The RMS Titanic hit an iceberg twenty minutes to midnight on April 14 1912, four hours later only 705 survived out of 2224 passengers on board. While there are many heartbreaking tales of those who perished on the Titanic, there seems to be a disproportionate amount of tragedy haunting the families of that fated voyage.
Many of the crew members died on board the Titanic. Captain Edward Smith, who was the man in charge of the largest ship in the world, went down with the vessel. He is famously known for his last words to his crew: ’be British.” His only child, Helen, was fourteen when her father died. She would grow up to marry and have twins: Simon and Priscilla. Her son died in World War Two, and her daughter died of polio. Smith’s widow was hit by a taxi in 1931.
At the helm of the ship when she hit the iceberg was quartermaster Richard Hichens. Second Officer Charles Lightoller, who survived the sinking, was quoted by his granddaughter as saying that Hichens had turned the wrong way when commanded to turn away from the iceberg. Hichens was in charge of one of the lifeboats that escaped from the Titanic. BY 1933, he had been separated by his wife and children. On December 1, 1933 Hichens attempted to kill a man and was put in prison for four years . Surviving many suicide attempts in prison, he died within three years of his release on a cargo ship.
Fred Fleet was the lookout that spotted the iceberg that would destroy the Titanic. It was Fleet’s claim that the lack of binoculars had made spotting the iceberg impossible. He was in charge of a lifeboat, and therefore survived the sinking. He would spend 24 more years at sea and actively served in both wars. After the death of his wife, Fleet hung himself. Feet’s beginning was as tragic as his end. He was abandoned first by his father and then his mother, and spent years in foster homes.
The chief architect, Thomas Andrews, was on board the Titanic and went down with her even though he was offered a place in one of the life boats. It was Andrews who was to give Captain Edward Smith the terrible news that it was impossible for the Titanic to stay afloat when she hit the iceberg. Andrews was also credited by one of the stewardesses, Mary Sloan, was persuaded by Andrews to get into a lifeboat. He was last seen throwing the deck chairs over the side of the ship to support those in the water keep afloat. Anderson left a two year old daughter Elizabeth Law-Barbour Andrews, when he perished with the Titanic. Into adulthood, she remained unmarried. She became the first female to obtain a pilot’s licence in Northern Ireland. Elizabeth Andrews was killed instantly in a car accident in 1973.
The Allison family-mother father and two year old daughter, who traveled first class, were lost when they couldn’t find their son. Ironically the eleven month old boy was the only one to survive when his nanny, Loraine Kramer, took him to the deck of the ship, as instructed by the crew. Hudson Trevor lived with his uncle until he was 18, and then tragically died of food poisoning.
Clinging to an overturned lifeboat, Col. Archibald Gracie IV, an amateur historian of the American Civil War was a survivor of the Titanic. After assisting with freeing many of the lifeboats so that others could survive, Gracie was plunged into the freezing water himself, he survived by holding on to an overturned collapsible lifeboat. While attempting to write about the incident, he died eight months later of complications of diabetes, enhanced by his ordeal on the Titanic. In keeping with the haunting tragedies of people on board the Titanic, Gracie had lost his 12 year old daughter, Constance Julie Gracie, in 1903. She was crushed to death in a Paris elevator at the Hôtel de la Trémoïlle.
More research needs to be done on this curse of the Titanic. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.