Michel Marcel Navratil

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Michel Navratil Jr.
Michel Navratil.jpg
Born (1908-06-12)12 June 1908
Nice, France
Died 30 January 2001(2001-01-30) (aged 92)
Montpellier, France
Parents Michel Navratil and Marcelle Caretto

Michel Marcel Navratil, Jr. (June 12, 1908 – January 30, 2001) was one of the last survivors of the sinking of Titanic on April 15, 1912. He, along with his brother, Edmond (1910–1953), were known as the "Titanic Orphans", having been the only children rescued without a parent or guardian. He was four years old at the time of the disaster, and was the last remaining male survivor.

Early life[edit]

Michel Jr. was born on June 12, 1908 in Nice, France to Michel Navratil, a tailor and Slovak immigrant to France, and Marcelle Caretto, an Italian, who he had married in London, England. His younger brother, Edmond, was born on March 5, 1910.

The marriage was troubled, and in early 1912, his parents separated. Marcelle was awarded full custody of the boys. She allowed them to stay with their father over the Easter weekend; however, when she went to collect them, they had disappeared. Michel had decided to immigrate to the United States, taking the boys with him. After a brief stay in Monte Carlo, they traveled to England where they boarded the RMS Titanic.

Titanic[edit]

Michel, right, and his brother, Edmond, in a photograph taken to aid in their identification after the sinking
Another photograph of the brothers, published 22 April 1912, identifying them as "Louis and Lolo".

Michel, Edmond, and their father boarded the Titanic at Southampton, England on April 10, 1912, as second-class passengers. For the journey, Mr. Navratil assumed the alias "Louis M. Hoffman", and the boys were booked as "Lolo and Momon". On board the ship, he led passengers to believe that he was a widower. He let his sons out of his sight only once, when he allowed a French-speaking woman, Bertha Lehmann, to watch them for a few hours while he played cards.[1]

After the collision with an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912, Navratil placed Michel and Edmond in Collapsible D, the last lifeboat successfully launched from the ship. Michel, although not quite four years old at the time, later claimed to remember his father telling him, "My child, when your mother comes for you, as she surely will, tell her that I loved her dearly and still do. Tell her I expected her to follow us, so that we might all live happily together in the peace and freedom of the New World."[2] The elder Navratil died in the sinking, and his body was recovered by the rescue ship, Mackay-Bennett. In his pocket was a revolver. Because of his assumed Jewish surname, he was buried in Baron de Hirsch Cemetery, Halifax, a Jewish cemetery in Nova Scotia.

While in Collapsible D, Michel was fed biscuits by first-class passenger Hugh Woolner.[3] When the rescue ship Carpathia arrived at the scene, he and Edmond were hoisted to its deck in burlap sacks. Since they were toddlers and spoke no English, they could not identify themselves and were soon referred to as the "Titanic Orphans". French-speaking first-class passenger Margaret Hays cared for them at her home until their mother could be located, which occurred as a result of newspaper articles which included their pictures. Marcelle sailed to New York City and was reunited with them on May 16, 1912. She took them back to France aboard the Oceanic.

Michel later recalled his memory of the Titanic:

A magnificent ship!...I remember looking down the length of the hull - the ship looked splendid. My brother and I played on the forward deck and were thrilled to be there. One morning, my father, my brother, and I were eating eggs in the second-class dining room. The sea was stunning. My feeling was one of total and utter well being.

—Michel Navratil, translated with errors by Encyclopedia Titanica[2]

and later:

I don't recall being afraid, I remember the pleasure, really, of going plop! into the lifeboat. We ended up next to the daughter of an American banker who managed to save her dog--no one objected. There were vast differences of people's wealth on the ship, and I realized later that if we hadn't been in second-class, we'd have died. The people who came out alive often cheated and were aggressive. The honest didn't stand a chance."

—Michel Navratil, translated by Encyclopedia Titanica[2]

Career[edit]

Michel attended college and in 1933 married a fellow student. He went on to earn a doctorate and became a professor of philosophy.[4] Throughout his life, he maintained that his brush with death at such a young age, coupled with the loss of his father, strongly influenced his thought processes.[5]

Later life and death[edit]

In 1987, Michel travelled to Wilmington, Delaware to mark the 75th anniversary of the sinking. It was his first visit to the United States since 1912. The following year, he joined ten fellow survivors at a Titanic Historical Society convention in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1996, he joined fellow survivors Eleanor Shuman and Edith Brown on a cruise to the location of the wreck, where attempts were made to bring a large portion of the hull to the surface. On August 27, 1996, before his return to France, he traveled to Halifax, Nova Scotia to see his father's grave for the first time.[6]

Michel lived the remainder of his life in Montpellier, France. He died on January 30, 2001, at the age of 92 and was preceded in death by his mother and brother.

Notes[edit]

  • Edmond worked as an interior decorator and then became an architect and builder. He joined the French Army during World War II and became a prisoner-of-war. Although he escaped, his health had deteriorated, and he died in 1953 at age 43.[2][7]
  • Michel's daughter, Élisabeth, an opera director, wrote a book, Les enfants du Titanic (literally "The Children of the Titanic"; called Survivors in English) about the experiences of her father, grandfather, and uncle.[8]
  • Marcelle died in 1963.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mr Michel Navratil - Titanic Biographies, Encyclopedia Titanica
  2. ^ a b c d "Master Michel Marcel Navratil". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  3. ^ "A Tale of Hoffman". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved 2007-07-28. 
  4. ^ "Last male survivor of Titanic dies". BBC News. February 2, 2001. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  5. ^ "Michel Navratil -- Titanic Survivor, 92". New York Times. February 1, 2001. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  6. ^ With Ship's Hull Back on the Ocean Floor, Titanic Buffs Return to New York
  7. ^ "Master Edmond Roger Navratil". Encyclopedia Titanica. Retrieved 2007-07-28. 
  8. ^ ""Survivors" by Elisabeth Navratil". The O'Brien Press Ltd. Retrieved 2007-07-28.