About Marion Elsie or Sarah Smith
Miss Marion Elsie Smith
Or Sarah Smith from Greywell Hants, see notes bottom of this page
- Born: Saturday 10th January 1863
- Age: 39 years
- Last Residence: in Basingstoke Hampshire England
- 2nd Class passenger
- First Embarked: Southampton on Wednesday 10th April 1912
- Ticket No. 31418 , £13
- Destination: Washington DC United States
- Rescued (boat 9)
- Disembarked Carpathia: New York City on Thursday 18th April 1912
- Died: Friday 13th December 1940
Miss Marion Elsie Smith, 40, was born in Basingstoke, England, where she lived together with her mother at 12 New Road. She was on her way to Washington, D.C. (1243 New Hampshire Avenue). To reach her destination, she boarded the Titanic at Southampton as a second class passenger. She bought ticket number 31418 for £13.
Miss Smith survived the sinking and she was rescued by the Carpathia, probably in lifeboat 9.
She sent a Marconigramm to her mother's address, which was transmitted on 18 April at 3.51 pm.
Smith 12 New Road Basingstoke Hants Safe Carpathia Marion
All that she could save of her property was her money: $245.
Mystery woman who cheated Titanic death
NINETY-EIGHT years ago, the world’s most famous ocean liner sank on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.
The so-called unsinkable Titanic, which was the latest and greatest of the White Star Line fleet, had struck an iceberg and within a couple of hours she was gone.
With too few lifeboats to accommodate all 2,223 people on board, 1,517 lives were lost in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.
One of those who survived was a mystery woman from Basingstoke, known to some as Marion Smith, who has intrigued an author who specialises in maritime non-fiction, Debbie Beavis.
Born and brought up in Basingstoke, the author of Who Sailed On Titanic? – The Definitive Passenger Lists moved to Australia in 2002 and now lives in Mildura, Victoria.
According to Debbie, towns and cities the length and breadth of Britain were touched by the tragedy, with Basingstoke being no exception.
Debbie said: “When the alert sounded for women and children to abandon ship, Marion would have headed to the boat deck along with everyone else and somehow found her way into a lifeboat – but just what happened to her from midnight on April 14, 1912 until Carpathia docked in New York a few days later bearing the survivors, can only ever be guessed at.”
Debbie concedes that mistakes were made as to the fate of the victims and survivors.
“In the scramble to identify who had lived and who had died, names were hastily scribbled on makeshift forms, and transmitted by exhausted radio operators who struggled to spell out the jumble of names and details,” said Debbie.
“Small wonder that mistakes were made – survivors were accidentally posted as dead, and tragically some of the dead were reported to have been rescued, names were misspelt, ages wrongly recorded and details confused.”
Debbie said that most mistakes were rectified over the following months, but exactly what happened to some people remains a mystery.
Debbie noted that a telegram was sent by Marion to her mother in Basingstoke from the Carpathia, which simply said: “Smith 12 New Road Basingstoke, safe Carpathia Marion.”
One thing she is certain of, the woman claiming to be 39-yearold Marion Elsie Smith, who boarded the ship with a second class ticket, was not who she claimed to be.
“There was no Marion Elsie Smith born in Basingstoke at any time at all, let alone in the early 1870s as she would have been if she really was aged 39 in 1912,” said Debbie.
Debbie is aware of a woman called Sarah Smith, who was born in Greywell and who lived for years in New Road. Widowed while her children were still young, she had worked as a mangle-woman.
“There was quite a tribe – Kate, Harriett, Mary Ann, William, Henry, Annie and Alexander, born between 1860 and 1871,” said Debbie, who notes that there was no Marion.
“It’s been said that Annie, born in 1870, changed her name to Marion between 1901 and 1905 and spent her adult life travelling between Britain and New York as a lady’s maid.
“But Annie worked in Basingstoke as a housekeeper and died unmarried, as, surprisingly, did every one of the Smith children.”
She believes it was not Annie who changed her name and boarded the Titanic, but her sister Mary Ann.
She said: “Mary Ann and her sister Harriett had left Basingstoke as young girls to work for a solicitor in Lambeth called Robert Wiltshire.
“Harriett stayed with the Wiltshires as their cook until they, and she, retired to Croydon, but Mary Ann had broader horizons.
“She first stepped out as the more upmarket Marion Elsie in the early 1900s, perhaps believing her new name to be more befitting her coveted role as a lady’s maid travelling the North Atlantic with a succession of affluent mistresses.
“She worked as nursemaid to several small charges, escorting them back and forth between Britain and the United States, before finally landing the job of a lifetime.”
It seems that the so-called Marion was not aged 39 when she boarded the Titanic, but 49 and she did not intend to remain in New York.
Debbie said: “She was heading to somewhere far more glamorous – the Brazilian Embassy in Washington DC, where she intended to resume her job as governess to Jayme Chermont, the young son of the ambassador’s secretary.
“Marion was due to join the Chermonts on their impending voyage to Japan where Jayme’s father, Epaminondas Chermont, was taking up a diplomatic engagement.
“Marion had begun working for Chermont and his first wife Helen soon after the turn of the century, and during her many years with the family, she led an exciting life as they travelled between their various homes in Washington, Rio de Janeiro, Baltimore and Tokyo, working first as governess to Jayme and later as lady’s maid to Dora, the second Madame Chermont.”
Marion – or should that be Mary Ann? – eventually retired from her globetrotting lifestyle and returned to Britain, joining her sister Harriett in Croydon, and died there in December 1940.
Debbie is keen to locate living relatives of Marion. If you can add to the story, or can correct any continuing misunderstandings, you can either contact The Gazette or email Debbie directly at sunraysia@ hotmail.co.uk.