Mr Frederick Fleet
(Daily Sketch 25 April 1912)
Mr Frederick Fleet was born in Liverpool on 15 October 1887. He never knew his father and his mother abandoned him and ran away with a boyfriend to Springfield, Massachusetts never to be heard from again. Frederick was raised by a succession of foster families and distant relatives via orphanages and Dr Banardo Homes until the age of twelve when he was sent to a training ship, where he stayed until he was sixteen. In 1903 he went to sea as a deck boy, working his way up to Able Seaman.
Before signing-on the Titanic he had sailed for over four years as lookout on the Oceanic. He address was given as Norman Rd, Southampton.
As a seaman Fleet earned five pounds per month plus an extra 5 shillings for lookout duty. And it was as a lookout that Fleet joined the Titanic in April 1912.
On April 14, 1912, along with Mr Reginald Lee, Fleet took watch at 10pm, relieving Mr George Symons and Mr Archie Jewel from the previous watch. Just after seven bells, Fleet saw a black mass ahead, immediately struck three bells and telephoned the bridge. He reported "Iceberg right ahead," receiving the reply "Thank you." While still on the telephone, the ship started swinging to port. The lookouts saw the starboard side of the ship scrape alongside the iceberg, and saw ice falling on the decks. They had thought that it had been either a close shave or a near miss. The lookouts remained in the crows nest until relieved about 20 minutes later.
Fleet then made his way to the Boat Deck where Second Officer Charles Lightoller put him to help Quarter-Master Robert Hitchins load and launch lifeboat 6, the first boat to be launched from the port side. After loading some 28 women and children, the boat was lowered to the water. As it was being lowered, Lightoller realized that it was undermanned and called for a experienced seaman. Major Arthur Peuchen volunteered that he was had experience as a yatchtsman. Lightoller told him "I you are sailor enough to get out there - then go down"; and he proved he was by going down the fall to the boat. In the morning, Lifeboat 6 was picked up by the Carpathia.
From June 1912, Fleet served briefly as Seaman on the White Star liner Olympic. He found that White Star looked at the surviving officers and crew as embarassing reminders of the recent disaster and he left the company in August 1912. For the next 24 years Fleet sailed with Union-Castle and various other companies, finishing with the sea in 1936. Ashore, he worked for Harland and Wolff as a shipbuilder, and later was the shore Master-at-Arms for Union-Castle Mail Steamship Co. As he moved into old age, he sold newspapers on a street corner in Southampton.
On December 28, 1964, Fleet's wife died. Her brother, with whom the couple lived, then evicted Frederick, and in a state of despondency, he committed suicide two weeks later, his body being discovered on January 10 1965. He was buried in an unmarked paupers grave at Hollybrook Cemetry, Southampton. In 1993, a headstone was erected through donations by The Titanic Historical Society.
Philip Hind (Editor)
Related Articles and Documents
Titanic Passenger and Crew Summary
Name: Mr Frederick Fleet
Cause of Death: Hanging
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