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More mysteries of the Titanic to be revealed

PUBLISHED: 07:55 08 June 2017 | UPDATED: 07:55 08 June 2017

John Balls will deliver a talk on Friday about Titanic passengers travelling under assumed names PHOTO: Nick Butcher

John Balls will deliver a talk on Friday about Titanic passengers travelling under assumed names PHOTO: Nick Butcher

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Mystery surrounds the motives of a group of more than 30 passengers and crew who travelled under different identities aboard the ill-fated Titanic.

A new Titanic exhibition is now on display at the Time and Tide museum.

PHOTO: Nick Butcher A new Titanic exhibition is now on display at the Time and Tide museum. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

Titanic researcher John Balls, who has written two books on the doomed ship, said he became interested in the passengers and their stories when sent a newspaper article from 2005. Mr Balls, from Thorpe St Andrew, said the article was about a woman who had spent her life trying to prove she was the daughter of a couple aboard the passenger liner. “This got me researching other passengers travelling on board under assumed names and I was able to put them into groups,” he said. The first, a group of professional imposters, were made up of gamblers who made money from travelling on large ships and cheating passengers. “They obviously didn’t want to reveal their true identities,” he said.

“Then I have a group I call the lovers. These were people who were eloping due to family resistance. There’s also the escaping group, men running away from their wives, while it also includes a Swedish socialist and political activist who was running from the law.

“Then we have the mysteries, the people I really don’t know why they were travelling under assumed names.”

Mr Balls said a number of crew were also travelling under different names, although the reasons are not always unclear. He said one crew member had lost his documentation after getting drunk shortly before the voyage and wasn’t able to board, but someone else using his identity had. “His mother prepared a memorial service for him but before it could be held he walked into the house much to her shock,” he said.

A new Titanic exhibition is now on display at the Time and Tide museum.

PHOTO: Nick Butcher A new Titanic exhibition is now on display at the Time and Tide museum. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

“Then we have the best known imposter story about a man named Michael Navratil. He was Frenchman married to an Italian and they had split up. He decided to take his two boys, Michel, 4, and Edmond, 2, on board under assumed names.”

Mr Navratil managed to get his children onto a lifeboat as the ship sank, but perished himself. “The boys arrived in New York but no one knew who they were and they became known as the orphans of the Titanic,” said Mr Balls.

He will discuss the subject on Friday at the Time and Tide Museum in Great Yarmouth as part of its Titanic: Honour and Glory Exhibition. For details phone 01493 743930.

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