Shots in the Dark - Did an Officer Commit Suicide on the Titanic in the Last Stages of the Sinking?

(appologies to Titanic author Walter Lord for our title - but it was too good to pass up!)


Even on the rescue ship Carpathia, coming into New York Harbor in April 1912, rumors were circulating that an officer had shot himself on the Boat Deck of the Titanic, in the last stages of the sinking. James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster movie, Titanic, portrayed First Officer William Murdoch as committing suicide after attempting to launch Collapsible A from the Boat Deck. Though little mentioned, the early 1997 CBS mini-series Titanic also showed Murdoch shooting himself.

Walter Lord's book, The Night Lives On, discusses a possible suicide. Lord offers up three possibilities for this act - Purser McElroy, First Officer Murdoch, and Chief Officer Wilde. According to Collapsible B survivor Jack Thayer, McElroy had previously fired a gun in the air on the forward starboard A Deck. Passenger Hugh Woolner also puts Murdoch on the forward starboard section of the ship, possibly firing shots at the launch of Collapsible C. Murdoch was also known to have been involved in trying to launch Collapsible A (again, on the starboard Boat Deck), along with Sixth Officer Moody. Wilde? As Lord states, "That leaves Chief Officer Wilde, who is the enigma of the night. There's no more reason to suppose Wilde was the officer seen than anyone else."

There are also reports that Captain Smith may have committed suicide on the bridge, just before it dipped under.

But, what did the survivors actually see and say about a suicide? This site is an attempt to bring together and publish the accounts relating to this.

A number of people have contributed to this site - both by offering opinions and comments, and supplying data. For their suggestions and help, I would also like to thank:

George Behe Dave Billnitzer
Richard Edkins Jim Harper

NOTE - During the course of this research, quite a few accounts were found referring to shots being fired during the lifeboat loading. Given the purpose of this site, I have not posted many of the accounts which do not specifically refer to an officer's shooting himself. Many of these other accounts do refer to shooting on the forward starboard Boat Deck, during the loading of both Collapsibles C and A.

Survivor accounts following are in red. Comments and summaries are indicated in black type.