I noticed someone researching and posting the graves of crew members a while ago, I've just been up to the Hollybrook cemetery on tremona road looking for my Great-Grandparents site. As I was there I shot the two well known titanic graves.
I must say I was a little surprised by the appearance of it.
Does anyone know ... did the guy originally have a headstone? Most of the graves in there do not.
I spoke briefly to the (very helpful and informed) guard on the gate to Hollybrook. He told me it was not uncommon for families to come all the way from Aus or the US to see ancestors buried in the cemetery and for them to find all there is is an unmarked patch.
There are 7 titanic graves in Hollybrook which have been discovered so far, and another 13 in other cemeteries in Southampton all which survived the sinking and also have been located. Many of them are unmarked.
I'll second that, I had some of Brian's material for my own trip to Southampton, and very invaluable it was, too.
Poor old Fleet, I'm sure he wouldn't want that on his grave! It's one thing for the THS to pay for a gravestone on an otherwise unmarked grave, but quite another to then put your own name on that stone along with a picture of the ship! Something I'm sure Fleet would never have wanted. Who were they to make that decision?
I too have always thought this was an extremely insensitive thing to do.
Hollybrook Cemetery draws many visitors, such as those seeking the WW1 Memorial and the grave of Benny Hill, to name but two examples. Goodness knows how many people who know little about the Titanic have happened upon this headstone. Many of these might assume that the disaster was due to the lookout failing to spot the iceberg. I can just imagine the remarks that may have been made over poor Fred’s grave.
And the generosity of the THS would be seen as more sincere had they not seen fit to make it so inappropriately public.
"They" were the ones who were picking up the tab to pay for it. That's not to say I agree with it, but since I wasn't paying the bills, I didn't get a vote. Personally, I'd be very reluctant to speculate on what Fred Fleet would have wanted since he wasn't available to ask but I've a hunch that Titanic was one milestone in his life he would have preferred to forget.
As to THS's motives, I have to wonder if anyone would have preferred that the grave go unmarked as it was originally?
The normal situation regarding a grave, is that someone purchases a grave plot — I have mine already by the way. This is usually done when the first incumbent is interred. The grave owner retains ownership of the grave plot and if there is room for more than one then they can inter who they wish in the plot. There are records of who the owner of plots are, and if the owner dies then the rules that normally apply is that their descendents can apply for the deeds (records) to be changed to make them the owner.
Once the grave is full no one has any interest in keeping the deed records up to date, and it is normal to find that the owner is still say a Wife who died decades ago, long buried in the grave they own, but is in the Council’s interests to have a valid owner, as if there are any problems they have someone to contact.
It would be interesting to find out who the owner of Frederick Fleet’s grave is? Anyway only the owner can request a permit to have any work done on the Memorial headstone. On rare occasions, if an owner cannot be found the council will take ownership for themselves and do what is required to say make the headstone safe.
All headstone designs, in particular the wording, must be approved by the council.
“As to THS's motives, I have to wonder if anyone would have preferred that the grave go unmarked as it was originally?”
No, of course not, but it is a pity that the inscription is, shall we say, what they wanted rather than what was most diplomatic and appropriate. I wish they had given more thought to how it might be perceived by those less well-informed about the Titanic. And they are the majority - people like my late mother, who only knew the basic facts that the ship hit an iceberg and sank with the loss of many lives. Her opinion of the lookout men? “Well, they couldn’t have been doing their job properly, could they?” I was able to explain to her that it wasn’t that simple, but there are many, many people like her.
I believe Fred had no known living relatives when he died, so I imagine the plot belongs to the cemetery authorities.
Of course we have no way of knowing what Fred’s preference would have been, but I will note here that the first time I saw Captain Rostron’s grave, it carried no reference to either the Carpathia or the Titanic. I see that an inscription has been added in recent years. This strikes me as wrong if the family chose not to do it at the time.
As a former member of the THS, I remember when the Society put up the headstone. I truly believe that Mr. Kamuda just wanted to let others know where Mr. Fleet was buried and to acknowledge his part in the Titanic story. Some may feel the stone is a bit over the top, but I feel it was a touching gesture. I also believe Mr. Kamuda had had some correspondence with Mr. Fleet and he felt a special effort was needed to recognize the man.
Edward Kamuda used to send Frederick Fleet gifts and maybe some money. Fleet hanged himself from a clothes line and Ed heard about his death on the news. A few days later, Ed got a letter from Fleet, probably his last, saying he had nothing to live for, that his wife and all his peers had died. Ed was deeply moved by Fleet's death and wanted to mark his grave. Robert H. Gibbons
According to a talk given by a Southampton tour guide this morning in their 95th anniversary commemorations, Fleet's descendant weren't informed on the gravestone and didn't know about it. I'm not sure if they were disgusted (hopefully get some more info on this soon), but they said that Fleet was unassuming and didn't want, or give any publicity about his connection with the Titanic.
PS Yes, Fleet did have living relatives when he died and they visit his grave regularly.
>>That's interesting, Paul. Are they blood relatives, or relatives through his wife?>>
I would be interested in knowing as well. I have longed to find more detailed information out on Fleet's early and later life, as I know the basics but finding out the less known details has been much more difficult.