The Waifs of the Deep: Titanic Survivors

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)

Louis & Lola ?-- TITANIC survivors. Photo by Bain News Service, April 1912.

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.

Mme. Navratil & sons. (Cropped.) Photo by Bain News Service, May 16, 1912.

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.

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  1. kiyohisa Tanada
    April 14, 2012 at 7:22 am

    The brothers who were able to live by Titanic
    In the inside with many sad, severe stories
    As for “the happy ending” having found each other easy to talk to
    It is to be necessary for a story of Titanic.

  2. Conner Piippo
    December 4, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    this is so sad if my dad died i would be a disaster

  3. Francisco
    September 18, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Sorprendente para mi la historia de estos dos niƱos. Gracias a los qu la publicaro.

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