From Gazette editions of July, 1956:
I didn’t know that I would ever want to see salt water again,” mused Dr. Robert Boggs of West Chop as he and his family prepared for the beach. Dr. and Mrs Boggs, their daughter Barbara, 16, and son Robert, 12, are all survivors of the sinking of the Andrea Doria off Nantucket last week, and they reckon themselves as being highly favored by whatever gods may be, that they are together, well, uninjured and able to tell of their frightening experience.
The Boggs family had sailed from Naples, and seven days out, with the prospect of landing in New York on the following morning, the disposition of the family at 10:30 on the evening of the collision was as follows. Dr. and Mrs. Boggs were playing bridge on the Belvedere deck, two decks above their state room, and seven or eight from the lowest deck. Their daughter was dancing in the lounge; their son was asleep in his room under medication given him for tonsillitis.
They knew that it was thick weather. The fog horn of the luxury liner had been sounding for some time and as they approached the coast they knew that traffic was apt to become thicker, yet they did not know, except in a very vague way, where the ship was.
The shock of the impact as they were rammed by the Swedish ship Stockholm was terrific. “The bow of the Stockholm penetrated the side of the Doria and went two-thirds through her, on the deck just below us,” said the doctor. “It struck the row of staterooms in which ours was located, missing ours by about seven or eight.
“We didn’t stop to speak or pause to think,” said Mrs. Boggs. “Our first thought was to get Robert out of his room and we went down as fast as we could. The ship listed heavily and instantly, so it was difficult to move on the stairways and through the corridors. The place was filled with oil-smoke and steam.
“It was difficult to waken Robert, who was under the influence of his medicine. We wrapped him up, took our life preservers from the rack, and then went looking for Barbara. We found her and then went up to the promenade deck.
“The lights remained on,” Mrs. Boggs continued, “and we could hear the pumps operating but the ship had listed so far that we had to lie down and hold on to keep from sliding. We didn’t hear anything in the way of instructions. The intercom was being used but everything was in Italian. We didn’t know that we were near Nantucket, we didn’t know that the French liner Ile de France was standing by and that other ships were near. We didn’t even know that lifeboats were taking passengers off from the other side of the ship, and we knew that the list was getting worse.
“There was no panic in our part of the ship. The passengers were wonderful in their calmness. We all prayed, but we couldn’t hear or see anything and we didn’t have too much hope. There were two hours of this, and then a sailor came out of a door and said that women and children could come to the boats.” Thus Mrs. Boggs and her children were separated from the doctor.
Mrs. Boggs continued: “We had to crawl up the sloping deck and slide along a corridor. It was frightfully slippery, and many people fell and suffered broken bones. When we got up to the rail, there was our waiter from the dining saloon. He gave us the first word of cheer I had heard, telling us that there was a ship standing by.
“We had to go down a rope ladder which wobbled around frightfully. It was one of the Doria’s boats that waited below, but the ordeal was frightful. They tied a rope around Robert, and they had to help many of the elderly and children. The swell was six to eight feet high and there was a lot of motion in the lifeboat. But just a few yards away lay the Ile de France, with an illuminated sign about two hundred feet long bearing her name. It was a wonderful sight to us who had not known she was there.
“They literally jammed the lifeboat full of people, and it took close to an hour because of the difficulty in handling the elderly and children. Some of them cried and declared that they couldn’t make it, but they did, with help. Some people jumped from the deck above. We picked up one man who had jumped from the bridge.”
Dr. Boggs was left on deck after his family departed. “The deck was fairly well cleared, when a sailor called and said I could go over now.” The sailor wanted him to go over the side, but the doctor, remembering his Navy days, would have none of it. “My impression was that my chances were better over the stern” and having gone around Dr. Boggs found some sailors with a cargo net. “The chief steward was among them and he gave me a big grin as I went down the net to one of the Ile de France’s boats.”
Compiled by Cynthia Meisner