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RMS Titanic Third Officer, Herbert J. Pitman

34-Year Old Third Officer of the RMS Titanic, Mr. Herbert John Pitman.

34-Year Old Third Officer of the RMS Titanic, Mr. Herbert John Pitman. GGA Image ID # 1702ec33a3

Full Name: Herbert John "Bert" Pitman, MBE
Date of birth: 
20th November 1877
Place of birth: Sutton Montis, Castle Cary, Somerset, England
Marital status: Married
Spouse: Mimi Kalman
Crew position: Titanic's Third Officer
Date of death: December 7, 1961
Cause of death: Subarachnoid hemorrhage, aged 84

The 34-year-old Third Officer Herbert J. Pitman. Pitman, though rather short in stature, was an imposing figure with his pronounced mustache. He was also an extremely capable officer with sixteen years of experience at sea. At the time of the Titanic disaster, his resume included four years with James Nourse (Ltd.), as an apprentice; three years as an officer in the same employ; about twelve months in the Blue Anchor Line, running to Australia; six months in the Shire Line, running to Japan; and five years with the White Star -- Second, third, and fourth officer; second officer for two months on the Dolphin, the Majestic, Oceanic, and the Titanic. He held a master's certificate seven years from the board of trade. His duties on the Titanic comprised of working out celestial observations, finding the deviation of the compass, general supervision around the decks, and looking after the quartermasters; also relieving the bridge if necessary.

Charles Lightower (on right) with Third Officer Herbert J. Pitman in late April 1912.

Charles Lightower (on right) with RMS Titanic Third Officer Herbert J. Pitman in late April 1912. GGA Image ID # 1702d14210

Herbert J. Pitman, third officer, was the first witness of the day. It had been expected that J. B. Boxhall, fourth officer, would be recalled, but it was announced he was ill.

Pitman said that in the boat drill conducted by the board of trade at Southampton approximately eight men went in each of the two boats used in the drill. The witness maintained that virtually the only way to discover the proximity of icebergs was to see them, asserting that, while science may hold there are numerous ways, they never have been demonstrated.

Pitman was on the bridge of the Titanic from 6 to 8 o'clock the night of the collision. After that he went to his berth. Half asleep at the time of the accident, he said he wondered sleepily where they were anchoring.
It was nearly time for his next watch, so he dressed leisurely and was lighting his pipe when Mr. Boxhall told him the ship had struck an iceberg. He went forward and saw ice, and then walked back, where a number of firemen coming up told him there was water in the hatch.

Going on deck he met a man whom he afterward learned was Mr. Ismay, who said, “Hurry, there's no time for fooling.” Mr. Ismay helped him load the boat in which Pitman embarked on orders from Mr. Murdoch after calling for more women passengers and finding there was none in sight.

The witness said that just before the boat pulled away Mr. Murdoch leaned over, shook his hand, and said, “Good-by and good luck, Old man.”

“When you shook hands with Murdoch did you expect to see him again?”

“Do you think he expected to see you again?”

“Apparently not, but I expected fully to be back on the ship in a few hours.”

Pitman told of the placing on the chart of crosses indicating the presence of icebergs by the fourth officer and said that the speed had been increased from twenty and one-half knots on leaving Southampton to twenty one and one-half knots and that he supposed the ship was going at top speed when it struck. The witness said he had not seen any Morse signals on the Titanic and did not of his personal knowledge know of the presence of another ship, but that he later had heard that one had passed.

Senator Smith referred to Third Officer Pitman’s testimony in which he said there were thirty-five persons in lifeboat No. 5. That being the case, he asked why Pitman could not have gone to the rescue of the drowning, whose cries he heard plainly, but did not heed.

“Had he attempted to rescue those in the water he would have endangered the lives of those with him,” Lowe asserted.

Other Excerpts

Third Officer Herbert John Pitman of the Titanic appeared for a minute on the stand just before adjournment was taken, but he answered one question only, as to the fate of the log. So far as he knew, that important document today is at the bottom of the sea.

Blown-up Section Showing Herbert John Pitman Taken From a Photo of the Four Surviving Senior Officers of the RMS Titanic Circa 1913.

Blown-up Section Showing Herbert John Pitman Taken From a Photo of the Four Surviving Senior Officers of the RMS Titanic Circa 1913. GGA Image ID # 17033f4a3b


Mr. Pitman, tho third officer, was oxamined first. Mr- Pitman had been in bed at the time of the shock. On dressing and going on deck
he was rnet by Mr. Lenay, who told him in a low voice that the thing was serious and that the women and children must be put into the
boats. Mr. Pitman went to tho captain for his orders before setting to work. Mr. Ismay holpod him and Murdock and tho other officers,
and when Murdock ordered Pitman into a boat Mr. Ismay was still on the deck. It was a collapsible boat in which Mr. Ismay eventually found a place after no more women could be found. Mr. Pitman testified that 'there had been no boat drill since tho ship left Southampton, though both boat and fire drills were, he said, usually held on Sundays., He further said that the canvas bucket for
taking the temperature of tbe water was wanting and an ordinary tin bucket was used instead. The boats were not filled to their limit bocause there wore not enough womon on deck. It was not made cloar why, in default of women, men were not taken. - 22 April 1912, Senate Inquiry.


COLLISION, EFFECT OF:"A sound like the ship coining to anchor * * * just a little vibration," Officer Pitman

DISTRESS SIGNALS FIRED: "About a dozen rockets were fired," Officer Pitman

ICE: "The chart showed icebergs away to the north of the track," Pitman

"The iceberg was to the northward of the southerly track, between the northern and southern track," Pitman

"We were keeping a special lookout for ice * * from 10 o'clock on," Officer Pitman

SEARCHLIGHTS: "Might have revealed ice," Officer Pitman

SHIP LIGHT IN DISTANCE: "We waited until we were certain it waa a steamer, and then pulled toward her," Pitman

SHIP SINKING: "Turned right on end and went down perpendicularly," Pitman

"Did not break in two," Pitman

SHIP SINKING, EXPLOSIONS: "Four. Assumed it was bulkheads going," Pitman

SPEED: "About 21 1/2 knots—20 1/4, 20 1/2, 21, 21 1/2," Officer Pitman

WATER ADMITTED TO SHIP: " I saw the water flowing over the hatch No. 1 in firemen's quarters," Officer Pitman

No. 5 boat: Loaded by Officer Pitman, assisted by Mr. Ismay

Pitman ordered in by Murdock

No. 7 boat (first starboard boat): Between 30 and 40, Pitman

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