100 years on, Henry’s Titanic ‘tall tale’ seems to be true after all

NAME GAME Henry Reginald Lee used a false name to gain employment on the Titanic
NAME GAME Henry Reginald Lee used a false name to gain employment on the Titanic
Picture: Malcolm Wells

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THROUGHOUT his life he said he had survived the Titanic disaster.

But when descendants of Portsmouth-born Henry Reginald Lee looked through the archives, they found there was no record of him ever sailing the luxury liner.

RESEARCH David Lee of Emsworth

RESEARCH David Lee of Emsworth

It led to some of his relatives to believe he may have been telling a tall tale to impress his pals at the pub.

But, with the 100th anniversary this Sunday of the liner sinking on April 15, 1912, his family believe they have solved the riddle of the man who insisted he was a chef on the Titanic.

David Lee, 69, of Westbourne Avenue, Emsworth is the great-nephew of Henry and has been researching the family tree for years.

With the help of a cousin, Nigel Godfrey, from London, they believe he could never be traced as he was using another name.

Mr Lee explained: ‘He was a member of the Titanic crew but he was serving under a false name; the name of Frank Martin.

‘We have not been able to ascertain why he did so, but we have established that it was not an uncommon thing to do in the merchant service at the time.

‘However, he was not a cook or a steward, but just a scullion.’

Looking through the records Mr Lee found that Frank Martin signed on to the Titanic on April 6, as ‘F Martin’ of 13 High Street, Fareham. His age was given as 29.

Digging a little deeper, it was found that F Martin worked as a scullion on the liner RMS Adriatic in 1911.

F Martin gave his date of birth as June 28, 1882, in Portsmouth – which was the same birthday for Henry.

Mr Lee also discovered F Martin gave his address as 5 Colorado Road, Gosport.

This address does not exist, but the Mr Lee believes this was a misspelling as he has traced his great-uncle to have lived at 5 Coronado Road, in Gosport.

Mr Lee, a retired chief petty officer in the Royal Navy, said he was now satisfied his relative had survived the Titanic.

He said: ‘He was very lucky. Bearing in mind he should not have really been there in a position to be on the lifeboat.

‘How he managed to get on board, I don’t know.

‘There were stories of officers shooting their pistols in the air to stop people.

‘I think it’s a matter of survival.

‘With all the thousands of people trying to leave the Titanic, it’s Joe that comes first.’

Henry Lee went on tell many stories of surviving the disaster, including pulling the Countess of Rothes from the sea and rescuing bell boys.

But his family are still not certain whether this was ever fact or fiction.

Later in life Henry Lee settled in Cams Hill, Fareham and worked as a gardener for the council.

He died in 1963 at the age of 82.

Mr Godfrey, from London, the great-grandson of Henry Lee, said: ‘Tall tales aside, I think it is an extraordinary story, Henry has been using an alias for several years to work in passenger liners with no apparent problems, and then suddenly he finds himself in the middle of one of the biggest stories of the century and he is using an assumed name.

‘Some people have called him a faker; he faked his identity but clearly not his story.’