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FOCUS: What links does Jersey have with the Titanic?

FOCUS: What links does Jersey have with the Titanic?

Friday 02 June 2023

FOCUS: What links does Jersey have with the Titanic?

Friday 02 June 2023

With a Channel Islands business recently responsible for the clearest images yet from the site of the Titanic wreck, Express takes a look back in time at the 10 passengers with a Jersey link.

More than 1,500 people died after the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank in April 1912, and the disaster remains the most infamous shipwreck in history.

Last month the Guernsey-based marine firm Magellan announced that it had created the first full-sized digital scan of the Titanic, with CNN reporting that these images might "provide answers to some of the unanswered questions regarding the tragedy that killed more than 1,500 people".

There were 10 people with a clear Jersey link who sailed on the Titanic, both as passengers and crew, with three losing their lives in the sinking.

Arguably the most famous of these was Lady Duff-Gordon.

Born Lucy Christiana Sutherland, Lady Duff-Gordon moved to Jersey in 1871 at the age of nine. She would eventually become a pioneering fashion designer, and has been widely credited as having invented the 'catwalk' fashion show and supposedly coined the term 'chic'. 


Pictured: Pioneering fashion designer, Lady Duff-Gordon.

In April 1912, Lady Duff-Gordon was travelling First Class aboard the Titanic with her husband Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon.

When the ship struck the fatal iceberg, the Duff-Gordons were rescued by Lifeboat 1. 

Whilst afloat in Lifeboat 1, Lucy Duff-Gordon reportedly said to her secretary: "There is your beautiful nightdress gone."

While the Duff-Gordons would survive the sinking, their reputations would not.

The pair received a grilling in the contemporary press as they had escaped on a lifeboat that contained only 12 people, despite having the capacity for 40.


Pictured: The Titanic's Collapsible Boat D approaches RMS Carpathia.

Most damningly, Sir Cosmo was accused of bribing the sailor in charge of the lifeboat £5 (around £600 today) to to ensure they did not return to rescue people struggling in the water. However, Sir Cosmo stated that the money was to allow the sailor to buy new clothes.

Another of the more memorable testimonies from a Jersey source comes from Alfred John Olliver. Alfred was born in St Ouen, and had a career in the Royal Navy before joining the crew of the Titanic as one of the ship's seven quartermasters. 

He would survive the sinking, and subsequently testified at the US senate hearings into the disaster. He testified that he was heading to the ship's wheelhouse when the iceberg struck.

Mr Olliver described hearing a "grinding sound and then saw the berg" which he stated was "about the height of the boat deck; if anything, just a little higher.

"It was almost alongside the boat. It was not was a kind of dark blue hue."


Pictured: An illustration of the sinking of the Titanic. 

After dashing about the ship delivering messages to senior officers, he was ordered down to Lifeboat 5. Mr Olliver recounted that there were about 40 people in Lifeboat 5; most of whom were women and children.

The lifeboat was the scene of panic. Mr Olliver stated he was trying to ensure the plug was in the boat, but the passengers kept stepping on him whilst he begged them to make room. He said: "If not for that, the boat would've been swamped."

He also testified that the Officer in charge of the boat, Third Officer Herbert Pitman, wanted to go back to help the people in the water but "the women passengers implored him not to go because they reckoned it was not safe".

Mr Olliver died on 18 June 1934 in St Saviour, being buried in an unmarked grave in St Saviour's Churchyard. His grave was finally marked in 2012 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the sinking.

Jersey Passengers: 

Rosalie Bidois - First Class - Survived

Lucy Christiana (Lady Duff-Gordon) - First Class - Survived 

Bertha Ilet - Second Class - Survived 

Jersey Crew:

Percy Snowden Ahier - First Class Steward - Died 

Alfred John Olliver - Quartermaster - Survived 

John Thomas Poingdestre - Able Seaman - Survived 

William Henry Rattenbury - Assistant Boots Steward - Died 

Thomas Ryan - Steward - Died 

Philip Francis Vigot - Able Seaman - Survived 

Walter John Williams - Steward - Survived

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