William McMaster Murdoch (1873 - 1912) MP

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Birthplace: No.3 'Sunnyside' Barr Hill, Dalbeattie, Scotland
Death: Died
Cause of death: Titanic victim
Occupation: Chief Officer onboard the Titanic
Managed by: Anne-Marie Healy-Kalishoek (C)
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About William McMaster Murdoch

Lieutenant William "Will" McMaster Murdoch

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. He was selected to be Titanic's Chief Officer, with 16 years of maritime experience now behind him.

Murdoch had originally been assigned as the ship's Chief Officer, though when the Titanic's skipper Edward J. Smith brought Henry Wilde, his Chief from his previous command, Murdoch was temporarily reduced to First while First Officer Charles Lightoller was in turn reduced to Second. The original Second, David Blair, would sit out the voyage altogether while the rest of the ship's complement of officers remained unchanged.

Sinking of the RMS Titanic

Murdoch was the officer in charge at the bridge when the Titanic struck the iceberg on 14 April 1912. There are varying accounts as to what orders Murdoch gave in order to avoid collision with the iceberg. It is generally agreed that he gave an order of "Hard a'starboard" (an order which, through rotation of the ships wheel, would work to move the ship's tiller all the way to the starboard (right) side of the ship) in an attempt turn the ship to port (left)[citation needed]. Murdoch is reported to have set the ships telegraph to "Full Astern" by Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall, who saw them at that setting when he entered the bridge some time during the accident. Boxhall’s testimony was contradicted by Greaser Frederick Scott, who stated that the engine room telegraphs showed "Stop", and by Leading stoker Frederick Barrett who stated that the stoking indicators went from “Full” to “Stop”

During or right before the collision Murdoch may have also given an order (as heard by Quartermaster Alfred Olliver when he walked onto the bridge in the middle of the collision) of "Hard a'port" (moving the tiller all the way to the port (left) side turning the ship to starboard (right)) in what may have been an attempt to swing the remainder (aft section) of the ship away from the berg in a common manoeuvre called a "port around"] (this could explain Murdoch's comment to the captain "I intended to port around it"). The fact that such a manoeuvre was executed was supported by other crew members who testified that the stern of the ship never hit the berg.

Quartermaster Robert Hichens, who was at the helm, and Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall, who may or may not have been on the bridge during the collision,[6] both stated that the last command Murdoch gave Hichens was "Hard-a-starboard!". Despite these efforts the ship made its fatal collision at an estimated 37 seconds after the berg had been sighted. The ship's starboard (right) side brushed the iceberg, buckling the hull in several places and causing rivets to pop out below the waterline, opening the first five compartments (the forward peak tank, the three forward holds and Boiler Room 6) to the sea.

After the collision, Murdoch was put in charge of the starboard evacuation during which he launched 10 lifeboats, containing almost 75% of the total number who survived. He was last seen attempting to launch Collapsible Lifeboat A. He was never seen again after Titanic disappeared into the Atlantic Ocean on the morning of 15 April 1912. His body, if recovered, was never identified. Within days of the disaster, several crew members and passengers began to speak of a suicide that occurred near the end of Titanic's sinking. It is unclear who may have committed suicide, some claiming it was Smith, Wilde, or Murdoch. Several members of the crew, including the ship's lamp trimmer, Samuel Hemming, and Second Officer Charles Lightoller said they saw Murdoch attempting to free Collapsible A from the falls on the Boat Deck just before the bridge submerged in the final stages of the sinking, when a huge wave washed him overboard into the sea. Surviving wireless operator Harold Bride later stated that he saw Murdoch in the water nearby Collapsible Lifeboat "B," but that he was already dead.

In his home town of Dalbeattie, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland there is a memorial to his heroism and a charitable prize has been established in his name. The charitable prize was given a donation by the James Cameron film for its false portrayal of Murdoch after the residents of Dalbeattie complained.

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William McMaster Murdoch's Timeline

1873
February 28, 1873
Scotland
1907
July, 1907
Age 34
Hampshire, England
1912
April 15, 1912
Age 39