Henry Samuel Etches was a first class bedroom steward aboard the Titanic. He joined the crew of Titanic in Belfast. Etches survived the sinking, being rescued in lifeboat five, and disembarked from the Carpathia in New York.

Biography[edit | edit source]

RMS Titanic[edit | edit source]

RMS Oruba, the ship which Etches served on before Titanic.

As a first class bedroom steward, Etches earned a salary of about £3, 15s per month (somewhere around $15 USD) [1].

Passengers under his duty[edit | edit source]

Aboard Titanic, he was stationed on the aft portside of B Deck, placing him in charge of 8 cabins on B deck and one on A Deck, A-36, which was the cabin of Thomas Andrews, Titanic's designer. Andrews was aboard as part of a "guarantee group" of mechanics from Harland and Wolff, who were observing the ship's operation and making notes for future improvements. Andrews cabin was separate from other cabins; there was, according to Etches testimony, "only one on each side of the after-end of A deck".

Thomas Andrews[edit | edit source]

Thomas Andrews: Etches' testimony at the US inquiry shows that Andrews was concerned with the passengers' safety the night of the sinking, even neglecting his own life belt.

Thomas Andrews Jr., 39, was traveling with the Titanic to observe the ship's operation, and was Etches' only passenger on A deck, occupying cabin A-36 on the after-end of A deck. During the American inquiry, Etches was questioned by Senator Smith in regards to Andrews' role on the ship. Upon being asked if he saw Andrews frequently, Henry reported that he went to his cabin every morning at 7 o'clock to take him some fruit and tea. He would next see him when Andrews dressed for the night, at about a quarter or 20 minutes to 7 o'clock pm. "He was rather late in dressing" [2], Etches reported. Henry noticed that Andrews was always busy, having charts rolled up by the side of his bed, papers "of all descriptions"[2] on his table during the day, and being seen constantly making notes of improvements that could be made. Etches noted that he had come across Andrews and other members of the guarantee group going about from one part of the ship to another, making notes and attending to anything that was brought to his attention.

Etches recalled seeing Andrews about 20 minutes past 12 on the night of the sinking.[2] Andrews stopped him as he was going along B Deck and asked if all his passengers had been awakened. Etches replied that they were, other than the Carter family, at which point Mr. William Harrison informed him that they were up already. At that point, Andrews and Etches both went down to C Deck via the pantry staircase. Andrews instructed Etches to make passengers open their doors and to inform them where the lifebelts were, as well as to assist them in getting them on.

The last time Etches saw Andrews was when the latter walked down the staircase to the lower D Deck. [2]

Senator Smith asked Etches if Andrews had ever asked him to assist him in putting on a lifebelt. Etches reported that he had not, and that he had never seen Andrews with a belt in his own hand, the designer's only concern being that passengers would put on their belts. [2]

Andrews perished in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.

The Carter Family[edit | edit source]

Mr. William Ernest Carter and his family were among the passengers served by Etches.

Mr. William Ernest Carter, 36, was traveling with his wife, Mrs. Lucile Carter, also 36, and their two children, William Thornton Carter II (11) and Lucile Carter (14). They occupied cabins B-96/98. Mr. Carter was the owner of the Renault automobile that was among the cargo carried on Titanic. The family was also accompanied by Mrs. Carter's maid Auguste Serreplan, Mr. Carter's manservant, Alexander Cairns (in cabin B-86 nearby), and Carter's chauffeur Augustus Henry Aldworth (who was traveling second class).

Etches went to wake up the family, only to be told by William Harrison that they had already gotten up and gone up to the boats. Lucille Carter and the children escaped in lifeboat four; Mr. Carter was rescued in boat C. Alexander died in the sinking, while Auguste was rescued in boat No. 4 with her employer and her children. The chauffeur, Aldworth, also perished in the sinking.

Benjamin Guggenheim[edit | edit source]

Mr. Benjamin Guggenheim later returned to his cabin and exchanged his life belt for his best evening clothes.

Guggenheim, 46, was traveling on Titanic with his valet Mr. Victor Giglio, who was on the same ticket as his employer. Both were in cabin B-84 and were served by Etches.

After the collision, Etches assisted Guggenheim in putting on his life belt. He then made Guggenheim put on a thick sweater and go up to the boat deck. Despite Etches' efforts to have them remain on the boat deck and in the life belts, Guggenheim and Giglio returned to their room and changed into their finest evening wear. Guggenheim was later heard to remark that "We've dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen." Guggenheim, Giglio, and a chauffeur (Pernot, traveling second class) all perished in the sinking. Guggenheim gave Etches a message for his wife, back in New York: "If anything should happen to me, tell my wife in New York that I've done my best in doing my duty." Etches gave this message to Mrs. Benjamin Guggenheim at the St. Regis Hotel, delivering it in person.[3]

William Henry Harrison[edit | edit source]

Mr. Harrison perished in the sinking. His body was recovered and buried.

Mr. Harrison (46), private secretary of J Bruce Ismay, was traveling first class in cabin B-94, next to the Carter family. The night of the sinking, when Etches went down to B deck to awaken his passengers, he found Mr. Harrison already up. Harrison informed him that the Carter family had already gone up to the boats when Etches was worried upon not seeing them by their rooms. Harrison perished in the sinking, and his body (#110) was later recovered by the MacKay Bennett.

Sinking[edit | edit source]

When the Titanic collided with the iceberg, Etches was off-duty and asleep in his quarters on E Deck, along the working alleyway. He shared these quarters with nineteen other men. He had retired at half-past 9, due again to come on duty at 12 midnight.[2]

When the collision occurred, Etches notes that he was "awakened by something" although he did not, at the time, know what it was. He was attempting to return to sleep when he "heard a loud shout, "Close Watertight Bulkheads", which he recognized as the voice of the boatswain. He looked out, his bed by the door giving him a good vantage point, into the working alleyway to see the boatswain "running from fore to aft". [2]

At this point, he partly dressed and looked out the door to see third class passengers coming from the forward part of the ship, carrying their belongings with them. One passenger, carrying a piece of ice, approached Etches saying "Will you believe it now?" and threw the ice down on the deck.[2] At this sight, Etches returned to his quarters, finished dressing, and went up on deck.

He went down to A deck, where he met the steward he had been meant to relieve at midnight. In his testimony at the US Senate inquiry, he notes that they were having trouble getting the passengers to fully dress and go up top, as the passengers were "standing in the corridors partly dressed". Henry went down to B deck and aroused his passengers, seeing them all dressed and on their way to the boats except for the Carter family, which Mr. Harrison told him were already up. Etches assisted his passengers with lifebelts, and also threw some belts down to C Deck and into the corridor, at Mr. Andrews' request to "be sure there were no lifebelts left". He assisted one gentleman passenger with putting on and tying the belt. In addition, he continued to open other doors along C deck. He did not know the names of the passengers outside of his own section, but he endeavored to knock on closed doors, informing people of the trouble and instructing them to put on belts and go up to the boats. [2]

Eventually, he himself went up to the Boat Deck, where he assisted First Officer Murdoch, Bruce Ismay, Third Officer Pitman, Quartermaster Alfred John Olliver, and two other stewards in launching boat No. 7 on the Starboard side. Etches worked to clear the falls as the boat was being lowered away. When No. 7 had been lowered, Henry moved on to No. 5. In the inquiry, Senator Smith asked if Etches attempted to get into No. 7 at all, to which Etches replied that he did not, because No. 5 was his assigned station. At No. 5, he assisted at the forward fall in the same manner he had with No. 7. [2]

When no other ladies came forward to board No. 5, Murdoch turned to Etches asking "Are you the steward appointed to this boat?" Etches replied that he was, indeed, and Murdoch ordered him to jump in and assist with the forward fall. Etches took his place in the boat. Quartermaster Olliver and Third Officer Pitman also joined him in the boat, before Murdoch gave the order to lower away. As they were lowering, someone told them to be sure the plug was in the bottom of the boat, a message which Henry passed on to Olliver. The boat was lowered, the trigger cut that released the falls, and the order given to "lay off" from the ship. According to Etches' testimony, No. 5 laid off about 100 yards and then waited, until Officer Pitman gave the order to pull off once more. They pulled off "about a quarter of a mile" and stopped, remaining there until the Titanic sank. Etches watched the ship go down, seeing the stern rise up with a "thick mass of people on the after-end", although he could not discern who was left aboard.

As he watched until the ship went under, he was questioned about it during the US inquiry. Interestingly, his description of the final moments of the Titanic hints towards the breaking apart of the ship (which, at the time, was not entirely agreed upon). The ship, after raising up, split in two, the stern settling herself and leveling out momentarily before raising up once more for the final plunge, seemingly in agreement with key parts of Etches' testimony:[2]

"She seemed to raise once as though she was going to take a violent dive, but sort of checked, as though she had scooped the water up and had leveled herself. She then seemed to settle very, very quiet, until the last, when she rose up, and she seemed to stand 20 seconds, stern in that position (indicating), and then she went down with an awful grating, like a small boat running off a shingley beach."
    - Henry S. Etches

Rescue[edit | edit source]

After the ship had gone down, they waited a few minutes, until Officer Pitman gave the order to pull back to the scene of the sinking. According to Etches, two ladies sitting in front where he was pulling an oar said that he should "appeal to the officer not to go back", thinking that they would lose all of their lives in "a useless attempt to save those from the ship". Boat No. 5 had 42 people in it, and was not full to capacity. In the end, they did not go back. The boat contained six crew members, including Officer Pitman, and Etches noted that the boat contained four male passengers.[2]

In the morning, the boat was picked up by the Carpathia, and Etches disembarked from that ship in New York. Etches was called before the US Senate Inquiry into the sinking when he arrived in New York.

Later Life[edit | edit source]

After the disaster, Henry appears to have left the sea behind to move, with his wife, to her birthplace of Pershore, Worcestershire. Later, he lived at Eaton Villa, Fladbury in Pershore. At age 75, on 30 September 1944, Etches passed away as a result of chronic myocarditis (inflammation and damage of the heart muscle) with his official cause of death being listed as heart failure. His estate of £824 was left to his widow, Lilian, who would later die in Pershore as well, in 1954.[1]

Portrayals[edit | edit source]

A Night to Remember (1958)[edit | edit source]

A possible appearence of Henry Etches in A Night to Remember (1958)

Bedroom Steward Henry Etches make a possible appearence in A Night to Remember (1958). During the sinking, he assisted Benjamin Guggenheim in putting on his life belt and made Guggenheim to put on a thick sweater on him. Just like Etches in real life. The steward is played by Alan Casley.

1996 Miniseries Titanic[edit | edit source]

Henry Etches in Titanic (1996)

Bedroom Steward Henry Etches was portrayed by Bernard Cuffling in Titanic 1996 Miniseries in a small role. During the sinking, Henry Etches evacuating some First class passenger and guide them to Lifeboat 4 and Lifeboat 8. While in real life Henry Etches survived, in this miniseries his fate is unknown.

References[edit | edit source]

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