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“I Wish the ‘Titanic’ Were Lying at the Bottom of the Ocean”: Edgardo Samuel Andrew

"I Wish the 'Titanic' Were Lying at the Bottom of the Ocean": Edgardo Samuel Andrew

Edgardo Samuel Andrew was newly 17 years old when he boarded Titanic in Southampton.

He did not want to go.

Edgardo Andrew grew up on a cattle ranch called El Durazno, in Argentina.

He was born to English-immigrant parents, named Samuel and Annie, in March 1895. Edgardo was the second-to-last of eight children, but his younger brother died in infancy, making Edgardo the de facto baby of the family.

Samuel Andrew died in 1906, leaving Edgardo's older brother as administrator to both the business and his family.

It was commonly accepted practice for expatriate families to export their children for their schooling back home. And the Andrew family did just that.

So in 1911, in keeping with the tradition dictated by his siblings before him, Edgardo set off for school in Bournemouth, England. He went at the behest of his elder brother, Silvano.

Silvano had himself attended school back in Britain, where he studied marine engineering and steam engines over the course of six or seven years.

Silvano then returned to Buenos Aires and joined the Argentinian Navy.

He was thereafter shipped off to United States: first to Quincy, Massachusetts, and then New Jersey.

While there, Silvano began courting an affluent widow named Harriet White Fisher, and he eventually quit the Navy to work as an executive for Harriet's prominent company, called "Fisher and Norris Anvil Works."

It was well into the spring of 1912 when Edgardo received a letter from Silvano: he and Harriet Fisher were engaged to be married. And soon.

The wedding was scheduled for April 27, 1912, in New York.

Silvano wanted Edgardo to attend--not just as a guest at the wedding, but also to enjoy the bounty of American life, and possibly even work alongside him at the Anvil Works.

Edgardo, of course, accepted the invitation and booked immediate passage to New York from Southampton.

On board the R.M.S. Oceanic.

Edgardo's ship was scheduled to depart from the Southampton docks on April 17th, 1912, only ten days before the wedding.

He had not considered the coal strike, which had only recently ended on April 6th and was still impacting sea travel. It left most vessels without fuel for their scheduled routes.

Including the Oceanic.

Edgardo's ship was berthed indefinitely, moored alongside smaller vessels like the S.S. New York. And most likely, it had had its limited coal supply pilfered by its parent, the White Star Line.

To supply the maiden voyage of Titanic.

Edgardo felt he had no choice: to make it in time for his brother's wedding, he would have to depart England sooner than scheduled.

And so, he transferred his ticket to Titanic, which was set to leave a week earlier, on April 10th. It would afford him more time; and really, it was his only option.

Edgardo was displeased with the adjustment for a particular reason.

He had recently received a letter from a dear friend--often presumed to be a romantic interest, or even fiancee--back home in Argentina: a girl named Josefina Cowan.

Josefina wrote to Edgardo that she would soon be taking passage to England, and that she dearly hoped to see him.

But with his alternate passage on Titanic already booked, Edgardo had to dash both her hopes and his. He responded on April 8th.

"You can't imagine how sorry I am leaving without seeing you, but I've got to go and there's no other way...

When I received your first letter telling me you were coming... I was so happy about the news I could not think of anything else, and I was making every program... but sadly my anticipated programs will not come true..."

In that same letter, Edgardo expressed his bitterness toward what he felt was the sole impediment between himself and Josey: the necessity of his travel on Titanic.

The plain irony would become his epitaph.

"You figure Josey I had to leave on the 17th this (month) aboard the "Oceanic", but due to the coal strike that steamer cannot depart, so I have to go one week earlier on board the 'Titanic'. It really seems unbelievable that I have to leave a few days before your arrival, but there's no help for it, I've got to go. You figure, Josey, I am boarding the greatest steamship in the world, but I don't really feel proud of it at all, right now I wish the 'Titanic' were lying at the bottom of the ocean."

And so, on April 10th, Edgardo rode the train to Southampton and embarked on Titanic. He held a Second-class ticket.

He was all alone.

His spirits seem to have lightened, however, once he had settled on board.

While Titanic steamed toward the port of Cherbourg that same afternoon, Edgardo popped into the barber shop and bought two postcards: one for his brother Wilfredo back home at El Durazno, and one for his friend in Italy.

Edgardo began the postcard to Wilfredo: "From this colossal ship I'm pleased to greet you."

On Titanic, Second-class passengers shared dining tables.

And so young Edgardo became friends with his table-mates. They were Jacob Milling, who was a railway machine inspector from Copenhagen, and Edwina Troutt, who was traveling to visit her sister.

Just like Edgardo, Edwina had likewise been inconvenienced by a transfer of passage from the lamed Oceanic.

Edgardo seemed to have spent a significant amount of time in the company of his new friends.

Edwina recalled that both Edgardo and Jacob wrote letters each morning. She also reported on conversations between them about how ardently Jacob missed his wife, and his excitement to send her a wireless message.

And according to Edwina, on the evening of April 14th, the trio was "in the Library talking over various things."

Edwina later wrote the following recollection about the actions of both Jacob Milling and Edgardo Andrew once Titanic struck the iceberg.

"I heard the ship make a stumbling noise, enough to wake me... [after the collision] I met only a few curious women & Mr Andrew. I tried to find out out what was the matter, & the officer told me, 'It's only an iceberg. ou must go back to your stateroom or you'll catch cold.'

...I saw them lower one lifeboat with no one in it & noticed the men were also uncovering another. I then realised something was the matter. I at once went to the state rooms of all my friends & told them to dress in case we were called up. Then I met Mr Milling & he said 'What is the trouble, Miss Trout? What does it all mean?' I said, 'A very sad parting for all of us. This ship is going to sink.' (Mr Andrew laughed at me & said impossible)

Mr Andrew & I then went looking for other friends & so many of them couldn't do anything for themselves so we helped them with their life preservers..."

In a spoken interview decades later, Edwina recalled that Edgardo had tried to convince her that the ship could not--and would not--go down.

Elsewhere, she reported that Edgardo even gave her his life vest.

Edgardo died in the sinking that night. His body, if ever recovered, went unidentified.

But in 2001, a leather suitcase was recovered from the shipwreck, about 800 feet off of the stern. The luggage was submitted for restoration.

It was Edgardo's.

Remarkably, once opened, it was found to still be neatly packed. The contents included his shoes, as well as a school notebook.

Therein, written in pencil, researchers found that he had taken up pages, just signing and re-signing his name.

Edgardo Samuel Andrew--only 17 years old and looking toward his future--seems to have been practicing his signature.


Behe, George. "On Board RMS Titanic: Memories of the Maiden Voyage." The History Press, 2012.

National Geographic, "Drain the Titanic." Documentary directed by Wayne Abbott. 2015.

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“High Class Confectionery”: Kate Phillips & Henry Morley

"High Class Confectionery": Kate Phillips & Henry Morley

In the spring of 1912, Henry Morley sold his candy shops.

The shops, collectively called Purveyors of High Class Confectionery and owned by L. Morley Confectioners, were fine-candy stores, and they were quite successful. The businesses were profitable enough for Henry to employ multiple shop assistants.

One of those assistants was Kate Florence Phillips, with whom Henry fell in love.

And so, on April 10, 1912, Henry and Kate boarded Titanic at Southampton. Henry's brother, who had aided him in selling the Confectioneries, waved the couple on from the quay. The lovers were planning to resettle in the United States, where they could begin a life together in San Francisco.

A candy counter in St. Louis, MO, circa 1910. Courtesy of the United States National Archives & Records Administration.


But Henry had also left a life behind.

Henry Morley, who was 38 years old at the time he absconded with 19-year-old Kate, was a married man.

Henry had chosen to abandon his wife Louisa in order to elope with Kate. He had left "on holiday" under the pretense of going to a western climate in order to recuperate from an illness--and then he sold his businesses. Some funds were allocated to the continued support of Louisa and his daughter Doris; the rest of the money was intended as capital for a new shop in California, with Kate as his bride.

On March 2, 1912, Henry withdrew a large sum of money from his bank in Worcester. He spent the next month bouncing from address to address, passing Kate off as his wife.

Henry and Kate boarded with a joint Second-Class ticket under the very fake names of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall.

Titanic leaving Southampton, April 10, 1912. Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum.


How Kate and Henry spent their time during the voyage is undocumented.

While on board, or perhaps before embarking on the voyage, Henry gifted Kate with a love token he had purchased back in Britain: a silver necklace, boasting a deep-blue sapphire surrounded by diamonds. She reportedly wore it to every dinner on board, gleaming with pride.

When Titanic struck the iceberg on the night of April 14th, Henry is reported to have roused Kate from sleep. Before rushing up on deck, Henry removed Kate's necklace from a drawer and latched it around her neck.

On the boat deck, Kate wore only her cotton nightgown and her beloved necklace, and held nothing but a small seal-skin purse and her lover's arm. Henry could not swim, and he reportedly clung to Kate as they stood before the lifeboats. And then a sailor grabbed her away and forced her to board.

Kate Phillips's necklace, called the Love of the Sea. Courtesy of Titanic: The Exhibition, in NYC, November 2022.


The lifeboat in question alternates between Lifeboat 11 and Lifeboat 13. It has been reported that Kate shared the lifeboat with two-month-old Millvina Dean, and that at one point, she was in Kate's arms.

Henry Morley died in the sinking. His remains were not recovered.

Young Kate arrived in New York alone, bereft, and impoverished. Somehow, she found an unnamed couple with whom to stay as she recovered from the trauma of the disaster.

And then Kate learned that she was pregnant.

Unfortunately, the couple who housed her did not want a baby to care for as well; Kate had no other option but to return to her parents' home in England.

In January of 1913, nine months after Titanic set sail and foundered, Henry Morley's daughter was born. Kate named her Ellen Mary.

It was a disgrace to be born without a father, but in my early childhood I was protected from the shame.

I was born in my grandparents' house on January 11, 1913, nine months to the day from when the Titanic called at Queenstown.

The house backed onto the river Severn and my earliest memory is of sitting in the family punt while my grandfather strapped me in. "Well make sure you won't drown," he would say. But I didn't know what he meant.

For the first nine years I was brought up by them. Once a year this woman would arrive from London and cuddle and smother me in kisses. I couldn't bear it. I had no idea who she was.

Ellen's paternity, though never publicly conceded, appears to have been acknowledged by payments made to Ellen's grandparents by Henry Morley's brother, in order to pay for her schooling.

Ellen suffered an emotionally and physically abusive childhood as her mother's mental health deteriorated.

Per Ellen's accounts, her likeness to Henry Morley seemed to amplify her mother's emotional pain. She would reprimand her young daughter for looking at her, for instance, because she had her father's eyes.

The shock of the Titanic must have disturbed my mother's mind. She had been on her way to another land with the man she loved. You'd think that she would love his child. But instead she rejected me...

One day, a bedridden Kate placed a gift in Ellen's hands.

When I was sixteen, my mother gave me a diamond and sapphire necklace and a seal-skin purse with two keys inside. She simply gave them to me with the words, "Here. Take these. They're yours, now," and she would not explain. I did not realize their importance, because she could never speak about the Titanic.

Kate rarely, if ever, saw her daughter again after that.

Kate Phillips was later committed to an asylum. She died in 1964.

Kate’s necklace, which was sold to collectors in the 1990s, is now called “The Love of the Sea.”

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“Always Marked by Refinement & Musicianship”: John Wesley Woodward

"Always Marked by Refinement and Musicianship": John Wesley Woodward

John Wesley Woodward was 32 years old when he boarded Titanic with his "best cello."

Wes, as he was called, had been a maritime musician for some time. His most recent trip had been a longer-term stint on the Caronia, and he had even been on board Titanic's sister Olympic when she collided with the HMS Hawke on September 20, 1911. In fact, Wes and two of his bandmates had been playing checkers at the moment of impact.

Damage sustained by the RMS Olympic in a collision with the HMS Hawke, 1911. Taken by Robert John Welch for Harland & Wolff.


Wes was born in England in 1879.

He was the youngest child in a brood of nine, although by the time Wes reached adolescence, he already suffered the loss of two brothers and his father, Joseph. Joseph worked as a manager at a holloware foundry, otherwise known as a factory that specialized in producing bowls, teapots, pitchers, and the like.

In 1900, Wes was granted a licentiate as a cellist, meaning that he was officially qualified to teach music. By the next year, at all of 21 years old, Wes is noted on the census as a musician, which meant he successfully earned his living as such.

Wes was by all accounts a dapper and convivial fellow, his countenance always focused and calm from behind his wire-rimmed spectacles.

He was highly sought after for his musical prowess, and was continually recruited into both solo and orchestral work. In 1910, he traveled to Jamaica to work at Constant Spring Hotel, where "his sunny disposition render[ed] him a favourite wherever he went." He later told friends that this stint in the Caribbean had done wonders to improve his health.

Once back in Southampton in 1911, Wes signed onto the RMS Olympic's maiden voyage alongside John Law Hume, a Scottish violinist who would later become his bandmate on Titanic.

When the RMS Olympic arrived in New York City on June 21, 1911, Wes seized the opportunity to expand his horizons. Since Olympic would not depart for England until June 28th, Wes spent the week educating himself on American music stylings. The periodical Brighton Advertiser later reported that Wes "had a very high opinion of the Americans as lovers of music."

Courtesy of the RMS Olympic, Wes Woodward visited New York thrice more that year.


Titanic's elder sister Olympic, arriving at port circa 1911. From the George Grantham Bain Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.


But after the Olympic was laid up due to the aforementioned incident with the HMS Hawke, Wes was forced to take work on the Caronia, a smaller Cunard vessel.

Between November of 1911 and February of 1912, Wes bounced between Liverpool, New York City, and Mediterranean locations like Gibraltar, Egypt, Monaco, and Italy.

So much travel presented Wes with an opportunity to indulge in one of his other, lesser known hobbies: photography, an art he also exceled in. Wes was also fascinated by engineering, and reportedly spent hours in his workshop studying and building the mechanisms of internal combustion engines.

Although Wes insisted to his friends that he enjoyed the spontaneity of a life lived at sea, he was ready to transition to a happy life on land. He hoped to join an orchestra in Eastbourne, and was reportedly intending to be engaging to an unnamed young woman from London.

He just needed to get through the summer of 1912.

Titanic docked in Southampton.


Wes boarded Titanic on April 10th in Southampton along with seven other musicians.

He was already friendly with John Law Hume, whom he had not seen since the Olympic's accident in September of the previous year, and may have been acquainted with one of the pianists, Theo Brailey. Wes most likely had at least heard mention of the others--and they of him. The musical world was a small one, and he and several of his bandmates had a mutual friend in common: a musician named Edgar Heap who had played with at least five of them in the recent past.

Technically employed as they were via C.W. & F.N. Black out of Liverpool, all eight musicians boarded as Second-Class passengers with a shared ticket number of 250654. The group divided themselves between two cabins.

The musicians probably boarded and became acquainted with one another by the mid-morning; they had their first show all together at 11:30 a.m., when they were scheduled to play as First-Class passengers boarded and were greeted with champagne flutes.

They would then have to hustle to their next planned locations, to be in place for First-Class luncheon. A letter written by First-Class passenger Adolphe Saalfeld also confirms that some bandmembers later played that evening for First-Class teatime as well.

Their schedules and assignments throughout the voyage were distributed by bandmaster Wallace Hartley. Three of the musicians would remain rather stationary, playing primarily on B Deck near dining First-Class passengers. The remaining five men were to float to various locations for concerts in both First- and Second-Class.

On April 11th, Second-Class passenger Juliette LaRoche mentioned the musicians in a letter posted to her father.

"I am writing to you from the reading room ['salon de lecture'] and there is a concert next to me: a violin, two cellos [and] a piano."

As cited in © "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner.

And since the band members were also boarded as Second-Class passengers, their fellow passengers would have also witnessed and interacted with the men when they were at leisure. Wes Woodward in particular appears to have been an object of admiration for his talent and gentility.

Contemporary promotional illustration of the Second-Class Library on both Olympic and Titanic, by Harland & Wolff.


A Second-Class passenger named Kate Buss, who was traveling from England to California to meet her fiance, kept a journal while on board, in which she called other individuals by little nicknames.

And thus, throughout her entries on Titanic, the ever-genial Wes Woodward was called "Cello Man."

"The Cello Man is a favourite of mine. Every time he finishes a piece he looks at me and we smile...

Saw Doctor just after dinner and reminded him of his promise to ask our Cello Man to play a solo. Says he would if I'd go to Kentucky... too late to arrange, so going to ask for it tomorrow. Cello Man quite nice. Very superior bandsman, and he always smiles his parting to us...

I couldn't get near to ask our Cello Man for a solo... he is quite gentlemanly. He agreed [to a solo] and we chatted.

As cited in © "The Band That Played On" by Steve Turner.

Shortly after the iceberg strike, Second-Class passenger Lawrence Beesley witnessed an intent Wes Woodward rushing to the upper decks.

I saw a bandsman—the 'cellist—come round the vestibule corner from the staircase entrance and run down the now deserted starboard deck, his 'cello trailing behind him, the spike dragging along the floor. This must have been about 12.40 A.M. I suppose the band must have begun to play soon after this and gone on until after 2 A.M. Many brave things were done that night, but none more brave than by those few men playing minute after minute as the ship settled quietly lower and lower in the sea and the sea rose higher and higher to where they stood...

Excerpt from "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic" by Lawrence Beesley.

Not everyone saw it this way.

An unnamed Third-Class steward reported to the publication 'Western Daily Mercury' that "as the musicians ran after their instruments they were laughed at by several members of the crew who did not realize how serious matters were."

A tribute to the musicians of the RMS Titanic. Originally published by the Amalgamated Musicians Union.


Wes Woodward and his seven bandmates played, brave and tireless, throughout the sinking.

None survived.

Titanic's musicians were immediate lauded as heroes for their dutiful stoicism in the face of death. Among written memorials to Wes Woodward, the periodical Eastbourne Gazette mused, "To his relations and friends, and to all who knew him, grief at this young musician's death must ever be tinged with a glow of pride at the manner of it."

...A young man of an extremely agreeable and modest bearing, amiable, good-natured, of a sunny disposition, and an easy, equable temper that secured him many friends... his cello playing was always marked by refinement and musicianship; on several occasion he exhibited brilliant qualities as a solo excentant; but he excelled rather as an orchestral player than as a soloist. His orchestral playing was uniformly sound, steady and reliable; while these same invaluable qualities, conjoined with much natural taste and a cultured style, enable him to appear to utmost advantage in chamber music.

The body of John Wesley Woodward was never recovered.


Turner, Steve. "The Band That Played On." Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2011.

Beesley, Lawrence. "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic." Houghton Mifflin Company, 1912. Rpt. by Mariner Books, 2000.

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“They Told Me the People Were Singing”: Elizabeth & Madeleine Mellinger

"They Told Me the People Were Singing": Elizabeth & Madeleine Mellinger

Elizabeth Maidment was born in 1870 in Middlesex, England, and records indicate that she had five siblings. 

She married Claude Mellinger in 1895, at age 25.

But they did not move much further. 

By 1901, Elizabeth and Claude are reflected on the census as living at separate addresses: Claude at the registered family address, and Elizabeth and her children listed as visitors at a friend’s home.

They had five children, all in all. The first in 1895; the last, 1904.

It is not clear when the couple became estranged, but Claude sent their middle daughter, who appears to have gone by her middle name of Madeleine, a final letter from New Zealand in 1909.

By 1910, Claude Mellinger was registered as a resident of Australia.

Claude was reportedly a journalist of great accomplishment and talent. Per Madeleine, her father was “a genius whose extravagant high living brought the family to ruin.” But her mother never elaborated further on the “mistake” he’d made that finally expelled him from England.

Elizabeth clearly struggled an enormous amount in the years following Claude’s vanishing act. They had to auction off the furniture and the prized family heirlooms. And then lost their home altogether. And despite acting as a nanny/travel companion, finances forced her to ship her children off to relatives.

In 1911, her oldest daughter Eugenie Claudine is recorded as living with her, but her remaining children seem to have gone into the system… her son Alexander and Madeleine were both listed as inmates in children’s homes.

But in 1912, Elizabeth caught a break.

She was hired on as a housekeeper at Fillmore Farms, an estate in Bennington, Vermont, that was owned by the Colgate family—yes, of toothpaste fame.

She and Madeleine boarded Titanic at Southampton as Second-Class passengers. Elizabeth was 42 years old; her daughter was 13. 

It is unclear why none of Elizabeth’s other children accompanied her.

Also on Titanic and also headed to Fillmore Farms was First-Class passenger Charles Cresson Jones, who was the estate’s superintendent. He had been in the UK to purchase sheep from a Dorset-based farmer by the name of James Foot, and to attend a livestock sale as well. 

While it not definitively proven how Elizabeth came to snare the job of housekeeper at the Colgate estate, it is certainly reasonable to assume that she may have made the acquaintance of the superintendent during his travels.

And they clearly were acquainted. Mr. Jones is reported to have visited Elizabeth and her daughter in Second Class to show them photos of Fillmore Farms and Bennington. 

He came to our table—which was reserved… He had on a fur coat, full length, and I had never seen such a thing on a man. He gave me a golden sovereign (another first). Sunday, before lunch, he came over to our cabin in second class to bring pictures of lovely Bennington in spring, and to tell us what to do upon landing. We never saw him again alive.

Later in life, Madeleine admitted that, not knowing of Mr. Jones’s marital status, she fancied that that Mr. Jones might fall in love with Elizabeth and become Madeleine’s new father.

According to an interview with the Toronto Star, Madeleine answered the cabin door shortly after the collision with the iceberg.

We were asleep in our berths when a man banged on our door and told us to put on warm clothes and lifebelts and to get on deck.

As an adult, Madeleine realized that, had she not been there to answer that knock upon the door, that she might very well have ended up motherless in addition to already being fatherless. Because when the steward knocked, Elizabeth was sleeping, and the loud sounds did not rouse her.

And that was because Elizabeth was hard of hearing.

Elizabeth and Madeleine vacated the room in a hurry—so much so, that upon reaching the deck, Madeleine realized that her mother was not wearing any shoes. 

The pair found themselves on the port side. They were lucky enough to enter Lifeboat 14, which was launched by Second Officer Charles Lightoller and overseen by Fifth Officer Harold Lowe. 

Officer Lowe would go on to experience a hero’s welcome at subsequent hearings due to his brave conduct and no-nonsense attitude.

Madeleine later described the sinking. Other passengers apparently tried to shield her from the trauma, but she was 13 years old and clearly knew better.

I could see the lights of the ship starting to go under water, then soundlessly, perhaps a mile away, it just went down. It was gone. Oh yes, the sky was very black and the stars were very bright. They told me the people in the water were singing, but I knew they were screaming.

Officer Lowe eventually transferred the passengers of Lifeboat 14 into other boats so he could return to search for survivors in the water. Elizabeth and Madeleine were moved into Lifeboat 12.

This lifeboat would succeed in the rescue of survivors on the capsized Collapsible B. And one of those survivors was Second Officer Charles Lightoller.

Lightoller’s coat was white with ice. And so Elizabeth Mellinger, who was still barefoot, removed her wool cape and placed it on Lightoller’s shoulders. Elizabeth then took his hands and rubbed them between her own to do what she could to warm him.

Once on board Carpathia, Elizabeth’s hypothermia finally caused her to pass out. And so she was removed to the infirmary to treat the frostbite in her feet.

Madeleine had been hauled up on deck separately from Elizabeth. By the time she settled, her mother had already been taken away. By people Madeleine did not know, who did not know Elizabeth or anything about her daughter.

Madeleine proceeded to wander the decks, calling out her mother’s name through tears. This desperation was later seized upon by newspapers as a the pitch-perfect embodiment of Titanic’s sorrow.

Elizabeth and Madeleine eventually found each other later that day. And then Second Officer Lightoller found them, too.

He wanted to give Elizabeth a token, to thank her for her kindness to him during the rescue. But he lamented that all he had on him was his “little tin whistle,” that he had used to call for help, balancing on the back of Collapsible B in the dark.

But that was more than enough for Elizabeth Mellinger. And so she accepted it gladly.

And all her life, Officer Lightoller’s whistle was one of Elizabeth’s most coveted possessions. When she died in 1962, Madeleine was responsible for bestowing it upon another in accordance with her mother’s last wishes.

And the giftee was Walter Lord, famed Titanic historian.

“The whistle has a curious pitch,” Lord told Madeline during a phone conversation, mentioning this only in passing.

    “What do you mean?” Madeline asked.

    “It’s not the sort of sound I would have expected it to make,” Lord replied. Sensing, then, that something was wrong on the other end of the line, he tried to explain further just how pleased he was to have Lightoller’s whistle. “And, of course,” he added, “the first thing I did was to blow it.”

    “Oh, no,” Madeline said. “We had never blown the whistle, Mother or I—and in fact no one has—in all the years we owned it. And always, always, we believed Lightoller should have been the last one to do so.”

Walter Lord claimed he had no idea about the sanctity of the whistle, but it did not matter. Madeleine reportedly did not speak to him again for 7 years.

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“My! I Wish I Could Go Out There Sometimes!”: Titanic’s Elevators

"My! I Wish I Could Go Out There Sometimes!": Titanic's Elevators

The Titanic was the last word in luxury, equipped with elite amenities and thoughtful details. And among its many novel components, a particular technology often goes unacknowledged: the elevators.

All in all, they were pretty nifty contraptions and certainly enjoyed by the passengers. Lawrence Beesley mused upon as much in his account, which was published only two months after the sinking of Titanic.

Perhaps nothing gave one a greater impression of the size of the ship than to take the lift from the top and drop slowly down past the different floors, discharging and taking in passengers just as in a large hotel.

© "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic," by Lawrence Beesley. 1912.

Titanic was neither the first nor the only passenger vessel to include this particular convenience. But it was among the few.

They were designed, of course, to surpass all others in the simple feat of exceptional customer experience. In fact, the White Star Line boasted the following in their promotional materials while expressing lavish awe for the First-Class Grand Staircase.

Looking over the balustrade, we see the stairs descending to many floors below, and on turning aside we find we may be spared the labor of mounting or descending stairs by entering one of the smoothly-gliding elevators which best us quickly to any other of the numerous floors of the ship we may wish to visit.

Titanic was outfitted with four passenger elevators: three available to First-Class passengers, and the remaining one for those in Second Class. In conjunction, the ship was staffed with a total of four Lift Attendants, one responsible for each passenger elevator. 

The position of List Attendant was categorized as Victualling Crew. The Victualling Department was made up of 421 people tasked with all manners of service provided to those on board the ship, from foodstuffs to linens to barber services to bathroom cleaning. And of course, elevator services.

Titanic’s elevators, as well as those installed on her elder sister Olympic, were designed and installed by R. Waygood Co., an established and international firm that was headquartered in London. The Otis Elevator Company has claim to those bragging rights today, however, owing to the fact that it merged with R. Waygood in 1914.

The lifts were electric in operation, but not in any modern sense of the word. There were no buttons to be pushed, and no door that automatically closed. They were, in essence, manual—powered by electricity but controlled by hand. The Lift Attendant was responsible for controling a lever which decided the direction of the lift. It took a bit of finesse to ensure a jostle-free ride from start to end, and skill to operate the lift so that it stopped at the desired deck with its gate perfectly aligned to the floor onto which the passengers would alight.

The ship’s four steam-powered engines generated thousands of amps of 100-watt electricity, which catered not only to the elevators, but also to equipment on the Bridge, deck cranes, loudspeakers, kitchen equipment, fans, and heaters—and, of course, the approximately 10,000 incandescent lightbulbs in use on board.

It is reported that each elevator’s capacity was 10 people at a time, including the Lift Attendant therein.

The Grand Staircase of the RMS Olympic from the Boat Deck, circa 1911. Taken by William H. Rau. The First-Class Elevators were immediately in front of the Grand Staircase on A Deck.


The three First-Class lifts were tucked into a taut and tidy row just forward of the famed Grand Staircase on A Deck. Their course ran all the way down to E Deck. A curious design choice, considering the athletic amenities exclusively available to First-Class passengers occupied lower decks than the lifts could achieve. By terminating on E Deck, First-Class passengers found themselves one deck above the Swimming Bath and adjacent Turkish Baths of F Deck, and two decks too soon to access the Squash Court on G Deck. Lift passengers wishing to access those facilities would need to take leave of the elevators at the last available floor, and then proceed to take the stairs.

These gilded lifts, unlike the walled-off box elevators of today, were open-faced cages. They were designed in the Empire style, their frames trimmed with carved wood and accented ornate wrought-iron gates. They were outfitted with individual light fixtures and inviting sofas for passengers to make use of on their arduous vertical journeys.

The First-Class lifts were staffed by William Carney, who was the oldest of the Lift Attendants at 31 years old, as well as Frederick Blades and Alfred John Moffett King, who were 17 and 18, respectively.

Second-Class Entrance on RMS Olympic. The elevator sign is visible. Taken by Bedford Lemere & Co, 1911.


The sole Second-Class elevator could be found aft, alongside the main staircase; it ran from Boat Deck to F Deck. It skipped A Deck entirely, however, because A Deck was exclusively accessible to First-Class passengers. This elevator was operated by Reginald Pacey, who was 17.

Reginald had never been employed on a ship before.

Lawrence Beesley, one of the very few Second-Class men to survive the disaster, wrote the following of young Mr. Pacey in his recollections.

He was quite young,—not more than sixteen, I think,—a bright-eyed, handsome boy, with a love for the sea and the games on deck and the view over the ocean—and he did not get any of them. One day, as he put me out of his lift and saw through the vestibule windows a game of deck quoits in progress, he said, in a wistful tone, "My! I wish I could go out there sometimes!" I wished he could, too, and made a jesting offer to take charge of his lift for an hour while he went out to watch the game; but he smilingly shook his head and dropped down in answer to an imperative ring from below.

Lawrence also wrote that he didn’t believe Reginald was on duty with his lift on the night of the disaster, but he was sure that had the boy been on duty, he would have offered his passengers nothing but a kind smile, even as he knew the ship was sinking. 

“I wonder where the lift-boy was that night,” Lawrence Beesley wrote. “I would have been glad to find him in our boat, or on the Carpathia when we took count of the saved.”

 Reginald Pacey, along with the three Lift Attendants Carney, Blades, and King, all were killed in the sinking of Titanic.

While the bodies of William Carney and Alfred John Moffett King were identified during the Mackay-Bennett’s recovery efforts, both Reginald Percy and Frederick Blades were lost.

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“I Love This Life”: Cellist Roger Bricoux

"I Love This Life": Cellist Roger Bricoux

Roger Bricoux was an exceptional cellist. He had been educated at the famed Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna in Italy for three years, and in that time was awarded for his talents. Roger then moved on to Le Conservatoire de Paris.

All of that, and he was just 20 years old.

Roger Bricoux.


Roger hailed from an artistic family. His father Leon was an acclaimed horn player who, in 1883, had secured First Horn in the resident band that played at the casino in Monte Carlo. Leon's father and uncle were both artists as well.

So Roger was raised there, in glamorous Monaco. He was Leon's third of four sons, but the first to survive. In fact, Roger's mother was three months pregnant with Roger when his older brother had suddenly died. Roger's younger brother, who was nicknamed Lolo, also survived childhood.

By all accounts, young Roger was extraordinarily close with his family, which we can see in his surviving letters to both his parents and Lolo.

Having completed his studies in Paris in 1910, Roger evidently came to the attention of C.W. & F.N. Black, a company that booked talent for various organizations. He made his way to Leeds, England, to work in the Grand Central Hotel orchestra.

Roger arrived in England ready to hit the ground running, although he knew little to no English. It was reported that he was jovial and "possessed many friends among the musicians of Leeds," and he was described as a "handsome young fellow, although his gait was somewhat married by a limp, the result of an injury due to a motor bicycle accident."

Roger took to learning English very quickly, and attended to his job. Not much is discoverable, however, in the way of details about Roger's stint in Leeds, although his overall schedule can be inferred from those of other contracted hotel musicians. He would have had to perform in at least two sessions per day, and report to a variety of special events as necessary. It was a life of late nights and low pay.

Roger was keen to prove himself self-sufficient to his father, who knew the lifestyle all too well. It was also point of pride in particular for Roger, that he did not have to offer music lessons to pay his way through life.

It's also reasonable to assume that he explored the area and traveled during his down-time. Roger wrote with excitement to Lolo about making a visit to London for his 18th birthday.


Dear Lolo,

Father wrote to tell me that you're coming to London. I'd like to take the opportunity to tell you that if you want to come to see me that would give me such pleasure that I will put you up, feed you, and pay for your journey to London and back so it would cost you nothing apart from the effort but I think you know you'll have some fun too.

As cited in © "The Band that Played On" by Steve Turner.

Once his contract in Leeds was up, Roger moved to Lille, France, and lined up some gigs, particularly at bars with bohemian vibes.

On December 30, 1911, he wrote home to his beloved parents from his lodging in Lille.

My Dear Parents,

As it is New Year I am writing to you as I have done in previous years to wish you a good and happy year, good health and as few cares as possible because I know you have some but believe me when I say that I do not have any. You would be right to say, “You’ll see when you earn your living” and I do see and it’s hard. But it seems to me that I m unburdening myself of a huge weight because I love you very much. I have many faults perhaps but don’t think that I do not think about you often.

As cited in © "The Band that Played On" by Steve Turner.

It turns out that Roger had been back in touch with C.W. & F.N. Black, and shortly thereafter was offered a trial period as a ship’s musician. Uncharacteristically, Roger didn’t write his parents to inform them until he was already on board. When he did, he said he left Lille to return to England, and received the contract.

Roger played on Carpathia—the ship that was destined to rescue Titanic survivors—with a pianist named Theodore Brailey, who he would also work with on Titanic.

Roger wrote excitedly to his parents from Gibraltar on March 18 about his newest assignment. And in that same letter, he divulged his uncertainty about his personal life.

I love this life but I would happily be with you. As for getting married, I will never marry unless it’s to a girl with money because my tastes… I only want to “love in silk” or at least “a comfortable home,” not living in attics with the fear of not eating the next day. Ambition?  Perhaps. And why not? Something tells me that it is necessary if one is to succeed.

As cited in © "The Band that Played On" by Steve Turner.

Roger may not have planned to get married, but rumor is that he may have inadvertently had a child.

On March 5, 1912, a domestic servant named Adelaide, who was 18 years old and residing in Staffordshire, had given birth to a daughter whose father was conveniently left off of her birth certificate.

The father, Adelaide told her family, was a cellist who was about to set sail on the Titanic.

Roger did not mention anything even alluding to Adelaide in his letters to his family, although he did mention some “bad behavior” in passing… but then, as we know, he was extremely close with them and appears to have been very forthcoming about his circumstances.

For what it’s worth, Adelaide’s daughter did bear a strong resemblance to Roger as she grew up.

Regardless, Roger met up with again the pianist Brailey on April 2, 1912, in advance of Titanic's departure. This is also the day that he met Wallace Hartley, his bandmaster, for the first time.

Titanic bandmaster Wallace Hartley.


All the members of the Titanic orchestra boarded as Second-Class passengers, with a universal ticket number of 250654 issued to each of them.

After being acquainted, or in some cases, reunited, the musicians would have reviewed their placements as assigned by bandmaster Wallace Hartley.

The two units had different repertoires, though all eight men would have been in possession of the White Star music book, which contained 352 pieces they were obligated to know by heart. Every First-Class passenger was also provided a copy of the book, so if someone requested a tune--almost any tune--they had to be able to play it.

Despite this, we know very little about what selections the two units actually made during the voyage. Eyewitness accounts attest to classical, of course, but also to songs that were popular in America and the United Kingdom.

Ragtime was mentioned often, as well as waltzes, fox trots, operatic pieces, and show tunes. Ragtime, in particular, was a bold choice, as it was considered salacious.

Roger played in the cello-violin-piano trio that played in the B Deck Reception Area, lending a cosmopolitan ambience to the A La Carte Restaurant and Cafe Parisien; it consisted of himself, Mr. Brailey, and violinist George Krins.

Despite these official designations, there are multiple reports of a quartet in both the First and Second Classes, which was apparently led by an additional and very lively violinist who loved to play a good "Scotch tune." Some speculate that this impromptu bandleader was 21-year-old Scotsman Jock Hume.

Cafe Parisien on R.M.S. Titanic, in which vicinity Roger's trio would have played. Taken by Robert John Welch for Harland & Wolff.


No member of the orchestra survived the sinking.

They are renowned and immortalized in (what is understood to have been) their final act of valor: playing "Nearer, My God, to Thee" on the boat deck until--as most accounts have it--the water reached their knees.

Titanic's orchestra, as published by the Amalgamated Musicians Union in 1912. Roger's photo is in the upper right corner.


Corpses of three of the eight band members were recovered by the Mackay-Bennett.

Roger's was not among them.

The families of the five lost members were uniquely agonized. They could not bury their sons. They were forever left with questions about their boys' final moments, what exactly had happened to each of them after the last note was played.

Leon Bricoux wrote to C.W. & F.N. Black hoping to ascertain any possible details about Roger. The company wrote back that, sadly, Roger's body had not been recovered.

They went on, stating that if it were to be recovered, Leon would be required to pay 500 francs for an embalming in New York City. His son's remains would be then be shipped back, of course, but only to Liverpool or Southampton. Leon would have to find his own way to England, and then would have to transport the corpse back to France out-of-pocket.

Along with the letter, Leon found a postal order paid to the amount of 19 shillings.

It was Roger's pay for his five fated days on Titanic.

In 1914, France called its sons up to serve in World War I. When Roger Bricoux didn't respond, he was labeled as a deserter.

He would not be considered officially deceased by the French government until 2000.


Turner, Steve. "The Band That Played On." Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2011.

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“Eternal Father, Strong to Save”: Fr. Thomas Byles

"Eternal Father, Strong to Save": Fr. Thomas Byles

Sunday, April 14, 1912, was known as "Low Sunday”—otherwise known as the Sunday following Easter.

In each of the classes, masses were held in common areas.

In the First Class Dining Saloon, Captain Smith presided over a worship service.

And in the Second and Third Classes, separate Protestant and Catholic services were conducted—some, by priests on board as passengers.

One of those men was a 42-year-old Roman Catholic priest from England, named Thomas Roussel Byles.

Father Thomas Roussel Davids Byles.


Thomas was born with the name Roussel Davids Byles in 1870, the first of seven children to a Protestant minister.

Roussel had initially turned to Anglicanism while conducting his collegiate studies, but that did not quite suit.

So after his brother William had converted to Catholicism, and Roussel had reportedly had some formative encounters with the Jesuits, Roussel likewise elected to become a Catholic.

Roussel took the name of Thomas upon his conversion, which he chose in honor of his beloved saint: Thomas Aquinas.

Thomas Byles was ordained on June 15, 1902, in Rome, just above Piazza Navona. He was eventually assigned to St. Helen's Church in Essex, England.

There, he was beloved as a kind religious leader and learned man by his small and disadvantaged congregation.

Though slight of build and often in ill health, Thomas even taught some of the men of the town how to box when they admitted to him that they wanted learn the sport.

Two weeks before setting sail, Thomas had a visit from his friend Monsignor Edward Watson.

Over wine, they discussed St. Helen's, as well as the size of Thomas’s luggage.

During this visit, Watson recalled that it was iceberg season, and that he'd heard they were dangerous to sea travel. As they said goodbye, Watson worried that his friend might not return to England for the opportunities and family that Thomas would find in America.

Watson told Thomas, "I hope you'll come back again."

Second-Class entrance on R.M.S. Olympic, which was identical to Titanic's. Courtesy of Bedford Lemere & Co.


Thomas boarded Titanic in Southampton as a Second-Class passenger.

He was destined for Brooklyn, New York, where he had been invited to officiate the wedding of his little brother, William—the same brother whose conversion had inspired Thomas’s own.

After electing to leave the religious life, William had moved to New York City to run a rubber business. There, he had fallen in love with a local girl named Katherine Russell, who was about to become his bride.

At some time on board Titanic, Thomas made arrangements with Captain Smith to say mass for the Second and Third Classes, using the portable altar stone and accessories Monsignor Watson had lent to him.

There were other priests on board with whom Thomas coordinated, namely a German cleric named Father Josef Peruschitz, as well as a Lithuanian priest named Father Juozas Montvila.

Thomas did not perform a morning service on April 11, 1912, as he wrote about it to his housekeeper back in Essex.

Comically, he also admitted to an absent-minded moment in that same missive.


Everything so far has gone very well, except that I have somehow managed to lose my umbrella. I first missed it getting out of the train at Southampton, but am inclined to think that I left it at Liverpool St. ...I shall not be able to say mass to-morrow morning, as we shall be just arriving at Queenstown... I will write as soon as I get to New York.

The umbrella fiasco aside, it seemed that Thomas was enjoying the voyage. And despite admitting that he found ship's vibrations unpleasant, all in all, he admired the ship a great deal.

"When you look down at the water from the top deck," he wrote, "it is like looking from the roof of a very high building."

Being the academic sort that Fr. Byles was, it is hardly surprising that fellow passenger Lawrence Beesley reportedly came across him in the Second-Class Library.

In the middle of the room are two Catholic priests, one quietly reading-either English or Irish, and probably the latter-the other, dark, bearded, with a broad-brimmed hat, talking earnestly to a friend in German and evidently explaining some verse in the open Bible before him.

Excerpt from "The Loss of the S.S. Titanic" by Lawrence Beesley, 1912 (Reprint: First Mariner Books 2000.)

In spite of being unable to perform Mass on April 11, Thomas reportedly heard confessions from his fellow passengers every day

On the morning of Sunday, April 14, Thomas conducted Catholic mass for Second-Class passengers in the Second-Class Library; he is reported to have recited the Propers of the Mass, as was custom for the Octave of Easter.

Simultaneously, a Protestant service was being conducted by Assistant Purser Reginald Barker.

Thomas thereafter made his way to the lower decks and performed a service for the passengers in steerage, in both English and French.

His new acquaintance, Father Josef Peruschitz, followed Thomas’s homily with his own sermon, spoken in German and Hungarian.

During this steerage Mass, Thomas and Josef reportedly spoke of the desolation of a life without faith, and about seeking salvation—and the chosen imagery therein would haunt survivors of the disaster to come.

Strangely enough each of the priests spoke of the necessity of man having a lifeboat in the shape of religious consolation at hand in case of spiritual shipwreck.

That same night, Reverend Ernest Courtenay Carter held an informal "evensong" in the Second Class Library, after lamenting the absence of options for evening worship.

It was a plan he had discussed earlier in the library with Lawrence Beesley, whom he had befriended during the voyage. Lawrence wrote that Reverend Carter enlisted his assistance in asking permission from the Purser to hold what he called  ‘a hymnal sing-song.’

The gathering was, in essence, a sing-along. Those who participated could choose each song, which was introduced with a brief history of it and its author.

It ended, Mr. Beesley thought, about 10:00 p.m.

It was here, during this Second-Class evensong, that passengers sang "Eternal Father, Strong to Save.” Thanks, no doubt, to the irony of its verse regarding salvation “for those in peril on the sea,” this hymn often misrepresented as having been sung during the First-Class service held that very morning by Captain Smith.

Sheet music of "Eternal Father, Strong to Save."


There is no record of Thomas Byles being present for Reverend Carter's evensong on the night of April 14.

But Thomas was present for the iceberg itself.

He was reportedly pacing either the upper deck or the Second Class promenade, reciting the Breviarium Romanum in full priestly garb, at the moment that Titanic collided with the iceberg.

Thomas immediately headed down to Third Class.

According to survivor accounts, he spent his time there offering Blessings of Absolution, praying the Rosary with the passengers, and hearing confessions.

When the crash came we were thrown from our berths... Slightly dressed, we prepared to find out what had happened. We saw before us, coming down the passageway, with his hand uplifted, Father Byles. We knew him because he had visited us several times on board and celebrated mass for us that very morning.

'Be calm, my good people,' he said, and then he went about the steerage giving absolution and blessings... A few around us became very excited and then it was that the priest again raised his hand and instantly they were calm once more.

Thomas’s serene command in the chaos was impressive, and he gathered all people together in prayer.

The passengers were immediately impressed by the absolute self-control of the priest. He began the recitation of the rosary.

The prayers of all, regardless of creed, were mingled and the responses, "Holy Mary," were loud and strong.

Thomas proceeded to lead these Third-Class passengers through the confounding mazd of hallways up to the boat deck. He no doubt knowing full well the negligence they would encounter as steerage passengers, particularly if they could not speak English.

He prayed aloud as he guided his charges up top.

Once on the boat deck, Thomas was steadfast.  He ushered women and children into the lifeboats, offering prayer and consolation as they went.

And as the danger became more evident, Thomas went about giving absolutions.

I first saw Father Byles in the steerage. There were many Catholics there, and he eased their minds by praying for them, hearing confessions and giving them his blessing. I later saw him on the upper deck reading from his priest's book of hours... he gathered the men about him and, while they knelt, offered up prayer for their salvation.

It is consistently reported that Fr. Byles refused a spot in a lifeboat—twice.

[a seaman] warned the priest of his danger and begged him to board a boat. Father Byles refused. The same seaman spoke to him again and he seemed anxious to help him, but he refused again. Father Byles could have been saved, but he would not leave while one was left and the sailor's entreaties were not heeded.

After he had seen off the final lifeboat, Thomas moved aft.

There, a large group of passengers, reportedly regardless of their individual faiths, kneeled all around Father Byles as he recited the Rosary and administered Last Rites.

Ellen Mocklare attested to this devastating scene as her lifeboat cast away from Titanic.


After I got in the boat, which was the last one to leave, and we were slowly going further away from the ship, I could hear distinctly the voice of the priest and the responses to his prayers.

Then they became fainter and fainter, until I could only hear the strains of 'Nearer My God, to Thee' and the screams of the people left behind.

We were told by the man who rowed our boat that we were mistaken as to the screams and that it was the people singing, but we knew otherwise.

The last sighting of Father Byles was as the broken stern rose. He was, it is said, still leading over 100 people in the Act of Contrition and giving them general Absolution.

Father Patrick McKenna, a priest who had been acquainted with Thomas for years, wrote the following in his diary.

Heroic behavior of Fr. Byles… twiced warned of danger & offered place in boat by sailor. He refused saying his duty was to stay and to minister to others. He heard confessions & gave absolution & said Rosary & sank. Victim to duty & conscience!

Thomas died in the sinking. His body was never recovered.

Once it was determined that not among the saved, the bells of St. Helen's in Essex began tolling in unrelenting sorrow.

For weeks thereafter, it was reported that Masses were said almost continuously for the repose of the soul of Thomas Byles.

At St. Helen's Catholic Church, a window depicting St. Patrick, Christ the Good Shepherd, and St. Thomas Aquinas was installed to honor the memory of Thomas, his faith, and his bravery.

The inscription on the window reads as follows. "Pray for the Rev Thomas Byles for 8 years Rector of this mission whose heroic death in the disaster to S.S. Titanic April 15 1912 earnestly devoting his last moments to the religious consolation of his fellow passengers, this window commemorates."

In Brooklyn, the bereaved William Byles and his fiancee Katharine held their wedding ceremony on time. It was considered bad luck to postpone.

Having rescinded the invitations via phone and telegram, the ceremony was small and simple, and in a different chapel. It was solemnly performed by a lifelong family friend of the bride.

After they were wed, William and Katherine promptly left the church to return home to change their clothes.

Once outfitted in black mourning attire, the newlyweds returned to the same church to attend a requiem Mass for Thomas.

Later in 1912, William and Katherine Byles met with Pope Pius X.

The Pope declared Father Thomas Byles as a martyr of the Catholic Church.

In 2015, Father Graham Smith, the priest at Thomas’s former parish of St. Helen’s, launched a petition in honor of “an extraordinary man who gave his life for others.”

And so, Thomas Byles has been nominated for beatification, so that he might become a saint.

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“For God’s Sake, Be Brave, and Go!”: Harvey & Charlotte Collyer

"For God's Sake, Be Brave, and Go!": Harvey & Charlotte Collyer

Harvey and Charlotte Collyer were an English couple boarded Titanic as Second Class with their young daughter Marjorie.

Harvey and Charlotte had met in Surrey while she was employed as a cook for Reverend Sidney Sedgwick, and Harvey was the church sexton. They married in 1905. In time, Harvey also became the church bellringer and a grocer in town, where the entire family was loved.

The Collyers had dreamt big. Charlotte suffered from tuberculosis, and so they elected to move to Idaho, where some other family had already settled and had consistently sent the Collyers letters in which they lauded the pleasant climate. Seeking to better Charlotte's health, they purchased a fruit farm. Before departing, Harvey withdrew the family's life savings from his bank and kept it on his person. What little possessions the family had were ALL in Titanic's cargo hold.

Before they departed, the church community organized a surprise farewell for Harvey. Charlotte wrote, "They led him to a seat under the old tree in the churchyard and then some went up into the belfry and, in his honour, they rang all the chimes that they knew." She said it was a kind gesture, but it made her uneasy.

Harvey wrote a letter to his parents that was sent off while Titanic was stopped in Queenstown on April 11, 1912.

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 can't describe the tables it's like a floating town. I can tell you we do swank we shall miss it on the trains as we go third on them. You would not imagine you were on a ship. There is hardly any motion she is so large we have not felt sick yet we expect to get to Queenstown today so thought I would drop this with the mails...

Lots of love don't worry about us. Ever your loving children
Harvey, Lot & Madge

Charlotte, nauseous the night of April 14 from too rich a dinner, was in bed. She wrote of the collision, "The sensation, to me, was as if the ship had been seized by a giant hand and shaken once, twice; then stopped dead in its course."

Harvey went up on deck and Charlotte had begun to drift off to sleep by the time he returned. He said they'd hit an iceberg--"a big one"--but an officer had assured him there was no danger. But as a clamour began to resound above them, Charlotte asked Harvey if anyone had seemed frightened. Soon thereafter, Charlotte threw on a coat, tied her hair back with a ribbon, and wrapped her daughter in a White Star blanket over her pajamas, and the three went out on deck. Marjorie was crying, as she had left behind her "dollie" from two Christmases past, and no one would go back to rescue it.

Officers kept yelling that there was no danger. But then Charlotte saw a horrific sight.

Suddenly there was a commotion near one of the gangways, and we saw a stoker come climbing up from below. He stopped a few feet away from us. All the fingers of one hand had been cut off. Blood was running from the stumps, and blood was spattered over his face and over his clothes. The red marks showed very clearly against the coal dust with which he was covered.

Excerpt from 'How I was Saved from the Titanic" as printed in the May 1912 issue of "Semi-Monthly Magazine."

When she asked him if there was danger, he frantically presented his mangled hand. The unnamed stoker then laid his head down on a coil of rope and fainted.

The Collyers were on Second Officer Charles Lightoller's side of the ship, but Charlotte wrote with admiration mostly about First Officer William Murdoch, as well as Fifth Officer Harold Lowe. Like survivor Charles Joughin, Charlotte Collyer attested to a number of women being afraid to go in the lifeboats, or otherwise leave their husbands behind.

Charlotte held her husband tightly, and not taking seats in the first two boats before them.

When the third boat was half-full, she wrote that "a sailor caught Marjorie, my daughter, in his arms, tore her away from me and threw her into the boat." Then, "A man seized me by the arm. Then, another threw both his arms about my waist and dragged me away by main strength. I heard my husband say: 'Go, Lotty! For God’s sake, be brave, and go! I’ll get a seat in another boat.'"

The men who held me rushed me across the deck, and hurled me bodily into the lifeboat. I landed on one shoulder and bruised it badly. Other women were crowding behind me; but I stumbled to my feet and saw over their heads my husband’s back, as he walked steadily down the deck and disappeared among the men. His face was turned away, so that I never saw it again.

Excerpt from 'How I was Saved from the Titanic" as printed in the May 1912 issue of "Semi-Monthly Magazine."

As far as Charlotte claimed, Marjorie never got the chance to say goodbye to her father because she was flung into the boat so fast.

But according to Marjorie herself, she did. "My father raised me in his arms and kissed me, and then he kissed my mother. She followed me into the boat... The women in one of the other boats said they wanted somebody to row for them and father got in that boat."

There's fair reason for either of them to have rearranged the truth: trauma, wishful thinking, false memories.

Charlotte's account of the night is considered one of the more graphic survivor stories. It includes a young lad who pleaded, sobbing, for a spot on the lifeboat, and then for his life with an officer's pistol aimed at his forehead, as well as another man who ran across the deck and flung himself into the boat, supposedly injuring a girl by landing on her. He was forcibly removed.

Charlotte and Marjorie watched the sinking in horror from Lifeboat 14.

I shall never forget the terrible beauty of the Titanic at that moment. She was tilted forward, head down, with her first funnel partly under water. To me, she looked like an enormous glow-worm; for she was alight from the rising water line, clear to her stern — electric lights blazing in every cabin, lights on all the decks and lights at her mast heads.

Excerpt from 'How I was Saved from the Titanic" as printed in the May 1912 issue of "Semi-Monthly Magazine."

Charlotte was also of the minority of passengers who witnessed the break.

She heard the "deafening roar" of an explosion within the ship, then "millions of sparks shot up to the sky, like rockets in a park on the night of a summer holiday. This red spurt was fan-shaped as it went up; but the sparks descended in every direction, in the shape of a fountain of fire." According to Charlotte Collyer, the stern stood straight on end before lowering into the water. And like young survivor Jack Thayer, she described the passengers on board as akin to swarms of bees.

I saw hundreds of human bodies clinging to the wreck or leaping into the water. The Titanic was like a swarming bee-hive, but the bees were men, and they had broken their silence now.

There was water in the bottom of the lifeboat.

At one point, Charlotte half-fainted, and her long hair got caught in the oar and was ripped from her scalp. Someone gave her a blanket.

Little Marjorie continued to cry for her lost doll, desolate with the thought that it was going to the bottom of the sea with no one to take care of it. Her beloved dollie was gone, along with her father, her family's entire savings, and everything else the Collyers owned in the world.

Lifeboat 14 (with mast up) approaching the rescue ship Carpathia. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Once on board Carpathia, Charlotte searched in desperation for her husband, but learned that he was not among the saved.

The scene on board Carpathia that morning, as the lifeboats crept in, was harrowing by all accounts. "We could only rush frantically from group to group, searching the haggard faces, crying out names and endless questions."

Harvey Collyer's body, if ever recovered, went unidentified.

Charlotte grieved in a letter to her mother written on April 21, 1912, from Brooklyn, New York.

Oh mother there are some good hearts in New York, some want me to go back to England but I can't, I could never at least not yet go over the ground where my all is sleeping.

Sometimes I feel we lived too much for each other that is why I've lost him. But mother we shall meet him in heaven. When that band played 'Nearer My God to Thee' I know he thought of you and me for we both loved that hymn and I feel that if I go to Payette I'm doing what he would wish me to, so I hope to do this at the end of next week where I shall have friends and work and I will work for his darling as long as she needs me. 

Oh she is a comfort but she don't realize yet that her daddy is in heaven. There are some dear children here who have loaded her with lovely toys but it's when I'm alone with her she will miss him. 

Oh mother I haven't a thing in the world that was his only his rings. Everything we had went down. Will you, dear mother, send me on a last photo of us, get it copied I will pay you later on. 


Mother and daughter did soldier on and get to Idaho, but not without significant monetary help raised in the wake of their total loss, as well as the $300 Charlotte was paid for her exclusive story.

Charlotte ended her exclusively (ghost)written story as follows.

I must take my little Marjorie to the place where her father would have taken us both. That is all I care about — to do what he would have had me do.


But they did not stay in the United States. The pair were photographed on a porch swing in Payette, Idaho, while making use a White Star Line blanket.

Charlotte and Marjorie shortly after the sinking. From the George Grantham Bain Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.


They returned to England, and Charlotte Collyer remarried in 1914. Sadly, she died as a result of her tuberculosis in late 1916. Then Marjorie's stepfather died in March 1919.

Marjorie, now three times an orphan by the age of fifteen, was sent to live with her uncle Walter on his farm, where she lived until she was married on Christmas Day of 1927.



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“So That We Might All Live Happily Together”: Michel Navratil & ‘The Titanic Orphans’

"So That We Might All Live Happily Together": Michel Navratil & 'The Titanic Orphans'

Michel Navartil, 32, was a Slovakian tailor who had been living in Nice, France, when he married Marcelle Caretto in 1907. They had two sons, Michel Jr. and Edmond, nicknamed Lolo and Momon by their parents.

Michael Navratil, taken prior to his voyage on Titanic in 1912.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (Photo taken prior to 1923)

By 1912, Michel's business was struggling, and he suspected Marcelle, 21, of cheating on him, so they separated. Even though the boys, 4 and 2 years old, were in the custody of Marcelle, she let Michel take them for the Easter break.

Thing is, Michel had no intention of returning them.

After a stopover in Monte Carlo, he brought them to England, where he bought three second-class tickets on Titanic. He registered himself as Louis M. Hoffman--the name of a friend who helped him accomplish the abduction--and registered his boys as "Louis" and "Lola". They boarded at Southampton.

Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912. Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK.


When asked, "Mr. Hoffman" told other passengers that he was a widower, and aside from a cardgame during which he let a Swiss girl babysit them, he never let them stray from his side. He wrote back to his mother in Hungary, hoping that his sister and brother-in-law would help take care of the boys if they were not permitted or able to stay in America.

Michel, Jr., had no notion of any wrogdoing on his father's part. He recalled that Titanic was

A magnificent ship! ...I remember looking down the length of the hull... My brother and I played on the forward deck and were thrilled to be there. One morning, my father, my brother, and I were eating eggs in the second-class dining room. The sea was stunning. My feeling was one of total and utter well-being.

On April 14, upon learning of the collision, a still unidentified passenger helped Michel dress the boys and bring them up on deck.

Michel, Jr., said of his father and the stranger carrying them up on deck, "When I think of it now, I am very moved. They knew they were going to die."

The only lifeboats left were the 4 collapsibles, and the only one secure and ready to go was Collapsible D, presided over by Second Officer Charles Lightoller.

Collapsible D, which contained the Navratil boys, as taken from on board Carpathia on April 15, 1912.


Officer Lightoller was gravely serious about the "Women and Children" order. Due to the maddened crush of third-class passengers--most of them men--Lightoller had ordered a locked-arm circle around the lifeboat, so only women and children could board.

Michel passed his little sons through to be minded in the boat.

Even in his later years, Michel, Jr., recalled his father's last words to him.

"My child, when your mother comes for you, as she surely will, tell her that I loved her dearly and still do. Tell her I expected her to follow us, so that we might all live happily together in the peace and freedom of the New World."

We know a little bit about Michel's and Edmond's night in Collapsible D not from Michel's recollections, but from First-Class passenger Hugh Woolner. Hugh and another passenger had taken their chances together and jumped down into Collapsible D when they noticed room in the bow portion of the lifeboat.

Hugh testified in the American Inquiry, and he recalled how distraught young Michel was.

A sailor offered some biscuits, which I was using for feeding a small child who had waked up and was crying. It was one of those little children for whose parents everybody was looking; the larger of those two... I should think it was about 5, as nearly as I can judge... It looked like a French child; but it kept shouting for its doll, and I could not make out what it said before that. It kept saying it over and over again.

Michel Navratil, Sr., did not survive to be reunited with his sons. His body was recovered and listed as follows.

CLOTHING - Grey overcoat with green lining; brown suit.
EFFECTS - Pocket book; 1 gold watch and chain; silver sov. purse containing £6; receipt from Thos. Cook & Co. for notes exchanged; ticket; pipe in case; revolver (loaded); coins; keys, etc; bill for Charing Cross Hotel (Room 126, April 1912).

"Louis" and "Lola" were the only orphaned survivors of Titanic. And like other young children, they were hauled on board in burlap bags.

On board Carpathia, it was realized that they only spoke French. Survivor Margaret Hays was concerned that the brothers would be separated, so she offered to take them under her care in New York City. The boys spent most of their time playing with Lady, Hays' little Pomeranian, which was one of only three dogs to survive the sinking.

Michel (left) and little Edmond with his toy cat. From the George Grantham Bain Collection, courtesy of Library of Congress.


In New York, the boys were motherless for some time. According to contemporary newspaper articles, they only answered "oui" to inquiries from Consul representatives, and as little children are prone, they were much more interested in playing with their new toy boats.

The following was reported in "No Light on the Mystery Hiding the Identity of Two Waifs of the Sea," an article published in the Evening World dated April 22, 1912.

Under the shadow of a giant azalea they sat yesterday afternoon, each with a brand-new boat in hand with which they entertained themselves while the French Consul to New York strove vainly to extract some enlightening word from the elder boy, whose age has been given as three and a half.

To every question the little curly haired chap replied with a polite and baffling "Oui" and said nothing more.

   "Do you like to play with your boat?" asked the Consul, taking the little fello [sic] on his knee.
   "Oui," came the monotonous reply.
   "What city do you come from?"
   "Do you remember the big boat that brought you away from France?"

Yet the children are by no means stupid. They are sweet, well-mannered, gentle little fellows, and my only hope for them is that having survived the perils of the iceberg and the open sea they may not be adopted by some American family which was born with a gold knife in its mouth.

For what it's worth, the author of this particular article also found the gifts of little toy boats a bit untoward, writing, "Probably I am the only person to whom it seemed in the least incongruous that these two babies should be playing with brand new tin boats."

Edmond (left) and Michel with their toys.


Many photos were taken of "Louis" and "Lola" to be circulated worldwide. But in addition to their inability to speak English, the boys had been given fake names by their late father, so tracking down their mother was proving impossible.

When asked if the orphans could be traced via their father's tickets, Margaret Hays' father illustrated the fatal class divide perfectly in his response. "I have never travelled second cabin or steerage," he said, "so I don’t know anything about such matters."

Michel, Jr., recounted coming to the realization that, had they not been in Second Class, he and his brother would surely have died.

Michel (left) and Edmond. Courtesy of the National museum of the U.S. Navy.


Meanwhile, in France, their mother Marcelle was desperately, frantically searching for her sons with no leads. She was entirely unaware that they had even left the country, let alone sailed on the Titanic.

Marcelle knew nothing of the so-called 'Titanic Orphans' until she saw their photos in a newspaper. Marcelle sailed to New York City courtesy of the White Star Line, and was reunited with her boys on May 16, 1912.

Permitted to meet them alone, she found Michel reading an alphabet book on a window seat, and Edmond on the floor, playing with puzzle pieces.

Growing wonder spread over the face of the bigger boy, while the smaller one stared in amazement at the figure in the doorway. He let out one long-drawn and lusty wail and ran blubbering into the outstretched arms of his mother. The mother was trembling with sobs and her eyes were dim with tears as she ran forward and seized both youngsters.

She reportedly was asked if she would talk to them about Titanic, and said, "I do not want them to think about that," she said. "They must only be happy from now on—only happy; no more distress."

Michel and Edmond reunited with their mother. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Edmond died in 1953, after having served in the French Army in WWII.

Michel, Jr., accomplished a doctorate in philosophy, and was a professor. He was one of the longest-lived survivors, and the last-living male survivor. He died in 2001, having said throughout his life that since four years old, he had "been a fare-dodger of life. A gleaner of time."

Because of the fake surname he used when boarding, Michel Navratil Sr. was interred in the Halifax cemetery that was designated for Jewish victims. The headstone has since been replaced to reflect his true identity.

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“See You Soon, Darling”: Joseph & Juliette Laroche

"See You Soon, Darling": Joseph & Juliette Laroche

Joseph Phillipe Lemercier Laroche was a gifted engineer from Cap Haiten, Haiti.

He was the only known black passenger on Titanic.

Joseph was 25 years old when he boarded Titanic in Cherbourg, France. He traveled with his two young daughters, Simone and Louise, and his wife Juliette, who was pregnant with their third child.

Joseph Laroche was born in Haiti in 1886. His mother, Euzelie, was 24 years old and a wildly successful business woman who made her substantial wages in trade. She was also a single mother.

Joseph was Euzelie's only child, and she prioritized her son's education. When she was absent and he was not in school, he attended cockfights and won handily in games of marbles with his friends. He was remembered as good-natured, but not particularly talkative.

Time wore on, and Joseph had been sent to study in France at just 15 years old with his teacher, Monsignor Kersuzan, Lord Bishop of Haiti.

And in the course of his studies in France, Joseph made a fateful connection. During an outing to the Parisian suburb of Villejuif, Joseph made friends with another young man named Maurice LeFargue. After a chat, Maurice invited Joseph back to his father's house for some food and drink.

Joseph certainly enjoyed the meal, but took even more pleasure in meeting the person who had prepared it: Maurice's sister, Juliette.

Within minutes, Joseph and Juliette were evidently besotted, and by the end of the meal, they had promised to write each other while he continued his studies a distance away. Soon enough, he was spending weekends with the LeFargues.

Joseph married Juliette on March 18, 1908, when he was 22 years old and she, 19. The ceremony was held at the local church in Villejeuf. At the reception, Joseph led his bride in a dance, and even showed his skills dancing the merengue.

Now a married man, Joseph immediately undertook an intense job hunt. His application was at last accepted by the company Nord-Sud, a company that possessed a contract for the "underground electric railway" being drawn up for Paris.

The Laroche family.


Joseph's first daughter, Simone, was born in 1909, to her parents' joy.

Louise, the younger of their girls, was born in 1910.

Joseph sought higher paying positions to help cover incurred expenses, but despite his familial pedigree, connections, and remarkable resume, he was refused time and again because he was black.

In 1995, Joseph's daughter Louise spoke candidly about her father's experience.

In the only interview she gave in 1995, in which she briefly mentioned the subject, Louise Laroche explained that her father faced "racial prejudice" at that time. "Joseph would find small jobs, but his employers always claimed that he was young and inexperienced, so they could pay him low wages."

From "Black Man on the Titanic: The Story of Joseph Laroche," by Serge Bile. © 2019.

Low on options, Joseph and Juliette decided to move for their fiscal well-being, and were set to return to Haiti in late 1912 or early 1913.

But the timeline became urgent when Juliette found herself pregnant again.

With a job as a math instructor secured for Joseph by his eminent uncle Cincinnatus LeConte, the then-President of Haiti, the LaRoches were gifted tickets on the SS France by Joseph's mother, who was ecstatic that her son and his babies were at last coming home. She had never met her daughter-in-law or her grandchildren.

Joseph and Juliette soon found out, however, that vessel France had strict on-board rules about not allowing children to dine with their parents. The Laroches found this policy unfeasible for their situation--not to mention cold and unnecessary--so they exchanged their tickets for second-class passage on Titanic.

The family would travel from Paris to the port of Cherbourg by a luxury train called the New York Express.

April 10th was a bright day in France, and little Simone Laroche was all aflutter with excitement for the travel ahead.

After breakfast that morning, it is reported that Joseph and Juliette hired two taxicabs--both Renaults AG1s--for transportation to Gare Saint-Lazare, which was less than an hour from their home. Joseph and Simone took the first cab, while Juliette and Louise followed in the second.

Simone was giddy with anticipation upon her family's arrival at the train station, and while her father paid the taxi fare, the elder Laroche daughter ran ahead. Joseph called out and scolded her in Haitian Creole, as was his custom when his children were not behaving. Though Simone did not fully understand the language, she immediately obeyed her father.

At the station, a family friend named Monsieur Renard arrived to see off the Laroches. He brought with him a gift of two balloons--one for Simone, and one for Louise. Although Louise lost hers shaking the string, Monsieur Renard gallantly purchased a replacement.

La Gare Saint-Lazare circa 1910.


The New York Express, exclusively designated for the transport of First- and Second-Class passengers of Titanic, departed at 9:45am.

Once settled on the train, Joseph and Juliette struck up a friendship with a young couple from Canada.

Albert Mallet was an importer of cognac for a liquor firm, and he traveled to Paris often for work; he, his wife Antonine, and their toddler Andre were traveling back to Quebec after a short visit with family. Joseph and Albert chatted the whole way as their wives did the same, and their children played.

The Mallets, as it turned out, had likewise exchanged their tickets on the SS France for passage on Titanic, and for the very same reason that had compelled the Laroches: it simply was not feasible to dine without their children.

And with that, the voyage appeared to have started well. Bound for a ship on which most people would speak only English, the Laroche family had made fast friends with another French-speaking family of similar age.

Juliette wrote a letter to her papa while on board Titanic, which was postmarked from Queenstown, Ireland, on April 11th. It reflected a pleasant time, and Juliette wrote of the ongoing kindnesses of fellow passengers.

The girls ate well last evening. They slept in one stretch the whole night and were awoken by the bells announcing breakfast; those made Louise laugh.

Right now, they are walking on the covered deck with Joseph. Louise is in her small car, and Simone is pushing her. They have already made acquaintances: since Paris, we have traveled with a gentleman and lady and their little boy, who is the same age as Louise. I believe they are the only French on board. So, we sit at the same table and like this we can chat.

Simone amused me earlier; she was playing with an English girl who had lent her a doll. My Simone was having great conversation, but the little girl could not understand anything. People are very nice on board. Yesterday, they were both running after a gentleman who had given them chocolate.

From "Black Man on the Titanic: The Story of Joseph Laroche," by Serge Bile. © 2019.

The couple to whom Juliette referred in her letter were, of course, the Mallets.

It is worth noting that there is little in the way discoverable first-hand accounts regarding racial treatment of the Laroche family while they were on board Titanic.

As a young interracial couple, it is assumed that they must have endured racism to an unquantified degree; their marriage, so full of devotion and strength, was neither commonplace nor socially acceptable by the standards of the era.

And yet, Joseph and Juliette paid this no mind. Their love, and their loving family, were all that mattered to them both. By all accounts, their company was warm, jovial, and accepting, and other passengers delighted in the presence of their sweet little girls.

Simone and Louise Laroche are mentioned, though not by name, in a letter written by fellow Second-Class passenger Kate Buss. "There are two of the finest little Jap[anese] baby girls, about three or four years old, who look like dolls running about."

The racism is there, even in a private letter. The Laroche daughters were not Japanese, but this was not a mistaken assumption on the account of Ms. Buss; it was a generic term of disparagement. At the time, people with not-white complexions were often called "Japanese" or "Italian".

By all accounts, Simone and Louise seemed to be having a gleeful time, but they missed their grandfather. Juliette also wrote the following to her papa.

I am going to stop [writing] because I think we will stop over soon, and I would not like to miss the mail service. Thank you, again, dear Papa, for all your kindness. Please receive the best kisses from your daughter who loves you. Little Simone and Louise send big kisses to their good grandfather. After getting dressed this morning, they wanted to see you.

From "Black Man on the Titanic: The Story of Joseph Laroche," by Serge Bile. © 2019.

April 14th was a Sunday, and the Laroches attended religious services presided over by Father Thomas Byles, a fellow passenger and Roman Catholic priest.

That night, Joseph answered his cabin door to find a steward demanding the family don their life vests and get up on deck with urgency. Joseph woke his wife, and she exited the cabin with Simone in her arms.

Joseph snatched his coat, and stuffed its pockets with their money, jewelry, and paperwork. Then he swaddled tiny Louise inside it, and chased after his wife.

On deck, Joseph gripped Louise in one arm, and clung to an unnamed sailor who was holding men back from entering the lifeboat with the women and children. Joseph, who was fluent in both English and French, somehow managed to secure a spot in for his bewildered wife and their children amidst the chaos.

Some accounts claim that Juliette entered Lifeboat 14. Others believe that it was Lifeboat 8, because Juliette recalled that a countess was in the boat with them, which many suspect was Noel Leslie, the Countess of Rothes.

Juliette recounted the memory with desperate pain.

When the collision happened, there was terrible panic. People were pushing, in a hurry to get off the boat. Suddenly, I felt that they were pulling my older daughter away from me, my little Simone... I saw her thrown to a lifeboat suspended above the abyss. "My child," I yelled. "My child! It is my child that was taken away!"

But right at that instant, I felt someone grabbing me as well. A pair of hands took me, and threw me into emptiness. I found myself in the lifeboat, next to my little Simone, and up there, on the deck, in the middle of the scramble, I glimpsed my husband. Arms extended above the crowd, he was holding our younger girl, whom he was trying to protect against the push. He was struggling against the sailors, showing them the little girl and trying to make them understand that she was separated from me, her mother. At last someone grabbed our little Louise from my husband's hands, and soon she was in my arms.

Then the lifeboat was once and for all lowered onto the sea. I hardly had time to bid my husband a final farewell. I heard his voice, above the rumble, yelling: "See you soon, darling! There will be space for everyone, don't worry, in the lifeboats... Take care of our girls! See you soon!"

From "Black Man on the Titanic: The Story of Joseph Laroche," by Serge Bile. © 2019.

There is no record of Joseph Laroche's last moments.

His body was never recovered.

Survivors on board the rescue ship Carpathia, courtesy of the Library of Congress.


When the Carpathia arrived on scene, the little Laroche girls were hoisted aboard in burlap bags.

Juliette, already surmising Joseph had died, did her best to remain level for the sake of her daughters. For instance, diapers were predictably absent on Carpathia. Juliette discreetly hoarded cloth napkins by sitting on them during mealtime, in order to use them later as makeshift diapers.

The coat that had kept Louise warm--and which Joseph had been present enough to stock with the family's valuables--is reported to have been stolen on board the Carpathia.

The rescue ship Carpathia docked at Pier 54 in New York City, April 18, 1912. George Grantham Bain collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.


After the Carpathia docked in New York City, Juliette was transported to St. Vincent's Hospital and treated for her frostbitten feet.

Once she had recovered, Juliette and the girls returned home to France via liner on the morning of May 2, 1912.

According to "Le Matin," the local newspaper, Juliette's father, "an old man in mourning clothes," waited anxiously at the dock for the disembarkment of his bereaved daughter and grandchildren.

When they found each other, Juliette withered in her papa's arms, sobbing.

When Mrs. Laroche and her two daughters appeared on the gangway, the old man ran to them and father and daughter hugged for a long time, teary-eyed. Mrs. Laroche then recounted that at the time of the catastrophe, she and her two little girls had been forced to leave her husband behind. He'd tried to reassure her, affirming that he would be rescued just like her--only a little later. Crying, the poor woman repeated several times: "I believed him! I believed him! Otherwise, I would have never agreed to leave him!"

From "Black Man on the Titanic: The Story of Joseph Laroche," by Serge Bile. © 2019.

On May 24, 1912, Juliette held a memorial service for Joseph in Villejuif. To every mourner, she distributed a card, which had Joseph's photo on it surrounded by a black band.

It read only, "Please pray for the repose of the soul of Joseph Laroche, who passed away on April 15, 1912, in the sinking of the Titanic."

Joseph would have turned 26 only two days later, on May 26.

Juliette gave birth to a boy around Christmastime, 1912; he was named after his late father.

Destitute, heartbroken, and tragically widowed with three children all under the age of 5, Juliette Laroche sued the White Star Line for damages, and was awarded 150,000 francs in 1918--approximately $250,000 today. Juliette used the funds to open a dry-cleaning business operating out of her father's house.

Joseph's mother traveled to France in 1920 to meet her grandchildren at last. Sadly, Juliette never traveled to her late husband's home in Haiti.

Juliette reportedly never spoke of Titanic with anyone except  fellow survivors Antonine Mallet and Edith Russell, the latter of whom she had met in Paris. For a number of years thereafter, Juliette received a small gift from Edith every April 15th, on the anniversary of the sinking.

Edith Russell, fellow Titanic survivor and friend to Juliette LaRoche.


Juliette Laroche never remarried.

She died in 1980 at the age of 90.


Bile, Serge. "Black Man on the Titanic: The Story of Joseph Laroche." Mango Publishing, 2019.

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