Hart in 1993
|Died||14 February 1996 (aged 91)|
Chadwell Heath, London, England
Eva Hart was born on 31 January 1905 in Ilford, London, England, to a Jewish family. Her parents were Benjamin Hart and his wife Esther (née Bloomfield). She was their only child. Her mother had been previously married and had several children from her first marriage who 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 to take his family and emigrate to Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Hart was seven years old when she and her parents boarded the Titanic as second-class passengers on 10 April 1912 at Southampton, England. They had originally been booked on a ship called the Philadelphia but the coal strike at Southampton that spring kept it from sailing and many of her passengers were transferred to the Titanic. Almost instantly, her mother felt uneasy about the Titanic and feared that some catastrophe would happen. To call a ship unsinkable was, in her mind, flying in the face of God. With such fear, she slept only during the day and stayed awake in their cabin at night fully dressed.
Eva was sleeping when the Titanic struck the 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 this, and he left the cabin. Upon his return, he alerted her and Eva to the collision, and after wrapping her in a blanket, he carried her to the boat deck. He placed his wife and daughter in Lifeboat No. 14 and told Hart 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.
Soon after arriving in America, she and her mother returned to the United Kingdom and then later remarried. She 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, and locking herself in her cabin for four straight days until the stewardess made her get on the deck and the nightmares went away.
Memories of Titanic
In April 2012 an audio walking guide to Titanic memorials in Southampton, Hampshire, was produced featuring audio clips of Hart talking about her experience. The guide takes the listener on a walking route around Southampton, where the 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!"
"I saw that ship sink," she 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," she said. "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." "The band played one version of 'Nearer My God to Thee' of which there are three and the one they played was the one that was played in church." "I never closed my eyes at all – I saw that ship sink. And I saw that ship break in half."
Hart worked several jobs throughout her life. She was a professional singer in Australia and a Conservative Party organiser, and also served as a magistrate. As a volunteer in World War II Hart organised entertainment for the troops and distributed emergency supplies to people after bombings in London.
Hart was one of the most outspoken survivors concerning the Titanic's lack of sufficient lifeboats and of any salvage attempts of the Titanic after its discovery in 1985 by Robert Ballard.
She commonly criticised the White Star Line for failing to provide enough lifeboats for all aboard the Titanic. "If a ship is torpedoed, that's war," she once said. "If it strikes a rock in a storm, that's nature. But just to die because there weren't enough lifeboats, that's ridiculous."
Hart was vocal in interviews about the ship having broken in half, a widely debated rumour that was later proven to be true after the discovery of the wreck site. She was also adamant regarding the controversy surrounding the SS Californian, a ship that was only a few miles from the Titanic and yet failed to respond to distress rockets and calls for help. Hart claimed the vessel was less than ten miles from the Titanic, not nineteen as was previously believed.
"I saw that ship (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 began in 1987, she was quick to note that the Titanic was a gravesite and should be treated as such. She often decried the "insensitivity and greed" and labelled the salvors "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 United States and joined several other survivors at a Titanic Historical Society convention commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Titanic 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 on 14 February 1996 in a hospice in London, two weeks after her 91st birthday. Her death left nine remaining survivors. In her memory, a Wetherspoon's pub in Chadwell Heath is named 'The Eva Hart'.
- Several Titanic documentaries, including Titanica in 1995, feature interviews with Hart.
- Shadow of the Titanic, published by Chadwell Publishers in 1994, is the biography of Hart written by Professor Ronald C. Denney in collaboration with her. Various republications have been released since its first publication, with minor changes.
- Eva and Little Kitty on the Titanic, is a children's book published by Sidsel Media in 2012, based on Hart's account of the disaster.
- James Cameron's 1997 film Titanic, features a scene where a father says to his daughter, "You hold Mommy's hand and be a good little girl"; this is a reference to Hart's father, Benjamin, who spoke the same words the night of the disaster, when she was put into a lifeboat. An interview with her was also included in a behind-the-scenes documentary about the 1997 film.
- Titanic: Interview with Eva Hart on the 75th Anniversary of the Sinking
- Eva Hart, 91, a Last Survivor With Memory of Titanic, Dies, New York Times, 16 February 1996
- Biography, Encyclopedia Titanica
- Hart, Eva, perf. Eva Hart Speaks About Her Memories of The Titanic . . Survivor Interview. Film. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MD5J43Z9AWI>.
- Clark, Roger, Pres. "The Way It Was | Eva Hart." Perf. Eva Hart. BBC: 11 April 1987. Television. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/titanic/5058.shtml>.
- Groom, Barbara, rep. "Today | Eva Hart, Titanic Survivor." Perf. Eva Hart. Today. BBC: 22 December 1983. Radio. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/titanic/5055.shtml>.
- Donnelly, Judy. The Titanic Lost... And Found. 1st ed. New York, Toronto: Random House, 1987. 22–23.
- BBC. (1987). The Way It Was. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MD5J43Z9AWI
- Elia, Ricardo. Titanic in the Courts, Archaeological Institute of America
- That Fateful Night Archived 5 December 2000 at the Wayback Machine, Euronet
- Titanica (1995), Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
- Shadow of the Titanic, Amazon.com
- Eva and Little Kitty on the Titanic, Amazon.com
- IMSDb. Titanic – a screenplay by James Cameron, Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb)
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