Titanic FAQs: The Last Sighting of Thomas Andrews

A Record Set Straight:
The Last Sighting of Thomas Andrews

Question: Was Thomas Andrews really last seen in the First Class Smoking Room, as outlined in most books, and as shown in many movies and documentaries?

Answer: No.

It is perhaps the most iconic, and best-known scene in Titanic history: Thomas Andrews – a rising star in the Harland & Wolff shipyard, nephew of Lord Pirrie, and one of the men most intimately connected with the construction of the Olympic-class ships – stands stoically in the First Class Smoking Room. It is near the end of the sinking, about 2:15 a.m., and her ‘builder’ is in a state of shock, immobilized at the enormity, the sheer impossibility, of what is happening around him. He stares at the painting over the fireplace, perhaps adjusts the clock on the mantle, and perhaps then sits in an overstuffed chair to await the end as the ship tears itself apart around him.

This is the legend, the heroic vision we all have in our mind’s eye about the end of Thomas Andrews. Yet it is also a myth. That was not how Andrews met his end.

The story of this sighting came from Verandah Cafe Steward John Stewart; he reported seeing Andrews in the Smoking Room, with his lifebelt draped over a nearby chair. However, Stewart actually left the ship at 1:40 am. The story was apparently first made public in Shan Bullock’s book about Andrews, but Bullock never claimed that it was ‘the last sighting’ of Andrews. In fact, he pointed out that there were sightings of him after that point.

Indeed, during the research phase of On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the RMS Titanic, my co-authors and I found two parallel first-hand accounts by Mess Steward Cecil William N. Fitzpatrick (his name is occasionally given incorrectly on some crew lists). These accounts placed Andrews on the Bridge with Captain Smith in those last moments just befor ethe ship took its ‘slight but definite plunge’. The two men, Fitzpatrick said, entered the water together.

Although less well known, this is actually the best-documented last-sighting of Andrews.

Recommended Reading:

On A Sea of Glass: The Life & Loss of the RMS Titanic┬áby Tad Fitch, J. Kent Layton and Bill Wormstedt (Appendix L: Thomas Andrews’ Fate)