Encyclopedia Titanica

Albert William Stanley Nichols

Alfred Nichols
(Daily Sketch 18 April 1912)

Mr Alfred Nichols (boatswain) was born as Albert William Stanley Nichols in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on 16 July 1864.

He was the son of Thomas George Charles Nichols, a mariner and his wife Mary and he grew up on Lord Howe Island. He reportedly left home at an early age and went to sea.

When Alfred, nicknamed "Big Neck," arrived in Britain is not certain. He was married in St Cyprian's Church, Edge Hill, West Derby, Lancashire on 2 April 1893 to Jane Porter (b. 7 September 1870, daughter of George and Robina Porter), a native of Mauchline, Ayrshire, Scotland. At the time the couple were resident of 46 Verdi Street, Seaforth, Lancashire and Alfred described himself as a seaman. The couple went on to have three children: Grace (b. 1897), Thomas Alfred (1899-1975) and Jane "Jean" Agnes (1903-1991).

Alfred would be absent at the time of the 1901 census, likely at sea, but his wife and first two children are listed as living at 66 Chelsea Road, Litherland, Lancashire. The family moved southward to Southampton, possibly around 1907 to correspond with the shift of the White Star Line's main terminal to that city from Liverpool and sometime around 1908 Nichols joined the Royal Naval Reserve Force. He and his family appear on the 1911 census living at 37 Oakley Road, Shirley and Alfred is described as a mariner.

Alfred was on board the Titanic for her delivery trip from Belfast to Southampton. When he signed-on again, in Southampton, on 6 April 1912, he gave his address as St. Cloud, Oak Tree Road, (Southampton). His last ship had been the Olympic and as Boatswain he received monthly wages of £8, 10s.

Lamp trimmer Samuel Hemming reported that after the collision Nichols 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.

Boatswain's mate Albert Haines testified that Nichols' assigned boat was number 7. He stated that as the aft starboard boats were being swung out the forward boats were being filled. Nichols' missed joining his assigned boat, the first to be lowered, whilst Haines only just managed to join his (number 9) before it was launched.

Nichols later led a team of six seamen to open some of the lower gangway doors to load lifeboats; since he and the seamen were never seen again what became of them remains a mystery.

Nichols' body, if recovered, was never identified. The following death notice appeared in an unidentified newspaper:

NICHOLS--April 15th, 1912, on the s.s. Titanic, Alfred Nichols, the deeply beloved husband of Jane Porter, Mauchline, Ayrshire, Scotland. Deeply mourned by his sorrowing wife and children. Gone but a little time before us. Scotch (sic) and Australian papers please copy.

Alfred's widow and children were assisted financially by the Titanic Relief Fund. What became of Jane Nichols is not certain.

Research Articles

Brad Payne Titanica! (2015) Whatever Happened to Big Neck Nichols?
Was Titanic's Quartermaster sent below never to return?

Documents and Certificates

Titanic Relief Fund (1)
Search archive online

Comment and discuss

  1. Nola Yarney

    Nola Yarney

    Does anyone have any next-of-kin information about Alfred Nichols?

  2. Chris Dohany

    Alfred Nichols left behind a widow, Jane, and two children, Thomas A. and Jane A.

  3. Andrew Rogers

    Andrew Rogers

    Nola, I have searched through birth and marriage records here in Sydney to try and get some clues into Alfred's life. He was an Aussie and was listed as being born in Sydney but I'd say his birth was not recorded (quite common around 1870)and I think he may have married in the UK or at least somewhere other than Sydney. Chris,I knew of Thomas but how did you find out the names of his wife and daughter? Andrew

  4. Robyn Allen

    Alfred Nichols was the first child born to Captain Thomas George Charles & Mary Nichols on Lord Howe Island, New South Wales, Australia in 1864. When 18+yrs he left the island and was not seen by his family again.

  5. Brian J. Ticehurst

    Robyn - Many thanks for that information - do you know if there is a memorial to him on Lord Howe Island? or is he mentioned on the family gravestone there? Below is my print out on him: Nichols, Alfred D. St. Cloud, Oak Tree Road, Bitterne Park, Southampton. Boatswain. 42. (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia). (Death Notice, Southern Daily Echo 29th April 1912 and Hampshire Independent 4th May 1912). Nichols, Alfred. Dearyl beloved Husband of Jane Porter, Mauchline, Ayrshire, Scotland. Deeply Mourned by His Sorrowing Wife and Children. Scotch and Australian Papers please copy. (From... Read full post

  6. Robyn Allen

    Brian - didn't see anything when I visited LHI March this year but will contact family still living on the island and ask for you.

  7. Robyn Allen

    Brian - Thank you for your info just a few twists. First Alfred was named Albert and the daughter's name was Jean not Jane. She visited LHI with her family a few years before her death and was known to the Nichols family. As Alfred/Albert went below with his fellow crew he obviously knew things did not look good so gave his whistle to someone to pass onto his family if he didn't make it. The whistle was returned to his wife and still remains with the family today.

  8. Brian J. Ticehurst

    Robyn - Thanks for your updates - ref the Whistle - interesting story - please make sure that it is fully documentated for future generations with letters of authenticity etc. As to the names difference - the people in that era seemed to change there names a lot more than we do today and it is not unusual to find discrepancies. Best wishes - Brian

  9. Ana Florencia Pinton

    Sorry for being ignorant, but what were the boatswain's duties?

  10. Bob Godfrey

    His job was to ensure that the work of the deck crew was done to a proper standard, under his organisation and supervision. At times he would be passing on the orders of the officers, but would be expected also to use his own initiative and authority to keep things working smoothly.

  11. Ana Florencia Pinton

    They were the seamen's supervisors? Wow, it's funny how I got it totally wrong, I thought they were more like the last step of the chain of command lol. I guess I should have known better, they have their own cabin after all...

Reply Watch Thread

Titanic Crew Summary

Name: Mr Albert William Stanley Nichols (Alfred)
Age: 47 years 8 months and 30 days (Male)
Nationality: Australian
Marital Status: Married to Jane Porter
Last Residence: at St. Cloud Oak Tree Road Shirley, Hampshire, England
Occupation: Boatswain
Last Ship: Olympic
Embarked: Belfast on Saturday 6th April 1912
Died in the Titanic disaster (15th April 1912)
Body Not Identified

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