A Young Survivor’s Story Lives On
Master Robert Douglas Spedden was born in New York City in 1905, the only child of Frederic and Daisy Spedden. At age 6, Douglas accompanied his parents on a European holiday to Algiers, Monte Carlo, and Paris. His nurse, Elizabeth Burns, joined them. Douglas had trouble pronouncing her name, so he called her “Muddie Boons.” For their return to New York, they boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg, France. Mr. and Mrs. Spedden occupied one first class cabin, and Douglas and Muddie took another.
Douglas Spedden with his parents, Frederic and Daisy
When the ship struck an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912, Muddie woke Douglas and told him they were “taking a trip to see the stars.” The family made their way to the Boat Deck, where Mrs. Spedden, Muddie, and Douglas were soon put into Lifeboat 3. When no other women were willing to board the lifeboat, Mr. Spedden was allowed to join his family.
Douglas fell asleep in the boat, and woke at dawn to see icebergs dotting the ocean’s surface. “Oh Muddie,” he said. “Look at the beautiful North Pole with no Santa Claus on it.” The Spedden’s, Miss Burns, and all occupants of Lifeboat 3 were rescued by the Carpathia.
In 1913, Daisy Spedden gave her son a book she had written about the family’s Titanic journey, as told through the eyes of Douglas’ stuffed bear, and entitled, My Story.
In 1915, nine-year-old Douglas was playing football near the family’s summer house in Maine. The ball went into the street, and Douglas ran after it. He was struck by a car and killed. This was one of the first automobile-related deaths in the state. He was buried in New York City.
Several years later, following the deaths of Daisy and Frederic Spedden, the book Daisy had written was discovered by a relative. My Story was given a new title, and Polar, the Titanic Bear was published in 1994.
Like the Titanic itself, the story of young Douglas Spedden lives on.