Elizabeth Gladys Dean, otherwise known as Millvina, was born in Branscombe, England, on 2nd February, 1912. She was just 9 weeks old when she travelled on the RMS Titanic with her parents and brother, and was the youngest passenger aboard the ship. The Dean family wanted to leave England behind and open a tobacco shop in America, where her father, Bertram, had family and friends in Kansas.
The Dean family was never supposed to travel on RMS Titanic, as they were booked onto another White Star Line, which was reportedly the Adriatic. However, as a coal strike prevented them from travelling on the vessel, they were offered a passage as third-class passengers on the famous Titanic. Unfortunately, on the night of 14th April 1912, tragedy struck when the ship hit a large iceberg, and water quickly filled into five compartments, causing RMS Titanic to sink
Millvina’s parents felt the collision, forcing her Father to leave his cabin to investigate. He quickly returned ordering her mother, Georgetta, to dress Millvina and her older brother, Bertram, and to go above deck. Millvina, her Mother and brother were placed in Lifeboat 10, which was the first boat to escape the sinking Titanic, whilst her father stayed onboard the ship. The lifeboat drifted along the icy water until they were eventually rescued by the RMS Carpathia. It took another 4 days for the ship to finally reach New York City on 18th April.
Only 705 people survived the disaster, whilst Millvina’s father was one of the 1,500 that lost their lives. It is believed Bertram stayed aboard the ship until it eventually sank in the early hours of the morning. His body was never found.
Life After the Titanic
After a two week stay in a New York hospital, Millvina, her mother and brother returned to England on the Adriatic. As Millvina was the youngest person to survive the sinking of the RMS Titanic, she received a lot of attention from passengers who lined up to hold her. Photographs of the family were also published in newspapers all over the world.
The Dean family received financial help from various charitable organisations that were dedicated to Titanic survivors. Millvina went on to attend Greggs School in Southampton, and it wasn’t until she reached the age of 8 years old that she learnt she was a passenger aboard the Titanic.
Millvina grew up to work for the government during World War II by drawing maps. Following the war, she worked in the purchasing department in an engineering firm until her retirement in 1972. She never married or had children.
For many years, Millvina Dean chose to stay out of the public eye, but came to embrace her story when she was in her seventies. She would travel to a variety of Titanic events, and even went aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2 liner to cross the Atlantic in 1997.
The director of Titanic, James Cameron, and the stars of the 1997 movie, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, each donated £10,000 to The Millvina Fund, as it was reported she was forced to sell her family’s possessions to fund her nursing home stay. The items included a compensation letter from the Titanic Relief Fund, and a suitcase of clothes given to the family upon their arrival in America. The auction buyer later returned the Dean’s mementos.
She was the last-living survivor of RMS Titanic until Millvina Dean died at the age of 97 at her Southampton nursing home on 31st May 2009.