Mr Frank Osman was born in Alverstoke, Hampshire, England on 28 March 1885.1
He was the son and youngest child of William Osman (1848-1902), a brewery worker and later publican, and Emma "Emily" Kate Gue (1847-1905), both hailing from Romsey, Hampshire and who had married in Salisbury, Wiltshire on 5 November 1868.
Frank had five siblings: Frances Emily (b. 1870), Alice Jane (b. 1873), Florence Eliza Ann (b. 1875), Percy Curtis (b. 1878) and William Fred (b. 1882).
Frank first appears on the 1891 census when he and his family were living at 93 Avenue Road in Alverstoke, Hampshire. By the time of the 1901 census the family lived at 14 Cobden Street, Alverstoke but Frank was absent, having already commenced a career at sea.
Initially working as a bricklayer, Osman went to sea at age 14 and joined the British Navy at age 16 (although he stated he was a year older at the time) in April 1900. He was described as standing at 5’ 5” and with dark brown hair, blue eyes and fair complexion. He served as a general deck boy until promotion to seaman whilst serving aboard Juno in September 1906. Just over three years later he had attained able seaman status and served aboard a host of ships, including Firequeen, Formidable and Excellent, winding up his naval career with an exemplary record of conduct whilst aboard Britannia, having been invalided from service in June 1911. He then immediately joined the White Star Line, serving aboard the Oceanic.
During this time Frank had married in Alverstoke in 1907 to Clara Kate Sherwin (b. 15 December 1884 in Gosport), a tailoress and the daughter of labourer James Sherwin and the former Kate Glover.
Frank and Clara went on to have seven children: Percy Frank (1909-1976), Frank (1911-1911), Maud2 (1912-1993), William James (1915-1992), Emily Kate3 (1920-2003), Grace Frances4 (1924-1993) and George Joseph (1928-1998).
Frank would be absent from the 1911 census but his wife and first two children appear living at 27 Zetland Road, Gosport.
When Osman signed-on to the Titanic on 6 April 1912 he gave his address as the 43 High Street, Southampton. His ship prior to Titanic had been the Oceanic and as an able seaman he received monthly wages of £5.
At the time of the collision Osman was situated outside the seaman’s mess on C-Deck, waiting for the bell to chime to signal the start of his shift. Instead of the usual bell he heard three bells chime, which he took to mean a ship was ahead, and shortly after he felt the impact with the iceberg. He went out onto the forward well deck and saw large amounts of ice, he fetching a piece and returning with it to his quarters on D-Deck. On his descent he noticed that the ship had already developed a slight but noticeable list to starboard. Soon orders had filtered down that all seamen had to go up top and clear the lifeboats; Osman and his mates all made their way to the boat deck.
Reaching the boat deck Osman assisted in the loading and lowering of three starboard lifeboats and one on the portside. He then left the ship late in the proceedings in lifeboat 2 and stated that First Officer William Murdoch directed the loading of that boat. Describing the boat as holding between 25 and 30 bodies in all, he stated that the boat’s occupants consisted of himself, a ship’s cook (John Ellis), a steward (James Johnstone) and Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall, as well as one male passenger (Anton Kink), the rest being made up of women and children.
By his own account lifeboat 2 was easily and steadily lowered and had no trouble during the night, except for one first-class woman who “was worrying.” Osman suggested to Boxhall that they remain alongside the ship to see if they could “squeeze any more hands in,” to which the officer agreed, a suggestion that made the women in the boat nervous and to which they disagreed.
Lifeboat 2 then made its way around to the starboard side of the ship and headed aft, coming astern and with the oarsmen laying on their oars and from where they watched the ship founder, at what he estimated to be between 60 and 100 yards away. Osman stated that when the ship reached a certain angle “she exploded, broke in halves, and it seemed to me as if all the engines and everything that was in the after part slid out into the forward part, and the after part came upright again, and as soon as it came up, right down it went again.” He noted that smoke, steam and coal lumps burst out of the funnels as the ship broke apart, attributing that to the seawater making the boilers explode. Despite this, he stated that there was no suction whatsoever.
Lifeboat 2 was found to have had a box of rockets so Boxhall fired a couple off. Osman also recalled seeing a light in the distance which he took to be a masthead light of sailing vessel that seemed to disappear as if “she sailed right away.”
As daylight broke Osman recalled seeing an iceberg that he believed was responsible for sinking the Titanic, describing it as being 100’ tall and being “round, and then had one big point sticking up on one side of it.” He also noted how the berg appeared to have had a piece freshly broken off.
When questioned as to why lifeboat 2 did not return to the wreck site to pick up people in the water, he said the lifeboat was almost full and barely had room to take any more, contradicting his same testimony.
Frank was called to testify at the US Inquiry into the disaster on 30 April 1912. He was not required to testify at the British Inquiry but did receive expenses of £5, 1s with regards to his detention.
Frank returned to his family in England and continued to work at sea, joining with the Royal Naval Reserve in October 1913 and serving aboard numerous voyages. With the outbreak of WWI he remained with the naval fleet and served as a leading seaman aboard Benbow between October 1914 and December 1917 and was with the Grand Fleet in the North Sea and served during the Battle of Jutland. He was decorated for his service.
Following the war Osman rejoined the merchant fleet and served on various ships for the White Star and Cunard Lines, including Homeric and Mauretania and Olympic, working aboard the latter for a considerable time as an assistant storekeeper.
In 1934 Osman left the sea and, like his father before him, became a publican, taking over the licence of the Cyprus Inn at Royal Crescent in Southampton. When that venture folded after only a year he took over the licence of the Queen’s Hotel in Albert Road, Southampton around the beginning of 1936 and where he worked for the rest of his life.
Frank Osman in later years
(Courtesy of Ewbanks)
In the last six months of his life Frank Osman had been in ill health with issues with his heart and blood pressure, suffering two minor strokes during that time. Not long after the onset of his physical ill-health Osman began to show signs of a downturn in his mental wellbeing, such as being afraid to go outdoors as he had fears of collapsing in public; he also started to show signs of depression and became increasingly irritable, but showed few signs of being suicidal.
On 8 June 1938 Frank was, according to his wife, working in the pub as normal and up to a quarter of an hour before his death was serving customers and being jovial, even joking with them. Following a brief absence from the bar Frank’s wife found him hanging by a rope from a beam in the cellar of their pub. Aged 53 years, Frank Osman had taken his own life and a coroner’s report stated that his death was “Suicide while the balance of his mind was disturbed.”
Frank Osman is buried in St Mary's Extra Cemetery, Southampton (section H46, plot 20).
By 1939 Frank’s widow Clara was living at 5 Guillaume Terrace in Southampton; she died on 6 January 1964 aged 79. His last surviving child, daughter Emily, died in Southampton on 11 June 2003. In 2019 Osman’s wartime medals were put up for auction by his family.