The guns issued to senior officers were MkIV, .455 calibre, short-barreled and nickel-plated revolvers. Hatched plaques of composite material are applied to either side of the butt which has a rounded end and a lanyard ring fitted. The frame is solid with the barrel. The cylinder is chambered for six rounds. Double action. The barrel is rifled and fitted with a blade foresight. The calibre is 0.455in.
Date made: c.1899
Artist/Maker: Webley & Scott Revolver & Small Arms Co.
Place made: Birmingham, West Midlands, England
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: 160 x 280 x 30 mm
For more information on the guns issed and their use aboard Titanic refer to this article here.
Shooting and Suicide Witnesses - An Overview
There are - maybe surprisingly - quite a number of witnesses who mention a suicide or shooting and/or use of a gun on that fateful night. This page attempts to list them all and is being regularly updated as more evidence comes to light. The names are listed in alphabetical order, with unknown names listed at the end. Click on each name to discover more information about the person and an analysis of the accuracy or reliability of their account.
" stood by with drawn revolver...threatened to shoot"
Master at arms
"The master at arms was standing with a gun."
Third Class passenger
"Fired a pistol at all who tried to climb aboard."
"We heard some fifteen or twenty shots from the rail of the ship"
First Class passenger
"Collapsible C... pistol flashes."
Other Unnamed Shooting Accounts (4)
Accounts involving the use of gun(s) or shooting(s) by unidentified persons
The New York Times
"She said he was shot, insisting on it"
"Voices from the Titanic"
"Shoot at two Italians ...the officer shot one of them."
"I saw Mr. Murdock shoot down an Italian."
"Saw the chief officer shoot an Italian passenger."
In a chapter entitled “Shots in the Dark,” Walter Lord writes in his book The Night Lives On:
“Through the years there have also been stories of actual shootings, but serious students have largely written them off as the concoctions of a sensationalist press that stopped at nothing for dramatic effect. I have always gone along with this reasoning.”(21.)
His attitude changed upon the discovery of Eugene Daly’s and George Rheim’s letters. After relating their evidence he wrote:
“These strikingly similar accounts come from completely independent sources. There’s no reason to suppose that Eugene Daly and George Rheims were ever in touch. Both were writing a private letter to an intimate member of the family, not an account for the press. Both were writing immediately after the event, not years later when fantasy might have taken over. They had absolutely no reason to fabricate, but every reason to be telling the truth as far as they saw it… The whole incident can’t be verified, yet can’t be dismissed. It was not just one more lurid tale appearing in the yellow press; it was witnessed and independently described by two separate firsthand sources. It must be taken seriously, but beyond that, it remains a mystery.” (Walter Lord, The Night Lives On(21.))
The above accounts have various shades of reliability, but the author puts forward the proposition for the sake of simplicity that the strongest evidence is from Rheims, Daly and Svensson, whose accurate testimony holds up to scrutiny, both being on the boat deck at the right time and writing independent yet complimentary accounts in the form of personal letters and reports soon after the event. Daly may have the ‘edge’ in that he also testified at the 1915 Limitation of Liability hearings. We can most certainly eliminate "Dittmar-Pittman" as well as possibly the accounts of Chevré, Francatelli and McGough. The remaining 27 accounts have shades of possibility. Hichens and Mr. Toppin, in light of their positions, provide surprising support.
Many of the accounts could well be unsubstantiated rumour (i.e. “second-hand”) but should not be simply discounted as such. While the term ‘rumour’ has negative connotations, in the context of the first-hand testimony that specifically mentions suicide, there is no reason to out-rightly discard it as malicious gossip. It confirms that a fairly large number of people from a variety of backgrounds were relating experiences that included seeing a shooting/suicide.
However, it must be maintained that even with this substantial number of accounts, there is still not enough evidence to put forward the alleged suicide as fact. What may have started as a rumour from a bitter survivor could have been transformed and cross-pollinated into fact in the minds of the eyewitnesses whose innocent observations –in their minds- fit into the equation. In the aftermath of the disaster and due to the lack of rapid communication, full details not exposed until many days after the event, much rumour and speculation existed, with completely false stories perpetrated as fact.
While the volume of evidence resulting from an event that took place in Titanic’s last moments is not expected to be great, with most observers being among the 1500 who perished in the sea, there is still not sufficient detail and reliability to confirm the incident. However, there is enough evidence to confirm one vital point: First Officer Murdoch’s suicide or that of the other officers cannot be completely ruled out. There is a possibility that an alleged suicide did take place. By also reviewing the research put forward in defence of the allegations a more comprehensive understanding of the situation can be achieved (refer to "Alternative Accounts").