Subject:  The Curse of Violet Jessop

 Titanic. Titanic. Titanic.

 Everything related to this ship was big.
 Big ship.
 Big disaster.
 Big legacy.
 Big movie.

 I won't bore you with the details of this story.
 You've probably heard them many times.
 Besides, we are here to talk about the unsinkable Violet Jessop.

 I know what you are thinking - wasn't that the unsinkable Molly Brown?
 Yes, but you're thinking about another story.
 Molly only survived one disaster at sea.
 Violet Jessop somehow survived three.

 First, let's look at Violet's background to see how she wound up in these disasters.

 Violet was born on October 2, 1887 in Argentina, just shortly after
 her parents had emigrated there from Dublin.
 Her father died when she was eighteen, so her mother made the decision to
 pick up roots again and move back to England.

 By the age of twenty-one Violet had decided upon her lifelong career.
 She was going to become a stewardess on a big ship.
 Stewardess is just a glorified name for the onboard cabin maids
 that catered to the rich people's every whining need.

 Her first voyage was aboard the Royal Mail's Orinoco which set sail on October 28, 1908.
 On September 28, 1910, Violet switched to the White Star Line and
 embarked on the Majestic.

 At the time, White Star had received an influx in capital from J.P. Morgan
 and embarked on a plan to build the greatest ships of all time.
 There were three of them, the sister ships Olympic, Titanic, and Gigantic.
 For the greatest ships, White Star needed the greatest staff.

 Their crew was handpicked from every ship in the company's line.
 Violet Jessop was one of them - young, hard-working, and attractive.
 The first ship to be launched was the Olympic.
 It was the largest and finest ship ever to fly the British flag.
 And Violet Jessop was on board as a stewardess in first class.

 The first few voyages of the Olympic were uneventful.
 The fifth trip to sea was not as lucky. On September 20, 1911,
 under the command of Captain E. J. Smith
 (yes--the same captain in charge of the Titanic when it went down),
 the Olympic collided with the smaller British cruiser HMS Hawke.
 The Hawke forced its way into the Olympic's hull, ripping a gash nearly forty
 feet in length below the waterline. This created a big problem for the ships,
 but they were both able to limp back to port. Completion of the Titanic was
 put off for nearly a month while the Olympic underwent emergency repairs.

 So? Big deal, you say. Well, the story gets better. Read on...

 Being one of White Star's prized employees,
 Violet was transferred to the newly launched Titanic.
 I think we all know what will happen on this ship.

 Yes, Violet was on the ill-fated Titanic when it went down in the North
 Atlantic on April 15, 1912. She was in her room laying drowsy from
 reading when the Titanic crashed into  that dreaded iceberg and began
 her decent to the bottom of the sea.
 Being an employee, Violet had no intention of getting in a lifeboat until all
 the passengers were gone. Another ship's lights (most likely the Californian
 with its engines and radio off) could be seen several miles away and they all
 expected to be rescued.

 It seems that the officers were having a difficult time getting the
 emigrant women into the lifeboats due to the language barrier.
 Violet was standing in the background when an officer requested
 that she get into a lifeboat to set an example for the other women.
 Violet got in, was handed a baby to hold, and the others followed.
 Violet's lifeboat was lowered to the water and launched.
 Violet would realize the next day while floating around the
 Atlantic that all those she left behind probably perished.

 Violet's lifeboat was also the last to be rescued by the Carpathia,
 which had turned back from a journey to the Mediterranean
 to help with the rescue. The Carpathia returned to New
 York with the survivors and the remains.
 Violet chose not to publicly speak to anyone and hopped on the
 first boat back home to England.

 After the Titanic's sinking, the Olympic was brought back into port
 for six months of modification. Structural changes were made and
 additional lifeboats were added to the ship. Once the ship's retrofit
 was completed, Violet was once again assigned to the Olympic
 and set sail. She stayed on board until World War I broke out.

 Violet decided to help in the war effort by joining the
 V.A.D. (Voluntary Aid Detachment) as a junior nurse.

 At the same time, work had been underway on the third of these
 great sister ships (only three were ever built), the Gigantic.
 Since Gigantic sounded too similar to Titanic,
 the company decided to change its name to the Britannic.
 Then, on November 13, 1915, the Britannic was requisitioned
 by the British Admiralty and was completed as a hospital ship.
 The ship took her maiden voyage on December 23, 1915.

 On November 21, 1916, the Britannic was sailing on her sixth
 voyage in  the Aegean Sea, having departed from Naples.

 And guess what?
 Violet Jessop was a nurse on board.
 If you see a tragedy about to happen, you are absolutely correct.

 While Violet was down in the dining room getting breakfast for
 a sick woman, she heard a dull, deafening roar and felt the ship shake.
 The ship struck a German-planted mine and began to sink.

 Everyone to the lifeboats!

 Violet went back to her cabin and packed her most worldly
 possessions into her apron pockets and tucked it under her waistband.
 She boarded lifeboat number four.

 The captain of the ship cranked the engines in a last ditch attempt
 to get the ship into shallower water. What the captain did not
 realize was that the lifeboats were being lowered at the same time.
 By starting the engines, a whirlpool was created that sucked
 the lifeboats into the Britannic's mighty propellers. Even the best
 oarsman could not row against the mighty current.

 A few minutes after Violet's lifeboat hit the water, she noticed that
 everyone had jumped overboard into the sea. She turned and saw the
 gigantic propellers slicing and dicing anything and anyone that came near it.

 Violet had no choice but to jump out herself.
 Unfortunately, she did not know how to swim.
 She had also made the mistake of placing her coat under her lifevest,
 which meant that she could not remove it when it became waterlogged.

 Down she went (Violet, that is).

 Her buoyant body slowly rose back up.


 Violet's head crashed into something hard,  most likely the bottom of the
 lifeboat. Then it happened a second time, and a third.

 Would Violet survive?
 You bet.
 Remember, we are dealing with the unsinkable Violet Jessop!

 Violet's nose just barely rose above the water's oscillating waves.
 She opened her eyes just as another lifejacket was floating by.
 She grabbed it to stay afloat. Her next sight was that of a head
 split open with its brains falling out. There were body parts and
 wreckage floating all around her. Quite the gruesome sight.

 In the distance, Violet could see the Britannic slowly fall into the sea.
 The ship was not even one year old, yet it went down in fifty-five minutes.
 The ship would not be seen again until it was discovered on the
 sea bottom by Jacques Cousteau in 1976.

 Shortly after the sinking, one of the Britannic's motor boats came to
 rescue her. The damage? Violet's leg was deeply cut and torn up.
 She would find out years later while getting a dental x-ray that her
 skull had been severely fractured, but she had no clue at the  time.

 Others were not as lucky.
 While only twenty-eight people perished, many others lost arms
 and legs or suffered other serious injuries. Luckily, the Britannic
 did not have any wounded in its hospital beds at the time,
 or the death toll may have compared to that of the Titanic.

 Violet was probably the only Britannic survivor to be rescued with her
 toothbrush. She had learned from the Titanic disaster just four years
 earlier to take one's toothbrush along when your ship is about to go under!

 After the war, Violet returned to her life as a cabin stewardess.
 She retired in 1950, after forty-two years at sea.
 She passed away in May of 1971. After her death, Violet's nieces
 discovered a manuscript that she had written in 1934. It was finally
 published in 1997 under the title Titanic Survivor.
 Without this manuscript, her story may never have been completely told.

 So there you have it.
 Not only did Violet Jessop have the privilege of being aboard the
 greatest ships of her time, but she had the honor of being the only woman
 to have survived all three of the ill fated sister ships.

 Violet Jessop was one lucky lady. But then, she was a curse on the other
 passengers of these ships. I don't think I would have been able to sleep
 comfortably if I knew she was on the same ship as me.

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