BIRTH: From Walter himself when he lived at 198 Coolbreeze Ave. Lakeside,
Montreal 33 Que.
MARRIAGE:from Walter and from his book "The Life Story of an Old Shetlander"
DEATH: of Walter from Mary Grace (Cromarty) Johnson of Lerwick (29 Dec 1970)
(note: Mary has his death recorded as of the 19th of Dec)
OCCUPATION: was Scalloway's post man and telegraph messenger for a while.
Towards the end of 1903 Walter took radio Operator training
with Marconi International Marine Communication Company and pioneered a lot
of firsts with radio off the East coast of Canada. Among many interesting
things that came his way in pioneering with Marconi Walter ended up at Cape
Race, Newfoundland 11 Oct 1911. He would be now handling messages from and
to ships. The W/T Station was situated on the extreme S.E. Tip of
Newfoundland, adjacent to a prominant lighhouse and fog alarm. It was while
he was stationed at Cape Race and was officer in charge that he became
involved a few weeks later in the greatest marine tragedy in history, the
sinking of the "Titanic".
Quoting form Walter's Book: "My operator friend Philips, who had
been the last to bid me goodbye when I embarked on the Empress of Britain,
on coming to Canada, was now serving on the S.S "Oceanic" and I made a point
of saying "How Do" to him when his ship was in communication with Cape Race
During our brief chat restrictions of these liberties were not nearly so
severe then as they became later - he informed me that he was booked to join
the grand new ship "Titanic" as chief wireless operator on her maiden voyage.
Naturally, as the day approached which would bring the ship within range of
Cape Race, we kept an unsually sharp lookout for her. After all, not only was
she the wonder ship of the age, with every known safety device incorporated,
until she was regarded as unsinkable, but we also had a monetary interest in
the fact that with a large number of world-famous passengers on board there was
bound to be a heavy exchange of private messages which, of course meant revenue
for our station.
Communication was extablished early on Sunday, April 14th, and, as
anticipated, there were many messages on hand for transmission to us. At this
time the ship was upwards of 700 miles S.S.E. of us, a much greatet-than-
averge range in those days. That evening I took a trick between 8-9 p.m. and
after clearing thirty-five messages from the ship, held brief conversation with
Philips. He emphasised the magnificence of the vessel, the wonderful group of
passengers and the good time being had by all. Later in the evening the second
operator called out "Mr Gray the Titanic has struck an iceburg and is calling
C.Q.D. I immediately dropped what I was doing and ran to the operating room.
Donning the headpones, I heard Philips call for help using both distress
calls, C.Q.D. and the newly-introduced S.O.S. His call included the ship's
position in Latitude and longitude, weather conditions, and the story of
striking the berg. When he ceased, I called the "Titanic" and enquired whether
I could assist in any way. Philips thanked me and asked me to stand by.
Meantime, more than one ship had heard the call and were ingaging
Philips in communication. Philips had contacted quite a number of ships with
a number of them changing course to come to the Titanic's assistance.
Of course, it must be remembered that in the early stages, no one
quite realized the gravity of the situation and that for an hour or more there
was no thought of the ship sinking, for was not the "Titanic" an unsinkable
ship? Perhaps the master and his officers knew differently, but elsewhere it
was not recognised. It was only when Phiiips announced at 2 a.m. "we are now
sinking slowly by the head, putting women and children off in boats, weather
remains clear and calm", that the horror gripped.
A short time after 2:00 a.m. a very week distorted signal was heard
and the "Virginian" being much closer picked up what they thought was Philips
voice trying te get a message out and that was the last word from the radio