Mr Albert Edward James Horswill (Able seaman) was born in West Ham, Essex, England on 26 March 1879.
He was the son of Roger Horswill (1841-1909), a policeman, and Mary Jane Prouse 1 (1840-1884), both natives of Devon who were married in 1860.
He had nine known siblings: Charles Henry (b. 1861), Fanny (b. 1864), Clara Jane (b. 1868), Susan Ann (b. 1870), William Prouse (b. 1872), Mary Louisa (b. 1874), Alfred Thomas (b. 1877), Alice Maud (b. 1881) and Walter John (b. 1883).
The Horswill family had moved from Devon to Essex sometime around 1869 and Albert appears on the 1881 census living with his family at 328 Romford Road, West Ham. His mother died in 1884 and his father was remarried the following year to Mary Frances Staples (b. 1853), a lady whose origins are not clear; she had a daughter named Kate (b. 1880 in Chevening, Kent) from a previous relationship. That marriage was short-lived and Mary died in 1888 aged 35, leaving her daughter Kate to be raised by the Horswills. She appears with them on the 1891 census whilst living at 36 Salisbury Road, West Ham. Albert, at the time, was still described as a schoolboy.
In a 1934 radio broadcast Albert told how, at age 11, he had run away from home to sail on a windjammer out of Liverpool. He joined the Royal Navy on 13 October 1896 and his first ship was the Impregnable, rising to the rank of able seaman by May 1902. Other ships he served aboard included: Collingwood, Vivid, Magnificent, Devastation, Andromeda, Cruiser, Royal Sovereign, Prometheus, Theseus, Cornwall, Cambridge and Europa, with his final Naval service being aboard the Argyll in March 1908 (2) after which he was invalided, reportedly due to hearing loss as a result of working with heavy artillery, a condition that lasted throughout his life and leading him to wear a hearing aid in later years. He was described as standing at 5' 4½", with dark brown hair, hazel-grey eyes and a fresh complexion, his conduct being described as either indifferent, fair or very good. He had been aboard the Royal Sovereign when, on 9 November 1901, one of her 6" guns exploded when the breech was not fully closed, killing an estimated 25 people aboard.
Albert joined the White Star Line following his discharge from the Navy and is believed to have made several trips aboard Oceanic as an able seaman, lookout and quartermaster. By April 1912 he was still unmarried.
When he signed onto the Titanic on 6 April 1912, Horswill gave his address as 44 Derby Road, Southampton and his previous ship as the Oceanic. As an able bodied seaman he received monthly wages of £5.
Horswill told how he had been in his bunk when the Titanic struck the iceberg; he immediately got up and got dressed. The boatswain arrived and initially ordered the men to remain in their quarters before returning and ordering them up top. He ascended to the boat deck and worked on slining out the port boats before moving over to the starboard side and doing the same. After this he was ordered to put a lamp and chronometer in lifeboat 2 after which he returned to the starboard side where he was ordered in lifeboat 1 by first officer William Murdoch, with orders to row out from the ship and return if ordered.
Horswill sat rowing at the bow end of the craft towards a light off the portside of the ship; he maintained that he heard no conversations take place with regards returning to the scene of the wreck or worries about the lifeboat being swamped. He conceded however that it would have been perfectly safe to return to the wreck to pick up survivors, feeling it to be "inhuman" to leave them behind.
Horswill subsequently testified at the British Inquiry into the disaster. He continued working with the White Star line until 1913 when he moved to the USA, settling in Illinois where he would relate his tale of survival in theatres to paying audiences.
He was married in November 1913 to Augusta R. Paetsch (b. 29 July 1892), a native of Illinois born to German parents. The marriage got off to a rocky start when, only a few months later, Horswill abandoned her and found himself in front of the courts in Chicago where he stated his income from warehouse work was barely enough to support one, let alone two. He also stated that it would have been better if he had went down with the Titanic. The two reconciled and went on to have four children: Agnes Marie (b. 1915), Walter John (b. 1920), Albert Edward (b. 1921) and Leroy Wilfred (b. 1930).
The family moved to Gary, Indiana around the turn of the 1920s where Horswill worked in a powder factory, later as a painter in a steel mill and finally as a carpenter. The 1940 census shows Albert and his family living at 4391 Maryland Street, Gary, Indiana. He retired in 1946 and moved to Humble, Texas in the 1950s where he spent the rest of his life.
Albert died on 7 April 1962 in the Keightley Nursing Home, Harris County, aged 83 and was buried at Rosewood Memorial Park on 10 April 1962, the 50th anniversary of Titanic's departure. The tune Nearer my God to Thee was reportedly played at his funeral service. His wife Augusta followed him in death on 18 February 1967.
His daughter Agnes was married three times, first in 1937 to Donald Nix (1914-1944), a Chicago-born steel mill worker who died young. Her second marriage was in 1945 to Paul Joseph Colarick (1908-1992), a divorced electrician hailing from New York and of Austrian parentage. This second marriage lasted less than a year and they were divorced, with Colarick remarrying his first wife, Mary Leshman. Her third and final marriage was to William E. Wilson (1917-1991), a steel mill clerk, and she had four children from her first and final marriages. Agnes died in Portage, Indiana on 20 August 1995.
Horswill's son Albert was married in 1974 but divorced less than two years later. He died in Indiana on 14 October 1998.
His son Walter was married in 1941 to Florence Elsie Reed (b. 1921) and they raised a family. He died in Harris, Texas in 1985.
His son Leroy was married to Gwendolyn Mae Clark (1933-2009). He died on 19 July 2006 in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Steve Coombes, UK
Chris Dohany, USA
Phillip Gowan, USA
Bob Nix, USA (Descendant of Albert Horswell)
John Kelly, USA
Brian Ticehurst, UK
- Name often incorrectly stated as Rouse. Her maiden name was definitely Prouse, with an alternate spelling being Prowse.
- Some sources state he was invalided in 1902 but the Royal Navy Registers show his service ongoing up until 5 March 1908 before his discharge.
United States Senate, Washington 1912. n° 806, Crew List
United States Senate (62nd Congress), Subcommittee Hearings of the Committee on Commerce, Titanic Disaster, Washington 1912
Wreck Commissioners' Court, Proceedings before the Right Hon. Lord Mersey on a Formal Investigation Ordered by the Board of Trade into the Loss of the S.S. Titanic
Exeter Flying Post
Newton Abbot Western Guardian
Western Morning News
Omaha Daily Bee, 18 January 1914 Sorry He Escaped Death to Marry Woman Later
Articles and Stories
Western Morning News (1912)
Totnes Times & Devon News (1912)
New York Times (1914)
Link and cite this biography
(2017) Albert Edward James Horswill Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #1342, accessed 24th June 2017 12:02:50 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/albert-edward-james-horswill.html
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