Encyclopedia Titanica

George Henry Cavell

George Henry Cavell
George Henry Cavell

Mr George Henry Cavell was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England on 4 December 1889. 

His parents were George Henry Cavell (1863-1927), a marine fireman, and Alice Florence Purkiss (1865-1945), both Hampshire natives who had married in Southampton in 1888.

One of a reported thirteen children, his only known siblings were: Ellen Jane (1884-1959, later Mrs Alfred Mainer), Rose Mathilda (1886-1907), Alice Florence (b. 1887), Lily Elizabeth (b. 1895), Alice Maud (b. 1898) and Frederick Ernest (b. 1901).

Cavell first appears on the 1891 census living with his family at 28 Chapel Street, St Mary, Southampton and by the time of the 1901 census the family were living at 25 Chantry Road, Southampton and his father was by then described as a general labourer.

The family had moved to 46 Russell Street in the same city by the time of the 1911 census although George is absent from the household and was listed elsewhere at Bermuda House. 

George, who was unmarried, signed on to the Titanic on 6 April 1912, giving his address as Lower East Road, Sholing. He had previously served on Adriatic, Oceanic, and Olympic, before joining the Titanic and had worked with the White Star Line for eighteen months by that point.

On the evening of 14 April Cavell was on the 8 to 12 watch, and was alone in the starboard coal bunker in boiler room 4 at the time of the collision. He felt a shock and the piles of coal around him collapsed, covering him and from which he had a job freeing himself. Hearing warning bells that the watertight doors were closing, Cavell then managed to get into the stokehold but upon arriving he was surprised by the lights suddenly extinguishing. He then left the stokehold via an escape ladder to fetch lamps and went to Scotland Road where he saw steerage passengers heading aft, many wet through and clinging to lifebelts, being told to remain calm by stewards; it was here he ascertained from a colleague that the ship had struck an iceberg.

He fetched the lamps and returned to the stokehold but by the time he had returned the lights had come back on and he received orders to start drawing the fires. Whilst doing this water started to flood through the floor plates which rose about a foot before Cavell left his station and returned to Scotland Road but found it deserted. Believing that there was no danger Cavell briefly returned to boiler room 4 but found it deserted. He again made his way up top where he went to the aft boat deck.

Upon reaching the aft starboard boat deck Cavell noted that there were still a few lifeboats remaining; one was still hanging in the davits (#15) whilst the other was being lowered (#13) and the only people on deck where a handful of firemen and the crew lowering the boat, including an unidentified officer. The officer ordered Cavell and the other firemen into lifeboat 15 and it was lowered flush with A-deck to receive passengers but only five came forward. Boat 15 was then lowered again to become flush with B-deck and calls for more passengers was met with a large crowd of third-class passengers appearing and gathering around, which Cavell estimated to be around sixty in total and what he believed to be all women and children and with a few men standing back. He also noted that the majority of the crowd seemed to be Irish women. 

With lifeboat 15 heavily laden with an estimated 70 survivors aboard, fireman Frank Dymond took charge.

Cavell was called to testify at the British Inquiry on 9 May 1912 and received expenses of £11, 6s.

George returned to the sea, serving on ships including the Olympic, Braemar Castle, Carnarvon Castle, Armadale Castle, Warwick Castle and Rothesay Castle and continued to serve in the merchant service throughout the duration of WWI.

He was married in Southampton in 1919 to Kate Elizabeth Barber (b. 7 January 1885); the couple would have no children.

Cavell later left the sea and worked as a fitter's mate; by the time of the 1939 register he and his wife were residents of 2, The Popes Buildings in Southampton. 

George died in Winchester, Hampshire in 1966. His wife passed away one year later.


  1. In the identity cards he is described as 5ft 1in., with brown hair and blue (or grey) eyes and a 'fresh' expression.

Titanic Crew Summary

Name: Mr George Henry Cavell
Age: 22 years 4 months and 11 days (Male)
Nationality: English
Marital Status: Single
Last Residence: at Lower East Road Sholing, Hampshire, England
Occupation: Trimmer
Last Ship: Oceanic
Embarked: Southampton on Saturday 6th April 1912
Rescued (boat 15)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912

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References and Sources

General Register Office, Index of Births, Marriages and Deaths
British Census
United States Senate, Washington 1912. n° 806, Crew List
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. 9th May 1912, Testimony
Daniel Allen Butler (1998) Unsinkable: The Full Story of the RMS Titanic
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
Paul Quinn (1997) Titanic at 2:00 AM
New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957
National Archives Merchent Seaman Identity Cards
Search archive online

Comment and discuss

  1. Amanda Cavell said:

    Excellent site! I just came here to see if there really was a Cavell on the Titanic and I've been online all day! I would really appreciate any information about George Henry Cavell, I have read his biography and the transcript of his evidence at the inquiry (which was fascinating and has brought up a lot of questions that I might have to air here!) I have read somewhere that the White Star Line didn't like the surviving crew to work on their other ships, but I know that there was a George Cavell who worked on the 'Olympic' Southampton - New York service in 1921 and in 1924 and also a... Read full post

  2. Bob Godfrey said:

    Welcome to the forum, Amanda. It would probably be easier for you to make a connection by working backwards through your own family records than trying to work forwards from George. It's probable that he is the same man who served on the Olympic and Majestic in the '20s - there's no reason why not. The surviving officers of the Titanic believed (probably rightly) that their promotions prospects had been blocked by association with the disaster, but there should have been no obstacle to re-employment for members of the 'black gang'. Hope you get a result.

  3. Bob Godfrey said:

    Amanda, I did a quick search and found this website, which is a message board for people with Titanic connections in the Southampton area. Dorothy Cavell, George's daughter-in-law, is listed as a member. She has contact also with William Cavell, another of George's sons still living:

  4. Amanda Cavell said:

    Cheers Bob, that's a great help, I know I should do it all properly but I'm hoping it'll be easier to find a link if I can go from both sides - and it's not really cheating, honest! I really appreciate your help. Thanx Amanda

  5. Bob Godfrey said:

    I wouldn't know about any proper way to do it, Amanda, just follow any route that gets you there! Good luck, and do let us know if you find a connection - there's nothing like that feeling of satisfaction when the last piece falls into place.

  6. Arne Mjåland said:

    Does anybody know where and when George Henry Cavell died? Hermann Soeldner has not got that in his book.

  7. Bob Godfrey said:

    Arne, according to George's daughter-in-law Dorothy he lived to 'a grand old age' (but exactly how grand she didn't say) and his last address was Coleman Street in the St Mary's area of Southampton. Dorothy lives nearby in Totton and her brother-in-law, George's son William, lives in Parkstone, Bournemouth.

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Gavin Bell, UK
Peter Engberg-Klarström, Sweden
Bill Wormstedt, USA

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2019) George Henry Cavell (ref: #1450, last updated: 20th August 2019, accessed 24th October 2021 07:07:21 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/george-henry-cavell.html