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“Immeasurable Sorrow and Unending Grief”: The Allison Family

“Immeasurable Sorrow and Unending Grief”: The Allison Family

Bess Daniels met her future husband, a stockbroker from Montreal named Hudson Allison, in 1907 while they were passengers on a train.

They married in her hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in December of that same year, on Hudson’s 26th birthday. Bess was newly 21.

Less than five years later, Hudson and Bess boarded the Titanic as First-Class passengers at Southampton on the morning of April 10, 1912. With them were their young children—Lorraine, who was 2 years old, and their infant Trevor—and four servants.

The Allisons occupied First-Class cabins on C-Deck, which they shared with their maid, Sarah, and Trevor’s new nurse, Alice Cleaver.

Their cook, Mildred, and their chauffeur, George Swane, were booked with Second-Class cabins.

The Allison Family


The Allison family had sailed to the United Kingdom in order for Hudson to attend a meeting of directors, as he was on the Board of the British Lumber Corporation. They took a side trip up to the Scottish Highlands so Hudson could pick up horses for the Allison’s stock farm back home. While there, they also hired the four servants that were traveling with them on Titanic.

On the night of April 14, Hudson and Bess dined with Major Arthur Peuchen and fellow Canadian Harry Molson. Later, Bess brought little Loraine up to the First-Class Dining Room to awe at its Jacobean prettiness.

When Titanic struck the iceberg later that night, the new nursemaid Alice woke the Allisons, but per her (presumably defensive) account, they dismissed her concern, insisting that it was nothing more than her imagination.

Some time after the engines had ceased, Mr. Allison finally consented to go up on deck to seek the trouble. Alice said that she advised that the family would have to evacuate the ship, and Mrs. Allison became “hysterical.” Alice, wrapping the baby, did her best to calm Mrs. Allison.

An officer then came by and advised an immediate evacuation to the boat deck. And so Alice, with the bundled baby Trevor in her arms, exited the suite. She claimed that she found Mr. Allison in the hallway.

[I] here met Mr. Allison outside the cabin but he seemed too dazed to speak. I handed him some brandy and asked him to look after Mrs. Allison and Loraine and I would keep Baby [Trevor]… some confusion occurred outside as to which deck we should go and that is how [Mr. Allison] came separated, afterwards I learned from one of the staff that Mrs. Allison was hysterical again and that Mr. Allison had difficulty with her…

Alternate accounts reflect that Alice took Trevor with her to retrieve George and Mildred in Second Class, without informing either Mr. or Mrs. Allison.

In the end, it is reported that George Swane escorted Alice to Lifeboat 11. Trevor was then carried into the boat by bedroom steward William Faulkner, who was instructed to stay aboard, and thusly also rescued in Lifeboat 11.

Also in the lifeboat was Mildred, the cook that the Allisons had hired. According to a letter from Mildred to her mother on April 19, 1912, written on board Carpathia and postmarked from Grand Central Station in New York City:

No sooner was I on deck that I was bustled to the first class deck and pushed into one of the boats and I found nurse (Alice Cleaver) and the baby (Trevor Allison) were there. It was awful to put the lifebelt on it, seemed as if you really were gone.

Mrs. Allison, meanwhile, had already been seated in Lifeboat 6 with her little daughter, Loraine.

But Bess Allison jumped out of the lifeboat.

Per their friend Major Peuchen, who was interviewed by the Montreal Daily Star:

Mrs Allison could have gotten away in perfect safety, but somebody told her Mr Allison was in a boat being lowered on the opposite side of the deck, and with her little daughter she rushed away from the boat. Apparently she reached the other side to find that Mr Allison was not there. Meanwhile our boat had put off.

In a separate interview, Major Peuchen elaborated upon Bess’s actions.

She had gone to the deck without her husband, and, frantically seeking him was directed by an officer to the other side of the ship. She failed to find Mr. Allison and was quickly hustled into one of the collapsible life-boats, and when last seen by Major Peuchen she was toppling out of the half-swamped boat.

Bess and her daughter, possibly alongside Hudson, were last seen together on deck near the officers quarters.

Mr. and Mrs. Allison, their little girl, and George Swane all died in the sinking.

Young Loraine Allison was the sole child of all in First and Second Class to die. Her mother was one of only four First-Class women to die.

Hudson Allison’s body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and noted.

NO. 135. - MALE.

CLOTHING - Leather coat; blue suit; grey silk muffler.

EFFECTS - Keys; letters; photos; stock book; three pocket diaries; one C. P. Railway ticket book; two pocket books; card case; $143.00 in notes; chain with insurance medals; £15 in gold; $100.00 Thomas Cook & Sons travellers' cheque; £35 in notes; gold cuff links; diamond solitaire ring; gold stud; knife; silver tie clip; $4.40 in odd coins; traveller's ticket.


Thereafter, George Swane’s body was also found.


CLOTHING - Blue suit; grey socks; low shoes.

EFFECTS - Chain; sovereign case, empty; 33s 5d in cash; one tie pin; two motor licenses.

NAME - GEORGE SWANE, 73 Little Cadogan Place, London, S.W.

The bodies of Bess Allison and little Loraine Allison, if ever recovered, went unidentified.

Upon their arrival in New York City, Alice Cleaver relinquished custody of the now-orphaned Trevor Allison to his uncle and aunt, George and Lillian Allison.

Trevor Allison died in 1929 from food poisoning. He was 18 years old.

And then, years on, Titanic was forced to shoulder its very own Anastasia story.

Decades later in 1940, a woman named Helen Loraine Kramer came forward, claiming on a radio show to be the long-lost toddler, Loraine Allison. Over the course of time, she insisted that she had been saved in secret—and then raised—by no less than Thomas Andrews, who she claimed had disguised his identity under the alias of "James Hyde" to avoid persecution.

Kramer’s granddaughter reinvigorated the rumor in 2012, claiming to have found definitive proof in the form of paperwork in the late Kramer’s suitcase.

Genetic testing was finally performed in 2013 as a result of the Loraine Allison Identification Project. It proved that Kramer’s absurd claim, unsurprisingly, to be entirely false.

David Allison, grandson of Hudson’s brother Percy, issued the following statement.

The Allisons never accepted Mrs Kramer’s claim, but the stress it caused was real. It forced my ancestors to relive painful memories described to me as immeasurable sorrow and unending grief… I would like to thank Deanne Jennings and Sally Kirkelie for offering their DNA to stop this harassment. This was a courageous, selfless act, and I will remain forever indebted for their act of kindness.

David’s sister, Nancy, also said the following.

These DNA results have uncovered a colossal fraud that has haunted my family for years. It was all about the money …. Debrina [Kramer’s granddaughter] wants to write a book and no doubt there are others out there who want to profit from our story. It is our story. Leave us in peace.

Tantalizing though some may find them, dear reader, it is only kind to remember: conspiracy theories do harm to  innocent people.

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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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“Our Babe”: The Mystery of Titanic’s ‘Unknown Child’

"Our Babe": The Mystery of Titanic's 'Unknown Child'

Clifford Crease was 24 years old when he and his crewmates embarked on the grimmest journey of their lives: collecting the dead from Titanic.

The crew of the Mackay-Bennett recovers a Titanic victim.


The Mackay-Bennett arrived to the site on the night of April 19, and saw that there were far more bodies than anyone could have anticipated.

At 6:00 a.m. on April 20, their work began.

All crew on the Mackay-Bennett were required to keep a log or diary of their gruesome task in the wake of Titanic. Only Clifford's, which has been donated, and one other are known to remain in existence.

One by one, small skiff boats were dispatched from the Mackay-Bennett, where they began manually pulling corpses from the water, to describe their faces and rifle through their pockets.

It had already been almost a week that they'd been bobbing in the water, exposed to the elements and ships passing through the massive debris field. Most of the bodies were mangled from the sinking--lacerated, bruised, many with broken bones.

(Please take a moment to reflect on how traumatic this reaping truly was. The men on board the Mackay-Bennett never get the credit they deserve.)

After the third body, a female third-class passenger, had been pulled aboard and catalogued, Clifford Crease's work turned from solemn to sorrowful.

Over the side of the boat, he scooped up a fourth body. Tiny. Blond, ocean-pale, and eerily still. Unlike the corpses all around them, this body was pristine--more doll than person, we might imagine. Clifford cradled the dead baby boy in what seemed like interminable silence.

After searching for identification and finding none, they reverently noted the baby as follows.

CLOTHING - Grey coat with fur on collar and cuffs; brown serge frock; petticoat; flannel garment; pink woolen singlet - brown shoes and stockings.

Clifford and his mates were in shock.

Back on board the Mackay-Bennett, the decision had been made to bury steerage passengers at sea, owing to a lack of space and shortage of embalming fluid. So only the First and Second Classes were embalmed or put on ice and returned to Halifax.

An exception was made for the nameless baby that was "probably third class." No one could bring themselves to commit him to the sea, all alone forever.

After recovering a total of 306 bodies from the site, the Mackay-Bennett returned to Halifax. Bodies were distributed to funeral homes, morgues, and grieving families. Photos were taken. Days passed.

But no one claimed the baby.

Hearses queued at Halifax Wharf, waiting to transport the corpses of Titanic victims to local funeral parlors. Courtesy of Nova Scotia Archives & Records Management (NSARM).


The sailors who had been on board the Mackay-Bennett that nightmarish day then took matters into their own hands and adopted the child in death. Spearheaded by Clifford Crease, they arranged a funeral and pooled their wages for a small coffin and headstone.

In the coffin, they placed a brass plate engraved with two words: "Our babe."

Clifford acted as one of the baby's pallbearers.

The Unknown Child now rested in the Halifax's Fairview Cemetery. Suspecting that his identity might be that of 2-year-old Gosta Palsson, youngest son of Third-Class passenger Alma Palsson, he was interred in close proximity to her grave.

Years went by, and Clifford could never bring himself to forget The Unknown Child. Every year on the anniversary of the sinking, he laid a wreath on the grave.

And when Clifford Crease died in 1961, he was interred mere meters away from the child who had haunted him all of his life.

According to his family, Clifford didn't speak about his grim time on the Mackay-Bennett until the end of his life, prompted by a program he was watching on television about Walter Lord's "A Night to Remember." According to Clifford's granddaughter, "He never fully recovered... He told our father it was the worst thing that ever happened to him."

In 2001, two Canadian scientists named Ryan Parr and Alan Ruffman collaborated in order to find the identity of Titanic's Unknown Child.

They exhumed the remains, but there was nothing left other than a fragment of an arm bone, and three little teeth. Mercifully, the plate laid in the coffin by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett had protected these scarce remains. And miraculously, that was enough.

The remains were not a match to the Palsson family, who had originally given permission for the remains to be disinterred. They expanded the scope of their candidates from among 5 boys under the age of 3 who had died on Titanic.

In addition to Gosta Palsson, there were:

Gilbert Danbom 5 months old, from Sweden

Alfred Peacock 7 months old, from England

Eino Panula 13 months old, from Finland

Sidney Goodwin 19 months old, from England

Eugene Rice 2 years old, from Ireland

With the long-term assistance of geneaologists and historians, as well as willing descendants, Ruffman and Parr tracked down genetic samples from all 5 families of the little boys.

From the candidates remaining after Gosta Palsson was ruled out, 3 were evident non-matches; this left only Sidney Goodwin and Eino Panula as the possible Unknown Child, due to a shared mutation in their mitochondrial DNA.

Looking at the teeth that had been recovered from the grave, the scientists determined that they'd belonged to a child in the 9-15 month range. By process of elimination, Ruffman and Parr published their results: The Unknown Child was 13-month-old Eino, whose family was traveling from Finland.

It was accepted by the majority that the Unknown Child finally had a name.

But some, including Parr and Ruffman, suspected it was the incorrect one.

All because of a pair of shoes.

In 2007, Dr. Parr admitted that they may have made a mistake.

Back in 2002, a man named Earle Northover had donated a pair of brown-leather baby shoes to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. They had belonged, he said, to the Unknown Child.

According to Earle, the wee shoes had been removed from the baby, and saved from destruction by his grandfather Clarence Northover, a sargeant for the Halifax Police Department. Earle wrote the following in his letter to the Museum.

Clothing was burned to stop souvenir hunters but he was too emotional when he saw the little pair of brown, leather shoes about fourteen centimeters long, and didn’t have the heart to burn them. When no relatives came to claim the shoes, he placed them in his desk drawer at the police station and there they remained for the next six years, until he retired in 1918.

The shoes, Dr. Parr thought, were too big for a 13-month-old to wear. So they retested the DNA samples with the U.S. Armed Forces Identification Laboratory, where the team isolated a single, but significant and rare, genetic distinction.

With around a 98% certainty, Parr's team amended their previous results.

Thanks to the little shoes hidden in Sargeant Northover's desk drawer, the Uknown Child was identified as Sidney Goodwin.

Sidney Goodwin, Titanic's Unknown Child.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (taken in 1911)

At 19 months old, Sidney was the youngest of six children. His entire family was traveling from England to America where their father, Frederick, was set to have a new job at the new power station in Niagara Falls.

The Goodwins had planned to set to sail on the S.S. New York, but were transferred to Titanic as a result of the coal miners' strike.

All eight members of the Goodwin family--both parents, and all of their children--died when Titanic sank.

Aside from Sidney, who would spend almost a century unidentified, no member of the Goodwin family was recovered.

Sidney Goodwin's parents and five older siblings circa 1910. The entire family died in the sinking.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (published in UK periodical(s) in 1912)

The Goodwin descendants held a memorial service at the grave of The Unknown Child on August 6, 2008. One by one, they read the name of each child lost on Titanic out loud, ringing a bell for each.

The family elected to leave the headstone installed by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett.

As a Goodwin cousin said in an interview, "The tombstone of the unknown child represents all of the children who perished on the Titanic, and we left it that way."

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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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“I Trust That They Are Better Off”: Rhoda Abbott

"I Trust That They Are Better Off": Rhoda Abbott

Rhoda Abbott had long been an elusive Titanic survivor.

As it turns out, this was because her name, on Titanic's manifest and in contemporary articles, was inaccurately written as Rose or Rosa. Regardless, on her birth, death, and marriage certificates, her name is listed as Rhoda. And with that, a comparative wealth of information has been discovered.

Rhoda about was born in England, and emigrated to Providence, RI, in 1894. There, she met and married a fellow expat named Stanton Abbott, who rose to fame as a middle-weight boxing champion. This fame, however, accelerated the deterioration of their marriage, and in 1911, Rhoda and Stanton separated.

Rhoda returned to England with their two teenaged sons, Rossmore and Eugene, on Titanic's longest-lived sister ship, the RMS Olympic.

They struggled to get by in England. Rhoda worked as a seamstress and Rossmore as a bootmaker, while Gene was still receiving schooling. But Rhoda soon realized that her boys were homesick--she was English, but they were American. So she decided to take them home.

Rhoda Abbott boarded Titanic as a third-class passenger with her two boys. Rossmore was 16 by this point; Gene was 13.

It's been reported that the boys, excited to get stateside and dazzled by Titanic, almost immediately peaced out from their mom to explore the ship. Rhoda spent time conversing at length with fellow English women in adjoining cabins, particularly Amy Stanley and Emily Goldsmith.

As a whole, those in Third Class, being low within the vessel, felt the greatest shudder upon impact with the iceberg. After feeling the collision, the boys wanted to get up to the boat deck to see what had happened. But their mother wanted to wait for instruction from a steward, so she made them stay put and go to bed.

At a quarter past midnight, a steward threw open their door, yelling, "All passengers on deck with life jackets."

Rhoda, Rossmore, and Gene managed their way up to the boat deck with a little maneuvering. As they shuffled in the mass across the stern's deck, the last of the distress signals was launched above them. Eventually, they reached Collapsible C, the boat that some of Rhoda's cabin neighbors, including Amy Stanley and Emily and Frankie Goldsmith, got in. With the assertion of 'Women and Children First' in full effect, Rhoda's sons were too old to be considered children.

At around 2:00 a.m., when Rhoda was frantically offered a place in Collapsible Lifeboat C, she pressed her two boys to her and refused. It was about 2:00 a.m.

Twenty minutes later, Titanic submerged.

Water overtook the boat deck as the officers were desperately trying to launch Collapsible A, which Rhoda and Gene were waiting for--Rossmore, in accordance with Rhoda's worst fear, was put firmly back with the other men.

Rhoda grabbed Gene's hands, but when she surfaced, both Rossmore and Gene had been dragged away underwater.

She never saw her boys again, alive or dead.

Rossmore's corpse was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and committed to the sea on April 24, 1912. He was listed as follows.

CLOTHING - Brown overcoat; grey pants; green cardigan; blue jersey; black boots.
EFFECTS - Watch; chain and fob, with medal marked "Rossmore Abbott"; pocket book empty and two knives.

Gene's body was never found.

With no sight of her lost sons, Rhoda sank again, but was blown back to the surface by the exploding Titanic boilers, which she believed caused burns to her thighs.

Rhoda managed to make it to Collapsible A--which having been washed away only half-prepped, had taken on a few inches of water--and was pulled aboard. She recounted her experience to the Pawtucket Times.

Soon the raft tilted and all slid off into the water. Many of them managed to get back on it and some did not. I managed somehow to get on it, but I don’t know how. We were forced to stand on the float in lockstep to keep our balance for over six hours. Had it not been for Officer Laws I would have been drowned. I was nearly exhausted when he lifted me into his lifeboat. It would have been impossible for an officer to show more courtesy and many of the criticisms that have been made against this man are very unjust.

"Officer Laws" was, in fact, Fifth Officer Harold Lowe, of Lifeboat 14, the only lifeboat to return for survivors.

Officer Lowe left Collapsible A behind. It was recovered one month later, in May of 1912, with three corpses still within.

Rhoda had been practically unconscious when removed from Collapsible A, and was cared for by a fireman until taken aboard Carpathia. She had no memory of any of it. According to fellow survivor Amy Stanley, once on board Carpathia, Rhoda was mute and shellshocked.

 We were very close since we were on the Titanic together. And her stateroom had been near mine. I was the only one that she could talk to about her sons because I knew them myself. She told me that she would get [sic] in the lifeboat if there hadn't been so many people around. So she and her sons kept together. She was thankful that [the] three of them had stayed with her on that piece of wreckage. The youngest went first then the other son went. She grew numb and cold and couldn't remember when she got on the Carpathia. There was a piece of cork in her hair and I managed to get a comb and it took a long time but finally we got it out.

Meanwhile, Rhoda's ex-husband Stanton had been informed of the loss of his young boys. The New York Times reported it on it, with a distinct lack of sentiment, on May 4, 1912.

Stanton Abbott, an Englishman residing at Providence, R. I., inquired at the White Star Line office yesterday for his two sons, Rosmore Edward, 17 years old, and Eugene Joseph, 13, who were passengers with their mother, Mrs. Rose Abbott, 45 years old, on the Titanic, and were lost. The mother, he said, is in the New York Hospital in a dangerous condition from shock and fever. He was told that the body of the older boy had been recovered, and Mr. Abbott said he would go to Halifax to claim it.

Rhoda's physical recovery was slow, and she was one of the last survivors to be released from care at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City.

Her grief, however, knew no real end. Rhoda kept in touch with her cabin neighbors after the sinking, and in 1914, she wrote to Emily Goldsmith, and her grief was no less palpable for the passage of time.

I have so envied you with Frankie, and me losing both mine, but I trust that they are Better off out of this hard world...

I read by the papers the terrible weather you are having. I suppose Frank enjoys it. I know my little fellow used to when he was alive. I have his sled now that he used to enjoy so much, bless his little heart. I know he is safe in God’s keeping, but I miss him So Much.


Rhoda Abbott was the only woman to go down with Titanic and somehow survive.

And therefore, Rhoda, thereafter and for so long called "Rosa" or "Rose," was the only woman rescued from the water.

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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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Alma Paulsson


Alma Palsson (Americanized: Paulson) was an immigrant from Sweden; she was 29 when she boarded Titanic as a third-class passenger with her four young children.

Alma had been waiting for enough funds for her husband, Nils, to purchase tickets so they might finally join him in Chicago. The children--daughters Torborg and Stina, sons Paul and Gosta--ranged in age from 2 to 8 years old.

Nils had emigrated to America after realizing that he didn't want to be a miner anymore, and that mining was pretty much the only gig around where the Palssons lived in Sweden.

He arrived in Chicago in 1910; after landing a job as a tram conductor, he set to saving up enough money for his family to reunite in their new country. Swedish immigrants were the third-most robust nationality on Titanic, after the British and the Americans.

When Titanic struck the iceberg, Alma apparently struggled to gather and dress her children. By the time they got to the boatdeck from steerage class, it was too late; all the lifeboats had gone.

Another Swede named August Wennerstrom tried to look after the patriarch-less family in their distress. He said that he tried desperately to hold onto two of the Palsson children as the water washed the deck, but they were swept away. Wennerstrom survived.

Little else is known about Alma and her children; she was not seen again until her corpse was recovered by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett. It is thought that she must have presented an eerie and heartbreaking sight when she was found floating on the sea, her fair hair undone around her beautiful face.

She was listed as follows.


Brown Coat; green cardigan; dark shirt; brown skirt under; boots; no stockings

Wedding ring; brass keeper; mouth organ; purse and two coins; a letter; 65 kroner; had four children with her; letter from husband, Neil Paulsson, 94 Townsend St, Chicago.

Memory persists of Alma playing songs on the listed mouth organ (a harmonica) for her frightened children as they waited helplessly for the ship's submersion.

None of the Palsson children, if recovered, were ever identified. For decades, it was assumed that little Gosta was Titanic's famed "Unknown Child," but genetic testing has at last proved otherwise.

An account of Nils Palsson's reaction exists, including his desperate attempts to find out if an orphaned boy was his son. At the White Star Offices in Chicago, Nils begged for information about his family.

He was told they were not listed on the roster of survivors.

In broken English, he hoped out loud that maybe they didn't sail.

Your family was on the boat, but none of them are accounted for.' The man on the other side of the counter was assisted to a seat. His face and hands were bathed in cold water before he became fully conscious.

He was finally assisted to the street by Gust Johnson, a friend who arrived with him. Paulson's grief was the most acute of any who visited the offices of the White Star, but his loss was the greatest. His whole family had been wiped out.

Nils eventually remarried and moved, where he planted 4 trees in his backyard to mourn and honor his lost family. Gosta, only two years old, was born after his father's departure; Nils never met his youngest son.

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