He signed onto the Titanic on 6th April 1912, as “F Martin” of 13,High Street, Fareham. His age was given as 29, and previous ship the Adriatic. He survived, was paid expenses to attend the British Hearing (£6 8shillings and sixpence !) but wasn’t called to testify. And that is about as much as we seem to know about him.
We have recently obtained the Seamen’s record (CR10) from the 4th Register of Seamen for him. This gives his D.O.B as 28th June 1882 in Portsmouth, and a full name of “Frank Edward Martin”. He is rated as a Steward, and there is a photograph.
Searches for his birth records throw up nothing, and the census in 1911 doesn’t either. He was not living at 13, High Street (it was occupied by a carter called Charles Mellish and family), nor is there a similarly aged Frank Martin with any seafaring occupation in the Hampshire area around that time.
There are two Crews Agreements from the Adriatic in 1911 that show F Martin, again as a scullion. On 29th May 1911 he gives his address as 5, Colorado Street, Gosport and in 26 June 1911 5, Colorado Road, Gosport. His previous ship is given as the Teutonic, but sadly the Crew Agreements don’t seem available for the 1910/11 period for this ship.
There is no Colorado Road/Street in Gosport, but there is a 5, Coronado Road. Frank Martin is not living there on the 2nd April 1911 census records, despite signing onto the Adriatic with that address a matter of weeks later.
However, a Henry Reginald Lee was living in 5, Coronado Road, and he gives his occupation as “Ships Steward”.
Now Henry Reginald Lee does exist in the records, and his birth/death/marriage certificates give his D.O.B as 28th June 1882 in Portsmouth (the same as Frank Martin). His occupation as Steward is also restated on the birth certificate of his daughter, born in 1911.
So we have two people, with the same birthdates and place, the same occupation, and (bar the repeated spelling mistake) supposedly living in the same house in April 1911.
The simple conclusion, just based on the primary sources, is that they are one and same person.
From a more subjective position (HR Lee was my Great-Grandfather) Henry had always told his family he survived the Titanic, although there appears to some confusion as to his position; cook, steward and even lookout frequently appear. In 1958 he attended the Portsmouth premiere of “A Night To Remember” and told the local newspaper he was a cook on the Titanic. The writing on the 1911 census and the signature on the Adriatic crew register are very similar, and family photographs match with the CR10 record photo of Frank Martin.
He was also the teller of very tall tales, which have probably not helped in uncovering the facts. Although one wonders what nuggets are hidden in the embellishments and Chinese-whispers handed down the generations. Was Henry in fact the unknown seaman in LifeBoat 8, as he talked about pulling the Countess of Rothes from the sea so maybe he was in her lifeboat (not that she went in the sea, perhaps he helped he out of the lifeboat) ?
Tall tales aside, I think it is an extraordinary story, Henry has been using an alias for several years to work in passenger liners with no apparent problems, and then suddenly he finds himself in the middle of one of the biggest stories of the century and he is using an assumed name.
No wonder some of the local news reports are rather confused about the identities of the local crew. One lists Frank Martin AND a Tom Lee as living in the High Street, Fareham, although it is due to these conflicting newspaper reports (found by David Lee, many thanks!) that we found the Frank Martin details whilst looking for Tom Lee.
So, unless anyone has evidence to the contrary, then I am claiming Frank Martin as Henry Reginald Lee !
Some people have called him a “faker”, which is true; he faked his identity but clearly not his story.