Joseph Boxhall

Last updated


Joseph Groves Boxhall Jr.

RNR
Photo of Joseph Boxhall, fourth officer on RMS Titanic.jpg
Born(1884-03-23)23 March 1884
Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England, U.K.
Died25 April 1967(1967-04-25) (aged 83)
Christchurch, Dorset, England, U.K.

Commander Joseph Groves Boxhall RD, RNR (23 March 1884 – 25 April 1967) was the fourth officer on the RMS Titanic, and later served as a naval officer in World War I.

Commander is a common naval and air force officer rank. Commander is also used as a rank or title in other formal organisations, including several police forces.

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 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.

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Early life

Boxhall was born in Hull in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, the second child of Miriam and Captain Joseph Boxhall, Sr. He was born into an established seafaring tradition: His grandfather had been a mariner, his uncle was a Trinity House buoymaster and Board of Trade official, and his father was a respected master with the Wilson Line of Hull.

Kingston upon Hull City and unitary authority in England

Kingston upon Hull, usually abbreviated to Hull, is a port city and unitary authority in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. It lies upon the River Hull at its confluence with the Humber Estuary, 25 miles (40 km) inland from the North Sea, 50 miles (80 km) east of Leeds, 34 miles (55 km) southeast of York and 54 miles (87 km) northeast of Sheffield. With a population of 260,645 (mid-2018 est.), Hull is the fourth-largest city in Yorkshire and the Humber.

East Riding of Yorkshire County of England

The East Riding of Yorkshire, or simply East Riding, is an area in Northern England and can refer either to the administrative county of the East Riding of Yorkshire which is a unitary authority, to the ceremonial county (Lieutenancy) of the East Riding of Yorkshire or to the easternmost of the three subdivisions (ridings) of the traditional county of Yorkshire.

Trinity House private corporation governed under a Royal Charter

The Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond, also known as Trinity House, is the official authority for lighthouses in England, Wales, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar. Trinity House is also responsible for the provision and maintenance of other navigational aids, such as lightvessels, buoys, and maritime radio/satellite communication systems. It is also an official deep sea pilotage authority, providing expert navigators for ships trading in Northern European waters.

Boxhall followed in the footsteps of his ancestors on 2 June 1899, when he joined his first ship, a barque of the William Thomas Line of Liverpool. Boxhall's apprenticeship lasted four years, during which time he travelled extensively. He then went to work with his father at Wilson Line and, after obtaining his Master's and Extra-Master's certifications in September 1907, joined the White Star Line. On 1 October 1911, he was confirmed as a sub-lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve. [1] He served on White Star's liners RMS Oceanic and Arabic before moving to the Titanic as Fourth Officer in 1912; he was then 28 years old.

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.

Liverpool City and metropolitan borough in England

Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough in North West England, with an estimated population of 491,500. Its metropolitan area is the fifth-largest in the UK, with a population of 2.24 million in 2011. The local authority is Liverpool City Council, the most populous local government district in the metropolitan county of Merseyside and the largest in the Liverpool City Region.

White Star Line British shipping company

The Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, more commonly known as the White Star Line (WSL), was a British shipping company. Founded out of the remains of a defunct packet company, it gradually rose up as one of the most prominent shipping lines in the world, providing passenger and cargo services between the British Empire and the United States. While many other shipping lines focused primarily on speed, White Star branded their services by focusing more on providing steady and comfortable passages, for both upper class travellers and immigrants. Today it is most famous for the innovative vessel Oceanic of 1870, and for the losses of some of their best passenger liners, including the wrecking of RMS Atlantic at Halifax in 1873, the sinking of RMS Republic off Nantucket in 1909, the infamous loss of RMS Titanic in 1912 and that of HMHS Britannic while serving as a hospital ship in 1916. Despite its casualties, the company retained a prominent hold on shipping markets around the globe before falling into decline during the Great Depression, which ultimately led to a merger with its chief rival, Cunard Line, which operated as Cunard-White Star Line until 1950. Cunard Line then operated as a separate entity until 2005 and is now part of Carnival Corporation & plc. As a lasting reminder of the White Star Line, modern Cunard ships use the term White Star Service to describe the level of customer care expected of the company.

RMS Titanic

Like the ship's other junior officers, Boxhall reported to White Star's Liverpool offices at nine o'clock in the morning on 26 March 1912, and travelled to board the ship at Belfast the following day. After the RMS Titanic departed Southampton on 10 April, Boxhall settled into his regular duties; these included scheduled watches, aiding in navigation, and assisting passengers and crew when necessary.

Belfast City in the United Kingdom, capital of Northern Ireland

Belfast is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast of Ireland. It is the second-largest city on the island of Ireland, after Dublin. It had a population of 333,871 as of 2015.

RMS <i>Titanic</i> British transatlantic passenger liner, launched and foundered in 1912

RMS Titanic was a British passenger liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912 after the ship struck an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. Of the estimated 2,224 passengers and crew aboard, more than 1,500 died, making it one of modern history's deadliest peacetime commercial marine disasters. RMS Titanic was the largest ship afloat at the time she entered service and was the second of three Olympic-class ocean liners operated by the White Star Line. She was built by the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. Thomas Andrews, chief naval architect of the shipyard at the time, died in the disaster.

Southampton City and unitary authority area in England

Southampton is a city in Hampshire, England, and the largest in South East England, 70 miles (110 km) south-west of London and 15 miles (24 km) north-west of Portsmouth. A major port, and close to the New Forest, it lies at the northernmost point of Southampton Water, at the confluence of the River Test and Itchen, with the River Hamble joining to the south. The unitary authority had a population of 253,651 at the 2011 census. A resident of Southampton is called a Sotonian.

When Titanic collided with an iceberg at 11.40 PM on 14 April, Officer Boxhall was on duty but was not on the bridge. At the two inquiries held into the sinking in 1912 he stated he was standing on the Boat Deck just outside the officers' quarters. In his 1962 BBC interview he said he was in his cabin, having gone there to make tea. Hearing the lookout bell, he headed immediately to the bridge, arriving just after the impact. Capt. Smith, who had also just arrived on the bridge, ordered Boxhall to perform an inspection of the forward part of the ship. He found no damage, but was later intercepted by the ship's carpenter, who informed him that the ship was taking water. A mail clerk confirmed this to Boxhall and Captain Smith. Later, it was Boxhall who calculated the Titanic's position so that a distress signal could be sent out. It was also Boxhall who sighted the masthead lights of a nearby vessel (possibly the SS Californian) and attempted in vain to signal by Morse lamp and distress flares.

Iceberg A large piece of freshwater ice broken off a glacier or ice shelf and floating in open water

An iceberg is a large piece of freshwater ice that has broken off a glacier or an ice shelf and is floating freely in open (salt) water. Small bits of disintegrating icebergs are called "growlers" or "bergy bits".

Tea drink made from infusing boiling water with the leaves of the tea plant

Tea is an aromatic beverage commonly prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis, an evergreen shrub (bush) native to East Asia. After water, it is the most widely consumed drink in the world. There are many different types of tea; some, like Darjeeling and Chinese greens, have a cooling, slightly bitter, and astringent flavour, while others have vastly different profiles that include sweet, nutty, floral or grassy notes.

Edward Smith (sea captain) Captain of the RMS Titanic

Edward John Smith was a British naval officer. He served as master of numerous White Star Line vessels. He was the captain of the RMS Titanic, and perished when the ship sank on its maiden voyage.

Officer Boxhall was placed in charge of lifeboat No. 2, which was lowered from the port side at 1.45 AM with 18 persons aboard out of a possible 40. He rowed away from the ship for fear of being pulled down by suction. Boxhall did not actually see the Titanic founder, as her lights had gone out and his lifeboat was about three-quarters of a mile distant. Boxhall spotted the RMS Carpathia on the horizon at 4.00 AM and guided her to the lifeboats with a green flare. After being collected by the Carpathia, Boxhall and the other survivors arrived at Pier 54 in New York on 18 April.

RMS <i>Carpathia</i> passenger steamship known for her role in the rescue of survivors from the RMS Titanic

RMS Carpathia was a Cunard Line transatlantic passenger steamship built by Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson in their shipyard in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

While in New York, he served as a witness in the American inquiry into the sinking. He and his fellow surviving officers were allowed to leave New York on the Adriatic on 2 May. After returning to England, Boxhall bore witness again, this time at the British inquiry. Much of his testimony concerned details of the lifeboat lowerings and Titanic's navigation, including the many ice warnings. He was also the first person to testify that he saw another vessel in proximity while Titanic sank.

Later years and death

Following the Titanic debacle, Boxhall briefly served as Fourth Officer on White Star's Adriatic. He was promoted to lieutenant in the RNR on 27 May 1915. [2] During the First World War, he was commissioned to serve for one year aboard the battleship HMS Commonwealth before being dispatched to Gibraltar, where he commanded a torpedo boat.

Boxhall returned to White Star following the war in May 1919, having married Marjory Beddells two months prior. On 27 May 1923, he was promoted to lieutenant-commander in the RNR. [3] He signed on as second officer on board RMS Olympic - The lead ship of the three Olympic Class vessels which Titanic was the second ship constructed on 30 June 1926. After the White Star-Cunard merger in 1933, he served in senior capacity as first and later chief officer of the RMS Aquitania, although he was never made a captain in the merchant marine. (The White Star line never promoted any of the surviving Titanic officers to command rank.)

After 41 years at sea, he retired in 1940. Boxhall was a generally taciturn and quiet man, usually reluctant to speak about his experiences on the Titanic. However, in 1958, he acted as a technical advisor for the film adaptation of Walter Lord's documentary-style novel, A Night to Remember , and also gave a BBC interview in 1962.

His health deteriorated rapidly in the 1960s, and he was eventually hospitalised. The last surviving deck officer of Titanic, Boxhall died of a cerebral thrombosis on 25 April 1967 at the age of 83. According to his last wishes, his ashes were scattered to sea at 41°46N 50°14W – the position he had calculated as Titanic's final resting place over 50 years earlier (within about 15 miles of the actual Titanic wreck site at 41°43N 49°56W).

Portrayals

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References

  1. London Gazette, 5 March 1912
  2. London Gazette, 25 June 1915
  3. London Gazette, 12 June 1923