Diana Bowerman , News Editor
Friday, April 13, 2012
Branscombe was birthplace of Titanic’s last survivor
TOMORROW, Saturday, marks the centenary of the sinking of the ill-fated Titanic.
For Branscombe, it is a reminder of its links with Millvina Dean, who died three years ago, aged 97, who was born in the village.
Millvina was just two months old when she became the youngest passenger on board the giant liner, which sank in the early hours of April 15 after hitting an iceberg on April 14, en route to the USA.
Her father, Bertram, and grandparents, were born and bred in the village and Bertram reluctantly left Branscombe and moved to London, where he married Millvina’s mother, Ettie.
Millvina was born in Culverwell House, Branscombe, just two months before the Titanic set sail on its fateful journey and always considered the village to be her real home.
When Millvina was born, her parents and two-year-old brother, also called Bertram, were visiting Branscombe to say goodbye to their family, before leaving England for a new life in America, where they planned to open a tobacconist shop in Wichita, Kansas.
The Dean family were steerage passengers, but Millvina and Bertram junior, together with their mother, were among the first to be put into a lifeboat. Her father perished on the Titanic, along with more than 1,500 others.
After the disaster, Millvina settled in Southampton and died in 2009 at a nursing home in the New Forest. But during her lifetime she often visited Branscombe, renting a chalet on the beach.
Three years ago, when she died, her cousins, Ivor and Brian Dowell, spoke of their fond memories of Millvina.
Ivor’s wife Marie said then: “There were a lot of people she liked visiting, such as the bakers and the colliers and she used to know the boat man on the beach.
“She was a very lively soul and very bubbly. She liked everything around her.”
She believed Millvina would have returned to her roots in Branscombe, had her mother, who she cared for, not lived until she was 95.
Millvina did not have much to do with Titanic enthusiasts until her brother died in 1992, when the limelight turned to her as the liner’s last survivor.