CHARLES LIGHTOLLER - LIFE IN THE POST TITANIC YEARS
Charles Herbert Lightoller, the most senior officer to survive the Titanic disaster, had much to answer for when the rescue ship Carpathia docked in New York. After extensive testimony in US Senate Hearings and the British Wreck Commission Inquiry, both of which attempted to determine the cause of Titanic’s sinking. Lightoller returned to the sea in 1913; he served as First Officer aboard White Star Line’s RMS Oceanic. When World War I began in 1914, RMS Oceanic was converted to HMS Oceanic, an armed merchant cruiser. He served aboard the vessel until she ran aground on September 8, 1914.
After the loss of HMS Oceanic, Lightoller found himself serving on the Campania, a 13,000-ton Cunard liner that had been converted into a seaplane carrier. He became the observer in a Short 184 seaplane, and his fleet became the first in history that used a plane to successfully locate an enemy fleet.
In December of 1915, Lightoller was given command of the torpedo boat HMTB 117. During this command, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for attacking the Zeppelin L31. He was also promoted to command of the torpedo-boat-destroyer Falcon. Unfortunately, Falcon collided with the John Fitzgerald on April 1, 1918 and sank in a matter of hours. Lightoller’s next command was aboard the destroyer Garry. On July 19, 1918 Garry rammed and sank the German submarine UB-110., which earned Lightoller a promotion of Lieutenant-Commander. By the end of that year, he emerged from the Royal Navy as a full Commander. He proceeded to briefly serve as Chief Officer aboard White Star Line’s Celtic. He reportedly felt that his association with the Titanic disaster did not sit well with White Star’s board, and resigned within two years of receiving the position.
Despite his official retirement from the sea, Lightoller continued to serve his country aboard his own motor-yacht Sundowner. He helped to survey the German coast during the Second World War, and helped with Operation Dynamo- the Dunkirk evacuation.
After serving on the sea for most of his life, Lightoller spent his later years in the boat building business. He died of heart failure on December 8, 1952. He had survived four shipwrecks, two world wars, and more adventure on the high seas than most can imagine.