"Mr Robert Guest"
On 10 April 1912 a 23-year-old man identifying himself as Robert Guest boarded Titanic at Southampton as a third-class passenger (ticket number 376563, which cost £8, 1s). He was travelling with acquaintances from Maidstone, Kent, Percival and Kate Thorneycroft. Only the latter survived.
Mrs Thorneycroft related in an interview with the Utica Herald-Dispatch (30 April 1912) that after the ship had struck the iceberg she had been conversing with her husband about how she thought the ship had struck something. Her husband dismissed this. Shortly after however, Mr Guest knocked at their cabin door to inform them that ship had indeed "run into a berg." Mrs Thorneycroft does not make clear if Guest followed she and her husband to the upper decks. However, Mrs Thorneycroft went on to say that when the women were being brought up to "the second deck" (i.e., to where the lifeboats were waiting for them) the men began to follow but were told in harsh terms that they were to remain where they were, lest they would be shot. Despite this ruthless threat, Mrs Thorneycroft believed her husband and the other men would be taken care of. She never saw her husband or Mr Guest again and left in a lifeboat.
"Robert Guest" has long been identified as Charles Robert Guest, a labourer who was born in Speldhurst, Kent, England in the latter months of 1887, the eldest son of Robert Guest (b. 1850) and Fanny Whatman (b. 1859).
His father, who held various jobs including waggoner, agricultural labourer and farm bailiff, was originally from Ticehurst, Sussex whilst his mother hailed from Rolvenden, Kent and they had married in late 1886. The couple took on the children of Fanny's brother, Albert Whatman (1851-1932). Albert, also a waggoner, had been married in 1875 to Mary Ann Holdstock (b. 1856) and had three children: Charles Albert (b. 1877), Florence Elizabeth (b. 1879) and Walter William (b. 1884). Mary Ann apparently died in 1884, possibly during childbirth. Perhaps unable to care for his children himself, Albert left them in the charge of his sister and her husband and they would appear with them on census records listed under the name of Guest.
Charles Robert Guest himself came from a large brood and his siblings were: Stephen (b. 1889), Olive May (b. 1892), Grace (b. 1893), Ethel (b. 1894), Frank (b. 1895), Winifred (b. 1897), Clara (b. 1899), Herbert Percy (b. 1900), George Frederick (b. 1901), Alice Maud (b. 1902) and Doris Beatrice (b. 1906). Another unnamed brother was stillborn in late 1890.
The family first appears on the 1891 census living at an unspecified address in Horsemonden, Kent and on the following 1901 census at Pheasant Farm in Headcorn, Kent where Charles was described as a domestic house boy, having already left school. By the time of the 1911 census Robert was described as a nursery gardener and still living, unmarried, with his parents at Herbert Road, Hextable, Swanley, Kent.
Guest's destination aboard Titanic is not certain but the Thorneycrofts were bound for Clinton, New York. The ship's log details that he was travelling c/o Pickfords of Gresham Street, London, a removals firm.
However, it appears that Charles Robert Guest was not aboard the Titanic and he instead flourished for close to another sixty years before he died in Kent in 1971. During that time he married and had children.
So who was "Robert Guest" who was on the Titanic? Thanks to interviews given after the sinking by Mrs Thorneycroft, we don't have to look very far.
(Rome Daily Sentinel, 30 April 1912)
Although contemporary newspapers were often prone to errors in names and other details about Titanic passengers and crew, it would appear that this was no mistake and his name was repeated as "Stephen Guest" in several other New York newspapers.
Charles Robert Guest had a younger brother, Stephen (b. 1889), whose age would fit more with the "Robert Guest" who stated he was 23. Stephen was born in Tonbridge and birth was registered in the third quarter of 1889. By 1911 he was an unmarried waggoner, like his father, and boarding at Pembles Cross Farm in Egerton, Ashford, Kent. What is more telling is that there are no identifiable records for Stephen Guest after 1912, unlike his brother Charles Robert.
Why Stephen Guest chose to use a pseudonym whilst boarding the Titanic is for now unknown.