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:,

The Owner Who Saved Himself

When the Titanic sank in 1912, most of the blame for the disaster centered on White Star Line’s chairman and managing director, J. Bruce Ismay. After all, it was his ship that caused more than 1500 deaths on its maiden voyage. And the fact that Ismay jumped in a lifeboat and survived added to the worldwide attention and controversy. ismay

Joseph Bruce Ismay was born in Liverpool in 1862, the son of Thomas Ismay, senior partner of Ismay, Imrie and company and founder of the White Star Line. Bruce was made a partner in the firm at age 29, then promoted to head the business when his father died in 1899. In 1901, Ismay agreed to a merger with American shipping companies led by J. Pierpont Morgan. The White Star Line then became part of the International Mercantile Marine Company.

In 1907, Ismay and Lord Pirrie, partner at Belfast shipbuilding company Harland and Wolff, agreed to construct a series of luxurious ocean liners that would outshine Cunard’s new Lusitania and Mauritania. The new WSL ships would carry more third class immigrants to America and offer the very best in accommodations to the wealthy.

As he did on many of the maiden voyages for White Star Line’s ships, Bruce Ismay boarded Titanic as she left Southampton on April 10, 1912. Following the collision with the iceberg, some claimed Ismay assisted with the evacuation of women and children to the lifeboats. Following rescue, Ismay testified at both the US and British inquiries that when he boarded the lifeboat known as Collapsible C, all other boats had left Titanic’s starboard side and no women and children were present.

From the lifeboat, Ismay was so overcome with emotion that he was unable to look as the Titanic sank. Onboard the Carpathia, he was given a private cabin and had to be sedated. Visitors found him in shock and mostly unresponsive for a good part of the trip to New York.

Despite his testimony at the inquiries, hostile newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic labeled Ismay a coward for not remaining on the Titanic as she sank. His reputation never recovered, and he retired from the White Star Line in 1913. Every movie about the disaster depicts Ismay as a villain, regardless of the lack of evidence against him.

headlines after sinking

In Ismay and the Titanic, author Paul Louden-Brown writes, ‘Hundreds of thousands of pounds were paid out in insurance claims to the relatives of the Titanic's victims; the misery created by the disaster and its aftermath dealt with by Ismay and his directors with great fortitude, this, despite the fact that he could easily have shirked his responsibilities and resigned from the board.'

Bruce Ismay died at the age of 74 after a long battle with diabetes. He is buried in the family grave in London.

ismay obit

Photo credits:,

Dressed in His Best

Philadelphia-born Benjamin Guggenheim inherited a fortune from the mining and smelting businesses his father founded after emigrating from Switzerland in 1847. The fifth in a family of eleven, Benjamin (sometimes called the “Silver Prince”) married and had three daughters. Over 1000 guests attended his New York wedding, which the New York Times reported as “one of the handsomest weddings of the season.”


Active in the various family businesses, Guggenheim became president of the International Steam Pump Company in 1909. Business reasons frequently took him away from his townhouse near New York’s Central Park, and he and his wife grew apart. Eventually, he kept an apartment in Paris, and a mistress, French singer Leontine Aubart.


Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Guggenheim

Guggenheim had originally booked passage on the Lusitania for a return trip to New York, but that voyage was cancelled due to the Lusitania’s need for repairs. So, on April 10, 1912, Guggenheim, 46, boarded the Titanic for her maiden voyage, along with his valet, his chauffeur, Miss Aubart, and her maid.


Leontine Aubart

When the Titanic collided with the iceberg, Guggenheim and his valet, Victor Giglio, were asleep in the cabin they shared. Concerned, Miss Aubart and her maid went to wake them. A steward urged the men to don their lifebelts and accompany the women to the lifeboats. But the men soon returned to their cabin and changed into formal evening wear. Back on deck, Guggenheim was reported to have stated, “We’re dressed in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.” He wrote the following message: “If anything should happen to me, tell my wife I’ve done my best in doing my duty.” He and Giglio were last seen sitting in deck chairs sipping brandy and smoking cigars.

Neither of their bodies were recovered. Guggenheim’s chauffeur also perished. Miss Aubart and her maid were put into Lifeboat 9 and were rescued by the Carpathia. Guggenheim left one-third of his fortune to his wife, and two-thirds to his three daughters.

east 72nd street

Former home of Benjamin Guggenheim on 72nd Street, New York City

A newspaper quoted Miss Aubart as saying, “I had in my cabin jewels worth 4,000 (GPB) as well as many trunks of dresses and hats. One does not come from Paris and buy one's clothes in America. That is understood, is it not? Nothing could I take with me; nothing at all. Just as we were, in our night clothes, Marie and I went on deck where the lifebelts were put around us. On the deck there was no commotion; none at all. Oh these English! How brave, how calm, how beautiful! I, who am patriotic French woman say that never can I forget that group of Englishmen- every one of them a perfect gentleman- calmly puffing cigarettes and cigars and watching the women and children being placed in the boats.”

Today, Guggenheim Partners continues the family business history. The popular Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, known simply as The Guggenheim, is part of the Guggenheim Foundation’s extensive interests.


Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum