There are all kinds of tragedies in the world, especially in the 20th and 21st centuries. However, back in 1912, they were few, and people had a more basic and positive outlook on things in the world. There were some things that were considered just so terrible that people never believed that it could happen to them, or someone they knew. In 1912, when the RMS Titanic was built and launched, she was called unsinkable, man’s domination over nature, and other grand names that symbolized that man was superior over everything including Mother Nature herself. Just four days into her voyage, disaster struck, and the world was just as shocked as the 2,228 people that were on board her. For passengers like Thomas Percy Oxenham, that night will always be in his mind, even 40 years after the disaster. In an article published in 1952, Oxenham talks about the night the unsinkable ship went down.
The Silence Rose Oxenham From His Bunk
Oxenham had been in bed when he suddenly noticed just how still and quiet it had become. After noticing the ship’s engines for the past four days, the silence really got the 22-year-old’s attention. “I had been in my bunk, two decks below the main deck about 10 minutes when I noticed that the engine had stopped. That the engine had stopped was noticeable because it had been pounding away since it had left Southampton on April 10. “I lay there awhile and said to a friend of mine, Walter Harris, ‘what’s the matter? The engine stopped.’” While his friend Walter Harris thought nothing was wrong, the eerie silence finally prompted Oxenham to investigate. “I slipped on my pants and Prince Albert coat (I still have it) and went out the passageway. I ran into one of the crew members and he told me that all the xxxx was that they were probably having a boat drill.”
The Situation Up On Deck
Though told that the silence was nothing to be concerned about, Oxenham made his way to the boat deck where he noticed that the crew were preparing the lifeboats to be launched. “Officers started running around, shouting orders”, Oxenham stated. “I knew it was no boat drill then. They started to issue life belts and put women and children into the boats, holding the men back, the wives didn’t want to leave their husbands, but most of them did. Even then most of the people didn’t think anything was wrong.”
As time went on, Oxenham watched as people began to come up on deck, and they also began to notice that the Titanic was beginning to list to one side. When the list happened, that’s when passengers really started to see the danger they were in and began to panic.
“Then all hell broke loose. There was screams and more confusion. I waited until the last boat was down, walked around, talked with a young fellow I knew by the name of John B Thayer and made my way aft (towards the stern).”
Not only did Oxenham see people running around confused, he also saw men that realized their end had come and were on their knees. “I saw a ring of people-mostly men-and in the center were two men of the Gospel and they were praying. There were about 30 or 40 of them, and the people started singing ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’”
Oxenham jumped from the sinking Titanic and managed to cling to the overturned boat until he was picked up by another boat. However, he did get to see the Titanic as she took her final plunge.
“She upended and went down bow first. There was no suction – or none that I could feel.”
This article was originally published in 1953. At the time, Oxenham was 63 years old and working at a shipyard. Unfortunately, one year later, on April 8, 1954, Oxenham died and was buried in New Jersey.