Titanic Lifeboat 12

Lifeboat 12 was located at the aft end of Titanic’s port side Boat Deck. It is now generally believed to have been the fifth lifeboat lowered away from Titanic during the sinking. The lifeboat is probably most notable for rescuing most of the survivors from the upside down Lifeboat B – one of two lifeboats that floated off the ship during Titanic’s final minutes on the surface.

Lifeboat 12 was lowered away from Titanic at approximately around 1:30am. Said to have been supervised by Chief Officer Wilde and Second Officer Charles Lightoller – the lifeboat was loaded with perhaps around 40 passengers, all woman, with perhaps some children. The exception being, Frederick Clench mentioned a male passenger, described as being French, having had found his way in to the lifeboat, maybe by jumping in; in addition, some secondary sources of information about Titanic state that in the lifeboat was 18 year old 3rd class passenger Gus Cohen, from and born in Britain. He much later told Walter Lord that he had climbed down a rope and was picked up by a lifeboat.

In addition to the passengers, the lifeboat landed in the water with only two crew members aboard, Able Seaman Frederick Clench and Able Seaman John Poingdestre. John Poingdestre was in charge of the lifeboat. John Poingdestre said that he had been told by Charles Lightoller, before leaving the ship, “to lay off and stand by close to the ship”.

John Poingdestre testified at the British Titanic Inquiry that after the ship had gone down they had rowed back in the direction of the people in the water to pick people up – but, despite looking for about 15 minutes, found nobody. He said they were unable to get to them because, with him and Frederick Clench being the only sailors, there were not enough sailors in the lifeboat.

During the night Lifeboat 12 grouped together with Lifeboats 4, 10, 14 and D. So that Lifeboat 14 – under the command of Fifth Officer Harold Lowe – could return to attempt to save people from the water, the passengers from Lifeboat 14 were transferred into the other lifeboats, about twelve of them into Lifeboat 12. Lifeboat D transferred three members of crew into Lifeboat 12, Able Seaman William Lucas and two firemen.

As the ocean started to light up, Lifeboat 12 become aware of what Frederick Clench initially thought was one of the ship’s funnels. It was, in fact, Titanic’s collapsible Lifeboat B – slowly sinking and floating upside down. On top of the upturned boat were a group of around 28 men – including Titanic’s most senior surviving officer, Second Officer Charles Lightoller. All of the surviving men stranded on top of Lifeboat B were very carefully transferred to Lifeboat’s 4 and 12 – about sixteen were placed into Lifeboat 12 and around twelve into Lifeboat 4.

After joining Lifeboat 12, Charles Lightoller took command. Lifeboat 12, probably overloaded, and suffering from the effects of that, headed towards Titanic’s rescue ship, Carpathia – towing another lifeboat – presumably Lifeboat 10.

With around 70 people aboard, Lifeboat 12 safely arrived at Carpathia in the morning, said to have been at around 8:15am. They were the last lifeboat to be picked up. Lifeboat 12 was taken aboard Carpathia and was landed in New York in the very place where Titanic should have arrived; after this nobody really knows what happened to it.

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