The Titanic Newspaper Book and the Story of Charles Joughin
April 15th 2012 will mark the centenary of the RMS Titanic’s sinking. Since then, it’s fascinated both historians and the general public, thanks to its combination of famous victims, the resulting changes in maritime law and the discovery of the wreck in 1985.
But perhaps more than anything else, people remain hugely interested in the stories of tragedy, heroism, sacrifice and survival – all of which are covered in the Titanic Newspaper Book. It’s not hard to see why this interest persists – having hit the iceberg, nearly 50,000 tonnes of cutting-edge liner sunk in less than three hours, taking with it 1,517 lives and leaving only 706 survivors.
It’s one of these survivors that we’re going to look at here. His name was Charles Joughin, a chef who managed to drink his way through the whole ordeal – but not before helping to save the lives of many others. First off though, a bit of background.
Among the exclusivity, the luxury and the sheer scale, the Titanic was basically a massive pub. According to the ship’s manifest, the liner’s drink order included 1,500 bottles of wine, 20,000 bottles of beer and stout, 15,000 champagne glasses, 17 ‘reserve’ cases of cognac and another 70 of wine, as well as 191 cases of ‘reserve’ liquor to go with the 850 bottles of spirits.
Right, back to Joughin. Depicted in both ‘A Night to Remember’ and 1997’s blockbuster, ‘Titanic’, Joughin is the drunk guy clinging to the side of the starboard rail as the ship listed to port before disappearing beneath the surface. It was at this moment, just as the ship became completely submerged, that Charles Joughin calmly stepped onto the bow without so much as getting his hair wet. He then proceeded to survive in the water for around three hours, despite temperatures of -2⁰C.
But how did he do it? After all, these temperatures typically kill people within 15 minutes. Indeed, hyperthermia was the biggest single killer of Titanic victims. Simply put, he was pissed, having drunk two bottles of whiskey in as many hours. Theories suggest this volume of booze raised his blood-alcohol level sufficiently enough to ‘warm his insides’. But whatever, he lived to tell the tale.
Thing is, though, this does Joughin a disservice. Firstly, as a chef, he was charged with bringing food and supplies from the kitchens to the lifeboats. He did this more than ably – a fact that’s been omitted from modern accounts. And secondly, although Joughin hit the bottle while he waited on his fate, this didn’t stop him heading to the top deck where he helped people into lifeboats. Not only that, but he declined a spot onboard one himself.
It’s then suggested Joughin returned to his cabin. Here, he carried on drinking for another half-an-hour, before emerging to throw chairs and other items overboard in the hope they’d give those in the water something to hold. Not bad for someone 14 times over the modern-day drink-drive limit!
In a later letter to the author of ‘A Night to Remember’, Walter Lord, Joughin wrote, “Most written accounts were hair-raising scenes which did not actually occur, except in the last few minutes.” Perhaps lending weight to the picture painted of him since, he continues, “… many more could have been saved, had the women obeyed orders.”
Charles Joughin died in 1956 in Patterson, New Jersey, of natural causes. He was 78. To read about other Titanic legends, the Titanic Newspaper Book will be right up your street. It’s available from I Just Love It, the personalised gift company who own the largest newspaper archive in Europe.