Commander of the Legion of Merit (U.S.A.)
Commodore (retd) Cunard White Star Line
Commanded both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth during the Second World War.
What follows is a brief biography on Sir James Bisset by way of an introduction to his joining and subsequent involvement in the rescue of passengers and crew from SS Titanic when 2nd Officer aboard SS Carpathia.
James Bisset commenced his career as an apprentice under sail in 1898 onboard County of Pembroke, a barque, and remained in sail until gaining his First Mates Ticket in February of 1905 at Liverpool. He then decided to search for a berth on a steam ship realising that that was where his future lay, as old shellbacks were wont to say “knock off going to sea and go into steamboats”.
Having acquired the necessary time to sit his Masters Certificate, to the day, he enrolled at the Liverpool Nautical College in January of 1907. At that time the Board of Trade issued two types of certificates for “foreign going” vessels, in sail, known as the Square Rigged qualification or in Steam, Mr Bisset chose the former. The reason behind his choice lay in the fact that a Master in Sail Certificate entitled him to command ships of both disciplines, whereas one in steam only allowed him to command a vessel of that type. After six weeks studies he passed the required standard and immediately enrolled once more to sit his Extra Master’s Certificate reasoning better now than later whilst the old grey matter functioned at a premium level. Because of its complexity this took nine weeks of study and after completing both written and oral exams was informed by Senior Examiner of the panel of three that he had passed. The Senior Examiner then went on to invite Mr Bisset to attend an interview with Cunard at their office in the docks providing him with a letter by way of introduction. The office, known as ‘The Hut’ situated at the lock gates in Huskisson Dock had Captain G.M. Dodds, the Chief Marine Superintendent and his assistant Captain Lyon in attendance. Having completed his interview satisfactorily and having accepted their job offer Mr Bisset was appointed Fourth Officer onboard RMS Caronia at a rate of seven pounds a month and joined her on the 19th of May 1907.
Between the 21st of May and the 25th of July Mr Bisset made three voyages as Fourth Officer aboard Caronia before joining Ultonia in the same capacity. Ultonia had been built by Swan Hunter of Newcastle in 1898 for the cargo/cattle trade and made her maiden voyage Liverpool to Boston on the 28th of February 1899. In 1904 Cunard obtained a ten-year contract from the Hungarian Government for the transportation of emigrants. To operate this service Cunard allocated four ships, Carpathia, Ultonia, Pannonia and Slavonia. Besides calling at Trieste and Fiume (Rijeka, Slovenia) which at that time both belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, they called at Italy, Greece and Spain Between 1904 to 1914 over two million emigrants were transported from the Austrian and Hungarian state alone with a further two million from Italy.
Fourth Officer Bisset served on Ultonia for four round trips and left the ship on the 27th of January 1908, five weeks later he joined Umbria at Liverpool as Junior Third Officer.
Built in 1884 by John Elder & Co, Fairfield, Glasgow.
Tonnage: 8,128 grt, 3,699 nt.
Engine: Single screw, three cylinder compound, 19 kts by builder.
Passengers: 1,350 were divided between three classes, 300 Crew.
Service: Liverpool-New York.
By the time Mr Bisset joined Umbria she was beginning to show her age and within two years would be scrapped. On his appointment to her his pay increased by the princely sum of one pound a month, the down side was that he had to share a cabin in the Third Class passenger accommodation with the Senior Third Officer using the cabin settee as his bunk. After only eight months service aboard Umbria Mr Bisset left her in Liverpool in the October of 1908 and transferred to Ivernia in the November as Extra Third Officer.
Built in 1900 by Swan & Hunter, Newcastle.
Tonnage: 14,O67 grt, 9,058 nt.
Engines: Twin screw, 2 x 4 quadruple expansion, 1,668 NHP, 16 kts by Wallsend Slipway Co, Newcastle.
Passengers: 164 1st Class, 200 2nd Class, 1,600 3rd Class.
Service: Liverpool-Cobh-Boston before transferring to Mediterranean route in 1912.
Mr Bisset considered his appointment to Ivernia as a rise in his stature within the Cunard hierarchy however he only completed one round trip before being summoned to a meeting with the Marine Superintendent and informed of his promotion to Third Officer of Brescia, which he joined in the January of 1909. Brescia was a cargo ship employed on the Mediterranean service and in command was Captain Arthur Rostron. Other ships on the route were Saragossa, Cherbourg, Pavia, Tyria, Cypria and Veria.
Ships on this service carried no passengers or mails, their cargo outward bound comprised general cargo loaded at Liverpool, coal, tinplate and sulphate of copper loaded at Swansea and other general cargo from outward bound ports in the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black Sea. Homeward bound the ships loaded cargoes which were in the main consumables such as raisins, currants, figs, coffee beans, bagged wheat, cotton, cotton seed, onions, bales of tobacco, live quail and casks of wine.
Whilst on leave in December of 1909 Mr Bisset travelled to London for an interview at the Admiralty with a view to training in the Royal Naval Reserve, Cunard actively encouraged its Officers and Ratings to participate on an active basis. After the successful interview Mr Bisset was commissioned on the 1st of January 1910 as a Probationary Sub-Lieutenant, he would be called up later for training to commence. When his leave was finished Mr Bisset rejoined Brescia and continued as such until May of 1911 when he was appointed to Phrygia with promotion to Second Officer. He completed two more Mediterranean trips, bringing his total to twelve and on his arrival back in Liverpool was informed by the Marine Superintendent that he was required by the Lords of the Admiralty to proceed to Chatham and join HMS Hogue on the 2nd of December for one months training, Cunard providing the leave required.
HMS Hogue was a Cressy Class armoured cruiser built in 1902 at Barrow-in-Furness by Vickers Ltd., she weighed 12,000 tons dwt and had three triple expansion engines that gave her a speed of twenty-one knots. At the beginning of the war she was assigned to the Grand Fleets Third Cruiser Squadron. When on patrol in the company of two other warships twenty miles off the Dutch coast on the 22nd of September 1914 one of her consorts, Aboukir, was struck by a torpedo fired from U-9 at 0630 hrs. HMS Hogue’s Captain immediately stopped his vessel as did HMS Cressy in an attempt to pick up survivors, as he approached the stricken ship he was hit himself by two torpedoes fired from the same submarine, Hogue sank within ten minutes taking 327 of her crew.
Mr Bisset presented himself aboard HMS Hogue at the scheduled hour of 1100hrs on the 2nd of December where the Officer of the watch escorted him to the Commander’s cabin, Captain C.W. Keighley Peach RN. Disappointingly Mr Bisset was informed that as Hogue was temporarily laid up, as part of the reserve fleet, with no opportunity of going to sea, his training would be of a rather limited nature. His month’s probation ended on the 2nd of January 1912, Mr Bisset was now Sub-Lieutenant Bisset RNR and this was later officially confirmed on the 25th of January.
His next Cunard appointment was as relief officer onboard Carpathia whilst she was undergoing refit in Liverpool, on completion he was to be her Second Officer. Accordingly Mr Bisset joined Carpathia in his official capacity on the 10th of February. Carpathia’s service was on the New York-Mediterranean route along with Pannonia, Ultonia, Slavonia and Saxonia. Carpathia along with other ships had been designed specifically for the migrant service and consequently had no first class accommodation but had berths for 200 2nd class passengers and 1,600 3rd class. Under normal circumstances Carpathia would have sailed empty from Liverpool to Fiume but Cunard had instigated the novel idea of “Mediterranean Cruises” carrying a limited number of passengers out to Naples where they would re-embark on Caronia for the return voyage to the UK. For this purpose some of her upper deck cabins were refurbished with limited upgrading of her public rooms also.
After discharging her passengers in Naples minor alterations were made yet again and her accommodation now became 150 1st class, 50 2nd class with 3rd class remaining the same. Carpathia sailed from Fiume having loaded her Hungarian emigrants and proceeded to Naples and Palermo to pick up Italians with the same intent. For the purpose of carrying large amounts of non-English speaking passengers on this particular trade Cunard was obliged to carry Doctors from both Italy and Hungary. Not only did they look after the passenger’s medical needs when on passage but carried out cursory inspections prior to departure in an attempt to prevent those that had medical problems from sailing. Failure to discover ailments meant that those involved were rejected by the American authorities and returned from whence they came at Cunard’s expense.
Carpathia arrived at Pier 54, New York in early April where she remained for the following ten days discharging and back loading cargo for her return voyage to the Mediterranean. On Thursday the 11th of April Carpathia sailed from New York bound for Gibraltar and the Mediterranean carrying 120 1st class, 50 2nd class and 565 3rd class passengers. Her first and second-class passengers were in the main American tourists and those of 3rd class, Italians, Greeks, Serbians, Hungarians and Austrians all returning home for visits. On exactly the same day, at 1400 hrs Titanic also sailed, west bound from Cobh heading for New York.
Sunday morning found Carpathia on her third day of sailing about one thousand miles from New York whilst Titanic had not yet reached the “Corner”. The “Corner” is the change of direction point on the Great Circle course some 1,630 miles south-west of the Fastnet Rock leaving a further 1,220 miles to New York Lower Bay. At 0900 hrs the Carpathia’s radio officer, Harold Cottam received a report from Caronia who was westward bound warning all shipping that they had sighted icebergs in position Lat. 42° North extending from Long. 49° West to 51° West. As Carpathia was well south of danger her Captain’s only comment was to keep a sharp lookout and to proceed on their current heading, there is no doubt that the warning was also received by Titanic.
Second Officer Bisset who was on the 8-12 watch received from Harold Cottam three further iceberg warnings during his evening watch, the first from White Star’s Baltic, the second from Leyland Line’s Californian and a final one logged in at 2140 hrs from SS Messaba. Harold Cottam’s hours of duty were long as he was Carpathia’s only radio officer, starting at 0700 hrs he continued through until 2300 hrs with only breaks for his meals, only the largest liners carried three operators working the conventional three watch system. The ships radio’s at that time only had a range of 150 miles and were used for the sending and receiving of marconigrams, both commercial and ship to ship for information purposes.
As Mr Bisset’s watch approached 2200 hrs Captain Rostron joined him on the bridge and they discussed the iceberg warnings received by Harold Cottam. Captain Rostron called Cottam and asked what ships were in the immediate vicinity of the bergs and was informed that Titanic was steaming through them and that Californian had slowed down because of their quantity and size. Cottam also informed the Captain that seven other ships were within his 150-mile transmission range, NDL’s Frankfurt, Canadian Pacific’s Mount Temple, Allan Line’s Virginian, White Star’s Baltic, Cunard’s own Caronia, a Russian ship SS Birma, and the steamer Messaba. He added that because White Star’s newer ships had more powerful radio’s he could faintly hear Olympic transmitting but she was five or six hundred miles away. Captain Rostron then bade him good evening and strode out to the port bridge wing where he found a calm sea, no wind but an extremely cold temperature. Walking back into the bridge he informed Mr Bisset before he filled in his night orders that he was about to turn in but added as an afterthought that his sympathies lay with Captain Smith on the Titanic because so much was expected of both him and his ship.
Cottam was still waiting for an opportunity to talk to his friend Jack Phillips who was on duty onboard Titanic sending passengers marconigrams when he heard radio operator Cyril Evans onboard Californian informing those within range that his ship had now stopped because its route was blocked. Phillips response was to tell Evans to shut up as he was busy, a normal response from one radio operator to another when they had no time to acknowledge in a more conversational way. Evans then signed off, as did Cottam and both missed Titanic’s first distress call at 0015 hrs, which indicated that Titanic had struck an iceberg. Thankfully for those onboard Titanic Cottam decided before going to bed to have one more go at contacting Phillips and getting a curt ‘K’ from his friend, which indicated, go ahead, was amazed when Phillips broke in on his opening message by tapping out “CQD CQD SOS SOS CQD SOS. Come at once. We have struck a berg. CQDOM. Position 41°. 46N., 50°.14W. CQD SOS. This was in fact the first time that the internationally agreed distress call of SOS had been used by an ocean going liner. Cottam immediately informed Mr Dean, officer of the watch and then went to wake his Captain.
By now it was 0030 hrs and Mr Bisset, just beginning to drop off to sleep was soon awakened when he heard Captain Rostron calling out to the bridge, “Stop her. Send for the Chief Engineer. Send for the Chief Officer. Call all the Officers. Call all hands on deck and get ready to swing out the boats.” On his arrival on the bridge Mr Bisset was informed by Mr Dean that the Titanic had struck a berg and that Carpathia was turning round in her direction on a course of North 52° West at Full Ahead. By now all Carpathia’s Officers had assembled and the Captain informed them of events regarding Titanic that lay approximately sixty miles away. He asked his Chief Engineer for best possible speed, passed the order again to swing out the boats and ordered his Purser to inform his stewards to prepare blankets, tea, coffee and soup. All the ships gangway doors were to be opened, boatswain chairs to be slung and pilot ladders to be lowered down the ships side. The ships Doctors were ordered to organise the dining rooms as reception centres, the warning rockets were readied and the ability to pump oil overboard in the event it was required was also prepared.
CAPTAIN ROSTRON SEATED MIDDLE, 2nd OFFICER BISSET 2nd LEFT BACKROW.
Second Officer Bisset was ordered onto the starboard bridge wing as a lookout and in pretty short order the speed of Carpathia rose to an unprecedented sixteen knots; two more than her normal attainable speed! On her present course and speed Captain Rostron anticipated arriving in the icefield at approximately 0300 hrs and asked all those acing as lookouts to look for star shine reflection from the bergs pinnacles as opposed to white surf at their base. He then asked Cottam to signal Titanic that Carpathia was on its way with an ETA in four hours time, this was at 0045 hrs, Phillips responded with “Thank you old man.” Whilst he was on the radio he heard answering calls from Frankfurt, Mount Temple and even Olympic but unfortunately due to watch patterns nothing from Californian, which was lying only ten miles from Titanic.
The land radio station at Cape Race broadcast Titanic’s distress message to all ships in the area and to other land based stations, it was this action that alerted the general public to the great ships plight via the medium of the amateur radio operators, for once the airwaves were virtually silent as the latter group maintained silence instead of filling the airwaves with idle chatter. At 0125 Cottam heard Phillips informing the Olympic that they were lowering the boats containing women and children and twenty minutes later Phillips radioed Carpathia asking them, “Come as quickly as possible. Engineroom filling up to the boilers. TUOMGN.” (Thank you old man, good night).
Both messages were handed to Captain Rostron who, for the first time began to think the impossible, surely she wasn’t sinking; her owners claimed that she was unsinkable. Till this moment in time Captain Rostron had believed he was heading towards Titanic just to take off the mails and possibly her passengers, this raised whole new problems for which he had no answers, it was impossible for Carpathia to go any faster. By now Titanic’s signals were getting weaker as the ships generation plant was overwhelmed by flooding and at 0205 hrs they ceased altogether, Carpathia at this time had travelled twenty four miles with a further thirty five to travel.
At 0240 hrs what appeared to be a green signal rocket appeared on the horizon with still a further twenty-five miles to go, the only other distraction being the light generated by the Aurora Borealis that did nothing to aid the lookouts as it shimmered on the horizon. Intent on letting Titanic know that Carpathia was nearing its destination Captain Rostron ordered the firing of signal rockets, which were to be repeated every fifteen minutes. The temperatures continued to fall and Second Officer Bisset out on the bridge wing was feeling decidedly cold but his attention was immediately refocused when he spotted an iceberg three quarters of a mile off the port bow. After warning his Captain of its whereabouts Carpathia’s course was altered accordingly and Captain Rostron ordered the ship to half ahead, having determined it was out of harms way then ordered his ship back to full ahead once more. Carpathia drove on into the darkness and icefield determined to get there before it was to late with her experienced Captain taking calculated risks founded on knowledge gained by years of experience gained on the Atlantic at this time of year. Yet another iceberg was spotted a few minutes later followed by others at short intervals and Carpathia manoeuvred around them with her Captain declaring later ”that the hand of God was on the helm of Carpathia”, and she continued avoiding the bergs for another eight miles bringing her within twelve miles of Titanic’s last known position.
As they approached green flares were visible in the distance and if Titanic was still afloat she would surely be visible, Carpathia continued and as the bergs and growlers became more numerous Captain Rostron was forced to reduce speed down to half ahead and then slow ahead. The time was 0330 when a green flare was spotted somewhere at an indeterminate distance but low in the water indicating it was possibly a hand held one from a lifeboat. Carpathia edged towards the source of light but unfortunately it was all to soon extinguished, the time was 0400 and Captain Rostron ordered stop on the telegraphs just as dawn approached, the passage had taken three and a half hours.
Chief Officer Hankinson relieved First Officer Dean and at that very moment the outlines of a lifeboat could be seen approximately half a mile away struggling to make way in the rising swell. As the boat approached Carpathia’s Second Officer Bisset determined that an Officer was at the tiller with four men on the oars and as the boat laboured nearer he was able to count twenty women and ten children, all utterly exhausted. The boat continued to struggle and its Officer shouted out that he only had one seaman onboard, Captain Rostron responded immediately by ordering Mr Bisset and two seamen to board the lifeboat as it drifted by. This successfully achieved the boat was allowed to drop astern by way of a shell door on ‘C’ deck where the boat was secured and its passengers lifted onto Carpathia by way of the bosun’s chair and canvas bags. The condition of the passengers was lamentable, most lightly dressed even in some cases wearing night time attire, cold, seasick, weeping and obviously still in a state of shock. The last man to leave the lifeboat was its Officer and he climbed the ships ladder closely followed by Mr Bisset, on arriving at deck level the Officer turned and introduced himself to Mr Bisset, he was Joseph Boxall, Titanic’s Fourth Officer. Second Officer Bisset accompanied Mr Boxall to the bridge where Captain Rostron greeted him and after commiserations asked if all Titanic’s boats had managed to leave the ship whereupon Boxall informed him that they had to the best of his knowledge.
Boxall then went on to add. “ It was hard to see in the darkness. There were sixteen boats and four collapsibles. Women and children were ordered into the boats. She struck the berg at 2340 hrs. The boats were launched from 0045 hrs onwards. My boat was cleared away at 0145 hrs, one of the last to be lowered. Many of the boats were only half full. People wouldn’t go in them. They didn’t believe that she would sink….”
“Were many people left on board when she sank?”
“Hundreds and hundreds! Perhaps a thousand! Perhaps more! My God sir, they’ve gone down with her. They couldn’t live in this icy cold water. We had room for a dozen more people in my boat, but it was dark after the ship took the plunge. We didn’t pick up any swimmers. I fired flares….I think that the people were drawn down deep by the suction. The other boats are somewhere near….”
“Thank you, Mister, go below and get some coffee and try to get warm.”
The officers on the bridge surveyed the scene around them; Carpathia was totally surrounded by icebergs in every direction ranging from the smallest growlers and calves right up to the giants that soared to up to two hundred feet. Within this field of ice they could see lifeboats making laboriously for them, some filled to overcrowding others virtually empty. Captain Rostron calculated that no-one could survive immersion in water at such low temperatures after all this time, one degree above freezing, so ordered his Officers and crew to concentrate on getting all those from the lifeboats, especially those in danger of capsizing onboard Carpathia as quickly as possible. At 0800 Second Officer Bisset relieved the Chief Officer, Mr Hankinson and on orders from his Captain lowered both the ships house flag and its ensign to half-mast. The final lifeboat, number twelve, to arrive alongside the ship contained seventy five survivors and at her tiller was Second Officer Lightoller, who had in fact gone down with Titanic only to burst back to the surface close enough to the lifeboat to be rescued. He instigated the rescue of other survivors as and when he found them. By 0830 hrs Carpathia’s crew had picked up 703 survivors from Titanic’s sixteen lifeboats and four collapsibles with the whole operation being conducted in complete silence. It was only after the arrival of Lightoller’s boat that the realisation dawned on the passengers rescued, for those that they had left behind would never be seen again, the grief of the newly made widows and orphans was a terrible sight to observe and would never leave the conscious memory of all that were onboard Carpathia, it was impossible to share their anguish and misery.
After the arrival of Lightoller’s boat a headcount was instigated after which it was established that Carpathia had rescued 703 people made up of 493 passengers comprising 315 women, 52 children and 126 men, the remainder were 210 of the crew of which 21 were women. Only six Officers survived, 2nd Officer Lightoller, Third Officer Pitman, Fourth Officer Boxall Fifth Officer Lowe and Junior Radio Operator Bride. Four passengers died from exposure whilst aboard the lifeboats. Official figures released later indicated that 1,503 persons died, of these 661 were men, 101 women and 53 children from the passengers and of the crew 686 men and 2 women. Of the men that survived, bearing in mind the ‘women and children first order’, some including crewmembers had been ordered to do so, others had jumped in when seeing the boats lowered less than half full with the remaining being plucked from the sea.
Carpathia’s three doctors, many of the catering crew, and passengers of whom many gave up their cabins attended the needs of the survivors, whilst all this was taking place Carpathia’s deck crew slung Titanic’s lifeboats aboard, its worth noting here that the contents of these boats were stripped for souvenirs on their subsequent landing at New York. Whilst the rescue operation was taking place another vessel had been sighted some ten miles away and by the time we commenced slinging the lifeboats onboard she had arrived within half a mile of Carpathia having negotiated the icefield.
From her signal flags we were able to determine that she was Leyland Line’s Californian and her Officer of the watch, using the medium of semaphore asked, “What’s the matter”. Second Officer Bisset responded, using the same method, “Titanic hit berg and sank here with loss of fifteen hundred lives. Have picked up all her boats with seven hundred survivors. Please stay in vicinity to search for bodies.” Clearly this was the first definitive confirmation of the disaster to reach Californian, her Radio Officer, having been woken by her Chief Officer at 0500 hrs had heard only that she was presumed sunk relayed by Frankfurt and Mount Temple. Though no direct blame was attributed to the inaction of Californian during the subsequent inquiry, her Captain, Stanley Lord came in for some totally unjustified criticism.
With all the survivors established onboard Captain Rostron was faced with two dilemmas, did he take the passengers to the nearest land, or should he make the four-day trip back to New York, did he circle round looking for dead bodies thus increasing his Titanic’s passengers grief or should he vacate the area as quickly as possible, he sensibly decided to make for New York immediately. Before heading for New York he ordered that Carpathia should circle the floating debris, which had formed into a tangled island, and a divine service was held in the first class dining room, both for the dead and for those that survived. On completion Carpathia left the scene leaving Californian circling looking for bodies, many of those onboard had gathered by the ships rails and stated afterwards that they had observed many dead bodies floating around the area. However Second Officer Bisset was convinced that these were lumps of ice and not Titanic’s life jackets, his opinion was later corroborated when Californian radioed Carpathia saying that she was leaving the area as she had not found one body in just under two hours of searching.
ICEBERG OF THE SIZE EXPERIENCED IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC.
Captain Rostron headed his ship in a southwesterly direction until he cleared the ice field, constantly having to manoeuvre round many icebergs, the whole procedure taking three hours or more before they were able to change direction for New York. Carpathia’s voyage to New York was a very sombre affair with people, especially the survivors sitting round silently still numbed by events that had overtaken them with such speed and finality. At 0400 hrs on the Tuesday, when no one was about Captain Rostron committed to the deep the bodies of the four people that had been taken onboard from the lifeboats. Later that day a complete list of all the survivors was transmitted to the office of the White Star Line in New York via their ship Olympic with the Pursers making sure that the list was as precise as possible under the circumstances. Without doubt the busiest man onboard Carpathia was its radio operator, Mr Cottam, who laboured on for over two days without sleep not only trying to contact the families of survivors but fending off the vulturish press, Mr Harold Bride, the surviving radio operator from Titanic, finally relieved him.
Carpathia finally arrived off Sandy Hook Light Vessel on Thursday the 18th of April at 1800 hrs and Captain Rostron issued the order that no one save the pilot was to be allowed onboard. Around his ships milled over fifty small boats who’s passengers in the main were from the newspapers, however there was a sprinkling of survivors present amongst them and even families of those that had died doubtless hoping against hope that the news that they had been given was incorrect. The pilot’s ladder was lowered and immediately the armada of small craft surrounded that of the pilot in an attempt to board Carpathia. On realising there was no way they would be allowed to board many resorted to either megaphones or even bribery as a means of eliciting information, Second Officer Bisset from his vantage point on the bridge was gratified to observe that the passengers and crew gathered at Carpathia’s rail maintained a dignified silence. Five journalists managed to push past the pilot on the accommodation ladder but they came up against the Third Officer, Mr Rees, who dispatched all comers with either a push or a well-timed fist. As the pilot and Mr Rees ascended the ladder they left in their wake profanities that could easily be heard by the women and child passengers assembled above.
As Carpathia made her way into Lower Bay the escorting fleet continued to harass both passengers and crew and at the Narrows the Immigration Department officials, along with doctors were allowed to board after which the legal procedures became a mere formality. As she proceeded she was met by one of the Cunard tugs that informed Captain Rostron that he was to drop off Titanic’s lifeboats at the White Star jetty before continuing to his own. Mr Bisset supervised the lowering of Titanic’s boats to the waiting White Star launch that eventually towed them ashore, the time by now was 2040 hrs. That accomplished Carpathia made way unto her own berth where thousands of sightseers had assembled, most with ghoulish intent though others for legitimate reasons. On Mr Bisset’s arrival back on the bridge he was confronted by his Captain, who, pointing to a rather large man standing next to him said, “This man is onboard without my permission. See that he does not leave the bridge. When we get to the pier, hand him over to the Marine Superintendent for necessary action.” Mr Bisset escorted the reporter to the gangway but before he could hand him over to the Superintendent, Captain Roberts, the man broke free and charged down the gangway.
Titanic’s survivors eventually began to disembark from Carpathia, those that had neither family or friends awaiting them were looked after by the kind people of New York. The following day with flags flying at half-mast throughout the city memorial services were held in all churches regardless of denomination. The newspapers were full of news, most lurid in every detail, however the more serious of publications accorded the event with the due solemnity and dignity that the disaster required.
To quell rumours and backlash against the White Star Company, some of which had already commenced, the United States Senate authorised an Investigation Committee to take evidence from all parties whether they be rescuers, crewmembers or passengers from Titanic, this took place the day after Carpathia’s arrival on the 19th and Carpathia’s representative was Captain Rostron. Having given his evidence Captain Rostron returned to his ship in order to oversee the crew preparing her to recommence her voyage back out to the Mediterranean. She was by now ten days behind schedule and White Star offered to compensate Cunard, not only for the delay but also for the rescue of its passengers and crew, Cunard to their credit turned White Star down stating that it was the responsibility of all seafarers to go to the aid of others in distress. Carpathia finally sailed on the 20th of April.
COMMEMORATIVE MEDAL PRESENTED TO OFFICERS & CREW.
The medal shows the lifeboats approaching Carpathia surrounded by icebergs, the obverse carries the inscription.
Months later Carpathia’s crew were presented with medals by the survivors of Titanic, gold for the officers and silver for the crew, a testimonial fund also distributed two months pay to each crewmember. Both Captain Rostron and Second Officer Bisset went on to become Commodores of Cunard Line. Captain Rostron’s honours included the freedom of the City of New York, America’s Congressional Medal of Honour, France’s Legion de Honneur, American Cross of Honour, Liverpool Shipwreck Humane Society Medal, and Shipwreck Society of New York Medal. He was a Knight Commander of the British Empire and an Aide de Camp to the King. Captain A.H. Rostron died at the age of 71 from complications after contracting pneumonia on the 4th of November 1940 at Chippenham where he had been transferred from Southampton. His last resting place is at West End Parish church near Southampton.