As RMS Titanic, the Ship of Dreams, was sinking on the night of April 14, 1912, nobody was spared from experiencing the dread and horror on board, not even the youngest passengers. On that fateful night, 710 people survived the disaster, and each one had a unique story to tell. However, among the most poignant tales is that of Michel and Edmond Navratil, two boys who became known as the ‘Titanic Orphans’.
The Titanic Orphans
When the two boys boarded the infamous RMS Titanic, they were only two and four years old. The children were accompanied by their father, Michel Navratil Sr. a Slovakian tailor who was recently separated from their French mother, Marcelle. In the midst of the divorce, the mother had been given full custody of the boys.
Marcell had allowed Navrati Sr. to take the boys over the Easter break, however, little did she know that in reality, he was planning to steal the children away and begin a new life in the United States. Navrati Sr. arrived on the Titanic on April 12, 1912 and boarded as a second-class passenger with the children, under the alias ‘Louis Hoffman’.
The boys enjoyed the journey and had fun playing on the deck of the ship and looking down in awe at the length of the hull. It was a thrilling experience for children so young.
On 14 April at approximately 11:20pm ship’s time, RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg about 375 miles south of Newfoundland. The catastrophic hit caused the hull plates to buckle inwards along her starboard and opened five of her sixteen watertight compartments to the sea.
Passengers and crew were quickly evacuated to lifeboats, however only women and children were allowed to board. The ‘Titanic Orphans’ were carried from their cabin by their father and placed in the very last lifeboat, Collapsible D. The children got a last glimpse of their father as they were lowered into the waters below, tragically, Navrati Sr. perished in the disaster.
The lifeboat that carried the boys was eventually rescued by Carpathia and they were taken to safety. The two boys were the only children that were rescued without a parent or guardian, hence the name ‘Titanic Orphans’.
Louis and Lola?
The children were identified only by the alias names that their father had given them, Louis and Lola. There was almost no information about the Titanic Orphans, the ship’s passenger list was a mess and the boys could only understand French. They would answer every question with a simple ‘oui’.
In the media frenzy that followed, the children made headline news around the world. There were countless appeals to find out more information about who the boys were and where they had come from.
During this time, the boys stayed temporarily in the home of another Titanic survivor, Margaret Hays who lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Meanwhile, the authorities were undergoing a massive investigation to track down their relatives.
Their identity would remain a mystery until a woman in Nice, France came across a news article with a picture of what looked like her two sons, the woman was Marcelle Caretto.
She was able to confirm the identities with the authorities in America and after a long trip across the Atlantic, Marcelle was at last reunited with her children in New York. Their mother, only 21 years old, did not ask them about the wreck but instead said;
“I do not want them to think about that, they must only be happy from now on—only happy; no more distress.”
Reunited at last
Michel, Edmond and Marcelle sailed back to France, where the family would spend the rest of their days. The boys seem to have kept only fond memories of the journey. Michel recalled later in life that the Titanic was a “magnificent ship.” He reminisced about playing with his brother, the image of the sea, and what they had for breakfast one morning: eggs in the second-class dining room. He did not remember feeling fear. Only that he fell asleep after they were placed in the lifeboat.
Edmond died at the age of 43 in 1953 after fighting in the French Army during World War II. Michel Jr. lived to be the oldest surviving male of the infamous shipwreck. He died in 2001 at the age of 92. In his adult life, he lived in Montpellier, France and worked as a university professor of psychology.
Nevertheless, the story of their survival and reunion with their mother was an outstanding happy tale amongst the hundreds of devastating tragedies as a result of the Titanic disaster.
Discover The Home of the Titanic
The perfect destination for those who are fascinated by the tales and history that surround RMS Titanic, 30 James Street offers guests a taste of first-class luxury.
Explore what was once the White Star Line head office, brought to life as a luxurious hotel and landmark in the maritime history of Liverpool.
Our Titanic-themed hotel rooms are ideal for groups of guests and couples visiting the city. Each room has its own unique decor and theme that relates to a passenger, a destination or places where RMS Titanic was assembled.
Facts and stories from the days of White Star Line and the RMS Titanic’s doomed maiden voyage are referenced throughout the building to keep the memory of RMS Titanic and those lost on board alive.
Visitors can even dine in the stunning Carpathia Rooftop Restaurant and Champagne Bar, which honours the brave rescue ship and her crew who saved passengers out of the waters.
Call now on 0151 236 0166 or email for more information on firstname.lastname@example.org to book your stay or plan your visit today. Keep up to date with all our latest news and offers by following us on Facebook.