Titanic Survivor's Eyewitness Account

Titanic Survivor's Eyewitness Account

In 1935, a survivor of Titanic recounts his experience aboard the doomed ship. On its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City, RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sunk off the coast of Newfoundland on April 15, 1912, killing more than 1,500 passengers.


The Titanic, One Century Later

A Chilling Must-Read Account

Jack Thayer was a 17-year-old first class passenger on the RMS Titanic, traveling with his parents on that fateful night of April 15, 1912. He miraculously survived after an epic struggle in the frigid waters. His mother was able to board one of the lifeboats but sadly, his father John Thayer perished. Jack went on to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania four years later. In 1940, he described his harrowing experiences on the famed ship in a self-published book, of which 500 copies were printed for family and friends. Oceanographer Robert Ballard used it to determine the location of the Titanic and proved that the ship had split in half as it sank, contrary to popular belief.

During World War II, both of Jack’s sons enlisted in the armed services. Edward, the oldest, was killed in 1943 in the Pacific War. When the news reached Thayer, he became extremely depressed and committed suicide on September 20, 1945 at the age of 50-the same age as his father when he died on the RMS Titanic.

Thayer’s dramatic first-hand account on the RMS Titanic had been forgotten for decades until recently, after one of the original copies was found by the editor of the Paris Review and a distant relative of the Thayers.

A Survivor’s Tale, which stands out for its raw power and gut-wrenching authenticity, will be published in May 2012 by Thornwillow Press to mark the centennial of the sinking of the famed ship.

The NY Post published on April 8, 2012 an excerpt from Thayer’s unimaginable story:

The RMS Titanic of the White Star Line, largest ship the world had ever known, sailed from Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York, on April 10, 1912. She was built by Messrs. Harland and Wolff, at Belfast. She was a fabricated steel vessel of gigantic dimensions, registered at Liverpool, her gross tonnage was 46,328 tons, her length overall being 882 feet, with a breadth of 92 feet and a depth of 65 feet. The distance from the keel to the top of the funnels was 175 feet.

She had a double bottom extending the full length of the ship, with a space five to six feet between the inner and outer plates, and was divided into 16 water-tight compartments, with access to each compartment through water-tight doors. The rudder alone weighed 100 tons. She was driven by three enormous screws, the center one weighing 22 tons, the other two 38 tons each, and was capable of making 23 knots. The last word in luxury, she was thought unsinkable.

Captain EJ Smith, her commander, commodore of the White Star Line fleet, was on his last round-trip from Southampton, before having to retire on age. In his 38 years of service he had never met with a serious accident. On this trip he had under him a splendid complement of officers and men.

The Titanic had a passenger certificate to carry 3,547 passengers and crew. She carried 16 lifeboats and four Engelhart collapsible boats, all of which had a total carrying capacity of 1,167 persons, or approximately 60 to 65 in each boat. She carried 3,560 life belts or their equivalent.

On this maiden voyage the ship carried a total of 2,208 persons, of whom 1,316 were passengers and 892 crew. There were 332 first-class passengers, 277 second-class passengers and 709 third class passengers. I have in my safe deposit box an original first-class passenger list. It was carried off the ship in the pocket of the overcoat worn by my mother.

My father, John B. Thayer, second vice-president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, my mother, Mirian Longstreth Morris Thayer, my mother’s maid, Margaret Fleming, and I were all in one party that sailed first-class from Southampton.

We had no more than started down the narrow channel, and were commencing to make headway under our own power, when we passed the American Liner USS St. Paul, tied up to the RMS Oceanic which was lying alongside the dock. The suction created by our port propeller, as we made a turn in the narrow channel, broke the strong cables mooring her to the Oceanic causing her stern to swing toward us at a rapid rate. It looked as though there would surely be a collision. Her stern could not have been more than a yard or two from our side. It almost hit us. Luckily, the combined effort of several tugs, which had quickly made fast to her, pulled her stern back.

This narrowly averted collision was considered an ill-omen by all those accustomed to the sea.

We called at Cherbourg, and from there proceeded to Queenstown. We left Queenstown at 1:30 in the afternoon of Thursday, April 11. The weather was fair and clear, the ship palatial, the food delicious. Almost everyone was counting the days till we would see the Statue of Liberty.

I occupied a stateroom adjoining that of my father and mother on the port side of “C” deck and, needless to say, being 17 years old, I was all over the ship.

Sunday, April 14th, dawned bright and clear. It looked as if we were in for another very pleasant day. I spent most of that day walking around the decks with my mother and father. We had short chats with many of the other promenaders, among whom I particularly remember J. Bruce Ismay, chairman of the board and managing director of the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, Limited, owners of the White Star Line Thomas Andrews, one of the ship’s designers and Charles M. Hays, who was President of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada with all of whom we spent quite a lot of time.

It became noticeably colder as the afternoon wore on. I remember Mr. Ismay showing us a wire regarding the presence of ice and remarking that we would not reach that position until around 9 pm. We went to our staterooms about 6:30 to dress for dinner. My father and mother were invited out to dinner that night, so I dined alone at our regular table.

After dinner I was enjoying a cup of coffee, when a man about 28 or 30 years of age drew up, and introduced himself as Milton C. Long, son of Judge Charles M. Long, of Springfield, Massachusetts. He was travelling alone. We talked together for an hour or so. Afterwards I put on an overcoat and took a few turns around the deck.

It had become very much colder. It was a brilliant, starry night. There was no moon and I have never seen the stars shine brighter they appeared to stand right out of the sky, sparkling like cut diamonds. A very light haze, hardly noticeable, hung low over the water. I have spent much time on the ocean, yet I have never seen the sea smoother than it was that night it was like a mill pond, and just as innocent looking, as the great ship quietly rippled through it.

I went onto the boat deck — it was deserted and lonely. The wind whistled through the stays, and blackish smoke poured out of the three forward funnels the fourth funnel was a dummy for ventilation purposes. It was the kind of a night that made one feel glad to be alive.

About 11 I went below to my stateroom. After a short conversation with my father and mother, and saying good night to them, I stepped into my room to put on pajamas expecting to have another delightful night’s rest like the four preceding.

The ship was so large and extensive that all I can tell about the tragedy is only a small part of all that actually occurred. I will try to recount all that I actually saw or heard, or heard from others and afterwards verified.

We were steaming along a 22 or 23 knots, not reducing speed at all, in spite of the many warnings of the presence of ice, which had come in from other ships during the afternoon and evening.

We were out for a record run.

I had called “Good night” to my father and mother in the next room. In order to get plenty of air, I had half opened the port, and the breeze was coming through with a quiet humming whistle.

There was the steady rhythmic pulsation of the engines and screws, the feel and heaving of which becomes second nature to one, after a few hours at sea. It was a fine night for sleeping, and with the day’s air and exercise, I was sleepy.

I wound my watch — it was 11:45 pm — and was just about to step into bed when I seemed to sway slightly. I immediately realized that the ship had veered to port as though she had been gently pushed. If I had had brimful glass of water in my hand, not a drop would have been spilled, the shock was so slight.

Almost instantaneously the engines stopped.

The sudden quiet was startling and disturbing. Like the subdued quiet in a sleeping car, at a stop, after a continuous run. Not a sound except the breeze whistling through the half-open port. Then there was the distant noise of running feet and muffled voices, as several people hurried through the passageway. Very shortly the engines started up again — slowly — not with the bright vibration to which we were accustomed, but as though they were tired. After very few revolutions they again stopped.

I hurried into my heavy overcoat and drew on my slippers. All excited, but not thinking anything serious had occurred, I called in to my father and mother that “I was going up on deck to see the fun.” Father said he would put on his clothes and come right up and join me. It was bitterly cold.

I walked around the deck looking over the side from time to time. As far as I could see, there was nothing to be seen, except something scattered on the well deck forward, which I afterwards learned was ice. There was no sign of any large iceberg.

Only two or three people were on deck when I arrived, but many rapidly gathered. My father joined me very soon. He and I moved around the deck trying to discover what had happened and finally found one of the crew who told us we had hit an iceberg, which he tried to point out to us, as possibly our eyes were not accustomed to the dark after coming out of the lighted ship.

The ship took on a very slight list to starboard. We did not know it at the moment, but we learned afterward that the iceberg had ripped open probably four of her larger forward compartments on the starboard side and also that if we had only hit the ice head on, instead of making too late an attempt to avoid it, the ship would in all probability have survived the collision.

About 15 minutes after the collision, she developed a list to port and was distinctly down by the head.

Here we were 800 miles out from New York, off the Grand Banks, our position latitude 41 degrees, 46 minutes north, longitude 50 degrees, 14 minutes west. No one yet thought of any serious trouble. The ship was unsinkable.

It was now shortly after midnight. My father and I came in from the cold deck to the hallway or lounge. There were quite a few people standing around questioning each other in a dazed kind of way. No one seemed to know what next to do.

We saw, as they passed, Mr. Ismay, Mr. Andrews and some of the ship’s officers. Mr. Andrews told us he did not give the ship much over an hour to live. We could hardly believe it, and yet if he said so, it must be true. No one was better qualified to know.

I was still just dressed in pajamas and overcoat. At about 12:15 am. the stewards passed the word around for every one to get fully clothed and put on life preservers, which were in each stateroom. We went below right away and found my mother and her maid fully dressed. I hurried into my clothes — a warm greenish tweed suit and vest with another mohair vest underneath my coat. We all tied on life preservers, which were really large, thick cork vests. On top of these we put our overcoats.

We then hurried up to the lounge on “A” deck, which was now crowded with people, some standing, some hurrying, some pushing out onto the deck. My friend Milton Long came by at the time and asked if he could stay with us. There was a great deal of noise. The band was playing lively tunes without apparently receiving much attention from the worried moving audience.

We all went out onto “A” deck, trying to find where we were supposed to go. They were then uncovering the boats and making preparations to swing them out. Everything was fairly orderly, and the crew at least seemed to know what they were doing.

It was now about 12:45 am. The noise was terrific. The deep vibrating roar of the exhaust steam blowing off through the safety valves was deafening, in addition to which they had commenced to send up rockets. There was more and more action. After standing there for some minutes, talking above the din, trying to determine what we should do next, we finally decided to go back into the crowded hallway where it was warm.

Shortly we heard the stewards passing the word around “all women to the port side.” We then said good-bye to my mother at the head of the stairs on “A” deck and she and the maid went out onto the port side of that deck, supposedly to get into a lifeboat. Father and I went out on the starboard side, watching what was going on about us. It seemed we were always waiting for orders and no orders ever came. No one knew his boat position, as no lifeboat drill had been held. The men had not yet commenced to lower any of the forward starboard lifeboats, of which there were four. The noise kept up. The deck seemed to be well lighted.

People like ourselves were just standing around, out of the way. The stokers, dining-room stewards, and some others of the crew were lined up, waiting for orders. The second- and third-class passengers were pouring up onto the deck from the stern, augmenting the already large crowd.

Finally we thought we had better inquire whether or not mother had been able to get a boat. We went into the hall and happened to meet the chief dining-room steward. He told us that he had just seen my mother, and that she had not yet been put into a boat. We found her, and were told that they were loading the forward boats on the port side from the deck below. The ship had a substantial list to port, which made quite a space between the side of the ship and the life boats, swinging out over the water, so the crew stretched folded steamer chairs across the space, over which the people were helped into the boats. We proceeded to the deck below. Father, mother and the maid went ahead of Long and myself.

The lounge on “B” deck was filled with a milling crowd, and as we went through the doorway out onto the deck, people pushed between my father and mother and Long and me. Long and I could not catch up and were entirely separated from them. I never saw my Father again.

We looked for them, following along to where the port boats were being loaded, but could see nothing of either father or mother. Fully believing that they had both been successful in getting into a boat, Long and I went back through the lounge to the starboard side, thinking of what we should do, and not looking further for my father at all.

It must now have been about 1:25 am. The ship was way down by the head with water entirely covering her bow. She gradually came out of her list to port, and if anything, had a slight list to starboard. The crew had commenced to load and lower the forward starboard boats. These could hold over 60 people, but the officers were afraid to load them to capacity, while suspended by falls, bow and stern, 60 feet over the water. They might have buckled or broken from the falls.

The stern lifeboats, four on the port and four on the starboard side, had already left the ship. One of the first boats to leave carried only 12 people, Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff Gordon, and 10 others. Most of the boats were loaded with about 40 to 45, with the exception of the last few to go, which were loaded to full capacity.

One could see the boats that had already left the ship, standing off about five or six hundred yards.

Apparently there was only one light, about which most of them congregated. They were plainly visible and looked very safe on that calm sea.

On deck, the exhaust steam was still roaring. The lights were still strong. The band, with life preservers on, was still playing. The crowd was fairly orderly. Our own situation was too pressing, the scene too kaleidoscopic for me to retain any detailed picture of individual behavior.

I did see one man come through the door out onto the deck with a full bottle of Gordon’s gin. He put it to his mouth and practically drained it. If ever I get out of this alive, I thought, there is one man I will never see again.

He apparently fought his way into one of the last two boats, for he was one of the first men I recognized upon reaching the deck of the RMS Carpathia. Someone told me afterwards that he was a state senator or congressman from Virginia or West Virginia.

There was some disturbance in loading the last two forward starboard boats. A large crowd of men was pressing to get into them. No women were around as far as I could see. I saw Ismay, who had been assisting in the loading of the last boat, push his way into it. It was really every man for himself.

Many of the crew and men from the stokehold were lined up, with apparently not a thought of attempting to get into a boat without orders. Purser H.W. McElroy, as brave and as fine a man as ever lived, was standing up in the next to last boat, loading it. Two men, I think they were dining-room stewards, dropped into the boat from the deck above. As they jumped, he fired twice into the air. I do not believe they were hit, but they were quickly thrown out. McElroy did not take a boat and was not saved. I should say that all this took place on “A” deck, just under the boat deck.

Long and I debated whether or not we should fight our way into one of the last two boats. We could almost see the ship slowly going down by the head. There was so much confusion, we did not think they would reach the water right side up and decided not to attempt it. I do not know what I thought could happen, but we had not given up hope.

We leaned over the side to watch the next to last boat being lowered. It was terrible. Apparently, for some seconds, there was no one above directing the lowering of the bow and stern falls so that she might be held level. The bow was lowered so fast that the people were almost dumped out into the water. I think, if Long and I, and others, had not yelled up — “Hold the bow,” they all would have been spilled out. Finally, in a few minutes, she reached the water safely.

It must now have been about 1:50 am., and, as far as we knew, the last boat had gone. We were not aware of the fact that Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller and some of the crew were working desperately on top of one of the deck houses to free and launch one of the four Engelhart collapsible lifeboats. These boats had strong wooden bottoms with sides which could be raised, and all around the hull ran a canvas-covered cork fender with a curved surface.

I argued with Long about our chances. I wanted to jump out and catch the empty lifeboat falls, which were swinging free all the way to the water’s edge, with the idea of sliding down and swimming out to the partially filled boats lying off in the distance, for I could swim well. In this way we would be away from the crowd, and away from the suction of the ship when she finally went down.

We were still 50 or 60 feet above the water. We could not just jump, for we might hit wreckage or a steamer chair and be knocked unconscious. He argued against it and dissuaded me from doing so. Thank heaven he did. The temperature of the water was 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Four degrees below freezing.

We then went up a sheltered stairway onto the starboard side of the boat deck. There were crowds of people up there. They all seemed to keep as far as possible from the ship’s rail. We stood there talking from about 2 am on. We sent messages through each other to our families. At times we were just thoughtful and quiet, but the noise around us did not stop.

So many thoughts passed so quickly through my mind! I thought of all the good times I had had, and of all the future pleasures I would never enjoy of my father and mother of my sisters and brother. I looked at myself as though from some far-off place. I sincerely pitied myself. It seemed so unnecessary, but we still had a chance, if only we could keep away from the crowd and the suction of the sinking ship.

I only wish I had kept on looking for my father. I should have realized that he would not have taken a boat, leaving me behind. I afterwards heard from my friend, Richard Norris Williams, the tennis player, that his father and mine were standing in a group consisting of Mr. George D. Widener and his son Harry, together with some others. They were close in under the second funnel, which was very near to where Long and I were.

It was now about 2:15 am. We could see the water creeping up the deck, as the ship was going down by the head at a pretty fast rate. The water was right up to the bridge. There must have been over 60 feet of it on top of the bow. As the water gained headway along the deck, the crowd gradually moved with it, always pushing toward the floating stern and keeping in from the rail of the ship as far as they could.

We were a mass of hopeless, dazed humanity, attempting, as the Almighty and Nature made us, to keep our final breath until the last possible moment. The roaring of the exhaust steam suddenly stopped, making a great quietness, in spite of many mixed noises of hurrying human effort and anguish. As I recall it, the lights were still on, even then. There seemed to be quite a ruddy glare, but it was a murky light, with distant people and objects vaguely outlined.

The stars were brilliant and the water oily. Occasionally there had been a muffled thud or deadened explosion within the ship. Now, without warning, she seemed to start forward, moving forward and into the water at an angle of about 15 degrees. This movement, with the water rushing up toward us was accompanied by a rumbling roar, mixed with more muffled explosions.

It was like standing under a steel railway bridge while an express train passes overhead, mingled with the noise of a pressed steel factory and wholesale breakage of china.

Long and I had been standing by the starboard rail, about abreast of the second funnel. Our main thought was to keep away from the crowd and the suction. At the rail we were entirely free of the crowd. We had previously decided to jump into the water before she actually went down, so that we might swim some distance away, and avoid what we thought would be terrific suction. Still we did not wish to jump before the place where we were standing would be only a few yards over the water, for we might be injured and not be able to swim.

We had no time to think now, only to act. We shook hands, wished each other luck. I said, “Go ahead, I’ll be right with you.” I threw my overcoat off as he climbed over the rail, sliding down facing the ship. Ten seconds later I sat on the rail. I faced out, and with a push of my arms and hands, jumped into the water as far out from the ship as I could. When we jumped we were only 12 or 15 feet above the water.

I never saw Long again. His body was later recovered. I am afraid that the few seconds elapsing between our going, meant the difference between being sucked into the deck below, as I believe he was, or pushed out by the backwash. I was pushed out and then sucked down.

The cold was terrific. The shock of the water took the breath out of my lungs. Down and down I went, spinning in all directions. Swimming as hard as I could in the direction which I thought to be away from the ship, I finally came up with my lungs bursting, but not having taken any water. The ship was in front of me, 40 yards away. How long I had been swimming under water, I don’t know. Perhaps a minute or less. Incidentally, my watch stopped at 2:22 am.

The ship seemed to be surrounded with a glare and stood out of the night as though she were on fire. I watched her. I don’t know why I didn’t keep swimming away. Fascinated, I seemed tied to the spot. Already I was tired out with the cold and struggling, although the life preserver held my head and shoulders above the water.

She continued to make the same forward progress as when I left her. The water was over the base of the first funnel. The mass of people on board were surging back, always back toward the floating stern. The rumble and roar continued, with even louder distinct wrenchings and tearings of boilers and engines from their beds.

Suddenly the whole superstructure of the ship appeared to split, well forward to midship, and blow or buckle upwards. The second funnel, large enough for two automobiles to pass through abreast, seemed to be lifted off, emitting a cloud of sparks. It looked as if it would fall on top of me. It missed me by only 20 or 30 feet. The suction of it drew me down and down, struggling and swimming, practically spent.

As I finally came to the surface I put my hand over my head, in order to push away any obstruction. My hand came against something smooth and firm with rounded shape. I looked up and realized that it was the cork fender of one of the collapsible lifeboats, which was floating in the water bottom-side up. About four or five men were clinging to her bottom. I pulled myself up as far as I could, almost exhausted, but could not get my legs up. I asked them to give me a hand up, which they readily did.

Sitting on my haunches and holding on for dear life, I was again facing the Titanic.

It seemed as though hours had passed since I left the ship yet it was probably not more than four minutes, if that long. There was the gigantic mass, about 50 or 60 yards away. The forward motion had stopped. She was pivoting on a point just abaft of midship. Her stern was gradually rising into the air, seemingly in no hurry, just slowly and deliberately. The last funnel was about on the surface of the water. It was the dummy funnel, and I do not believe it fell.

Her deck was turned slightly toward us. We could see groups of the almost 1,500 people still aboard, clinging in clusters or bunches, like swarming bees only to fall in masses, pairs or singly, as the great after part of the ship, 250 feet of it, rose into the sky, till it reached a 65- or 70-degree angle.

Here it seemed to pause, and just hung, for what felt like minutes. Gradually she turned her deck away from us, as though to hide from our sight the awful spectacle.

We had an oar on our overturned boat. In spite of several men working it, amid our cries and prayers, we were being gradually sucked in toward the great pivoting mass. I looked upwards — we were right underneath the three enormous propellers.

For an instant, I thought they were sure to come right down on top of us. Then, with the deadened noise of the bursting of her last few gallant bulkheads, she slid quietly away from us into the sea.

There was no final apparent suction, and practically no wreckage that we could see.

I don’t remember all the wild talk and calls that were going on on our boat, but there was one concerted sigh or sob as she went from view.

Probably a minute passed with almost dead silence and quiet. Then an individual call for help, from here, from there gradually swelling into a composite volume of one long continuous wailing chant, from the 1,500 in the water all around us. It sounded like locusts on a midsummer night, in the woods in Pennsylvania.

This terrible continuing cry lasted for 20 or 30 minutes, gradually dying away, as one after another could no longer withstand the cold and exposure. Practically no one was drowned, as no water was found in the lungs of those later recovered. Everyone had on a life preserver.

The partially filled lifeboats standing by, only a few hundred yards away, never came back. Why on earth they did not come back is a mystery.

How could any human being fail to heed those cries? They were afraid the boats would be swamped by people in the water.

The most heartrending part of the whole tragedy was the failure, right after the Titanic sank, of those boats which were only partially loaded, to pick up the poor souls in the water. There they were, only four or five hundred yards away, listening to the cries, and still they did not come back. If they had turned back, several hundred more would have been saved. No one can explain it. It was not satisfactorily explained in any investigation. It was just one of the many “Acts of God” running through the whole disaster.

During this time, more and more were trying to get aboard the bottom of our overturned boat. We helped them on until we were packed like sardines. Then out of self-preservation, we had to turn some away. There were finally twenty-eight of us altogether on board. We were very low in the water. The water had roughened up slightly and was occasionally washing over us. The stars still shone brilliantly.

We were standing, sitting, kneeling, lying, in all conceivable positions, in order to get a small hold on the half-inch overlap of the boat’s planking, which was the only means of keeping ourselves from sliding off the slippery surface into that icy water.

I was kneeling. A man was kneeling on my legs with his hands on my shoulders, and in turn somebody was on him. Once we obtained our original position we could not move. The assistant wireless man, Harold Bride, was lying across in front of me, with his legs in the water and his feet jammed against the cork fender, which was about two feet under water.

We prayed and sang hymns. A great many of the men seemed to know each other intimately. Questions and answers were called around — who was on board, and who was lost, or what they had been seen doing? One call that came around was, “Is the chief aboard? ” Whether they meant Mr. Wilde, the chief officer, or the chief engineer, or Capt. Smith, I do not know. I do know that one of the circular life rings from the bridge was there when we got off in the morning. It may be that Capt. Smith was on board with us for a while. Nobody knew where the “Chief ” was.

About 20 of our whole group were stokers. How they ever withstood the icy temperature after the heat they were accustomed to, is extraordinary, but there was no case of illness resulting.

They surely were a grimy, wiry, dishevelled, hard-looking lot. Under the surface they were brave human beings, with generous and charitable hearts.

Second Officer Lightoller, I discovered in the morning, was on board. He and some of the crew were trying to launch this boat before the Titanic sank. They were unsuccessful, but she floated off the deck covered with people, all of whom were shortly after washed off. Lightoller himself was washed off and sucked up against one of the ventilator grills. He had a terrific struggle but finally again was able to reach the boat.

In August 1914, just as war declared, I sailed on the RMS Oceanic, from New York, to play cricket in and around London, on a Merion Cricket Club team. Lightoller was either chief officer or first officer of the Oceanic, I am not certain which. We again went over our experiences and checked our ideas of just what had happened. We agreed on almost everything, with the exception of the splitting or bending of the ship. He did not think it broke at all.

Only four of us were passengers: Col. Archibald Gracie, Washington, DC A.H. Barkworth, East Riding, Yorkshire, England W.J. Mellers, Chelsea, London, England and myself.

Harold Bride helped greatly to keep our hopes up. He told us repeatedly which ships had answered his “CQD” (at that time the Morse Code for help), and just how soon we might expect to sight them. He said time and time again, in answer to despairing doubters, “The Carpathia is coming up as fast as she can. I gave her our position. There is no mistake. We should see her lights at about 4 or a little after.”

During all this time nobody dared to move, for we did not know at what moment our perilous support might over-turn, throwing us all into the sea. The buoyant air was gradually leaking from under the boat, lowering us further and further into the water.

Sure enough, shortly before 4 o’clock we saw the mast head light of the Carpathia come over the horizon and creep toward us. We gave a thankful cheer. She came up slowly, oh so slowly. Indeed she seemed to wait without getting any nearer. We thought hours and hours dragged by as she stood off in the distance. We had been trying all night to hail our other lifeboats. They did not hear us or would not answer. We knew they had plenty of room to take us aboard, if we could only make them realize our predicament.

The Carpathia, waiting for a little more light, was slowly coming up on the boats and was picking them up. With the dawn breaking, we could see them being hoisted from the water. For us, afraid we might overturn any minute, the suspense was terrible.

The long hoped-for dawn actually broke, and with it a breeze came up, making our raft rock more and more. The air under us escaped at a more rapid rate, lowering us still further into the water. We had visions of sinking before the help so near at hand could reach us.

With daylight we could see what we were doing and took courage to move, stretch and untangle ourselves.

One by one, those on top of the freezing group stood up, until all of us who could stand were on our feet, with the exception of poor Bride, who could not bear his weight on his, but could only pull his feet and legs slightly out of the water. The waves washed over the upturned bottom more and more, as we sank lower and the water became rougher. To keep our buoyancy, we tried to offset the roll by leaning all together first to one side and then to the other.

About 6:30, after continued and desperate calling, we attracted the attention of the other lifeboats. Two of them finally realized the position we were in and drew toward us. Lightoller had found his whistle, and more because of it than our hoarse shouts, their attention was attracted.

It took them ages to cover the three or four hundred yards between us. As they approached, we could see that so few men were in them that some of the oars were being pulled by women. In neither of them was much room for extra passengers, for they were two of the very few boats to be loaded to near capacity. The first took off half of us.

My Mother was in this boat, having rowed most of the night. She says she thought she recognized me. I did not see her. The other boat took aboard the rest of us. We had to lift Harold Bride. He was in a bad way and, I think, would have slipped off the bottom of our overturned boat, if several of us had not held onto him for the last half-hour.

It was just about this time that the edge of the sun came above the horizon. Then, to feel its glowing warmth, which we had never expected to see again, was something never to be forgotten.

Even through my numbness I began to realize that I was saved — that I would live.


Second-Class Passengers: The Collyer Family

Charlotte Collyer and daughter Marjorie. (Photo: United States Library of Congress [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Harvey and Charlotte Collyer and their 8-year-old daughter, Marjorie had left home in England. They were heading to a new life on an Idaho farm to improve Charlotte’s health. When the Titanic stopped briefly in Queenstown to pick up more passengers – and drop off any mail that passengers had written — Harvey sent a cheery postcard to his folks, saying in part:

“My dear Mum and Dad, It don’t seem possible we are out on the briny writing to you. Well dears so far we are having a delightful trip the weather is beautiful and the ship magnificent …We will post again at New York…lots of love don’t worry about us.”

When the ship struck the iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on Sunday night, April 14, Harvey left the cabin to investigate. Upon his return he told a sleepy Charlotte, “‘What do you think…We have struck an iceberg, a big one, but there is no danger, an officer just told me so.’”

Book cover of &aposTitanic: Voices From the Disaster.&apos (Photo: Courtesy of Scholastic)

But, of course, there was danger. Later, Charlotte clung to Harvey’s arm, unwilling to get into a lifeboat. All around her the sailors were shouting, “‘Women and children first!’”

Suddenly a sailor grabbed Marjorie and threw her into a boat. Charlotte had to be physically torn from her husband. Harvey tried to reassure her: “‘Go Lotty, for God’s sake be brave and go! I’ll get a seat in another boat.”

A week later, safe in New York with her young daughter, Charlotte broke the news to her mother-in-law. “My dear Mother, I don’t know how to write to you or what to say. I feel I shall go mad sometimes but dear as much as my heart aches it aches for you too for he is your son and the best that ever lived…Oh mother how can I live without him…he was so calm…The agony of that night can never be told…I haven’t a thing in the world that was his[,] only his rings. Everything we had went down.”

Charlotte died from tuberculosis two years later.


Titanic Survivors – Eyewitnesses to History The Poetic Professor: Lawrence Beesley | Guest Post by Sharyn Kopf

I’m excited that so many are enjoying the characters in my novel, By the Light of the Silvery Moon. Want to know more about the REAL people on the Titanic? My friend Sharyn has been kind enough to write some profiles for us. They are amazing and interesting…enjoy!

We don’t hear much about second-class passengers. Most accounts focus on the arrogance and heroism of the first class or the struggles and obstacles faced by those in third. Fortunately, Lawrence Beesley, a young science teacher from England, offered a rare second-class perspective. His book, The Loss of the S.S. Titanic, Its Story and Its Lessons*, was published within months of the sinking and was one of the first major eyewitness analyses of the sinking.

Beesley, in fact, was asked to write a “correct history” of the event to counteract the pieced-together accounts being planned by media outlets eager to get the details to the public, even if their descriptions were “erroneous, full of highly colored details, and generally calculated to disturb public thought on the matter.” In writing his story, Beesley hoped it would “calm public opinion by stating the truth of what happened as nearly as I could recollect it.” But then he shared an even stronger motive: “Another matter aided me in coming to a decision, the duty that we, as survivors of the disaster, owe to those who went down with the ship, to see that the reforms so urgently needed are not allowed to be forgotten.”

The poetry and candor of Beesley’s account flows from a different place than most authors. Rather than follow a story line based on where his imagination led him, he presented his experiences from an all-too-real place. He realized only those who were there felt the tilting of the boat deck, saw the stars lit against the black sky, smelled the ocean and the cold, and sensed the quiet panic of the souls surrounding them. It was this perspective he offered when he described his impression of the sinking Titanic from his lifeboat:
As the oarsmen pulled slowly away we all turned and took a long look at the mighty vessel towering high above our midget boat, and I know it must have been the most extraordinary sight I shall ever be called upon to witness I realize now how totally inadequate language is to convey to some other person who was not there any real impression of what we saw.

Nevertheless, Beesley tried to put the reader in his shoes, believing that to be the only way anyone could truly understand the often confusing decisions made that night. He asked his audience to set aside the knowledge they have and the images that had been created for them, and invited them to come stand on the deck and watch the great ship’s demise with him. In doing so, he let his readers see the tragedy through the eyes of other people who were there, even those who didn’t make it.

In this way, Lawrence Beesley—and other survivors who shared their account of the disaster—could, in a small way, bring back to life those whose voices were silenced on April 15, 1912.


Titanic Eyewitness My Story

Frank Goldsmith was a nine-year-old boy emigrating from England to Detroit with his father and mother. Also traveling with the family was 16-year-old Alfred Rush and Thomas Theobald, a fellow worker with Mr. Goldsmith. Booking third class passage on the new Titanic, they all were looking forward to starting over in the United States. When Titanic struck an iceberg, the order of women and children first into the lifeboats meant Frank’s father, Tom Theobald, and even Alfred Rush stayed behind and lost their lives in the sinking leaving Frank with only his mother to pick up the pieces and start over.

The loss of his dad, his friend and his dad’s friend was seared in the little boy’s memory and Frank wrote about his experiences in the 1960s. He tried to sell his story to publishers who turned him down, there wasn’t interest in the Titanic story at the time. Through Walter Lord, Frank was introduced to the Titanic Historical Society (THS) that welcomed Frank as they welcomed many other Titanic survivors into the organization. The THS publicized Frank to its worldwide membership through its journal, The Titanic Commutator. Frank died in 1982. His widow, Victoria gave his story to the Titanic Historical Society to publish and Karen Kamuda brought Frank’s story to life by editing, annotating and naming the book, “Titanic Eyewitness, My Story.”

Not only does this book contain Frank’s experiences but it also is greatly enhanced with period photos and vintage postcards from Frank and his mother’s collection purchased by the THS survivor biographies––other Titanic widows whom Mrs. Goldsmith networked with as she and they worked hard to get established in the United States the Samson story, the “mystery ship” connected with Titanic and SS Californian that Frank researched and closing the chapter on Frank’s life when the International Ice Patrol scattered his ashes over Titanic’s wreck so that he could rejoin with his father.

The Foreword was written by Walter Lord Preface by Donald Lynch, THS Historian and Introduction by Edward Kamuda, THS President

1. Chapters: Strood
2. “At last we are on the ‘lantic”
3. Boys on Board
4. 4. Sunday Night
5. “So long, Frankie, I’ll see you later”
6. The Last Lifeboat
7. “Oh, it’s going to float!”
8. Carpathia and Sam
9. A Bombay Oyster
10. Starting Over
11. Mother’s Network of Titanic Survivors
12. The Salvation Army and Titanic Relief Funds
13. The Red Cross
14. Thomas Leonard Theobald
15. New York American Titanic Relief Fund
16. Financial Assistance for Survivors
17. Survivors and Friends Network
18. Hands Across the Sea
19. S.S. Californian
20. Samson and Henrik Naess
21. Walter Lord and the Titanic Historical Society
22. U.S. Coast Guard International Ice Patrol
Epilogue: Frank Goldsmith, Emily Goldsmith Illman, Emily’s Album

Hardcover with dust jacket. Lavishly illustrated with color illustrations and original photos, this book will appeal to children and adults. Hardcover, large format 8.5 X 12 inches, 144 pages.


Titanic Survivors

The Titanic passenger list included some of the most prestigious figures of its time. The RMS Titanic first-class passenger list was a who’s who of the time and many businessmen, industrialists, and manufacturers of the Titanic were aboard during that fateful day of April 14, 1912. The majority of first class passengers were well known in their countries of origin and some were even known worldwide. Tickets for the Titanic capped out at $4,350 (which is more than $95,860 in 2008 dollars). Here is a full Titanic Passenger list as well as a good article on the Demographics of the Titanic Passengers.

Titanic Survivors

Be sure to check out our newest section where we hope to feature a healthy collection of Titanic Survivor Stories.

Do you know who Charles Joughin is? Well you should. His story of surviving the Titanic is most extraordinary. After fortifying his body with two bottles of whiskey, Joughin rode the Titanic into the ocean similar to Jack and Rose in the movie and simply stepped off the bow without even getting his head wet, then spent 3 hours in the frigid waters before being rescued. He was one of only a few survivors to weather the icy wet conditions. Many attribute this to the whiskey. Read the full story about Titanic survivor Charles Joughin.

Of the total 2,223 passengers aboard the Titanic only 706 survived the disaster. Most of those lost succumbed to hypothermia due to the freezing water of the Atlantic. Temperatures of the surrounding water during the Titanic sinking were around 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Humans exposed to this freezing water temperature would last only about 15 minutes before death. First class passengers and women were more likely to survive then men, second, and third class passengers. When the lifeboats were deployed, there was a women and children first policy that created these staggering survival rates. Of male passengers in second class, 92 percent perished. Less than half of third-class passengers survived. Another disparity is that a greater percentage of British passengers died than American passengers some sources claim this could be because many Britons of the time were too polite and queued, rather than to force and elbow their way onto the lifeboats as some Americans did. The captain, Edward John Smith, shouted out: “Be British, boys, be British!” as the ocean liner went down, according to witnesses. It also turns out that the legend of the band continuing to play as the Titanic sank is true.

RMS Titanic First Class Passenger List

Here is a full list of Titanic passengers, including the passengers by class.

Category Number aboard Number of survivors Percentage survived Number lost Percentage lost
First class 329 199 60.5 % 130 39.5 %
Second class 285 119 41.7 % 166 58.3 %
Third class 710 174 24.5 % 536 75.5 %
Crew 899 214 23.8 % 685 76.2 %
Total 2,223 706 31.8 % 1,517 68.2 %

Survivors of the Titanic

The Titanic met her unfortunate fate in April of 1912 and while there were over 1,500 lost to the sea, there were a total of seven hundred and six survivors that survived the sinking of this ship. This was one the saddest tragedies that there ever was and here is a brief account of some of the individuals that survived the sinking of the Titanic.

Miss Elizabeth Gladys Dean, also known as Millvina, was only a few months old when she, her parents, and a brother, boarded the Titanic at Southampton. They were immigrating to Kansas where her father had high hopes of opening a tobacconist shop. Her mother, brother, and Millvina were the only ones of her family to survive and be rescued. Millvina was the last remaining survivor of the Titanic, and passed away on May 31, 2009 at the age of 97.

Violet Jessop, an ocean liner stewardess and a nurse was one of the survivors of the Titanic. She is also well known for surviving the Britannic in 1916, the sister ship to Titanic. Violet also survived an earlier fiasco in 1911, when she was aboard the RMS Olympic, when it collided with another ship, HMS Hawke. She passed away on May 5, 1971 of congestive heart failure.

Lillian Asplund was the last Swedish/American survivor of the sinking of the Titanic. She was five years old at the time and she had actual memories of the sinking. Her family were third class passengers when they boarded the Titanic on April 10, 1912. She remembered that the Titanic was very big and it had been freshly painted. She reportedly said that she did not like the smell of the paint. She passed away on May 6, 2006, at the age of 99.

Barbara Joyce Dainton West was the second to last remaining living survivor of the sinking of the Titanic. Her parents, Barbara, a sister, and one on the way, were immigrating to the United States to begin a new life when the Titanic hit the iceberg. Barbara was only ten months old when she was on board the ship. Her mother, sister, and Barbara were the only ones to survive in the family. Her father’s body was never identified, if it had been found. Barbara died October 16, 2007 at the age of ninety-six years old.


Titanic anniversary: Rescue crews reveal the grisly aftermath of the Titanic tragedy

AS THE Titanic became legend 105 years ago today, the reality for the rescuers after the tragedy was anything but romantic.

The body of an RMS Titanic victim being picked up at sea by CS Minia. Crews described their horror at the disaster scene in later accounts. Source:Supplied

FOR those leading the recovery efforts, the task at hand was grim.

As rescue ships approached the ghostly sea where the Titanic plunged into the ocean in the dead of the cold night on April 15, 1912, white specks began to appear in the distance.

To onlookers aboard, they looked like 𠇌lustering and moving along the waves like a flock of seagulls”. Hundreds of them. All grouped together.

But as the SS Bremen pushed closer towards the site on Saturday, April 20, passengers began to scream.

The Bremen, heading to America from Germany, had steamed into the pathway of the Titanic disaster.

The ship joined the Carpathia in the recovery mission, along with four White Star Line ships ordered to rush to the scene. Ice, coffins, canvas bags and embalming equipment were packed onto the ships — this was not a rescue, this was a recovery.

The white specks were frozen bodies of the dead, wrapped in the ill-fated steamer’s life belts. For days, great quantities of these bodies, along with doors, pillows, chairs, tables, and scattered remains, floated along the North Atlantic.

“The sea became littered with bodies,” noted one survivor, Mary Davis Wilburn.

“The dead came up holding children in their arms. The poor people never had a chance.”

Two icebergs crashed against the sea, one a hundred feet high at its tallest peak. Red and black paint etched into at least one them, a reminder of the horrors that befell the bodies below them.

“The first one was a lady with a baby. We ran downstairs and told them [the crew], every body came up,” Leoni Hermann, who was aboard the S.S. Bremen as an 11-year-old at the time, recalled in an interview.

𠇎verybody was crying. As we went further, there was another body. They picked one up, a man. They brought him up on the ship and examined him, they really looked at him and saw him.”

The doomed liner, the S.S. Titanic. April 15, 2017 is the 105th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, just five days after it left Southampton on its maiden voyage to New York. Source:AP

A map shows the location & route taken by luxury liner Titanic before sinking after hitting iceberg in 1912. Copyright: Dorling Kindersley Publishing Historical Shipping Source:News Corp Australia

It was 11:40pm on April 14, 1912, when Titanic made contact with an iceberg during her maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, sealing her fate. She sank to her watery grave the following morning, at 2:20am, killing 1,526 passengers. This Saturday marks its 105th anniversary.

But the reality for the rescuers in the days after the tragedy was anything but romantic. While many talk of the days leading up to the disaster, fewer talk about the days in the North Atlantic after it. Of the open-sea graveyard that surrounded the ships. Of the fog that rolled around the wreckage. Of the bodies that 𠇋obbed in the swells”. Of the funeral services held on board rescue ships. Of sounds of the weighted bodies of victims plunging into the sea.

𠇏or nearly an hour the words ‘we therefore commit this body to the deep’ are repeated and at each interval comes, splash! as the weighted body plunges into the sea, to sink to a depth of about two miles,” Frederick Hamilton, a cable engineer aboard the White Star Liner ship, the Mackay-Bennett, described in his diary.

Crewmen from the RMS Oceanic aboard a Titanic lifeboat found among the debris. Picture: HAldridge/BNP Source:Supplied

The Mackay-Bennett spent nearly two weeks at sea. Hamilton recorded picking up a total number of three hundred and five bodies, one hundred and sixteen of which were buried at sea. It was this ship that recoverd most of the bodies of the victims.

Bodies were stacked onto mounds of ice for those to be claimed by relatives.

𠇊 large amount of money and jewels has been recovered, the identification of most of the bodies has been established, and details set out for publication,” he wrote in his diary on April 26, after five days of recovery.

“It has been an arduous task for those who have had to overhaul and attend to the remains, the searching, numbering, and identifying of each body, depositing the property found on each in a bag marked with a number corresponding to that attached to the corpse, the sewing up in canvas and securing of weights, entailed prolonged and patient labour.

“The Embalmer is the only man to whom the work is pleasant, I might add without undue exaggeration, enjoyable, for to him it is a labour of love, and the pride of doing a job well.”

A victim of Titanic in the process of being embalmed. Source:Supplied

Titanic - bodies recovered. Picture: HAldridge/BNPS Source:Supplied

For those aboard the Bremen, it was a distressing sight to behold.

“I saw a man and a woman clasped in each other’s arms, two men clinging together and the body of a woman with a child in her arms lashed to a chair,” Beatrice Stenke told the New York Times.

“We saw one woman in a nightdress with a baby clasped closely to her breast,” Johanna Stunke, a passenger aboard the SS Bremen, later detailed.

“There was another woman fully dressed, with her arms tightly clutching the body of a shaggy dog that looked like a St. Bernard.”

Some were dressed in full evening wear, others in night gowns and pyjamas. One woman was found with a life belt around her waist and a child in each arm.

Despite being cut off from mainstream media at the time (this was 1912 and they were at sea, remember), passengers on the Bremen were aware, if not prepared, of what they were about to see. Wireless messages from the Titanic had been running across the airwaves since the disaster, and ships across the Atlantic were answering their calls for help.

𠇌ome as quickly as possible, old man the engine room is filling up to the boilers,” the Titanic’s last wireless pleaded at 1:50am, 20 minutes before the Titanic’s final plunge.

“Steaming full speed for you … hope you are safe,” a liner responded at 3 a.m. Tragically, the last of the surviving victims would have been succumbing to hypothermia by that time.

RMS Titanic victims are transferred from the CS Minia. Source:Supplied

In fact, victims looked truly battered by the disaster.

“The cruelty of the disaster is most evident with the bodies,” writes Encyclopedia Titanica.

Witnesses described bruised and battered bodies, crushed skulls, broken arms, some even 𠇌ut up from the event of the sinking”.

“They were frozen in the treacherously cold north Atlantic, at night, and were bleached by the sunlight, during the day. As if an amusement for a cruel sea, they bobbed, had their faces repeatedly dunked in the water, and became wrinkled and discolored as they decomposed.”

Some were found with gunshot wounds, some by the hand of humankind in the panic that prevailed in those few terrifying hours before the ship sank, with its sloping decks and tilting body.

Crews described the scene as 𠇌old, wet, miserable and comfortless” — a stark reminder of the fragility of human kind, in an age where the unsinkable Titanic became a ship of legend.

𠇊nother burial service held, and seventy seven bodies follow the other,” Hamilton wrote on April 24.

“The hoarse tone of the steam whistle reverberating through the mist, the dripping rigging, and the ghostly sea, the heaps of dead, and the hard weather-beaten faces of the crew, whose harsh voices join sympathetically in the hymn tunefully rendered by Canon Hind, all combine to make a strange task stranger.

𠇌old, wet, miserable and comfortless, all hands balance themselves against the heavy rolling of the ship as she lurches to the Atlantic swell, and even the most hardened must reflect on the hopes and fears, the dismay and despair, of those whose nearest and dearest, support and pride, have been wrenched from them by this tragedy.”

A photograph of horse-drawn hearses carrying the bodies of those who lost their lives on the Titanic dated May 9th 1912. Picture: Adam Gasson/Alamy Source:Alamy

By the end of April, the harsh combination of salt and sun on victims’ lifebelts began to cause them to break, and bodies started to disappear underneath the ocean floor. In June that year, reports of sightings of bodies continued a steward and a kitchen worker.

“We’ve seen shoes. We’ve seen pairs of shoes, which would strongly suggest there was a body there at one point.”

But on this night, not only do we remember the horror that unfolded, we remember the aftermath.

This dramatic picture was taken from the deck of the rescue vessel Carpathia at daybreak as Titanic survivors prepare to board. Source:News Limited

Shocked survivers of the Titanic sinking in hospital, New York. Picture: AP Source:News Limited


By Daily Mail Reporter
Updated: 16:13 BST, 1 October 2010

An astonishing eye-witness account of the sinking of the Titanic has been published for the first time - nearly 100 years after the disaster.

First-class passenger Laura Francatelli wrote of hearing an ‘awful rumbling’ after the world-famous liner hit an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912 - then the 'screams and cries’ of the 1,500 drowning passengers.

Miss Francatelli worked as a secretary for wealthy baronet Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and his wife Lady Lucy Christiana and travelled with them on the ill-fated ship, which sank on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.

Laura Francatelli (circled right) stands next to her employers Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and his wife Lady Lucy Christiana (to her right) after they were rescued

She told how the three of them boarded one of the last lifeboats - containing just five passengers and seven crew - and admitted they didn’t consider going back to try to rescue more survivors.

'I noticed the sea seemed nearer to us than during the day, and I said to Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon: "We are sinking" and he said: "Nonsense"'

The account adds to a lingering controversy among Titanic historians as it describes how Sir Cosmo later paid the crew members £5 each, about £300 in today’s money, a gesture interpreted by some as blood money for giving the aristocrat a place on a lifeboat.

There were rumours that the Duff-Gordons has bribed the crew not to rescue people in the water, but the British Board of Trade's Inquiry into the disaster cleared them of any wrongdoing.

Miss Francatelli wrote her account in a signed affidavit presented to the official British enquiry into the 1912 disaster, which claimed 1,517 lives in total.

The historic document has now been made public for the first time and is being tipped to sell for £15,000.

The secretary, who was aged 31 at the time, told how she woke her employers when water seeped into her cabin after the Titanic hit the iceberg.

She wrote: 'A man came to me and put a life preserver on me, assuring me it was only taking precautions and not to be alarmed.

'When we got on the top deck. I noticed the sea seemed nearer to us than during the day, and I said to Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon: "We are sinking" and he said: "Nonsense".'

Miss Francatelli wrote her account in a signed affidavit presented to the official British inquiry into the 1912 disaster

The Titanic sank on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.

The party initially refused to go into a lifeboat because Sir Cosmo was not allowed on as only women and children were permitted, but they were then offered places on a smaller rowing boat.

Miss Francatelli said: 'The officer saw us and ordered us in, and we said we would go if Sir Cosmo could come also.

'The officer said to Sir Cosmo: "I should be pleased if you would go." We were dropped into this boat and lowered into the sea.

'The officers gave orders to us to row away from the ship.

'We kept on rowing and stopping and rowing again. I heard some talk going on about the suction if the ship went down.

'We were a long way off when we saw the Titanic go right up at the back and plunge down. There was an awful rumbling when she went. Then came screams and cries. I do not know how long they lasted.

'When the ship had gone all was darkness. I did not hear any discussion or proposal about going back nor did I say anything about it.

'We had hardly any talk. The men spoke about God and prayers and wives.'

She recalled how Lady Duff-Gordon was 'deadly sick' but was unable to reach the side of the boat due to some oars that were in the way.

She also told how a crewmember kept putting his hand on her knee while he was rowing for her to rub to keep it warm.

She wrote how the survivors huddled in the bottom of the boat to keep warm until they were rescued by the ship Carpathia two hours after the sinking.

Miss Francatelli said: 'Later on I heard the men speaking about losing their kits. Sir C Duff-Gordon said he would make it all right for them. he would give them £5 each.

'A day or two after we had got on board Carpathia Sir Cosmo told me to write out cheques for £5 each for the seven men in the boat.'

Andrew Aldridge, of auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son of Devizes, Wiltshire, which is selling the document, said: 'So many books and articles have been written about Titanic but this is an original firsthand eye-witness account written shortly after the disaster.

'In hindsight the lifeboat the party boarded was rather controversial.

As she confirms in her own words, there were more crew on board than passengers and room for potentially 40 or 50 more people who could have been saved.

'There was also great controversy surrounding Sir Cosmo because when they arrived in New York he gave the seven crew members £5 each.

'There was one train of thought that he was being very kind and generous and was compensating the men for the items they lost in the sinking. Certainly that is what Miss Francatelli thought.

'But the payment was also interpreted as blood money at the time. Was he paying the men for a place in the lifeboat and his own life?'

Miss Francatelli, from London, died in 1967. The document remained in her family until after her death and has been since been owned by two private collectors.


Titanic Survivor's Eyewitness Account - HISTORY

NEW YORK, April 19.—Dr. Washington Dodge of San Francisco, at the Hotel Wolcott here, gave the following account of the wreck:

“We had retired to our stateroom, and the noise of the collision was not at all alarming. We had just fallen asleep. My wife awakened me and said that something had happened to the ship. We went on deck and everything seemed quiet and orderly.

“The orchestra was playing a lively tune. They started to lower the lifeboats after a lapse of some minutes. There was little excitement.

“As the lifeboats were being launched, many of the first-cabin passengers expressed their preference of staying on the ship. The passengers were constantly being assured that there was no danger, but that as a matter of extra precaution the women and children should be placed in the lifeboats.

“Everything was still quiet and orderly when I placed Mrs. Dodge and the boy in the fourth or fifth boat. I believe there were 20 boats lowered away altogether. I did what I could to help in keeping order, as after the sixth or seventh boat was launched the excitement began.

“Some of the passengers fought with such desperation to get into the lifeboats that the officers shot them, and their bodies fell into the ocean.

“It was 10:30 when the collision occurred, and 1:55 o’clock when the ship went down,” he said. “Major Archibald Butt stood with John Jacob Astor as the water rolled over the Titanic.

“I saw Colonel Astor, Major Butt and Captain Smith standing together about 11:30 o’clock. There was absolutely no excitement among them. Captain Smith said there was no danger.

“The starboard side of the Titanic struck the big berg and the ice was piled up on the deck. None of us had the slightest realization that the ship had received its death wound.

“Mrs. [Isidor] Straus showed most admirable heroism. She refused in a very determined manner to leave her husband, although she was twice entreated to get into the boats. Straus declined with great force to get in the boat while any women were left.

“I wish you would say for me that Colonel Astor, Major Butt, Captain Smith and every man in the cabins acted the part of a hero in that awful night.

“As the excitement began I saw an officer of the Titanic shoot down two steerage passengers who were endeavoring to rush the lifeboats. I have learned since that twelve of the steerage passengers were shot altogether, one officer shooting down six. The first-cabin men and women behaved with great heroism.”

One of the stewards of the Titanic, with whom Mrs. and Mrs. Dodge had crossed the Atlantic before on the Olympic, knew them well. He recognized Dodge as the thirteenth boat was being filled. The steerage passengers were being shot down and some of the steerage passengers were stabbing right and left in an endeavor to reach the boat.

The thirteenth boat was filled on one side with children, fully 20 or 30 of them, and a few women. All in the boat were panic- stricken and screaming. The steward had been ordered to take charge of the thirteenth, and, seizing Dodge, pushed him into the boat, exclaiming that he needed his help in caring for his helpless charges.

Dodge said that when the boats were drawing away from the ship they could hear the orchestra playing “Lead, Kindly Light,” and rockets were going up from the Titanic in the wonderfully clear night. “We could see from the distance that two boats were being made ready to be lowered. The panic was in the steerage, and it was that portion of the ship that the shooting was made necessary.

“I will never forget,” Mrs. Dodge said, “the awful scene of the great steamer as we drew away. From the upper rails heroic husbands and fathers were waving and throwing kisses to their womenfolk in the receding lifeboats.” The Bulletin
San Francisco, April 19, 1912 Return to the top of the page.


Titanic survivor was an eyewitness to history

Take a walk through St. John’s Norway Cemetery at Kingston Road and Woodbine Avenue and you will pass the grave sites of prominent Beach citizens like Ted Reeve, R.C. Harris, Dr. William Young and the Ashbridge family.

There are no buildings or memorials named after Victor Francis Sunderland, who lived quietly in the Beach for more than 50 years before his death in 1973. Sunderland survived two of the great tragedies of the early 20th century: the sinking of R.M.S. Titanic and the First World War.

Sunderland’s first-hand account of the great ocean liner’s last moments became part of the narrative of James Cameron’s 1997 hit movie Titanic. Like the fictional Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), Sunderland was a young lad sailing as a third-class passenger on the maiden voyage of the ill-fated ship.

April is a time of hope and new beginnings. At 20 years old, Sunderland was leaving England for a fresh start in North America. As fate would have it, he became one of the few men among the third-class passengers to survive in the early hours of April 15, 1912. There were no places in the lifeboats that night for third-class men and chances of survival were slim.

Some of the incidents in Cameron’s film were taken from the accounts of survivors like Sunderland. In a 1912 newspaper story Sunderland described the scene:

“The boat deck was crowded on the starboard side. The crew was filling the boats with women and children and lowering them away. An old lady and an old man with a white beard stood together. An officer told the woman to get in the boat. She put her arm around her husband’s shoulder and said, ‘Let me have my husband.’ When she was told she must go alone, she said, ‘Then I will die with him.’ That was the last I saw of them.”

This couple was Isador and Ida Straus, last seen sitting on deck chairs, not lying in bed as in the movie, which took liberties with the truth. British critics were especially upset at the unfair depiction of officers. Sunderland believed that an officer did shoot a man in a lifeboat and then shot himself, but there is no proof it was First Officer William Murdoch.

Second Officer Lightoller and Sunderland were two of the last men off the doomed ship. While trying to launch collapsible lifeboat “B” they were swamped by water rushing on the deck. Lightoller shouted, “Here she goes” and jumped over the port side. Sunderland followed into the cold Atlantic seas.

The two men were among the 29 lucky souls able to climb onto the overturned lifeboat B which had washed overboard. Sunderland saw the forward funnel come crashing down into the ocean, then the great ship broke in two “and the stern stood straight in the air” – two events that were only confirmed by the wreck’s discovery in 1985.

The survivors on the upside-down lifeboat stood for six hours balancing in waist-deep freezing water until they were rescued in the early morning daylight. Sunderland arrived penniless in New York City, made his way to Cleveland and then to Ontario. He served in the Canadian Army in the First World War and never fully recovered from the effects of being gassed.

After the war Sunderland settled in the Beach area near St. John’s Norway, first on Kingston Road, then on Duvernet Avenue and Kippendavie Avenue. He worked as a plumber and lived the rest of his life on Waverley Road backing onto Kew Gardens.

Over a century later we are still fascinated by the mystery of what happened in those last desperate hours when the Titanic sank. Countless books have described the tragic events.

Victor Francis Sunderland is not forgotten. He survived and his son became a doctor, saving others in the circle of life. His memories live on in the epic film Titanic.

Back at St. John’s Norway Cemetery, stone angels watch over the departed and April showers bring flowers up through the cold ground. Spring is here at last!

This post has been updated.

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11 comments

Wow, and not too far away was the home of Madelline Mann, Audrey Ave., Scarborough. She was also a Titanic survivor, along with her mother and sister. She lived next door to my grandparents and I knew her when I was a kid in the 70s.

Cindy how can I get in touch with you about Madeline Mann.

Cindy, my two favourite articles to research were about other Titanic survivors who settled in the Beach. Madeleine also lived near me (on Kingswood Rd). Madeleine Mellinger (Mann) was only 13 at the time of the sinking and she saved her partially deaf mother’s life. Madeleine, Elizabeth and cabin stewardess Emma Bliss (Beech Ave.) are all depicted in the wonderful British film, A Night to Remember (1958), the most authentic of all the Titanic movies. Second Officer Lightoller gave his whistle to the Mellingers as thanks for warming him up in lifeboat 6. That whistle that helped saved the 30 men on the overturned collapsible lifeboat B is now in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England (of time zones fame). Real history is often more exciting than anything fictional. Look for fascinating books on Titanic, the Canadian Connection at the library. Happy reading!


Watch the video: Titanic 1993 Ray Johnson with Survivor Eva Hart