Titanic witness says wireless hero died right after the ship sank, and officers to blame for the disaster (1912)

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Jack Phillips - Titanic telegraph - Marconi wireless officer 1912

Hero of wireless died on life raft after Titanic sank: Waiter says Phillips was buried at sea from Carpathia after disaster

Officer shot himself – Revolvers used to quell panic and prevent men taking possession of boats

The Denver Post (Denver, Colorado) April 19, 1912

New York, April 19 [1912] — Jack Phillips, the first Marconi operator aboard the Titanic, stuck to his post until the last, jumped from the sinking ship, was taken aboard a life raft, and died before rescuers reached him, according to the story told here today by Thomas Whiteley, who was a waiter on the Titanic.

Whiteley is in St Vincent’s hospital suffering from a fractured right leg and numerous bruises.

“Phillips was on the overturned lifeboat with me,” Whiteley said. “He was dead and taken aboard the Carpathia. They tried to revive him, but it was too late. There were four burials at sea — one sailor, two firemen and Phillips.”

Jack Phillips - Titanic telegraph - Marconi wireless officer 1912
Jack Phillips, the first Marconi operator aboard the Titanic

It is believed Whiteley’s story clears the doubt surrounding the identity of the fourth man buried from the Carpathia. It was at first believed this man was a cabin passenger, but Whiteley declares it was Phillips.

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“I helped fill the boats with women,” Whiteley said. “Collapsable boat No. 2 on the starboard side, was jammed. The second officer was backing at the ropes with a knife. I was being dragged around the deck by that rope when I looked up and saw the boat, with all aboard, turn turtle.

“In some way, I got overboard myself and clung to an oak dresser. I was not more than sixty feet from the Titanic when she went down. Her big stern rose up in the air and she went down bow first. I saw all the machinery drop out of her.”

“During the half hour I was in the water, I could hear the cries of the drowning persons. I drifted near a boat that was wrongside up. About thirty men were clinging to her and they refused to let me get aboard. Someone tried to hit me with an oar but I scrambled aboard.

“There was a bit of panic when it first happened. The officers had to use their revolvers. The chief officer shot one man — I did not see this, but others did — and then he shot himself. But everybody, pretty much, behaved splendidly, especially the firemen.

“It was a black berg we struck and, although the night was perfectly clear, it was possible to see that color. I saw another like it when we were drifting on the overturned boat.”

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Two members of Titanic’s crew place blame for tragedy on White Star Line officials and officers of the boat

The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer (Bridgeport, Connecticut) April 23, 1912

New York, April 23 — John Thompson, a fireman, and Thomas Whiteley, a first cabin steward, who escaped from the wrecked Titanic, are patients in St. Vincent’s hospital. Whiteley is suffering from frozen and lacerated feet, and Thompson has a broken arm.

In speaking of their experiences they place the responsibility for the accident on the management of the White Star line and on the officers in charge of the navigation of the giant liner.

Thompson declares that top speed was maintained from the beginning to the end of the Titanic’s fatal course, that she was speeded uniformly as close to seventy-seven revolutions as could be, and that she was racing at the utmost capacity of her engines when she ripped off her plates on the iceberg.

Titanic new leaving Belfast

John Thompson is forty-two years old and hails from Liverpool. “From Queens town out,” he said, “all the firemen had been talking of the orders we had to fire her up as hard as we possibly could. We were to make as quick a passage as possible, the orders ran, and we were to beat all records on our maiden trip.

“I heard that these orders came from the engineering department. But, bless you, we men didn’t have time to talk about where those orders came from. There was no spare time whatever for any of us firemen. We were carrying full pressure.

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“From the time we left Queenstown until the moment of the shock, we never ceased to make from 74 to 77 revolutions. It never went below seventy-four, and as during that whole Sunday, we had been keeping up to seventy-seven — surely she must have been making that speed then.”

Thompson helped launch several lifeboats and finally left the ship on a collapsible boat so heavily loaded that it sank, with the men still clinging to it. Five or six men died from exposure in the icy water, but the others were picked up by a lifeboat.

Two members of Titanic crew place blame for tragedy on White Star Line officials 1912

Whiteley, who has whipped overboard from the ship by a rope while helping to lower a lifeboat, finally reached the Carpathia aboard one of the boats which contained, he said, both the crow’s nest lookouts. He heard a conversation between them, he asserted, in which they discussed the warnings given to the Titanic’s bridge of the presence of the iceberg.

Whiteley did not know the name of either of the lookout men, and he said he believed they had gone back home on the Lapland. “I heard one of them say that fifteen minutes before the Titanic struck, he had reported to First Officer Murdock on the bridge that he fancied he saw an iceberg,” said Whiteley.

“Twice after that, the lookout said he warned Mr. Murdock that a berg was ahead. I can’t remember their exact words, but they were very indignant that no attention was paid to their warn-ings. One of them said, “No wonder that Mr Murdock shot himself.”

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2 Responses

  1. This story is COMPLETELY WRONG! People really need to start getting their facts straight!! Jeez though!! 106 years later and people still can not see what really happend not get the story right!!

    1. Hi! This is a very old newspaper story, presented exactly as it was published in 1912. That’s most of what this site is about — rediscovering historical stories, ads and more as they originally appeared long ago. Sometimes they will be wrong, but they’re part of the tapestry of the era, showing how the events of the time were presented to the public. :-) Hope this makes more sense now.

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