Megan (jehoshabeath) wrote,
Megan
jehoshabeath

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Frederick Fleet - some random tidbits

One of the first activities I pursued on the internet was research, including a correspondence with a historian in England. That was eleven years ago and about this same time of year, just before the season of the daffodils.

Thinking that I could find some photographs of Fleet in Washington, DC, at the Archives or LOC got me digging into some things. Alas, I found that the photos I am thinking of are in an archive in England! Maybe someday I will get over there to dig through them.

Frederick Fleet was born 122 years ago in the port town of Liverpool and was orphaned. He worked as a sailor and a lookout until 1912, when he got a job on the new Titanic. He was the lookout man who reported the iceberg. He was ordered into lifeboat number 6 to be an oarsman for a strange group of folks: 20-30 (?) women, the helmsman, a Canadian militia and business man, and a stowaway. The stowaway appeared only after about an hour out at sea, according to the Canadian (Peuchen) in his testimony before the US Senate (source).

After Fleet and the rest of the survivors arrived in New York, he was called to give testimony here at the Russell Senate Office Building in DC and then later had to testify before the British Inquiry, as well.

When you read the text of the inquiries, you find some strange and interesting things.

For example, on the first day of his testimony before the Senate (source), there was the following exchange:

Senator SMITH.
What time did you have your supper that night; Sunday night?

Mr. FLEET.
What? Tea?

Senator SMITH.
Yes.

Mr. FLEET.
Five o'clock.

Senator SMITH.
In the mess?

Mr. FLEET.
In the mess, sir.

Senator SMITH.
You were not in the habit of eating your meals in the crow's nest?

Mr. FLEET.
Oh, no, sir.

Then, there was the time in England that Fleet got upset at the very end of his testimony. After having the Americans send him to DC to appear before a committee and giving him an eye exam, he found even more questions waiting for him back at home. No doubt he was anxious and irritated by all of that, not to mention the shock of what happened in the actual disaster. Here's what transpired toward the end of his testimony in England (source):

[Fleet]
Well, I am not going to tell him my business. It is my place in Court to say that, not to him.

17476. (The Commissioner.) You really do not understand. That gentleman is not trying to get round you at all?
- But some of them are, though.

The Commissioner:
They are not, indeed. I can see you think most of us are, but we are not. We only want to get from you your own story. We want nothing else.

17477. (Sir Robert Finlay.) You know Mr. Lightoller?
- Certainly I do.

17478. Did you have any conversation with him?
- Yes.

The Commissioner:
That is all we want to know.

Mr. Harbinson:
There are a couple of questions suggested by Sir Robert Finlay’s examination I should like to put.

Examined by Mr. HARBINSON.

17479. Did I understand rightly that when you left the boat deck there were some women left behind on the boat deck?
- [No Answer.]

The Witness:
(After a pause.) Is there any more likes to have a go at me?

The Commissioner:
Well, I rather sympathise with him. Do you want to ask him anything more?

The Attorney-General:
Oh, no.

The Witness:
A good job, too.

17480. (The Commissioner.) I am much obliged to you. I think you have given your evidence very well, although you seem to distrust us all.

The Witness:
Thank you.

Someday when I have lots of money and time, I'll finish my research and present the project I started back in 1998. In the meantime, I'll smile and say a little prayer as I pass between the Russell Senate Office Building and the daffodils on my daily spring commute.
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