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RMS Titanic Fourth Officer, Joseph G. Boxhall

RMS Titanic's Fourth Officer, Joseph Grove Boxhall in Dress Uniform. nd, circa 1910.

RMS RMS Titanic's Fourth Officer, Joseph Grove Boxhall in Dress Uniform. Shown Here Aboard the RMS Oceanic Where He Was the Fifth Officer, 6 June 1909. GGA Image ID # 1703754711

Quick Facts

  • Full Name: Joseph Grove Boxhall, Jr., R.D., R.N.R.
  • Date of birth: 23rd March 1884
  • Place of birth: Kingston-upon-Hull (Hull), Yorkshire, England
  • Marital status: Married
  • Spouse: Marjory Beddells
  • Crew position: Titanic's Fourth Officer
  • Service: Lt. Cmdr., R.N.R. (1923-05-27)
  • Date of death: 25 April 1967
  • Cause of death: Cerebral thrombosis, aged 83

Joseph G. Boxhall, although selected as the fourth officer on the Titanic, actually held the highest maritime certificate of extra Master since 1904. He later served as a naval officer in World War I aboard the battleship HMS Commonwealth and later in command of a torpedo boat. Mr. Box returned to White Star Line after the war in May 1919, serving on the Olympic, and Aquitania until he retired in 1940. He was a technical advisor for the film adaptation of Walter Lord's motion picture A Night to Remember in 1958.

At the time of the Titanic Disaster, Mr. Boxhall at Thirteen years' experience at sea. The first four years as an apprentice and the remainder of the time as an officer. He served in William Thomas's in Liverpool, and was then an. officer on the Wilson Line of Hull; and after that on the White Star Lane. He had been with White Star Line almost 4 ½ years. As a junior officer, ranking as fifth. and. sixth officer, and third officer; and then as fourth officer on the last ship. He had 12 months training in a navigation school in Hull, England.

Board of Trade Extra Master Certificate of Competency Awarded to Joseph Groves Boxhall, the Fourth Officer on the Titanic, 16 September 1904.

Board of Trade Extra Master Certificate of Competency Awarded to Joseph Groves Boxhall, the Fourth Officer on the Titanic, 16 September 1904. An EXTRA MASTER’S EXAMINATION is intended for such persons as are desirous of obtaining command of ships and steamers of the first class. Before being examined for an Extra Master’s Certificate an applicant must have served one year as a Master with an ordinary Certificate of Competency, or as a Master having a First Class Certificate granted by one of the former Boards of Examiners. GGA Image ID # 17035fa708

Testimony Excerpts from Joseph Boxhall

Boxhall testified to the sobriety and good habits of his superior and brother officers.
“Lightoller was on the bridge when I came on at 8 o'clock. He was relieved at 10 o'clock by Mr. Murdoch, who remained until the accident happened. Moody, the sixth officer, was on deck also. Fleland Leigh and the bridge officer, Mr. Murdoch, were on the lookout,” said Boxhall.

Under questioning Boxhall said Captain Smith had told him of the position of certain icebergs which he marked on the chart.

Senator Smith then asked the witness: “Do you know whether the temperature of the water taken from the sea was tested?”   
“Yes, sir; I saw the quartermaster doing it. He reported to the junior officer, Mr. Moody.”

“Did you see the captain frequently Sunday night?” asked Senator Smith.   
“Yes, sir; sometimes on the upper deck, sometimes in the chart room; sometimes on the bridge, and sometimes in the wheelhouse.”

“Was the captain on the bridge or at any of the other places when you went on watch at 8 o'clock?”   
“No, I first saw the captain about 9 o'clock.”
“Did you see Mr. Ismay with the captain on the bridge or in the wheelhouse?”   
“No, sir; not until after the accident.”

Boxhall said he did not believe the captain had been away from the vicinity of the bridge at any time during the watch. “When did you see the captain last?” asked Senator Smith.   “When he ordered me to go away in the boat.”

“Where were you at the time of the collision?”   
“Just approaching the bridge.”

“Did you see what occurred?”   
“No, I could not see.”

“Did you hear?”   
“Yes; the senior officer said. “We have struck an iceberg.’”

“Was there any ice on the deck?”   
“Just a little on the lower deck. I heard the report of the crash.”

“Did you see the iceberg?”   
“No, sir.”

Boxhall then went to the bridge, where he found the first officer, Mr. Murdoch; the sixth officer, Mr. Moody, and Captain Smith. Boxhall said the captain asked what was the trouble and the first-officer replied they had struck an iceberg, and added that he had borne to starboard and reversed his engines full speed after ordering the closing of the water tight doors.

“Did you see the iceberg then?”   
“Yes, sir. I could see it dimly. It lay low in the water and was about as high as the lower rail of the ship, or about thirty feet out of the water.” Boxhall said he went down to the steerage, inspected all the decks in the vicinity of where the ship had struck, found no traces of any damage, and went directly to the bridge and so reported.

“The captain ordered me to send a carpenter to sound the ship,” he said, “but I found a carpenter coming up with the announcement that the ship was taking water. In the mail room I found mail sacks floating about while the clerks were at work. I went to the bridge and reported, and the captain ordered the lifeboats to be made ready. Boxhall testified that at Capt. Smith's orders he took word of the ship's position to the wireless operators.

“What position was that?”   
“41:46 north, 50.14 west.”

“Was that the last position taken?”    
“Yes, the Titanic stood not far from there when it sank.” After that Boxhall went back to the lifeboats, where there were many men and women. He said they had life belts. “After that I was on the bridge most of the time, sending out distress signals, trying to attract the attention of boats ahead,” he said.

“I sent up distress rockets until I left the ship, to try to attract the attention of a ship directly ahead. I had seen its lights. It seemed to be meeting us and was not far away. It got close enough, it seemed to me, to read our electric Morse signals. I told the captain. He stood with me much of the time trying to signal this vessel. He told me to tell it in Morse rocket signals, ‘Come at once—we are sinking.’”

“Did any answer come?” asked the senator.
“I did not see them, but two men say they saw signals from that ship.”

“How far away do you think that ship was?”   
“Approximately five miles.” Boxhall said he did not know what ship it was.

“What did you see on the ship?”   
“First, we saw its mast head lights, and a few minutes later its red side lights. It was standing closer.”

“Suppose you had had a powerful searchlight on the Titanic, could you not have thrown a beam on the vessel and have compelled its attention?”   
“We might.”

Boxhall said he had rowed in the sea boat three quarters of a mile when the Titanic went down. Before that he had rowed around the ship's stern to see if he could not take off three more persons for whom there was room. He abandoned that attempt, however, because he had with him only one man who knew how to handle an oar and he feared an accident.

His boat, he said, was the first picked up by the Carpathia. That was about 4:10 in the morning. “Did you have any conversation with Mr. Ismay that night?”   
“Yes, sir, before I left the ship. On the bridge just before the captain ordered me below to take an emergency boat.”

“When you boarded the Carpathia, did you see any lights on any other lifeboats?”    
“No. It was nearly daylight. It was daylight by the time I got my passengers aboard the Carpathia.”

“Could you say any other lifeboats had lights besides yours?”   
“I saw several with lanterns. These lanterns were beside the helmsman in each case and on the bottom of the boats. I would not say all the boats had lights.”

Boxhall said he knew none of the American passengers personally, but he knew the identity of Col. John Jacob Astor. “Did you see Ismay when you got into the lifeboat?”

“When did you next see Ismay after you left the ship?”   
“I saw him in a collapsible boat afterward.”

“Any women in it?”   
“Yes, it was full of them—well, not exactly full, but there were many women—most of them foreigners.”

“How long after you reached the Carpathia did Ismay’s boat arrive?”   
“I cannot say exactly, but it was before daylight.”
Boxhall heard persons on the Titanic say some people refused to enter the lifeboats, but he saw no one ejected from the boats, nor prevented from entering.

“Did you see any who got in from the water or see any in the water?”   
“No, sir,” said Boxhall. “If I had seen any in the water, I should have taken them in the boat.”  

Boxhall said the sea was calm and that in his opinion each of the lifeboats could have taken its full capacity. How many he had in his small sea boat he never knew, Senator Newlands returned to the subject of the icebergs.

“You say you could not see these great icebergs when in the sea boat, but you could hear the water lap ping against them?”  
“Yes, sir. It was an oily calm, and we could see nothing in the small boats.”

“If the sea is smooth, then, it is difficult to discern these icebergs?”   
“Yes, sir. I believe if there had been a little ripple on the water the Titanic would have seen it in time to avoid it.”

Means Taken to Procure Assistance

As soon as the dangerous condition of the ship was realized, messages were sent by the Master's orders to all steamers within reach. At 12:15 a.m. the distress signal C.Q.D. was sent. This was heard by several steamships and by Cape Race. By 12:25, Mr. Boxhall, the fourth officer, had worked out the correct position of the "Titanic," and then another message was sent: "Come at once, we have struck a berg." This was heard by the Cunard steamer "Carpathia," which was at this time bound from New York to Liverpool and 58 miles away. The "Carpathia" answered, saying that she was coming to the assistance of the "Titanic."

This was reported to Captain Smith on the Boat deck. At 12:26 a message was sent out, "Sinking; cannot hear for noise of steam." Many other messages were also sent, but as they were only heard by steamers which were too far away to render help it is not necessary to refer to them. At 1:45 a message was heard by the "Carpathia," "Engine room full up to boilers." The last message sent out was "C.Q.," which was faintly heard by the steamer " Virginian." This message was sent at 2:17. It thus appears that the Marconi apparatus was at work until within a few minutes of the foundering of the "Titanic.”

Meanwhile Mr. Boxhall was sending up distress signals from the deck. These signals (rockets) were sent off at intervals from a socket by No. 1 emergency boat on the Boat deck. They were the ordinary distress signals, exploding in the air and throwing off white stars. The firing pi these signals began about the time that No. 7 boat was lowered (12:45 a.m.), ana it continued until Mr. Boxhall left the ship at about 1:45.

Mr. Boxhall was also using a Morse light from the bridge in the direction of a ship whose lights he saw about half a point on the port bow of the "Titanic" at a distance, as he thought, of about five or six miles. He got no answer. In all, Mr. Boxhall fired about eight rockets. There appears to be no doubt that the vessel whose lights he saw was the "Californian." The evidence from the "Californian" speaks of eight rockets having been seen between 12:30 and 1:40. The "Californian” heard none of the "Titanic's" messages; she had only one Marconi operator on board and he was asleep.

Excerpt from the Senate Inquiry

In his evidence last evening Mr. Boxhall, the fourth officer, caused a sensation by an assertion that he had seen A ship within five miles of the Titanic as the Titanic was sinking. Her lights, he said, indicated that she was coming towards the liner, but nothing Mr. Boxhall could do with rockets or other signaling apparatus could attract the notice of the stranger. He stated that stewards and others had told him that who answered his signals, but he did not notice any, answers. Naturally, the " mysterious ship " was the feature of this morning's papers. It is even quite gratuitously insinuated that it may by the Gorman ship Frankfurt, which has boon accused on rather, slender evidence of having ignored the Titanic's calk. Mr. Pitman, however, did not ace the ship. All ho saw was one white light upon the horizon, which might have been a star.

Summary from the British Enquiry

I do think on this occasion, as appears from the evidence of Boxhall and Bride that the passengers on the “Titanic” could have been informed by the officers that the “Carpathia” was coming to their assistance. There is no doubt that that was known to those on board of the “Titanic,” because if your Lordship refers to the evidence of the Fourth Officer, Boxhall, on page 341, Question 15610, I asked him, (Q.) “Did you hear the Captain say anything to anybody about the ship being doomed ?” and he says, “The Captain did remark something to me in the earlier part of the evening after the order had been given to clear the boats. I encountered him when reporting something to him and he was enquiring about the men going on with the work, and I said, ‘Yes, they are carrying on all right.’ I said. ‘Is it really serious?’ He said, ‘Mr. Andrews tells me he gives her from an hour to an hour and a half to live.’ That must have been some little time afterwards. Evidently Mr. Andrews had been down.” Therefore, my Lord, the Captain a very short time after the collision, at any rate sometime after the collision knew that the “Titanic” was not going to survive.

Digest of Testimony

COLLISION, EFFECT OF: "Slight impact," Officer Boxhall

COLLISION, POINT OF: "Bluff of the bow," Officer Boxhall

DISTRESS SIGNALS FIRED:  "Slight impact," Officer Boxhall

"Fired by Howe and I, and Mr. Boxhall, the fourth officer," Quartermaster

" Just white stars or balls," Boxhall

DRILL: "There were inspections and drills the morning of sailing." "The crew
were mustered, and when the names were called the boats were lowered
in the presence of the board of trade surveyors," Officer Boxhall

"Two boats were lowered, I believe," Boxhall

ICE: "Icebergs reported from Touraine several days before," Boxhall

"Later more positions came * * *, evidently those of the Amerika," Boxhall

"The captain gave me some positions of icebergs, which I put on the chart, ‘Boxhall

" Mr. Boxhall said ice was marked on the chart,'' Lightoller

ON DUTY AT TIME OF COLLISION: Fourth Officer Boxhall, survived, and testified before committee

SHIP LIGHT IN DISTANCE: "Endeavoring to signal to a ship that was ahead," Boxhall

" Mr. Boxhall said ice was marked on the chart,'' Lightoller

"Capt. Smith was standing by my side, and we both came to the conclusion that she was dose enough to be signaled by the Morse lamp, etc.," Boxhall

WATER ADMITTED TO SHIP: No. 3 hold— "Beneath me was the mail hold, and the water seemed to be then
within 2 feet of the deck we were standing on and bags of mail floating about," Officer Boxhall

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