Identity theft


Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,594
983
388
65
I am trying to collate instances of false claims by people who had nothing to do with the Titanic but years or even decades later claimed that the were one of the survivors etc.

One case into which I have done some research is about a woman named Vera Hanson (nee Edwards) who in the early 1950s (around the time Walter Lord was researching into the Titanic) claimed to be none other than Titanic survivor Virginia Martin-Emanuel. Virginia Martin-Emanuel had not been seen or heard from since 1924 but the grounds that Vera Hanson put forward in her claim were almost hilariously inconsistent with almost everything that is known about Virginia-Martin-Emanuel. Whoever this Vera Hanson was, she had nothing to do with the Titanic and most certainly was not Virginia Martin-Emanuel. And yet, several geneology sites seem to accept Hanson's story as did Andrew Wilson in his book Shadow of the Titanic.

I have discussed this Hanson claim in detail under Virginia-Martin-Emanuel's thread on these forums.

Can people please post similar cases of identity theft ie where someone nothing to do with the disaster later claimed to be a genuine survivor (not a non-existent one) but who was not?
 

Thomas Krom

Member
Nov 22, 2017
221
366
108
There is one story that comes to mind regarding identify theft, but it was not the name of a survivor but the name of a victim.



In 1940 a woman by the name of Helen Kramer claimed she was Helen Loraine Allison, the only child victim in first class who died among her parents Hudson Creighton Allison and Bess Allison in the disaster. The only survivor of the Allison family was their only son Hudson Trevor Allison who was just 11 months old. He was raised by his uncle and aunt but sadly died at the young age of just 18 years old in 1929.





Helen Kramer claimed one thing that absolutely makes me the most angry and that is regarding the person she claimed “her father” gave to during the sinking. She claimed the man by the name of James Hyde was in fact Thomas Andrews Jr (1873-1912). As someone with a very personal connection to Thomas Andrews Jr, which I prefer to keep to myself for now, I see this claim as impossible and just disrespectful since he was a devoted husband to his wife Helen “Nellie” Reilly Andrews and his only daughter Elizabeth Law Barbour-Andrews and (among having a very good position at Harland and Wolff) if one keeps those things in mind it is understandable why the claim is in very poor taste.





Luckily in December 2012 a DNA test was done that proved that Helen Kramer lied about it all. She can be considered in my book as the Anna Anderson (the infamous impostor who claimed she was Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia) of the Titanic.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: 2 users
Mar 18, 2008
2,652
1,153
248
Germany
Max Dittmar-Pittmann has claimed to had been Titanic's officer.

Long story short, he was an impostor. The name is similar to 3rd officer Pitman but that is all. In the 1930s he became famous in Germany and he even made it into a novel about the ship. Later when the lie came out the officers name in the novel was changed to Petersen which got also the name of the German officer in the 1943 movie Titanic.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users

Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,594
983
388
65
In 1940 a woman by the name of Helen Kramer claimed she was Helen Loraine Allison, the only child victim in first class who died among her parents Hudson Creighton Allison and Bess Allison in the disaster. The only survivor of the Allison family was their only son Hudson Trevor Allison who was just 11 months old. He was raised by his uncle and aunt but sadly died at the young age of just 18 years old in 1929.
Oh yes, thanks. I recall reading about that case.

Max Dittmar-Pittmann has claimed to had been Titanic's officer.
Thanks IG. Am I right in thinking that even the name Max-Ditmar-Pitmann was false or was there a real person by that name who claimed to be Herbert Pitman?
 
Mar 18, 2008
2,652
1,153
248
Germany
Am I right in thinking that even the name Max-Ditmar-Pitmann was false or was there a real person by that name who claimed to be Herbert Pitman?

That name is real, Captain Max Dittmar-Pittmann.
He did not change his name by the way. In 1930s he claimed to had been 3rd officer on Titanic (if I remember right). 3rd officer was Pitman. As you see the name is similar (Pitman / Pittmann) and so no one really questioned his story.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,594
983
388
65
As you see the name is similar (Pitman / Pittmann) and so no one really questioned his story.
Thanks. You are right; those days they did not realise how famous the Titanic disaster was going to be and so apart from a few like Walter Lord, they did not check people's claims too closely.

In the case that I mentioned, Vera Hanson hired a shady lawyer named L M Wilkins to investigate her claim. Wilkins apparently contacted Walter Lord about Hanson's claim to be Virginia Emanuel but received no response. I have no doubt that Walter Lord, who had researched into and interviewed many Titanic survivors by then, could see a fake when he saw one. The Hanson claim is so hilariously fake, showing that the claimant did not even check facts before going ahead.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
Mar 18, 2008
2,652
1,153
248
Germany
Thanks. You are right; those days they did not realise how famous the Titanic disaster was going to be and so apart from a few like Walter Lord, they did not check people's claims too closely.

In case of Dittmarr-Pittmann the story is a very interesting one. Joseph Pelz von Felinau wrote a book about Titanic using parts of this fake officers story. Dittmarr-Pttmann also wrote a foreword for that book stating that everything stated there is true. Later when Felinau found out about the lie, he removed the foreword and changed the officers name to Petersen. Part of the book and the German officer Petersen found its way into the 1943 movie. Felinau seems to have written a rough script for that movie....
Pelz von Felinau is also of interest as back in 1912 he himself has claimed to had been a Titanic survivor later changed his story to had been a passenger aboard Carpathia during that fateful night before coming up with the true story that he was not aboard Titanic or Carpathia at any time.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
B

Bob_Read

Guest
If you took the number of people who have claimed to be related to someone on the Titanic then there must have been about a million passengers on Titanic.
 
  • Like
  • Haha
Reactions: 1 users

Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,594
983
388
65
Later when Felinau found out about the lie, he removed the foreword and changed the officers name to Petersen. Part of the book and the German officer Petersen found its way into the 1943 movie.
I have the DVD of the 1943 Nazi Titanic film but it is some years that I saw it. As I recall, it is unintentionally funny. There is a 'gallant' German officer (probably Petersen) who is brave and kind (and of course a Nazi :D ) who really wants to help the passengers but is thwarted by rich, selfish Englanders and Americaners. Something like that.

I'll look for it and see it tonight.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user
Mar 18, 2008
2,652
1,153
248
Germany
It was my fist movie about Titanic I saw. I still like it somehow, the music is great and the plots are exciting.
The director Helbert Seplin was against the nazis, he did not do the changes they wanted for the movie, end of story he was put in prison and died there. They said he committed suicide but actually was killed.

However going back a little to Dittmarr-Pittmann I forgot that I have his biography which he published in 1925. Here is a drawing of Captain Max Dittmarr-Pittmann. His last chapter is about Titanic. There he claimed that he met Captain Smith (which he knew from old times) in London the day before sailing and Smith asked him if he would join him on Titanic as 3rd officer as the original 3rd officer (no name mentioned) became ill and they were one officer short. Of course he said yes and joint Titanic as the new 3rd Officer. (The book by Felinau start with that meeting by the way.)
Max Dittmarr-Pittmann.png
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users

Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,594
983
388
65
There he claimed that he met Captain Smith (which he knew from old times) in London the day before sailing and Smith asked him if he would join him on Titanic as 3rd officer as the original 3rd officer (no name mentioned) became ill and they were one officer short.
Perhaps someone should have told Herr Dittmar-Pitmann that he did well to "get away" in Lifeboat #5 so early. He might have quickly withdrawn his claim. ;)
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 users

Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,594
983
388
65
Not a true identity theft but Walter Belford, who told Walter Lord that he was the "Chief Night Baker" on board the Titanic was another out and out fake. He appears to have 'borrowed' the story of Charles Joughin, the one and only Chief Baker on board the Titanic and a survivor as well as the similarly sounding name of William Bedford, an assistant cook on board and Titanic victim.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Cam Houseman

Member
Jul 14, 2020
2,212
531
188
16
Maryland, USA
Not a true identity theft but Walter Belford, who told Walter Lord that he was the "Chief Night Baker" on board the Titanic was another out and out fake. He appears to have 'borrowed' the story of Charles Joughin, the one and only Chief Baker on board the Titanic and a survivor as well as the similarly sounding name of William Bedford, an assistant cook on board and Titanic victim.
Interesting, are there any other examples of survivors borrowing stories?
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,594
983
388
65
Interesting, are there any other examples of survivors borrowing stories?
Not sure what you mean. People like Helen Kramer, Walter Belford, Vera Hanson, Max Dittmarr-Pittmann etc were NOT survivors themselves and had nothing to do with the Titanic. They 'stole' parts of genuine survivor's identities, sometimes with similar names and made-up life stories. In most cases, for example Vera Hanson, they made hilariously bad jobs of it.

I know of no case where a genuine survivor 'borrowed' a story, but I suppose there were imposters on board. The most obvious case was that of "Louis Hoffman" who was really Michel Navratil but he did not survive. I have heard vague stories about survivor August Wennerstrom but according to my Scandinavian contacts, there is bit of a grey line between truth and fiction in his case. They tell me that he had legally changed his surname from Andersson to Wennerstrom following 'disagreements' with the Swedish authorities over some of his radical publications but some claim wrongly that Wennerstrom was a false name.
 
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Cam Houseman

Member
Jul 14, 2020
2,212
531
188
16
Maryland, USA
Not sure what you mean. People like Helen Kramer, Walter Belford, Vera Hanson, Max Dittmarr-Pittmann etc were NOT survivors themselves and had nothing to do with the Titanic. They 'stole' parts of genuine survivor's identities, sometimes with similar names and made-up life stories. In most cases, for example Vera Hanson, they made hilariously bad jobs of it.
I know of Kramer, she was a nutjob, lol.

I mean, survivors borrowing elements of other's story to add to their own to make it more "eciting" or simply fill in the gaps
 

Arun Vajpey

Member
Jul 8, 1999
2,594
983
388
65
I mean, survivors borrowing elements of other's story to add to their own to make it more "eciting" or simply fill in the gaps
Embellishment of circumstances of one's own survival happened a LOT with several survivors, especially the men who must have suffered from the so called "survivor's guilt". Several claimed that they "swam for hours" before being picked up by lifeboats eg Robert Daniel, who also said in one of his statements that he was naked at the time. Others claimed that they were beaten by oars by the occupants of lifeboats before being allowed in; with Collapsible B, at least one survivor claimed that he waited hanging on to the boat and treading water till someone already standing on the overturned lifeboat died. He was then nonchalantly pushed into the sea and the claimant pulled on board.

In reality, the fittest survivor would have been unconscious after about 20 minutes in the water. Most would have been dead in 30 minutes. (In case someone is thinking on those lines, never confuse carefully controlled and monitored induced surgical hypothermia with people trapped in an icy ocean)

I know that I will be pilloried for this but I have always believed that Lightoller's story about going down with the Titanic before being blown back to the surface from deep within by a jet of hot air is nothing but........well, hot air. I am not arguing that such a thing is not possible but I just don't believe it happened to Lightoller.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: 1 user

Cam Houseman

Member
Jul 14, 2020
2,212
531
188
16
Maryland, USA
I know that I will be pilloried for this but I have always believed that Lightoller's story about going down with the Titanic before being blown back to the surface from deep within by a jet of hot air is nothing but........well, hot air. I am not arguing that such a thing is not possible but I just don't believe it happened to Lightoller.
Howdy Arun,
I'm starting with this quote because its the most exciting in my opinion, lol

actually, on the wreck, the Fidley's are actually bent upwards, I have attached an image from 1987
IFREMER, 1987
1625310565234.png

Embellishment of circumstances of one's own survival happened a LOT with several survivors, especially the men who must have suffered from the so called "survivor's guilt". Several claimed that they "swam for hours" before being picked up by lifeboats eg Robert Daniel, who also said in one of his statements that he was naked at the time. Others claimed that they were beaten by oars by the occupants of lifeboats before being allowed in; with Collapsible B, at least one survivor claimed that he waited hanging on to the boat and treading water till someone already standing on the overturned lifeboat died. He was then nonchalantly pushed into the sea and the claimant pulled on board.
Interesting! I remember reading in "A Night to Remember" a survivor divorced her husband simply because he had survived. It seems few women, well, mostly those who did not board the starboard boats, did not know Men were allowe to board if there was space left.
 

Similar threads

Similar threads