The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch
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Webley "Pistol"

Webley .455 calibre “pistol” No. 1 Mark VI

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

Actors dramatise a scene of an officer shooting steerage passengers, standing over the body of a man he has shot. (Denver Post File -source)

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.

Quick access menu:

Named Suicide Accounts (34)
Unnamed Suicide Accounts (11)
Other Shooting Accounts (64)
Other Unnamed Shooting Accounts (4)

Each witness account will be analysed and based on present available information divided into the following catagories:




Please note: This page and many connected pages are still under construction. The author also gratefully acknowledges the following in compiling the shooting/suicide witnesses list:

Bill Wormstedt
George Behe
George Jacub
Ioannis Geogiou
Senan Molony


Named Suicide Accounts (34)

Accounts of a suicide by witnesses who can be identified by name
Click on their image or name to find out more about each account:

Name

Status

Who

Account

Birkhead,
May

Carpathia passenger

Captain Smith

"Shot himself with a pistol"

Chevré,
Paul Romaine

First Class passenger

Captain Smith

"Shot himself. I saw him fall..."

Collins,
John

Assistant
Cook

Senior Mate

"Shot the two men…turned the revolver on himself."

Collyer,
Charlotte

Second Class passenger

Murdoch

"They say he shot himself."

Daly,
Eugene

Third Class passenger

Officer

"Lying on the deck...told me he shot himself."

Daly,
Peter Denis

First Class passenger

Officer

"‘Several shots’...an officer had killed himself."

Daniel, Robert

First Class passenger

Murdoch

"Shot himself in the temple..."

Davis,
Mary

Second Class passenger

Murdoch

"Seeing... Murdoch commit suicide by shooting."

Dillon,
Thomas

Trimmer

Murdoch

"First Officer, Mr Murdoch, shot himself."

Dittmar-
Pittmann, Max

'Third officer'

Murdoch

"Realising the severity... shoots himself."

Dodge,
Dr. Washington

First Class

Officer

"Two men shot...turned the revolver on himself."

Dorking,
Edward Arthur

Third Class passenger

Officer

"Saw an officer... shoot himself."

Francatelli,
Miss Laura

First Class passenger

Officer

"Dear brave officer...gave orders...and shot himself."

Harris,
Frederick

Fireman

Murdoch

"The first officer, Mr. Murdoch, shot himself."

Hichens,
Robert

Quarter-
master

Officer

"An officer shot himself."

Jansson,
Carl

Third Class passenger

Chief Officer

"Place a revolver in his mouth and shoot."

Kemp,
Dr. J. F.

Carpathia physician

Captain Smith

"Smith put a pistol to his head and then fall down."

McGough,
George

Able-bodied
seaman

Murdoch

"Murdoch -God help me; don’t ask me what I saw."

McGough,
James R.

First Class passenger

Officer

"One of the officers shot himself on the bridge."

Moody,
J.R

Crew - Quartermaster

Murdoch

"I saw him raise his arm and shoot himself."

Olsson,
Oscar Wilhelm

Third Class passenger

Murdoch

"Many people thought he had shot himself."

Peuchen, Major Arthur Godfrey

First Class passenger

Murdoch

"First officer shot himself... shot a man thru."

Rheims,
George

First Class passenger

Officer

"Military salute... fired a bullet into his head."

Sjoblom,
Anna Sofia

Third Class passenger

Officer

"Saw an officer shoot himself through the temple."

Smith,
Albert

Steward

Murdoch

"Pistol to his right temple and fired. I saw him..."

Sunderland,
Victor

Third Class

Officer

"A gentlemen told me that an officer had shot himself."

Svensson,
Johan

Third Class

Officer

"He put his gun right in his mouth and shot."

Toppin,
Frederick

White Star Line employee

Officers

"Two officers had shot themselves."

Whiteley,
Thomas

Steward

Murdoch

"Chief officer shot one man... and then he shot himself."

Widener,
Mrs George D.

First Class passenger

Officer

"I saw one of the officers shoot himself in the head."

Wilhelms,
Charles

Second Class passenger

Murdoch

"Seen Murdoch, one of the officers, shoot himself."

Williams,
Charles

Second Class passenger

Murdoch

"Murdoch... had blown his brains out with a revolver."

Williams,
Jack

Crew - Able Seaman

Murdoch

"Pistol to his head...shot that ended his life rang out."

Williams,
Richard Norris

First Class passenger

Captain Smith

"Heard the crack of a revolver shot..."



Unnamed Suicide Accounts (11)

Accounts of a suicide by witnesses who are anonymous or unable to be identified

Source

Status

Who

Account

Sinking of the Titanic

Two anonymous

First Officer

"The first officer…shot himself"

News of the World

One anonymous

Wilde

"Shot himself…dropped where he stood"

Coventry Herald

Steward

Murdoch

'Confirmed Mr Murdoch shot himself.'

Pat Toms

Dorset
Grandmother

Officer

'Officer shooting himself told by my Grandmother'

The Liverpool Echo

First-class saloon steward

Murdoch

"I fear it is true that he did shoot himself."

The Western Morning News

Anonymous crewman leaving Lapland

Chief/First officer

""Fired at them...Then the officer shot himself.".”"

The Yakima Herald

7 passengers

Murdoch

"Say that First Officer Murdock shot himself."

Western Daily Mercury

Plymouth anonymous

Murdoch

"Pulled out his revolver and blew out his brains."

New York Times

Anonymous

Smith/First engineer

"Reported to have shot themselves."

New York Times

Anonymous

Officer

"Shot two men... shooting himself."

Daily Mirror

Carpathia passenger

Captain Smith

"committed suicide on the bridge."



Other Shooting Accounts (64)

Accounts involving the use of gun(s) or shooting(s)

Name

Status

Who

Account

Aasaf, Mrs. Mariana

Third Class

Captain Smith

"Shot down several of them"

Aubart, Mme. Léontine Pauline

First Class

Officer

"An officer pointed a gun at him"

Badman,
Miss Emily

Third Class

Officers

"Shoot some men who tried to get in lifeboats"

Beane,
Edward

Second Class

Crew

"I saw a man shot down for trying to break through"

Beane, Ethel

Second Class

Crew

"Holding men back ...at gunpoint...one man shot"

Bentham,
Lillian

Second Class

Crew member

"Fire his pistol ...dozen were shot, maybe more"

Bonnell,
Mrs. W.F.

First Class

Officers

"There was some shooting."

Brereton,
George

First Class

Steward

"Third-class passenger... shot and killed by a steward"

Bride, Harold

Crew

Himself

"Stoker... I shot him down..."

Brown, Caroline Lane

First Class

Officer

"Revolver and threatened to shoot...into the air."

Buss,
Kate

Second Class

Officer

"Order to lower...if I didn't...he might shoot me"

Carter,
William T

First Class

Officer

"Some shooting... his jaw was shot away"

Cavontina, Iian

Third class

Officer

"Replied by shooting the German and three other men"

Collett, Sidney

Second class

Officer

"Drawn revolver, said to me, ‘where are you going?’"

Cribb, Laura

Third Class

Officer

"Officer...revolver in his hand... he shot three."

Dick,
Mrs. A. A.

First Class

2nd/3rd Officer

"Three men shot in the steerage."

Dowdell, Elizabeth

Third Class

Officer

"I saw an officer shoot three of them."

Duff-Gorden,
Lady

First Class

Officer

"We heard several pistol shots"

Fitzpatrick,
Cecil William

Mess Steward

Officer

"Revolver shot...dropped dead in the water"

Fortune, Mary

First Class

Officers

"Revolvers....to fire directly at the men"

Gracie, Colonel Archibald

First Class

Lightoller

"He fired off a pistol to make them get out"

Goldsmith,
Emily

Third Class

Officer

"Officer firing three warning shots in the air"

Goldsmith Jr., Frank

Third Class

Officer

"Firing warning shots into the air four feet away."

Harris, Irene

First Class

Major Butt

"Gun in his hand and covered the men."

Hannah, Borak

Third Class

Officer(s)

"Shot at by officers...a coat with six bullet holes."

Harder, George

First Class

Unknown

"Three Italians were killed, but by whom he does not know"

Hesse, H.

Electrician

Officer(s)

"Saw one shot first class passenger...heard shots."

Hosono,
Masabumi

Second Class

Sailors

"If I became the target of a pistol shot... be the same."

Hoyt, Jane

First Class

Wilde

"Collap D... Wilde used gun ordered out."

Hurst, Walter

Crew - Fireman

Wilde

"Fired 2 revolver shots shouting... get back"

Hyman
Abraham

Third Class

Officer

"Pistol in his hand...the officer fired at him."

Jermyn, Annie

Third Class

Officer

"Officer drew this revolver and shot him in the head."

Krekorian,
Nishan

Third Class

Officer

"Two men try to get into a boat..officer shot them."

Lengyel,
Dr. Arpad

Carpathia Surgeon

Captain Smith

"shoot down two men who tried to climb into a lifeboat."

Littlejohn
Alexander James

Crew - Saloon steward

Wilde

"Wilde shot Italian waiter."

Lightoller,
Charles

Crew -
Second Officer

Lightoller

"Vigorously flourishing my revolver."

Louch, Alice

Second class

Sailor

"Drew a revolver and pressing it to the man's head shot him."

Lowe, Harold

Crew -
Fifth Officer

Lowe

"I heard them and I fired them."

Mccoy, Agnes and Alice

Third class

Officer

"Pointing his revolver... told them ...he would shoot"

McGiffin, Captain James

Marine Superintendent

Murdoch

"Shoot a crewman... struck the man's jaw"

Mauge, Paul

Kitchen Clerk

Passenger

"Shooting a gun in all directions"

Mellors, William

Second Class Passenger

Officers

"Threaten male passengers with revolvers"

Midtsjo, Karl Albert

Third Class Passenger

Officers

"Shot when they tried to push their way..."

Murphy, Margaret

Third Class Passenger

Sailors

"Shot him and his body tumbled into the water"

Nackid, Mary

Third Class

Unknown

"Saw two men from Lebanon shot."

Nakid, Sahid

Third Class

Sailor

"A sailor pulled a revolver and shot him."

Nilsson, Berta Olivia

Third class

Unknown

"They shot him and pushed his body into the ocean"

Nicols, Walter

Crew - Steward

Unknown

"Saw two flashes and heard two revolver reports"

Renouf, Lillian

Second class

Officers

"Officers raised their guns and shot these men down"

Rugg, Emily

Second class

Officers

"Two men who were trying to crowd out women were shot. "

Sap, Jules

Third Class passenger

Officers

"Threatened with death... by officers with revolvers"

Senior, Harry

Crew - Fireman

First Officer

"Produce revolver fire shots over heads"

Shawneene, George Joseph

Third Class passenger

Officers

"Officers fired shots in the air to frighten men"

Snyder, John Pilsbury

First class

Crew

"Three...passengers were shot...and thrown overboard"

Stanley, Amy

Third Class passenger

Crew member

"Fired a pistol to prevent a rush"

Stengel,
Charles

First Class passenger

Officers

"The officer said: 'I will...get my gun.'.. five shots."

Taussig, Tillie

First Class

Unknown

"I heard a shot and I am sure it was he that went down."

Thayer, Jr,
John B.

First Class
passenger

Purser McElroy

"Fired two warning shots into the air"

Thompson,
Harry

Able seaman,
crew

Murdoch

"Three men... were shot dead"

Toomey, Ellen

Second class servant

officer

" stood by with drawn revolver...threatened to shoot"

Watt, Elizabeth

Second class

Master at arms

"The master at arms was standing with a gun."

Wennerstrom, August

Third Class passenger

Someone

"Fired a pistol at all who tried to climb aboard."

White, Alfred

Crew

Unknown

"We heard some fifteen or twenty shots from the rail of the ship"

Woolner,
Hugh

First Class
passenger

Someone

"Collapsible C... pistol flashes."



Other Unnamed Shooting Accounts (4)

Accounts involving the use of gun(s) or shooting(s) by unidentified persons

Source

Status

Who

Account

The New York Times

German woman

Unknown

"She said he was shot, insisting on it"

"Voices from the Titanic"

Seaman

Chief Officer

"Shoot at two Italians ...the officer shot one of them."

Daily Sketch

Unknown

Murdock

"I saw Mr. Murdock shoot down an Italian."

Manchester Guardian

Seaman

Chief Officer

"Saw the chief officer shoot an Italian passenger."





In this line sketch of an early rumour, Major Archibald Butt, President Taft’s military aide, points a revolver at third-class passengers.
(Denver Post File -source)

Notes

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.

French paper L'Excelsior, 20 April 1912, drawing
by Paul Thiriat, depicts Captain Smith's
alleged suicide. (8.)

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").