Titanic Officers

Onboard Titanic’s maiden voyage were seven deck officers in addition to the captain:

Edward Smith – Captain

Henry Wilde – Chief Officer

William Murdoch – First Officer

Charles Lightoller – Second Officer

Herbert Pitman – Third Officer

Joseph Boxhall – Fourth Officer

Harold Lowe – Fifth Officer

James Moody – Sixth Officer

The officers were responsible for the safe navigation and management of the ship. The chief, first and second officers served as senior officers aboard. While the third, fourth, fifth and sixth officers served as junior officers. The Captain had complete overall responsibility for and control of the ship.

On Titanic’s bridge and connected areas, there would usually be three officers on watch at any time, excluding the captain. One senior officer would act as Officer of the Watch and would basically be in charge of the current safe navigation of ship, watching where the ship was going and the sea ahead, ensuring the captain’s orders were being followed, the ship was on course and not in any danger. There would also be two junior officers on watch who, with the senior officer unable to be distracted from ensuring the safety of the ship, would assist the senior officer, supervise the crew, and carry out navigational work.

The senior officers had various responsibilities for things like navigation equipment and supervising port duties.

Chief officer Henry Wilde was on duty as Officer of the Watch between 2 to 6 in the morning and night, Second Officer Charles Lightoller was Officer of the Watch between 6 to 10 in the morning and night and First Officer William Murdoch was Officer of the Watch between 10 to 2 in the morning and night. After their watch on the bridge, they would do a ‘round’ of the ship to check all was good.

The Junior Officer’s worked watches of 4 hours at time with 4 hours off between, apart from between 4pm and 6pm which was divided into two 2-hour watches. Herbert Pitman was paired with Harold Lowe and Joseph Boxhall was paired with James Moody.

All of Titanic’s officers joined the ship at Belfast to engage in her sea trials and deliver her to Southampton apart from Henry Wilde, previously Olympic’s chief officer, who had been placed on Titanic at the last moment. Originally William Murdoch had been Titanic’s chief officer, Charles Lightoller had been first officer and a man named David Blair had been second officer. William Murdoch and Charles Lightoller were placed down a rank and David Bliar, fortunately for him as it turned out, lost his place on the fateful maiden voyage.

Each officer had their own cabin located in the officers' quarters just behind of the bridge.

At the time Titanic struck the iceberg, first officer William Murdoch was the Officer of the watch, standing on starboard open part of the bridge. fourth Officer Boxhall was on watch and was just returning to the bridge, while six Officer James Moody was also on watch and was in the wheelhouse.

During the sinking the officers were in charge of the lowering of the lifeboats, with Henry Wilde and Charles Lightoller generally overseeing the lowering of the lifeboats on the port side, and William Murdoch and Harold Lowe generally on the starboard side. James Moody seems mostly documented to have been on the starboard side, at least later on, but is also said to have been on the port side. Herbert Pitman commanded an early to leave lifeboat lowered from the starboard side. Joseph Boxhall oversaw the firing of the distress rockets and other attempts to signal a ship they thought they could see in the distance.

Charles Lightoller was the only senior officer to survive. He – in his own words, having been left by the ship – managed to get out of the water and on to an upside-down collapsible lifeboat. Of the junior officers, Herbert Pitman, Joseph Boxhall and Harold Lowe, all of whom had been put in charge of lifeboats, survived.

Related pages - Titanic Lookouts and Crow's Nest, All Titanic Pages

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