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George GUMERY – Mess Steward on board R.M.S. Titanic


Early Life in Balsall Heath

George was born on 20th December 1887 at 23 Princess Street, Balsall Heath in Birmingham, the only child of George Gumery (1863 - 1909), a confectionary journeyman, and his wife Harriet (Hetty) Annie Sherry (1865 - 1899). George was brought up in the Balsall Heath area, attending school at the Tindall Street Boy’s School, and was a member of the Moseley Road Congregational Church. Hetty Gumery died in November 1899 aged only 34 years – George was nearly 12 years old at the time. Hetty’s older sister, Elizabeth Emma Sherry, was living with the family at the time of the 1891 census, and after Hetty’s death became a housekeeper, looking after both George senior and junior. Hetty and her sister must have been very close. Their parents both died during the 1870s, and the 1881 census shows them boarding together in Northfield, south Birmingham, both employed as sweet makers. Maybe this is how Hetty met George who was a confectioner’s sugar boiler.

Signing on as Crew on the Titanic

In early 1912 George signed on as crew with the White Star Line ship St Louis. There had been a National Coal Strike in early 1912 which ended on the 6th April but there was not enough coal available to fuel the Titanic as far as New York, so coal was taken from the St Louis, the Olympic and other White Star Line ships in order to allow their flagship to sail on schedule. Many of the crew who had signed on to the St Louis resigned on to Titanic. On 9th April 1912 George Gumery signed on at Southampton to be a Mess Steward in the Engineers’ mess for the White Star Line on board their flagship, the Titanic. He was told to report to the dockyard area the following morning the 10th April 1912 at 6.00, the day the ship sailed from Southampton on her maiden voyage to New York, on monthly wages of 3.15.00.

After departing Southampton at noon the Titanic crossed the channel to Cherbourg, France arriving there at 18.30 on the evening of 10th April to take on more passengers; then departing soon after at 20.10 for Queenstown, Ireland where she arrived in the morning of April 11th. At 13.30 Titanic left Queenstown for New York. On the following two days she sailed through calm, clear weather but on Sunday 14th April eight ice warnings were received throughout the day from other shipping in the area, showing a huge ice field directly ahead. At 22.55 the Californian, about 10 to 19 miles north of the Titanic, is stopped in ice and sent out a warning to all shipping in the area. At 23.40 the lookouts on board Titanic saw an iceberg dead ahead. The ship was steaming at over 22 knots when the order was given to turn to port, but an underwater spar of the iceberg collided with on the starboard side of her bow.

Collision with Iceberg

The double bottomed hull of the Titanic was divided into 16 watertight compartments; because four of these could be flooded without endangering the liner's buoyancy, she was considered unsinkable. The collision with the iceberg opened up a 300 foot long gash which ruptured five of the watertight compartments. Within minutes water poured in to a depth of fourteen feet in the front of the ship. At midnight the Captain was told that the ship was sinking, and gave the order for a radio distress signal to be sent out. At 00.05 on April 15th the orders were given to uncover the lifeboats and to get the passengers and crew ready on deck. The order to start loading the lifeboats was given at 00.25, starting with women and children.

The first lifeboat was lowered away at 00.45 but instead of carrying its capacity of 65 people, had only 28 on board. In fact the Titanic had only 1178 lifeboat places for the 2224 persons on board ship. By 1.15 the tilt of the deck was becoming increasingly steep, and by 2.05 the last lifeboat had departed leaving more than 1500 people stranded on board the sinking ship. At 2.17 the last radio call for help was sent out and Captain Smith told his crew "It's everyman for himself !". The Titanic's bow plunged under the water and many passengers jumped overboard. The forward funnel collapsed crushing a number of people, then at 2.18 there is a huge roar as all moveable objects inside the ship crash toward the submerged bow; the lights blinked once, then went out for good. The ship became perpendicular to the water remaining that way for several minutes before, at 2.20, sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic 13,000 feet below.

The Aftermath

The Leyland liner the Californian was less than 20 miles (32 kms) away all night but, because its radio operator was off duty and asleep, did not come to the rescue. The arrival of the Cunard liner Carpathia one hour and twenty minutes after the Titanic went down prevented further loss of life in the icy waters. At 4.10 the first lifeboat was picked up by the Carpathia and by 8.50 all remaining lifeboats were rescued; the Carpathia then left for New York carrying only 705 survivors, reaching there on 18th April.

Sadly George Gumery did not survive. He was one of four Mess Stewards in the Engineers' Mess which was situated on the port side of the fourth (rearward) funnel casing on Deck E. Forward of the Engineers' Mess were a number of cabins that would have been used for the various stewards, and it was no doubt one of these that George would have shared with the other three Engineers' Mess Stewards. Possibly he would have been off duty when the collision occurred. The mess and cabin was on an enclosed deck so, if they were in their cabin at the time, would have had to climb to deck A which was the embarkation deck for the lifeboats. Of the four Engineers' Mess stewards only one survived – Mr Charles William N. Fitzpatrick. The other three, Mr Seaton Blake, Mr John Coleman, and George did not survive. There were not enough lifeboats for all passengers and crew on board the Titanic, and the crew would have been the last to leave the ship, so it was likely many went down with the ship or found themselves in the freezing waters of the north Atlantic Ocean.

 

The New York Times front page 16 April 1912

 

The Birmingham Gazette printed a report about the Midland victims of the Titanic disaster on the 22nd April 1912. The had the following to say about George Gumery:-

"Mr George Gummery, one of the mess stewards on the Titanic, whose name is not included in the list of survivors, was a Birmingham man, and well known in the Balsall Heath district. For many years he was a scholar at the Sunday school connected with the Moseley Road Congregational Church, and was also a regular member of the congregation of that church. He took an active part in local amateur dramatics."

Mansion House Titanic Relief Fund

A relief fund was raised by public subscription at the invitation of the Lord Mayor of the City of London. The fund was intended “for the aid and relief of the widows, orphans and dependent relatives of the persons, whether crew or passengers, who lost their lives by reason of the foundering in the Atlantic Ocean on the 15th April, 1912, of the steamship Titanic.” An aunt of George Gumery was awarded a grant of ₤15. Presumably this aunt was Elizabeth Emma Sherry.

If you have any further information relevant to George Gumery, or anything to add to his story, please email me .

References:-
"Encycopedia Titanica" http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org
Encyclopaedia Britannica
URL=http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~gomery/geogum.html
Last revised: 9 April 2012
Linda Hansen 2000 - 2012