Read Herbert Pitman's testimony to the British Inquiry HERE.
Herbert John Pitman was born on November 20, 1877 in Somerset, England. His father was a farmer but died when he was only three leaving Herbert, his mother, his siblings, and a 112 acre farm to care for. In 1881, he was living with his older sister of whom was recently widowed. When Herbert was 18, he went to sea in the merchant's navy. He mastered in navigation in technical college during a shore part. After 4 years of training, he spent 6 1/2 years as a deck officer. Then, he joined the White Star Line where he was 4, 3, and 2 officer on the Dolphin and Majestic and 4 officer on the Oceanic. Then, he was transferred to the TITANIC as third officer.
There, he would assist the officers in their duties, stand at the stern bridge, or stand at the compass tower making sure that the ship was on course. When the TITANIC struck an iceberg, he was getting dressed for his watch on the bridge when 4 officer Boxhall came and told him that the ship had struck an iceberg. He went to investigate where he found chunks of ice and explored the forcastle deck but found no damage so he went to the bridge. He was then ordered to uncover and lower the boats. He waited for Captain Smith to give the orders to load and lower Boat No. 5. J. Bruce Ismay came up and insisted that they load and lower the boats. Herbert didn't know him so he said "Just awaiting order from the commander sir." Then, it dawned on him that this might be Mr. Ismay due to descriptions given to him. He went to the captain and Captain Smith said "Carry on." While loading the boat, Ismay encouraged those who wanted to stay, to get into a lifeboat. Just before lowering Boat No. 5, 1st officer Murdoch ordered Pitman to take charge of the boat. Just before entering, Murdoch shook his hand and said "Good bye; Good luck." Murdoch ordered Pitman to stand by for passengers to enter through the gang-way doors but it wouldn't open so he had to continue down. As the boat continued down, Ismay tried to take charge of the lowering but 4th officer Lowe would hear none of it and embarrassed Ismay in front of the passengers. When the lifeboat was 400 yards away, he realized that the ship was going to founder. When the TITANIC had slipped beneath the waves, he looked at his watch and announced that it was 2:20 A.M. There was the screams of the passengers and Pitman wanted to go back for those in the water but those in the boat was almost in a mob when they found out his intentions so he decided not to. That decision would later haunt him. Later, Boat Nos. 5 and 7 lashed each-other together. He was rescued by the Carpathia and was brought to New York. There, he testified all that he knew to the U.S. inquiry and did the same to the British inquiry in which he was asked 393 questions when he got back to the U.K. In both, he testified that the ship did not break in two.
He was sent to the Oceanic again and then to the Olympic. However, due to a decline in eyesight, he was moved to Purser on the Olympic. He married in the 1920s. He also served during WWII as purser on the S.S. Mataroa. He retired in 1946 after 60 years at sea. Herbert Pitman died on December 7, 1961 because of a subarachnoid hemorrhage at the age of 84. He now rests in the vault of a Parish church in Somerset.