Mr Harold John Prior (Steward, 3rd Class) 1 was born in Halstead, Essex, England on 19 August 1891 2 as Harold John Prior Arnold.
He was the eldest of John Prior Arnold (1864-1941), a domestic gardener, and Alice Lucy Franklin (1866-1918), both of whom hailed from Halstead and who had married there in early 1891. One of four children, Harold's siblings were: Alice May (1893-1979), Beatrice Olive (1894-1962) and Violet Roberta Kate (1900-1975).
Harold first appears on the 1901 census living at Oak Cottage in Halstead, Essex. The family would later appear on the 1911 census living at Hildon House, Hildon North Lodge, Stockbridge, Hampshire. Harold was absent from the family home at this point and listed elsewhere on board ship docked at Portsmouth, Hampshire and he was described as an unmarried officers' steward.
Initially having pursued a career as a footman, Prior had first joined the Royal Navy on 1 September 1909 in the capacity of a steward. He would serve aboard just one vessel, Furious, before his discharge on 4 April 1911. Of excellent conduct, he stood a 5' 7¼" and had light brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion.
When he signed-on to the Titanic, on 6 April 1912, Harold gave his address as 48 Padwell Road, (Inner Avenue, Southampton). He had transferred from the Oceanic and as a third class steward he received monthly wages of £3, 15s.
Prior was rescued, most likely in one of the aft starboard lifeboats (perhaps 11 or 13).
He returned to England and continued to serve at sea into the 1920s and beyond. During the outbreak of war he continued to serve as a steward and was shipwrecked for a second time. He was seving as a steward aboard the armed transtprot Southland (the former Red Star Line SS Vaderland).3
Harold Prior, son of Mr. J. Prior, head gardener to Mr. Briscoe, J.P., of Hildon, was on board the armed transport Southland, which was torpedoed in the Ægean Sea, and is reported as safe. He was one the stewards of the ship. He was also saved from the Titanic. Hampshire Advertiser - 20 November 1915
He later enlisted for service on 26 April 1917 and served in the Royal Marine Light Infantry.
He would serve his country again during WWII with active service throughout that conflict. Prior was decorated on both occasions for his service.
Harold Prior in c.1919
(National Archives, Courtesy of Gavin Bell)
He was married in Stockbridge, Hampshire 4 in mid-1918 to Hilda Mary Robinson (b. 27 August 1891), a native of Stockbridge. The couple would have two children: Winifred Lucy (1919-1990, later Mrs Ivor P. Olsen) and Eric Harold (1922-1989). The family lived for some years in a flat above the vicarage at 53 Bugle Street, Southampton before moving to 384 Portswood Road, Southampton.
Harold died of a heart attack on 29 January 1949 aged 57 years. He was buried on 2 February 1949 in the South Stoneham Cemetery, Swaythling, Southampton in an unmarked grave (plot number 04/118). His widow followed him in death in 1972 whilst his last surviving child, Winifred died in Southampton on 23 November 1990.
- His birth was registered in the third quarter of 1891 as Harold John Prior Arnold. Harold's paternal grandparents, John Prior and Sarah Arnold, were never officially married which accounts for the discrepancy over his surname.
- Prior seemingly preferred to be taken as older than he was. When he joined the Navy he stated he had been born on 19 August 1889. He gave his date of birth as 19 August 1890 in his 1919 crew card.
- The Southland limped to Mudros where she was repaired. She re-entered service but was sunk off the Irish coast in 1917.
- Listed as Harold John Arnold Prior
Identity Certificate 844960 [form: (32281) Wt. 20167-23 100m 8/18. Av.P. (503)] Public Record Office (BT 350)
Brian Ticehurst (1996) Titanic's Memorials World wide: Where they are Located. ISBN 1 871733 05 7
United States Senate, Washington 1912. n° 806, Crew List
Photo: the Southland listing after being torpedoed 2 September 1915 (Australian War Memorial, Public Domain)