When the RMS Titanic went down, April 15th, 1912, there were many people who were blamed for the enormous disaster that took the lives of over 1500 people. The first, and most obvious, person to blame was Captain Edward J Smith. As captain of the biggest ship in the world, he was the one in charge of everything, including the safety of everyone on board the Titanic. Another person who took the brunt of the sinking of the unsinkable ship was J Bruce Ismay, but these two were not the only ones at fault. The truth be told, there was a long list of people who were the targets of negativity because so many innocent people died. Aside from Smith, and Ismay, another person who was targeted for blame were the two men who were on the bridge when Titanic struck the iceberg, William Murdoch and Robert Hichens. However, while Murdoch did not survive the sinking, and was rumored to have shot himself while on deck, Hichens managed to get into lifeboat number 6, and took charge of it. Once back on land, troubles for Hichens did not end, and his life only seemed to get worse, and the controversy surrounding him did not end with his death.
1. The Night the RMS Titanic Sank Into the North Atlantic
The early life of Robert Hichens is not really known. Hichens was born in Cornwall, England, on September 16, 1882. In 1906, at age 24, Hichens married Florence Moritmore, and by the Titanic was ready to set sail, the couple with their two children, called Southampton, England, their home. Hichens joined the crew of the Titanic, and was on the bridge, when the fatal iceberg was spotted by lookouts Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee. The officer in charge on the bridge was William Murdoch, and after the call came in from the lookouts, he decided to do all he could to keep the most famous ship in the world from certain doom. Murdoch quickly assessed the situation, but unfortunately, he made the worst decision he possibly could, and ordered the ship to be turned in the opposite direction, and for the RMS Titanic, to reverse direction and back up. Hichens quickly turned the giant wooden wheel to port, and the engine room to reverse its engines. Despite everything possible being done, the Titanic still managed to scrape against the iceberg, and her fate to sink was set.
The conduct of Robert Hichens while in a lifeboat has been the subject of controversy, and it is difficult to say exactly what account of that horrific night is actually the truth. As per the account of the Titanic sinking, and the fact Hichens was put in charge of lifeboat number 6, Hichens was said to be rude, crude, and even threatened to throw Margaret “Molly” Brown overboard for her conduct. However, as per Brown herself, the feisty millionairess reported to have clashed with Hichens over not only going back for possible survivors, but also who would be rowing the lifeboat. According to Brown, Hichens would not allow anyone to row, and got into a verbal altercation with her, and she was the one that threatened to throw him over the side of the lifeboat into the frigid North Atlantic. Once the disaster survivors were back in New York City, at the Titanic senate hearings, Robert Hichens denied any wrong doing, and also denied being rude or having any passenger verbal altercations.
2. The Later Years of Robert Hichens
After the Titanic sank, Hichens life was not a happy one. Hichens served in the Army Service Corps during World War I. There is no information of him until 1919, when it is reported he was a 3rd officer on a ship called Magpie. Some time in the 1920’s, Hichens began to operate a charter boat, having purchased a boat from Harry Henley. However, by 1931, Hichens’ wife and children left him to move to England, and two years later in 1933, Hichens was arrested for attempted murder on Harry Henley, the man who sold him the boat he used for his charter boat business. In 1937, Hichens was released from jail, and died in 1940 at the age of 58.
3. New Memorial Unveiled for Robert Hichens
When Robert Hichens died in 1940, his burial was mostly unknown. It was not learned by his family until 2012, that he was in fact, laid to rest in Aberdeen, Scotland. Hichens was lying in an unmarked grave, and his family was quite shocked that this was his fate. However, on December 19, 2019, a new memorial was placed on the grave of Robert Hichens. The headstone now placed on Hichens grave depicts his name, his rank, his date of birth, the date of his death, and mentions the fact he was serving on the RMS Titanic at the time of her sinking. Hichens was steering the greatest ship in the world on the night it sank, and a small ship’s wheel, is also placed on Hichens gravestone.
Robert Hichens was a quartermaster who was on the bridge when the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg, and it was the orders given to him by William Murdoch, who ordered him to turn the Titanic hard to the starboard, which means to the right. Little did either man know that turning the ship, and also reversing the engines, would bring the most famous ship in the world to her doom. Robert Hichens would go on the survive the disaster by boarding lifeboat number 6, where his actions have always been the subject of controversy. However, despite the turmoils in his life, Hichens was recently given a new memorial for his part in the one of the world’s most famous disasters, and hopefully now after 107 years, the quartermaster can finally get the recognition he deserves, and also rest in peace.