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Titanic’s Children

I originally wrote this blog over on one of my other blogs last year. This is my formal writing blog, for all the stuff that moves or annoys me personally, I blog anonymously elsewhere. Not because I don’t want to own my ideas, it’s because people who know you think you’re aiming it at them –  when  you’re not – and blah blah blah, lot’s of trouble for no reason. So hence I write the important non-writing stuff under a pen name.

Anyway – with the 100th anniversary of the Titanic setting sail, I thought it would be nice for me to own one of my previous blogs that commemorate the children that died on Titanic. For me, that was the worst part of the disaster, the loss of the children.

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I think that thoughts are linked and you pass from one thought to another, following a tedious link of some variety. So how I came to the conclusion that spending my Sunday evening reading the passenger list from the Titanic was linked from somewhere, is beyond me.

I think it’s because it has always bothered me that James Cameron’s film Titanic, was incredibly unfair and ‘racist’ towards the English. All you see are the hard done to Irish, Americans and Eastern Europeans. No, I am not for one second denying that these nationalities, amongst many others, were indeed hard-done to (because they absolutely were). But what about the English families? What about the Brits in Steerage Class? What about the 885 mostly British crew members? Less than 200 crew aboard that ship survived and most of them sourced from Southampton and Belfast – so where are their stories? The British in Mr Cameron’s film are displayed as snobs or ill-educated buffoons who took bribes. This fantastically contradicted eye-witness accounts of the heroism displayed by members of the crew.

Women and children first was sneered at as a very British way of doing things. So obviously, no other nationality would want to protect their wives/daughters/sisters and children? No? Just us Brits? Great, well that makes us better people then. It may be an outdated, archaic ideology, but I know my own husband would shove me and our tiny daughter onto a Life Boat before himself, so I suppose it’s something that has stuck with some of us.

But we were not whiter than white. Poorly portrayed, granted, but we made mistakes. The lack of Life Boats was one thing. Despite Titanic holding more than was legally required, it still was not enough. The number of Life Boats was insanely based on the ships gross tonnage, rather than the amount of people it could hold at capacity. This was in line with British law, but not in line with common sense and human responsibility.

First Officer William Murdoch is portrayed as a bribe taking, trigger happy despot, despite the experienced Scottish sailor’s valour and heroism on the night in question. He saved lives and died trying, along with Junior Officer James Moody, trying to free the Collapsible A Life Boat. Eye witnesses saw him still alive in the water briefly, until being seen by Harold Bride (Wireless Operator) as dead in the water. Makes me twitch to see him scapegoated.

It isn’t just James Cameron’s fantasy that see’s him kill himself either, he does it in at least two other adaptations. Perhaps it is to highlight the terror of the situation and back up conflicting statements made at the inquiry that someone killed themselves, but the relatives rightly did not agree. Nor should anyone else. How would James Cameron like his family paraded before millions of people for all time as someone to be reviled? The Murdoch family had a hero in their midst and were denied that by the flagrant defamation of character. Mr Cameron wouldn’t like it now would he? But let’s get back to my grand and perhaps vulgar accusation of racism on Mr Cameron’s part.

The 3rd class are all Irish and Eastern European for all to see. So what about the Goodwin family? They were completely wiped out. Frederick and Augusta where killed in the sinking along with their six children. The most notable of the children, for all the wrong and most tragic of reasons, was baby Sidney. He was one, nearly two when he died in the disaster. His mother had taken great care to dress him for the icy weather outside on deck by putting him in stockings and several layers of warm clothes, finished with a little grey coat with fur trim.

The Goodwin Family
The Goodwin Family

Baby Sidney was the fourth body to be pulled from the Atlantic by the first ship that went looking for bodies. The original plan had been to preserve the bodies of the first class passengers in order to ensure that if there was any claim over estates and wills, then they would be finalised with the receipt of an identifiable corpse.

Little baby Sidney was not richly attired, so clearly belonged to the third class. He had nothing to identify him, just his blonde hair and his features that his parents undoubtedly adored. The sailors of the CS Mackay-Bennett, the first recovery ship, where so distraught by the discovery of the baby, that they took him back to shore with the other bodies and when no-one claimed him, buried him at their own cost.

Baby Sidney Lesley Goodwin, the 'Unknown Child' had his whole life ahead of him

They personally escorted his tiny body to a Canadian cemetery and in his coffin they placed a brass pendant saying “our babe”. They even put together and bought him a monument. On the meagre wage of a sailor, these grand gestures sum up the public out-pouring of sorrow of the time. Tiny Sidney lay in his little grave for the better part of a hundred years before he was correctly identified via DNA. He had been wrongly identified as another infant that had tragically died, but on further analysis, he was finally named. He was the only member of his family ever identified. Although Sidney was unclaimed and remained a mystery, his grave became a symbol – a monument not just to him, but to all the children who died that night. It didn’t matter what country they were from, or what religion, colour or culture they came from – a tiny life lost was one too many. So many children died that night.

One of them was a fourteen year old bell-boy, a member of the crew and a man before his time. Little baby Sidney was but one of many babies and toddlers. His brothers and sisters were amongst many older children. The thought of those children dying in such a way is overwhelming. I find that is the worst part of the tragedy, the fact that the children could not even be saved. It’s the stuff of nightmares to imagine the fear and the panic that they and their parents went through in the minutes leading up to their deaths at the hands of the cold, unyielding Atlantic Ocean.

Baby Sidney had his whole life ahead of him and yet because of human error, he was robbed of it. Because of his class, he was robbed of it. Not because of his nationality. I think a lot of focus was lifted from that for me by the tenacious and hard-faced Brits I saw in the film. I didn’t see Frederick and Augusta. Perhaps, instead of Jack and Rose, we should have had a film about them instead.

I think that, when considering his little monument in that Canadian cemetery, one should see it and him, as representative of all the children lost that night. As I have said before, there is no need for analysis of race or any other factors. The fact is, he was a baby – a child and he died in an unimaginable way.

Another factor not considered, which would no doubt add exponentially to the list of the children lost, is the pregnant women. How many women aboard that ship where expecting? I don’t think it has ever been recorded or estimated. It is indeed, a harrowing prospect.

It is so taboo to deal with the death of children and babies, I think partially because it is so painful for any of us to consider. The real raw, terrible part of the RMS Titanic was the loss of her children. It is so easy to get caught up in the romance of the story and the ships epic sinking. It is easy to finger point and cast an entire nation as a bunch or snotty scoundrels. Yet it is heartbreaking to consider the full, terrible impact of the little ones who did not survive that night.

Out of all the children and babies on board, only three bodies were ever identified.

This blog entry is dedicated to them:

ABBOTT, Mr Eugene Joseph 14

ALLISON, Miss Helen Loraine 2

ANDERSSON, Miss Sigrid Elisabeth 11

ANDERSSON, Miss Ingeborg Constanzia 9

ANDERSSON, Miss Ebba Iris Alfrida 6

ANDERSSON, Master Sigvard Harald Elias 4

ANDERSSON, Miss Ellis Anna Maria 2

ASPLUND, Master Carl Edgar 5

ASPLUND, Master Filip Oscar 13

ASPLUND, Master Clarence Gustaf Hugo 9

BOULOS, Miss Nourelain 7

BOULOS, Master Akar 9

DANBOM, Master Gilbert Sigvard Emanuel 4m

FORD, Miss Robina Maggie 7

GOODWIN, Mr Charles Edward 14

GOODWIN, Master William Frederick 11

GOODWIN, Miss Jessie Allis 10

GOODWIN, Master Harold Victor 9

GOODWIN, Master Sidney Leslie 1

HASSAN ABILMONA, Mr Houssein Mohamed 11

JOHNSTON, Master William Andrew 8

JOHNSTON, Miss Catherine Nellie 7

KLASéN, Miss Gertrud Emilia 1

LEFEBVRE, Master Henry 5

LEFEBVRE, Miss Ida 3

LEFEBVRE, Miss Jeannie 8

LEFEBVRE, Miss Mathilde 12

NASSER, Mrs Adele 14

PåLSSON, Master Gösta Leonard 2

PåLSSON, Master Paul Folke 6

PåLSSON, Miss Stina Viola 3

PåLSSON, Miss Torborg Danira 8

PANULA, Master Jaako Arnold 14

PANULA, Master Juha Niilo 7

PANULA, Master Urho Abraham 2

PANULA, Master Eino Viljam 1

PEACOCK, Master Alfred Edward 7m

PEACOCK, Miss Treasteall 3

RICE, Master Albert 10

RICE, Master George Hugh 8

RICE, Master Eric 7 RICE, Master Arthur 4

RICE, Master Eugene Francis 2

ROSBLOM, Miss Salli Helena 2

SAGE, Miss Dorothy 14

SAGE, Master Anthony William 12

SAGE, Miss Elizabeth Ada 10

SAGE, Miss Constance Gladys 7

SAGE, Master Thomas Henry 4

SEMAN, Master Betros 10

SKOOG, Master Karl Thorsten 11

SKOOG, Master Harald 5

SKOOG, Miss Mabel 9

SKOOG, Miss Margit Elizabeth 2

STRöM, Miss Telma Matilda 2

SWEET, Mr George Frederick 14

VAN BILLIARD, Master James William 10

VAN BILLIARD, Master Walter John 9

VAN IMPE, Miss Catharina 10

VESTRöM, Miss Hulda Amanda Adolfina 14

WATSON, Mr W. A. 14

Rest in the peace and light of heaven x

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