Charles Herbert Lightoller, DSC & Bar, RD (30 March 1874 – 8 December 1952) was the second officer on board the RMS Titanic and a decorated Royal Navy officer. He was the most senior member of the crew to survive the Titanic disaster.
As the officer in charge of loading passengers into lifeboats on the port side, Lightoller strictly enforced the "women and children first" protocol, not allowing any male passengers to board the lifeboats unless they were needed as auxiliary seamen. Lightoller stayed until the last, was sucked against a grate and held under water, but then was blown from the grate by a rush of warm air as a boiler exploded. He found refuge on an upturned collapsible boat with 30 others, showing his fellow survivors how to shift their weight to avoid being swamped, until their rescue at dawn.
Lightoller served as an officer of the Royal Navy during World War I, and while commanding HMS Garry, rammed and sank the German U-Boat UB-110, for which he was decorated for gallantry. The captain of UB-110 later claimed that some of the German survivors were massacred by Lightoller's crew, an allegation never officially substantiated. In his 1935 memoir 'Titanic and Other Ships', Lightoller wrote of the incident that he "refused to accept the hands-up business", but did not go into further detail on the matter.
Later, in retirement, he further distinguished himself in World War II, by providing and sailing as a volunteer on one of the "little ships" that played a part in the Dunkirk evacuation. Rather than allow his small motoryacht to be requisitioned by the Admiralty for military service, he sailed the vessel to France and back with a small crew, and repatriated 127 British servicemen.
Charles Herbert Lightoller was born in Chorley, Lancashire, on 30 March 1874, into a family that had operated cotton-spinning mills in Lancashire since the late 18th century. His mother, Sarah Jane Lightoller (née Widdows), died of scarlet fever shortly after giving birth to him. His father, Frederick James Lightoller, emigrated to New Zealand when Charles was 10, leaving him in the care of extended family.
At age 13, not wanting to end up with a factory job like most of Britain's youth at the time, young Charles began a four-year seafaring apprenticeship on board the barque Primrose Hill. On his second voyage, he set sail with the crew of the Holt Hill, and during a storm in the South Atlantic, the ship was forced to put in at Rio de Janeiro. Repairs were made in the midst of a smallpox epidemic and a revolution. Another storm, on 13 November 1889 in the Indian Ocean, caused the ship to run aground on an uninhabited four-and-a-half-square-mile island now called Île Saint-Paul. They were rescued by the Coorong and taken to Adelaide, Australia. Lightoller joined the crew of the clipper ship Duke of Abercorn for his return to England.
Lightoller returned to the Primrose Hill for his third voyage. They arrived in Calcutta, India, where he passed his second mate's certificate. The cargo of coal caught fire while he was serving as third mate on board the windjammer Knight of St. Michael, and for his successful efforts in fighting the fire and saving the ship, Lightoller was promoted to second mate.