Titanic Passenger – Michel and Edmond Navratil

This is probably not important at all, but in August of 1996 I traveled to the North Atlantic aboard the cruise ship Island Breeze to witness the raising of a section of the Titanic’s hull. This was nothing special, as there were 1200 other witnesses aboard the two cruise ships. The piece they tried to raise remains on the bottom, but I did get a chance to meet two of the survivors and speak with some of the world’s best authorities on the sinking. Aboard my ship were Mrs. Edith Brown Haisman who turned 100 on October 12th of that year. She was sixteen at the time of the sinking and sadly she died on January 20 of 1997. Even at 99 she was very alert and she was kind enough to sign my photo of her. On the other cruise ship, The Royal Majesty, there was another survivor. Eleanor Johnson Shuman, age 87, of Elgin, IL. who sadly passed away this week March 7, 1998 at 4:05 p.m. Mrs. Shuman and her mother and older brother all survived the disaster. Her mother and brother both passed away in 1968. I also met Mr. Michel Navratil, a survivor who, along with his two year old brother, Edmond, was only four when the ship floundered. Mr. Navratil’s father kidnapped his two sons from their mother in France, took them to Southampton and boarded the Titanic as a “Mr. Hoffman and two children”. Michel still remembers playing on deck and the tremendous size of the ship. On that Sunday night he remembers his father waking them and taking them up on deck. He had to hand the boys to second officer Lightholler through a circle of crewmen who were guarding the last lifeboat, Collapsible D. He still remembers his father’s last words, “Tell your mother that I always loved her and planned that someday we would all be together in America”. The two boys survived but since they spoke no English they were assumed to be orphans. It took over a month before their mother recognized them in an ad in a French paper and traveled to New York to claim her children. Mr. Navratil’s body was found floating in the North Atlantic but not claimed by his estranged wife and so he was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Halifax based on his assumed name. Mr. Navratil had never visited his father’s grave until this trip. When “The Island Breeze” stopped in Halifax he had an emotional and private visit to his father’s grave 84 years after he had died. Michel’s brother, Edmund, died after World War II as a result of injuries he incurred as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp. I have been studying the Titanic since 1963 and this trip was a great help in my research for a novel that I’m writing, “The Speed Of Light”. It tells the tale of three generations of a family and how the sinking of the Titanic may have changed the course of their lives, but that’s another story…Craig Faris

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