Joseph Boxhall

Joseph Boxhall

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Commander is a naval rank which is also sometimes used as a military title depending on the individual customs of a given military service. Commander is also used as a rank or title in some organizations outside of the armed forces, particularly in police and law enforcement.-Commander as a naval...

 Joseph Groves Boxhall RD
Decoration for Officers of the Royal Naval Reserve
The Decoration for Officers of the Royal Naval Reserve was a medal awarded in the Royal Naval Reserve of the United Kingdom to officers with at least fifteen years of active duty...

Royal Naval Reserve
The Royal Naval Reserve is the volunteer reserve force of the Royal Navy in the United Kingdom. The present Royal Naval Reserve was formed in 1958 by merging the original Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve , a reserve of civilian volunteers founded in 1903...

 (23 March 1884 – 25 April 1967) was the Fourth Officer on the , and later served as a naval officer in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...


Early life

Boxhall was born in Hull
Kingston upon Hull
Kingston upon Hull , usually referred to as Hull, is a city and unitary authority area in the ceremonial county of the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. It stands on the River Hull at its junction with the Humber estuary, 25 miles inland from the North Sea. Hull has a resident population of...

 in the East Riding of Yorkshire
East Riding of Yorkshire
The East Riding of Yorkshire, or simply East Yorkshire, is a local government district with unitary authority status, and a ceremonial county of England. For ceremonial purposes the county also includes the city of Kingston upon Hull, which is a separate unitary authority...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, 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
Trinity House
The Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond is the official General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales and other British territorial waters...

 buoymaster and Board of Trade
Board of Trade
The Board of Trade is a committee of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, originating as a committee of inquiry in the 17th century and evolving gradually into a government department with a diverse range of functions...

 official, and his father was a respected master with the Wilson Line of Hull.

Boxhall followed in the footsteps of his ancestors on 2 June 1899, when he joined his first ship, a barque
A barque, barc, or bark is a type of sailing vessel with three or more masts.- History of the term :The word barque appears to have come from the Greek word baris, a term for an Egyptian boat. This entered Latin as barca, which gave rise to the Italian barca, Spanish barco, and the French barge and...

 of the William Thomas Line of Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

. 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
White Star Line
The Oceanic Steam Navigation Company or White Star Line of Boston Packets, more commonly known as the White Star Line, was a prominent British shipping company, today most famous for its ill-fated vessel, the RMS Titanic, and the World War I loss of Titanics sister ship Britannic...

. He served on White Star's liners and Arabic before moving to the Titanic as Fourth Officer in 1912; he was then 28 years old.


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
Belfast is the capital of and largest city in Northern Ireland. By population, it is the 14th biggest city in the United Kingdom and second biggest on the island of Ireland . It is the seat of the devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly...

 the following day. After the Titanic departed Southampton
Southampton is the largest city in the county of Hampshire on the south coast of England, and is situated south-west of London and north-west of Portsmouth. Southampton is a major port and the closest city to the New Forest...

 on 10 April, Boxhall settled into his regular duties; these included scheduled watches, aiding in navigation, and assisting passengers and crew when necessary.

When Titanic collided with an iceberg
An iceberg is a large piece of ice from freshwater that has broken off from a snow-formed glacier or ice shelf and is floating in open water. It may subsequently become frozen into pack ice...

 at 11.40 PM on 14 April, Officer Boxhall was off duty near the Officers' Quarters. 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 Titanics 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 ) and attempted in vain to signal by Morse lamp
Signal lamp
A signal lamp is a visual signaling device for optical communication . Modern signal lamps are a focused lamp which can produce a pulse of light...

 and distress flares.

Officer Boxhall was put 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 off and his lifeboat was about three-quarters of a mile distant. Boxhall spotted the 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
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 on 18 April.

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 Titanics navigation, including the many ice warnings. He was also the first person to testify that he saw another vessel in close proximity while Titanic sank.

Later years and death

Following the Titanic debacle, Boxhall briefly served as Fourth Officer on White Star's Adriatic before joining the Royal Naval Reserve
Royal Naval Reserve
The Royal Naval Reserve is the volunteer reserve force of the Royal Navy in the United Kingdom. The present Royal Naval Reserve was formed in 1958 by merging the original Royal Naval Reserve and the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve , a reserve of civilian volunteers founded in 1903...

 as a sub-lieutenant. He was promoted to lieutenant
A lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer in many nations' armed forces. Typically, the rank of lieutenant in naval usage, while still a junior officer rank, is senior to the army rank...

 in 1915. During the First World War, he was commissioned to serve for one year aboard the battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

  before being dispatched to Gibraltar
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. A peninsula with an area of , it has a northern border with Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region...

, where he commanded a torpedo boat
Torpedo boat
A torpedo boat is a relatively small and fast naval vessel designed to carry torpedoes into battle. The first designs rammed enemy ships with explosive spar torpedoes, and later designs launched self-propelled Whitehead torpedoes. They were created to counter battleships and other large, slow and...


Boxhall returned to White Star following the war in May 1919, having married Marjory Beddells two months prior. He signed on as second officer onboard (sister ship of Titanic) on June 30th 1926. After the White Star-Cunard
Cunard Line
Cunard Line is a British-American owned shipping company based at Carnival House in Southampton, England and operated by Carnival UK. It has been a leading operator of passenger ships on the North Atlantic for over a century...

 merger in 1933, he served in senior capacity as first and later chief officer of the , although he was never made a captain in the merchant marine. 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
Walter Lord
John Walter Lord, Jr. , was an American author, best known for his documentary-style non-fiction account A Night to Remember, about the sinking of the RMS Titanic.-Early life:...

's documentary-style novel, A Night to Remember, and also gave a BBC interview in 1962.

His health deteriorated sharply in the 1960s, and he was eventually hospitalized; Joseph Boxhall, the last surviving deck officer of Titanic, died of a cerebral thrombosis 25 April 1967. He was 83. According to his last wishes, his ashes were scattered to sea at 41°46N 50°14W — the position he had calculated as Titanics final resting place over 50 years earlier. Ruth Becker and Frank Goldsmith
Frank John William Goldsmith
Frank John William Goldsmith , was a survivor of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. He later wrote a book about his experiences on the ship, and had his story featured in the documentary, Titanic: The Legend Lives On, as well as a children's book about the disaster, Inside the Titanic.-Early...

 also had their remains scattered over Titanic's final resting place.


  • Jack Watling
    Jack Watling
    Jack Watling was a British actor.-Early life:Watling trained at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts as a child and made his stage debut in Where the Rainbow Ends at the Holborn Empire in 1936...

     (1958) (A Night to Remember) Boxhall himself acted as a technical consultant to the film's writers and set designers.
  • Warren Clarke
    Warren Clarke
    -Biography:Clarke was born in Oldham, Lancashire. His first television appearance was in the long running Granada soap opera Coronation Street, initially as Kenny Pickup in 1966 and then as Gary Bailey in 1968. His first major film appearance was in Stanley Kubrick's controversial A Clockwork...

     (1979) (S.O.S. Titanic
    S.O.S. Titanic
    S.O.S. Titanic is a 1979 television movie that depicts the doomed 1912 voyage from the perspective of three distinct groups of passengers in First, Second, and Third Class, and respectively in a historically accurate fashion...

    ) (Tv Movie)
  • Gerard Plunkett (1996) (Titanic
    Titanic (TV miniseries)
    Titanic is a made-for-TV movie that premièred on CBS in 1996. Titanic follows several characters on board the RMS Titanic when she sinks on her maiden voyage in 1912. The miniseries was directed by Robert Lieberman. The original music score was composed by Lennie Niehaus...

    ) (Tv Miniseries) Boxhall is inaccurately portrayed as having been lost with the ship.
  • Simon Crane
    Simon Crane
    Simon Crane is a British stuntman, stunt coordinator, second unit director and film director.-Biography:Born in Twickenham, Middlesex, England. Crane was originally a law student, but not liking it, he dropped out after two years and worked as an acrobat in a circus for three years...

     (1997) (Titanic
    Titanic (1997 film)
    Titanic is a 1997 American epic romance and disaster film directed, written, co-produced, and co-edited by James Cameron. A fictionalized account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson, Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater and Billy Zane as Rose's fiancé, Cal...

    ) Boxhall is only seen twice, on the bridge following the collision and in a lifeboat while Titanics stern rises dangerously behind him. He only has one line: "Bloody pull faster and pull!"
  • Glen McDougal (1998) (Titanic: Secrets Revealed) (Tv Documentary)