The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch
Titanic Deck Plans
Titanic's deck plans referenced in this article come from Titanic: The Ship Magnificent (2008) The History Press, by Bruce Beveridge and made available on the Encyclopedia Titanica website. These deck plans are the most accurate at present and can be viewed in great detail on the website.
Titanic's Officers' Quarters highlighted on the deck plans (Click to enlarge)
Murdoch's Cabin Aboard Titanic
Much has been made of Titanic's luxurious interiors and living quarters. However little is ever said about the officer's living quarters, which must have surely been an improvement over many other ships of her day. The Officer's quarters were located on the boat deck level directly behind the wheelhouse. The Captain had the largest cabin, as well as a sitting room. And famously his own bath with hot and cold water and seawater.
The officers all shared a smoking room, pantry and sanitary facilities. According to Titanic The Ship Magnificent Vol 2 (2008):
"The Officer's Lavatory, located abaft the No.1 Funnel casing, was fitted with a white enameled roll-edge bath, a Doulton lavatory basin in marble surround with plated taps, a pedestgal water closet and a single-stall urinal."
First officer William Murdoch's cabin, as seen in the accompanying deck plans found on Encyclopedia Titanica, was located on the portside of the officers' quarters, in-between the Chief officer's and Second officer's cabins and accessed via the portside hallway.
The window of Murdoch's cabin looked out on to the portside boat deck and "officer's promenade". He would have had a clear view of lifeboat no.2 hanging outside of collapsible D on the boat deck, which may well have obscured much of his view.
A drawing by Cyril Codus showing the two types of windows in the Officers' Quarters. (Click image to enlarge)
A work-in-progress CG render by Dominik Tezyk of the Officer's Quarters with Murdoch's cabin windows highlighted. (Click image to enlarge)
A work-in-progress CG render by Dominik Tezyk of the Officer's Quarters with Chief Officer Wilde's cabin windows in detail. (Click image to enlarge)
As for the interior of the first officer's cabin, note the following description:
"The Chief Officer's cabin was located in the forward port corner of the deck house and was accessed off a 3ft wide corridor that mirrored the one on the starboard side of the deckhouse. This cabin had a mahogany dado with white enameled walls above, and was provided with a better class of furniture that the officers below him in rank. It was also fitted with a 6 inch diameter clock on the Magneta circuit. The Chief Officer's cabin was considered a 'double cabin' as it was second in size only to the Captain's at 15ft x 9ft 6 in x 7ft 8 1/2 inches in height.
The remaining officers' cabins had mahogany appointments and were provided with mahogany bedstead with drawers below, wardrobes, fold-up washbasin cabinets and other fittings compareable to those found in the basic First Class passengers staterooms. The Junior Officers' rooms were provided with bureau chests containing a full-front secretaire drawer, while the Senior Officers were given pedestal desks with drawers. Each cabin was provided with a bunker settee with drawers below, located against the outboard bulkhead. Each officer's cabin was also provided with the customary electric heater. The bulkhead paneling was enameled in white." (Titanic The Ship Magnificent Vol 2)
Above: Murdoch's first officer cabin as portrayed in Titanic's deck plans
Sadly there are no known photographs of the interiors of the officers cabins from either Olympic or Titanic. What we do have are some illustrations and computer models which with varying degrees of accuracy can give us an idea of how they may have looked. For example Yannick Allen-Larochelle has created a 3D model of Titanic which can be viewed via an interactive website: http://titanic3d.ca/. Based on "several years of research on the ship... to make it all the more faithful to reality" it includes a recreation of the interiors of the Chart Room (or "Nav Room") and of the 4th Officer's cabin -(although where the 4th officers cabin as seen on this model is located on Titanic is actually a first class stateroom).
Above: A 3D rendering by Yannick Allen-Larochelle of what the interior of the officer's cabins may have looked like. (http://titanic3d.ca/)
Murdoch and his cabin
It is interesting to note the difference in size -although not great- between the Chief Officer's cabin and the First officer's cabin. We can understand Murdoch's frustration of only temporarily being Titanic's Chief officer, until Wilde arrived and on sailing day he would have had to return to the slightly smaller and possibly less furnished first officer's cabin in which he had been travelling while aboard Olympic. Interestingly, when Murdoch wrote his letter to his sister Peg on April 8th 1912, two days before sailing on the 10th, he was most likely still in the Chief Officer's cabin. So we can imagine him sitting at the writing desk, as Ada is taken on a tour of the new ship by an unnamed officer. When she returns just as he is finishing the letter Will writes " Aid has just come into the room & sends fondest love to to all " He uses the term "room" rather than cabin, which may indicate he was in what was soon to be Wilde's cabin -for the chief officer.
The first officer's cabin is also the location of an infamous meeting during the evacuation of the sinking ship, when Lightoller went into First Officer Murdoch's cabin to retrieve the guns is described later in his book:
"The Chief Officer came over from the starboard side and asked, did I know where the firearms were?
As I pointed out before, it was the First Officer’s responsibility to receive firearms, navigation instruments, and so forth. I have also said firearms on merchant ships are looked on as ornamental more than useful, and as First Officer I had simply hove the lot into a locker, in my original cabin, a locker that was of little use owing to its inaccessibility.
Then, later on, had come the “general post,” whereby Murdoch who was now First Officer, knew nothing about the firearms, and couldn’t find them when they were wanted—I say wanted, rather than needed, because I still don’t believe they were actually needed.
I told the Chief Officer, “Yes, I know where they are. Come along and I’ll get them for you,” and into the First Officer’s cabin we went—the Chief, Murdoch, the Captain and myself—where I hauled them out, still in all their pristine newness and grease.
I was going out when the Chief shoved one of the revolvers into my hands, with a handful of ammunition, and said, “Here you are, you may need it.” On the impulse, I just slipped it into my pocket, along with the cartridges, and returned to the boats. The whole incident had not taken more than three minutes, though it seemed barely worth that precious time.
There is no indication on the deck plans as to where the "locker that was of little use owing to its inaccessibility" although the fact he uses the verb "haul" may indicate it was under something, possibly under the bed.
A bird's eye view of the Titanic's bow on the sea floor, with Murdoch's cabin highlighted. (Click image to enlarge)
What remains of Murdoch's Cabin
According to photographs and reports from the wreck, there is next to nothing left of the cabin. One can see why that is the case when viewing Jason King's fantastic 1:100 scale Titanic wreck model completed in May 2014 that depicts how Titanic possibly looked once she had sank and rested on the sea floor. On it we can see how the forward mast has collapsed onto the portside of the officer's quarters, splitting the wall away, so that little remains of the cabins in that area.
Above: Jason King's 1:100 scale Titanic wreck model depicts how Titanic possibly looked when she first arrived on the sea floor and reveals what may have happened to Murdoch's cabin.
Many of the windows in the officer's quarter deckhouse on the wreck are not only open (likely due to the release of pressure upon hitting the sea floor) but surprisingly still has the glass intact. In 2000 Premier Exhibitions, Inc. (formerly R.M.S. Titanic, Inc.) recovered a window from the officers' quarters, although apparently from the debris field and not from the deckhouse itself. It is presently unclear from which cabin this window was originally from.
When visual historian and artist Ken Marschall visited the wreck in 2001 as part of James Cameron's mission he wrote the following:
I could see easily into Captain Smith's bathroom as the peeled outer wall is all down now, lying in crumbs on the deck. Smith's bathtub is mostly buried in debris and silt, only the very forward end is visible now. The many faucet knobs — hot salt, hot fresh, etc. — are still in position. His marble sink juts out from the forward wall, intact but filled to the brim with silt. Its plated towel bar just below it, on the outboard side, looks perfectly preserved.
The portside "peel" in the wall of the Officers' Quarters has largely collapsed although it hasn't peeled nearly so far aft as on the starboard side. Just forward of the port winch, large holes have opened up in the wall between the aftmost stateroom windows, almost window-sized themselves. One of these holes marks the spot where a deck light was once fitted.
(James Cameron's Titanic Expedition 2001: What We Saw On and Inside the Wreck by Ken Marschall)
Above: Port side windows near the expansion joint -open and glass intact.
Explorer and author Parks Stephenson visited the wreck in 2005 and wrote the following:
Officers' Quarters Deckhouse – The vertical walls of the Officers' Quarters deckhouse continue to detach themselves from the structure, starting from the forward end where much of the bridge was torn apart during the sinking by hydrodynamic forces and the falling mast. On the starboard side, the outboard wall of the deckhouse has separated past Fourth Officer Boxhall's cabin and is now lying on the deck. Additional corrosion was noticed in the wall aft of the Officers' Entrance.
The forward starboard corner of the First-class Entrance that once housed the Marconigram pneumatic conveyor tubes is now completely gone, leaving the brass tubing bare. On the port side, the bronze window frame from First Officer Murdoch's cabin has fallen out of the peeled-back section of wall and is now lying on the deck. The wall aft of Murdoch's cabin appears to be sound. Severe distortion can be seen in the vertical walls of the deckhouse on both sides, just forward of the opened expansion joint (this is not a new development, but is significant as an indicator of the forces acting on the superstructure around the expansion joint during the sinking and impact with the ocean floor). The wall outside Stateroom Z has almost entirely wasted away, leaving at least one window frame in imminent danger of collapsing due to its own weight. Of particular interest are a few severed cables attached to the outboard edges of the deckhouse above Captain Smith's and Second Officer Lightoller's cabins, which would have been the tie-downs for the collapsible lifeboats on the roof of those cabins.
Note: Thanks to Petra Feyahn for her assistance with the research of this article.