Mr Edenser Edward Wheelton 1 was born in Walton, Liverpool, Lancashire, England on 31 March 1884 2 and was baptised in St Mary's, Walton on 7 January the following year.
He was the son of William Thomas Wheelton (1853-1927), a mariner, and Sarah Capper (1852-1921) who both hailed from Cheshire and who had married in Lancashire in 1882, producing three children: John (b. 1879) 3, William Thomas (b. 1887) and Edenser.
Edenser first appears on the 1891 census of England; at the time he and his family were living at 9 Inman Road, Litherland, Lancashire. He was still at home at the time of the 1901 census, aged 17 and unmarried but with an unspecified profession and living at 39 Mount Pleasant, Waterloo, Liverpool. The seafaring family may have relocated to Southampton around 1907 to coincide with the move of White Star Line from Liverpool to that port and Edenser shows up on the 1911 census living at Norwood House, Bellemoor Road, Shirley, Southampton with his family and he is described as a seafaring steward. He had been in the service of the White Star Line since around 1906.
When he signed-on to the Titanic, on 4 April 1912, Edenser gave his address as Norwood House, Bellemoor Road, Southampton. His previous ship was the Olympic and as a first class steward he received monthly wages of £3, 15s.
On Sunday 14 April Wheelton recalled that there had been no lifeboat drills as was customary on other ships; he had been on watch but had went to bead and was asleep at the time of the collision. He was awaked around 11.45 pm by a shock which he attributed to the ship dropping a propeller so he got out of bed and peered out of one of the portholes but saw nothing amiss but noted how cold it was. He went to the door of his quarters and spoke to some passing crewmen but, apparently receiving no news to be worried about he went back to bed.
Not long after he was again roused by someone shouting something about "watertight doors," so he again left his bed and went to the companionway where he soon became aware of orders to get his lifebelt and make his way to his boat station. He hurriedly dressed, throwing on his clothes over his pyjamas, topping this off with an overcoat and slippered feet; by the time he reached the boat deck they were letting out a lifeboat which he believed was his assigned lifeboat number 5 (it was number 7) and he assisted in its lowering.
Following the launch of boat 7 Wheelton was ordered to go to the food stores to retrieve biscuits. On his way he spotted Thomas Andrews on B-deck who was busying himself by checking cabins for anybody still in them. He returned to the boat deck by passing through the dining saloon and reception room and up the grand staircase and returned to the boat deck in time for the preparation of another boat to be lowered (boat 5). During this boat's preparation Wheelton was stood just behind Mr Lowe when the latter rebuked Mr Ismay for getting in the way. Wheelton would assist in the lowering of other starboard boats, presumably boat 3 and definitely boat 9, and testified that Ismay lingered around all the boats that he was working at. Following the launch of boat 9 Mr Murdoch ordered steward Wheat down to A-deck; taking Wheelton by the arm Murdoch ordered him to do the same; a large crowd of women and children having been escorted down to A-deck by stewards.
Wheelton and Wheat descended to A-deck where boat 11 had been lowered to receive passengers; they stepped into the boat and began filling it with women and children and with what Wheelton estimated to be around 8 or 9 crew, mainly stewards. One woman caused a fuss at the boat and had to be manhandled to get in.
With the boat heavily laden Wheelton shouted up to Murdoch that the boat was full; Murdoch then asked him if he had any sailors in the boat but there were none so he ordered two sailors to jump into the boat, Brice and Humphreys, the latter assuming command.
Wheelton described the descent to the ocean as smooth but the lifeboat had difficulty releasing itself from the falls but eventually was broken free. The lifeboat then pulled out to what he estimated was around 300 yards from the ship, no easy feat because the boat was overloaded and the crew at the oars found it difficult to row in the cramped space, often accidentally striking others in the process.
Wheelton recalled seeing a light in the distance that seemed close but despite their best efforts they did not seem to be able to get close to it. A woman close by him in the lifeboat was so cold that he gave up his coat to her.
Later called to give testimony to the US Inquiry into the sinking, he rounded up his evidence by adding: "I would like to say something about the bravery exhibited by the First Officer, Mr Murdoch. He was perfectly cool and very calm."
Edenser continued to work at sea and served in the merchant service during WWI. By 1920 he was working board Adriatic and commenced another long career with Olympic, beginning in mid-1921 and lasting to at least 1935, at which point he was assistant lounge steward, interspersed with a few brief spells aboard Homeric in 1924.
He was married in 1928 to Gladys Bostock (b. 23 May 1896), but the couple are not known to have had any children. Edenser later retired and settled in Lichfield, Staffordshire and died there on 1 May 1949 aged 65. His widow Gladys died on 8 July 1980.
- Spelling of first name has become corrupted over the years with official records fudging the correct spelling; often given as Ednser or Edneser but the correct spelling appears to have been Edenser.
- He later gave his birth date as 31 March 1883
- Born as John Capper in Congleton, Cheshire in third quarter of 1879
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
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