How I was saved from the Titanic: A Titanic survivor’s story (1912)

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Charlotte Collyer and daughter - Titanic survivors

Sinking Titanic and lifeboats

“You, too!” a man yelled close to my ear. “You’re a woman. Take a seat in that boat, or it will be too late.”

The deck seemed to be slipping under my feet. It was leaning at a sharp angle; for the ship was then sinking fast, bows down. I clung desperately to my husband. I do not know what I said; but I shall always be glad to think that I did not want to leave him.

A man seized me by the arm. Then, another threw both his arms about my waist and dragged me away by main strength. I heard my husband say: “Go, Lotty! For God’s sake, be brave, and go! I’ll get a seat in another boat.”

The men who held me rushed me across the deck, and hurled me bodily into the lifeboat. I landed on one shoulder and bruised it badly. Other women were crowding behind me; but I stumbled to my feet and saw over their heads my husband’s back, as he walked steadily down the deck and disappeared among the men. His face was turned away, so that I never saw it again; but I know that he went unafraid to his death.

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His last words, when he said that he would get a seat in another boat, buoyed me up until every vestige of hope was gone. Many women were strengthened by the same promise, or they must have gone mad and leaped into the sea.

I let myself be saved, because I believed that he, too, would escape; but I sometimes envy those whom no earthly power could tear from their husbands’ arms. There were several such among those brave second cabin passengers. I saw them standing beside their loved ones to the last; and when the roll was called the next day on board the Carpathia, they did not answer.


Lowering the lifeboats full of Titanic survivors

The boat was practically full, and no more women were anywhere near it when Fifth Officer Lowe jumped in and ordered it lowered. The sailors on deck had started to obey him, when a very sad thing happened.

A young lad, hardly more than a schoolboy, a pink-cheeked lad, almost small enough to be counted as a child, was standing close to the rail. He had made no attempt to force his way into the boat, though his eyes had been fixed piteously on the officer.

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Now, when he realized that he was really to be left behind, his courage failed him. With a cry, he climbed upon the rail and leaped down into the boat. He fell among us women, and crawled under a seat. I and another woman covered him up with our skirts. We wanted to give the poor lad a chance; but the officer dragged him to his feet and ordered him back upon the ship.

He begged for his life. I remember him saying that he would not take up much room; but the officer drew his revolver, and thrust it into his face. “I give you just ten seconds to get back on to that I ship before I blow your brains out!” he shouted. The lad only begged the harder, and I thought I should see him shot as he stood.

But the officer suddenly changed his tone. He lowered his revolver, and looked the boy squarely in the eyes. “For God’s sake, be a man!” he said gently. “We’ve got women and children to save. We must stop at the decks lower down and take on women and children.”

The little lad turned round and climbed back over the rail, without a word. He took a few uncertain steps, then lay face down upon the deck, his head beside a coil of rope. He was not saved.

All the women about me were sobbing; and I saw my little Marjorie take the officer’s hand. “Oh. Mr Man, don’t shoot — please don’t shoot the poor man!” she was saying; and he spared the time to shake his head and smile.

He screamed another order for the boat to he lowered; but just as we were getting away, a steerage passenger, an Italian, I think, came running the whole length of the deck and hurled himself into the boat. He fell upon a young child, I found out afterward, and injured her internally.

The officer seized him by the collar, and by sheer brute strength pushed him back on to the Titanic. As we shot down toward the sea, I caught a last glimpse of this coward. He was in the hands of about a dozen men of the second cabin. They were driving their fists into his face, and he was bleeding from the nose and mouth.

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As a matter of fact, we did not stop at any other deck to take on other women and children. It would have been impossible, I suppose. The bottom of our boat slapped the ocean, as we came down with a force that I thought must shock us all overboard. We were drenched with ice-cold spray; but we hung on, and the men at the oars rowed us rapidly away from the wreck.

A view of the iceberg and the damage

It was then that I saw for the first time the iceberg that had done such terrible damage. It loomed up in the clear starlight, a bluish-white mountain quite near to us. Two other icebergs lay close together, like twin peaks. Later, I thought, I saw three or four more; but I cannot be sure. Loose ice was floating in the water. It was very cold.

We had gone perhaps half a mile when the officer ordered the men to cease rowing. No other boats were in sight, and we did not even have a lantern to signal with. We lay there in silence and darkness on that utterly calm sea.

I shall never forget the terrible beauty of the Titanic at that moment. She was tilted forward, head down, with her first funnel partly under water. To me, she looked like an enormous glow-worm; for she was alight from the rising water line, clear to her stern — electric lights blazing in every cabin, lights on all the decks and lights at her mast heads. No sound reached us except the music of the band, which I seemed, strange to say, to be aware of for the first time.

Oh, those brave musicians! How wonderful they were! They were playing lively tunes, ragtime, and they kept it up to the very end. Only the engulfing ocean had power to drown them into silence.

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