Master Michel Marcel. Navratil, 3, was born on 12 June 1908 in Nice, France. He boarded the Titanic at Southampton with his father Michel and brother Edmond. The family was travelling under the assumed name of Hoffman, Mr Navratil had stolen his two sons from his estranged wife Marcelle.
During the voyage the boys were looked after once by Bertha Lehmann, a Swiss girl who spoke French but no English, while their father played cards for a few hours. It was the only time he let them out of his sight.
Michel recalled the voyage in an interview:
|"A magnifacent ship!...I remember looking down the length of the hull - the ship looked splended. My brother and I played on the forward deck and were thrilled to be there. One morning, my father, my brother, and I were eating eggs in the second-class dinning room. The sea was stunning. My feeling was one of total and utter well-being."|
He described the events on the night of the sinking:
|"My father entered our cabin where we were sleeping. He dressed me very warmly and took me in his arms. A stranger did the same for my brother. When I think of it now, I am very moved. They knew they were going to die."|
The boys were taken up to the boat deck where they were put in a lifeboat. Michel, Jr., recalled that just before placing him in the boat, his father gave a final message, "My child, when your mother comes for you, as she surely will, tell her that I loved her dearly and still do. Tell her I expected her to follow us, so that we might all live happily together in the peace and freedom of the New World."
|"I don't recall being afraid, I remember the pleasure, really, of going plop! into the life-boat. We ended up next to the daughter of an American banker who managed to save her dog - no one objected. There were vast diffrences of people's wealth on the ship, and I realized later that if we hadn't been in second-class, we'd of died. The people who came out alive often cheated and were aggressive, the honest didn't stand a chance."|
|"We had our back to Titanic and went to sleep. The next morning, I saw Carpathia on the horizon. I was hauled abord in a burlap bag. I thought it was extreamly incorrect to be in a burlap bag!"|
Aboard the Carpathia, the boys, unable to speak English, were dubbed the Orphans of the Titanic, when they turned out to be the only children who remained unclaimed by an adult. First Class survivor, Miss Margaret Hays agreed to care for the boys at her New York home (304 West 83rd Street) until family members could be contacted.
Marcelle Navratil, recognized her boys from newspaper stories and was brought over to America by the White Star Line where she was reunited with her sons on May 16.
The three sailed back to France on the Oceanic.
Michel went to university where he married a fellow student in 1933, he went on to earn his doctarate, becoming a professor of psychology. In 1987, he returned to the U.S. for the first time since 1912 to mark the 75th anniversary of the sinking. The last living male survivor, Michel lived in Montpellier, near Nice France. On 27 August 1996, Mr Navratil visited his father's grave for the first time in 84 years.
Michel Navratil died on 30 January 2001 at the age of 92.
Evening World, 22 April 1912, No Light on the Mystery Hiding the Identity Of Two Waifs of the Sea
Don Lynch & Ken Marschall (1992) Titanic: An Illustrated History. London, Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0 340 56271 4
John P. Eaton & Charles A. Haas (1994) Titanic: Triumph & Tragedy, 2nd ed. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1 85260 493 X
John Eaton & Charles Haas (1992) Titanic: Destination Disaster, Patrick Stevens Ltd. ISBN 1 85260 534 0
New York Tribune
Hermann Söldner, Germany