Sometimes, life takes the most unexpected turns. Things happen which you cannot always makes sense of. And for Violet Jessop, three unexpected and unavoidable incidents happened to her during her lifetime. Violet was an ocean liner stewardess and nurse, who achieved fame by surviving the disastrous sinking of the Titanic, the Britannic and the Olympic.
Violet Jessop, speaking about the three sinkings.
Born and raised in Argentina, Violet was the oldest child of Irish immigrants . Following her father’s death, Violet and her family returned to England. When her mother became ill, Violet left school to become a stewardess. Initially she worked for the Royal Mail Line, but then found employment by White Star.
Violet was working aboard the Olympic when it collided with HMS Hawke in 1911. Both ships sustained considerable damage, but miraculously , neither of them sank. They were able to make it back to port, and Violet disembarked without being harmed.
A year later, Violet was convinced by her friends to take up employment aboard the Titanic, which, as you know, sank in harsh conditions. In her memoir, she Violet wrote:
“I was ordered up on deck. Calmly, passengers strolled about. I stood at the bulkhead with the other stewardesses, watching the women cling to their husbands before being put into the boats with their children.”
Violet bravely helped women and children into lifeboats, and when she herself boarded lifeboat 16, she was handed a baby to care for. After eight hours, survivors were rescued by the Carpathia, and the baby was reunited with its mother.
An advertisement for the Titanic.
After surviving the Olympic and the Titanic, you would think Violet would have had enough of working on ships…but lo, she began serving as a nurse on the Britannic during the First World War. Shockingly, the Britannic ran into a mine that had been planted by a German U-boat. The ship sustained substantial damage and began to flounder.
Violet wasn’t lucky enough to jump into a lifeboat. The ship was sinking too fast. Instead, she jumped overboard.
“I leapt into the water but was sucked under the ship’s keel which struck my head. I escaped, but years later when I went to my doctor because of a lot of headaches, he discovered I had once sustained a fracture of the skull!”
Violet survived, yet again, thanking God for her thick head of hair which had cushioned her fall! But you know what…Violet still wasn’t deterred from a life at sea. She left the White Star Line, and began working for the Red Star Line.
A boarding ‘pass’ for a Red Star Line vessel.
Luckily for Violet, no vessel she worked following the Britannic ever sustained significant damage again. Despite taking a clerical job for a while after World War II, she went back to working on Royal Mail ships until she retired at the age of 61.
After some forty-two years at sea, Violet returned to England and lived quietly in a cottage in Suffolk. She died in 1971.