107 #31: ‘Keep a lookout for small ice’ was a standing joke amongst Titanic’s lookouts

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lookout titanic

TRUE. It is interesting to note that earlier Lightoller had ordered that the Crow’s Nest be telephoned a second time to ensure they understood specifically to ‘keep a sharp lookout for small ice and growlers’. This was almost certainly because he knew that the first part of this order was a standing joke among lookout men, which they regularly passed to one another at the change of watch, regardless of their ship’s location or the weather conditions, as lookout George Hogg revealed at the British inquiry:

17537: ‘You did hear it at 6 o’clock, “Keep a look-out for small ice”?’
‘Yes, but I believe it is the usual password in the nests in these ships.’
17538: ‘I do not understand what you mean by that?’
‘I do not believe they got it from the bridge at the time.’
17539: ‘Never mind where they got it from. You got it from them?’
‘Yes.’
17540: ‘Who gave it to you?’
‘Fleet and Lee—I think Lee gave it to me.’
17541: ‘You say you believe it is a usual password. Had you ever had it given you before, a password of that kind?’
‘Sometimes.’
17542: ‘But I mean on this voyage?’
‘Yes. I believe I did: I would not be quite sure. It seems a password there from what I can see of it.’
17543: (The Commissioner.) ‘I do not understand what you mean by a “password.” What do you mean?’
‘A joke, Sir. I should think.’
17544: (The Attorney-General.) ‘A joke to the look-out men to keep a look-out for ice?’
‘This is what is passed on to one another.’
17545: ‘Have you any recollection of their doing that to you on that night at 6 o’clock in the evening?’
‘At 6 o’clock in the evening: “Nothing doing; keep a look-out for small ice.”’
17546: (The Commissioner.) ‘I am not sure that I understand you when you say you regarded that as a joke. What do you mean?’
‘Well, as I say, it seems a password.’
17547: ‘Do you mean by “a password” a mere matter of form?’
‘That is what they always seemed to say to me, Sir.’
17548: ‘What?’
‘“Keep a look-out for ice” as we relieved each other.’
17551: (The Attorney-General.) ‘How often had you heard it, if at all, before 6 o’clock that evening?’
‘I heard it several times before that.’
17554: ‘Several days before?’
‘We were only out about three days.’
17555: ‘I know.’
‘A couple of days before.’
17556: ‘Do you mean that every time you went and relieved them they gave you that password, as you call it?’
‘Yes.’
17557: ‘Daytime or nighttime?’
‘Any time they would pass it along to one another.’

If you’d like to read the full book of101 Things You Thought You Knew About The Titanic…But Didn’t!, or any of my other books on Titanic, please visit my Author Page on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/tim-maltin/e/B005LNHYEQ/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_1

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