Mr John Joseph Diaper was born on 2 February 1885 the son of Richard Diaper (1850-1898) and Mary Jane Diaper (nee Diaper, 1859-1928) in Itchen, Hampshire.
He was at school in Peartree near Southampton, and by the the 1901 census he was listed as a labourer in a coal wharf.
He served in the Army from 1902 to 1909
According to his continuous Certificate of Discharge (#688218) he was 5ft 9½ in. tall, with brown eyes and auburn hair and a fair complexion.
Diaper worked mainly as a Trimmer and Fireman on various ships including Carisbrook Castle, Araguaya, Adriatic, Teutonic and Oceanic.
Immediately before joining the Titanic he had been serving abpoard the Olympic.
John Joseph Diaper and Alice Strange (6 Dec 1890-3 Aug 1951) were married in the June quarter of 1911. It has been suggested that they most likely married in the first two weeks of June as that is the only time he was home for a two week period.
John Joseph’s 1st child was born some time between Jan – March 1912 a girl named Alice, but she
died in the same quarter of 1912
When he signed onto the Titanic he gave his age as 24 and his address as 102 Derby Road, Southampton. These were probably lodgings.
Diaper survived the sinking. It is not known in which lifeboat he escaped the ship. He informed his wife of his rescue by telegram sent 20th April 1912: “J Diaper Saved”.
When he got back to Plymouth on the 20th April 1912 he sent a telegram to his wife asking her to meet him at West Station at 11 tonight. This telegram was sent to 102 Derby Road, Southampton.
Soon after the family moved to 14 Hartington Road, Southampton where they would live for many years.
Between 1913 and 1923 a further six children would be born including twin boys.
He returned to the sea and served as fireman on board the Arcadian in 1913 and Oceanic in 1914. Afterwhich he he was called up for military service. He served with the Hampshire Regiment but was wounded in November 1914. After treatment in Sheffield he returned to active servcie as a cook mainly with the Royal Engineers.
After being demobbed he worked in Southampton Docks as a Stevedore, and also for a steel company.
In the 1920s the family moved to Haselbury Plucknett, Somerset. According to the Diaper family history timeline he worked as a casual labourer for a plastic mouldings company and did tree felling from time-to-time.
John Joseph lost his wife in August 1951 and died at his home on 27th February 1955. He was buried at the church of St Michael in Haselbury Plucknett and has a memorial stone there.
His true identity a mystery for many years John Joseph was finally revealed as the J. Diaper that had been aboard the Titanic at an exhibition organised by the Diaper Heritage Society.
References and Sources
United States Senate, Washington 1912. n° 806, Crew List
1891-1911 British Census
Somerset Memorial Inscriptions
Diaper Heritage Society (www.diaperheritage.com)
Bill Wormstedt, USA
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