“Miss unsinkable” Violet Jessop – the survivor of the Titanic, Olympic and Britannic Shipwrecks

Violet Constance Jessop was an ocean liner stewardess and nurse in the early 19th century, who is known for surviving the disastrous sinkings of both the RMS Titanic and her sister ship, the HMHS Britannic, in 1912 and 1916 respectively.

Violet Jessop Miss Unsinkable
© Wikimedia Commons

In addition, she had been onboard the RMS Olympic, the eldest of the three sister ships, when it collided with a British warship in 1911.

Early Life Of Violet Jessop:

Violet Jessop was born on October 2nd of 1887, in Bahía Blanca, Argentina. She was the eldest daughter of Irish immigrants, William and Katherine Jessop. Violet spent much of her childhood caring for her younger siblings. She became very ill as a child with what is presumed to have been tuberculosis, which she survived despite doctors’ predictions that her illness would be fatal.

Violet Jessop Miss Unsinkable
Violet Jessop, The Titanic Survivor

At the age of 16, Violet’s 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 away at sea working as a stewardess.

When her mother became ill, Violet 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.

The Unsinkable Woman Violet Jessop:

In her life career, Violet Jessop has survived miraculously a number of historic ship accidents. Each event made her popular more and more.

RMS Olympic:

In 1910, Jessop started working as a stewardess for the White Star vessel, RMS Olympic. The Olympic was a luxury ship that was the largest civilian liner at that time.

"Miss unsinkable" Violet Jessop – the survivor of the Titanic, Olympic and Britannic Shipwrecks 1
RMS Olympic © Flickr

Violet Jessop was on board on 20 September 1911, when the Olympic left from Southampton and collided with the British warship, HMS Hawke. There were no fatalities and despite the damage, the ship was able to make it back to port without sinking. Jessop chose not to discuss this collision in her memoirs.

RMS Titanic:

After that, Violet boarded the RMS Titanic as a stewardess on April 10, 1912, at the age of 24. Four days later, on April 14th, Titanic struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean, where it sank two hours after the collision, making an unforgettable history.

Violet Jessop Titanic Survivor
RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912.

Violet 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 the Titanic’s officers gave her a baby to look after. The next morning, Violet and the rest of the survivors were rescued by the RMS Carpathia.

According to Violet, while onboard the Carpathia, a woman, presumably the baby’s mother, grabbed the baby she was holding and ran off with it without saying a word.

HMHS Britannic:

During the First World War, Violet served as a stewardess for the British Red Cross. On the morning of November 21, 1916, she was on board the 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.

"Miss unsinkable" Violet Jessop – the survivor of the Titanic, Olympic and Britannic Shipwrecks 2
Britannic was refitted as a floating hospital for service during world war one.

The Britannic sank within 57 minutes, killing 30 people. British authorities hypothesized that the ship was either struck by a torpedo or hit a mine planted by German forces.

Conspiracy theories have even been circulated, suggesting that the Britishers were responsible for sinking their own ship. However, researchers are unable to draw any conclusion to the cause of this tragic incident.

While the Britannic was sinking, Violet Jessop and other passengers were nearly killed by the ship’s propellers that were sucking lifeboats under the stern. Violet had to jump out of her lifeboat and received a traumatic head injury, but survived despite her severe injuries.

“I knew that if I meant to continue my sea life, I would have to return at once. Otherwise, I would lose my nerve.” ―Violet Jessop, Titanic Survivor

Violet Jessop becomes a folk hero for having survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic, HMHS Britannic and the RMS Olympic. Her unlikely survival of all three incidents earned her the nickname of “Miss Unsinkable.”

Death Of Violet Jessop:

After the Britannic event, Violet returned to work for the White Star Line in 1920. In her late thirties, she had a brief marriage, and in 1950 she retired from the sea and bought a cottage in Great Ashfield, in Suffolk in UK.

On May 5, 1971, Violet Jessop died of congestive heart failure at the age of 83. She is buried in the nearby village of Hartest, next to her sister and brother-in-law, Eileen and Hubert Meehan.

Violet Jessop’s memoirs, Titanic Survivor,” were published in 1997. She has been represented in popular culture in the blockbuster film Titanic and the stage play Iceberg, Right Ahead!: The Tragedy of the Titanic.