Herbert John Pitman, 3rd Officer

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Herbert John Pitman, 3rd Officer

Birthplace: Castle Cary, Somerset, England.
Death: December 07, 1961 (84)
Pitcombe, Somerset (Subarachnoid hemorrhage)
Place of Burial: St Leonard Churchyard and Extension, Pitcombe, South Somerset District, Somerset, England
Immediate Family:

Son of Henry Pitman and Sarah Pitman
Husband of Mildred Pitman
Brother of Ida Mary Pitman

Occupation: Third Officer on board the RMS Titanic
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Herbert John Pitman, 3rd Officer


  • Name: Mr. Herbert John Pitman
  • Titanic Survivor
  • Born: Tuesday 20th November 1877
  • Age: 34 years 4 months and 25 days (Male)
  • Marital Status: Married
  • Last Residence: in Castle Cary, Somerset, England
  • Occupation: 3rd Officer
  • Last Ship:"Oceanic"
  • Deck Crew
  • First Embarked: Belfast, Ireland
  • Rescued: (Boat 5)
  • Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
  • Died: Thursday 7th December 1961 aged 84 years
  • Cause of Death: Cerebral Harmmorrhage
  • Buried: Pitcombe Parish Church, Pitcombe, Somerset, England
  • Reference: https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-lifeboat-5/ Life Boat No. 5

Herbert John "Bert" Pitman

Pitman first went to sea in 1895 at the age of 18 by joining the merchant navy. He received the shore part of his nautical training in the navigation department of the Merchant Venturers' Technical College, under Mr E. F. White, and qualified as a master mariner in August 1906. He served a four year apprenticeship with James Nourse Ltd. followed by five years as a deck officer. From 1904, he served one year as a deck officer with the Blue Anchor Line before moving to the Shire Line, where he served for six months. He moved to the White Star Line in 1906. While with White Star, he served as Fourth, Third and second officer on the vessels Dolphin and Majestic and as Fourth Officer on the Oceanic.

Like the other junior officers, Pitman received a telegram early in 1912 directing him to report to White Star's Liverpool office at nine in the morning on 26 March of that year. There he collected his ticket for Belfast; he arrived there at noon the following day and reported to (then) Chief Officer William Murdoch. As the Titanic departed Southampton on 10 April, Pitman was assisting (now First) Officer Murdoch at the stern of the ship in supervising the casting-off of mooring ropes and taking on of tug lines. While the Titanic was at sea, Pitman's duties included working out celestial observation and compass deviation, general supervision of the decks, looking to the quartermasters, and relieving the bridge officers when necessary.

At the time of the Titanic's collision with the iceberg, Pitman was off-duty, half-sleeping in his bunk in the Officers' Quarters. He heard and felt the collision, later testifying that it felt like the ship "coming to an anchor." He was dressing for his watch when Fourth Officer Boxhall rushed in and informed him they had struck an iceberg and were taking on water. Pitman was then ordered to report to the starboard side of the ship to assist in uncovering lifeboats. After receiving the command to lower the boats, Murdoch ordered Pitman to take charge of lifeboat No. 5. Before entering the lifeboat, Officer Murdoch shook Pitman's hand saying, "Goodbye; good luck." With Murdoch's utter seriousness, Pitman thought for the first time that night that the Titanic was really going to sink. Pitman stepped into the lifeboat and it was lowered to the water. Murdoch had ordered Pitman to take the lightly loaded lifeboat to the gangway doors to take on more passengers, but finding the doors shut, Pitman moved the lifeboat away from the ship.

Up to this point, Pitman had expected the ship to remain afloat. After an hour in the lifeboat, however, he realized that Titanic was doomed. He watched her sink from about 400 yards away, and was one of the few to claim that she sank in one piece. As the stern slipped under water, he looked at his watch and announced, "It's 2.20," to his fellow lifeboat passengers. Hearing the screams of those in the water, Pitman immediately decided to row back and rescue whomever he could. However, the others in his lifeboat were fearful of being mobbed and capsized, and Pitman eventually remanded his order. It was a decision that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Pitman was rescued by the RMS Carpathia along with the other survivors, arriving 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, he served as a witness for a second time, this time for the British inquiry.

BOAT NO. 5 *

No disorder in loading or lowering this boat. Passengers: Mesdames Cassebeer, Chambers, Crosby, Dodge and her boy, Frauenthal, Goldenberg, Harder, Kimball, Stehli, Stengel, Taylor, Warren, and Misses Crosby, Newson, Ostby and Frolicher Stehli.

Messrs: Beckwith, Behr, Calderhead, Cham- bers, Flynn, Goldenberg, Harder, Kimball, Stehli, Taylor.

Bade good-hye to wives and daughters and sank with ship: Captain Crosby, Mr. Ostby and Mr. Warren.

Jumped from deck into boat being lowered: German Doctor Frauenthal and brother Isaac, P. Mauge.

Crew: 3rd Officer Pitman. Seaman: Olliver, Q. M.; Fireman Shiers; Stewards, Etches, Guy. Stewardess .

Total: 41.


H. J. Pitman, 3rd Officer (Am. Inq., p. 277, and Br. Inq.) :

I lowered No. 5 boat to the level with the rail of the Boat Deck. A man in a dressing gown said that we had better get her loaded with women and children. I said: "I wait the commander's orders," to which he replied: "Very well, or something like that. It then dawned on me that it might be Mr. Ismay, judging by the description I had had given me. I went to the bridge and saw Captain Smith and told him that I thought it was Mr. Ismay that wanted me to get the boat away with women and children in it and he said: *'Go ahead; carry on. I came along and brought in my boat. I stood in it and said: *'Come along, ladies." There was a big crowd. Mr. Ismay helped get them along. We got the boat nearly full and I shouted out for any more ladies. None were to be seen so I allowed a few men to get into it. Then I jumped on the ship again. Mr. Murdoch said: *'You go in charge of this boat and hang around the after gangway. About thirty (Br. Inq.) to forty women were in the boat, two children, half a dozen male passengers, myself and four of the crew. There would not have been so many men had there been any women around, but there were none. Murdoch shook hands with me and said: *'Good-bye; good luck," and I said: "Lower away." This boat was the second one lowered on the starboard side. No light in the boat.

The ship turned right on end and went down perpendicularly. She did not break in two. I heard a lot of people say that they heard boiler explosions, but I have my doubts about that. I do not see why the boilers would burst, because there was no steam there. They should have been stopped about two hours and a half. The fires had not been fed so there was very little steam there. From the distance I was from the ship, if it had occurred, I think I would have known it. As soon as the ship disappeared I said: ^'Now, men, we will pull toward the wreck." Everyone in my boat said it was a mad idea because we had far better save what few I had in my boat than go back to the scene of the wreck and be swamped by the crowds that were there. My boat would have accommodated a few more — about sixty in all. I turned No. 5 boat around to go in the direction from which these cries came but was dissuaded from my purpose by the passengers. My idea of lashing Nos. 5 and 7 together was to keep together so that if anything hove in sight before daylight we could steady ourselves and cause a far bigger show than one boat only. I transferred two men and a woman and a child from my boat to No. 7 to even them up a bit.

H. S. Etches, steward (Am. Inq., p. 810) : Witness assisted Mr. Murdoch, Mr. Ismay, Mr. Pitman and Quartermaster Olliver and two stewards in the loading and launching of No. 7, the gentlemen being asked to keep back and the ladies in first. There were more ladies to go in No. 7 because No. 5 boat, which we went to next, took In over thirty-six ladies. In No. 7 boat I saw one child, a baby boy, with a small woollen cap. After getting all the women that were there they called out three times — Mr. Ismay twice — in a loud voice: "Are there any more women before this boat goes?" and there was no answer. Mr. Murdoch called out, and at that moment a female came up whom he did not recognize. Mr. Ismay said: **Come along; jump in." She said:

'I am only a stewardess." He said: "Never mind — you are a woman; take your place." That was the last woman I saw get into boat No. 5. There were two firemen in the bow; Olliver, the sailor, and myself; and Officer Pitman ordered us into the boat and lowered under Murdoch's order.

Senator Smith: What other men got into that boat?

Mr. Etches : There was a stout gentleman, sir, stepped forward then. He had assisted to put his wife in the boat. He leaned forward and she stood up in the boat and put her arms around his neck and kissed him, and I heard her say: "I cannot leave you," and with that I turned my head. The next moment I saw him sitting beside her in the bottom of the boat, and some voice said: "Throw that man out of the boat," but at that moment they started lowering away and the man remained.

Senator Smith: Who was he?

Mr. Etches: I do not know his name, sir, but he was a very stout gentleman. (Dr. H. W. Frauenthal.)

We laid off about 100 yards from the ship and waited. She seemed to be going down at the head and we pulled away about a quarter of a mile and laid on our oars until the Titanic sank. She seemed to rise once as though she was going to take a final dive, but sort of checked as though she had scooped the water up and had levelled herself. She then seemed to settle very, very quiet, until the last when she rose and seemed to stand twenty seconds, stern in that position (indicating) and then she went down with an awful grating, like a small boat running off a shingley beach. There was no inrush of water, or anything. Mr. Pitman then said to pull back to the scene of the wreck. The ladies started calling out. Two ladies sitting in front where I was pulling said: "Appeal to the officer not to go back. Why should we lose all of our lives in a useless attempt to save others from the ship?" We did not go back. When we left the ship No. 5 had forty- two, including the children and six crew and the officer. Two were transferred with a lady and a child into boat No. 7.

Senator Smith: Of your own knowledge do yo know whether any general call was made for passengers to rouse themselves from their berths; and when It was, or whether there was any other signal given?

Mr. Etches: The second steward (Dodd), sir, was calling all around the ship. He was directing some men to storerooms for provisions for the lifeboats, and others he was telling to arouse all the passengers and to tell them to be sure to take their life preservers with them.

There was no lamp in No. 5. On Monday morning we saw a very large floe of flat ice and three or four bergs between in different places, and on the other bow there were two large bergs in the distance. The field ice was about three- quarters of a mile at least from us between four and five o'clock in the morning. It was well over on the port side of the Titanic in the position she was going.

A. Olllver, Q. M. (Am. Inq., p. 526) : There were so many people in the boat when I got Into it that I could not get near the plug to put the plug in. I implored the passengers to move so I could do It. When the boat was put In the water I let the tripper go and water came into the boat. I then forced my way to the plug and put it in; otherwise It would have been swamped. There was no rush when I got into the boat. I heard Mr. Pitman give an order to go back to the ship, but the women passengers implored him not to go. We were then about 300 yards away. Nearly all objected.

A. Shiers, fireman (Br. Inq., p. 48) : He saw no women left. There were about forty men and women in the boat. There was no confusion among the officers and crew. We did not go back when the Titanic went down. The women in the boat said: "Don't go back." They said: "If we go back the boat will be swamped." No compass in boat.

Paul Mauge, Ritz kitchen clerk (Br. Inq.) : Witness was berthed in the third-class corridor. Was awakened and went up on deck. Went down again and woke up the chef. Going through the second-class cabin he noticed that the assistants of the restaurant were there and not allowed to go on the Boat Deck. He saw the second or third boat on the starboard side let down into the water, and when it was about ten feet down from the Boat Deck he jumped into it. Before this he asked the chef to jump, but he was too fat and would not do so. (Laughter.) I asked him again when I got in the boat, but he refused. When his boat was passing one of the lower decks one of the crew of the Titanic tried to pull him out of the boat. He saw no passengers prevented from going up on deck. He thinks he was allowed to pass because he was dressed like a passenger.

Mrs. Catherine E. Crosby's affidavit (Am. Inq., p. 1144) :

Deponent is the widow of Captain Edward Gifford Crosby and took passage with him and their daughter, Harriette R. Crosby.

At the time of the collision, Captain Crosby got up, dressed, went out, came back and said to her: *'You will lie there and drown, and went out again. He said to their daughter: *'The boat is badly damaged, but I think the water-tight compartments will hold her up."

Mrs. Crosby then got up and dressed, as did her daughter, and followed her husband on deck. She got into the first or second boat. About thirty- six persons got in with them.

There was no discrimination between men and women. Her husband became separated from her. She was suffering from cold while drifting around and one of the officers (Pitman) put a sail around her and over her head to keep her warm.

George A. Harder, first-class passenger (Am. Inq., p. 1028) :

As we were being lowered, they lowered one side quicker than the other, but reached the water safely after a few scares. Someone said the plug was not in, and they could not get the boat detached from the tackle. Finally, a knife was found and the rope cut. We had about forty- two people in the boat — about thirty women. Officer Pitman, a sailor and three men of the crew. We rowed some distance from the ship — it may have been a quarter or an eighth of a mile. We were afraid of the suction. Passengers said: "Let us row a little further." They did so. Then this other boat, No. 7, came along. We tied alongside. They had twenty-nine in their boat, and we counted at the time thirty-six in ours, so we gave them four or five of our people in order to make it even.

After the ship went down we heard a lot of cries and a continuous yelling and moaning. I counted about ten icebergs in the morning. Our boat managed very well. It is true that the officer did want to go back to the ship, but all the passengers held out and said: "Do not do that; it would only be foolish; there would be so many around that it would only swamp the boat." There was no light in our boat.

C. E. H. Stengel, first cabin passenger (Am. Inq., p. 975):

Senator Smith : Did you see any man attempt to enter these lifeboats who was forbidden to do so?

Mr. Stengel : I saw two. A certain physician * in New York, and his brother, jumped into the same boat my wife was in. Then the officer, or the man who was loading the boat said: "I will stop that. I will go down and get my gun." He left the deck momentarily and came right back again. I saw no attempt of anyone else to get into the lifeboats except these two gentlemen that jumped into the boat after it was started to lower.

Senator Bourne : When you were refused admission into the boat in which your wife was, were there a number of ladies and children there at the time?

Mr. Stengel: No, sir, there were not. These two gentlemen had put their wives in and were standing on the edge of the deck and when they started lowering away, they jumped in. I saw only two.

N. C. Chambers, first-class passenger (Am. Inq., 1041) :

Witness referring to boat No. 5 as appearing sufficiently loaded says: "However, my wife said she was going in that boat and proceeded to jump in, calling to me to come. As I knew she would get out again had I not come, I finally jumped into the boat, although I did not consider it, from the looks of things, safe to put many more in. As I remember it, there were two more men, both called by their wives, who jumped in after I did. One of them, a German I believe, told me as I recollect it on the Carpathia that he had looked around and had seen no one else, and no one to ask whether he could get in, or not, and had jumped in. Witness describes the difficulty in finding whether the plug was in, or not, and recalls someone calling from above: "It's your own blooming business to see that the plug is in anyhow."

Mrs. C. E. H. Stengel, first-class passenger, writes as follows:

'As I stepped into the lifeboat an officer in charge said: 'No more; the boat is full.' My husband stepped back, obeying the order. As the boat was being lowered, four men deliberately jumped into it. One of them was a Hebrew doctor — another was his brother. This was done at the risk of the lives of all of us in the boat. The two companions of this man who did this were the ones who were later transferred to boat No. 7, to which we were tied. He weighed about 250 pounds and wore two life preservers. These men who jumped in struck me and a little child. I was rendered unconscious and two of my ribs were very badly dislocated. With this exception there was absolutely no confusion and no disorder in the loading of our boat/*

Mrs. F. M. Warren, first-class passenger's account :

Following this we then went to our rooms, put on all our heavy wraps and went to the foot of the grand staircase on Deck D, again interviewing passengers and crew as to the danger. While standing there Mr. Andrews, one of the designers of the vessel, rushed by, going up the stairs. He was asked if there was any danger but made no reply. But a passenger who was afterwards saved told me that his face had on it a look of terror. Immediately after this the report became general that water was in the squash courts, which were on the deck below where we were standing, and that the baggage had already been submerged.

At the time we reached the Boat Deck, starboard side, there were very few passengers there, apparently, but it was dark and we could not estimate the number. There was a deafening roar of escaping steam, of which we had not been conscious while inside.

The only people we remembered seeing, except a young woman by the name of Miss Ostby, who had become separated from her father and was with us, were Mr. Astor, his wife and servants, who were standing near one of the boats which was being cleared preparatory to being lowered. The Astors did not get into this boat. They all went back inside and I saw nothing of them again until Mrs. Astor was taken onto the Carpathia.

We discovered that the boat next to the one the Astors had been near had been lowered to the level of the deck, so went towards it and were told by the officers in charge to get in. At this moment both men and women came crowding toward the spot. I was the second person assisted in. I supposed that Mr. Warren had followed, but saw when I turned that he was standing back and assisting the women. People came in so rapidly in the darkness that it was impossible to distinguish them, and I did not see him again.

The boat was commanded by Officer Pitman and manned by four of the Titanic's men. The lowering of the craft was accomplished with great difficulty. First one end and then the other was dropped at apparently dangerous angles, and we feared that we would swamp as soon as we struck the water.

Mr. Pitman's orders were to pull far enough away to avoid suction if the ship sank. The sea was like glass, so smooth that the stars were clearly reflected. We were pulled quite a distance away and then rested, watching the rockets in terrible anxiety and realizing that the vessel was rapidly sinking, bow first. She went lower and lower, until the lower lights were extinguished, and then suddenly rose by the stern and slipped from sight. We had no light on our boat and were left in intense darkness save from an occasional glimmer of light from other lifeboats and one steady green light on one of the ship's boats which the officers of the Carpathia afterwards said was of material assistance in aiding them to come direct to the spot.

With daylight the wind increased and the sea became choppy, and we saw icebergs in every direction; some lying low in the water and others tall, like ships, and some of us thought they were ships. I was on the second boat picked up.

From the time of the accident until I left the ship there was nothing which in any way resembled a panic. There seemed to be a sort of aimless confusion and an utter lack of organized effort.

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Herbert John Pitman, 3rd Officer's Timeline

November 20, 1877
Castle Cary, Somerset, England.
December 7, 1961
Age 84
Pitcombe, Somerset
St Leonard Churchyard and Extension, Pitcombe, South Somerset District, Somerset, England