He was the son of Thomas Brice (b. 1851), an agricultural labourer, and Annie Maria Payne (b. 1851), natives of Lenham who had married in late-1869. He had one known sibling, Katie Annie (b. 1872).
He appears as an infant on the 1871 census living at Forstal Cottage in Lenham. His father died at a young age and his mother was remarried in 1880 to Richard James Back (b. 1850 in Selling, Kent), affording Walter several step-siblings: Frederick (b. 1877), Mabel (b. 1879) and Maud (b. 1880), Florence (b. 1884), Herbert (b. 1886), Alfred (b. 1889) and Alice (b. 1890). Walter and his family appear on the 1881 census living at 12 North Lane, Faversham, Kent. Walter apparently went to sea at a young age.
Walter was married in Southampton in 1907 to Sarah McKenna (b. 1881), a native of Renfrewshire, Scotland. The couple would have no children and the 1911 census shows Sarah Brice living with her widowed mother, also called Sarah, at 36 Edward Street, Hebburn on Tyne, South Shields, Durham. Walter was absent and likely at sea.
When he signed on to the Titanic, on 6 April 1912, Walter gave his address as 11 Lower Canal Walk, (Southampton). As a seaman he could expect monthly wages of £5. He gave his previous ship as the Thames. He is also known to have served on the Majestic and Oceanic previously.
Brice was in the forward port Mess Hall on C Deck, when the Titanic hit the iceberg. He described the impact as "like a heavy vibration." After going up to the boat deck, Brice helped lower Lifeboat 9 on the starboard side to A-Deck for passengers to enter it, then lower it to the water. He then helped lower his assigned boat, lifeboat 11 to A Deck. Shortly after 1:00 am, when 11 was ready to be lowered to the ocean with over 70 people, an unknown officer asked if there were any seamen in the lifeboat, and Brice climbed down the fall into the boat. After shipping the rudder, he helped keep the lifeboat out of the pump discharge coming from the Titanic's side. When no light was found, Walter cut the lashing from an oil lamp, and cut rope for torches. Brice saw the Titanic sink from a quarter mile away, he heard two explosions before she sank, but was unable to say whether the Titanic broke in two.
Brice survived the disaster and was a witness at the US Senate Inquiry. He continued working at sea and was widowed a few years later. He was remarried in Thanet, Kent in 1919 to Caroline Rose Hannah Garwood, née Gard (b. 1875 in Ramsgate, Kent), the childless widower of Alfred Garwood (b. 1874), a fisherman. The couple remained in Thanet, Kent where Walter was made a widower in 1926. He passed away two years later in 1928 aged 58.
References and Sources
Donald Hyslop, Alastair Forsyth and Sheila Jemima (1997) Titanic Voices: Memories from the Fateful Voyage, Sutton Publishing, Southampton City Council. ISBN 0 7509 1436 X
Wyn Craig Wade (1979, 1986) The Titanic: End of a Dream. London, Penguin
United States Senate, Washington 1912. n° 806, Crew List
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(2015) Walter Thomas Brice Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #1323, accessed 2nd December 2015 01:31:57 AM)
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