On 14th April 1912, RMS Titanic struck an iceberg at 11.40pm and began to sink. A few hours later, on 15th April, the vessel sank, tragically claiming the lives of over 1,500 passengers and crew. Only 750 people survived.
While each and every person’s lives should be remembered, we take a look at 10 of the most interesting stories from those aboard the luxury liner.
1. Wallace Henry Hartley
Wallace Henry Hartley was a violinist and band leader on RMS Titanic, and led the other musicians to play for the passengers as the ship began to sink. Instead of running for his life, Wallace, along with his fellow band members, attempted to calm the frantic passengers with music. Many of the surviving passengers reported that Wallace and the musicians continued to play until the last possible moment, with the final song reportedly being “Nearer, My God, to Thee”. His last words are thought to have been “Gentlemen, I bid you farewell.”
2. Charles Joughin
Charles Joughin was undoubtedly one of life’s survivors. As Chief Baker on the ship, he ordered for each lifeboat to receive 4 loaves of bread. Once his duty was done, he returned to his bunker for half a tumbler of whiskey. Following his tipple, he returned to the ship’s B deck promenade and assisted in throwing deck chairs into the water, which were used as floatation aids. As the ship began to sink, Charles was met with hundreds of people running away from the poop deck, and so joined the back of the crowd. However, the ship listed over port, throwing everyone in the crowd overboard – everyone other than Charles Joughin, that is.
Charles headed to the starboard side of the poop deck, and claimed he was the only person to have held onto the rails on the outside of the ship. As the ship began to descend into the water, he later claimed he was not dragged into the water, and that his head was only a little wet.
It was what happened next that makes Charles Joughin’s story truly remarkable. The baker remained in the water for two hours, whilst most other passengers and crew in the water would have died within 2 to 10 minutes. It was thanks to the alcohol in his system that he survived. An excellent swimmer, he made his way over to the Collapsible B lifeboat but was refused access to the collapsed boat, as 24 men were already standing on it.
However, his luck was in when he was spotted by the ship’s cook, Isaac Maynard, who helped Joughin onto the boat, but his legs and feet were still submerged in the water. He soon swam to another lifeboat, and was rescued by RMS Carpathia, with only swollen feet as his only injury.
3. Violet Jessop
Some people could argue that Violet Jessop was a bit of bad luck, as she was onboard RMS Titanic and HMHS Britannic when the she ships sunk, as well as RMS Olympic when RMS Titanic’s sister ship collided into HMS Hawke. She was both a stewardess and a nurse onboard the ships, so it is not that coincidental, but we don’t know who had worse luck, her or the ships!
4. Charles Lightoller
Charles Lightoller was one of the heroes from the tragic night, as the Second Officer was responsible for ushering women and children into lifeboats. That’s not all, he was also responsible for the lowering of the lifeboats, whilst other officers were cautious to do so. As a group of men attempted to siege a lifeboat, Lightoller threatened them with a gun and instructed them to leave to allow 36 women and children to enter the boat.
Once all women and children were placed into the boats, he was instructed by First Officer Henry Wilde to enter a lifeboat, but he replied “not damn likely”. He quickly managed to cut the Collapsible B lifeboat into the water, before he was flung into the icy water when the ship listed.
Charles Lightoller battled with the water as the ventilator shafts sucked him under, but he was soon blasted above when the ship’s boilers released hot air. He fortunately found himself alongside the lifeboat he had helped to cut down, but had yet another brush with death when RMS Titanic’s funnel fell, narrowly missing him. Lightoller, and another 23 men, stood on Collapsible B until they were later rescued by RMS Carpathia.
5. Molly Brown
Following the sinking of RMS Titanic, Margaret “Molly” Brown became known by the world’s press as “the unsinkable Molly Brown” due to her strong and caring nature. She was a first class passenger on the ship, returning to America after holidaying in Europe, and was integral for communicating with non-English speaking passengers, as she could speak several languages.
She was also hailed a hero for helping others into lifeboats before climbing aboard herself. She also pleaded with quartermaster Robert Hichens to return to the scene to pick up more passengers, as the lifeboat was only half full. However, her pleading was squashed, as Hichens believed the boat would be swamped.
6. Isidor and Ida Straus
Isidor and Ida Straus, the founders of Macy’s department store, proved that love conquers all, as Ida refused to leave her husband’s side when RMS Titanic began to sink, despite being offered a place in a lifeboat. She reportedly said “We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go”.
Their love inspired the iconic image of the old couple lying in each other’s arms in Titanic (1997); however, they were last seen holding hands on the Boat Deck.
7. J. Bruce Ismay
Joseph Bruce Ismay’s actions on RMS Titanic haunted him for the rest of his days. As chairman of the White Star Line, the shipping company that created RMS Titanic, he would travel with each vessel on its maiden voyage. However, when the vessel struck the iceberg, J. Bruce Ismay decided to enter a lifeboat instead of staying on the ship along with his passengers. He was therefore described as a coward in the press, and later refused to talk about the events of that night.
8. Millvina Dean
Millvina Dean was the youngest passenger aboard RMS Titanic when the vessel made its maiden voyage on 10th April 1912. Travelling with her mother, father and brother, she survived the event, but her father did not. Millvina regularly attended RMS Titanic events in her later years, and Leonardo Dicaprio, Kate Winslet, James Cameron from Titanic (1997) and Celine Dion each donated £10,000 to pay for her nursing home costs, as she reportedly started to sell her memorabilia to pay for the living fees. She died on 31st May 2009 at the age of 97, and was the last-living survivor.
9. Dorothy Gibson
Dorothy Gibson was a first class passenger on RMS Titanic, and a well-known actress who had starred in a number of silent films. She survived the maritime disaster, and played a movie version of herself in Saved from the Titanic (1912), which was released less than a month after the ship sunk.
10. Frederick Fleet
Frederick Fleet was the first person to spot the iceberg that struck RMS Titanic, and rang the bell to proclaim “iceberg, right ahead!” However, his calls could not prevent the ship from crashing into the berg, and he stated at an inquiry that if he had been issued with binoculars then he might have spotted the iceberg a lot sooner, as the blue iceberg was camouflaged by the moonless night.
Want to learn a bit more about history? Take a look at our article The 10 Most Iconic Photographs in History.