March 15, 2024 | Sarah Ng

12 Titanic Survivors Who Revealed The Truth About That Night


Lucky To Be Alive

When the Titanic began sinking on April 14, 1912, a real-life nightmare began. Over 1,000 souls were lost, but the following 12 survivors lived to tell the truth about that night.

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Eva Hart

Eva Hart was only seven years old when her family faced the horrors of the Titanic. She passed in 1996 at the age of 91, but during her lifetime, she gave several interviews that shed light on that fateful night.

Benjamin, Eva And Esther HartEva/Esther Hart, Wikimedia Commons

The Nightmare Begins

Hart recalled how the nightmare began. She said that her mother had asked her father to go investigate the situation, "literally pulling him out of bed". Whatever he saw spurred him to bring the rest of his family up on deck.

Titanic Survivor - Eva HartPA - PA Images, Getty Images

They Sprung Into Action

Speaking about her parents' decisions, Hart confessed, "If we hadn’t done that at that time, I very much doubt I’d be talking to you today…It was a question of who was there in time to get into the all too few lifeboats".

titanicParamount , Titanic (1997)

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Her Father Couldn't Join Her

Her parents' quick action allowed Eva Hart and her mother to get a spot on one of the lifeboats, but her father wasn't so lucky: "then it dawned on me that he wasn't coming, that I wouldn't see him anymore". There just wasn't enough lifeboats for everyone.

Titanic LifeboatJ.W. Barker, Wikimedia Commons

His Coat Held A Secret

Hart's father didn't make it—but before the lifeboat left, he gave her mother his coat. It had something hidden in its pocket. Earlier in the day, Hart's mother had written a letter using Titanic stationery. In fact, this letter was the only one known to be penned on the exact day of the tragedy. 

Eva Hart herself signed it off, writing, "Heaps of love and kisses to all from Eva".

Unknown woman, Eva and Esther HartEva/Esther Hart, Wikimedia Commons

Dorothy Gibson

The silent film actress Dorothy Gibson survived the Titanic with her mother by getting seats on Lifeboat 7. The two were enjoying a pleasant vacation when it all went terribly wrong.

Dorothy GibsonRandy Bryan Bigham Collection, Wikimedia Commons

"Frightful Sounds"

In remembering the shocking moment when the ship truly went down, Gibson reportedly said, “suddenly there was a wild coming together of voices from the ship and we noticed an unusual commotion among the people about the railing. Then the awful thing happened, the thing that will remain in my memory until the day I die. No one can describe the frightful sounds".

Dorothy Gibson in dress and a hatUnknown author, Wikimedia Commons

She Starred In The First Titanic Film

After making it out of that nightmare alive, Gibson helped bring the story of the Titanic to the screen. The very first film about the tragedy was Saved from the Titanic—and Gibson starred in it. However, there were for real-life horrors in store for her.

Dorothy Gibson in a promotional photo for Saved From the Titanic (1912Eclair, Wikimedia Commons

The Titanic Haunted Her

Dorothy Gibson just couldn't shake her memories of the Titanic. She eventually abandoned her acting career and began living in Europe. However, when WWII began, she did not escape unscathed.

Dorothy Gibson in Saved from the Titanic (1912)Éclair Film Company, Wikimedia Commons

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Tragedy Followed Her

During WWII, Gibson ended up in a concentration camp. Though she managed to survive, the end was already in sight. She passed in 1946 at the age of 56—likely from a heart attack.

Fence At Flossenbürg Concentration CampUS Army Signal Corps, Wikimedia Commons

Michel And Edmond Navratil

Reportedly, Michel and Edmond Navratil were the only young surivors that weren't rescued alongside a guardian or parent. Michel was four, and Edmond was two.

Michel Marcel Navratil, and his younger brother, Edmond RogerUnderwood & Underwood, Wikimedia Commons

Their Father Took Them

You see, Michel and Edmond's father had taken his children and boarded the Titanic using a fake name. He and the boys' French mother had separated, and he wanted to bring them to America. But his plan went horribly wrong.

Michel And Edmond Navratil 1912Unknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

The Very Last Lifeboat

Michel and Edmond's father managed to save their lives by finding them a spot on the very last lifeboat, Collapsible D. He, however, had no choice but to perish with the sinking ship.

titanic Paramount , Titanic (1997)

Recognized In The Papers

After Michel and Edmond reached safety, their picture showed up in the newspapers. Thankfully, their mother was able to identify them, traveling to America to reunite with her lost boys.

Michel And Edmond Navratil And MotherIron County register, Wikimedia Commons

The Last One Alive

Though Edmond passed quite early in 1953, Michel lived to the age of 92, passing in 2001. He was the Titanic's final male survivor left standing.

Michel Marcel Navratil survivor of the Titanic wreckXavier DESMIER, Getty Images

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He Never Forgot It

In speaking about the loss of his father, Michel reportedly stated, "He dressed me very warmly and took me in his arms. A stranger did the same for my brother. When I think of it now, I am very moved. They knew they were going to die. I died at 4".

He also said, "Since then I have been a fare-dodger of life. A gleaner of time.”

titanic lifeboatsParamount , Titanic (1997)

The Unsinkable Molly Brown

Of all the Titanic survivors, the socialite Margaret Brown might be the most famous. Now known as "the Unsinkable Molly Brown," her unbelievable story has gone down in history.

Molly Brown Rescue Award TitanicBain News Service, Wikimedia Commons

She Wanted To Go Back

On the night the Titanic sank, Brown helped with the evacuation. She managed to get a seat on Lifeboat 6, but later tried to encourage the boat's crewman to return to the wreck for more survivors. Sadly, they denied her desperate request.

Lifeboat 6 under capacityNational Archives and Records Administration, Wikimedia Commons

She Took Charge

After finding refuge on the Carpathia, Brown continued to lend a hand. She distributed blankets and food—going on to raise money for the many victims, and even starting a Survivor's Committee.

RMS Carpathia at seaUnknown author, Wikimedia Commons

The Heroine Of The Titanic

In a letter to her daughter, Margaret Brown wrote: "After being brined, salted, and pickled in mid-ocean I am now high and dry. I have had flowers, letters, telegrams, people until I am befuddled. They are petitioning Congress to give me a medal….If I must call a specialist to examine my head it is due to the title of Heroine of the Titanic.”

Mrs. James J. Bain News Service, Wikimedia Commons

She Wanted To Make A Change

Margaret Brown's selfless actions cemented her name in history—but her call to action didn't end with the tragedy of the Titanic. She also threw her support behind workers' rights and women's suffrage. Brown even ran for Congress.

Margaret Brown standingBain News Service, Wikimedia Commons

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Madeleine Astor

Scandal followed Madeleine Astor when she boarded the Titanic—and unfortunately, the whispers followed her even after its sinking. Astor was only 18 at the time and had only recently wed John Jacob "JJ" Astor—a 47-year-old divorcé.

Madeleine AstorUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

She Lost Her New Husband

Madeleine Astor became pregnant during her honeymoon with JJ Astor. But on their journey home, disaster struck their ship. The Titanic sank, and tragically JJ Astor perished with it.

John Jacob Astor IV and his wife, MadeleineUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

Losing Time

One newspaper described Madeleine Astor's chaotic final moments on the Titanic: “She recalled, she thought, that in the confusion, as she was about to be put into one of the boats, Colonel Astor was standing by her side. After that…she had no very clear recollection of the happenings until the boats were well clear of the sinking steamer.”

J.j. Astor And Miss M.t. ForceLibrary of Congress, Wikimedia Commons

She Kept Her Lips Sealed

Though Madeleine Astor survived and later delivered her baby, her sad story roused the attention of the public, which she didn't enjoy. In contrast, she barely uttered a word about the Titanic, and the harrowing experience seemed to cast a shadow over the rest of her days. She only lived to the age of 46.

Madeleine Astor in blackUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

J. Bruce Ismay

As the owner of the Titanic, J. Bruce Ismay survived the tragedy only to have his reputation scarred forever. The press made him out to be spineless, while even the 1997 film portrayed him as an antagonist.

J. Bruce Ismay, White Star Line ManagerInternet Archive Book Images, Wikimedia Commons

The Media Made Him Into A Monster

Ismay's great grandson Malcolm Cheape explained, "There were a lot of lies in the American press about him escaping on the first lifeboat and dressing up as a woman and things like that, which must have deeply hurt him". After all, Ismay had a different story to tell.

Jonathan Hyde as Bruce IsmayParamount , Titanic (1997)

He Claimed Innocence

According to Ismay, he only escaped on a lifeboat after helping everyone around him. Apparently, at the time he took his seat, there were no women or children in the vicinity. 

Jonathan Hyde as Bruce IsmayParamount , Titanic (1997)

He Was A "Shattered" Man

After his famous ship sank, Ismay was never really the same and refrained from talking about the whole sad affair, and it is said to have "shattered his life". He passed at the age of 74 in 1937.

J. Bruce Ismay and one of his attorneysGeorge Rinhart, Getty Images

Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon

Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon has a vexing story. With her elite status, the fashion designer and her husband Cosmo managed to escape on Lifeboat 1. But there were some shady rumors that clung to them.

Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon in black and a hatArnold Genthe, Wikimedia Commons

Her Lifeboat Was Not At Capacity

Reportedly, Duff-Gordon's lifeboat hit the water with only 12 surivors on board, which is devastating considering it had a capacity of 40. But that wasn't all. Apparently, her husband also urged the crewman steering the lifeboat to not go back and rescue anyone else.

Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon, arriving on RMS Campania - 1914Bettmann, Getty Images

The Press Targeted Her

In the wake of the sinking, Duff-Gordon and her husband became targets for the press. She even wrote to her friend, complaining, “According to the way we’ve been treated by England on our return we didn’t seem to have done the right thing in being saved at all!!!! Isn’t it disgraceful".

Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon wearing black dress and looking at side - 1920Hulton Archive, Getty Images

She Dodged Another Disaster

Coincidentally, Lady Duff-Gordon almost boarded another ship destined for disaster, the Lusitania. Luckily for her, she fell ill, and was not on the doomed ship when the Germans decided to torpedoe it.

Rms Lusitania Coming Into Port, Possibly In New York, 1907George Grantham Bain, Wikimedia Commons

Violet Jessop

Violet Jessop was no stranger to dangerous ship rides. Even before boarding the Titanic, she'd experienced a maritime nightmare when the Olympic crashed into another ship in 1911. Thankfully, it managed to pull into port.

Violet Jessop In Voluntary Aid Detachment UniformUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

Aboard Lifeboat 16

During the sinking of the Titanic, Jessop found salvation on Lifeboat 16. In her memoir, she related, "I was ordered up on deck. Calmly, passengers strolled about. I stood at the bulkhead with the other stewardesses, watching the women cling to their husbands before being put into the boats with their children. Sometime after, a ship’s officer ordered us into the boat first to show some women it was safe".

Lifeboats of the Titanic, 13 and 15Charles Dixon, Wikimedia Commons

She Survived Another Sinking Ship

One might think that such terrifying experiences would make Violet Jessop wary of the water. Not so. In 1916, Jessop boarded the Britannic, working as a nurse. Tragically, it collided with a German mine. 

A depiction of Britannic's sinkingZm05gamer, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Tragedy After Tragedy

The sinking of the Britannic may not have had the same breadth of the Titanic, but 30 people did perish. Over 1,000 survived, including Jessop. But she did suffer some consequences.

Britannic's SurvivorsRoyal Navy, Wikimedia Commons

She Fractured Her Skull

Remembering the sinking of the Brtiannic, Jessop stated, "I leapt into the water but was sucked under the ship’s keel which struck my head. I escaped, but years later when I went to my doctor because of a lot of headaches, he discovered I had once sustained a fracture of the skull!” 

Hmhs BritannicAllan C. Green, Wikimedia Commons

She Never Gave It Up

There was no changing Violet Jessop. Despite her dark history, she worked on ships for her entire career, only quitting when she retired. She passed in 1971 at the age of 84.

The Ss BelgenlandHarland & Wolff, Wikimedia Commons

Karl Behr

Karl Behr was one of the famous figures who survived the sinkingHe was a tennis pro with romance on the brain when he stepped foot on the Titanic to chase his future wife, Helen Newsom. Newsom was enjoying a family vacation at the time, but it quickly turned into a horror story.

American tennis player Karl Howell BehrJ. Parmley Paret, Wikimedia Commons

He Saved Her Family

Reportedly, Karl Behr was responsible for rousing Newsom's family from their slumber when the Titanic hit the iceberg. As a result, they managed to survive by escaping on Lifeboat 5.

Rescued lifeboats of TitanicUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

Hard Times On The Carpathia

After reaching the Carpathia, the distress only increased for Behr. He supposedly said, "Although the sinking of the Titanic was dreadful…the four days among the sufferers on the Carpathia was much worse and more difficult to forget".

Groups Of Titanic Survivors Aboard Rescue Ship CarpathiaLibrary of Congress, Wikimedia Commons

He Met His Future Opponent

While trying to recover from the tragedy on the Carpathia, Karl Behr met another tennis player, Richard Williams. Williams had his own nightmare to deal with: his legs had frostbite. Still, only months later, these two players would face each other in a tennis match.

R. Norris Williams In 1916George Grantham Bain, Wikimedia Commons

He Had Survivor's Guilt

According to Behr's granddaughter, he could never shake the darkness of his experience at sea: "He wished he had saved someone from the water so that at least an act of heroism could have resulted from his survival".

Karl BehrBain News Service, Wikimedia Commons

Lucy Noel Leslie

Lucy Noel Leslie—or the Countess of Rothes—came away from the Titanic with a heroic story. Allegedly, she assisted in rowing Lifeboat 8. Thomas Jones, the man in charge of the lifeboat, reportedly said, “She had a lot to say, so I put her to steering the boat".

Noel Leslie, Countess Of RothesUnknown author , Wikimedia Commons

She Took Control

Though faced with insurmountable, the Countess got to work. On her own lifeboat, she tried to hearten her fellow survivors, and continued her efforts on the Carpathia.

	Rochelle Rose as Countess of RothesParamount , Titanic (1997)

She Bonded With The Crewman

The Countess also maintained a connection to the seaman Thomas Jones and they sent letters to one another following that fateful night. They were a record of her experience, which she didn't speak about in her daily life. It was only after she passed that her family discovered this eye-opening correspondence.

Titanic and lifeboatsScience & Society Picture Library, Getty Images

Charles Lightoller

Charles Lightoller might have one of the most stressful survival stories. He was Titanic's Second Officer. When the ship began sinking, he was busy on the port side, organizing the lifeboats. He, however, stayed to the very end.

Charles H. Lightoller in uniformUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

He Got Pulled Under The Water

When the Titanic got sucked beneath the waves, so did Charles Lightoller. He later shared this horrifying experience in his book, Titanic and Other Ships.

Titanic Surviving OfficersUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

He Nearly Drowned

Lightroller recalled, “I was drowning, and a matter of another couple of minutes would have seen me through…when suddenly a terrific blast of hot air came up the shaft and blew me right away from the airshaft and up to the surface".

Commander Charles Herbert Lightoller and his son Lieutenant F.R. LightollerMirrorpix, Getty Images

One Of The Lucky Ones

Against all odds, Lightoller managed to survive by pulling himself on top of an upside-down lifeboat. He stayed there until rescuers came for him.

Charles Lightoller saved from lifeboatUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

He Was A Hero

Lightoller went on to fight in WWI, but he wasn't done with ships. He eventually bought a yacht, which he used during WWII to save British soldiers from the Dunkirk beaches.

Lightoller's Sundowner, now preserved by Ramsgate Maritime MuseumStavros1, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Elsie Bowerman

Elsie Bowerman was the same lifeboat as Molly Brown. 

Reportedly, she later wrote about the Titanic's final night, “The silence when the engines stopped was followed by a steward knocking on our door and telling us to go on deck. This we did and were lowered into lifeboats, where we were told to get away from the liner as soon as we could in case of suction. This we did, and to pull an oar in the midst of the Atlantic in April with icebergs floating about is a strange experience.”

Elsie BowermanUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

She Dedicated Her Life To Making A Difference

Bowerman was a passionate supporter of women's suffrage, and later studied law after women championed the right to vote. But that was only aspect of her wild life.

Women Suffragists PicketingUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

She Did It All

Bowerman was also a nurse in WWI and part of the Women's Royal Volunteer Service in WWII. With her education, she became a barrister, but also played a hand in the United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women. Basically, Elsie Bowerman did it all and survived the Titanic.

RMS TitanicFrancis Godolphin Osbourne Stuart, Wikimedia Commons


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