The Slade Brothers’ Lucky Escape

On the morning of the 10th of April 1912, the area around Southampton Docks was abuzz with activity as people made final preparations for the maiden voyage of largest ship in the world. Workers signed on, passengers arrived, and a vast array of goods were loaded on to the ship that sat calmly at Berth 44 in the White Star Dock.

Whilst all this was happening, shipmates were drinking in the Grapes pub on Oxford Street. Three brothers, Alfred, Tom, and Bertram Slade were joined by John Podesta and William Nutbean, and the ship firemen enjoyed one last drink before heading off to board the Titanic.


The Grapes is still a pub today, and it displays its connection to the Titanic.

So the story goes, at about ten to twelve, the men left the pub together. They had about ten minutes to spare, but due to Oxford Street’s close proximity to the docks, it shouldn’t have been a problem.

oxford street early 1900s

A busy Oxford Street, early 1900s. Close to the docks, Oxford Street was where Southampton Sailors’ Home was located. Seventeen Titanic crew members listed this as their address, and fifteen of them survived the sinking.

As the men hurried to the Docks, they noticed a train about to cross the road in front of them. Perhaps this was on Canute Road, where trains still cross the road today, next to the South Western Hotel where many of Titanic’s first class passengers stayed. It’s now called South Western House and is private apartments.

As the train approached, Podesta heard one of the Slade brothers say “oh let the train go by”, but he decided not to chance it, so him and Nutbean dashed across the tracks. Podesta and Nutbean made their way to board the Titanic, whilst the three Slade brothers waited behind for the train to pass.


A train crossing Canute Road next to a bomb damaged South Western Hotel in the 1940s.

The train passed, and the Slade brothers carried on their walk, or perhaps slightly drunken stumble, to the White Star Dock. Upon arriving, the officer at the gangway refused them entry as they had cut it so fine and there were spare men already waiting and desperate for the work. The officer ordered that the gangway be lowered and the spare men signed on, and so the Slade brothers were left by the dockside. One can assume they must have felt incredibly disappointed at missing out.

I wonder if they watched the Titanic set sail, or if they went back to the pub to drown their sorrows. Either way, the Titanic left Southampton that afternoon and sailed off to its infamous fate…

John Podesta and William Nutbean survived the sinking, and both stayed in Southampton until their deaths in 1968 and 1947 respectively.

The Slade brothers didn’t realise at that moment, but they had been incredibly lucky. That train quite possibly saved their lives. Of the 720+ crew members who had a Southampton address, at least 549 perished in the icy waters of the Atlantic. It had a tragic and truly terrible effect on the town of Southampton and its people.


RMS Titanic in Southampton.


24 thoughts on “The Slade Brothers’ Lucky Escape

  1. Pingback: The Slade Brothers’ Lucky Escape – Tales and truths from Annelise

  2. Interesting post – I wrote a 100 word story about this incident. The ship was due to sail at 12 noon, but did not sail until 1pm. However a zealous new worker pulled the gang-plank up. The train had extra carriages and the passengers took so long to get off with all their luggage and their were so many extras of things to unload from London. The Grapes is dear to my heart – it was where my mother and father met.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think that the Dock District of CHAPEL in Southampton suffered Greatly.As i was born in SOUTHAMPTON 1915 I remembered the sadness there. Many Children, lost their FATHERS

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for your comment Stanley. There’s a huge map on the floor at the SeaCity Museum which shows every household that lost someone. You’re right, the areas around the Docks were really badly affected. It must have been horrible.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Nearly every Street in the city lost someone.. when I was growing up from 1957 nobody spoke of it, we were just reminded by the Memorial in town.
      So Chapel where my Father was born 1918.. My Grandmother born Lansdown Hill old walls in the city, Christina Rose Atkins, she met John Joseph O’ Laverty a Irish/Scot in 1911 he lived at number 1 Captains place, worked at Harland & Wolff… had something to do with the “Titanic”, the Chain & Anchor and shipbuilding.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. nd of the NORTH SEA ,until we found that by Skipping ,like a pebble,across water,you actually,do it with a Bomb.This was done. to Hitlers Submarine Base .Hitlers Command of the North Sea was Finished

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: South Western House | Historic Southampton

  6. My grandfather and his mate were due to sail on the Titanic when apparently they saw rats leaving the ship, so they didn’t sign on. Members of the family have seen his ship’s papers to verify this fact, but they have been lost over time sadly. Another lucky escape.xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

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