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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Titanic Survivors: PTSD

When the Titanic went down, her 712 survivors were affected.  Some were affected more than others, but all were affected.  Here is a list of ways in which survivors showed signs of possible PTSD.

Young 3rd class passenger Frank Goldsmith lost his father the night the Titanic sank.  But he and his mother continued on to Detroit, Michigan in the hopes of fulfilling his father's dreams.  They lived near a baseball stadium and Frank said that whenever the crowds cheered, it reminded him of the screams coming from those poor people drowning and freezing to death in the water.

Stewardess Annie Robinson was noticeably affected by the Titanic disaster.  She later returned to sea and jumped overboard on a foggy night several years afterwards.  Her body was never found.

1st class passenger Emma Bucknell never went to sea ever again.

2nd Officer Herbert Lightoller enjoyed cool baths.  One day, he decided to take a cold bath to cool off after a game of tennis.  The family later found him in a trance and afterwards learned that it was a result of his being in the icy water that night.

1st class passenger Jack Thayer never fully recovered from the Titanic disaster in which he lost his father.  After his mother's death on an anniversary of the Titanic's sinking, his son's death in the Pacific Theatre of WWII, and several nervous breakdowns, he committed suicide.

Quartermaster Robert Hichens was at the wheel when the Titanic struck an iceberg and he was made more famous that night by his "conversation" with Margaret Brown.  He was affected by the Titanic disaster which basically ruined his career.  He had a bad married life, was a heavy drinker, attempted suicide twice, and went to prison for attempted murder.

1st class passenger and White Star Line chairman J. Bruce Ismay never fully recovered from the disaster.  He was already a shy man in his private life, but the disaster made him more withdrawn.  His wife wouldn't even allow the Titanic to mentioned in his presence in later years.

1st class passenger Irene Harris lost her faith in God after the Titanic disappeared and she listened to the cries of the masses of dying people in the water because she was sure her husband was among them.  Her faith returned in later life.

2nd class passenger Ruth Becker told her story to reporters in 1912 and 1913.  After that, she wouldn't speak of it.  She told her students, but never spoke publicly about it until later years at the Titanic Historical Society conventions.  Near the end of her life, she took a cruise, making it the first time she went to sea after the Titanic disaster.  Ruth's mother, Nellie, couldn't even talk about it when the reporters swarmed her for her story.  She told them, "Ask Ruth!" and left Ruth to tell their story.

2nd class passenger Selma Asplund never spoke of the Titanic disaster.  Her daughter, Lillian didn't like to talk about the disaster either.

3rd class passenger Georgette Dean didn't tell her daughter, Millvina, about what happened to them until she was 8 years old.

Saloon Steward Alexander Littlejohn experienced survivor's guilt for being a male that survived.  The affect of such guilt aged him greatly as seen in the photographs below, the one on the left taken just before the Titanic and the one on the right taken a mere 6 months later.  Photo credit:  http://hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk/hastings-life/hastings-people/lucky-lifeboat-13



Lookout Reginald Lee was one of the men in the crow's nest when the iceberg was spotted.  He ended up being one of the first crew members to die after the disaster.  He passed away due to pneumonia, but he reportedly drank very heavily after the disaster and was very likely suffering from PTSD.

5th Officer Lowe took charge of 4 lifeboats which were put together into a flotilla during the sinking.  He later for the most part emptied one of the boats and went back to pull people from the water.  By the time he got there, most had died of hypothermia or drowning.  Of the people he found alive in the water, about half died from exposure.  Throughout the rest of his life, he never spoke of the disaster.  It was something he never discussed with any of his family members and his grandson speculates it was due to PTSD.

1st class passenger Lucile Carter almost never talked about the Titanic disaster even to her family and hated getting in water.

3rd class passenger Anna Turja was haunted by the screams and cries of those in the water until her dying day.  She also never talked about the disaster except every year on April 15th to her children.

3rd class passenger Bridget McDermott rarely spoke of the Titanic afterwards and her family was forbidden from mentioning it to her.

1st class passenger Edith Graham said in an interview that she often had nightmares about the disaster.

1st class passenger Paul Chevre never recovered from the shock of the disaster and is considered to be one of the contributions to his death in 1914.

3rd class passenger Harold Schuman never spoke of the Titanic disaster with only a few exceptions for the rest of his life.

2 comments:

John Oaks said...

I had heard of a Titanic passenger living near a baseball field who was reminded of the cries of those in the water whenever the baseball crowd cheered, but your site provided a name to go with the story. Thank you for taking the time and effort to post this blog. It is very well done.

Kareen Healey said...


I'm pretty sure that the suicide of Frederick Fleet, even in his old age, is a consequence of the disaster. Sure it is not the only reason (death of her wife prior to his suicide and the fact that he became homeless after it for her brother-in-law put him out are the near consequences, but I'm sure that he wouldn't have did suicide if he would not have been a Titanic crew's member).