Eva Hart was just seven years old when her family left Ilford, England, and boarded the Titanic in Southampton. They were saying good-bye to England to make their future in Winnipeg, Canada. This film clip is from a 2003 documentary called ‘Titanic: The Story’. 55mins. Narrated by Robert Powell.
Eva’s parents were Benjamin Hart, a builder who had fallen on hard times, and his wife, Esther Bloomfield Hart. Eva had often told the story of how her father had made the monumental decision to try their luck in Canada in a single evening based on a lively visit from an old friend. The friend had come to see the Harts on his holiday, and he was brimming with enthusiasm for the many opportunities he had found in Winnipeg. The discussion was apparently music to the ears of Eva’s father.
Despite Esther’s great apprehension, Benjamin immediately set about making plans to move his family to the new world. He sold his business, purchased tickets for travel on the ship called the Philadelphia, and was said to have had intentions of opening a drugstore in Winnipeg. But as their travel date approached, a coal strike prevented the Philadelphia from sailing. As Eva told the story, her father was thrilled when he was informed their tickets had been transferred to a second class cabin on the Titanic. Her mother, however, was terrified.
Benjamin thought Esther would be delighted, because the new ship was said to be unsinkable, but instead, his wife was sick with worry, claiming to have great apprehension about their safety. Eva remembered her mother felt strongly that something very bad was going to happen in the night. She napped in the daytime, and every night she sat up in a chair, fully clothed and forced herself to stay awake.
On the night of the sinking, Eva was asleep in her bed when Titanic struck the iceberg. Her father wrapped her in a blanket and brought her up to the deck with her mother, and saw them into the heavily crowded lifeboat number 14.
“Hold Mummy’s hand and be a good girl,” he told her.
That was the last time she saw her father.
There was pandemonium on the deck as the last of the boats were being loaded. “Women and children only” was the cry that went up as she and her mother were lowered away.
When the Titanic sank a short while later, Eva, a tiny child, could not take her eyes off of the spectacle. With screams in the night as people hit the water and drowned, she watched as the ship broke apart, and then slipped into the sea. The sea was glassy smooth with only the stars casting eery illumination on the death scene. Chairs, debris and bodies floated about.
“The worst thing I can remember are the screams,” Eva said, in a 1993 interview. “And then the silence that followed. It seemed as if once everybody had gone, drowned, finished, the whole world was standing still. There was nothing, just this deathly, terrible silence in the dark night with the stars overhead.”
A few days after the sinking, an article about the Hart family appeared in their home town newspaper, the Ilford Graphic, telling of an April 2nd event that had been held to wish them well in their new country.
“Mr and Mrs Ben Hart were present at the “Cauliflower” in their honour prior to their departure for Canada. During the evening they were the recipients of a beautiful Illuminated Address which included the following words, “And may the Almighty Jehovah send you safe voyage and a prosperous career in the land of your adoption.” Mr Hart was a Jew, and the introduction of the word “Jehovah” into the Address touched him very much. His emotions were easily aroused and he could barely respond with the tears swimming in his eyes. We see from the papers that Mrs Esther Hart and Miss Eva Hart are among the saved, but there is no mention made of Mr Hart, and we fear the worst”.
The following month, Esther Hart shared her memories of the terrible night of the tragedy in a lengthy newspaper item for the Ilford Graphic.
The body of Benjamin Hart was never recovered. Eva and her mother were taken aboard the rescue ship, the Carpathia, and continued on into New York with all of the survivors. They then returned to England and Esther remarried. Eva suffered from nightmares for years. She remained deeply attached to her mother and sought her out to calm her night terrors. She was 23 when Esther died and finally defeated her fears of ocean travel by taking a long voyage to Singapore and then Australia. Eva never married. She worked in many jobs over her life, which included a career as a professional singer in Australia. She later became, a Conservative party organizer and magistrate in England.
In her later years, Eva also became one of the most outspoken critics of salvage efforts of the Titanic and considered the removal of items from the shipwreck to be grave robbing.
Eva Hart died on February 14th, 1995 at the age of 91. Her death was considered the end of the last living memory of the Titanic, as the remaining survivors at that time were either too frail of memory to be interviewed, or too young at the time of the sinking to have stories to share.
I remain curious about Eva Hart’s father’s connection to Winnipeg. Who was the friend who came to visit and inspired Benjamin Hart to uproot his family? How is it that Benjamin chose to leave his work as a builder and planned to open a drugstore?
If you are interested in learning more about the Titanic, I would encourage you to start with Encyclopedia Titanica. This is an incredible resource on line, with the most intricate of details gathered, debated and presented for those who are dedicated students of Titanic.
You will find them at:
And, of course the traveling Titanic exhibit is coming to Winnipeg on February 12th. More on that, and what Eva Hart thought of the salvage operation on another day.