April 30, 2023|Reports

“Violet’s Titanic Escape” – Jane Glennie

Jane Glennie gave a mesmerising performance as Titanic stewardess Violet Jessop, gripping sixty eight members and visitors at Wickham History Society’s April talk.

Jane began Violet’s story in 1939 at the eve of the Second World War. She took us back to 1908 when Violet became a stewardess for the Royal Mail line.

Violet’s first stewardess position was with Royal Mail Line in 1908. Moving to the White Star liner RMS Olympic in 1911, Violet was on board when the Olympic left from Southampton and collided with HMS Hawke, fortunately with no fatalities.

On 10th April 1912 she transferred to the Titanic. Four days later the liner struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic.

Violet was in bed when Titanic hit the iceberg, but as soon as she realised something was wrong she dressed and went on deck. Watching the crew lowering the lifeboats, she thought it was a drill until ordered to return below and prepare her ladies to evacuate.

After helping women and children into the lifeboats, she was ordered into lifeboat 16. As the boat was being lowered, one of Titanic‘s officers gave her a parcel to look after – she was surprised when she found herself holding a baby!

The following morning, Violet and the other survivors were rescued by the Carpathia and taken to New York. While on board Carpathia, a woman – presumably the baby’s mother – took the baby from Violet and ran off without a word.

Returning to Southampton, Violet rejoined Olympic in June 1912, serving until 1914 when she went ashore to train as a VAD nurse for the British Red Cross. Violet was then sent to serve on the hospital ship Britannic, sister to both Titanic and Olympic.

On the morning of 21 November 1916, Britannic struck a mine and started to sink. An attempt to get into shallow waters grounded the ship. The first lifeboats managed to get clear of the ship but the later ones, including Violet’s, found themselves unable to get clear of the still-running propellers which were now fully out of the water in the shallows. Jane described the moment that Violet realised why the sea was red…

Violet was pulled so close to the ship that she hit her head on the keel and had to be pulled into a lifeboat. Over 1,000 people were saved, including Violet, but 30 people died in the incident.

Jane captured the period and Violet’s self-effacing manner perfectly and held the audience with her monologue throughout.

There was a lively discussion, particularly on the impact in Southampton where so many families had lost relatives working on the Titanic.

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