There are two points I wish to make to you, dear reader, before I take you on a trip back to April 1912.
Firstly, I have not tried to sensationalise any of the events that took place aboard Titanic on that fateful night—the story is dramatic enough to tell itself. I have studied her story for more than twenty years and have read the books that really count—Beesley, Gracie, Lord 1 and 2, and Lynch. I have also read some books that don’t carry much weight at all. And even within the more reputable books on the subject can be found inconsistencies. For example, Don Lynch accepts the idea that First Officer William Murdoch must have run the engines “full speed astern” immediately before the collision and relates this on page 85 of his book. Walter Lord, on the other hand, accepts the testimonies of the only two witnesses from the Engine Room—Greaser Frederick Scott and Trimmer Thomas Dillon—neither of whom saw the telegraph ring FULL ASTERN, and he relates this on pages 79, 243, and 244 of his second book. I have read the testimonies of Scott and Dillon and each was emphatic about what he recalled seeing on the Engine Room telegraph. But their two versions differed slightly:
Scott: Collision, STOP, SLOW AHEAD, STOP, SLOW ASTERN, STOP.
Dillon: Telegraph rings, collision, “the engines stopped”, SLOW ASTERN, STOP, “ahead”, STOP.
It seems more likely that the last running of the engines would have been astern as recalled by Scott. But there is supporting evidence that the first telegraph order was given before the collision as recalled by Dillon.
(Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall was the only person on the Bridge who testified to having actually seen the telegraph show FULL ASTERN. But was this purely to protect the reputation of White Star Line?)
Scott recalled the time intervals as being five minutes and longer. Dillon recalled them as being five minutes and shorter. For the sake of simplicity, I have rounded all the intervals to an even five minutes. In fact, I have arranged the entire night into increments of five minutes.
No author in history has ever declared, ‘my book about Titanic is devoid of errors and is to be taken as indisputable’. Some authors have made a greater effort than others. Some have been quite lazy. Marshall Everett’s book from 1912 is one of the least accurate—possibly because it was rushed to press—but is of some historical interest.
In 2010 came the assertion that Quartermaster Hitchens initially turned the ship’s wheel the wrong way in a state of momentary confusion. Without going into detail about the alleged cause of the confusion, I would tell the reader that this scenario seems implausible to say the least. Hitchens had been many years in the job as Quartermaster and was highly competent. Also, he was not alone in the wheelhouse—Sixth Officer Moody was beside him as was Quartermaster Olliver.
Secondly, the reader may wonder “How did stokers, greasers, and trimmers get into lifeboats when some women and children were left to perish?” When the crews from the Boiler Rooms were relieved of duty, they headed up to the Boat Deck. Some eventually jumped from the ship and were picked up by lifeboats, others were ordered into boats to row them. Most perished. (All the Engineers perished.)