Charles Lightoller of RMS Titanic, Spanish Prince wreck, 8 East Cliff, Dover, Kent, UK

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John Latter on August 23, 2011

Commander Charles Herbert Lightoller DSC & Bar, RD, RNR (March 30, 1874 - December 8, 1952) was the second mate (second officer) on board the RMS Titanic, and the most senior officer to survive the disaster (1). Lightoller was decorated for gallantry as a naval officer in World War I and later, in retirement, further distinguished himself in World War II by providing and sailing the Sundowner) (one of the "little ships") during the perilous Dunkirk evacuation (Operation Dynamo). (2) (3)

Charles "Lights" Lightoller's most visible connection with Dover is the Georgian "Elizabeth House" at 8 East Cliff on the Marine Parade near the Eastern Docks. This four-storey dwelling, whose lower two floors are painted white, is shown in the centre of the above photo (taken on Friday, 30th of July, 2010).

The house is located near the Seafront, and from the upper floors, has uninterrupted views of both Dover Harbour and the English Channel beyond; on clear days the Cliffs of France can also be seen.

At the outbreak of World War I, as an officer in the Royal Naval Reserve, Charles Lightoller was called up for duty with the Royal Navy, first serving as a Lieutenant on RMS Oceanic, which had been converted to an armed merchant cruiser, HMS Oceanic. In 1915, he served as the first officer during the trials of another former passenger liner, RMS Campania, which had just been converted into the Navy's first aircraft carrier. (2)

In late 1915, Lightoller was given his own command, the torpedo boat HMTB 117. Whilst captain of HMTB 117 he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (originally called the Conspicuous Service Cross) for engaging a Zeppelin. This action, as Lightoller describes in Chapter 38 of his autobiography, "The Titanic and Other Ships", also resulted in both a promotion and a posting (4):

...I was then promoted to the one and only Dover Patrol. I'm afraid I did not appreciate the honour, and kicked about the shift; just when I was nicely settled in the N.D.F. (Nore Defence Flotilla) with my family housed at Minster (on the mud!)

"Did I fully realise what it meant to be singled out for a Destroyer of the Dover Patrol?" etc., etc., in the very best naval circumstance and style. Well, no, I certainly did not, but "orders was orders" and I might as well get on with the job.

So, once more, the family packed its grip, and moved along to No. 8, East Cliff, Dover, whilst I reported to the H.Q. and was greeted as follows:-

"Oh yes, Lightoller. Well, you are of course appointed to the Falcon (5). She's over in Dunkirk working up the Belgian Coast. Carry on, please." With which full, complete information and instructions I was introduced to the intricacies of the Dover Patrol.

Charles Lightoller joined the Dover Patrol in 1916, a year after the Spanish Prince had been scuttled at the Western Entrance to Dover Harbour as a blockship. The Spanish Prince, under its original name of Knight Batchelor, was a ship that "Lights" had cause to remember:

The Spanish Prince was built in 1894 by Charles Connell and Company at Glasgow with a tonnage of 6505grt, a length of 450ft, a beam of 52ft 2in and a service speed of 11 knots. She was launched on Wednesday, 6th June 1894, and completed in the following August as the Knight Batchelor for Greenshields, Cowie & Co. of Liverpool, a company whose history goes back to 1795.

On Monday, 26th April 1897, during a voyage from Cardiff (Wales) to Norfolk (Virginia, USA), she hit an iceberg and limped into Halifax (Nova Scotia, Canada) four days later with 30 feet of her bow missing. Repairs cost 30,000 dollars. (6)

Meanwhile, Charles Lightoller went to the Yukon in 1898, abandoning the sea, to prospect for gold in the Klondike Gold Rush. Failing at this endeavour, he then became a cowboy in Alberta, Canada. He became a hobo in order to return home, riding the rails back across Canada. He worked as a cattle wrangler on a cattle boat for his passage back to England. In 1899, he arrived home penniless. He obtained his master's certificate and went to see Greenshields and Cowie in Liverpool, owners of the old Knight Line for whom he had previously served in the four-masted barque Knight of St. Michael. (2) (4)

Charles Lightoller was interviewed by the Managing Director of Greenshields and Cowie who signed him on as third mate on the Knight Batchelor - or so Charles believed. Knowing the Knight Batchelor to be a "good ship", and reassured of a quick promotion to second mate, Charles Lightoller innocently made his way to a Liverpool railway station and describes what happened next (7):

I still had malarial fever in my veins, and well I knew it on the train journey down and across London. I arrived at Tilbury Dock feeling like the complete West African dishcloth. All I wanted was to get my head down, and forget I was alive. I had, in my subconscious mind, all the comforts that one associates with the Royal Mail. A nice airy cabin, a bunk with clean white sheets, a boy to attend you, and practically every wish anticipated. Doctor, stewards and all the rest of it.

Arriving at Tilbury Dock, I asked a porter wearily where the Knight boat was lying. He replied, "Oh, just near by, sir. Over the bridge," and suggested he should put my baggage on a truck and run it over. "Right," said I, my one anxiety being to get to my cabin, and try to forget this damnable fever. We trudged along, I simply following the porter, conscious of little but a terrific temperature.

Suddenly the porter stopped. "Well," I said, "why have you stopped?" "Here is your ship, sir." I looked up. What a horror! About the dirtiest thing I'd ever clapped eyes on. Her rusty iron sides streaked with the horrible overflow from the cattle she had evidently been carrying. Smelling like nothing on earth. "But this isn't the Knight Bachelor, surely?" I exclaimed. "Oh, no sir, the Knight Bachelor sailed last week; this is the Knight Companion." Had I had the strength she would certainly have been no companion of mine. However, I was just about at the end of my tether, and thought, "Come, let's get on board, and between some blankets."

...I have often grinned over the way I got shanghaied into that wretched ship.

In January of the following year (1900), Lightoller began his career with the White Star Line as fourth officer of the Medic.

The Knight Bachelor was subsequently acquired by Prince Line in 1907 for 35,000 pounds and, as the Spanish Prince, was the company's largest ship and remained so until 1918. (6)

On Sunday, 5th October 1914, whilst in St. Nazaire Roads, the Spanish Prince sustained damage to her hull when her anchor chain broke and she grounded. She was subsequently acquired by the Admiralty (6) and, as stated above, was scuttled early in 1915 at the Southern Breakwater end of Dover Harbour's Western Entrance..

In July 2010, a 10-12 week operation began to remove this last of Dover's blockships:

There are a number of vessels involved in the enterprise, and on the occasions I have been down the beach to see what's going on, I've gained the impression that the hydraulic cutter at the end of the Gaverland Sea Barge's crane is being used for cutting, breaking up the wreck and some recovery, while the grabber on the Waasland Sea Barge's crane is used primarily for recovery.

The remains are then transferred to containers on the Haven Seaford flat top barge. Once the containers are full, the Sarah Grey workboat pushes the Haven Seaford to and from the Jetfoil Basin in the Western Docks where another crane lifts the containers onto the dockside.

Click to see the Spanish Prince Wreck Site, detailed Multi-beam Sonar Image, Rusty remains of the Spanish Prince, and all other photos relating to the removal of the Spanish Prince blockship.

Update: also see Recovered Artefacts from the Spanish Prince.

Georgian Architecture (8)

Georgian architecture is the name given in most English-speaking countries to the set of architectural styles current between 1720 and 1840. It is eponymous for the first four British monarchs of the House of Hanover - George I of Great Britain, George II of Great Britain, George III of the United Kingdom, and George IV of the United Kingdom - who reigned in continuous succession from August 1714 to June 1830.

Sources:

(1) Read Charles Lightoller's own account of the Loss of the Titanic which happened on Sunday, 14th of April 1912.

(2) Abridged from the Wikipedia entry for Charles Lightoller; also see RMS Titanic and The Titanic and Other White Star Line Ships.

(3) Two vessels which visited Dover as part of the 70th Anniversary of the 1940 Dunkirk Evacuation are shown in the Royal Marines LCU MK10 Landing Craft, Western Docks and F235 HMS Monmouth, Admiralty Pier photos.

Admiral Sir Bertram Home Ramsay was stationed in Dover with Charles Lightoller in both World Wars: see the captions to The Statue of Vice-Admiral Ramsay in Dover Castle, The Admiralty Lookout and Port War Signal Station, Dover Castle, and The Cliff Casemates Balcony below Dover Castle photos.

(4) From the autobiography, "The Titanic and Other Ships", Chapter 38: Dover Patrol

(5) HMS Falcon was a small C class destroyer launched in 1899. In 1918 she was sunk in a collision with the trawler John Fitzgerald in the North Sea. (The salvaged gunmetal ship's telegraph from the ship subsequently appeared on the Episode 24 of Series 31 of the BBC's Antiques Road Show recorded at Bridlington). See Lights and the Falcon and a list of the twenty-two ships of the Royal Navy that have borne the name HMS Falcon.

(6) From The Red Duster website: Prince Line.

(7) From the autobiography, "The Titanic and Other Ships", Chapter 26: Shanghaied

(8) Wikipedia entry for Georgian Architecture

Click to see all Ships photos (related tags: Boats, Cruise Ship, Ferries, Lifeboats, Sailing Ships, Tugs, and Workboats).

The cliffs forming the background to this Dover Royal Navy history photo have the following basic geology:

The White Cliffs of Dover are composed mainly of soft, white chalk with a very fine-grained texture, composed primarily of coccoliths. Flint and quartz are also found in the chalk.

A Dover District Council information webpage::

A Guidance Note to Owners and Occupiers of Listed Buildings.

John Latter / Jorolat

Dover Blog: The Psychology of a Small Town

This is the Images of Dover website: click on any red or blue "John Latter" link to access the Entry Page.

John Latter on August 23, 2011

Elizabeth House at 8 East Cliff, Dover is a Grade II Listed Building (1)

The following is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence (PSI licence number C2010002016):

Building Details:

Building Name: 8,9 AND 10 (East Cliff)

Parish: DOVER

District: DOVER

County: KENT

Postcode: CT16 1LX

Details:

LBS Number: 177749

Grade: II

Date Listed: 17/12/1973

Date Delisted:

NGR: TR3271241540

Listed building text

EAST CLIFF TERRACE

1.

1050 Nos 8, 9 and 10

TR 3241 1/7

II GV

2.

Circa 1840. 4 storeys and semi-basement. 3 windows each. Yellow brick, stuccoed. Cornice above 2nd floor. Another with parapet above 3rd floor and small pediment over No 9. Iron balconies on ground and lst floors, those on ground floor with hoods and with steps down to the garden. Most glazing bars intact, Venetian shutters to lst floor on No 9. No l0 has a later wooden verandah.

Nos 1 to 39 (consec) form a group.

Listing NGR: TR3271241540

Source: English Heritage. Click to see photos of Listed Buildings and English Heritage locations in the town of Dover, England.

(1) Grade II: buildings that are "nationally important and of special interest".

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on August 2, 2010
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by John Latter
    • Camera: PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D
    • Taken on 2010/07/30 11:33:54
    • Exposure: 0.003s (1/400)
    • Focal Length: 55.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/10.000
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash

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