The world’s most famous ship, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank on the night of April 14th, 1912. The ship contained 20 lifeboats, which would have been enough for at least half of the 2228 people on board, but not even that many were saved. A total of 705 survivors were taken aboard the RMS Carpathia a short time after the Titanic went down. However, if not for the actions of a man named Robert Hopkins, the body count would have been more than the 1500 people that lost their lives that tragic night. This brave man was finally rewarded for his heroic effort that fateful night, and while it came over 100 years later, Hopkins brave deeds will continue to live on forever.
The Night the Titanic Sank
Robert Hopkins had been asleep in his bunk when the Titanic struck and iceberg and began to sink. The crew members were woken up, ordered up on deck, and now were charged with uncovering the lifeboats, loading them, and then lowering them into the sea filled with the ship’s passengers. Things up on deck were calm, but they slowly began to get more hectic as the passengers realized the danger they faced. Hopkins was ordered to take over lifeboats number 13, and he climbed aboard it. However, right before the lifeboat began to touch the water, there was an issue, and that was lifeboats number 15 being lowered at the same time. The one boat was threatening to land right on top of the other, but Hopkins, and fireman Fred Barrett, whipped out their pocket knives, cut the ropes free, and were able to get lifeboat 13 safely away. Hopkins and Barrett saved the passengers in both lifeboats 13 and 15, but with all that happened that tragic night, their deed had been long forgotten until now. According to Charles Haas, President of the Titanic International Society, “Hopkins, from what we’ve seen, called up and told them to stop lowering. He and another crew member went to work with a pen knife to cut the ropes,” Haas said. “If Hopkins had not done what he did, 13 and potentially 15, would have been lost.”
Robert Hopkins Honored With Tombstone
When Robert John Hopkins passed away, the date was November 17, 1943. At the time of his death, there was no money to spare for a tombstone, so the grave of Hopkins was left unmarked. However, member of the Hopkins family, the Titanic International Society,and the arch diocese of Hoboken, all pitched in to get a proper headstone for the forgotten hero. The ceremony was attended by the family of Hopkins, who stated that he never talked about his experiences on the Titanic. According to his granddaughter, Virginia Hopkins, “My father told me his father did not talk much about it.” Perhaps, the trauma of that night was too much for Hopkins to reveal becuase according to some survivors that were in lifeboat 13, the noises and cries for help that night were so loud that the people in the lifeboat had to sing in order to keep from hearing those dreadful cries. Many of the Titanic‘s survivors were deeply affected by their ordeal, and it could be that Robert Hopkins was one of them, and speaking of that night was simply too traumatizing.
On May 14th, 2016, more than 70 years after his passing, Robert John Hopkins finally got the beautiful stone he so rightly deserved. Carved on the black granite surface’s face is an image of a man commanding a lifeboat full of people, and the words, “Hopkins, Beloved Father, Robert John Hopkins. Able-Bodied Seaman and survivor of the RMS Titanic. November 30, 1868 to November 17, 1943. Nearer My God to Thee.” The ceremony was not only attended by the family of Robert Hopkins, but also members of the Titanic International Society. Many flowers were laid on the new grave, and finally, a forgotten hero got the recognition he deserved for not only his bravery and quick thinking, but his saving of dozens of lives in two lifeboats.
Rest in peace, Robert John Hopkins, for you have definitely earned your new marker. The men and woman you saved that tragic night went on to live their lives, and are grateful for heroism. Who knew that a simple pocket knife could be so helpful? The passengers in both lifeboats 13 and 15 were just as happy that two men with two knives leapt into action and saved the day, and becuase of that, those men and women were able to go on and live full rich lives.