01 June 2009

RIP: Millvina Dean

Elizabeth Gladys Dean
2 Feb 1912 - 31 May 2009

The last survivor of RMS Titanic has died. ZUI this article from the Los Angeles Times:
Millvina Dean, the last survivor of the legendary ocean liner Titanic, which sank on its maiden voyage in April 1912 after striking an iceberg in the North Atlantic, died Sunday. She was 97.

She died at a nursing home near Southampton, England, the port where she and her family boarded the ship, according to Charles Haas, the president of the Titanic International Society. Her death came on the 98th anniversary of the launching of the Titanic, on May 31, 1911.

"She was a remarkable, sparkling lady," Haas told The Times on Sunday. "She knew her place in history and was always willing to share her story with others, especially children. She was the last living link to the story."

Dean was about 8 weeks old when she and her family set sail, third class, on the luxury ocean liner on April 10, 1912. Five days later, she was among about 700 passengers and crew who were rescued off the coast of Newfoundland. She and her mother, Georgetta, 32, and her brother Bertram, 23 months old, were put into lifeboats. Her father, Bertram, 27, stayed on board the ship and was among more than 1,500 passengers and crew members who went down with the Titanic.

She had no memory of the disaster, but at age 8 her mother told her what had happened. "It was so awful for her that she never wanted to speak about it," Dean said of her mother in a 2002 interview with the Irish News. Georgetta Dean suffered severe headaches every day for years after the ship's sinking.


Dean attended secretarial school. During World War II, she moved to London and worked as a mapmaker for the British Army. She later returned to Southampton and was a secretary at an engineering firm. For many years, she lived in a house in nearby New Forest. She never married.

Born on Feb. 12 [sic], 1912, Dean might easily have gone through life without telling anyone that she was a passenger on the Titanic. She ignored the books, movies, clubs, websites and submarine tours of the shipwreck after it was found in 1985, 12,500 feet under the surface of the North Atlantic.

Her anonymity ended in 1987 when she attended a memorial service in Southampton on the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.


In 1998, Dean finally completed the sea voyage from Southampton to New York City that she had set out to make 86 years earlier. She traveled on the Queen Elizabeth II, compliments of Michael Rudd, a Titanic enthusiast and travel agent in Missouri. He and Dean gave a presentation together during the voyage.

"She hadn't been on a ship since 1912," Rudd said in a 2007 interview with The Times. "People crowded around her, they just wanted to touch her."


Dean's mother died in 1975, at 95. Her brother died in 1992 on the 80th anniversary of the ship's sinking. He was 81. Dean is survived by two nephews and two nieces.

The Times has an article with further information here.

Bertram and Millvina Dean, ca 1912

ZUI also this article from The Telegraph:
Although she had no memories of the disaster, Millvina Dean always said it had shaped her life, because she should have grown up in the United States instead of returning to Britain. She died on the 98th anniversary of the launching of Titanic – the ship that was billed as "practically unsinkable". Built in Belfast, the White Star Line vessel became infamous for not having enough lifeboats on board, leading to the deaths of so many passengers.


Elizabeth Gladys Dean, always known as Millvina, was born on February 2 1912 in London, where her parents ran a pub. She was only nine weeks old in April when the family left Britain for America, intending to settle in Kansas City, where her father had hoped to open a tobacconist's shop.

Travelling steerage, the Deans had originally booked on another White Star liner, possibly Adriatic, but were transferred to Titanic because of a coal strike.

The family boarded at Southampton on the morning of Wednesday April 10, the infant Millvina, her parents and brother, who was a few weeks short of his second birthday. They embarked with 493 other third class passengers joining the vessel at Southampton, on a family ticket that had cost her father £20 11s 6d.


At 11.40pm the following Sunday, baby Millvina was asleep in her cot when her father heard a crash, woke the family and told them to dress warmly.

Like many third-class passengers, they found it difficult to get on deck.

"It was so dreadful for my mother," Millvina later recalled. "It was heartbreaking.

"She said goodbye to my father and he said he'd be along later." Millvina Dean said her father's quick actions had saved his family. He had felt the ship scrape the iceberg and hustled the family out of its quarters and towards the lifeboat that would take them to safety. "That's partly what saved us – because he was so quick," she explained.

A sailor bundled her into a sack and put her into lifeboat 13, which was lowered into the freezing Atlantic. It was a bitterly cold night but after several hours Millvina, her 32 year old mother, Ettie, and brother Bertram were picked up by the Cunarder Carpathia. Although some 700 others survived, her father perished – like many of the men – because there were not enough lifeboats.

The surviving Deans returned to England aboard the liner Adriatic, Millvina being the object of some astonishment that such a tiny baby should have made it to safety. First and second class passengers on Adriatic queued to hold her, and many took photographs of her, her mother and brother, some of which accompanied breathless stories in the newspapers.

The Daily Mirror, for example, reported that Millvina "was the pet of the liner during the voyage, and so keen was the rivalry between women to nurse this lovable mite of humanity that one of the officers decreed that first and second class passengers might hold her in turn for no more than 10 minutes".

Back in England, Ettie Dean and her children lived with her parents on their farm in the New Forest; an emergency relief fund paid her £40 and a pension of £1 3s a week for the care of her children until they were 18. In 1920, Ettie married Leonard Burden, the vet who attended her parents' farm. She died in 1975 aged 96.


After Millvina Dean, the second-youngest passenger aboard Titanic was Barbara West, who was nearly 11 months old when the liner sank. She also survived. Barbara Dainton, as she became after her marriage, died in October 2007, leaving Millvina Dean as the last Titanic survivor.

I reported on Dainton's death here.

RMS Titanic in Southampton

1 comment:

emmett said...

god bless you millvina