by Michelle Norris
IT'S 100 years since the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic, causing the death of over 1,500 passengers.
Taking just two and half hours for the 882 foot long ship to fill with water, Titanic finally met her fate at the bottom of the ocean at 2.20am on 15 April 1912.
With only 20 lifeboats onboard, just 710 passengers were saved from Titanic when she sank into the North Atlantic on 15 April 1912 . But, on a ship that carried 2,224 passengers, 1,514 were left to perish.
Intercepted by the RMS Carpathia the lifeboats were rescued and among the survivors was seven-year-old Eva Hart from Ilford.
As a second-class passenger, Eva was travelling on the Titanic with her parents, Benjamin and Esther, in the hope of starting a new life in Canada. And, although she was travelling at such a young age, even in her later years, Eva could recall every detail about that fatal night in 1912.
“As we rowed away from the ship, I didn’t close my eyes at all. I saw that ship sink,” said Eva during an interview in 1993.
Dying in the care of St Francis Hospice, aged 81 in 1996, Eva was one of the few survivors that escaped the inevitable fate of the Titanic – but if it wasn’t for her parents, who noticed a ‘slight bump’ at 11.40pm on 14 April 1912, Eva wouldn’t have survived to tell her story.
“My mother said she felt a slight bump,” recalled Eva, whose mother had reportedly had a ‘bad feeling’ about the journey before they had even boarded Titanic. “She said it was like a train pulling into the station, it just jerked. It was very slight but she said she knew it was a terrible something. She literally pulled my father out of bed and made him go up on deck.”
Shortly after her father returned to the cabin, he wrapped Eva in a blanket and took both her and her mother up on deck.
“My father spoke to an officer who said ‘they are going to launch the lifeboats but you’ll all be back onboard for breakfast’,” said Eva. “The lifeboats weren’t launched very quickly because at first no one thought anything was going to happen.”
Carrying only 20 lifeboats – not even enough to accommodate half of the passengers onboard – the family made their way to lifeboat 14. But, with the crew under orders to only allow women and children onboard, Eva was forced to say goodbye to her father, who told her to ‘hold Mummy’s hand and be a good girl’ - the last words he ever said to her.
“One life is worth more than a ship surely,” Eva said. “Had she had enough lifeboats with two and half hours in a smooth sea, nobody would have died.”
Rowing away, to avoid being pulled under in the suction, Eva remembered the sounds of those still onboard as they panicked to find a lifeboat – but they had all gone.
“There wasn’t any panic until the lifeboats left and then there was panic galore,” said Eva. “We were down on the ocean, we could hear them running about on the decks and screaming. You can imagine, people came out from their cabins, went on deck and there were no lifeboats.
“I saw that ship break in half,” she said. “But it was the silence that followed it – once the lights had gone, the ship had gone, the sound had gone – the whole world stood still that night.”
Picked up by the RMS Caparthia at 4.30am, Eva and her mother continued their journey to New York. However, soon after they returned to England and her mother remarried.
Plagued by nightmares throughout her childhood, it was upon the death of her mother when Eva was 23 that she decided to confront her fears by returning to sea and locking herself in a cabin for four straight days until the nightmares went away.
Eva never married and was cared for by Saint Francis Hospice, until 14 February 1996 where she died at the age of 91. And in her memory, a Weatherspoon’s Pub in Chadwell Heath has been named ‘Eva Hart’.
Eva Hart also wrote an autobiography Shadow of the Titanic – A Survivor’s Story. To view her 1993 interview in full, visit youtube.com/watch?v=MD5J43Z9AWI.