I enjoyed Peter Stanford's story, "Titanic's Night to Remember" in the April 2012 edition of Sea Classics. Overall, it was very interesting reading and quite accurate; however, there are several errors I would like to point out to our readers especially since the 100th Anniversary of the loss of RMS ??ap?? occured this year on 15 April 2012. Because ofthat, accuracy, as close as we can get it, is of utmost importance.
The biggest arguments usually surround the numbers of passengers, crew, and officers on board during that fateful maiden voyage and what led to her sinking. I have a copy of the "Survey of an Emigrant Ship: Certificate for Clearance" signed by the Emigration Officer at Queenstown (now Cobh) on 11 April 1912 by E. Sharpe. Mr. Sharpe has listed in his own handwriting on the back the actual numbers of 1st and 2nd Class passengers, 3rd Class passengers (Emigrants) for a total of 1316 and a crew of 892 for a grand total of 2208. The figures used in Peter Stanford's fine story are similar to the ones I have used for 50-yrs as a writer and Titanic lecturer and I have no problems throughout his story from that respect. In retrospect, I do not believe anyone really knows the exact totals as some missed the ship for various reasons and some crew were absent without authority at the last moment.
In his opening, Mr. Stanford writes the long-lost wreckage was found by Dr. Ballard in 1986. 1 believe this might be a typo as its location was found at 1:05 am on Sunday, 1 September 1985 during a joint French-American scientific expedition, IFREMER/Woods Hole, led by JeanLouis Michel and Dr. Robert Ballard. Ballard did return in 1986 to conduct extensive photographic exploration of the wreck.
The large photo of RMS Titanic showing her with her bow line still on the pier and the gentleman sitting on the pier with the bowler hat was not at Belfast, Northern Ireland, as the caption says. It was taken at Pier 44, Southampton, England, where she departed on her fateful maiden voyage at noon on 10 April 1912. Several sources have said the man in the bowler was the owner of White Star Line, others have said Harland & Wolff. As far as I know, the jury is still out on that issue.
I have read about Second Officer Charles H. Lightoller and his heroic deeds during the evacuation of Dunkirk in his small 60-ft private boat Sundowner, an Australian term for "wanderer." His boat was formerly a retired Admiralty launch extensively modified for Lightoller. Lightholler's wife, Sylvia Hawley Wilson, was an Australian. Sylvia had a foot deformity and many of the boat's modifications were also designed to enable her to enjoy Sundowner. Lightoller's fascinating story of his life, his wife Sylvia, and the 1940 Dunkirk Evacuation was a well-written story that appeared in Sea Classics July 2008 edition.
The author's comment that J. Bruce Ismay donned women's clothing to leave the Titanic is wrong as lsmay was one of the last off and he did not take a seat needed by others. J. Bruce Ismay had remorseful guilt after leaving Titanic and was a recluse until his death on Sunday, 17 October 1937. The man originally publicized with dressing in a woman's clothing was William T, Sloper from Connecticut. Hollywood has included this undocumented situation in several films.
The comment that helmsman Hitchins "panicked and turned the wheel the wrong way" was also interesting since Hitchins was an experienced helmsman and knew his helm well. The "Tiller Orders" were in use and Hitchins was very familiar with these orders. The command from First Officer Murdoch was, "Hard a starboard" to port around the berg. Mr. Stanford's comparisons of the "Tiller Orders" and a tiller on a sailboat are well explained; however, I doubt this error would have been committed by Hitchins. The use of "Tiller Orders" on ships were not changed to the orders to the helm we use today until around 1924. 1 doubt "Tiller Orders" would have remained in use for twelve more years following Titanic's sinking if they were as prone to error as indicated.
Lookout Frederick Fleet spotted the berg on a moonless, dark, but starry night in a flat calm sea. He rang the bell three times when the iceberg was only about 500-yds dead ahead. Estimates of Titanic's speed at the time were about 22.5-kts, almost full speed. At that speed and distance, it would take only 38seconds from sighting until the ship collided with the iceberg. Even with the helm put over full, Titanic was only able to turn to port (left) two points (22.5-deg) before the collision. I doubt there was a delay in turning the helm the correct way as was reportedly noticed by First Officer Murdoch who ordered it to be corrected and all within only 38-seconds. The story says, They only had a scant four-minutes to change course and by the time Murdoch spotted Hitchins' error... it was simply too late." There was not fourminutes, only 38-seconds! There were numerous situations, errors, and omissions that created the causes for the sinking of RMS Titanic, far too many to list here. Numerous books have been written about the causes and there are many Titanic Societies that have specialized in unraveling these fartoo-many reasons why it had to happen. In closing I leave the readers with this thought: "Accidents are caused, they do not happen!" -Truer words were never spoken.
Cmdr. Bill Wilson
Titanic International Society, member
East Boothbay, ME
In regards to your article on the World War II 3-in/50 dualpurpose Naval gun: I retired from the Navy as a GMG-I in 1970 and my first encounter with the 3-in was in 1951. At that time, I did not know any thing about this weapon. So it was very enlightening to read about it in your February 2012 issue. When I reenlisted in the Navy, I became a striker for gunner mate in 1955. As time went by, I learned all about various types of weapons used on Naval ships. True, I did not get to work on all of them except for the 3-in/50 Mk. 33-34 which were a far cry from the old WWII weapons.
One difference was that the munitions used on the WWII gun were set off using percussion by the firing pin hitting the center cap which would have been filled with either Leadazie or foraminate mercury which would set off the main charge, whereas the Mk. 33-34 was set off using a 12v electric current.
The weapon was equipped with a semi-auto loading system that, if I recall correctly, was called the James gear box which would convert 360-deg to 90-deg for the loader. The first loaders - one each side of the weapon - would load the loader with five shells. When the order was given to commence fire, the fire control man on the Mk. 63 director pulled the trigger to put the loading mechanism into operation.
The first shell would drop down from the star clamp and set on the rammer which would then ram the shell in to the breach of the gun. This would take about a 10-secs. Meanwhile, the loaders would be loading more shells into the hopper.
When the gun had fired and the empty shell ejected out to the front of the gun, the next shell was already on its way. The rate of fire was 45 rounds a minute but very few loaders could keep up the rate of fire as the shell weighted in at 37-lbs each.
The mount was powered by a amplification drive system. The weapon did have one weak spot as it attached to the James gear box via flange which had a copper pin so that if a shell should get jammed, the pin would break and everything shut down. To replace the pin was quite a job. Most gunners mates hated this gun as it was very temperamental to work on.
To make sure that the shell went in correctly, there was a unit that, when both the front and back were pushed down, would stop the loading so the shell could be inserted into the star clamps that held the shells until they were ready to be rammed into the breech. As I had said before, this was one of its weak spots because if the loader would put to much pressure on one arm, this made the shell go in wrong thus causing the shear pin to break, thus putting the weapon out of commission. Overall, the 3-in was good gun but very temperamental - you could not just polish the bright work and make it work.
While on active duty I serviced on the following ships when not on shore duty: USS James Miller (DD-535), 1951-1953; USS Henley (DD-762), 1955-1957; USS Mauna Kea (AE-22), 1961; USS Vega (AF-59), USS Fire, USS Drake (AE-U), and the USS Holder (DD-819), 1964-1967.
May you always have fair winds and following seas.
James Richard Blunt, USN (ret.) Pontiac, IL
MYSTERY SHIP WRECK
Reader Ernie Debbs from Detroit, Michigan, sent us this photo asking if we could identify this this shipwreck. Frankly, we're scratching our heads because we cannot find any information on this ship which has all the appearances of a WWII-era light cruiser. If anyone can correctly identify this vessel, Ernie and our staff will deeply appreciate it.…