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Titanic: The Norfolk survivors.

PUBLISHED: 12:50 05 April 2012

Titanic enthusiast John Balls at the 90th anniversary exhibition in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith Copy: Richard Balls

Titanic enthusiast John Balls at the 90th anniversary exhibition in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith Copy: Richard Balls

EDP © 2002

It is a remarkable story of survival against all the odds - discover who the Norfolk people were on board the Titanic and how they lived to tell their moving stories.

A fascinating book by a former Norwich teacher telling the story of the Norfolk Titanic survivors has been republished to mark the disaster’s centenary.

Millions of viewers are watching prime-time ITV1 Sunday evening drama Titanic but if you want to know more about what happened to people from Norfolk on board then get a copy of this brilliant book by John Balls.

First published in 1999 it has been revised and reprinted telling the moving stories of the people from our county on the ship, what happened to them and the impact the tragedy had on the people of Norwich and Norfolk at the time.

John retired in 1995 as head of English at Thorpe St Andrew School and is regarded as an expert on Titanic and the extraordinary story surrounding it which continues to attract worldwide interest. He gives talks on the disaster and is a member of a collection of various Titanic associations and societies.

“One of the most interesting aspects of the Titanic story is the way in which it brought together the rich and the famous on one hand and ordinary people on the other, all faced with the same desperate predicament,” he says.

“Millionaires and steerage passengers perished at the same time, and important and unknown passengers found themselves in the same lifeboat.

“This fascinating scenario is well illustrated by the stories of the five people from Norfolk who survived that night, each of them linked in some way with others who have played a much more prominent part in the Titanic story,” he adds.

Considering more than 1,500 people on board died it is a remarkable story of survival against all the odds.

On board from Norfolk were:

Ted and Ethel Beane, a pair of newlyweds looking to start a new life in America.

Ethel worked as a barmaid at the Lord Nelson pub in Dereham Road, Norwich. She and Ted, already working as a builder in America, married in Norwich and spent their honeymoon on Titanic.

He normally travelled third class but booked second class tickets so they could enjoy their honeymoon – a decision which probably saved their lives.

They lost everything they had but survived to settle in New York where they brought up their two sons.

Also on board was crew member Frank Prentice from Downham Market. He helped a wealthy Los Angeles socialite put on her life jacket before jumping overboard. She later recognised him after he had been picked up and wrapped her coat round him – helping him to live.

Ellen Bird, of Old Buckenham, was maid to one of Titanic’s most famous victims, Ida Strauss, wife of the millionaire New York department store owner Isidor Strauss.

When the ship went down Ida refused to leave her husband. They perished but Ellen survived.

May Howard, a domestic servant from North Walsham, was on her way to join her brothers in Toronto. She escaped in a lifeboat which she shared with probably the most influential passenger on board -– J Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line shipping line of which Titanic was part.

Watch this space for news of another Titanic book by John Balls out soon.

Titanic – the Norfolk Survivors, published by Stenlake Publishing at £9, is in bookshops now.

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