Bakery Bulletin by Philippa Kelly: The world’s bravest baker

The Sinking of the Titanic. Image courtesy of the National Maritime Museum
The Sinking of the Titanic. Image courtesy of the National Maritime Museum

1997: a year to remember. Katrina And The Waves won us the Eurovision Song Contest and we were all Walking On Sunshine, the first Harry Potter novel was published, our first muslim MP was elected, and not only did we get a new fifty pence piece and a new terrestrial television channel, but we also got a new Oasis album.

It wasn’t all good though - Brian Harvey left East 17 and wasn’t allowed to Stay Another Day, the first episode of Teletubbies aired, Princess Diana died, and worse still, Elton John’s Candle In The Wind was all the radio played.

But then another song came along and wiped the floor with Elton’s candle.

When Celine Dion belted out My Heart Will Go On, we all forgot that we didn’t actually like her. 1997 was the year that brought us James Cameron’s epic Titanic.

The most inspiring survivor of Titanic wasn’t Kate Winslet. It could have been Leo if Kate had held his hand even half as tightly as she did that ghastly jewellery, but she didn’t, so it wasn’t.

Charles Joughin was the RMS Titanic’s chief baker. He’d worked aboard many of the White Star Line steamships before setting sail on the Titanic’s maiden voyage in 1912.

When the ship careered into the iceberg, Charles was off duty and in his bunk.

He sent his thirteen-strong baking team up to the lifeboat decks, armed with bread for the passengers. He joined them about 45 minutes later. Women and children were refusing to board the lifeboats, idiotically believing that they’d be safer if they remained aboard the Titanic.

In proper Hollywood hero style, Charles began forcing women and children into the lifeboats, before retiring below deck for a cheeky snifter.

When he returned, there were no lifeboats left on the ship. He threw roughly fifty sunloungers into the sea, not in a fit of fury, but as flotation devices to aid the survivors. His story then becomes a trifle boring for a while, with visits to various decks, the pantry, and a brief peak of my interest during his sojourn on the poop deck, but then it’s back to blockbuster antics and a daring escape.

Much like Jack and Rose, Charles rode the sinking ship until the very last moment when he leapt from the ship into the icy water. He floated around treading water for roughly two hours, but reckons that he didn’t feel the cold, perhaps because, by his own admission, he was off his face. My words, not his. He probably said moderately squiffy.

Charles saw Collapsible Lifeboat B floating around saving lives, but when he swam over, there was no room at the inn.

A cook recognised him and held his hand Jack-and-Rose-style. The cook had a better grip than Rose, and kept Charles afloat long enough for him to spot another lifeboat on which there was room for the baker. He stayed aboard the lifeboat until the RMS Carpathia swooped in and saved the day. The only injury our man suffered was swollen feet.

In 1920, Charles moved to America, and continued to work as a baker on board ships. He was even aboard the SS Oregon when it sank in Boston Harbour. He also worked on World War II troop transport ships, and didn’t retire until 1944. He died in 1956, aged 78. Charles Joughin was undoubtedly the world’s bravest baker. He puts Mr Kipling and Ms Crocker to shame, but merely mentioning Greggs has now become awkward. Not even Jim’ll fix that. As Gary Glitter says, Boys Will Be Boys. And in the words of MJ, Beat It.