Harold Bride's Press Statement Made On 29 April 1912

Thrilling story by Titanic’s surviving Wireless man

Bride, tells how he and Phillips worked and how he finished a Stoker who tried to steal Phillips lifebelt – ship sank to tune of Autumn.


(This statement was dictated by Mr Bride to a reporter for the New York Times, who visited him with Mr Marconi in the wireless cabin of the Carpathia a few minutes after the steamship touched her pier)

In the first place, the public should not blame anybody because more wireless messages about the disaster to the Titanic did not reach shore from the Carpathia. I positively refused to send press dispatches because the bulk of personal messages with touching words of grief was so large. The wireless operators on board the Chester got all they asked for. And they were wretched operators.

They knew American Morse but not Continental Morse sufficiently to be worthwhile. They tax our endurance to the limit. I had to cut them out at last, they were so insufferably slow, and go ahead with our messages of grief to relatives. We sent 119 personal messages today, and 50 yesterday.

When I was dragged on board the Carpathia, I went to the hospital at first. I stayed there to 10 hours. Then somebody brought word that the cop a feel as wireless operator was “getting queer” from the work.

They asked me if I could go and help. I could not walk. Both my feet were broken or something, I don’t know what. I went up on crutches with somebody helping me.

I took the key and I never left the wireless cabin after that. Our meals were brought to us. We kept the wireless working all the time. The navy operators were a great nuisance. I advise them all to learn the Continental Morse and learn to speed up in it if they ever expect to be worth their salt. The Chester’s man thought he knew it, but he was as slow as Christmas coming.

We worked all the time. Nothing went wrong. Sometimes the Carpathia man sent and sometimes I sent. There was a bed in the wireless cabin. I could sit on it and rest my feet while sending sometimes.

To begin at the beginning, I joined the Titanic at Belfast. I was born in Nunhead, England, 22 years ago, and joined the Marconi forces last July. I first worked on the Hoverford and then on the Lusitania. I joined the Titanic at Belfast.

I didn’t have much to do on board the Titanic except to relieve Phillips from midnight until sometime in the morning, when he should be through sleeping. On the night of the accident, I was not sending, but was asleep. I was due to be up and relieve Phillips earlier than usual. And that reminds me – if it hadn’t been for a lucky thing, we never could have sent any call for help.

The lucky thing was that the wires broke down earlier enough for us to fix it before the accident. We noticed something wrong on Sunday and Phillips and I worked seven hours to find it. We found a “secretary” burned out, at last, and repaired it just a few hours before the iceberg was struck.

Phillips said to me as he took the night shift “you turn in, boy, and get some sleep, and go up as soon as you can give me a chance. I’m all done for with this work of making repairs.”

There were three rooms in the wireless cabin. One was a sleeping room, one a dynamo room, and one operating room. I took off my clothes and went to sleep in bed. Then I was conscious of waking up and hearing Phillips sending to Cape Race. I read what he was sending. It was traffic matter.

I remembered how tired he was and I got out of bed without my clothes on to relieve him, I didn’t even feel the shock. I hardly knew it had happened after the captain had come to us. There was no jolt whatever.

I was standing by Phillips telling him to go to bed when the captain put his head in the cabin.

“We’ve struck an iceberg,” the captain said, “and I’m having an inspection made to tell what it has done for us. You better get ready to send out a call for assistance. But don’t sent it until I tell you.”

The captain went away and in 10 minutes, I should estimate the time, he came back. We could hear a terrible confusion outside, but there was not the least thing to indicate that there was any trouble. The wireless was working perfectly.

“Send the call for assistance,” ordered the captain, barely putting his head in the door.

“What court should I send?” Phillips asked.

“The regulation international call for help. Just that.”

Then the captain was gone. Phillips began to send “CQD” he flashed away at it and we joked while he did so. All of us made light of the disaster.

We joked that way while he flashed signals about five minutes. Then the captain came back.

“What are you sending?” he asked.

“CQD,” Phillips replied.

The humour the situation appealed to me. I cut in with little remark that made us all laugh including the captain.

“Send “SOS,” “I said. “It’s the new call and it may be your last chance to send it.”

Phillips with a laugh change a signal to “SOS.” The captain told us we had been struck amidships, or just back of amidships. It was 10 minutes, Phillips told me, after he had noticed the iceberg that the slight jolt that was the collisions only signal to us occurred. We thought we were a good distance away.

We said lots of funny things to each other in the next few minutes. We picked up first the steam ship Frankfurd we gave her a position and said we had struck an iceberg in needed assistance. The Frankfurd operator went away to tell his captain.

He came back and we told him we were sinking by the head. By that time we could observe a distinct list forward.

The Carpathia answered as signal. We told her our position and said we were sinking by the head. The operator went to tell the captain and in five minutes returned and told us that the captain of the Carpathia was putting about and heading for us.

Our captain had left us at this time and Phillips told me to run and tell him what the Carpathia had answered. I did so, and I went through an awful mass of people to his cabin. The decks were full of scrambling men and women. I saw no fighting, but I heard tell of it.

I came back and head Phillips giving the Carpathia fuller directions. Phillips told me to put on my clothes. Until that moment I forgot that I was not dressed.

I went to my cabin and dressed. I brought an overcoat to Phillips. It was very cold. I slipped the overcoat upon him while he worked.

Every few minutes Phillips would send me the captain with little messages. They were merely telling how the Carpathia was coming our way and gave her speed.

I noticed as I came back from one trip that they were putting off women and children in lifeboats. I noticed that the list forward was increasing.

Phillips told me the wireless was growing weaker. The captain came and told us our engine rooms were taking water and the dynamos might not last much longer. We sent that word to the Carpathia.

I went out on deck and looked around. The water was pretty close up to the boat deck. There was a great scramble aft, and how poor Phillips worked through it I don’t know.

He was a brave man. I learned to love him that night and I suddenly felt for him great reverence to see him standing there sticking to his work while everybody else with raging about. I will never live to forget the work of Phillips for the last awful fifteen minutes.

I thought it was about time to look about and see if there was anything detached that would float. I remembered that every member of the crew had a special lifebelt and ought to know where it was. I remembered mine was under my bunk. I went and got it. Then I thought how cold the water was.

I remembered I had some boots and I put those on, and an extra jacket and I put that on. I saw Phillips standing out there still sending away, giving the Carpathia details of just how we were doing.

We picked up the Olympic and told her we were sinking by the head and were about all down. As Phillips was sending the message I strapped his lifebelt to his back. I had already put on his overcoat.

I wondered if I could get him into his boots. He suggested with a sort of laugh that I look out and see if all the people were off in the boats, or if any boats were left, or how things were.

I saw a collapsible boat near a funnel and went over to it. Twelve men were trying to boost it down to the boat deck. They were having an awful time. It was the last boat left will stop I looked at it longingly a few minutes. Then I gave them a hand, and over she went. They all started to scramble in on the boat deck, and I walked back to Phillips. I said the last raft had gone.

Then came the captain’s voice:

Men, you have done your full duty. You can do no more. Abandon your cabin. Now it’s every man for himself. You look out for yourselves. I release you. That’s the way of it at this kind of a time. Every man for himself.”

I looked out. The boat deck was awash. Phillips clung on sending and sending. He clung on for about ten minutes or maybe fifteen minutes after the captain had released him. The water was then coming into our cabin.

While he worked something happened I hate to tell about. I was back in my room getting Phillips’s money for him, and as I looked out the door I saw a Stoker, or somebody from below decks, leaning over Phillips from behind. He was too busy to notice what the man was doing. The man was slipping the lifebelt off Phillips’s back.

He was a big man, too. As you can see, I am very small. I don’t know what it was I got hold of. I remembered in a flash the way Phillips had clung on – how I had to fix that lifebelt in place because he was too busy to do it.

I knew that man from below decks had his own lifebelt and should have known where to get it.

I suddenly felt a passion not to let that man die a decent sailor’s death. I wished he might have stretched rope or walked a plank. I did my duty. I hope I finished him. I don’t know. We left him on the cabin floor of the wireless room and he was not moving.

From aft came the tunes of the band. It was a ragtime tune, I don’t know what. Then there was “autumn.” Phillips run aft and that was the last I ever saw him alive.

I went to the place I had seen a collapsible boats on the boat deck, and to my surprise I saw the boat and the men still trying to push it off. I guess there wasn’t a sailor in the crowd. They could do it. I went up to them and was just lending a hand when a large wave came awash of the deck.

The big wave carried the boat off. I had hold of an oarlock and I went off with it. The next I knew I was in the boat.

But that was not all. I was in the boat and the boat was upside down and I was under it. And I remember realising I was wet through, and that whatever happened I must not breathe, for I was under water.

I knew I had to fight for it and I did. How I got out from under the boat I do not know, but I felt the breath of air at last.

There were men all around me – hundreds of them. The sea was dotted with them, all depending on their lifebelts. I felt I simply had to get away from the ship. She was a beautiful sight then.

Smoke and sparks were rushing out of her funnel. There must have been an explosion, but we have heard none. We only saw the big stream of sparks. The ship was gradually turning on her nose – just like a duck does that goes down for a dive. I had only one thing on my mind – to get away from the suction. The band was still playing. I guess all of the band went down.

They were playing “autumn” then. I swam with all my might. I suppose I was hundred and 50 feet away when the Titanic, on her nose, with her after-quarter sticking straight up in the air, began to settle – slowly.

When at last the waves washed over her rudder there wasn’t the least bit of suction I could feel. She must have kept going just so slowly as she had been.

I forgot to mention that, besides the Olympic and Carpathia we spoke some German boat. I don’t know which, and told them how we were. We also spoke the Baltic. I remembered those things as I began to figure out what ships would be coming towards us.

I felt, after a little while, like sinking. I was very cold. I saw a boat of some kind near me and put all my strength into an effort to swim to it. It was hard work. I was all done when a hand reached out from the boat and pulled me on board. It was our same collapsible. The same crowd was on it.

There was just room for me to row on the edge. I lay there not caring what happened. Somebody sat on my legs. They were wedged in between slats and were being wrenched. I had not the heart left to ask the man to move. It was a terrible sight all around – men swimming and sinking.

I lay where I was, letting the man wrench my feet out of shape. Others came near. Nobody gave them a hand. The bottom-up boat already had more men than it would hold and it was sinking.

At first the large wave/over my clothing. Then they began to splash of my head and I had to breathe when I could.

As we floated around on our capsized boat and I kept straining my eyes for a ship’s lights, somebody said, “don’t the rest of you think we ought to pray?” The man who made the suggestion asked what the religion of the others was. One was a Catholic, one Methodists, one a Presbyterian.

It was decided the most appropriate prayer for us all was the Lord’s Prayer. We spoke it over in chorus with the man who first suggested that we pray as the leader.

Some splendid people saved us. They had a right-side-up and it was full to its capacity. Yet they came to us and loaded us all into it. I saw some lights off in the distance and knew a steam ship was coming to our aid.

I didn’t care what happened. I just lay asked whether I could and felt the pain in my feet. At last the Carpathia was alongside and the people were being taken up on a rope ladder. Our boat drew near and one by one the men were taken off of it.

One man was dead. I passed him and went to the ladder although my feet pained terribly. The dead man was Phillips. He had died on the raft from exposure and cold, I guess. He had been all in from work for the wreck came. He stood his ground until the crisis had passed, and then he had collapsed, I guess.

But I hardly thought that then. I didn’t think much of anything. I tried the rope ladder. My feet pained terribly, but I got to the top and felt hands reaching out to me. The next I knew a woman was leaning over me in a cabin and I felt her hand waving back my hair and rubbing my face.

I felt somebody at my feet and felt the warmth of a jolt of liquor. Somebody got me under the arms. There I was hustled down below to the hospital. That was early in the day I guess. I lay in the hospital until near night and they told me the Carpathia’s wireless man was getting “queer” and would I help.

After that I never was out of the wireless room, so I don’t know what happened among the passengers. I saw nothing of Mrs Astor or any of them. I just worked wireless. The splutter never died down or stop. I knew it soothed the hurt and felt like a tie to the world of friends and home.

How could I then take news queries? Sometimes I let a newspaper ask a question and get a long string of stuff asking for full particulars about everything. Whenever I started to take such a message I thought of the poor people waiting for their messages to go – hoping for answers to them.

I should of the inquirers; and sent my personal messages. And I feel I did do right thing.

If the Chester had had a decent operator I could have worked with him longer but he got terribly on my nerves with his insufferable incompetence. I was still sending my personal messages when Mr Marconi and the Times reporter arrived to ask that I prepared statement.

There were, maybe, 100 left. I would like to send them all, because I could rest easier if I knew all those messages have gone to the friends waiting for them but an ambulance man is waiting with a stretcher and I guess I have got to go with him. I hope my legs get better soon.

The way the band kept playing was a noble thing. I heard it first while still we were working wireless, when there was a ragtime tune for us, and the last I saw of the band, when I was floating out in the sea with my lifebelt on, it was still on deck playing “autumn.” How they ever did it I cannot imagine.

That and the way Phillips sending after the captain told him his life was his own, and to look out for himself, are two things that stand out in my mind over all the rest

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