So what SHOULD you do with the deckchairs on the Titanic?

“Re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic” has come to mean making a pointless gesture in the face of certain catastrophe.

When the Titanic really was sinking, and all the lifeboats were gone, baker Charles Joughin hit on a more practical plan for the deckchairs: he threw them overboard.

As he told the British Inquiry into the disaster, he threw fifty chairs into the icy Atlantic through the ports of B deck. “Was it to give something to cling to?” he was asked. “I was looking out for something for myself, Sir”, he replied.

In James Cameron’s Titanic, Joughin appears as a comedy drunk; he’s right there clinging to the rail next to Jack and Rose as the ship goes down.

In real life, he had the last laugh. He let go of the rail at the very last moment, and told the inquiry “I do not believe my head went under the water at all. It may have been wetted, but no more”.

Joughin never needed his floating deckchairs; he managed to clamber onto an upturned lifeboat, and survived the sinking.

Orphans of the Titanic

As the last lifeboat was lowered from the Titanic, a second-class passenger, Mr Louis Hoffman, handed two angelic-looking boys to the women already in the boat. He then stepped back into the crowd of men on deck, and lost his life in the disaster. The two boys, aged two and three, proved to be the only children to survive the sinking without a parent. When it turned that Mr Hoffman had been travelling under a false name, and that the boys could speak no English, their identity became an international mystery. Newspapers all over the world printed photographs of the so-called “Titanic Orphans”, known as “Lolo” and “Lump”.

Their mother, Marcelle Navratil from Nice in France, eventually recognized them as her sons Michel and Edmond. “Mr Hoffman”, her estranged husband, had kidnapped the boys and was taking them to a new life in America.

The elder boy, Michel, eventually became a philosophy professor, and lived into the twenty-first century as the Titanic’s last male survivor. His reflections on the disaster remained bitter: “The people who came out alive often cheated and were aggressive, the honest didn’t stand a chance”.