Titanic efforts of a heroic grandad
Published: 14 Apr 2012 08:000 comments
WHEN Stuart Judd watches the Titanic memorial services this weekend there will be a lump in his throat.
It will be close to home for the 53-year-old from Southcote because his grandfather Charles Judd was one of the few survivors plucked from the water when the infamous passenger liner sank after hitting an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean on the night of April 14, 1912.
Stuart, from Ashampstead Road, who was only a baby when his grandfather - a 'stoker' or fireman on the Titanic - died in 1960, grew up on stories of the fateful night which claimed the lives of more than1,500 passengers and crew and has uncovered fresh details of his grandfather's ordeal since retracing his family roots five years ago.
He said: "Whenever I see the documentaries on television and news broadcasts it makes me think of what he had to go through and how lucky he was to be alive. I always wonder what I would do in that situation."
Charles, from Caversham, was 30 when he signed on with the Titanic because a coal strike delayed the voyage of his original ship, Olympic.
It is believed he was either finishing or just beginning a shift on the furnaces in Titanic's Engine 33 when disaster struck.
After helping women and children to lifeboats he was thrown into the water as the ship went down.
Newspapers reported him missing, but days later his family in Caversham received a telegram saying he was on his way home.
In a letter to his brother, Charles admitted being "the luckiest man in the world" after making it to a collapsible boat, losing cousin Jack Hurst, having a shipmate die in his arms and suffering frost bite in his legs, feet and fingers before being rescued after five-and-a-half hours.
He and a colleague were the only survivors from Titanic's 56 stokers.
Stuart said: "He is fortunate he was able to help as many people as he did and save himself, but it was such a terrible waste of life.
"We've learned so much from the disaster and things are much safer now, but you can't overcome nature."
Charles had already cheated death in 1907, sailing away from Jamaica hours before a devastating earthquake.
Later he worked on ships in Norway before settling in Westfield Road, Caversham, with wife Alice - having seven children, including Stuart's father John.
Stuart's brother Andy, 61, from Emmer Green, fondly remembers as a child watching his grandfather reading the Daily Herald with a magnifying glass.
He said: "He was lucky to survive but he was a young man of 30 and as a stoker he would have been a strong chap."