Mr. Robert James Timmis

Robert James Timmis, 51, was a British cotton dealer who made his headquarters in Gainesville, Texas, described in Hoehling/Hoehling as "a big, heavy man."  Timmis was returning to England for his yearly visit.  Traveling with him was colleague Ralph Troupe Moodie.  Timmis survived the sinking.  Moodie did not.  On the Lusitania Timmis' cabin was A-27, adjoining Moodie's room. Robert Timmis recalled that on the night of Thursday, 6 May, he and Moodie saw a Greek sea captain (perhaps Michael Pappadopoulo) strap on a lifebelt, climb into a lifebelt, and sleep there all night.  No one was able to persuade the man to get out.  Timmis thought the sight was the funniest thing he had ever seen. On the day of the disaster, 7 May, Robert Timmis and Ralph Moodie played medicine ball and then cooled off with a round of drinks.  Afterwards they went down to the dining saloon to lunch.  The band had finished playing "The Blue Danube" and was now playing "Tipperary."  Timmis had just ordered a second dish of ice cream a few minutes after 2 p.m.  Both Timmis and Moodie had just agreed that they had "plenty of time." Before Timmis could have his second ice cream, the torpedo struck.  He thought the impact a "penetrating thrust" that had gone all the way through the ship and come out the other side.  Timmis and Moodie immediately pushed their chairs back (perhaps he meant 'turned to leave,' as the chairs in the dining saloon were bolted to the deck) and noticed that the ship had taken a heavy list before they had even left the dining room. The two then walked down to their cabins on the port side without feeling any particular need to hurry.  Their cabin was in shambles, the list having thrown around everything inside.  The list was so bad they both had to help women up the stairs and when Timmis told one to go to the low side, starboard, she said, "Oh no" and went to the high side. The two then went up to the starboard side of the boat deck where they helped two sailors lower a lifeboat of about sixty persons.  Next to Timmis was New York champagne king George Kessler.  Kessler was smoking a cigar and helping women into the boats "in a spirit of convention."  Kessler told Timmis that it was unlikely the Lusitania was going to sink. Looking towards the forward end of the boat deck, Timmis believed he saw the figure of Captain Turner raising his hand to stop the lowering of the boats.  Even with the engines dead, the momentum of the ship kept the Lusitania plunging forward.  At that moment, a steward came from the bridge with orders to stop lowering.  Not long after the steward had finished speaking, there came a crash, screams, and then silence.  Timmis saw "with a strange, stolid objectivity . . . detached from his own existence" a lifeboat hanging from the falls by one end (Hoehling/Hoehling, 116).  One side had been lowered too quickly, spilling its occupants before reaching the water. The ship continued to list heavily as more people, perhaps from steerage, arrived "in orderly fashion."  A second cabin woman, Sarah Lund, pleaded with him for a lifebelt and he gave her his.  A mother, thought to be Mina Chantry, with her six-month-old child Elizabeth and ill husband Harold then approached Timmis for help, as if his very bulk could reassure them.  Timmis thought that they were third class passengers, but the Chantry family would have been from second cabin.  Timmis advised the woman to strap the baby in front of her and began assistance.  Her husband, suffering from tuberculosis then asked worriedly, "Do you think they will live, sir?" Timmis then replied bluntly, "I think so, but you won't." A crowd of steerage passengers now surrounded Timmis.  Many of them were Russian and he could not understand what they were saying.  To clam them down, however, he held up his hand, nodded his head, and then repeated: "All right, all right!" The people seemed to understand, and one even kissed Timmis' hand.  Robert Timmis was so astounded at what just happened that he temporarily forgot that the ship was sinking. Soon afterward, the order came to empty the boats and that the Lusitania was safe.  The ship righted herself almost reassuringly.  Moodie then asked Timmis, "How about it, old man?" Timmis shook his head.  He believed the ship to be lost and that the righting of the ship was caused by water overriding the longitudinal watertight compartments in larger quantities than before.  He decided against telling the steerage passengers what he believed. Moodie took off his lifebelt for the sickly man's wife, but they could jump the Lusitania then took her final plunge, dragging Timmis and Moodie down with her.  The whole scene reminded Timmis of Niagara Falls.  Timmis went so far down, at least sixty feet, that the water around him was "black as the inside of a cow."  He did not see the Lusitania's final moments.  Keeping count of his strokes as he swam up, from where he was to the surface was exactly thirty-one strokes. Upon reaching the surface, he was impressed by the calm.  He did not hear a row, "just a sort of hum over the water."  He estimated himself to be roughly 150 yards from most of the wreckage.  A boy of ten then floated by him without a sound.  Timmis checked for a heart beat but there was none.  On the horizon Timmis could see another steamer sauntering along, unaware of the disaster that had just unfolded. From page 7 of the Monday, 10 May 1915 New York Times:  “Both men gave their lifebelts to steerage women just as the Lusitania sank. Timmis, who is a strong swimmer, remained in the water, clinging to various objects, for nearly three hours. Then he was taken into a boat, which he still had the strength to assist in rowing.” While in the lifeboat, he helped assist in pulling other people out of the water, including Sarah Lund, the second cabin passenger to whom he had given his lifebelt earlier. Timmis is listed as being from New York, New York but that is just where he booked passage.  He is named in Hoehling/Hoehling as Robert James Timmins. Timmis passed away on 8 August 1939 in Gainesville, Texas, at the age of 75. Contributors: Paul Latimer Michael Poirier Juidth Tavares References: Hoehling, A. A. and Mary Hoehling.  The Last Voyage of the Lusitania.  Madison Books, 1956. The New York Times.  Monday, 10 May 1915, page 7.

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