RMS Titanic Crew – From Captain to Postal Clerk

© Photo : Public DomainTitanic officers, Herbert Pitman and Charles Lightoller
Titanic officers, Herbert Pitman and Charles Lightoller - Sputnik International
A crew of 885 provided maximum comfort for the passengers on board the luxury liner RMS Titanic. This number included 66 deck crew members, over 300 members of the engineering crew and 500 service personnel.

A crew of 885 provided maximum comfort for the passengers on board the luxury liner RMS Titanic.

This number included 66 deck crew members, over 300 members of the engineering crew and 500 service personnel. There were only 23 women among the liner’s crew, all of them service personnel.

The Deck Crew

Titanic’s 66-person deck crew included the Captain and seven ship’s officers, as well as able seamen, boatswains, lookouts, doctors, storekeepers, window cleaners, carpenters, Master-at-Arms and many other specialists.

Captain Edward John Smith, a renowned English naval reserve officer in the rank of commodore, commanded the crew of Titanic. By 1912 Captain Smith had already sailed about two million nautical miles and commanded 14 ships, which is why the White Star Line company entrusted him to command its flagships on their maiden voyages. He was called the "Millionaires' Captain" because of the prestige of these ships and their passengers. On April 15, 1912, Captain Smith went down with the Titanic, making no attempt to save himself.

The crew of the Titanic included seven ship’s officers, only four of whom survived.

The medical staff was an important part of the deck crew. The liner was equipped with all the necessary facilities for providing medical assistance to its passengers. The Titanic's Surgeon, Dr. William O'Loughlin, was the best doctor on the White Star Line staff. He was a well-educated man and had been at sea for over 40 years.

In addition to the ship’s surgeon and his assistant, there was a small medical staff onboard.

A nurse for first class passengers was the only member of the medical staff to survive the sinking of the Titanic.

Engineering Crew

The Titanic’s engineering crew was comprised of more than 300 people, including engineers, boiler operators, electricians, firemen, stokers, plumbers, storekeepers, loaders, etc.

Together they were responsible for maintaining the engines, generators and other ship’s equipment and keeping them operational. These were the highest-paid members of the Titanic’s crew. They had the necessary education and technical knowledge for operating, maintaining and repairing the ship’s equipment and systems.

The engineering crew was headed by Chief Engineer Joseph Bell who had served for many years aboard White Star Line ships. The Titanic struck the iceberg at 11:40 p.m. April 14, 1912. Bell relieved his crew of its duties at about 2:00 a.m. April 15. However, all members of the engineering crew remained at their stations. Some sources say that was the actions of the engineering crew that made it possible to delay the liner’s sinking. The Titanic’s lights went out only a few minutes before the ship finally sank.

Service Personnel

There were also about 500 members of service personnel aboard the Titanic, including 69 employees of the liner’s luxury restaurant.

Radio operators had a special status. They were not listed among the ship’s officers and had to remain in seclusion due to the specific nature of their work. The main duty of the radio operators was to receive and transmit official and private messages, the latter of which were received and sent by the ship’s passengers. The Titanic’s wireless telegraphs were manned by Senior Wireless Operator John George "Jack" Phillips, who perished during the disaster, and by Junior Wireless Operator Harold Bride, who managed to survive. Phillips celebrated his 25th birthday aboard the ship. Both men began sending out distress signals as soon as the liner collided with the iceberg. At 2:17 a.m. April 15, the ship’s electric generator went dead, and Captain Smith relieved the operators of their duties. The Titanic sank three minutes later.

Five experienced postal clerks also served aboard the Titanic. Postal clerks of sea-going ships were considered a cut above the rest of the crew. They were well-paid and differed from other crew members in that their work had nothing to do with the running of the ship or catering to its passengers. After the liner hit the iceberg, the postal clerks rushed to save the more than 200 sacks of registered mail, an action that cost them their lives. None of them survived.

Some members of the Titanic crew were on the passenger list. They were the Titanic’s Guarantee Group representing ship-builder Harland & Wolff and members of the ship’s band. Although they were accommodated as first and second class passengers, they were often perceived as members of the ship’s crew. Headed by Thomas Andrews, the ship’s chief designer, the Guarantee Group was instructed to monitor the operation of all the ship’s systems, and to observe, describe and fix any problems that arose. All members of the Guarantee Group perished in the disaster.

The Titanic’s band is one of the most famous aspects of the liner’s history. Many passengers said this was the best ship band they had ever heard. The eight-man orchestra was all on board as second-class passengers.

Band leader Wallace Hartley had previously held similar positions aboard the RMS Lusitania and the RMS Mauretania. The band was split into two groups. Wallace Hartley headed the quintet comprising a double-bass player, two cellists and a violinist. An additional trio comprising a Belgian violinist, a French cellist and a pianist was hired in order to give the liner’s Café Parisien a more continental look. The trio also played in the hallway of the Titanic’s restaurant.

As a rule, both groups worked independently of each other, playing in different sections of the liner and at different times. The eight musicians played together for the first time on the night the Titanic went down. They played until the final moments before the liner finally sank. None of them survived.

Only 212 out of the Titanic’s 885-person crew survived.

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