TRUE. This incident is brilliantly described in the following passage from Titanic and other Ships, the memoirs of Titanic’s Second Officer, Charles Herbert Lightoller, published in 1935:
‘Before she cleared the dock we had a striking example of the power that lay in those engines and propellers.
‘The Oceanic and St Paul [sic: it was in fact St Paul’s sister ship, the New York] were lying moored to the wharf alongside each other. They happened to be in a position where the Titanic had to make a slight turn, which necessitated coming astern on her port engine. The terrific suction set up in that shallow water, simply dragged both these great liners away from the wharf. The St Paul [sic] broke adrift altogether, and the Oceanic was dragged off until a sixty foot gangway dropped from the wharf into the water. It looked as if nothing could save the St Paul [sic] crashing into Titanic’s stern, in fact, it was only Captain Smith’s experience and resource that saved her. The Titanic, of course, dwarfed these two ships, and made them look like cross-channel boats, and the wash from her screws had a corresponding influence. Just as a collision seemed inevitable, Captain Smith gave the Titanic a touch ahead on her port engine, which simply washed the St Paul [sic] away, and kept her clear until a couple of tugs, to our unbounded relief, got hold, and took her back alongside the wharf.
‘The greatest care had to be taken whilst threading our way down the then comparatively shallow channel of Southampton Water and eventually out to Spithead. There was a general feeling of relief when at last we got her into her proper element, deep water.’
It is ironic to think that, had Captain Smith not averted a collision by his skill on this occasion, Titanic’s maiden voyage would either have been delayed by several hours or cancelled altogether, meaning that either she would have encountered ice during daylight, or she would have been travelling slightly later in the year, when everyone would have been aware of the incredible extent of the ice blocking the westbound track to New York at that time, and the fatal encounter would never have taken place.
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