On April 10, 1912, the RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton, England. On April 11, it arrived in Queenstown, Ireland before setting sail for New York. Shortly before midnight on April 14, the ship struck an iceberg and sank in the early hours of April 15. Of the 2,28 onboard, only 705 survived. They were picked up by the S.S. Carpathia around 4 a.m.
Masabumi Hosono (October 15, 1870-March 14, 1939) was the only Japanese passenger on the RMS Titanic. He was born in Nīgata, Japan in 1870. After graduating from the Tokyo Higher Commercial School and a brief time at Mitsubishi, he joined the Ministry of Communications in 1897. He was a civil servant working for the Japanese Ministry of Transportation. He was sent to Russia in 1910 to research their railway system. On the way back to Japan, he went to London and lived there for a short time, intending to return to Japan via the U.S.
He boarded the Titanic in Southampton on April 10 as a second class passenger. Hosono did not wake up when the ship struck an iceberg and only when a steward entered and instructed him to put on a lifejacket. Hosono was blocked when he tried to get to the boat deck, who probably assumed he was a third class passenger. Hosono eventually slipped passed the crew to the deck where emergency flares were being fired.
When an officer shouted that there was room for two more on Lifeboat 10, Hosono and another man jumped in. While Hosono claimed that his was the last lifeboat to leave the Titanic, his was the second from the last. Around 8 a.m. on April 15, the RMS Carpathia arrived and rescued the survivors.
Hosono went to San Francisco and asked friends for help in returning to Japan. He received little press attention. The Japanese press dubbed Hosno the “lucky Japanese boy”. He was interviewed by several magazines and newspapers, including photographs of him and his family. But he soon went from famous to infamous when Archibald Gracie’s account branded him as a ‘stowaway.” Additionally, Edward Buley, an Able Seaman on the Titanic told the US Senate Inquiry that Hosono and the other man who boarded Lifeboat 10 must have disguised themselves as women to board the lifeboat. This false report did not feature in the Japanese media.
After this press coverage, Hosono lost his job and the Japanese press condemned him for cowardice. The public also had a hostile reaction, stating that he “betrayed the Samurai spirit of self-sacrifice.” He was accused of pushing others aside to board a lifeboat. But the ministry later gave him back his job because of his valuable skill and he worked for them until he died in 1939.
The Hosono family regained its honor in 1997 when an investigation revealed that the story of Hosono was false. Matt Taylor, who organized the Exhibition Titanic Japan which opened in July 1997, discovered a latter Hosono wrote to his wife after the sinking. In it, he explained that a ship’s officer urged him into a lifeboat and he helped row the lifeboat away from the sinking ship, saving their lives. The letter also refused the Japanese press’s claim that Hosono as the Asian man aboard lifeboat 13 who rushed to escape. Taylor found the letter in Hosono’s belongings and persuaded his family to allow it to be translated and released. His account is “considered to be among the most expressive and detailed renderings of the panic aboard the ill-fated ship.” It is believed to be the only piece of Titanic stationary to have survived.
His memoirs were also on display at the Yokohama Minato Museum in from April 19-May 18, 2014, one of a rare collection of Titanic artifacts. Hosono wrote his account on paper bearing Titanic’s name and seal.
Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche (May 26, 1886 – April 15, 1912) was a Haitian man who grew up in the northern part of the country. In 1901, when he was fifteen, he accompanied his teacher Monseigneur Kersuzan to France. Laroche attended the engineering school in Beauvais. While there, he accompanied Monseigneur Kersuzan to visit his friend Monseigneur Lafarge. Laroche became friends with his daughter Juliette. They married in March 1908 after Joseph graduated and got his engineering certificate. However, Laroche could not find employment because of racial prejudice.
Their daughters Simonne and Louis were born in 1909 and 1910. Louise suffered from many medical problems and in 1911, Laroche decided to return to Haiti, where he believed there would be great need for qualified engineers. They planned to go the following year. When Juliette discovered she was pregnant in March 1912, they moved their travel plans up and booked passage on the French CGT’s newest steamship on her maiden voyage to New York. To Laroche’s dismay, he found that company policy did not allow children in the ship’s restaurant. They transferred to the White Star Line’s Titanic which left ten days earlier.
After the ship hit the iceberg, Laroche put the family’s valuables into a coat and gave it to his wife before putting her and their daughters on a lifeboat. Juliette and the girls survived, but Laroche stayed, helping others safety and presumably drowned, though his body was never found. Juliette and the children eventually returned to France after World War II, living in poverty until she won a settlement.
Though the Laroche daughters never married, the son Joseph Jr. (Born: December 17, 1912) married a woman named Caludine and had two sons and a daughter. It wasn’t until 1995 when a French member of the Titanic Historical Society interviewed Juliette that the story began to spread. That year, the family was featured at the Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry.
Marjorie Alberts of California discovered her connection to the Laroche family around 2000. Her stepmother found an article in Ebony magazine. She showed it to her husband Robert Richard who explained that his father’s surname had been Laroche, but because he and his mother never married, they did not have his surname. After some research, Alberts learned that Joseph Laroche’s grandfather Henri Cadet Laroche – a cobbler who made boots for Haiti’s first king – was married 11 times. Joseph was born to Laroche’s eleventh wife, while Alberts’s and her family were descended from Laroche and his first wife. Alberts, an actress and writer was working on a screenplay about Laroche.
Serge Bile’s Black Man on the Titanic: The Story of Joseph Laroche published in 2019 tells his story.
Victor Gaitan Andrea Giglio (June 17, 1888-April 15, 1912) was valet to millionaire Benjamin Guggenheim.
Giglio was born in Liverpool to FJ Giglio, an Italian and a woman who may have been Egyptian, from Alexandria. The couple lived in Alexandria for several years before moving to England, first living in London before ending up in Liverpool.
He was the youngest of four brothers. Though there is no information about the family, given that Alexandria and Liverpool were both important in the sea trade, the family may have been in the shipping business.
Giglio traveled with Guggenheim in first class while Guggenheim’s chauffeur traveled in second class.
When the ship hit the iceberg, the pair put on their lifejackets and went up to the deck. When they realized their fate, Guggenheim told a survivor: “No woman should be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim was a coward.” They assisted women and children into the lifeboats. Then, they returned to their cabins, changed into evening dress and sat on deck chairs, sipping brandy and smoking cigars as the ship sank. Survivors recalled Guggenheim saying: “We’ve dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.”
After the Titanic sank, pupils at Ampleforth College, the Benedictine boarding school in Yorkshire where Guglio was educated, left tributes to him.
In 2012, Father Anselm Cramer, Chief Archivist at Ampleforth College discovered a photograph of Giglio taken in 1901. This discovery showed that Guglio was dark-skinned, leading experts to speculate that Guggenheim stayed with Guglio because they knew that he would not be allowed to board a ‘first-class’ lifeboat because of his race and chose to stay with him.