WHAT ARE the chances of identifying Titanic bodies more than 90 years after they were buried at sea?
Better than impossible - fair, in some cases.
One of the early bodies picked up by the search vessel Mackay-Bennett was number 21, a man estimated at 25-30. He had a dark moustache and was wearing a stewards jacket.
He was boat-hooked to a ships cutter in the forenoon of Sunday, April 21, 1912.
Number 21 was tipped back into the water that evening, following a
brief religious ceremony, along with 23 other unfortunates. The mans
sole effects were his watch and a key to Locker 7 on E Deck.
There was something else however, which does not appear in the
Coroners extracts: a paper indicating service as a First Saloon
steward on the Majestic from January to December 1911.
Only three stewards (John Pusey, Leonard Hoare and Harry Slight) last served at sea on the Majestic in 1911. The first two are first class stewards.
Locker 7 is all the way aft in the Third Class section of E Deck, making this man a steerage steward. On the Titanic sign-on list for this category, alongside scores of stewards listing last voyages in 1912, Harry John Slight is the only one to have 1911 inscribed beside Majestic.
It is thus likely that Slight, aged 35, from Southampton, was
Unidentified Body 21. (Unless someone else appropriated his effects.)
He took a couple of months off after working a whole year, went back
to sea in April with proof of past employment - and stayed at sea
Lots of the steward bodies recovered had keys. But keys on their own do not give that Slight chance of identification.
The stewards were so numerous (329 on Titanic; of whom 48 saved) that even where a description exists of keys on a body, they might belong to almost anyone.
Body 264, for example, was that of a Second Class steward with
tickets to cabins D-51 to D-89 at the aft end of D Deck. But he had no
other distinguishing item, apart from underpants reportedly marked H.
There was no such steward aboard, and the man remains a mystery.
(Although his rooms on D Deck included the Lawrence Beesleys D-56
cabin, the latter is for once lacking in description.)
Yet Lyon is an unlikely surname, being singular, unlike the common
Lyons. There is no individual named Lyon with first initial H in
the post-war CR10 records of seafarers. This raises the possibility of
the mark having been misread.
Misreading would obviate the theory of borrowed, second-hand or
stolen underpants (would the owners mark be expunged in the latter
cases?). The scenario of borrowing on Titanic does offer a link to one W. H. Lyons, an AB, whose body was buried from the Carpathia. But this man clearly did not bunk with the stewards.
Returning ownership of the underpants, then, to one of the 75 Second
Class stewards aboard (surely the most likely scenario), it is seen
that the only individual with any similarity is Thomas Ryan, who signed
himself T . Ryan on Titanic.
Bringing the first initial T and the middle dot closer to the
beginning of Ryan produces the chance of this name being misread as
H. Lyon (see pic). The effect is even more pronounced with a
mid-cross T (+) and an unclosed R (lower right experiment).
Ryan was 27 with dark hair. The body was also dark haired, and estimated to be 35.
This hypothesis is admittedly flimsy. In any event, No. 264 was
landed and buried as unidentified in the Baron De Hirsch cemetery.
Blair Beed, on p.85 of his book Titanic Victims in HalifaxGraveyards bemoans a problem: Unfortunately, no assignment list for stewards on Titanic exists. Surviving passengers were not asked for their cabin numbers or the names of their bedroom stewards.
Many dead stewards with keys for particular places on the vessel, like
No. 264, also had other items on their bodies which positively
identified them as in the cases of Stone, Lloyd, Ings and Turner.
But there is still another category dead stewards who were unidentified, but who were wearing numbered steward badges.
It is here that Beeds absent assignment list for stewards on Titanic makes itself particularly felt.
Body number 36 First Class stewards badge number 76 Name not known.
Body number 125 Second Class stewards badge number 37 Name not known.
Body number 214 Third Class stewards badge number 41 Name not known.
And it goes on. If only one knew to whom the steward badges were
allocated, one would instantly know the identity of these
otherwise-anonymous dead stewards. If only there were a list!
But there is a list, as it turns out.
It is called the Crew Agreement.
Close analysis of the original sign-on sheets for the stewards discloses a revealing pattern.
And it is that badge numbers follow sequentially, and in parallel,
with the order in which steward names appear on the sign-on lists.
Badges were clearly allocated by roll-call to the stewards on Titanic. And the roll called out was the Crew Agreement itself.
In retrospect, it makes perfect sense. Person A, bawls the
dispensing Beadle on board ship, handing badge 1 to the man who
Person B Badge 2. And so on.
This simple system, which provides a kind of Rosetta Stone for
identifying the badged but nameless steward victims, can be seen across
all three classes.
In the illustration below, the names of stewards who were wearing
badges, but who were otherwise identified, are shown across First
Class, Second Class, and Third Class. The number in the column on the
left is the line on which their name appears on the Crew Agreement.
The disparity between line number and badge number is explained by
the fact that not every steward was awarded a badge but only those
who needed it when interacting with the paying passengers. Hence none
for Glory Hole stewards, for instance, who were effectively
It was intended that members of the public should be able to
complain about a surly waiter or saloon steward by their badge number,
which they had to wear at all times.
Line number in Crew Agreement
Steward Badge No.
Note: Wormald and Deslands (Delandes on his stone in Halifax)
appear to have exchanged badges immediately after receiving them,
perhaps as a bit of subversion.
Line number in Crew Agreement
Steward Badge No.
O. W. Samuel
Note: Franklins badge was read upside down, and thought to be number 9. It was in fact number 6.
Line number in Crew Agreement
Steward Badge No.
ALL the above are badged bodies whose identity was established by
other means. Of the First Class stewards above, all were buried in
Fairview Lawn Cemetery in Halifax, N.S., with the exception of Wormald,
who was interred in Baron De Hirsch Jewish cemetery in the city.
Among the Second Class stewards, Bailey, Franklin, Samuel and Dean
were all buried in Fairview. George Edward Roberton (misidentified as
W. G. Roberton through a letter in his pocket intended for his father)
was buried at sea from the Mackay-Bennett on April 23.
Roberton is the name that appears on the Crew Agreement, but the
family seems to have also gone by Robertson. This name features on
their grave plot in Hollybrook cemetery, Southampton.
Cox, Talbot and Mullin, the steerage stewards, are all buried in Fairview.
IT IS the sequencing of the badge numbers that now offers us
names for the remaining steward bodies that bore badges, but which
nonetheless were never identified.
Only one of these body 214 was landed, the rest being buried at
sea. Body 214 now lies under a nondescript headstone in Baron De Hirsch
cemetery. It was thought to be that of a Jew (by the infamous Rabbi
Walter, who was obsessed with detecting hebrews where none existed),
but is in fact Christian, like that of Wormald and Michel Navratil
The burial place of Body 214
Now let us assemble the Badged Unknowns by class -
* Body 36, buried at sea.
Badge number 76
* Body 185, buried at sea.
Badge number 20
* Body 125, buried at sea.
Badge number 37
* Body 214, buried in Halifax.
Badge number 41
* Body 112, buried at sea.
Badge number 42
THE name of the holder of Badge 76 in First Class (above) must
follow soon after the names of Wormald and Deslands (holders of badges
73 and 74) on the Titanic sign-on list in order to comply with the pattern already established.
It seems to be that of William Taylor, whose name appears at line 119, following lines 116 and 117 for the two other holders.
Taylor was aged 30, married to Emily Margaret, with an address in
Bournemouth. The body with badge 76 wore a gold ring on the right
little finger, inscribed Madge. The man was estimated at 35 years old.
Brian Ticehurst, asked about this opinion, concurred as to likely
identity. He pointed out that Taylors widow learned later in 1912 that
this body had a number of tattoos. The description of these, including
telltale Japanese fans on the chest, caused Mrs Taylor to believe it
that of her husband.
Ring, tattoos, and now the badge number being set against crew
listing provides a quadruple lock. The late name appearance in the
Agreement eliminates a host of candidates.
SECOND Class badges were different from First Class, but the
distribution was no less methodical. In identifying the body with badge
20, it is noticeable that steward O. W. Samuel wore badge 22 at Crew
Agreement line 29.
At line 27, therefore, where one might hope to find the person consistent with badge 20, is the name of John Charman. Charman was a Londoner, aged 25, on his first sea voyage. He had been a waiter at the Star Hotel in Southampton for two years.
Body 185, which wore Badge 20, has an estimated age of 25, the same
age as Charman. This man was wearing a football jersey over his
pyjamas, and a stewards white coat. He had fair hair and a scar to the
right side of the jaw.
Possible scar on right side of jaw?
A photograph of Charman shows he had fair hair. Again, the short
distance between the known badge-holders (6 and 22) utterly reduces the
number of potential identities until Charman is on his own. The next
several listed crew after his name are all much older.
Body 185 was buried at sea, officially unidentified. It was very probably Charman.
So too was Body 125 (Badge 37).
This man should appear just two lines down from the known badge-holder George Dean(No. 35), whose name is on line 42 in the relevant section of the Crew Agreement. And thus it is that at line 44, we duly have J. T. Gunn.
Gunn was aged 28. Interestingly Body 125 possesed a washing ticket
that was detailed as reading G. V. N, but which, at a bit of a
squint, could read GUN.
(One could also submit that Gunns signature in the Crew Agreement looks like Gvnn. Did he sign his own washing receipt?)
An anomaly is that although the body was listed as wearing a gold
wedding ring, it was estimated on recovery from the sea as being aged
only 17 at least according to the transcription in the Coroner
records. Clearly a seventeen-year-old is unlikely to have been married,
nor one so young to have been allowed by White Star to act as its
While bodies in the sea do break down into what has been called
inebriate flabbiness, wedding rings do not, and might be a better
indicator of age. Very little is known about 28-year-old Gunn, his
marital status or lack of it.
But the badge and crew list pattern suggests that his is body 125.
THIRD Class badges are listed by the Coroner of Nova Scotia as Porter badges.
Indeed, were it not for the clear distinctions between the badges
issued for stewards in each class, identifications would be practically
The most famous of these badges, and the only one sold at public
auction, is that belonging to steerage steward No. 32, Thomas Mullin.
It went for a hammer price of £26,000 Sterling at the Henry Aldridge
auction at the British Titanic Convention in Southampton in April 2004.
Courtesy of Henry Aldridge and Son.
The base is copper, and the raised star on which the number appears
is chromium. It was required to be attached to the right arm by means
of an elastic fastener passed through two eye-clips on the reverse,
which also featured a company burgee.
If Mullin held badge 32 at line 45 of the Crew Agreement, then the
body buried in Baron De Hirsch in Halifax (No. 214, holder of Badge 41)
ought to appear no earlier than nine lines further down.
On line 54 is the name of W. (William) Wright, aged 40 whereas body 214 was estimated at being 26 years of age.
But Wright and the three men preceding him on the list are Glory
Hole stewards and would not have needed badges, since they were
Travelling on, to take account of those four lines, brings one to William T. Fox, aged 27, a much better match even though estimated body ages must be regarded with a large degree of caution.
Unfortunately the body lying unidentified in Halifax is poorly
described in the Coroner extracts in the extreme. He was said to be of
fair hair, with blue pants for his sole clothing, and possessed of that
steerage stewards badge but no other effects.
The more detailed recovery records say he had brown hair, stood 5ft 8in., weighed 165lbs (11 stone 11lb), had light eyebrows, and was clean-shaven.
William Fox: Badge 41(artistic montage)
An extant picture of William Fox shows him to be clean-shaven, of
fair to possibly brown hair, but it cannot be said that he had light
On the other hand, his is the last name on the sign-on lists for Third Class stewards.
A TENTATIVE identification of Fox as Body 214 encounters a further
problem however. While the Crew Agreement list runs out for this
category at his name, there was paradoxically - an older body
recovered wearing Badge 42!
According to the Crew Agreement, Third Class steward badges should
have run out at 41. The undeniable presence of badge 42 on Body 112,
which was buried at sea, forces a re-think.
It may be that some steward of another class was transferred to
Third Class to make up the numbers deemed necessary to handle the
steerage business. Third Class on the Titanic was proportionately much more full than First or Second Class.
This is certainly a possibility.
It is the type of ad-hoc administrative decision that would
frustrate later researches, since it might all have been done by word
of mouth on shipboard.
However there is another possibility.
The steerage stewards have not quite run out forty-nine pages
further on in the Crew Agreement, as if by afterthought, appear four
These men (p.116) are Third Class mess stewards. In the ordinary
course of events, they would not wear badges. Their names are Coleman,
Blake, Gumery and Fitzpatrick.
Body 112 is that of a fair-haired man, with an estimated age of 45.
He had a stewards uniform and black boots. Besides the badge, his
effects were limited to a pocket knife, cufflinks, collar studs, and a
The glasses seem an important detail, tending to support the
identification of an older man. John Coleman, from Cork, was aged 55 on
Titanic. The three other final steerage stewards were in their early to mid twenties.
It can only be a remote possibility that Coleman was Body 112, buried from the Mackay-Bennett with many others on Wednesday April 24, 1912.
And it would just be a coincidence if Badge 42 happened to match up with Colemans crew entry on line 42 of the later section.
Thy way is in the Sea, and Thy path in the Great Waters And Thy footsteps are not known. - Psalm77, verse 19.
Revised Identifications (probable/possible) by Badge Numbers/Crew Listing: