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

Sylvia Caldwell, Second Class Passenger

Writing under her re-married name of Sylvia Mecherle, she contacted Walter Lord on July 13th 1955;

"...yes I remember Mr.Beesley and am the mother of the baby he held in life boat 13. When the ship struck we were asleep. We had lived in the Orient & were returning to the U.S. because of my health. The night was cold [underlined] so we went to bed to keep warm - the shudder of the ship awakened me about midnight. My husband went on deck to find out what had happened they told him that we had just struck an iceberg to go back to bed - which he did. I stayed awake so heard a gong ring and a voice say "Everyone on deck with his lifebelt" The seaman who shouted this was running & if I had not been awake I would never have heard him. You know many of the passengers never wakened up until they were plaunged into the icy water. What did it feel like? As if a large dog had a baby kitten in its mouth and was shaking it. We had purchased new woolier clothier in London but we arrived on deck in the oldest clothes we had the baby wrapped in a steamer rug. When we reached the Carpathia the baby was put in a mail sack and pulled from the lifeboat up on the deck, when he was taken from the mailsack someone took the steamer rug as a souvenir of the Titanic. It was Sunday night and a preacher preached [??] "The perils of the sea." We took no valuables with us as the ship was "unsinkable". After we came aboard the Titanic we were watching deck hands carrying up baggage I said to one "Is this ship really unsinkable?" He answered "Yes lidy God himself could not sink this ship." We never realised how serious it was until after we were in the lifeboat & saw the Titanic half gone - standing on its head. As to conversations on the boat deck: One woman was greatly distressed and I told her that we could be transferred to the boat which could clearly be seen - the Californian - which passed us by. Also two dear old gentlemen who were making their first trip across the Atlantic to visit their married daughter living in Rhode Island they were both lost. Several of us ordered to go below several decks as they were not going to fill the boats to capacity on the boat deck. The men went down about three decks - none of the other officers knew we were there so locked the door - later some officer on the deck above shouted that there were people down on the lower deck they lowered a ladder & all crawled up except my husband, baby and I finally heard an officer said "My God! There is a woman down there." We were ordered up, they put us all in boat 13 which they ordered stopped (it had been filled on the boat deck) we got into the boat - the ship was near to making her plunge - the lookout from the crow's nest got into our boat, several stokers, & the baker. The lookout told me that he warned the bridge three times before the first officer who was in charge changed the course. The first officer shot himself & I think that Mr.Beesley told of our many narrow escapes in getting to the water & us loosening the block, tackle which was pulling us down with the ship & from a man in boat 15 coming down on top of us handed us a sharp knife which cut the ropes which held our boat & by the fraction of a second enabled us to push away from boat 15 which would have landed on our heads pushing us into the ocean. There are as many things I could write about concerning the rescue, etc. but it would take pages. John Jacob Astor was put out of the life boat at the point of a gun. Captain Smith & Mr.Ismay were celebrating what they thought would be the shortest time in which a ship had crossed the Atlantic. These things are better left unsaid but they are true. Mr & Mrs. Collier, their daughter Margery, were placed in the same boat as the Astors. The Colliers are mentioned in Mr.Everett's book they ate at the same dining room table as I. After being picked up by the Carpathia we lived & slept in the same clothes, at night slept on the floor of the dining room. I have just touched some of the things that I thought you might be interested in and have tried to answer your questions. The top of our trunk was full of American gold which we had exchanged in Siam - the banks only gave 80% on the dollar - we took none of it with us as we never thought the ship would sink. There is quite a story about the iron bulkheads that would hold the ship up - they did not work; no drill of any kind was required as the seamen did not know how to lower the life boats consequently four boatloads of women and children were spilled into the sea.


1. Spelling and punctuation have been preserved, where possible.
2. The story of John Jacob Astor being ordered out of a boat at gunpoint is a fallacy; indeed, Walter Lord's notes contain a letter from an employee of the (late) Colonel Astor who had been told by his widow that the familiar story of Astor being declined a seat is true. Indeed, that letter, while light on new details, mentions that a chair (a wheelchair?) had been ordered fro the heavily pregnant Mrs.Astor. The hear-say stories mentioned by Caldwell are apocryphal or unproven (eg the suicide allegation).
3. "The lookout" is presumably Reginald Lee, who shared the crow's nest with Fred Fleet when the iceberg was sighted. Caldwell's recollections confirm the information contained in George Behe's highly recommended book, Titanic: Safety, Speed and Sacrifice; namely that the look-out informed the bridge on many occasions of ice, to no avail. Until it was too late.
4. Caldwell also provided Lord with a copy of an article from the Christian science Journal from October 1912; this can be found here

To go up a level, click here

Recommended reading: