A Conversation for The RMS Titanic


Post 1


This post has been removed.

First Officer Murdoch

Post 2

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

The town of Dalbeattie has always been staunchly against the suicide thing, and it can never be answered authoritatively. However, based on the available information, I think they're wrong.

Firstly, there are many accounts that recall the shooting, so many that we would have to agree that the event took place. There is too much collaboration in the accounts for them to be all making it up. So now let us turn to our list of suspects. When the word was received by Captain Smith that the ship would founder, one of the first things he did was open up the cabinet and arm the 5 highest ranking officers. They were:

Capt Smith
Chief Officer Wilde
First Officer Murdoch
Second Officer Lightoller
3rd Officer Pitman
4th Officer Boxhall

And in addition, 5th Officer Lowe armed himself with his own personal weapon. These six are the only armed officers on board, and so they are our complete list of suspects. Now begins the winnowing process...

Lightoller, Pitman, Boxhall, and Lowe can be dismissed immediately. All four survived, and therefore cannot have shot themselves.

Captain Smith is accounted for in his last moments in many eyewitness accounts, and is not a possible suspect. Besides, as a high-profile personage with a very distinctive look, none of the passengers would have failed to identify him in the reports we've seen.

Chief Officer Wilde is almost wholly unaccounted for. He therefore remains on our list of suspects.

First Officer Murdoch is highly suspect, since rumor among the survivors named him as the officer in question. The last reliable reports on his whereabouts places him at collapsible A at about the time of the incident. We have a few great histories of the accident from survivors which were published just after the incident that mention the shooting, but none mention the name of the officer. Hence the debate. Word traveled around in the newspapers, however, and those said it was Murdoch. As journalism, though, we know we cannot hold it to be 100% accurate. Hence, the "scuttlebutt" disclaimer in my mention of the event in the article.

The Dalbeattie people offer two pieces of evidence to clear Murdoch. The first is a letter from Lightoller to Murdoch's wife, written shortly after the incident. In it, he claims to have seen Murdoch in his last moments, and says Murdoch died bravely. Not only was his possible suicide a serious social stigma, but it would also have cost his wife benefits from the company. It is therefore entirely possible that Lightoller lied, for entirely humanitarian reasons.

Let us now examine the essence of that letter. He says that he had a clear view of Murdoch as the ship went down. That just isn't possible. I may get the sides wrong here, but the gist is the same... Murdoch was placed at the port side of the ship, where he was loading collapsible A. Collapsible A was still loading when the bridge was submerged and the collapsible was washed off the deck. Lightoller's copious mounds of testimony before the Senate inquiry and the British Board of Trade place him at collapsible B, on the starboard side of the bridge, when it was washed away upside-down. It is therefore unlikely in the extreme that Lightoller could have seen Murdoch in those last moments.

The other bit of evidence is an interview with wireless operator Harold Bride. That interview was taken in the 1950's, over 40 years after the event. Harold Bride was assisting Lightoller with collapsible B when he was washed away, and the both of them survived by climbing onto the overturned boat, along with some thirty others. It is therefore just as unlikely that Bride saw Murdoch in those final moments. Bride's description of Murdoch's last moments better fit the profile of Lightoller's last moments before the bridge disappeared.

Conclusion: While it can never be proved conclusively, the evidence against Murdoch being the suicide is very poor, and the evidence for it makes him a much likelier candidate than Wilde. If you further think on Murdoch's mental condition at the time, he becomes even more likely. Remember, he was the one on watch when the ship collided with the berg, and it was therefore his responsibility. He knew people were going to die, and it was his fault. Can you blame him? James Cameron and his resident history expert agreed with me, which is why Murdoch takes his life in the movie. I'm sure the donation was nothing more than a goodwill gesture, motivated in part because the truth cannot be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.

First Officer Murdoch

Post 3

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

Okay, so I can't count. There were six officers who were issued firearms, and seven total armed. But I stand by the rest of it.

First Officer Murdoch

Post 4


Well it's an alternative and an interesting site anyway.

First Officer Murdoch

Post 5

Blatherskite the Mugwump - Bandwidth Bandit

It is interesting, yes. When you consider that we're talking about the descendants of Murdoch's family and friends, it's entirely understandable why they take the whole issue so personally. I was expecting someone to bring up this issue, which is why I came fully prepared. Come to think of it... this would probably make a good H2G2 article in and of itself...

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