Titanic Lives - Richard Davenport-Hines

Steven Adams
27th January 2012, 04:00
I spotted this new title from Harper Collins (2012) last week. As a former marine engineer, I (along with many others) have always had an affinity with the memory of the engineers who stood at their posts during the abandon ship and were all lost. Keen to see how the author dealt with this, I flicked through the volume but found no reference at all to the engineers; it refers to the firemen, greasers and others in the engine department but the word engineer is unknown.

How can a book which purports to document this tragedy at an individual level, be so selective and omit such an important story? The book has all the hallmarks of the Marxist approach of contemporary historians who see the world through the conflict of class, gender and race. The indexed reference to the 2nd Mate CH Lightoller's later life speaks of a spooky experience in a cold bath reminding him of the chilly north Atlantic all those years ago. It says nothing of his exploits as Commander of a RN Channel Fleet destroyer in WWI, nor his evacuation of British forces from Dunkirk in his own launch. For all that it appears to me to contain some hitherto unpublished images.

Ignorance of the role of the engineer is no surprise here as the ship's engineer is rarely seen in popular portrayals of shipboard life apart from the pseudo Scot on the Starship Enterprise.

27th January 2012, 12:07
"pseudo Scot on the Starship Enterprise."

Who was on Juno Beach on D-Day.


28th January 2012, 10:08
Yes, Steven, it is a sad state of affairs that we engineers are so pointedly "the forgotten men". I think it has something to do with the fact that so much maritime literature has been penned by those on deck who seem to have had so much time for reflection (the wheel's kick and the wind's song type rubbish) while down below, the poor old engineers had more to worry about than the meaning of life!
If you look at the "What respect?" thread in the Engine Room section, you'll see that others have raised the issue before. But look further and you will find a thread "Titanic engineers memorial" which shows some attempts to redress the situation.
The comments about the orchestra's memorial are interesting. In the town of Broken Hill, way off in the outback of New South Wales, there is in a park, a memorial to the Titanic's orchestra. Quite extraordinary! I suppose that the locals heard the story, were musically inclined and had some money to waste.

28th January 2012, 10:48
As Sail came before power Chillytoes, so the wheels kick etc is very fitting and right I have no sympathy for engineers who moan but a lot for those like the Titanic Engineers who were very brave men, you modern lot never had it so good yet keep on moaning, over worked what rot and about the orchestra, they were very brave people to and deserve a memorial, stop moaning and get your pen out and right a story if can find time to clean your hands he he

28th January 2012, 11:38
Getting it Straight

the siren shrieks its farewell note and proudly makes its way
the brand new gaint liner moves in grandeur down the bay
a marvelous creation her builders joy and pride
a great hope of her owners as she floats upon the tide

the passengers in festive mood mid laughter jest and quip
with keen delight enjoying the great ships maiden trip
"shes sure to break the record,she'll do twenty knots or more"
is the hope of all aboard her as she she leaves her native shore

upon the bridge the captain proud and like all skippers bold
bedecked in gorgeous raiment of navy blue and gold
all eyes are fixed upon him its going to his head
as he stops to drop the pilot then rings down full ahead

and now begins the battle for the trophy of the seas
by men not clad in blue and gold but lowly dungarees
on deck the scene is blith and gay fair ladies song and wine
but hell is popping down below beneath the deep load line

the chief snaps out his orders to staff on watch below
his men obay his mandates as about their tasks they go
the pressure must not fluctuate the bearings can't run hot
the revolutions must not fail to make that twenty knots

at dinner on the first night out the skipper proudly boasts
" we'll surely break the record" as the gallant ship he toasts
the task of breaking put no grey hairs on his head
his contribution ended when he rang full speed ahead

through weary days and sleepless nights to consummate their dream
the engineers work ceaseless till ambrose lights abeam
the record has been broken average twenty one point four
the captain wears another stripe hes been made a commodore

and thus he claime the credit for what other better men have done
he boasts through press and radio of the victory he has won
neglecting e'en to to mention as he prates his ballyhoo
the brains of men and brawn and guts who shoved the great ship through,

the moral of this story indicates conclusively
the glory rarely goes to those who win the victory
so keep this simple thought in mind when you read of record trips
that the MEN behind the Throttles are the Men who drive the ships

By Herbert G. Lambert 2nd Asst. Eng

30th January 2012, 05:41
And for good measure....


Oil-soaked shoes all covered with grime,
Polished shoes with a brilliant shine.

Sweated clothes all stained with grease,
Shirt and tie and pants well creased.

Oily scarred and calloused hands,
Manicured fingers, looking grand.

Thus they approached the Pearly Gate,
The engineer, and the mate.

Saint Peter gazed at this strange sight,
He knew one was wrong and one was right.

Just to be sure he did then look,
In his gigantic Judgement Book.

Then, looking up he said so clear,
I’ll now pass judgement on the engineer.

You’ve sweated blood; you’ve breathed some gas,
The scars and bruises and burns still last.

So come my son, and take your place,
Like a king, in all his grace.

My son, you’ve stood it very well,
You’ve surely had your share of hell.

The engineer passed through the Gate,
Saint Peter then turned to the mate.

You’ve filled your lungs with cool clean air,
You’ve known the breeze and sun up there.

Pushed a pencil, you’ve travelled in class,
You’ve been a passenger before the mast.

There is no question, yes or no,
It’s now your turn to go below!

John Welshman
31st January 2012, 12:57
Dear Steven

Thanks. That's interesting. I've flicked through the book in the bookshop. I think the main difference between Richard's book and mine is that his has a thematic structure, whereas mine is a narrative.


I include 4 crew members in my 12: Harold Bride; Violet Jessop; Herbert Lightoller; and Arthur Rostron. I hope that the book deals therefore with the theme of work as part of my 'small town', though perhaps there is not as much on the engineers as you would like.

It was historian Walter Lord in A Night to Remember (1955) who described the sinking of the Titanic as 'the last night of a small town'. My book Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012), both builds upon and challenges Lord's famous account. First, it re-balances the narrative, covering First, Second, and Third Class; women as well as men; children as well as adults; crew members as well as passengers; and people from countries other than Britain and America. Second, the book offers not just a minute-by-minute depiction of events, but explores themes - the ship's construction, social class, migration, radio - thereby employing and extending the metaphor of a small town.

The book features the stories of both crew and passengers. The featured crew includes the Second Officer; a Stewardess; the young Assistant Wireless Operator; and the Captain of the Carpathia rescue ship. There are eight featured passengers in all - an amateur military historian and governess in First Class; a teacher in Second; a domestic servant and mother in Third; and three children. What were their earlier histories, their hopes and anxieties? Who survived, and why, and who perished? What happened to these people in the years after 1912? And what can we learn from their accounts? On the centenary of the sinking, it is the individual histories of twelve of the inhabitants of the small town that this book reconstructs. The book employs the rigorous, sceptical approach of the social historian, while at the same time retaining the vividness of the eye-witness account.

Best wishes

John Welshman

(Dr) John Welshman
Senior Lecturer
Department of History
Bowland College
Lancaster University
Lancaster LA1 4YT

tel: +44 (0)1524 592651

My new book Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012), will be published on 15 March 2012.


Hugh Ferguson
31st January 2012, 16:51
Churchill spoke about them, "The Man Around The Engine" was the phrase he used.

Hugh Ferguson
1st February 2012, 12:23
Epitaph for a Third Engineer

When the last crank and crosshead's been tightened,
And the third engineer layed to rest,
His tools, all rusty and broken
Decide which you think are the best.
No red hot cranks-or second's pranks, no firemen to frighten,
No nuts to slack, no glands to pack nor bottom ends to tighten.
We'll leave him alone in God's acre
Where he died with his age old beliefs
That Heaven's reserved for the juniors
And Hell's set apart for the Chiefs.

1st February 2012, 13:50
Thanks Hugh, been looking for that for a bit - do you know of one which begins "If you go down below today you're in for a big surprise, the Second and Chief are there and can hardly believe their eyes"? Quoted to me at the same beery evening

1st February 2012, 14:22
Anyway, on the TV documentary about the Costa Concordia last night, one of the dancers referred to her engineer boyfriend.
At least one of the engs was getting his just deserts (Eats)

Hugh Ferguson
1st February 2012, 15:29
No, Duncan, I've not heard of that one. However I can recommend a good read entitled, "The Man Around The Engine" (sub-title, Life Below the Waterline)
written by Admiral Sir Louis Le Bailly KBE CB OBE DL: Publisher, Kenneth Mason
ISBN 0-85937-354-1

The attachment is a letter he wrote to the D.T. 3rd Sept.2003. Click on it, when opened, to enlarge.

1st February 2012, 16:02
Thanks Hugh, I bought my copy at the Submarine museum some years back - as yoiu say a good read and judging by the price of them on abe books an investment!!