Archie Jewell was a Lookout serving aboard the maiden voyage of RMS Titanic. Four years after surviving the sinking of Titanic he was aboard Titanic’s sister ship Britannic when she was sunk by an enemy mine.
He was born in Bude, Cornwall, United Kingdom on 4th December 1888.His parents were John and Elizabeth Jewell. At some point he married Bessie Heard, and in around 1916, had a son they named Raymond.
His last ship before sailing on Titanic was the White Star Line’s RMS Oceanic. Prior to his time aboard Oceanic he had worked aboard sailing ships. At Southampton, he signed on as one of Titanic’s Lookouts on 6th April 1912, ready to join the ship for her maiden voyage on 10th April 1912.
Throughout the voyage, he shared the 2am to 4am, 8am to 10am, 2pm to 4pm and 8pm to 10 pm watch in Titanic’s crow’s nest with George Symons. While he was on watch in the crow’s nest at around 9.30pm on 14th April 1912, the order was received over the telephone from the bridge to keep a sharp lookout for ice, and to pass the order on to the next lookouts on duty when they leave.
At 10pm, when Frederick Fleet and Reginal Lee took over the watch in the crow’s nest, the order was passed along. Around 1 hour and 40 minutes later Titanic fatally collided with an iceberg.
At the time Titanic collided with the iceberg Archie Jewell was sleeping in his bed in the ship’s forecastle, when he was woken up by the impact. With others he went straight on deck to see what had happened. He then went back inside and got dressed.
After the order for all hands on deck, he helped prepare the lifeboats on the Boat Deck to be lowered. Around an hour after the time Titanic collided with the iceberg, Archie Jewells was amongst those lowered away from Titanic in Lifeboat 7, the very first lifeboat to leave the sinking ship. Archie Jewell and the other occupants of Lifeboat 7 were safely rescued by Carpathia. He returned home to Britain aboard Red Star Line’s SS Lapland.
On 3rd May 1912 he became the first Titanic survivor to give evidence at the British Titanic Inquiry.
During the First World War, he was amongst the crew serving aboard Titanic’s sister ship Britannic, on 21st November 1916, as she sailed serving as a hospital ship, through the Kea Channel on her way to pick up wounded soldiers; suddenly there was a massive explosion as she hit a mine and started to sink. It took just 55 minutes for Britannic to sink, much quicker than her sister ship Titanic.
A letter sold at auction many years later, written by Archie Jewell to his sister, describes how in the lifeboat he could see another lifeboat being mangled by Britannic's propeller blades, and the same thing was about to happen to his lifeboat, so he had to jump out of the lifeboat into the sea, into absolute chaos; seemingly thinking he was going to die, he did manage to survive the ordeal. While Britannic’s captain, Charles Bartlett, was attempting to beach the ship, without his orders, two lifeboats had been lowered away from the ship, and, with Britannic’s propellers almost out of the water, the lifeboats were sucked towards the propellers, causing devastation. Titanic survivor Violet Jessop, a stewardess aboard Titanic, was a survivor of Britannic and was lucky to be alive after she had jumped out of one of the lifeboats destroyed by the propellers. Also amongst those who survived Britannic was John Priest, a fireman aboard Titanic.
Less than a year later, on 17th April 1917, almost exactly 5 years after Titanic’s sinking, Archie Jewell was serving aboard the Donegal as an Able Seaman, when she was struck by a torpedo and sank in the English Channel. Donegal was a hospital ship sailing from France to Britain with wounded soldiers aboard. Around 29 soldiers lost their lives and around 11 of the ship’s crew also lost their lives. Amongst those to have died was Archie Jewell. Titanic and Britannic survivor John Priest was amongst the survivors of Donegal.
Archie Jewell’s last resting place is presumably in the English Channel. His name is included on the memorial at the grave of his wife and son in Burlescombe, Devon. Archie Jewell’s name is included on the war memorial in his hometown, Bude, Cornwall, and is also included on the Tower Hill Memorial in London, a memorial to those who died during the World Wars while serving in the Merchant Navy or in fishing fleets and have no grave.
Two letters written by Archie Jewell to his sister, one shortly after the Titanic disaster and one shortly after the Britannic disaster, were sold at auction in London for £17,500 in December 2008.