Father Thomas Roussel Davids Byles was born in Yorkshire, England on February 26, 1870, to Louisa Davids and Alfred Holden Byles; he was the eldest of seven children.
Byles' father, the Reverend Dr. Alfred Holden Byles was a congregational Minister and a successful businessman. He was the first pastor of Headingley Hill Congregational Church, Leeds. Records show the family's home address as York Road Council Schools, Leeds, Yorkshire. In the 1890s he was the Minister of Shelton-Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent and also lived for a time in Omaha, NE, USA with his wife and two of their children (a daughter and Winter, their son). Whilst in America he supplied the First Congregational Church in Omaha with a pulpit. The family later returned to England. Rev Byles senior died about three months before his son boarded the Titanic.
Roussel was educated at Leamington College and Rossall School, Fleetwood, Lancashire (1885–89) where he was a 'scholar' and school monitor for Crescent House.
In 1889 Byles went to Balliol College, Oxford where he studied mathematics, modern history and theology2. He was also Vice-President of the Arnold Society (a select undergraduate debating society at Balliol). He graduated as a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1894. While studying at Oxford he converted to Catholicism and the following year went to work as a Master at St Edmund's College, Ware, Hertfordshire, a boys' school and Roman Catholic seminary. In 1897 he wrote 'A School Commentary on 2nd Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians', his only published work. He worked at St Edmund's until 1899 when he travelled to Rome to study for the priesthood. He received a B D (Bachelor of Divinity) from Gregorian University in 1901 and was ordained in 1902; he finished his studies in Rome in 1903. From 1905 to 1912 he was the Roman Catholic Rector of Ongar, Essex.
Byles' younger brother William also converted to Catholicism but moved to America to run a rubber business and fell in love with Katherine Russell of Brooklyn. When they planned to marry William asked his brother to officiate at the ceremony (planned for the Sunday after his arrival). He and his brother Winter (living in America) made arrangements to travel to New York. Fr Byles was initially scheduled to travel on another White Star liner but switched at the last minute to the Titanic. His second class ticket was number 244310 and cost £13. He boarded the Titanic at Southampton on April 10, 1912.
On the morning of Sunday April 14th Father Byles held the Catholic mass with second class passengers in their lounge and afterwards with the third class passengers for whom Fr Byles delivered a sermon in English and French, Fr Peruschitz followed with a sermon in German and Hungarian. According to an article in The Evening World the two priests preached on the need to have a "lifeboat in the shape of religious consolation at hand in case of spiritual shipwreck".
After the collision — by many accounts Father Byles was a hero till the end, helping the third class passengers up the stairs, into the boats, hearing confessions and praying with those that had been unable to escape. Some newspapers reported that he was offered a seat but had refused.
Father Byles died in the sinking. His body was never recovered.
Katherine and William did not reschedule their wedding. They had another priest perform the ceremony. In a Brooklyn newspaper it reported the bride and groom went home from the wedding and changed into mourning clothes and returned to the church for a memorial mass, the article in the Evening World concluded:
The couple had a short honeymoon in New Jersey.
Later that year Katherine and William travelled to Europe. They visited London and the Houses of Parliament to meet 'Uncle Willie' (Sir W. P. Byles). Katherine had to wait outside in a parlour — women could not enter. According to family legend, a young man came to her and said "Hello Mrs Byles, I am here to give you a tour, my name is Winston Churchill". From London they travelled on to Rome where they had a private audience with the Pope, who declared Father Byles a martyr for the Church.
A door installed by his brothers at the Roman Catholic Church in Chipping Ongar, Essex, stands as a memorial to Father Byles. A memorial photograph of him also hangs there.
Lawrence Beesley Mr Lawrence Beesley (34) a science teacher at Dulwich College in London boarded the Titanic at Southampton. His ticket was number 248698 and cost £13.
Beesley had been in his cabin (D-56) reading when the collision occured, he only noticed a slight heave of the engines and the regular dancing movement on his mattress seemed to stop. Beesley stopped a steward to ask what had happened but was advised that it was nothing.
He went up to A-Deck while the boats were being loaded but then decided to return to his cabin, as he did so he noticed a strange sensation as he descended the stairs, the stairs seemed to be level but his feet did not fall quite where they should. He donned his Norfolk jacket, stuffed some books into his pockets and then headed back to the A Deck.
The list was worse when Beesley returned to A-Deck but he found that men were now being allowed to board boat 13 which had been lowered to the level of the windows of the enclosed screen, he boarded the boat which finally lowered away at 1.25 with 64 people aboard. As the boat descended it came perilously close to an outfall which was discharging water at a tremendous rate. Only the shouts of the boat's occupants prevented them being flooded. Quick action was also needed when they eventually reached the water, they were unable to cut the falls and drifted under the path of boat #15 which had started to descend, again the occupants of boat #13 shouted to those on deck and the descent of boat #15 was halted. The falls of boat #13 were eventually cut and the boat drifted away from the ship.
Beesley watched as the Titanic sank deeper, he observed the lights blink and then go out for good. After the ship was gone he tried to comfort a crying baby by tucking a blanket under it's toes, he disovered that he and the lady holding the baby had mutual friends in Clonmel, Ireland.
At 4.45 boat 13 tied up alongside the Carpathia and Beesley was soon aboard, relieved to feel a solid deck beneath his feet once again.
After his rescue Beesley wrote a successful book about his experiences, 'The Loss of the Titanic.'