Violet Jessop PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 03 September 2009 10:32

Violet Constance Jessop

Born: 2 October 1887, Bahia Blanca, Argentina

Died: 5 May 1971, Great Ashfield, Suffolk

Age: 83

Cause of death: Heart failure

Notable because: Violet survived the Titanic sinking. She was also on the Brittanic when it sank and survived that too.

Violet  Jessop was an ocean liner stewardess and nurse who achieved fame by surviving the disastrous sinkings of two sister ships: the RMS Titanic in 1912 and the HMHS Britannic in 1916. In addition, she had been on board the one other ship of the class, the RMS Olympic, when it collided with the HMS Hawke in 1911.

Violet Jessop was born to William and Katherine Jessop, Irish emigrants living near Bahía Blanca, Argentina. William Jessop had emigrated from Dublin in the mid-1880s to try his hand at sheep farming in the Argentine. His fiancée, Katherine Kelly, followed him out there from Dublin in 1886. Violet was the first of nine children, only six of whom survived. Violet herself contracted tuberculosis at an early age and despite doctor's predictions survived. After her father died, Violet and her family moved to Great Britain where she attended a convent school.

Violet Jessop boarded the RMS Olympic on October 20,1910. She was a stewardess at the age of 23. After her mother got sick she left school to join a high-class liner. The Olympic was a luxury ship that was the largest civilian liner at that time, being more than 100 feet longer than any other ship. Olympic's first major mishap occurred on 20 September 1911, when she collided with a British warship, HMS Hawke off the Isle of Wight. Although the incident resulted in the flooding of two of her compartments and a twisted propeller shaft, Olympic was able to limp back to Southampton. At the subsequent inquiry the Royal Navy blamed Olympic for the incident, alleging that her large displacement generated a suction that pulled Hawke into her side.


Violet boarded the RMS Titanic as a stewardess on 10 April 1912 and four days later on 14 April, at around 11:45 PM the Titanic struck an iceberg and began to sink. Violet described in her memoirs that she was ordered up on deck where she watched as the crew loaded the lifeboats. She was later ordered into lifeboat 16, and as the boat was being lowered, one of the Titanic's officers gave her a baby to look after. The next morning Violet and the rest of the survivors were rescued by the RMS Carpathia. According to Violet, while on board the Carpathia, a woman grabbed the baby she was holding and ran off with it without saying a word.


During World War I Violet served as a nurse for the British Red Cross. In 1916, she was on board His Majesty's Hospital Ship Britannic when the ship apparently struck a mine and sank in the Aegean Sea. While the Britannic was sinking she jumped out of a lifeboat to avoid being sucked into the Britannic's propellers. She was sucked under the water and struck her head on the ship's keel before being rescued by another lifeboat.[1] She later stated that the cushioning due to her thick auburn hair helped save her life. She had also made sure to grab her toothbrush before leaving her cabin on the Britannic, saying later that it was the one thing she missed most immediately following the sinking of the Titanic.

After the war Violet continued to work for the White Star Line, before joining the Red Star Line and then thttp://cdn-www.cracked.com/articleimages/dan/unlucky/jessop3.jpghe Royal Mail Line again. During her tenure with the Red Star, Violet went on two round the world cruises on that company's largest ship, the Belgenland. In her late 30s Violet had a brief marriage and in 1950 she retired to Great Ashfield, Suffolk.

Years after her retirement, she got a telephone call on a stormy night from a woman claiming to be the baby she saved from the sinking Titanic. The voice asked Violet if she saved a baby on that dreadful night. "Yes", Jessop replied.

The voice then said "Well, I was that baby", laughed, and then hung up. Her friend, and biographer John Maxtone-Graham said it was most likely some children in the village playing a joke on her. She replied, "No, John, I had never told that story to anyone before I told you now." To this day, the baby she saved has never been positively identified.


Violet Jessop died of congestive heart failure in 1971.

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 September 2009 10:50
 

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