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Charles Herbert Lightoller (1874 - 1952)

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CDR Charles Herbert Lightoller
Born in Chorley, Lancashire, England, UKmap
Son of [father unknown] and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
[spouse(s) unknown]
[children unknown]
Died in Richmond, London, England, UKmap
Profile last modified | Created 3 Aug 2013
This page has been accessed 1,298 times.

Categories: Crew of the Titanic | Survivors of the Titanic.

The RMS Titanic.
Charles Lightoller was a passenger on the RMS Titanic.
Join: Titanic Project
Discuss: titanic


Charles Herbert Lightoller mother Sarah Jane Widdows died shortly after his birth and a sister died the next year. Charles father Frederick James Lightoller left his family and went off to New Zealand. Charles and his siblings were left in the care of his Aunt and Uncle. Charles made up his mind to go to sea at the age of 13. His Aunt and Uncle gave him permission to enter into apprentice agreement and at the age of 14 he was on the Primrose Hill. After his four year apprenticeship Mr. Lightoller tried his hand in hunting for gold in the Klondike. He moved on to Alberta, Canada and worked has a cowboy. Short of money from his unsuccessful adventure in the Klondike he rode the rails to get to a sea port. Mr. Lightoller signed on as a cattle wrangler on a cattle boat in turn for the cost of the passage back to England. He arrived back in England penniless and had to borrow money from friends. While in England he sat for his Master's Certificate and returned to the sea. By 1900 Mr. Lightoller got a job with White Star Lines. By 1912 he was assigned to the Titanic and served has First Officer during the sea trails. Mr. Lightoller was bumped to the second mate (second officer) position on RMS Titanic[1] when the Chief Officer from the sister ship Olympic was transferred to the Titanic. Lightoller stayed until the last, was sucked against a grate and held until he was under water, but then was blown from the grate from a rush of warm air as a boiler exploded. He clung to a capsized collapsible boat with 30 others until their rescue.

After the Titanic Charles returned to the White Star Lines in 1913 and was the First Officer on the Oceanic until it was taken over by the Admiralty. Due to the conflict he served in the British Navy in both World War I and II. Just prior to World War II the Admiralty asked that he would use his boat the Sundowner to survey the German coast with his wife Sylvia Hawley-Wilson under the cover of an elderly couple vacationing. The Sundowner "was requisitioned" by the Admiralty on 30 May. Lightoller insisted that, if anyone was going to take her to Dunkirk, it would be him and his eldest son, Roger, together with Sea Scout Gerald Ashcroft. The men transported 130 soldiers back to Ramsgate, reportedly packed together like sardines, almost capsizing when they reached the shore." The Sundowner is still at Ramsgate moored in the Inner Harbor and is a museum ship maintained by the Ramsgate Maritime Museum. Commander Lightoller was released from the Navy in 1946, at the age of 72. The Commander was issued the DSC & Bar.

Six years later Commander Lightoller died due to heart failure at the age of 78. He was one of 4,000 people who died from the effects of the Great London Smog of 1952.


  • Wikipedia Second Mate Charles Lightoller on the RMS Titanic
  • History in an Hour [1]
  • Titanic and Other Ships, Commander Charles Herbert Lightoller, Ivor Nicholson and Watson, London, 1935, illustrated by Frank H. Mason [2]
  • South Easter Raiway historical society originally post 21 [3]


Thanks to Kitty Smith for starting this profile. Click the Changes tab for the details of contributions by Kitty and others.

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No known carriers of Charles's ancestors' Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA have taken yDNA or mtDNA tests and no close relatives have taken a 23andMe, AncestryDNA, or Family Tree DNA "Family Finder" test.

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Images: 1
Titanic in H & W Shipyard
Titanic in H & W Shipyard


On 16 Jun 2017 at 20:23 GMT C. Mackinnon wrote:

Should there be something about why he survived?

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