107 #68: Titanic’s second officer prevented men and even boys from entering lifeboats even though there was space for them

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titanic lifeboats

TRUE. Almost certainly because of his views about loading the lifeboats from the water, explained above. Lightoller tried to prevent 13-year-old John Ryerson from entering lifeboat no.4 before his father successfully argued that at 13 he was young enough to count as a ‘child’ and go with his mother —although in 1912 John was legally able, had he wanted, to leave school aged 12 and enter the workforce. The story goes that Lightoller then allowed the young John Ryerson in, grumbling ‘No more Boys.’

Lightoller also famously refused entry to Colonel John Jacob Astor IV, the richest man in the world in 1912, who asked to go with his pregnant wife Madeleine. Lifeboat 4 was eventually lowered at 1.55 a.m. with around 36 people in it, only about half its total capacity. Lightoller knew that speed was of the essence and, although he waited for more women for 10 minutes after the Astors had arrived, he could not wait any longer than that as Titanic was now listing heavily and sinking fast.

Lightoller was a notorious ‘hard case’ who had already been ship-wrecked in 1889 at the age of 16 when the Holt Hill, a four-masted barque and three skysail-yarder, ran aground in a storm on the four-and-a-half-square-mile uninhabited island of St Paul’s in the middle of the South Indian Ocean, 3,000 miles east of The Cape of Good Hope. He and the other surviving crew members were only rescued eight days later when a passing ship, the Coorong, saw the smoke from their fire and took them to Adelaide, where they arrived 22 days later. Lightoller also knew all about surviving in the cold, having spent a desperate year in 1898 prospecting for gold in the Yukon, in Canada’s frozen North-West, in temperatures often as low as -40 ̊ C.

Although Lightoller will always be criticised for not allowing more men into the lifeboats he launched, it should be noted that 193 women were saved from the port side of Titanic, where he was working, as opposed to only 154 women saved from the starboard side, where First Officer Murdoch worked all night.

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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