James R Smith RFA 1/O(X) (ret’d)




Chief Steward ALLEN M. BAGGOTT


A little-known fact in the annals of the RFA is that one of the survivors from the sinking of the White Star liner TITANIC in the early hours of 15 April 1912 actually later served as the Chief Steward aboard RFA PERTHSHIRE and it was thought that some of his background might be worth investigating.




White Star liner TITANIC


TITANIC was the 2nd of 3 sister ships completed in Belfast between 1911 and 1915 for the Owner’s service between Southampton and New York and sailed from Southampton on the 10th April 1912 on her first and only voyage as the largest liner in the world at the time. Among her 898 crew members was Allen M. Baggott a local Southampton man who had signed on the ship on 4 April as one of the Stewards whose task it was to pamper to the needs of the 322 First Class passengers. When the stricken liner started sinking following her collision with an iceberg late on the evening of 14 April, the order was given by her Master to prepare and launch the lifeboats of which there were 20 with a total capacity for 1,179 persons. Unfortunately there were at the time 2,206 persons aboard so already 1,027 of them were doomed! Baggott, still caring for some of the First Class passengers managed to secure a place with them in Lifeboat No: 9 and all of them were among the 711 passengers and crew who were  rescued by ss CARPATHIA when she arrived on the scene over 2 hours after the liner had sunk with the loss of 1,500 lives.



Artistic impression of the TITANIC sinking


Having managed to escape that watery grave in the North Atlantic, Baggott returned to his seafaring life and we next encounter him while he was serving as Chief Steward aboard RFA PERTHSHIRE in late January 1920. The ship was serving in the Mediterranean as an Oiler at the time and was carrying fuel and relief supplies from Malta to Contantinople.



RFA PERTHSHIRE in Grand Harbour, Malta


On the way there, Baggott was logged by the Master after he was found throwing his clothes overboard while suffering from the effects of liquor. He was confined to his cabin with a guard placed over him to prevent him committing suicide and after a search was made of his cabin, whisky that was found was removed. A day later Baggott was still suffering from alcohol-induced effects and started struggling with his guard, during which damage was caused to his cabin fittings and he was removed from there and placed in confinement in an iron locker forward. On arrival at Constantinople he was taken to the dreadnought battleship HMS IRON DUKE for examination by a Royal Navy Surgeon Lieutenant and was landed to the Naval Hospital ashore for treatment for delirium tremens caused by excessive drinking.

He finally returned to duty aboard his own ship on 12 February for further disciplinary measures and his pay for his time off duty was forfeited.





He appears to have behaved himself until 3 November 1920 when he arrived back at the British Naval Base from being shore in connection with his duties, again under the influence of liquor and the Captain of the Base directed that he be placed aboard the sloop HMS HELIOTROPE for medical examination and detention as being unfit to carry out his duties through his own neglect.





He did not   return to his own ship until 3 days later. The ship finally sailed from Constantinople on 25 November and arrived back at Malta on 1 December that year. On 12 February 1921 the unfortunate Baggott was suddenly taken ill aboard his ship and was examined by the Surgeon Lieutenant from the battleship HMS EMPEROR OF INDIA who advised that Baggott should be taken to hospital immediately, but on his way there he suffered a sudden attack of the fits followed by heart failure and death.





On 15 February 1921 he was buried in an unmarked grave in the Ta’Braxia Cemetery, Malta