Titanic's Baron-in-Residence

For various reasons, at least fifteen passengers aboard the Titanic were traveling under false names. One man, Alfred Nourney, called himself “Baron von Drachstedt” and used this name to get himself a cabin in first class with only a second class ticket.

a nourney

Alfred Nourney

Born in the Netherlands and living with his mother in Germany, 20-year-old Nourney had purchased a new wardrobe for his venture on the Titanic as Baron von Drachstedt. He also bought jewelry, fountain pens, walking sticks, and carried a revolver to defend himself, as he put it, in the “wild west.”

Nourney boarded the ship in Cherbourg, France with a second class ticket. Apparently dissatisfied with the accommodations, he complained to the purser, using his status as “Baron.” He was moved to a first class cabin, and sent his mother a postcard saying how much he enjoyed first class and that he had met John Jacob Astor. He also sent a telegram to a young lady in Germany, calling it a “wireless kiss.”

On Sunday night, April 14th, Nourney played cards in the first class smoke room with two other passengers. When the Titanic struck the iceberg, the men went to investigate but soon returned to their card game. Later, as the order came for lifeboats to be filled with women and children first, Nourney nevertheless managed to secure a seat in one of the first lifeboats to be lowered. As his lifeboat was rowed away from the sinking ship, he smoked one cigarette after another and eventually fired off all the cartridges in his revolver.

On board the rescue ship Carpathia, Nourney fell asleep on a pile of blankets meant for survivors. One young woman pulled the top blanket away, sending Nourney rolling on the floor. Everyone watching applauded. The same day, he tried to send a telegram to a friend about the sinking and said he was safe on the Carpathia. The telegram was never transmitted, due to the number of telegrams those on board wanted to send.

Nourney telegram

"Titanic sunk!"

Most of Nourney’s money had gone down with the Titanic. After the Carpathia reached New York, he soon returned to Germany, where he later married and had two daughters. He became a salesman for Daimler-Benz and competed in motorsports. He died in 1972.

The real von Drachstedt family denied any connection to Alfred Nourney.