Surviving the Titanic

Jon Redford

My great-grandad Sidney Daniels, 1893-1983, was the last surviving crew member of the Titanic. Aged 17 he became a steward on the Olympic, but was transferred to the Titanic for its maiden voyage from Belfast via Southampton.

When the Titanic struck the iceberg, he ran to the top deck and helped passengers into the lifeboats until only one collapsible lifeboat remained. They had to cut it free with his pocket-knife but it fell against the deck and landed upturned in the water.

Fighting to get onto the boats was desperate. Once they realised there weren’t enough spaces, the direction to evacuate women and children first gave way to fights with gunshots fired.

Eventually, with water around his knees, he jumped overboard and swam against the suction of the sinking ship, eventually grabbing the upturned lifeboat where he sat all night, delirious with cold. He kicked at his own leg thinking a sea monster was dragging him into the sea. This constant movement probably kept him alive during the freezing night.

Eventually they were rescued by the Carpathia. The list of survivors was poorly compiled, and his family were told that he had died, until he arrived home a few weeks later! He subsequently discovered his pay was stopped to within 30 minutes of the time the Titanic sank!

He got a job on the Olympic, working there until he left to fight in World War One’s trenches. When he was injured by a shell, the army stopped sending his pay to his young wife while he recovered. She was forced to take a job scraping barnacles off ships in Portsmouth dockyard to make ends meet.

She cut her hand, it became infected and she died, something he discovered when he returned.

As a crew member Sidney was one of the last to leave the ship after helping others into the lifeboats. He was very lucky to survive.