrifying moment of the disaster. From the hundreds of men, women and children in the icy waters rose a haunting, harrowing moan that lasted for minutes. Those in the lifeboats were horrified.

Most of the boats that had room for survivors were too far away to help, j The others, the last boats to leave, were so jam-packed that their officers dared not risk the lives of the living to save [ the dying.

The collapsible boat that Lightholier had freed just before being washed off the ship proved a haven for himself and about 30 others. John Collins, one of the Titanic’s firemen who now lives in Toronto, lowered himself down a rope just before the Titanic sank and swam to the collapsible.

The boats were poorly manned. In some there were not enough men, and women in nightdress pitched in to help.

The Carpathia sighted a green light on No. 2 lifeboat at 2.40, only 20 minutes after the Titanic went down but it wasn’t until she swung around broadside to the boats that the survivors saw her. Some cheered deliriously, some wept and others merely stared blankly at her.

It wasn’t until 4.10 a.m. that the Carpathia picked up the first boat. The Dicks were among the last to go aboard.

It was on the Carpathia that the realization struck home to the survivors that there was no hope for the hundreds of missing wives, husbands and children. Women became hysterical.

Thirty thousand people jammed the streets leading to Pier 54 when the ; Carpathia steamed into New York with the 711 survivors on board. The Dicks brushed aside newspapermen and went straight to the Belmont Hotel. “We J had friends in that night, people who ! had survived the sinking,” says Dick, “and we exchanged stories of our experiences. When they were about to leave we discovered a newspaperman had been listening at the transom and had jotted every word down.”

Fifteen days after the sinking a morgue ship arrived in Halifax with I 190 bodies in coffins stored in her holds.

Her crew had buried another 108 at sea.

The U. S. Government launched an immediate investigation which turned out to be almost a farce. It was conducted by a Senator Smith who asked one officer of what material an iceberg is composed, and another if the watertight compartments were intended as a refuge for passengers.

The British Board of Trade enquiry under Lord Mersey was thorough and intelligent. It brought in a damning report. It declared the lookout inadequate and the liner’s speed excessive in view of the many warnings of ice. Captain Smith was not directly blamed for the disaster but the report said he had made “a very grievous mistake.” And the Californian was bitterly assailed.

There is a sequel to the sinking of the Titanic that intrigues Vera and Albert Dick. It is a mystery that may never be completely solved.

In Glasgow, shortly before sailing on the Titanic, the Dicks met and became friendly with H. J. Allison, a wealthy Montreal broker, and his wife. They were destined to meet again on the Titanic.

The Allisons’ maid escaped from the ship in the same lifeboat as Mr. and Mrs. Dick. She had clasped in her arms the Allisons’ 10-month-old baby, a boy named Travers. Mr. and Mrs. Allison and their three-year-old daughter, Lorraine, were lost.

But in 1941 the newspapers published the story of Mrs. Laurence Kramer, the wife of a Royal Oak, Mich., toolmaker, who claimed that she had just learned she was Lorraine Allison.

She discovered her true identity, she said, when she wrote to a man in England who she had always believed was her father. She had intended taking out American citizenship papers and, having assumed she was born in England, wrote asking for her birth certificate.

Her foster father wrote back: “I

was standing on the deck of the Titanic after putting my wife and child in a lifeboat and a man came running up to me and pressed you into my arms and begged me to take care of you He told me he was going to get his wife and your baby brother. As he left, he said his name was H. J. Allison and your name was Lorraine.”

Mrs. Kramer says she does not care whether anyone believes her story. “I have proof enough for my own satisfaction,” she says, “and that’s all I

“I wonder,” muses Albert Dick. “I wonder if it’s true.”

Oh it was sad, mighty sad,

It was sad when that great ship went to the bottom.

All the husbands and wives, little children lost their lives.

It was sad when that great ship went down. if