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Captain Sir Arthur H. Rostron, K.B.E., R.D., R.N.R.

Captain Rostron of the Carpathia - 1912

Captain Rostron of the Carpathia - 1912. © Bain News Service. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division (LC-USZ62-121011). GGA Image ID # 10d65866e7

Captain for the Cunard Line and was the master of the ocean liner RMS Carpathia when it rescued the survivors of RMS Titanic which sank on April 15, 1912 after striking an iceberg.

As the result of his efforts to reach Titanic before it sank, and his preparations for and conduct of the rescue of the survivors, Captain Rostron was lionized as a hero.

He was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by the U.S. Congress, and after World War I was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He was made the Commodore of the Cunard fleet before retiring in 1931.

Captain Arthur Rostron by James Bisset (Tramps and Ladies)

The S.S. Brescia, 3,235 tons, was a steel-hulled, single-screw steamer, 343 feet long and 45 feet beam. She had a "three island" profile: a raised fo'c'sle head, midship house, and poop, with well decks fore and aft, each with two hatchways opening to her four cargo-holds. The S.S. Brescia could carry 4,000 tons of cargo.

She had a single stumpy funnel abaft the bridge, and two steel masts, sixty feet high, fitted with derricks. Her cabins amidships and the crew's quarters fore and aft were well found, with furniture, carpets, curtains, and other quality fittings seldom seen in cargo steamers.

They were secondhand from some of the Company's earlier-day passenger liners, scrapped or refitted. Though worn and faded, they were luxurious enough to put the Brescia and the other Cunard cargo steamers in a class by themselves.

The Master of the Brescia was Captain Arthur H. Rostron, who had now attained his first command in the Cunard service at forty years of age. Born in Bolton, Lancashire, in 1869, he had served his time in sailing ships around Cape Horn and had been First Mate of a clipper ship, Cedric the Saxon.

He had joined the Cunard service in the 1890s, making voyages as a junior officer in the Umbria, Etruria, and Campania, and then as Chief Officer in the Pannonia on her maiden voyage in 1903. He was appointed Chief Officer in the Lusitania on her trials in 1907 and did so well in that responsible position that he was promoted to Captain in the Company's service — and given command of the Brescia!

Arthur Rostron was a great seaman who eventually (in 1928) became Commodore of the Cunard Line and was knighted. I had the privilege of serving under his command later in the Carpathia and the Mauretania, in the Brescia, and at a later period again in the gigantic Berengaria.

At all times, I had the greatest respect for him as a seaman, a disciplinarian, and a man who could quickly make a decision—and stick to it. He was not the burly type of jolly old sea-dog. Far from it, he was of thin and wiry build, with sharp features, piercing blue eyes, and rapid, agile movements.

His nickname in the Cunard service was "the Electric Spark," —which somewhat described his dynamic quality. In his habits, he was austere, with solid religious convictions.

He did not drink, smoke, or use profanity, but his beliefs were his own, and he did not discuss them on board the ship. He was a believer in the power of prayer. When he was on the bridge, and everything went smoothly, I saw him stand a little to one side, close his eyes, and lift his uniform cap two or three inches above his head while his lips moved in silent prayer.

His faith was genuine, and we respected him for it. In addition to years of uncompromising service in sail, he had qualified as an officer in the Royal Naval Reserve on a voyage in a British warship on the China station during the Spanish-American war.

He had seen life in the rough and the raw, afloat and ashore, but his religious faith remained his source of inner strength. He was not a typical shipmaster, either in appearance or in his inner righteousness. Yet, in any nautical crisis or routine work, he was excellent in his profession: one of the greatest merchant sea captains of his time.

A Few of the Voyages Commanded by Captain Sir Arthur H. Rostron

1921-06-25 RMS Aquitania

1921-04-30 RMS Mauretania Passenger List

  • Steamship Line: Cunard Line
  • Class of Passengers: Cabin
  • Date of Departure: 30 April 1921
  • Route: Southampton to New York via Cherbourg
  • Commander: Captain A. H. Rostron, C.B.E., R.D., R.N.R.
1930-07-26 Passenger Manifest for the RMS Berengaria

1930-07-26 RMS Berengaria Passenger List

  • Steamship Line: Cunard Line
  • Class of Passengers: Tourist Third Cabin
  • Date of Departure: 26 July 1930
  • Route: Southampton to New York via Cherbourg
  • Commander: Captain Sir Arthur H. Rostron

 

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