Commander Joseph Groves Boxhall, 4th Officer

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Commander Joseph Groves Boxhall, 4th Officer

Birthplace: Hull,East Riding of Yorkshire, England
Death: April 25, 1967 (83)
Christchurch, Christchurch Borough, Dorset, England (Cerebral thrombosis)
Immediate Family:

Son of Captain Joseph Boxhall and Miriam Boxhall
Husband of Marjory Boxhall

Occupation: 4th. Officer of the Titanic
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Commander Joseph Groves Boxhall, 4th Officer

Joseph Groves Boxhall

Boxhall was born in Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, the second child of Miriam and Captain Joseph Boxhall sr.. He was born into an established seafaring tradition: His grandfather had been a mariner, his uncle was a Trinity House buoymaster and Board of Trade official, and his father was a respected master with the Wilson Line of Hull.

Boxhall followed in the footsteps of his ancestors on 2 June 1899, when he joined his first ship, a barque of the William Thomas Line of Liverpool. Boxhall's apprenticeship lasted four years, during which time he travelled extensively. He then went to work with his father at Wilson Line and, after obtaining his Master's and Extra-Master's certifications in September 1907, joined the White Star Line. He served on White Star's liners RMS Oceanic and Arabic before moving to the Titanic as Fourth Officer in 1912; he was then 28 years old.


Like the ship's other junior officers, Boxhall reported to White Star's Liverpool offices at nine o'clock in the morning on 26 March 1912, and travelled to board the ship at Belfast the following day. After the Titanic departed Southampton on 10 April, Boxhall settled into his regular duties; these included scheduled watches, aiding in navigation, and assisting passengers and crew when necessary.

When Titanic collided with an iceberg at 11.40 PM on 14 April, Officer Boxhall was off duty near the Officers' Quarters. Hearing the lookout bell, he headed immediately to the bridge, arriving just after the impact. Capt. Smith, who had also just arrived on the bridge, ordered Boxhall to perform an inspection of the forward part of the ship. He found no damage, but was later intercepted by the ship's carpenter, who informed him that the ship was taking water. A mail clerk confirmed this to Boxhall and Captain Smith. Later, it was Boxhall who calculated the Titanic's position so that a distress signal could be sent out. It was also Boxhall who sighted the masthead lights of a nearby vessel (possibly the SS Californian) and attempted in vain to signal by Morse lamp and distress flares.

Officer Boxhall was put in charge of lifeboat No. 2, which was lowered from the port side at 1.45 AM with 18 persons aboard out of a possible 40. He rowed away from the ship for fear of being pulled down by suction. Boxhall did not actually see the Titanic founder, as her lights had gone off and his lifeboat was about three-quarters of a mile distant. Boxhall spotted the RMS Carpathia on the horizon at 4.00 AM and guided her to the lifeboats with a green flare. After being collected by the Carpathia, Boxhall and the other survivors arrived at Pier 54 in New York on 18 April.

While in New York, he served as a witness in the American inquiry into the sinking. He and his fellow surviving officers were allowed to leave New York on the Adriatic on 2 May. After returning to England, Boxhall bore witness again, this time at the British inquiry. Much of his testimony concerned details of the lifeboat lowerings and Titanic's navigation, including the many ice warnings. He was also the first person to testify that he saw another vessel in close proximity while Titanic sank.

Reference: Full text- "The Truth About the Titanic" by Colonel Archibald Gracie, IV 1913 pp. 173-181

BOAT No. 2.*

Only one old man, third-class, a foreigner in this boat.

Passengers: Miss Allen (now Mrs. J. B. Mennell), Mrs. Appleton, Mrs. Cornell, Mrs. Douglas and maid (Miss Le Roy), Miss Madill, Mrs. Robert and maid (Amelia Kenchen). One old man, third-class, foreigner, and family:

British Report (p. 38) gives this as the seventh boat lowered on the port side at 1.45 a. m.

Brahim Youssef, Hanne Youssef, and children Marian and Georges. The rest second and third- class.

Bade good-hye to wife and sank with ship: Mr. Douglas.

Crew: Fourth Officer Boxhall, Seamen Osman and Steward Johnston, cook.

Total: 25.


J. G. Boxhall, Fourth Officer (Am. Inq., p. 240, and Br. Inq.) :

I was sent away In Emergency boat 2, the last boat but one on the port side. There was one of the lifeboats (No. 4) lowered away a few minutes after I left. That was the next lifeboat to me aft. Engelhardt boat '*D" was being got ready. There was no anxiety of people to get into these boats. There were four men In this boat — a sallorman (Osman), a steward (Johnston), a cook and myself, and one male passenger who did not speak English — a middle-aged man with a black beard. He had his wife there and some children. When the order was given to lower the boat, which seemed to be pretty full, it was about twenty minutes to half an hour before the ship sank. Someone shouted through a megaphone: "Some of the boats come back and come around to the starboard side." All rowed except this male passenger. I handled one oar and a lady assisted me. She asked to do it. I got around to the starboard side intending to go alongside. I reckoned I could take about three more people off the ship with safety; and when about 22 yards off there was a little suction, as the boat seemed to be drawn closer, and I thought it would be dangerous to go nearer the ship. I suggested going back (after ship sank) to the sailorman in the boat, but decided it was unwise to do so. There was a lady there, Mrs. Douglas, whom I asked to steer the boat according to my orders. She assisted me greatly in it. They told me on board the Carpathia afterwards that it was about ten minutes after four when we went alongside.

After we left the Titanic I showed green lights most of the time. When within two or three ship lengths of the Carpathia, it was just breaking daylight, and I saw her engines were stopped. She had stopped within half a mile or a quarter of a mile of an iceberg. There were several other bergs, and I could see field ice as far as I could see. The bergs looked white in the sun, though when I first saw them at daylight they looked black. This was the first time I had seen field ice on the Grand Banks. I estimate about 25 in my boat.

F. Osman, A. B. (Am. Inq., p. 538) : All of us went up and cleared away the boats. After that we loaded all the boats there were. I went away in No. 2, the fourth from the last to leave the ship. Boxhall was in command. Murdoch directed the loading. All passengers were women and children, except one man, a third- class passenger, his wife and two children. After I got in the boat the officer found a bunch of rockets which was put in the boat by mistake for a box of biscuits. The officer fired some off, and the Carpathia came to us first and picked us up half an hour before anybody else. Not until morning did we see an iceberg about 100 feet out of the water with one big point sticking on one side of it, apparently dark, like dirty ice, 100 yards away. I knew that was the one we struck. It looked as if there was a piece broken off.

There was no panic at all. There was no suction whatever. When we were in the boat I shoved off from the ship and I said to the officer: "See if you can get alongside to see if you can get some more hands — squeeze some more hands in"; so the women started to get nervous after I said that, and the officer said: "All right. The women disagreed to that. We pulled around to the starboard side of the ship and found that we could not get to the starboard side because it was listing too far. We pulled astern again that way, and after we lay astern we lay on our oars and saw the ship go down. It seemed to me as if all the engines and everything that was in the after part slid down into the forward part. We did not go back to the place where the ship had sunk because the women were all nervous, and we pulled around as far as we could get from it so that the women would not see and cause a panic. We got as close as we would dare to. We could not have taken any more hands into the boat. It was impossible. We might have gotten one in; that is all. There was no panic amongst the steerage passengers when we started manning the boats. I saw several people come up from the steerage and go straight up to the Boat Deck, and the men stood back while the women and children got into the boats — steerage passengers as. well as others.

Senator Burton: So in your judgment it was safer to have gone on the boat than to have stayed on the Titanic?

Witness: Oh, yes, sir.

Senator Burton: That was when you left?

Witness: Yes, sir.

Senator Burton : What did you think when the first boat was launched?

Witness: I did not think she was going down then.

J. Johnston, steward (Br. Inq.) :

Crew: Boxhall and four men, including perhaps McCullough. (None such on list.) Boxhall said: "Shall we go back in the direction of cries of distress?" which were a half or three- quarters of a mile off. Ladies said: "No." Officer Boxhall signalled the Carpathia with lamp. Soon after launching the swish of the water was heard against the icebergs. In the morning Carpathia on the edge of ice-field about 200 yards off.

Mrs. Walter D. Douglas's affidavit (Am. Inq., p. iioo) :

Mr. Boxhall had difficulty in getting the boat loose and called for a knife. We finally were launched. Mrs. Appleton and a man from the steerage faced me. Mrs. Appleton's sister, Mrs. Cornell, was back of me and on the side of her the officer. I think there were eighteen or twenty in the boat. There were many who did not speak English. The rowing was very difficult, for no one knew how. We tried to steer under Mr. Boxhall's orders, and he put an old lantern, with very little oil in it, on a pole, which I held up for some time. Mrs. Appleton and some other women had been rowing, and did row all the time. Mr. Boxhall had put into the Emergency boat a tin box of green lights like rockets. These he sent off at intervals, and very quickly we saw the lights of the Carpathia, whose captain said he saw our green lights ten miles away and steered directly towards us, so we were the first boat to arrive at the Carpathia. When we pulled alongside, Mr. Boxhall called out: "Slow down your engines and take us aboard. I have only one seaman."

Mrs. J. B. Mennell (nee Allen) :

My aunt, Mrs. Roberts' maid, came to the door and asked if she could speak to me. I went into the corridor and she said: *'Miss Allen, the baggage room is full of water." I rephed she needn't worry, that the water-tight compartments would be shut and it would be all right for her to go back to her cabin. She went back and returned to us immediately to say her cabin, which was forward on Deck E, was flooded.

We were on the Boat Deck some minutes be- fore being ordered into the lifeboat. Neither my aunt, Mrs. Roberts, my cousin, Miss Madill, nor myself ever saw or heard the band. As we stood there we saw a line of men file by and get into the boat — some sixteen or eighteen stokers. An officer* came along and shouted to them: *'Get out, you damned cowards; I'd like to see everyone of you overboard." They all got out and the officer said: ^'Women and children into this boat/' and we got in and were lowered.

With the exception of two very harrowing leave-takings, we saw nothing but perfect order and quiet on board the Titanic. We were rowed round the stern to the starboard side and away from the ship, as our boat was a small one and Boxhall feared the suction. Mrs. Cornell helped to row all the time.

As the Titanic plunged deeper and deeper we could see her stern rising higher and higher until her lights began to go out. As the last lights on the stern went out we saw her plunge distinctively, bow first and intact. Then the screams began and seemed to last eternally. We rowed back, after the Titanic was under water, toward the place where she had gone down, but we saw no one in the water, nor were we near enough to any other lifeboats to see them. When Boxhall lit his first light the screams grew louder and then died down.

We could hear the lapping of the water on the icebergs, but saw none, even when Boxhall lit his green lights, which he did at regular intervals, till we sighted the Carpathia. Our boat was the first one picked up by the Carpathia. I happened to be the first one up the ladder, as the others seemed afraid to start up, and when the officer who received me asked where the Titanic was, I told him she had gone down.

We picked up the first boat, which was in charge of an officer who I saw was not under full control of his boat. He sang out that he had only one seaman in the boat, so I had to manoeuvre the ship to get as close to the boat as possible, as I knew well it would be difficult to do the pullIng. By the time we had the first boat's people it was breaking day, and then I could see the remaining boats all around within an area of about four miles. I also saw icebergs all around me. There were about twenty icebergs that would be anywhere from about 150 to 200 feet high, and numerous smaller bergs; also numerous ones we call "growlers anywhere from lo to 12 feet high and l0 to 15 feet long, above the water.

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Commander Joseph Groves Boxhall, 4th Officer's Timeline

March 23, 1884
Hull,East Riding of Yorkshire, England
April 25, 1967
Age 83
Christchurch, Christchurch Borough, Dorset, England