Bells, Clocks, Watches Schedules and Time Adjustments

 

The Junior Officers on board Titanic were required to keep “watch-and-watch” with the Able-Bodied Seamen. Third Officer Herbert Pitman was in charge of the “port watch” and was paired with Fifth Officer Harold Godfrey Lowe. Fourth Officer Joseph Groves Boxhall was in charge of the “starboard watch” and was paired with Sixth Officer James Moody. What this meant was that each watch section, port and starboard, worked 4 hours on and then had 4 hours off. To ensure that the same watch section didn’t have to work the same hours every day, the 4 hour period from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. was divided into two Dog Watches of 2 hours each.

 

Regular sea watches for the Deck Department crew on board Titanic, excluding the Senior Officers, Lookouts, and those who did not have to stand regular sea watches, is shown in the table below:

 

Regular Sea Watches on Board Ship

First watch

8 p.m. to Midnight

Middle Watch

Midnight to 4 a.m.

Morning Watch

4 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Forenoon Watch

8 a.m. to Noon

Afternoon Watch

Noon to 4 p.m.

First Dog Watch

4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Second Dog Watch

6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

 

The watch schedule for the Senior Officers in accordance with IMM rules is shown in the next table:

 

Senior Officers’ Watches

Second Officer Lightoller

6 a.m. to 10 a.m.

6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

First Officer Murdoch

10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Chief Officer Wilde

2 a.m. to 6 a.m.

2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

 

Titanic had six lookouts. They were divided into three watch pairs. Their watch assignments were:

 

Lookouts’ Watches

Evans and Hogg

Midnight to 2 a.m.

6 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Noon to 2 p.m.

6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Symons and Jewell

2 a.m. to 4 a.m.

8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Fleet and Lee

4 a.m. to 6 a.m.

10 a.m. to Noon

4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

10 p.m. to Midnight

 

Titanic had six Quartermasters. They were divided into two watch triplets: R=Rowe, O=Olliver and H=Hichens in the starboard watch, and B=Bright, P=Perkis and W=Wynn in the port watch. Their start time watch assignments over a two-consecutive day period were:

 

 

Day 1

Day 2

Middle

Morning

Forenoon

Afternoon

Dog1

Dog2

First

Middle

Morning

Forenoon

Afternoon

Dog1

Dog2

First

MidNt

2am

4am

6am

8am

10am

Noon

2pm

4pm

6pm

8pm

10pm

MidNt

2am

4am

6am

8am

10am

Noon

2pm

4pm

6pm

8pm

10pm

Standby

W

P

O

R

P

B

R

H

B

H

P

B

R

H

B

W

H

O

W

P

O

P

H

O

Wheel

P

W

R

O

B

P

H

R

W

O

B

P

H

R

W

B

O

H

P

W

R

B

O

H

Poop

B

B

H

H

W

W

O

O

P

R

W

W

O

O

P

P

R

R

B

B

H

W

R

R

 

Regular sea watches for the Engine Department crew on board Titanic, excluding those who do not stand regular sea watches, is shown below along with the watch leaders:

 

Engine Department Watch Assignments on the Titanic

Senior Second Engineer William Farquharson

& Senior Assistant Second Engineer Bertie Wilson

Midnight to 4 a.m.

Noon to 4 p.m.

Junior Second Engineer Norman Harrison

& Junior Assistant Second Engineer Herbert Harvey 

4 a.m. to 8 a.m.

4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Junior Second Engineer John Hesketh

& Junior Assistant Second Engineer Jonathan Shepherd

8 a.m. to Noon

8 p.m. to Midnight

 

Time on board was marked by the striking of ship’s bells every half hour. The striking sequence was done in pairs as shown below:

 

Number of Bells Struck

Bell Striking Sequence

1 bell

Ding

2 bells

Ding-Ding

3 bells

Ding-Ding;  Ding

4 bells

Ding-Ding;  Ding-Ding

5 bells

Ding-Ding;  Ding-Ding;  Ding

6 bells

Ding-Ding;  Ding-Ding;  Ding-Ding

7 bells

Ding-Ding;  Ding-Ding;  Ding-Ding;  Ding

8 bells

Ding-Ding;  Ding-Ding;  Ding-Ding;  Ding-Ding

 

 

According to the IMM Co. “Ship’s Rules and Uniform Regulations (July 1907):”

116. Time To be Kept. -- Seventy-fifth meridian time must be used for time of arrival and departure from Sandy Hook Lightship, Five Fathom Bank Lightship, and other points of arrival and departure in the United States and Canada. Greenwich Mean Time must be used in Abstract Logs after the English or Irish land is made. When passing points and ships at sea, either eastbound or westbound, Greenwich Mean Time, as well as ship's time must be used.

259. Ship’s Time. -- The Officer of the Watch [OOW] will see that the ship's time is changed between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., the clocks to be set for Noon before 6 a.m. The Engine Room Clock must at all times agree with the Clock in the Wheelhouse, and must be corrected accordingly.

 

303. Winding Chronometers. --  Unless the Commander otherwise decides, he [the First Officer] will wind and compare chronometers at 8 a.m. each day, and keep a Chronometer Comparison Book. He will also see that the clock’s are wound.

 

305. Engine Room and Deck Clocks to Agree. -- When passing points of departure or arrival, he [the First Officer] will see that the Engine room and Deck times agree.

 

420. Deck and Engine Room Times to Agree. -- He [the Chief Engineer] will be careful to keep the time or clock by which the engine department is worked as nearly as possible the same as the Deck Department or Bridge time.

 

On land, time is based on a mean (or fictitious) sun that takes exactly 24 hours to go around the earth each day. However, time on board ship was based on the position of the true sun and needed to be adjusted every day, an adjusted that was necessary because of the movement of the ship and something called the equation of time. On White Star Line ships, clocks were adjusted close to midnight each night so that at local apparent noon the next day, when the true sun crossed the ship’s local meridian, the clocks will read 12:00. Time kept by the position of the true sun was called Apparent Time Ship (ATS). For westbound ships, such as the Titanic on her maiden voyage, the clocks had to be put back each night near midnight. For eastbound ships, the clocks had to be put forward each night near midnight. From a section of a 1924 White Star Line brochure given to second class passengers on a westbound voyage [courtesy of Mark Chirnside]:

 

“On the voyage from Europe, owing to the alteration in time as the ship proceeds Westward, it is necessary to put the clock back every 24 hours. The alteration in time is made at about midnight, and the clock is usually put back from 35 to 45 minutes on each occasion, the exact amount of time depending upon the distance the ship is estimated to make by noon the next day. During the first 24 hours, however, owing to the change from Mean time to Apparent Time, the alteration is likely to be considerably more than 45 minutes, especially while Summer Time is in use.”

 

From second officer Lightoller and third officer Pitman we know that the clocks on Titanic were adjusted at midnight (as also noted in that White Star Line brochure) so that they would read 12:00 at local apparent noon the next day. If a slight correction to the clocks were needed, it was done some time before noon when they could obtain a sun line to give them their longitude. And that correction, which would have been done on the master clocks carried on board the ship, would at most be ½ to 1 minute if needed at all. At local apparent noon the ship’s officers would take another sight of the sun to get their noontime latitude, and then advance the morning sun line to the noon latitude line by taking into account the speed and direction the ship was making between those two observations. This would then give them what is called a running fix for their noontime position.

 

Clocks in public places on Titanic were controlled by a master clock in the chart room. Some passengers would stay up in a few places such as the smoking rooms and cafes to await the clock change so they can set their personal timepieces to the new time at midnight before retiring for the night. However, we know from QM Robert Hichens, that clocks used for keeping “Bridge time” were adjusted in two steps to add one-half the total adjustment time to each watch section of those keeping regular sea watches. The practice on White Star line Vessels was to make the first adjustment to “Bridge time” in the last hour before midnight, and the second adjustment to “Bridge time” in the first hour after midnight. With two master clocks on board, it would be relatively easy to make these types of adjustments if one controlled slave clocks in public places while the other controlled slave clocks in places used by the crew. (That the two partial adjustments are applied to these hours is easily seen from mileage data recorded in the logbook of the SS Celtic.)

 

The table below – Scenario For a Westbound Voyage – shows the sequence for adjusting clocks on Titanic. Only two clock adjustments are carried out. The first column (for reference) is time on an unadjusted clock originally set to read 12:00 at local apparent noon April 14, 1912. The second column shows time kept on a master clock controlling the slave clocks in public places. The third column, called Bridge Time, shows time on clocks used by the Deck and Engine departments for managing their watch schedules. And the fourth column lists specific events. (D&E in the table refers to Deck and Engine department personnel, excluding lookouts and the senior officers, on regular watch schedules. Where a row in a given time column is split, time on the left shows time on the clock just before an adjustment is made, while that on the right is just after the adjustment is made.)  With these adjustments, the time served by each watch section is lengthened by about one-half of the full adjustment amount. The watch time of the First officer (who serves from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and is on-duty at midnight) is also lengthened, but in his case, by the full adjustment amount of 47 minutes.

 

We begin at 8 p.m., with the striking of 8-bells and the change of watch.

 

 

SCENARIO   FOR   A   WESTBOUND   VOYAGE

Sequence of Planned Clock Changes on Titanic For the Night of April 14, 1912

Unadjusted clock

Clocks in Public Places

Bridge Time

Event

8:00

 

8:00 p.m.

 

8:00 p.m.

 

8-bells

D&E crew change of watch

Lookout change of watch

(Start of First Watch)

 8:30

8:30 p.m.

8:30 p.m.

1-bell

9:00

9:00 p.m.

9:00 p.m.

2-bells

9:30

9:30 p.m.

9:30 p.m.

3-bells

10:00

 

 

10:00 p.m.

 

10:00 p.m.

4-bells

OOW change of watch

Lookout change of watch

10:30

10:30 p.m.

10:30 p.m.

5-bells

11:00

11:00 p.m.

11:00 p.m.

6-bells

11:30

11:30 p.m.

11:30 p.m.

7-bells

12:00

 

12:00 a.m.

 

11:13 p.m.

12:00 a.m.

11:37 p.m.

Public clocks set back 47 min

Bridge-Time clocks set back 23 min

12:08

11:21

11:45

One-bell warning to watch below

12:23

 

 

11:36 p.m.

 

 

 

 

12:00 a.m.

8-bells (Midnight)

Start of April 15th 1912

D&E crew change of watch

Lookout change of watch

(Start of Middle Watch)

12:53

12:06 a.m.

12:30 a.m.

12:06 a.m.

Bridge-Time clocks set back 24 min

1:17

12:30 a.m.

12:30 a.m.

1-bell

1:47

1:00 a.m.

1:00 a.m.

2-bells

2:17

1:30 a.m.

1:30 a.m.

3-bells

2:47

 

2:00 a.m.

 

2:00 a.m.

 

4-bells

OOW change of watch

Lookout change of watch

3:17

2:30 a.m.

2:30 a.m.

5-bells

3:47

3:00 a.m.

3:00 a.m.

6-bells

4:17

3:30 a.m.

3:30 a.m.

7-bells

4:32

3:45

3:45

One-bell warning to watch below

4:47

 

4:00 a.m.

 

4:00 a.m.

 

8-bells

D&E crew change of watch

Lookout change of watch

(Start of Morning Watch)

5:17

4:30 a.m.

4:30 a.m.

1-bell

5:47

5:00 a.m.

5:00 a.m.

2-bells

6:17

5:30 a.m.

5:30 a.m.

3-bells

6:47

 

6:00 a.m.

 

6:00 a.m.

 

4-bells

OOW change of watch

Lookout change of watch

7:17

6:30 a.m.

6:30 a.m.

5-bells

7:47

7:00 a.m.

7:00 a.m.

6-bells

8:07

7:20 a.m.

7:20 a.m.

7-bells*

8:32

7:45 a.m.

7:45 a.m.

One-bell warning to watch below

8:47

 

8:00 a.m.

 

8:00 a.m.

 

8-bells

D&E crew change of watch

Lookout change of watch

(Start of Forenoon Watch)

 

 

It is interesting to note that when 8-bells are struck at midnight, it comes exactly half way in time between local apparent noon the previous day and local apparent noon the next day. This also makes the start of the next day (marked by 12:00 a.m. on Bridge Time clocks) occur very close to when the ship’s time reference, the true sun, would be crossing the lower branch of the ship’s local meridian, agreeing with the definition of midnight for a ship keeping Apparent Time based on the position of the sun each day at local apparent noon.[1]

 

For a more detailed schedule of events on Titanic for the night of April 14th 1912, see: Detailed Events Schedule.

 

For an eastbound voyage clocks had to set ahead since the actual time from local apparent noon one day to local apparent noon the following day was less than 24 hours. In the case of an eastbound voyage, one half the full adjustment was applied to the last hour before midnight of one day, and the other half of the full adjustment amount was applied to the first hour after midnight of the following day. (That the two partial adjustments are applied to these hours is easily seen from mileage data recorded in the logbook of the SS Celtic.)

 

The following table – Scenario For an Eastbound Voyage – shows the sequence that would have been used on Olympic on her maiden eastbound voyage. In this case, the total time adjustment is 44 minutes, with the clocks being put ahead near midnight.  Unlike a westbound voyage, only one clock adjustment is actually needed if performed at 22 minutes before midnight. The total adjustment is 44 minutes, so the time on the clock goes from 11:38 p.m. to 12:22 a.m., and 8 bells are struck indicating midnight and the midnight change of watch.  Notice also that the 8 to 12 watch (the First watch) served only 3 hours and 38 minutes, and the 12 to 4 watch (the Middle watch) will also serve only 3 hours and 38 minutes; both watch times are thereby shortened by 22 minutes (one-half the full adjustment amount) each. The watch time of the First officer (who serves from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and is on-duty at midnight) is also shortened, but in his case, by the full adjustment amount of 44 minutes.   In the table below, the first column, for reference, is time on an unadjusted clock originally set to read 12:00 at local apparent noon July 1, 1911. The second column shows time kept on a master clock controlling the slave clocks in public places. The third column, Bridge Time, shows time on clocks used by the deck and engine departments for managing their watch schedules. And the fourth column lists specific events.

 

We begin, as before, at 8 p.m. with the striking of 8-bells and the change of watch.

 

SCENARIO   FOR   AN   EASTBOUND   VOYAGE


Sequence of Planned Clock Changes on Olympic  For the Night of July 1, 1911

Unadjusted clock

Clocks in Public Places

Bridge Time

Event

8:00

 

8:00 p.m.

 

8:00 p.m.

 

8-bells

D&E crew change of watch

Lookout change of watch

(Start of First Watch)

8:30

8:30 p.m.

8:30 p.m.

1-bell

9:00

9:00 p.m.

9:00 p.m.

2-bells

9:30

9:30 p.m.

9:30 p.m.

3-bells

10:00

 

10:00 p.m.

 

10:00 p.m.

4-bells

OOW change of watch

Lookout change of watch

10:30

10:30 p.m.

10:30 p.m.

5-bells

11:00

11:00 p.m.

11:00 p.m.

6-bells

11:23

11:23 p.m.

11:23 p.m.

One-bell warning to watch below

11:30

11:30p.m.

11:30 p.m.

7-bells

11:38

 

 

11:38 p.m.

 

 

 

12:22 a.m.

 

 

11:38 a.m.

 

 

12:22 a.m.

 

 

8-bells (Midnight)

Start of July 2nd

D&E crew change of watch

Lookout change of watch

(Start of Middle Watch)

All clocks set ahead 44 min

11:46

12:30 a.m.

12:30 a.m.

1-bell

12:16

1:00 a.m.

1:00 a.m.

2-bells

12:46

1:30 a.m.

1:30 a.m.

3-bells

1:16

 

 

4:00 a.m.

 

4:00 a.m.

 

 4-bells

OOW change of watch

Lookout change of watch

1:46

2:30 a.m.

2:30 a.m.

5-bells

2:16

3:00 a.m.

3:00 a.m.

6-bells

2:46

3:30 a.m.

3:30 a.m.

7-bells

12:01

3:45 a.m.

3:45 a.m.

One-bell warning to watch below

3:16

 

 

4:00 a.m.

 

 

 

 

4:00 a.m.

 

 

8-bells

D&E crew change of watch

Lookout change of watch

(Start of Morning Watch)

Bridge-Time clocks set ahead 22 min

3:46

4:30 a.m.

4:30 a.m.

1-bell

4:16

5:00 a.m.

5:00 a.m.

2-bells

4:46

5:30 a.m.

5:30 a.m.

3-bells

5:16

 

6:00 a.m.

 

6:00 a.m.

 

4-bells

OOW change of watch

Lookout change of watch

5:46

6:30 a.m.

6:30 a.m.

5-bells

6:16

7:00 a.m.

7:00 a.m.

6-bells

6:36

7:20 a.m.

7:20 a.m.

7-bells*

7:01

7:45 a.m.

7:45 a.m.

One-bell warning to watch below

7:16

 

8:00 a.m.

 

8:00 a.m.

 

8-bells

D&E crew change of watch

Lookout change of watch

(Start of Forenoon Watch)

 

 

On the subject of “Time on Shipboard” written in a brochure for White Star Line passengers, it stated that shipboard time can be marked from the striking of bells on the vessel. [WSL brochure given to second class passengers, courtesy of Mark Chirnside.]  The marking of time by the ship’s bell was listed as follows:

 

Watch

Bridge Time

Bells struck

Watch

Bridge Time

Bells struck

 

 

 

Middle

Watch

12:30 a.m.

1 bell

 

 

 

Afternoon

Watch

12:30 p.m.

1 bell

1:00 a.m.

2 bells

1:00 p.m.

2 bells

1:30 a.m.

3 bells

1:30 p.m.

3 bells

2:00 a.m.

4 bells

2:00 p.m.

4 bells

2:30 a.m.

5 bells

2:30 p.m.

5 bells

3:00 a.m.

6 bells

3:00 p.m.

6 bells

3:30 a.m.

7 bells

3:30 p.m.

7 bells

4:00 a.m.

8 bells

4:00 p.m.

8 bells

 

 

 

Morning

Watch

4:30 a.m.

1 bell

 

First Dog Watch

4:30 p.m.

1 bell

5:00 a.m.

2 bells

5:00 p.m.

2 bells

5:30 a.m.

3 bells

5:30 p.m.

3 bells

6:00 a.m.

4 bells

6:00 p.m.

4 bells

6:30 a.m.

5 bells

 

Second Dog Watch

6:30 p.m.

1 bell

7:00 a.m.

6 bells

7:00 p.m.

2 bells

* 7:20 a.m.

7 bells

7:30 p.m.

3 bells

8:00 a.m.

8 bells

8:00 p.m.

8 bells

 

 

 

Forenoon

Watch

8:30 a.m.

1 bell

 

 

 

First

Watch

8:30 p.m.

1 bell

9:00 a.m.

2 bells

9:00 p.m.

2 bells

9:30 a.m.

3 bells

9:30 p.m.

3 bells

10:00 a.m.

4 bells

10:00 p.m.

4 bells

10:30 a.m.

5 bells

10:30 p.m.

5 bells

11:00 a.m.

6 bells

11:00 p.m.

6 bells

* 11:20 a.m.

7 bells

11:30 p.m.

7 bells

Noon

8 bells

Midnight

8 bells

 

  One bell is also struck 15 minutes before the change of watch as a warning to the Watch below that they are expected to be on deck punctually when 8 bells are struck.

 

* Seven bells in the Morning and Forenoon watches are struck 10 minutes early to allow the Watch below (next for duty) to have their breakfast and mid-day meal respectively.

  

 

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[1] From the Glossary of The American Practical Navigator, 2002 Bicentennial Edition [Bowditch]: “midnight, n. Twelve hours from noon, or the instant the time reference crosses the lower branch of the reference celestial meridian.”