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Heroes of Titanic

Updated on May 18, 2009

Titanic's Heros

Attempting to pinpoint every hero of the Titanic disaster might be very difficult, and in the end, prove to be impossible. After all, 96 years have passed since April 14, 1912, when Titanic sank beneath the ice-cold waters of the North Atlantic.

Any heroes that either went down with the doomed liner or survived the tragedy after their heroic deeds have had those said deeds documented (hopefully accurately) again and again over the years because of the magnitude of the event. I am certainly not here to claim that I have suddenly unearthed startling new evidence that, until I came along some unknown person remained unfairly ignored all these years and now their heroic deeds will finally be told for all the world to know.

No, I simply want to bring to light what is out there in books and on the Internet already, but maybe a little obscure. You see, the sinking of the Titanic itself gets the brunt of the press. There is something mystical about the whole story of Titanic. From the time of the conception of the idea of the great ships by William James Pirrie, and Thomas Henry Ismay, to the building of the huge gantries and the launching of the ships and the carnival like atmosphere surrounding these events, everything was so...celebrated.

Especially of course her sinking was an event that shocked the world. A leading ship-building magazine of the time labeled her "practically unsinkable." That label never came from anyone associated with White Star.

But the heroes almost always, in ANY story, get relegated to the rear, and maybe that is as it should be, until a time when we can look back and all look at the situation and say, "Wow, could I have done THAT in that type of environment, and in THOSE conditions, under THAT kind of mental, physical, and emotional stress?"

The honest and REAL answer one knows what they will do in any given situation until they find themselves thrust in into one. That is what makes heroes out of ordinary people.

Then you have people that are not ordinary. People like Charles_H._Lightoller,(The picture above in his younger years) and Charles Joughin, and others most certainly. I singled those two out because they are my personal favorites, and you will soon see why. Especially in the case of Lightoller, or "Lights" as is mates called him.

Charles Herbert Lightoller

'Lux Vestra'- Let Your Light Shine!

Below is information I learned from the book; "The Odyssey of C.H. Lightoller," and other on-line sources. by: Patrick Stenson (Everything written here is In my own words, except where I have quoted Patrick Stenson, or others.)

"Lux Vestra"- "Let Your Light Shine."

The above quote was known as the Lightoller family motto. Charles Herbert Lightoller certainly appeared to have made it his personal mission in life to do just that, based on the way he seemed to go from one adventure to another, and prove himself worthy to each task that was set before him.

According to Patrick Stenson, who wrote "The Odyssey of C.H. Lightoller, When the officer from Admiralty Requisitioning came to Charles H. Lightoller and told him that his boat was to be taken over and manned by a naval crew, the retired naval commander barked. "If anybody's going to take my boat to Dunkirk it will be me and my son!" And this in a belligerent tone. He thought to himself, How dare this dandy come aboard his boat and order him about?

Sundowner, the Lightoller family yacht, slinked quietly toward Dunkirk on that fateful Saturday in June, 1940. There was no wind early that morning and the sky was clear. But for the smoke from the bombs and shells being dropped, this could be just another early morning boat outing for Commander Charles Herbert Lightoller DSC and Bar, RNR, (Retired) and his son. For the foreseeable future the Commander would be un-retired. This day, Commander Lightoller's actions would cap a career and a life full of deeds mostly seen only in a Hollywood film or read about in books.

Actually, one of Lightoller's most harrowing deeds was immortalized in a number of Hollywood movies and at least two books that I know of. He wrote about it in his own memoirs, which later had to be removed from circulation because they were said to reveal too much, (what about I don't know) and the one spoken of here: "The Odyssey of C.H. Lightoller." by Patrick Stenson.

After nearly sixty years at sea, four shipwrecks, enduring near starvation on a number of occasions, rat & cockroach infested ships, near drowning and the only survivor of his boat on the breakers off West Africa, survived a brutal Klondike winter during a not-so-well-thought-out gold expedition, a war hero in both World Wars.

Lightoller's first ship assignment was the Primrose Hill, and his first year was relatively uneventful if you count surviving Cape Horn, a blow that knocked them off course until they found themselves on the edge of The Antarctic in the midst of ice bergs. if not of which he was 14 years old and member of the ill-fated Holt Hill which broke up up on the rocks of St. Paul stranding all 32 crew, and killing one. For eight days Lightoller and his mates were stranded until they sighted a ship within hailing distance, only to watch as it turned astern and sailed out of sight. That wouldn't be the first time that happened to Lightoller, only the next time the results would be much more tragic. On this particular day, Captain Hayward, aboard the Coorong, was also just within sight of St. Paul. He had made an unusual, and to some of his crew, the unstable decision, of sailing 2000 miles off his course to go to St. Paul because he knew there were men stranded there. How he knew this he could not say, he just knew, and he could not sleep, until he altered course.

At the impressionable age of thirteen, Lightoller had had enough of school and teachers, and relatives who didn't want to be burdened with him after his father had abandoned him and his sister, so he decided the sea was where he belonged and lit out with his uncle's blessing, and his sister's misgivings.

"Get out you damn cowards! I'd like to see you all overboard!"

Brandishing an empty gun!

By the time this incident took place, there was no longer any question of Titanic's eventual doom. It was now only a matter of when, but for Second Officer Lightoller, the group of men that thought to commandeer one of the last life boats (boat #2) represented (I think) some of the worst kind of cowards. While there were still women and children on board the stricken liner these men thought only of saving themselves. This at a time when chivalry was very much the norm!

Since the crisis began Lightoller had only allowed two males into life boats, and one of them was a 13 year old boy, and only at the behest of his father. The other, a yachtsman from Canada, Major Arthur Peuchen, because he could take charge of a lifeboat.

So "Lights" would be hard pressed to allow a bunch of cowardly men to shanghai one of his last life boats.

Later on, Chief Officer Wilde would try to coax Lightoller into Collapsible Boat "B" but Lights would reply simply, "Not damn Likely."

"Lightoller's Maxims & Quips"

From his teachers at sea

I know I blithely said "Lightoller's maxims" in the title of this module, and some of these surely are, but many that he came to live by in his years at sea came to him from his earlier sailing captains, and mates.

One of his most famous of all quotes he told his sister Janie upon his return from his eight day ordeal being shipwrecked on St Paul after the Holt Hill broke up on the island's rocky shoals. He told her; "Don't you bother, the sea isn't wet enough to drown me. I'll never be drowned!"

A maxim Lights learned to live by very early in his sailing days was related to climbing the rigging, regardless of weather or the violence of the seas. Any apprentice who balked at the order found out quickly, at the business end of a fist, that it didn't pay to hesitate when given an order on a ship in the middle of an ocean. Not when other mens lives could be at stake. As the saying went; Growl you may, go you must!

This truth of his sailing days would aid him throughout his life as it made him the tough, pragmatic, and ofttimes unforgiving man he became as was evident when he manned the lifeboats on April 14, 1912. He allowed just two men onto life boats, one; Major Arthur Peuchen because he was a yachtsman and could man the lifeboat, but only if he could make the 10 foot leap to the falls leading to the life boat. The other was a 13 year old boy, and at first Lightoller said, "That boy can't go." And Lights wouldn't have allowed him either if it hadn't been for the boy's father, steel magnate, Arthur Ryerson>/i>. Who strode up and said, "Of course that boy goes with his mother, he's only 13 years old." Lightoller let the boy into the boat. "No more boys," he muttered to himself as he went back to his duties.

Later on he would brandish an empty gun at a group of men who had jumped into Boat #2 and growl, "Get out, cowards! I'd like to see you all overboard!"

His pragmatism came through when two men leapt into Boat #2 on its way down to the water, he muttered to himself, "Best of luck to them."

As far as Lightoller was concerned, those two men were the only two adult males (besides Major Peuchen) to leave in lifeboats from the port side on this night.

Titanic Hero's - Charles H. Lightoller

There are more than a few books out there about C.H. Lightoller!

Unsung Heros - Of the Titanic

There are stories of heroic deeds aboard the Titanic that some people are still not aware of. Stories of people with tales and history's of their own. Many people do know of Fred Barrett's role on the Titanic, however they tend to relegate his role to a lesser one than others.

Fred Barrett

Fred Barrett
Fred Barrett

Many people ask me where I get my information from? Many others "In The Know," realize that there have been literally hundreds of books, and now as many websites on the subject of Titanic. I have read up heavily on the subject of Titanic and her passengers, This lens and my main lens on the Titanic are a result of that labor and I believe in using "my own" words all of the time when writing, because it is my thoughts on the subject I'm trying to convey. If I quote, you'll know "if it is not my quote."

As reported down through the years, there were several notable "heroes" in the Titanic disaster. I'm sure there were things that people did (both good and bad) that we will never know. I'm sure at least one or two of the hero's we are aware of probably played a larger role than what we know of. At least that is what I think, and this lens is the result of those thoughts.

What do you think of "Hero's of Titanic"?

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    • Calder profile image

      Calder 6 years ago

      This is a great lens that shows us some heroes most of us didn't know about before. I appreciate it :)

    • profile image

      Jorden_M 8 years ago

      Yes it was true. In fact, Don Mullan, an Iris photographer and activist, started the MIllivina Fund which where Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio and James Cameron have donated. Millvina Dean was the last living survivor of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. She was nine (9) weeks old when the Titanic sank and in her twilight years she has run into dire financial straits. Fortunately, Hollywood heavyweights have come to her aid when her nursing home fees have gotten a bit out of hand and mere pay day loans wouldn’t cover them. Thanks to these gallant philanthropists for their aiding Millvina Dean and her debt relief.

    • BusyQueen profile image

      BusyQueen 8 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your knowledge. It's well done. 5 *****'s

    • profile image

      InspiredWritingResearch 8 years ago

      Excellent seafaring stuff! I loved your Titanic lens too! 5 stars.

    • profile image

      marsha32 8 years ago

      I came hear from you Titanic lens. Another awesome job!

    • Megal LM profile image

      Megal LM 9 years ago

      Wow, I have seen the movie. But where did you get the information to write this?

    • Karendelac profile image

      Karendelac 9 years ago

      Great Job Joe.

      Good Angle. Heroes should be acknowledged and given credit and be remembered.

      5 stars for you and welcome to my Nautical Group !

      Please visit and rate my Titanic site.

      Best wishes,


    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      This took some time to create. You are the man. I love stories about the Titanic and history in general. Keep Up The Good Work. And thank You FOr The Interesting Read.