Mr Harry Bristow

Harry Bristow
Harry Bristow
(© David Bristow, UK)

Mr Harry Bristow was born at Shutta, East Looe, Cornwall on 26th April, 1873 the son of John Bristow (a railway labourer) and his wife Mary Ann 1.

Harry was married to Ethel Elliott (born 25th September 1887) and together they had two children: Vivian John Henry 2 and Philip Harry.

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 Ethel Bristow
Vivian Bristow
(© David Bristow, UK)

On 8th April 1912 Harry posted a card to Ethel:

 Southampton Docks 10pm
 April 8th 1912.

 Dear Love,

 Arrived here after a very slow journey at 9.15pm. I'm stopping at Temperance Hotel.... was very hungry had tea at Waterloo before departing.....several stopping here for Titanic to sign on tomorrow morning before 8am.
Much love dearie self and boy. I will try and write a line tomorrow or Wednesday before sailing.

8 - APR -12   11 PM  

 Mrs Bristow,

 1 Station Parade,


 Bromley, Kent

He signed-on to the Titanic, on 9th April, 1912 giving his Shortlands, Bromley address. The Titanic was his first ship. As a first class steward he received monthly wages of £3 15s.

The next day he wrote again to Ethel.


Southampton 9-4-12

Dearest Et

I have earned my first days pay on the Titanic 4/- & been paid & I may say spent it do you know dearie. I forgot about towels, also cloth brush so I've to buy two, the brush I need tomorrow uniform will cost £1-17-6, coat plus waistcoat and cap and Star regulation collars and paper front (don't laugh dearie it's quite true) two white jackets etc. so it won't leave me very much to take up, my pay is £3-15 plus tips. I'm in the first class saloon so I may pick up a bit. I've been scrubbing the floor today in Saloon, about a dozen of us. I lost myself a time or two, she is such an enormous size I expect it will take me a couple of trips before I begin to know my way about here. I believe we're due back here again about the 4th next month I am not sure though - but if I can manage it & the tips turn out alright, I shall have to leave again Sunday night. I shall try and come Saturday night but I expect I shall have to leave again Sunday night to report 8o/c Monday morning, but of course dearie I'm not sure, its only what some of the old hands told me..................I haven't had a talk with Bert Dodds yet...he's what they call 2nd Steward not 1st but very nice I've heard and liked. I've to be aboard tomorrow morning 6 o/c sharp, means turning out at might send a letter to me addressed as envelope enclosed a day before we're expected in so that I could have it directly I come ashore, now dearie with fondest love to boy and self & be brave as you always are, your ever loving Harry

His final letter was written on RMS Titanic notepaper 3 on the evening of 10th April and posted to Ethel from Queenstown the following day (postmarked Queenstown 3.45pm). In this letter, Harry states that he is 'scribbling this in bed 11.30pm' and that:

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... I had a table with two old ladies for lunch, & another table tonight for dinner but no people, bad luck. I hope I shall get a permanent table tomorrow, when most of the passengers come aboard or else it will mean nil for me as tips are concerned........I think about you very much dearie....fondest love dearie self and boy your ever loving Harry xx'

Harry Bristow died in the sinking. His body, if recovered, was never identified.

Ethel and his children received financial aid from the Lord Mayor's fund. Several entries were made in the Relief Fund records between 1912 and 1923 but perhaps the most poignant was made in June 1913 when a grant of £5 was given so that Mrs. Bristow could take her children to the seaside 4.

Ethel, never remarried, she died in 1972.


1. A the time of the 1881 census Harry was living in East Looe, Cornwall with his parents, older sisters Harriet and Ellen, younger brother Fred and three lodgers.
2. Vivian John Henry Bristow was born on 13th August 1910 in Bath, Somerset. He became an antiquarian bookseller and dealer in manuscripts, trading as 'Henry Bristow of Ringwood', he died on the 17th June 2000.
3. This letter was sold at auction in March 1999 much to the regret of family members who sought without success to regain it.
4. Hyslop et al (1997), p.257 list the sum as £25. This is probably a mistake.


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David Bristow, UK
Steve Coombes, UK
Chris Dohany, USA
Brian J. Ticehurst, UK
Bill Wormstedt, USA

References and Sources

Particulars of Engagement, Public Record Office (BT100/259)
Workmens Compensation Act 1906 - Award to Ethel Elliott Bristow (1, 2, 3)
British Census 1881
Agreement and Account of Crew (PRO London, BT100/259)
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
Mansion House Titanic Relief Fund Booklets and Minute Books
United States Senate, Washington 1912. n° 806, Crew List
Search archive British and Irish newspapers online

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(2020) Harry Bristow Encyclopedia Titanica (ref: #1774, updated 13th January 2020 07:28:11 AM)