Violet Constance Jessop

Violet Jessop in her
Voluntary Aid Detachment uniform while assigned to HMHS Britannic
Born 2 October 1887(1887-10-02)
Bahía Blanca, Argentina
Died 5 May 1971(1971-05-05) (aged 83)
Great Ashfield, Suffolk
Cause of death Heart failure
Nationality Argentinian & Irish (British at the time)
Occupation Stewardess, Nurse
Title Miss
Children None
Parents William and Katherine (Kelly) Jessop
Violet Constance Jessop at Encyclopedia Titanica

Violet Constance Jessop (2 October 1887 – 5 May 1971) was an ocean liner stewardess and nurse who achieved fame by surviving the disastrous sinkings of both the RMS Titanic and the HMHS Britannic in 1912 and 1916 respectively. In addition, she had been on board the RMS Olympic, their sister ship, when it collided with the protected cruiser HMS Hawke in 1911.

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Violet boarded the RMS Titanic as a stewardess on 10 April 1912. Four days later, on 14 April, the Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic and, over the next two hours, broke in two and sank. Violet described in her memoirs that she was ordered up on deck, because she was to set a good example to the foreign-speaking people (they did not speak English), where she watched as the crew loaded the lifeboats. She was later ordered into lifeboat 16, and, as the boat was being lowered, one of the Titanic′s officers gave her a baby to look after. The next morning, Violet and the rest of the survivors were rescued by the RMS Carpathia. According to Violet, while on board the Carpathian, a woman grabbed the baby she was holding and ran off with it without saying a word.

Britannic[edit | edit source]

During the First World War, Violet served as a stewardess for the British Red Cross. In 1916, she was on board His Majesty's Hospital Ship Britannic when the ship apparently struck a mine and, with all the portholes open for ventilation, sank in the Aegean Sea. While the Britannic was sinking, she jumped out of a lifeboat to avoid being sucked into the Britannic′s propellers. She, nevertheless, was sucked under the water and struck her head on the ship's keel before surfacing and being rescued by a lifeboat.[1] She later stated that the cushioning, due to her thick auburn hair, helped save her life. She had also made sure to grab her toothbrush before leaving her cabin on the Britannic, saying later that it was the one thing she missed most immediately, following the sinking of the Titanic.

Later life[edit | edit source]

After the war, Violet continued to work for the White Star Line, before joining the Red Star Line and then the Royal Mail Line again. During her tenure with Red Star, Violet went on two around the world cruises on that company's largest ship, the Belgenland. In her late 30s, Violet had a brief marriage, and in 1950 she retired to Great Ashfield, Suffolk. Years after her retirement, Violet claimed to have received a telephone call, on a stormy night, from a woman who asked Violet if she saved a baby on the night that the Titanic sank. "Yes," Violet replied. The voice then said "I was that baby," laughed, and hung up. Her friend, and biographer John Maxtone-Graham said it was most likely some children in the village playing a joke on her. She replied, "No, John, I had never told that story to anyone before I told you now." Records indicate that the only baby on boat 16 was Assad Thomas, who was handed to Edwinda Troutt, and later reunited with his mother on the Carpathia.

Violet Jessop died of congestive heart failure in 1971.

In popular culture[edit | edit source]

In James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster Titanic, a fictional counterpart to Jessop was written in by Cameron, named Lucy. She can first be seen in the background, setting things up in first-class passenger Rose DeWitt Bukater's stateroom. After the Titanic starts sinking, naval architect Thomas Andrews (Victor Garber) tells her to put her lifebelt on to "set a good example." These are the same instructions given to Jessop (to set a good example for non-English speaking passengers). Unlike her real life counterpart however, Lucy dies during the sinking of Titanic. She can subsequently be seen when Rose reunites with her lover Jack in a dream on the Titanic; she is at the top of the staircase next to the wooden column.

This representation closely mirrors a scene in the 1958 Titanic film A Night to Remember, where a stewardess, played by Marianne Stone is addressed by Thomas Andrews (Michael Goodliffe) and instructed to wear her lifebelt.[1]

The character of Jessop is also featured in a stageplay Iceberg - Right Ahead! by Chris Burgess, staged for the first time Upstairs at the Gatehouse in Highgate to commemorate the centenary of the sinking of Titanic. It is billed as 'A dramatic account of the last twelve hours in the life of an 'unsinkable ship'. From the calm afternoon of 14 April 1912 to the rescue by RMS Carpathia on the morning of 15 April'. The role of Violet Jessop was played by Amy Joyce Hastings.[2]

Note[edit | edit source]

  1. ^ Brewster, Hugh and Laurie Coulter (1998). 882½ Amazing Answers to your Questions about the Titanic. Madison Press Book. ISBN 0-590-18730-9. 

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