Titanic Lifeboat 8

Lifeboat 8 was located at the forward end of Titanic’s port side Boat Deck. Traditionally, as concluded by the British Titanic Inquiry, Lifeboat 8 was stated to have been the second lifeboat to leave the port side of Titanic on the night of the sinking, after Lifeboat 6; however, it is now generally considered, from the evidence given by survivors, that in fact Lifeboat 8 was the first to be lowered into the water on that side of the ship.

As she was making her way into Lifeboat 8, first class passenger Ida Straus decided that she would not leave the ship without her husband, moved away from the boat, and said to her husband, Isidor: “We have been living together for many years, and where you go, I go.” When another passenger suggested that Isidor be given a place in the lifeboat “as he was an old gentleman”, Isidor replied with: “I will not go before the other men.” Both Ida and Isidor died in the disaster. Their maid, Ellen Bird, did join Lifeboat 8, and survived.

 Isidor and Ida Straus
Isidor and Ida Straus.

Before the lifeboat was lowered, Captain Smith ordered that once in the water they should head towards the light of a ship that could be seen in the distance, drop of the passengers and return to the ship; a task which proved to be impossible.

With around 25 people inside, Lifeboat 8 was lowered away from Titanic at around 1am. Once in the water they rowed towards the light that they could see. Prior to being lowered, Samuel Hemming, a Lamp trimmer, had brought a light to the boat, which was placed inside.

Aboard the lifeboat were 4 crew members. The crew were helped with the sailing of the boat by some of the woman who helped to row and by first class passenger the Countess of Rothes who sat at the tiller, steering the boat. Able Seaman Thomas Jones was in command of the boat. The crew were the only men in this lifeboat.

Ella White was later highly critical of the crew aboard the lifeboat, complaining about smoking in the boat, their apparent inability to row the boat, and even complaining that one had said in response to an instruction by another crew member: "If you don't stop talking through that hole in your face there will be one less in the boat." She also said that she had settled two or three fights between the crew. On the other hand, Gladys Cherry, soon after the disaster wrote a letter to Thomas Jones, praising him for his actions in the lifeboat. Gladys Cherry’s relative the Countess of Rothes even gave Thomas Jones a gift as a sign of her appreciation.

In Gladys Cherry’s letter to Thomas Jones, she mentioned that she, Thomas Jones, the Countess of Rothes and an American lady had wanted to go back to pick up other people; but, it seems, at least most of the others in the lifeboat refused. She also mentioned that he had remarked: "ladies, if any of us are saved, remember, I wanted to go back. I would rather drown with them than leave them."

With all of the around 25 people placed into the lifeboat from Titanic’s deck, Lifeboat 8 was rescued by Carpathia in the morning. Lifeboat 8 had an official maximum capacity of 65 people, meaning perhaps another around 30 people could have been saved aboard that lifeboat.

After the disaster the Countess of Rothes gave Thomas Jones a silver pocket watch as a sign of her appreciation. He gave her the lifeboats number “8” sign, which he had removed from the lifeboat. They continued to correspond with each other for many years after the disaster. Both the watch and sign remained in their respective families for many years. Both now belong to the family of the Countess of Rothes.

Lifeboat 8 was taken aboard Carpathia and landed in New York; its whereabouts after that are not known.

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