George Thomas Rowe

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George Thomas Rowe

Birthplace: Godshill, New Forest District, Hampshire, England
Death: February 14, 1974 (92)
Southampton, Hampshire, England, United Kingdom
Place of Burial: Southampton, Hampshire, England
Immediate Family:

Son of Richard Rowe and Annie Rowe
Husband of Frances Annie Rowe
Father of Lily Violet Cunningham; Norman Rowe and Basil Rowe
Brother of Annie E Rowe; Richard Herbert Rowe; Ernest Groves Rowe; Percy William Rowe; Edith Ethel Rowe and 5 others

Occupation: Quartermaster on RMS Titanic
Managed by: Terry Jackson (Switzer)
Last Updated:

About George Thomas Rowe

1901 census describes George Thomas as married but marriage not established - between 1898 and 1901


  • Name: Mr George Thomas Rowe
  • Titanic Survivor
  • Born: Sunday 20th March 1881
  • Age: 31 years and 26 days (Male)
  • Nationality: English
  • Last Residence: at 63 Henry Street Gosport Hampshire England
  • Occupation: Quartermaster
  • Last Ship: "Oceanic"
  • Deck crew
  • First Embarked: Belfast
  • Rescued (Englehardt Boat "C")
  • Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
  • Died: Thursday 14th February 1974 aged 92 years
  • Reference: Englehardt Collapsible C

George Thomas Rowe, 32, was born in Gosport Hampshire. He had served in the Royal Navy before joining the merchant marine. His most recent position had been on the Oceanic.

Rowe signed-on to the Titanic in Belfast as a lookout on 25 March 1912. When he signed-on again in Southampton on 6 April 1912, he gave his address as 63 Henry St, Gosport, Hants. On this occasion he was engaged as a quartermaster. As such he received monthly wages of £5.

On the evening of 14 April Rowe was stationed on the aft docking bridge, a raised structure on the stern of the ship. He passed the time by talking to passengers and paced up and down to keep warm.

Around 11.40 p.m. Rowe saw an iceberg glide past the docking bridge where he stood, he likened it to a 'windjammer' (a large sailing ship) with sails the colour of wet canvas. He thought little more about it as it did not appear to have made contact with the ship. However, he did notice that the engines had stopped.

About 45 minutes later Rowe telephoned the bridge, Fourth Officer Boxhall replied. Rowe told him he had just seen a lifeboat (No.7) in the water. Boxhall was surprised as he had heard no order to lower boats. He instructed Rowe to bring some rockets to the bridge. Boxhall had seen the lights of a vessel in the distance and Captain Smith had given permission for rockets to be sent up as a signal of distress. Boxhall and Rowe sent up the first rocket at about 12.45 a.m., and then fired them at five or six minute intervals according to Captain Smith's instructions. Between firing rockets Rowe and Boxhall attempted to signal the vessel using a morse lamp.

Rowe later stated that he was convinced that it was a sailing vessel that he observed, two points off the port bow at a distance of about five miles. Gradually the light diminished and finally disappeared. As the Titanic was stationary the mystery vessel was clearly moving away.

According to his reckoning Rowe continued to fire rockets until 1.25 a.m. by which time Boxhall had left to take command of lifeboat 14.

A few minutes later Captain Smith instructed Rowe to take charge of Collapsible C. With no response to his repeated calls for women and children, Chief Officer Wilde gave the order to lower away. It was the last boat to be lowered from the starboard side at around 1.40 a.m. And as it began its descent two male first class passengers quietly stepped in.

Rowe told Senator Burton of the US Senate enquiry that there were thirty-nine people in the boat. Two male first class passengers, five crew (including himself), three firemen, a steward, and, near daybreak, they found four Chinese or Philipino stowaways who had come up between the seats. All the rest were women and children. One of the first class passengers was William Ernest Carter, the other was J. Bruce Ismay.

  • Senator Burton: Now, tell us the circumstances under which Mr Ismay and that other gentleman got into the boat.
  • Mr Rowe When Chief Officer Wilde asked if there were any more women and children, there was no reply, so Mr Ismay came into the boat.
  • Senator Burton: Mr Wilde asked if there were any more women and children? Can you say that there were none?
  • Mr Rowe I could not see. but there were none forthcoming.
  • Senator Burton: You could see around there on the deck, could you not?
  • Mr Rowe I could see the fireman and steward that completed the boat's crew, but as regards any families I could not see any.
  • Senator Burton: Were there any men passengers besides Mr Ismay and the other man?
  • Mr Rowe I did not see any sir.
  • Senator Burton: Was it light enough so that you could see anyone near by? Mr Rowe: Yes, sir.
  • Senator Burton: Did you hear anyone ask Mr Ismay and Mr Carter to get in the boat?
  • Mr Rowe: No, sir.
  • Senator Burton: if Chief Officcr Wilde had spoken to them would you have known it?
  • Mr Rowe: I think so, because they got in the after part of the boat where I was.

(U.S. Senate Inquiry., p. 519)

Rowe told the British enquiry that the boat was very difficult to lower on account of a six degree list to port which the Titanic had developed.:

'The rub strake kept on catching on the rivets down the ship's side, and it was as much as we could do to keep off. It took a good five minutes, on account of this rubbing, to get down.' When they reached the water they steered for the light but they could make no progress and altered their course to a boat that was carrying a green light. When day broke, the Carpathia was in sight.

When the enquiries were over Mr Rowe continued his Merchant Service he signed on to the Oceanic on 10 July 1912. He served on the hospital ship Plassy with the Great Fleet during the first world war. He then worked for Thorneycroft ship repairs in Southampton until he was over 80. During that time he was in charge of the fitting of Denny Brown Stabilisers to the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, amongst other things.

He recieved the British Empire Medal (BEM) in 1960 for his services to Thornycrofts.

He died in 1974 at the age of 91.

Available Documents

  • Crew Particulars of Engagement

Inquiry Testimony

  • (Courtesy of the Titanic Inquiry Project)
  • Senate Hearings, 25 April 1912, Testimony
  • Board of Trade Hearings, Day 15, Testimony


  • Dave Bryceson (1997) The Titanic Disaster: As Reported in the British National Press April-July 1912. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN-1-85260-579-0
  • Agreement and Account of Crew (PRO London, BT100/259)
  • John P. Eaton & Charles A. Haas (1994) Titanic: Triumph & Tragedy, 2nd ed. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1 85260 493 X
  • John Eaton & Charles Haas (1992) Titanic: Destination Disaster, Patrick Stevens Ltd. ISBN 1 85260 534 0
  • Colonel Archibald Gracie (1913) The Truth about the Titanic. New York, Mitchell Kennerley
  • Don Lynch & Ken Marschall (1992) Titanic: An Illustrated History. London, Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0 340 56271 4
  • Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen, Agreements and Crew Lists Oceanic January – August 1912
  • United States Senate (62nd Congress), Subcommittee Hearings of the Committee on Commerce, Titanic Disaster, Washington 1912
  • Wreck Commissioners' Court, Proceedings before the Right Hon. Lord Mersey on a Formal Investigation Ordered by the Board of Trade into the Loss of the S.S. Titanic


  • Terry Cunningham (Grandson of George Thomas Rowe)
  • Inger Sheil, UK
  • Kerri Sundberg, USA

Related Articles and Documents

George Thomas Rowe, Quartermaster

Mr. Lord,

Dear Sir, I am in receipt of your letter of June 12th by which I can see you have the major details but I hope the following will be to your satisfaction. I was on watch on the poop in the First Watch (8 PM till midnight) on the night of April 14 - 1912. The night was pitch black, very calm and starry around about 11 PM I noticed the weather was becoming colder and what we call Whiskers round the light were noticeable, that is very minute splinters of ice like myriads of coloured lights. I had to call the Middle Watch (Midnight till 4 A.M.) at 11.45 but about 11.40 P.M. I was struck by a curious movement of the ship it was similar to going alongside a dock wall rather heavy. I looked forward and saw what I thought was a Windjammer (sailing ship) but as we passed by I saw it was an iceberg. Now as our boat davits were 80 feet [sic] from waterline I estimate the height of the berg about 100 feet. The engines were going astern by this time so I pulled in the log-line, and by my last reading at 10 P.M. I made out we had been doing about 21 knots. I did not think the collision was serious. In a short time the ship was hove to, when shortly after I saw a boat being lowered on the starboard side and I went up on to the after bridge and phoned the fore bridge if they knew about it. I could not recognise the voice but he asked me who I was I told him the after Quarter-master he asked me if I knew where the distress rockets were stowed I told him I did he told me to bring as many as I could on to the fore bridge, I went below one deck to a locker and got a tin box with I think 12 rockets in it (they were fairly heavy), I carried them along the boat deck where there was a bit of confusion clearing away and turning out boats. As I passed over the saloon I heard the band playing but I could not distinguish the tune. On reaching the bridge Capt Smith asked it I had the rockets I told him yes and [he] said fire one and fire one every five or six minutes. After I fired about 3 Capt Smith asked me if I could Morse I replied I could a little, he said call that ship up and when she answers, tell her that we are the Titanic sinking please have all your boats ready I kept calling her up in between the rocket firing but we never got a reply though we could see his white light quite plain. After a while I said to Capt Smith there is a light on the starboard quarter he looked through the glasses and told me he thought it must be a planet then he lent me his glasses to see for myself then [he] said the Carpathia is not so far away during this time they were turning out the Std Englehart raft under the direction of Chief Off Wilde and when it was full he was shouting out to know who was in charge then Capt Smith turned to me and told me to go and take charge that was the last I heard Capt Smith say. We had great difficulty in lowering as the ship was well down by the head and she took a list to port it was then that I saw Mr Ismay and another gentleman (I think he was a Mr Carter) in the boat. The chief officer shouted to me and told me when you get clear go to the others and tell them to come back, that was the last of Mr Wilde. When we were clear of the ship I said whats the best thing to do Mr Ismay [.] he replied you're in charge we could see nothing only this white light so I told them to pull away. Mr Ismay on one oar Mr Carter on another and the 4 of the crew one each and one I steered with 7 oars We had been pulling for ten minutes when we heard a noise like an immense heap of gravel being tipped from a hopper then she disappeared. We pulled on but seemed to make no headway gradually dawn came and soon we could make out some boats and more ice. It must have been between 7 and 8 A.M. when we saw a ship which was the Carpathia there were several boats between us and the ship we were picked up about 9 AM. I saw no more of Mr Ismay or Mr Carter after they got out of the boat or did either of them speak I did ask one of the ships officers how Mr Ismay was he said he was indisposed and would not leave his cabin. And now Mr Lord I hope you will forgive my wretched writing and spelling my hand's not so steady as it was, and I hope and trust you have every success with your book if you think there is anything I have overlooked or if there is any thing you wish to know do not hesitate to write as I shall only be too pleased to help Believe me.

Yours Truly

G.T. Rowe

PS Another mystery of the sea After all our boats were emptied all the lifeboats were hoisted on board the Carpathia with the exception of the two Englehart rafts (but they were cleared of everything) they were cast adrift yet 4 weeks later to the day the "Oceanic" sailing nearly over the same course sighted an object, a boat was lowered and it was found to be one of our Englehart rafts with 3 bodies, 1 passenger and 2 firemen on it.


1. The letter is not dated, although Walter Lord's initial letter was dated June 12th, and Lord's acknowledgement is from June 30th 1955. 2. Walter Lord wrote a follow-up letter to Mr.Rowe enquiring, amongst other things about the "whiskers round the light." Rowe's reply to this letter, if one was written, is not in the file. Lord's reply mentions the recovery of Collapsible A, recovered by the SS Oceanic in mid May 1912. Rowe's recollections regarding the bodies in the boat are not quite accurate. Boats A and B had already been abandoned when their living occupants were taken aboard other lifeboats; for boat A, 5th Officer Lowe placed lifejackets over the faces of the deceased. 5 other lifeboats were set adrift when they reached the Carpathia and their passengers and crew safely disembarked. 13 boats were carried on to New York. 3. Spelling and punctuation have been preserved, where possible. 4. Rowe's story seems to have remained highly consistent over time, although the lack of mention of Ismay's method of escape, him being relieved by Quartermaster Bright, and of seeing distress rockets before he telephone the bridge is suspicious, though consistent with his 1912 testimony. 5. Rowe's description of the sound the Titanic made as she sank is reminiscent of the testimony of Bedroom Steward Henry S. Etches in the US: "she went down with an awful grating, like a small boat running off a shingley beach." 6. In other documentation, Rowe describes how he walked along the port side of the boat deck to reach the bridge. As he passed the "saloon" (presumably, the first class lounge), he could hear, but not see the orchestra. Obviously a few minutes after the first boat was launched, the band were either still indoors, or were on the starboard side or on another deck altogether. The customary external location of the band is just aft of the 1st class entrance on the port side of the boat deck, between the first and second funnels, an area that Rowe would have to pass to reach the bridge. But George Behe notes the following: "[Titanic passenger] Pierre Marechal declared that the musicians received an order to play all the time without stopping, so as to avoid a panic. They were placed on the deck, that is to say, between the decks [on A deck] ... Pierre Marechal took a seat in the very first lifeboat to leave the Titanic..." So, Rowe's description of hearing the band at this point, but not seeing them is entirely in line with other information.

Titanic survivor.

Worked on the Titanic as Quartermaster. During the sinking of the Titanic, he fired the rockets from the Titanc to attract the attention of the "Mystery Ship" which never sponded to the Titanic. He commanded Collapsible C.

Portrayed by Cyril Chamberlain in "A Night to Remember" (1958) and by Richard Graham in "Titanic" (1997).

George Thomas Rowe was the last surviving deck crewman of the Titanic, he died on 1974.


Br. Rpt., p. 38, makes this last boat lowered on starboard side at 1.40.

No disorder in loading or lowering this boat.

Passengers: President Ismay, Mr. Carter. Balance women and children.

Crew: Quartermaster Rowe (in charge). Steward Pearce. Barber Weikman. Firemen, three.

Stowaways: Four Chinamen, or Filipinos.

Total: 39.


G. T. Rowe, Q. M. (Am. Inq., p. 519, and Br.Inq.):

To avoid repetition, the testimony of this witness before the two Courts of Inquiry is consolidated :

He assisted the officer (Boxhall) to fire distress signals until about five and twenty minutes past one. At this time they were getting out the starboard collapsible boats. Chief Officer Wilde wanted a sailor. Captain Smith told him to get into the boat "C" which was then partly filled. He found three women and children in there with no more about. Two gentlemen got in, Mr. Ismay and Mr. Carter. Nobody told them to get In. No one else was there. In the boat there were thirty-nine altogether. These two gentlemen, five of the crew (including himself), three firemen, a steward, and near daybreak they found four Chinamen or Filipinos who had come up between the seats. All the rest were women and children.

Before leaving the ship he saw a bright light about five miles away about two points on the port bow. He noticed it after he got into the boat. When he left the ship there was a list to port of six degrees. The order was given to lower the boat, with witness in charge. The rub strake kept on catching on the rivets down the ship's side, and it was as much as we could do to keep off. It took a good five minutes, on account of this rubbing, to get down. When they reached the water they steered for a light in sight, roughly five miles. They seemed to get no nearer to it and altered their course to a boat that was carrying a green light. When day broke, the Carpathia was in sight.

In regard to Mr. Ismay's getting into the boat, the witness's testimony before the American Court of Inquiry is cited in full:

Senator Burton : Now, tell us the circumstances under which Mr. Ismay and that other gentleman got into the boat.

Mr. Rowe : When Chief Officer Wilde asked if there were any more women and children, there was no reply, so Mr. Ismay came into the boat.

Senator Burton : Mr. Wilde asked if there were any more women and children? Can you say that there were none?

Mr. Rowe: I could not see, but there were none forthcoming.

Senator Burton : You could see around there on the deck, could you not?

Mr. Rowe: I could see the fireman and steward that completed the boat's crew, but as regards any families I could not see any.

Senator Burton: Were there any men passengers besides Mr. Ismay and the other man?

Mr. Rowe: I did not see any, sir. '

Senator Burton: Was it light enough so that you could see anyone near by?

Mr. Rowe : Yes, sir.

Senator Burton : Did you hear anyone ask Mr. Ismay and Mr. Carter to get in the boat?

Mr. Rowe: No, sir.

Senator Burton: If Chief Officer Wilde had spoken to them would you have known it?

Mr. Rowe : I think so, because they got in the after part of the boat where I was.

Alfred Pearce, pantryman, third-class (Br. Inq.):

Picked up two babies in his arms and went into a collapsible boat on the starboard side under Officer Murdoch's order, in which were women and children. There were altogether sixty-six passengers and five of the crew, a quartermaster in charge. The ship had a list on the port side, her lights burning to the last. It was twenty min- utes to two when they started to row away. He remembers this because one of the passengers gave the time.

J. B. Ismay, President International Mercan- tile Marine Co. of America, New Jersey, U. S. A. (Am. Inq., pp. 8, 960) :

There were four in the crew — one quartermas- ter, a pantryman, a butcher and another. The natural order would be women and children first. It was followed as far as practicable. About forty-five in the boat. He saw no struggling or jostling or any attempts by men to get into the boats. They simply picked the women out and put them into the boat as fast as they could — the first ones that were there. He put a great many in — also children. He saw the first lifeboat lowered on the starboard side. As to the circumstances of his departure from the ship, the boat was there. There was a certain number of men in the boat and the officer called and asked if there were any more women, but there was no response. There were no passengers left on the deck, and as the boat was in the act of being lowered away he got into it. The Titanic was sinking at the time. He felt the ship going down. He entered because there was room in it. Before he boarded the lifeboat he saw no passengers jump into the sea. The boat rubbed along the ship's side when being lowered, the women helping to shove the boat clear. This was when the ship had quite a list to port. He sat with his back to the ship, rowing all the time, pulling away. He did not wish to see her go down. There were nine or ten men in the boat with him. Mr. Carter, a passenger, was one. All the other people in the boat, so far as he could see, were third- class passengers.

Examined before the British Court of Inquiry by the Attorney-General, Sir Rufus Isaacs, Mr. Ismay testified:

I was awakened by the impact; stayed in bed a little time and then got up. I saw a steward who could not say what had happened. I put a coat on and went on deck. I saw Captain Smith. I asked him what was the matter and he said we had struck ice. He said he thought it was serious. I then went down and saw the chief engineer, who said that the blow was serious. He thought the pumps would keep the water under control. I think I went back to my room and then to the bridge and heard Captain Smith give an order in connection with the boats. I went to the boat deck, spoke to one of the officers, and rendered all the assistance I could in putting the women and children in. Stayed there until I left the ship. There was no confusion; no attempts by men to get into the boats. So far as I knew all the women and children were put on board the boats and I was not aware that any were left. There was a list of the ship to port. I think I remained an hour and a half on the Titanic after the impact. I noticed her going down by the head, sinking. Our boat was fairly full. After all the women and children got in and there were no others on that side of the deck, I got in while the boat was being lowered. Before we got into the boat I do not know that any attempt was made to call up any of the passengers on the Boat Deck, nor did I inquire.

And also examined by Mr. A. C. Edwards, M. P., counsel for the Dock Workers' Union. Mr. Ismay's testimony was taken as follows :

Mr. Edwards : You were responsible for deter- mining the number of boats?

Mr. Ismay: Yes, in conjunction with the shipbuilders.

Mr. Edwards : You knew when you got into the boat that the ship was sinking?

Mr. Ismay: Yes.

Mr. Edwards: Had it occurred to you apart perhaps from the captain, that you, as the representative managing director, deciding the number of lifeboats, owed your life to every other person on the ship?

The President : That is not the sort of question which should be put to this witness. You can make comment on it when you come to your speech if you like.

Mr. Edwards: You took an active part in directing women and children into the boats?

Mr. Ismay: I did all I could.

Mr. Edwards : Why did you not go further and send for other people to come on deck and fill the boats?

Mr. Ismay: I put in everyone who was there and I got in as the boat was being lowered away.

Mr. Edwards : Were you not giving directions and getting women and children in?

Mr. Ismay : I was calling to them to come in.

Mr. Edwards : Why then did you not give instructions or go yourself either to the other side of the deck or below decks to get people up?

Mr. Ismay: I understood there were people there sending them up.

Mr. Edwards: But you knew there were hundreds who had not come up ?

Lord Mersey: Your point, as I understand it now, Is that, having regard for his position as managing director, It was his duty to remain on the ship until she went to the bottom?

Mr. Edwards : Frankly, that is so, and I do not flinch from it; but I want to get it from the witness, inasmuch as he took it upon himself to give certain directions at a certain time, why he did not discharge his responsibility after in regard to other persons or passengers.

Mr. Ismay: There were no more passengers who would have got into the boat. The boat was being actually lowered away.

Examined by Sir Robert Finley for White Star Line:

Mr. Finley: Have you crossed very often to and from America?

Mr. Ismay: Very often.

Mr. Finley: Have you ever, on any occasion, attempted to interfere with the navigation of the vessel on any of these occasions?

Mr. Ismay: No.

Mr. Finley: When you left the deck just before getting into the collapsible boat, did you hear the officer calling out for more women?

Mr. Ismay: I do not think I did; but I heard them calling for women very often.

Mr. Edwards: When the last boat left the Titanic you must have known that a number of passengers and crew were still on board?

Mr. Ismay: I did.

Mr. Edwards: And yet you did not see any on the deck?

Mr. Ismay: No, I did not see any, and I could only assume that the other passengers had gone to the other end of the ship.

From an address (Br. Inq.) by Mr. A. Clement Edwards, M. P., Counsel for Dock Workers' Union :

What was Mr. Ismay's duty?

Coming to Mr. Ismay's conduct, Mr. Edwards said it was clear that that gentleman had taken upon himself to assist in getting women and children into the boats. He had also admitted that when he left the Titanic he knew she was doomed, that there were hundreds of people in the ship, that he didn't know whether or not there were any women or children left, and that he did not even go to the other side of the Boat Deck to see whether there were any women and children waiting to go. Counsel submitted that a gentleman occupying the position of managing director of the company owning the Titanic, and who had taken upon himself the duty of assisting at the boats, had certain special and further duties beyond an ordinary passenger's duties, and that he had no more right to save his life at the expense of any single person on board that ship than the captain would have had. He (Mr. Edwards) said emphatically that Mr. Ismay did not discharge his duty at that particular moment by taking a careless glance around the starboard side of the Boat Deck. He was one of the few persons who at the time had been placed in a position of positive knowledge that the vessel was doomed, and it was his clear duty, under the circumstances, to see that someone made a search for passengers in other places than in the immediate vicinity of the Boat Deck.

Lord Mersey: Moral duty do you mean?

Mr. Edwards: I agree; but I say that a managing director going on board a liner, commercially responsible for it and taking upon himself certain functions, had a special moral obligation and duty more than is possessed by one passenger to another passenger.

Lord Mersey: But how is a moral duty relative to this inquiry? It might be argued that there was a moral duty for every man on board that every woman should take precedence, and I might have to inquire whether every passenger carried out his moral duty.

Mr. Edwards agreed that so far as the greater questions involved in this case were concerned this matter was one of trivial importance.

From address of Sir Robert Finlay, K. C, M. P., Counsel for White Star Company (Br. Inq.) :

It has been said by Mr. Edwards that Mr. Ismay had no right to save his life at the expense of any other life. He did not save his life at the expense of any other life. If Mr. Edwards had taken the trouble to look at the evidence he would have seen how unfounded this charge is. There is not the slightest ground for suggesting that any other life would have been saved if Mr. Ismay had not got into the boat. He did not get into the boat until it was being lowered away.

Mr. Edwards has said that it was Mr. Ismay's plain duty to go about the ship looking for passengers, but the fact is that the boat was being lowered. Was it the duty of Mr. Ismay to have remained, though by doing so no other life could have been saved? If he had been impelled to commit suicide of that kind, then it would have been stated that he went to the bottom because he dared not face this inquiry. There is no observation of an unfavorable nature to be made from any point of view upon Mr. Ismay's conduct. There was no duty devolving upon him of going to the bottom with his ship as the captain did. He did all he could to help the women and children. It was only when the boat was being lowered that he got into it. He violated no point of honor, and if he had thrown his life away in the manner now suggested it would be said he did it because he was conscious he could not face this inquiry and so he had lost his life.

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George Thomas Rowe's Timeline

March 20, 1881
Godshill, New Forest District, Hampshire, England
Age 33
Age 35
Age 37
February 14, 1974
Age 92
Southampton, Hampshire, England, United Kingdom
Southampton, Hampshire, England