Who are the two little French boys that were dropped, almost naked, from the deck of the sinking Titanic into the arms of survivors in a lifeboat? From which place in France did they come and to which place in the new world were they bound? There is not one iota of information to be had as to the identity of the waifs of the deep – the orphans of the Titanic.
(The Evening World, April 20, 1912, p. 4)
The little boys in the photograph hardly look like shipwreck survivors in their clean playclothes, one holding a stuffed cat, the other a ball. The caption above their heads hints at the rest of the story: Louis and Lola ? – Titanic survivors.
The names were a guess, given by very young children who spoke only French. It soon became clear the man who had handed them into the last lifeboat was their father, and that he was one of over 1,500 victims as the Titanic sank into the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912. Newspapers picked up the story of the apparent orphans, with numerous articles looking for answers and hopefully, family.
At the same time, in Nice, France, a woman was searching for her two sons, spirited away by her estranged husband weeks before. When news accounts reached her about the ‘Titanic orphans,‘ she thought they might be her boys, an ocean away. She described them in detail, sent questions only they could answer, and it was confirmed. These were her sons, Michel, 4 and Edmond, 2.
Their father had traveled under an assumed name with the boys, fatefully choosing the Titanic as their getaway ship. Soon, Mme. Marcelle Navratil steamed across the Atlantic to America to find her sons, and by May 1912, they were reunited. For a sad time in the world, it was that rarest of things: a happy ending.
In a modern-day echo, this photo and two others with the same minimal captions were posted a few years ago to the Library of Congress Flickr photostream from our Bain News Service Collection. With the benefit of modern technology, it took mere hours for commenters to reunite the boys with their names and tale of survival, providing yet another happy ending, almost one hundred years later.
- See how quickly the information flowed for ‘Louis & Lola’ in Flickr, and view the other photos of the unidentified boys in the Bain News Service Collection.
- Explore other images related to the Titanic in the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.
- Read different stories of the Titanic as told by other blogs at the Library of Congress on this centennial of the tragic sinking.