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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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“Our Boats Waited in Deadly Silence”: Karl Behr & Helen Monypeny Newsom

“Our Boats Waited in Deadly Silence”: Karl Behr & Helen Monypeny Newsom

Determination, thy name may well be Karl Behr.

Karl was born in Brooklyn to German parents. He graduated from Yale in 1906. Moreover, he was admitted to the Bar Association in 1910, and was by all accounts an extremely successful lawyer. He also mined for silver in Mexico.

In the meanwhile, Karl was one hell of a lawn tennis player. He played on the U.S. Davis Cup team in 1907; in that same year, he was ranked number 3 in the sport. He was also runner-up at Wimbledon in 1907.

All in all, it seemed to have been a hell of an excellent year for Karl, though he enjoyed similar successes in tennis for many years thereafter.

Karl Behr in the Men's Doubles at Wimbledon in 1907.


At some point, Karl fell in love with Helen Monypeny Newsom, the gorgeous friend of his little sister, Gertrude.

And, as in many grand love stories, Helen's mother and stepfather, Sallie and Richard Beckwith, did not approve of their romance. Karl was 27, and Helen was just 19.

Helen’s parents disliked Karl so ardently that, in an effort to deter his courtship of their daughter, they took Helen on a trip to Europe in February 1912.

As though that would stop Karl.

Karl furtively booked a trip on the same outbound vessel, and slipped away with Helen in Morocco.

And Madeira.

And the South of France.

The star-crossed lovers at some point agreed to meet back in NY upon their individual returns.

Karl Behr playing tennis. Published in "Methods & Players of Modern Lawn Tennis" in 1915.


But Helen was a delightfully headstrong girl in her own right. So while Karl was in Berlin, Helen sent him a telegram.


With this alert, Karl concocted a business trip and booked passage on Titanic in order to continue their courtship. And so, with an engagement ring in his pocket, Karl Behr set out to surprise his love. He booked passage on a train down to Cherbourg alongside a number of other First-Class passengers, including his future tennis rival, Richard Norris Williams.

After a pleasant train ride through the French countryside, Karl joined Helen and the Beckwiths at the stopover at Cherbourg.

He supposedly spent most of his time ingratiating himself to Helen's disapproving parents. And there just might have been—according to their granddaughter—also a lot of covert kisses and clandestine handholding during the voyage.

Titanic departing Southampton for Cherbourg, France, where Karl joined Helen and her family.


According to family lore, Karl was the one who alerted Helen and her parents when he saw people donning lifevests and a noticed a "list to starboard"--which contradicts the usual report of a list to port. Although, since the damage did occur on the starboard side, a negligible list could have occurred before the water sought its own level, resulting in the famous list to port.

The party approached and were permitted to enter the second lifeboat launched starboard, by Third Officer Herbert Pitman and First Officer William Murdoch. According to Karl, he went up to boat deck with Mr. Beckwith only to say goodbye to Helen, but both men were asked to jump in to row by White Star Chairman Bruce Ismay.

Karl was interviewed by his alma mater's periodical the Yale Daily News on April 18, 1912, while standing on the pier in New York after having disembarked the rescue ship Carpathia.

Karl's was the first survivor interview to be published.

Our boats waited in deadly silence until, at 2:30 a.m., the Titanic settled at the bow and took her final plunge. The sight was too horrible for description as the men on board rushed toward the stern only to be engulfed and sucked down by the suction.

Per contemporary newspaper reports, it was in the lifeboat that Karl proposed to Helen. But their granddaughter, Lynn Sanford, dissents. When interviewed, she said, "The idea that my grandfather proposed to my grandmother on a lifeboat while people around them were dying? No, that wasn't him."

However Helen and Karl finally managed to become engaged, Titanic seemed to have softened the Beckwiths' hearts.

Helen Moneypeny Newsom on her wedding day, as published by the Boston Sunday Post dated November 8, 1914. Courtesy of Encyclopedia Titanica.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (published prior to 1923)

Helen and Karl were married on March 1, 1913. The New York Times article of the wedding published on March 2 described Helen's dress in great detail.

The bride, who walked up the nave with her stepfather, Mr. Beckwith, who gave her in marriage, wore a gown of white satin charmeuse with a long veil of duches point that was draped in with the gown in pannier effect, the lace being carried down into a train. The gown was also trimmed with duchess lace. She carried lilies of the valley and white orchids... Both Mr. Behr and his bride are survivors of the Titanic disaster.

By all accounts, despite winning his hard-fought love, as well as his wild professional and athletic successes, Karl seems to have suffered from debilitating survivor guilt, though Lynn Sanford states that though it was evident to her, her grandfather never admitted to as much outright.

Karl was part of the committee formed to honor Captain Arthur Rostron of the Carpathia, the ship which had rescued survivors at dawn on April 15, 1912. When the Carpathia docked at her pier in New York for the first time since returning with Titanic survivors in 1912, the committee boarded and requested the Captain Rostron issue an order for all hands to muster in the ship's First-Class dining saloon. There, Captain Rostron was presented with an engraved silver cup and a gold medal of honor.

The New York Times reported on the event in its May 30, 1912, issue.

It was a striking picture, that of the brawny, weatherbeaten old bo'sun and the quartermasters and sailors in their blue uniforms mingling with the soot-begrimed firemen and coal passers who had come direct from the stokehole. In addition to the gold-laced uniforms of the officers and engineers, the cooks, in their white caps and aprons, were there with a big array of stewards. At the head of the table, beside cases of medals, was the silver loving cup, standing fifteen inches high, on an ebony base and bearing the following inscription:

Presented to Capt. A. H. Rostron, R. N. R., commander of the R. M. S. Carpathia.

In grateful recognition and appreciation of his heroism and efficient service in the rescue of the survivors of the Titanic on April 15, 1912, and of the generous and sympathetic treatment he accorded us on his ship.



Karl also testified against White Star in a class-action civil suit brought by other passengers; per Karl's testimony, Chair J. Bruce Ismay was acting in the capacity of supervisor as the lifeboats were being filled, and was not simply a passive passenger as White Star claimed. The suit ended in 1916 in a settlement of $663,000.00, after which the judge signed a decree putting an end to all lawsuits pertaining to the sinking of the Titanic.

Karl Behr helped to organize the Preparedness Parade--to encourage American intervention in the Great War--in New York City in 1916. But when the United States did intervene the following year, Karl was not permitted to join owing to his German heritage. Apparently unable to assuage years of sadness and remorse, Karl took briefly to a sanitarium in western New York state in 1917.

President Wilson at the Preparedness Parade in New York City, 1916. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Lynn Sanford has said that her grandfather "wished he had saved someone from the water so that at least an act of heroism could have resulted from his survival... He was crushed by inarticulate sadness beyond anyone's understanding."

Karl died in 1949; Helen, in 1965.

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“Too Frozen and Numb to Think It Strange”: The ‘Unsinkable’ Violet Jessop & Arthur John Priest

"Too Frozen and Numb to Think It Strange": The 'Unsinkable' Violet Jessop & Arthur John Priest

Incredibly, Titanic had two famously unlucky lucky passengers, both of them crew.

Stewardess Violet Jessop, whose name those with even a passing interest in Titanic will probably recognize, was born in Argentina to Irish parents; after her father died when she was 16, the whole family relocated to England. Her mother was reportedly a ship stewardess, and at 21, Violet set out to become one.

But this turned out to be difficult. Violet was a beautiful girl, and prospective employers considered this a flaw because most stewardesses were middle-aged and matronly. She clearly found a job eventually--and received at least three marriage proposals during her time at sea.

Violet Jessop during her service in the First World War.


Violet was 24 years old when she boarded Titanic. She had been reticent to go, as she was happy on Titanic's older sister, Olympic--despite having been on board when it collided with the H.M.S. Hawke on September 20, 1911. But Violet's friends had insisted that Titanic would be "a wonderful experience," so she relented, taking a horse-drawn carriage out to Southampton.

Violet spent time on board doing her job, though she did make reference in her memoirs to being friends with ship violinist Jock Hume.

She also wrote with great affection for Thomas Andrews, White Star's Chief Designer, "Often during our rounds we came upon our beloved designer going about unobtrusively with a tired face but a satisfied air. He never failed to stop for a cheerful word, his only regret that we were 'getting further from home.'"

Thomas Andrews, of whom Violet Jessop wrote with much admiration in her memoirs.


Violet was "comfortably drowsy" when the collision occurred, and went up on deck. She stood on deck with other stewardesses and was eventually asked to enter a lifeboat--possibly Lifeboat 16, which means she was on port-side, Second Officer Charles Lightoller's jurisdiction--to set an example to those female passengers who were afraid to leave Titanic. And here is where yet another Titanic mystery arises.

Violet claimed that as the lifeboat was being lowered, an unnamed officer dropped a wriggly bundle down to her. "'Here, Miss Jessop. Look after this baby.'" Violet pressed the mystery baby to her throughout the night, until she boarded Carpathia.

I was still clutching the baby against my hard cork lifebelt I was wearing when a woman leaped at me and grabbed the baby, and rushed off with it, it appeared that she put it down on the deck of the Titanic while she went off to fetch something, and when she came back the baby had gone. I was too frozen and numb to think it strange that this woman had not stopped to say 'thank you'

While this might present as terribly good drama, the story of this baby has never been verified.

To date, there is no record of an untended baby in Lifeboat 16 aside from 5-month-old Assed Thomas, who was given to First-Class passenger Edwina Troutt to look after.

Now, Edwina herself did say there were "not less than a dozen babies" on board. But that should not be taken to mean that if there were that many "babies" on board, they were all , in fact, infants--children were commonly referred to as babies.

In spite of the Titanic disaster, Violet was somehow undeterred from the sea and White Star. And so, in 1914, Violet Jessop was aboard on Titanic's younger sister, the RMS Britannic, which has been converted to a hospital ship to aid in the First World War. Violet was working as a Nurse of the Red Cross.

H.M.H.S. Britannic, Titanic's younger sister, which became a medical vessel during the Great War.


On November 21, 1916, an explosion throttled Britannic as she cruised the Aegean; speculation still swings between a torpedo and an underwater mine. Whichever it was, she started taking on water. Fast.

Britannic sank in just 55 minutes--compare that to Titanic's 2 hours and 40 minutes, and Titanic broke in half. But because of the Titanic's tragedy, Britannic's casualty count was far smaller at only thirty deaths.

And yet, Violet was almost one.

Of course, if the officers had waited for orders from the bridge, the death toll may well have been zero. This is because the officers started launching lifeboats without orders to do so, while the ship was still moving. So when the lifeboats, filled with people, hit the water, the propellers sucked them in.

The result was horrific carnage.

Violet Jessop was in one of these fated lifeboats, but jumped overboard to avoid the slaughter. She was still pulled by the water, and struck her head on the ship's keel. She "surfaced surrounded by severed corpses and wounded men." She always got fairly severe headaches after Britannic, and only found out why later in life, when a doctor informed her that she'd fractured her skull.

Illustration of the sinking of H.M.H.S. Britannic.


Violet finally took the hint and retired from sea... in 1950, after continuing to work for multiple liners. it appears that at some point, she was briefly married.

By the end of her extraordinary life, she lived alone in a small cottage in England.

Now, Violet claimed that it was a dark and stormy night. And then, quite mysteriously, her telephone rang. When she answered, a female voice asked her if she was in fact the same Violet Jessop who had rescued a baby on Titanic.

When Violet answered in the affirmative, the woman laughed and said, "I was that baby," and then hung up. When her biographer suggested it was a prank, Violet insisted she had never relayed the story to anyone before that point.

Violet died at the age of 71 from cardiac failure.

But here's the thing that's even more remarkable than a White Star employee who had survived the whole Olympic class: she was one of two.

The other was named Arthur John Priest.

He was a stoker, also called a 'fireman,' on Titanic. And he's far less well-known than Violet Jessop, probably because he did not write memoirs or sell his story.

Arthur John Priest boarded on April 6, 1912, and like Violet, was 24 years old. And also like Violet, Arthur had been on board Titanic's elder sister Olympic when it rammed the H.M.S. Hawke in 1911.

Damage sustained to R.M.S. Olympic in its collision with H.M.S. Hawke.


So little is known about Arthur's survival on Titanic, though he's most often been associated with Lifeboat 15. As a fireman, it's remarkable that he survived, given the difficulty many stokers faced in attempting to reach the boat deck from the bowels of the ship, as well as the minimal clothing the men wore while working beside the boilers.

In 1915, Arthur John Priest got married. And in 1916, he found himself among fellow Titanic survivors: Violet Jessop, of course, and Archie Jewell, who was a lookout.

As fate would have it, Arthur was also in one of the doomed Britannic lifeboats. He described it in gruesome detail in a letter home.

Most of us jumped in the water but it was no good we was pulled right in under the blades...I shut my eyes and said good bye to this world, but I was struck with a big piece of the boat and got pushed right under the blades and I was goin around like a top...I came up under some of the wreckage ... everything was goin black to me when someone on top was struggling and pushed the wreckage away so I came up just in time I was nearly done for ... there was one poor fellow drowning and he caught hold of me but I had to shake him off so the poor fellow went under.

Arthur John Priest then went on to survive the sinkings of the Alcantara on Leap Day, 1916, and then the S.S. Donegal on April 17, 1917, the latter ship taking the life of double-survivor Archie Jewett.

With a total of five shipwrecks now associated with his name, The Unsinkable Fireman was more or less forced to retire from maritime life, as everyone refused to sail with him.

Arthur died of pneumonia in 1937. He was 49 years old.


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“Our Brightest Star”: First Officer William Murdoch

"Our Brightest Star": First Officer William Murdoch

On a list of men on Titanic who have been unjustly maligned in the years since it sank, William McMaster Murdoch would certainly be toward the top of that list.

William McMaster Murdoch, taken sometime in 1907.


William Murdoch was born in Dalbeattie, Scotland, into a multi-generational seafaring family.

By the time of his appointment on Titanic, Will had a long and sterling resume of his extended career at sea himself, including surviving a hurricane sinking of the St. Cuthbert off the coast of Uruguay in 1903, a near-miss collision on the Adriatic in which his decision to override his commanding officer's orders saved the vessel, and the Olympic's collision with the H.M.S. Hawke.

William Murdoch (standing separately, far-left) with fellow R.M.S. Olympic officers & Captain E.J. Smith. Taken in 1911.


In 1904, he met Ada Banks, a schoolteacher from New Zealand, while serving on board either the Runic or the Medic. Their fond correspondence led to their wedding in 1907.

Murdoch was described as a "canny and dependable man." Survivor Charlotte Collyer described him as "a bull-dog of a man who would not be afraid of anything."

Speaking even further to the content of his character, when Murdoch was asked to sign a menu on board the Medic in 1900, he quoted Scottish writer, Charles Mackay.

Will wrote, "Whatever obstacles control, go on, true heart, thou'lt reach the goal."

William Murdoch on board the S.S. Medic circa 1900-1902.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (taken & published prior to 1923)

Murdoch was First Officer on Titanic when she set sail, but was originally assigned as Chief Officer before being bumped down by Captain Smith's abrupt installation of Henry Tingle Wilde as Chief Officer.

Will was therefore demoted to First Officer, and Charles Lightoller to Second Officer.

This change was so last-minute that Murdoch didn't even have time to alter the stripes on his uniform. This led to confusion even among crewmembers, with many referring to him as Chief Officer throughout the voyage and in their survivor testimonies.

Fatefully, Will was the officer on duty and on the bridge when Titanic collided with the iceberg. And according to Quartermaster Robert Hitchens, who was helmsman, Murdoch commanded, "Hard a-starboard."

Some have speculated that Murdoch's order was unclear or otherwise misinterpreted.

Bridge of R.M.S. Olympic, Titanic's elder sister.


Regardless of Will's orders and the concentrated effort that was made, Titanic made contact with the iceberg about 37 seconds after it was sighted.

If it gives insight into the acute panic those men on the bridge must have felt in that moment, an iceberg was typically sighted more like 30 minutes out.

First Officer Murdoch was one of the first to have a true understanding of the damage, as Second-Class Chief Steward John Hardy testified.

I had great respect and great regard for Officer Murdoch, and I was walking along the deck forward with him, and he said, ‘I believe she has gone, Hardy,’ and that’s the only time I thought she might sink –when he said that.

Captain Smith ordered Murdoch to load starboard-side lifeboats, and Second Officer Charles Lightoller to load port-side.

Crucially for those who survived, Captain Smith gave the orders of "women and children."

Lightoller took this to mean "women and children ONLY," whereas Murdoch took it as "women and children first." So once all the ladies and children in sight were loaded, he permitted men aboard without difficulty.

Last photo of William Murdoch (bending) with Second Officer Charles Lightoller as Titanic prepared to depart Queenstown.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (taken & published prior to 1923)

Will's less rigid approach, along with the perceived tensions between Lightoller and Chief Officer Wilde, led to Murdoch's lifeboats being turned out, hung, and sent off in a more efficient fashion: First Officer Murdoch launched multiple lifeboats in the time it took for Second Officer Lightoller to launch one.

First Officer Murdoch has been unduly criticized for this, as his early boats were not launched to capacity. But consistently across survivor testimony, Murdoch ordered those in charge of the boats to wait by the gangway to pick up more passengers, and to come back promptly when hailed.

Additionally, Willwas quoted as saying upon counting approximately forty in a lifeboat, "That’s enough before lowering. We can get a lot more in after she’s in the water. Lower away!" During the British inquiry, Lookout George Symons testified regarding a half-full lifeboat.

Because, I suppose, he had looked around the deck for other people, as well as I did myself, and there was not another passenger in sight, only just the remainder of the crew getting the surf boat ready... I saw Mr. Murdoch running around there [presumably looking for more passengers.]

Will's priority was clearly getting the boats off the divets and into the water, and yet regularly held accountable for the dereliction of duty of his crewmembers once removed from his command.

By all accounts, First Officer Murdoch was unflappably cool and calm as he launched the boats, although he still had some absurd moments while loading. For instance, while launching Lifeboat 5, he saw Dr. Henry Frauenthal and his brother jump down into the lifeboat and land on Mrs. Annie Stengel, thereby breaking her ribs.

Following that misfortune, her husband Henry Stengel, who was a portly man, had approached Will Murdoch and was told to jump into Lifeboat 1. He obeyed and in so doing, rolled over into the lifeboat, which inspired some laughter. Mr. Stengel himself testified to as much at the American inquiry.

The railing was rather high--it was an emergency boat and was always swung over toward the water--I jumped onto the railing and rolled into it. The officer then said, 'That is the funniest sight I have seen to-night,' and he laughed quite heartily. That rather gave me some encouragement. I thought perhaps it was not so dangerous as I imagined.

Also at Lifeboat 1, Murdoch seemed either exceedingly polite or supremely snide to First-Class passengers Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff Gordon.

I said, 'May we get into the boat?' and he [Murdoch] said 'Yes. I wish you would' or 'Very glad if you would' or some expression like that. There were no passengers at all near us then. He put the ladies in and helped me in.

Will then moved to launch Lifeboat 10 and the nearby collapsibles amidst mounting chaos.

Pantryman Albert Pearcey testified to a small moment that spoke to First Officer Murdoch's calm authority and conscientiousness.

ATTORNEY GENERAL: When you got to the boat deck will you tell us what you saw?
PEARCEY: I saw two babies on the deck; I picked them up in my arms and took them to the boat.
AG: Do you know what boat it was you took them to?
PEARCEY: A collapsible boat.
AG: Was there any Officer there?
AG: Who?
PEARCEY: The Chief, Mr. Murdoch.
AG: Did Mr. Murdoch give you any order?
AG: What was it?
PEARCEY: He told me to get inside with the babies and take charge of them.

Then there's the issue of the supposed shootings of passengers as they rushed Collapsible C, and which officer pulled the trigger. Survivor Eugene Daly believed that First Officer Murdoch fired the shot, as Mr. Daly thought he recognized his voice.

Others, including Jack Thayer, believed Chief Purser Hugh McElroy fired warning shots using his own pistol.

And Fifth Officer Harold Lowe was quite clear in his own United States Senate testimony about the alleged use of pistols, stating, "I heard them and I fired them."

Which leads naturally to one of Titanic's most disputed mysteries: the reported suicide of an officer.

As was attested to by a few survivors and immortalized in the 1997 film, First Officer Murdoch shot himself through the temple.

Despite this, a number of witnesses also spoke to Chief Officer Wilde and even Captain Smith doing the same.

Henry Tingle Wilde, who was made Chief Officer on Titanic, thus causing William Murdoch's demotion.


Even more witnesses speak to three steerage men being shot dead by an unknown officer. And while Titanicophiles could debate endlessly about whose character would lend itself more to suicide, since none of the main suspects were recovered, a definite answer will most likely never be determined.

It is most reasonable to turn to the most reliable of the firsthand accounts, such as those by Second-Class survivor Lawrence Beesley and First-Class survivor Colonel Archibald Gracie. Gracie said that he last saw First Officer Murdoch when he was washed away, while they were working in tandem to cut the falls to launch Collapsible A.

Furthermore, Second Officer Lightoller wrote the following to Murdoch's widow Ada.

Dear Mrs. Murdoch,

I am writing on behalf of the surviving officers to express our deep sympathy in this, your awful loss. Words cannot convey our feelings, - much less a letter.
I deeply regret that I missed communicating with you by last mail to refute the reports that were spread in the newspapers. I was practically the last man, and certainly the last officer, to see Mr. Murdoch. He was then endeavouring to launch the starboard forward collapsible boat...

...Having got my boat down off the top of the house, and there being no time to open it, I left it and ran across to the starboard side, still on top of the quarters. I was then practically looking down on your husband and his men. He was working hard, personally assisting, overhauling the forward boat’s fall. At this moment the ship dived, and we were all in the water.Other reports as to the ending are absolutely false.

Some dispute Lightoller's evidence because he was a company man, and because some insist that he would be disinclined to tell a newly bereaved widow that her husband had killed himself. But that is speculative at best.

Archibald Gracie, who had been in the immediate vicinity of First Officer Murdoch, also wrote in his account that, while Gracie and Second Officer Lightoller were both balancing for their lives on Collapsible B, that Lightoller actually spoke of seeing William Murdoch washed off the deck.

There is also, of course, the pervasive confusion about Murdoch being First Officer versus Chief Officer.

It should be noted that most passengers would not have known the names of the officers, their ranks recognized only based upon the stripes on their uniforms. William Murdoch did not have time to adjust his insignia due to his last-minute demotion upon Henry Wilde's installation as Chief Officer.

Multiple eyewitness accounts, therefore, appear to mistake Henry Wilde and William Murdoch for one another.

Moreover, some have proposed the Henry Wilde might have been more predisposed to suicidal tendencies under his personal circumstances. Specifically, Wilde was described thusly by John Smith, who wrote to his brother Hugh about what he overheard in Charles Lightoller's private conversations at the New York-located club of the International Mercantile Marine, in what is known by Titanicophiles as the Portrush Letter.

The last seen of Mr Wilde he was smoking a cigarette on the bridge. I expect he was hoping the water wouldn't put it out before he finished it. His wife died about sixteen months ago, and I have heard him say he didn't care particularly how he went or how soon he joined her. He leaves three children.

He would have been Captain of the Cymric two trips ago, only the coal strike and the tying up of some of the ships altered the company's plans.

But no matter who may have killed himself that night--William Murdoch, Henry Wilde, or another officer entirely--it is imperative to remember that the nautical culture at the time was to die an honorable death at sea having fulfilled one's duties, and suicide often fell under that sentiment. It was not a character flaw nor even cause for much alarm, as it seems to be taken today.

It was considered a noble and gallant Final Act.

Take, for instance, the account by First-Class survivor George Rheims, who wrote to his wife on April 19, 1912, of an unnamed officer's suicide with effusive admiration.

While the last boat was leaving, I saw an officer with a revolver fire a shot and kill a man who was trying to climb into it. As there remained nothing more to do, the officer told us, "Gentlemen, each man for himself, good-bye." He gave a military salute and then fired a bullet into his head. That’s what I call a man!!!

Regardless of his cause of death, First Officer William McMaster Murdoch is remembered as a hero in his hometown of Dalbeattie.

Sir Bertram Hayes, the Commodore of the White Star line, eulogized Titanic's First Officer.

"William Murdoch was our brightest star."



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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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“Some Curious Things”: Charles Joughin

"Some Curious Things": Chief Baker Charles Joughin

Previously assigned to Olympic, Charles Joughin (pronounced "Jock-In") was the Chief Baker on Titanic. As such, he managed a crew of 13 men.

It's reported he had been at sea since the age of 11, with a number of men in his family already serving in the Navy. In 1901, he was listed as a "baker at sea" in census data.

When he boarded Titanic, he was 33 years old.

Charles Joughin, circa 1912.


Titanic's food was truly luxurious, even for Third Class. Second Class was considered better than First Class on other vessels. And we're all aware of how opulent First Class was. Desserts on various class menus include apple tart, cornbread, currant buns, plum pudding, and soda & sultana scones.

Fresh bread and butter, as well as Swedish bread, were included on the Third Class menu.

And the final dinner in First Class had Waldorf pudding, peaches in chartreuse jelly, chocolate and vanilla eclairs, and French ice cream.

As Chief Baker, these all would have fallen under Charles's purview.

Charles occupied what he called “The Confectioners Room,” as had been the case during his time on both the Olympic and Teutonic. He provided no explanation for his occupancy of these quarters other than “it is the better room.”

He was already off-duty and settled in his bunk when Titanic struck the iceberg, and he felt the impact. He said that he immediately understood the significance of the strike and went up on deck, but saw nothing amiss.

In time, he began hearing "general orders" filtered down from higher ups, and he prepared accordingly. He mustered his team in their shop, located on D Deck, and sent all 13 bakers up to boat deck with four loaves of bread each, as well as biscuits by some accounts, in order to stock provisions for the lifeboats.

He then backtracked to his cabin for, as he would later testify, "a drop of liqueur."

British Wreck Inquiry during Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon's testimony, taken May 25, 1912 and published by "The Graphic"


According to his testimony in the British Board of Trade inquiry, Charles recalled his name on a list in the galley, as the overseer of Lifeboat 10, in the case of an emergency.

But when he reported to his post by about 12:30 a.m., he was made to feel obsolete.

Chief Officer Henry Wilde had taken charge and was screaming at stewards to stay back. Charles interceded, because the men weren't actually pushing forward or causing chaos. Charles then assisted in loading women and children into the boat, but when all were aboard, he saw it was only half-full.

Joughin said a number of women actually ran away, prefering to stay on the ship--this may seem ridiculous in hindsight, but was actually a common phenomenon on Titanic. Without knowing how severe the damage was and how lethal the sinking would be, the liner felt much safer and more solid than a tiny little lifeboat, in the cold and dark, being slapped about the waves indefinitely.

Charles and some stewards ran down to A Deck, where they found some women and children confused, or immobilized by fear, and crouched on the deck.

Joughin and Co. more or less forced them up on top and "threw them in" the lifeboat.

The list to port had resulted in a yard-wide berth between the boat deck and the Lifeboat, and one woman actually slipped. By some miracle of God she was caught by steward William Burke, and hung upside down until she was pulled inside by people on A Deck.

William Burke (center), the steward who caught a woman from falling from the deck as witnessed by Joughin. From the harris & Ewing Collection, courtesy of the Library of Congress.


When the boat was properly filled, Chief Officer Wilde ordered steward Burke and two other seamen in instead of Joughin, despite the lifeboat being his assignment.

He did not step in to save himself, insisting it would have set a bad example. They pushed off without him, and Charles went back to his cabin below deck.

To imbibe.

Now, it was against company policy to drink or have alcohol on board a White Star liner, so it’s been speculated that Charles's testimony at the inquiry about how much alcohol he'd thrown back may have been intentionally inaccurate.

Officially, he testified that it was a "tumbler half-full.”

With that in mind, depictions of Charles have probably exaggerated how drunk he really was.

Unfortunately, thanks in part to his own testimony, Charles Joughin’s legacy is one of comedic relief.

Charles stated that he was off-deck for nearly an hour. At some point while down below, he said he ran into the "old doctor" that is assumed to have been Dr. William O'Loughlin, who was Titanic’s chief surgeon.

Joughin testified that he saw Dr. O’Loughlin while he was having his “drop” in his cabin, which he stated was already awash in ankle-deep water.

According to Charles, they had a brief exchange, but there appears to be no primary documentation of the conversation.

Now we just want to finish your experience. You say you went below after No. 10 had gone. Did you stay below or did you go up again?
- I went down to my room and had a drop of liqueur that I had down there, and then while I was there I saw the old doctor and spoke to him and then I came upstairs again.

Charles is believed to have been the last person to see Dr. O’Loughlin alive.

Dr. William O'Loughin in American Medicine's tribute in its May 1912 issue.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (Published prior to 1923.)

While the assumption may be that Charles may have been inclined to understate his alcohol consumption to protect his livelihood or reputation, that is unproven.

Furthermore, even if Charles did fib a little, that does not necessarily mean he was drunk.

No eyewitness accounts speak to how much Charles Joughin actually drank.

We do know at one point that an unnamed drunk man stumbled past First-Class passenger Jack Thayer. And it is a myth often perpetuated that the inebriated man who young Thayer saw, was Charles Joughin.

It is generally agreed upon, however, that this is very likely false—that is, a speculation not supported by primary sources.

It is most probable that Jack Thayer saw someone else entirely. This is because, per his account, someone informed him that the drunk man was a Virginia senator. No passenger was serving in the Senate at the time, but one survivor later became one. Unfortunately, Jack Thayer didn't specify when he was told this fact.

Moreover, we don't know what Charles chose to drink.

In the unlikely event that Jack Thayer did encounter Charles Joughin, then Jack said he was drinking gin. Some others believe it was whiskey.

But in his testimony during the British inquiry, Charles kept it vague.

When you found your boat had gone you said you went down below. What did you do when you went down below?
- I went to my room for a drink.

Drink of what?
- Spirits.

The Commissioner:
Does it very much matter what it was?

Mr. Cotter:
Yes, my Lord, this is very important, because I am going to prove, or rather my suggestion is, that he then saved his life. I think his getting a drink had a lot to do with saving his life.

The Commissioner:
He told you he had one glass of liqueur.

(Mr. Cotter.) Yes. (To the Witness.) What kind of a glass was it?
- It was a tumbler half-full.

A tumbler half-full of liqueur?
- Yes

That escalated quickly.

When Joughin reappeared on B Deck after having his liqueur, he took to throwing anything he could find overboard, particularly deck chairs. Charles testified that, knowing he was screwed without a lifeboat, he did this to give himself a fighting chance at survival once he entered the water.

At all events, all the boats had gone?
- Yes.
Yes, what next?

- I went down on to "B" deck. The deck chairs were lying right along, and I started throwing deck chairs through the large ports.

What did you do with the deck chairs?
- I threw them through the large ports.

Threw them overboard?
- Yes.

 They would float, I suppose?
- Yes.

I think one sees why. Just to make it clear, why did you do that?
- It was an idea of my own.

Tell us why; was it to give something to cling to?
- I was looking out for something for myself, Sir.

Quite so. Did you throw a whole lot of them overboard?
- I should say about 50.

Were other people helping you to do it?
- I did not see them.

You were alone, as far as you could see?
- There was other people on the deck, but I did not see anybody else throwing chairs over.

He then went up to an A Deck pantry to “get a drink of water”, and while there, Charles heard and felt a buckling of the ship as she split.

By early reports, Charles Joughin appeared to have jumped from A Deck.

But according to his own testimony at the inquiry, Charles alone climbed onto the outside of the stern railing, and was The Last Man to Leave Titanic.

He said that he saw no one else on the railing, and he rode Titanic's stern down until it submerged. According to Charles, he more or less stepped off the stern, barely even wetting his head as he entered the water.

Then what happened?
- Well, I was just wondering what next to do. I had tightened my belt and I had transferred some things out of this pocket into my stern pocket. I was just wondering what next to do when she went.

And did you find yourself in the water?
- Yes.

Did you feel that you were dragged under or did you keep on the top of the water?
- I do not believe my head went under the water at all. It may have been wetted, but no more.

Are you a good swimmer?
- Yes.


He also maintained that the stern never reached a vertical height.

Charles went on to testify that he swam for a few hours "just paddling and treading water" before finding his friend, cook Isaac Maynard, struggling on Collapsible B.

How long do you think you were in the water before you got anything to hold on to?
- I did not attempt to get anything to hold on to until I reached a collapsible, but that was daylight.

Daylight, was it?
- I do not know what time it was.

Then you were in the water for a long, long time?
- I should say over two, hours, Sir.

Were you trying to make progress in the water, to swim, or just keeping where you were?
- I was just paddling and treading water.

And then daylight broke?
- Yes.

Did you see any icebergs about you?
- No, Sir, I could not see anything.

Did it keep calm till daylight, or did the wind rise at all?
- It was just like a pond.

Then you spoke of a collapsible boat. Tell us shortly about it?

- Just as it was breaking daylight I saw what I thought was some wreckage, and I started to swim towards it slowly. When I got near enough, I found it was a collapsible not properly upturned but on its side, with an Officer and I should say about twenty or twenty-five men standing on the top of it.

Given the timeline we know, it would seem that Charles’s memory may have suffered from a misperception of time—understandable, given the immediate trauma of the sinking.

All things considered—including the science of human biology in regard to hypothermia—it’s may be realistic to assume that he swam for up to a half-hour before coming to Collapsible B.

Regardless of how long Charles swam, Mr. Maynard clung to Joughin by the hand until Officer Lowe arrived, at which point Joughin swam over and was pulled aboard.

Charles said he was colder in that lifeboat than he ever felt in the water.

The retrieval of Collapsible B by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett.


Charles's cool and calm decision to break into the liquor stores was lauded as the act that saved his life, although scientists have stated that excessive alcohol consumption can actually accelerate hypothermia.

Sometimes life is stranger than science allows.

The truth is that, regardless of intoxication, Charles was savvy enough to stay out of the water for as long as possible.

Charles was found to be pretty much entirely unharmed.

"I was alright barring my feet; they were swelled," he said. It's reported that due to this small inconvenience, Charles climbed the ladder to Carpathia on his knees.

Joughin later wrote to Walter Lord, author of A Night to Remember, to commend Lord's more accurate presentation of the sinking. He described his departure from the ship and his survival in the water, and openly questioned his less dramatic, more pointless actions.

Some curious things are done at a time like this... Why did I lock the heavy iron door of the Bakery, stuff the heavy keys in my pocket, alongside two cakes of hard tobacco.

Here's to Charles.

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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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“Like Locusts on a Midsummer Night”: Jack Thayer

"Like Locusts on a Midsummer Night": Jack Thayer

Jack Thayer boarded Titanic at all of 17 years old, as a First-Class passenger with his parents John and Marian, and Marian's maid Margaret Fleming.

Jack Thayer in his youth.


On April 14, at 11:40 p.m., Jack was winding his watch and preparing for bed when he felt the breeze coming from his open window stop altogether, and the engines ceased their turnings.

He wrote, "The sudden quiet was startling and disturbing. Like the subdued quiet in a sleeping car, at a stop, after a continuous run."

Throwing on a coat over his pajamas, Jack hollered to his parents he was "going out to see the fun" and went up to the boat deck, but noticed nothing out of the ordinary. He moved toward the bow and, as his vision became accustomed to the night, saw pieces of ice on the well deck.

Jack retrieved his parents. On the way, they all noted that Titanic was listing to port.

The Thayers returned immediately to their stateroom and dressed. Jack, in a fit of clarity, put on two vests and a coat to try to safeguard himself from the cold.

Jack, his parents, and Miss Fleming banded together on boat deck until the Women-And-Children-First decree, when they parted ways with Marian and her maid at the top of the Grand Staircase.

Jack and his father assumed Marian and Margaret were safely off the ship, until a steward informed them otherwise. They chased the ladies down, and while John, Marian, and Margaret wandered off looking for a lifeboat, Jack was left behind.

Jack's mother Marian circa 1900, taken when Jack was 6 or 7 years old.


It's possible that Jack was caught up in conversation with Milton Long, an acquaintance he'd only made earlier that same evening over coffee.

Jack and Milton went searching for boats, but the boys were impeded by the melee and missed out. At one point, they paused in between a set of empty lifeboat davits and traced a star's movement as it rose in between the davits, to determine how quickly the ship was going down.

Two collapsible boats were available, but the boys felt uneasy, having seen how precariously the traditional, all-wood lifeboats had been launched.

So they elected to remain on board Titanic instead of seeking placement in any of the collapsible lifeboats.

As Jack and Milton went back and forth on how to proceed, a man came out through a nearby door and staggered by, pounding down an entire bottle of gin as he went. Jack recalled thinking, "If I get out of this, that's one man I'll never see again."

Jack's father, John.


As the ship's angle grew more drastic, the boys heard "deadened explosions" within. Jack was haunted by the sound of it all.

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

Excerpt from "The Sinking of the S.S. Titanic" by Jack Thayer.

Jack wanted to jump in and swim for it as he saw people doing down by the stern, but Milton was reticent as he was not a strong swimmer. Eventually, though, Milton relented.

Milton climbed over the railing, and with his legs dangling down, paused and called back, "You are coming, boy, aren't you?" Jack said he'd be right behind him, and Milton slid down the side of the ship.

Jack never saw him again.

Milton Long's corpse was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett, and listed as follows.

CLOTHING - Black clothes; flannel vest, and black and white vest; white shirt marked "M. C. L."; handkerchief marked "M. C. L." (monogram), and brown boots.
EFFECTS - Gold wrist watch; gold ring with crest; three gold studs; keys; pocket box; £30.00 in gold; 12s. 1 1/2d. in purse; letter of credit.

Jack jumped in feet first almost immediately after Milton disappeared in the water. He guessed in his account that Milton was sucked in by the deck, instead of pushed out by the backwash as he himself had been only moments later.

Jack surfaced a fair distance away from the ship, and was transfixed by the sight.

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

Excerpt from "The Sinking of the S.S. Titanic" by Jack Thayer.

Jack Thayer's survival is particularly notable because he was one of the minority who insisted that Titanic had broken in half, and never faltered in his assertions.

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

Excerpt from "The Sinking of the S.S. Titanic" by Jack Thayer.

When Jack managed against all odds to resurface, he struck his head on the overturned Collapsible B lifeboat.

Jack was pulled up onto the back of the upside-down "canvas craft," where there were, he guessed, four or five other men already on board.

[Titanic's] deck was turned slightly toward us. We could see groups of the almost 1,500 people still aboard, clinging in clusters or bunches, like swarming bees; only to fall in masses, pairs or singly...

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt from "The Sinking of the S.S. Titanic" by Jack Thayer.

Jack wrote that, after the sinking, 28 men ended up on the back of Collapsible B.

Every moment was spent desperately trying to keep the upside-down lifeboat from going completely underwater by maintaining a precarious balance on its back.

For hours, all the men on board held utterly still in the oddest and most painful of positions, to keep from slipping into the lethally cold water.

We were standing, sitting, kneeling, lying, in all conceivable positions, in order to get a small hold on the half-inch overlap of the boat’s planking, which was the only means of keeping ourselves from sliding off... I was kneeling. A man was kneeling on my legs with his hands on my shoulders, and in turn somebody was on him. Once we obtained our original position we could not move.

Excerpt from "The Sinking of the S.S. Titanic" by Jack Thayer.

The men prayed.

They sang hymns.

And when daylight finally broke, the Carpathia followed slowly. The men moved to stand, shifting their weights to and fro to the counter the swells as the air pocket that kept the lifeboat afloat continued to diminish. Every moment, more water overtook it.

Finally, hearing the cries from Collapsible B, Lifeboats 4 and 12, which were lashed together, crept over to take the surviving men on board.

Jack's mother was on Lifeboat 4.

He did not notice her. She did not notice him.

The recovery of Collapsible B by the crew of the Mackay-Bennett.


When Jack reunited with his mother on Carpathia, she was reported to have embraced him and asked, "Where's daddy?"

Jack told her that he did not know.

John B. Thayer, Sr., did not survive, and his corpse was not recovered. For the remainder of his life, Jack was dogged by shame and remorse about his father. "I only wish I had kept on looking for my father. I should have realized that he would not have taken a boat, leaving me behind."

Jack was loaned pajamas and a bunk, and before crumpling into bed, he took a desperate shot of brandy, only then realizing it was his first encounter with hard liquor.

Once rested and in possession of his full faculties, Jack spoke with Carpathia passenger L.D. Skidmore, who, while listening to Jack's story, sketched his recollections of Titanic's break.

Jack Thayer's account of Titanic breaking, sketched by Carpathia passenger L.D. Skidmore as Jack spoke to him.


Jack kept a stiff upper lip and by all accounts, persevered to honor Titanic. When Colonel Archibald Gracie--a man whom Jack had shared space with on Collapsible B--passed away in December of 1912, Jack and his mother attended the funeral services.

And when Jack received a letter from the bereaved father of Milton Long, the friend that he had made while on board Titanic, Jack wrote the following reply.

My dear Sir:

I received your letter this morning. Mother and I were very touched by it. Words cannot express how much we sympathise with you and Mrs. Long.

...Your son was perfectly calm all the time and kept his nerve, even to the very end. I wish I had more to tell you, but I hope this will be of some comfort to you. I am sending you my picture, thinking you might like to see who was with him at the end. I would treasure it very much if you could spare me one of his.

With our heartfelt sympathy, believe me,

Sincerely yours, John B. Thayer, Jr.

Jack went on to graduate from UPenn and pursue a banking career, get married, and have six children: three daughters and three sons, although one boy did not survive infancy. Both of Jack's surviving sons, Edward and John, served in the Second World War.

Edward Thayer had signed on as a bomber pilot, and was lost in the conflict when his plane was shot down in the Pacific theater in 1943. His remains were never recovered.

And the following year, on April 14--the anniversary of Titanic's collision with the iceberg--Jack's mother died. Doubly and profoundly bereaved, Jack's depression deepened.

He went missing in September of 1945, when he was 50 years old. He hadn't been seen for days. When he was finally found, he was dead in his car, parked alongside a trolley loop in Philadelphia.

He had slit his wrists, as well as his own throat.

When Jack's belongings were posthumously sorted, a small booklet was discovered; produced in 1940, it was one of 500 copies made for family and friends.


Cornwall, Thomas [compiled & edited by.] "Titanic: The John B. "Jack" Thayer Jr. Chronicles." 2019.

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“My God, Don’t Ask Me Too Much”: Daniel and Mary Marvin

“My God, Don’t Ask Me Too Much”: Daniel Warner Marvin & Mary Farquharson Marvin

Mary Farquharson was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1894. She emigrated to New York with her parents when she was 9 years old.

Mary’s mother Jessie and her Aunt Margaret established a successful modiste business, Farquharson & Wheelock. So successful, in fact, that the Scottish atelier would go on to produce a gown worn by Cornelia Vanderbilt and others displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A portrait of Mary, originally published in the Butler Citizen (Pennsylvania) in 1914. Courtesy of Encyclopedia Titanica as provided by Gavin Bell.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (image taken & published prior to 1923)

Daniel Warner Marvin, by contrast, was New York born-and-raised. His daddy Henry was the co-founder of the famed American Mutoscope and Biograph Company. It was the premier motion picture company at the time, founded in part by William Kennedy Dickson, a scientist who had only just left the employ of Thomas Edison, and which innoculated the founders against Edison's notorious litigious approach.

We don't know how Daniel and Mary met. What we do know is that when they fell in love, Daniel was only 18, and Mary was still in school at 17. They wed in a civil ceremony on January 8, 1912, without their parents' knowledge.

Young Mary found herself pregnant almost immediately thereafter. Once found out, Daniel and Mary had a staged do-over wedding in her parents' home on March 12, 1912, which was filmed. It's reported that this ceremony was the first wedding ever "cinematographed".

Mary's wedding gown was designed, of course, by Farquharson & Wheelock, and Mary was featured in Vogue.

Still from Daniel & Mary's "cinematographed" wedding, filmed on March 12, 1912.

PUBLIC DOMAIN (image taken & published prior to 1923)

Daniel and Mary elected to honeymoon in Europe, departing on the Mauretania. And in a twist of cruel, even maniacal fate, they were set to return to New York on the Carpathia--the very ship that rescued Titanic survivors--but were persuaded by Captain Smith, a friend of the family, to take the trip on Titanic with him.

Before they departed, Daniel's father gave him a hand-crank camera.

The young Marvins took to suite D-30. It's reported that they were fairly private during the voyage, and spent a significant amount of time filming around the ship.

After the collision at 11:40 p.m., a steward knocked on the couple's door around 12:25 a.m. He advised that lifeboats were being loaded as a precaution.

Mary dressed in a life-vest and a fur coat, and Daniel led her up to the boat deck. Mary was sent off in Lifeboat 10, which contained a number of very young children, including Titanic's youngest and last-to-die survivor: Millvina Dean, who was only two months old.

We know of Mary and Daniel's last exchange thanks to Mary herself.

"My God, don’t ask me too much," she said [when being asked after by a reporter]. "Tell me, have you any news from Dan? He grabbed me in his arms and knocked down men to get me into the boat. As I was put in the boat he cried: 'It’s all right, little girl; you go ahead, I will stay a while. I’ll put on a life preserver and jump off and follow your boat.' As our boat shoved off he threw a kiss at me, and that is the last I saw of him."

As reported in the New York Times dated April 19, 1912. © Citation: Holman, Hannah. "Titanic Voices: 63 Survivors Tell Their Extraordinary Stories," 2011.

It's been reported that when Mary realized that Daniel was not among the saved, she fainted.

Daniel's body, if recovered, was never identified.

Titanic survivors on board the rescue ship Carpathia. Courtesy of Library of Congress.


Mary gave birth to Daniel's daughter in October of 1912. On Christmas Day of 1913, Mary married her late husband's best man, Horace de Camp. Together, they had two children, and Horace adopted Daniel's daughter.

Mary spent the remainder of her life in the Adirondacks.

Mary's first daughter disclosed that tensions between Mary's family and the grieving Marvin family were heightened in the wake of Daniel's loss. Specifically, she said that Mary was determined to keep the Marvins from ever learning too much about their son's final days on Titanic. I doubt we'll ever know why.

Mary was reportedly reticent to talk about Titanic, going so far as to decline multiple invitations to survivors' reunions. She did assert, however, that she had seen a man use a revolver to force his way into a lifeboat.

As she progressed in years, Mary relaxed her sense of privacy just enough to confide a small amount of things in her young grandson, Stuart de Camp. According to Stuart, he eventually eased his grandmother into discussing Titanic--he recalls that he was around 9 years old at the time.

Moose River in the Adirondacks, as taken by Anne LaBastille in May 1973 for the Enivronmental Protection Agency.


Around that time, Mary asked Stuart to row out in a family boat with her to the center of Moose River in upstate New York. She brought with her two items completely unknown to Stuart.

Eventually, Mary instructed Stuart to cease his rowing.

As she waited for the boat to still, she revealed the mystery items one by one.

The first was the film reel of her wedding to Daniel Marvin; that is, the staged version her parents had arranged after discovering their elopement.

The second, said Stuart, was the reel Daniel had filmed while he and Mary sailed on Titanic—that same reel that young Mr. Marvin had thrown down into the lifeboat, for his beloved wife to safeguard.

And then, before the eyes of her bewildered grandson, Mary threw both reels into the river.

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