Page last updated at 20:43 GMT, Monday, 1 June 2009 21:43 UK

Last Titanic survivor dies at 97


Millvina Dean was just weeks old when the liner sank

The last survivor of the sinking of the Titanic has died aged 97.

Millvina Dean was nine weeks old when the liner sank after hitting an iceberg in the early hours of 15 April 1912, on its maiden voyage from Southampton.

The disaster resulted in the deaths of 1,517 people in the north Atlantic, largely due to a lack of lifeboats.

Miss Dean, who remembered nothing of the fateful journey, died on Sunday at the care home in Hampshire where she lived, two of her friends told the BBC.

Her family had been travelling in third class to America, where they hoped to start a new life and open a tobacconist's shop in Kansas City.

Miss Dean's mother, Georgetta, and two-year-old brother, Bert, also survived, but her father, Bertram, was among those who perished when the vessel sank.

If it hadn't been for the ship going down, I'd be an American
Millvina Dean

The family returned to Southampton, where Miss Dean went on to spend most of her life.

Despite having no memories of the disaster, she always said it had shaped her life, because she should have grown up in the US instead of returning to the UK.

She was fond of saying: "If it hadn't been for the ship going down, I'd be an American."

In 1985 the site of the wreck was discovered and, in her 70s, she found herself unexpectedly in demand on both sides of the Atlantic.

"I think sometimes they look on me as if I am the Titanic!" she said after a visit to a Titanic convention in America. "Honestly, some of them are quite weird about it."


But she never tired of telling her story.

"Oh not at all. I like it, because everyone makes such a fuss of me! And I have travelled to so many places because of it, meeting all the people. Oh I wouldn't get tired of it. I'm not the type."

Millvina Dean and her mother
Millvina Dean in her mother's arms a few weeks after the disaster

But she was unimpressed when divers started to explore the wreck, located 3,000m below the surface of the Atlantic, saying: "I don't believe in people going to see it. I think it's morbid. I think it's horrible."

According to BBC South transport correspondent Paul Clifton, she refused to watch James Cameron's epic film of the disaster, starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo diCaprio, fearing it would be too upsetting.

But in the last years of her life, she began struggling with monthly bills of £3,000 at her care home and had been in danger of losing her room.

She began selling some of her Titanic-related mementoes to raise funds, and in April a canvas bag from her rescue was sold at auction for £1,500. It was bought by a man from London who immediately returned it to her.

Actors Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, who appeared in the 1998 movie Titanic, also contributed towards her care costs, along with the film's director James Cameron, by donating to the Millvina Fund which was set up by her friends.

882ft by 92ft, 46,328 tonnes - largest vessel afloat at time
2,223 passengers and crew left Southampton on 10 April 1912
Struck iceberg, sank in two hrs 40 mins at 0220 GMT on 15 April
1,517 killed, 706 survived
Total lifeboat capacity: 1,178 but ship could carry up to 3,547
Survival rates by ticket class - first: 60%, second: 44%, third: 25%, crew: 24%

John White, managing director of exhibition company White Star Memories, and organiser of the Millvina Fund campaign said Miss Dean was always "very supportive".

She travelled to exhibitions around the country and took the time to sign autographs and write personal messages for adults and children.

"She was a lovely supportive lady and very kind-hearted," Mr White told BBC News website.

International Titanic Society President Charles Haas, from Randolph, New Jersey, met Miss Dean on numerous occasions and described her as an "effervescent person with a wonderful sense of humour".

"It is truly the end of an era," he said.

"She was a truly remarkable woman. She had a marvellous approach to life. It is almost as if God gave her the gift and she really took advantage of it."

David Lawrence, from the Nomadic Preservation Society, was a friend of Miss Dean and said he was "very sad" to hear the news.

"She was very sharp-minded and very sprightly. One of those people who could make a whole room laugh with a story," he said.

Youngest passenger

Built in Belfast, the White Star Line vessel became infamous for not having enough lifeboats onboard, leading to the deaths of many passengers.

Elizabeth Gladys Dean, better known as Millvina, was the Titanic's youngest passenger, born on 2 February 1912.

Another baby on board, Barbara Joyce West, was nearly 11 months old when the liner sank. She also survived.

Barbara Joyce Dainton, as she became when she married, died in October 2007, leaving Miss Dean the last Titanic survivor.

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