Third Officer Herbert Pitman
- Family and Death
In June 1922 Herbert Pitman married Mildred "Mimi" Kalman from New Zealand. A marriage listing of June 1922 places the registeration in the district of Paddington, London. Mildred was born in October 1886, in Thames New Zealand and was the youngest daughter of Charles and his wife (also listed as Carl Simon Kalman and Marie Kalman) who lived in Park Avenue in Auckland. She is described in a newspaper article as being "married in nigger brown, with trimmings of cire satin. Her hat was of tinsel trimmed with gold, and she wore sables... Miss Kalman was well known in musical circles in Auckland and Wellington." (Marriage Notice - Evening Post, Volume CIII, Issue 152, 30 June 1922, Page 9)
He love of music is perhaps why New Zealand Immmigration documents list her visiting London and New York in 1910 and 1917 respectively. On the 9th of April 1910 she arrived in London aboard the SS Malwa. Then according to 1917 immigration documents, she is described as a 31 year old "Hebrew" saleswoman who was born in New Zealand and lived in Auckland and sailed aboard the SS Makura from Sydney, NSW on the 3rd of December 1917 bound for New York, to visit a friend, Mr Otto S Mayer.
Sadly, only eleven years into their marriage, Mildred died on the 20th of October, 1933. A death listing has Mildred at age 47, in the district of "Pancras", but no cause of death is at present known, or the whereabouts of her grave. Only a few years earlier, in 1928 his stepfather, Albert Charles Candy died in Bridgwater, Somerset at the age of 68.
Freemason and Stamp Collector
In addition to his life at sea, Pitman was also a freemason and stamp collector.
He had joined the Freemason’s Abbey Lodge, No. 3341, in Hatfield in 1909 and remained a member until his death in 1961. A letter from the lodge congratulating him on his rescue was sold at auction in October 2011.
It seems that in 1945 Pitman collected eyewitness accounts of the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, as an envelope containing the label "Atomic Bombs of Hiroshima Eyewitness Accounts" was glimpsed in his handwritten manuscript, during an episode of the BBC's Antique Roadshow (see video below.)
Although there is no supporting evidence, there is a story that Pitman was 'quite a stamp collector' although he usually left his collection at home. However, for the voyage of the Titanic, being that she was said to be "unsinkable", he brought it with him.
Retirement and Death
Pitman, a widower, spent his retirement living in Pitcombe, Somerset, only a few miles away from his old home in Castle Cary, and lived with his niece, a Mrs. A. Mainstone.
On the 7th of December 1961, 84 year old Lieutenant-Commander Herbert John Pitman, MBE, RD, RNR, died of a subarachnoid haemorrhage, a rare form of stroke.
He was buried in the church yard of the village of Pitcombe near Bruton (also in Somerset). His headstone is made of black, granite and reads:
IN LOVE WE REMEMBER HERBERT JOHN PITMAN M.B.E. 1877-1961 MERCHANT MARINE 1895-1947 REST IN PEACE. 3RD OFFICER S.S. TITANIC 1912
After Pitman's death, Fourth officer Boxhall became the last remaining surviving officer. Boxhall wrote a letter to Joe Carvalho (one of the original trustees and co-founders of the Titanic Historical Society, founded in 1963) dated 30 January 1962:
"Since writing you in April, my old Shipmate Herbert John Pitman who was 3rd officer of Titanic, and for some years Pitman and I have been the last 2 surviving officers of the 4 that were saved. I am sorry to say that he died on 7 Dec and now I am the only surviving officer of the Titanic." (courtesy of Joe Carvalho & Shelley Dziedzic, Encyclopedia Titanica)
After his death, there were two auctions of his possessions, in 1991 and 1998, that made the news, as reported in the following articles:
April 20th 1991:
1912 Disaster Recalled.
Titanic mementoes are sold
The Personal possessions of a Castle Cary man who was one of four officers to survive the sinking of the Titanic were the most interesting lots at a recent London auction.
The sale by Onslows was held on the 79th anniversary of the disaster.
The items belonging to Herbert John Pitman, Third Officer on the ill-fated liner, included an inscribed brass Thunderer whistle, which was expected to fetch between £700 and £1,000 and sold for £3,410. The total value of Mr. Pitman's collection alone was £12,474 - more than twice the estimated value of all the lots in the special Titanic auction.
There was also a telegram sent from the rescue ship the Carpathia, which said simply: ''Safe - Bert.'' This remains in the family for it was bought by a great nephew, Mr. Andrew Pitman, who lives in Kent, for £250.
Mr. Pitman, who was 34 at the time and died in the late 1950s left his collection to a relative.
Other items in his personal collection, all of which sold well above the estimates, included photographs - the one above made £1,210 - studies of the Titanic collapsibles and lifeboats, pictures of icebergs and rescue ships and the interior of the liner, a souvenir film programme, books, magazines and related ephemera.
Mr. Pitman died in 1961 and is buried in the Parish Church Cemetery, Pitcombe, Somerset.
On April 17th 1998 at Onslows Auction, at the Hilton National Hotel, Southampton the following lot sold for: Lot 73 for £280. Herbert J. Pitman Third Officer on the Titanic, his warrant certificate of member of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) dated June 1946, with accompanying letter dated 13th March 1948, both in original envelope, and programme and invitation card to Dedication and Unveiling of Submarine Service, Royal Naval, Airborne and Special Air Service Memorial Westminster Abbey, May 1948 with related press cutting (6).
In January 2016, the BBC's popular television program, the "Antique's Roadshow," had a special guest - a descendant of Titanic's Third Officer Herbert Pitman. The show was recorded at Bowood House, near Chippenham, Wiltshire and the presenter, Jon Baddeley, a fine art auctioneer and authority on nautical antiques and collectables, met an unnamed woman who said that Herbert Pitman was her great uncle. On the table were three items, a Discharge book, a group photograph and a manuscript. "When he [Pitman] died in 1961 it was left to my father and when he died in 1997 it was passed on to my brother and myself," she said. Later she mentioned that "he used to come and stay and have a holiday with us. My father used to take him out. He enjoyed cricket so we used to go and watch cricket." But in regards to Titanic he was not forthcoming. "He didn't talk to me or my father. He didn't like to talk about it."
The above video is an excerpt from the 2016 BBC Antiques Roadshow, during which a relative of Herbert Pitman displays three artifacts. Click on the "full screen" button to view the video properly.
Despite the estimated auction values that Baddeley provided for each item, the relative stated in conclusion that "we should be keeping it for a while" while the Antique's Roadshow overall presenter, Fiona Bruce added that in regards to the manuscript, the "family have no intention of publishing it."