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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

TITANIC - Shots in the Dark


Shots in the Dark - Did an Officer Commit Suicide on the Titanic in the Last Stages of the Sinking?
(appologies to Titanic author Walter Lord for our title - but it was too good to pass up!)
http://www.wormstedt.com/Titanic/shots/shots.htm


Introduction

Even on the rescue ship Carpathia, coming into New York Harbor in April 1912, rumors were circulating that an officer had shot himself on the Boat Deck of the Titanic, in the last stages of the sinking. James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster movie, Titanic, portrayed First Officer William Murdoch as committing suicide after attempting to launch Collapsible A from the Boat Deck. Though little mentioned, the early 1997 CBS mini-series Titanic also showed Murdoch shooting himself.
Walter Lord's book, The Night Lives On, discusses a possible suicide. Lord offers up three possibilities for this act - Purser McElroy, First Officer Murdoch, and Chief Officer Wilde. According to Collapsible B survivor Jack Thayer, McElroy had previously fired a gun in the air on the forward starboard A Deck. Passenger Hugh Woolner also puts Murdoch on the forward starboard section of the ship, possibly firing shots at the launch of Collapsible C. Murdoch was also known to have been involved in trying to launch Collapsible A (again, on the starboard Boat Deck), along with Sixth Officer Moody. Wilde? As Lord states, "That leaves Chief Officer Wilde, who is the enigma of the night. There's no more reason to suppose Wilde was the officer seen than anyone else."
There are also reports that Captain Smith may have committed suicide on the bridge, just before it dipped under.
But, what did the survivors actually see and say about a suicide? This site is an attempt to bring together and publish the accounts relating to this.
NOTE - During the course of this research, quite a few accounts were found referring to shots being fired during the lifeboat loading. Given the purpose of this site, I have not posted many of the accounts which do not specifically refer to an officer's shooting himself. Many of these other accounts do refer to shooting on the forward starboard Boat Deck, during the loading of both Collapsibles C and A.

Survivor accounts following are in red. Comments and summaries are indicated in black type.


Primary accounts of an officer's suicide

The following primary accounts are either taken from a survivor's own letters or diaries, or testimony at either the US or British Inquiries of 1912. In these cases, there is very little doubt that the survivor really said what they are quoted as saying. Since many survivors gave multiple accounts, some secondary accounts may be mixed in with the primary, in an effort to keep a person's statements together.

Eugene Patrick Daly, 3rd Class passenger
Eugene Patrick Daly of Athlone, Ireland, by his own accounts was rescued aboard the upturned Collapsible B. His accounts of his rescue are partially born out by fellow steerage passenger Edward Dorking, who mentioned seeing the "Irishman" struggling to climb off of Collapsible B and into one of the lifeboats which were taking the men aboard in the morning. By the time Daly reached the Carpathia, he had been rendered unconscious by the below-freezing sea water which he had been half submerged in all night. After being taken aboard the Carpathia, he was carried to the cabin of Dr. Frank Blackmarr. Upon awakening, Daly told of his experiences aboard the Titanic. As he spoke, Blackmarr wrote down Daly's story in his personal scrapbook. Daly said:
"After the accident, we were all held down in steerage. Finally, some of the women and children were let up, but we had quite a number of hot-headed Italians and other peoples who got crazy and made for the stairs. These men tried to rush the stairway, pushing and crowding and pulling the women down. Some of them with weapons in their hands. I saw two dagos shot and some that took punishment from the officers."
He continues: "I finally got up to the top deck and made for the front. The water was just covering the upper deck at the bridge and it was easy to slide because she had such a tip. I reached a collapsible boat that was fastened to the deck by two rings. It could not be moved. During that brief time that I worked on cutting one of those ropes, the collapsible was crowded with people hanging upon the edges. The Titanic gave a lurch downward and we were in the water up to our hips. She rose again slightly, and I succeeded in cutting the second rope which held her stern. Another lurch threw this boat and myself off and away from the ship into the water."
Daly refers to no suicide in this letter, and it is unclear as to whether the shooting he refers to (the "dagos") occurred down in the third class areas, or up on the Boat Deck. Although this letter as transcribed by Dr. Blackmarr only mentions the two men being shot, and no suicide, apparently Daly did tell Blackmarr about the officer killing himself. In an interview given on page 3 of the April 20, 1912 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune, Blackmarr wrote of this:
"The only panic at the beginning, as I understand it, was in the steerage, where there were many persons who lacked self-control. There was no shooting, as I learn, except that a steerage passenger told me he saw an officer trying to control the maddened rush by shooting two persons. The same officer shot himself a minute later."
The following is an excerpt from a letter that Daly wrote to his younger sister Maggie Daly in Ireland. The letter is undated, but was apparently written sometime between April 18-April 21, 1912 (this account was originally published in The Night Lives On by Walter Lord):
"At the first cabin (deck) when a boat was being lowered an officer pointed a revolver and said if any man tried to getin, he would shoot him on the spot. I saw the officer shoot two men dead because they tried to get in the boat. Afterwards there was another shot, and I saw the officer himself lying on the deck. They told me he shot himself, but I did not see him. I was up to my knees in the water at the time. Everyone was rushing around, and there were no more boats. I then dived overboard." (Daly's letter would later be published in the papers of his hometown Athlone, as well as the May 4, 1912 issues of the London Daily Telegraph and The Daily Sketch. A very similar account was told to Mayor Gaynor of New York when Daly visited his home for the mayor's relief fund, and was printed in the April 22, 1912 edition of the Washington Post)
Daly's letter to his sister contains details not mentioned in his April 15th account - namely, the officer shooting two men dead, before shooting himself. However, he apparently did mention these to Blackmarr, as evidenced by the doctor's press interview.
Daly also testified under oath about the shooting/suicide in the 1915 limitation hearings. He was the only individual to mention this at these hearings.

(For the full text of the letter transcribed by Dr. Blackmarr, click here)

Miss Laura Francatelli, 1st Class passenger 
(Lady Duff Gordon's secretary)
Miss Francatelli gave the following story in a letter to someone named "Marion" on April 18, 1912 (portions of this letter appeared in James Cameron's Titanic by Ed Marsh, andTitanic: Women and Children First by Judith B. Geller)
"The dear brave officer gave orders to row away from the sinking boat at least 200 yards, he afterwards poor dear brave fellow, shot himself. We saw the whole thing, and watched that tremendous thing quickly sink...."
The wording of Miss Francatelli's letter makes it difficult to tell whether she was referring to the ship sinking, or to the officer shooting himself when she says that she "saw the whole thing." She may have just been repeating what she heard from someone else, regarding the suicide. If she was actually claiming to have seen the suicide, her account is problematic for several reasons. First of all, Miss Francatelli was rescued in lifeboat #1 along with eleven others. In all of the "reliable" accounts of the suicide, it takes place during the launching of collapsible A, a full hour after lifeboat #1 was launched. Secondly, it is very unlikely that Miss Francatelli could have seen a suicide from a lifeboat 200 yards from the ship.

Carl Olof Jansson, 3rd Class passenger
The following is an excerpt from one of Jansson’s press interviews given shortly after the sinking (Parts of this account appeared in Titanic: End of a Dream by Wyn Craig Wade, and in Titanic At 2 AM by Paul Quinn, originally from the April 19, 1912 New York Times):
"Suddenly I heard shrieks and cries amidships, and the sharp reports of several shots. People began to run by me toward the stern of the ship, and as I started to run I realized that the boat was beginning to go down rapidly. There was another report, and then her nose was being buried. A wave struck me and I went overboard."

In a private letter (published in Titanic: End of a Dream by Wyn Craig Wade), Jansson also wrote the following:
"I glanced toward the bridge and saw the chief officer place a revolver in his mouth and shoot himself. His body toppled overboard."
Jansson himself claims to have been one of the survivors to climb into Collapsible A, and August Andersson (Wennerström) mentions Jansson by name as having been in Collapsible A with him. Andersson knew Jansson, as they were travelling together, along with Gunnar Tenglin.
Though Jansson refers to the "chief officer", it is unclear as to who specifically he means by this. Even the crew sometimes were confused as to the chief officer in their testimonies at the 1912 Inquiries. Also - would a 3rd Class passenger be able to recognize the "chief officer", either by rank or name?
A mention on the front page of the April 19, 1912 edition of the New York Herald may give a clue as to which officer Jansson was referring to. In this day's paper, a reporter wrote that "passengers declare they saw Chief Officer Wilde shoot himself and that his body fell into the sea." Was Jansson one of these passengers? This sounds suspiciously similar to Jansson's alleged account of the suicide, but he does not specifically mention Wilde's name in it, only the "chief officer." This may have been an extrapolation by a reporter. Jansson only mentioned hearing shots in his New York Times interview, which may suggest that the other accounts stating that he actually saw the suicide may or may not have been exaggerations of his actual words.

George Alexander Lucien Rheims, 1st Class passenger
The following is an excerpt from an unpublished letter to his wife in France, dated April 19, 1912 (excerpts of this letter appeared in The Night Lives On by Walter Lord). It is translated from French:
"While the last boat was leaving, I saw an officer with a revolver fire a shot and kill a man who was trying to climb into it. As there remained nothing more to do, the officer told us, "Gentlemen, each man for himself, good-bye." He gave a military salute and then fired a bullet into his head. That’s what I call a man!!!"
The following is taken from the April 20, 1912 edition of the New York Herald, given the same day as the letter to his sister.  Here are the relevant sections of the article, which was under the headline of "Officer Kills Man, Ends Own Life":
"George Rheims, an importer, of No. 19 East Fifty-seventh street, Manhattan, and No. 22 Rue Octave Feuilliet, Paris, who assisted in loading the lifeboats, said yesterday he had seen an officer of the Titanic shoot a man who attempted to get in a boat ahead of a woman. Mr. Rheims feet were badly frozen.
"I was with my brother-in-law, Joseph Loring of No. 811 Fifth Avenue," said Mr.Rheims. "The majority of men passengers did not attempt to get in the boats. The men assisted the women. But when the boats began to be lowered some men lost their heads. From the lower deck men jumped into crowded boats and others slid down ropes. One officer shot a man who attempted to get into a crowded boat. Immediately afterward the officer said:- "Well, goodby," and killed himself."

Rheims was able to swim to Collapsible A, and was one of the 12 survivors later rescued.

Richard Norris Williams, First Class passenger
Williams was on the forward starboard Boat Deck as the bridge dipped under. According to his personal account published in the May 11th 1997 edition of Main Line Life (excerpts of this also appeared in Paul Quinn's Dusk to Dawn):

"I heard the crack of a revolver shot from the direction where I had left Captain Smith. I did not look around...The ship seemed to give a slight lurch. I turned towards the bow. I saw nothing but water with just a mast sticking out of it. I don't remember the shock of the cold water, I only remember thinking, 'suction,' and my efforts to swim in the direction of the starboard rail to get away from the ship...Before I had swam more than ten feet I felt the deck come up under me and I found we were high and dry. My father was not more than 12 or 15 feet from me...He started towards me just as I saw one of the four great funnels come crashing down on top of him. Just for one instant I stood there transfixed-not because it had only missed me by a few feet...curiously enough not because it had killed my father for whom I had a far more than normal feeling of love and attachment; but there I was transfixed wondering at the enormous size of this funnel, still belching smoke."
This account does seem to corroborate the timing as established by Daly, Rheims, Dorking (see below), etc., even though Williams did not actually see what happened. He was in the right position at the right time to have heard something, and according to this account, he did.

-----------------------------------------

Primary accounts - no mention of an officer's suicide


Harold S. Bride, 2nd Marconi Officer
Marconi Operator Harold Bride gave a number of accounts as to how he escaped from the Titanic, the most important of these being his New York Times article of April 19, his testimony at the US Inquiry on April 20, the testimony at the British Inquiry on April 23 and his report to the Marconi Company on April 27, 1912 (entered into the US Inquiry of May 4).  All of these accounts are very similar in their sequence of events. The following is from the report to the Marconi Company:
"Leaving the cabin, we climbed on top of the houses comprising the officers' quarters and our own, and here I saw the last of  Mr. Phillips, for he disappeared walking aft.
I now assisted in pushing off a collapsible lifeboat, which was on the port side of the forward funnel, onto the boat deck.  Just as the boat fell I noticed Capt. Smith dive from the bridge into the sea.
Then followed a general scramble down on the boat deck, but no sooner had we got there than the sea washed over.  I managed to catch hold of the boat we had previously fixed up and was swept overboard with her."

Bride makes no mention of any gunshots at all.  According to this account, Bride was washed off the port side of the Boat Deck with an overturned collapsible, which would have been Collapsible B.  This would have happened either at, or very close to, the time Collapsible A was washed off the starboard side of the Boat Deck.  He makes no mention of seeing Mr. Murdoch (who in any case was on the starboard side of the Titanic), but does see Captain Smith jump into the sea from the bridge.
In fact, in this exchange with Senator Smith about messages being sent to the bridge, at the US Inquiry (page 143), Bride had this to say about the Titanic’s officers:
Smith: You took it (the message) to the officer on the bridge?
Bride:  Yes; on the bridge.
Smith:  Was that officer Mr. Murdoch?
Bride:  I could not tell you, sir.
Smith:  Do you know Mr. Murdoch?
Bride:  No, sir; I know the officers by sight, but I do not know their names.

On the night of the sinking, Bride would not have recognized Murdoch, other than as one of the officers, even if Murdoch had been near him.
All of Bride’s 1912 accounts -  the New York Times interview, the Marconi report and both Inquiries – all concur that Bride was on the port side of the Boat Deck when the bridge submerged.
In 1954 and 1955, Bride gave an series of interviews to researcher Ernest Robinson, and told Robinson that he had been standing next to Murdoch on the (starboard) Boat Deck, when Collapsible A left the ship.  Both men were washed off the Boat Deck at the same time, and the last Bride saw of him, he was lying motionless in the water.  This is at variance with Bride's 1912 accounts, where he makes no mention of seeing Murdoch at the end, or of being on the starboard side.
A possibility put forth by the Murdoch site at www.dalbeattie.com (Dalbeattie is Murdoch’s home town), is that Bride crossed over to the starboard side of the Boat Deck, after helping to get Collapsible B down to the deck.  Murdoch and Bride were swept into the sea, as the starboard deck dipped under.  Bride was pulled under, then came up under Collapsible B in the water.  However, this speculation about Bride's movements, is not corroborated by anything Bride said in 1912.
It is possible that sometime between 1912 and 1955, Bride had become familiar with Murdoch's face through photographs and recognized him at that point.  It is also possible that the officer that Bride later thought was Murdoch, was actually Lightoller working on Collapsible B on the port, and Bride had confused the officer, and the side of the ship.
Bride also told Mr. Robinson “that Murdoch would never have shot anyone.”   Since Bride in 1912 testified that he could not even recognize Murdoch, it is unknown why Bride would make this statement, since he didn’t know the First Officer at all. For more details on Bride’s accounts to Mr. Robinson, please visit http://www.dalbeattie.com/titanic/index.htm The full information that Bride gave Robinson has not been published at this time (July 1999), and is not available for inspection at this point.


Edward Brown, Steward
Edward Brown was helping cut the aft falls of Collapsible A when the event occurred. He never mentioned any shooting, but did concede that there was "a great scramble" to get into the boat. He never detailed this "scramble." (testimony from the British Inquiry, excerpted in Archibald Gracie’s book The Truth About the TitanicBrown escaped in Collapsible A.


Archibald Gracie, 1st Class passenger
Colonel Gracie had this to say about a shooting, in his book The Truth About the Titanic:
"Third: Did either the Captain or the First officer shoot himself? Not withstanding all the current rumors and newspaper statements answering this question affirmatively, I have been unable to find any passenger or member of the crew cited as authority for the statement that either Captain Smith or First Officer Murdoch did anything of the sort. On the contrary, so far as relates to Captain Smith, there are several witnesses, including Harold S. Bride, the Junior Marconi operator, who saw him at the last on the bridge of his ship, and later, when sinking and struggling in the water. Neither can I discover any authentic testimony about First Officer Murdoch’s shooting himself. On the contrary, I find fully sufficient evidence that he did not. He was a brave and efficient officer and no sufficient motive for self-destruction can be advanced. He performed his full duty under difficult circumstances, and was entitled to praise and honor. During the last fifteen minutes before the ship sank, I was located at that quarter forward on the boat deck, starboard side, where Murdoch was in command and where the crew under him were engaged in the vain attempt of launching the Engelhard boat. The report of a pistol shot during this interval ringing in my ears within a few feet of me would certainly have attracted my attention, and later, when I moved astern, the distance was not so great as to prevent my hearing it."
Though Gracie was in the appropriate area of the ship to see or hear gunshots, he neither saw or heard anything of the kind; either at Collapsible C, where shots were reported by a number of people; or at Collapsible A.  He also did not see Murdoch or Smith personally at the time of the shots, and stated that he did not know the officers by appearance at that time.  As far as Murdoch is concerned, this is confirmed by the following statement taken from Chapter 2 of his book:
"My friend, Clinch Smith, urged immediate obedience to Lightoller's orders, and, with other men passengers, we crossed over to the starboard quarter of the ship, forward on the same Boat Deck where, as I afterwards learned, the officer in command was First Officer Murdoch who had also done noble work, and was soon thereafter to lose his life."
Gracie further states in Chapter 4:
"...I heard a noise that spread consternation among us all. This was no less than the water striking the bridge and gurgling up the hatchway forward. It seemed  momentarily as if it would reach the boat deck. It appeared as if it would take the crew a long time to turn the Englehardt boat right side up and lift it over the  rail.... Probably taking these points into consideration, Clinch Smith made the proposition that we should leave and go toward the stern..., so he started and I  followed immediately after him. We had taken but a few steps ... when there arose before us from the decks below a mass of humanity...."  

Given these statements, it is obvious that by the time the alleged shooting took place (as Collapsible A was being washed off the deck), Gracie has already moved away from Collapsible A and walked astern with Clinch Smith.  They left Collapsible A due to the sound of water rising up the staircase at the forward end of the Boat Deck, *before* the water rushed aft along the deck.  Given that he was some distance away from the location of the shooting (perhaps as much as 60 feet), and given the amount of noise that must have been present at the time (the crowd coming up on deck, the ship beginning to tear itself apart), Gracie was in no position to see (and was in a very poor position to hear) whether or not any shots were fired at Collapsible A.
It is possible that Second Officer Lightoller is the one who identified Murdoch as the officer Gracie saw, since it is know that Gracie and Lightoller discussed the disaster at length on the Carpathia.  Therefore, it is possible that Gracie's opinion that Murdoch did not commit suicide was colored by what Lightoller told him, since Gracie was heading aft before any alleged suicide took place.



Charles Herbert Lightoller, Second Officer
After helping to lower many of the lifeboats on the port side, Lightoller climbed up onto the roof of the officer's quarters to attempt to lower Collapsible B in No. 2's davits.  By the time he and others were able to push B off the roof, the water was starting to pour onto the Boat Deck.  Lightoller then crossed over to the starboard side of the roof, to see if he could help with Collapsible A.  In the US Inquiry, he specifically mentions looking down on Mr. Murdoch on the starboard side - but does not mention what Murdoch was doing at the time.  At the British Inquiry, Lightoller adds this extra detail:
"I saw the First Officer working at the falls of the starboard emergency boat, obviously with the intention of overhauling them and hooking on to the collapsible boat on their side."
In a letter written to William Murdoch's wife Ada, before his testimony at the British Inquiry, Lightoller wrote:
"Having gotten my boat down off the top of the house, and there being no time to open it, I left it and ran across to the starboard side, still on top of the quarters. I was then practically looking down on your husband and his men. He was working hard, personally assisting, overhauling the forward boat’s fall. At this moment the ship dived, and we were all in the water. Other reports as to his ending are absolutely false."

Did Lightoller tell the truth about William Murdoch’s death, or was he just trying to console a grieving widow? That is unknown, but Lightoller was known to have protected his job, and his fellow officer’s and employer’s reputations by "whitewashing" his testimony in the disaster inquiries.
William Murdoch biographer Susanne Stormer discovered that later in life when he was living in Hertfordshire, Lightoller is said to have admitted that he "knew someone who committed suicide that night," but as far as she knows, he never said who.  Lightoller's private admission was a widely discussed subject during the 1997 Irish Titanic Historical Society convention.
Regarding officers Wilde and Moody, Lightoller was asked at the British Inquiry when he last saw them.  In Question 14766, Lightoller he last saw Wilde "quite a long time before the ship went down"; in other words, he did not know what happened to Wilde at the end.  Lightoller's answer to Question 14769, regarding Moody, was "Mr. Moody must have been standing quite close to me at the same time. He was on top of the quarters clearing away the collapsible boat on the starboard side, whilst Mr. Murdoch was working at the falls. If that is so, we were all practically in the water together." If Lightoller was this close to Moody as the bridge went under, he would have at least have heard any shots being fired.
Lightoller, in the article he wrote for The Christian Science Journal (Vol. XXX, 10/1912, No. 7)
Lightoller saw Captain Smith several times after the collision, the last time as Captain Smith was crossing the bridge from one side of the Titanic to the other.  Though Lightoller was not sure when this happened, it appears to be a while before the bridge and Boat Deck dipped under.


Jack Thayer, 1st Class Passenger
Jack Thayer was another who was on the forward starboard Boat Deck as it dipped under.  In his 1940 memoirs The Sinking of the S.S. Titanic, he claims to have seen Purser McElroy firing a weapon, but this was a bit earlier, as a lifeboat (Collapsible C?) was being loaded from the forward A Deck.
Thayer was part of the crowd being pushed back by the water coming over the Boat Deck, and jumped overboard.  Like Gracie, he was in the appropriate area of the ship to see or hear gunshots at this time, but he mentions nothing of the kind.  He does mention, however, a "rumbling roar, mixed with muffled explosions", which could cover the sounds of any shots.
An earler article written by Thayer was published in The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin for April 14, 1932.  This article also mentions McElroy firing shots: "Around the third starboard boat, from the bow, several shots were fired by Purser McElroy who was superintending loading, as one or two of the stewards jumped into the boat as it was being loaded."  It is unclear as to what "the third starboard boat" means in this context, as the third boat would be #5, which left very early on during the sinking, and no shots were ever reported having been fired this early.  


August Weikman, Barber
After seeing Collapsible C leave the ship with Bruce Ismay, Weikman was helping to launch the next boat, Collapsible A, when he was washed off the ship by the rush of water onto the Boat Deck.  Mr. Weikman submitted an affidavit to the US Inquiry on April 24th, 1912, detailing his experiences the night of the sinking; in this account, he does not mention hearing any gunshots.
However, in a very similar account published earlier in the April 20th Burlington New Jersey Daily Enterprise, the following additional detail stands out: "First Officer Murdock shot a foreigner who tried to climb over the rail into a boat."  Whether Weikman actually saw this event, or heard about it from someone else, or it was added by a reporter, is not clear.
Weikman's account do not mention any officer's suicide, though the mention of Murdoch shooting a passenger *could* tie in with the similar accounts of an officer shooting a passenger before shooting himself.  Though one has to wonder - if Weikman *did* see Murdoch shoot a passenger, and then himself, why would Weikman only mention the first of the shootings, and not the second?
In the newspaper article, Weikman also mentions seeing Captain Smith swimming in the water, after the bridge dipped under.  If the statement is true, it contradicts the possibility of Smith shooting himself before the sinking.

---------------------------------------

Secondary accounts of an officer's suicide


May Birkhead, Carpathia passenger
Miss May Birkhead was a passenger on the Carpathia at the time she recovered the Titanic survivors.  As such, she would have been able to hear much discussion of the tragedy.  The following comes from The New York Herald, April 19, 1912:
“I also am told that Captain Smith, of the Titanic shot himself with a pistol as the ship was going down.”


Paul Romaine Chevré, 1st Class passenger
Paul Romaine Chevré boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, France.  He was saved in Lifeboat #7.
The New York Herald for April 21, 1912 published:
“Mr. Chevré stated that a few minutes before the ship sank Captain Smith cried out, "my luck has turned," and then shot himself. I saw him fall against the canvas railing on the bridge and disappear."
After the disaster, Mr. Chevré was criticized for having said Captain Smith committed suicide, so on April 22, 1912, he stormed into the offices of the Le Presse in Quebec and demanded they run a story stating that the entire account was a lie.  The New York Herald, which printed the original story, insisted it did not fake Chevré's account, but allowed that since its reporter didn't speak French very well, "he might have misunderstood Mr. Chevré's rapid fire narrative."  The reporter fervently denied having changed a single word of Mr. Chevré’s narrative.
Also, since Mr. Chevré was rescued in the first lifeboat that left the ship, it seems very unlikely he would have been close enough to have seen Captain Smith at all as the ship sank.
To this day, the truth about this account is unknown.


John Collins, Assistant Cook
John Collins escaped the sinking on Collapsible B, and testified at the US Inquiry.  The following account was told by Collins to Alice Braithwaite in the 1930s:
"Collins came to Lifeboat # 16, and noticed "that one of the officers on the scene was 'the senior mate, the one next to the captain.'"  Collins wasn't allowed in this boat, and "he then headed for the starboard side, where he heard there was a collapsible boat being gotten out."   He encountered a woman and her two children, headed toward the last collapsible and "the situation was chaotic, and that there were three officers trying to control the situation, including the one whom he had seen at Lifeboat # 16.  At that point, according to the Collins' story, an officer shot the two men, and then turned the revolver on himself. Collins believed that the officer was the same one who he had earlier seen at Lifeboat # 16."
This account agrees with Collins testimony at the US Inquiry, with the one difference being that he said nothing about any shots being fired at the Inquiry.


Mrs. Charlotte Collyer, 2nd Class passenger
Mrs. Harvey (Charlotte) Collyer's account was published as "How I Was Saved From the Titanic" in The Semi-Monthly Magazine of May, 1912:  She has this to say:
“He (Murdoch) was a masterful man, astoundingly brave and cool.  I had met him the day before, when he was inspecting the second-cabin quarters, and thought him a bull-dog of a man who would not be afraid of anything.  This proved true; he kept order to the last, and died at his post.  They say he shot himself.  I do not know.”


Peter Denis Daly, 1st Class passenger
Peter Daly did not actually witness the suicide, but did state in the New York Times (April 22, 1912, page 3) that he felt it was possible that the reports believed to have been gunshots may have been the sound of the rocket detonators going off.  However, Titanic historian George Behe uncovered another little known press account in which Daly claimed to have been told that an officer had killed himself, and that he heard this was while he was still on board the Titanic.  This suggests that reports of an officer shooting himself were circulating even before the ship had sunk, and did not originate onboard the Carpathia.
Daly appears to have been rescued in Collapsible A, based on his own accounts of having been in the water, and George Rheims having mentioned him by name as having been in Collapsible A.


Robert Williams Daniel, 1st Class passenger
Daniel gave the following account about the officer’s suicide on page 6 of the April, 20, 1912 issue of the New York Times:
"He (Daniel) had remained to the end, he said, and gave an eerie reality to the last moments on the boat deck. "It didn’t seems to me that we were sinking, but the waters seemed rising up over us." Then he jumped, struggling among the ice-floes until rescued. He was articulate and adamant; it was Murdoch, he said, who had shot himself in the temple. "I was not more than ten feet away, I do not believe the stories that Captain Smith ended his life. He stuck to his post to the last. He was a brave man."
Another article in the same days New York Times had a slightly different version of this:
"Mr. Daniel said that he was positive the first officer of the Titanic committed suicide by sending a bullet in his brain before the ship foundered.  “I know it,” he declared.  “I was not more than ten feet away.  I do not believe the stories that Capt. Smith ended his life.  He stuck to his post to the last.  He was a brave man."
Daniel also gave another press account which details his last moments on the Boat Deck. (This article was reprinted on page 89 of the book The Titanic by Geoff Tibballs):
"Not until the last five minutes did the awful realization come that the end was at hand. The lights became dim, but we could see. Slowly, ever so slowly, the surface of the water seemed to come up towards us. So gradual was it that even after I had adjusted the lifejacket about my body it seemed a dream. Deck after deck was submerged. There was no lurching or grinding or crunching. The Titanic simply settled. I was far up on one of the top decks when I jumped. About me were many others in the water. My bathrobe floated away, and it was icily cold. I struck out at once. I turned my head, and my first glance took in the people swarming on the Titanic's deck. Hundreds were standing there helpless to ward off approaching death. I saw Captain Smith on the bridge. My eyes seemingly clung to him. The deck from which I had leapt was immersed. The water had risen slowly, and was now to the floor of the bridge. Then it was to Captain Smith's waist. I saw him no more. He died a hero."
Robert Williams Daniel's story is partially corroborated by Jack Thayer, who saw him near the bow of the ship after all the lifeboats had gone, and by Trimmer Patrick Dillon who saw him jump near the stern of the ship just before the final plunge.  It is possible that Daniel could have witnessed the shooting/suicide before heading aft, but it is unlikely that he could haveseen Captain Smith go under on the Bridge as he described.  In all likelihood, a more accurate account of the last time Daniel could have seen Captain Smith was given in the April 19, 1912 issue of the New York Herald. In this interview, the last time Daniel says he saw Captain Smith was while he was on the forward half of the Boat Deck:
"Captain Smith was the biggest hero I ever saw.  He stood on the bridge and shouted through a megaphone, trying to make himself heard."
Daniel appears to have been one of the survivors rescued in either in Collapsible A, B, or picked up by #4.


Miss Mary Davis, 2nd Class passenger
In a newspaper article from the April 22nd 1912 Evening Star (Washington DC), Miss Davis "also told of seeing First Officer Murdoch commit suicide by shooting.".  Unfortunately, the article gives no more details of the incident.
Miss Davis appears to have left the Titanic on Lifeboat #13, and it is unlikely she was close enough to the Titanic itself to actually see anyone shoot themselves.


Dr. Washington Dodge, 1st Class passenger
Dr. Dodge saw both his wife and son off in Lifeboat No. 5 (from which they subsequently transferred to No. 7), then escaped the ship in a later starboard boat, probably No. 13.
The following account, attributed to Dr. Dodge, appeared in the 1912 volume Sinking of the Titanic, Eyewitness Accounts page 107:
"Then the sinking of the Titanic by the head began and the crew was ordered to man the boats. There was no panic. The officers told the men to stand back and they obeyed. A few men were ordered into the boats.  Two men who attempted to rush beyond the restraint line were shot down by an officer who then turned the revolver on himself."
This account appears to have been taken from Dodge's account in the Friday, April 19, 1912 edition of The New York Tribune.
Two articles bearing Dr. Dodge's story were published in the San Francisco Bulletin for April 19 and 20th, 1912.  Though both these articles are very similar to the account inEyewitness Stories, and both articles mention the shooting of passengers by the officers, neither mentions the shooting of an officer at all.  These two articles are available at the Encylopedia Titanica site.

Dodge also gave an address at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on May 11th, 1912.  In this longer account, Dodge makes it very plain that he saw no shootings of any kind.  In a section devoted to events that happened on the Titanic after he left the ship, as told to him by other survivors on the Carpathia, he does mention officers shooting down passengers trying to fight their way into the boats.  He does not mention an officer shooting himself.
Early in the Commonwealth Club address, Dodge states that he had "seen numerous interviews, both by myself and my wife, which purported interviews had been wired from New York and published in our local papers.  My wife had never given an interview, and had made none of the statements attributed to her.  Wich one exception, all of the interviews attributed to me were wholly unfounded".
Exactly where the account in Eyewitness Stories came from, is unknown at this time.  However, it is very plain that Dr. Dodge did not see an officer shoot himself.


Edward Arthur Dorking, 3rd Class passenger
Dorking gave the following story in the May 2, 1912 issue of the Bureau County Republican:
"An officer stood beside the life-boats as they were being manned and with a pistol in hand, threatened to kill the first man who got into a boat without orders (note the similarity between what he claimed the officer had said, and what Daly claimed the officer had said). The rule of "women first" was rigidly enforced. Two stewards hustled into a lifeboat that was being launched. They were commanded to get out by the officers and on refusing to obey the command, were shot down."
Dorking told more of the story in the April 19, 1912 issue of The New York Herald:
"Almost at the moment I climbed on the raft I could hear pistol shots sounding from the Titanic. The sounds of shots had been distinct during all my swim. I don’t know how many were fired, but they kept on during all the time I was within hearing distance. I saw an officer, it may have been the captain or it may not, shoot himself before I got away from the ship."
Dorking was saved on Collapsible B, and thus would have been on board the ship close to the end.  As to which lifeboat could have been involved with the stewards being shot, this could have been Collapsible C, lowered and launched from the starboard side at around 2:00 AM.  However, the surviving occupants of Collapsible C did not report any killings, though some did mention warning shots.  Another possibility is Collapsible A, where a number of survivors reported seeing or hearing shots fired.


Lady Lucille Duff-Gordon, 1st Class passenger
In an article in the Denver Post, April 19, 1912, Lady Duff-Gordon said:
"Suddenly, I clutched the sides of the lifeboat. I had seen the Titanic give a curious shiver. Almost immediately we heard several pistol shots and a great screaming arise from the decks. Then the boat's stern lifted in the air and there was a tremendous explosion."
Along with her maid Laura Francatelli, Lady Duff-Gordon was in Lifeboat #1, at a distance from the Titanic.  Her account above does agree in the details of the events at Collapsible A, as presented by other survivors.


Frederick Harris, Fireman
An account in the The Western Daily Mercury for Monday April 29th, 1912 attributed to crewman Frederick Harris, stated:
"He saw the captain jump into the water and grasp a child, which he placed on one of the rafts, of which there were all too few. He did not see the captain afterwards. He thought the first officer, Mr. Murdoch, shot himself."
Harris statement does not say that he actually saw the shooting.
Harris' account leaves it unclear as to how he was rescued.  He doesn't say he was in the water, which could indicate he climbed onto either Collapsible A or B (the raft?).  More likely, he was one of the people who were shuffled around when Fifth Officer Lowe was emptying Lifeboat 14, prior to going back to look for survivors in the water.


Abraham Hyman, 3rd Class passenger
The following account was given by Hyman upon the Carpathia’s arrival in New York (this account appeared in The Complete Titanic by Steven J. Spignesi):
"The officer who was standing at the rope had a pistol in his hand, and he ordered everybody to keep back. First, one women screamed and then another, and one man (I think he was an Italian) pushed toward the boat and the officer fired at him."
Note that this account does not say an officer shot himself.
Another account by Hyman, from the New York Herald, April 19th, 1912, claims that he saw Chief Officer Wilde shot himself with a pistol.  Careful reading of the article, however, shows that this is not what Hyman said, though it is part of the headline.  In fact, in this account, or other accounts from Hyman, he does not say who he saw firing shots. 
Hyman appears to have left the Titanic on one of the aft lifeboats, probably #13.  The New York Herald account above mentions leaving on "the next to last lifeboat in that part of the ship" and avoiding the pump discharge, both of which are known to have occured with #13.  Any shots that Hyman may have seen, could have occured at #14 on the port side, which left the ship before #13 was launched.


Dr. J. F. Kemp, Carpathia passenger
Dr. Kemp talked to a young boy who claimed that he saw "Captain Smith put a pistol to his head and then fall down." (from the New York Times, April 19, 1912, also mentioned inThe Titanic: End Of A Dream by Wyn Craig Wade).  The only 'boy' who left the Titanic late enough in the sinking to have actually seen this, would have had to have been Jack Thayer, who escaped on Collapsible B.  Thayer's published accounts have never made this statement.


J. R. Moody, Quartermaster
Quartermaster J. R. Moody stated (in the book Sinking of the Titanic by Jay Henry Mowbray, taken from newspaper interviews):
"Afterward I saw Murdoch, standing on the first deck.  I saw him raise his arm and shoot himself.  He dropped where he stood."
However, this account cannot be accepted as is.  First, there is no 'Quartermaster J. R. Moody' listed in the Titanic crew list, the only crewman named Moody was 6th Officer James Paul Moody, who died in the sinking.  From other statements made by 'Moody', it appears to be a misnamed Robert Hichens, as he states he was at the wheel when Murdoch tried to evade the iceberg.  Second, these statements cannot be easily attributed to Hichens, as he left the sinking Titanic in Lifeboat 6, one of the first boats to leave the ship on the port side, and would not have been in a position to see a shooting as the bridge dipped under.  Other sensationalistic statements attributed to 'Moody' also do not agree with what is known about the sinking ship.


James Robert McGough, 1st Class Passenger
McGough was saved aboard Lifeboat #7, and had this to say about his experiences (from The Sinking of the Titanic by Logan Marshall):
“At the end sailors had to tear Mrs. Widener from him, and she went down the ladder, calling to him pitifully. The ship went down at 2.20 o'clock exactly. The front end went down gradually. We saw no men shot, but just before the finish we heard several shots."
"I was told that Captain Smith or one of the officers shot himself on the bridge just before the Titanic went under. I heard also that several men had been killed as they made a final rush for the boats, trying to cut off the women and children.”
In his affidavit submitted to the American Inquiry, Mr. McGough denied hearing any gunshots, contrary to the above account.


Oscar Wilhelm Olsson, 3rd Class passenger
Olsson claimed to have seen First Officer Murdoch shoot himself in a private letter, several press accounts, and in a 1912 memorial book. The following excerpt is from the 1912 memorial book entitled Nearer My God To Thee; The Story of the Titanic.
"We saw the water come up and up until it almost reached him (Murdoch). Then we heard a pistol shot. Many people thought he had shot himself."
Olsson gave some press accounts in which his name is incorrectly listed as Oskar Johann and Oscar Johansson (the alias he used while aboard the Titanic). He may have assumed these names due to the fact that he was ashamed of having survived the disaster when so many women and children had died, but a more likely reason is his own explanation, which was because he thought "Johansson was easier for people to remember."
Olsson appears to have escaped in either Collapsible A or B.  The fragment above appears to indicate that Olsson did not actually see the suicide.


Anna Sofia Sjoblom, 3rd Class passenger
Anna Sjoblom gave an account to the Tacoma Daily News of April 30, 1912 (partly reprinted in The Visitor's Guide to Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit by the King County (Washington) Journal Newspapers, reprinted in full in The Titanic Commutator Vol. 19 No. 4), in which she relates seeing an officer firing shots:
"When we rowed away from the Titanic, my face was toward the sinking steamship and the things I saw I will never forget.  I saw an officer shoot himself through the temple with a revolver."
Unfortunately, the events mentioned in Miss Sjoblom's account do not allow us to pinpoint which lifeboat she escaped in.  According to researcher Paul Lee, these events are not metioned in her letters to Walter Lord.  Consequently, we have no way to verify the accuracy of her statement in regards to an officer shooting himself.


Albert Smith, Steward
Steward Albert Smith claimed to have been rescued in Lifeboat #11.  However, he is not listed on the White Star Line’s crew list, or on the disaster inquiry lists.  His account appears in the The Atlanta Journal of April 21, 1912, and is reprinted in the book Sinking of the Titanic:
“Perhaps one of the clearest stories of the disaster was told by Albert Smith, steward of the Titanic. Smith was one of the number of six members of the crew of the sunken liner who manned boat No. 11, which carried fifty women and no men other than the half dozen necessary to row it to safety."
"I saw First Officer Murdock, of the Titanic, shoot himself. It was Murdock who was on the bridge when the ship struck."
"Murdock stood on the promenade deck when the last boat pushed off. Captain Smith bad taken charge of the bridge. Murdock put a pistol to his right temple and fired. I saw him do it. And I saw him drop.”
If Smith had been aboard Lifeboat #11, which left the ship at about 1:35, he probably would have been too far away to see anyone shooting themselves on the Titanic.


Victor Francis Sunderland, 3rd Class passenger
Excerpt from an interview in an unknown British newspaper:
"I saw an officer fire his revolver once or twice, killing a man."
Sunderland then claimed he started heading towards the stern of the ship and heard another shot.
"I asked what had happened, and a gentlemen told me that an officer had shot himself. Seeing that I could not secure a spot in a lifeboat, I leapt from the ship and into the water just a few feet below."
In the April 26, 1912 issue of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Sunderland told the same story:
"In one boat, partly filled with women and children, sat - I think he was a Russian. An officer told him to get out, but he wouldn’t. The officer fired his revolver in the air once or twice and still the man sat there. The officer then shot him and he dropped back in his seat. He was lifted up and dropped overboard."
For the full text of the April 26 article, click here.
Sunderland was one of the survivors who reached Collapsible B.  His second account above does not refer to an officer suicide.


Fred Toppin, White Star Line Assistant to the Vice-President
At www.dalbeattie.com (mentioned above in connection with Wireless Operator Bride), mention is made of a Fred Toppin, who was aquainted with researcher Ernie Robinson.  Toppin was employed by the White Star Line, and is mentioned in passing in the US Inquiry text on page 179.  According to Robinson, Toppin thought that two officers had shot themselves.  Toppin's comments are "the result of conversations at the pier in New York with senior surviving crew when they arrived. Toppin also interviewed others amongst the crew and passengers."
No further information than the above has been released from either the Dalbeattie site, or Mr. Robinson as of this time (July 2001).


Thomas Whiteley, Dining Room Waiter
Whiteley was hospitalized at St. Luke’s with a broken leg and frostbite following his rescue from Collapsible B. Due to this, he gave several accounts of the sinking to the press.  Part of his accounts were based on rumors and hearsay about events he did not see for himself.  Also, due to being interviewed by a number of reporters, his story appears to change, due to mis-quotes from the different reporters.
"Murdoch shot one man - I did not see this, but three others did - and then shot himself."
The April 19, 1912 issue of the Bangor Daily Commercial, published a similar account of the same events. In this interview, the story was changed to say that Whiteley actually saw the whole event:
"Earlier, during the loading of the collapsible boat on the starboard side, there was a bitter panic. The officers had to use their revolvers. The Chief Officer shot two men but three others attempted to get into the boat. Later, I saw the Chief Officer shoot himself."
George Behe, in his book Titanic: Safety, Speed and Sacrifice, analyzes several similar published accounts from Whiteley, all from April, 1912, and concludes that the April 21, 1912 issue of The New York Herald seems to contain the most complete account.  It says:
After being thrown from the Titanic while helping to lift the women and children into the small boats, Mr. Whiteley finally swam to a small boat and was helped in.  It was while there that he heard a conversation between the two lookouts, neither of who he recalled having seen before, but who, he is confident, were on board the steamship.
"I don't recall the exact words of the men, but I am certain of the sentiment they expressed.  They were very indignant.  I was particularly astonished when I heard one of them say: "No wonder Mr. Murdoch shot himself."
Even this account seems flawed.  Though all of the lookouts were saved, none were on Collapsible B or No. 4, and all left the ship long before the Boat Deck dipped under.  Whiteley could have heard the lookout's statements on board the Carpathia, but the newspaper accounts are not consistent as to where he heard it.  One paper says he heard it while balanced on Collapsible B, another that Whiteley was in a lifeboat with the lookouts and heard them talking together.
Since the exact sources of Whiteley’s stories are unknown, his testimony must be taken with caution.


Mrs. George D. Widener, 1st Class passenger
Mrs. Widener gave the following account of the suicide (from the New York Times of April 20, 1912, reprinted in The Titanic: End Of A Dream by Wyn Craig Wade):
" I went on deck and was put into a life boat.  As the boat pulled away from the Titanic I saw one of the officers shoot himself in the head, and a few minutes later saw Capt. Smith jump from the bridge into the sea."
Mrs. Widener was in lifeboat #4, which was fairly close to the ship when she sank - in fact, No. 4 picked up a number of people swimming in the water when the Titanic went down.  It is possible that Mrs. Widener saw what she reported, although No. 4 was on the port side of the ship, not the starboard, where the shootings are usually said to have taken place.
Her account does agree with Bride's observation of Smith jumping into the sea.
The following comes from the April 20, 1912 edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
"Capt. Smith, it would appear from the concensus of narratives, went down with his ship, but several passengers say that First Officer Murdock shot himself through the head before it sank. Among others who hold this view is Mrs. George D. Widener, of Philadelphia, whose husband and son were drowned."

Since both of these accounts were published the same day, it is possible that the second is a derivative of the first, and that the further comment about the officer being Murdoch was not actually by Mrs. Widener, but a supposition by a reporter.


Charles Wilhelms, 2nd Class passenger
The following account from Mr. Wilhelms appeared in the New York Times for April 21, 1912.
“Mr. Wilhelms declared that he had heard several shots fired on the Titanic after he left the ship, and that several of his companions told him they had seen Murdock, one of the officers, shoot himself.  Other survivors, he said, told him that several passengers had been shot by officers in trying to force their way into the lifeboats.”
Mr. Wilhelms did not say who gave him this information.  He escaped the Titanic in Lifeboat # 9.


Charles Eugene Williams, 2nd Class passenger
Williams told the story to his friend George E. Standing, who gave the following account to a reporter for the April 30, 1912 issue of The Daily Sketch :
“I saw Captain Smith swimming around in the icy water with a baby in his arms and wearing a lifebelt. He handed the baby to someone in the lifeboat, but refused to get in himself.  The Captain did ask what became of First Officer Murdoch.  We told him that he had blown his brains out with a revolver.   Upon hearing this, Captain Smith pushed himself away from the boat, took off his lifebelt, and sank beneath the surface.”
The reliability of Williams’ report about Murdoch's suicide is unknown, because it is not clear if he actually saw it, or was just describing what he had heard. Williams appears to have left the ship in Lifeboat 14 (though his own account says he was picked up from the water by a lifeboat), in which case he probably would have not been close enough to the Titanic in its final moments to see a shooting, or to see Captain Smith in the water.


Jack Williams, Able-bodied seaman
Jack Williams’ testimony is questionable because his name is not on the official White Star Line or disaster inquiry crew lists. In any case, a person by this name gave the following story to several newspapers. It also appeared in the 1912 memorial books entitled Titanic and Other Great Sea Disasters and Sinking of the Titanic:
"The report that it was Murdock and not Captain Smith who shot himself on the bridge just as the forward section of the Titanic sank is true. I still have before me the picture of Murdock standing on the bridge as the waters surged up about him, placing the pistol to his head and disappearing as the shot that ended his life rang out."


Unknown accounts
The following comment was published in the News of the World for April 21, 1912.  It is unknown as to where the reporter got the information:
“Chief Officer Wilde stood on the bridge after the collision.  He raised his arm and shot himself.  He dropped where he stood.”
Another account from an unknown source surfaced in The Liverpool Echo for Monday April 29th 1912 (reprinted from the Daily Chronicle?).  From a 'steward in the first-class saloon', it says:
“Murdock was splendid, too; but I fear it is true that he did shoot himself. He did not do so, however, until the very end, when he had done everything he could for others.”
The Western Daily Mercury for Monday April 29th, 1912 published the following from an unknown crew member:
“Mr Murdoch calmly pulled out his revolver and blew out his brains.”

The 1912 book Sinking of the Titanic: Eyewitness Accounts contained the following statement.  The book is very specific in not naming the sailor or sailors who supposedly gave the account, in fact it says their identity "cannot be divulged.".
"Murdock, if the tale of the Titanic sailor be true, expiated his negligence, if negligence it was, by shooting himself within sight of all alleged victims huddled in lifeboats or struggling in the icy seas."
The above quote is a statement by the editor of the book, and the accompanying quotes from the crewmembers (pages 57 to 62) do not mention a suicide by anyone.
One confusing account appeared in The Western Morning News on Monday , April 29 1912. It appeared to be from an anonymous crewman leaving the Lapland; and underlines press confusion on ranks - it refers to the First Officer in the headline and the Chief Officer in the text!  After the title "First Officer Shot Himself", it says
"one or two Italians tried to rush the boats, but the chief officer kept them back, and finally fired at them, whether he killed them he could not say. Then the officer shot himself."


From page 5 of the April 19, 1912 edition of the New York Times. While no sources are named, and the rumor appears far-fetched, it does provides a few alternative rumors as to who the shooter could have been.
"Captain Smith and the first engineer were reported to have shot themselves when they found that the Titanic was doomed to sink. Later this was denied. Major Archibald Butt, President Taft's military aid, was said to have entered into an agreement with George D. Widener, Col. John Jacob Astor, and Isidor
Straus to kill them first and then shoot himself before the boat sank. It was said that this agreement had been carried out, later it was shown that like the other men on the ship they had gone down without the exhibition of a sign of fear." 


Here is another article, from page 2 of the April 19, 1912 edition of the New York Times.  Again, no sources are named.
"Calm in the midst of the terrible scene, commanding his crew and the remaining passengers as his ship settled slowly into her ocean grave, Capt. Edward Smith,
the aged skipper of the world's greatest ocean queen, stood at the bridge under the quiet stars. Some said they saw him swept away by a wave, and then swim back. According to others of the survivors, shots rang out in the still night, and it was reported among the passengers that an officer of the ship had shot two men passengers who had tried to force their way into the lifeboats with the women, thereafter shooting himself. Still others, however, declared that the shots were fired by the Captain, and it was reported that both he and the Chief Engineer of the vessel had shot themselves."

A very similar article to the above, regarding the Captain and Chief Enginner shooting themselves appeared in the Leeds Mercury for April 19, 1912. 
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Other information relating to a suicide


Which officer's would have had guns?
Part of the question of whether any officer could have committed suicide, has to involve which officer's would have had a revolver in the first place.
It is reported that, during the sinking, Captain Smith, Chief Officer Wilde, First Officer Murdoch and Second Officer Lightoller all went to the arms locker, at Wilde's request (Lightoller'sTitanic and Other Ships).  We know that Lightoller received a revolver, it is very likely the other three officers also received one at the same time. Sixth Officer Moody does not appear to have been present at this time, and probably would not have had a revolver on his person.
Though it is possible that Wilde took extra revolvers with him to hand out to the other officers not present, there is no evidence of any kind that this did happen.
No evidence exists that either of Third Officer Pitman or Fourth Officer Boxhall had firearms at any time. Fifth Officer Lowe, by his own testimony, carried his personal revolver the night of April 14, and said he fired it along the ship's side, while loading Boat #14.
Purser Herbert McElroy is described (by Jack Thayer) as firing a revolver during the lowering of a lifeboat.  However, it is not known where he may have gotten a revolver, and it is not likely his position on the ship would have required him to have one in his possession.
So, of the officers lost that night (Smith, Wilde, Murdoch and Moody), the first three were known to be in a position to have received a pistol.  There is no direct evidence that Moody had a gun that night.  Though there is one report (made 28 years after the sinking) that McElroy fired a gun, it is questionable why he would have had it in the first place.

Why were officers sometimes mis-identified?
On the short voyage of the Titanic from Belfast to Southampton, William Murdoch was Chief Officer.  While the ship was being provisioned in Southampton, Henry Wilde was brought in as Chief (for the first trip only), Murdoch was bumped down to First Officer, Lightoller was moved to Second, and David Blair (the former Second) left the ship.
This seems to have caused confusion among the crew.  During both the US and British Inquiries, some crewmen specifically identified Wilde as Chief; but other crew members would identify Murdoch as Chief!  Even others of the crew would just say "Chief Officer", and in many cases there is no way to tell exactly which of these men they were referring to.
Insignia on the uniforms of the White Star officers did indicate their position on the ship.  Since Murdoch's 'demotion' to First was only temporary, the question must be asked, "Did he go to the effort of changing the insignia on his uniforms?"   Though there is no way of telling for sure, it appears that Murdoch may not have changed it.  Seaman Joseph Scarrott had this to say about lifeboat drill at the dock in Southampton the morning of sailing: "The boat turned out; we were told to put our lifebelts on, so many men, there were both watches there, an officer there, junior officers, and two chief officers."   We don't know if Scarrott really meant to say senior officers instead of two chiefs, or if he was being specific as to what he saw.  If Murdoch did not change his uniform, it would easily explain many of the mis-identifications that night.
Steward William Ward testified at the American Inquiry:  "I think it was Chief Officer Murdoch [who called out for the women to get into boat #9]. I would not be sure whether it was him or the purser. They were both tall men, and I would not be sure which one it was.  It was dark, you know."  In addition to having Murdoch's rank wrong, he does point out that it was easy to confuse people during the lifeboat loading, and that the difference in the uniform did not help him to discover if it was Murdoch or McElroy that he saw.
Since the passengers and the officers did not usually mix on White Star ships, it is likely that many of the passengers would not have know Murdoch from Wilde, or even been able to tell the Chief Officer from the First by the insignia on their uniform.  However, there are some cases of passengers knowing the officers, Mrs. Charlotte Collyer's account (in the The Semi-Monthly Magazine of May, 1912) tells of meeting First Officer Murdoch:  "I had met him (Murdoch) the day before, when he was inspecting the second-cabin quarters."
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Final Analysis
As you can see, some of the ‘evidence’ of an officer’s suicide is of dubious nature, at the least.  The survivor’s accounts disagree with each other, and some of the survivors couldn’t have seen what they said they did.  However, the dubious nature of some of the accounts does not automatically disprove them, either.
But we do see some consistency!  Many of the accounts above, refer to events on the starboard Boat Deck, not long before the Bridge area dipped under.  There are two first hand witnesses, both of whom would have been in the correct place to witness a suicide, and both of whom gave multiple accounts of the shooting/suicide: Eugene Daly and George Rheims.  Their statements, coupled with those of other people who gave press accounts claiming to have witnessed a suicide, and were in the correct position to have witnessed it (Dorking, Jansson, etc.), strongly suggests that the story may indeed have a basis in fact.
In the following section, the possible motivation of the various ‘suspects’ is addressed.  Please keep in mind – this is speculation only!  There is no way to actually ‘know’ what was going through these men’s minds in the final stages of the sinking.
Certain motivations were common to all these men – the imminent sinking of the ship, and death of most of those still on the ship, including the officer himself.  Also – was this unknown officer involved in any passengers being shot, as some of the accounts say?

Captain Edward John Smith 
 As shown above in some of the accounts themselves, Captain Smith was mentioned as having shot himself at the end.  Other accounts have Smith diving overboard from the bridge, or even going inside the wheelhouse (as he did in the Cameron movie).
    Possible Motivation
    Captain Smith was the man ultimately responsible for the Titanic – and her passengers.  Regardless of whether he was on the bridge during the collision, he was responsible.  Even though he was due to retire soon, the sinking of the Titanic would be a very large blemish on his reputation.
    Location
    A number of accounts have Smith on the forward areas of the Boat Deck, near to the Bridge, not long before she dipped under.  Bride’s account even has him diving off the Bridge as she dipped under.  He seems to have been close to the areas usually associated with an officer’s suicide.
    The Means
    Captain Smith was one of the officers who went to the Chief Officer’s cabin when the revolvers were brought out and distributed (Lightoller’s Titanic and Other Ships).
Chief Officer Henry Wilde 
 In all the survivor accounts available at this time detailing an officer’s suicide, the very few mentions of Henry Wilde by name are not very convincing.  The above listed account by "Unknown" could easily have been a fabrication by a reporter, the mention of Wilde in the Hyman headline may also be a reporter's fabrication, as Hyman himself does not mention Wilde in the account.  Yes, the name “Chief Officer” is mentioned in a number of accounts, but as detailed earlier, the fact is that not all survivor’s meant Wilde when using that term. Any references to the Chief Officer shooting himself, apply equally as well to Murdoch as they would to Wilde.
    Possible Motivation
    It has been suggested that Wilde could have been despondent over the death of his wife, and that the disaster of the Titanic pushed him over the edge into suicide.  However, the death of his wife and two sons had occurred almost a  year and a half before he shipped out on the Titanic.  Wilde also had 4 surviving children waiting for him at home, depending on him for continuing support.
    Second Officer Lightoller, in the article he wrote for The Christian Science Journal (Vol. XXX, 10/1912, No. 7), stated "[I] was on my way back on deck again when I heard Wilde say, 'I am going to put on my life-belt.'"  At this time that Lightoller saw Wilde, it does not appear that Wilde was suicidal, although this could have changed in the last minutes.
    Location
    When last seen, Wilde was helping load the forward boats – he was there for both Collapsibles C and D.  Since C was lowered slightly before D, Wilde would have had to cross over to the port side.  No eyewitness testimony has been found which shows he crossed back to the starboard side.  However, it does seem very likely that he would have stayed in the bridge area, and continued trying to help up until the end.
    The Means
    Wilde probably did have a weapon that night, in fact, it was Wilde himself who asked for the weapons to be brought out and distributed.
First Officer William Murdoch 
 Murdoch is usually the officer mentioned, by name, when detailing who may have shot himself as the ship sank.  This in itself does not ‘prove’ it was Murdoch; however, it does lend a bit more weight to the assertion, than it does to the other suspects. However, any references to the Chief Officer shooting himself, apply just as well to Murdoch as they would to Wilde.
    Possible Motivation
    Murdoch was the man directly in charge of the ship in the hours leading up to the collision with the iceberg.  As such, he was responsible for the ship and all its passengers during that time.  His career at sea was effectively over, if he survived the disaster.
    If ‘the’ iceberg was not the first to be spotted that night, as brought out in George Behe’s Titanic: Safety, Speed and Sacrifice, then Murdoch was also responsible for not slowing down, in direct violation of the posted orders from the White Star Line, that “Time must be sacrificed or any other temporary inconvenience suffered, rather than the lightest risk should be incurred.”  He also did not follow Captain Smith’s final orders (passed on from Lightoller), to "If in the slightest degree doubtful, let me know."
    Like Wilde, Murdoch also had family at home dependent on him - his wife Ada.  Ada, though having lived in England for a number of years, was actually from New Zealand.
    Location
    Murdoch was right where many of the suicide accounts place the shooting – at the forward lifeboat station on the starboard side.
    The Means
    Murdoch was one of the officers who could have received one of the revolvers when they were passed out in the Chief Officer’s cabin earlier that evening.
Purser Herbert McElroy
Though not noted in 1912, McElroy was seen on in the general area the suicide supposedly happened in, and was also seen to fire a revolver (according to Thayer, 1932 and 1940).  Other than that, there is no reason to suppose he would have shot himself.
    Possible Motivation
    Other than realizing the imminent sinking of the ship, and the death of many on board the ship, including himself, McElroy had no special reasons to commit suicide.
    Location
    According to Jack Thayer’s 1940 account, McElroy was helping to load Collapsible C from A deck, shortly before the bridge dipped under (no 1912 accounts exist placing McElroy in this area, however).  Thayer's 1932 account also places McElroy on the forward starboard side of the ship.  If this actually was McElroy (see William Ward's statement, under "Why were officers sometimes mis-identified?" above, it seems likely that he would have remained in this same general area, but transferred up to the Boat Deck, to help with Collapsible A.  However, this is speculation only – there have been no reports of McElroy being seen after this sighting at C.
    The Means
    It is unknown how or why McElroy would have had a weapon in his position.  He was not part of the group that was in the Chief Officer’s cabin when revolvers were handed out, and his position as Purser would not have made it likely for him to have a weapon.
Of all the people who are thought of as possible suicides, McElroy is the only one whose body was recovered.  The Mackay-Bennett picked the body up on April 23rd (a week after the disaster).  Listed as #157, the body was buried at sea.
No statement was ever released saying McElroy’s body did or did not have a gunshot wound, though Sinking of the Titanic by Jay Henry Mowbray mentions a statement attributed to Capt. Lardner and the crew of the Mackay-Bennett that "not one of the bodies that were recovered had any pistol shots".

Sixth Officer James Moody 
Really, the only ‘evidence’ for suspecting Moody as the suicide victim, is that he was seen on the forward starboard boat deck, at around the same time as the supposed suicide.
    Possible Motivation
    Moody had no special reasons to kill himself that we know of, other than realizing he was likely to die in the freezing water as the ship sank.
    Location
    According to Sam Hemming's account at the US Inquiry, Moody is reported to have been helping at Collapsible A as the bridge dipped under – the same place as Murdoch .
    The Means
    He was not part of the group that was in the Chief Officer’s cabin to receive a weapon.  There is no evidence that Moody did have a gun that night, though it is possible that a gun was passed to him by Wilde or someone else.  This is not proof that he had one, however.

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Conclusion
Whether an officer actually did or did not commit suicide on the Titanic’s deck in the final stages of the sinking, or who that officer may have been, will probably never be definitely known.  At least, not without the discovery of more information.  There is just not enough hard, factual, data available to make any determination.
In my opinion, all of the men examined above were heroes to the end – whether any of them did take their own life or not.  Regardless of the personal failings that caused the collision itself, there is documented evidence that they all helped load lifeboats and save people – people who would have otherwise lost their lives.  These officers of the Titanic did their duty until their final moments, when they could do no more.
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Rheims, Lightoller, and the Officer's Suicide Enigma

 

Titanic Research


This could be construed as to mean Lightoller dove off the Titanic from directly amidships the officer’s quarters. However, he could not have done so due to one little detail:
The huge blowers that were placed aft of the roof of the Titanic’s bridge atop the officer’s quarters. The selfsame blowers that Lightoller was pinned against while attempting to swim away from the ship.
They would have blocked his path had he attempted to dive off from right amidships atop the deckhouse.
What is more, Lightoller added after saying "practically midships" that he was "a little to the starboard side,where I had got to [Emp added]". Meaning he had been en route to help Murdoch at Collapsible A when he stopped short on the starboard side of the officer’s quarters.
 Lightoller’s statements before Senator Smith as to what he saw before the final plunge fully bears out his British Inquiry testimony:
 Senator SMITH. From what point on the vessel did you leave it?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. On top of the officers' quarters.
 Senator SMITH. And where were the officers' quarters?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Immediately abaft the bridge.
 Senator SMITH. Immediately abaft the bridge?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Abaft the wheelhouse.
 Senator SMITH. Was that pretty well toward the top of the vessel?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Yes, sir.
 Senator SMITH. Were the lifeboats gone when you found yourself without any footing?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. All except one.
 Senator SMITH. Where was that one?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. In the tackles, trying to get it over.
 Senator SMITH. Did not the tackle work readily?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Yes, sir.
 Senator SMITH. What delayed it?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. It was the third boat over by the same tackles.
 Senator SMITH. The third boat over by the same tackles?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Yes, sir.
 Senator SMITH. From what deck?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. The boat deck.
 Senator SMITH. The sun deck?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. The sun deck.
 Senator SMITH. How close were you to this lifeboat at that time?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Fifteen feet
 Senator SMITH. Was it filled before starting to lower it?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. It was not high enough to lower.
 Senator SMITH. Why?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. It was not high enough to lower. They were endeavoring to get it over the bulwarks, outboard; swinging it; getting it over the bulwarks. When it was over the bulwarks, then it would hang in the tackles, and until it hung in the tackles it was impossible to put anyone in it.
 Senator SMITH. How far below the boat deck?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Above the boat deck.
 Senator SMITH. How far above the boat deck?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. About 4 feet 6 inches.
 Senator SMITH. And it was lowered to the boat deck?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. It did not get over the bulwarks to be lowered.
 Senator SMITH. The last you saw of it?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Yes, sir.
 Senator SMITH. Who was managing this tackle?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. The first officer, Mr. Murdoch.
 Senator SMITH. He lost his life?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Yes.
 And later affirmed:
 Senator SMITH. You say you were 15 feet from this last boat when it was lowered?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. It was not lowered, sir. I was 15 feet from it when they were endeavoring to get it into the tackles.
 Senator SMITH. Did you go nearer to it than that.
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Did not have the opportunity, sir.
 Senator SMITH. Why not?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. The ship went down.
 Senator SMITH. Was this boat ever lowered?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. No, sir.
 Senator SMITH. It remained in the tackle?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Yes, sir.
 And affirmed yet again:
 Senator SMITH. Did you see Mr. Murdoch after that?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Yes, sir; I saw him when I came out of the quarters after the impact.
 Senator SMITH. Where was he?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. On the bridge.
 Senator SMITH. With the captain?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. One on one side, and one on the other side of the bridge; one on each side.
 Senator SMITH. Did you speak to him after that?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. No, sir.
 Senator SMITH. I mean after he took the watch?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. No, sir.
 Senator SMITH. You never spoke to him again?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. No; sir.
 Senator SMITH. You were not together when finally parted from the ship?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. No, sir.
 Senator SMITH. You saw him on the bridge at the time?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Immediately after the impact; yes, sir.
 Senator SMITH. Did he remain there until the end?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. He was getting the boats out on the starboard side later on.
 Senator SMITH. Later?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Yes, sir.
 Senator SMITH. Did you see him at that work?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. No, sir; I was on the port side.
 Senator SMITH. How do you know that he did it?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. I saw him at the last boat
 And when asked once more on this point:
 Senator SMITH. Do you know who had charge on the starboard side of the lowering and filling of the boats?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. No, sir. Merely what I am told.
 Senator SMITH. What have you been told about it. May be we can get something from that.
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. As far as I know, and I think it is correct, Mr. Murdoch. Mr. Murdoch was on the starboard side. I was on the port side, and Mr. Murdoch was on the starboard side, and the chief officer was superintending generally, and lowered one or two boats himself.
 Senator SMITH. From whom did you get information?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. Of course, I saw Mr. Murdoch there when finally I had finished on the port side.
 Senator SMITH. You went to the starboard side?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. On top; yes, sir.
 Senator SMITH. For the purpose of lowering this -
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. I went over to see if I could assist.
 Senator SMITH. And you saw him there?
 Mr. LIGHTOLLER. I saw him there.
 In Lightoller’s American testimony he tells exactly how far he was from Collapsible A: Fifteen feet. Which from his perch on the officer’s quarters was enough room for him to have seen everything. Indeed, would have been, as he wrote to Ada Murdoch "practically looking down" on them.
 In light of the above facts, the doubts cast as to Lightoller’s word based upon his statement about being "practically amidships" at the time of the final plunge are needless. 3


Final Summary
 What does this all mean as far as the officer’s suicide enigma is concerned?
 First, the fact George Rheims was not at Collapsible A when the end came makes one wonder just what exactly it was he saw, and where. As well as casts serious doubt on the possibility that it was at Collapsible A, given Rheims’ absence from that boat.
 As far as Charles Lightoller is concerned, his word is unimpeachable. Given how his three accounts from immediately after the sinking match perfectly.
 Indeed, despite researcher Suzanne Stormer’s discovery some years ago that Lightoller allegedly admitted later in life that he knew someone who took their life aboard ship during the sinking, Lightoller’s eyewitness account as to Murdoch’s end, to my mind at any rate, puts Murdoch in the clear as to wether or not his death was a suicide.
 In closing, the whole officer’s suicide enigma is one which is wrapped in layer upon layer of riddle.
Hopefully, the deductions made in this article as to Rheims and Lightoller’s evidence slices through at least one of those layers.

Notes
1. This is a slightly different translation than the one available to Walter Lord when he wrote The Night Lives On. It can be read in it’s entirety at Bill Wormstedt and Tad Fitch’s "Shots In The Dark" website where can also be found the complete text of Lightoller’s letter to Ada Murdoch.

2. Could Rheims have heard First Officer Murdoch firing his pistol at Collapsible C?
 Consider the evidence of Hugh Woolner at the American inquiry:
 Mr. WOOLNER. Then they eventually lowered all the wooden lifeboats on the port side, and then they got out a collapsible and hitched her onto the most forward davits and they filled that up, mostly with steerage women and children, and one seaman, and a steward, and I think one other man - but I am not quite certain about that - and when that boat seemed to be quite full, and was ready to be swung over the side, and was to be lowered away, I said to Steffanson: "There is nothing more for us to do here." Oh, no; something else happened while that boat was being loaded. There was a sort of scramble on the starboard side, and I looked around and I saw two flashes of a pistol in the air.
 Senator SMITH. Two flashes of a pistol?
 Mr. WOOLNER. Yes.
 Senator SMITH. Pistol shots?
 Mr. WOOLNER. Yes; but they were up in the air, at that sort of an angle [indicating]. I heard Mr. Murdoch shouting out, "Get out of this, clear out of this," and that sort of thing, to a lot of men who were swarming into a boat on that side.
 Woolner’s number of pistol shots matches Rheims number exactly and Collapsible C was lowered away roughly forty minutes before the Titanic sank. Thus Rheims could have been within earshot of this event at the same time Woolner was.
 It also begs the question: Could Rheims have seen Murdoch firing his pistol in the air at Collapsible C, during which Murdoch also threw the men in question out of the boat, and somehow came away with a mistaken impression about shootings and, somehow, a suicide?
 Unless Rheims’ liability court testimony from the stand is ever uncovered, we will never know for sure.
3. Lightoller only devotes one sentence in his book Titanic and Other Ships to his crossing between the port and starboard sides of the ship before the end came, saying simply:
Hemming and I then, as every single boat was away from the port side, went over to the starboard side, to see if there was anything further to be done there. (Titanic and Other Ships, Chapter 34, page 132)
 Lightoller’s memory was off as to one detail in that lamp trimmer Samuel Hemming did not accompany him across the deck house. Hemming having already assisted with Collapsible A and was at the time Lightoller went to try to help Murdoch already making his escape from the doomed vessel.
 However, despite this flaw in Lightoller’s memory, his book nonetheless also corroborates his final movement aboard ship.
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