Encyclopedia Titanica

William James Major

William James Major
William James Major

Mr William James Major was born in Southampton, Hampshire, England on 26 February 1880.

He was the son of Edward Austin Major (1853-1933), a lock pitman, and Ann Frances Grant (1853-1920), both natives of Southampton who were married in 1876 and who went on to have seven children.

William's siblings were: Henry George (b. 1872), Edward Austin (b. 1877), Annie Victoria (b. 1887), Mabel Elizabeth (b. 1890), Joseph Michael (b. 1892) and Richard Ware (b. 1894).1

William appears on the 1881 census living with his family at 6 Lower Back of Walls, All Saints, Southampton and on the 1891 census at 7 Oriental Terrace, Southampton. The family would remain at Oriental Terrace for the following census in 1901 but William was not present and perhaps already at sea.

He was married in his native Southampton in 1906 to Rose Edwards (b. 1881), another Southampton-native, and their first child, Rose Annie (1907-1994, later Mrs Albert Dawson2), was born the following year. The family show up on the 1911 census living at 4 Oriental Terrace, Holy Rood, Southampton 3 and William was described as a ship's fireman.

When William, known as Wally, signed on to the Titanic on 6 April 1912, he gave his home address as 4 Oriental Terrace, Southampton and his previous ship as the Olympic. As a fireman, he could expect to earn monthly wages of £6.

Major survived the sinking, escaping in lifeboat 13. He later sent a telegram to his family announcing:

"Safe arriving Lapland Major"

William returned to life at sea following the disaster and he was still working at sea as of the 1920s. Back at home, he and his wife would welcome another child: William James (1914-1992). William was widowed in 1935 and he himself died on 10 September 1960 aged 80. He was buried at Old Common Cemetery, Southampton (section C 175, plot 245).

In May 2011 several items, including his discharge book and telegrams sent to his wife telling her that he had been saved were sold at auction by a descendant.


  1. Henry Major (born 1872) was born before his parents marrriage in 1876.  He may not have been Edward's natural son.
  2. In 1927 she would marry Albert Dawson.  Rose Dawson died in Southampton in 1994.
  3. A two room dwelling, practically opposite his former home.

References and Sources

United States Senate, Washington 1912. n° 806, Crew List Colonel Archibald Gracie (1913) The Truth about the Titanic. New York, Mitchell Kennerley
Donald Hyslop, Alastair Forsyth and Sheila Jemima (1997) Titanic Voices: Memories from the Fateful Voyage, Sutton Publishing, Southampton City Council. ISBN 0 7509 1436 X
Dorset, England, Crew Lists, 1863-1914
GRO Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths
National Archive (CD10 Identity Card: CR10: Discharge No.:688219, Identity certificate No.:489130)
Henry Aldridge & Son Auction Catalogue: 28 May 2011
Search archive online

Comment and discuss

  1. Graham Tibble

    I am trying to find out more information about fireman William (Wally) Major - Does anyone know anyone or have any information about him.I have some knowledge and local pictures of him -Why? -He was my Mums Uncle which would make him my Great Uncle - My Grandma, Violet Major(My mothers mum)stood on the keyside and watched Titanic leave Southampton in 1912 at the age of 20 - She used to tell me endless stories about the event -I just wish I had taken more notice and detail of the event before she passed away in 1992.

  2. Jason D. Tiller

    Hello Graham, I've moved this thread into here, where it's more appropriate. Have you checked out his biography? If not, click

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Titanic Crew Summary

Name: Mr William James Major (Wally)
Age: 32 years 1 month and 18 days (Male)
Nationality: English
Marital Status: Married to Rose Edwards
Last Residence: at 4 Oriental Terrace Southampton, Hampshire, England
Occupation: Fireman
Last Ship: Olympic
Embarked: Southampton on Saturday 6th April 1912
Rescued (boat 13)  
Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
Died: Saturday 10th September 1960 aged 80 years
Buried: Old Cemetery, Southampton Common, Southampton, Hampshire, England

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