What they went through would give anyone nightmares.
The Titanic still stirs the curiosity and emotion of people worldwide. The analytical pore over the details of the ship’s construction, while many of us can’t help but feel a pain as if we lost people that night, too. When the “unsinkable” ship hit the iceberg, there was commotion on the giant steam ship, but many people had no idea what was going on or what to do next. Hearing the firsthand accounts of survivors lends haunting detail to that awful night. Here we look at the stories of 3 survivors who all managed to make it thanks to the lifeboats. If only there had been more of these boats for people to escape into!
Kate Manning (née Gilnagh) was only 16 when she boarded the Titanic from Ireland to start a new life in the US. Being so young she assumed when the lifeboats were being loaded that there was no great commotion. She believed that this was the normal way that people in third class were taken brought to the US on the final leg of the journey- if a little bit of a rough start. It wasn’t until later that she began to understand the magnitude of what had happened. When she was interviewed in 1956 she said, “I thought it was part of the trip to tell you the truth. I didn’t realize that there was any danger.”
The crew members had been instructed to keep the steerage passengers from getting to the life boats, but a man helped her and some of the other women get to the upper decks to where the small escape vessels were being boarded and launched. She had to climb on a man’s shoulder to get to the top deck to a lifeboat, which she later estimated was perhaps one of the very last one to be launched.
She at first was denied entry to the lifeboat, but fibbed that she wanted to be with her sister so that she could go with the crowd and not be left behind. Even at that stage she didn’t fully understand what was going on.
Maude Louise Slocombe (née Walden) ran the Turkish bath aboard the ship. She, like many of the crew and the passengers, was in bed at the time that the alarm was raised. In all the commotion she only managed to get a coat over her nightdress. Like Manning she didn’t realize exactly what was happening at first. She recalled: “I didn’t think it was serious because I didn’t think it was possible a big ship like that could sink.”
She was handed someone’s baby to carry on the lifeboat, which she estimated held more than 70 people. Both women recalled seeing the ship sink and Slocombe said she could hear the band playing as the ship sank into the icy waters, the lights vanishing one by one as it went down into the water.
Interviewed in 1970, Frank Winnold Prentice was a young storekeeper under the Purser’s Department on the ship. He felt the ship stopping, “like jamming your brakes on a car.” He was one of the crew tasked with helping to fill the lifeboats, women and children first. Sadly, due to fears about being lowered into the water down a 70-foot drop, he said the first lifeboats to enter the water were only half-filled with people. Many people on board simply didn’t believe it was possible that the ship was really going down and did not act with appropriate concern.
As for himself he had to jump from where the ship had risen out of the water and his life vest most likely kept him from dying. Prentice could see the rudder and propellers in the air when he landed in the water, surrounded by bodies. He recalled, “I didn’t want to die and I didn’t see much chance of living.” But, he drifted towards a lifeboat and the passengers pulled him aboard.
Incredibly one of the women he helped into a lifeboat was on board, a Mrs. Clark. He was suffering from hypothermia, but she gave him her cloak. He theorized that they had each saved each other’s lives that night.
When asked if talking about the Titanic made him upset, Prentice said he would most likely have nightmares that night after discussing it. We can only imagine!