George Symons served as a Lookout aboard RMS Titanic. Along with Archie Jewell he was on watch in the ship’s crow’s nest each day and night from 2 to 4 and 8 to 10.
George Thomas MacDonald Symons, the son of Robert and Bessie Symons, was born on 23rd February 1888 in Weymouth, Dorset, United Kingdom.
By the time he joined Titanic he had served at sea for around 9 years, and had spent the last 4 years serving aboard White Star Line’s Oceanic, three years of which serving as a lookout.
Early in the voyage he went to the officers’ quarters of the ship to ask for the binoculars intended for the crow’s nest – asking 2nd Officer Charles Lightoller; however, there were none available aboard for the crow’s nest.
While on duty in the crow’s nest at about 9.30pm on 14th the April – the night Titanic collided with the iceberg – George Symons and Archie Jewell were ordered by 2nd Officer Charles Lightoller, via 6th Officer James Moody on the telephone, to keep a sharp lookout for ice, and to pass the message on to the next lookout’s on duty when the leave. Shortly before, in conversation with Archie Jewell, George Symons had remarked that “by the smell of it there is ice about” and that "as a Rule you can smell the ice before you get to it".
At 10pm George Symons and Archie Jewell were relieved from the crow’s nest by Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee. The message to keep a sharp lookout for ice was passed on to them. At around 11.40pm, an iceberg was seen from the crow’s nest; there was not enough time to avoid it, and Titanic struck it.
At the time of the collision, he was asleep in bed, and was woken up by the collision, which he first thought was Titanic losing her anchor and chain, thinking that it was running along the bottom of the ship. Initially, thinking there was nothing the matter, he decided to not get up.
After being told by lookout George Hogg that he had better get up, he got up and started to get dressed. After going to the mess room in search of some coffee, he heard then saw the water making its way into No. 1 hold.
On the starboard side Boat Deck, he assisted in getting the lifeboats ready, and then helped to load passengers into the earlier lifeboats to depart that side of the ship. With the help of Titanic’s Boatswain, Alfred Nichols, he lowered the forward end of Lifeboat 3 into the water.
George Symons was ordered into Lifeboat 1 by First Officer William Murdoch. With George Symons in charge of it, at probably somewhere around 1.10am, it was lowered away from Titanic. The lowering of Lifeboat 1 is often considered to be amongst the most controversial parts of the lowering of the lifeboats, as the lifeboat, one of Titanic’s emergency boats, with a maximum capacity 40 people was lowered away from Titanic and arrived at Carpathia with just 12 people aboard it, made up of two female first class passengers, three male first class passengers and seven members of Titanic’s crew.
After the disaster, later in 1912, he married Mary Jane Bolt. They eventually had two children, Dorothy (born in 1915) and Joan (born in 1918).
George Symons died on 3rd December 1950. He was buried at Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton.