Photograph of Frank Oliver Evans c.1921
(Courtesy of Michel Poirier - National Archives, Crown Copyright)
Mr Frank Oliver Evans (able seaman) was born in Naphill, Buckinghamshire, England on 15 May 1884.
He was the son of Joseph Evans (1838-1922) and Mary Elliot (1841-1928), both natives of Buckinghamshire who had married in 1860. One of twelve known children, his siblings were: Mary (b. 1862), John (b. 1863), Ann (b. 1865), Thomas (b. 1867), Joseph (b. 1868), George (b. 1871), James (b. 1874), David (b. 1874), Sarah (b. 1877), Jane (b. 1878) and Owen (b. 1884).
Frank first appears on the 1891 census when he and his family were residing at "Clarendon," Oxford Road, Chipping Wycombe, Buckinghamshire and his father was described as a general labourer. As a young teen Frank worked as a packer.
Frank would later go to service in the Royal Navy and joined on 17 July 1899 aged just 15. His first ship was the Impregnable and he would go on to serve aboard a host of other ships, including: Lion, Victory, Mars (on which he appeared on the 1901 census, then docked at Gibraltar and he being described as a signal boy), Fearless, Sirius, St Vincent, Formidable, among others, before being discharged on 4 September 1907, his final ship being Diana. Whilst of generally good character, he was shown on to have spent at least three terms in the cells for various misdemeanours. Physically he stood at 5' 2½" and had brown hair and eyes and a dark complexion.
Following his eight year spell in the Navy Frank went into the Merchant service, serving on ships such as the Tintagel Castle of the Union Line and the Ferneo, an admiralty collier. He was not present on the 1911 census, perhaps at sea at the time.
When he signed-on to the Titanic, on 6 April, 1912 Frank gave his local address as 14 Bond Street, (Southampton). His last ship had been the Olympic and as an able-bodied seaman he received monthly wages of £5.
Evans was one of approximately 18 crew who took part in the Titanic's lifeboat drill on the morning of 10 April before leaving Southampton. Unlike many other members of the crew, Evans knew his assigned lifeboat, number 12.
Evans was in the Forward Mess Hall on C Deck, at the time of the collision. He was ordered by either the 5th or 6th Officer to find the carpenter, and sound all the wells forward. Unable to find the carpenter, he did find Boatswain Alfred Nichols, and along with Nichols and others of the crew, he went up to the port side and helped uncover the port side boats. He then crossed over, and helped uncover the starboard boats, and lower Lifeboat 1. Crossing over again, he helped lower boat 12, and was ordered into Lifeboat 10 by Officer Murdoch, joining seaman Buley.
Once in the water, 10 pulled away from the ship about 200 yards, according to Evans. They later tied up with Lifeboats 4, 12, 14 and D. From the boat, Evans reported seeing the Titanic break in two, between the 3rd and 4th funnel. Evans was transferred to boat 14 by Fifth Officer Lowe, and was one of the crewmen who returned to the site of the sinking with Lowe to look for survivors. They pulled four people who were still alive from the water; later rescued the survivors on top of Collapsible B, and also in the swamped Collapsible A. He later testified that he was unable to look into the water and see the bodies, fearing his nerves would go and he would breakdown.
Once Evans reached New York on the Carpathia, he testified at the US Inquiry on Thursday 26 April.
Frank Evans returned to the sea and was still working as of the 1920s and beyond and was later a Quartermaster, serving on various ships such as the Mississippi, San Jeronimo and the Trinculo. He would see service during both World Wars.
In later life Frank never cared to discuss the Titanic as it upset him too much. He never married and later retired to London, spending his last days living at 148 Herlwyn Avenue, Ruislip, Middlesex. He died at the Hillington Hospital, Uxbridge on 19 May 1952 aged 68.
Michael Poirier, USA
Bill Wormstedt, USA
Evans' testimony is very specific that he lowered 12, before he was ordered into 10. However, the British Inquiry came to the conclusion that 10 was lowered before 12.
References and SourcesUnited States Senate (62nd Congress), Subcommittee Hearings of the Committee on Commerce, Titanic Disaster, Washington 1912
Colonel Archibald Gracie (1913) The Truth about the Titanic. New York, Mitchell Kennerley
Donald Hyslop, Alastair Forsyth and Sheila Jemima (1997) Titanic Voices: Memories from the Fateful Voyage, Sutton Publishing, Southampton City Council. ISBN 0 7509 1436 X
Walter Lord (1976) A Night to Remember. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 14 004757 3
Walter Lord (1986) The Night Lives On: Thoughts, Theories and Revelations about the Titanic. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 140 27900 8
Don Lynch & Ken Marschall (1992) Titanic: An Illustrated History. London, Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0 340 56271 4
Wyn Craig Wade (1979,1986) The Titanic: End of a Dream
Susan Wels (1997) Titanic: The Worlds Greatest Ocean Liner, Crew list by Michael Findley