The Shootings on the Titanic
Part III: The Bloody Quarter
By George Jacub
'Where are all the women?', Titanic's First Officer William Murdoch must have been asking himself? He had only been able to find two women to put into Lifeboat No. 1, and the starboard deck forward was empty now of both men and women. Murdoch knew he was running out of time to get people off the sinking ship. He had four lifeboats waiting to be loaded at the stern of the Titanic but first he had to find women and children to fill them.
Somewhere, he located a half-dozen French-speaking First Cabin women---Leontine Aubert, her maid Emma Sagesser, Mrs. Elizabeth Lines, her daughter Mary Lines, Mrs. Marie Spenser, and her maid Eliza Lurette. With them in tow, he marched to the rear of the ship, headed for Lifeboat No. 9. Purser Hugh McElroy accompanied them to help load.
Bosun's mate Albert Haines was standing by his assigned lifeboat, No. 9, when he spotted Murdoch coming.
"We had the boat crew there, and Mr. Murdoch came along with a crowd of passengers," Haines told the U.S.Senate Inquiry.
Saloon steward William Ward was among the crewmen at the boat:
"I think the purser ... said, "Are you all ready?" Haynes answered "Yes" - it was either the purser or Mr. Murdoch - and with that he said: "Pass in the women and children that are here into that boat." There were several men standing around, and they fell back, and there was quite a quantity of women and children helped into the boat."
Ward had trouble telling which officer was speaking at any moment.
"They were both tall men, and I would not be sure which one it was. It was dark, you know." he told the Senators.
As the loading of No. 9 began, Murdoch was already thinking ahead. He gave orders to some of the crewmen to ready the next boat (No. 11) for loading.
Assistant Second Class Steward Joseph Wheat, British Inquiry:
- Yes; he told me to take the rest of the boat's crew down on to the next deck as they had to send the people off A deck.
13195. Did you do that?
- Yes. I took about 70 men down altogether, I think.
Bathroom Steward Charles Mackay:
10757. Did you go down to A deck yourself?
- No, the first order I heard given was, Mr. Wheat, the second assistant-steward, had an order from Mr. Murdoch to take charge of that boat.
10758. That was on the boat deck?
- Yes. Steward, Wilson (saloon steward Edward Wheelton) and myself were ordered by Mr. Murdoch to collect all the women we could and take to that A deck, which we did.
10759. Did you collect women on the boat deck?
- Yes, and we took them down the companion to A deck.
10760. About how many do you think you collected?
- A matter of about 40 on A deck, we collected.
With those orders, Murdoch cleared the boat deck of more than one hundred people.
Murdoch had changed the rules for the aft boats that he would be loading. Whereas he had let men get into lifeboats very freely earlier on, he was still disturbed by the disorder that had broken out at Lifeboat No. 3 (as described here: http://titanicsecrets.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-shooting-on-titanic-definitive-story.html.)
The rule would now be women and children first--- and only then, men, to fill the boat. But there was no time to explain the rules to the men who accompanied the women and children going into No. 9, and none of them entered the boat before it was lowered.
In fact, they had no reason to believe they had any chance to get on.
"On the Carpathia was Mme. Hobart, who was complaining bitterly of the conduct of one of the officers. Her husband had been with her and at her request was about to enter the same boat with her. An officer pointed a gun at him and ordered him to stand aside, and enter a boat after the women had been saved. He obeyed, and his wife never saw him again." (New York Times, April 19, 1912, Some Stories of Panic.) Hobart? Try Mme. Aubert, mistresss of American gazillionaire Benjamin Guggenheim, whose wealth and prestige was no match for a loaded revolver.
While the loading of the First Cabin women was underway, Murdoch was calling loudly for more women to come forward. Among those who responded was Mrs. Elizabeth Watt and her 12-year-old daughter Bertha.
The young girl saw something unusual. She mentioned it to Walter Lord years later when he was researching his book A Night To Remember. Her letter to him still exists:
Lost Voices from the Titanic, Nick Barratt, 2010
"Shortly a call was made "Women and children this way" so we all went over to the starboard side, one boat was on the way down, and she was hanging on its davits overboard and full of men, looked as if they were steerage passengers and we had that they had more or less charged this boat so they left them hang(ing) there until after our boat left. The master at arms was standing with a gun at that point." she wrote.
The clues she provides identify the boat "full of men" as No. 15.
It's necessary to pause here for a moment, because the situation at this section of the Titanic would degenerate into bedlam over the next ten to twelve minutes. This was the bloody quarter. Nearly half of the men known to have been shot on the Titanic were shot here (12). And the majority of them (11), were shot in the next ten minutes or less. It's an entire book in itself.
The events took less time than it takes to read about them. Reconstructing what happened involves making sense out of more than a baker's dozen eyewitness accounts, trying to correlate the details and, where necessary, making a judgement call on what happened in what order.
Until more first-hand accounts become generally available, this is as accurate a recreation of the shootings on the Titanic as can be done.
His Jaw Had Been Shot Away
Seeing Second Cabin women filling the seats of No. 9, Murdoch gave the order to load the next lifeboat, No.11.
Joseph T. Wheat, assistant Second Steward:
13235. Was your boat lowered empty from the boat deck to the a deck?
- Yes, there was nobody in it.
13236. And it was filled from A deck?
Two boats now loading, there was the need to ensure that the remaining pair were ready for passengers.
A knot of Irish steerage passengers---sisters Agnes and Alice Mccoy, their brother Bernard, and their cousin Thomas Mccormack--- was on the boat deck after having donned lifejackets as ordered by stewards, when they saw " a boat half-filled with members of the crew and about to be lowered away. An officer came up pointing his revolver at the men and told them to get out or he would shoot. The men climbed out slowly. " (The Cork Examiner, April 27, 1912.)
Crew? Not likely. Bertha Watt's boat "hanging on its davits overboard and full of men", most likely.
"Then the officer turned to the two young women and their brother and told them to get back downstairs as there was no immediate danger."
Meanwhile, back at No. 9...
Bath Steward James Widgery picks up the story:
"...and we passed the ladies in. We thought we had them all in, and the purser called out, "Are there any more women?"
"Just then some one said, "Yes." This woman came along, rather an oldish lady, and she was frightened, and she gave me her hand. I took one hand, and gave it to the boatswain's mate, and he caught hold of the other hand, and she pulled her hand away, and went back to the door and would not get in. One of them went after her, but she had gone down the stairs."
"The chief officer was there and called out for any more women, and there seemed to be none, and he told the men to get in, four or five of them."
"We were filled right up then. Then they started to lower away."
But there were more women---immigrant, steerage women who had been corraled behind a rope 100 feet away, off the second class stairway, the only route to the boat deck and to the lifeboats.
In that crowd behind the rope was Abraham Hyman, who described the scene to the New York Times (April 19, 1912, Survivor Tells How He Was Standing on Deck Admiring the Scenery When Panic Began):
"When they got on deck they found a rope drawn closer to their quarters than usual and this made some of them think that there was danger. One or two of the women began to cry, and a panic began to spread. An officer came forward (and) stood close to the rope and waived (sic) the people back...The officer who was standing at the rope had a pistol in his hand and he ordered everybody to keep back. First one woman screamed and then another, and then one man (I think he was an Italian) dashed toward the boat and the officer fired at him and struck him in the chin, and so he came back to where the rest of us were standing. Then the office said to us to put the women forward and we began picking them out and shoving them beneath the rope."
In this way the loading of Lifeboat No. 13 started. And a legend was born.
The story of the "jaw shot" caught the imagination of the public---and other survivors.
In the book Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters (1912, edited by Logan Marshall), which is a compilation of newspaper stories of the day turned into a narrative, the incident is recounted with a more dramatic flair:
"'Stand back,' shouted the officers who were manning the boat. 'The women come first.' Shouting curses in various foreign languages, the immigrant men continued their pushing and tugging to climb into the boats. Shots rang out. One big fellow fell over the railing into the water. Another dropped to the deck, moaning. His jaw had been shot away. This was the story told by the bystanders afterwards on the pier. One husky Italian told the writer on the pier that the way in which the men were shot down was horrible. His sympathy was with the men who were shot. 'They were only trying to save their lives,' he said." (Sinking of the Titanic, p.52)
A hundred years later, in the book Voices From The Titanic (edited by Geoff Tibbals, 2012, Skyhorse Publishing), which is also a compilation of contemporary 1912 newspaper stories about the Titanic, this reference appears (Page 377):
"One of the steward last evening described there were many instances among the steerage passengers of attempting to rush the boats...he said that he would have been afraid to have jumped into a lifeboat even if he had felt inclined to do so, as he saw 7 men shot for attempting to do so. One had his chin blown off."
Canadian Arthur Peuchen, who had been allowed to climb into Lifeboat No. 6 to help row, repeated the jaw story to a reporter in Toronto. Here's that excerpt:
MAJOR PEUCHEN BLAMES CAPTAIN WHO WENT DOWN WITH HIS SHIP
The Toronto World
Saturday, 20 April 1912
One Man Shot.
"It was stated that the first officer shot himself. As the last boat left, I am told that the people began to jump in on to the women. One of the officers is said to have drawn his revolver and shot a man thru the 'aw [sic]."
Even Second Officer Lightoller couldn't help gossiping about the "jaw shot". The author of the book Titanic: Sinking the Myths, Diana Bristow, got a letter from the son of a good friend of Lightoller's, Captain James McGiffin. He wrote that his father heard the story of the sinking from Lightoller himself.
"After Titanic sank, Lightoller saw McGiffin and naturally told him all about the disaster, including the fact that Murdoch had been forced to shoot a crewman who led a rush on one of the lifeboats, pushing aside women and children. The bullet struck the man's jaw." (Titanic: Sinking the Myths, Diana Bristow)
By then, the story had morphed to identify the shot man as a "crewman", instead of a steerage passenger. The fact of the shooting was never in question.
Back to the story.
It had taken seconds for Murdoch to restore some order. Having seen the loading of Lifeboat No. 13 started, he could check how the first two boats under his supervision were doing.
The lowering of No. 9 was uneventful and the lifeboat had almost reached the sea. Murdoch could look over the rail and nine feet down at No. 11 which was now nearly filled up.
Assistant Second Steward Wheat:
13200. Having had your men up, as you say, two deep round the boats, what was done about the women and children?
- First I told the men off to make sure that the plug in No. 11 was in tight, and then I told five or six men, I cannot tell which, to get into the boat to hand the women and children in. Then the order was passed to pass the women and children along. After the women and children were all passed in we filled her up with as many as the boat would possibly hold, and Mr. Murdoch, looking over the top, said, "You have got enough there."
13208. ... When your boat was lowered, you say Mr. Murdoch gave the order. Was she full?
- Yes, quite full she could not hold another soul.
13240. He gave them from the boat deck?
13241. Over the side?
- Yes, we could hear him shouting over the side; he looked over the side when the boat was full and told us to lower her away.
Murdoch could not imagine the incendiary effect of his order. But that was still to come.
Did Murdoch see what happened next? We'll never know. But we have the eyewitness accounts of passengers in No. 11.
His Body Tumbled Into The Boat
Mrs. Emma Schabert wrote about it to her sister-in-law from the rescue ship Carpathia. Her letter is dated April 18, 1912. She wrote about escaping the Titanic with her brother, who she called by his nickname Boy:
(Excerpt from Schabert letter found at http://www.paullee.com/titanic/eschabert.html)
"Meanwhile the boat was sinking lower. Then someone said there was a boat on the lower deck and we went down to find it nearly crowded. There were just a few women left on deck so I risked it and went in, and after the other other women were put in then there was room for one man, and Boy was allowed to enter. The officers had pistols to shoot any man who entered without permission. Can you realize my joy when we were both in the lifeboat? Then we were lowered in the lifeboat jerk after jerk, and so unevenly, that we expected to be thrown into the water."
Addie Wells, was with Mrs. Schabert in No.11 along with her two children:
Akron Beaon Journal
Saturday 20th April 1912
Stood Up All Night Long in Lifeboat, Nestling Her Babies in Her Skirts to Keep Them Warm and Dry and Alive
(Special Dispatch to the Beacon Journal)
New York, April 20--Mrs. Addie Wells and her two chidlren (sic), Joan, aged four, and Ralph, aged two, survivors of the Titanic horror, were found last night at the Star Hotel, 57 Clarkson street, together with A. H. Wells, husband, and A. Trevaskis, brother of Mrs. Wells, the latter from Akron, O.
It is a thrilling story that Mrs. Wells tells of her night ride to safety. Like so many others she did not realize her peril and had she not been literally forced into a life boat might have shared the fate of 1,600 others. .... "I thought even then it was some sort of a drill or something, except that just as we went down I saw a revolver in an officer's hand. "
Marion Smith, another passenger in No. 11 told her story to a close friend:
Girl Titanic Victim Brands Ismay Coward
Miss Marian Smith Describes Scene of Horror When Liner Sank
Milwaukee Journal April 25, 1912
Miss Smith and her mother were rescued by the Carpathia. As soon as the vessel docked, Mrs. Smith was taken to a hospital suffering from the shock of the tragedy. Miss Smith came to Wauwatosa to visit Mrs. A. Desauer, 470 Wauwatosa Ave.
Sailor Shot Dead
"I didn't ask her much about the wreck," said Mrs. Desauer,"because she was so wrought up over it that I wanted to keep her mind from it as much as possible." But she told me she and her mother were pushed into one of the first boats that left the Titanic. A sailor, who tried to enter, was shot dead by one of the officers, she said. His body tumbled into the boat as it was being launched. The boat was crowded with women and children. They were afraid that if they attempted to throw the body overboard they would upset the boat, so for eight hours they had to stand on the corpse."
Edith Russell inadvertently provided corroboration to Miss Smith's story:
"In searching for extra clothing for one of the stewards we suddenly came upon a passenger in the bottom of the boat which we had not noticed before although he had been lying practically at my feet. By now there was enough light to recognize him as a stoker. The poor fellow was dead. I supposed he may have jumped head first into the boat, knocked himself unconscious and had frozen to death without being noticed." Titanic Commutator, Spring, 1979.
Further corroboration of sorts comes from a brief comment by Wallace Bradford, of San Francisco, who was a passenger on the Carpathia as quoted in 'Sinking of the Titanic and Great Sea Disasters' edited by Logan Marshall:
"Four bodies have been brought aboard. One is that of a fireman, who is said to have been shot by one of the officers because he refused to obey orders."
Who was shot and who shot him, we'll never know. It's locked in the vault of time.
But we know what happened next. Pandemonium!
When Murdoch ordered No. 11 lowered, there had been a slight delay. Mrs. Jane Quick had put her two little children into the boat, but the crewmen were telling her she couldn't go with them and would have to take another boat. She protested loudly and forcefully until they relented and let her join her children.
According to a biography by George Behe published in Vol. 17, No 2, of The Titanic Commutator (1993) "a crew member announced with finality, "That's enough. No more can get in". Upon hearing this several people in the vicinity attempted to force their way but were held back by other men standing nearby."
First Murdoch, and now a sailor in the lifeboat. Both announcing "no more." Abraham Hyman, who was helping load No. 13 on the deck above, saw the effect.
"Then there was a shout that no more could go into that boat... And that was enough to drive them wild and a fight began among them to get to where the boat was being made ready. Some of the men tried to get their wives into the boat and mothers tried to get their children into them, and only the men who had nobody with them fought for themselves, so far as I could make out in the confusion. The forward deck was jammed with the people, all of them pushing and clawing and fighting...and then a line of men gathered along the side and only opened when a woman or a child came through. When a man tried to get through he would be pushed back."
In No. 11, Addie Wells saw the turmoil breaking out:
"As we got away, we saw a lot of wild eyed men come rushing up from steerage, but they were met by a man with a gun who pushed them back into a crowd of men and said, "Stand back there now, the first word out of you and I'll ----' I didn't catch the rest. Some of the men from the first and second class cabins were standing beside the officer."
Albert Caldwell, a second cabin passenger, had a closer view of the same scene from the deck of the Titanic: (The Times Dispatch (Richmond, Va.) April 20, 1912 and other newspapers)
"A second cabin passenger, who was taken to the Chelsea Hotel, said that he saw a man, who was pointed out to him as .Major Butt, standing alongside one of the lifeboats.
"He was in his shirt sleeves. In his right hand ho held a revolver, and as the crowd made toward the boat I heard him shout: 'Stand back, you men. Women and children first. I'll shoot the first man that tries to enter a boat.'
"This held them back. As I was shoved to one side I heard a pistol shot, but whether it was from his revolver I don't know. "
Steerage passengers, who had been kept below while the first and second cabin women were loaded into lifeboats, broke through the barriers and flooded the boat deck. At some point, Murdoch had given an order to load No. 15. We know that No. 15 and No. 13 were loaded concurrently from the accounts given by Irish steerage women who, once they reached the boat deck, could enter either boat.
Shoots Four Men Dead
The loading process was the same at every lifeboat. Some crew members would be sent into the boat to help the women and children who would be passed in by other crew members still on deck. It appears that whoever went into No. 15 first, got a surprise. An Associated Press story that was widely syndicated told of what one of the Irish girls saw:
[by The Associated Press]
New York, April 19—...A thrilling story was told by Ellen Shine, a 20 year old girl from County Cork, Ireland, who came here to visit a brother.
“Those who were able to get out of bed,” said Miss Shine, “rushed to the upper decks, where they were met by the members of the crew, who endeavored to keep them in the steerage quarters. The women, however, rushed by these men, knocking them down, and finally reached the upper decks. When informed that the boat was sinking most of them fell to their knees and began to pray.
Shoots Four Men Dead
“I saw one of the lifeboats and made for it. In it were four men from the steerage. They were ordered out by an officer and refused to leave. Then one of the officers jumped into the boat, and drawing a revolver, shot the four men dead. Their bodies were picked from the bottom of the boat and thrown into the sea.”
No. 15, you will recall, was the boat "full of men" seen by Bertha Watt, the boat the McCoy sisters saw emptied at gunpoint. And obviously the boat where at least four of those men hid until they were discovered.
Who were the stowaways? In 2011, an amazing book was published about the Titanic's Arab passengers---'The Dream and Then the Nightmare' by Leila Salloum Elias. The author did what hadn't been done in almost 100 years; she scoured Arab-language newspapers from 1912 and interviewed family members of survivors, and those that didn't survive, to tell, for the first time, the stories of a segment of Titanic's passengers that had been all but forgotten. And she tells the story openly, and without guile, the good with the bad, including the names of men who were shot on the Titanic as they tried to get into lifeboats to save their lives.
In the book, she tells the story of Latifah al-Haj Qurban al-Ba-qlini, who has come down through history with the Anglicized name Latifah Baclini. Mrs. Baclini told the newspaper Al-Huda that she saw three Syrian men shot and killed by officers while hiding in a boat. That's the key. There's only one shooting account that involves men 'in' a boat---Ellen Shine's.
Another witness, and names. Elias names at least two of the men killed at boat No. 15---Tannus Butros Ka'wi, 21, and Sarkis Lahhud Ishaq, 35. Tannus, the story goes, had been caught in the middle of the tension between Turks and Lebanese. He shot and killed two Turk-supporters who were stealing sheep, but was forced to go into hiding, and eventually flee to America to start a new life. Sarkis was coming to the U.S. to stay with his mother at the request of his father who had taken ill and would stay in his home village.
He was travelling with the Nakid family. (Said Nakid, his wife Mary Nakid and their 13-month-old daughter Mariyam escaped in No. 15.)
"I'll shoot the first man who jumps into a boat."
Identifying who fired shots becomes near impossible at this stage as it seems many crewmen had guns and were willing to use them.
Margaret Mannion told her grandson how the Irish passengers stormed the top deck. Her story, as he remembered it, was carried in the Connacht Tribune, December, 2002.
"Down below, Margaret recalled, the third class passengers began to get very panicky, especially as water started to rise about their feet. At last, one brave Irishman jumped up and said, “Tis do or die” and the rest of the men agreed. They stormed down the corridors followed by the ladies in their light clothes."
"They were stopped by a large barrier at the foot of a stairway, put there to stop steerage passengers mingling on upper decks, but a few strong fellows managed to smash it down. They moved on. At one stage a sailor tried to stop them, but they took care of him and soon reached the top where there were two more sailors standing with guns. They tried to threaten the passengers by firing shots in the air but this did not frighten the men, Margaret recalled. They just threw the sailors out of their way and rushed to the lifeboats followed by the women and children. The second class passengers were just about to board the boats. The sailors had no other choice but to let the third class women and children into the boats."
Irish passenger Bertha Mulvihill: (Providence Journal, April 20, 1912)
"Some of the Italian men from way down in the steerage were screaming and fighting to get into the lifeboats. Captain Smith stood at the head of the passageway. He had a gun in his hand."
"Boys," he said. "You've got to do your duty here. It's the women and children first, and I'll shoot the first man who jumps into a boat."
Eugene Daly (interviewed by Dr. Frank Blackmarr aboard the Carpathia)
"Finally some of the women and children were let up, but, as you know, we had quite a number of hot-headed Italians and other peoples who got crazy and made for the stairs. These men tried to rush the stairway, pushing and crowding and pulling women down, some of them with weapons in their hands."
Alice and Agnes McCoy, their brother, and their cousin had reached the lifeboats. The girls were about to get into No. 15.
"The girls put off in the last boat that left the ship, but not before three shots rang out from the officer's in command, and as many Italians dropped in their rush to precede them." (Three Shot By Officers As The Last Boat Put Off, Toronto Telegram, April 19, 1912)
Steerage passenger Elizabeth Dowdell was right in the middle of the melee. She was escorting a five-year-old girl, Virginia Ethel Emmanuel, to her grandparents home in New York, NY. Her account was in the Hudson Dispatch, April 20, 1912.
"When we tried to get to the deck the stairways were so crowded that we could not get to the deck above. Men and women were climbing over each other here, and it was impossible for them to move. They appeared to me to be steerage passengers, and their cries and curses were terrible to hear."
"Finally some of the men passengers realized that it would be impossible to get up by the stairways, and they hoisted the women and children to seamen on the gallery above. They clasped their hands together, to enable the women to step upon them and reach out to those who would grasp them."
""When we arrived on deck nearly al lof [sic] the boats were off. They were just filling No. 13... My charge and I were carried bodily into Boat No. 13."
"Several men tried to rush in on us before we were lowered. I saw an officer shoot three of them. The others stopped immediately."
They Shot Him and Pushed His Body Into the Ocean.
Berta Nilsson was right there. She survived the Titanic, stayed in America, got married, raised a family and kept her secret of what happened that night for more than sixty years right up to the day she died.
Twenty-four years after her death, Nilsson's daughter went to Sweden to reconnect with her distant relatives. What she learned about her mother and her dark secret left her stunned.
Berta had written letters home after the disaster. In them she told her story, the story she kept from her children and grandchildren. Her daughter, Dorothy Christensen Cherry, of Salt Lake City, Utah, shared what she discovered with the local newspaper:
"Nilsson was asleep in her third-class cabin on the night of April 14 when she was shaken awake by her fiancé, who told her to get dressed and don her life preserver. Although the ship's officers barricaded the third-class passengers from reaching the lifeboats, Edvard somehow broke through and ushered Berta to the rail."
"She boarded (the lifeboat) - with Edvard at her side. But the ship's officers, who gave preference to women and children, ordered him out of the boat. When Edvard refused to leave his fiancé's side, they shot him and pushed his body into the ocean."
Berta's fiance was Edvard Larsson-Ronsberg from Ransbyster, who had gone to Sweden to bring her back with him to Missoula, Montana.
The shooting was evidently witnessed by a steward, C.W. Fitzpatrick:
Journal of Commerce
Mr.Fitzpatrick, one of the stewards, stated in an interview that on Sunday, April 14, as he was serving the lunch of the engineers' mess, the chief steward, who had been an old
seafaring man, said that he knew ice was in the vicinity by the smell of the air.
"We retired to our cabin, which was situated on deck above the engine room, and were settling down to sleep when we were aroused by a sudden lurch of the vessel. After a few minutes the
engines were stopped. I inquired the reason for the sudden stoppage of the engines. After being informed that the ship had struck an iceberg and that she was not seriously injured, I settled myself to sleep again. I was awakened by a fireman. I went on deck and the ship was listing to port.
Fitzpatrick told how he saw a "foreigner" shot dead at one of the lifeboats, and again on the opposite side of the ship.
"A passenger tried to claim a seat in one of the boats. The officer told him to leave at once and as he hesitated a revolver shot was fired and he dropped dead in the water."
There was another witness to the shooting of Berta Nilsson's fiance.
Said Nakid told his story to the Waterbury Republican (April 25, 1912, recounted in The Dream and Then the Nightmare, Elias, 2011):
He said he placed his wife and daughter into the lifeboat but sailors pushed him away and ordered him to stay back.
"At this point that Sa'id saw another boat about to be lowered. The lifeboat was almost filled with only women when Sa'id saw a man attempt to board," wrote Elias.
"The sailors held him back but he managed to break thru them and jumped into the boat. When he stood up, a sailor pulled a revolver and shot him. The man's body tumbled over the side of the boat and that was the last I saw of him."
And still the carnage wasn't over.
L'homme qui d'une main tient un revolver, tire sure lui et l'abat
Paul Mauge, the only survivor from the Titanic's restaurant staff, was the secretary to Mr. Rousseau, the head chef. His account was published in Le Devoir, April 22, 1912, under the headline "La narration de Paul Mauge, un rescape". (The translation is mine.)
Mr. Mauge told how he met up with Chef Rousseau and they went up to the "third class bridge" (The C Deck promenade, I believe he means).
"At this site the terror was undescribable. We tried in vain to calm those surrounding us, then we went looking for a way to the second class bridge. (On the Boat Deck)
"A steward stopped us. However, he let us pass after recognizing us."
Mauge spotted a lifeboat, "half-empty", and in the davits suspended 15 feet below the boat deck.
"I convinced my companion to jump into the lifeboat, but the distance scared him. To encourage him I jumped in and called him to do it too. Voices told me to shut up while one of the men already in the lifeboat tried to throw me in the water. I clung to the gunwale, I was saved. At the very moment as I recovered my balance, a mother on the bridge of the Titanic threw me her baby. Two men threw her in, in turn."
"Suddenly, bangs could be heard. A passenger suddenly driven mad was shooting a gun in all directions. Our lifeboat was afloat, to starboard a man fell into the sea trying to snatch the gunwhale, a sailor armed with a knife tried to make him let go, the man who had a gun his one hand, fired at him and killed him. He hauled himself into the lifeboat and took his place.
Mauge's description of another lifeboat that almost swamped his leaves no doubt he was saved in Lifeboat No. 13.
The poor dead sailor can't be identified. But who fired the shot that killed him?
It was a male passenger who was saved in No. 13. But the meager options (Dodge, Oxenham, Beesley, Caldwell, Hyman, Johanessen, de Messemacher, Sap) offer no good, viable suspects. Not, that is, until you get to the last three---the professional gamblers---Harry Homer aka E. Haven, 40; George Brereton aka George Brayton, 37; and Charles Romaine aka Mr C. Rolmane aka C.H. Romacue, 45.
A professional cardsharp with a gun? For protection, of course. No surprise, there.
Ruthless? Risk-taker? Not out of the question.
But which of the three? Romaine, at 45, seems a bit old for such daring-do. But the youngest,
Brereton/Brayton was the most brash. Unafraid of the press, even as male survivors were being ostracized, he gave numerous interviews. Like Woody Allen's Zelig, he's everywhere.
Brayton saw the iceberg before it hit the Titanic. He saw J.J. Astor say farewell to his wife. He saw producer Henry Harris part from his wife. He saw Captain Smith get swept off the Titanic by a wave. He saw a steward shoot a foreigner who tried to get into a lifeboat before a group of women.
Perhaps, most importantly, Brereton told one reporter he leapt into the ocean and swam to a lifeboat.
And, there's support for that story. An interview with Molly Brown was published in the Denver Post, April 19, 1912, in which she said she had been on deck taking a walk with Harry Haven and George Brayton when the Titanic hit the iceberg. She was knocked off her feet.
“In the twinkle of an eye Mr. Haven was gone and Mr. Brayton and I lay stunned on deck. For the next few minutes I don’t know what I did. I have a recollection of running to my room in the awful darkness, grasping what jewels I had and hurrying out on the deck."
Mr. Brayton, she said, had also abandoned her. The next she knew of him, he had jumped overboard with a life preserver. He floated in the ocean for four hours, she said, no doubt repeating the story he told her on the Carpathia.
There's no concrete evidence he shot the sailor in No. 13 and took his place, but George Brereton would sure be a "person of interest" in any murder investigation into the sailor's death.