On this day in history….29th April 1956

On this day in history : 29th April 1956 – The death of Harold Bride, Junior Wireless Officer during the ill-fated maiden voyage of RMS Titanic – but who managed to survive….

Harold Bride, April 1912 – Public domain

Harold Sydney Bride was born in Nunhead, London on the 11th of January 1890, the youngest of five children…. On deciding he wanted to be a wireless operator he trained with Marconi, completing his training in July 1911…. His first sea assignment was onboard the American transatlantic liner SS Haverford…. He had further postings on the Beaverford, LaFrance, the Lusitania and the Anslem, before in 1912 joining the crew of RMS Titanic as Junior Wireless Officer, assisting Jack Phillips….

The Titanic left Southampton bound for New York on the 10th of April….The wireless room was situated on the Boat Deck and amongst the operators’ duties was to send personal messages on behalf of the passengers…. Another crucial duty was to receive iceberg warnings from other ships….

RMS Titanic departing Southampton, 10th April 1912 – Public domain

On the evening of the 14th of April Bride was grabbing a few hours sleep before he was due to take over from Phillips at midnight…. The pair were trying to clear a backlog of messages to be sent for passengers – as the radio had not been working properly earlier….

The Titanic struck an iceberg at 11.40pm…. Bride woke and rushed to find out what had happened…. Phillips told him they had struck something and Bride hurried to finish his preparations to go on duty…. Shortly afterwards Captain Smith appeared and asked the two wireless operators to be on standby to send out a distress signal…. Just after midnight he reappeared, giving them the ship’s position and ordering them to request help….

Phillips sent out the distress call and Bride acted as messenger to keep the Captain informed as to which ships may come to the now sinking Titanic’s aid…. The closest ship was RMS Carpathia – unfortunately it did not arrive until after the Titanic had gone down….

Phillips and Bride remained at their post sending out SOS signals…. By now Bride was wearing a life jacket, Phillips was still to put his on…. The Captain came in to tell them that their duty was done and that they were relieved…. Bride went to fetch some personal belongings – whilst Phillips continued to work…. When Bride returned he discovered another crew member attempting to steal Phillips’ life jacket – he managed to grab hold of the man and Phillips rose and knocked the crew member out…. By now water was flooding into the wireless room….

Bride began to help launch one of the two remaining lifeboats – only it was to be washed off the deck inside down….with Bride beneath it…. Somehow he managed to swim out and climb on to the upturned boat…. He and 15 other men managed to cling on until they were taken into other lifeboats and eventually RMS Carpathia…

Although badly injured Bride was able to help Harold Cottom, Carpathia’s wireless operator, send out scores of messages from other Titanic survivors…. Bride had badly sprained one of his feet, the other was severely frost bitten – he had to be carried from the Carpathia – but was greeted by Guglielmo Marconi himself…. He received $1,000 from the New York Times for his exclusive story – and later gave evidence at the inquest….

Bride being carried up ramp of ship – Public domain

Bride went on to marry Lucy Downie in April 1920 and they had three children…. He continued to be a Marconi wireless operator and in World War 1 served as an operator onboard the steamship ‘Mona’s Isle’…. In 1922 he retired from service, settled in Glasgow and worked as a salesman…. He died aged 66 of lung cancer….

On this day in history….28th February 1873

On this day in history : 28th February 1873 – The birth of William McMaster Murdoch – the officer in charge of RMS Titanic at the time it struck an iceberg – and who’s death remains a mystery….

William McMaster Murdoch – Public domain

Murdoch was born at ‘Sunnyside’ in Dalbeattie, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland into a seafaring family…. His father was Captain Samuel Murdoch, a master mariner and his mother was Jeannie Muirhead….

After attending school in Dalbeattie Murdoch became an apprentice mariner with Liverpool’s William Joyce & Co – onboard the ‘Charles Cosworth’….

He went on to serve as First Mate on the ‘Saint Cuthbert’ from May 1895 – but it was later to sink off of Uruguay during a hurricane in 1897…. Between the remainder of 1887 until the end of 1889 he served as First Officer on board ships belonging to Joyce & Co, trading between New York and Shanghai….

Murdoch, who had a reputation for being shrewd and a man of good judgement, began working for the White Star Line in 1900…. He served on several of the company’s ships, including the cross Atlantic steamers ‘Arabic’, ‘Adriatic’ and ‘Oceanic’…. It was on an Atlantic crossing in 1903 that he was to meet his future wife – Ada Florence Banks – a 29-year-old school teacher from New Zealand…. They were married in Southampton in the September of 1907….

In May 1911 Murdoch was made First Officer on Titanic’s sister ship RMS Olympic….and then posted to RMS Titanic itself for the maiden voyage in April 1912….

From left to right : Murdoch, Chief Engineer Joseph Evans, Fourth Officer David Alexander and Captain Edward J Smith – onboard the Olympic

First Officer Murdoch was on the bridge as the officer in charge on the 14th of April, when an iceberg was seen at 11.39pm…. Murdoch was reported as giving the order “Hard astarboard” (meaning rudder hard-a-port) – whilst also ordering the engines full astern…. This was the last manoeuvre the Titanic was to make – but it was too late….37 seconds after the sighting of the iceberg Titanic was to strike it….

When the order came from Captain Smith to abandon ship Murdoch was responsible for the starboard evacuation…. He was to oversee the launching of approximately ten lifeboats – the last official sighting of him was as he was trying to launch one of the collapsible lifeboats…. At around 1.15am the officers had met in Murdoch’s cabin and handguns had been issued to them…. Around 2am shots were heard and at 2.15am collapsible ‘Lifeboat A’ floated free…. Murdoch had disappeared, assumed drowned….

RMS Titanic departing Southampton 10th April 1912 – Public domain

However, there were conflicting accounts as to what happened to Murdoch…. Several passengers, including first class passenger George Rheims and third class passenger Eugene Daly, claimed to have seen an officer shoot himself with a revolver at the forward lifeboat station on the starboard side, just before the Titanic went down…. These were statements strongly denied by Second Officer Lightoller, who testified at the later inquiry that he had seen Murdoch being swept into the sea…. However, the inquiry suggested that Lightoller was not in a position onboard at the time to be able to see where Murdoch was…. Perhaps the Second Officer was trying to protect Murdoch’s wife from the reality of her husband’s death ~ if he had indeed taken his own life…. One could hardly blame Murdoch for preferring a quick death as opposed to the unknown alternative…. He had already helped many to take their own chance at survival – and yet there was little hope for his own….

Years later Lightoller apparently admitted he knew of someone who had died by suicide on that night – but he never gave a name…. Was it Murdoch?

Murdoch in his 30s – Public domain

On this day in history….7th February 1873

On this day in history : 7th February 1873 – The birth of Thomas Andrews – the naval architect in charge of overseeing the plans for the supposedly unsinkable RMS Titanic….

Thomas Andrews – Public domain

Andrews was born in Comber, near to Belfast, into a prominent family…. His father was the Right Hon. Thomas Andrews and his mother Eliza Pirrie…. His brother, John, was later to become Prime Minister of Northern Ireland…. Andrews’ uncle was Lord Pirrie, owner of Harland & Wolff, who were to build the Titanic….

Harland & Wolff at ‘knocking off’ time…. Titanic can be seen in the background – Public domain

Andrews joined Harland & Wolff in 1889, at the age of 16, as an apprentice….and spent the next five years working his way through the various departments of the company…. He was hardworking and well liked; he progressed quickly and in 1901 he became a member of the Institution of Naval Architects…. By 1907 he had been made Managing Director of Harland & Wolff, in charge of design and construction….

Andrews married Helen Reilly Barbour on the 24th of June 1908 and the couple were blessed with a daughter, Elizabeth, two years later….

Thomas with his wife Helen and baby daughter Elizabeth – Public domain

Always wanting to be involved Andrews sailed on the maiden voyages of the Adriatic, Oceonic and Olympic – to oversee, observe and learn…. He was always looking for ways to improve things…. So, this is how he happened to be on the maiden voyage of RMS Titanic….

Leaving his wife and daughter behind in Belfast he boarded Titanic with his complimentary ticket No. 112050 and settled into cabin No. A36…. The ship sailed to Southampton on the 10th of April 1912 – and then on to the North Atlantic…. Andrews spent the first few days assisting where he was needed, helping the crew familiarise themselves with the new vessel – and making notes as to what could be done to make things better for future voyages….

RMS Titanic departing Southampton 10th April 1912 – Public domain

On the evening of the 14th of April 1912 Andrews returned to his cabin after dinner and became engrossed in catching up with some work…. So absorbed was he that when the ship collided with the iceberg at approximately 23.40pm he hardly even noticed….and thought little of it…. His first hint of the danger they were in came when a message arrived to say his presence was immediately required on the Bridge….

He and 62-year-old Captain Smith, the White Star Line’s most senior captain, assessed the damage in the flooded mail room and squash court…. The design of the ship involved sixteen watertight compartments, with doors which could be closed from the Bridge, sealing off compartments if necessary…. Up to 4 compartments could flood at any one time and the ship would remain upright…. It was the safety design that led White Star to claim their vessels were practically unsinkable….

Captain Edward Smith – Public domain

Despite this, Andrews had to break the news to Captain Smith that he did not think the Titanic would stay afloat for more then two hours…. Andrews spent his last hours urging passengers to the lifeboats…. The Titanic sank at around 2.20am on the 15th of April 1912…. The body of Andrews was never recovered….