Mr. Joseph Frankum

Joseph Frankum Third Class Passenger Saved
Joseph FrankumImage: Michael Poirier Collection.
Born c. 1879 England, United Kingdom
Died 1953 (age 74) Dunoon, Argyll, Scotland, United Kingdom
Age on Lusitania 36
Traveling with - Annie Frankum (wife) - Francis Frankum (son) - Frederick Frankum (son) - Winifred Frankum (daughter)
Rescued by torpedo boat
Citizenship British
Residence Detroit, Michigan, United States
Spouse(s) - Annie B. (? - 1915, her death) - Jessie Mitchell (1920 - 1952, her death)
Joseph Frankum, 36, of Detroit, Michigan, United States, was traveling third class on board Lusitania with his wife Annie, their 7-year-old son, Francis, 4-year-old son Frederick, and their 10-month-old daughter Winifred.  The family was going to see Joseph’s mother, who lived in Birmingham, England.  When the ship was struck, the family was below decks in third class. Frankum was from England and moved to Canada, where Annie gave birth to Frederick, and then moved to Detroit, where Winifred was born.  In the United States, Joseph and Annie had been Sunday school teachers.  Joseph believed that it would be good for the family to relocate to England, and so they booked passage aboard Lusitania.  They were having a cup of tea and preparing their luggage when the torpedo hit. From the Manchester Guardian, Monday, 10 May 1915, page 8:
“We divined what it was immediately,” he said, “and I took up the children and hurried my wife to the boat deck.  I put them all in a boat, and went below for a lifebelt.  I found two, and on my way back I gave one to a man, but afterwards I was sorry I did not keep it for my wife.  She had got out of the boat again, and we waited [on the port side], because for a time we thought the ship was going to keep afloat.  When it was certain that she was sinking I put my wife back in the boat and clambered in myself.  We saw that it was not free of the ship, but thought it would float off as the ship sank.  To our horror, it went right down, and I seemed to sink a long way before I felt myself rising again.  It was a dreadful sensation. “When I came to the top I could not see anything of my wife and children.  I swam to an upturned boat, but it was terribly difficult because of the wreckage which kept striking me.  I got on the boat with others, and we were like this for about three hours, while dead bodies in all postures were floating about us.  A young man was condoling with me because I had lost my wife and children, when a man’s body floated by.  He turned the head up with an oar and shouted out, ‘That is my father.’  Then we tried to comfort each other.  At Queenstown I went searching everywhere, and at last found my little boy, but I have now no hope that my wife and the other two children have been saved.”
Frankum and his fellow survivors were picked up by a torpedo boat, which Frankum claimed was looking for the submarine that sank Lusitania, and went on to search for survivors.  He said that a woman died on the torpedo boat before they reached shore. When Joseph landed, he began looking through the bodies brought ashore for his loved ones instead of sleeping.  He did not find any trace of them.  He only had on a pair of pants, and slipper, and one sock.  He had some money, his papers, and a watch that had stopped at 2:22.  Helpful people had told Frankum that one of his sons was at the Rob Roy Hotel and found his oldest son Francis there, waking Francis from his sleep.
Joseph and Francis FrankumJoseph and Francis Frankum, Michael Poirier Collection.
"How did you come here Dad?" Francis asked. Joseph had some difficulty finding the words to express himself, but said, "You see Francis, I told you God would take care of you, and He has -- hasn't He?" "Yes Dad, He has," Francis answered. Joseph met up with his brother soon after the disaster, and they went on to Liverpool to await further developments of Joseph's missing wife and children.  They continued on to Aston, Birmingham where their mother lived at 55 Webster Street.  No word was received about Joseph's family.   Reporters came to the house to ask him about his experience on board the sinking liner, and while he had great difficulty retelling the story, it was published in many newspapers.  Francis was also interviewed, where he recounted that as the ship sank, their lifeboat capsized.  He held onto an upturned boat and there he stayed until he was rescued. A few years afterward, Joseph and Francis moved to Scotland.  There, in 1920, Joseph married again, this time to Jessie Elizabeth Mitchell in Kelvin, Lanark.  They then moved to Dunoon, Argyll.  Jessie died in 1952 and Joseph one year later in 1953. Francis married and worked with the Church of Scotland as a clerk at St John's Dunoon. He died in 1985.

Related pages

The Frankum Family at the Mixed Claims Commission

Links of Interest

Encyclopedia Titanica - Lest We Forget: Part 1
Contributors: Jim Kalafus Michael Poirier References: Kalafus, Jim and Michael Poirier (2005).  Lest We Forget:  Part 1 ET Research.  <> “His Wife’s Lifebelt.”  Manchester Guardian, Monday, 10 May 1915, page 8.

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