John Balls, who organises the Norfolk Titanic Association, gave a fascinating talk. He has discovered that over thirty people travelled on the Titanic under assumed names. His research has been a study of human motives and desperation.
John’s interest was sparked by a newspaper article about a 92-year-old survivor who had died in 2005. She claimed to have been the youngest survivor, having been conceived on board, and she fought unsuccessfully to have her mother’s lover recognised as her father and shown on her birth certificate.
John divided the imposters into four groups: ‘professionals’, ‘lovers’, ‘those wishing to escape’ and ‘mysteries’. The ‘professionals’ were gamblers who worked in threes, targeting wealthy passengers. The ‘lovers’ were eloping couples, such as the pair who pretended to be brother and sister. ‘Those wishing to escape’ included a man accused by a pregnant woman of being the father of her baby. The largest group of imposters were the ‘mysteries’, many of whom were crew members. The most interesting case John cited was that of Thomas Hart, whose documentation was stolen in a Southampton pub when he was drunk. The thief boarded the Titanic in his place and Thomas, embarrassed, disappeared until after the disaster, arriving at the house of his mother, who had thought him dead!
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