Mr Joseph Pierre Duquemin was born in Guernsey 1 in the Channel Islands on 24 November 1887 2.
He was the eldest child of Joseph Pierre Duqemin (b. 1866), a stonemason, and Ann Louise Quentin (b. 1866), both natives of Castel, Guernsey who had married around 1887. One of ten surviving children from a total of fourteen, Joseph's known siblings were: Walter (b. 1888), Elise (b. 1890), Nora (b. 1891), Nelson (b. 1893), Lillian (b. 1895), Harry (b. 1898), Florry (b. 1899), Adele Emilie (b. 1897), Rita (b. 1900) and Gerald (b. 1904).
Joseph and his family appear on both the 1901 and 1911 census records living at Port Grat in St Sampson and by the time of the latter record Joseph was described as an unmarried labourer in a quarry.
He boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a third class passenger (ticket number S.O./P.P. 752 which cost £7 11s) and he was travelling with Howard Hugh Williams. Another friend, Albert Denbuoy, was travelling in second class. Joseph's destination was Albion, New York.
On the night of the sinking Joseph Duquemin aided the women to find lifeboats. At one point he took off his overcoat and wrapped it around a shivering seven-year-old girl Eva Hart. He claimed that he helped others until he was waist-deep in water before turning to Howard Williams (some sources say Albert Denbouy) to tell him that he was jumping. He jumped and made for collapsible D, but his friend fell victim to the suction. Joseph said that at first he was refused permission to board the lifeboat but was soon allowed on when he told the crew that he could handle an oar.3 Later he claimed to pull another swimmer out of the water. Another male passenger in the lifeboat, Frederick Hoyt, is believed by family to have later assisted Duquemin in obtaining work in Stamford, Connecticut.
News of the sinking reached Joseph's family back in Guernsey later on that day. His brother Gerald related that his mother was in severe shock and a doctor had to be sent for. Word of Joseph's safety arrived by a telegram, which is reported to have read: "Joseph Duquemin reported safe, Ismay." The telegram and envelope are still in the hands of Joseph's descendants.
Duquemin would never return to his native Guernsey and for a time he was plagued by nightmares about the disaster. He also suffered badly from the frostbite in his legs, derived from his time in the water.
Arriving in New York and following recuperation Joseph went to work in upstate New York before moving to Sterling, Windham, Connecticut in the late 1910s. He later served in the US Army as an infantryman following the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914-1918. He eventually settled in Stamford, Connecticut and worked at the Yale & Towne Manufacturing Company and, during the 1930s, helped build Stamford High School's Boyle Stadium.
He was married in the 1920s to a Connecticut-born Irish-American, Marion Flanaghan (b. 1900) and had two daughters, Mary (1929-1976, later Mrs Robert Knapp) and Marilyn (1931-1985, later Mrs Frank Merrill) and a son, Joseph (b. 1932). The family continued to reside in Stamford.
In later years Joseph's physical health deteriorated, likely as a result of his frostbite and he would lose two toes to gangrene before both his legs were amputated by the time of the mid-1940s. Despite his ailments Joseph is remembered as being very strict, honest and independent but the subject of the Titanic was rarely discussed in the household. He would often lament, however, over his birthplace of Guernsey which he is said to have missed terribly.
Joseph died in Stamford Hospital on 1 June 1950. He was buried in the Veterans' Plot in Spring Grove Cemetery, Darien, Connecticut. His widow Marion died in 1979.
Less than two years after Joseph's death, on 26 April 1952, his son Joseph was serving in the US Navy during the Korean War and was aboard the aircraft carrier USS Wasp when that vessel collided with and sank another US Navy ship, the minesweeper Hobson, whilst conducting night flying operations en route to Gibraltar. Whilst there were many casualties aboard Hobson, Wasp was badly damaged but saw no fatalities. Joseph Jr would also, in later years, visit his father's birthplace in Guernsey where several family members still resided, including his youngest brother Gerald.
Years after his death Eva Hart visited the Duquemin family in Guernsey where she told of Joseph's gallantry and thanked his family.
- Census records differ on his precise place of birth. The 1891 census gives his birthplace as St Mary De Castro, Guernsey whilst the 1901 and 1911 censuses state St Sampson.
- Age disputed. When he was travelling on board Titanic he gave his age as 24 which supports the 1887 birthdate. The 1891, 1901 and 1911 census records give his age as 4, 14 and 24 respectively suggesting he may have been a year older. In later years his given year of birth fluctuated between 1889 and 1896, depending on source. It is generally accepted that Joseph was 24 (+/- 1) in 1912
- Some historians speculate that he did not swim to a boat, to date, as no independent verification of the story has boeen found.
References and Sources
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55)
Jersey Topic, April 1967 "They sailed on the Titanic"
Marriages, births, deaths and injuries that have occurred on board during the voyage (PRO London, BT 100/259-260)
Names and Descriptions of British Passengers Embarked at the Port of Southampton, 10 April 1912 (PRO London, BT 27/780B)
Orleans American, 2 May 1912: Survivors of Titanic
Guernsey Evening Press, 19 April 1990: Local folk on the first and last voyage of the Titanic
Unidentified newspaper (Guernsey), 25 May 1991: Survivors at Sea - Like father, like son
Gavin Bell, UK
Peter Engberg-Klarström, Sweden
Arne Mjaland, Norway
Hermann Söldner, Germany
Articles and Stories
Unidentified Newspaper (1950)
Guernsey Evening Press (1912)
Guernsey Evening Press (1912)
Guernsey Evening Press (1912)