Mr Michel Navratil was born in Szered, Slowakia on 13 August 1880, he later moved to Hungary and then, in 1902, to Nice, France where he became a tailor.
He married Marcelle Caretto (died 1974), from Italy, in London, (District of Westminster), on 26 May 1907. They had two sons, Master Michel M. and Edmond Roger (Lolo and Momon), however, by 1912 the business was in trouble and Michel claimed that Marcelle had been having an affair. The couple separated, the boys going with their mother. They went to stay with their father over the Easter weekend, but when Marcelle came to collect them, they had disappeared.
Navratil had decide to take the boys with him to America. After stopping in Monte Carlo, they sailed to England where they stayed at the Charing Cross Hotel, London. He purchased second class tickets (ticket No.230080, £26, probably cabin F-4 1) and boarded the Titanic at Southampton, the boys being booked on as John and Fred. His assumed name of "Charles Hoffman" was probably adopted from his friend Louis Hoffman, who helped him to leave France.
He led his fellow passengers to believe "Mrs Hoffman" was dead and rarely let the boys out of sight. Once, he allowed himself to relax at a card game and let one of his tablemates, Bertha Lehmann, a Swiss girl who spoke French but no English, to watch the boys for a few hours.
Mr Navratil wrote to his mother in Hungary, while on board, asking if his sister and her husband could care for the boys; possibly as a backup plan if they couldn't stay in America.
On the night of the sinking, Michel aided by another passenger dressed the boys brought them to the boat deck.
When Second Officer Charles Lightoller ordered a locked-arms circle of crew members around the boat so that only women and children could get through, Navratil handed the boys through the ring of men. Michel, Jr., recalled that just before placing him in the boat, his father gave a final message, "My child, when your mother comes for you, as she surely will, tell her that I loved her dearly and still do. Tell her I expected her to follow us, so that we might all live happily together in the peace and freedom of the New World."
He perished in the sinking. His body was recovered (#15) with a revolver in his pocket.
CLOTHING - Grey overcoat with green lining; brown suit.
EFFECTS - Pocket book; 1 gold watch and chain; silver sov. purse containing £6; receipt from Thos. Cook & Co. for notes exchanged; ticket; pipe in case; revolver (loaded); coins; keys, etc; bill for Charing Cross Hotel (Room 126, April 1912).
SECOND CLASS NAME - LOUIS M. HOFFMAN.
Because he had used a Jewish surname on his ticket, Mr Navratil was interred (May 15th, 1912) in the Baron de Hirsch Cemetery which was designated for the Jewish victims.
The grave of Michel Navratil in the Baron de Hirsch Cemetery.
Photo: © Doug North, Hamilton, Canada.
The "Navratil Orphans" were sheltered at the New York home of Margaret Hays under the auspices of the Children's Aid society. Marcelle Navratil, recognized her boys from the many newspaper stories about their plight and was brought over to America by the White Star Line where she was reunited with her sons on May 16. The three sailed back to France on the Oceanic.
Lolo and Momon with their mother and officers of Oceanic.