A Guest Post By Susanna
Many stories have had their chance at the telling of this fateful night, 100 years ago, April 14. I know this one doesn’t give it justice, but here’s yet one more, out of the 2,227 true stories that have almost been forgotten.
The ship’s forcing angle pinned me against the icy rail. “Dear God in heaven please help us!” The words carried by the bitter cold wind echoed in everyone’s ears the moment they heard the pleading cry. I could tell by the astonished comprehending looks: we were all thinking the same thing.
It had only been 8 days earlier—that day which I had proclaimed to my beloved wife, Louisa Josephine, to be one of the most exciting days of my life—that all this had commenced. At the
Southampton docks, Captain Smith, a proud but kind man, looked over my earlier background with ships.
|Harry Holman, ca 1910|
“What’s ye name lad?”
“Harry… Harry Holman.”
Then he extended his rough worn hand to me with a smile, “Welcome ab’ard the Titanic laddy. We’a pleased to have such an able seaman atops the Royal Mail Ship.”
My face burst out from its nervous desperate state into instantaneous joy. “Thank you sir, so much.” I was shaking from the tops of my head down to the soles of my boots as I entered our one-room apartment above a small Hampshire shoe shop, to tell my wife the most wonderful news. We had been expecting our baby any day now. Oh how welcoming it was to see her so round yet so joyful. Stunned tears sprang to her eyes when she heard the news. Happiness was written all over her beautiful face. 5£ a month would be enough to keep us going.
“We will only be apart for a short while until you have had the baby. Then you can come with me.”
“But Harry The sea is an untamed creature, you have told me before of the terrible…?”
Fear swept to her face until she heard my calming but stern reply, “Darling Louisa, God Himself cannot sink that grand ship.”
|The Olympic and Titanic under construction|
Only a few short days later—the tenth—it was time to weigh anchor. I could see tears once again stinging Louisa’s eyes as she tried with all her might to keep them back. The blast of the horn bellowed its final goodbye. I watched as my sister, brother in-law and wife stood on the dry docks waving along with the other thousands of excited Englishmen there to see the Titanic off, on its first voyage to
. New York
It felt so good to be back where the salty wind wrestled with my sandy hair. I had never seen such wealthy people before nor so fancy a boat. All other boats I had sailed with before were like dwarfs compared to this one, with the many elegant rooms and exquisite chandeliers.
“The captain isn’t pay’n you to be a day drim’in.” I quickly turned about, and there was a tall muscular man standing not one foot away from me, with a stern scowl on his face.
“Ah yes dreadfully sorry, and to whom do I have this pleasure?”
“I’ount know about pleasures but my name is Westin.”
“Well Mr. Westin—glad to have met you. I’m Holman.”
“Are ye a deck man?”
“Yes sir. Though I haven’t had much time to get familiar with the boat yet.”
“Come on then, I shall show you around our fine lady.”
As Mr. Westin led me around, I was simply amazed at the extravagant bed chambers and dining halls—there was even a pool! The floors’ marble tiles and the ceiling’s golden light fixtures decorated each room like jewelry.
|The Titanic, to be launched.|
The next days were fairly smooth sailing and full speed ahead, covering 386 miles of fine, calm, clear sea. But those who had not tamed their sea stomachs yet found it hard to keep the cook’s gourmet meals down in a secure spot. Many of the woman helped with the poor sickly people. I knew that would be exactly where Louisa would be spending all her time. I was enjoying my job, yes, but oh how I longed so much to hear my wife’s joyful voice. It was comforting though to know that she was being well taken care of by my sister and brother in-law until I could come back. We had made a stop in
Queenstown Harbor to pick up many mail bags and passengers, but now it was non-stop through the Atlantic Ocean, on to . I was quite surprised of the record speeds we were making: 519 miles headway on the 12th–13th alone. We did, however, receive various ice warnings which meant nothing for a normal April crossings. New York
Early the next morning, on the 14th, the thermometer proved it to be quite cold out. It was my turn to be on the full day’s deck watch; this usually meant I would have to make sure passengers weren’t prowling around the top deck. It was a lonely job more often than not.
“Good morning sir,” a kind man with twinkling eyes said in the cloud of his foggy breath.
“And a good morning to you too.”
“I’m on my way to the conference foyer and have lost my way. Would ye be so kind as to show me were it’tis?”
My iced-up finger tips were peeking out from the blue muffatees my dear wife had knitted me. They seemed to be pleading with me saying, “Oh please can we get out of the cold just for a minute?”
“Alright I only have but a moment; follow me,” I told the man as I led him through a pair of doors into a warm hallway that wound down to the main staircase. I was beginning to know my way around the ship rather well. The man carried on a friendly conversation until we reached the entry door to the conference room.
“Thank you dearly man. But perhaps I could ask yet another favor of ye. My name is Harper and I am holding a morning church service in this room. Would ye be able to spare just an hour of your time to worship our Lord?”
I tried to think of a reasonably polite excuse why I didn’t want to waste my time with the lot of praying Christians. Thus occupied, I failed to notice Mr. Westin had come up behind me.
“Um… excuse me preacher…” he uttered breaking the silence.
“Mr. Holman has more important things to busy his time with than sini’n a lot of those religious songs to a God who is weaker than this ship.” I just stood there with a guilty expression sinking deep into my reddened face. The gentleman had now lost most of the sparkle in his eyes which had earlier brightened my morning.
“But not even on a Sunday?”
“No. Now if you may excuse us.”
Reverend Harper then laid his hands on my shoulder as his eyes met mine. “Very well, but I will be praying for ye both.”
While we headed back up to the top deck, Westin revealed he had a purpose in finding me greater than just to embarrass me.
“Master Turvey, the messenger boy, has just picked up a wireless message from the R.M.S. Caronia warning us of a field of ice about 42`N from 49` to 51`W. Captain Smith says as a precaution to avoid the ice; he might have to ‘alter ship's course later this evening. Slightly to the south and west. Not ‘uge, but Captain wants a few more men to be on the alert.”
“Well if he decreases speed we probably won’t have need.”
“20 ½ knots is the slowest the Captain ‘el go. He’s determined to break every record in the book.”
After twilight, I was trying to stay warm while remaining alert. Charles Turvey, the 16-year-old messenger boy, helped pass the time by keeping me company.
“It’s a mighty clear night. Wouldn’t you say? Look at all the many stars.” I said, briskly rubbing my hands together.
“Yes that most likely means we’re to have a fairly cool day tomorrow, with no cloud cover for tonight.”
“There ya are boy I was lookin’ fer you.”
“Mr. Westin we were just admiring the night sky. Isn’t it lovely?” His eyes didn’t even shift upward at my question.
“Holman have you seen that there moon.”
“Why of course…” I answered.
“That sliver my dear friend is a sign of bad luck.” I could tell this really bothered Westin, but Charles, not being a superstitious boy, debated the matter.
“But if anything it should be a sign of good luck. Coming just before the new moon, I…”
“Listen to me boy I ain’t goina argue this with ya. My father always told me that it is never good luck to be on a journey when there’s barley a moon to guide you. Now… I need your help…”
"Ding, Ding, Ding!"
“Is that the warning bell?” I asked.
“Aye Holman.” Then Mr. Westin turned away and shouted to the lookout man.
. What is it?” Frederick
"Iceberg dead ahead Sir. 500 yards!" Our stunned eyes met. We dashed to the front of the ship. There above the water rested a mighty iceberg towering 55 to 60 feet above the water. My heart sunk as I stood motionless, gawking at the giant ice block.
“Hard a starboard.” Alarming calls and bells were going off all around us.
Westin grabbed my arm rushing toads the rear of the boat.
“Veer to port!”
“Holman. Brace for impact!” I vaguely heard him shout into my ear, as we crouched down next to the dozens of barrels huddled against the wall. It was chaos as we waited there for mere seconds, but it seemed much longer. Men scrambled to help, as some ran only for a safe place to be. I sat there wondering if my life was going to be over any moment. I knew I wasn’t ready to die.
~To Be Continued Tomorrow~
Susanna is a fourteen-year-old homeschooler and the fourth daughter in a family of six children. She loves God, animals, and gourmet cooking and plays violin and piano. Oh yes--and she just happens to be our beloved younger sister who always has a special gift for us, whether that be her entertaining tales, her thoughtful questions, or her behind-the-scenes service.
#1: Harry Holman about 1910; Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #5519, accessed 23rd February 2012) http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/harry-holman-about-1910.html. No copyright restrictions.
#2: OLYMPIC and TITANIC. 1909 -1911. Photograph. George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. Library of Congress. Web. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002721382/. No copyright restrictions.
#3: TITANIC, to Be Launched. 1911. Photograph. George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. Library of Congress. Web. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2001704329/. No copyright restrictions.
#4: brizzle born and bred Used by permission under the Creative Commons License
#5: Raquel from God's Daughter. Used by permission.