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Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller

 

 


Charles Herbert Lightoller (known as 'Lights') was born 30th March 1874 in Chorley, Lancashire. He became apprentice to a sailing barque in Liverpool at 14. He was shipwrecked in 1889 and endured numerous storms in the Indian Ocean. After obtaining his masters certificate he broke with sail and served with steamers on the West African coast. After nearly drowning and contracting malaria, he left the sea and unsuccessfully attempted gold prospecting in America. Returning to Liverpool in early 1900 he joined the White Star liner 'Medic' as fourth officer. It was on one of these visits to Australia that he met his future wife, Sylvia. Originally, Charles was First Officer on the 'Titanic', but when Henry Wilde was appointed Chief, Charles and William Murdoch had to move down in rank.. After diving from the foundering vessel he reached one of the over-turned collapsible Lifeboats and was eventually saved by the 'Carpathia'.

 

 During World War I he first commanded a merchantman and then a Royal Navy Torpedo boat in the Thames estuary. He was given a new command  (the 'Garry' )with the Dover Patrol hunting German U-Boats. One of these he rammed and sank. He was awarded a DSC (Distinguished Service Cross, just under a Victoria Cross.). In the 1930ís he attempted journalism. The family tradition of service at wartime was continued in World War II with his service in the Royal Naval Reserve. In the closing days of May 1940, after eight months of quiet known as the "phoney war", in the next 11 days over 338,000 men were evacuated safely to England in Operation Dynamo, one of the greatest rescues of all time. On the 1 June 1940, the 66-year-old Lightoller, accompanied by his eldest son Roger and a Sea Scout called Gerald, took the Sundowner and sailed for Dunkirk. Although the Sundowner had never carried more than 21 persons before, they succeeded in carrying a total of 130 men from the beaches of Dunkirk.  He had three sons and two daughters. Two of his sons died in action. Roger is buried in Bordeaux, France, and Brian in Sage, Belgium. After the war, with his surviving son, he set up and ran a boat yard at Twickenham. He died on 8th December 1952. He was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Garden of Remembrance.