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15 April 2021

On 15 April 1912, the RMS Titanic sank. Alison Keld, a Maritime Media Volunteer for the project looks back at the tragedy and talks about two survivors from Hull.

The Officer

Joseph Groves Boxhall was born into a prominent Hull seafaring family. He was appointed fourth officer on the RMS Titanic’s maiden voyage from Southampton on 10 April 1912.

It’s believed he was off duty when the iceberg was struck. Hearing the lookout bell Joseph went straight to Captain Smith on the bridge. He was sent to inspect the front of the ship and came across the ship’s carpenter who told him the ship was taking in water.

Joseph calculated Titanic’s position and a distress signal was sent out. Scanning the horizon with his binoculars he picked out the lights of a steamship up to twelve miles away and tried in vain to attract its attention with flares.

Shortly after midnight on the 15 April the passengers and crew were mustered. Joseph was put in charge of lifeboat No 2, it was rowed about three quarters of a mile from the Titanic when the mighty liner was plunged into darkness and slipped below the waves.

There were about 25 people in the lifeboat when Joseph spotted the RMS Carpathia in the distance, and he guided her towards the lifeboats with the help of green flares. They were the first survivors that the Carpathia had come across and Joseph was taken straight to see the Captain to tell him the unbelievable news. By the next morning more than 700 passengers and crew had been rescued by the Carpathia.

Joseph continued his seagoing career and served on a battleship and a torpedo boat during the Great War. He had a happy but childless marriage, and retired from the sea in 1940. He died in Hampshire in 1967 at the age of 83. After cremation, his ashes were scattered, as he had wished, on the Atlantic over the position calculated as the Titanic’s final resting place. He was the last surviving officer of the Titanic to die.

Joseph Groves Boxhall The Last Man Standing
Jospeh Groves Boxhall

The Gentleman

Tranby House in Hessle was the family home of the wealthy Barkworth family. Algernon Barkworth’s father and grandfather were prominent shipbuilders, shipowners and timber merchants in Hull.

Algernon was educated at Eton and Cambridge, where he read Law. He lived the rest of his life as a gentleman of leisure, though he did serve as a JP for many years. Fond of travelling and all things mechanical he paid £30 for a first-class cabin on Titanic’s maiden voyage.

Algernon heard that the clocks on the liner were being turned back one hour at midnight on April 14th and decided to wait up to adjust his watch. When the iceberg was struck at about 23.40, he realised the gravity of the situation and went down to his cabin to retrieve his lifebelt, fur coat and a briefcase. As the ship was sinking further into the water, he plucked up the courage to jump into the icy sea. After a struggle he eventually managed to haul himself onto an upturned inflatable lifeboat. After many hours and against all the odds he was rescued by a lifeboat searching for survivors, that was then picked up by the Carpathia.

Algernon spent much of the rest of his life at Tranby House where he lived with his sister until his death in 1945 at the age of 80. The last member of his family to live at Tranby House, he bequeathed the house and estate to the local education authority. Today, the elegant house forms the focal point of the Hessle High School.