When the parents of six year old Douglas Spedden rushed to their cabin to retrieve their son as the Titanic began to tilt on that fateful night in 1912, they didn’t expect that their son would be sound asleep.
Through the sound of the iceberg crashing, the ship’s engines grinding and passengers panicking, Douglas has slept through the entire collision in his bunk. He was soon escorted to a lifeboat where unsurprisingly, he soon fell asleep again until dawn broke.
Upon returning home, Douglas’ mother Daisy later wrote a book for him based on his favourite teddy bear Polar, recounting the adventures Douglas had with him whilst on board the Titanic. Later discovered by a distant relative in 1994, the story of Polar the Titanic Bear was published and became a popular storybook for children, selling over 250,000 copies.
Douglas Spedden wasn’t the only known child onboard the ship to sleep through the beginnings of the disaster. Sixteen year old Jean Gertrude Hippach boarded the ship as a first class passenger alongside her mother after travelling Europe, and had initially slept through the collision as well, awaking only when steam began to roar through the funnels of the ship.
Seventeen year old Vera Dick was also getting ready for bed and claims that she and her partner would have slept through the whole thing if they hadn’t had a steward knock on their door to tell them to put on lifejackets.
To imagine people sleeping through the beginnings of the disaster may seem bizarre, but for some the collision felt like a slight tremor, depending on where they were located on the ship. Survivors of the disaster have varying accounts regarding the sounds they heard in the first moments of the disaster, where for some the noise was deafening but for others it was unnoticeable.
It wasn’t just children on board the ship who were unaware of what was to come, as in Belfast 4 year old Cyril Quigley watched the ship leave the dockland in 1911 unaware of the fate of the doomed liner. Before passing away earlier this year at the age of 106, Quigley was invited to celebrate the opening of the world’s largest Titanic-themed tourist attraction, Titanic Belfast, a major hotspot for galleries, visits and popular Belfast tours.
Discover more about the Titanic’s survivors by visiting www.titanicwalk.com, where you’ll be able to explore the birthplace of the most famous ship in history, as well as embark on a host of other popular Northern Ireland tours.