On Monday 15 April 1912 the RMS Titanic sank in the deep waters of the North Atlantic taking with her more than 1,500 lives. Among the victims there is the unsung hero Father Thomas Byles.
As history goes Father Thomas Roussel Byles was among the 2,207 passengers that were on board the RMS Titanic. The 42-year-old priest boarded the ship on April 10, 1912, which was Easter Wednesday, heading towards the United States to officiate the wedding of his brother William and his girlfriend Isabel Katherine Russell, the week after the new ship was to dock in Manhattan. However, and as the saying goes, man proposes, God disposes. Hardly did it enter in Father Thomas’ mind that his voyage on the Titanic would have been for him a great opportunity to give his young life to Christ, thus living literally Jesus’ words: Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).
It was prayer that greatly inspired and motivated Father Byles to give his life for God’s children on that terrible night of April 14 1912 when the Titanic struck the iceberg. According to eyewitnesses, when those bottom compartments were torn open, flooding the ship with icy-cold sea water, Father Thomas was praying the breviary on the upper deck. Instinctively he ran to the rescue of the poorest passengers who were in the steerage. Speaking to the New York Herald, Ellen Mockler, a 23-year-old from Caltra, Co. Galway, gave the following witness: