The sinking of the Titanic was a disaster that saw more than 1500 people lose their lives in what was the biggest maritime tragedy of its time. More than 2,200 people had embarked on a journey to New York City before the ship sank after hitting an iceberg. Of the lost lives, more than eight hundred were passengers, traveling in the different classes.
The classes were not only based on the cost of the ticket but also one’s social status. The first class included wealthy passengers, among them politicians, upper-class members, industrialists, socialites, athletes, entertainers and other people with means. Second class passengers included tourists, professors, clergymen, and authors while the third class comprised mainly of emigrants looking to start a new life in Canada and the United States. Let’s take a look at some of the people onboard the ship on that fateful day it sunk:
The passengers onboard the ship were 1,317. Of these, 324 were in the first class, another 285 were in the second class, and 708 were in the third class. There were 112 children, 434 females and 1,680 males on the ship. The ship had the capacity for 2,453 passengers and was thus well under capacity on the maiden voyage.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the people on board:
Noel Leslie, Countess of Rothes
The countess quickly rose to the status of heroine after helping in the commanding of her lifeboat with the help of Thomas William Jones. She took charge of the boat’s tiller and rowed it away from the liner as it sank. She also helped in steering the boat towards the rescue ship while encouraging the survivors with optimism and decisiveness, which had lacked in the liner before it went down.
Noel began her journey on the liner on 10th April at Southampton in the company of her parent Thomas and Clementina, as well as her cousin Gladys and maid Roberta. Her parents disembarked in France, and she continued on her journey, hoping to reach Vancouver, where she would meet the Earl of Rothes who was there on business.
She and her cousin were in bed when the collision took place, and they heard the crash and rushed to the deck to find out what had happened. The captain asked them to return to their living quarters and get lifejackets before coming up again. They, together with Roberta, got into a lifeboat around one hour after midnight. Tom Jones felt that Noel could handle the boat on seeing her leadership qualities and he thus tasked her with dealing with the tiller. Noel later delegated the task to Gladys as she sought out to comfort a newlywed whose husband got lost at sea.
She kept on rowing as she worked on helping the women in the boat feel better, till the rescue vessel arrived in the morning. Once she was on board the Carpathia, she dedicated her efforts to care for the women and children on the ship by making clothes for the babes. She later insisted that she was not the heroine, but rather, their survival hinged on teamwork and the level-headedness of Tom Jones.
Sir Cosmo Edmund Duff-Gordon
Edmund was a wealthy landowner in Scotland, as well as a sportsman, who gained a lot of recognition after surviving the crash. He was onboard with his wife, and her secretary and the three were among the twelve people who were on lifeboat 1. The boat had a capacity of 40 but only had 12 people in it, which caused controversy upon inquiries in later stages. His wife and secretary had refused to get into other boats as she did not want to get separated from her husband. When he entered the boat, it violated the standards back then, which stated that women and children took precedence over men. What’s more, claims were rife that upon embarking on the boat, he asked the crew not to go back for survivors and he gave them something small for their troubles.
Edmund was fast to come to his defense, citing that there were no women or children nearby when the launching of the boat took place. Witnesses at the scene stated that the First Officer allowed Edmund a place in the boat to convince his wife to leave the sinking ship. He noted that the money he gave the crew was not a bribe, but rather an act of charity towards people who had lost their material belongings and their livelihoods. The inquiry that took place afterward found that had the boat returned to the scene of the accident; the crew could have saved more lives. However, there was no evidence of a bribe, and Edmund thus walked away vindicated. The couple had to deal with the taint on their reputation for a long time as many believed that their actions had been selfish.
John Jacob Astor IV
John was a real estate developer and a lieutenant colonel in the Spanish-American War. What’s more, he was a member of the Astor family and was thus of high social status. Reports show that he was the wealthiest person onboard the ship with a net worth equivalent to more than two million dollars at present day.
During his travels with his wife Madeleine, she fell pregnant, and they set sail for the US as they wanted their child born there. They embarked on the journey in France with their valet, maid, nurse, and pet dog. They loved their dog and had come close to losing her in Egypt, and they thus wanted her along on the trips. Sadly, she did not survive the crash.
When the collision took place, Astor told his wife what had happened, without making it sound serious. As the lifeboats got launched, he remained calm as he played in the gym with the mechanical horses. As time went by, Aston reassured his wife that all was well, going ahead to slice one of the lifebelts with a knife to display the contents. He felt that they were much safer on the ship than out on the small boats.
Later on, Second Officer Charles Lightoller asked Madeleine and her staff to get into the boat. Astor expressed an interest to join his wife, seeing as she was expectant. However, Charles made it clear that men could not board the boats until the women and the children were safe. On hearing that, he enquired the number of the boat to help him find his wife after the rescue operation was over. When the last lifeboat was getting launched, Aston got a place but stepped out to make way for two children on the deck, thus losing his slot. Once the boat set sail, he remained on the bridge where he smoked alongside Jacques Futrelle. Within half an hour, the ship was under water. Astor held on to a raft for as long as he could before he released his hold after his feet froze. His body got recovered on 22nd April that year, and four months later, his wife gave birth to his second son Jakey.
Archibald Gracie IV
Gracie was a real estate investor who also wore titles of writer, historian, and survivor of a great tragedy. He was the first adult survivor who died after the rescue, and he wrote a book about the ordeal before his demise.
He boarded the ship on 10th April and got assigned a cabin in the first class quarters. He spent a lot of his time chaperoning women on board the vessel as well as reading books and making friends. He especially enjoyed discussions on the civil war, and he had a ton of stories to back up his interests. On the day of the crash, he sought out to improve his health by taking part in several exercises which included playing squash and swimming. He later took part in the divine services before having an early meal before resuming his regular activities of socializing and reading. He retired for the night early as he wanted to start the next day by playing squash.
He woke up at a quarter to midnight, owing to a jolt and when he realized that the ship’s engines had come to a stop, he dressed and headed to the deck. Gracie knew something was wrong, and he headed down to wear a lifejacket as well as warn the women whom he had chaperoned. He led the women to the deck and got them into lifeboats before getting blankets for them. Gracie then worked on filling the other boats with women and children until they launched the last one. At almost 2:00 the next day, he worked with others in removing the four collapsible boats attached to the roof and as they tried to get the last one out, the bridge filled with water.
As the water rushed towards them, Gracie caught onto a handhold and made his way to the roof of the bridge with the help of a wave. He let go of the ship and made his way to one of the collapsible boats with a few other men in the water. He lost a friend in the process, and during the night, a few more people who were too exhausted to hold on to the keel or who died of cold. The hours went by, and when dawn broke, people in other boats were able to see them and come to their rescue. He spent the next few months writing about the incident but died before he could finish editing the proofs. His death was a blow, seeing as he had survived the tragedy that had claimed so many lives.
Millvina was two months old when she embarked on the ship, making her the youngest person onboard. At the time, her parents were moving to Kansas, having chosen to leave the United Kingdom. Boarding the ship was not their choice, but following a coal strike, they had ended up getting transferred to the vessel as third class passengers. When the collision took place, her father felt it, and he headed to the deck to investigate the cause. On seeing what had happened, he returned to the cabin and asked his wife to dress the children and go to the deck. Dean and her brother traveled in Lifeboat 10 alongside their mother. Her father did not make it out alive, and there are no reports as to whether the authorities ever found his body. After her father’s death, her mother returned to the United Kingdom as starting afresh with two children was quite a task. On their way back to the UK, passengers were enthralled with Dean, so much so that the officers decreed that people could only hold her for ten minutes at most.
Frank John William Goldsmith
Frank was one of the children in the third class quarters who survived the crash. Much later, he wrote about his experience and his piece featured in a documentary on the same. Frank embarked on the ship with his parents and two family friends, among them Alfred Rush. While on the ship, Rush celebrated his sixteenth birthday which saw him earn the status of a man. No longer did he have to wear shorts, he could now own a pair of pants.
Frank was nine years old at the time, and he spent most of his time playing with his agemates, wandering into the boiler rooms and climbing cranes. Of the eight boys, only he and Coutts survived the crash. When the collision happened, his father woke them up, and they made their way to the deck. There were crewmen at the top, allowing only women and children to pass, and he and his mother were able to make it to the deck. The crew tried to get Rush to join them, but he stated that he was now a man and would stay with the men, thus dying a hero. His father’s last words to him were ‘I’ll see you later.’
These are but a few of the touching stories that surround this shocking tragedy. Those who survived lived to give chilling accounts of what they went through in the two hours that led to the sinking and those that followed.