Captain Rostron: The story of a Boltonian hero

Welcome to Victorian Bolton. In the following blog post will look at the life of Arthur Rostron and his amazing rescue mission. Research from his autobiography Home From The Sea (1931) and other sources included in the bibliography culminate in a lifetime of achievements from a local man. 

On the 14th of April 1912 the RMS Titanic hit a large iceberg on her maiden voyage to New York. Holding an estimated 2,224 passengers more that 1,500 of which died in the disaster. In the early hours of the 15th April HMS Carpathia received a distress signal. Wireless Operator Harold Cottam having stayed ten minutes later than normal on his shift, intercepted the call. On receiving the news, Captain Arthur Rostron immediately set in motion a rescue mission and prepared the ship to take on survivors. The Carpathia exceeded its normal speed of 14 knotsand in Rostrons autobiography Home From The Seahe states that ‘The Carpathia was a fourteen-knot ship, but that night for three and a half hours she worked up to seventeen’ (Rostron,1931, p. 57). An incredible accomplishment that Rostron, as a religious man, put down to the ‘hands of god’ as Rostron’s granddaughter Rosemary Pettet explained in an article to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the disaster with ITV news in 2012 which you can access, here. 

The Carpathia at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, c. 1912. The National Archives/Heritage-Images/Imagestate

On arrival at the coordinates for the Titanic, nothing remained of the ship, only the surviving lifeboats; on searching them one by one the RMS Carpathia rescued over seven hundred survivors. Within three days they reached New York safely. Due to his heroic actions, quick thinking, and preparations he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the Thanks of Congress, the American Cross of Honor, a medal from the Liverpool Shipwreck and Humane Society, and a gold medal from the Shipwreck Society of New York, as well as a Knighthood in later life. A true Boltonian hero.

"The Rescue of the Titanic Survivors" by Capt. A.H. Rostron in the March, 1913, issue of Scribner's Magazine, 53(3), pp 354-364.

Captain Arthur Rostron, Bolton’s most famous mariner was born in Astley Bridge, May 1869. Having been educated at Bolton Grammar School he went on to join the Merchant Navy Cadet School ship HMS Conway. From 1886 to 1931 he served in the British Merchant Navy, during that period he was also in command of over 8 ships including the RMS Carpathia. On his retirement he became a member and later a Captain of the Southampton Master Mariners. He autobiography Home from the Sea which was published in 1931, detailed his naval career, including the rescue of the Titanic passengers.  

He died in 1940 of pneumonia in Chippenham, Wiltshire and was survived by his wife Ethel and his four children (Encyclopedia Titanica, 2021).  

In February 1999 Bolton honoured their local hero with a blue plaque on his childhood home in Astley Bridge, Bolton. 

An online copy of Arthur Rostron’s book can be accessed through this link.


Anon. (1999) No mistake over captain’s house. The Bolton News. [Online] 4 February. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 April 2021]. 

Anon. (1913) The Rescue of the Titanic Survivors. Scribner’s Magazine. [Online] March 53(3). pp.354-364. Available at: <,_R.D.,_R.N.R.jpg> [Accessed 1 April 2021].

Anon. (1912) Titanic Rescuer: Captain Rostron’s Visit to His Old Home. Belfast Weekly News. [Online] 1 August, p. 9. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 April 2021].

Clements, E. (1999) Childhood Residence of Sir Arthur Rostron. [Online Photograph]. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 April 2021].

Encyclopedia Titanica. (2017) Arthur Henry Rostron : Captain of RMS Carpathia. [Online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 April 2021]. 

Google Maps. (2021) Sir Arthur Rostron’s Childhood Home. [Online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 April 2021].

ITV News. (2021) Arthur Rostron – Titanic hero | ITV News. [Online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 April 2021]. 

Rostron, A. (1931) Home from the Sea. New York: Macmillan Co. 

Tikkanen, A. (2016) Carpathia | Ship. [Online] Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 April 2021].