Mr Samuel Ernest Hemming (Lamp Trimmer) was born in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, England on 24 December 1868. He was baptised on 7 February the following year.
He was the son of John William Hemming (1834-1894), a coachman, and his wife Elizabeth "Betsy" (b. 1835), both Worcestershire natives of Bromsgrove and Droitwich respectively.
He had seven known siblings: John William (b. 1859), Frank (b. 1861), Elizabeth Mary (b. 1862), Ellen (b. 1864), Francis Joseph (b. 1866), Harry (b. 1870) and John Walter (b. 1879).
Hemming first appears on the 1871 census residing with his family on New Road in Bromsgrove. By the time of the 1881 census the family are living at Francis Yard on High Street in the same town and Samuel is described as a scholar.
Working in his youth as an errand boy, Hemming first joined the Royal Navy on 12 February 1884 aged just 15, then standing at 5' 2¼" and with brown hair and eyes and a fair complexion. His first ship was the Impregnable and he would also serve aboard Lion, Leander, Duke of Wellington, Excellent, Mildura, Curacoa, Victory I, Vernon, Boscawen, Powerful, Clyde, Cossack, Triumph, Revenge and Mercury. By 1888 he had risen to become an able seaman and the 1891 census shows him listed as such whilst serving aboard Mildura, then docked at Brompton, Kent.
Of differing conduct, Hemming was shown to have spent at least one occasion in the cells. His last voyage was aboard Victory after which he was pensioned off on 5 January 1907. A day later he joined the Portsmouth Royal Fleet Reserve and went to work for the White Star Line the same year, serving aboard Teutonic, Adriatic and Olympic as boatwain's mate, lamp trimmer and boatswain.
He had been married in Portsmouth in 1903 to Elizabeth Emily Browning (b. 30 August 1881), a native of Portslade, Sussex. They made their home in Portsmouth before moving to Southampton around 1910 and went on to have three children: Ernest Harry (b. 1904), Jessie Dorothy (b. 1906) and Thomas Robert (b. 1909). The family were shown on the 1911 census living at 51 Kingsley Road, Shirley, Hampshire and Samuel was described as a naval pensioner seaman.
When Hemming signed on to the Titanic, on 6 April 1912, he gave his address as 51 Kingsley Road, Southampton and his previous ship as the Olympic. As lamp trimmer he could expect to earn monthly wages of £5.
On Sunday 14 April Hemming prepared all lights as usual and reported as such to first officer Murdoch. As the ship was in the vicinity of ice around 7.15 pm he was instructed to go forward and close a hatch on the forecastle head as there was a glow from it, with the excess light hampering visibility from the bridge. He did as instructed and closed the hatch himself.
At the time of the collision Hemming was in his cabin asleep but was stirred by the impact; he left his room and put his head out of a porthole to see what the ship had struck but could see nothing but he did hear a hissing noise emanating from the vicinity of the forward area under the forecastle head. He went there but again could see nothing but he and a storekeeper (presumably John Foley) took the hatch of the storeroom and went down to see if the ship was making water, going down as far as the tank top, but the ship seemed sound. Ascending to the forecastle again Hemming determined that the hissing sound was coming from an exhaust pipe coming from the forepeak tank. He encountered chief Officer Wilde and told him of the situation regarding the tank but explained that the storerooms were dry, with the chief officer saying "All right." before walking away. He and the storekeeper (whose identity is not clear, presumably John Foley) then went back to their bunks and went to sleep.
Not asleep for long, the ship's joiner John Hutchinson came to his cabin and reported that the ship was taking in water in holds 1, 2 and 3 as well as the racquet court. Just as he left the boatswain Alfred Nichols arrived and told his crew to "turn out" and that the ship had half-an-hour to live as per the advice of Thomas Andrews but not to tell anyone and keep it to themselves.
Hemming then made for the boat deck. His assigned lifeboat was number 16 but he started at the foremost boat and worked aft, assisting in swinging them out. Officer Lightoller soon arrived and he instructed Hemming to follow him, bringing him to lifeboat 4 and advising he and another crewman to lower that lifeboat flush with A-deck promenade. He was unable to complete this before he received an instruction from Captain Smith to go an fetch lamps and place them in the boats.
Carrying four lamps at a time, two in each hand which he had lit himself, and totalling fourteen, Hemming could not say how many boats he equipped, several having left by that stage.
Under second officer Lightoller's orders Hemming then assisted in filling and lowering collapsible D before assisting in attempting to clear away collapsible B. He then went to the starboard side and assisted with the falls of the davits that had just lowered collapsible C, readying them to launch collapsible A. He worked at the forward davit, seemingly to untangle a knot of rope in the falls which he succeeded in doing before attempting to pass the block up to the roof of the Officer's house where collapsible A was stowed with the intention it would be attached to the boat. Officer Moody refused the block, advising that they would keep the boat on deck, presumably with the intention of floating the craft off. It was around this time (but not clear) that Hemming observed Captain Smith at the bridge who he reported as shouting out for all people to cross to the starboard side.
With no other orders, Hemming went forward to the bridge and looked over the side where he saw the water climbing towards him. He then looked out to sea towards starboard and could see nothing but blackness before he crossed to the portside where he spotted a boat (boat 4) a short way off in the distance. He moved aft along the port boat deck before scaling the after falls from a set of davits and slid down into the water, punching out for the boat he had spotted and swimming for it, the boat sitting around 200 yards the from the side of the ship
Hemming, who had not had the chance to return to his quarters for a lifebelt, swam for boat 4 and reached it, attempting to pull himself aboard via the grab lines at the bows. Finding them too high to do so, he swam amidships and pulled himself up so that his head was visible atop the gunwale. Spotting storekeeper John Foley standing he said "Give us a hand in, Jack" Foley replied "Is that you, Sam?" Foley and some other of the boat's occupants helped pull Hemming aboard.
Hemming reported that the boat held about 47 persons, mainly women and with four crew which included quartermaster Walter Perkis, John Foley and steward William McCarthy along with a fireman he could not identify. He stated that the boat pulled back toward the scene and picked up a further seven men from the water, consisting of stewards, firemen, seamen and passengers, one of whom was seaman William Lyons and another, trimmer Thomas Dillon. One of the passengers picked up was a "foreigner" but spoke good English. Two of the men later died, Lyons and another crewman who Hemming was unable to identify (either a steward of a fireman).
Hemming then reported that his boat made for the light of another lifeboat in the distance. Reaching it, the two kept together and when day broke another two boats were spotted, the four boats becoming lashed together. He then reported hearing "hollering" and observed around 20 men, about half a mile away, standing on what appeared to be ice. The flotilla of boats of which boat 4 was an occupant then cast off and with another boat (boat 12 under command of John Poingdestre) made towards the men who turned out to be standing atop the overturned collapsible B; the men from that boat were distributed between boats 4 and 12.
Hemming was called to testify at the US Inquiry into the sinking on 25 April 1912. Upon his return to Britain he was called to testify for the British Inquiry on 24 May 1912.
Hemming was later reunited with his family and soon returned to sea.
With the outbreak of World War I Hemming rejoined the Navy for active service. On 2 August 1914 he rejoined Victory and served throughout the duration of the conflict as 1st Class Petty Officer, serving in the North Sea and Mediterranean engaged in mine-sweeping among other duties. He served aboard Roedeau which was struck by a mine and sank on 13 January 1915. He again escaped with his life and joined the Whitby Abbey in July 1915. His last ship was Victory I before he was discharged on 6 March 1919 and he was decorated with the General Service and Victory Medals.
Samuel spent his last years living at 47 Cecil Avenue in Shirley before he moved to Blighmont Nursing Home. He passed away on 12 April 1928 aged 59. His estate was valued at £166, 15s.
His widow Emily was remarried in 1929, becoming Mrs Edwin J. Courtney. She died on 22 January 1940 and she Samuel are buried together in Hollybrook Cemetery in Southampton (Section L4, plot 29G, the headstone is now well weathered).
His daughter Jessie was never married and she died in 1924.
His son Ernest was married in 1928 to Emily Fielding and raised a family. He died in Southampton on 19 January 1991.
His son Thomas was married in 1932 to Armorel De Orfe (b. 1908), a Southampton-born lady of French extraction. He died in Hampshire on 14 September 1989.