Walter Harris

Mr Walter Harris 1 was born in High Halden, Kent, England in 1867, later being baptised on 21 April that year.

He was the son of Thomas Harris (b. 1837), a domestic gardener, and Amelia Hukins (b. 1849), both natives of Kent who had married in Halden on 25 October 1866. 

He had two known siblings: Henry (b. 1869) and Ethel (b. 1876).

Walter and his family appear on the 1871 census living at Borstal Road, St Margaret, Kent, moving to Howberry Farm, Crayford, Kent by the time of the 1881 census when his father was described as a domestic servant. Another move took the family to Enfield, Middlesex where they appear on the 1891 census and his father was by now described as a market garden foreman. Walter was absent from the family home and listed elsewhere as a boarder at 133 West Street, Erith, Kent and he was described as a bricklayer.

Walter was married in St James' Church, Enfield on 11 July 1898 to Ada Harriett Smith (b. 1877 in Ponders End, Middlesex), daughter of wheelwright George Smith and Ann Brazier Pruddent. 

The couple appeared on the 1901 census together living at 7 Harwood Villas, Enfield; they would have their only child, Walter Ernest, early the following year on 5 February 1902. The whole family appear together on the 1911 census living at 47 Granville Road, Walthamstow to where they had only recently moved. Walter was still described as a bricklayer at the time.

Mr Harris boarded the Titanic at Southampton on 10 April 1912, travelling as a second class passenger (ticket number 14208 which cost £10, 10s) and destined to the home of his close personal friend Charles Oxenham in New Dunham, New Jersey. His travelling companion was Percy Thomas Oxenham, Charles' younger brother and the two men were originally booked to travel aboard the Philadelphia on 6 April. Owing to the coal strikes though their passage was switched to berths aboard the Titanic

A contemporary newspaper reported that Walter, in the run-up to his departure, had visited acquaintances and in doing so came into contact with a palmist. After looking at his hand the lady refused to say what she had read, remarking only that she did not like what she had seen. Harris' son then asked "Is Daddy going to be drowned?"

Accounts vary, with some saying that Harris and Oxenham shared the same cabin whilst others insinuating they were in adjoining cabins. One account has a steward alerting them both to the danger whilst another has Percy's own curiosity draw him to the upper decks to investigate any trouble. In any case, he and Walter watched several boats leave before they became separated with Percy ending up in a lifeboat. He survived whilst his friend Walter Harris was lost. 

Walter Harris died in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.

His widow Ada never remarried and remained in Walthamstow where she died on 16 September 1951.

His son Walter later worked as an accountant for an engineering firm and was married in 1929 to Edith Boston (b. 24 February 1902). They made their home in Elstree, Hertfordshire where Ernest died on 12 March 1971. His widow Edith died in 1981. 


  1. Several records spell the surname with two 's', as in Harriss.

Newspaper Articles

Belfast Newsletter (19 April 1912) The Lady Palmist and Titanic Passenger
Hudson Observer (20 April 1912) ONE SURVIVOR REACHES HOME OF BROTHER
Hudson Observer (23 April 1912) LEAVES SINKING SHIP IN BOAT 13 AND STILL LIVES
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Gavin Bell, UK
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Encyclopedia Titanica (2020) Walter Harris (ref: #438, last updated: 6th January 2020, accessed 29th July 2021 16:14:59 PM)

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