George Henry Cavell was born 4 December 1889 in Southampton, Hampshire, England. His parents were George Henry Cavell and Alice Florence Purkiss. He had one younger brother, Frederick, and five sisters: Ellen, Rose, Alice, Lily and Maud, the eldest of whom was born in 1885. His parents' marriage was registered in Southampton in late 1888.
At the time of the 1901 census the family were living at 25 Chantry Road, Southampton. His father was described as a general labourer. The family have moved to 46 Russell Street in the same city by the time of the 1911 census although George Cavell is absent from the household.
George, who was unmarried, signed on to the Titanic on 6 April 1912, giving his address as Lower East Road, Sholing, Southampton. He had previously served on Adriatic, Oceanic, and Olympic, before joining the Titanic.
On the evening of 14 April, Cavell was on the 8 to 12 watch, and was alone in the coal bunker in Boiler Room No.4. When the iceberg hit the ship, Cavell felt a shock, and the coal collapsed in on him. He dug his way out of the bunker, and came into the stokehold. As he did, the lights went out in No. 4, and he then climbed up to the port alleyway (Scotland Road) on E Deck, where the lights were still on. He saw third class passengers moving aft in the alleyway, and was at this time told the ship had struck an iceberg. After finding some lamps, Cavell headed back to the stokehold, and found the lights had already come back on. He then helped the firemen draw the fires from the boilers, until water started coming up over the floor plates. When the water got about 1 foot deep, Cavell went back up the escape ladder to E Deck again, only to find no one around. He went back to No. 4 Boiler Room one last time, and upon finding it deserted, went all the way up to the Boat Deck. Coming up on the starboard side, Cavell saw only two lifeboats still on the ship, and was ordered into Lifeboat 15 by an officer. He helped to load the lifeboat with passengers from both A Deck and B Deck, then pulled off from the ship.
Cavell testified at the British Inquiry on May 9, 1912. He then returned to the sea serving on ships including the Olympic, Braemar Castle, Carnarvon Castle, Armadale, Warwick Castle and Rothesay Castle.1
George was married in 1919 to Kate E. Barber (born circa 1885) in Southampton. George died in Winchester, Hampshire in 1966. His wife passed away one year later.
Gavin Bell, UK
Bill Wormstedt, USA
- In the identity cards he is described as 5ft 1in., with brown hair and blue (or grey) eyes and a 'fresh' expression.
References and SourcesGeneral Register Office, Index of Births, Marriages and Deaths
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