A Night to Remember

A Night to Remember

4.1 79
by Walter Lord

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Lord’s classic bestseller, and the definitive account of the unsinkable ship’s fateful last hoursAt first, no one but the lookout recognized the sound. Passengers described it as the impact of a heavy wave, a scraping noise, or the tearing of a long calico strip. In fact, it was the sound of the world’s most famous ocean liner striking an…  See more details below


Lord’s classic bestseller, and the definitive account of the unsinkable ship’s fateful last hoursAt first, no one but the lookout recognized the sound. Passengers described it as the impact of a heavy wave, a scraping noise, or the tearing of a long calico strip. In fact, it was the sound of the world’s most famous ocean liner striking an iceberg, and it served as the death knell for 1,500 souls. In the next two hours and forty minutes, the maiden voyage of the Titanic became one of history’s worst maritime accidents. As the ship’s deck slipped closer to the icy waterline, women pleaded with their husbands to join them on lifeboats. Men changed into their evening clothes to meet death with dignity. And in steerage, hundreds fought bitterly against certain death. At 2:15 a.m. the ship’s band played “Autumn.” Five minutes later, the Titanic was gone. Based on interviews with sixty-three survivors, Lord’s moment-by-moment account is among the finest books written about one of the twentieth century’s bleakest nights.

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Editorial Reviews

Vito F Sinisi
The world lost one of its most famous and well-respected historians when Walter Lord, author of classic books on the Titanic disaster and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, passed away on Sunday, May 19, 2002. Lord's unique (and groundbreaking) style combined authoritative historical research with "up close and personal" style interviews with those who survived the infamous events. Lord called this approach "living history," and the style Lord invented would become an inspiration to writers such as David McCullough. His seminal work on the Titanic (wherein he famously said of the sinking liner, "brilliantly lit from stem to stern, she looked like a sagging birthday cake") would be the basis for what many still feel is the best filmed account of that naval tragedy.

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"Another Belfast Trip"

High in the crow's-nest of the New White Star Liner Titanic, Lookout Frederick Fleet peered into a dazzling night. It was calm, clear and bitterly cold. There was no moon, but the cloudless sky blazed with stars. The Atlantic was like polished plate glass; people later said they had never seen it so smooth.

This was the fifth night of the Titanic's maiden voyage to New York, and it was already clear that she was not only the largest but also the most glamorous ship in the world. Even the passengers' dogs were glamorous. John Jacob Astor had along his Airedale Kitty. Henry Sleeper Harper, of the publishing family, had his prize Pekingese Sun Yat-sen. Robert W. Daniel, the Philadelphia banker, was bringing back a champion French bulldog just purchased in Britain. Clarence Moore of Washington also had been dog-shopping, but the 50 pairs of English foxhounds he bought for the Loudoun Hunt weren't making the trip.

That was all another world to Frederick Fleet. He was one of six lookouts carried by the Titanic, and the lookouts didn't worry about passenger problems. They were the "eyes of the ship," and on this particular night Fleet had been warned to watch especially for icebergs.

So far, so good. On duty at 10 o'clock ... a few words about the ice problem with Lookout Reginald Lee, who shared the same watch ... a few more words about the cold ... but mostly just silence, as the two men stared into the darkness.

Now the watch was almost over, and still there was nothing unusual. Just the night, the stars, the biting cold, the wind that whistled through the rigging as the Titanic raced across the calm, black sea at 22 1/2 knots. It was almost 11:40 P.M. on Sunday, the 14th of April, 1912.

Suddenly Fleet saw something directly ahead, even darker than the darkness. At first it was small (about the size, he thought, of two tables put together), but every second it grew larger and closer. Quickly Fleet banged the crow's-nest bell three times, the warning of danger ahead. At the same time he lifted the phone and rang the bridge.

"What did you see?" asked a calm voice at the other end.

"Iceberg right ahead," replied Fleet.

"Thank you," acknowledged the voice with curiously detached courtesy. Nothing more was said.

For the next 37 seconds, Fleet and Lee stood quietly side by side, watching the ice draw nearer. Now they were almost on top of it, and still the ship didn't turn. The berg towered wet and glistening far above the forecastle deck, and both men braced themselves for a crash. Then, miraculously, the bow began to swing to port. At the last second the stem shot into the clear, and the ice glided swiftly by along the starboard side. It looked to Fleet like a very close shave.

At this moment Quartermaster George Thomas Rowe was standing watch on the after bridge. For him too, it had been an uneventful night--just the sea, the stars, the biting cold. As he paced the deck, he noticed what he and his mates called "Whiskers 'round the Light"--tiny splinters of ice in the air, fine as dust, that gave off myriads of bright colors whenever caught in the glow of the deck lights.

Then suddenly he felt a curious motion break the steady rhythm of the engines. It was a little like coming alongside a dock wall rather heavily. He glanced forward--and stared again. A windjammer, sails set, seemed to be passing along the starboard side. Then he realized it was an iceberg, towering perhaps 100 feet above the water. The next instant it was gone, drifting astern into the dark.

Meanwhile, down below in the First Class dining saloon on D Deck, four other members of the Titanic's crew were sitting around one of the tables. The last diner had long since departed, and now the big white Jacobean room was empty except for this single group. They were dining-saloon stewards, indulging in the time-honored pastime of all stewards off duty--they were gossiping about their passengers.

Then, as they sat there talking, a faint grinding jar seemed to come from somewhere deep inside the ship. It was not much, but enough to break the conversation and rattle the silver that was set for breakfast next morning.

Steward James Johnson felt he knew just what it was. He recognized the kind of shudder a ship gives when she drops a propeller blade, and he knew this sort of mishap meant a trip back to the Harland & Wolff Shipyard at Belfast--with plenty of free time to enjoy the hospitality of the port. Somebody near him agreed and sang out cheerfully, "Another Belfast trip!"

In the galley just to the stern, Chief Night Baker Walter Belford was making rolls for the following day. (The honor of baking fancy pastry was reserved for the day shift.) When the jolt came, it impressed Belford more strongly than Steward Johnson--perhaps because a pan of new rolls clattered off the top of the oven and scattered about the floor.

The passengers in their cabins felt the jar too, and tried to connect it with something familiar. Marguerite Frolicher, a young Swiss girl accompanying her father on a business trip, woke up with a start. Half-asleep, she could think only of the little white lake ferries at Zurich making a sloppy landing. Softly she said to herself, "Isn't it funny ... we're landing!"

Major Arthur Godfrey Peuchen, starting to undress for the night, thought it was like a heavy wave striking the ship. Mrs. J. Stuart White was sitting on the edge of her bed, just reaching to turn out the light, when the ship seemed to roll over "a thousand marbles." To Lady Cosmo Duff Gordon, waking up from the jolt, it seemed "as though somebody had drawn a giant finger along the side of the ship." Mrs. John Jacob Astor thought it was some mishap in the kitchen.

It seemed stronger to some than to others. Mrs. Albert Caldwell pictured a large dog that had a baby kitten in its mouth and was shaking it. Mrs. Walter B. Stephenson recalled the first ominous jolt when she was in the San Francisco earthquake--then decided this wasn't that bad. Mrs. E. D. Appleton felt hardly any shock at all, but she noticed an unpleasant ripping sound ... like someone tearing a long, long strip of calico.

The jar meant more to J. Bruce Ismay, Managing Director of the White Star Line, who in a festive mood was going along for the ride on the Titanic's first trip. Ismay woke up with a start in his deluxe suite on B Deck--he felt sure the ship had struck something, but he didn't know what.

Some of the passengers already knew the answer. Mr. and Mrs. George A. Harder, a young honeymoon couple down in cabin E-50, were still awake when they heard a dull thump. Then they felt the ship quiver, and there was "a sort of rumbling, scraping noise" along the ship's side. Mr. Harder hopped out of bed and ran to the porthole. As he looked through the glass, he saw a wall of ice glide by.

The same thing happened to James B. McGough, a Gimbels buyer from Philadelphia, except his experience was somewhat more disturbing. His porthole was open, and as the berg brushed by, chunks of ice fell into the cabin.

Like Mr. McGough, most of the Titanic's passengers were in bed when the jar came. On this quiet, cold Sunday night a snug bunk seemed about the best place to be. But a few shipboard die-hards were still up. As usual, most were in the First Class smoking room on A Deck.

And as usual, it was a very mixed group. Around one table sat Archie Butt, President Taft's military aide; Clarence Moore, the traveling Master of Hounds; Harry Widener, son of the Philadelphia streetcar magnate; and William Carter, another Main Liner. They were winding up a small dinner given by Widener's father in honor of Captain Edward J. Smith, the ship's commander. The Captain had left early, the ladies had been packed off to bed, and now the men were enjoying a final cigar before turning in too. The conversation wandered from politics to Clarence Moore's adventures in West Virginia, the time he helped interview the old feuding mountaineer Anse Hatfield.

Buried in a nearby leather armchair, Spencer V. Silverthorne, a young buyer for Nugent's department store in St. Louis, browsed through a new best-seller, The Virginian. Not far off, Lucien P. Smith (still another Philadelphian) struggled gamely through the linguistic problems of a bridge game with three Frenchmen.

At another table the ship's young set was enjoying a somewhat noisier game of bridge. Normally the young set preferred the livelier Cafe Parisien, just below on B Deck, and at first tonight was no exception. But it grew so cold that around 11:30 the girls went off to bed, and the men strolled up to the smoking room for a nightcap. Most of the group stuck to highballs; Hugh Woolner, son of the English sculptor, took a hot whisky and water; Lieutenant Hokan Bjornstrom Steffanson, a young Swedish military attache on his way to Washington, chose a hot lemonade.

Somebody produced a deck of cards, and as they sat playing and laughing, suddenly there came that grinding jar. Not much of a shock, but enough to give a man a start--Mr. Silverthorne still sits up with a jolt when he tells it. In an instant the smoking-room steward and Mr. Silverthorne were on their feet ... through the aft door ... past the Palm Court ... and out onto the deck. They were just in time to see the iceberg scraping along the starboard side, a little higher than the Boat Deck. As it slid by, they watched chunks of ice breaking and tumbling off into the water. In another moment it faded into the darkness astern.

Others in the smoking room were pouring out now. As Hugh Woolner reached the deck, he heard a man call out, "We hit an iceberg--there it is!"

Woolner squinted into the night. About 150 yards astern he made out a mountain of ice standing black against the starlit sky. Then it vanished into the dark.

The excitement, too, soon, disappeared. The Titanic seemed as solid as ever, and it was too bitterly cold to stay outside any longer. Slowly the group filed back, Woolner picked up his hand, and the bridge game went on. The last man inside thought, as he slammed the deck door, that the engines were stopping.

He was right. Up on the bridge First Officer William M. Murdoch had just pulled the engine-room telegraph handle all the way to "Stop." Murdoch was in charge of the bridge this watch, and it was his problem, once Fleet phoned the warning. A tense minute had passed since then--orders to Quartermaster Hitchens to turn the wheel hard a-starboard ... a yank on the engine-room telegraph for "Full-Speed Astern" ... a hard push on the button closing the watertight doors ... and finally those 37 seconds of breathless waiting.

Now the waiting was over, and it was all so clearly too late. As the grinding noise died away, Captain Smith rushed onto the bridge from his cabin next to the wheelhouse. There were a few quick words:

"Mr. Murdoch, what was that?"

"An iceberg, sir. I hard-a-starboarded and reversed the engines, and I was going to hard-a-port around it, but she was too close. I couldn't do any more."

"Close the emergency doors."

"The doors are already closed."

They were closed, all right. Down in boiler room No. 6, Fireman Fred Barrett had been talking to Assistant Second Engineer James Hesketh when the warning bell sounded and the light flashed red above the watertight door leading to the stern. A quick shout of warning--an ear-splitting crash--and the whole starboard side of the ship seemed to give way. The sea cascaded in, swirling about the pipes and valves, and the two men leaped through the door as it slammed down behind them.

Barrett found things almost as bad where he was now, in boiler room No. 5. The gash ran into No. 5 about two feet beyond the closed compartment door, and a fat jet of sea water was spouting through the hole. Nearby, Trimmer George Cavell Was digging himself out of an avalanche of coal that had poured out of a bunker with the impact. Another stoker mournfully studied an overturned bowl of soup that had been warming on a piece of machinery.

It was dry in the other boiler rooms farther aft, but the scene was pretty much the same--men picking themselves up, calling back and forth, asking what had happened. It was hard to figure out. Until now the Titanic had been a picnic. Being a new ship on her maiden voyage, everything was clean. She was, as Fireman George Kemish still recalls, "a good job ... not what we were accustomed to in old ships, slogging our guts out and nearly roasted by the heat."

All the firemen had to do was keep the furnaces full. No need to work the fires with slice bars, pricker bars, and rakes. So on this Sunday night the men were taking it easy--sitting around on buckets and the trimmers' iron wheelbarrows, shooting the breeze, waiting for the 12-to-4 watch to come on.

Then came that thud ... the grinding, tearing sound ... the telegraphs ringing wildly ... the watertight doors crashing down. Most of the men couldn't imagine what it was--the story spread that the Titanic had gone aground just off the Banks of Newfoundland. Many of them still thought so, even after a trimmer came running down from above shouting, "Blimey! We've struck an iceberg!"

About ten miles away Third Officer Charles Victor Groves stood on the bridge of the Leyland Liner Californian bound from London to Boston. A plodding 6000-tonner, she had room for 47 passengers, but none were being carried just now. On this Sunday night she had been stopped since 10:30 P.M., completely blocked by drifting ice.

At about 11:10 Groves noticed the lights of another ship, racing up from the east on the starboard side. As the newcomer rapidly overhauled the motionless Californian, a blaze of deck lights showed she was a large passenger liner. Around 11:30 he knocked on the Venetian door of the chart room and told Captain Stanley Lord about it. Lord suggested contacting the new arrival by Morse lamp, and Groves prepared to do this.

Then, at about 11:40, he saw the big ship suddenly stop and put out most of her lights. This didn't surprise Groves very much. He had spent some time in the Far East trade, where they usually put deck lights out at midnight to encourage the passengers to turn in. It never occurred to him that perhaps the lights were still on ... that they only seemed to go out because she was no longer broadside but had veered sharply to port.

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A Night to Remember 4.1 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 79 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read many books abou the Titanic, but I feel I've never really known the truth about what happened that late April night until I read this book. A Night To Remember, by Walter Lord, tells a very accurate minute by minute account of what happened. His interviews with First Class, Second Class, and steerage passengers as well as crew members gives many points of view to the events that occurred the night. Although the constant name changes and recollections can become a bit overwhelming, the message he's trying to get across is apparent. Everyone reacted differently. He also tries to inform readers that if any little thing had gone differently, hundreds of lives could have been saved.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The first time i picked up this book i knew it was going to be good. As a history lover and Titanic freak this book had me from the first word. Walter Lord captures the truth of the night from points of view varying from the crew to first class leaving no story untouched and as for that sam guy on the page... you suck. How could anyone not like this book, it phenominal!.
Robert-E-Lee More than 1 year ago
An excellent read for the history buff who loves the story of the Titanic. This author was the one who started the search for the ship
madmarlton More than 1 year ago
This book has been around for a long time. The thing that shows its age, though, is in the epilogues, where survivors of the Titanic are quoted. Of course, there are no more survivors. The ship sank over 100 years ago. But this narrative, without falling prey to the standard approach of creating fictitious characters to focus on at the expense of the real-life characters who sailed on that fateful crossing, keeps the reader riveted right to the end of the story; i.e., when the Carpathia returns to NY with those pitiful few who survived. What follows is somewhat less riveting, although the section on the fanciful stories that proliferated at the time is fascinating. (I loved the one about the Newfoundland dog who swam next to a lifeboat, leading it to the Carpathia!) The book also lists every passenger by name, italicizing those who survived. If you ever go to Halifax, NS, check out the Titanic cemetery. It's amazing...and spooky. Anyway, this book is one of the greatest accounts of the disaster that there are. Highly recommended.
easyreader50SV More than 1 year ago
This is a classic, and still worth reading. Of all the books and movies around about Titanic, this was written from interviews with survivors, information from newspapers and actual paperwork at the time, facts and fallacies alike. Of all the news reports on the event, only the Times actually said Titanic had sunk.Lord did not focus on any one passenger or group, but tried to give the reader an understanding of all those involved. Be sure to see the movie by the same title. Very well done with no known stars at the time. (David McCallum who played Bride, went on to become the more familiar Ilya Kuriaken in the Man from U.N.C.L.E. and more recently, Dr. Mallard of NCIS.)
clemmy More than 1 year ago
I thought this would be morbid and utterly depressing, but I needed AR points. I love that this book is largely about the people who survived. Since eighth grade when I picked it out, I have read it three times and bought myself a copy. If you want something dramatic without too many tears, this is the book for you!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought the book A Night to Remember was great. There was a lot of suspense, which I liked. It kept me reading more and more without wanting to stop. It was very detailed to the smallest measure. There was so much detail that it took forever to get to the next big part. What I disliked was that it was very list for example the author would say Bruce Ismay got his watch and Charlotte Barkis got her jewels and so on. The book also doesn¿t have a main character it was all listing random names. I definitely think the author should have added a main character. I rate this book a four because it as to listy otherwise it would be a five.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is my fourth read-around for 'A Night To Remember.' Each time I become more absorbed with the people; their thoughts, their background & their actions aboard the ill-fated luxury liner. I liked the fact Walter Lord didn't focus on any one person but as many of the passengers & crew as warranted to keep the story moving at a brisk pace. His extenisve research is quite evident. A list of the passengers on the 'Titanic' is included. It would have been nice to also include a list of the crew. Due to the fact Lord's chronology bounces back & forth I found myself reverting to previous pages to assure I didn't miss anything. I didn't miss the eerie fact the captain of the rescue ship 'Carpathia' was Walter Lord (no relation). This book is a gripping & chilling (pardon the pun) page turner without a doubt. 'A Night To Remember' is a book to remember & read, read, read. And there you have my point of view.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book has so much detail about the night and it has many different perspectives of what was happening. Its a little hard to understand at first but after awhile its easier to get into. If you were wondering, the book has 10 chapters of the actual book the rest is facts and the table of contents. Altogether it was about 160ish pages. Thanks for reading?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I felt like the story was accurately told and that the author did his research. It did get slow after the retelling of the sinking of the ship but it picked up again and i couldn't put it down. Very short book. Not sure if i would buy again but i would go to the library for it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book really really good. The reason why I gave it four starts was because there are so many characters meanchened, that it was hard to keep up with them all.
1786 More than 1 year ago
Written when many Titantic survivors were still alive. British film, based on the book, is also excellent and viewable on you tube.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book it is on my special bookselve for only amazing books, and its worth the money!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The exciting nonfiction book, A Night To Remember by Walter Lord is a great read of anyone. A Night To Remember has all the detail about the sinking of the all famous Titanic. Walter Lord writes about the perspectives of real Titanic survivors. The theme of this great book are that things are not always what they seem. On the night of April 14, 1912, the mighty Titanic sent sail for her maiden voyage, but suddenly there was a collision with a iceberg. Most of the passengers were sleeping away in their cabins when a ¿grinding jar¿ noise came in the White Star Line ship. Some barely heard the noise, others heard the noise and knew it the ship hit an iceberg, and most of the passengers heard it and either went back to sleep or doing some sort of business. The crew and passengers didn¿t know what they were in for when the bow of the Titanic was leaning forward and the 2207 passengers had lifeboats for only 1157 passengers. One passenger quoted, ¿God Himself could not sink this ship.¿ The textual support of this book was excellent because Walter Lord himself interviewed many of the titanic survivors to get many kinds of views during the commotion and feelings in the ship. There was many connections people had in the ship, like some had there honeymoon there, but had to be separated because women and children had to go on the lifeboats first and maybe some men. It¿s like when you have to depart from your husband in the airport, but worst because he might not find another lifeboat for himself. But some wives wanted to stay with their husband instead of being safe in the lifeboats. The part when the almighty Titanic hits the iceberg, Walter Lord describes it very thoroughly and has many views from the passengers and crews to make the reader image and understand the actual crash of the ship. At the time when the chunks of ice flew on the White Star Line¿s deck, the passengers didn¿t scream and make a commotion, but instead picked up the pieces as ¿souvenirs.¿ When I was reading that part, I thought shouldn¿t they be scared because now there¿s a big hole in the ship that will sink the whole ship? Because of the sinking of the Titanic, nowadays in cruise ships the crew have an hour long safety procedure and the ship has enough lifeboats for all of the passengers and crew. A Night To Remember has the real and true facts about the crash of the Titanic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Night to Remember was definately the right choice to learn about what really happened that memorable night on the Titanic. There were so many personal experiance that were not told or known that are mentioned in this memoir. Many of the Passangers thought that the Titanic was unsinkable, but boy where they wrong! Since all of the passangers on the ship thought that the gigantic boat was to have no problems, when told to go up on the main deck for safety, they left some of their most prized possesions in their cabins. They left things as valuable as jewlery costing up to $2,000! They left these things thinking they would come back to them, but once they were up there was no going back. As the water level kept on rising people started believing that something this tragic could happen to the Titanic. All in all the memories told in this book, were very helpful in understanding more about what went wrong that night and what people did to try and keep themselves together.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Night To Remember, to me, seemed that it was all based on facts. There weren't really any characters like a story, more of a telling of what happened the night of the sinking. I think that's what the author was trying to do, though. It would have been a bit more interesting if the book had added some fictional characters to the story and told about their life on board. However, the book had great details about what went on that night. I give it 4 stars.
Anonymous 11 months ago
InTheBookcase More than 1 year ago
This book is a wealth of information. It tells about the sinking of the Titanic as seen and quoted by the real passengers that survived to tell the tale. Some people contradict each other with their stories and this adds to the overall mystery of the Titanic. The only thing I didn't like is that perhaps half a dozen quotes that the author incorporated used mildly inappropriate words. Aside from that this book is great!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Titanic has captivated me since I was a child. This book is well written, carefully thought out and put together. It's heartbreaking; yet, the overwhelming compassion and determination of the human spirit shines through.
The_Lady_Likes_To_Read More than 1 year ago
If you are a fan of the true story of the Titanic then this book is for you.  I have read this book many times and have not found it boring.  I would highly recommend it to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was one of the best
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