Acts of Impact

Harold Lowe and the Sinking of RMS Titanic

February 06, 2023 Nicholas Hill Season 2 Episode 1
Harold Lowe and the Sinking of RMS Titanic
Acts of Impact
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Acts of Impact
Harold Lowe and the Sinking of RMS Titanic
Feb 06, 2023 Season 2 Episode 1
Nicholas Hill

This year, 2023, marks the 25th Anniversary of one of the most awarded movies of all time, James Cameron's 'Titanic'. On today's episode, we'll explore the life and legacy of Titanic survivor and Fifth Officer Harold Lowe, and the positive impact his actions had on those under his command during the tragedy. 

Commander Lowe, as he would later be known, took quick and decisive action during the sinking of the Titanic that would save countless lives. He was also the only person to return to the Titanic to look for survivors, and many survivors credit Lowe with their life.  

For this episode, I had the privilege of interviewing Inger Sheil, Author of 'Titanic Valour: The Life of Fifth Officer Harold Lowe'. We'll discuss Harold's early life and remarkable career rise that led to the Titanic, his actions during the sinking, his return and rescue, and the legacy he leaves behind. 

Throughout today's narration, you'll also hear eyewitness accounts from Titanic survivors that have been given in interviews since the tragedy. 

I hope you enjoy this very special episode. 

To purchase 'Titanic Valour: The Life of Fifth Officer Harold Lowe' visit:

To learn more about the show, view transcripts, and more visit:

Special thanks to Inger for her time and insight. 
Music by Alex Grohls.

Show Notes Transcript

This year, 2023, marks the 25th Anniversary of one of the most awarded movies of all time, James Cameron's 'Titanic'. On today's episode, we'll explore the life and legacy of Titanic survivor and Fifth Officer Harold Lowe, and the positive impact his actions had on those under his command during the tragedy. 

Commander Lowe, as he would later be known, took quick and decisive action during the sinking of the Titanic that would save countless lives. He was also the only person to return to the Titanic to look for survivors, and many survivors credit Lowe with their life.  

For this episode, I had the privilege of interviewing Inger Sheil, Author of 'Titanic Valour: The Life of Fifth Officer Harold Lowe'. We'll discuss Harold's early life and remarkable career rise that led to the Titanic, his actions during the sinking, his return and rescue, and the legacy he leaves behind. 

Throughout today's narration, you'll also hear eyewitness accounts from Titanic survivors that have been given in interviews since the tragedy. 

I hope you enjoy this very special episode. 

To purchase 'Titanic Valour: The Life of Fifth Officer Harold Lowe' visit:

To learn more about the show, view transcripts, and more visit:

Special thanks to Inger for her time and insight. 
Music by Alex Grohls.

Nicholas Hill  0:00  
What do you think of when you hear the word Titanic? If you grew up in the 90s, you probably think of this 

Movie Snippet
Promise me Rose, and never let go of that promise. 
I'll never let go, I promise. 

Nicholas Hill
And then she immediately Let's go. Since the disaster the Titanic has captured the imagination of the public with books, movies, graphic novels, it's smart conspiracy theories on social media, even online role playing games, where you can pretend to be a passenger on board. But as we dive into today's story, let's get back to what we know. RMS Titanic was a British passenger liner operated by the White Star Line, which struck an iceberg on April 14 1912 and sank into the North Atlantic Ocean. On her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. It took nearly three hours for the Titanic to sink. There were 14 wooden and four collapsible lifeboats as well as two cutters. All in all they were capable of carrying only about 1200 of the 2200 people on board. When the last lifeboat left the ship shortly after 2am, only around 700 People had bought it. The 1500 people left behind were plunged into 29 degree water nearly all with die. There were nearly 500 places unoccupied in those lifeboats. Lifeboat six had over 40 empty seats. But when quartermaster Robert Hitchens was asked to return for survivors, he announced it's our lives now not theirs. In both five with 25 empty seats third officer Pittman declared now men we will pull toward the wreck. But very nearly all the passengers objected, fearing for their lives, and he also did not return. In both 14 It was a different story. The Fifth Officer of RMS Titanic turned to those under his charge, and told them they were going back. He was the only man to return for survivors. His name was Harold Lowe. And today, we are going to tell his story. You're listening to acts of impact. The show where we discuss those making a difference in the world around us. I'm your host, Nicholas Hill. Let's get started.

To learn more about Harold I needed an expert. So I reached out to the woman who wrote the book on Harold Lowe. And I mean literally wrote the book. Her name is anger she'll assistant curator at the Australian National Maritime Museum and author of Titanic valor, the life of Fifth Officer Harold Lowe. I asked anger how she became interested in Harel, why she chose to write about this particular officer, when so many other highly ranking officers were on board.

Inger Sheil  3:25  
But back in the 90s. Now I've been interested in the subject since I was a child. But in the 90s. With the advent of the Internet and sites like the wonderful encyclopedia Titanica, I was able to connect with other interest researchers that were interested and it was a simple intrigue, the fact that there was this man who seemed to appear at pivotal moments in the story, and he was taking proactive action. And he often accompany that with a very pithy line. So at first, the intrigue was as you read Walter Lord, for example, and he calls him a fiery Welshman who was difficult to suppress. And at first, it was just sort of this person's in tricking, he's just seems to pop up at these really important moments. And he just cuts through he cuts through with these these fascinating lines. And then of course, you have the moment where he takes a lifeboat 14 Back to search for survivors. So what began initially is just a bit of curiosity. I looked, I surveyed the literature, I thought, surely something more has been written about this man. And I've found that there was virtually nothing other than what he himself had said at the American inquiry when he went into his background and how he'd run away to see and so on. So what I assumed would be a very well covered subject. In fact, it was scan other than his involvement in Titanic. There was virtually nothing out there. And I went from an assumption of well, how much more can there be to a bit of curiosity of Well, let's find out and it led me to challenge that narrative and start to think well, who was this man? Then let's do a deep dive into what his personality really was and where he arrived at where he did.

Nicholas Hill  4:59  
So who was Harold Lowe. The first thing you need to know is that he came from a line of tough people. His distant Great Aunt Hannah, one saw mobs surrounding a preacher rode her horse directly into the middle of it and shouted the first stone at the preacher will come through me. Harold was born, raised and died in Wales, and his life was affected by water from an early age.

Inger Sheil 5:23  
He grew up in a small Welsh town bomber out there on the West Coast. And having been there it's it's an absolutely beautiful part of the world and the sea is very much a part of their lives. Even today, the sea was just part of your life and Harold, I think it was as simple as Harold just love the sea. One of the funny little details that I came across was the fact that his older brother couldn't swim. And yet Harold could and you know that had that had some serious repercussions later.

Nicholas Hill  5:54  
What angers referring to is that in 1895, Harold's brother George Jr. was walking down to the dock to secure a boat, but he missed his footing. George was thrown into the sea. And because he couldn't swim, he drowned. Harold was 13 at the time. The very next year, Harold was out sailing when he was hit by the boom of his boat, and the boat capsized. But Harold survived. He was a strong swimmer, physically courageous, stubborn, reckless and mischievous. He wants took a boat out with his friends so far that the local authorities thought he was in danger. So they sent a lifeboat. And when it came up alongside them, Harold had the nerve to say,

Harold Lowe 6:38  
and where are you bound?

Nicholas Hill  6:40  
He was well educated, fluent in English and Welsh and his dad wanted him to apprentice for a Liverpool firm. But Harold had always wanted to work at sea. So naturally, he ran away.

Harold Lowe 6:53  
My father wanted to apprentice me. But I said there would not be apprenticed, that I was not going to work for anybody for nothing, without any money, but I wanted to be paid for my labor. That was previous to my running away. He took me to Liverpool, to a lot of offices there. And I told him once and for all that I meant what I said, I said, I am not going to be apprenticed, and that settles it.

Inger Sheil 7:19  
He was very adamant about being the master of his own destiny. And the idea of an apprenticeship. It did not appeal to him. He wanted to have that that hard fought for independence and control of his own life and his own finances. And I think that's That in itself is indicative of the kind of character he was.

Nicholas Hill  7:36  
Having decided on his career Harold took to the seas. At 15 years old, he began looking for work with anyone who would take them. This began the long climb from ships boy to Fifth Officer with one of the world's elite passenger lines just 15 years later, Harold made his own way. His first seven ships aren't well known, maybe even a little sketchy, but three years after getting started, he signed on with the William Keith, his first documented ship with about half a dozen crew. Low was considered an ordinary seaman, or O S. So not the bottom of the totem pole, but pretty damn close. But he was learning he was honing his skills and personality and the ability to look out for himself. And after William Keith he joined to the British Queen In 1901 than the Cortes where he was promoted to able bodied Seaman and took his first deep sea voyage around Cape Horn to the nitrate coast and Chile. Funnily enough, one of the apprentices onboard that ship was James moody, who would later be the Sixth Officer of the Titanic, and James hated the nitrate coast. He said, I shan't be sorry to get to see again, these beastly chilly ports are enough to give one the hump, lying within shouting distance of the shore and yet never being able to go ashore. All the men went for a Liberty day but as that chiefly consists of getting as tight as they can, and generally getting locked up, I didn't see the sport so stopped aboard. Harold would then join the Balasore in 1902, and the arms are in 1903, where he met with another sea bass tragedy. The ship had heavy weather, and an 18 year old apprentice Frederick John Marsh was lost overboard. This wasn't entirely uncommon. The potential for loss of life from accident was four and a half times the average for other male workers. In fact, that entire ship met with a strange end a few years later, when it completely disappeared without a trace. The most common opinion for what happened to her she hit an iceberg. In between all those voyages Harold enlisted in the Royal Navy Reserve in 1905. See war with Germany is coming. There's a cry of two kills for one being taken up by the journalist WT stayed. Who would later die Believe it or not. on the Titanic Herald then joins the Prometheus his first steamboat, and around this time James moody is joining his first steamer as well. Calling it a hot water bottle and writing. I'm very nervous starting this job. There are millions of things I don't know on a steamer and I never opened my mouth without I shall have my foot in it. Next, Harold joins the Telemachus and he's starting to gain a bit of a reputation.

Inger Sheil  10:29  
Some of the stories that came out about low indicate that he already had developed a reputation for quite extraordinary physical courage. For example, there was an early voyage where he was on the ship sick list because he'd injured his arm and a Chinese passenger to go overboard, and lo without hesitation jumped overboard after him to keep him afloat. And on another story that dates to that pre Titanic period, there was a terrific storm and the crew were asked to go aloft to perform some task in the rigging and they were all reluctant to do it until finally Harold Lowe just announced well, I'll go I may as well die from the artists from the deck.

Nicholas Hill  11:09  
Harold was moving up quickly, and he wanted to be an officer. So we sat for his second mates exam in 1906. And he failed. And then he took it again and he passed. He found a ship willing to take him on his third mate, the SSR deola. The captain said Harold was attentive, obliging, and strictly sober. See, it turns out Harold Lowe was a lifelong abstainer A complete teetotaller, and this was kind of a big deal when it came to ship's crew.

Inger Sheil 11:39  
We can look to the references that his masters wrote for him. Now they tended to follow a steady formula because what a ship's captain was looking for one of the in addition to obviously having the necessary skills in navigation seamanship. One of the most important things was sobriety in an age where alcoholism was rife in the merchant service. The testimony that a crewman was sober was very important and I found it intriguing that even though a lot of these references are very formulaic, they often underline strictly so they emphasize that so certainly he had a reputation for being a very, I think, very sober and quite serious.

Nicholas Hill  12:19  
Next, Harold joins the chama as fourth mate, then the Barney is third and decides to sit for his first mate certification in 1908, where he fails again, but he really takes it and he passes seems to be a trend maybe. At this point, Harold's career is taking off. He's promoted to second mate on board the Madeira. And for the first time while onboard that ship, he's made chief officer. Then he joins the adda, where Captain Huff gives him a strong reference. And he sits for his master's exam where he passes. I'm just kidding. He fails again. But he really takes it and he passes. There's got to be a lesson in here somewhere about perseverance. So all of this takes us to 1911 were Harold applies to join one of the greatest ship lines in the world. The White Star Line, he had

Inger Sheil 13:12  
He's served on some very prominent, very well respected lines such as elder Dempster and the blue funnel, the arrow at the Alfred hotline, but this was part of the transatlantic trade. And out of all the shipping routes around the world. The North Atlantic was the most prestigious and the white Starlight was pretty much considered the cream of the train. And you read books at the time, like even into the 1920s. There's a scene in The Great Gatsby, where Daisy Buchanan is standing on the lawn and she talks about thinking she hears a nightingale and Oh, it must have come over on a Kannada or white Starliner. And so these were the names you conjured with now whether it deserved or scooters, I won't I won't go into that. It's a very complex argument but it had this or around it of being a a luxurious, technologically up to date. Liner. There's a wonderful line by Frank Bullen control marine author around about 1900 I think he wrote men at the merchant service and entity says that there are certain lines and he names cannot and white style line in which just having an officer's appointment is a brevet rank of distinction. So it certainly did have that that prestige of accomplishment to attain an appointment with one of those liners.

Nicholas Hill  14:34  
Harold would take lifelong pride in his White Star service. He gets engaged to his girlfriend Nelly and joins his first white star ship the tropic is third officer. After the tropic he joins the Belgic where the entire crew basically mutinies except for Harold and a few others. Then when he gets back a coal strike has paralyzed the entire shipping industry. So Harold has no To find that he's being assigned to a brand new ship. He is to report to white star headquarters in Liverpool, where he'll work and overnight crossing to Belfast and join the officers and crew aboard the RMS Titanic. Let's hear from Frank Prentice, a survivor of the Titanic incident who was rescued after swimming to lifeboat for here he is describing the splendor of the ship.

Frank Prentice 15:28  
See this huge thing before I thought choose something out of the ordinary oh my gosh, I didn't quite know what to expect. She was the last word in luxury. All her public rooms were absolutely amazing. All the woodwork was beautifully carved and she had everything everything lit would you think of it? She was a beautiful ship.

Nicholas Hill  15:55  
The Titanic and her sister ship the Olympic are the largest ships in the world at the time. With claims that she was practically unsinkable. The Titanic was four times the size of any ship Harold had ever been on board. being asked to join the Titanic was a big deal. The White Star Line later wrote whenever a man had distinguished himself in the service by any means of ability and devotion to duty. He was earmarked at once to go to the Olympic or Titanic.

Inger Sheil 16:26  
By the time he joins Titanic, he's pretty much on a par with his his colleagues. And if you look at his subsequent career, you see that, for example, Joseph Boxall, who was another surviving officer, they're pretty much serving at this on the same vessels within sometimes within a year or even a few months of each other. They're serving at the same in the same position on the same chips. So they've pretty much reached he'd pretty much reached parity. I look at some of his peers, for example, James moody and Herbert Pippen, two of the other officers on Titanic in James Moody's case, he was the youngest of three children and his mother died, his father had remarried and was capable, what career can we secure for this young man and of course, in late Victorian and Edwardian England, the military was always a possibility. But the merchant marine given that at that time, the British Empire spanned much of the globe and there were there were many job opportunities there for for someone who wanted to go into that, that office a class, you look at, for example, Joseph Boxall, or William Murdoch, two of the other officers, they it was very much a family profession. And then with the ones that didn't have that seafaring background like Pitman and moody, it was a profession and I know that some of Moody's family told me for example, that they believe that he probably would have left the sea if he hadn't died in the sinking. But for Harold, I think he isn't, in a way the exception I think he's someone that while he didn't come from a family that had a seafaring background he loved and embrace the sea. What's that wonderful phrase from when did the willows missing about and boats he'd spent his childhood messing about in boats.

Nicholas Hill  18:01  
So Harold is joining an incredible crew, and is considered to be along with his peers a skillful officer. The Titanic's captain Edward Smith, is respected by passengers and crew alike. And when the Titanic completes her sea trials at Belfast, Harold is impressed and would later write

Harold Lowe  18:21  
on the trails. The Titanic behaved splendidly and maneuvered very well,

Nicholas Hill  18:26  
Here's survivor and Second Officer Charles Lightoller.

Charles Lightoller 18:30  
Were on our trials in Belfast law, and then took around Southampton.

Nicholas Hill  18:35  
After arriving in Southampton and with seemingly every advantage, the crew gets to work. Gear is checked and certified and all is made ready for her maiden voyage.

Harold Lowe 18:45  
We had awfully busy all day checking stores coming aboard.

Nicholas Hill  18:50  
Oddly enough, not everyone is as optimistic about the voyage. The chief officer of the Titanic, Henry Wilde wrote to his sister, I still don't like this ship. I have a queer feeling about it. And he wasn't the only one here survivor Eva Hart.

Ewa Hart 19:08  
The moment this arrangement had been made good Canada, my mother had this dreadful premonition she'd never had before and she'd never had one after. But she said, No, we can't do this. It's quite wrong, something dreadful happened. And I tell you what the sort of woman she was, she's got most feet on the ground and for her to behave like that was absolutely unbelievable.

Nicholas Hill  19:32  
On April 10, Harold attended the lifeboat inspection with Sixth Officer moody. And once everything was in order, the ship cast off. Charles Lightoller describes this day.

Charles Lightoller  19:45  
From the moment we left Belfast, we had marvelous weather. And even when we got out on the western ocean, or Atlantic, as you probably know it, it was as smooth as the proverbial marathon, not a breath of when And she'd like a sheet of bus.

Nicholas Hill  20:03  
For the crew this was a voyage like any other. They made port at shurberg than Queenstown in Ireland on the 11th and the next two days were uneventful. On April 14, Harold entered his usual six to eight watch on the bridge. Harold had agreed with Officer light dollars assessment that they wouldn't be near any ice until around 930, which was well after his shift. Harold finished his uneventful shift and went straight to bed around eight. He would later say of that evening...

Harold Lowe  20:34  
The weather was splendid. It was a fine clear night with no wind. There was no moon, but the stars was shining brilliant, and they could be seen rising and settling on the horizon. There was no fog or haze, and the sea appeared quite calm. It was cold.

Nicholas Hill  20:52  
Titanic survivor and fourth Officer Joseph Boxall agrees.

Joseph Boxhall  20:57  
It was a clear night there was no sense of any fog,

Nicholas Hill  21:01  
Just a short distance away. Survivor Eva hart was having lunch with her mom.

Ewa Hart  21:06  
We had lunch together before she went to bed. And I remember that they also well, because that was the last meal that the three of us ever had together.

Nicholas Hill  21:14  
As Harold lies asleep, the Titanic strikes and iceberg. Survivors Charles Lightoller, Eva Hart, and Frank Prentice describe the event.

Charles Lightoller 21:26  
There were three sharp claims on the crow's nest Bell, followed by a cry from the lookout cage is right EHEDG murder gangly, sold a mess of ice practically at the same time as me and shouted Otto starboard wolfspeed a stir. His idea was to swing her boat there, and then put the hell more hard over the other way. And so swing her started here. And given half a chance, I believe he'd have done it. But going at that speed, it was too late. She was pierced below the waterline in no less than six compartment. And from that moment, nothing could have saved her

Ewa Hart 22:06  
10 minutes to 12. She felt a slight bump. And she said it was just like a train pulling into a station. It just jerked. It was very slight. But she said she knew that it was this dreadful something and she awakened my father. My father came back very quickly, because he could get up to the boat deck in the lift really quickly from where Kevin was. And he came back and he picked me up and wrapped his blanket tightly around me, as of her a baby bee put his very thick coat on her and put it another on himself. And when I asked him words at all, and we went out to Kevin and in into the lift app onto the boat deck. Now if we hadn't done that, at that time, I put him to doubt I'd be talking to you today because as you know, it was a question of who was there in time to get into one of the all too few lifeboats. All of

Frank Prentice  22:59  
a sudden she came to hope there was no fast was like putting brakes on a car you gradually came to all hope and I went for it on the Promenade Deck. And I looked down I couldn't see any any damage at all above the waterline. What I did see was ice in the well deck, the power dwell Deck and i thought Hello.

Nicholas Hill  23:30  
Here's the account of Survivor Edith Russell. As I

Edith Russell  23:33  
got my stateroom I switched on the electric light. And I noticed a slight jaw clobbered immediately by a second one and the third one, which is quite strong enough to make me Hold on the bedpost. The boat came to full stop, walk forward to my window and saw grayish white mass lifting by very much surprised and decided to take my political go out on deck and see what it was all about. Me picked up its device played snowballs for a little while and was very very cold. I asked one of the officers if there's any danger he said no and I went back to bed.

Nicholas Hill  24:10  
But while Edith is throwing snowballs on deck in the mailroom below, it's an entirely different story. This quickly came to be understood by officers Boxall and Lightoller. I got my

Joseph Boxhall  24:22  
way down to the mailroom and down as far as the sorting room and all the mail trucks without pulling letters out of the racks. And I saw bag floating by I instinctively stooped down to try and pick it I just couldn't reach it. realize then that it was serious.

Charles Lightoller  24:41  
Then he said the water is up WEFTEC in the mirror. There was no need for him to say anything more. I was into a pair of punch sweater and rich gold and out on deck almost as soon as he was.

Nicholas Hill  24:53  
News from the mailroom begins to spread. Here's James Witter steward for the second class smoking room on board.

James Witter  25:01  
I was standing there talking to two or three fellows and carpenter came along. And I heard him say that in a room full of water. I said, What's that chip in a room full of water? We said yes. I said, Well, what about those bootcut doors forward? He said they're not owning course. Then I walked into my Kevin number seven gloryhole. And I opened my book, so called everybody I said, fellas get up. She's going down.

Nicholas Hill  25:32  
At this point, the Boson the leader of the unlicensed crew starts barging into crew rooms, shouting all hands on deck, turn out the boats covers off and stow amidships, the crew begins loading lifeboats and our fifth Officer, Mr. Harold Lowe, arrives on deck to help.

Inger Sheil  25:52  
Howard was acting almost autonomously. Hey, emergency on deck because they had attempted to wake him and had failed Vauxhall had gone to his cabin and, and tried to wake him up after the disaster. When questioned about this. He said, we don't get any too much sleep and when we sleep, we die. So he was completely crushed out and he just emerges on deck and you could argue should have gone to a senior officer for orders. But no, what he does is he assesses the situation realizes by his feet that they're down at the bow and that there is a very serious situation that's already well progressed. And so he goes and just immediately starts working on the lifeboats. On the starboard side,

Nicholas Hill  26:33  
Harold moves to the starboard side, lifeboats seven is already being loaded under the command of First Officer Murdock. This is the first of all lowered away from the Titanic. But there's a problem. Nobody wants to get into it. See, at the beginning, nobody really thought anything serious was going to happen. Survivors lied all our heart and Prentice describe these early moments

Charles Lightoller  26:57  
uptime of getting away the first few books. No one believed that the ship was actually in any danger. I'm afraid my own confidence that you wouldn't or couldn't sing, rather conveyed itself to others.

Ewa Hart  27:11  
They weren't launched very quickly, because at first I never thought anything was going to happen. But my father went away and spoke to an officer and he said they are going to launch lifeboats but you will be back on board for breakfast.

Frank Prentice  27:24  
We had no lifeboat drills. And the list of lifeboats, I believe was put up in the galley. Nobody knew where that boats were. lifeboats were that they weren't necessary. You see, we were on a ship that was unsinkable.

Nicholas Hill  27:44  
Ella White, a first class passenger would later say they speak of the bravery of the men. I do not think there was any particular bravery because none of the men thought it was going down. If they had they wouldn't have prevailed about as they did. Harold, meanwhile, is still hard at work. He's moved to boat five still on the starboard side. Passenger, Charles Stengel has just loaded his wife into the boat when suddenly two men leap in one of them lands on Charles's wife and she cries out worried that he's broken her rib. Charles and his wife are upset but not nearly as upset as Harold. And it's at this point in the story that Harold makes the decision

Harold Lowe  28:26  
I will stop that. I will go down and get my gun. 

Nicholas Hill  28:30  
He runs to his room and comes back with a Browning Automatic his personal firearm. Later in the inquiries he would say you never know when you'll need it. Harold shouts for more people to get into the lifeboat but nobody comes forward. So Murdoch orders the ship to be lowered. Bruce is May the Chairman and Managing Director of the Wildstar line itself starts yelling at Harold to lower the boat faster. And watch point he says to his boss's boss's boss. 

Harold Lowe 29:00  
If you'll get the hell out of it. I'll be able to do something you want me to lower away quickly. You'd have me drowning a whole lot of them.

Nicholas Hill  29:07  
Harold then moves to both three and distress rocket start exploding in the skies above. Survivor and quartermaster George Thomas Lowe recalls firing them.

George Thomas Lowe 29:19  
They asked me if I knew where the distress rovers were. I said yes. I said bring them on the bridge. When Captain Smith slowly bring them up. He told me to fire one on fire one every five or six minutes. After about two or three minutes he said to me. Can you Morse? I said yes a bit. He said call that light up. Turn over the Titanic syndrome. Please get all your boats ready.

Nicholas Hill  29:45  
Harold launches the last lifeboat on the starboard side emergency cutter number one.

Inger Sheil  29:51  
By the time he has launched the last of the starboard boats, which includes the lightest loaded bow of the night, which was the emergency cutter number one again, here we have a breakdown of communications. Ideally, the stewards would have brought enough passengers up there to be loaded into that boat when it was launched, but everyone that was there when in it and there were 12 people in a boat that could fit 4012 people

Nicholas Hill  30:16  
out of 40. And on top of that, the lifeboats that had left wouldn't come back. Robert Hitchens, the man who was at the wheel when the Titanic hit the iceberg, was ignoring orders being shouted at him through a megaphone to return to the ship. He announced to his passengers, it's our lives now, not theirs. Meanwhile, Harold has finished launching boat one and has moved to the port side,

Inger Sheil  30:43  
low then crosses to where the most action appears to be, which is diagonally to the other end of the boat deck. On the port side, I think we're starting to see because by now we're more progressed into the disaster. I won't say that there is the kind of full blown panic that is sometimes depicted in movies of the disaster. I think those kinds of scenes played out later. But we're seeing a real press towards the boats. There's a note of if not panic, have a sense of peril really entering into the air, and things are getting a lot more people are beginning to wake up to the seriousness of that situation. The fact that you now have people jumping into the lifeboats as they're loaded indicates that yes, people really were waking to the realization that this ship was going to sink.

Nicholas Hill  31:27  
Survivors, Frank Prentice, Edith Russell and Emma Hart described the chaos of getting into the lifeboats.

Frank Prentice  31:34  
We got the four cyl way. They were trying to jump into them. As they went down, 

Edith Russell
I was thrown in. I mean, you know, he just picked me up and threw in 

Ewa Hart
he put me in the lifeboat and don't want to be good sent to me how to remember his hand and I thought he was cutting off me but then it dawned on me, of course that he wasn't coming. See you anymore. 

Nicholas Hill  31:58  
The lifeboat that Ewa heart is being placed in his lifeboat number 14. The same lifeboat Harold Lowe would take command of Harold starts loading lifeboats, 1214 and 16. But at this point, all hell is breaking loose. He holds his gun high and begins ordering any women at all to enter the boats and all men to stay back. It's at this point Harold has a conversation with six OFFICER MOODY. He seems several lifeboats go down now. And none of them had an officer to command them. So he and moody agree that Harold will take command of lifeboat 14 and moody will take command of a separate boat. James moody would never join another boat. He'd stay on deck and continue loading lifeboats until the ship goes under and was never seen again. I asked anger about this moment. Because I just had to wonder, was Harold saving his own skin here? What went into this decision?

Inger Sheil  32:56  
It's one of those questions you can never entirely answer. And maybe even the person involved themselves doesn't necessarily know what the answer is to that question. I think though, given how old Lowe's history of putting himself in personal peril, his whole life had been putting himself in personal peril. I doubt very much that it foremost in his mind was saving his own skin. And I think he probably was completely genuine in his conversation with James moody who was the other junior officer who was with him when he said to moody look, I've seen five boats go without an officer. I think one or two go in this boat who's going to be your me. And I think that was a genuine question. It's like we're working this out between us we colleagues. All right, who's going in this boat who's staying on deck and moody tells him You go I'll get in another lifeboat which Moody's family incidentally, later found a great comfort because they believed it indicated significant heroism on his part. All the evidence we have is to the senior officer that was in that area suggests it was wild again while didn't survive, so we can't ask wild what he thought of low going in. But it seems that wild was aware that low was in that lifeboat was actually telling the crew of 12 Keep an eye on him when you get into the water.

Nicholas Hill  34:10  
Wildlife boat 14 is going down. Two men try to jump in at the last minute. Harold shoves one back on deck and shoves his gun and the other one's face.

Harold Lowe  34:20  
I gave you just 10 seconds to get back onto that ship before I blow your brains out.

Nicholas Hill  34:26  
Seeing he was scared, he put aside the gun and tried to reason with the man. For God's

Harold Lowe 34:32  
sake Be a man. We've got women and children to save. We must stop at the deck slow down and take on women and children.

Nicholas Hill  34:41  
The man got back on deck and was never seen again. As they continue to lower people get even more bold, attempting to jump in at every floor. So Harold starts firing warning shots at every floor shouting

Harold Lowe  34:55  
if any of you men jump onto this board, I will shoot you like the dogs you are I stand back.

Nicholas Hill  35:01  
The boat nearly gets stuck just a few feet above the water, but it eventually crashes down. Harold wanted to stay close by, but passengers were worried about the suction. So they moved 150 yards from the ship. At this point, Harold starts working to get as many lifeboats as he can, and he forms a flotilla.

Inger Sheil  35:22  
I think it becomes evident when you look at the testimony of Lowe and the crew and the passengers. That boat 12 was told to keep an eye on 14. And so it suggests that even before they'd left the decks, lo knew that he would be keeping these boats together. We know that it was it was a calm night at the time, but the weather can change very quickly at sea and how much low knew about the communication that had been occurring with nearby vessels, we don't know might not have been aware of if help was coming, and if help was coming, what timeframe that would be in so his first thought is you've got to keep these boats together. There are so many instances of shipwrecks in which a lifeboat goes off, people roll off or drift away and several other boats are picked up. But one boats never seen. Again. This happens a lot in maritime disasters of this era. 

Nicholas Hill  36:17  
Harold joins boats 10 and 12 together and begins to tell any boat without an officer,

Harold Lowe  36:22  
configure yourself under my charge.

Nicholas Hill  36:25  
Ewa Hart recalls this moment in her interview,

Ewa Hart  36:29  
the officer pulled all the boats together, and Tom ship some of us one in that boat and two in that and three in that and I got separated from my mother. And that was the most terrifying thing to happen to a child.

Nicholas Hill  36:42  
Even before the Titanic sank, Harold was considering a return for survivors.

Inger Sheil  36:48  
One of the crew talks about the fact that even before the ship had sunk he was discussing. I want to go back and look there may be a danger of suction that I'm prepared to take the risk. What about you? And the crew are like, No, we're not prepared to take the risk of going close. While it goes down the suction question it comes up again in lifeboat after lifeboat they were all deeply concerned about the idea that when a ship that size goes down, it's going to pull down everything in the ocean for miles around as it turned out when the ship went down because there was a gradual equalization as it sank. So comparatively slowly, there was very little suction, but they didn't know that at the time. It was a very genuine fear.

Nicholas Hill  37:23  
At this point, the RMS Titanic sinks. Herald estimated the ship was at 75 degrees and heard a distant smothered rumbling as the Titanic went under. Survivors, Joseph Boxall, Charles Lightoller, and Eva Hart recall the moment of the sinking.

Joseph Boxhall  37:43  
You could see by the, by the arrangements of the lights, all the lights were burning. And you could see that she was going down, you could see the Dustan was was getting pretty low in the water. She was certainly going down, there was no doubt about them,

Charles Lightoller  38:01  
as having an eye look down from the top of the officers quarter where we were standing. The ship took a sudden dip and a sea came rolling up carrying everyone with many were drowned there and then everyone that could just instinctively started to scramble up towards the after end of the ship. But that was only putting it off. In fact, it was lessening their chances of lunge had to come and that I could see was pretty soon and no one's chances were going to be improved by getting mixed up in a struggling mass.

Ewa Hart  38:41  
I didn't close my eyes at all I saw that ship sink. And I saw that ship break in half. And for so many years people have argued with me about that. But now at last it has been proven beyond don't doubt that she did break in half. I know she did. I saw her. And the forepart went down those first and the other the start of that ships to wrap in the water for quite a long time and it seemed a long time meaning keel over

Charles Lightoller  39:08  
the watch of the falling funnel definitely picked us up, raft and all and flung us clear the ship all together. Several of us crumbled up on the slippery bottom of the rock. And it was from there. I saw the Titanic sink. As I watched, I could see her bow getting deeper and deeper in the water, with the former's sticking up above the surface, whilst her stern lifted higher and higher. Delete was right out of the water. When she got to an angle of about 60 degree. There was a sullen sort of rumbling roar, as her massive boilers all met their beds, and when rushing down through the bulkhead, and everything that stood in their way up to that moment, she had stood out as clear as clear with her Rose of electric lights all burning. When the boiler broke away, she was of course plunged into absolute darkness. Though her huge black outline was still perfectly distinct, up against the stars in the sky. Slowly she reared up on a toilet last she was absolutely perpendicular. Then, quite quietly, quicker and quicker. She seemed just to slide away onto the surface and disappear.

Nicholas Hill  40:39  
Once the ship had gone under, and the risk of being pulled down by the suction had subsided, debates about returning for survivors would be brought up again. But now a new fear was surfacing.

Inger Sheil 40:51  
I think Daisy Monahans evidence is probably true. A couple of people do tweet start talking about going back. But then you've got other people in the boats that are arguing about not going back and there's the risk when you go closer to the nearly one and a half 1000 people that are in the water, that they can somehow swamp the boats. Now obviously the gunwales is sitting quite high out of the water, but there are ropes strung along and if a number of people were able to get to one side and all pull on it, yes, the boat could be rendered unstable enough to potentially even capsized how realistic this fear was is difficult to tell without some experimentation, but it was certainly a fear that was widely held. And there have been instances of this sort of thing happening.

Nicholas Hill  41:39  
Hitchens the man who had talked of our lives, not theirs, now said it was no use going back that there were only a lot of stiffs they're criminals, Thomas Jones and lifeboat eight wanted to return. But the Countess of Roth's remembered how torn he was over the decision. And he ultimately decided not to go back. Albert Haines and boat nine conferred with the crew in his boat. There are people in the water he pointed out, but ultimately he decided we can't do nothing with this crowd we have in the boat. For a moment, it seemed as if both five under the command of Officer Pittman would take the initiative and a rescue attempt. Now man, we will pull toward the wreck. A storm of protest arose from the passengers and Pittman in a choice that would later haunt him, changed his mind. Fourth officer Boxall was in a terrible predicament. He did not return for survivors after the ship went down, but lit the first of a number of flares he had taken with him into the boat. A chorus of screams from the water momentarily swelled the signal, only to die down again. After the ship sank, both for was close enough for others to make their way to her. And for the crew of the boat to rollback and pick up survivors after the ship had sunk. Emily Ryerson in boat for would recall that there were no lights to be seen and no one seemed to know what direction to take. In the darkness they heard Harold blow, who had earlier called out to them to tie up to his boats, blowing his whistle to corral the other vessels. Once their eyesight had adjusted to the darkness, and following Harold's voice boat for was able to tie up with boat 14

Inger Sheil  43:31  
There were a couple of instances of people being able to swim to boats that were close by when they went down some actually left the ship before it had sunk and were able to swim to nearby boats and the crew of boat four were able to pick up some people they were near enough after the sinking and there's a bit of discrepancy in the evidence they gave but some suggested that they were able to swim to the boat and some suggested that four came to them so technically speaking for also picked up people before they pulled away and when they pulled away they joined Lowe's flotilla of boats.

Nicholas Hill  44:02  
And now again Harold recommends they returned to the wreckage.

Harold Lowe  44:06  
Well boys, I'm prepared to roll Neeraj and take my chance. I don't think there's any fear of being sucked down, or the rest prepared to go.

Nicholas Hill  44:16  
But they weren't. And for some time the lifeboats did nothing but wait for those in the water. It was a death sentence. Survivors Boxall Hart and Prentice describe the events.

Joseph Boxhall 44:30  
We got away clear the ship and we just laid on their eyes until eventually they realized that she that she had gone and we heard all the screams. We couldn't do anything. And the screams went on. For some considerable time.

Ewa Hart 44:50  
We heard the dreadful sound of people drowning, which is unbelievable. The screams as a ghastly My mother used to say sometimes, but do you remember the silence that followed it? And that's quite right. It says a whole world stood still that night. Once the lights have gone the ship had gone sounded gone.

Frank Prentice 45:16  
But cries, help prayers at all subsided everything was quiet.

Nicholas Hill  45:25  
At this point Harold is tired of waiting and the orders are returned for survivors. He is the only ship to do so.

Inger Sheil 45:33  
There's this dialogue going on at the boats as it went on in many of the other boats do we go back to me not go back and low finally puts his foot down because he been keen on going back from the start and he organizes them and having made the decision to go back. I think he miscalculated on how long it would take to empty his lifeboats. So he had a clear boat and crew to get back trying to transfer traumatized women and children in the middle of the North Atlantic, from one boat to the next is a very difficult process. And he by that stage is very anxious to go back because those cries would have been thinning out very, very quickly on the water. And at this point, it gets very impatient with first class passenger Daisy minute Minahan until so that a jump Goddamn you jump. When she says I was just waiting my turn. I wasn't I wasn't hesitating. I was merely waiting my turn. But you can see that urgency creeping in there. And eventually, he is able to assemble his crew and return to the wreck and rescue those that was still there. And unfortunately, of course, hypothermia. I mean, many people would have died of heart failure as soon as they hit the water. It was that cold that night and the others they perished very quickly. In fact, some of the people that did make it into boats still died of course because they were wearing soaked clothes.

Nicholas Hill  46:49  
When Harold returns, it becomes quickly apparent that the majority of people had frozen with very few survivors.

Harold Lowe  46:56  
You could not row because of the bodies, you have to push your way through.

Nicholas Hill  47:00  
After hearing a small moaning noise Harold finds their first alive passenger, first class passenger William Hoyt, who is barely conscious, the crew does their best to help him. But sadly, he's too far gone, and he dies in the lifeboat. He's taken to the Carpathia where he is buried at sea. Next, a further two people are rescued. And there's some confusion over their identities. One is third class passenger fondling. The other is unknown, but both survive. The final person to be rescued is a man found on top of some wreckage. This man is generally believed to have been saloon steward Harold Fillmore, who also survives. Overall, there's still some confusion about the number of people that Harold saved.

Inger Sheil  47:53  
The numbers from from three to six, four seems to be the number most commonly cited. The only problem is we can't put a definite name to each of those people, which I mean, this is still debated among researchers. We know for example, who it was one of them he was the man that they were able to bring in board but he perished. He didn't survive. And of course, we know that one of them was one of the Chinese passengers that was on board Fon Lang and his son, who was still with us often talks about the timeline. But the other two if there were two or if there was one, we don't know. A lot of the male survivors claimed that they went into the water because there was a stigma attached with having been a male who survived you hear all the time it was either I was in the last boat, or I went into the water and was rescued. Now, all the people that claim to have been in the water couldn't possibly have been in there. And we know from other accounts that No they weren't, but you can understand why people would seek to avoid that criticism, so that complicates working out who exactly went in the water, and lo himself said that later when he was on the Carpathia, the rescue boat that none of them came to speak to him, so even he, I don't think was too sure who he pulled out.

Nicholas Hill  49:07  
As it turns out, though, Harold's rescues wouldn't end with just those survivors. When dawn comes, the rescue ship comes into view, the Carpathia. Many of those in the lifeboats are worried about running into more ice on the way to the ship, but Harold makes the decision to head to the boat.

Harold Lowe  49:27  
I've taken command here. I intend to keep command because no one else seems to have sense enough to do it. Now shut up. We will go to the boat. We can't expect it to come to us.

Nicholas Hill  49:38  
On the way to the Carpathia. Harold notices collapsible lifeboat a in the distance. It was stranded and appeared to be sinking is about to head.

Harold Lowe  49:49  
It's almost under.

Inger Sheil  49:50  
There were two collapsible boats at the very end one capsized collapsible B and there were a number of people including Second Officer Lightoller who survived on top of this overturned collapsible. The other collapsible boat a floated off but its sides had been damaged that they had a wooden hole and a Canvas side that was raised. It floated off upright, but it was swamped and people had swarmed on board you can imagine. And there was this horrific scene over the course of the night where people were dying and being put overboard or falling down into the bottom of the boat. And so they were in a very dire straits, there was no way they could have rode to the Carpathia, they were had to wait for it under the other boats to rescue them. And given the state that many of the survivors were in whether they would have been able to make it until another boat had been able to reach them, I think is debatable. Rhoda Abbott, who has one of the most remarkable and traumatic stories was on collapsible legs. She was the only woman to go into the water and survive. She had two teenage sons with her who she'd actually stayed back with them. They both perished. And she was up to her knees and water. And because Lowe was a very accomplished boatman, he was the only lifeboat where he was able to raise the masks with which they were equipped and because the breeze had sprung up at the door and he was able to sail so he sailed up to collapsible lay and then sees the state that they're in and pulls out his gun and says the woman first death for the man who attempts to get ahead of her and one of the witnesses who saw this Renee Harris, who was in DC said she just sunk down like a broken bird when she got into the boat wrote it Abbott herself said she just couldn't speak highly enough of Harold Lowe and she said I Oh in my life, she couldn't have made it much longer. So I think that yes, he did do vital work in rescuing a when he did they, they would have still been survivors. But I think that more would very probably have perished before they were able to reach car pay through if he hadn't been able to take them on board.

Nicholas Hill  51:46  
On board clinging to life were around 13 survivors, and it started with around 30. Many had died due to the icy water that had filled the ship. Collapsible a survivor Auguste Venner strong, Andersen recalls about the night all the feeling had left us if we wanted to know if we still had legs left, we had to feel down in the water with our hand. The only exercise we got was when someone gave up hope and died, who we immediately threw overboard to give the live ones more space, and at the same time lighten the weight of the boat. We had to push back about 10 Poor people who wanted to climb aboard. We were filled to the limit, said survivor George Rimes, lifeboat 14 safely arrived at Carpathia with around 25 survivors aboard. They left the lifeboat in the water. Asked later what he did after landing his human cargo. Harold responded,

Harold Lowe  52:48  
there was nothing to do. What was there to do?

Nicholas Hill  52:52  
Captain Smith, Chief Officer wild first officer Murdock, junior officer Moody had all been swept away. Harold had a small chance to talk with those he rescued on board the Carpathia.

Harold Lowe  53:05  
I would go around and see well, I don't know. I suppose you might deem them your friends. I suppose you could. They were very suddenly brought together and all that. I used to go around among them, and I knew my boat crew.

Nicholas Hill  53:19  
One survivor asked Harold if he wanted to exchange souvenirs. And Harold's response was,

Harold Lowe  53:26  
Well, if you wanted to have in the you can have the bullet you nearly got

Nicholas Hill  53:29  
after the wreck inquiries were held in both Europe and America. Harold testified during both, but resented the fact that he was expected to give evidence in America at all, and was short and terse in his responses. For example, when he was asked, Do you know what an iceberg is composed of? By Smith during the American proceedings, Harold responded,

Harold Lowe 53:52  
Ice, I suppose, sir.

Nicholas Hill  53:56  
Harold also became visibly upset when he was accused of being drunk the night of the wreck. As he explained to a reporter from the world, next to his master's ticket, he valued most his reputation as an abstainer. Harold also defended his decision to leave the ship.

Harold Lowe  54:13  
I sold five boats go away without an officer. And I told moody on my own that I had seen five boats go away, and an officer to go when one of these boats I asked him who it was to be him or I, and he told me you go, I will get in another boat.

Nicholas Hill  54:30  
Once the inquiries were satisfied with Harold's conduct, he went home. Harold was recognized for his heroism, and awarded a sum of money at a ceremony in his hometown that was standing room only. As I witnesses came forward with their retelling of events, it quickly became clear that Harold's actions had made a lasting impact on the passengers and crew under his charge. There was little doubt as to his heroism during In the night's events, survivor clear Cameron admired Harold calling him a real John bowl and saying he was the only officer who did any work. She added we people who were saved in the last four boats owe our lives to Him. Sarah Compton wrote about Harold's manly bearing and said he personified the best traditions of the British sailor, Edith brown only 15 At the time of the tragedy, referred to Harold as a brave young man. And second class passenger Selena Cook said too much praise cannot be given this officer for his work with 54 other women on board the Titanic. I owe my life to Mr. Harold G. Lo. FRANK MORRIS would say our officer did the finest action he could have done and Thomas Threlfall would declare Harold a gentleman and a Britisher. Archibald Gracie said he was intemperate and language only, and in all other respects a first class officer Rhonda Abbott on collapsible boat a said Had it not been for Officer Harold, I would have been drowned. I was nearly exhausted when He lifted me into his lifeboat, it would have been impossible for an officer to show more courtesy. Sheriff Bayless with whom Harold developed a friendship stated when the Titanic disaster has become a matter of history. Harold G. Lowe will occupy the heroes place. He combined qualities of courage, firmness and good judgment. Finally, survivor Renee Harris wrote a highly colored article for Liberty magazine in what she wrote, If by some freak of circumstance Fifth Officer Herald should read these lines. He will know that through all the years, he has stood out in my memory as one of the finest men it has been my privilege to meet. Harold even paid her a visit in New York, and she offered him a reward. But Harold responded,

Harold Lowe  57:06  
Mrs. Harris, you make me blush. I've only done my duty. I won't take a penny for that. I only haul it anybody can holler.

Nicholas Hill  57:15  
Something that really affected me when I was reading angers book was the fact that Harold's life didn't just stop there. When we watch movies about disasters or epic events, life just seems to stop right after the climactic action is through. But that isn't how life works. Harold Lowe would live for another 32 years after the sinking of the Titanic. He would join World War One against Germany and qualify as a lieutenant. He and his wife Nellie would have a daughter Florence and a son Harold William. Harold would travel the world, the Suez Canal, Malta Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Monaco Island, he would serve in the Royal Naval Reserve and sea service and Vladivostok during the Russian Revolution and Civil War. After the war, he returned to serve with the International Mercantile Marine ships and the White Star Line. He reached chief officer and was awarded the rank of commander near his 41st birthday, a title he would use for the rest of his life. He joined the Freemasons. He nearly lost all his savings during the Great Depression, but received a large inheritance after the death of Nellies father and ultimately retired in 1931. He went into politics and became a local counselor. And later during World War Two, he volunteered his home as a sector post and served as an air raid warden until a stroke confined him to a wheelchair. I asked anger. What do we take away from Harold's life? This man who loomed so high during the sinking of the Titanic, but also had a long career, life, family, military service. What stands out to her?

Inger Sheil  59:11  
What I find most remarkable about him is his integrity. And I don't think I would always agree with Harold Lowe as a personality, I think that I'd find him very strong and very stubborn in some of his ways of thinking. I don't think that he's necessarily someone that I would want to be a great friend of. But one thing I do think he demonstrates is this extraordinary integrity, the fact that he saw what he thought was the right thing to do, and he did it regardless of the personal consequences. And I think that was the way in which he strove to live his life. And I think the other thing is his extraordinary sense of independence and of self. He loved the poet Robert service and Robert service wrote about people who wanted to be the masters of their own destiny in their own lives. I think that was Harold from a very young age. I admire him very much for the physical acts of courage that he undertook throughout his life. The Titanic certainly wasn't the only incident in which that was demonstrated. But I think it's that strong sense of being himself even down to the fact that this is a man who walk into town wearing his Canadian jacket, and he's jodhpurs even though he'd never ridden a horse in his life, because that was him. That was what he was most comfortable in. And this kind of rig suited him and it was practical. And so that's what he was. So I think that that integrity of being true to yourself and your own sense of independence, but also compassion, and caring for others.

Nicholas Hill  1:00:39  
Harold Lowe died on May 12 1944. He was 61. His body was buried at Sun Tricia and chose in a churchyard by the sea. The Barmouth advertiser, in publishing its account of heralds heroism during the sinking of the Titanic, decided that a few verses would be appropriate to the occasion, to herald Gilo pattern to your sex and country, noble hearted, kind and brave, willing to assist the needy in distress alert to save. From the jaws of death, God saved the answer to all our anxious prayers. May he from care and danger, keep the free in future years. So where thou now this crown of love, neat woven for the brow by hearts that beat with gratitude, and the love the truly now 

I hope that you enjoyed today's episode. I'd like to take this moment in closing to recommend you read the book Titanic valor, the life of Fifth Officer Harold Lowe. I'll place a link in the description. I'd also like to take a moment to thank Inger for her valuable time and unique insight into Harold's life. I truly enjoyed our conversation and learned a lot. And that's all for today's episode of acts of impact. We'll see you next time.