Titanic 100: How Peterborough's Sage family lost their lives

Titanic maiden voyage
Image caption The Sage family joined the Titanic so they could start a new life in Florida

When 11 members of a Peterborough family drowned in the Titanic disaster, it was the single biggest recorded loss of life from one family.

The Sage family had been living in Gladstone Street, where they kept a small bakery and shop.

In April 1912 they left the UK on board the Titanic, to start a new life in Jacksonville, Florida, as pecan farmers.

They had intended to sail to the USA on the Philadelphia, but were forced to change their plans due to a strike.

John and Annie Sage were originally from Hackney and had moved to Peterborough to run the bakery in 1902, after two years running a pub in Norfolk.

Refused to go

But in 1910 John decided on another career change. Leaving Annie in charge of the bakery, he and their eldest son George went to Canada.

They worked as waiters in the dining cars of the Canadian Pacific Railway, but also found time to visit Florida.

Stuart Orme, interpretation manager at Vivacity Heritage in Peterborough, said: "He put a deposit on a farm in Jacksonville, and returned home to Peterborough in autumn 1911 to prepare the family for the move.

"The rest of the family seems to have been less enthusiastic about the move to America, but John insisted."

Image caption A newspaper boy outside the White Star Line offices in London

The Sage family's original travel plans on the Philadelphia, an American ship which sailed out of Liverpool, had to be changed when the ship was laid up due to a coal strike.

So they booked onto the Titanic out of Southampton instead.

Mr Orme said: "Nobody knows for sure what happened to the family on the night of the disaster, 14 April 1912.

"Some witnesses report that the family were seen on deck, and that one daughter - either Stella or Dorothy - was offered a place in the lifeboats but refused to go without the rest of the family."

The only body to be recovered was that of 13-year-old Will Sage.

Stella Anne (born 1891); George John (born 1892); Douglas Bullen (born 1894); Frederick (born 1895); Dorothy Florence (born 1897); Elizabeth Ada (born 1901); Constance Gladys (born 1904) and Thomas Henry (born 1907) and their parents were never seen again.

'Bad luck'

Another Peterborough resident expecting to be on board the Titanic had a luckier escape.

Jack Binns, a radio operator, was brought up in the city.

Image caption Jack Binns was the radio operator due to serve on the Titanic but was reassigned

He was due to work on the Titanic, having previously served on the Adriatic under Captain E J Smith.

However, a few months before the ship sailed he was reassigned, in case he brought the Titanic "bad luck".

Three years earlier he had been aboard the Republic when it collided with the Florida.

Mr Orme said: "Jack sent the first ever ship's distress call by wireless to summon assistance and helped co-ordinate the safe evacuation of the passengers.

"He was hailed a hero.

"Despite this the White Star managers felt Jack might bring bad luck if he was assigned to the new ship."

However, because of his radio expertise, he was asked to testify at the inquiry into the disaster.

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