A hundred years ago, the Titanic struck an iceberg and at 2am on 15 April sank beneath the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
These are the actual words of Charlotte Collyer, one of the passengers who had jumped into a lifeboat with her daughter Marjorie, as her husband remained on deck. We rejoin her story in the early hours of 15 April as the lifeboat is about to launch
‘The boat was practically full and no more women were anywhere near it when Fifth Officer Lowe jumped in and ordered it lowered. The sailors on deck had started to obey him when a very sad thing happened. A young lad hardly more than a schoolboy, a pink cheeked lad, almost small enough to be counted as a child, was standing close to the rail. He had made no attempt to force his way into the boat though his eyes had been fixed piteously on the Officer. Now when he realised that he was really to be left behind his courage failed him. With a cry he climbed upon the rail and leapt down into the boat. He fell among us women and crawled under a seat. I and another woman covered him up with our skirts. We wanted to give the poor lad a chance, but the Officer dragged him to his feet and ordered him back onto the ship. We begged for his life. I remember him saying that he would not take up too much room but the Officer drew his revolver and thrust it into his face. ’I give you just ten second to get back onto that ship before I blow your brains out,’ he shouted. The lad only begged the harder and I thought I should see him shot where he stood. But the Officer suddenly changed his tone. He lowered his revolver and looked the boy squarely in the eyes. ‘For God’s sake be a man!’ he said gently. ‘We have got women and children.’ The little lad turned round eyed and climbed back over the rail without a word. He was not saved. All the women about me were sobbing and I saw my precious little Marjorie take the Officer’s hand. ‘Oh Mr Man don’t shoot, please don’t shoot the poor man!’ she was saying and he spared the time to shake his head and smile.’
They were eventually picked up by the Carpathia, the first rescue ship on the scene.
‘There was scarcely anyone who had not been separated from husband, child or friend. Was the last one among the handful saved? We could only rush frantically from group to group, searching the haggard faces, crying out names, and endless questions. No survivor knows better than I the bitter cruelty of disappointment and despair. I had a husband to search for, a husband whom in the greatness of my faith, I had believed would be found in one of the boats. He was not there.’
On arrival in New York, Charlotte wrote to her parents in law about the loss of their son, her husband.
‘My dear mother and all,
I don’t know how to write to you or what to say. I feel I shall go mad sometimes but dear as much as my heart aches it aches for you too for he is your son and the best that ever lived. I had not given up hope till today that he might be found but I’m told all boats are accounted for. Oh mother, how can I live without him. I wish I’d gone with him if they had not wrenched Madge from me I should have stayed and gone with him. But they threw her into the boat and pulled me in too but he was so calm and I know he would rather I lived for her little sake otherwise she would have been an orphan… Sometimes I feel we lived too much for each other, that is why I’ve lost him. But mother we shall meet him in heaven. When that band played ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ I know he thought of you and me for we both loved that hymn’
The reason that Charlotte Collyer and her family had left England was because she had contracted tuberculosis, and it was felt that the warmer climes would help her. After her return home, she remarried but eventually succumbed to her illness.
To read the full collection of stories from the doomed vessel, you can order a signed copy of ‘Lost Voices from the Titanic’ for £10 including postage and package.
- Photo: Iceberg That Sank The Titanic (newsfromthespiritworld.wordpress.com)