Frank Winnold Prentice was born in Downham, Norfolk, England on 17 February 1889 1.
He was the son of Henry "Harry" Frank Warner Prentice (1867-1961) and Elizabeth Sherwood (1868-1940). His father was a native of Worksop, Nottinghamshire and his mother from Norfolk and they had married in Westminster, London on 20 October 1886, he at the time being described as an assistant hotel manager, his father Henry Warner Prentice being a hotel proprietor (guesthouse). He would hold various jobs according to census records, including that of postmaster, a horse-riding instructor and later an equestrian clothing merchant. Frank had three siblings: Harry Victor (b. 1887), Eva Maud (b. 1891) and Annie Kathleen (b. 1895).
Frank appears on the 1891 census living at Bexwell (?) Road in Downham, Norfolk, his father then described as a post master. Moving to Bexhill, Sussex by the time of the 1901 census, Frank and his family appear at the address of his grandmother Annie Prentice who continued to operate her guesthouse, Winnold House on De La Warr Parade.
Frank Prentice as a young man
Frank's parents were late estranged and living at different addresses by the time of the 1911 census. His father was living at 29 Courtnell Street, Paddington, London, describing himself as a traveller for horse clothing, and was cohabiting with a woman named Susan, thirteen years his junior whom he claimed to have been married to for five years although they were never officially married. Frank's mother and siblings were listed elsewhere at 14 York Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent where they ran an apartment house. Frank himself appeared on the 1911 census lodging at 71 Denzil Avenue, Southampton and he described himself as an unmarried ship's storekeeper.
When he signed-on to the Titanic, on 4th April 1912, Frank gave his address as 71 Denzil Avenue, (Southampton). He transferred from the Celtic. As an Assistant Storekeeper he received monthly wages of £3, 15s.
At the time of the collision, Prentice was in his berth on the port side of E deck (a cabin he shared with 5 other kitchen storekeepers) sitting on his bunk talking to another storekeeper. He didn't notice anything strange other than the ship stopping. He went up onto the promenade deck to survey the scene and saw the forward well deck covered in ice.
He either helped to load the lifeboats or watched the loading, but later in the night he ended up on the poop deck chatting with his mates. When the poop deck became crowded with people, Prentice, with his colleagues Cyril Ricks and Michael Kieran, climbed over the port side railing and jumped into the icy water. He found Ricks floating in the water and unconscious, apparently having hit floating wreckage, but remained with him until he died. Prentice began swimming and found Lifeboat 4 and the occupants pulled him aboard.
Surviving the disaster, Frank returned to England and signed-on to the Oceanic on 10 July 1912. He later recalled that he was on board when one of Titanic's lifeboats was found drifting in mid-Atlantic.
Frank continued working at sea well into the 1920s and served several voyages on Olympic and also saw military service during the First World War. He was married in Fulham, London in 1919 to Mabel Riley (b. 1897), a native of Halifax, Yorkshire, and the couple had three children: Pamela (b. 1920), Anthony (b. 1922) and Gerard Winnold (1923-2002)
Frank gave frequent interviews to newspapers, magazines and on television about his experiences and in 1982 told his story in the British documentary Titanic: A Question of Murder in which he later claimed that he could smell ice and said he encountered that smell before Titanic struck the iceberg.
Frank died in Bournemouth, Hampshire on 19 May 1982 aged 93. His death left only one surviving member of the crew, Sid Daniels of Portsmouth.
- He gave his year of birth as 1890 in his circa 1920 crew card
References and Sources
John Balls (1999) Titanic: The Norfolk Survivors. Nostalgia Publications, Dereham
Crew Particulars of Engagement, Public Record Office (BT100/259)
Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen, Agreements and Crew Lists Oceanic January ? August 1912
Titanic: A Question of Murder. TVS 1982
United States Senate, Washington 1912. n° 806, Crew List
Articles and Stories
Chicago Daily News (1912)
|TITANIC SURVIVORS: WHAT THEY SAW (1)|
|TITANIC SURVIVORS: WHAT THEY SAW (2)|
|INTERVIEW WITH FRANK PRENTICE|