Titanic Lifeboat 14
Lifeboat 14 was a port side lifeboat located at the aft end of Titanic’s Boat Deck. On the night of the sinking it was commanded by Titanic’s Fifth Officer, and is most well-known for returning to the site of the wreck after the sinking to try to rescue people from the freezing water.
Lifeboat 14 approaching Carpathia, 15th April 1912.
Able seaman Joseph Scarrott later said that as the lifeboat was being filled with passengers some men, who he described as being foreigners, tried to get into the boat, causing him to resort to using the boat’s tiller to persuade them to stay away.
Noticing that five lifeboats had left the ship without having an officer in them – Fifth Officer Harold Lowe said to Sixth Officer James Moody: “an officer ought to go in one of these boats”, and asked him who it should be. James Moody is then said to have replied with, "You go. I will get in another boat." Harold Lowe then boarded Lifeboat 14 and assumed command.
Under Harold Lowe’s orders, Lifeboat 14 was lowered away from Titanic at around 1.25am. Fearful that people might jump into the lifeboat on its journey down to the sea, and fearing the potential consequences to the boat if someone did try, Harold Lowe fired his gun alongside the ship as the lifeboat was being lowered down past A, B and C Deck – firing three times, to warn people to stay back.
As Lifeboat 14 neared the water a very dangerous situation occurred when, for some reason, the aft end of the lifeboat stopped lowering while the bow continued until it reached the water – causing the stern of the lifeboat to dangle about five feet in the air. With the stern stuck in the air, the crew aboard the lifeboat were forced to release the ropes attached to the lifeboat to lower it from the ship – causing the lifeboat’s stern to come crashing down into the sea.
The lifeboat seems to have been unharmed by its decent into the water apart from perhaps being the cause of a leak that seems to have sprung up causing a small amount of water – perhaps 8 inches – to fill up the bottom of the lifeboat.
At the moment of the sinking Lifeboat 14 was around 150 yards away from Titanic – with perhaps around 40 people aboard (though a higher number than this was estimated by some of those in the lifeboat), made up of women and children from 1st, 2nd and 3rd class, and around 6 members of the ship’s crew. Harold Lowe also allowed First class passenger Charles Williams into the lifeboat to help to row. Harold Lowe later testified that he was at 150 yards away as – at a safe distance away from the ship – he wanted to be able to pick up anyone who got near the boat.
Lifeboat 14 had met up with Lifeboats 4, 10, 12 and D. Harold Lowe decided that his lifeboat should return to the site of the wreck to try to rescue survivors. He decided to carefully transfer all the passengers out of Lifeboat 14 into the other lifeboats in the group. As the woman from Lifeboat 14 were being transferred, Harold Lowe was unimpressed to find that there was a man in Lifeboat 14 disguised as a woman – without saying a word to the man, he “pitched” him into the other lifeboat. Two crewmen were transferred from Lifeboat 10 into Lifeboat 14, Able Bodied Seamen Edward Burley and Able Bodied Seamen Frank Evans.
After waiting until the people in the water had “quieted down”, and it was deemed safe for them to return, Lifeboat 14 made the journey of approximately 150 yards back to the wreck site. When they arrived at the wreckage they were confronted with countless floating dead bodies.
The first alive person they come across was First Class passenger William Hoyt; with great difficulty, with him being described as being a well-built man, he was hauled into the lifeboat, where the crew did their best to help him; but sadly he was too far gone, and he soon died in the lifeboat. His body remained on the lifeboat and was taken to Carpathia, where he was buried at sea.
Next a further two people were rescued; there is some confusion over the identity of these people – but one of them appears to have possibly been Third class passenger Fang Lang. John/Jack Stewart is the name sometimes given for the other – but this does not appear to be correct. Both survived.
The final person to be rescued was a man who was on top of some wreckage, which to Joseph Scarrott looked like a staircase; to get to him Lifeboat 14, with difficulty, had to slowly push its way through many dead bodies. The man is generally believed to have been Saloon Steward Harold Phillimore. He also survived.
After rescuing all the survivors they could find in the water, Lifeboat 14, by now with its mast and sail up, noticed Lifeboat D and sailed towards it. A rope was thrown to Lifeboat D, and it was then towed by Lifeboat 14 towards Carpathia.
On the way to Carpathia, Lifeboat A was noticed in the distance, stranded and appearing to be sinking. It had floated off Titanic during the ship’s final moments on the surface, and on board, clinging to life, were around 13 survivors. All were rescued by Lifeboat 14.
Lifeboat 14 and D approaching Carpathia, 15th April 1912.
Lifeboat 14 safely arrived at Carpathia with around 25 survivors aboard. Lifeboat 14 itself is not believed to have been taken aboard Carpathia to New York. Lifeboat 14 is often well featured in Titanic films and documentaries.