Mr Frederick William Barrett was born in Bootle, Lancashire, England on 10 January 1883 and was later baptised on 4 October that same year in St John's, Bootle. His address at the time was 14 Howe Street.
He was the only surviving child of Henry Charles Barrett (b. 1862), a labourer from Devon, and Mary Morgan (b. 1864) of Birkenhead.
Frederick and his family appear on the 1891 census living at 16 Molyneux Street, Bootle; he was described as a carman and his father a timber labourer. His father appears to have died in 1909 but what eventually became of his mother is not known.
When Barrett first went to sea is not certain; he first appears on crew manifests in 1903 when he was a fireman aboard Campania, his address at the time being 69 Lyon Street. During 1904 he served aboard the Parisian and Cedric and again aboard Campania in 1906.
When he signed on to the Titanic on 6 April 1912 Barrett gave his local address as 24 King Street, Southampton; his previous ship had been the New York and as a leading fireman he could expect monthly wages of £6, 10s. He was one of two men named Frederick William Barrett working as firemen.
Just after departure from Southampton Barrett states that he received orders with eight or ten other firemen to empty the coal bunker in boiler room 6 where a fire had been discovered. The work took until Saturday 13 April and upon inspection Barrett claimed that the bulkhead was fire-damaged from top to bottom, the lower half being warped aft and the upper half being warped forward.
At time of the collision Barrett was on duty in boiler room 6 in stokehold 10 and stated that there were eight firemen and four trimmers on duty there. He was standing in conversation with engineer James Hesketh when a bell sounded and a red light flashed on; making a split-second decision to shut the dampers there was a crash at the same time and water began coming through the side of the ship about two feet above the floor plates. Barrett and Hesketh retreated into boiler room 5 just as the watertight door dropped and here they noticed that the damage extended into that section. Out of the eight firemen and trimmers working there at the time Barrett recalled seeing only one of them after, George Beauchamp.
Returning to number 6 boiler room with engineer Jonathan Shepherd about 10 to 15 minutes after the collision, Barrett claimed that the water was already eight feet deep; upon his return to boiler room 5 Herbert Harvey ordered all firemen up top but ordered Barrett to remain at his post with engineers Shepherd and Wilson. Whilst waiting there the lights went out and he was ordered to go and fetch lamps. Upon doing so the men were able to see that there was no water in the boilers; Barrett scaled the emergency ladder and spotted two firemen on Scotland Road; he ordered them to round up other firemen to come down and draw the fires. Around fifteen firemen in total returned and spent twenty minutes keeping the furnaces drawn after which Barrett sent them back up top.
Harvey ordered Barrett to open a manhole cover which gave them access to some valves; after doing this Jonathan Shepherd came hurrying past but, with the air thick with steam, did not see the open hole and fell into it, breaking his leg. Barrett and Harvey lifted him and carried him to the pump room where they tended to him. About fifteen minutes later there was a violent rush of water as the bulkhead separating boiler rooms 5 and 6 gave way. Harvey order Barrett up top as the section was inundated and he never saw he or Shepherd again.
Barrett made his way up to A-deck promenade and moved aft; he arrived where boat 13 had been lowered flush with that deck and claimed to see only a few stewards and a few third class men and women, with some more steerage women filtering forward from aft. Boat 13 was already nearly full when he climbed in, with a handful of people following him in after. From above he heard the order "Let no more in that boat, the falls will break" and the boat was lowered to B-deck momentarily before beginning its full descent. Lifeboat 15 began lowering just moments later.
When lifeboat 13 hit the water the discharge coming from the side of the ship caused her to drift aft, directly under lifeboat 15. Calls from those in the boat to stop lowering fell on deaf ears and Barrett had to scramble over women to cut the falls and push the boat free; his quick thinking undoubtedly saved the lives of those in the boat, which he estimated to be about 70 persons in total. The boat was so crowded that Barrett estimated the gunwale was less than six inches above the water.
Barrett took the tiller once boat 13 had gotten clear; after the Titanic had sunk he relinquished the tiller to another crewman as he was too cold to continue, wearing only his light clothing designed for work in the hot boiler rooms. A kindly lady put a cloak around him and he fell asleep.
Barrett was called to testify at both the American and British Inquiries into the sinking; his later testimony hinted that the bulkhead that gave way may have been weakened by a fire that smouldered in the bunkers throughout the voyage:
Had it Anything to Do With The Disaster?
Lord Mersey yesterday put a striking question to Frederick Barrett, a leading stoker on the Titanic.
A few weeks later, on 25 May, Frederick Barrett was working on the Olympic. When Senator Smith was given a tour of the Titanic's sister by Captain Haddock as part of his investigation, Haddock mentioned that one of his stokers had been aboard Titanic, and Smith then went down to the engine room to talk with Barrett and get a better impression of how conditions had been aboard Titanic in the boiler rooms at the time of the collision. He was still working at sea at the advent of the 1920s but for how long is not for certain.
Barrett was described as a fireman when, on 16 February 1915, he was wedded in St Nicholas' Church, Liverpool to Mary Ann Jones (b. 1882), daughter of carter Thomas Jones; both their addresses was given as Robert Street.
It is uncertain as to how many children Frederick and Mary had and it may have been the case that several children did not survive early infancy. One of their younger children was Harold (b. 1921).
Frederick lost his wife Mary Ann in 1923 aged just 39; he did not remarry and remained in Liverpool and later worked on shore as a timber labourer, later living at 22 Brasenose Road. Being afflicted with pulmonary tuberculosis in his last years he died on 3 March 1931 aged 48. His death left his son Harold an orphan and the only surviving member of the family.
Young Harold was raised by an uncle in Bootle; he married Josephine Teresa Berry (1923-2004) in 1951 and had twins, Frederick and Susan (b. 1955). He died in Liverpool in 1974.