Thursday, August 23, 2007

J. Bruce Ismay

Joseph Bruce, Ismay has received a lot of criticism over the past decades. Why? Because he got into a lifeboat when there were still women and children aboard. But is there any just foundation for this serious criticism? We'll look at the two sides of the story, 1. reasons for staying aboard, 2. reasons for getting on a lifeboat! Now this will be rather hard for me, since I already have an opinion of Ismay, but I will try to not let that come through..... you decide for yourself what he should have done!

1. First we'll look at the reasons that J. B. Ismay should have stayed aboard the sinking Titanic!
After the Titanic collided with an iceberg at about 11:45, it did not take long for John E. Smith to figure out there was not enough places for all the men, women and children in the lifeboats. So he gave the well known order, "women and children first." Now, did the Captain mean that there was no men to be allowed in the lifeboats? NO! The lifeboats needed officers, and sailors to make sure they were operated safely, and correctly. It was the spirit of the order that counted, if you did not have a legitimate reason for getting in a lifeboat, you had no place in one. Some fantastic men of measure did get off in a lifeboat, such as Harold Bride the wireless operator, Lightoller the Titanic's Second Officer, Archibald Gracie, Jack Thayer, and the list could go on.
Whats noticeable about these men, is they did not receive the criticism that Bruce, Ismay did, why is that?
Did Ismay have a responsibility to stay with the Titanic till she sank beneath the waves, like the Captain did? Lets look at some things that took place years earlier..... When the Titanic was still on blueprints the planning of how many lifeboats the Titanic would carry came up. The Titanic's designer at the time Andrew, Carlyle was pushing for 48 lifeboats which would have been enough for everyone one on board in case of a disaster. But there was one man standing in his way, Joseph B. Ismay! When the rubber met the road Ismay said no, for various reasons. But when you get to the night of April 14, 1912 its a different story. Because of his choice, it puts him under some obligation to stay aboard and take whatever comes.
Here's possibly another reason that he should have stayed aboard. J. B. Ismay owned the White Star Line, which means he owned the Titanic. If a person owns something that is used for the public, and if fails in some way, and death follows, or injury, it seems that whoever owns it should take whatever other had to take as well. He was responsible for the passengers as well!
I guess one more thing that should have binded him to the Titanic it time of trouble, is the fact that there were still women and children on board, and he owed them all the safety that was in his power as a man. By giving up a spot in a lifeboat, and doing the courteous thing, and not to mention the polite thing!

2. It wouldn't be fair to explain one side of the story, so we'll make an argument for the opposite side. In this kind of situation we have to be fair, because Ismay is no longer around to speak for himself!
J. B. Ismay claims that there were no women in sight, and there are witness to back up the fact. Since that being true why should he stay on a sinking ship and face certain death? And if there was no women sight was he really breaking a rule? I think that if your standing on the side of a sinking ship, and there's an empty spot on a lifeboat, there are no women and children about, would we have the fortitude to remain on the ship? There are a lot of questions that come into play here, and what it comes down to is, was he doing something really out of the ordinary?
Why should he stay on a sinking ship if he could get off, and go back to his family, we can't really say that he had motives of the baser sort. He was the managing director of the White Star Line, he had a lot of responsibly back on shore.
Was there really a need to end his short life, just to make a name for himself?
And after all, you can't blame the entire construction of the ship on him, Thomas, Andrews obviously didn't have a problem with 20 lifeboats!
Just because countless men stayed aboard, doesn't mean that Ismay did if a opportunity presented himself.
To call this man a coward just because he got off a sinking ship, doesn't seem right! What would you have done in his position?

18 comments:

Mom said...

hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

CONNIE'S THOUGHTS FROM THE HEART said...

I hope that I would have stayed on the sinking ship and Iwould have looked really hard for someone to take the place on the lifeboat. Grandma

Pastor McEntire said...

I would like to think I would have stayed on the ship. But......if I honestly believed that all the women and children were safely evacuated then I would find it difficult to find a compelling reason to stay.

Really, though if there was anyone else needing a place on the lifeboats he should have offered it to them since he was the man mainly responsible for the shortage of life-boats.

Garrett said...

This is a very interesting blog post. I probably would offer the spot to somebody else.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, interesting post. Of course we'd all like to think we'd have offered the spot to someone else, but until faced with an identical terrifying situation and the temptation of the empty place, I certainly couldn't say with any confidence how I would react. Apparently the post-sinking vilification of JB Ismay was intensified by the fact that he had some sort of feud going with the media baron William Randolph Hearst. I believe he was haunted by the tragedy for the rest of his life, and may well in retrospect have wished he'd given up the place. My grandmother knew him as a child and, naughty thing!!, said she & her friends used to hum the tune of Nearer My God to Thee very quietly in his presence, when their parents were out of the room!

Anonymous said...

I found your blog after viewing the Titanic artifacts exhibit in Denver today. I appreciate the research you brought forth about the empty spot on the lifeboat. There is no way to call what I would have done (especially being a woman) but one thing I'm sure of:
the quality of Ismay's life had to be deeply affected by his decision.

Anonymous said...

my grandma did some geneeoligy i thats how you spell it and im related to bruce ismay

Anonymous said...

I knew Bruce Ismays son & I was told that even though he got off Titanic the remainder of his life was really not easy.

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Collin R. Skocik said...

I guess I'm notorious for defending the underdog, but I have never been able to condemn Mr. Ismay for saving himself. Firstly, not much is really factually known about the circumstances under which he got into the boat. He understandably didn't like to talk about it, and to the best of my knowledge, the most he ever said to account for his actions was "The boat was there, so I got in." As near as I can tell, he had hopped itno the boat without even really thinking about it; I can't say I would have done any different. Did he know how many people were still on the ship? Did he realize there weren't enough boats for everyone? I have tried to imagine myself in his situation -- I know the ship is going to sink...the last boat is right in front of me and starting to lower...sure, I'd jump in. He couldn't have saved any more lives had he remained on board; he simply would have been one more casualty, one more person lost who could have answered important questions. Do we wish Ismay had gone down with the ship? I don't. I understand there was a different ethic in 1912, but I think it's significant to point out that although Ismay was vilified in the U.S., he was completely exonerated and even praised by Lord Mersey's disaster hearing in England.

Anonymous said...

I say that Mr. J. Bruce Ismay is a coward because he decided to go into a lifeboat when there women & children aboard the sinking Titanic. If I was Mr. Ismay, I would have stayed on the Titanic like a man, like Captain Smith.

Anonymous said...

I wouldve OK'd the 48 lifeboats to start with, hence no issue

Xavier_Ninnis said...

@Collin R. Skocik ". . . Did he realize there weren't enough boats for everyone?"
He did, which you would've known had you actually read the above piece prior to posting.

Ivan Mokotedi said...

He did what was best during that time. Yes, we might call him names and insult him but we were not even there to the truth, advantage disadvantages. He did what came into his mind first then left the rest to God. My all those souls rest in peace. Happy 100 yrs after the sinking of RMS Titanic.

Anonymous said...

lInteresting viewpoints. However, the captain of the Titanic was Edward John Smith, not John E. Smith.

Anonymous said...

well if bruce ismay did not see any women or children he was not really a coward after all.

Anonymous said...

I think it was captain smith's fault