Arthur Rostron

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Sir Arthur Henry Rostron
Capt. Arthur H. Rostron, R.D., R.N.R.jpg
Capt. A.H. Rostron while master of Carpathia in April 1912, at the time of rescuing Titanic survivors.
Born(1869-05-14)14 May 1869
Bolton, Lancashire, England
Died4 November 1940(1940-11-04) (aged 71)
Chippenham, Wiltshire, England
AllegianceFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom/British Empire
Service/branchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg  Royal Navy Reserve
Years of service1886-1931 (British Merchant Navy)
1893-1924 (Royal Naval Reserve)
Rank CaptainRNR
Commands held RMS Pannonia
RMS Carpathia
RMS Carmania
RMS Lusitania
RMS Campania
RMS Aurania
RMS Mauretania
RMS Andania
RMS Saxonia
RMS Berengaria
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Decoration for Officers of the Royal Naval Reserve
Congressional Gold Medal
RMS Carpathia RMS Carpathia.jpg
RMS Carpathia
Rostron receiving a "loving cup" from Margaret Brown for his rescue of Titanic survivors in 1912 Molly brown rescue award titanic.jpg
Rostron receiving a "loving cup" from Margaret Brown for his rescue of Titanic survivors in 1912

Sir Arthur Henry Rostron, KBE, RD, RNR (14 May 1869 – 4 November 1940) was a seagoing officer for the Cunard Line. He is best remembered as the captain of the ocean liner RMS Carpathia, when it rescued hundreds of survivors from the RMS Titanic when the latter ship sank in 1912, after colliding with an iceberg in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean.

The Decoration for Officers of the Royal Naval Reserve, commonly known as the Reserve Decoration (RD), was a medal awarded in the Royal Naval Reserve of the United Kingdom to officers with at least fifteen years of active duty. The medal was instituted in 1908.

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.

Cunard Line American cruise line

Cunard Line is a British–American cruise line based at Carnival House at Southampton, England, operated by Carnival UK and owned by Carnival Corporation & plc. Since 2011, Cunard and its three ships have been registered in Hamilton, Bermuda.


Rostron won wide praise for his energetic efforts to reach the Titanic before she sank, and his efficient preparations for and conduct of the rescue of the survivors. He was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by the U.S. Congress, and in 1926, he was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He rose to become the Commodore of the Cunard fleet, and retired in 1931.

Congressional Gold Medal award

A Congressional Gold Medal is an award bestowed by the United States Congress. The Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are the highest civilian awards in the United States. It is awarded to persons "who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient's field long after the achievement." However, "There are no permanent statutory provisions specifically relating to the creation of Congressional Gold Medals. When a Congressional Gold Medal has been deemed appropriate, Congress has, by legislative action, provided for the creation of a medal on an ad hoc basis." U.S. citizenship is not a requirement.

United States Congress Legislature of the United States

The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the Federal Government of the United States. The legislature consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Order of the British Empire order of chivalry of British constitutional monarchy

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of, the order.


Arthur Rostron was born at Bank Cottage, Sharples, a suburb of Bolton, Lancashire, England to James and Nancy Rostron in 1869. Educated at Bolton Grammar School from 1882 to 1883 and Bolton Church Institute in 1884, Rostron then joined the Merchant Navy Cadet School Ship HMS Conway as a cadet. After two years of training on the Conway, he was apprenticed to the Waverley Line of Messrs Williamson, Milligan and Co in Liverpool on the iron clipper ship, Cedric the Saxon .

Sharples is a placename and may refer to:

Bolton town in Greater Manchester, in the North West of England

Bolton is a town in Greater Manchester in North West England. A former mill town, Bolton has been a production centre for textiles since Flemish weavers settled in the area in the 14th century, introducing a wool and cotton-weaving tradition. The urbanisation and development of the town largely coincided with the introduction of textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution. Bolton was a 19th-century boomtown, and at its zenith in 1929 its 216 cotton mills and 26 bleaching and dyeing works made it one of the largest and most productive centres of cotton spinning in the world. The British cotton industry declined sharply after the First World War, and by the 1980s cotton manufacture had virtually ceased in Bolton.

Lancashire County of England

Lancashire is a ceremonial county in North West England. The administrative centre is Preston. The county has a population of 1,449,300 and an area of 1,189 square miles (3,080 km2). People from Lancashire are known as Lancastrians.

In 1887 Rostron joined the barque Red Gauntlet as a second mate. Soon after, he left the Waverley Line and joined the barque Camphill. He was commissioned a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve on 28 April 1893. [1] In December 1894 Rostron served on board the steamship Concord after which he passed the examinations for his extra master's certificate. He joined the Cunard Line in January 1895 and earned a position as fourth officer on the ocean liner RMS Umbria.

Barque type of sailing vessel with three or more masts

A barque, barc, or bark is a type of sailing vessel with three or more masts having the fore- and mainmasts rigged square and only the mizzen rigged fore-and-aft.

Sub-lieutenant is a junior military officer rank.

RMS <i>Umbria</i> ship

RMS Umbria and RMS Etruria were the last two Cunarders that were fitted with auxiliary sails. RMS Umbria was built by John Elder & Co. at Glasgow, Scotland in 1884. The Umbria and her running mate Etruria were record breakers. They were the largest liners then in service, and they plied the Liverpool-to-New York City service. RMS Umbria was launched by the Honourable Mrs. Hope on Wednesday 25 June 1884 with wide coverage by the press, the reason being that she was the largest ship afloat, apart from the Great Eastern, but by this time that ship was redundant.

On Sep 14,1899, Arthur Rostron married Ethel Minnie Stothert, daughter of Richard Stothert in St John the Baptist church Atherton.

Atherton, Greater Manchester town in Greater Manchester, England

Atherton is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan, in Greater Manchester, England and historically was a part of Lancashire. The town, including Hindsford, Howe Bridge and Hag Fold, is 5 miles (8.0 km) east of Wigan, 2 miles (3.2 km) north of Leigh, and 10.7 miles (17.2 km) northwest of Manchester. From the 17th century, for about 300 years, Atherton was known as Chowbent, which was frequently shortened to Bent, the town's old nickname.

In the years afterward he would serve on other Cunard ships including the Aurania, Etruria, Servia, Cherbourg, Ultonia and Saxonia. As a member of the Royal Naval Reserve, Rostron regularly attended training at HMS Excellent (including in September 1902 [2] ). He temporarily left the Cunard Line to serve with the Royal Navy during a period of international tension occasioned by the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905.

Royal Naval Reserve volunteer reserve force of the Royal Navy in the United Kingdom

The Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) is the volunteer reserve force of the Royal Navy in the United Kingdom. The present RNR was formed by merging the original Royal Naval Reserve, created in 1859, and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR), created in 1903. The Royal Naval Reserve has seen action in World War I, World War II, the Iraq War and Afghanistan.

HMS <i>Excellent</i> (shore establishment)

HMS Excellent is a Royal Navy "stone frigate" sited on Whale Island near Portsmouth in Hampshire. HMS Excellent is itself part of the Maritime Warfare School, with a Headquarters at HMS Collingwood, although a number of lodger units are resident within the site, the principal of which is the Headquarters of Fleet Commander.

Russo-Japanese War war between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan

The Russo-Japanese War was fought during 1904-1905 between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan over rival imperial ambitions in Manchuria and Korea. The major theatres of operations were the Liaodong Peninsula and Mukden in Southern Manchuria and the seas around Korea, Japan and the Yellow Sea.

Rostron subsequently returned to the Cunard Line. He was made first officer of the RMS Lusitania in 1907, but was transferred to the Bresica and promoted to ship's Captain the day before the Lusitania's maiden voyage. The Bresica and his next several ships served the Mediterranean region, including his first passenger ship, the Pannonia, whose New York City – Mediterranean route he commanded from 1 January 1911. [3] He became captain of the passenger liner RMS Carpathia on 18 January 1912. [3] By this time a lieutenant in the RNR, Rostron was decorated with the RNR Officer's Reserve Decoration (RD) on 9 November 1909. [4] He was promoted to commander in the RNR on 18 January 1912. [5]

The Titanic rescue

Congressional Gold Medal awarded to Rostron Sir Arthur Henry Rostron Congressional Gold Medal, Merseyside Maritime Museum.png
Congressional Gold Medal awarded to Rostron

Carpathia was on its regular route between New York City and Fiume, Croatia when, early on 15 April 1912, she received a distress signal from the White Star Line ocean liner RMS Titanic, [6] which had struck an iceberg. Rostron was asleep when Carpathia's wireless operator, Harold Cottam, contacted Titanic at 12:15 am to relay regular private party wireless traffic from Cape Cod. [7] The sinking Titanic, which had struck an iceberg about 11:41 p.m., replied with a distress message and call for help. Cottam ran to Rostron's cabin to alert him.

Rostron immediately ordered the ship to race towards Titanic's reported position, posting extra lookouts to help spot and manoeuvre around the ice he knew to be in the area. Only after ordering Carpathia 'turned to', towards the disaster scene, did Rostron confirm with Cottam that the latter was sure about Titanic's distress call. [8] About 58 nautical miles (107 km) separated Carpathia from Titanic's position. Rostron and his engineering crew, led by Chief Engineer A.B. Jones, skilfully obtained the maximum speed possible from the engines of Carpathia, coaxing her up to 17.5 knots — three and a half faster than her rated speed. Even so, Carpathia, travelling through dangerous ice floes, took about 3½ hours to reach Titanic's radioed position.

During this time, Rostron turned off heating to ensure maximum steam for the engines of the Carpathia and had the ship prepared for survivors, including getting blankets, food, and drinks ready, and ordering his medical crew to stand by to receive the possibly injured. Crewmen were placed in the corridors to reassure passengers alarmed by the increased speed and changed direction of the ship. Altogether, 23 orders from Rostron to his crew were successfully implemented before Carpathia had even arrived at the scene of the disaster. Rostron highly praised his crew for their efficiency in his report to line management. Rostron was a pious man: issuing orders, he often raised a hand to his cap and closed his eyes in prayer. Speaking of the risk taken by running through dense ice at speed at night, he is reported to have said "I can only conclude another hand than mine was on the helm." [9]

When Rostron believed he was nearing Titanic he ordered green starburst rockets launched to alert the sinking ship if she was still afloat, or her survivors if she was not. Carpathia began picking up survivors about an hour after the first starburst was seen by those in the lifeboats. Carpathia would end up rescuing 705 survivors out of the 2,228 passengers and crew on board Titanic; at least one survivor is said to have died after reaching the ship. After consulting with White Star Line managing director and Titanic survivor J. Bruce Ismay, Rostron decided to turn the ship around and return to New York City to disembark the survivors.

Later, Rostron testified at both the US Senate inquiry and the British Wreck Commissioner's inquiry into the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Titanic survivors, including Margaret Brown, presented Rostron with a silver cup and gold medal for his efforts the night Titanic sank. The cup was sold at $200,000 USD at an auction by Henry Aldridge & Son in Devizes, Wiltshire in October 2015. [10] He was also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the Thanks of Congress, the American Cross of Honor, a medal from the Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society, and a gold medal from the Shipwreck Society of New York.

Captain Rostron was highly praised for his efforts in both the American and the British inquiries into the disaster. [11] [12] [13] [14]

Later life

Rostron continued in command of the Carpathia for a year before transferring to the Caronia . Afterwards, from 1913 to 1914 he took command of the Carmania , Campania, and Lusitania . Rostron was Captain of the Aulania when World War I began and the ship was turned into a troopship which Rostron continued to command. In 1915, Rostron and the Aulania were involved in the Battle of Gallipoli in Turkey, for which he was mentioned for his services. [15]

In September 1915, Rostron joined the RMS Mauretania and in April 1916 he joined the Ivernia in the Mediterranean Sea. He returned to the Mauretania in 1917 before taking command of the Andania, Saxonia, Carmania and the Mauretania again. An acting captain in the RNR at war's end, he was promoted to captain in the RNR on 31 December 1918. [16] and made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 1919 New Year Honours list.

Rostron continued to command the Mauretania after it returned to normal passenger service in June 1919. From February to May 1924, he served as Royal Naval Reserve Aide-de-Camp to King George V. [17] [18] Rostron retired from the Royal Naval Reserve in May 1924, [19] and in July 1926 he was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE). In July 1926 Rostron took command of the RMS Berengaria and became the Commodore of the Cunard fleet shortly after. [20]

Rostron lived at Holmecroft, West End, Southampton. After his retirement in May 1931, he became a member, and later, Captain, of the Southampton Master Mariner's Club, and wrote his autobiography, Home from the Sea.

When his former ship, the much-beloved Mauretania, sailed for Scotland to the shipbreakers in 1935, Rostron was supposed to have been on board; however, overcome with emotion, he refused to board her and instead waved farewell from pierside, preferring to remember the ship as she was when he commanded her.


Rostron and his wife had been visiting their daughter Margaret in Calne when he was taken ill. He developed pneumonia and died at the Cottage Hospital, Chippenham, on 4 November 1940. His funeral service took place at West End Parish Church on Thursday 7 November 1940. He was survived by his wife, Ethel Minnie, and their four children. Ethel died on 7 July 1943 at the age of 69 and is buried beside him in the graveyard of West End Church. [21]

Portrayals in Titanic films

He has been portrayed in various Titanic films by several actors. In the 1958 A Night to Remember he is played by Anthony Bushell. In 1979's SOS Titanic he is portrayed by Philip Stone. In the 1996 TV drama Titanic he is portrayed by Terence Kelly.

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  1. "No. 26720". The London Gazette . 10 March 1896. p. 1612.
  2. "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times (36871). London. 12 September 1902. p. 4.
  3. 1 2 "United States Senate Inquiry, Day 1, Testimony of Arthur H. Rostron.", "Titanic" disaster, report of the Committee on Commerce, United States Senate, pursuant to S. Res. 283, directing the committee on commerce to investigate the causes leading to the wreck of the White Star liner "Titanic.", 19 April 2012
  4. "No. 28305". The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 November 1909. p. 8241.
  5. "No. 28574". The London Gazette . 23 January 1912. p. 549.
  6. "Carpathia History". Archived from the original on 7 June 2010. Retrieved 15 July 2010.
  7. "Day 15, Testimony of Harold T. Cottam". British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry. Titanic Inquiry Project. 24 May 1912. Retrieved 27 April 2011.
  8. United States Senate Inquiry, Day 1, Testimony of Arthur H. Rostron, part 1 (19 April 1912) at Titanic Inquiry Project
  9. David Watts, “Spirituality at work on Titanic”, Edmonton Journal, 14 April 2012
  10. "Molly Brown's Titanic cup sold at auction for $200,000" . Retrieved September 27, 2017.
  11. United States Senate Inquiry, Day 1, Testimony of Arthur H. Rostron, part 3 (19 April 1912) at Titanic Inquiry Project
  12. British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry, Day 28, Testimony of Arthur H. Rostron, part 1 (21 June 1912) at Titanic Inquiry Project
  13. United States Senate Inquiry, Report, part 8 at Titanic Inquiry Project
  14. British Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry, Report, §4 “Account of the Saving and Rescue of those who Survived”, §4.5 “Rescue by the SS Carpathia” Archived 21 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine at Titanic Inquiry Project
  15. "No. 29603". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 May 1916. p. 5417.
  16. "No. 31099". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1918. p. 116.
  17. "No. 32909". The London Gazette . 19 February 1924. p. 1456.
  18. "No. 32939". The London Gazette . 27 May 1924. p. 4200.
  19. "No. 32949". The London Gazette . 24 June 1924. p. 4888.
  20. Rostron, Arthur (1912). Titanic Hero. Amberley Publishing. p. 107.
  21. Obituary, Captain Arthur Henry Rostron. Encyclopaedia Titanica