Lifeboat from Titanic
Lifeboat to Carpathia
Confidence Level
Daniel, Mr Robert Williams
? (6 votes)
Coll. B (3 votes)
? (6 votes)
4 or 12 (3 votes)

First Class passenger Robert Williams Daniel gave many conflicting accounts of how he escaped from Titanic.  However, he was unwavering in his claim to have been in the water, and later to have reached a lifeboat. 

Daniel was quoted as saying the following, in The New York Press on April 19, 1912:
    “Robert Williams Daniel of the banking firm Shillard-Smith, Daniel & Co. of Philadelphia, probably owes his life to a blanket given him by Mrs. Washington Dodge when he had pulled himself into a lifeboat containing Mrs. Dodge, a Frenchman, an apprentice boy and several women. Daniel said he was one of the last to leave the Titanic, just before the vessel disappeared from view. He left his cabin so hurriedly he did not have time to dress. ‘The water was ice cold and it is a wonder I did not freeze to death,’ said Daniel last night in the Waldorf-Astoria. 'When I had jumped into the water I swam to a life raft floating a few feet away from the sinking ship. With me was J. B. Thayer, Jr., of Philadelphia, who got away from me before we reached the lifeboat. I swam to the little craft, secured hold of the stern and pulled myself aboard. I was trembling as if I had been a leaf in a storm. I saw Mrs. Dodge and her son huddled up about midships. All the occupants of the lifeboat were women except the apprentice boy and Mrs. Dodge's son. It did not take me long to survey the conditions. When I did not see a member of the ship's company in charge I began wondering what the women would do in a little while. ''Who is in charge of this boat?'' I asked. ''I am, '' replied the apprentice boy, who was too young to handle such a situation. Then I took charge and began quieting the women and telling them not to worry. 'Mrs. Dodge and her child were reclining on a pillow, and she passed me a blanket, which I wrapped around myself the best way I could.'

The details in this account are internally inconsistent, as on one hand, Daniel claims that he was rescued aboard the same boat as Jack Thayer, which would suggest Collapsible B.  As will be seen, Thayer did claim to see Daniel aboard Titanic late in the sinking, although he never described seeing him aboard Collapsible B.  Nor did fellow First Class passenger Colonel Gracie.  It is possible that both men could have missed seeing him. 

In this same interview, Daniel is quoted as saying he was in the same boat as Ruth Dodge and her son.  Both of these individuals were rescued in boat #7.  This fact is perhaps why Colonel Archibald Gracie, in his book The Truth About the Titanic, places Daniel in #7.  Since Gracie gave no reasoning for this placement, it must be taken with caution. 

Daniel gave another interview in The Times Dispatch on April 22, 1912, in which it was claimed that he was “entirely nude when picked up by Carpathia:
    “When the Titanic struck the ice…He hurriedly tied his father’s watch…around his neck, slipped a bathrobe around him, and went up on deck.  He had just prepared to retire, and this bathrobe was the only garment he wore.  In the excitement Robert got a life belt, which he put on, but a woman near him had none so he took off his belt, gave it to her and subsequently found another for his own use.  He stayed on the Titanic until the vessel sunk to the deck below the hurricane deck, and then escaped in a collapsible boat.  He thinks he was in the water for at least an hour, when he was helped into a lifeboat.  There were thirty-four women and children in his boat, together with one man and a boy.  In the water Robert lost his robe, so when he was pulled into the lifeboat a woman gave him a blanket.  Immediately he asked who was in command of the boat, and the woman screamed that no one was in command, so Robert took command, sat in the stern and picked up the tiller…
    After all the women had been taken aboard the Carpathia, Robert became unconscious.  Somehow he was hauled up, but the officers of the Carpathia thought he was a steerage passenger, so they put him in the steerage in a bunk with a sailor.  Several hours later, as he recovered from the shock, he explained that he was a first cabin passenger, and he was removed to the captain’s quarters for medical attention.  He was there a while with J. Bruce Ismay…
    Mrs. Daniel said that she hardly recognized her son as he came tottering upon the pier, his face terribly drawn…He lost all his personal belongings, except for his father’s watch, which he tied around his neck.”

This account suggests that Daniel was rescued in either Collapsible A or B, and later transferred to another lifeboat.  The details of the boat which allegedly rescued him from the collapsible does not fit boat #14, which rescued the survivors off of Collapsible A, since Fifth Officer Lowe was in charge of that boat.  Similarly, it does not seem to fit boat #12, which is one of the two lifeboats which rescued the survivors off of Collapsible B.  Second Officer Lightoller took charge of that boat, after being rescued off of Collapsible B. 

It is possible that Daniel was describing boat #4, but this also is contradictory, since Quartermaster Perkis was in charge of that boat. That detail could, perhaps, be an exaggeration or “creative” adjustment by a reporter.  However, there were approximately 30 individuals lowered aboard #4, which then picked up 8 from the water, for around 38 occupants total, before an additional 22 were transferred aboard from #12 and #10 by Fifth Officer Lowe, in his flotilla.  The pre-transfer total of 38 is a close match to the 37 that Daniel described in the above account.  This is also the second account which suggests a possible link with Collapsible B. 

Another press account reinforces some of the details of the above account.  For example, the following, from the Daily Mail, April 20, 1912:
    “He was picked up by a lifeboat frozen and semi-conscious.  When he revived he was in steerage of the Carpathia, where he lay between two sailors with both feet frozen…The Titanic was running along at twenty knots, he said, as he rested after being assisted from the Carpathia by two stewards.”

The following, matching the above, was published in the Taranaki Herald on April 20, 1912:
    “For an hour he swam through the icy water, naked, the robe having drifted off.  He was picked up by the lifeboat, frozen and semi-conscious; when he revived it was in the steerage of the Carpathia, where he lay between two sailors.  Both feet were frozen.”

In the New York Tribune on April 19, 1912, Daniel stated the following:
    “He leapt into a collapsible boat and was picked up five hours later.. ‘I had just left the music room and disrobed, and was in my bunk, when there was a terrific crash…In the darkness I rushed out on deck almost naked.  There seemed to be thousands fighting and shouting in the dark…’

Another short account of Daniel’s rescue appeared in the New York Herald on April 19, 1912:
    “R.W. Daniels, a banker from Philadelphia, said he remained on board until all the lifeboats in sight were filled and sent away. He said he ran aimlessly around the deck seeking something that he could use for a raft. He said he became delirious and remembered leaping over the rail. His next conscious moment was twelve hours afterward, when he regained his senses on board the Carpathia. He was among the third class passengers when found. 
    Mr. Daniels was picked up by one of the lifeboats which had been swept back as his unconscious form came over the side.”

The Washington Times stated on April 19, 1912 that Daniel “had a narrow escape.  He jumped into the water, and was picked up by lifeboats that were in the vicinity of the wreck.”

Daniel gave the following account in the Cleveland Leader on April 19, 1912:
    “‘Men and women fought, bit and scratched to be in line for the lifeboats.  Look at my black eye and cut chin.  I got those in the fight…
     …Captain Smith remained on the bridge, trying to make himself heard.  He was still shouting when I last saw him…
    …Hundreds, it seemed, did not wait for the lifeboats.  They could see there was no chance for them, and they jumped overboard.’
    ‘What happened to you?’ Mr. Daniel was asked.
    ‘Oh, I can’t tell you what happened.  I hardly know myself,’ he replied.  ‘I was naked. I grabbed something and uttered one prayer.  Then I went over the side of the boat…’
    At this point Mr. Daniel was so overcome that he had to be led to a rail, where he rested for a few moments.
    ‘Let me smoke a cigarette before I go on,’ he said.
    ‘After waiting for an interminable time with the collapsible boat in my hands, I felt the Titanic sinking under my feet.  I could feel her going under at the bows.  The storage batteries furnishing the light again gave out, and there was darkness.  I tried to wait, but suddenly found myself leaping from the rail, away up in the air, and it felt an eternity before I hit the water.  When I came up I felt that I was being drawn in by the suction, and when I felt a cake of ice near, clung to it.
     ‘I was naked.  For five hours I battled with ice cakes, and when I saw other boats near I almost gave up…
     Mr. Daniel was among the first to appear on the gangway of the steamer.  He was exhausted , and assisted Mrs. (Eloise) Smith.  Reaching the bottom of the gangway, he surrendered the fainting woman to her father, Congressman Hughes.
     Removing a tattered derby hat that had been given him by a passenger in the Carpathia, he said:
     ‘I did the best I could.’
     He reeled and was caught by a crowd of men who had gathered about him.”

Daniel also mentioned in this interview, in contradiction with how he was quoted in his The Times Dispatch article, stated that he did not see Bruce Ismay on the Carpathia.  Whether this contradiction, as well as some of the outlandish details in this article were his own, or the result of inaccurate quotes from reporters, is unknown.

One possibility is that Daniel’s shock and mental state may have accounted for some of the inconsistent details and vagueness of his accounts. His mental condition was alluded to in the New York Sun on May 23, 1912: 
    “Robert Daniels of Richmond and Philadelphia, who was among those rescued from the Titanic, has come to the Warm Spring Hotel to spend the early part of the summer.  He is suffering from nervous shock and is under the care of a physician.”

Daniel was quoted in numerous other accounts, varying in detail.  In some, the quotes attributed to him make it sound as if he was near the bow when he ended up in the water, in others, it sounds as if he leapt from the stern.  Several of the accounts indicate that he was rescued on a collapsible boat, possibly Collapsible A or B, before ending up being transferred into a lifeboat.  Yet other accounts mention him being in the water and rescued by a “passing boat,” which sounds much more like boat #4. 

Daniel’s own accounts appear consistent only on the claim that he was in the water and was in some state of undress, rather than on details of which boat he was rescued in.  There does appear to be some supporting evidence.  In one article, the reporter mentions that Daniel’s father’s watch stopped at 2:20 am.  This would be an odd detail for a reporter to make up.  The bruises and cuts to Daniel’s face and the allegedly frostbitten feet seem to support his claim of leaving the ship late, rather than escaping in an early boat such as #7.  However, all of these details appear to have been given by Daniel himself, with the exception of him allegedly fainting after disembarking the Carpathia, and the details of his exhaustion and mental anguish, as related by reporters.

With all of the vague and contradictory statements, is there any evidence from other witnesses that confirms Daniel’s story of being in the water?  The answer is yes.

As mentioned previously, First Class passenger Jack Thayer, while not confirming Daniel’s alleged claim of being rescued on Collapsible B, does provide evidence that Daniel was aboard the ship late.  In his book, The Sinking of the S.S. Titanic, Thayer described the following:
    “I did see one man come through the door out onto the deck with a full bottle of Gordon Gin.  He put it to his mouth and practically drained it.  If ever I get out of this alive, I thought, there is one man I will never see again.  He apparently fought his way into one of the last two boats, for he was one of the first men I recognized upon reaching the deck of the S.S. “Carpathia.”  Someone told me afterwards that he was a State Senator or Congressman from Virginia or West Virginia.”

While Thayer scrambled some details in his 1940 account, he clearly was referring to Daniel. Additional supporting evidence that Daniel ended up in the water comes from the account of Trimmer Thomas Patrick Dillon, from his account in the Daily Mail, May 13, 1912. Dillon was on the stern of the ship during the breakup, and described the following:
    “Then she plunged and then seemed to right herself. There were about fifteen of us when she took the first plunge. After the second there were only five of us left. One of these was Mr Daniels, a first-class passenger. He only had a pair of knickers, a singlet, and a blanket thrown over his shoulders. I think he jumped for it.”

Much has been made out of how Dillon, as a crewmember, would have known who Daniel was.  It is completely plausible that they were introduced while at the stern, or that they met again later aboard the Carpathia.  Either way, it seems unlikely that a newspaper reporter would have randomly inserted Daniel into the account by Dillon.  Dillon’s statements confirm that Daniel was in a state of undress when he leapt overboard. 

Additional supporting evidence comes from the accounts of Doctor Arpad Lengyel, who was the Carpathia’s doctor, assigned to help Third Class passengers.  Lengyel described the following, as transcribed in the book The Carpathia and the Titanic: Rescue at Sea by George Behe:
    “A young banker called Daniels in a torn, red nightshirt kept insisting he was a doctor.  I didn’t want a colleague to be left without clothes so I gave him mine.
    The following day, when I talked with him again, he couldn’t recall.  He must have been delirious!”.    

Lengyel gave a similar account in the New York Times on April 19, 1912:
    “Mr. Daniel, who is a banker from Philadelphia, was clothed only in a woolen sleeping garment.  He was delirious.  I gave him my own short (suit?).”

While not outright confirming that Daniel had been in the water, Lengyel’s accounts do confirm that Daniel was delirious and dressed in torn nightclothes when brought aboard Carpathia.  Lengyel giving Daniel some clothes also explains why Daniel’s clothes, when he disembarked the Carpathia in New York, were described as oversized by a reporter. 

All of the above details support Daniel having been in the water.  Some have mentioned that since there are no mentions of injuries in Daniel’s claim in the Limitation of Liability Hearings, such as were made by fellow passengers George Rheims and Eugene Daly, both of whom were rescued from the water, that he must have made up his story.  That is possible, but not proof. 

The present researchers attempted to find a detailed, first-hand account written by Daniel.  Correspondence with an archivist at the University of Virginia which holds his papers revealed that there are no Titanic-related materials among the collection.

Ironically, historians appear to have narrowly missed a more detailed recounting of Daniel’s survival.  According to the Sunday, December 8, 1912 edition of the New York Tribune, Robert Williams Daniel was scheduled to meet with Colonel Gracie in New York, presumably to discuss the sinking for Gracie's book, when he learned from a reporter that Gracie had passed away earlier that week, and was “overcome with grief.”  The article states the following:
    “Daniel jumped from the stern of the Titanic,” and “he and the late colonel were the last survivors to leave the Titanic.  They drifted together in the icy waters of the Atlantic and picked up, and both had become fast friends when the Cunarder Carpathia landed them safely in this city less than eight months ago.
    Mr. Daniel did not care to recall his experiences on the Titanic, but when the subject was mentioned he said that the hardships endured by those survivors who did not leave the vessel in lifeboats certainly must have injured them physically in some way and curtailed their terms of life.” 

Researcher Don Lynch indicated that Daniel’s son told him years ago, that when Daniel’s best friend, then in his nineties, was still living, he told Daniel’s son that his father, right after the sinking, had told him that he swam from the sinking ship.  Daniel’s son stated that his father maintained that story his whole life.  His son felt that he would not have lied to his best friend. 

One recently-rediscovered account, shared with us by Brandon Whited, provides intriguing evidence.  The witness was not Daniel, but his mother, Mrs. J.R.V. Daniel.  As reported in The News Leader, April 22, 1912, she had met her son after the arrival of the Carpathia in New York:
    "She gave a graphic description of how her son escaped death at sea, saying that he left the Titanic only after all women on deck seemed to have gotten into lifeboats.  He wore a bath robe and a pair of shoes.
    For some time he swam about in the icy water and finally caught hold of an overturned collapsible boat.  Meanwhile he lost his bath robe and was almost overcome when picked up by those aboard a lifeboat. 
    'There were thirty-four women and children and a man and a strong boy in the lifeboat in which Robert escaped,' said Mrs. Daniel.  'Robert found nobody in charge of rowing the boat and he immediately began to give directions as to how to keep it afloat.' ".

When our group examined all of this evidence in totality, we were split on whether Daniel was telling the truth about being in the water. Several of us voted 1, for no particular boat, while the others voted for Collapsible B, with a confidence rating of 2.67.  Daniel’s true method of survival continues to elude researchers.