About James William Cheetham Witter
"A Titanic crewman’s discharge book James Witter (1880 - 1961) had transferred to the Titanic, just 11 days before the disaster. He was an experienced crewman, who had also worked on the Olympic/Adriatic and Majestic and he was asked to work on the Titanic – a new type of liner. On duty at the time of the collision, he was asked by the some of the passengers to find out what the problem was and encountered the joiner John Hutchinson who told him the bloody mail room's full and then saloon steward William Moss it's really serious, Jim. Latterly he was assisting with lifeboat 11 when, in trying to calm a panic-stricken woman who was thrashing about, they lost their footing and tumbled in to the boat which was being lowered, luckily he was ordered to remain. He remained with White Star (and Cunard White Star) for the rest of his working life and assisted Walter Lord is his seminal account A Night to Remember. He died in 1961, still haunted by the horror he had witnessed. The certificate, which is inscribed Renewal Book/ Original Lost through shipwreck, and the discharge from Titanic is ‘at sea’ is estimated at £1,000-1,500".
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- Name: Mr James William Cheetham Witter
- Born: Wednesday 23rd June 1880
- Age: 31 years
- Last Residence: in Woolston Hampshire England
- Occupation: Smoke Room Steward
- Victualling crew
- First Embarked: Southampton
- Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
- Died: 1961
Mr James William Chatham Witter, 31, was born in Aughton, Lancashire on 3 June 1880 1, the son of James Witter (argicultural labourer) and his wife Ann.
When he signed-on to the Titanic, on 4 April 1912, he gave his address as 56 Porchester Rd., Woolston, (Hampshire). He had transferred from the Olympic. As second class smoke room steward Witter received monthly wages of £3 15s.
Witter was on duty in the smoke room at the time of the collision, and at the request of some passengers there, he went to investigate. Somehow he ended up taking "Scotland Road" and he encountered the joiner John Hutchinson, who told Witter "The bloody mail room is Full." Moments later, saloon steward William Moss told him "It's really serious, Jim".
Later on, Witter went on deck and helped to load some of the boats. While assisting with lifeboat 11, he stood on the rail trying to help a hysterical woman who was thrashing about, she lost her footing and fell, Witter grabbed hold of her to stop her fall and they both tumbled into the boat. The officer in command (probably Murdoch) ordered Witter to remain in the boat which was in the process of being lowered.
On 10 July 1912 James Witter signed-ion to the Oceanic. He continued to go to sea for many more years with the White Star Line and then with Cunard White Star, serving on many of the great transatlantic liners of the 20's 30's and post war including the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.
Witter assisted Walter Lord when he wrote A Night To Remember, but he rarely spoke of the Titanic as the horror of the whole incident was burned into his memory and he was haunted by it for the rest of his life.
He passed away in Southampton in 1961 at the age of 80. In his final hours of life he was only partially coherant with hallucinations; the events of April 1912 were being recalled right up to the time of his last breath.
Söldner (2000) gives the date as 23 June 1880.
References and Sources
- British Census 1881
- Agreement and Account of Crew (PRO London, BT100/259)
- Walter Lord (1976) A Night to Remember. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 14 004757 3
- Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen, Agreements and Crew Lists Oceanic January – August 1912
- Hermann Söldner (ed.) (2000) RMS Titanic: Passenger and Crew List 10 April 1912-15 April 1912. ä wie Ärger Verlag.
- Chris Dohany, USA
- Inger Sheil, UK
- Kerri Sundberg, USA
- Brian Ticehurst, UK
- John Witter, Canada (grandson of James Witter)