Other information relating to a suicide

Which officer's would have had guns?

Part of the question of whether any officer could have committed suicide, has to involve which officer's would have had a revolver in the first place.

It is reported that, during the sinking, Captain Smith, Chief Officer Wilde, First Officer Murdoch and Second Officer Lightoller all went to the arms locker, at Wilde's request (Lightoller's Titanic and Other Ships).  We know that Lightoller received a revolver, it is very likely the other three officers also received one at the same time. Sixth Officer Moody does not appear to have been present at this time, and probably would not have had a revolver on his person.

Though it is possible that Wilde took extra revolvers with him to hand out to the other officers not present, there is no evidence of any kind that this did happen.

No evidence exists that either of Third Officer Pitman or Fourth Officer Boxhall had firearms at any time. Fifth Officer Lowe, by his own testimony, carried his personal revolver the night of April 14, and said he fired it along the ship's side, while loading Boat #14.

Purser Herbert McElroy is described (by Jack Thayer) as firing a revolver during the lowering of a lifeboat.  However, it is not known where he may have gotten a revolver, and it is not likely his position on the ship would have required him to have one in his possession.

So, of the officers lost that night (Smith, Wilde, Murdoch and Moody), the first three were known to be in a position to have received a pistol.  There is no direct evidence that Moody had a gun that night.  Though there is one report (made 28 years after the sinking) that McElroy fired a gun, it is questionable why he would have had it in the first place.

Why were officers sometimes mis-identified?

On the short voyage of the Titanic from Belfast to Southampton, William Murdoch was Chief Officer.  While the ship was being provisioned in Southampton, Henry Wilde was brought in as Chief (for the first trip only), Murdoch was bumped down to First Officer, Lightoller was moved to Second, and David Blair (the former Second) left the ship.

This seems to have caused confusion among the crew.  During both the US and British Inquiries, some crewmen specifically identified Wilde as Chief; but other crew members would identify Murdoch as Chief!  Even others of the crew would just say "Chief Officer", and in many cases there is no way to tell exactly which of these men they were referring to.

Insignia on the uniforms of the White Star officers did indicate their position on the ship.  Since Murdoch's 'demotion' to First was only temporary, the question must be asked, "Did he go to the effort of changing the insignia on his uniforms?"   Though there is no way of telling for sure, it appears that Murdoch may not have changed it.  Seaman Joseph Scarrott had this to say about lifeboat drill at the dock in Southampton the morning of sailing: "The boat turned out; we were told to put our lifebelts on, so many men, there were both watches there, an officer there, junior officers, and two chief officers."   We don't know if Scarrott really meant to say senior officers instead of two chiefs, or if he was being specific as to what he saw.  If Murdoch did not change his uniform, it would easily explain many of the mis-identifications that night.

Steward William Ward testified at the American Inquiry:  "I think it was Chief Officer Murdoch [who called out for the women to get into boat #9]. I would not be sure whether it was him or the purser. They were both tall men, and I would not be sure which one it was.  It was dark, you know."  In addition to having Murdoch's rank wrong, he does point out that it was easy to confuse people during the lifeboat loading, and that the difference in the uniform did not help him to discover if it was Murdoch or McElroy that he saw.

Since the passengers and the officers did not usually mix on White Star ships, it is likely that many of the passengers would not have know Murdoch from Wilde, or even been able to tell the Chief Officer from the First by the insignia on their uniform.  However, there are some cases of passengers knowing the officers, Mrs. Charlotte Collyer's account (in the The Semi-Monthly Magazine of May, 1912) tells of meeting First Officer Murdoch:  "I had met him (Murdoch) the day before, when he was inspecting the second-cabin quarters."