Third Officer Herbert Pitman
- Portrayals

As the least known of the Titanic officers, it is interesting to see how often the role of the third officer has frequently been exploited in literature, games and films.

Max Dittmar-Pittmann

In 1926, Max Dittmar-Pittmann, a retired captain, published his 'memoirs' in a book entitled Ein Menschenalter auf dem Meere. Erlebnisse und Abenteuer eines alten Seemanns ("A Lifetime on the Sea. Experiences and Adventures of an Old Seaman"). The book is 124 pages long with a preface that reassures readers that they 'can rest in the certainty that even the most unusual of the recounted adventures really occurred and in the way described'. What follows is a dramatic retelling of the Titanic disaster.

According to the now archived website entitled "The Fictional Officers of the Titanic" by Monika Simon, in an article entitled "Memoirs of an Imposter," Max Dittmar-Pittmann becomes "the third officer of the Titanic after bumping into an old acquaintance, Captain "W". Smith in London who invites him to join because the third officer assigned to the ship was sick. Then he is put "in charge of loading the six starboard lifeboats, four of which immediately sink after being lowered because they were overloaded and, unknown to the officers on deck, were immediately swamped by people who had already jumped into the sea. When Bruce Ismay demands a place in one of the boats, Dittmar-Pittmann puts his gun to Ismay's chest and threatens to shoot him. Ismay survives on the round raft. Several of the passengers shoot themselves in desperation....It is almost superfluous to say that Dittmar-Pittmann is on the last boat that left the Titanic".

Monika Simon reasons that "it was more than likely the similarity of his own name to that of the real Third Officer of the Titanic that made Max Dittmar-Pittmann put himself into his shoes. Additionally, Herbert Pitman was not as high-profile as for example Lightoller or Lowe. Dittmar-Pittmann was only able to pull this deception off because he lived in Germany. If he had tried to do the same in the UK (and presumably in the USA), the actual surviving officers of the Titanic and probably the White Star Line would have come down on him like a ton of bricks."

However, this fictional portrayal of Third officer "Pittmann" did not end with his book; it eventually found its way into one of the first major films about the Titanic disaster.

1943 Titanic - "Petersen"

German First officer Petersen (played by Hans Nielsen)
is actually based on the memoirs of 'third officer' Max Dittmar-Pittmann

The 1943 German film Titanic is essentially Nazi propaganda made during World War II in Berlin by Tobis Productions for UFA. After a brief theatrical run in occupied Europe starting in December 1943, the film was banned by Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, although he was originally the driving force behind the film. The hero is a fictional German First Officer Herr Petersen (played by Hans Nielsen). He spends most of the time criticising the decisions of the Captain and crew, especially over speed and warnings of ice ahead and becomes the hero of the story

However the role of Petersen actually has its roots in the memoirs of 'third officer' Max Dittmar-Pittmann. This occured primarly by the inclusion of his story in the 1936 book "Titanic - Tragedy of an Ocean Liner" by Josef Pelz von Felinau, which was later reissued in 1939. According to the book "TITANIC (1943)::Nazi Germany's version of the disaster" by Malte Fiebing, this book was "regarded as a reliable source of information, as a certain Max-Dittmar Pittmann described it in the prologue as 'authentic':

Nowadays we would call Pittmann straight out a straightout conman, because he travelled through the Deutsche Reich end of the Thirties and beginning of the Forties with an interesting story: he was onboard the Titanic as Third Nautical Officer and survived. Towards the ends of the Forties his cover was blown and he disappeared into oblivion. He did not have anything to do with the 'real' Third Officer of the Titanic, Herbert John Pittmann [sic] But at the time of the making of the TITANIC [the 1943 verion] his words were not contested. In all likelihood Felinau's novel supplied the prior knowledge for the viewer as well as for script writers. To be more concise, the research for this project brought to light, that Felinau was indeed involved in the 'project TITANIC' at the beginning...The name Felinau only appears officially twice in the intial stages of the project: in the trailers for TITANIC from Tobix in 1940 and 1941 he is being announced as the script writer. In the magazine 'Filmwelt however, it says in June 1942, that TITANIC is a film based on the screenplay of a certain Walter Zerlett-Ofensius" ("TITANIC (1943): Nazi Germany's version of the disaster" by Malte Fiebing)

The Titanic on Film: Myth versus Truth by Linda Maria Koldau also confirms that the role of Petersen originated in Max-Dittmar Pittmann's fictional Third officer story:

"In the original version of the novel [by Felinau], the German officer was Max Dittmar-Pittmann. Dittmar-Pittman was a real person, a German sailor who in the 1920s (falsely) claimed that he had been Third Officer on the Titanic. Felinau integrated him into his novel (promoting him to Second Officer) and included a foreward by Dittmar-Pittman that confirmed tha the events depicted in the novel were true. In the second version of the novel, which came out in 1943 (that is in the same year as the production of the Titanic film was finished), Dittmar-Pittmann has been substituted by the German officer Petersen...In the post-war editions of Felinau's novel, Petersen is turned into a Dane and presented as Third officer." (The Titanic on Film: Myth versus Truth by Linda Maria Koldau )

1958 A Night to Remember

Dennis Carnell

Dennis Carnell played "Third Officer Pitman" in an uncredited role in the British film "A Night to Remember" (1958). He is incorrectly portrayed in a scene where he and all the officers are given guns. However, only the senior officers were given guns and Harold Lowe brought his own gun aboard.

Interestingly, Pitman attended the world premiere of the movie based on Lords book, also entitled A Night to Remember. Reportedly he found the film to be “an excellent representation of what happened, and I cannot recall a single technical mistake.” Newsmen pressed him for additional details, and the 80-year-old survivor initially replied, “Oh, surely there is nothing more to tell.” Eventually he shared a few of his recollections.

However, according to Eardley Bryan, of Poole, Dorset, and a relative by marriage to the Pitman family ("Third Officer Herbert John Pitman is my wife's great uncle") he writes on the Encyclopedia Titanica message board: "We have several of his letters written to her parents during the second world war, but nothing about Titanic. He was not very impressed by the film 'A Night to Remember'"

1984 Titanic (Telemovie)

Pitman was also depicted in the 1984 German telemovie. According to Titanic author Inger Sheil "he was extraordinarily youthful, sans moustache (which, perhaps, was why Lightoller was wearing one...they were sharing it around)." (Encyclopedia Titanica)"

1996 Titanic Adventure Out of Time

In the 1996 video game Titanic: Adventure Out of Time, Officer Pitman is replaced by the fictitious Third Officer Morrow and played by the actor John Mayer.

"Third Officer Morrow is the RMS Titanic's third officer and a British veteran of the Second Boer War. He is standing watch the night of the sinking and is in command of the Titanic. He is fifth in command of the ship, behind the Second Officer, First Officer, Chief Officer, and the Captain. He goes down with the ship after launching the last of the lifeboats. Third Officer Morrow must be spoken with in order to enter the Wireless Room, and spoken to carefully. If Carlson finds and returns his binoculars, Morrow will allow him to visit the Bridge. Carlson will also have to speak with Morrow to enter the Turkish Bath after receiving news of Haderlitz's death. During the sinking he cannot be bribed with a boat pass, but if the player helps "keep passengers calm" he will save a spot on the last boat out. "(Source: Titanic - Adventure Out Of Time Wiki)

1997 Titanic

Kevin De La Noy

Kevin De La Noy played Pitman in an uncredited role in James Cameron's epic 1997 film. It is his one and only acting role (according to IMDB) as he was actually a production manager/unit director by trade. In James Cameron's Titanic he was officially listed as the "Unit Director"

1997 Broadway Musical Titanic

The character of Pitman was sizeable in the 1997 Broadway musical Titanic.

2012 Titanic

The role of the third officer is uncredited in the 2012 Titanic series and the actor who played the role is presently unknown.