Miss Alice Frances Louisa Phillips was born in Ilfracombe, Devon, England on 26 January 1891.
She was the only child of Cardiff-born parents, Escott Robert Phillips (b. 1868) and Hannah Maria Knight (b. 1868) who had married the year previous to her birth.
The family appear on the 1891 census living at 85 High Street in Ilfracombe. They appeared on the 1901 census living at 9 Belvedere, Ilfracombe and on the 1911 census at 23 Westbourne Grove, also in Ilfracombe where her mother had run a boarding house since 1904.
In 1911 her mother contracted tuberculosis and subsequently passed away in the August of that year; plans were therefore made to emigrate. Her uncle William Phillips had already crossed the Atlantic in 1892, working as a painter, and lived with his wife Bessie and daughter Ethel (b. 1893) in New Brighton near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was here that Alice was to resettle with her father who had secured a position as a factory foreman.
With the sale of their house complete they stayed for a short while at the Central Hotel in Ilfracombe from where, they were to travel on to Southampton to take passage aboard the American Line's Philadelphia. However the ongoing coal strike forced the cancellation of that ship and they were transferred to Titanic. On Tuesday 9 April 1912 Alice and Robert left Ilfracombe by train, arriving in Southampton 9 hours later. That evening they walked down to berth 44 to view the ship and later Alice wrote to her grandmother in Ilfracombe:
'Dad and I have been to look at the Titanic. It is a monstrous great boat as high as the Clarence Hotel, and I cannot tell you how long! We are going to embark tomorrow morning soon after breakfast.'
They embarked the ship as planned the following morning (ticket number 2 which cost £21) and enjoyed the first few days of the voyage, making friends with a family of four (possibly the Samuel Herman family) who shared their table at meal times. Alice shared a cabin with Cornish travellers Mrs Agnes Davis, her son John and Miss Maude Sincock, all of whom were from St Ives, Cornwall.
Alice was to survive the sinking, her father did not. The following account was printed in the North Devon Journal on 25 April 1912.
I was in the cabin,'' she said, ''when all at once there was a tremendous shock. Naturally I was dreadfully frightened, and at once ran outside. Just beyond the doorway I met the cabin steward, and asked him what had happened, but he assured me there was nothing wrong. Everything was all right, he said, and advised me to go back to the cabin.''
''I could not understand it, and felt there must be something amiss, but I listened to his advice, and, with many doubts, went back to the cabin.''
''Then I heard shouts and the sounds of general confusion on the deck, and determined to at least see what was being done for myself. Without a moment's further hesitation I rushed to the upper deck, and no sooner had I got there than someone picked me up and put me into one of the lifeboats.''
''There was already a large number of other women and children in the boat, and I had not been in it a few moments, and did not even fully understand what was the matter, when it was pushed off into darkness.''
''That was the last I saw of the 'Titanic', and I shall never see my poor father again.
The time was 1.25am, the lifeboat, number 12. It would be some 9 hours before Alice was to be lifted onto the Carpathia. Alice was ultimately met at pier 54 in New York by her uncle who took her to his home at 700 13th Street, New Brighton.
A letter written by Alice shortly after the disaster to an old school-friend Miss May Williams was subsequently published in the North Devon Journal:
My Dear May,
I expect you have read of the awful wreck of the 'Titanic', and have seen my name in the list of survivors? I expect you have. Oh! I cannot tell you how dreadful it was! My darling father has perished in the wreck, and I feel almost out of my mind with grief. You know how good he was to me, so you can imagine just what I feel like. It seems almost too hard to bear, dear.
I cannot give you a full account of everything that happened. It would take too long to tell, but I will try to describe something of it. I had gone to bed on the Sunday night, but was not asleep. About a quarter to twelve we felt an awful crash - when the boat struck an iceberg - and was nearly rocked out of bed. Soon after I heard the engines stop. I rung up the steward to enquire what had happened, and he said it was nothing serious, and that we could go to sleep. I did not feel satisfied. Father came to my cabin, and asked if I would care to go on deck with him; so I did. we had not been there long when someone said: ''All on deck with lifebelts on.''
I cannot tell you, dear, how I felt in that moment! Dad and I got our belts on, and I went on deck again, and then all the women and children were put into the lifeboats and lowered. I saw my dear father for the last time in this world, and I almost felt I would have liked to die with him. To see that boat sinking, and to know he was there was too terrible to think of. After drifting around for nine hours, almost frozen with the intense cold, we were rescued by the ''Carpathia.''
I cannot tell you the joy we felt when we were safely on the boat. We had hot coffee and brandy, which warmed us. We were sleeping in the smoke-room on the floor or anywhere, and were only too thankful to do so! We reached new York on Thursday evening, and my uncle was there to meet me. I cannot tell you how pleased I was to see him. We stayed at the Strand Hotel for the night, and the next day a lady, who is named Mrs Longstaffe, came and enquired for me, and took us to her home for the day, and provided me with some clothes. I lost everything I possessed, and had not a penny to call my own. I cannot forget the awful cries of those poor people who perished. It was simply awful!''
As a result of her ordeal Alice was ill for some time but after recovering sufficiently she decided to train as a stenographer at her uncle's workplace. After a few weeks, however, she became so homesick she returned to her relatives in England, arriving in Liverpool aboard the Baltic on 2 November 1912.
Alice received a total of $650 from various American relief sources.
Alice was married in St Mark's Church, Cheetham, Lancashire on 5 February 1916 to Henry Leslie Mead (b. 23 June 1892). Henry, an accounts clerk, was the son of a Welsh father and an English mother but had been born in Dublin, Ireland and returned to England as a small child and was raised in Droylsden, Lancashire.
Henry and Alice welcomed their only child, a daughter named Josephine, in 1921. Alice died, reportedly as a result of influenza, in Salford, Manchester in mid-1923 1 aged just 31; her infant daughter Josephine would follow her in death towards the end of the year.
Her widower Henry was remarried in 1924 to Frances Rebecca Littlemore (1903-1990) and raised a family. He later died in Southport in 1977 aged 84.
Articles and Stories
Western Morning News (1912)
Ilfracombe Gazette (1891)
Brooklyn Daily Times (1912)
North Devon Journal (1912)
Western Times (1912)
- Date of death frequently stated incorrectly as 1916.
Exeter Flying Post
Western Morning News
The Ilfacombe Gazette, 19 April 1912