Like Second Officer “Bert” Lightoller, Fifth Officer Harold Godfrey Lowe was one of the more “colorful” of the Titanic‘s officers. Born in Eglwys Rhos, Caernarfonshire, North Wales in1882, the third of eight children, Harold Lowe was a headstrong and determined from the very beginning. Resisting the will of his father, who wanted to apprentice him to a successful Liverpool businessman, Harold ran way to sea at the age of 14, announcing that he wouldn’t be apprenticed to nobody for nothing!” Lowe began his career at sea as a ship’s boy aboard the coastal schooners that plied the West African Coast. Hard study combined with the practical experience he learned on the decks of those coaster allowed him to work his way through the examinations for the various “tickets” he needed to advance through the merchant officer ranks. He attained his master’s certification by the time he began working for the White Star Line, in 1911. The breadth and depth of his experience at such a young age (he was only twenty-nine when he was assigned to the Titanic) was remarkable: in his own words, he knew “pretty well every ship afloat – the different classes of ships afloat – from the schooner to the square-rigged sailing vessel, and from that to steamships, and of all sizes.” He served as Third Officer on White Star Line’s Belgic and Tropic before being transferred to the Titanic as Fifth Officer in the spring of 1912.
Lowe had finished the 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM watch on April 14, 1912, and so was asleep in his cabin when the Titanic struck the iceberg. An unusually sound sleeper, Lowe slept through the collision and didn’t awaken until shortly after midnight, when the clamor on the Boat Deck outside his cabin finally roused him. Quickly dressing, and thrusting a non-regulation revolver in his jacket pocket, Lowe immediately went to work on the starboard side boats, where he got a quartet of boats loaded and launched in fairly quick succession, then moved to the port side, where he and Sixth Officer Moody tried to assert some semblance of order into the loading and lowering of those two boats. It was at this point that Lowe began to sense that the Titanic’s officers and crew might be losing their grip on the crowd. A knot of male passengers tried to rush Boat 14, and were beaten back with some difficulty by Lowe and a pair of crewmen. Ordering the boat to be lowered immediately, Lowe drew his revolver, fired three shots along the side of the ship, announcing “If anyone else tries that this is what he’ll get!” then stepped into the stern of the boat.