Titanic's hardworking steward

When John Hardy signed on as Titanic’s Chief Second Class Steward, he brought with him fourteen years’ experience at sea. In my yet-to-be-published novel, Ruth Becker meets Hardy just after Titanic has departed Southampton, and is thrilled to learn he has a pram for her to push her little brother on deck.

john hardy

John Hardy

Hardy had worked for the White Star Line for twelve years, serving aboard four ships. In between his duties, he’d married his landlady’s daughter, Etta, in Liverpool, and had two children, Ronald in 1903 and Norah in 1905. The family moved to Southampton, and were living there at the time of Titanic’s sailing in 1912.

John, 36, was already on board as Titanic made her way from the Harland and Wollf shipyards in Belfast on April 2nd, arriving in Southampton on April 4th. The next day, Good Friday, the ship was decorated with colorful flags and pennants as a salute to Southampton. But before she could begin her maiden voyage on April 10th, most of the crew would be hired, thousands of tons of coal would be loaded, and supplies for the voyage would be brought aboard, including enough food for a small city. Also, any cargo, including crates of goods purchased abroad by American customers, was loaded into the cargo hold.

John Hardy was responsible for overseeing 162 second class cabins. On the night of the sinking, he turned off all unnecessary lights in the second class areas, went to bed around 11:30 pm, then felt a slight shock. Checking the passageway, he found nothing amiss and returned to bed. Then the Chief First Class Steward woke him with the news of what happened. John proceeded to rouse the stewardesses and assist passengers to the lifeboats. He worked on deck until the last lifeboat was launched, followed by the collapsible boats. He managed to board the last one, carrying 25 passengers, just 15 minutes before the ship sank. Later, they tied the boat up together with six other boats and took on ten more passengers.

collapsible lifeboat folded away

Example of a collapsible lifeboat with its sides folded away


Titanic crewmembers following rescue

John Hardy continued to work for the White Star Line, then aboard hospital ships and troop transports during the First World War. Twins were born to John and Etta in 1919, and the family moved to New Jersey, where John continued for twenty years as Chief Steward for various ships in the United States Line.

John Hardy died at his son’s home at the age of 82.

hardy tombstone

Photo credits: Encyclopedia Titanica and New York Times

The Last Crewman

The youngest of nine children, 18-year-old Sidney Daniels of Portsmouth, England, signed on as a third-class steward aboard the RMS Titanic. He’d already worked for one year aboard the Olympic, and he had his superiors’ strongest recommendations. His son, Richard Daniels, states, “Dad’s steward’s uniform was impeccable. He had to make sure the rooms were spotless and the passengers well cared for.”


Titanic Steward Sidney Daniels

On the night of the sinking, a night watchman entered his room and woke Sidney in his bunk. He and his roommates thought it was drill, until he was told to dress immediately, wake the passengers in his care and help them to the lifeboats. Sidney did as he was instructed, assisting at least 24 passengers to the boat deck. Among them was first class passenger Ida Strauss, who refused to leave her husband Isidor. The couple perished together in the sinking.

Richard Daniels continues, “But when he had done his job and was back on deck there was only a collapsible lifeboat left. He helped cut it free but it bobbed over the rail with no one on board.

His superiors told him ‘jump now, lad. There’s nothing here.’ He looked over the rail into the pitch black icy water but was too petrified to jump.

“But he knew it was the only way and leaped off and began swimming from the boat.

“He made for a shape in the distance which turned out to be the collapsible lifeboat. It was upturned and had two dozen survivors on it.

“He got on and was about to fall asleep when someone on said, ‘if you fall asleep, son, it will be your last.’

“The man next to him died and another clung on to Dad’s leg.”

Sidney reported the men in the boat saying the Lord’s Prayer in unison. They were later rescued and brought aboard the Carpathia.

Mr Sidney Daniels' Diary

Page from Sidney Daniels' Diary

He returned to work aboard the Olympic, crossing the Atlantic more than 200 times to New York and back to Southampton. In 1914, he joined the Royal Army Service Corps, but to his dismay, saw no direct combat. He married in 1916, but his wife died two years later. In 1920, he remarried and had seven children.

Sidney Daniels was the last surviving member of Titanic’s crew. He died in Portsmouth at the age of 89.

Mr Richard Daniels holds a photograph of his father Sidney Daniels

Richard Daniels holding a photo of his father Sidney