Lambeth and the Titanic

It’s 100 years to the day since the Titanic disaster. Hours after the unsinkable Titanic sank, the Cunard liner Carpathia had arrived on the scene and picked up the 710 survivors from the inadequate number of lifeboats provided by the White Star Line (20, with a capacity of 1,178 people). 1,514 people had perished.

This appeared in the next edition of the Streatham News to be published.

It refers to a Mr J D Hahn, of Streatham, who was thought to be a victim of the disaster. This presents something of a mystery, as there is no J D Hahn recorded as passenger or crew. Looking through subsequent editions of the paper, the story of Mr Hahn doesn’t appear to have been followed up.

What’s certain is that a number of people died who had a connection with the area we now know as the London Borough of Lambeth.

Victims

A definite victim from Streatham, which in 1912 was part of the Metropolitan Borough of Wandsworth, was Mr Richard William Smith, a 57-year-old widowed tea broker (for Reinach-Nephews and Co) residing at 53 Stanthorpe Road. He had embarked from Southampton on 10 April, occupying first class cabin A-19. His body, if recovered, was never identified.

It is recorded that the Titanic’s musicians played their instruments on deck to help keep passengers calm as the lifeboats were being swung out and the ship listed in the water, and it is said they played the hymn ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ as the Titanic sank and they died with it. Two of that band were Lambeth residents. Percy Cornelius Taylor, aged 32, was a cellist. He lived at 9 Fentiman Road, Oval. Georges Alexandre Krins, a 23-year-old Paris-born violinist, lived at 10 Villa Road, Brixton. Their bodies, if recovered, were never identified.

Also living in Brixton was W H Egg, 34, a Third Class steward, of 1a Trent Road, off Brixton Hill. He had previously served on the White Star liner Majestic. His body, if recovered, was never identified.

At 8 Lynton Mansions, Kennington Road, lived Rome-born Roberto Vioni, 18, a Waiter working in the panelled splendour of the A La Carte restaurant (located between the third and fourth funnel on B-Deck, managed by Signor Gatti). The Titanic was Roberto’s first ship. His body, if recovered, was never identified.

27 Tenison Street, Waterloo, was a lodging house which  20-year-old Jean Monoros, a Spaniard, gave as his address. He worked as an Assistant Waiter in the A La Carte restaurant, the Titanic being his first ship. His body was recovered by the Cable Ship Mackay-Bennett, which was chartered by the White Star Line to search for the dead. He was buried at sea on 21 April.

At 12 Mead Street, Kennington, lived 18-year-old Maurice Emile Victor Debreucq, Assistant Waiter in the A La Carte restaurant. His body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett. He is buried in Mount Olivet cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, far from his native France.

At 22 Albert Mansions, South Lambeth Road, lived 28-year-old Sauce Cook (in the A La Carte restaurant) George Baptiste Bietrix. The Titanic was his first ship. His body, if recovered, was never identified.

25-year-old Adrien Finnin Chaboisson, Roast Cook in the A La Carte restaurant, lived at 17 Kennington Park Gardens. The Titanic was his first ship. His body, if recovered, was never identified.

Survivors

Harry Senior, aged 31, a stoker, of 17 South Road, Clapham Park, survived the sinking. He gave an account of his experiences to the New York Times on 19 April:

“I was in my bunk when I felt a bump. One man said. ‘Hello, she has been struck.’ I went on deck and saw a great pile of ice on the well deck below the forecastle, but we all thought the ship would last some time, and we went back to our bunks. Then one of the firemen came running down and yelled, ‘All muster for the lifeboats!’ I ran on deck, and the Captain [E J Smith] said:

” ‘All firemen keep down on the well deck. If a man comes up I’ll shoot him.’

“Then I saw the first boat lowered. Thirteen people were on board, eleven men and two women. Three were millionaires and one was [White Star chairman, J Bruce] Ismay.”

The fact of Ismay entering the first lifeboat, putting himself before his passengers, would lead to him being reviled for the rest of his life, labelled as ‘The Coward of the Titanic’. He died, disgraced, in 1937, the same year as Harry Senior.

Newlyweds Daniel and Mary Marvin (nee Farquarson) gave their last address in London as 58 Acre Lane, Brixton. They were both 18, from wealthy families and First Class passengers. Daniel died in the sinking, after helping his wife into boat 10, saying “It’s alright, little girl. You go. I will stay.” Mary would later remarry and lived until 1975.

The last Lambeth-connected survivor I know of was also the last survivor to be rescued from the water. Thomas Whiteley was an 18-year-old Saloon Steward. On 27 April he told the Stevens Point Journal:

“I floated on my life preserver for several hours,” he said. “When the sun came up I saw the collapsible raft in the distance, just black with men. They were all standing up. Mr. Lightoller, the second officer, was one of them.
‘It’s 31 lives against yours,’ he said, ‘you can’t come aboard. There’s no room.’ I pleaded with him in vain, and then, I confess, I prayed that somebody might die so I could take his place. I was only human. And then someone did die and let me aboard.”

Whiteley, from a stage family, would later take to the boards in the USA giving talks about the Titanic disaster and how he survived it. In World War One he served in the Royal Flying Corps. In the twenties he was back in America appearing in musical comedies and later in several Hollywood films.  In 1932 he returned to the UK, married and lived with his wife Isabel and their two daughters in Streatham. At the outbreak of World War Two he rejoined the RAF, 87th Squadron, and served as a Warrant Officer until his sudden death in 1944, aged 50. He is buried in the Ancona War Cemetery in Italy.

London Nautical School, situated in Stamford Street in Lambeth, between Waterloo and Blackfriars bridges, was founded in 1915, as a consequence of the official report by the Board of Trade into the loss of RMS Titanic. The school is a selective boys’ secondary, with an ethos aiming “to educate and prepare pupils to meet the needs of society either at sea or in any other occupation where responsibility, attention to duty and regard for others are valued equally with academic and practical skills.”

Postscript

This poem, The Wreck of the Titanic, appeared in the Streatham News of 20 April 1912, penned by someone named Honor Drury. For context, there was much scorn being poured on the Suffragette movement in the Streatham News at the time, and it was obviously hard to resist having a swipe at the Suffragettes in the middle of lamenting a huge maritime disaster.

The Titanic has sunk in her glory

With over a thousand souls,

The greatest liner in story –

And o’er her the broad ocean rolls!

The broad ocean rolls on for ever

While England sorrows aghast.

For her brave ones returning never

Who stayed with the wreck till the last.

For the rule of the sea prevailing

The women and children they save,

While in chivalry ever unfailing

The men found a watery grave.

Ye mothers and wives of England,

Who for women’s rights now pray,

Think on the wrecked Titanic –

Ye had your rights that day!

Rights ye have held through the ages,

Rights which still hold sway,

Though fiercely the Suffragette rages,

Think, will ye throw these away?

But the children of earth will struggle,

And labour and toil away,

While their newest and proudest achievement

Nature destroys in a day!

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Lambeth and the Titanic

  1. Simba

    Fascinating Mark! I can imagine a huge amount of work went into that research. Thanks for taking the time to do it. It is amazing to put the lives of people (either those who sadly perished, or the survivors) into context and remember that people of all ages and classes on that ship had histories, families, jobs, homes, hopes and dreams…

  2. Nigel Haselden

    This a really nice piece of work, Mark – well done.

  3. JOHN W BROWN

    Dear Mark,

    Brian Bloice of the Streatham Society drew your Titanic item to my attention as I had written a feature on Streatham links with the tragedy for our next Newsletter, the text of which I detail below in case it may of interest.

    ===== ITEM BEGINS =====

    TITANIC MEMORIES BY STREATHAM SURVIVOR

    The 14/15th April 2012 marked the centenary of one of the greatest maritime disasters of the 20th century – the sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic.

    An account of the horrors of that tragic night were recalled by a resident of Streatham who survived the sinking and whose story was published for the first time last year.

    The recollections were made by Laura Mabel Francatelli who lived at 72 Strathbrook Road in Lower Streatham. Miss Francatelli worked as a secretary for Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and his wife, Lady Lucy Christiana, and travelled with them on the Titanic’s fateful voyage.

    Strangely she was not recorded on the official passenger list and so this connection between the Titanic and Streatham remained undiscovered locally until last year.

    Laura wrote harrowingly of her experiences on the night the Titanic sank and of hearing an “awful rumbling” as the liner went down and the “screams and cries” of drowning passengers.

    She told how she and Sir Cosmo and Lady Lucy boarded one of the last lifeboats, containing just five passengers and seven crew, and admitted that they did not consider going back for survivors.

    Sir Cosmo, a wealthy baronet, later paid the crew members œ5 each – about œ300 today. It has been suggested that this was blood money for saving his life.

    Miss Francatelli, aged 31 at the time, wrote that she woke her employers after seeing water seeping into her cabin after the liner struck an iceberg on the night of April 14 1912.

    “When we got on the top deck … I noticed the sea seemed nearer to us than during the day, and I said to Sir Cosmo “we are sinking” and he said ‘nonsense”‘.

    The party initially refused to go on to a lifeboat because only women and children were permitted but all three were then offered places on a smaller rowing boat.

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

    Fortunately for Miss Francatelli she was among the survivors of the disaster and was rescued by the Carpathia.

    A number of other Streatham residents were sadly not as fortunate as Laura and were among the 1,490 people who lost their lives when the Titanic sunk.

    Among them was the first class passenger 56 year old Richard William Smith of 53 Stanthorpe Road, the American Manager for Messrs. Reinachs Nephew & Co.; Alfred George T Rush, a 17 year old Porter and 3rd class passenger who use to live at 27 Palace Road, Upper Norwood and Mr J D Hahan of Streatham who is listed in the 1913 Streatham Red Book as a casualty of the disaster.

    Only 711 passengers were saved from the Titanic and the only survivor from Streatham was Laura Francatelli of Strathbrook Road.

    Entries on the internet suggest Harold Bride, one of the wireless officers aboard the Titanic, lived with his parents briefly in Telford Avenue, Streatham, although I have not been able to find any evidence to support this.

    Other than numerous items on the internet there is no contemporary local streatham-based references to Harold Bride as ever having lived here in our town.

    From my researches I have identified only one family called Bride as residing in Telford Avenue namely Arthur John Robert Bride who lived at No 43 Telford Avenue in 1925. In 1931 Arthur was still residing there and later that year obtained a divorce from his wife Clementine, whom he had married in July 1909.

    It seems unlikely therefore that this could be the father of Harold as numerous sources refer to him as having died in 1922 and being married in 1909 any children from the union would have been only 3 at the time the Titanic sank in 1912; the offspring could hardly have been capable of operating the vessels radio equipment!

    I understand from other sources that Harold’s father was called Arthur John Earner Bride and Harold’s mother was Mary Ann Lowe. It would appear that confusion with his father’s name being similar to that of Arthur John Robert Bride of Telford Avenue probably led to claims that Harold had Streatham links.

    I did write to the person who originated the claim on the internet but never received a reply. This emphasises the importance of treating information discovered on the web with caution as it is not always accurate and can be misleading as in this case.

    ===== ITEM ENDS =====

    The Mr J D Hahan of Streatham referred to above from the Streatham Red Book is no doubt the same Mr J D Hahn referred to in the newsclip. However, I am unable to trace anyone of that name on the official passenger list I have for the Titanic which was published some years ago.
    Kind regards,
    JOHN W BROWN
    THE STREATHAM SOCIETY

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