In this context there is the following exchange between him and the Solicitor-General at the British inquiry:. Under the examination of WD Harbinson, the lawyer representing Third Class passengers, Cavell testified specifically about the role of the authorities:. The stewards appear here to have encouraged, at the least, the natural inclination of the men to move toward the stern.
But in the immediate aftermath of the accident they seem to have assisted passengers to do otherwise than to go directly to where lifeboats were being prepared to be launched. Two glimpses of the men on either end of their journey are found in the testimony to the British inquiry of a leading fireman, Charles Hendrickson Mr. Rowlatt is the examiner here , who observed the Third Class passengers both back and forth between the Boat Deck and the engine room; the first time approximately at AM and the second perhaps a half hour to forty-five minutes later:.
This is no better symbolized than by their hanging on to, and being weighed down by, their possessions throughout the journey. The observation that the Third Class passengers, particularly the men, were laden with baggage is almost universal in accounts of those who witnessed them, and is taken up by most secondary sources as well. Perhaps, some of them reasoned that the purpose of going to the stern was in order to have a dry place for their things. Possibly, it was thought that the ship was going to continue to function and their journey was a matter of switching quarters; of moving in with the other Third Class passengers for the rest of the trip.
Perhaps some as may have been the case of Captain Smith too believed another ship was coming to their rescue.
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And for many, perhaps, the fear was overwhelming. One thing it is safe to say is, the stewards, by allowing them to go aft with their possessions, were not preparing the men coming out of the forward quarters for rapid entry into lifeboats, since presumably only minimal accessories would be permitted in that case.
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Lastly, we consider two relatively detailed descriptions of the role of the authorities in the journey of the Third Class men. These are found in the testimony before the British inquiry of two crew members, respectively Albert Pearcey, a pantry-man, and John Edward Hart, a Third Class bedroom steward, each of whom makes reference to an organized system by which Second and Third Class stewards handled these men.
Pearcey, in an exchange with the Attorney-General--Sir Rufus Isaacs--testified in this regard as follows:. There were stewards besides me. It was nearly half-past one. Something of this sort is also intimated in some testimony of the Second Class pantry steward, Wilfred Seward B : All other witnesses attest otherwise, reporting consistently that the men from the forward quarters were guided to the stern. More significantly, as has already been said,, there is detailed knowledge of the comings and goings at the forward end of the Boat Deck during this time, and there is no account of a stream of Third Class men coming up from the grand staircase through an organized effort by stewards, or otherwise.
The attentive reader will have noted that the route Pearcey refers to is one of the Third Class routes delineated by Wilding and alluded to above: Route It may be that Pearcey and Seward each was covering himself and the others by testifying to doing what the stewards theoretically were supposed to have done, but in reality had not. It could also be that Pearcey was directing men along E Deck and thought they were being routed up to the Boat Deck, when in reality they were not.
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If this is so, then a strong signal was being sent to the men as to what route they were expected to take, and more generally strengthens the impression that there was an intention on the part of the authorities for the Third Class for the men to be moved back to the stern. Steward Hart who is better known for his claims to have helped rescue some 55 women and children testified along similar lines as Pearcey to the active role played by stewards in the journey of the Third Class men.
HART: After that there was a large number of men coming from the forward part of the ship with their baggage, those that were berthed up forward—single men. HART: Yes. HART: Yes, down to the afterpart of the ship.
HART: Yes, on the main alleyway. HART: I waited about there with my people…and waited for the chief Third Class steward, or some other Officer, or somebody in authority to give further orders B.
Unlike Pearcey and in line with the testimony both of Cavell and Hendrickson Hart also affirms that the men were directed aft, and not up to the Boat Deck. Hart is asserting that he and others directed some number of the Third Class men from Scotland Road, to the Third Class dining rooms; four rooms arranged in a square, deep below on F Deck, amidship, far removed from the rescue efforts on the Boat Deck above.
This is as near a concrete admission as there is, perhaps, of something it is difficult not to suspect when considering the evidence; namely, that the purpose of having the men moved to the stern was not to aid in their rescue at all, but something else. Apparently there were no such instructions. What is one to think? The troubling nature of the intentionality of the authorities when it comes to the journey of the Third Class men was not completely lost on the representative of the Third Class passengers, WD Harbinson, who pressed poor Steward Hart on the same point a bit later during the same hearing before the British inquiry.
The exchange between these two gets as close to the heart of the matter perhaps, as any in the entire British inquiry:.
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HART: They were. But what was it caused them, do you think, to do that? Was it because they could not escape to the boat deck by the companion ladder leading to the forward part of the ship? HART: I do not believe so. HART: I knew why they were coming aft. HART: Because the forward section had already taken water.
HART: Not necessarily, no. They could escape from the fore part of the ship. HART: They chose the other way. HART: No, it is not curious at all. HART: No. HART: Perhaps the people did not stop to think where they were going to.
The Fatal Journey of Third Class Men on the Titanic
There it is in a nutshell. If it made no sense for the men in the forward quarters to make a trek along a lower deck the length of the ship from bow to the stern, with all their possessions in hand, why did the authorities encourage them, even it seems direct them, to do so? The full solution to this puzzle, to the degree there is one, is complex, and goes beyond the scope of this piece, but I will venture some remarks on it by way of a conclusion.
As a means of tentatively stepping into this forbidding territory, let me first quote from an unexpected source, but nonetheless perhaps the single individual in authority involved in the Titanic disaster who is universally praised for his actions that night: Captain Arthur Rostron of the Carpathia.
There was no one more akin to Captain Smith as Rostron, either, in terms of what accepted wisdom would be as to how to react to particular situations that might arise in the course of their duties. Here are some of his instructions to the Inspector and Chief Steward respectively italics are added :. Inspector, steerage stewards, and master at arms to control our own steerage passengers and keep them out of the third-class dining hall, and also to keep them out of the way and off the deck to prevent confusion.
Stewards to be placed in each alleyway to reassure our own passengers , should they inquire about noise in getting our boats out etc. To all I strictly enjoined sic. Much has been made of a supposed passivity in a crisis that, it is asserted, was part of the steerage culture, this being offered up as a significant reason for the high fatality rates among the Third Class.
Fifth Officer Lowe made such a spectacle of himself at the American inquiry that the Italian ambassador 14 complained, and wrested a formal apology from him over his assertion referring most likely to Third Class men on the after Well Deck that:. It is not only in this extreme form, however, that the view of the Third Class men comes into play. We see it in the more benign and more defensible policy directive of Captain Rostron. It was, as the latter indicates, conventional wisdom to treat the steerage passengers in particular the men as an unpredictable and potentially destructive force that needed to be reined in.
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Witnesses reported that the lifeboats of La Bourgogne were overrun by men from the steerage, with women and children being forcibly prevented from entry to the point of being attacked with knives; almost no women or children survived McKelvey, Mixed with pre-War English xenophobia and late-nineteenth-century notions of race this was strong stuff for the authorities to take.
It is said to date from the wreck of the British troop ship, the Birkenhead, in On the Birkenhead, so the story goes, the soldiers stood aside as women and children for the most part family members of the officers were allowed to enter lifeboats. All the women and children are said to have survived Bristow, ; McKelvey, And, heroically, they proved equal to the task. What was the point of bringing the men up to the forward Boat Deck if, by the principle, they would not be loaded into the lifeboats there anyway?
Worse yet, on the Boat Deck these men would be infinitely more dangerous; liable to create a panic and over-run the lifeboats. This then is what we conjecture lies behind the seeming paradox of the journey of the Third Class men, whose long trek, burdened by heavy baggage, effectively led nowhere. The only problem beyond that was tactical: what was the most efficient means to accomplish the end? Encouraging a movement of Third Class men the length of the ship to the stern would seem to have been that means.
A Third Class survivor Anna Kelly succinctly voiced a common complaint: "[T]he stewards did not wake the steerage passengers in time the night of the collision. Those Third Class passengers who became alarmed and went up on deck were told to go back as there was no danger" H. The latter exists only in the most fragmentary form. The following biographical excerpt concerning the fireman William Taylor perhaps refers to this group:. He [Taylor] was asleep when the collision occurred. The alarm bell for accidents rang outside his door. About ten minutes later he heard it reported that water was coming in 1 hatch at the bow end of the ship-- the first cargo hold.
An Officer then ordered them up on deck with their lifebelts on. Taylor's assigned station, lifeboat 15, was "shoved out Buckley was one of only three Third Class passengers to testify before the American inquiry held almost immediately after the surviving passengers landed in New York none appeared before the British hearing that followed.
His testimony of a confrontation between a steward and a group of Third Class men from the forward quarters is frequently cited in the literature on the Titanic. Buckley is also another example of someone who directly saw water in his cabin A. In the popular story of the Titanic, this pivotal movement of the mass of Third Class single men from the forward end of the ship to the stern is largely overlooked. A Night to Remember Lord 64 devotes a single clause to it, and Butler 86 one sentence.