107 #89: Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon offered those in Lifeboat Number One £5 each if they would agree not to return to the ship to pick up survivors

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sir cosmo duff gordon titanic

FALSE. Although Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon did offer the crewmembers in his boat £5 each, it wasn’t a bribe to stop them from returning to the wreck site, but a simple gift to help them replace their kit, which they lost when the ship sank; this was also the moment their pay stopped. Unfortunately, this generous action was open to a less generous interpretation after the fact. Sir Cosmo openly admitted to promising the men a present in the boat, a promise which he took pains to carry out:

12584: ‘I must ask you about the money. Had you made any promise of a present to the men in the boat?’

‘Yes, I did.’

12585: ‘Will you tell us about that?’

‘I will. If I may, I will tell you what happened.’

12586: ‘Yes?’

‘There was a man sitting next to me, and of course in the dark I could see nothing of him. I never did see him, and I do not know yet who he is. I suppose it would be some time when they rested on their oars, 20 minutes or half-an-hour after the Titanic had sunk, a man said to me, “I suppose you have lost everything,” and I said, “Of course.” He says, “But you can get some more,” and I said, “Yes.” “Well,” he said, “we have lost all our kit and the company won’t give us any more, and what is more our pay stops from tonight. All they will do is to send us back to London.” So I said to them: “You fellows need not worry about that; I will give you a fiver each to start a new kit.” That is the whole of that £5 note story.’

12591: ‘Did you say anything to the Captain of the Carpathia of your intention to give that money to the men?’

‘Yes; I went to see him one afternoon and told him I had promised the crew of my boat a £5 note each, and he said, “It is quite unnecessary.” I laughed and said, “I promised it; so I have got to give it them.”’

Sir Cosmo testified that he did not at the time consider it a serious possibility that they could go back to rescue those in the water, but that he certainly never said that they should not go back.

Fireman Charles Hendrickson, on the other hand, claimed that the boat had failed to go back only because the Duff Gordons had prevented it, saying it would be too dangerous and that they would be swamped. Hendrickson also said that Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon did give the crew members in the lifeboat £5 on the Carpathia, having promised ‘a little present’ shortly before they were rescued. However, Hendrickson also testified that he had no expectation of the £5 when the discussion about going back took place, and that at this point it hadn’t been mentioned.

Samuel Collins, a fireman in the same boat, had a different version of events which contradicted Hendrickson and supported Sir Cosmo’s testimony. According to Collins, the Duff Gordons had not said anything about swamping, nor had any other passenger. There was some discussion about the dangers of suction from the sinking ship, but this was mainly between the crew. Collins also said he had heard nothing about money until he was carrying someone’s coat up the ladder to the Carpathia and was asked by the coat’s owner (Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, although Collins didn’t know this at the time) to get the names of the crew of the boat, a task which Hendrickson subsequently took over. The envelope with the money was a ‘complete surprise’ according to Collins, who apparently had no idea of what it was beforehand, or any expectation of receiving something.

Regardless of the details on this point, the evidence clearly suggests that Sir Cosmo’s action was no more than a generous gesture; and that attempting to row back to find the screaming throng in the dark simply did not occur to him as a serious possibility.

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