Today, time carried me 100 years into the past and took me to the decks of a sinking ship named RMS Titanic. Yes, Titanic. This name might remind you only of the James Cameron movie that was released 15 years ago, but the luxurious White Star liner that sank on the night of 15 April 1912 had close connections with India. A detailed exploration of the data shows that several people who were on the Titanic that night had a special association with India even though they were from other countries, since some of these people were born in India while others settled in India before and after disaster. None of these passengers are alive today, but with the help of the book "On Board RMS Titanic" by American author George Behe, Anuradha Gupta has successfully uncovered those passengers’ disaster experiences and presents details of their special association with India. Let's take a look at these people.
Henry Ryland Dyer
The day of 21 December 1887 was a big day for Thomas and Jemima Dyer, a British couple living in Jhansi in India. After losing their elder son, the Dyers once again got a chance to be the proud parents of another son, who was born in Jhansi on 21 December 1887 and whom they named Henry Ryland Dyer. Henry probably received a big part of his education in India before he traveled to England, where he was determined to further his education.
In the UK Henry was admitted to an engineering college, and after applying himself to his education for four hard years, in 1908 he got a job with the world largest ship company, the White Star Line. This firm was like a haven for Henry, and as time flew by he soon completed four years working as an engineer on board the company’s vessels.
In 1911 Henry received a big promotion when he was given the opportunity to work on board the big White Star liner Olympic, and the following year he was appointed to the Titanic as Senior Assistant Fourth Engineer. That was when Henry's luck with the White Star Line changed abruptly. Death’s open arms were waiting for Henry, but the 24-year-old engineer did not have the slightest clue that the world's largest ship, the Titanic, would be the cause of his death. Henry was on board the great vessel at the time of her sinking, and recovery ships never found his body.
Mary Dunbar Hewlett
Mary Dunbar Hewlett’s journey to New York started from Lucknow but was left unfinished by the sinking of the Titanic. Mary was one of the Titanic passengers who had strong connections with India. She lived with her elder son in Lucknow, but in 1912 she decided to travel to New York to visit her younger son.
For the last part of her journey from India to America she travelled second class on the Titanic, having embarked at Southampton. We found an interview with Mary in an old copy of the Evanston Daily News newspaper in which she shared her experiences: “It was evidently but a moment after the collision that I was awakened by hearing a noise in the hallway. I noticed the engines had stopped. Getting out of bed I opened my door. There was the steward dressed in full uniform. I asked what was the cause of the commotion and he assured me that nothing was wrong.”
But Mary had gotten a strong hint that trouble had come on board her ship. Without wasting any time she headed for the liner’s upper deck. As she said in her interview, “On my way I noticed most of the passengers strapping life belts on themselves. I met a man with two lifebelts and asked him for one. He gave me one and I strapped it on myself. ” After boarding a lifeboat, Mary looked at the Titanic for the last time and only then realized how much damage the iceberg had done to the ship that she had so recently been traveling on.
She later told the Evanston Daily News, “When I got into the lifeboat it was very nearly filled and there were more men than women.” Mrs. Hewlett survived the sinking and was rescued by the Carpathia in lifeboat 13. After concluding her visit to her son in the United States Mary made plans to return to Lucknow, India, and, according to the last available information, she followed through with her travel plans and died in Naini Tal, India on 9 May 1917
Miss Annie Clemmer Funk
Even though the Titanic carried more than 1500 lives into the arms of death, there was a woman on board the ship who sacrificed her own life to save the life of another. She was none other than India's first woman missionary. Annie Funk had always dreamt of being a missionary, and this dream was realized in December 1906 when she was sent to India as the first female Mennonite missionary.
Annie lived and worked in Janjgir for the next years. In July 1907 she opened a one-room school for girls and initially taught seventeen girls there, and she got even closer to the people by learning Hindi. But time decided on another fate for Annie – a very cruel fate. The day came when a telegram arrived asking her to return home to see her ill mother, who was then breathing the last breaths of her life.
As soon as this news came, Annie left for home. Her trip started with a train journey from Janjgir to Mumbai, where she boarded the steamer Persian and traveled to Marseille. After completing this long journey Annie finally reached Liverpool, where the liner Haverford was scheduled to carry her home to America. When this ship’s sailing was cancelled because of the coal-strike, destiny took Annie on board the Titanic. It was an odd quirk of fate that Annie turned 38 on the Titanic on April 12th – just two days before she was catapulted into the jaws of death on the morning of 15 April 1912.
According to an old copy of the Paterson Morning Call newspaper, ‘On the night of the sinking, she was asleep in her cabin, was woken by the stewards, dressed and went on deck. She was about to enter a lifeboat, when a woman came from behind, pushing her aside by calling: "My children, My children."’ The last seat in the boat was gone, and Annie had to step back. She died in the sinking, and her body, if recovered, was never identified. In her memory, her old school in India is now called the Annie Funk Memorial School.
Miss Ruth Elizabeth Becker
Miss Ruth Elizabeth Becker was born in India and was just twelve years old when she boarded the Titanic at Southampton. Ruth’s journey from India to America was made in company with her mother and two younger brothers. She was not been impressed with the idea of the Titanic being the largest in world on her maiden voyage, but after 29 days of constant traveling she only wanted to reach her destination as soon as possible. In an old interview to the official journal of the Titanic Historical Society she said, ‘I could not describe the interior of the ship,’ but she was very delighted with the cabin that she and her family were assigned to.
Ruth also had a language problem on the ship because her English was heavily accented and mixed with Telugu, so she faced many problems in conversation with others. At the moment of the collision Ruth was sleeping in her room with her two younger brothers. Suddenly her mother came to her bed and shook her awake. That was the first time that Ruth caught wind of the fact that something was wrong.
In her interview she said, ‘My mother was screaming, get out of bed immediately. The boat has hit an iceberg and we’re supposed to go up on the boat deck.’ At that time Ruth’s power to understand her mother’s thinking seemed to have lost.
When she and her family reached the boat deck she found that lifeboats were being loaded with passengers. Lifeboat #11 was already pretty full, but Ruth’s mother and younger brothers somehow found places in that boat while Ruth was still trying to find an empty seat. Ruth was left standing on the deck of the Titanic, at which point her mother screamed "Ruth! Get in another boat!!" Ruth eventually found a seat in lifeboat #13, and she reached the Carpathia safely.