Friends of Cheltenham and Regional Cemeteries Inc.

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Feature article

Frederick Horace Crafter 1891 – 1960

The Titanic set sail from Southampton on 10 April 1912 on its maiden voyage to New York with officially 2,229 passengers and crew on board. The pride of the White Star Line carried hundreds of rich and famous in 1st class, the crew were lodged mainly in 2nd class and the bulk of the passengers paid around $US20 to travel 3rd class eager to be part of this magnificent ship’s maiden voyage. The ship’s departure drew a large crowd and there was great excitement on board and on the pier as the ship left the docks.

Twenty year old Frederick Horace Crafter boarded the ship at 6 am that morning, no doubt pleased to have been appointed to the position of Saloon Steward in the 1st class section of the ship as part of the Victualling Crew. His monthly wage was to be £3.15s, but he could expect good tips in 1st Class.

Frederick had previously served on the White Star Line’s Olympic and Oceanic as part of the victualling crew, but in recent times had been lodging at the boarding house and refreshment rooms run by Mr Charles Henry Ferris at 143 Albert Road Southampton, the address he gave when signing his agreement for the Titanic. The Ferris family were to play an important part in the future life of Frederick.

The Titanic was four days into its journey when around 23.40 pm on Sunday 14 April it hit an iceberg. Around 2.20 am on 15 April, 2 hours 40 minutes later, the mighty Titanic slowly slipped below the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The 20 lifeboats the ship carried were nowhere near enough to safely evacuate all the passengers and crew on board and the launching of the lifeboats was chaotic with some being lowered only half full. The ship Carpathia received the distress call and arrived around 4.10 am that morning, taking around 4 hours to rescue the survivors. When the Carpathia docked at New York on 18 April, it carried 705 survivors, including Frederick who managed to scramble into Lifeboat 15, the 8th lifeboat to be lowered into the water nearly landing on top of Lifeboat 13 in its haste. The official death toll differs in various accounts, but at around 1,520 passengers and crew, it remains one of the worst maritime disasters of all time.

Later that month 85 surviving crew were returned to Southampton via the Lapland, the list included F Crafter Saloon Stewardi. The Titanic tragedy did not deter Frederick from the sea, and he seems to have returned to the White Star Line ships until the outbreak of World War 1. Frederick signed up for service in World War 1, originally as a trooper in the 2nd Life Guards Division disembarking from England on 19 May 1915 serving in France. He later served with the Guards Machine Gun Regiment and was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal for his service. At the end of the war Frederick returned to the Olympic as a steward and made a number of crossings between Southampton and New York in 1919 and 1920.

Sometime after that Frederick migrated to Australia where in 1924 he married Edith Ferris, daughter of his former landlord Charles and his Auckland born wife Rebecca Speakman. Edith (1895) and her older sister Frances (1893), had both been born in Pascoe Vale in Melbourne, though at this stage little is known of the family’s time in Australia or why they originally returned to England. The Ferris family returned to Melbourne on the ship Ormonde leaving London 20 March and arriving Melbourne in May 1920 and settled at 16 Horne Street, Elsternwick.

Frederick’s Journey to a life at Sea

Frederick was born in 1891 at Toxeth Park in Liverpool, the son of Richard James Crafter and his wife Emily née How who had married in Paddington, London in 1887. Following their marriage Richard & Emily moved to Whitehaven Cumberland where their son James William was born in 1888. Shortly after the family moved to Liverpool where Richard obtained employment as a hotel porter and daughter Ella Maud was born in 1889.

Richard’s employment provided a modest income for the family and they managed. All this was to come to an end when Richard unexpectedly died in Liverpool on 2 January 1895. He was just 38 years old and Emily was left with three young children to support. Emily had been a parlour maid in Paddington prior to their marriage and it was not long before she moved her family back to London where she took a position as parlour maid in the home of the widow Elizabeth Cowen who lived in Hamilton Terrace with her two daughters and son. The 1901 census shows 11 year old Ella living at the Cowen house also.

Frederick and James were admitted to the Brighton Road Industrial School in Sutton on 6 May 1896 a school set up to cater for pauper children who otherwise would probably have been housed in the Workhouse. The children had been admitted by the local parish in Southwark where they appear to have been living with their grandparents James William Crafter and his wife Mary Ann. Frederick just 4 years old and James 8, but what alternative was there for Emily. School records show the two boys discharged from the school November 1898, Frederick then aged 6 and James aged 10. 1899 finds Frederick at the Kenmont Gardens School in Hammersmith, but the 1901 census shows Frederick returned to the Industrial School recorded as an inmate aged 9. There is no sign of James at the school. It seems likely he would have gone into service when he finished at the school and on the 1911 census we find him working as a valet In Hanover Square.

Frederick was lucky to have received an education and it was to stand him in good stead as he made his way in the world. He appears to have turned his back on a life of service and decided on a life at sea.

Frederick in Australia

The 1922 census shows Frederick living with the Ferris family in Elsternwick and employed as a chauffeur, but shortly after their marriage Frederick and Edith set up house in Wheatley Road, Bentleigh and Frederick took employment as a storeman. The house at no. 21 was to be their family home until their death. Edith’s parents and her sister Frances and her husband Charles Walton lived next door at no. 19. British merchant navy records record one more journey for Frederick in 1925, but there would be no more wandering the seas and he returned to his occupation as a storeman in Melbourne.

In 1929 Frederick and Edith welcomed their only son Jack Frederick Crafter. Sadly their happiness was short lived when their beloved son Jack was struck down with that dreaded childhood disease poliomyelitis at around the age of 2. Jack suffered a severe form of the disease resulting in paralysis and was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Edith and Frederick were assiduous in their care for their only son and Jack was able to give his time to his ongoing studies qualifying as an accountant in spite of his disabilities.

Life was quiet for Frederick and Edith, but Frederick had an unusual hobby. In 1949 Frederick was noted as an outstanding exhibitor in the weaving classes and awarded equal first prize and two third prizes for his exhibits at the Royal Melbourne Showii. In 1951 he was awarded 2nd prize in the Hand Weaving Fine Wool on Loom Section.

Frederick passed away 7 July 1960 at the Heatherton Sanatorium from tuberculosis and the effects of 13 years of emphysema. He was 68 years old and his death certificate shows he lived in Victoria for 40 years, which would coincide with the arrival of the Ferris family in Australia. There is no mention of Crafter on the manifest, but it appears he had travelled to Australia for love, probably as a crew member on one of the international ships. Frederick was interred at Cheltenham Memorial Cemetery in Reserve Road where he has laid quietly at rest until we were recently notified of his involvement with the Titanic. Edith Crafter passed away 31 May 1971 at the age of 76 and was buried with her husband. Their son Jack died 22 July 2006 and was buried at Springvale. With no descendants, Jack willed money to his friends. The house at 21 Wheatley Road was sadly neglected by the time of his death and was sold in November 2006 for $680,000. Charles and Rebecca Ferris are buried at Brighton Cemetery.

Frederick was lucky to have received an education and it was to stand him in good stead as he made his way in the world. He appears to have turned his back on a life of service and decided on a life at sea.

~ FoCRC research by Sue Beazley  

i        Western Daily Mercury 29 April 1912 – List of returned crew
ii        The Argus 9 September 1949, p.9 & The Age 5 September 1949, p.5 ‘High Standard Work In Homecraft

Sources: In our research for this article we found there was quite a bit of incorrect information published regarding Frederick and we were pleased to have the opportunity to correct it. The Friends now holds a collection of records relating to the Crafter family including birth, death and marriage certificates and wills that were obtained from the Public Records Office of Victoria and Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages

Encyclopedia Titanica – website devoted to theTitanic
British Merchant Navy Record – Frederick Crafter including photoTitanic
World War 1 Military Record & Awards - FrederickTitanic
Ellis Island records – New York passenger landings FrederickTitanic – census records England and AustraliaTitanic
New Zealand BDM – birth Rebecca Speakman and her marriage in NZ to Charles FerrisTitanic
Brighton Cemetorians – record of Charles and Rebecca Ferris burialTitanic
Titanic and Carpathia photos from WikipediaTitanic – photo of Crafter house in Bentleigh taken in November 2006Titanic These notes are the property of the Friends of Cheltenham and Regional Cemeteries Inc. and are strictly prohibited from being copied, shared, published or used for any purpose without the approval of the Friends of Cheltenham and Regional Cemeteries Inc.