Titanic Lifeboat C

Titanic’s Lifeboat C was a starboard side collapsible lifeboat, stored aboard the ship just behind of Lifeboat 1. Lifeboat C is probably most well-known for being the lifeboat in which J Bruce Ismay, the Managing Director of the White Star Line, escaped the sinking ship. The boat was also the last to be successfully lowered from the starboard side of the ship.

With all of the main wooden lifeboats lowered away from the starboard side, under the supervision of Chief Officer Henry Wilde and First Officer William Murdoch, it was time to lower Lifeboat C, the first of the two collapsible lifeboats to leave that side of the ship. The davits used to lower Lifeboat C had been firstly used to lower Lifeboat 1, and were then later attached to Lifeboat C, ready to lower the boat into the water.

While the crew were preparing Lifeboat C, it is said that a number of men rushed into the boat, causing First Officer William Murdoch or Chief Purser Hugh McElroy to fire his gun twice into the air. Hugh Woolner later said that after hearing what was going on he and Hakan Bjornstrom Steffansson went to help remove the men from the boat.

At the United States Titanic Inquiry, Albert Pearcey, one of Titanic’s stewards, said that he saw two babies on the deck while Titanic was sinking. He said that he had picked them up and took them to Lifeboat C, where “the Chief [Officer], Mr Murdoch [sic]” told him to get into the boat with the babies and take charge of them.

The lifeboat was filled with approximately around 32 women and children, mostly, if not all, from 3rd class, and around 5 members of the ship’s crew (3 firemen, 1 steward and 1 sailor), including Quartermaster George Rowe, who, after no longer being required on the bridge to fire the distress rockets, was ordered into the lifeboat by Captain Smith, and assumed command.

At approximately around 2am (or 1.40am by the British Titanic Inquiry’s estimation), with all of the nearby women and children in the lifeboat, and the nearby deck appearing to be free of passengers, J Bruce Ismay and William Carter got into the lifeboat, just before it was lowered away from the boat deck. After the disaster J Bruce Ismay was heavily criticised for this by the newspapers and others. At some point after leaving the ship, four men, described as being Chinamen or Filipinos, were found to also be in the lifeboat.

By the time the order was given to lower Lifeboat C, Titanic had a considerable list to port, which caused Lifeboat C to rub along Titanic’s side as it was being lowered. With difficultly the occupants of the lifeboat did their best to help the boat down.

In the water, the crew, along with J Bruce Ismay, rowed the boat towards a light that they could see in the distance, but made no progress in getting anywhere near the source of the light, and were forced to give up.

The lifeboat eventually reached the Carpathia, where all the passengers’ aboard the boat safely made their way on to Carpathia’s decks. The lifeboat was not taken to New York, so presumably was set adrift and left behind.

Lifeboat C is often featured in Titanic films and documentaries, including in notable scenes such as J Bruce Ismay, who is often a main character, departure from the ship and entry into the lifeboat.

Related pages - Titanic Lifeboats, All Titanic Pages

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