Resurfaced witness account from Titanic survivor tells horror of sinking

Emily Goddard
·3-min read
The Titanic leaves Southampton, England on her maiden voyage on 12 April 1912 (AP)
The Titanic leaves Southampton, England on her maiden voyage on 12 April 1912 (AP)

A Titanic survivor has recalled the horror of the night when the ship went down in resurfaced footage from more than four decades ago.

Frank Prentice was an assistant purser and one of the last crewmembers onboard the British boat when she struck an iceberg during her fateful maiden voyage on 15 April 1912.

Speaking during an interview with the BBC in 1979, he describes the moment the iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean ripped through the bottom of the ship.

“Although she was supposed to be unsinkable with the double bottom, the iceberg had cut her from forward on the starboard side to the engine room, right through her two bottoms,” Prentice said.

He recalls how women and children were ordered to get into lifeboats first but that many were too afraid to make the 70-foot drop into the water.

He believed more people could have been saved and that there could have been fewer than the 1,500 deaths if people had realised sooner that the Titanic could be sunk.

“We had 16 lifeboats and each carried 50, and if they’d been filled we could have saved 800, whereas we only saved 500,” Prentice added.

Prentice, who died in 1982, goes on to speak of a chance meeting with a newly married couple, the Clarks, not long before the final moments of the tragedy.

He urged Mrs Clark to put on a lifebelt and get into a lifeboat but she did not want to leave her husband.

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Prentice managed to encourage the woman to get into a boat and then decided he had done all he could to help and tried to get himself to safety.

“She [RMS Titanic] was sinking fast then, and all of a sudden she lifted up quickly and you could hear everything crashing through her,” he said.

“Everything that was moveable was going through her. And then she went down and seemed to come up again, so I thought, ‘Well now I’m going to leave.’”

Prentice hung onto a board and felt himself getting higher and higher as the boat capsized before he fell into the water “with a terrific crack”.

“There were bodies all over the place,” he said.

“I looked up at the Titanic. The propellers were right out of water, the rudder was right out, I could see the bottom.

“And then gradually she glided away, and that was that. That was the last of the Titanic.”

Prentice said he did not want to die but did not see much chance of living as he gradually froze up in the glacial water.

He was saved when he came across a lifeboat and was pulled in by those onboard.

Prentice sat on a seat in the rescue vessel and next to him was Mrs Clark. The first thing she said was, ‘Have you seen my husband?

He had not, but tried to reassure her that everything would be all right.

Prentice describes the moment after when the woman wrapped her cloak around him because he was almost “frozen solid”.

“I think she probably saved my life,” he said.

“I saved hers and she saved mine.”

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