The Boxers on the Titanic

Dai Bowen and Leslie Williams couldn’t believe their luck. The young Welsh boxers had been chosen out of hundreds of contenders to travel to the United States to compete in a series of boxing contests. An American sports promoter, Frank Torreyson, had paid for their passage across the Atlantic on the Lusitania and would act as their manager. But Leslie, 24, couldn’t go until his new clothes arrived from the tailor. After all, clothing would be more expensive in America, and he would be gone a year. So, with new clothing and all the good wishes of their families and boxing enthusiasts across Wales, the pair were rebooked on another ship sailing a few days later, the Titanic.



Dai Bowen

leslie williams

leslie williams

Leslie Williams

David John “Dai” Bowen, 20, wrote to his mother on April 11, 1912, one day after Titanic left Southampton. He mailed the letter when the ship docked in Cherbourg, France.

“This is a lovely boat… she is like a floating palace, against you walk from one end of her to the other you are tired. We are landing in France the time I am writing you this, you don’t know whether she is moving or not for she goes very steady. Dear Mother, I hope that you won’t worry yourself about me, I can tell you that I am a lot better than I thought I would be, for we gets plenty of fun on board.”

He went on to tell his mother how good the food was, “but not as good as back home.”

The men traveled on one ticket as Third Class passengers, and planned to use the ship’s gymnasium to stay in shape for their American debuts. But the gym was reserved for First Class passengers only. Perhaps an exception was made for the two promising boxers.

When the Titanic struck an iceberg on the night of April 14 and sank, neither man survived. Dai Bowen’s body was not recovered. He was unmarried.

Leslie Williams’ body was recovered by the ship Mackay-Bennett and was buried at sea. He left behind a pregnant wife and young son. She eventually remarried and had several more children.

news after boxers die o n titanic

news after boxers die o n titanic

Newspaper article detailing benefit to take place to help the boxers' families after the sinking.

Photo credits:,

A Titanic Timeline Part II

Last time, we began with a glimpse into Titanic’s maiden voyage, beginning with the preparations in Southampton on April 5, 1912. On Sailing Day, April 10th, Titanic departed Southampton on what would be her only voyage, carrying 2,208 passengers and crew.

leaving southampton

leaving southampton

Titanic departing Southampton April 10, 1912

The Titanic headed across the English Channel for Cherbourg, France, where 24 passengers disembarked and 274 passengers came aboard via tenders. Just after 8:00 pm, the ship was again under way. The first dinner on board had been served in all classes, and passengers spent the evening acquainting themselves with the ship, preparing their children for bed, or strolling the pristine outside decks to gaze at the brilliant canopy of stars.

April 11. At 11:30 am, Titanic dropped anchor two miles offshore at Queenstown, Ireland. Tenders transported 120 passengers and 1,385 sacks of mail to the ship. Two hours later, the Titanic headed out to sea. For most of those on board, they would not see land again.

last_titanic_photo leaving Queenstown

last_titanic_photo leaving Queenstown

Last photo of the ship as it left Queenstown

April 12. Passengers spent the next three days enjoying the ship’s many amenities. Even third class passengers marveled at the bright and spacious public rooms and delicious food. There were few scheduled activities, other than dining hours.

April 13. First class passengers looked forward to the noon posting each day in the smoking room of the previous day’s run. From Thursday, April 11 to Friday, April 12, the ship traveled 386 nautical miles. From Friday April 12 to Saturday April 13, 519 miles, and from Saturday April 13 to Sunday April 14, 546 miles were logged.

titanicsmoking room

titanicsmoking room

April 14. On Sunday, a church service was held in the first class dining saloon. The temperature dropped, and Titanic received several ice warnings over the wireless from other ships in the area. Around 6:00 pm, Captain Smith gave orders for her course to be altered slightly due to the warnings. At 10:00 pm, lookouts Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee took their post in the crow’s nest. At 11:30 pm, Fleet sighted an iceberg and warned the officers on the bridge. Quartermaster Robert Hichens responded immediately to the order to turn the ship ‘Hard-a-starboard.’ The ship turned, but not enough. Less than a minute passed from the moment Fleet sighted the iceberg to collision.

crows nest

crows nest

Crow's nest half-way up mast on left. The bridge, with several windows, is behind it on top deck

April 15. With approximately 1500 passengers and crew still on board, the RMS Titanic sank in the north Atlantic at 2:20 am. Hundreds fell to their deaths, drowned, or died of hypothermia in the frigid waters. All twenty lifeboats, many carrying fewer than their capacity, drifted in a calm, frigid sea until dawn. The RMS Carpathia, having received Titanic’s distress calls, raced through the ice field to rescue the surviving 712 men, women, and children. Carpathia passengers and crew did their best to accommodate and comfort those from the Titanic. Captain Arthur Rostron set a course for New York.



Titanic lifeboat alongside Carpathia

Photo credits:,,

Titanic's Haitian Passenger

On April 10, 1912, the Titanic departed Southampton, England and made its first stop in Cherbourg, France at 6:30 pm. Two tenders carried 281 passengers to the ship, representing 26 nationalities. Among those boarding in Cherbourg was Joseph Laroche, his wife Juliette, and their daughters, three-year-old Simonne and 21-month-old Louise. Joseph was the only black passenger to board the ship. The Laroche family were bound for Haiti, where Joseph, 25, had been born.



Joseph Laroche and family

During the 17th century, a French nobleman named Laroche had arrived in Haiti and married a native girl. The family had prospered, and years later, Joseph’s uncle became Haiti’s president. At age 15, Joseph left Haiti to study engineering in France, under the supervision of the Bishop of Haiti. He completed his studies, obtained an engineering position with the Paris underground, and studied English. He met his English teacher’s sister, Juliette Lafargue, and the two were married in 1908. Simonne was born the following year.

Due to racial discrimination, Joseph had difficulty finding a well-paying engineering position in France. When Juliette became pregnant with their third child in 1912, Joseph decided to move his family back to Haiti, where his uncle, the president, had arranged a job for him as a math teacher.

Joseph LaRoche

Joseph LaRoche

Joseph Laroche

Joseph’s mother was overjoyed to have her son and his family moving home. She paid for their first class accommodations on the liner SS France. But when Joseph and Juliette learned the ship did not allow children to dine with their parents, they cancelled their reservations and booked second class tickets on the Titanic instead.



Passenger boarding area in Cherbourg in 1912

On the night of Titanic's sinking, Joseph put his wife and daughters into a lifeboat. They were rescued and taken aboard the Carpathia, but Joseph perished. His body was not recovered.

Juliette and other grief-stricken young mothers on the Carpathia soon needed diapers for their children. They hid their dinner napkins by sitting on them, and put them to use as diapers.



Envelope used to hold Titanic boarding passes, saved by Juliette Laroche

Juliette and her daughters were taken in temporarily by a charity in New York. She decided not to continue on to Haiti, but returned to France with the girls, where she could again be near her aging father, a widower. One month later, her son was born. She named him Joseph, after his late father.

Juliette never discussed the Titanic with anyone. Many years later in 1994, her daughter Louise met with a founding member of the Association Francaise du Titanic.“We had all been terribly affected. My mother had great difficulty talking about the disaster and she kept those atrocious images with her the rest of her life. We also received no compensation until 1918 and so ran into extreme financial difficulty.”

With the money she received six years after the disaster, Juliette opened a small fabric-dying business, which helped support her family. The girls stayed close to their mother and never married, but Juliette's son Joseph married and had three children.

In 1995, Louise helped unveil a stone marker in Cherbourg to commemorate the passengers who boarded the Titanic there 83 years earlier.



Louise Laroche

In 2003, a three-act opera based on the life of Joseph Laroche premiered at the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, Georgia.

Photo credits:,

Ten Myths About Titanic

1. Sixteen lifeboats plus four collapsible boats were all that were in the original plans. False. The original plans called for 64 lifeboats. The owners and builders reduced it to 32, then to 16 because that was the number required by law at the time, and in order to make room for more deck space. The four collapsible boats were then added, bringing the number to 20.


Passengers strolling on the deck near lifeboats

2. Each of the four funnels had a purpose.

False. The fourth funnel was a fake, added to make the ship look grander.


Titanic leaving Southampton

3. On launch day, the ship was christened Titanic and a bottle of champagne was broken over her bow.

False. The White Star Line did not have naming ceremonies for any of their ships.

4. All passengers were bound for New York.

False. Fifteen first class passengers and nine second class passengers disembarked at the first port call, Cherbourg, France. A canary made the short trip as well, costing its owner 25 cents for the voyage across the English Channel from Southampton. At the second port call in Queenstown, Ireland, seven passengers disembarked.


One of two tenders used to transport passengers to and from Titanic at Cherbourg

5. There was a grand ballroom for first class passengers.

False. There was no organized dancing onboard, although many steerage passengers danced to the lively music in the third class general room provided by passengers who had brought their instruments along.


Part of the third class general room

6. Only the RMS Carpathia responded to Titanic’s distress call after the collision with the iceberg.

False. Three ships responded—the Olympic, the Frankfurt, and the Carpathia. The Carpathia was the closest at 58 miles away. Captain Smith of the Titanic knew it would not reach Titanic in time before she sank.


RMS Carpathia

7. Third class passengers could not reach the Boat Deck because they were locked behind gates.

False. Some of the gates were not locked. A few that were locked were opened by stewards after the collision. They helped guide women and children to the upper decks, but some of the women refused to leave the men. For others, language barriers and the maze of passageways below decks made it very difficult for steerage passengers to find their way. By the time they reached the Boat Deck, most lifeboats had already gone.

8. The Titanic sank intact.

False. The ship broke in half just prior to sinking. Many eyewitnesses had stated this, and it was proven when the wreck was finally explored.


Artist rendering of Titanic breaking in half prior to sinking

9. The iceberg made a long gash in the ship’s hull.

False. The iceberg scraped and bumped the riveted plates, causing the rivets to pop open and water to rush in. Again, this was discovered during the wreck exploration.

10. Due in part to the Titanic tragedy, cruise ships today are required to have enough lifeboats for all passengers on board.

Partly false. Modern ships are required by law to carry enough lifeboats for every passenger and crew member on board, plus 25%.