Encyclopedia Titanica

Victor Francis Sunderland

Victor Francis Sunderland

Mr Victor Francis Patrick Sunderland was born in Upton Park, Essex, England on 17 March 1892, St Patrick's Day in Ireland, and he was suitably named for the day.

He was the eldest child of James William Sunderland (b. 1872) and Marie Catherine Foley (b. 1872) who had married in 1889. His father, a boilermaker and later a house decorator, was originally from Southampton, Hampshire and his mother was of East Ham, Essex and was from an Irish family. 

His parents went on to have nine children, with five surviving infancy. Victor's known siblings were: Marion Theresa (b. 1893, aka Daisy), James William (b. 1897) and Phillip (b. 1900), Albert Edward (1903-1903) and Mary Teresa (b. 1905).

Victor appears on the 1901 census living with his family at 292 Millen (?) Road in West Ham, Essex. By the time of the 1911 census the family were living at 19 Marlborough Road, Forest Gate, East Ham, Essex although Victor was absent and his whereabouts at the time is not certain.

A resident of London, Victor was travelling to Cleveland, Ohio to stay with his uncle, J. P. Foley. He boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a third class passenger (ticket number SOTON/OQ 392089 which cost £8, 1s).

On the night of the collision Sunderland was in his bunk in Section G. He and two cabin mates were smoking and Victor had on his trousers; his vest and coat were hanging on a rack. A little before midnight he felt a slight jar and heard a noise "similar to that (of) a basket of coal would make if dropped on an iron plate." Sunderland and six others went up the companion way to the main deck where a steward told them to go back. They could see ice on the deck but the steward told them nothing was wrong so they went back to their cabin.

They lay down on their bunks again and smoked for a quarter of an hour more. Suddenly, water started pouring in under the door. They instantly knew something was very wrong and three of them then ran back up to the main deck. The other men remained in bed. Sunderland thought they might have drowned.

Sunderland was told to return to his cabin to get his life preserver. They went back, but found their room was already under water. They ran aft between the decks and up to the main deck. There they found a Catholic priest praying and a crowd of men and women kneeling. Others were running about, beginning to panic. Sunderland separated from his two companions who went aft to the taffrail. Sunderland went to the mid-promenade deck and then up to the boat deck.

He found the boat deck crowded along the starboard side. The crew was filling boats with women and children and lowering them away. Sunderland claimed that standing nearby him were Mr and Mrs  Straus. An officer was trying to convince them to get into a boat, but Mrs Straus said, "Let me have my husband." When told that only she could get into the boat she replied "Then I will die with him." Whether Sunderland actually saw this is uncertain and he also claimed to have seen an officer firing a revolver in the air once or twice and then shooting a man who had refused to get out of a boat.

Sunderland began to search for a lifebelt. He saw a steward in a lifeboat with three belts and asked him for one, but he refused. Sunderland asked a crew member if he knew where he could find one but the crewmember did not know. The ship was beginning to list to port and the boats along the starboard were almost all gone. The passengers were moving to the port side, but were kept back by crewmembers.

Sunderland stayed close to the forward part of the boat deck where Second Officer Lightoller and several fireman were trying to launch collapsible B. Water began gushing towards him as the bow of the ship began sink rapidly. Some firemen began jumping overboard and Sunderland followed. He swam away and found collapsible B floating next to the sinking Titanic, washed overboard. He grabbed onto it as it floated near the forward funnel, moments later the funnel came down. Sunderland thought the ship broke in two at that time.

Sunderland and about 27 or 28 other men climbed onto collapsible B. Many others were pushed away, those aboard attempting to keep the boat from being overloaded. Sunderland stated that he was near waist deep in the water. Someone aboard asked how many Catholics were onboard and the same person began to say the Lord's Prayer and then the Hail Mary, with the others following.

In the early morning they spotted the Carpathia and Lightoller signalled boat 12 to take them off. Sunderland was the fifth person to climb into lifeboat 12. On the Carpathia he recalled being given cold coffee.

Arriving in New York aboard Carpathia, Sunderland was described as a 20-year-old groom and gave his destination as to the home of his uncle Foley at 8917 Superior Avenue in Cleveland. He was taken to the Salvation Army home and fed and clothed and was then briefly hospitalised at St. Vincent's Hospital where he remained until 20 April. From the 20 to the 24 April, Sunderland went to the White Star offices and tried to recover money he had lost in the wreck. He also "saw the sights." He travelled by train to Cleveland and showed up at his uncle's house unexpectedly on 26 April.

Sunderland later settled in Toronto; he was married there on 12 June 1914 to May Annie McNaughton (b. 8 August 1892). McNaughton was born in Perth, Scotland to William and Elizabeth McNaughton and had come to Canada in 1913. At the time of their marriage Victor's address was listed as 115 Parke (?) Avenue and his profession as a tyre finisher. It was also stated that he was by then Presbyterian. 

Victor and his wife had one son, Kenneth Byron (b. 23 April 1915), later a physician. The family appear on the 1921 census living at 10 Inverness Avenue, Toronto and Victor was described as a plumber, a profession he would remain with until his retirement. A 1949 immigration record from when he visited friends in Florida describes him as standing at 5' 8" and with black hair, brown eyes and a medium complexion and his then address was stated as 63½ Waverly Road, Toronto. His initial method of arrival in the USA was stated as aboard the Titanic.

Victor Sunderland remained in Toronto for the rest of his life and died there on 21 August 1973 aged 81. His widow passed away five years later in December 1978 and they are buried together in Saint John's Norway Cemetery, Toronto. His son Kenneth died on 30 September 1981. 

References and Sources

Toronto Daily Star, 22 August 1973, Death Notice
Province of Ontario Statement of Death
Cleveland Plain Dealer (Ohio), 20, 23, 26 April 1912
Contract Ticket List, White Star Line 1912 (National Archives, New York; NRAN-21-SDNYCIVCAS-55[279])

Research Articles

Jason D. Tiller Titanica! (2012) Toronto's Titanic Survivors

Newspaper Articles

Cleveland Plain Dealer (20 April 1912) JOY AND SADNESS COME WITH NEWS
Cleveland Plain Dealer (20 April 1912) REMAINS IN HOPE HUSBAND IS SAVED

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Titanic Passenger Summary

Name: Mr Victor Francis Sunderland
Age: 20 years and 29 days (Male)
Nationality: English
Marital Status: Single
Last Residence: in London, England
Occupation: Farmer
Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
Ticket No. 392089, £8 1s
Rescued (boat B)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Died: Tuesday 21st August 1973 aged 81 years
Cause of Death:
Buried: St. John's Norway Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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