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RMS Titanic First Officer William McMaster Murdoch

First Officer William M. Murdoch of the RMS Titanic. nd circa 1910.

First Officer William M. Murdoch of the RMS Titanic. nd circa 1910. Sinking of the Titanic, 1912. GGA Image ID # 17029bb566

Date of birth: 28th of February, 1873
Place of birth: Dalbeattie, Scotland
Married: 2nd of September 1907
Spouse: Ada Florence Banks
Children: None
Address: 94 Belmont Road, Portswood, Southampton
Crew position: Titanic's First Officer
Service: Lieutenant, R.N.R.
Date of death: 15 April, 1912
Cause of death: Unconfirmed; body never recovered; possible suicide

Thirty-nine year-old William McMaster Murdoch, with an "ordinary master's certificate" and a reputation as a "canny and dependable man", had climbed through the ranks of the White Star Line to become one of its foremost senior officers. It was only natural that he was selected to be Titanic's Chief Officer, with sixteen years of maritime experience now behind him.

William McMaster Murdoch Shown Here in His 30s. nd, circa 1910.

William McMaster Murdoch Shown Here in His 30s. nd, circa 1910. GGA Image ID # 1702b20867

William McMaster Murdoch

From Quartermaster R. Hitchins, one of the few living members of the Titanic’s crew and who was on the bridge with First Officer Murdoch when she struck the iceberg, it became known that the vessel was traveling between twenty-one and twenty-two knots an hour. This speed had been maintained from the very start of the voyage, in an attempt to create a maiden record. Posted on Sunday morning in the first cabin was a notice stating that Saturday’s run had totaled 546 knots, and that on the morrow, the fatal fourteenth of April, this run would be exceeded.

It is apparent, therefore, that the engine-room force of the Titanic was acting under orders to crowd the new ship to her limit. This is borne out by the fact that the Titanic was, at the moment of collision, 1,799 miles out from Queenstown and 1,191 miles northeast of New York. Not one of the engineers survived.

Quartermaster Hitchins has followed the sea for fifteen years. He is an experienced Bailor. His narrative of the accident, as told to a reporter for Leslie’s Weekly, follows:

"I went on watch at four bells (eight o'clock) on Sunday night, and I stood by the man at the wheel until four bells (ten o’clock). At that time I took the wheel for my trick of two hours, while the man I had just relieved stood by me. On the bridge at the time I had the wheel were First Officer Murdoch and Fourth Officer Boxhall (who was saved).

Captain Smith was below. Second Officer Lightoller, who was on watch from four bells to four bells, while I stood by the other quartermaster, sent me, a little after eight o’clock, to tell the chief steward that the temperature was getting very low (it was then 31 degrees above zero Fahrenheit) and that he should look carefully after his freshwater supply, as it might freeze. There were icebergs in sight then, as the night was beautifully calm and clear, but quite cold, and the two men in the crow’s-nest (Fleet was the name of one, but I have forgotten the other's) were told to keep a careful lookout for ice.

"At the time I took the wheel (ten o'clock), Second Officer Lightoller was relieved by First Officer Murdoch. A little before eight bells (midnight), by perhaps twenty minutes, the lookouts in the crow’s-nest signaled the bridge there was a large iceberg dead ahead.

“‘Port your helm!’ was the instant command of Mr. Murdoch, and I saw his hand go to the signal lever and swing it to ‘stop. We swung to port, but we were too near the berg to avoid it, and it hit us on our starboard bow, about one hundred feet aft of the bow.

Mr. Murdoch had signaled for the closing of the watertight compartment doors, but the jar of collision threw them out of working order.

“The Titanic did not hit hard. She rose slightly, as her keel scraped on the submerged portion of the iceberg, and listed to port, and the upper portion of the iceberg came crashing over onto the deck and parts of it fell on the bridge.

“Captain Smith appeared almost instantly on the bridge. His first command was, ‘Close the emergency doors!”

“‘They’re closed, sir,’ Mr. Murdoch replied.

“Instruct the carpenter to sound the ship!” was Captain Smith’s next command. I may say here that the carpenter went below immediately, never to reappear, and he was probably the first man aboard the Titanic to lose his life. When he did not reappear
promptly. Captain Smith sent two other men to find him or report conditions below, but these two men likewise failed to show up. The commutator on the bridge showed a five-degree list to port at this time, with the bow slightly lower than the stern, showing she
was making water.

“All the steam sirens were blowing. The pumps were started, by Captain Smith’s orders; he told Wireless Operator Phillips to give the C. Q. D. signal or the S. O. S.

Quartermaster Rowe was ordered to send up rockets from the bridge. All hands were ordered on deck, and the crew issued life belts to all the passengers aa they came on deck.

Excerpt from "Sixteen Hundred Lives Lost on the Titanic: Terrors and Herosim of the Greatest of Sea Disasters-Many Distinguished Men Drowned-Sufferings of the Survivors-Tragic Details," in Leslie's Illustrated Weekly, New York: Leslie-Judge Company, Publishers, Vol. CXIV, No. 2956, 2 May 1912, p. 524.

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