Titanic Lifeboat 4
Lifeboat 4 was kept at the forward end of Titanic’s port side boat deck. On the night of the sinking it was amongst the last of the lifeboats to leave the ship. It is most notable for rescuing around 5 of Titanic’s survivors directly from the sea after the sinking. When it was lowered it had perhaps around 30 people aboard; by the end of the night it had perhaps around 60 people aboard.
During the sinking, Lifeboat 4 was actually the first lifeboat to leave the port side Boat Deck – but this was because Second Officer Charles Lightoller had ordered that it be lowered down a deck to A Deck – with intention of loading passengers into the boat from A Deck’s promenade.
However, when the lifeboat was level with A Deck it was realised that there were closed windows in the way, preventing access to the lifeboat. Charles Lightoller ordered that the windows be opened – but for the time being, the lowering of Lifeboat 4 was abandoned. It is also said that Titanic's sounding spar, located bellow were the lifeboat was hanging, was in the way, and that an axe had to be found to remove it.
When it was eventually decided to begin the loading of passengers into Lifeboat 4 – at least one deck chair was used as a makeshift step to help the passengers make their way out the window and into the lifeboat.
Amongst those waiting to be placed into the lifeboat was Madeleine Astor, who was the pregnant wife of John Jacob Astor, the richest person aboard Titanic. After John Jacob Astor had helped his wife into the lifeboat he is said to have asked if he could join her as his wife was in “a delicate position”. As it was woman and children first, he was not permitted to do so. Before the lifeboat was lowered he asked what the number of the boat was.
As John Ryerson attempted to enter the lifeboat, a member of the crew, said to have been Second Officer Charles Lightoller, said, “That boy can't go." Prompting his father, Arthur Ryerson, to say: "Of course, that boy goes with his mother; he is only 13." He was then allowed to get into the lifeboat.
With perhaps approximately around 30 people aboard, Lifeboat 4 was lowered away from Titanic at around 1:50am. Once in the water it was realised that not enough crew were in the lifeboat to manage it, and so Quartermaster Walter Perkis, who had just helped to lower the lifeboat into the water, climbed down a rope and into the boat. When inside the lifeboat, he then assumed command of it.
The lifeboat then made its way towards the stern, presumably towards the gangway door to attempt pick up more people.
From the Boat Deck, Greaser’s Thomas Ranger and Frederick Scott become aware of Lifeboat 4 being nearby, possibly, as they later indicated, because the lifeboat was in search of extra crew to manage the lifeboat. Both Thomas Ranger and Fredrick Scott made their way down the ropes left behind by Lifeboat 16; Thomas Ranger landed in the lifeboat but Frederick Scott ended up in the sea and had to be rescued by the lifeboat.
With Titanic not having long before sinking, the people aboard Lifeboat 4 started to row the lifeboat away from the sinking ship.
Standing on the Boat Deck, Lamp trimmer Samuel Hemming noticed Lifeboat 4, estimated by him as being 200 yards away, and climbed down the ropes attached to a davit and swam towards the lifeboat – without even having a lifebelt on. When he reached the lifeboat he was pulled aboard. Samuel Hemming had helped to lower Lifeboat 4 to A deck earlier in the night.
When Titanic sank, with the exception of the two collapsible lifeboats that floated off the ship, Lifeboat 4 was most probably the nearest to Titanic when she went down.
After the sinking Lifeboat 4 pulled back towards Titanic – and pulled around 7 members of the crew from the water, including: Andrew Cunningham, a first class bedroom steward who had swam to the boat after the sinking; Frank Prentice, a storekeeper who swam to the boat; Thomas Dillon, a trimmer who was still aboard Titanic when she sank and when in lifeboat 4 become unconscious; Alfred White, a greaser believed to have been rescued by Lifeboat 4; William Lyons, an Able Seaman; and Sidney Siebert, a bed room steward.
Sidney Siebert is believed to have died in the lifeboat, and to then have had his body taken to the Carpathia. William Lyons died, but is said to have, unconscious, still been alive when he was brought aboard Carpathia, where he is said to have then died shortly after. All the others rescued from the water by Lifeboat 4 are believed to have survived.
Samuel Hemming later said that, shortly after rescuing the people from the water they noticed a light from a lifeboat and made their way towards it. Lifeboat 4 then grouped together with Lifeboat’s 10, 12, 14 and D. To allow Lifeboat 14 to return to the scene where Titanic sank, some of the occupants of that lifeboat were transferred to the others, including around 10 to Lifeboat 14.
With day light starting to light the ocean, the group of lifeboats become aware of Lifeboat B, which had floated off the ship as she sank. Upside down, the lifeboat had on top of it a group of survivors fighting for their lives. Included amongst those on Lifeboat B was Second Officer Charles Lightoller.
Lifeboat’s 4 and 12 made their way towards the upside down lifeboat, and very carefully transferred the people into them. Lifeboat 4 took aboard around 12 people, Lifeboat 12 took the rest.
Lifeboat 4 safely arrived at the rescue ship, Carpathia. After all those aboard had been taken aboard Carpathia, Lifeboat 4 was left behind.