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Douglas Spedden Survived the Titanic Age 6 but Died Age 9

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L.M.Reid is an Irish writer who has published many history articles online and in magazines.

Douglas Spedden at age 9, just before he was knocked down and died

Douglas Spedden at age 9, just before he was knocked down and died

Douglas was a Passenger on the Titanic

Douglas was six years old when he and his parents Frederic and Daisy Spedden got into lifeboat number three as the Titanic was sinking on 15th April 1912. They all survived but tragedy was to happen to this family just three years later.

The Lifeboats on the Titanic

This is the story of his experiences on the Titanic Lifeboat. Also in the lifeboat were the Spedden family servants Elizabeth Burns who was the nanny of Douglas and Helen Wilson who was the maid of Daisy Spedden. That night when the Titanic was sinking Douglas slept with his teddy for most of the time as the lifeboat was in the freezing Atlantic Ocean.

Abandoning Ship

Because the Spedden family survived we have first hand accounts of what happened to them as the Titanic hit the iceberg and began to sink. Mr. and Mrs Spedden both spoke to reporters about their experiences. Elizabeth Burns, nanny to Douglas also tells us how Douglas got on in the lifeboat and what happened when he woke up as lifeboat three came alongside the Carpathia ship which was there to rescue them.

Douglas Spedden was a survivor of the Titanic which hit an iceberg and sank on 15th April 1912. But he was to die in America when he was only nine years old. This is his story.

The Spedden Family

Douglas Spedden was born in New York in America on 19th November 1905. He was the only child of Frederic and Daisy Spedden. They were a very wealthy couple who had their only child when both were quite old to start a family.

Frederick was 39 years old and Daisy was 33 years old when Douglas was born. The family of Frederic Spedden had made millions of dollars in banking. When Daisy Stone married Frederick she too came from a very rich family.

Her family had made their fortune in shipping. This couple welcomed their newborn son into a happy life of luxury and travel. They had a home in Tuxedo Park New York and a summer residence in Bar Harbor, Maine. During the winter months of the year the family would travel around Europe.

Their Son Also Accompanied Them

The year of 1911 was no different for Mr. and Mrs Spedden and Douglas as they set off on their European travels. In September of that year the family along with servants Elizabeth Burns and Helen Wilson went to Europe on holiday.

They spent six months travelling around Europe and were in France by March. First Class Tickets had been booked on the new luxury Liner the Titanic which was making her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on 10 April 1912.

They travelled to Cherbourg on a train from Paris. There on Wednesday 10th April 1912 they boarded the Titanic. Douglas and his nanny Elizabeth were in the first class cabin E 40. Mr and Mrs Spedden were near by in the first class suite E 34. Helen Wilson who was the maid was in the first class cabin.

Douglas Spedden was photographed playing on the deck of the Titanic as a child.

Douglas Spedden was photographed playing on the deck of the Titanic as a child.

The Titanic

The Titanic sailed from Cherbourg on Wednesday 10th April and sailed for Queenstown in Cork Ireland. On Thursday 11 April 1912 the last passengers boarded the ship before her journey out to the Atlantic Ocean and towards New York.

The Photographer Father Browne

But one man who got off the Titanic at Queenstown was an Irish priest Father Browne. He had been given a ticket as a gift and boarded the Titanic at Southampton. He was on board as it went to collect passengers at Cherbourg and when it picked up passengers at Queenstown. But here his ticket ended and he left the Titanic that day.

He was a very keen photographer and took some of the more famous shots on board the Titanic. Douglas is playing with a spinning toy as his father looks on. His Nanny is close by too but somewhat obscured in the photo by another passenger in front of the camera. Young Douglas would have been up and about on the first class deck of the Titanic during his voyage for the next few days.

First Class deck on the Titanic

First Class deck on the Titanic

The Iceberg

When the Titanic hit the iceberg at 11.40 pm on Sunday 14th April the Spedden family was asleep in their first class cabins. From accounts of the Speddens and their servants this is what happened next.

Frederic and Daisy Spedden were woken up at 11.40 pm when the noise of the engines on the Titanic came to sudden and screeching halt. This was the crew trying unsuccessfully to avoid hitting the iceberg with the side of the ship.

They both got dressed and left their cabin and tried to find out what had happened. By the time they got back they noticed that the ship was slightly listing to one side. They woke the servants. Young Douglas was woken up and dressed by his Nanny Elizabeth and to keep him calm she told him they were taking a ‘trip to the stars.‘

Titanic Lifeboat 3

Mr. and Mrs Spedden with their six year old son Douglas, his nanny and the maid Helen all made their way on to the deck of the Titanic. They arrived on the starboard side as lifeboat 3 was taking on all women and children. Frederic Spedden helped his wife Daisy, his son Douglas and two Servants on to the Lifeboats.

There were no more women and children on the deck when lifeboat 3 was ready to leave the Titanic and winched down to the water. Frederick Spedden and other male passengers on the deck at the time were allowed to climb into the lifeboat too.

Dead Passengers

On board the lifeboat water was slowly seeping in. It was freezing in the Atlantic Ocean that night but the sea was calm. As the night turned into dawn the lifeboat now contained freezing water which came up to the passengers knees.

Six year old Douglas was well wrapped up and slept with his teddy bear until the next morning when dawn came. It is just as well that Douglas did sleep. He was spared the horrific sight of bodies floating all around the Lifeboats once the Titanic finally sank to the bottom of the ocean at 2.20 am on that terrible morning of 15th April 1912.

The water was freezing and it is estimated that people would have died from hypothermia after being in the water for a short while. Helen Wilson was to tell her sister later that the horror of seeing all those bodies felt like a nightmare she would never wake up from

The sea had been very calm all night but by daybreak the water was becoming choppy with strong winds. There were many ice pieces small and big that had surrounded lifeboat 3 and many of the other boats too. The ocean was full of them.

When after many hours in the freezing water and near dawn the young Douglas Spedden did wake up he was delighted to see all the pieces of ice in the sea. He is reported as saying to his nanny, who he called Muddie “look at the beautiful North Pole with no Santa Claus on it."

The Carpathia Rescues Survivors

The ship Carpathia came to rescue the survivors of the Titanic and eventually lifeboat 3 was at the side of the ship. Once the boat was secure the passengers were brought on board the Carpathia. Douglas was placed in a sack and hauled up the side of the ship as were all the younger children. He was eager to see all the fuss around him.

The Carpathia

The Spedden family along with other first class passengers rescued from the Titanic were given first class accommodation on the Carpathia. There were already passengers on board the Carpathia and some of them gave up their cabins for the survivors. They bunked in with other passengers.

The survivors of the sinking of the Titanic arrived in New York on Thursday 18th April 1912. Mr and Mrs Spedden gave interviews to reporters where they praised the crew and captain of the Carpathia and spoke of their experiences on board the Titanic that night and the following morning on the lifeboat.

The Titanic ship leaving Southampton in April 1912

The Titanic ship leaving Southampton in April 1912

Daisy Spedden Writes a Book for her Son

Daisy Spedden had for years kept a diary of her many travels around the world. She kept one on the Titanic too. She was also a keen photographer but her camera was lost with the Titanic. The following Christmas of 1913 Douglas who was now seven years old received a book entitled ‘My Story’ from his mother. It was written and illustrated by Daisy Spedden.

‘My Story’

She had used the polar teddy bear that belonged to her son as the main narrator of the book. This bear was a constant companion to Douglas when he had set off with his parents in September 1911 on their long trip around Europe. His aunt had given him the teddy as a going away gift.

In the book the bear ‘Polar’ described the fun and adventures that he and his friend Douglas had on their journey around Europe including their adventures on the Titanic. The following two winters the Spedden Family including Douglas travelled abroad for their long holidays. They spent their summers in America.

Douglas Spedden is Killed in 1915

It was August 1915 and the Spedden family where spending the summer at their house in Maine. Douglas was playing football near his home when the ball went out into the road. He ran out to retrieve it but was hit by a car. It was 8th August 1915 and Douglas Spedden was nine years old. He died a few days later. His parents and family were devastated by his sudden death.

It is said Frederic and Daisy Spedden never got over the death of their only child. The couple still travelled during the winter but Daisy Spedden stopped writing in her diaries that day and never returned to them again. Her diaries and the book that she had written for her son were put away in a trunk and forgotten about.

Frederic Spedden died on 3rd February 1947 when he was eighty years old. He had a heart attack when he was swimming in a pool in Palm Beach Florida on holiday. Daisy Spedden died three years and a week later in on 10th February 1950, she was 78 years old.

Miss Elizabeth Margaret Burns was forty one years old when she boarded the Titanic as nanny to Douglas Spedden. She died in May 1921 when she was 51. Helen Wilson was 31 years old when she boarded the Titanic as a maid with the Spedden family. After her rescue she left the employment of the Speddens and stayed with her married sister.

She married Axel Rosenquist and they had two daughters. She died in December 1939 when she was 58 years old.

Daisy Spedden

When Daisy Spedden wrote the book in 1913 about the travelling adventures of her son and his polar teddy bear she had no idea Douglas would be dead a year and half later.

After her son’s death she never wrote in her diary again and the book was put away. But now with the publication of this story in 1994 Daisy has ensured that the memory of her son and the journey that his parents took on the Titanic lives on.

Polar the Titanic Bear Book

Leighton Coleman spent every summer at his grandfather’s house. When he was 14 years old he was looking in a shed and came across a large trunk. His grandfather told him it belonged to Mr and Mrs Spedden who were cousins of his grandmother.

Polar The Titanic Bear

A few years later he examined the contents in more detail and found that all the diaries and photographs belonging to Daisy Spedden. Also among the personal items was the book that Daisy has written for her son. When Leighton Coleman became 21 years old his grandfather gave him the trunk because he could see how fascinated he was with the story of the Spedden Family.

Leighton Coleman wanted to share these photo albums and the small book that Daisy had written so he sent copies of them to the Titanic Historical Society. At that time a book entitled Titanic: An Illustrated History was being published by Madison Press Books. So it was that Daisy’s book ‘My Story’ was published in 1994 with the new title ‘Polar The Titanic Bear.’

Lifeboats Half Empty

Douglas Spedden was six years old when he boarded the Titanic in 1912 with his parents Frederic and Daisy Spedden. They were first class passengers on the ship so when the Titanic hit an iceberg they were able to go up on deck to the lifeboats.

Lifeboat 3 was filled with the women and children who were on the deck. There were no others around so the officer in charge allowed the men to join their families as the lifeboat had plenty of room. The men were fortunate because on the other side of the Titanic another officer was only allowing women and children on the lifeboats.

If they were not full then the men were still not allowed to enter the boats. On that side of the ship lifeboats were being lowered down to the water half empty.

1st, 2nd and 3rd Class Passengers on the Titanic

The Spedden family and their servants were first class passengers. They and the second class passengers were directed to the lifeboats first. The third class passengers many women and children included were not allowed to go up on deck where the lifeboats were until much later.

A lot of them were stopped from even doing this because most of the barriers that were there to segregate them from the other two classes were locked. That is why lifeboat 3 and many of the other lifeboats were let go only half full with women and children.

Other Titanic Stories by L.M.Reid


Master Robert Douglas Spedden by Encyclopedia Titanica

Douglas Spedden - Find a Grave Memorials

Douglas Spedden by Jeff Rickman Green- Wood Historian Blog

'Polar' the Titanic Bear by Daisy Spedden.

The Irish Aboard Titanic by Senan Molony

A Night to Remember by Walter Lord.

Titanic by Peter Thresh.

Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition by Judith Geller.

Spirit of the Titanic by Nicola Pierce.

Discovering Titanic - The story of the most famous ship wreck by Ben Hubbard

On Board RMS Titanic : Memories of the Maiden Voyage by George Behe.

The Titanic Diaries by Anthony Cunningham.

Great Disasters: Great Catastrophes Of The Twentieth Century by John Canning.

Titanic: In A New Light by Dr Joseph MacInnis.

Titanic : The Tragic Story of the Ill-fated Ocean Liner by Rupert Matthews.

Titanic: The Unsinkable Ship and Halifax by Alan Ruffman.

Titanic Belfast Museum

Southampton's Titanic Story

Titanic Experience Cobh

Nova Scotia Museum Halifax

Titanic Historical Society Museum

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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