The sinking of RMS Titanic is the most famous and one of the most tragic disasters in maritime history. It has generated huge emotions and continues to weave web of fantasy in people’s minds with its stories of loss and survival. Of the 2224 people on board, only 710 lived to tell the tale, many of whose lives were severely impacted by the tragedy. Here is a description of some amazing facts about five Titanic survivors.
1. Anna Turja
Anna Sofia Turja was an 18-year-old Finnish passenger travelling by third class, with a hope of securing a job with her brother-in-law in Ohio. She was in her room when she felt a shudder. It was the ship colliding with the iceberg. Soon after, her roommate’s brother came to their door with a warning. Anna’s party readied themselves with warm clothes and life jackets and rushed up towards the deck. A crew member tried to stop them from going up but he was ignored by them. However, Anna recalls the door to the steerage being shut and chained after they passed.
Anna remained on the boat deck finding it too cold further above. She could hear the band playing and she witnessed the panic, but as she did not knew English, she could not grasp the situation fully. A sailor threw her body into a lifeboat where she passed the next 8 hours before being rescued by RMS Carpathia.
Anna never went on to learn English. In 1958, when she saw the docudrama, “A Night to Remember”, her son served as her translator. It was Anna’s first movie viewing and she innocently asked, “If they were so close to take pictures, why didn’t someone help us?”
2. J. Bruce Ismay
Joseph Bruce Ismay was the highest-ranking person from the management aboard the Titanic. At 49 years, he was the Chairman and Management Director of White Star Line, the shipping company that built the Titanic. It was often his habit to travel with his ships on their maiden trips and the Titanic voyage was a similar occurrence.
However, when tragedy struck, Ismay, unlike the ship’s captain Edward Smith, abandoned the ship and secured a place on a lifeboat. This action later earned him the sobriquet “Coward of the Titanic” for having left the ship while women and children were still aboard. The responsibility for the shortage of lifeboats also lay on his head as he had cut down their number to provide for various luxuries. Ismay was vilified all over England and America and was largely compelled to withdraw from public life.
3. The Navratil Brothers
Edmond Roger Navratil, aged two, and Michel Marcel Navratil, aged three, were accompanied by their father Michel Navratil, a French tailor. Michel Senior’s divorce was underway when he stole his sons from their mother’s custody and boarded the Titanic. They travelled in the second class under the assumed name of Hoffman, and Michel kept his sons close all the time.
When the ship began to sink, he was forced to entrust the care of his sons to passengers on a lifeboat. He, however, could not get away. The boys who had no knowledge of English were dubbed the “Titanic Orphans”, as they were the only children to remain unclaimed by an adult. Margaret Hays, a first class survivor cared for the brothers until their family could be traced. Their mother Marcelle Navratil found them through newspaper reports. Once her claim was verified, White Star Line brought her to America on the Oceanic and she reunited with her sons.
4. Margaret Brown
Margaret Tobin Brown was already a noteworthy philanthropist and suffragette in 1912 when she boarded the Titanic as a first class passenger. She was travelling alone and when the collision occurred, she helped women and children get on to the lifeboats. Eventually, she had to be forced into one of them. She herself pulled an oar and urged the boat to return for a search for survivors.
After being rescued by the Carpathia, she played an active role in rehabilitation by raising funds and setting up a committee. Her personality and her actions appealed to the imagination of the media and was taken up by them and romanticized as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”.
5. Douglas Spedden
Robert Douglas Spedden, aged six, was travelling by the first class with his parents and nurse. They were returning home from their European tour when the disaster struck. Fortunately, they all escaped, which included Douglas’s inseparable companion, his stuffed polar bear that was a gift from his aunt.
However, Douglas was not so fortunate a second time. He was run over by a car two years later. His parents never recovered from their loss but the story does not end here. Douglas’s mother Daisy had written a book for Douglas narrating the tale of the Titanic as seen through the eyes of the toy bear. Titled “Polar the Titanic Bear”, the book was found by a relative many years later. It was published in 1994 and sold 250,000 copies. Douglas, like Titanic, attained immortality through his mother’s tale for him.