Encyclopedia Titanica

Frank Couch

Able Seaman

Frank Couch was born in Port Isaac, Cornwall, England on 11 August 1884.

One of ten children, he was the son of Captain Francis Couch (b. 1853), a mariner, and Hannah Marina Fishley (b. 1853), both natives of Port Isaac who had married in Plymouth on 6 August 1874, settling in that city where they began their family before returning to their native Port Isaac in the early 1880s.

Frank’s nine siblings were: Charles Olonza (1876-1905), Laura Ellen (1878-1943, later Mrs John Avery), Francis (1879-1880), Annie (b. 1882), Martha (1886-1956, later Mrs Harold James Bate), Ralph (1888-1968), Rebecca (b. 1890), Mary (1891-1893) and Marina (1894-1960, later Mrs George Bott)

He first appears on the 1891 census, then a resident of an unspecified address in Port Isaac and the family home would still have an unspecified address by the time of the following census in 1901. At the time of the latter record, however, Frank was absent from the family home and listed elsewhere as a crewman (a cook) aboard Deveron, a schooner on which his brother Charles was the master. Exactly when Frank joined the Royal Naval Reserve is not entirely certain and how he switched from victualling to seamanship is likewise a mystery. His brother Charles was lost at sea in November 1905 with the foundering of the schooner Tregea.

Frank's mother died on 5 April 1910 and his father was shown on the 1911 census living at Canadian Terrace in Port Isaac. Frank was shown on the same census as an unmarried merchant seaman boarding at 1 Birmingham Street, Southampton. An “upright, kindly and bright young man,” he was also a member of his local Liberal club.

Couch signed-on in Southampton for the maiden voyage of Titanic on 6 April 1912 and as an able-bodied seaman his monthly wages were £5. He gave no local address but indicated that he had previously served aboard the Modwera, a private yacht, prior to which he had served aboard Oceanic.

Frank Couch was lost in the sinking and his body was later recovered by the MacKay Bennett (#253).

NO.253 - MALE - ESTIMATED AGE, 27 - HAIR, MEDIUM

CLOTHING - Black coat and vest; blue jersey; grey singlet; no socks.

TATTOO - Left arm, eagle on branch with flower; right arm, monument.

PROBABLY A SAILOR

He was subsequently buried in the Fairview Cemetery, Halifax Nova Scotia on 6 May 1912.

Grave
Frank Couch's Grave at Fairview Lawn Cemetery
© Bill Fowler, Canada

His family had a glimmer of hope that he had survived as the name “F. Church” appeared on the lists of survivors and they hoped that it was a garbled form of his name; in later lists published it became clear that “F. Church”  was in fact “F. Clench,” a fellow able seaman who did indeed survive. The Guardian (26 April 1912) states that he was one of four crewmen reported to have died in a lifeboat from exposure, but it is not clear from where this report came.

Couch’s body was not returned to his family in Cornwall but instead interred with other victims in the Fairview Cemetery, Halifax Nova Scotia on 6 May 1912.

His father, who had been living disabled for some ten years and was reliant on Frank and who had lost two sons and his wife in quick succession, was particularly badly hit by the disaster. Although in receipt of a small allowance from the Titanic Relief Fund, in October 1912 he applied for compensation with the Camelford County Court, seeking £120. He was awarded an initial £20, with the balance to be paid in weekly instalments of 10s. 

Frank is mentioned on his parents gravestone in the parish churchyard of St Endellion, a few miles from Port Isaac, Cornwall. The inscription reads:

In Loving Memory of
Marina Couch
who died April 5th 1910
aged 57 years

also of Francis
husband of the above
who died April 14 1919
aged 65 years.
Also of their three sons
Francis
who died June 13th 1880
aged 13 months.
Charles Olonza
who was drowned at sea
on or about November 18th 1905.
Aged 29 years.
Frank
who was drowned in the
Titanic disaster April 15th 1912
aged 28 years.
Also of Mary, their daughter
died December 6th 1893 aged 2 years.

Memorial
Courtesy: Steve Coombes, UK

Coincidentally, his father died on 14 April 1919.

Titanic Crew Summary

Name: Mr Frank Couch
Age: 27 years 8 months and 4 days (Male)
Nationality: English
Marital Status: Single
Last Residence: in Port Isaac, Cornwall, England
Occupation: Able Seaman
Last Ship: Modwera
Embarked: Southampton
Died in the Titanic disaster (15th April 1912)
Body recovered by: Mackay-Bennett (No. 253)
Buried: Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on Monday 6th May 1912

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References and Sources

The Guardian (Bodmin, Cornwall), 26 April 1912, Reported Port Isaac Victim
The Guardian (Bodmin, Cornwall), 25 October 1912, Camelford County Court
Voyage (#10). Titanic International  (1991)

Newspaper Articles

Guardian (26 April 1912) Reported Port Isaac Victim
West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser (21 October 1912) PORT ISAAC TITANIC VICTIM

Documents and Certificates

Agreement and Account of Crew, National Archives, London; BT100/259
(1912) Record of Bodies and Effects (Passengers and Crew S.S. "Titanic") Recovered by Cable Steamer "MacKay Bennett" Including Bodies Buried at Sea and Bodies Delivered at Morgue in Halifax, N.S.
(1912) United States Senate, Washington 1912. n° 806, Crew List, Titanic Inquiry Project
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Acknowledgements

Gavin Bell, UK
Steve Coombes, UK
Chris Dohany, USA
Brian J. Ticehurst, UK
Bill Wormstedt, USA