Interview with Major Frank Prentice

Frank Prentice recalls his rescue from the Titanic

BBC South Today

Interview with Major Frank Prentice

BBC South Today video interview with Frank Prentice.

There were only seven hundred and five survivors, few of them, of course, are still alive today. But amongst them is Major Frank Prentice from Bournemouth.

Major you worked in the Purser's office of the ship; you were only 18 at the time and you were in your cabin here in the mid ship's of the Titanic when the collision occurred, now what was the first you knew of the disaster?

Well we came to a sudden stop that's the first I knew about it and it was just like jamming your brakes on the car;  there was no impact, no great impact, you couldn't feel it, just a bit of a shudder and she stopped. 

Now when people realized the ship was actually sinking were there scenes of great panic.

At the end there was... it was chaotic, at the end.

What was happening

Well, everybody was crying, praying, trying to get into the few lifeboats that were left.  No, it was um, pretty sad at the end.

You met a woman didn't you and you gave her some advice.

Yes, well Mrs. Clark I got into a lifeboat she was having trouble getting her lifejacket on, so we fixed that for her,  and she didn't want to leave her husband... that was the trouble, half the women didn't want to leave their husbands. But anyway we got her, I got into a lifeboat as a precautionary measure and she's saying can my husband come with me, I said no he'll follow later on.

Well now how did you get off yourself?

Well I dropped off the stern just before she sank.

So you went right up to the stern, here?

It was quiet up there

Presumably, the stern was a long way out of the water by then?

Well, she was almost vertical when I left her. I was lying... I was hanging on to the board that says keep clear of propeller blades, but at the very end I was lying on it, and then I let go and I just missed the propellers on the way down.

How big was the drop?

I don't know well over a hundred feet.

I believe you've still got the watch you had at the time 

Yes, I have. 

Can we have a look at that?


What time did the ship actually sink?

I think she went down about quarter past two.

Right, well here's the watch and the watch says twenty past two, so and the watch kept going after you hit the water which presumably was freezing.

Yes, absolutely full of ice and bits of ice floes and berg's all around us.

Eventually you managed to get into a lifeboat.


Did you meet Mrs. Clark again?

Yes, I met her and I sat next to her and she wrapped a blanket around me and tried to keep me a bit warm and so I wasn't frozen solid.

And what about her husband?

Her husband was drowned.

What are the myths of the Titanic? Was the band playing Nearer My God to Thee?

Yes, yes.

Did you hear that?

I heard that. I heard that when I went for'ard the second time to put some stewardess into a lifeboat and I found they didn't know where to go what to do and on my way back I heard the band playing Nearer My God to Thee and them singing.

What about this theory that some of the men dressed up as women to get into the lifeboats?

I don't know I didn't see any that I know there were a lot of men saved they were 80 firemen I think of about 70-odd stewards and a lot of men saved I don't know how they got away they didn't swim because there were only seven picked up who lived

Who do you blame for this catastrophe?

I blame the bridge. I think a lot of the blame was on Bruce Ismay the chairman.

He was the chairman of the shipping line.

He was a chairman of the shipping line and I'm very much afraid he influenced Captain Smith so much that we we went straight for the ice there was no question about it we absolutely thrown away... that ship was thrown away,

Why though?

Why? For the sake of speed. We shouldn't have been anywhere near there because we had warnings that were there was ice there was ice all over the place. We had it from ships and shore and we went straight ahead as if there was nothing there in our way.

Does the memory of that night still hunt you now.

Well tonight I shall think a lot about it. Can't help it can you. 

Did you think at any stage you were going to die\

I didn't give it a thought when I was on the ship I didn't give it a thought when I dropped from the water but I gave it a long thought when I was on my own and everybody else seemed to be dead round me and then I thought I was going to die but I had a life jacket on and I had another one tucked under me and a cushion and I was just paddling towards where I saw the light.  We sent up rockets from the bridge and I could see where the lifeboats weree. I was on the poop and I had a very good view.

What a dreadful scene that must have been Major Prentiss thank you very much for joining us.

Thank you

Related Biographies:

Frank Winnold Prentice


Encyclopedia Titanica (2013) Interview with Major Frank Prentice (BBC South Today, 1982, ref: #19532, published 25 June 2013, generated 17th September 2020 11:18:11 PM); URL :