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Sunday, 26 June 2011

Second - Class Titanic Survivor Elizabeth Nye by Dave Bryceson

I first became aware of the story of Elizabeth Nye whilst searching through the archive editions of 1912 of the Folkestone Express. I had been primarily looking for advertisements for a bioscope show that was touring in the United Kingdom about the tragedy, when I was pleasantly surprised to come across this article:

Thrilling Rescue of a Folkestone Lady.


"As was reported a fortnight ago; there was one Folkestone passenger on the Titanic that collided with the iceberg, and fortunately she was saved. Mrs. Elizabeth Nye, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Rammell of 64 Dover Road, was on her way back to America, where she was going to take up an appointment under the Salvation Army. Mrs. Nye is a widow, her husband, a Folkestone man, having died in America. She came home last year again but decided to return to the States, and it was really owing to the effect of the coal strike, that she was aboard the ill-fated vessel, for she should have sailed a week previously. She was a second class passenger on the Titanic and news of her rescue was the greatest relief and gratification to her parents and relatives, and her many friends.

Mr. and Mrs. Ramell have been inundated with congratulations at their daughter's safety, and they have been deeply touched by the many kindly messages received by them. (They then received a letter from their daughter).

'My dear mother and dad, I expect you have been wondering whether you would ever hear from me again. You have seen by the papers the wreck of the Titanic, but after the most terrible time of my life I am safe. My nerves are very shattered, I look and feel about ten years older, but I will get over it after a time.

You will like to hear the truth of the wreck from me, for the papers never tell the right news. We were in bed on Sunday night about 11.30, when we felt an awful jerk, and the boat grazed something along its side, and the sea seemed to splash right over the deck. The men in the next cabin slipped m their coats and ran up to see what it was, and came and told us the ship had run into an iceberg nearly as big as herself.

Most of the people went back to bed again, but then came an order `get up and put something warm on, put on a lifebelt, and come up on deck.' So I got one underskirt on, and a skirt, and stockings, and shoes and a coat, and ran up to find a lifebelt, because there were only three in our berth for four of us. A boy from the next room stole one of ours, but he went down with it, poor boy. We did not have time to go back to our cabins again to get anything, and we did not dream it was so serious. I thought I should get back to get more clothes on and get a few other things, but we were put into the lifeboats and pushed off at once. They put all the ladies and children in first.

I guess there were 30 or 40 in our boat. It seemed to be the last one lowered with women in it.

When we got away from the ship we could understand the hurry and the order to get half a mile away as soon as possible. For the Titanic was half in water. We watched the portholes go under until half the ship only, the back half, stuck up. Then the lights went out and the boilers blew up it was so cold. We had not put enough clothes on. I had no blouse, and the others had no stockings or underclothes. The boat rocked so and made me seasick. There were three or four young babies there without their mothers. How they screamed!

..... We were in the little boat for just five hours and a half before being rescued (by the Carpathia). They lowered bags for the babies to pull them up, and we sat on a kind of swing and were drawn up by rope to safety. They have been most kind to us. Led us one by one to the dining room, and gave us brandy. I drank half a glass of brandy down without water.'

After seeing this and similar articles I determined to find out as much as I could about Elizabeth. She was born in Folkestone, Kent on May 27 1882 and was the eldest of five daughters to Thomas and Elizabeth Ramell. The couple had lost two children born prior to Elizabeth, and when she in turn, as a child, came close to death, the parents were desperate. They were visited by a Salvation Army Captain who, on hearing of Elizabeth's condition, asked if she might be alone with the child in order to pray. As she was later leaving, Thomas pronounced that if Elizabeth lived he would join the Salvation Army. Elizabeth made a complete recovery.

Thomas remained true to his word and became a founder member of the Salvation Army in Folkestone. He also formed the Army band. Elizabeth married in 1904 and in 1909 emigrated, first to Canada and then to New York. Elizabeth was a dressmaker and worked for the Uniform Department of the Salvation Army headquarters. Her husband was the janitor in the same building. However both her husband and child died in 1911 and so Elizabeth returned to England to mourn.

Elizabeth was highly regarded in America and was invited back on the insistence of Eva Booth. She booked passage on the SS Philadelphia but due to a shortage of coal caused by a two-months long miners' strike, was transferred to the Titanic. On the night of 14 April 1914, Elizabeth and other second class passengers gathered together in the dining room and sang hymns. They ended with the hymn "For those in Peril on the Sea".

Upon arrival on American soil, one of the first Salvation Army personnel to greet her was Captain George Darby. The couple kept in touch and married on 26 November 1913, following Elizabeth's commissioning. Their honeymoon was spent in Folkestone. The couple worked in the New York area and Elizabeth concentrated on Home League and League of Mercy work. They retired in 1948 with the rank of Colonel. Elizabeth was Promoted to Glory on 22 November 1963.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a good passage, but it doesn't say anything about the baby that she may have caught that was thrown from the sinking ship.