Violet Jessop was an ocean liner stewardess and nurse who is known for surviving the disastrous sinkings of both RMS Titanic and her sister ship, HMHS Britannic, in 1912 and 1916.
Violet Constance Jessop (2 October 1887 – 5 May 1971) was an Irish Argentine ocean liner stewardess and nurse who is known for surviving the disastrous sinkings of both RMS Titanic and her sister ship, HMHS Britannic, in 1912 and 1916, respectively. Besides, she had been on board RMS Olympic, the eldest of the three sister ships, when it collided with a British warship in 1911.
When Jessop was 16 years old, her father died due to complications from surgery and her family moved to England, where she attended a convent school and cared for her youngest sister while her mother was at sea working as a stewardess. When her mother became ill, Jessop left school and, following in her mother's footsteps, applied to be a stewardess. Jessop had to dress down to make herself less attractive in order to be hired. At age 21, her first stewardess position was with the Royal Mail Line aboard the Orinoco in 1908.
Jessop boarded RMS Titanic as a stewardess on 10 April 1912, at age 24. Four days later, on 14 April, it struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic, where Titanic sank a little more than two hours after the collision. Jessop described in her memoirs how she was ordered up on deck because she was to function as an example of how to behave for the non-English speakers who could not follow the instructions given to them. She watched as the crew loaded the lifeboats. She was later ordered into lifeboat 16; and as the boat was being lowered, one of Titanic's officers gave her a baby to look after. The next morning, Jessop and the rest of the survivors were rescued by the RMS Carpathia. According to Jessop, while onboard Carpathia, a woman, presumably the baby's mother, grabbed the baby she was holding and ran off with it without saying a word.
During the First World War, Jessop served as a stewardess for the British Red Cross. On the morning of 21 November 1916, she was on board HMHS Britannic, a White Star liner that had been converted into a hospital ship, when it sank in the Aegean Sea due to an unexplained explosion. During a major diving expedition on the wreck in 2016, it was determined that the ship had struck a deep-sea mine. This was shown in the documentary film of that dive, entitled The Mystery of the Britannic.
Britannic sank within 55 minutes, killing 30 out of the 1,066 people on board. British authorities hypothesized that the ship was either struck by a torpedo or hit a mine planted by German forces. Conspiracy theories have even circulated that suggest the British were responsible for sinking their own ship. Scientists have been unable to reach definitive conclusions as to the true cause.
Jessop, often winkingly called "Miss Unsinkable", died of congestive heart failure in 1971 at the age of 83.