Mr John Edward Hart

Mr John Edward Hart, 31, was born in London on 24 February 1881, the son of John Hart (Innkeeper) and his wife Louisa (1).

As a young man he went to South Africa where he fought in the Boer War (1899-1902) serving as a trooper in the South African Light Force. Sometime after his return to England he signed-on as a crewman aboard the steamship New York.

When he signed-on to the Titanic 4 April 1912, he gave his address as 1 Foundry Lane (Southampton). This house, in the district of Shirley, bore the name 'Aberdeen'. As a third class steward he received monthly wages of £3, 15s.

On the evening of 14 April, Hart was sleeping in his bunk, which was below the glory hole on E-deck, and next to the third class dining room, when he was awakened by the collision with the iceberg. Hart shared his quarters with 38 other third class stewards. Although they knew there had been an accident, Hart claimed that none of his fellow stewards knew that the situation was serious.

Eventually, Chief Third Class Steward Kiernan came along and told everyone to look after the passengers they were in charge of. Hart was responsible for about 58 third class passengers in Section K and M, located on E-deck. He went around and woke up the passengers under his charge, and helped them put on their lifebelts. After gathering them into a group in the hallway, Hart awaited orders.

At 12:30, Hart received instructions to pass the women and children up to the Boat Deck. At first, he took a group of 20-30 women and children up to the boat deck. Although there were normally locked barriers and gates blocking the way, which were required by international immigration laws to 'prevent the spread of infectious diseases,' Hart testified in the British Inquiry that all the gates had been opened the time he took his passengers up to the Boat Deck.

In order to get to the boat deck, Hart lead the third class passengers through an alleyway, up stairs to C-deck, up onto the open aft well deck, and then up to the boat deck. Hart saw his first group of passengers safely into lifeboat 8, and then returned below for the remaining passengers from his group. As he was heading back below, he saw fellow third class stewards William Denton Cox, and Albert Victor Pearcey leading another large group of third class passengers to the boat deck.

Upon returning below, Hart told the remainder of the third class passengers in his care to follow him, and then lead them up to the boat deck and into lifeboat 15. Although Hart had seen the 58 passengers in his charge to safety, he was prepared to head back below for more passengers, when a group of men began rushing Lifeboat 15. Hart helped hold the men back, and then First Officer Murdoch ordered him into the boat to help row.

On arriving in New York on board the Carpathia he stayed with friends in the city until his return passage to England on board the Celtic. He subsequently appeared as the 27th witness at the British Enquiry on 16 May 1912 and answered a total of 492 questions.

Following the hearing sometime in the late May 1912 he signed-on to another White Star vessel Oceanic. According to his discharge book he signed off this ship in the July of 1912.

After leaving the merchant marine service Edward moved to live in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia where he worked as a chief storekeeper for the newly formed Rhodesian Railway. By now he was married with two children. It is known that both sons were lost in a drowning accident on a lake in that country and at sometime following this his wife died.

In about 1930 he returned to England and came to the South West where he met Florence May Cann of Newton Poppleford, Devon. Her father, John Cann worked on the railway there and this may explain how he came to meet Florence, he himself having had connections with the railway. They were subsequently married in 1932 (either in Newton Poppleford or Exeter) and moved to live in the South Devon coastal town of Paignton. They initially rented a flat in Old Torquay Road. It was here that their son, John Christopher Murdoch Hart was born in 1934. Shortly afterward they moved close-by to a house at 42 Old Torquay Road which remained in family possession until the early 1970's.

John Edward Hart passed away at the house on 15 January 1954 (2) and was cremated four days later at the Efford Crematorium, Plymouth, Devon. A memorial plaque exists there with the inscription 'In Loving Memory of John Edward Hart, died 15 January 1954, aged 69'. His ashes were scattered in the garden of rest there.

Image
(Courtesy Steve Coombes, UK)

His wife Florence remained at the house until moving to a Paignton nursing home (Ardeen Court) in early 1970 where she passed away in the October of 1972 aged 72. She was cremated at the Torquay Crematorium on 20 October.

Notes

1. On the 1881 London Census the family were living at 9 Russell Street, Covent Garden. John was aged 1 at the time. He had two elder sisters, Maud and Caroline.
2. Some records state that John E. Hart died in 1953 but it was actually 1954. His gravestone incorrectly gives his age at death as 69.
 

Articles and Stories

Titanica! (2008) 
WHAT TIME DID THE FIRST LIFEBOAT DEPART THE TITANIC?
Titanica! (2001) 
WAS HART REALLY A HERO?
(1954) 
The Courier News (1912) 
 

Comment and discuss

  1. avatar

    Mike said:

    Walter Lord recounts that Steward Hart escorted his first group of third class women and children to boat 8, just as that boat was leaving. What happened to them after that? The lifeboat lists show only five women and children in boat 10, one in boat 12, and four in boat 14. Did they all go back inside to keep warm, and maybe emerge later (or not)? Did they wander to the starboard side? Did they remain in a group and leave together in boat 16 (which held many Irish women from third class)? Any theories?

  2. Glenn Miller said:

    My theory: I think many things conspired that kept people out of the boats. First, the Titanic was in the North Atlantic Shipping Lane. This was essentially a freeway for ships. The passengers on the Titanic had seen many ships pass throughout the day and days leading up to Sunday night. Some could even see the Mystery ship (arguably the Californian) and word must have passed to reinforce the notion that the life boats were merely a means to getting to one of these nearby ships. Poor decisions were made regarding the cold, confluence of class, the cacophony, the assumption of "unsinkable" and... Read full post

  3. David Gleicher (Davidg) said:

    I'm very interested in the treatment of the third class passengers, a major issue being their access to the lifeboats, and have found almost no verification of Steward Hart's testimony. Does anybody know of any? As you say, there were no third class passengers in Boat 8, and indeed significant numbers of third class passengers loaded into lifeboats didn't occur until around 1:30 - 1:35, some 20 to 45 minutes after these thirty or so women were putatively taken to the boat deck. I would note that while Lord, and more recently Butler set a great deal of store in Hart's testimony, other... Read full post

  4. Peter Engberg-Klarström said:

    Dear David, steward Hart's testimony is very interesting indeed. He stated he took a group of women and children to boat 8, yet nobody in the vicinity seems to recall this particular incident. Then he said he took about 25 women and children to boat 15 and they all left in it; I have a feeling the number he brought on deck was significantly lower than 25, probably eight or ten if even that; there were very few women in boat 15, and some of them didn't come on deck in groups. I have read that Mrs Johnson and her two children said something to this effect; a steward led them up on deck, but... Read full post

  5. David Gleicher (Davidg) said:

    Peter, Thanks for your response (particularly since we seem to agree). I'd appreciate any specific reference you might have on Mrs. Johnson. There is one other possible exception to the silence on Steward Hart. According to Wetterholm, Mrs. Pekka Pietra Hakkerainen (maiden name, Matilda Dolk) joined a group of steerage passengers being collected by a steward, guiding them to the boat deck. Mrs. Hakkarainen did end up in lifeboat 15 along with Hart, and this brief account does seem in line with Hart's testimony. On the other hand, if it is Hart, then it speaks to the probability... Read full post

  6. Mike Herbold said:

    David: Thank you for this well documented and still very readable article. Not being one who has the inclination to arduously study the allocation of passengers to lifeboats, I can only begin to imagine the patience, organization, and perserverance that it takes to sift through reams of documents and conflicting testimony to try to uncover the truth. What I especially like about your article is how easy it is to follow your logic -- you do not let the minute details bog down the story. You... Read full post

  7. Jan C. Nielsen said:

    My thanks, too, for the interesting article. I really enjoy reading research that pokes holes in these hallowed stories about Titanic's heroes. David's conclusion is a good one, too, and reflects the way that I've felt about some of the people involved in the disaster for a long time: Like most us, Hart was neither a hero nor a villain, or perhaps one might say he was a little of both . . . Hart probably did help direct third class passengers after the accident, although probably not too many women and children, and, by his own testimony, he did not direct them to the Boat Decks, but... Read full post

  8. Michael Friedman said:

    Greetings! After taking some time to meditate on this topic, some observations come to mind. I remember asking a question related to this topic over a year ago, specifically, "what happened to the people Mr. Hart escorted to Boat 8?" Now Mr. Gleicher has addressed these and other concerns about Mr. Hart's role in the disaster. I can't say I was happy to read his conclusions (I doubt he was happy to learn them), but the evidence may be inescapable. There just doesn't seem to be corroborating evidence for Mr. Hart leading two groups from third class to the boat deck. Actually,... Read full post

  9. David Gleicher said:

    Mike, Jan and Michael, My apologies for not responding sooner to the messages about my article, but it's been a busy week for me. Thank you for the kind comments about the piece. Jan has seen through to my larger interest: the question of the third class passenger's access to the lifeboats that night. I think the answer is a complicated one and am writing a book on the subject. Mike, certainly one of the sticking points with Hart's testimony is that there are no known third class passengers, or for that matter other stewards, who corroborate it. This is in contrast, by the way, to... Read full post

  10. Senan Molony said:

    Hart’s testimony is difficult. And David has commendably pointed some of those difficulties out. It seems scarcely credible that he saw a large supply of third class women and children into boat 8. In fact, this didn’t happen. However, it seems Hart didn’t know which first class stairs he used to get up to the boat deck. And this may be important. He says he took passengers up to the after well deck (D) and then up a ladder to C deck, through second class, and then to a first class companion (but there were two..), all the way to the boat deck. To get to the Grand Staircase... Read full post

  11. Randy Bryan Bigham said:

    All, I have read & much enjoyed this article. I admit never to having thought much as to whether or not Steward Hart's story was feasible. But with his account's being re-examined so well here by Gleicher, it certainly seems flawed at best. I tend to think he was not absolutely lying though surely Harbinson was right that his story was colored a bit. This would not take him too far afield insofar as Titanic survivor stories go as I really do believe many people exaggerated their experiences. I think he probably did bring up a group or groups of women & children but in his haste -... Read full post

  12. Bob Cruise said:

    David Gleicher's recent article picks apart Steward Hart's testimony and comes up with numerous discrepancies. I can only add that other stewards - and passengers - have also made statements that contained equally curious discrepancies. Furthermore, regarding David's excellent research on the lifeboats, I would like to point out something which I found in the course of my own Titanic examination: that the starboard aft boats carried the highest numbers of the escaping crew - a good number of which were stewards (boat 11 carried 14 male stewards and 7 stewardesses). Additionally,... Read full post

  13. Matthew Bowyer Fan said:

    Hart route I understood that Hart get women and children to boat deck this way: He used Third class Entrance to C Deck to AFT Well Deck, then he used one of stairs leading on B deck. But what then? I have two candidate ways. Through Second Class Staircase or také through Café Parisian to Aft Grand Staircase and continued some another way through first class corridors.

  14. avatar

    Christophe Puttemans said:

    Third Class steward John Hart is well-known for saving many third class passengers by bringing them up top in groups. He brought his first group to lifeboat 8. 9952. How many people of your lot did you take up the first time you went up this course to the boat deck? - Somewhere about 30. 9953. All women and children of the third class? - Yes, on that occasion, on the first occasion. 9954. And having got them to the boat deck, do you remember whereabouts on the boat deck you took them to? - Yes. I took them to boat No. 8, which was at that time being lowered. 9955. That is the... Read full post

  15. Ioannis Georgiou said:

    You can find the answer in his testimony. 10250. With regard to the ones who went up and went back again when they found, I think you said, it was rather cold on the boat deck, did they belong to the first or second lot that you took up? - How do you mean? Please say that again. 10251. You said a number went to the boat deck and returned to their berths? - They belonged to the first lot, because the second lot I saw placed in boat No. 15. 10252. The whole of them? - Yes. 10253. How many of the first lot returned to their berths? - I cannot tell you that. 10254. You cannot give any estimate?... Read full post

  16. avatar

    Gaston Sam said:

    I got to believe that too, but then you have lifeboat 16, which presumably was the first boat to be lowered on the port side aft. If I'm not wrong most of its occupants were third class women, and the first group that Hart led to deck ended up near lifeboat 8 which was about to be lowered. I think they might have been taken aft by Wilde after finishing with number 8, as some ABs stated he was bringing... Read full post

  17. Matthew Bowyer Fan said:

    As Paul Lee stated on his site: Titanic Greaser Frederick Scott was according to his testimony in corridors at same time, in which Hart claimed he leads the passengers in his charge, and saw no one. This means: Either one of men said a wrong time or lied.

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Credits

Gavin Bell, UK
Steve Coombes, UK
Chris Dohany, USA
Tad Fitch, USA
Phillip Gowan, USA
John Christopher Murdoch Hart, UK

References and Sources

Agreement and Account of Crew (PRO London, BT100/259)
British Census 1881
Colonel Archibald Gracie (1913) The Truth about the Titanic. New York, Mitchell Kennerley
Dave Bryceson (1997) The Titanic Disaster: As Reported in the British National Press April-July 1912. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN-1-85260-579-0
Kelly's Directory for Torquay & Paignton (1931 to 1973 editions)
Walter Lord (1976) A Night to Remember. London, Penguin. ISBN 0 14 004757 3
Titanic Commutator
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
Efford & Torquay Crematoriums
Search archive British newspapers online

Link and cite this biography

Encyclopedia Titanica (2013) John Edward Hart (ref: #1900, last updated: 10th April 2013, accessed 1st August 2020 09:25:57 AM)
URL : https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/john-edward-hart.html