|Died||14 February 1996 (aged 91)|
Eva Miriam Hart MBE (31 January 1905 – 14 February 1996) was a British woman who was one of the last remaining survivors of the sinking of RMS Titanic on 15 April 1912.
Eva Hart was born on 31 January 1905 in Ilford, Essex (now part of Greater London), England, to a Jewish family. Her parents were Benjamin Hart and his wife Esther (née Bloomfield). Eva was their only child. Esther had been previously married and had nine children from her first marriage who all died young. Eva was educated at St. Mary's Convent (later St. Mary's Hare Park) in Gidea Park, London. In early 1912, Benjamin decided his family would emigrate to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He was influenced by his brother, who already lived there and economic recessions at that time in England, in his decision to emigrate.
Eva was seven years old when she and her parents boarded Titanic as second-class passengers on 10 April 1912. They had originally been booked on a ship called the USS Philadelphia, but a coal strike at Southampton that spring kept her from sailing and many of her passengers were transferred to Titanic. Almost instantly, Eva's mother felt uneasy about Titanic and feared that some catastrophe would happen; the hubris of calling a ship unsinkable was, in her mind, flying in the face of God. With such fear, Eva's mother slept only during the day and stayed awake in their cabin at night fully dressed.
Eva was sleeping when Titanic struck an iceberg at 11:40 pm on 14 April. Her mother was awake at the time and felt "a slight bump." She immediately asked her husband to investigate the disturbance and he reluctantly left the cabin. Upon his return, he alerted her and Eva to the collision and, after wrapping Eva in a blanket, he carried her to the boat deck. Eva's father placed his wife and daughter in Lifeboat No. 14 and told her to 'be a good girl and hold Mummy's hand'. It was the last thing he ever said to her and the last time she ever saw him; he perished in the sinking and his body, if recovered, was never identified.
Eva and her mother were rescued the following morning by the rescue ship RMS Carpathia. Soon after arriving in New York City on 18 April, Eva and her mother returned to the UK; because her mother never wanted to set sail for New York in the first place. Eva was plagued with nightmares and upon the death of her mother in 1928, when Hart was 23, she confronted her fears head-on by booking a ticket on a passenger ship heading to Singapore, upon which she locked herself in her cabin for four straight days until the nightmares went away.
In April 2012, an audio walking guide to Titanic memorials in Southampton was produced, featuring audio clips of Hart talking about her experience. The guide takes the listener on a walking route around Southampton, where Titanic set sail on her maiden voyage. Being seven years old at the time of the sinking, she maintained several vivid memories:
We went on the day on the boat train. I was 7, I had never seen a ship before. It looked very big. Everybody was very excited. We went down to the cabin and that's when my mother said to my father that she had made up her mind quite firmly that she would not go to bed in that ship. She would sit up at night. She decided that she wouldn't go to bed at night and she didn't! One fact about the beautiful Titanic is that some said the Titanic was 'unsinkable' but now it went world wide that the Titanic has sunk and there were an estimated 700-1,500 survivors.
"I saw that ship sink," Hart said in a 1993 interview. "I never closed my eyes. I didn't sleep at all. I saw it, I heard it, and nobody could possibly forget it. I can remember the colours, the sounds, everything... The worst thing I can remember are the screams. It seemed as if once everybody had gone, drowned, finished, the whole world was standing still. There was nothing, just this deathly, terrible silence in the dark night with the stars overhead. Hart recalled hearing the ship's band playing "Nearer My God to Thee" as the ship succumbed to the ocean."
Hart had several jobs during her life. She was a professional singer in Australia, a Conservative Party organiser, and a magistrate. As a volunteer in the Second World War, Hart organised entertainment for the troops and distributed emergency supplies to people after The Blitz. She was a member of Soroptimist International of East London from 1962 until her death, serving as club president during 1970-71 and as a member for 34 years.
In 1974, Hart was awarded an MBE for her public and political services. It was presented to her by the Duke of Kent during the Three-Day Week.
Hart frequently criticised the White Star Line for failing to provide enough lifeboats for all aboard Titanic: "If a ship is torpedoed, that's war. If it strikes a rock in a storm, that's nature. But just to die because there weren't enough lifeboats, that's ridiculous." The official report of the British Inquiry suggests, however, that additional boats would not necessarily have made any difference; the crew did not properly launch all of the boats it had in the available time, and there was no boat drill and no advance information given to the crew on what should be done in the event of emergency.
Hart insisted in interviews that the ship had broken in half, a widely debated rumour that was later proven to be true after the discovery of the wreck site by Robert Ballard in 1985. She was also adamant regarding the controversy surrounding SS Californian, a ship that was only a few miles from Titanic and yet failed to respond to distress rockets and calls for help. Hart claimed the vessel was less than ten miles from Titanic, not nineteen as was previously believed:
I saw [the Californian]. It was terribly close...I didn't see a ship nineteen miles away. I saw a ship that was so close; and they said at the time it was less than nine miles away, [and yet] now they're trying to say it was nineteen... I saw it you know, and it wasn't just 'lights on the horizon' – you could see it was a ship. And I saw our rockets being fired, which that ship must have seen. Well, this inquiry says that they did see it but they didn't think it was a portent of danger. I would have thought in the middle of the Atlantic in the middle of the night that rockets must mean trouble.
When salvaging efforts at the wreck site began in 1987, Hart was quick to note that Titanic was a gravesite and should be treated as such. She often decried the 'insensitivity and greed' and labelled the salvagers 'fortune hunters, vultures, pirates, and grave robbers.' In Titanic: The Complete Story, she stated:
I hope severely that they will never attempt to raise part of it. I do hope they will remember this is a grave - a grave of 1,500 people who should never have died, and I don't think you should go down there and rob graves and I'm very much opposed to it.
Hart remained active in Titanic-related activities well into her 80s. In 1982, she returned to the US and joined several other survivors at a Titanic Historical Society convention commemorating the 70th anniversary of the sinking. She participated in three more conventions in 1987, 1988, and in 1992. In 1994, she wrote an autobiography, Shadow of the Titanic – A Survivor's Story, in which she described her experiences aboard the ship and the lasting implications of its sinking. On 15 April 1995, the 83rd anniversary of the disaster, she and fellow second-class Titanic survivor Edith Brown dedicated a memorial garden plaque on the grounds of the National Maritime Museum in London.
Hart died from cancer on February 14th 1996 in a hospice in London, two weeks after her 91st birthday. Her death left eight remaining survivors. In her memory, a Wetherspoon's pub in Chadwell Heath is named 'The Eva Hart'.
Hart's connection to the Titanic and her active involvement in later years made her popular in numerous forms of media, including mentions in non-fiction books, museums and exhibitions.