Man Overboard: Majestic, October 1926

Man Overboard: Majestic, October 1926

In the early hours of 13 October 1926, Majestic was experiencing stormy weather during one of her many crossings of the North Atlantic.  First class passenger David P. Davis and a younger female companion, Lucile Gehring, had been together since dinner the previous evening.  They were sat talking in the sitting room of Davis’ suite, D42, while Davis’ ten year old son George lay asleep in the bedroom, D44, next door.

One of Majestic’s first-class ‘suite of rooms’ on the port side of D-deck, comprising a bedroom (D44) and sitting room (D42), wardrobe room and private bathroom facilities. The location of the sofa and the two portholes is clearly visible in the sitting room. (The deck designation later changed from D-deck to B-deck, as shown on this 1933 deckplan, so that B42 became D42 and B44 became D44). (Author’s collection)


They ‘had an occasional drink’ (a quart bottle of champagne between them) and Davis drank ‘half a bottle of rye whiskey’. Lucile ‘tried to leave on three separate occasions but he pulled her back after she had reached the door’. (Night watchman R.W. Tyrell ‘did not intervene as there was no violence and he knew the parties to be friends, who sat late as a rule’.)  Davis remarked: ‘If you go away and leave me, I’ll go through there,’ and pointed through the porthole. She thought it was ‘bravado’. He put his money on the table and ‘told her to keep it as she’d need it’. He ‘sat for a time in the recess of the port with his feet on the sofa’. She was ‘somewhat confused’ what happened next. He said ‘catch me honey, I’m slipping’ and ‘goodbye dearie here I go’.

She ‘caught his arm for a second’ but ‘almost before realising it he was gone’. She was ‘sure he slipped’. Her scream alerted Tyrell, who ‘immediately responded and reported to the bridge’. It was 5 a.m.: ‘The ship was immediately turned round, two lighted life buoys thrown overboard, emergency boats manned, officers and men stationed to keep a lookout…’ Majestic steamed 1½ miles to the westward of the buoys and circled slowly for an hour, but he could not be found. There was a ‘strong wind … accompanied by heavy rain and rough sea’.

This and other incidents, forming a rich social history of life onboard, are included RMS Majestic: The ‘Magic Stick’ , released later this month.