Titanic twist in Rotherham family's history

Tony Drabble of Parkgate with a photograph of his sailor grandfather John Oultram and his certificate of discharge. 180295-2Tony Drabble of Parkgate with a photograph of his sailor grandfather John Oultram and his certificate of discharge. 180295-2
Tony Drabble of Parkgate with a photograph of his sailor grandfather John Oultram and his certificate of discharge. 180295-2
THE tale of his great grandad being thrown off the Titanic for fighting before it sailed was always seen as family folklore by Tony Drabble.

But now he believes he has proof the incident involving relative and former seaman John Oultram in Belfast 106 years ago really did happen.

And Tony (54), from Parkgate, said: “We wouldn’t even be here if he not had that scrap and stayed on board!”

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The story goes that John got into a fight before the passenger liner left Ireland, where it was built,  for the trip of 570 nautical miles to Southampton, where its fateful journey began on April 2, 1912.

The ship had undergone sea trials, including an emergency stop, on the Irish Sea in the days before departing for England from Belfast.

Tony and sister Fay have found John’s discharge certificate from serving on the Panama, which places him in Belfast in 1911.

“I always knew the story about him fighting on the Titanic and before it sailed,” said Tony. 

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“Mum always told me not to back down from a fight because it saved his life.

“But we thought it was just a rumour, just a story that had gone round in the family. We dismissed it until now.

“Me and my sister were going through an old photo album and found a discharge document that shows John was a sailor in Belfast ten months before the Titanic sailed.

“Basically, we believe this is the proof that the story was actually true. My sister had never even heard the story before, so it was all new to her.

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“It was brilliant to find this paper because it’s such a great story. We think it’s got to be true.”

John’s apparent near miss on the Titanic was followed by fighting of another kind a few years later — on the Somme.

Tony said: “He was a tank driver in the First World War. We found lots of documents which are from over 100 years ago.

“We knew that he went on to be a tank fighter with the Machine Gun Corps and a Royal Engineer. 

“Among the other things we have are postcards he sent from the Somme.”