Titanic and "Our Babe"
Titanic created a truly international tragedy with its many
victims coming from countries all over the world such as
Argentina, Norway, Austria, Denmark, England, Sweden, Italy,
America, Greece, Ireland, France, Cuba, Belgium and even from as
far away as Sydney, Australia.
Maria Panula and her five sons were from Finland. They were travelling to America to join husband and father,
Maria Ojala married Juho Panula on February 14, 1892.
They immigrated to Coal Center, a small community near
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, America in 1904, and saved enough money
to return to their native Finland in 1911 and buy a small farm.
Tragedy soon struck them, when their 9-year-old daughter
drowned in a local river. Husband
and wife decided to return to America.
went on ahead to secure work and housing.
Emilia Maria stayed behind with the children to finalise
the sale of their farm, then booked third class tickets on the
Titanic for herself, their children Ernest (17 years old), Jaakko
(15 years old), Juho, (7 years old), Urho (2 years old), Eino
(the baby of the family), and their babysitter Sanni, who was
twenty two years old.
the ship started to sink, Emilia Maria was offered a seat, along
with her youngest child, in one of the lifeboats.
The devoted mother refused to leave without her other four
sons, who clung to her in fear and desperation.
Emilia Maria was heard to cry “Do we all have to die by
her statement forecast the truth.
Emilia Maria and her five sons drowned that day.
nearest major port to the Titanic tragedy was Halifax, which
quickly sent boats to retrieve all the bodies they could find.
The crewmembers were paid double for their time in this
harrowing rescue, but most of them were already determined to do
whatever they could to help.
seamen were uniformly shocked by their first sight of the bodies
floating in the water, particularly because life jackets were
keeping the victims afloat in a very lifelike manner.
When the small body of a child was recovered, it severely
affected all the sailors and they pledged to take care of the
boy’s funeral expenses if no one came forward to claim him.
hundred and twenty eight bodies were recovered from the icy
waters. One hundred
and nineteen were buried at sea, due to their physical
deterioration and the shortage of hygienic storage facilities on
the boats. Two
hundred and nine bodies were returned to Halifax, but 60 victims
were at the time unidentified.
Amongst the unclaimed bodies was the little blonde haired
boy who had so moved the sailor’s hearts.
He was the only child to be reclaimed from the sea and, to
many people, he represented all the children who died in the tragic
to their word, the crewmembers of the rescue ships organised the
funeral for the unknown child.
They placed him in a white casket on a bed of roses and put
a plaque on his chest claiming him to be “Our Babe”.
The little boy’s small coffin was then escorted to
Fairview Lawn Cemetery. His funeral was the only funeral held that day and most of
the population of Halifax came to say “Goodbye”.
The devoted seamen also paid for “their” child’s
headstone with the words “Erected to the memory of an unknown
child whose remains were recovered after the disaster to the
‘Titanic’ April 15th 1912”.
was to take ninety years before “Our Babe” was finally
November, 2002, through the miracle of DNA testing, thirteen month old Eino Viljami Panula
was finally named, and claimed by his family.
Lawn Cemetery is built on a gently sloping hill and many of the
graves have suffered water damage, escalating the decaying process
and eradicating all traces of the buried bodies.
“Our Babe” was buried higher on the slope but his body
was almost gone. All
that was left in the tiny grave were three small teeth and a 6cm sliver of bone, attached
to the plaque given by the seamen.
It wasn’t much, but it was enough.
crewmen not only buried and mourned Eino, their love and
generosity also made his identification possible, even though that
identification did not come until long after their own deaths.
The copper plaque they placed on the Titanic’s young
victim eventually ensured that today’s forensic scientists would
be able to test for a genetic match and give the child back his
descendants decided to leave their eternally young relative’s
grave in Halifax, honouring the many mourners who still grieve the
large loss of life on the Titanic and the crewmen who, long ago,
had loved and honoured the little child.
Titanic With Iceberg
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