To find out more details about my new paperback book on the Titanic and the Californian, including ordering details, please look here.

Elizabeth Nye, Second Class Passenger

In her letter to Walter Lord of June 14th, 1955, Elizabeth Darby [nee Nye] enclosed a copy of the letter she had sent to Charles Brackett of 20th Century Fox Film Corp "who was directing a picture on the wreck and asked for [her] experience, but he found most of the data in the public library." Brackett was actually the co-writer and producer of the 1953 movie "Titanic" starring Clifton Webb, Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Wagner (according to Wikipedia, Brackett told the press that some of the [survivors?] stories had to be discarded "because they are too fantastic for movie audiences to believe."

The greatest peacetime shipwreck 1912

I remember every moment of that night, very well, my name was then Elizabeth Nye, was travelling alone, returning to New York from a visit to my home and family in Folkestone England. On account of a coal strike, when in England I was transferred from another ship to the Titanic, which would have to sail on her maiden voyage to New York on April 10th. I was placed very comfortably in a second class cabin with three other young women, "one of whom I am still in touch with." On Sunday the 14th it became very cold, we could not stay out on deck, so we all came together in the dining room, for a hymn sing, finished up by singing "O hear us when we cry to thee, for those in peril on the sea," little dreaming of your own peril soon to be. We four were settled for the night by 11 PM and about 40 minutes later, I heard a loud scraping noise, the great ship shivered and stopped. We had been going 28 knots an hour, the sudden silence seemed strange and yet the impact was so slight the three girls slept through it. Men were running by our door [.] I got up, put on a skirt and coat and slippers, went to the deck, in time to see the iceberg glide slowly by, a great white mountain. the stewards shouted "There is nothing to worry about, this ship could not possibly sink, she is a lifeboat in herself, but we must go to the boats and get off to lighten the ship so that the water tight doors could be closed. The ship began to tilt and people looked worried and afraid. Then came the order "man the lifeboats" "women and children first" neither the boatmen or passengers had had any boat drill, and yet there was no panic, we took our time. I was told to go to my cabin and put on my lifebelt, there was one for every person aboard, but only 20 lifeboats each built for 65 persons. I met my roommates on the stairs, they had been called up and the door locked behind them, it was no use to go down so I lost all my belongings. I found my stewardess, she fastened a belt on me and I put one on her, we went to the deck together, she never got off. I went to the side where the last boat was being lowered. I stood there looking at the crowds of men huddled together, a silent crowd, while the ships orchestra of ten young men were standing knee deep in water playing a tune called Autumn, the words are; God of mercy and compassion, look with pity on my pain, hold me up in mighty waters, keep my eyes on things above, peace and everlasting love. Nearer my God To Thee." Someone called out, "Here is another woman" and I was pushed into the boat. Blankets were thrown in after me, for we had four babies without their mothers, "they were reunited on the rescue ship" [.] We watched the ships portholes slowly disappearing and the S.O.S. rockets shooting upwards, until one end of the ship dipped into the sea. Nobody could stand on deck, hundreds jumped or fell then we heard the terrible cry for the boats to come back and pick them up, their lifebelts kept them up until death came by freezing, more than 1500 perished, plenty of time, but no boats only 20 for 2200 people and some were overturned with women and children, no men to pull the oars. The sky was alight with stars, but the sea looked like black ink, I don't remember being afraid, but I thought what a horrible way to die, in that black icy water. We see the lights of the Carpathia at about 4am and it took us two hours to get to her, we had drifted so far away, she was waiting for us at the spot where the Titanic went down.


1. Spelling and punctuation have been preserved, where possible.
2. The mention of the door being locked is reminiscent of the Sylvia Caldwell's account of the door to the boat deck being locked, leaving them temporarily stranded on "B" deck.
3. Elizabeth is confusing the lyric of "Autumn" with "Nearer My God To Thee."
4. Nye was quick to get on deck to see the iceberg drifting by!
5. "For Those In Peril On The Sea" was sung in the 2nd class service but not in 1st.

To go up a level, click here

Recommended reading and viewing: