Stories‎ > ‎Mystery Ancestors 2009‎ > ‎

Cowin, Dave: Uncle Walter survives Titanic

Uncle Walter survives Titanic

By David Cowin

Uncle WalterUncle WalterOriginally from Witley, Surrey, England. my great uncle Walter Henry Nichols (1876 1960) was assigned to the S.S. Titanic for it’s first crossing, as a victualing crew member (Steward) on the Titanic, this was a temporary post. This came about because his home ship the S.S. St. Paul was tied up in harbour because of a coal strike. Uncle Walter, gained some attention through one special feat, surviving the sinking of the Titanic.

"Twenty members of the S.S. St. Paul were taken on the staff of the Titanic as crew members for its inaugural crossing. Uncle Walter was the only survivor of the 20. From the newspaper accounts, I have learned Walter Nichols was assigned to Lifeboat #15,. which was larger than most, with a 10 man crew. There were only about 50 passengers in the lifeboat as it left the Titanic, it was capable of carrying 70 to 80 passengers. It was the second from the last lifeboat to leave the Titanic "Many people, according to the stories, thought the Titanic was safer than the lifeboats. Some passengers were picked up from the water. I do not think they survived. Uncle Walter gave the women a lot of credit for their bravery. One woman removed her coat and gave it to one of the water survivors.

Uncle Walter along with the other survivors, were transferred to the S.S. Carpathia when it arrived. "There were 36 engineers, and all were lost. Many of them had large families "The junior Marconi man (Harold Bride) was hurt and was carried into the wireless room of the Carpathia. Harold told stories about the main Marconi man (Jack Phillips, who did not survive) had stayed at his post sending SOS signals.

Upon reaching New York, Mr. Nichols found his family believed him to be dead. He also found himself penniless. In order to raise money to return to England, he became one of many survivors who sold their stories to the newspapers.

My great uncle. Walter Henry Nichols, was the only one of his group of 20 from the S.S. St. Paul to survive the sinking of the S.S. Titanic in April, 1912.