Henry Joseph Bailey was one of the two Master-at-Arms of the Titanic. He survived the sinking, while Thomas Walter King, the other Master-at-Arms, died.
Bailey was paid £9 7s 6d in expenses to attend the British Titanic Inquiry in London, staying several days, but never receiving the call to give evidence.
This is all the more surprising, given that the Wreck Commissioner, Lord Mersey, had himself raised questions about the Master-at-Arms’ role, asking who had duties aboard akin to those of a policeman, ‘to see that order is kept. (...) I am told the Master-at-Arms discharges those duties,’ Lord Mersey observed.
Yet Bailey was never asked to testify in the inquiry, nor did he ever give any kind of testimony...
There are several other people who mentioned a Master-at-Arms in Lifeboat 16, commanding it.
Able Seaman John Poingdestre told the Inquiry that ‘no doubt’ third class would be kept back if they made any attempt to gain the boat deck. He suggested (BI 3209) this would be done by ‘the Master-at-Arms and the stewards.’ ‘All barriers were not down,’ he added, squarely.
Poingdestre survived in lifeboat 12 on the after port side and knew the Master-at-Arms was on duty that evening. Bailey himself was saved in the aftermost port boat, No. 16, while seaman Joseph Scarrott told of having to belay passengers at the intervening boat 14, using a tiller, ‘when some men tried to rush the boats’ (Br. 383)
Scarrott then was joined by Fifth Officer Lowe, who drew his revolver. But no evidence was heard of any trouble at No. 16, despite its still being on the boat deck, representing the closest port-side escape craft for the watching steerage in the stern.
Able Seaman Ernest Archer said he went away in No. 16 with ‘another able seaman, two firemen, a steward, and a Master-at-Arms.’ He said in America that Mr Bailey ‘came down after us’ – using one of the ropes in the lifeboat falls, a feat equivalent to the celebrated descent of Major Arthur Peuchen to lifeboat No. 6.
Archer presumed that Bailey had been sent by an officer. ‘He said he was sent down to be the coxswain of the boat. He took charge.’ Bailey, it must be remembered, was an experienced cox who had been operating a steam launch in Southampton.
‘While you were loading the boat was there any effort made… to crowd into the boat?’ asked Senator Jonathan Bourne of Archer, who blithely replied: ‘No, sir; I never saw any,’ adding that there was ‘no confusion at all.’
Steward Charles E. Andrews thought lifeboat 16 departed as early as 12.30am, but offers no suggestion that Bailey descended a rope to gain entry. ‘After the boat was full [of women and children] the officer called out for able seamen, or any individuals then, to man the boat.’
Several got in, said Andrews, he himself being the sixth entrant. ‘Five besides myself. The Master-at-Arms - there was two Master-at-Arms, and one was in charge of our boat.’ It is possible, therefore, that Bailey entered at the boat deck.
A relatively early departure of 16 is supported by Quartermaster Robert Hichens, in lifeboat 6, who testified (BI 1189) that. when they stopped rowing. there was a boat ‘right alongside of us.’ In charge was ‘the Master-at-Arms, Mr Bailey.’
Bailey’s boat was ‘full right up,’ and had ‘left about the same time as we did.’ The two boats tied up together.
Fleet: And some other boat came alongside of us, and the Master-at-Arms was in charge of that boat. We asked could he give us more men. Senator Smith: What was the Master-at-Arms’ name? Fleet: I could not say. He is the only one that survived. Senator Smith: And you asked him if he could give you more men? Fleet: Could he give us another man to help pull. Senator Smith: What did he say? Fleet: He gave us a fireman
After the ship sank, ‘we heard a lot of crying and screaming,’ said Hichens. ‘The cries I heard lasted about two minutes, and some of them [in Fleet's boat] were saying, “It is one boat aiding the other.” There was another boat aside of me, the boat the Master-at-Arms was in.’
Archer, in boat 16, was asked by Senator Bourne what they did after the ship had sunk.
Archer: It was spoken by one of the lady passengers, to go back and see if there was anyone in the water we could pick up. But I never heard any more of it after that. Senator Bourne: And the boat was in charge of the Master-at-Arms? Archer: The Master-at-Arms had charge of the boat. Senator Bourne: Did this lady request you to go back? Archer: Yes, sir; she requested us to go back. Senator Bourne: What did he say? Archer: I did not hear; I was in the forepart of the boat.
On his return home, Bailey never again worked on a passenger vessel. He stayed ashore, but willingly returned to service during the Great War, serving his country with distinction for the duration of that conflict.
He returned to the high seas with the Royal Navy aboard HMS Eagle, HMS Victory and HMS Attentive.
After the war, a descendant recalls: ‘I can see him sitting in the chair in the middle room – the breakfast room – downstairs at 659 Portswood Road, and they had Charlie the dog.’
Bailey died on March 12, 1943 at the age of 77. The family Bible records his funeral being held at South Stoneham crematorium, Southampton.